A few minutes after midnight Pluriel crept through the blackness to wake his brother.
“Nothing has happened yet,” he whispered. “But keep alert. I still feel the danger, and my mind is ill at ease.”
“I agree with you now even more than I did before,” said Ringard. “My dreams were troubled, and I seemed to hear the tramping of heavy feet and the war cries of Flokav.”
As Pluriel settled down to sleep, Ringard sat down a small ways away from the campfire and wrapped his blanket around him. He peered out into the blackness and immediately seemed to sense unfriendly eyes staring back at him. He saw nothing except the dark shadows of the trees, but the unease continued. He wished he could wake Pluriel, but decided against it. I have no proof, although if I told him something was wrong he would believe me wholeheartedly. And he is tired. I will wait.
After a while his eyes drifted slowly shut. He forced them open, but something that was not weariness pushed the lids back down again. His unease grew until he felt as though he were choking. I must keep my eyes open! he said fiercely to himself. Again Ringard made himself re-open his eyes, only to have them closed yet a third time by the invisible force. He knew that there was a reason for the incident, and that if he allowed himself to doze off for the least minute he would never wake up, nor would his friends. Somehow he managed to open them one last time.
He looked in front of him. The shapes of the trees were the same, but there was something different about the landscape. What was it? He blinked several times, hard. Then he saw.
Before him, earlier, he remembered that there had been five trees that were closest to him. He rest were farther back. But now there were – he counted – twelve. Five tall, seven shorter.
Ringard got quietly up. The seven short trees moved.
Nevarra slithered towards Tristal and her eyes drove into his like swords.
“You, boy. What is your name?”
“Tristal.” He spoke against his will – but what was his will, after all? Did free will even exist? Did Elamm’ exist… or was he as unreal as free will? Was there only one will in Militer, that of Jalavak and, through him, Nevarra? Had he ever known anything besides this quiet command that forced him to answer? Tristal quivered – but no, the will had not told him he may move. He stood unmoving. He tried to think – but no, the will had not told him he may think. He was dead to all but the will that spoke out of the dragon’s eyes.
Nevarra moved on to Galdore and simply gazed at him. He gave his name. The dragon repeated the process with all the men and with Eloderaý. Their eyes now involuntarily followed the serpentine movements whether the dragon was speaking or no. Then Nevarra came to Assiel.
“Give me your name, woman.”
Assiel didn’t move, didn’t speak, didn’t indicate that she had even marked the question.
“Give me your name, woman!”
Still Assiel remained stationary. The great dark dragon eyes bored into Assiel’s grey ones.
“I see,” said the dragon at last, and turned away. Her eyes lighted on Eloderaý. In caressing tones, she said, “Come to me, child.”
With mechanical movements Eloderaý obeyed. The dragon’s tongue flicked out and touched Eloderaý’s cheek.
“Kill your companions.”