You follow Heather along, slightly relieved to be out of Setor's home.
"Here we are," Heather says, coming to a stop outside a curtainless opening in a long, straight corridor. Looking ahead, you think you can see daylight at the end.
"Yeah, that way goes to the Lerin Plains," Heather tells you. "We'll be going there next. Hey Mixer!"
You frown, not understanding.
"It's my nickname for Jarel," Heather explains. "It's 'cause he's got one brown eye and one blue one. C'mon, let's go in."
She grabs your hand and pulls you into the oval shaped room. The very untidy oval shaped room. An unmade bed is in one corner, and a table overflowing with writing materials, drawings and books is resting against the opposite wall. Several paintings adorn the walls, mostly of dragons, but a couple are of fraces. In the walls themselves, someone has cut hollows at regular intervals, creating the appearance of shelving. In these are piled several clothes, with apparently no rhyme nor reason to their haphazard arrangement.
"Jarel isn't the tidiest person in the world," Heather says.
"You're telling me!" you answer, still staring round and wondering how he manages to find anything in this place.
"This is nothing!" Heather protests. "You should see my room!"
Fortunately you're spared from answering her as a lean young man about seventeen with short brown hair and, like Heather said, one blue and one brown eye, comes into the room wearing a grin that's threatening to split his face in two.
"Hey, Heather!" he says. "Long time no see."
"Hi Jarel!" Heather says happily. "Did you bring the sweets I asked you for?"
Jarel rolls his eyes goodnaturedly, then hands over a bag. Heather grabs it and dives in enthusiastically.
"Hi," Jarel says to you. "My name's Jarel, I'm a candidate at Draconia Nest, same as most of us, and I don't think you're gonna get much sense out of Heather right now, so you're gonna have to rely on me for explanations." He pauses for breath.
You introduce yourself.
"Nice paintings," you say, looking around. Jarel grins.
"Thanks! They're actually a kind of nestwarming stroke welcoming present from Larana. I tell you, if she's not successful at Draconia, she could make a real good living as an artist." "So...if you're successful, where's the dragon going to sleep?" you ask, impatient to see the rest of his nest.
Jarel looks surprised.
"Sleep? Dragons need to sleep, you say? Oh well, that's put a dent in that idea. Sands! Now I gotta move nests!"
He catches sight of your half astounded, half appalled expression and creases up laughing.
"Don't tell me, let me guess," he says. "You just went to visit Setor."
"How did you-?"
"People always come away from him feeling down in the dumps. So down, in fact, that I usually get to pull off any jape or prank, no matter how outrageous. No, if I'm successful, the dragon's gonna sleep under my bed."
You laugh, thinking this another of his jokes, until you see his face.
"I'm serious," he insists. "Come with me, I'll show you."
Curious now, you follow Jarel over to an overhang that looks down on a path into another chamber directly beneath the first one. You bend over, trying to see in, and from what little you can see, the chamber's about twice the size of Jarel's room, has been brightly painted in several colors and is covered in sand.
"I'd let you take a closer look," Jarel tells you, "but the paint's still wet. Besides, it takes ages to climb down if you don't know the exact path to take." He reaches out and hauls you back up again. "This place beats home, I can tell you."
"Why?" you wonder. "And how did you come to be a candidate, anyway?"
Heather gives you a furious 'now-you've-done-it' look over a sticky mouth, which you ignore.
"I grew up in Sawa," Jarel says. "It's a mining village-well, not really a village, just a collection of hovels clustered together. It made things hard, because there were far more kids than adults there. I got three sisters and four brothers."
"Wow," you say.
"And that was considered a small family," Jarel adds. "Unlike my siblings, however, I wasn't what you'd call a good student. About the only things that interested me were dragons and more dragons. I can recite any verse of the Dragonranks song you care to name-"
"Not surprising, since you wrote it," Heather cuts in. Jarel ignores her.
"-and run back a line of Matriarchs as far as you want. Do I know anything about mining? Nope. Anyway, I spent so much time watching the sky for any sign of dragons that my family eventually sent me to work in a mine near to Draconia Nest. I think it's closed down now, though. Anyway, like at home, I spent far more time watching dragons than I did doing any actual work, unless you count writing poems and songs about dragons."
"Yeah, Jarel helps Althne record the Legends," Heather offers. "Well, he used to, until he became a candidate."
"Exactly. Anyway, I was busy trying out one of my new songs when a dragon landed right in front of me! I could hardly believe it! The dragon's rider said that his dragon was very keen to hear the rest of the song...and would I mind singing the Dragonranks song again as he liked to hear about his color. I ended up singing the same verse four times," Jarel recalls with a mock shudder. "Then the rider asked me if I'd be interested in-" He pauses and leans over to playfully whack Heather, who's started snoring just a little too loudly for it to be natural. "-if I'd be interested in becoming a candidate," he finishes. "So I agreed, and moved in here."
Heather grabs you as soon as Jarel has excused himself to check on the condition of the paint.
"I did try and tell you not to get him started," she said.
"No you didn't," you say reasonably. "You just glared at me. Anyway, I enjoyed hearing his story. I'd like to hear that Dragonranks song as well."
"For goodness' sake don't tell him that, or we'll never get away," Heather protests. She starts shoving you out the door and you barely get time to call goodbye over your shoulder to Jarel before Heather's pulling you along.
"C'mon, we should be getting along to the Lerin Plains now."