They are not going to stop following us. None of them.

Deep in the cavernous tunnel torn through the earth just above the dragon passage, Mina surveyed the sleeping group with some sense of wonder, gaze pausing onto her own retinue keeping watch with her – Relzran and Zhiv. In the darkness of the hole, the forms were difficult to pick out, even for her. But she knew they were there, and wondered if they had any uncertainty of their reasons for their dedication to her.

The memories she had seen in their eyes–through their eyes— the experience of ancient bonds of slavery and oppression; even if the prophecy was a trick of Asmodeus and his ilk, planting a legend at her birth to collect upon later, the deed was done. She had taken on the mantle of their queen, and they recognized her as such.

A queen’s life is not her own. Even as the thought leapt into her mind, Mina instinctively sought deep within herself for the Bonding, to be comforted by the bittersweet connection to home.  It was less jarring, now, to find the hole there, the emptiness where once millenia of voices echoed and sang within her. Now it was her own lonely voice, set free to wander aimlessly, the Song of the Root a haunting echo dissipating into the deepest chasm.

A sigh escaped her and she stretched her neck upward, angling left and right; she was deep into the third hour of her watch. The retrievers. The green-dragon armor rangers. The Black Dragonflight. The Red Dragonflight. The Metallum Eternum. Firliadeth and the Weavers. The Telestari.  The Gods. It felt as if goodness were so very far away, breathing its last breath among the waves of evil and destruction that crashed continually onto the earth, drowning hope.

Even moreso, the line defining goodness from evil was blurred such that the shapes no longer seemed distinct, no longer a light in the darkness.  Mina was reminded of the abomination that Old Conor spoke of –the lantern that caused such madness that the very flesh was unbalanced; she shivered with horror.

I need to get out of this hole; back into the sunlight.  Again, her gaze slipped to where she knew the dark stalkers stood guard.  This must be the closest to home they have been in some time, far beneath the earth…

One more hour till sleep, which would bring no peace.

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