Having no other option but to stay and wait for it to crush the bridge on top of them, Riku silently called for his familiar to follow him out the other side. “Run!” He thought through the ribbon, and they both took off towards the trees across from them. Fortunately they were on the outer side of the moat, so they weren’t stuck in the castle area.
Of course, the dragon quickly heard them and tried to capture them with its large claw, missing barely as Riku jumped through the talons and Aslan phased through them. It screeched with both a super high glass-like piercing sound, as well as a deep thundering bass sound. Following them, on all fours, the two smaller creatures did the best they could to reach the tree line. Riku knew that if they could get to the trees they could force it to lose sight of them.
Aslan was much faster, and he didn’t even bother dodging trees. He just went right through them. Riku used as much energy as he could muster and bobbed and weaved through the foliage. Of course, the ground wasn’t all smooth terrain. Leaves, bushes, cones, and roots all made it a challenge, and he was glad he was wearing proper shoes! The dragon stopped at the tree line and carefully tried to step through them. It seemed to respect this place as of it were its home....which would make sense. How could it possibly go anywhere else in the mine? It could probably barely fit through the sunroof.
It tried to look for them through the trees and cooed again. Aslan’s glow gave them away, and it rushed towards them. They weren’t too far from the edge of the cavern now...! Perhaps if they could get there they could follow it around to the way they came in!
The giant creature was catching up to them too fast...even as they approached the side, they now knew there was no way they could avoid the dragon. The trees ended before the edge began, and there was too much of an opening for them to walk along it without being captured. Aslan called for Riku to follow him through the trees around the side, and they looked for a cave or opening of some sort to flee through.
Finally finding an exit, the two darted across the no-mans-land of no trees and shot into the opening......only...it was a dead end.
A giant snout entered the entrance-exit of the shallow cave. Inhaling deeply agin, it growled and snorted. There was no escaping the dragon now. “What do we do...?” Aslan asked, looking up at Riku. He knew he could just walk through the wall to another cave opening....but what about his master?
“I....I don’t know..!” Riku answered. He thought for a second, as the dragon’s snout was trying to make quick biting motions with what little it could open its jaw in the cave-muzzle. “Do you know where my node is at home? Can you bring it to me!?” he asked, but the lionheart only whimpered in the stress and didn’t bother answering directly. Yeah, that was a long shot. Perhaps if-
“COME. OUT. NOW!” They both heard booming through their heads. It actually hurt enough for Riku to check his nose for blood. He was shocked the dragon could talk, or, ugh, use telepathy apparently. “YOU DARE QUESTION MY INTELLIGENCE, IMPOTENT INSECT? WHAT ARE YOU ANYWAY? COME OUT HERE NOW SO I CAN SEE YOU!”
Aslan whimpered and covered his head with his paws, and Riku grabbed at his skull as well. It was just too much!
“COME. OUT. NOW! OR I WILL BEAT YOUR BRAINS UNTIL YOU DIE!”
He conceded, but requires the mind bashing to stop so he could gather the strength and orientation enough to leave the cave. Perhaps if it was sentient it could be reasoned with - and at that thought it grunted again in offense, clearly perceiving even his thoughts that weren't directed at it. Exiting the cave, and gesturing for his friend tk stay just within, he looked up at the massive crystal dragon, who sat regally before him.
“WHAT. ARE. YOU.”
Wincing, he replied in thought “Have you never seen a human?”
“YOU DARE MOCK ME WITH YOUR TONE!?” It stomped its foot, shaking the entire chasm.
“I’m sorry, I just....how long have you been down here? Humans have been around for thousands of years.”
“I AM NOT PLAGUED BY YOUR ‘TIME’, AND I DO NOT BOTHER WITH THE SURFACE.”
Looking around, Riku sort of paused....he didn’t know how to reply to that. He had questions - but survival trumped those. “Are...you going to eat us?”
The large creature stared for a second, as if debating, then snuffed loudly. “NO. I DO NOT EAT FLESH, ONLY STONE.” It began to turn away and suddenly Riku’s more inquisitive side kicked in.
“Then why did you chase us...?” He cooed, getting a quick glow in the eye on the dragon, who appeared to value knowledge.
“I SMELLED A LIVING CRYSTAL, THE ONES WHO ROAM THESE CAVERNS. THEY ARE A DELICACY OF MINE.” it leaned in, taking another whiff with a snort, and continued “BUT IT WAS THE OTHER THERE WHO IS MOSTLY MADE OF FLESH. REVOLTING.”
