Chapter 25

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Chapter Twenty-five

Jaxx's group circled a clearing in the middle of the forest and landed in front of a battered farmhouse. A woman was busy hanging laundry outside, a sword at her waist. Jaxx creased his forehead, surprised that a farmer, especially a woman, would carry that type of weapon.

"Oh thank goodness you are here!" the woman said, running to them. "The spiders are getting worse. They got one of my goats last night."

Jaxx stared at her. Spiders that could kill a goat? Were they venomous spiders? He glanced toward the forest and noticed several trees covered with what looked like long sheets of gauze. Were those dozens of spider webs? How many spiders were out there?

"Here, tie this to your wrist," Ella said, interrupting his thoughts. She handed him one of the amulets. "We use these to keep track of our group members." She pointed to a cluster of small dots that appeared on the face of the talisman. "The dots are us. You are the green one and we are the yellow ones. It shows you where to find us if you get lost."

Jaxx tied the amulet around his wrist and looked at the black stone with its near mirrored finish. As he watched, one green dot and four yellow dots appeared. He squinted at it and took a few steps backward. The green dot moved.

Kiellan spoke up. "We'll do the usual system. Teahl picks the target, Asherr and I assist, Ella on heals." He gestured towards Jaxx. "What's he going to do?"

Ella shrugged. "We'll figure it out. Maybe he'll find his Element while we're out. But if nothing else, he'll learn how we work in teams."

"So in other words, he's useless," Asherr said, his voice contemptuous. He turned to Jaxx and gave him a dark look. "Hey, Useless! Just make sure you don't get in the way."

Ella gave Asherr a dark look. "Let's ride the dragons closer to the forest."

Jaxx called to Ciarran. "Come on, girl, let's hunt some spiders."

Kiellan shook his head and stared at him for a long moment. "Why do you keep talking to your dragon like that?"

Jaxx knew from the other boy's tone that he was doing something wrong, but he had no idea what that could be. He shrugged.

"She understands me so I tell her things. How else is she going to know what we're doing?" Jaxx said, forcing himself to look Kiellan directly in his eyes.

Kiellan's lips moved as if he was about to say something, but then he glanced over at Ella and bit back his words. He expressed his displeasure with a long, drawn-out sigh instead.

"How does your dragon speak to you?" Kiellan asked. Then, when Jaxx did not reply, added impatiently, "She does speak to you, yes?"

Jaxx nodded.

"Does she walk up to you and start yakking into your ear?" Kiellan said, his voice sarcastic.

"No," Jaxx said, frowning.

"No," Kiellan said and tapped his finger against his head. "She speaks in your mind, yes?" He did not wait for Jaxx to answer. "You can speak to her in the same way she speaks to you. How else do you think she's going to know what you're saying while we're in the cave?"

Jaxx was astonished. Was it true? Could Ciarran read his thoughts? He decided to find out.

Ciarran? Can you hear me? he thought.

I hear Jaxx, Ciarran said.

Kiellan burst out laughing. "By the face you were making, even I could hear what you were thinking. So bad."

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