The corridor was dim after the brightness of the garden. The only light came from the doorway behind them. Salia and Coromel clung to each other as they followed Karilya.
“I-I really don’t think we should be here.” Salia looked at the thick layer of dust just visible in the gloom. “It doesn’t look like anyone ever comes here.”
“Nonsense!” Karilya said cheerfully. A flickering flame appeared above her right shoulder, lighting the corridor. She pointed at the floor. “Look, footprints.”
Salia looked down and saw that there was indeed a single track of footprints in the dust. They looked to be fairly recent but certainly not fresh and they were the only ones. But Karilya had said whatever she’d been chasing had come in here?
“Are you sure it came in here?” Coromel was obviously thinking the same thing.
Karilya nodded, the little flame she’d created bouncing up and down in unconscious mimicry. “I saw the door open and-” she broke off as another giggle sounded ahead of them. Just for a moment Salia swore she saw something glittering in the air ahead of them, but then it was gone. Karilya bounced on the balls of her feet. “That’s what I saw. Come on!” She took off down the corridor at a run.
“That girl has no sense of caution,” Coromel said softly.
Salia stared after the dragon girl and nodded. “I doubt she’s ever needed one.”
“Should we follow her?”
Salia hesitated. “I don’t know. I’m sure we’re not supposed to be here, but I don’t really care about that.” She shrugged. “Who cares what they want? But…” She stared after Karilya worriedly. She couldn’t see the dragon girl any more, just her little flame.
“You’re worried about her?” Coromel asked. “I don’t understand why, but I am too. Let’s go!” She grabbed Salia’s hand but tugged her towards the door not down the corridor.
“Uh?” Salia stared down the corridor and didn’t move.
“We should go and find her mother,” Coromel said. “Something is wrong here.” She paused and her expression became quizzical. “More wrong than the rest of this place. Can’t you feel it?”
Now that she said it, Salia could. There was something off – a taste in the air, a scratch on the skin – something which just felt creepy. She shivered and rubbed at her arms.
“Exactly!” Coromel said. “It’s dangerous, and we won’t be able to do much if something bad happens.”
Salia looked at her for a long moment and then nodded.
Unfortunately they couldn’t find Lyrrekka. Eventually Salia had to screw up her courage and approach the dragon guard lounging just inside the door to the rest of the palace.
“E-excuse me? Do you know where Lyrrekka is?”
“I’m afraid not, little one,” he said with a smile. “But I can call her if it’s important.”
“I think it is. There was this bell sound and giggling and this door which wasn’t there before and which I don’t think we should have been able to see and it felt wrong and Karilya’s went inside and we’re worried about her and-” She broke off as the guard raised a hand.
“Slow down, little one, I can barely follow you. But if Kari might be in trouble, you’re quite right that we should call Lyr.” He closed his eyes for a moment and then nodded. “She comi-” He broke off as she appeared in front of him with a slight popping sound. “She’s here. I always forget you have permission to do that.”
Lyrrekka nodded a greeting to him but didn’t respond to that. Instead she turned anxiously to the two girls. “Are you two okay?” she asked. “I couldn’t make much sense of what Tarian told me.”
Salia took a breath and started to repeat what she’d told him. From the look on Lyrrekka’s face she was possibly being less coherent this time. A moment later she felt Lyrrekka touch her mind and poke around gently. The dragon woman gasped and paled slightly.
“Show me where this door is,” she ordered firmly as she took Salia and Coromel’s hands and teleported them to the fountain in the garden.
“Okay,” Salia led her along the path to the door, which was still open. She peeked inside but there was no sign of Karilya.
“That’s strange.” Lyrrekka looked equal parts worried and confused. “I didn’t know this was here. I should have. Kari followed something in here?”
Salia nodded. “I told her I didn’t think she should.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Lyrekka said. “Let’s worry about finding her.” She summoned a bright yellow flame and stepped into the corridor. “You’re right, this place does feel wrong.” She looked back at them and held out her hands. “Come on then. Something odd is going on and I don’t want you two out of my sight until I’m sure it’s safe.”
“O-okay.” Salia took Lyrrekka’s hand again. After a moment Coromel followed suit and they set off into the gloom.
They hadn’t got very far before Karilya came barrelling out of the dark and clung to her mother.
“You’ve got to come and see this, mummy!” She was pale and weeping, but she sounded more angry than upset. “How could he do this?” She started pulling her mother along the corridor.
Lyrrekka hesitated for a moment. “Okay, Kari. I’m coming.”