Riley held her breath. Last time, everything had been chaos. The fire, debris falling around her, people running, the roar of the dragon. She stepped into this dreamscape with a sense of trepidation and took a cautious first step, waiting for the details to fill in around her.
She realized that she was in the world already, but it was dark, cool, and damp, things twinkling in the darkness.
She blew out a breath and squinted to try and see what was twinkling, but she couldn’t place what they were or where the light came from. How was she supposed to move if she couldn’t see where she was going?
When the cavern around her slowly lightened, she held her breath again, her jaw dropping.
Treasure. Lots and lots of treasure.
There was an absurd amount of gold all around her. The twinkling was the gold coins and trinkets catching the light.
It was like she had stepped into one of those treasure chambers in cartoons. There were piles of coins, crowns, jewels, even a gold bed partially buried amongst the mountains of wealth.
Where am I?
She looked up at the ceiling and saw stalactites, indicating she was in some kind of cavern. So she had to be underground, but where, and why was she here? And where was Saber?
Something shifted in the treasure. Riley heard the echo of gold coins sliding down one of the mounds. She held her breath as she listened, trying to identify the direction it came from. It was so hard because sound seemed to bounce along the walls. Trying to pinpoint one direction was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Riley took a small step away from where she thought the noise had come from. When she didn’t hear anything, she took another one. Her lungs started to burn by the third step, were on fire by step eight.
She slowly let out a breath
“There you are.”
Riley nearly screamed as she spun around, seeing Saber standing there wearing the same suit she had worn the first time they had seen each other.
Relieved, Riley closed the short distance between them and gave Saber a hug.
“Were you holding your breath?” She chuckled. “Because it sounded like you were holding your breath. You remember this is a dream, right? When you’re holding your breath, you’re not actually holding your breath.”
Riley let the girl go to look at her. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you think you’re holding your breath, it feels like you’re holding your breath, but you are not in the real world. You are not your body. This is dreamscape, remember? Things work differently in here.”
“Well, we never really got a chance to go over all of that last time.”
“You’re right.” Saber stepped around Riley and looked up at the high walls and the treasure around them. “So, where are we? Have you seen Raz?”
“Strange. Normally when we come in, we are always near the person we are connecting to. Sometimes it’s hard to find them. Some kids have really messed-up dreams. Sometimes they are trapped or are inanimate objects and we have to talk them back into themselves. I once had to convince this one kid that he was not a chair. It was cray-cray.”
Saber frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“I hate that word.”
“Yeah. It’s nonsense. It’s like ‘bae’. Sounds like gibberish.”
Saber smirked. “And here I thought you knew all the modern slang.”
“Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
She nodded, shrugging. “True.”
“So… We need to find Raz and he is probably in this room.”
“Could be. This isn’t normal for me. We had to use you to get in, so maybe Mrs. Phillips got a lock on you, not Raz. I don’t know. I found you immediately, but I don’t see anyone else in here.”
There was a sudden rush of hot air through the cavern. Riley had felt a warm, steady breeze before, but this was a strong blast, like the air was heated by something. Like, maybe, something that could breathe fire.
She glanced at Saber, then both girls looked at the treasure around them. Riley saw the realization hit Saber the same time it hit her. This was the dragon’s lair, and if the breeze had increased, that meant the dragon was waking up.
“We need to get out of here,” Riley said. She started walking to one side of the chamber in what she hoped was away from the dragon.
“Not until we find Raz,” Saber said.
For a moment, Riley was worried Saber wasn’t going to follow. Relief swept through her when she heard footsteps and saw her walking by her side.
“Do you see him anywhere?” Riley asked.
“Neither do I.”
“What if he’s one of these pieces of gold.”
“In the other dreamscapes when the kids were inanimate, did they still talk to you?”
“Well, yeah. That’s how we found them.”
“So it stands to reason that if Raz were a piece of gold, he would have called out as we walked by, right?”
“I guess, but we haven’t made it through the whole room yet.”
They had only taken a few steps, yet it already seemed like they were nearing one of the high, rock walls. Both scanned their surroundings, watching everything around them as they walked. So far, the only thing moving was them. The only other sound was their constant heavy breathing.
Riley nodded. “True. But we’ve covered over half and have been in view of the gold the whole time. Unless he was a coin on the other side of the room, he would have seen us. He’s not in here, but that dragon is. We need to get out of here. If the world starts to fade as we get farther away, we’ll know Bruce is here. If not, we’ll have to look for him elsewhere.”
Riley frowned. “What?”
“Raz. You have to get in the habit of calling him by his code name. It’s important.”
“Okay, Raz. Sorry. But do you agree with me?”
“I don’t know. I mean, this isn’t normal. He should have been in here. Raz knows better. He would have heard us and yelled out.”
“That’s if he were here. He’s not.”
Saber looked around, eyes wide, clearly worried, though Riley didn’t think she was worried for them.
“Don’t worry, Saber. We’ll find him. We’ll get him out of here.”
She nodded and forced a smile. “I know.” She slowly spun around, taking in the entire room. “But where is he?”
The air got significantly hotter around them, and Riley felt the hairs on her arms rise. She held it up and watched it. Saber also saw them.
“I think you’re right. We need to get out of here,” she said.
Riley nodded. “There’s got to be a door. You run that way…” Riley nodded behind Saber, “and I’ll run this way.” She indicated the path along the wall behind her.
Saber turned, but before either of them could take a step, the cavern shook. They both knew what that meant, and the feeling of dread, which had been building in Riley since she had first learned of Dream Chasers, grew to where she thought she was going to be sick.
They both looked to the other side of the cavern. The light steadily grew brighter, the air becoming uncomfortably hot around them.
They looked at each other, and that was when Riley noticed the corridor behind them. She knew it hadn’t been there before. It had an arched doorway, a stone path beyond. It reminded her of what you’d see in a castle on TV. A row of torches along the wall lit the way to an unseen destination. It was their way out, and it looked way too small for a dragon.
Riley looked at Saber, who smiled with the first ray of hope she had since they had come into the dreamscape.
“Raz is in here somewhere. He’s trying to help us find him,” she said.
Behind them, there was a loud roar, a burst of flame shooting over the piles of gold.
“We need to go,” Riley said, but Saber was already running toward the corridor. Riley quickly followed her. They reached the corridor just as a row of flame cascaded along the wall and covered the doorway shortly after they were out of there. If they had lingered, they would have had no choice but to face the dragon, and Riley wasn’t confident of their chances if they were forced into that rematch.