Taylor stared at the mountain dragon in surprise. "Geodhun Is that your name Why didn't you tell me"
The mountain dragon blew cautiously on his soup before shifting his baleful stare to glance in Taylor's direction. "Everett is my friend," he said, as if it were the most obvious answer in the world. "Of course he knows my name. All of my friends know my name."
"Help yourself to the soup, Taylor." Everett ladled a steaming spoonful of soup into his own bowl and reached for a chunk of bread. "Oh, I seem to have forgotten the orange juice." He clambered back down from his chair and strode back to the kitchen.
Taylor glared at the mountain dragon. "I think you've been very unfair not to tell me your name. It was the least you could do if you wanted me to follow you."
Geodhun blew on his soup once more, his snout almost touching the hot liquid. "You are entitled to your own opinion."
Everett reappeared at Taylor's elbow with a large glass jug of orange juice, the size of the pitcher dwarfing him. "Juice"
"Thank you." Taylor took the jug from Everett's hands and filled both of the glasses on the table. She glanced at Geodhun. "Do you want any juice, Geodhun"
The mountain dragon shook his head without looking up. "Soup is all I need."
Taylor placed the jug on the table and filled her bowl with soup. She was suddenly so hungry that she thought she might faint. She scooped up a spoonful of the hot broth and gratefully tipped it into her mouth. She ate silently for several minutes, refusing to allow herself to think about the peculiarity of the meal or the peculiarity of her companions.
"Help yourself to seconds," said Everett politely.
Taylor pushed her bowl away and sat back in her chair. "No, thank you. That was lovely." Geodhun had finished his bowl and now sat in the middle of the cloth with his long tailed curled around himself. He darted out a long pink tongue and began to clean his front paws, just like a tiny, yellow cat. Taylor felt a sudden pang. Would she ever see her own home again What about her mother and her father and Sox They must be worried about her by now.
Everett turned to the mountain dragon and began to talk about people and places Taylor did not know of or understand. Despite her concerns, she felt her eyelids growing heavy. The cottage was cosy and warm, her stomach was full, and it had been a long and tiring day. Her head sunk slowly forward until her chin was almost resting on her chest and the conversation receded into the background.
The sound of her name startled her awake and she blinked rapidly as the red checked tablecloth swam back into focus. Everett stood in front of her chair, his face expectant. "Come with me. I'll show you to your room."
Taylor stood up quickly, apologizing for falling asleep, and obediently followed Everett past the fireplace and through a doorway that she had not noticed when she first arrived. She was too tired to question anything. Everett reached up to switch on a light switch positioned a few feet off the floor and she saw a small room containing only a narrow patchwork quilt-covered bed and a compact wooden dresser. Floral patterned curtains hung closed across a window on the end wall. "You can sleep in here," the goblin said as he patted the quilt with his tiny, gnarled hand.
Taylor sleepily looked around. "This isn't your room, is it I can't take your bed from you."
Everett laughed and shook his head. He pushed himself onto his tiptoes and reached up to pull back the quilt. The white sheets that lay beneath looked fresh and inviting. "No, I keep this room for important guests. My bed is next to the fire. We'll talk properly after you have slept, Taylor." He pulled the door closed, switching off the light as he left.
Taylor sunk down onto the soft mattress and reached down to untie her sandals, unwilling to allow herself to think too hard. She could hear the low, reassuring hum of Everett and Geodhun's voices through the closed door. She unbuckled the belt holding her sword and placed it carefully on the floor. With one last, mouth-stretching yawn, she swung her legs up onto the bed, pulled up the covers, and sunk peacefully into a dreamless sleep.
Some time later, Taylor heard the sound of a door opening and she blinked herself awake, instantly alert. A shaft of light fell across her bed from the living room and she could hear hushed voices. "She's still sleeping," someone said in a heavy whisper. "We won't disturb her yet." The door snapped shut and the bedroom was once again in darkness.
Taylor turned over, pushing her face into the softness of the pillow as she attempted to pull herself properly back into the present. Her body felt dull and heavy, and the muscles in her calves groaned and ached. The fresh blister on her heel stung where it grazed against the sheet. Her adventures in the Obsidian Realm spun dizzyingly through her mind in a chaotic slideshow. Had any of it even happened at all She pushed the covers back and sat up, deciding she needed to find her way back to the mirror and get home. How long had she been away Were her parents desperately searching for her Had they called the police She re-tied her sandals and strapped her sword belt back around her body before taking a deep breath and opening the door.
Gathered around Everett's fire were several small animals and creatures, sitting or lounging on mis-matched chairs which had been pulled up close to the warmth of the flames. Itaea was crouched on the mat, her beautiful eyes fixed on the leaping flames. She turned her gaze towards Taylor. "The girl is awake." Her voice was musical and low, like a favourite lullaby.
Taylor walked towards the group, feeling awkward and self-conscious under the weight of their concentrated stares. "Hello. Did I sleep long"
Geodhun stared at her from where he was perched on Everett's shoulder. He blinked his bright green eyes but said nothing.
Everett jumped up, causing Geodhun to plunge his claws into the goblin's shirt to balance himself. "No, not at all. You slept just long enough. It was all the rest you needed for what still needs to be done."