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The troll led Illathiel to a decrepit building on one side of an alley behind the centaur’s workshop.
“What is your name?” Illathiel asked as they approached the entrance.
“Got lots of those. Which one you wantin’?”
Illathiel sighed impatiently. She found neutrals to be as irritating as the demonic were detestable. “What would you have me call you?”
“Ah, that be a different question. Call me Zet.”
“Is that your real name?”
“Perhaps,” the troll chuckled as they walked up to the door. Zet knocked three times, then three more knocks with pauses between, and then twice again.
The door opened and a woman answered who had red-scaled skin, horns, and waist-length auburn hair with highlights the colors of autumn leaves.
“Welcome back, Zet.” The woman’s voice was warm like the summer sun.
Illathiel took a step back. Dragons were universally dangerous creatures, even to angels.
Zet narrowed his eyes irritably at her and shook his head. “If I wanted to kill you, I’da stuck you awhile ago. Get in here,” the troll puffed irritably as he walked past the dragon.
Illathiel anxiously walked up to the dragon, trying to feign some sort of confidence. “Hello,” she greeted.
“Greetings, bright one,” the dragon bowed. As her face rose again, Illathiel noticed slitted pupils that gleamed with a golden hue. “I am honored to have you in my home.”
“Oh, t-thank you,” Illathiel replied, hurrying into the building the rest of the way.
Inside were bifurcating halls that led to deceptively spacious rooms. The main hall led down to a gallery at the end of which a small flame smoldered in a fireplace, filling the room with a peaceful ambiance and the scent of pine. As anxious as she was, Illathiel could feel the tension melting from her body and be replaced with a warm solace. Various kinds of furniture adorned the room, none of which were well kept, but all of which looked more or less comfortable.
“Sit wherever you would like,” the dragon insisted. “And please, call me Yna.”
“Alright. Thanks. Again.” Illathiel added awkwardly.
Yna simply smiled hospitably and gestured to follow her deeper into the room. “Would you care for tea?” she asked and with a gesture of her hand, brought a kettle and two cups floating towards her, one of which she took. “It just finished steeping as you arrived.”
“No, thank you,” Illathiel replied as she placed herself near one of the windows in case she needed to escape, taking care not to bump into the teapot as it floated back to the table it had been resting on.
Zet already sprawled on a chair sideways with his eyes closed, his head draped over one armrest, his legs over the other.
“Soo…” the troll drawled. “I take it your intentions towards the boy aren’t kind.”
“They… weren’t. Right now, I’m not sure what they are. I am here to monitor him and ensure he doesn’t become a threat. Other than that…”
“Oh, good!” Zet chuckled. “We don’t have to kill you after all.”
Illathiel moved to dive through the window behind her, but all of the doors and windows had vanished.
Zet sighed, “Like I said, I coulda killed you awhile ago. Sit. We got much to discuss.”
“I’ll stay standing, thank you,” Illathiel replied, her cool and collected rational mind coming to the fore. She could handle herself in a situation but preferred avoiding violence unless absolutely necessary. And fighting a fully grown dragon and… whatever the troll was, for he was clearly more than met the eye, was not an appealing prospect. I have to stall until I can find a way out.
“Suit yourself,” the troll snorted, swinging himself into a lazy upright position on the chair. “In case you hadn’t guessed, we aren’t Kira’thaz’s.”
“Who are you, then?”
“We call ourselves the Risen,” Zet replied. “And I apologize for my comment. It was rude. I didn't mean to frighten you. But that boy… is precious to us.”
“The same reason you are… were… trying to kill him,” Yna responded carefully.
“You want to see him become Xanenax’s pet monster?”
“Hardly,” Yna scoffed. “Xanenax has no intention of traumatizing the child. His plans are much more… long-term.”
“That child could end up obliterating what’s left of Creation,” Illathiel warned.
“We don’t know what the future holds,” Zet replied, his blind eyes piercing coldly into Illathiel’s, “because it has yet to be written. Ironic that an angel, who should be cognizant of God’s ineffability, would presume to know the Divine Plan better than anyone else.”
“How dare you lecture me,” Illathiel growled, clenching her fists to restrain her anger.
“I do not believe he was referring only to you, my dear,” Yna soothed as she sipped her tea.
Zet leaned forward and stabbed the nail of his forefinger into the wooden table in front of him. “Your commander is as much an arrogant fool as Kira’thaz.”
“He is doing what he believes is right.”
“And what about you, girl?” Zet demanded.