The sorceress hugged herself, desperate to calm the trembling in her body, as she safely stepped through the portal into her home. Her nerves were shot. Her energy was drained. Her emotions were frayed. She fell into a heap on the floor of her study and sobbed uncontrollably until she passed out, and even then her dreams were haunted by flashing teeth, dark fire, and the hideous laughter of the mighty dragon.
When she woke a few hours later, she stripped off her clothes and drew a hot bath to scour the stink of fear, sweat, and death from her skin. The boiling water helped, but could not complete the task, for she could never forget the experience, she could never un-see the dragon, and she could never rid herself of the feeling of its magical power crawling over her skin.
It could have ended her, easily, and yet it had chosen to see a kindred spirit in her and give her a chance to prove that she was worth saving. The “one small thing” was a joke, of course. The task it had set for her would take all her cunning, attention to detail, and considerable knowledge of the craft to pull off. She had no doubt she would be successful, though, once she sat down at her desk and put her mind to work formulating a plan.
She pulled herself from the bath once the temperature began to wane and before the cold could seep into her bones, quickly toweled off, and dressed in soft flowing robes that would allow her the freedom of movement to embark on her studies and the comfort to maintain her research for a long time. The she returned to her study and pulled the tomes from the shelves she believed she would need, and curled into her desk chair. A snap of her fingers brought the candles nearest to her to life and provided ample light for reading. A second snap of her fingers and the study door closed and encased itself in an elaborate weave of protective spells. She had not time for distractions. The dragon had given her a deadline she would, despite her amazing talents, be hard-pressed to meet if she didn’t fully devote herself to the project.
The wax from the candles dripped steadily down, pulled by gravity and the passage of time, as the wicks burned lower and lower. Eventually the flames guttered and threatened to disappear and the sorceress was forced to divert her attention long enough to replace them. The strong, renewed, light also rejuvenated her exuberance in the search and she was able to complete her plans shortly thereafter. Rather than heading to her chambers for slumber, she pushed the massive tomes she’d read through aside, and placed her head on her arms stretched atop the cool wooden surface of the desk.
She didn’t have time for a long sleep. She needed to rest quickly and then set her plans into motion and staying in the study was sure to help make that happen. Unlike her dreams from the night before, her short slumber was met with images of calming rivers and peaceful star filled nights.