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       Firebolt, p.16

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  “You're not a nobody, and your dark mark is why you are in Dragonia, Elena, not who or what your father was.”

  “Then why don't I get anything, Cheng?” I said, tossing my hands in the air.

  “Give yourself some time, woman. You’ll get there,” he assured me in a very patient tone. It was as if he knew something

  I didn't.

  “When?”

  “Rome wasn't built in a day, or so I’ve heard,” he joked, and it worked, it made me smile. “You put so much pressure on yourself, why do you do that?”

  “It’s stupid, you'll laugh,” I spoke, turning my face away.

  “Try me.”

  I took a deep breath. For the love of blueberries, I might as well tell him. I had told him everything so far, and I felt as though I could trust him with my life. “I never felt so alive.”

  He just looked at me and frowned. “I'll help you with whatever I can, Elena. If it's that important to you not to fail, I'll give it my best.”

  “Thanks, I really appreciate it. You're really cool,” I said, meaning every single word.

  “Wow, I don't think I heard that one before. Most of the other students think of me as a geek.”

  I laughed again and punched him playfully on the leg. “Well, maybe they should try to get to know you.”

  “So, do you want to know why I believe Lucian won't claim Blake?” He changed the subject moving from the rock and plopping down on the ground beside me. “It has to do with another foretelling she made a couple of years later. It's also written in the book. She said that only the King of Lion can claim him.”

  “The King of Lion, like in the sword?” I asked, and he nodded.

  “Nobody knows what she meant. Not even her. They still think that using the sword is the answer, but it's also the one thing that can kill Blake, so they don't even consider it.”

  “You don't believe that?”

  “I can give you a lot of theories, Elena. Crown-Tails love theories. If you ask me, I think she didn't mean the sword at all.”

  “What then?” I said,leaning in so I wouldn’t miss a word.

  "I think it's got to do with King Albert's bloodline.”

  Chapter Seventeen

  Cheng's theory was intriguing, although a bit far-fetched. The King of Lion sword was the only weapon that could defeat evil, and for the love of blueberries, Paegeia had plenty of that!

  He told me that once flesh-eating plants were devouring people in their sleep. The only way they could kill them was when King Alexander destroyed them with the King of Lion sword. King Louie had used the sword to vanquish a fog that would literally dissolve whoever entered it. Every supernatural entity, no matter the form, could be defeated by the sword. Cheng had a theory; he believed that the blood of King Albert and his family was special. Not like alien blood or something strange, but that it contained trace amounts of magic, because the sword had been in the possession of Paegeia's true rulers for thousands of years. King William had his arm severed by it, and after the incident,the sword acquired the ability to destroy evil. Whatever the reason for this sword’s magic, I felt safe in the knowledge that there was a weapon like it out there. Cheng also said that Goran was still alive, trapped in Etan, and that he had tried to steal the sword through dark magic. As he explained how Goran had harnessed his dark magic through the blood of Wyverns and by forcing his own dragon to commit horrifying deeds, my knees trembled and my heart pounded rhythmically in my chest.

  Goran wanted to destroy the sword so it wouldn’t pose a threat to his dark sorcery. With the only weapon that could kill him gone, he would become invincible if he ever broke out of Etan. The people of Paegeia believed that if Blake succumbed to his evil, Goran’s magic would be able to control him. This new information scared the living crap out of me. I shivered involuntarily as if icy fingers were tracing patterns on my spine.

  If Cheng's theories were right, Lucian was wasting his time and Arianna had really high hopes.

  I now understood why Sammy worried about her brother so much. She believed what Cheng did and knew, deep down in her heart, that her brother would never be claimed. Walking back to the room from my meeting with Cheng, I forced myself to think about something else.

  Tomorrow was my first session with Lucian,and the butterflies in my stomach started to do a happy dance. I’d never looked forward to Art of War before, but I hoped he would be able to transform me into a warrior, as he had done with Becky. I did pause, however,as I wondered if he was really the slave-driving demon she’d accused him of being.

