Lhasmo urged the group to break camp in the dead of night. Rodan's scouts were scouring the forest around the sacred lake, and the beating of their wings still sounded in Simon's ears. Lhasmo led them on hidden paths through the hills and forests that surrounded Gozhal.
Simon's feet were hurting. They had been marching steadfastly for days now and had long left the lush green meadows behind. But their leader pushed them on in haste, allowing only short breathers. Also at night they were granted only a few hours of sleep. Lhasmo figured that a few of Rodan's scouts were around. Even though Grewels had succeeded in killing some of them and had caused others to flee. Lhasmo decided it would be safer to continue their journey at night.
Travelling by night as well as their meagre rations only increased their exhaustion. Even Nanik and Dakko, who were always good for jesting or a funny story, were visibly suffering from the short breaks and constant hunger. They trudged silently alongside each other, exhausted. Richie groaned at Simon's side. "My legs are numb! Do you have any idea where we are? Everything here looks so dead, Simon. I can't even remember what a green tree looks like." Simon looked around. Richie was right. As far as he could see, there was nothing around them but dried and cracked earth. The trees he could make out in the moonlight looked like brittle skeletons in the deep valley they were passing through to the north. This place was truly void of life.
"We would have starved by now if Grewels hadn't supplied us with water and food from his tours", Richie said with a growling stomach.
"That's what I was also thinking. We are fortunate that he decided to join us. We would be lost in these parts without him", Simon replied.
"Have you noticed that we are walking northward?", Richie asked, looking around the desolate area.
"We're on our way to Mount Tularon, Richie! I estimate that we are at least half way there."
"Oh man, I hope so", Richie sighed. "I want to go home. What I wouldn't give for some of Aunt Abygale's blueberry pie and a warm bed", he daydreamed aloud. Simon patted his friend encouragingly on the shoulder.
"I feel the same way, Rich, really. Come on let's go grill Anjoux a bit. Maybe she can tell us what's next and how much longer we have to wander about in this wasteland!"
No sooner said than done. Nearing the end of her strength as well, Anjoux trudged listlessly behind the rest of the group and kicked a stone out of her path. The two boys quickly caught up with her.
"Hey, nice shot!", Simon remarked approvingly. "You should be on our soccer team at school", Simon suggested as Anjoux kicked another stone out of the way.
Suddenly torn from her thoughts, Anjoux stood still and looked at Simon curiously.
"What is soccer? I've never heard of it! Is that something you play in your world?"
"I can't believe this", Richie moaned and slapped his forehead. "Does that mean you've also never heard of Manchester United or Arsenal London?" Anjoux didn't understand a word and looked at Simon enquiringly.
"Oh Richie", he interrupted his friend, who was getting ready to name the best known soccer clubs in Great Britain, in the hope that Anjoux would gain a better understanding of his favourite sport.
"Stop and think. How should she know what soccer is?", Simon asked.
"Sorry, I forgot", Richie apologized and scratched his head, a bit embarrassed.
Anjoux looked from one to the other in confusion.
"And how is the game played?", she definitely wanted to know and looked at them expectantly.
"Let's see. How can I best explain it?", Richie pondered, looking around for something. "Ah, I know!", he exclaimed and reach for the dry branch he had nearly tripped over.
"What are you doing?", Simon asked and watched as Richie scratched familiar lines in the dry earth with the branch.
"Well, what do you think I'm doing? I'm drawing a soccer field", Richie grinned at them.
"You mean now, in the middle of the night?", Simon protested. Richie ignored his objections and kept on scrawling. Simon shook his head and turned to Anjoux, who was watching Richie with interest.
"Actually it's quite simple", Simon began. "There are two teams, each with eleven players and one goal that is guarded by a goalkeeper. The object of the game is to kick a ball into your opponent's goal", he concluded his rather simple explanation and turned towards Richie's soccer field.
"What's a ball?", Anjoux asked from behind him. Simon couldn't believe his ears. Did she really ask what a ball is? He gave an inward groan. Even in this world, girls just didn't have a clue about what a good game was. He took heart and was just turning around to answer Anjoux's question, when Richie beat him to it.
"A ball is round, filled with air and made of leather", Richie explained and motioned for Anjoux to come closer to show her his drawing and explain the game. Simon and Anjoux stepped carefully onto the rough drawing of the playing field. After a short while, Anjoux nodded. "Oh yes. I think I've got it. But the keeper is missing in the goal on the right", she noticed and gave Richie a mischievous smile.
