You decide to leave the disc alone. It wouldn't make much sense bring along something so ungainly, strange light or not.

Up ahead, you notice a door in the wall.

The door is heavy and solid, built from some kind of wood. Warm yellow light seeps out from the seams along the sides between the door and the stone frame, and when you put your ear to the wood, you hear the soft sound of humming.

You try the handle, and you try pushing it open, but it holds fast. Then you try the metal knocker.

Nobody answers, but the door slides open the second your hand wraps around the metal ring, and light spills out of the room. You step inside.

The other chambers so far have clearly been underground. They were stone-- polished, carved stone perhaps, but still clearly cut into the wrath as opposed to built there. The other chambers had been cold, empty, like ancient ruins of temples to forgotten gods.

This room is nothing like that.

The chamber is bright and full of bookshelves whose mahogany wood gleams in the light of the chandelier above. The floor is covered in layers of thick carpets, each vastly different in pattern, size, and shape but similar in thickness. The walls, which appear to be brick from what you can see, are almost entirely covered by wall hangings; cloth tapestries, colorful banners, frames paintings-- there is hardly a patch of wall left to see.

And the near-entirety of center of the room is piled high with pillows. Huge, enormous cushions the size of minivans, smaller embroidered cushions you'd find on an old woman's sofa, long pillows and short ones and cushions that look like they were taken from couches and every other sort of soft vision imaginable. Intertwined around them are woolen blankets and soft quilts and knitted throws and any other kind of comfortable cloth the owner of this place could get their hands on.

You step tentatively into the room, the glass disc tucked under your arm. The moment your foot touches the carpet, a low rumble reverberates through the chamber, building up until the shelves rattle with the strength of it.

There is movement from the center of the pillow pile. It is as though something is burrowing beneath them, moving towards you.

You yelp and back away a few steps, but before you can run, the pillow pile bursts open in a cloud of feathers and cushions, and from it emerges an enormous dragon.

"Hello there!" It bellows. Its orange wings fan out behind it. The bottom half of its long, snake-like body is hidden in the pillows still, and you dazedly realize it must be coiled beneath them.

Before you have the opportunity to say or do anything, the dragon darts its head forward to inspect you. It peers at you with wide yellow eyes, and you see yourself reflected in the light.

"Hello hello!" it says again. "A visitor! Don't often get those! Come in, come in!"

A snakelike tail darts from the cushions and swings behind you. You don't see, but you hear the door slam shut. Then you're suddenly thrust forward, flicked into the cushions by the dragon's tail.

"No no, don't worry!" says the dragon as you struggle up. "I love visitors! They so rarely stop by these days. Please, do relax!"

The dragon launches its body upward, pulling more and more of its long torso from the pile of blankets and pillows. Then, after hanging in the air for a split second, it allows itself to flop onto the top of the pile. Though it gives you wide berth, you can't help but notice that it has let itself fall in such a way that it now has you surrounded.

Once again, it draws its head close to you.

"I'm the BookWyrm!" it says. "I am the Underground's most accomplished collector of books, the most literate laureate to dwell within these hallowed and hollowed caverns!" it raises itself high in pride. "I've amassed the largest collection of books, scrolls, tomes, texts, tablets, poems, fictions, histories, and things-written in the entire Cavern! Every single one of these books I have acquired through guile, guts, or guilt."

He pauses expectantly.

When you say nothing, he tilts his head slightly. The reptilian smile remains, but now there's a hint of anxiety.

"Not going to ask? People usually ask. Especially the guilt part-- I usually lead in with a joke, you see? And that's the lead-in."

He waits for a moment.

You set the disk down on your lap and point to your throat, trying to mime that you can't talk.

"What's that?" he says, peering closer.

You mime more furiously.

"Oh," says the dragon. "Oh! Now I see. You're missing a few things, aren't you?"

You nod.

The dragon squints down at you.

"You don't have a name," the dragon says. He moves his head down to look at you more closely, and you suddenly feel uneasy.

"Interesting. Could you do me a favor?" he says.

Before you can shake or nod your head, he thrusts a book into your arms.

"Read me a few sentences from that, would you?"

Your voice is gone, you want to tell him. You point to your throat.

"Don't worry about that. Just try."

He flashes you a smile filled with long, jagged teeth. The smile is probably meant to be encouraging, and you do feel encouraged to read, but not the way he probably meant it. You open the book.

The words appear to be in a different language. You want to say you have no idea how to read this, but to your surprise foreign words spill out of your mouth in a steady stream.

You have no idea what you're saying, but the dragon seems pleased.

"Yes," he says, sitting back. "This will do finely."

You want to ask him what he means, but can't stop reading the text. It is less like you are reading the book, and more like the book is using you as a puppet to explain itself.

"That's exactly what's happening," says the dragon. "You have no name? I name you now. You are my personal Reader. You will read the books to me, and I will listen."

What? For how long? you wonder.

"Forever," the dragon says simply.

And so it is.

* * * * *

You became enslaved to the BookWyrm!


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