  Throwing myself onto my fluffy mattress, I fell into a dreamless sleep as soon as my head touched the pillow. I guess Cheng's information was too much to dream about, even for the mysterious woman who haunted my dreams every night.

  * * *

  The next morning I felt incredibly well rested. I assumed it had something to do with the mysterious woman not appearing to me. The lady must cause some sort of an emotional drainage while I sleep.

  To sum it up in one word, breakfast was uncomfortable. George suddenly started following Becky around,and he even sat at our table. He completely ignored the other guys’ remarks and had a look of admiration on his face whenever Becky spoke.

  Sammy gawked at him, forgetting to eat her breakfast while Becky tried to ignore his unexpected behavior.

  My first class was Latin. I didn't understand any of it and every foreign word made me feel like I was going to explode. Leaving one punishing class for another, after Latin I was rewarded with Arithmetic. I didn't have anyone tutoring me in Arithmetic, so I was basically doomed. I was determined not to ask for help either; they might end up having Tabitha tutor me, and believe me, dealing with Arianna was more than enough.

  * * *

  Moving through another less than excellent day, I was relieved that it was lunch until I realized that Becky had another riddle she wanted me to answer. Lucian begged me to give her the answer too, and Sammy simply rolled her eyes, stirring her vegetables.

  “Okay,let’s hear it,” I said, finally caving under the pressure.

  “There was a green house, inside the green house there was a white house, inside the white house there was a red house, inside the red house there were lots of babies. What is it?”

  They all looked at me with anticipation, and my mind wandered back to Dad again. He’d asked me this riddle before.

  “It's a watermelon,” I said, trying to mask the sadness inside my voice at the memory.

  She hopped up from the table and ran off at a breakneck speed, excited to tell the chef her answer.

  Lucian stared at me, concerned about my sudden shift in mood. “You okay?”

  “My dad asked me that one not so long ago,” I said, shrugging my shoulders in defeat, while letting the emotions roll over me.

  “Sorry Sweetheart.” He gave me a soft kiss on my temple and stroked my back. The bell rang, and he insisted on walking me to my class. I guess he was scared Brian was going to try to steal me away or something.

  We didn't talk much as we made our way through the halls and parted with a quick kiss.

  * * *

  The day ended with Art of War, which meant I was going to have a double period if I included Lucian's session too. I barely had the strength to walk to my dorm to take a shower just so I could sweat again. It didn't make much sense.

  When I got out of the shower, it was time to meet Lucian. I forced myself out the room with a soaking body vest lumped in my arms. The vestunfortunately wouldn’t retract into a disk when it was wet.

  “Enjoy,” Becky said, without taking her nose out of her book.

  I found him inside the dome waiting for me. He was practicing moves that made me stare at him like an idiot. He wore black pants with the body vest I’d only seen once in Wetherley’s and Co. He wasn't wearing a shirt underneath, and his muscular arms could make any girl's knees tremble. I closed my eyes, thinking how lucky I was to call him mine.

  For the love of blueberrie
s, he was so effing hot.

  When he turned around I pretended I’d just walked in and hadn’t been gawking. “You’re late,” he said in a harsh tone. He looked away. When he turned to face me again, a smile lurked in the corners of his mouth. “This is going to be hard, isn't it?”

  I giggled at his internal struggle. “Can we please just rest for a while, I just finished with a fighting class.”

  He squinted and contemplated my request. “It’s not my fault.” A huge teasing grin appeared on his face, and my stomach made another flip. My body vest was still icky and sweaty from my previous class, and I almost gagged when I pulled it over my head.

  I picked up the heavy sword from the cupboard and dragged it all the way to where Lucian waited patiently. The screeching sound of the sword on the floor should've made me cringe, but I was too tired.

  “Elena, how heavy is that thing?” He reached out his hand for it. I gave it to him without answering. My body language said enough.

  He laughed softly. “I think I just found your first problem.”

  “What?”

  “This one is way too heavy for you.” Lucian walked back to the cupboard and replaced it with another one. “Here, this is much lighter.”

  I took the sword from him and felt the difference immediately. “You want to say my problem this entire time was that I was using the wrong sword?”

