Chapter 4

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Eva wiped the back of her hand across her forehead. Outside the ship, the temperature rose, yet the dry day was bearable due to a refreshing breeze coming from the west. Once Mirthrog took flight, she no longer felt the heat.

Time flew. The wind brushed Eva’s face. Not long after takeoff, the dragon descended, landing in a beautiful lush valley. They walked into a cave where a bright orange-yellow dragon ate near a fire pit. She put her food down, swallowed, and waited for Mirthrog to approach. Her gaze narrowed on Eva walking next to him. She furrowed her brow, waiting, her hands limp on her hind legs.

“Saffron, this is Eva, the little earthling that crashed the other day.” He spoke aloud for Eva’s benefit.

The dragoness scowled. “So you did find survivors.” Sizing Eva up, her snout wrinkled in disgust. “How is it that the valley isn’t crawling with filthy Niroshids?

Pushing his arm out in a protective gesture, Mirthrog placed his hand on Eva’s shoulder. She glanced at him, and he smiled at her.

“I hid the ship with an invisibility spell. Someone must have seen something because I found traces of a skirmish near the ship.”

Saffron’s cave was not as large as the first one she was in but it still held the wow factor. Picturesque stalagmites and stalactites adorned the bright cave, giving it charm. Eva walked up to a stalagmite. The mineral deposits dripping on the ground formed a delicate lacework of salty white. She had never seen hollow stalagmites before and put her finger through the delicate holes. Each individual column, crafted from the drippings of minerals, had different circumferences with various shades of white and gray. Like the other caves, this one also had the brilliant crystals, illuminating the inside. Fascinated, Eva stared at the high ceiling.

“Welcome to my humble home.” A note of hostility rang in Saffron’s voice.

Unsure and feeling unwelcomed, Eva gave her a shy smile in greeting. Turning to Mirthrog, she slipped her hand in his. “Are the two of you the same race?”

Mirthrog stared at her, perplexed. A tingling feeling ran through her head after which he answered her question. “Eva, all dragons come from the same mother. We are all the same.”

“Well, then, on this planet there are only two races, Dragons and Niroshids?”

“In technical terms, we are two different species that evolved on the planet,” he answered. “In your world, you subdivide a species into races for purposes that are not very scientific or reasonable.”

She crossed her arms. “You went back inside my head, didn’t you?”

“Eva, I did it to understand your question. If—”

“Mirthrog, it’s alright. Really it is.” She smiled, but anxiety had her heart beating fast. “Don’t worry about it. I guess you wouldn’t be able to answer many of my questions if you didn’t.”

The dragon frowned, bringing a worry crease above his brow. Using his muzzle, he nudged the side of her head with affection before turning to nudge Saffron, who reciprocated the demonstrative gesture. Eva observed their loving interaction with a heavy feeling growing in the pit of her stomach. Fear that the dragoness would distract him away from her crept into every fiber of her mind.

The three sat around Saffron’s fire, waiting for her to finish breakfast.

Eva scooted closer to Mirthrog, grabbing his arm and wrapping her own around it. “Something is wrong, isn’t it?”

“In time, you will be introduced into our world. No need to rush things.” He glanced at Saffron, who was half drinking half slurping water out of her drinking bowl. “For today, the three of us will be carefree and experience nature with all its beauty.”

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