Chapter 9

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Chapter Nine

Ciarran wailed and scratched at the wall beneath the ledge.

"Hey Ciarran, I'm coming my girl, my sweet little one," Jaxx said. He laid on his stomach and slid backward, feeling for the ladder rungs with his foot while he crooned to her. "You don't have to be sad. I am here."

The change in her mood was immediate. The little dragon quit crying and ran to the ladder in excitement.

My Jaxx, My Jaxx! Her body wiggled with glee. She jumped at him impatiently, nipping at his feet while he climbed down the ladder.

"Careful," he said, laughing. "You're going to knock me off." He jumped to the ground, skipping the last few rungs and wincing when he jarred his legs and back, which were still sore from his latest beating. Ciarran tackled him and stood over him, nuzzling him while he squirmed. He laughed, forgetting about his pain.

Jaxx looked Ciarran over with admiration. She was growing quickly. Already, she was nearly double the size of a horse. Her color had changed from the tarnished metal color of her hatching day to a lighter, iridescent color that shone like true gold in the sun.

"You are the most beautiful dragon that ever lived," he said with affection.

Yes I am, Ciarran agreed, batting her eyes and preening.

Jaxx gently nudged her out of the way, still laughing, and rolled over stiffly. He had to push his hands against his knees to stand and grunted when he accidentally pressed against a fresh bruise.

I have hurt my Jaxx, Ciarran said, sniffing at him and whimpering. I did not mean to hurt my Jaxx. She swung her head from side to side and moaned.

"No, no," Jaxx said, "You did not hurt me. I am fine. Just a little bit sore." He scratched under her chin, which usually made her purr in pleasure, but she pushed his hand away with her snout and moved behind him to sniff at his back.

You are hurt here. She sniffed again, and here. And here. Her voice rose. Who has hurt my Jaxx?

Jaxx tried to calm her. "The overseer punished me, but it's nothing to worry about. I'm fine. It doesn't even hurt anymore. See?" He swung his arms and bounced a bit on the balls of his feet to prove that he was alright.

Ciarran's voice took on a dangerous rumble that he had never heard from her before. Why would The-overseer hurt my Jaxx?

"It is his right," Jaxx said, "I am a slave. He is the overseer. He can punish me if he wants."

What is "a slave"? Ciarran asked, her eyes narrowing to slits.

Jaxx shrugged, not really sure how to explain. Some people were slaves. Others were nobles. It was just the way things were.

"I am owned by the lord, just like you." he said. "The overseer works for him and tells me what do to. If I don't do as I am told or if I don't do it well enough to suit him, I am punished."

A thread of deep red whirled in Ciarran's eyes and her throat rumbled in a growl. Jaxx belongs to Ciarran. Jaxx does not belong to "The-lord" or "The-overseer". She sat quietly for a few minutes, tail swishing in irritation. I will kill "The-lord" first and then "The-overseer". I will kill anyone who hurts my Jaxx.

Jaxx's eyes widened in alarm. If she hurt a human they would destroy her no matter how valuable or unique she was. He had to make her understand.

"No!" he said. "You cannot. You must not. You cannot harm people!"

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