A massive explosion rang through the cavern, causing Lulu to flinch and drop the bowl she was holding into the pool of bubbling liquid beneath her. “No!” she shouted before covering her mouth with her paws, glancing to the side at her mother and father. Kondra and her mate were stirring from the previous sound.
“What was that?” Kondra asked and furrowed her brow. Her head swiveled around like an owl trying to find any unknown sounds before her gaze locked onto Lulu. “Did you blow something up?”
“No!” Lulu said. “That wasn’t—” Before she could finish her sentence, the bubbling pool of liquid beneath her exploded, spewing green liquid everywhere as steam jettisoned towards the ceiling of the cave. Lulu whimpered as she wiped the liquid off her face before looking at her parents while hanging her head. “Okay, that one was me, but the first one wasn’t!”
“Get out,” Kondra said and pointed towards the tunnel with the sloped floor which lead outside. Green liquid dripped from Kondra’s face onto the ground.
“But it really wasn’t—”
“Now!” Kondra said, her voice raising in volume but lowering in pitch.
Lulu’s head drooped further as she sighed. “Yes, Mother,” she said and trudged out of the cavern.
“Bring me a snack when you come back,” Grimmy called out as she disappeared up the slope.
“And you,” Kondra said, whirling her head around to face Grimmy. ‘Why are you still here? Righteous quests don’t complete themselves.”
Grimmy yawned. “Why are you so impatient?” he asked and raised an eyebrow. “If you wait long enough, even a righteous quest will solve itself. There’s no need to take initiative.” He nodded once before closing his eyes, resting his head on his paws.
Smoke shot out of Kondra’s nostrils as Leila curled up closer to Grimmy and draped one wing over him, snuggling her head into his neck. Kondra let out a growl. “Leila…”
“Grandchild,” Leila said in response, causing Kondra’s eyes to narrow into slits.
The dragon matriarch snorted and faced her mate. She nudged him and asked, “Can you believe this?”
“Well,” Leila’s father said and scratched his head, “aren’t Grimmoldesser’s words true?” He sat up and held his paws in front of his face. “Hold up, let me explain before you spew fire at me.” He lowered his paws as Kondra shut her mouth and glared at him. “Think about it; isn’t what you’ve done exactly what Grimmoldesser has suggested?”
Kondra stared at her mate. She continued to stare at him as a bead of sweat rolled down his face. When it dripped to the ground, she said, “Elaborate.”
“Grimmoldesser’s adopting a wait and see approach,” Leila’s father said. “It’s the same type of approach you adopted when the dwarves first shooed you away. You waited for someone to come to give a quest to them, but you’re not taking any initiative yourself.”
“Yeah, you hypocrite,” Grimmy said. Leila smacked his snout. “What? It’s the truth.”
Kondra snorted. “I recognized the problem, and took steps to solving it,” she said and gestured at Grimmy, “by designating it as a quest. He’s done nothing at all. At least, I gave out a quest. I’m not just sitting around and waiting for my problem to solve itself.”
“Who says I’m sitting around waiting for my quest to resolve itself?” Grimmy asked and snorted. “I’ll have you know, I’m a very hardworking individual. Every time I go to sleep, I explore the world with astral projection. Before one can pacify a whole race, one must know every part of them. I can’t just barge into their place, break all their stuff, and massacre them without caring about the consequences. The ties between the dwarves and all the other sentient beings have to be taken into consideration.”
“Really?” Leila whispered while rolling her eyes. “Astral projection?”
Grimmy grinned at her but didn’t say anything. Kondra furrowed her brow and asked, “Is this true? You’re gathering information in your sleep?”
“Would I lie to you?” Grimmy asked, raising his snout into the air.
“Yes,” Kondra said. “You absolutely would. Dragons of darkness can’t be trusted.”
“Wow,” Grimmy said and lowered his head to meet Kondra’s gaze. “I’m offended.”
“If you’re offended, then prove to me you’ve been gathering information,” Kondra said with a snort. “Come, tell me about my continent.”
Grimmy snorted and closed his eyes. Leila furrowed her brow at him, sensing some fluctuations of mana coming off his body. “Nope,” Grimmy said. “I refuse. Why do I have to prove myself to you?”
“I’ll toss you out of here if you don’t answer my questions,” Kondra said, rising onto her hind legs. She glared at Leila. “And don’t you dare bring up my grandchildren. Out of consideration, I’ve let your mate slack for far too long on a quest I gave him more than a month ago.” Her gaze landed onto Grimmy. “Now tell me, Grimmoldesser, who is the dwarf king?”
“The dwarf king? His name’s E,” Alice said, furrowing her brow at the skeleton sitting beside her. “Why are you—”
“Shh, shh, shh.” Mr. Skelly placed his bony finger against Alice’s lips and stared off into the distance as if he was listening to something. “What are the names of the top four elemental clan leaders?”
Alice ripped off Mr. Skelly’s finger and tossed it off the leviathan skeleton. She glared at him and placed her hands on her hips.
“Go on,” Tafel said. “I want to know too.”
Alice sighed. “This truth curse is the most obnoxious thing I’ve ever experienced,” she said and shook her head. “Their names are Diamant, Az, Mistle, and Zilphy. Mistle is an ocean elemental who has contracts with thirteen different people. Zilphy is a hurricane elemental, and she’s wanted by the dwarves for always destroying their property. Az is a volcano elemental, and he vowed to never form a contract again after his first contractor died. And Diamant—”
“Okay, that’s enough,” Mr. Skelly said, covering her mouth with his hand. “I’m trying to listen.”
Alice ripped his hand off and glared at him, debating on whether or not she should punt his head off. She did, and his skull went flying over the treetops.
“What are all the factions on this continent?” Mr. Skelly asked, his voice coming out of the space where his skull would’ve been if it was still there.
Alice’s eye twitched. “The dwarves, obviously. The elementals, obviously. The humans, obviously. The elves, obviously. The fairies, obviously. And, obviously, the dragons.”
“Do you have to say obviously so many times?” Tafel asked.
“Obviously,” Alice said with a snort. “If I’m going to be forced to answer all these inane questions, then obviously, I’m going to make it as unbearable for the listener as well.”
“You’re so spiteful,” Tafel said, shaking her head. “What about the fishmen? Aren’t they a faction?”
“They’re insignificant compared to everyone else,” Alice said. “They don’t have a position in the universal assembly, so, obviously, I didn’t include them.”
Mr. Skelly cleared his nonexistent throat.
“Any more questions?” Alice asked, rolling her eyes at him.
“No,” Mr. Skelly said. “Actually, just one more. Why are you still single?”
Alice punted the skeleton off the dead leviathan before he could hear her answer.