Clint expected to be trapped in darkness. Instead, when his desperate coughing fit had finally subsided, he became aware that his surroundings were warmly lit.
He found himself at the bottom of an ash-filled fireplace. It was warm, but it was not hot.
The underground chamber into which he crawled was candle-lit, furnished and welcoming. The mess of painting supplies for the white-washed walls was strictly contained in one corner. There were mesmerizing amulets on the dresser, strange statues on the mantle, and cute pictures on the side tables.
These photos captured several memorable moments among friends. One photograph captured a peaceful protest in the woods, another captured a rave, and all the frames were decorated with peace signs and broken crosses.
He winced at the sting of a hot glob of wax on his hand.There were several chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
Spread across the dark table on the other side of the room were steamed vegetables, cassaroles, desserts, and drinks and spices. However, there was no meat.
Despite the overall homeliness, there seemed to have been some sort of recent house fire in that cave. The otherwise polished and clean set of tables and chairs were covered in charred streaks. There were the brittle charcoal remains of a forgotten wooden spoon on the floor beneath the table.
The flower pots on the side tables were blooming with delightful little green sprouts, but they had germinated through settled ash.
He reached towards a sable cat huddling in a corner behind some books, but it hissed at him and retracted deeper into its nook.
Instead he reached for one of the encyclopedias on the shelf. However, when he opened one of them, he found it to be mostly empty. The pages that were left were burned and barely readable. The cover displayed no title, but only had the fiery ruby of an amulet embedded in it.
He was suddenly startled by angry, growling sounds echoing from the hall. He quickly replaced the book.
Clint dove behind one of the benches as three dragons violently burst into the room, and slashed at and burned each other with their firebreath. Serpent-like shadows danced violently on the walls as the fireplace was lit.
Clint cringed as they passed by the bench behind which he hid.
There was a WOOSH as stray tongues of flame re-ignited the chairs.
There was a fourth among them, a haggardly person in a pointed black hat, and he curled up in a corner and was trembling.
Two of the dragons had bony spikes that extended out of the flesh of their arms and hands and they began to strike each other with them. The third, however, wearily collapsed and rested by the fireplace.
This person sat pensively with her head in her hands for several minutes. Her dreadful spines retracted back into her body and her draconian scales softened to the wrinkles of human flesh.
Presently, however, she glanced about the room, and noticed Clint’s exposed foot as he awkwardly crouched behind a bench.
Her eyes lit up in excitement, and she called to the others. She traipsed over to the cabinets for a caldron.
The other two of them pulled Clint out.
“A fresh catch! How should we roast him?”
He felt their warm, dry, musty breath on his face.
Clint twisted out of their grasp and ran to the door. He frantically fumbled with the latch only to find it was locked with several deadbolts.
“Let's throw a party! We haven’t had a meal like this in years!”
The one with the caldron however, failed to locate the deep caldron spoon. She hastily rummaged through several drawers before crying out in exasperation.
“You never put the spoon in the right place!” She said, turning and seizing the wizard who had been sulking in the corner. This person, however, threw off his cloak and transformed into a dragon with flaming eyes.
“I'm an even greater witch than you; I’m not your janitor!”
They fought against each other bleeding, burning, and bashing. The other attempted to break the two up, but ended up drawn into the fight again themselves.
In the midst of their brawl, they knocked over a flower pot into the hearth, snuffing out the flame.
Clint dove into the hot fireplace and burned himself as he hastily scrambled up the smoky, slippery chimney.
The shouts of the beasts and the clattering of dishes echoed through the smoke below him.
He coughed for several minutes after he had scrambled back out of the soot-filled hole into the light, mountain air.