Chapter Twenty

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Born From the Ash

The small village of Volcaringuard was nothing like Lillian had imagined it would be. She was not even sure what she had imagined it might look like, but what lay before her exceeded anything she could have dreamed. A huge tower of stone rose above her. It sat in the center of a tall stone wall. The only way past the wall was an iron gate that sat just beneath the tower.

"For a town on top of a mountain, it sure is heavily guarded." Lillian thought aloud.

"Perhaps that is why is hasn't been attacked in nearly a century." Victoria replied.

Nothing else was said and silence once again filled the space between the five of them. Which was all right by Lillian. It was not that she didn't like Victoria. She did not even know her, but something about her irritated Lillian. Maybe it was the fact that she was cold and hungry and needed sleep badly. She tugged at her thick braid, something she often did for comfort. It helped sooth her when she needed calming.

As they approached the large gate, she observed the two guards stationed outside. They were older men with bushy grey beards. One of the men nodded and gave her a toothy smile. She thought he was probably old enough to have been her grandfather. They greeted Victoria warmly, and made a joke about seeing her on the ground. The five of them passed through without a second glance.

Lillian stopped and stared in awe at the village that lay before her. Every single building was made of stone. Stone so smooth and shaped so finely you would have thought someone had melted it and molded it with their hands. The whole of the village could not have been more than a mile. It sat neatly in a small valley at the top of the mountain and looked as if it had sprung up from the earth its self.

Directly in the center was a large building that reminded her of the Great Hall in Ferrentri. It was a simple square shape with pillars in the front. Intricate carvings decorated the pillars, along with its enormous stone doors. To the left of the building were rows of housing. Each house made up of stone bricks, of varying color, layered in such a way that her eyes sort of dance over them pleasantly.

To the far right were fields, but she could not tell what was being grown. The earth was dark, the way it is when freshly plowed. In fact, she could smell the newly upturned earth lingering in the air. Suddenly she was itching to get her hands dirty, to help something grow and bring life into the world. Behind the large stone building was a town square in which carts and small shops had set up and displayed their goods.

There were not many people out, but she suspected that was probably because the sun was completely behind the horizon and torches led their way. Victoria led them to a large home and a grey haired beauty came out to great them. It was obvious the woman had worked hard all her life, but her beauty never faded.

"This is Gail, she will provide you with a place to sleep tonight, and anything else you may need. I will be back in the morning and then we will discuss what our plans are next." Victoria said.

"Wait. Where will you stay?" Alex asked.

It was the first thing Lillian had heard her say all evening.

"I have some things to attend to with the dragons. Then I will retire to my house with my mother." Victoria said.

"May I come with you?" Alex asked, then blushed and added, "To see the dragons I mean, not to your house."

Victoria agreed pleasantly and bid the rest of them goodnight.

Gail was a wonderful host and fed them each a steaming bowl of stew before showing them to their rooms. There were two extra rooms, two beds to a room. Ryhan chose to bunk with Evangeline, which gave Lillian some time to herself. She was not entirely sure she wanted to be alone and hoped that sleep would find her quickly. It did. She slept like a rock, so hard that she had not even noticed Alex come in later that night.

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