Chapter 27

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Chapter Twenty-seven

Ciarran moved in her sleep, nearly rolling over Jaxx, who had been lying awake next to her since nightfall. His failures at the Academy replayed through his head. He did not know how he was going to go back there and face all of those people again. The whispers he had overheard kept repeating themselves over and over in his mind. "How did they let him become a dragon rider?"

The truth was that no one had let him. His friendship with Ciarran was an accident. Lord Drakkar had accepted Kaine as Ciarran's rider because there was no one around who knew he was a fake. Now Jaxx was living here, in Lord Drakkar's land, under his rules. How long before the lord realized it was all a mistake, if he had not already? How long did Jaxx have before Drakkar decided he was unworthy and took Ciarran away from him? Did Drakkar not say that only the most qualified were permitted to become Dragon Riders?

Jaxx had to get them both out of there before it was too late. He saw Ella's face in his mind and his heart filled with regret. She was the first friend that he had ever had besides Ciarran. He ran a hand through his hair. He could not think of that now. He had to leave for Ciarran's sake.

The night was quiet. It was still a couple of hours before dawn, the perfect time to leave. It was early enough that nearly everyone else would still be asleep but late enough to claim that they were getting a head start on Ciarran's morning hunt if they were discovered.

Jaxx worried about what would happen if they were caught. Would Lord Drakkar punish him? He was not taking anything that was not his, except for the clothes that he was wearing. The healer had thrown his old clothes away, so he did not have much choice.

Lord Drakkar could not accuse him of stealing his own dragon, could he? At the very least he would be disappointed that Jaxx broke his promise to train as a Dragon Rider. He felt ashamed about disappointing the lord after all of his kindness but reminded himself that he and Ciarran had to leave. Still, he could not shake the feeling that what he was planning to do was somehow wrong.

Jaxx stood up and paced, wondering where he and Ciarran could go. It would have to be somewhere far from here, past the hunting grounds and training halls. They would have to find shelter; preferably a cave with water nearby. He would not want to risk being out in the open with Ciarran during the day when someone might be looking for them.

Jaxx whispered in the dragon's ear and nudged her shoulder. "Ciarran, wake up. It's time to go."

Ciarran opened one large, yellow-green eye and squinted at him. Sleepy, she told him, rolling to her other side.

Jaxx pushed at her, trying to prod her awake. "We have to go, Ciarran. We need to find someplace safe." Ciarran sat up, groaning and stretching. She swung her head from side to side.

Safe here, my Jaxx, she said, yawning.

"No," Jaxx said, "not safe here. We have to go before they take you away from me."

His words roused her. You are my Jaxx. No one can take me away.

Jaxx smiled at her sadly. "Yes, I am your Jaxx, and I want to keep it that way. We have to go someplace safe where they won't find us."

Ciarran tilted her head from side to side. Then, groaning, she lowered her head so he could climb on to her shoulders.

"Good girl," Jaxx said. "Move quietly, now. Make sure no one sees us."

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