Richie stared at the soccer field in disbelief. The elf girl, who didn't have a clue about soccer, pointed out an error he had made in his drawing. He glanced speechlessly at Simon and Anjoux, who could no longer keep from laughing and snorting loudly.
Richie wouldn't stand for it and grabbed the first stone he could find in the moonlight and placed it in the goal on the right side of the field. "There you go", he said proudly and brushed the dust off his fingers with his trousers. "Let the game begin."
But before he could say another word, he saw the look of horror on the faces of his friends. "What's up with you two?"
Simon pointed mutely at the stone that Richie had just placed as goalkeeper in his soccer field. Richie bent down and turned the stone slightly around. He cried out in shock, tossed the stone away and jumped backwards. He couldn't believe what he had just held in his hands.
The blank eyes of a skull were staring up at him. Or what was left of it, for the jaw and a few of the upper teeth were missing. Richie, still sitting, looked up to Anjoux and Simon. "A skull?", he said with disgust and wiped his hands on his cloak. "I touched a skull?" "Where in the world is Lhasmo taking us to?", he asked Anjoux and got back up.
"I'd like to know that as well", Simon said.
Before the elf girl could reply, Grewels came in for a landing right in the middle of Richie's carefully drawn playing field.
"I can tell you where", he began and kicked the skull to the side.
"We are on the way to Assurah's plateau, Dragoma's empire", Grewels began.
"It's true what he's saying", Anjoux confirmed."We will be able to see the plateau in the distance at sunrise. A dangerous and stony way lies before us. And I can only hope that Dragoma hasn't already picked up our scent. We must be on guard, otherwise we won't survive this stretch of the journey", Anjoux explained with a serious look.
"I couldn't have explained it better", said the dragon delightedly. Good going, my child", he thanked Anjoux and looked at Simon and Richie expectantly. "Are there any more questions? Very well! Now that that's out of the way, we can get a move on."
Simon and Richie look sceptical. They had serious doubts about the rest of their journey. They felt that Anjoux and Grewels were telling them only half the truth.
"Just a minute!", Simon restrained his scaly friend, who was about to take wing. "I have the feeling that you two are keeping something from us", Simon expressed his suspicion aloud.
"Of course we don’t! How could we withhold anything from you?", the dragon was indignant and looked offended. Anjoux took a deep breath and sighed. "You're right", she began. "We haven't told you everything for fear you could lose your courage. Let's move on, otherwise we will lose sight of the others. I will answer all of your questions along the way and tell you what I know", Anjoux proposed and urged them to catch up with the others.
"If this route is so dangerous, why not simply take another one?", Simon probed. Anjoux considered a moment before answering. "Of course we could go another route. But this is the exact route described in Asragur's prophecy. It's supposed to be the best one. It's the direct path through the Gate of the Damned and to the Well of Hope. We will be able to see the foothills of Mount Tularon from the end of the plateau. It's not that much further, trust me", she explained and quickened her pace.
Richie grumbled to himself. Something was bothering him. For days now he had been preoccupied with finding a way to shorten their journey. An idea came to him and he took heart to tell the others. "Why don't we just think our way to our destination or at least to the end of the plateau? We would save a lot of time and distance and avoid many dangers. It would be a possibility. After all, you elves are able to think yourselves to distant places and Simon has learned the same from you", Richie suggested and looked at the others expectantly.
"Richie's right. Let's just think ourselves to the Well!", Simon agreed wholeheartedly. Anjoux could only laugh. "That’s really a great idea. Why didn't I think of it?", she giggled.
"So, what's keeping us from doing it?", Simon asked.
"It's really quite simple", she began to explain and stood still. "We can, or better said, we should think ourselves only to places we know or have already been to. Remember what I taught you, Simon. Thinking ourselves to places we can only vaguely envision is much too dangerous and would mean our doom. We could never reach those places because they only exist in our imaginations. We would never arrive there. Even if we could think ourselves to the Well, it would mean leaving some of you behind, since only Lhasmo and I are strong enough to think ourselves to another place with one other person in tow. Believe me. If we could we would have reached our destination long ago."
Richie's shoulders sagged in disappointment. "That's just great! I guess there's no way around this arduous path. I figured the same!", he said in frustration.
"Sorry, boys. But that's the way it is", the little elf apologized.
