“I fixed it last night while you were sleeping.”
He took off the bandage, gingerly touching the skin underneath. There was no evidence anything had happened. “You fixed it?”
“Yes. Now relax. As soon as Kenji comes—oh, there he is now—he and I will have to clean your wounds, and that won’t feel very good.”
Jacob sat up. A large—but short—man with curly, thinning brown hair rushed up the path toward the group, package in hand. He wore light-colored denim jeans.
“How is he?” Kenji asked, breathless.
“Hurting, but he’ll be fine. Let’s get started.”
Ebony ripped open the package and pulled out a jug, bowl, small pouch, and several strips of white cloth. She handed everything but the cloth to Kenji and started separating the strips on the grass nearby. Her eyes were very dark—darker than most eyes Jacob had seen before.
Kenji opened the pouch and poured the contents of it, along with those of the jug, into the bowl, and mixed. He and Ebony finished their tasks at the same time and turned to Jacob.
“Lie down,” Ebony said. “This will hurt—especially since you’re awake.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Clean your wounds.” She pushed him down all the way.
Jacob couldn’t see what she was doing, but felt it when she started. “Holy cow!” he said, and gritted his teeth as he tried to control the wave of pain that overcame him.
Akeno removed his top hat and scrambled to Jacob’s side. “I’ll talk to him, if you’d like—keep his mind off what’s going on.”
Ebony nodded. “Yes, son, that would be good.”
“Jacob, what do you want to know?”
“I . . . ” He took a deep breath, trying to ignore what Kenji and Ebony were doing at his feet. “I’m not sure.” He felt dumb asking where he was, although he really wanted to know. He’d run here last night, after all, and he knew where his home was. Instead, he asked the next most important thing. “Who are you?”
“We’re Makalos. We live here.”
Since when? Jacob had lived here his whole life. “How come I’ve never seen you in school?”
“Because I don’t go to your school. I’m from Eklaron.”
Eklaron? There wasn’t a city with that name around here, unless it was farther up north. Jacob had never heard of it before. He sighed to himself in frustration. His mind was tired, and he relaxed as Ebony continued to work and the pain started to fade.
Just then, he felt a sharp pain in his left leg and winced. Of course, that would happen as soon as he finally became comfortable. He blinked away the sudden tears. Not wanting the others to see, he closed his eyes, feeling warmth from self-consciousness spread across his face. Fourteen-year-olds don’t cry about these sorts of things.
He tried to distract them from his embarrassment by asking another question. “What kind of bear was that?”
“It’s a Wahberog. We call them Rogs. They’re not usually this dangerous, but Jaegar and his friends like to tease them.”
Jacob scowled. Rog. Weird name, and yet another thing he’d never heard of before. He thought he had watched all the nature shows ever made, but there was no way he would forget seeing a show about a bear with human hands. Speaking of which, how did it get hands? Jacob mulled this over for a moment, then sat up when an idea occurred to him. “Genetic mutation!” Akeno looked at him curiously. “The bear. It’s been genetically altered. Though I’m not sure how you guys pulled it off.” A wave of exhaustion rolled over him. “Whoa—I’m tired.”
“That’s normal with the Sap,” Kenji said. “You can rest, if you like. We’re nearly finished.”
Jacob shook his head, fighting off the sleepiness. He forced himself to watch as Ebony laid the last strip of white cloth across a deep gash in his left shin. His legs were covered in fabric. She rocked back on her heels, a smile spreading across her face.