Chapter Four - Nightfire

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Before them lay the entrance to a small passageway that led inside the base of the mountain. The heavy metal grill that had guarded its entrance lay twisted and broken, ripped from its moorings by a powerful force. 

I see that Mirrorglow is trying to make our progress a little easier, thought Henry stepping forward and peering warily into the blackness.

He knelt and half crawled, half swam inside. After a few feet of groping along, the passage widened and he stood up. He felt a warm sluggish current pushing against his body. It carried bits of discarded material flowing from somewhere up above. But at least, the water was a little clearer here and with the cave walls giving off a faint greenish glow he found he could see the way ahead. 

Dotty, Alice, it is safe to come in, he called out with his mind. 

Moments later Alice popped out of the hole followed closely by his older sister. 

The girls took a moment to survey their surroundings wondering what they had got themselves into.

This way said Dotty taking the lead.

Pressing on she led them further into the tunnel. Whatever it was that coated the dark walls of the tunnel, it gave off enough light for her to navigate by. The cave floor gradually sloped upwards twisting out of sight just up ahead. She shivered noticing the piles of old bones that littered the floor.

They rounded a corner and Dotty stopped suddenly. The tunnel opened into a vast underwater cavern. Light filtered down through the sparkling water and exploded off the rocky surfaces in a riot of blues and greens. Fields of tall sea kelp wavered in the gentle currents that flowed through and around the caverns. High above ramps and walkways had been roughly hewn into the walls, spiralling upwards as far as they could see. All along the walkways, dark openings led deeper into the rock face. 

Dotty shivered again, she did not like this. She recalled a picture that she had seen, of the inside of an ant hill. It had consisted of chambers each connected by a network of small tunnels. They had been built by legions of worker ants. She imagined these Qrill that Mirrorglow had spoken of, hidden away inside their burrows, waiting for them to attempt the rescue. 

The children crouched in the mouth of the cave and surveyed the great expanse of the cavern that lay before them. 

In the very centre of the huge amphitheatre rose a great slab of dark rock. On the flat surface that formed its peak lay the young dragon, its legs, and neck tethered by lengths of rusted chain. 

That must be Nightfire, though Dotty.

And just how are we meant to free him, he is chained up for God's sake, replied Henry.

There must be a way, we need to get closer, Dotty said motioning in the direction of the dragon.

She glanced around, looking for any signs of mysterious Qrill.

Nothing moved.

Do you think Mirrorglow has done as promised and caused a distraction? Dotty asked her brother.

I certainly hope so. Came the reply.

Dotty felt a faint buzz in the back of her mind, just like she had felt when Mirrorglow had spoken to her before. But this time, she could not hear the dragon. 

Maybe the distance is too great for her to communicate with us, she thought. 

They left the cave and started out across the cavern floor. Keeping to the shadows they crept towards the rock on which the dragon was imprisoned.

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