"I see", said Simon and nodded thoughtfully. He looked at the moonlit bleakness around him. "When will we reach the plateau? And what the heck is a Dragoma? Is it responsible for everything being so dried out here?", Simon was asking one question after another. They had almost caught up with the others. Lhasmo left the group and came back towards them. He seemed to have followed their conversation.
"My dear Simon, I will gladly answer all of these questions. As long as you three promise not to fall so far behind the group again. This region of Morana is very dangerous and so we really have to stick together now", the Elder warned them. The three slowpokes looked at their leader sheepishly and promised to stay up with the group. Lhasmo looked intently at his charges. "You want answers, eh?", he began. "Then answers you will have! We've made a lot of progress, although the last few miles were covered at night. You know the reason why. We must assume that Rodan will soon break Asragur's spell, unless he has already broken out of his prison. Although we have reached the halfway point in our journey, I can't say how much of a head start we have on Rodan. We have to be alert now more than ever. The least bit of carelessness could mean the doom of us all".
Meanwhile Nanik, Dakko and Teldan had joined them and listened to Lhasmo's words.
"Once upon a time, Assurah was the most flourishing region of our empire. The lowlands, under the plateau, were filled with numerous streams and were known throughout the land for its rich population of fish. The plateau itself was covered with lush green meadows and its fertile farmland made it possible for the living beings here to cultivate and harvest grain, vegetables and delicious fruits all year around. Nobody went hungry and everyone had his livelihood. But one day a dark cloud came upon the land. The rain had ceased to fall and the crop was spoiled. No one could explain the dried and cracked ground. Long wide paths of burned and dead earth replaced the once fertile land. It was as if a disease had afflicted the earth and put the land under a curse."
"But what could have dried up the land so much?", Simon wanted to know. "We've been wandering through sand and dust for days now. We've passed by dead rotted trees and withered grass. What happened and where are all of those who had once lived here?"
Nanik and Dakko also perked up their ears and looked at Lhasmo enquiringly.
"Sit down, my friends. We will have a small break and I will tell you what happened here many years ago.
They were all grateful for the break. Their feet hurt and they were tired and worn out from the long walk. Everyone gathered around Lhasmo, who at once began answering their most urgent question about why life had died out in this part of Morana.
"You should know that Assurah didn't turn into this barren wasteland overnight. The drought gradually spread throughout the regions. Entire courses of streams vanished from one day to the next, leaving dead fish lying around that had once swum about in clear water. Other places looked as though wildfires had raged across the land. All life was sapped from the earth and devastation was left in the fire's wake. Many of the beings who had lived here in peace had to flee the land, only to look for a new home far away in Masla.
There were some, however, who refused to give up hope and home. Something or other had poisoned the ground and they were determined to find out what it was that had spoiled their crops and driven crowds of people from the land. Undaunted, they started their search. On the assumption that the problem came from within the earth, they asked the Wulloms for help, who then skilfully dug their way into the spoiled ground.
The hard-working rodents burrowed their way deeper and deeper into Assurah's dead earth. It wasn't long before they made their first dreadful discovery.
A complex system of corridors and caves passed through the once fertile land. It quickly became apparent to the Wulloms who had settled down here in Assurah and the danger they were in. They opened dark chambers filled with the sad remains of those who had not escaped in time. The deeper they advanced into that dark world, the stronger the smell of death and decay became. Dragoma, the last and most powerful of the Athares, had stricken Assurah and soaked up all life like a sponge.
She's an old ferocious being. Half dragon, half fire worm. They had robbed this part of Morana of all energy in order to feed their own sinister brood. There was no time to lose. The Wulloms had to act quickly to save the rest of Morana from a similar fate. Biggs, their leader, gathered together his best tunnel diggers, while the others hurried back to the surface to warn the remaining dwellers to flee. Assurah was lost. All they could do now was to keep the same thing from happening to the rest of Morana.
Biggs urged his friends to hurry. It seemed that their presence had not yet been noticed. And so they went about seeking the center of the labyrinth, where they figured to find the nest of Dragoma's offspring. The eggs of the Athares would definitely have to be destroyed to keep their brood from spreading over all of Morana.
While the dwellers of Assurah quickly packed their belongings and left their beloved homes, Biggs and his companions succeeded in penetrating the centre of Dragoma's underground empire.
There, in the midst of a great cave, the Athare had laid their eggs. There were hundreds of black eggs, covered with green slime, in a huge nest Dragoma had built from coarse stones and innumerable bones.
