Wendell sat there in the miserable hole. Somehow he felt peaceful now, even if his whole body still ached, but he noticed that the thirst had gone.
He looked up out at the sky, and saw the stars shining again. Singing brightly, shining brightly, of love and courage and hope. Violet was still alive!
He felt an old feeling of hatred rise up, and words of anger. But he pushed it all aside. Now he climbed up out of the hole, and looked to the north, where Ren Zael had pointed... there was indeed an opening there, in the base of a weird hill.
Wendell scurried furiously from one place to another, trying to reach the entrance without being seen. At last he reached it and huddled there. Waves of simmering, fiery heat flowed out every now and then, and a seething glow of red light flickered inside.
He stepped through, and stopped. The inside of the entire hill was vacant and glowed with an ember’s dark heat. There were mounds of golden treasures and diamonds, heaped up like mountains of mere dust and scattered everywhere.
An enormous dragon statue made of red jewels lounged on top of it all, smoldering like living coals. The statue had a long, serpentine body, with huge curving claws tucked under its wise, pointed face.
Two jaded, inscrutable eyes stared at Wendell as if they didn’t even care that he was there, over a mouth that curved with many beautiful fangs, wrapped in a smirk of eternal coyness. The statue blinked.
Wendell heard something speak in his mind, as he tried to tear his eyes away from the statue’s mysterious gaze.
“I suppose... you’re looking... for them.”
Wendell didn’t reply.
“I suppose you think... I’m like the black dragon.”
He heard something like a giggle.
“Damarisk is a fool... who sleeps too... too much. I... haven’t slept... in... five... thousand years.”
Wendell slowly reached for the dagger’s hilt.
“Don’t worry... about using.... that, Wendell.”
“I know about Pale... Candle... and Hollow Wind. No concern... I’m much... older... than them... you know.”
“You humans... don’t... know... our… power over you...”
Wendell spoke up rashly at last.
“You don’t have any power over me, you old liar!!”
The great statue blinked again, and smiled wider and wider. The air quaked for a moment but then stopped.
“You don’t even... know... that you already belong... to... us... the… dra... gons... and you...”
“That story has ended, Nemurthis.” Wendell heard himself say, not even knowing what he was saying or why. “Ren Zael has returned to the realm of men. This child is beyond your reach now!”
The eyes blinked again, leisurely, and a billow of steam came from between the fangs. It felt like there was an earthquake, but nothing was moving. Then all was silence again, like a forgotten tomb.
“Ren Zael is... a... silly... dream of the... children... he cannot help... you...”
“I know that you are lying!” Wendell said through his teeth, drawing the dagger swiftly, although his hand trembled as he held on to it tightly.
“Then you... will carry it all to... the underworld... where no... one can... ever hear... you... again...” went the smiling voice, hollow as a graveyard bell.