Chapter 16

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Chapter Sixteen

Jaxx dreamed that he was sinking into a boiling lake. He struggled to climb out of the roiling water but his feet kept slipping. He became stuck in the mud and could only watch while his skin burned and peeled, the meat falling from his charred, crumbling bones. He opened his mouth to scream and choked when it filled with scalding water. The agony was unbearable. He prayed for death.

He jerked awake and sat up, gasping for air. Still half asleep and feeling the effects of the dream, he struggled to get to his feet and run. Firm but gentle hands pushed him back into something cool and wet. A soothing voice calmed him.

"Shhhhh," said a woman with a strange accent. "Be still. You are safe here."

Here? Jaxx looked around, preparing to bolt as soon as the woman's hands released him. He found himself in a large room, lying naked in a tub filled with a cool, thick, blue liquid. Embarrassed by his nudity, he looked down at his body and saw that his skin was red and blistered. Every part of him that was exposed to the air felt raw.

"It looks worse than it is, said the woman. "The aloie waters will heal you but you need to soak in them for a while longer."

"Where am I?" Jaxx asked, his voice hoarse. He put a hand to his dry, sore throat.

Jaxx's eyes scanned his surroundings. The uneven ceiling appeared to have been chiseled out of a rock, but the floor and walls were covered in white marble tile. Sheer, thin curtains were drawn halfway across the opening to a large balcony, fluttering in the breeze and letting in a few cheerful rays of sunshine and a view of the blue sky.

He had no idea where he was. He had never seen a place like this anywhere in Caer Llanwyn.

The woman must have read the fear and confusion on his face. She patted his shoulder reassuringly before gently pushing him back down into the water until only his head remained uncovered.

"You are here under the hospitality of Lord Drakkar," said the plump, motherly woman as she applied a cooling gel to his face. "I am Aliise, the primary Healer of House Drak'ar,". She clucked her tongue. "I don't know what you were thinking by riding such a young dragon through the In-Between without leathers or protection. You both could have been killed."

Jaxx tried to sit up again. He had to find Ciarran.

"Where is Ciarran?" he asked, struggling against the healer's hands. Was she safe? Had the mages gotten to her? He felt a tinge of guilt that he had not thought of her until the woman mentioned her.

"Lie back," Aliise said, restraining him, "Your young dragon? She is safe and well. You, on the other hand, were badly burned. If you don't stay in the waters you will have painful scars."

Reluctantly, Jaxx settled back and allowed the healer to tend to his injuries. She placed a compress against his face, leaving only his eyes uncovered.

Everything Aliise had said to him sounded like jibberish. She spoke of Lord Drakkar and the In-Between as if he should know what she was meant but he had never heard of any of it.

He could see the healer was trying to help him and wondered why she would give aid to a stranger. What did she want from him in return? He realized that he had no choice but to accept her assistance despite his suspicions. He needed to be whole if he was going to be of any use to himself or Ciarran in this strange place.

A girl who looked to be close to his age or maybe a little younger bounded into the room, her long red curls flying wildly behind her. "Is he awake? His dragon said he was awake."

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