The stink of the breeding grounds of the Athare nearly robbed them of their breath. But they had to hurry. There were first stirrings of life in the nest as some of the eggs were starting to hatch.
The Wulloms quickly got to work. They crushed each and every egg and killed Dragoma's offspring, before destroying the cave itself.
They soon heard Dragoma's angry roar. They turned their backs on Assurah and without looking back, made their way home. Since then, the Athare roam Assurah and avenge herself on whoever is bold enough to set foot in their dusty empire."
Lhasmo had answered their questions sufficiently and looked seriously at the group. He was fully aware of the danger he was exposing them to. If it were only possible, he would choose another route. But he simply could not leave this predetermined path. Richie glanced at Simon with wide eyes. He didn't know what to say. But his friend was aware of what he was thinking. Anjoux looked to the ground, ashamed of herself for not having told her friends the whole truth from the beginning. Nanik and Dakko were also deep in thought about Lhasmo's tale and didn't say a word.
Grewels was the first to say something. "Well, if that doesn't sound like a great adventure. That just warms the heart of an old dragon like me", he laughed and seemed indeed to look forward to doing combat with Dragoma.
"What do you propose, Lhasmo?", the normally silent Teldan asked the Elder.
"Wouldn't it be better to travel by day from now on? I have heard that the Athares can't see so well by day. We would have an advantage over Dragoma in the event of a fight."
Lhasmo stroked his beard and thought about it. "You are right, Teldan. We need to use this night to gain new strength. It doesn't really matter anymore who finds us first, Rodan's ravens or Dragoma."
And so they decided to rest that night. There was plenty of dry wood around for a fire, thanks to Dragoma's arrival in Assurah. Grewels took a deep breath and ignited the gathered wood with one powerful jet of fire. The flames shot up into the nightly sky and the fire was pleasantly warm.
The nights were becoming quite chilly and the land was covered with white frost in the early morning hours. No more stories were told that night. While Lhasmo conferred with Teldan and Grewels, the children wrapped themselves in their cloaks and soon fell asleep in the glow of the crackling fire.
Simon fell into a restless sleep. Half the night he tossed back and forth, plagued with nightmares that woke him up with a start during the night. Soaked in sweat and his heart pounding, he looked around fearfully. Everything was so calm. His friends were fast asleep. Only Richie squinted at him sleepily. "What's wrong, can't you sleep?"
"I had a bad dream, that's all. Go back to sleep. It's OK", he calmed Richie.
"Well, it's no wonder. Just thinking about being swallowed up by that fire worm...", Richie mumbled half asleep and yawned before his eyes closed again and he fell back to sleep.
Simon also lied down again and pulled his cloak up to his nose. It was soon dawn. With the first rays of the sun they would continue their adventurous journey through Dragoma's empire.
The rest of the night passed peacefully and Simon got in a few more hours of sleep. They broke camp with the first red of the horizon in the east.
Lhasmo led them deeper and deeper into the land of the Athare. Their mood was once again more relaxed. Lhasmo and Teldan kept their eyes open while Nanik and Dakko kidded around and chased each other.
Anjoux and Simon also had their fun. The small elf showed him how simple it was to think oneself around a single point in the shortest time. It was important training for Simon's skill and reaction time. If a decisive fight against Rodan really took place at the Well, Simon wouldn't have the time for concentrating very long on another place. He had to be prepared to dodge Rodan's attacks quickly.
However, the training of his friends got pretty much on Richie's nerves. The three of them walked side by side, but just as soon as he turned his head to the right to speak with Simon, he found himself staring into Anjoux's cheeky face. Simon tapped his friend on the left shoulder. Right when Richie turned that way, Simon had vanished again and Anjoux was blinking at him while Simon's voice came from behind or the right. What fun! But he was soon bored and so they practiced speed thinking away.
They chose a destination nearby, a tree or boulder, and focused on it. Whoever made it first there was the winner. Richie wasn't amused and decided to join Nanik and Dakko. Maybe he could get them interested in soccer. He caught up to them and left Simon and Anjoux to their training.
The morning dragged on without event. Grewels flew his paths in the blue sky over Assurah. In spite of the night frost, it turned out to be a nice warm late autumn day.
"Lhasmo, my old friend, it's about three more miles to the plateau of Assurah", sounded the voice of the dragon far above them. "I have a feeling this will be a fine day", Grewels laughed and flew low over their heads in high spirits.