“Are you some sort of Draconic...?”
“HA! I PREDATE THOSE PATHETIC CREATURES.”
“Interesting...Well, there is a castle here. Does that mean you don’t mind people being around?” Riku asked, wondering who had built it if not humans.
The creature grunted, and Riku could feel the warm air that was exhaled. “I DO NOT CARE.” it said after a pause. Then it swiftly turned and launched itself into he air, somehow catching the wind to guide it away. It was still bizarre to him that that beast could even have room to fly in here, being so big...and underground. Who would have thought? Then again, there were other winged crystal beings around. It didn’t logically make sense that they could fly - and yet. Magic....he shrugged, then turned back into the small, shallow cave where Aslan was hiding.
“It’s okay, buddy...the dragon is gone. He said he doesn’t want to eat you. Well, not all of you.” He chuckled. “Guess that means we’re safe.” He wondered if that meant the monster would respect their freedoms - or if it meant they were nothing to it....like an insect you don’t even realize you stepped on.
For safety sake, they decided to really make sure they knew where the true exit was first. They hadn’t exactly searched the entire perimeter, so there could be other genuine openings that weren’t dead ends. If we decided ti make a fort if sorts down here, it would be very convenient to have multiple entrances. It sure was quite nice! ....he wondered what it would look like at night. That was a must for later!
“Aslan,” he called through the ribbon “that large pond is over this way. Should we see if there’s life in it?”
“Yes, Master.” It replied in its deep, serious voice. Riku rolled his eyes at the ‘master’ part, but didn’t bother saying anything about it.
As they grew closer to the water, they could hear splashing. It was so interesting that the wind picked up down here to actually create a sort of texture like that.
The water was beautifully clear. The area was grassy close to it, so it must go up and down depending on how much rain there had been. A soft current flowed through from streams coming from around the chasm, and there were even special species of insects that he hadn’t seen before. In particular, a dragonfly that almost glowed faintly - too faint to properly make out in the day time. It was a neon-ish lavender and had slightly larger eyes than the usual. Possibly an evolved adaptation to account for the lower light down here - especially in winter months when the days were shorter and clouds were more stubborn.
Aslan stepped close to the water and sniffed it. His antennae glowed a bit brighter as he was excited to be around plants and water. He felt so at home here....and if there weren’t already a great beast, he’d proudly guard the place!
“You like it here, huh?” Riku asked, dipping his fingertips into the cold fresh water and swirling them around a bit.
“Yes, Master.” he replied. “Beautiful.” He took a sip of the water with his strong tongue and was pleasantly surprised by the perfect mineral-balance.
“What do you think about an elevator?”
“A what...?” The lion looked over at him, confused, and then moved closer to cuddle up against his chest as the young man squatted.
Almost knocked over, Riku laughed and said “It’s a mechanism that goes up and down....but you’re right. That’d be too expensive and public.” He sighed, looking at the giant opening. “If we can find where that hole leads, we can possibly build a ladder or stair system to create a shortcut. It could lead straight to the castle! And it doesn’t look like anyone’s been there in a long time. We’ll need a locksmith, but it’s ours...!
Yet again, he was getting ahead of himself. Taking a deep breath, he smiled. He too often took the present moment for granted. This was a massive underground expanse with an previously constructed castle and mage tower. It was guarded (somewhat) by a dragon, and had its own ecosystem. Perhaps they could befriend the beast if they could find where it nested. He was glad that wasn’t the castle itself....though he didn’t suppose the dragon would fit, so what good would that do?
Looking back at the water, “I should have gotten an amulet of underwater travel when I was last in town.” He tried not to frown. It was okay...besides, those trinkets didn’t prevent him from getting wet or cold. They just ensured he didn’t die of drowning. “Care for a swim?” He looked around before starting to take his shirt off, then looked down at Aslan. “Don look...” he blushed.
He was such a modest boy...or was it insecure? It wasn’t like he had anything to be insecure about. As he slid up his shirt he revealed beautifully toned abs, sharp obliques, and a chiseled and strong chest. He was a very healthy young man. He ate very well, by compulsion, and was quite active. He ran a gym and yoga studio, went on frequent outings, and took the time to tend to many creatures. He didn’t really have to try to look good. It was just part of his lifestyle. His modesty was more in the form of being so attractive that many people looked too long. He didn’t like the idea of people imagining him naked or having sex with him. His body was something he felt only he should have a say over who sees it or not. He doesn’t want people ‘seeing’ him without his consent.