Darya felt his mouth go dry as he stepped through the portal after Rilletta . The sudden sense of dozens of dragons surrounded him, their hunger tearing at his skin, and it took all his willpower to avoid turning and running back through the portal. He swallowed hard and tried to concentrate on his surroundings. No heart friend or warrior had ever penetrated a dragon’s lair and returned. He might learn something useful here.
The caves that formed Ystelyan’s palace were quite obviously carved by water. Even though they were dry now, he could hear and smell water not far away. It reminded him of the dry areas of his family’s grotto, except…
He reached out hesitantly and touched one of the walls, then gasped at the strength of the earth essence running through it.
“This is an earth affinity zone? But there’s so much water.” He didn’t realise he’s spoken out loud until Rilletta replied.
“It is. Ystelyan has a water affinity as well. It affects things.” She looked back at him with a smile. “Come on, he’s waiting for us and we don’t have much time.”
Darya nodded and continued following her and Aquia through the tunnels into an area where the tunnel walls were covered with beautiful tapestries of water creatures. The sound and sense of water and water essence became even stronger. Even the sense of dragons surrounding him couldn’t stop him from sighing happily. Kyle and the others made sure he stayed hydrated but he missed water. He paused and let the sensation wash over him. It was almost as good as being underwater.
He was about to continue following Rilletta when he heard someone sobbing nearby. Rilletta must have heard it as well because she paused and frowned down one of the corridors.
“Talira, what are you doing down there?” she asked in a gentle tone. “Come out here you silly girl.”
The sobbing paused for a moment before resuming as a tearful girl emerged from the corridor. She looked about his age and had the green eyes of a dragon. She almost felt like one – but not quite. He frowned and tried not stare.
Rilletta looked at her and tutted. “You’ve been arguing with Yst again, haven’t you?”
Talira scrubbed at her face with her hands and nodded sheepishly. “He says that I have to start feeding myself. I’m grateful he took me in after I escaped from from Shalriya-miria, really I am, but I don’t want to be a Kinstrara.” She sounded so forlorn that Darya’s stomach twisted in sympathy.
“I know, dear.” Rilletta hugged her. “But Shalriya already initiated your transformation and there’s no way to reverse it. You know that. And half-made are dangerously unstable. If you try to stay as one you’ll eventually frenzy and that’s entirely the wrong way to become a dragon. It’s better do it this way so no one gets hurt.”
“That’s what he says, but–”
“No buts. Yst won’t stop feeding you until you’re ready but you can’t pretend this is a permanent solution to the problem.” She put an arm around Talira’s shoulder. “Come on. You should talk with him again after he’s spoken to Darya, and try not to get angry this time. He’s trying to help you.” She gave Darya a smile. “Talira’s a refugee from yellow territory. She has some issues. But Yst is waiting for us and we don’t have much time.” She turned and led them a little way further along the corridor to a pair of ornately carved doors which swung open as she approached. “Here we are!” She walked in with Talira and Aquia. Darya hesitated again and swallowed his anxiety before following them inside.