"Not so venturous, dragon. One of these days you're going to break that scaly neck of yours", Lhasmo warned and shook his head in laughter.
"Grewels, scout around and find the safest way up to the plateau. We should be up there before dark", said the Elder.
"Consider it done", Grewels called back, performed another nosedive towards the others and shot back up into the air. Just like that, he was soon a mere dot in the sky.
His daring manoeuvre woke Teldan out of a daydream and surprised him so much that he tripped over a stone in his path. Before he could catch himself, he tripped and sprawled on the ground. Cursing, he stood up and angrily beat the sand and dust from his cloak. He lifted his fist threateningly and cried out some choice words to Grewels, while the others laughed themselves silly.
Anjoux and Simon ended their training for the day and proceeded on their journey to the plateau in laughter. It was a jolly day, for they still didn't know what kind of test awaited them. Simon noticed how the path was growing steeper. A moment later, a rock wall appeared from nowhere in the distance, blocking their path. Simon couldn't believe his eyes. How were they supposed to climb to the top?
Richie shared Simon's thoughts. They stood still and stared ahead at the rocky obstacle, with a sinking feeling. Anjoux came over to them and noticed their looks of doubt. A light wind arose, covering the insurmountable obstacle as well as Assurah's plateau with sand and dust. It seemed as though admittance to the plateau and advancement into Dragoma's empire was being refused to them. Richie glanced angrily at Anjoux.
"Could it be that you left out a small detail about the remainder of our journey?"
"No, I didn't", Anjoux hissed and placed her hands belligerently on her hips. "All I said was that the plateau would soon be in sight. You might have figured out yourself that we will somehow have to make our way up there, right? If I had told you yesterday that we would have more climbing to do, you would not have slept a wink last night!", she tried justifying herself.
"Oh, thanks a lot. How nice of you", Richie hissed back at her. Before his temper got the best of him, Simon intervened.
"Drop it, Richie. It won't help any to get upset now or to blame anyone. We will make it to the top together", he appeased his angry friend, who furiously looked up at the rock wall that towered above them.
"Whatever. As usual, we have no other choice.", Richie grumbled, blowing off steam.
"I'm sorry, Simon. I didn't mean for that to happen", Anjoux apologized. But Simon just waved it off. "Ah, it was nothing. Richie will calm down again. It's not half so bad", he calmed her and gave her a smile.
"Do we really have to climb up there?", Simon asked Lhasmo, who stood still and squinted up to the sky looking for Grewels. "Well, I guess we have to, lad. But don’t worry I'm pretty sure that the dragon will find a path up to the plateau that's not too stony. Let's have a short break here and wait for Grewels to return", he suggested.
They found shelter from the whirling sand under a huge rock and busied themselves with shaking the stuff out of their ears, hair and clothing. It wasn't long before Grewels spotted them. In a daring act, the dragon hurtled down to the rock where his friends had sought shelter from the wind and dust. It would give them a good scare if he came in for a landing over their heads, he thought mischievously. But he no sooner reached the rock and stretched forth his wings when a gust of wind caused him to land at their feet in the dirt.
"It's good that you found your way back. We were beginning to worry", Lhasmo greeted him impatiently. The children bent over with laughter as Grewels slowly picked himself up and, stunned from the fall, looked at the group. He got quickly back to his usual self. He shook off the dust in frustration and spit out cartloads of sand. Outraged, he discharged smoke from his nostrils. Legs spread and arms folded, the dragon acted offended in front of his friends, who were still chuckling. "Keep on laughing", he snarled. "It won't be long before you'll have nothing to laugh about", Grewels prophesied with a grim smile on his face.
"So, have you found a way up to the plateau?", Lhasmo asked to appease further anger.
"Indeed I have. Less than two miles from here, to the east, is an old path hidden between two rocks that leads up to the plateau. It's uneven and partially blocked by rockfall. It looks like it hasn't been used in years. You can expect an energy-sapping climb to the top", Grewels explained. The dragon enjoyed a bit of malicious joy when he saw the smiles wiped off from the faces of his friends.
"That's alright", he thought and chuckled to himself. "So who has the last laugh?"
"Then we'd better get going and lose no time. The weather is changing and we have to reach the plateau before nightfall", Lhasmo ended the short break.
