Chapter Thirty, Part I

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Tesa looked up into the trees and saw nothing but leaves. She smiled. It was amazing that so many dragons could conceal themselves so well in the trees. The Enval forest was perfect for it.

I want to go, said Orrie in a pout from above.

I know, and I'm sorry, Tesa answered, looking up even though she knew she wouldn't be able to see him there. She yelped in surprise when she did see his pearlescent face poking out through the leaves. Then she laughed.

"Get back up there, silly beast."

Orrie huffed and disappeared back into the trees.

Tesa padded along the narrow path until she reached the valley. The path ended before a steep decline in the terrain where grasses and spindly trees grew on the slope of loose, rocky soil. Tesa walked along the ridge a few steps until she came to a distinctive boulder hugged by a berry bush. She snuck between the two and descended the hidden stairway that she had helped Renna to carve into the hillside.

A creek ran through the bottom of the valley, and trees grew from the valley walls and the flat ground near the creek, creating a canopy that shielded her from view from overhead. Tesa followed the creek upstream until she came to the cave it bubbled from. If she were to continue following the creek, she would have to dunk herself and get wet to get inside the cave. Instead, she took another turn onto a path obscured by bushes and rock. Now she climbed up again and wove through the brush next to the rocky wall that began to climb up. Before she would have begun a climb out of the valley, however, she turned sharply to the left and ducked into a stand of slender pines surrounded by tall ferns.

The rock was barely visible under the thick green moss that covered it, and the door carved into it seemed to be but a shadow. She used her hands on the wall to guide her through the dark passage, and just when her eyes seemed to have adjusted to the dark, she rounded a corner and was met with sparkling magelights. The lights lined a path on the ground, and Tesa followed them through the passages in the cave until she came to what they had named the egg cave.

The cave itself was lit with warm-colored yellow light, and the temperature seemed warmer, too. This cave seemed to have been spared from most of the damp and moisture from the river running through the caves lower down, and Renna and Neela had seen to any more moisture before the nest for the eggs was created. The nest was a bed of soft brush and pine needles piled in the center of the cave. Torun lay curled around the eggs, watching the riders and others as they wrought the doors in the walls of the cave, the doors that would bring the eggs to their final hiding places.

Eriya had created the door that Tesa would be using. It went to the caves under the city of Areth, where the eggs had first been hidden when the Karume took over the city. Each of the dragon riders had thought of a place they knew well, and thought of a hiding place there for an egg. Once they had a large list, the riders narrowed down the choices through discussion and debate. They'd started out with more than enough ideas for hiding places, but when discussions had started, they'd discovered that, once they started thinking of flaws, they had to make some compromises in some of the areas. In the end, they'd arranged for enough places, and then Emric went to work with the riders, using their memories of the places to craft the doors.

There would be a dragon egg hidden at each outpost in Arethia, and in some of the homes of the dragon riders. Tesa knew that some of the riders meant to use their hiding of the egg as a chance to see their families and rescue them as part of Derol's plan, but she also thought it was fitting that the eggs would be hidden in the family homes of dragon riders. Someday, when the eggs awoke, maybe the families would remember their ancestry, if any of them stayed in Arethia.

Tesa approached Emric, Renna, and Malía where they worked at creating the final door. The dragon outpost where Malía first served, before she advanced in the ranks of dragon riders, would become a hiding place for one of the eggs. The three sat cross-legged before a flat wall of the cavern, all with their eyes closed. Nothing appeared to be happening, but when Tesa switched to magesight, the scene changed.

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