As he shuffled down the tunnel, the sorcerer absently wondered if the tunnel and whatever it connected to were included in Jdal’s place binding. They were obviously later additions to the temple-refuge structure. If the binding had happened before excavation, he thought, would it expand as the structure did, or not? Thinking of that, did the tunnel even count as part of the temple-refuge?
The academic part of his mind pondered these questions while the rest tried to remain quiet and as hidden as a featureless, straight tunnel would allow.
Alaric remained as flat against the wall as he could, his hands sliding lightly along the glassy surface.
Reaching the end took less time than he would have liked.
The tunnel abruptly dropped to a wide obsidian stair that swept out like a fan.
He ducked back as he spotted six statue-guards at the bottom. The quick look was enough to see that they formed a straight line at the foot. He hadn’t seen enough room to slip between them. He guessed the tops of their heads were about twelve, fifteen feet beneath him.
Ears straining for any sound of alarm, the sorcerer lay on the floor and scooted forward until he could see into the cavern. He hoped the move would be unnoticeable, with only his head exposed.
The stairs, he saw, descended into a massive, symmetrical cavern with the same polished walls as the tunnel. Artificial, then, he thought, or artificially enlarged. To his right and left, two rows of cave mouths pierced the smooth sides. He counted half a dozen on each side, and guessed another two each that he couldn’t see due to his angle. The priest he’d seen leading a quartet of statues was walking along the floor, stopping at each over-under pair of caves. She appeared to be inspecting them. At least she did not seem to be using any rituals or spells, so she probably wasn’t waking the dragons. Given the size, he assumed each must house one of the beasts.
Alaric slid back down the corridor.
Propped against the wall, he shook his head.
At least twelve, possibly fourteen, dragons.
Even if they were all smaller than the one in the guardian-priest’s tapestry . . .
If those were unleashed on the world, or even the relatively organized Island, today . . .
It would be a bloodbath.
There were more sorcerers than in the old days, but there were also the humans to consider. And no one had fought, or spoken to, or even seen an active dragon in millennia.
They would need warning.
And to organize.
Neither would go well, and which would be more difficult was a toss up.
They would likely need the help of the eldren and treefolk, probably the vrykos and dharo too. Maybe even the changelings.
And they would need to move fast, before the dragons woke, if they were going to keep things quiet from the humans.
And he was the only one who knew.
Alaric heaved himself to his feet. That priest had looked like she was inspecting or checking the caves. There was no telling where she’d started, and his getting caught in the tunnel would help no one. Since the refuge had eluded detection for . . . a very long time, he had to assume there were some serious wards on the place. Probably blocking or limiting communication spells too. That would make sense, to better conceal the place. Which meant getting out at the very least, back to the surface as the best option.
He ran, retracing his steps, back toward the service corridor.
There, he paused long enough to use a restorative spell, between panting breaths. All the Tower’s students learned it early on. Better than caffeine and it lasted longer. Used more than a couple times in succession, though, and the crash when it wore off had been known to cause comas.
So long as he made the surface before the crash, that was all that mattered.
The boost kicked in, aided by a jolt of adrenaline as he heard soft footsteps behind him.
He jogged ahead a few yards before turning down the first cross hall he found.