Warm air flowed from the depths of the cave. The shock of the heat crashing against the bitter cold at the mouth created rivers of condensation that dripped from the ceiling, poured off the walls, and cascaded down the mountainside. In her studies, the sorceress had heard of boiling infernos of orange fire that could sometimes be found underground and she wondered briefly if her friend’s dragon was nothing but a natural phenomenon, but then she sensed the beasts’ magical presence and all her doubts were set aside.
“Do not be cowed by its size. Do not stand still. Do not let your guard down. Do not exhaust yourself early in the fight. Do not waste time on complex spells.” The wizard whispered commands, barely heard in the constant rush of air expelled from the cave.
The sorceress listened intently and began formulating a plan of spells by creating an internal mantra that would both keep her moving and let her know which spell to cast next. It was a useful technique that had served her well before and she had no doubts it would work again. When magicians advance through the ranks and acquire a vast multitude of spells that can often be defeated simply because they spend too much time considering which curse or hex best serves a situation. That hesitation gives their opponent time to attack first.
“Are you ready?” The wizard glanced over at his companion and was pleased to see her calmly peering into the cave. She appeared unafraid and he could feel a perceptible shift in her aura and she readied her mind and body for the feats of sorcery she was about to perform.
Without removing her gaze, partially transfixed by the hint of color swirling in the blackness and wondering if she was actually seeing movement or if her mind had created something of substance to justify intentionally wading into the waiting chaos, she responded, “I am ready. Take the lead, and I’ll follow you in.”
As eager as she was test herself against a dragon, as eager as she was to actually see one of the legendary beasts in person, she was still wary of a trap and did not want to get caught between two monsters. She hadn’t yet seen the wizard in action and, therefore, much like the dragon, her analysis of his abilities and his intent were based solely on research and the stories that swirled around him. She wasn’t sure who to be more afraid of: her companion or the dragon.
The wizard considered the sorceress for a moment longer before offering another of his sly smiles and slipping quickly through the entrance. The sorceress followed on his heels and was immediately swallowed by the intensely heated darkness. She mimed the words to the spell that altered her sight so she could see in the ink black depths of the mountain and then began to run through the mantra she had set.
Each step took her further away from the perceived safety of the cave entrance. Each step took her closer to the source of the searing heat that pulsed against the exposed flesh on her arms and face. Each step took her towards uncovering the mysteries of the wizard and the dragon.