Chapter 33

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Chapter Thirty-three

Jaxx waited in the lord's chambers for several moments after Drakkar left. He scowled. He wanted to see Ella for himself. Maybe there was something he could do to help. He kicked the ground. Lord Drakkar had given him a direct order. The lord was already angry enough. If he disobeyed, it would only make things worse.

Drakkar's footsteps faded and Jaxx cocked his head, thinking. The lord had told him to return to his quarters, but he did not say how soon he had to be there or which route he had to take. Jaxx smiled. He would do as he was ordered, of course, but no one said he could not take the long way around, past the infirmary.

He waited until he was sure Drakkar had left the building and then traced the lord's steps from a distance, hiding behind corners and keeping to the shadows as best as he could. When he got to the infirmary, he paused outside and peeked through the door, afraid someone would stop him. No one was paying attention to the door. Drakkar sat at a chair next to Ella's bed, his head in his hands. All of the healers of Drak'ar were gathered in Ella's room, standing in a circle around her pallet. They chanted and sang, arms linked, directing healing energy to the girl but their efforts were not working. Ella had not regained consciousness and was moaning and thrashing, her hair and clothes damp with sweat.

Jaxx slipped into the room and crept to a corner where he could watch what was happening without being noticed. A small movement near Ella's head caught his eye. He squinted and moved closer. What looked like a strand of green, rotting seaweed crawling out from under her shirt and across her throat. He retched watching it wrap itself around her neck and branch out, its slimy tendrils reaching toward her mouth. She struggled, trying to get away from its cold, greasy touch. She gasped for air as the strand spread across her face, closing off her airways.

The chanting grew louder and the tendril retracted, but it did not disappear. After a moment, it pushed toward her face again.

Jaxx did not understand why no one was doing anything anyone about that tendril. All they had to do was grab it and pull it away from her. Jaxx shook his head, watching the healers continue their useless chanting.

Master Healer Aliise dabbed Ella's head with a damp cloth and her hand passed through the tendril. Jaxx realized that the healers could not see it and did not even know it was there. It was magic: rotting, stinking, evil magic, and he was the only one who could see it.

Ella gasped and choked, strangled by the magic strands. Jaxx gasped with her as if the thing was choking him as well. His face darkened as his fear became anger and his anger turned to rage.

Why would this thing attack Ella? She was kind and fun and his friend. He moved toward the bed without thinking, feeling heat rising inside of him. He would help her. He would kill this thing that was hurting his friend.

The chanting stopped when Jaxx stepped forward.

"You should not be here," said Master Healer Aliise.

Jaxx barely heard her. His focus was on Ella and this thing that was killing her.

"Jaxx, what are you doing in here?" said Lord Drakkar. "Stop this immediately and return to your quarters like I ordered you."

Master Healer Aliise grabbed Jaxx by the arm and tried to pull him out of the room but he shrugged off her grasp and moved next to Ella's side.

Jaxx ignored him. He leaned over the bed, his palms reaching toward the twisting strand, beckoning it to him. The mass shivered, resisting his pull. He moved closer and sat next to Ella, his body nearly touching hers. He caught a piece of the evil magic between his fingers and pulled, wrapping it around his own wrist. It tugged back, fighting him. Ella cried out in pain.

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