With Grewels in the lead, they made their way eastward towards the plateau that was covered by a cloud of dust and sand.
The wind picked up and whipped grains of sand in their faces. Simon's knees grew weak just thinking about the steep rock wall. The incident of the abyss outside of Leyhda, where he nearly plunged to his death, was still fresh in his mind.
With their cloaks wrapped around, they trudged up the hill, pausing in wonder at the top. Below them was a deep valley covered by a gigantic cloud of gold-red sand from the east to the west. Here and there they caught a glimpse of the rough stone of the rock wall that was hidden behind a curtain of a million crystals of sand. It seemed to Simon as though there was a spell over Assurah to prevent them from reaching the once fertile plateau. Still, they continued on unperturbed.
They soon found themselves totally closed in by the sandstorm. The wind whistled in their ears and they could hardly see their own hands in front of their eyes, let alone where they were stepping. Pressed close together and fighting the storm, each held on to the cloak of the person in front and followed the dragon's guidance, without which they would have lost all orientation. At times the storm threatened to swallow them up and then would back off, giving them a look at the steep face of the rock and the narrow path that was to lead them to the plateau. Simon looked around in amazement. Behind them, the sandstorm raged with unabated force. Suddenly the storm was over and they found themselves staring up into the clear sky of Assurah, which was slowly turning red. Grewels swung into the air. "Be careful where you step. I'll be waiting at the top", he called and with that he was gone.
Lhasmo peered up to the part of the path ahead that he could see. It seemed to him to be safe and started climbing. He stopped at the first bend he came to and beckoned the others to follow.
"It seems to be a safe path. Follow me, one after the other! Teldan, you bring up the rear! Hold on tightly to the rock the best you can. It will be a very steep and difficult climb."
Slow but sure, one after another, they climbed the path. The rugged rock face grew steeper and steeper. Soon they had climbed high enough, far above the sand cloud, to where they had a view of the dried up land. Simon shivered. From up here you could see the full extent of the destruction. Lifeless desert and drought as far as the eye could see. For the first time a feeling of despair came over him. It seemed that Assurah was forever lost. It was unlikely that not even a blade of grass would grow again in the once fertile land. Life had abandoned Assurah.
Simon's heart jumped to his throat. The thought of soon encountering the destructive and vengeful Athare Dragoma put a heavy weight on his chest. He had to pull himself together. They were pass the point of no return. They had come too far to give up now! He shook off his misgivings and got his fear under control once again. He turned his eyes from the wasteland and focused on the path before him.
Not far behind him, Richie wiped the sweat from his forehead in exhaustion. Simon waited and stretched out his hand to Richie, to help pull him up.
"How many more mountains and cliffs do we have to climb, Simon? I'm not a mountain goat!", Richie groaned, bending over to catch his breath.
Before Simon could reply, Teldan came up from behind and kept them moving.
"Our time is short! We must reach the plateau before the sun sets. This path would be much too dangerous to be on in the dark. One false step and you would be lost. So hurry up! We will rest at the top", the elf shooed them on and Simon and Richie, for better or worse, continued climbing. Grewels had not exaggerated. It was a hard and long way till the last of them reached to the top. Simon, Richie and Teldan were the last to reach the plateau. Tossing off their bows and leather bags, they simply let themselves fall down onto the dusty ground, completely out of strength.
"First catch your breaths", Lhasmo greeted them. "We will go just a bit further before sunset."
Lhasmo didn't leave them much time to regain their strength. The sun was already low in the sky and it was getting dark. Worn out with aching joints, they struggled to their feet one more time and followed the Elder in a north-westerly direction.
It had turned dark, and now only the moon and stars lit their path. Just as Simon was ready to give up arriving anywhere this night, he suddenly caught sight of a glow of fire in the distance that Lhasmo was headed for. They soon reached their camp for the night. Grewels welcomed them with a smirk. He had prepared a fire, fetched some water and was already roasting four large lizards over the fire. Up to now Simon and Richie had refused to eat of the fatty lizards so popular among the moor elves. But they were so starved this evening that they were able to overcome their revulsion. To their amazement they found lizard meat delicious, tasting something like chicken, although they didn't look like chickens. They hadn't had a real meal for days, and not enough sleep, either. Full and content, they snuggled down into their cloaks and soon afterwards were sound asleep.
Grewels alone kept an eye open this night and stood guard over his sleeping friends, for he was the only one who knew how close Dragoma was on their heels.