A/N: Sorry about the wait. In this chapter, we enter Dragonspyre, and I will also have a preview for the sequel. Have I revealed the title yet? I don't know if I have. Maybe I haven't. Whatever. I'll say it again, even if I already did: The sequel will be called "The Journey of Fire's Song." X)
Brooke's letter hadn't said much; really, all that it was were these words:
Don't open the envelope until you defeat Malistaire.
I recognized Brooke's sloppy scrawl easily, and sure enough, there was another, smaller envelope that the note had been wrapped around. There was no way I would go against the dead Diviner's wishes, and so I tucked the letter into my backpack. Erica clutched the Dragonspyre Spiral Key in her hands as we approached the Mooshu Spiral Chamber, and I could see the still- wet tearstains on her face.
I refused to cry. I would not allow a single tear to escape my eyes. I welcomed the familiar numbness and fought to keep myself going. If I was the leader, I had to stay strong. I would stay strong. The other members of my group cried- except Moira, of course- but I wouldn't. I kept my face stony and emotionless as we entered the wide, sunny Chamber.
"Give me the key," I instructed flatly, holding out my hand. Erica set it in my palm and backed away, scrubbing at her eyes with her sleeve. "Stop crying." The command didn't address only Erica, but also anyone else who dared shed a tear. "I said stop!" I whirled around to face them. "If you want to show weakness, fine, but I remember Dragonspyre well enough to know what weakness will do to you there!"
"It's worse now," Evan added, tucking his hands into his pockets and shrugging. "If you look weak, there'll be a dozen drakes on you in a second." I was startled by the comment, but I refused to show it. Drakes were like seagulls- extremely annoying, but virtually harmless. When I had lived in Dragonspyre, the small humanoid dragons had done little more than shriek and throw clumps of ash from high on the rooftops. If they were attacking people … "By the time I left for Ravenwood, there were about forty recorded draconian deaths. No one leaves their house without a wand any more." Heather's face went chalk white.
"Well, there you go. Make sure your wands are out and be ready to fight." I unsheathed my cutlass with my right hand and pressed the Dragonspyre Spiral Key into the doorframe with my left. The key glowed brightly and locked into place. The door slowly swung open, and I boldly stepped forwards into the glowing entryway.
The moment I emerged from the Spiral Door, I was hit in the face with a wave of heat so intense that I almost fell back into the portal. Sulfuric ashes blew into my eyes and stung worse than anything I'd ever felt before, and I spent a moment rubbing my eyes to get the ash out. I quickly reached into my backpack and pulled out a hat that had been imported from Dragonspyre. I'd seen it at the Master Merchant's shop and gotten it on a whim, and I was getting more and more glad that I'd done so. It was more of a hood, really, and it covered my entire head and neck. There was a birdlike mask that covered my eyes, complete with a filmy substance over the eye holes to protect my eyes from blowing ashes. I shoved my tattered hat into the backpack and pulled on the hood, finally getting a good look at the Basilica.
I remembered the place as a beautiful world, with networks of clear, cool rivers flowing throughout the entire place and with trees growing everywhere they could take root. I remembered strong, thick walls built of light brown stone that had been shipped from Krokotopia, walls that were built to keep out any army. I remembered groups of people that would gather in the Basilica to chat and trade. Merchants had once crowded the lowest level of the place, setting up small stalls and calling out to passersby. The Basilica had once been a place to socialize, to laugh, to have fun.
Hot lava oozed through the riverbeds now, and steam billowed out in thick clouds. All that remained of the plants were charred black stems and trunks. The grass was no longer there at all; the ground was a mottled combination of cracked rock formed from cooled lava and crumbling blocks that had been stained red from blood. There was no one in sight except for a group of drakes flying around the distant Crown of Fire. Ashes blew in the air like fallen leaves, and bones littered the ground. There had been some kind of battle there … or a massacre.
"What happened here?" I asked Evan as he stepped through the doorway.
"The Dragon Titan woke. He destroyed everything … thousands of people died in that battle. Ravina Blackwing and Fyrina Bloodhand themselves couldn't turn him back. In the end, all of the wizards in Dragonspyre banded together and put the Titan into a deep sleep, but they couldn't undo all of that." He gestured to the lava river. "There's very little water in the city now; it's imported from Wintertusk, and the ravens have steep prices. Having to buy water is bankrupting the government, and so there's no money to rebuild the city. This place is pretty much doomed, although people do what they can." He frowned. "That was about seven years ago."
"That was the year after I left, then."
"Yeah." The entire group was silent as they looked upon the remains of the once-powerful world. I could see the three-tiered city in the distance, topped by the Crown of Fire. Undoubtedly, there would be much worse carnage there than in the Basilica.
"So, Moonchaser, where do we go?" I cast a dark glance her way, and she rolled her eyes.
"Well, let's see. Do you want to sit around and complain about how your poor home world is destroyed, or do you want to go save the Spiral and get your revenge?" I glared pointedly at her. "Fine. Second option, then. We go down to the portals, obviously. You want the one to the third tier; that's the closest to the dungeons."
"You do want to reach him undetected, don't you? Malistaire doesn't go into the dungeons. That was my job. I know all of the secret ways in, and all of the secret ways up. Get your butt moving if you want to get there sometime this year." She stalked down the ramp, and the rest of us followed her.