Digger, Breaker, and Shortwhisker spent a good part of the evening cutting charge holes and setting explosives. They then exited the cave to prepare the pyrotechnics display that was to be viewed from the town and palace. About midnight they made their way back to the forge to get some much needed rest.
“You lads all finished?” Runny asked as they entered.
“Aye, but you didn’t but half find the hardest stone my old bones ever had to drive a rod through,” Breaker complained.
“It were as if it be tempered,” Digger added. “It be done though.”
“Good, good,” Runny said. “Now get yourselves some shut eye.”
Runny ticked a few items of his list and then went to go cuddle down with Plucky who was already fast asleep.
“Only me, My Lovely,” he said as she started. “Go back to sleep. Busy day morrow.”
The Dwarves were up a little after dawn, and spent an hour after breakfast reviewing timings for the “big show” which was to begin at about three in the afternoon. The plan called for the three pyrotechnic Dwarves to take a circuitous route to the cave to avoid detection as Wilfred decked out in shining armour would again visit the palace to announce that the operation was beginning, and again stress the need for observers to keep their distance. Then he would ride boldly towards the cave followed by Runny and Wetwhistle and the cart of weapons.
Plucky stationed herself on the path leading to the cave site and added the jars of “Dragon hearts” to Runny’s cart as it passed. All was going according to plan and at five minutes past three, Shortwhisker launched a flare that gave the appearance of a stream of flame against the back drop of the dark hills.
These pyrotechnic effects were repeated at different angles according to Runny’s detailed time table, and on three occasions during the afternoon a white illumination charge was set off to create a bright enough flash as to project the shadow of a paper cut-out of a dragon through a lens against the hillside.
In the meantime, Runny helped to spread soot in patches across Wildred’s horse, while Wilfred himself singed his cape and applied soot to his armour and surcoat.
He then settled down to enjoy a pork pie and watch the fireworks.
* * *
Althonyr woke and opened a sleepy eyelid. What is that infernal banging?
It wasn’t that he hadn’t heard noise in the upper cavern before, humans occasionally entered to shelter from a storm or to have a look about. None stayed long, nor did they ever venture deep into the interior. In fact, it must have been twenty years since Althonyr’s slumber had been thus interrupted. This was different. The banging, no hammering, was getting annoying.
Althonyr stretched and scratched under his left wing. Then pushing his great mass upright, he retreated down a tunnel to an underground stream and had a drink. He then moved down to a deeper chamber and tried to resume his nap.
Some hours later, he was once again disturbed by the ringing cracks of some kind of explosion, and by bright flashes of light which stabbed at his eyes that had become accustomed to decades of darkness. This will never do, the great purple serpent thought, and once again roused himself to investigate.
R. V. Mitchell aka Padre