Part 7

Marina stepped out of the water and into the gloomy cave ahead. She could feel the heat coming out from the wall around her, a constant reminder that she was inside a volcano. She had to be crazy. What was she doing in a place like this? The idea of a few days walk inland sounded better every minute. Aysh Ra was here, somewhere.

"Greetings Marina," a voice said from behind her. It took a lot of nerve to keep her from jumping up startled. She turned around and saw her. A girl of her age, dressed in an oriental looking dress that was completely black except for the intense red cracks that covered it. It reminded Marina of rock cracking because of the lava coming from beneath it. Her red gold hair was almost to her waist and her beautiful face was crowned by a pair of amber eyes.

"Hi, Aysh Ra," she said nervously. "How's it going?"

Aysh Ras' answer was a wall of fire that separated Marina from the water. "Quite well actually, I didn't expect to see you around here, though."

"You're not still mad at me are you?" Marina asked hopefully.

"Me? Why should I be? After all you only covered me in water and drenched me from head to toe, there is no reason for a fire witch to be upset about that, is there?" Aysh said sarcastically

"Because," Marina said humbly, "Gaia wants us to meet at her place in two days..."

"Gaia? I must admit, it has been a while. Your life is spared, for now anyway."

She motioned for Marina to follow, then gave a half smile.

"Of course," Aysh Ra said, "I'll let you ride on Ardor, my horse to my palace where we'll take Hydra and go to Gaia."

That didn't sound so bad. She was clean, for now at least, and how horrible could a horse ride be? She had done it once or twice on land and nothing had happened except minor derriere pain. And how could something named after water like Hydra be all that bad? Her positiveness changed when they emerged from the came and she saw the horse. Aysh Ra walked up to a snow white horse and took it by the reins. It wasn't the color that bothered Marina. It was the fact that the horses mane and tail where nothing more than an orange and yellow flame.

"This is Ardor," Aysh Ra said patting the horses forehead. "He shall take you to my palace and give you a brief tour of my domains," saying this she gave Marina a cruel smile.

"That's very thoughtful of you, Aysh Ra, but really, I wouldn't want you to have to walk..."

"That is no problem," she said, "I have my ways of getting to places without a horse." Saying this, she disappeared in a gust of fire.

"Oh great," Marina said finding herself alone with Ardor. "Leave me alone with this thing on a place I don't even know. Very friendly and considerate of you, Aysh Ra."

She walked up to Ardor and mounted it. She felt a shock of heat hit her face as the horse began to move.

Aysh Ra looked down from her onyx castle and to her domain. She turned when she heard footsteps coming into the room. It was Flaray, one of her maids. She had an amused smile on her face. She gave a short bow, her fiery hair surrounding her.

"Ardor has arrived," she said in an amused tone.

"Has he now? How's the rider?" Aysh Ra asked.

"Looking pretty much scorched," Flaray said smiling, not understanding how that had happened.

"Is she now? Oh well, innocent prank for innocent prank," she said and left the room.

Aysh Ra found Marina waiting for her in the palaces entry way. Her face was completely black with ash as the rest of her self. Her skirt seemed slightly burnt around the edges.

"Tour?! Look at me!" Marina asked her sounding outraged.

"Oh come now," Aysh Ra asked her smiling. "You can't say it wasn't exciting."

"Oh. Yes, that it was. I specially liked the part where the horse decided to show me the back side of a lava waterfall, if that's what their called. Not to mention the tour around active and erupting volcanoes!"

"I knew you'd like it," Aysh said smiling. "Now come, we shall take Hydra and part for Gaias at once."

Hydra sounded better. And she was anxious to leave this heat inferno. Aysh Ra led her through the inside of her palace that seemed to be made out of volcanic rock. They reached the other side where Aysh Ra exchanged a few words with an servant. Marina couldn't help but notice that his hair was a flame also. A few minutes later, a blood chilling roar broke the silence. To Marinas terror, she saw how a reddish brown, scaly, winged, fire breathing dragon landed in front of them. The young servant she had seen earlier climbed down from it's back and walked over to Aysh Ra.

"Hydra is ready," he said, gave a short bow and left.

"Hydra?! That! I'm not climbing on that thing. No way. The horse was enough," Marina told Aysh Ra.

"Fine, then stay here because the entrance through the cave has been mysteriously blocked by an erupting volcano." She walked up to the dragon and it lowered it's head to her level. She told it a few words and then climbed on it.

"Wait! You are not leaving me here right?" Marina asked her nervously.

"You're the one that said you weren't coming." Hydra opened its great wings and prepared to take off.

"No! Ok, I'll go. Wait up!" Marina ran over to the dragon and quickly climbed on it.

"Glad you could make it," Aysh Ra told her.

Hydra took off and exited the volcano to Marinas great relief then headed northeast.

Part 8