His first instinct was a spell to find his way out of the temple.
Then second thoughts kicked in.
His camera was gone. He needed proof or no one would believe him. They didn’t want to and there’d been millennia of hoaxes.
Knowing how many dragons were sleeping in the refuge would help too.
Maybe he could do something to stop them, or delay the awakening.
Someone had indicated, he thought, that the waking process took a while. Months, maybe. It was possible that he could make that longer . . . if he knew what they did, and had months to years to study the process.
No, bad idea.
Too many thrillers and action stories.
He was a scholar and researcher.
His best bet was to get information and get himself out.
So far, Alaric knew he had been lucky not to run into any priests or servants. Or maybe there just weren’t that many. How many people did it take to maintain a mothballed refuge and care for comatose dragons? Accounting for a place mage and automatons too.
Hopefully not many.
Alaric gulped a little, realizing just how much he depended on hope and luck in the situation.
Not for the first, or last, time, he wished he’d brought a team.
Who might have been captured with him. Or set the priest-caretakers into full blown paranoia, triggering violence. At the very least they would have been potential hostages, and planning an escape would be much more difficult, in its own way.
He shook himself.
Time to move.
He formed a simple, generic seeking spell, indicating dragons when it was appropriate.
The effect manifested as a muted neon green arrow in his mage sight, pointing to his left.
After a few turns down long corridors, Alaric paused to catch his breath. He hadn’t been jogging or running in years. Bent over, hands on his knees, the sorcerer heard heavy thumps on the scale-tiled floor.
He rose quickly and flattened himself against the wall as the sounds grew louder.
Moments later, a troop of four statue-guards marched down the cross hall. Alaric prayed to any deity that there were enough shadows, as a single priest strode behind them.
The woman glanced down his hall, but it seemed some divinity was listening as she passed by without looking too closely.
Alaric released the breath he had been holding with a rush of relief.
Unfortunately, his arrow pointed directly after the escorted priest.
He risked a glance down the hall.
The guards were gone, but the hall took a sharp right after a couple dozen feet.
After looking the other way to ensure the coast was clear, Alaric did his best to sneak down the hall. He kept to the wall, practically brushing it with elbows and back at every step. Unlike the others, this one was bare and undecorated. On one hand, he thought, less to run into. On the other, there was no cover, and there were no doors or alcoves.
Probably a service hall, he decided. One of those passages no one lived on and no visitors saw. Just a practical space the servants used to move around and do their jobs. There was a tangle of those halls at the Tower, for servants. He and some other students had snuck into them a few times to avoid teachers and others. The faculty pretended to forget about their existence, though they had probably all used the servant halls as students.
Maybe, if the spell was right, this was the one that the staff used to check on the dragons.
It was far too small for dragons to use themselves, if the stories and Jdal’s tapestries were right.
He crept along increasingly utilitarian halls or what felt like hours, sloping ever gradually down.
Finally, Alaric stood at the mouth of a tunnel that showed signs of being hastily dug out of the living rock. The entirety was bare stone, smooth all around. The polished gloss spoke of regular usage or, since it was all around, the use of earth sorcery. Where the more finished halls were rectangular and made of blocks of stone covered in something like plaster, the new one was almost entirely circular. It looked like a refinement of the spell he’d used in his suite, just done by someone who knew what they were doing. And had more time and a lot more raw power at their disposal.