When Taliss returned to the cave late that night, she found Willem's dead form wrapped in one of her finest silks. Alisen was hovering nearby, her right hand placed protectively over Willem's unmoving chest. She spoke boldly to her captor.
"You will give him a proper funeral pyre, Taliss". Her jaw quivered a bit, but her words breathed force.
"Ha ha. Foolish little human, you dare command me? I could burn you to a crisp with one flick of my tongue. As for the dead boy, I will eat him for my supper. I found no cattle yesterday, and have grown hungry." Rudolph, standing nearby, felt his stomach flip . He pressed a hand on the cool cave wall for support as he watched Alisen's expression go from confused to mortified. She yelped out at the dragon.
"No! You mustn't, please! Over a year ago you took us here together, having taken us from separate villages. We...we fell in love, but we only both knew it last night. His..last night."
"Touching, touching", Taliss retorted with amusement, "But do not forget it was only out of boredom that I kept you two with me. Yes, yes, you entertain me well enough. But then the boy got sick. I was just waiting for him to die. And now I can eat him, a reward for my kindness. Now, step aside."
Alisen wailed horribly and clutched Willem's body hard around the waist. Taliss shook her massive scaled head slowly, before hooking her claws through Willem's pale skin and yanking him away from his lover. She lumbered outside the cave, pushing the boulder aside with her tale effortlessly.
Alisen collapsed, sobbing madly. Rudolph, still frozen by the cave's wall, shook out his body to clear the numbness, before kneeling beside her. He cradled her head in his lap and hummed a soothing song. Gradually, her sobs quieted and she went limp in his arms. It must have been hours later, Rudolph realized. His muscles felt tight and knotted from kneeling for so long, and his stomach growled fiercely. He did not move though, instead continuing to rock gently back and forth, and to hum his gentle tune. He was crying too. Tears dripped down his chin for his new friend, who was in so much pain, and for his own fear from what he had witnessed. He also cried for Isadora, for he missed her now more than ever as he looked down at Alisen's body upon his own. Then a new thought invaded his clouded mind. He looked down at the girl on his lap, her hands curled around his tunic. She had dark, thick hair that hung in a long braid down her slender figure, and she smelled of the Chipka flower paste he had smeared on her forehead that morning. He liked being so close to her, this Alisen. And suddenly he did not feel such a longing for Isadora.