  “Yes, that's why you have to be early for class so you can choose the right weapon.” He smiled again.

  “You sure this weapon can protect me? It looks so thin.” I looked at the blade skeptically and barely saw his sword coming straight for me. My reflexes kicked in, and I blocked it, just the way Professor Mia had shown me in class my first day. He came for me again,and I blocked that one too. He was so fast I barely saw him move, but he was right about the sword. It was as if I’d found my Excalibur and had become King Arthur.

  When he finally stopped, I gasped for air and held the side of my burning waist. He laughed as I struggled to take a breath, and he playfully slapped my hand away that I had raised in surrender. Becky was right. He was a slave-driving demon.

  “One thing I can say, your reflexes are really good, Elena. I don't recall seeing that before in a first year.”

  I gave him the whatever look.

  He chuckled. “I'm serious, no joke.”

  “You’ll say otherwise when you see me sparring with Collin,” I said, wincing at the thought.

  “Get here early and you might show him a thing or two,” he said and forced me to get ready for another round.

  “Don't you ever get tired?”

  “I’ve got plenty of energy left,” he flirted, pounding his fist on his chest and jumping up and down like a boxer.

  “Oh, please, you're going to kill me if you say the break is over.”

  “That's your second problem; you're nowhere near as fit as you need to be. So I suggest a two-mile run every morning.”

  I grunted.

  He gave me a hard slap on the ass that made me shriek. “C’mon, Elena, you’ll thank me after a month.”

  If you live that long. I thought as my eyes narrowed.

  He chuckled seductively, making me forget why I was upset. Then he attacked me again. His blows grew stronger after each swing.

  I blocked two of them and landed on my butt. I didn't want to get up, but when he offered me his hand, I had no choice.

  “Becky was right, you are a slave-driving maniac,” I said, still out of breath.

  “You complain on the first day. Sweetheart, I see hard times for you,” he joked. For the love of blueberries, I hoped it was a joke.

  He only gave me thirty seconds before he attacked me like a samurai lunatic. It didn't look so hot when I was facing him. I blocked five of his blows before my strength got the better of me, and I found myself flat on my back once again.

  He pulled me up one more time, not accepting my surrender. It carried on like that for the next hour. When we were finally done, I thought I was going to drop dead right in the dome. I lay down on the cold floor, and placed my flushed cheek to the cool surface. He could even leave me there, I didn't care.

  He came to sit down next to where I’d almost passed out. I heaved like someone that had run for two days straight and my parched throat made me feel like puking. “You're not bad, Elena.” He touched my leg.

  “I beg to differ.”

  “I know you don't see it right now, but I wasn't kidding about that run. So I suggest you go to bed early. I took it easy on you today.”

  I gave him the excuse me look.

  “Get up and take an afternoon nap. You look like hell.”

  “I can't.”

  He shook his head, picked me up, threw me over his shoulders as if I was a bag of flour, and carried me to my room.

  I felt his hands on my legs, pulling me gently off his shoulder. When I reached his waist, he held me in place, and my legs automatically wrapped around him. Our lips found each other, and we kissed for a long time. It turned into a different kind of war,and I finally understood the phrase“Love is a battle field”.

  He grunted and chucked me on the bed.

  “I must go, before I do something we might regret,” he said, and I could hear the strain in his voice. I laughed.

  “Am I too much for you, Prince Lucian?” I teased him, looking at him suggestively.

  “Sweetheart, you have no idea,” he whispered, leaned down to give me another soft kiss before forcing himself out the door.

  I couldn't stop smiling, but I was so tired that I dozed off a couple of seconds later.

  It felt like I had only been asleep ten minutes when Becky's alarm clock went off.

  “Becky!”

  “It's not mine, it's yours,” she yelled back.

  My eyes flew open. I didn't own an alarm clock.

  “Elena, shut that thing off,” Sammy growled.

  I saw a small digital clock right next to my bed, showing it was 4:45 am. The sun hadn’t even woken yet and I had to get up. I struggled to get out of bed. Getting down on all fours and crawling to the bathroom. I smelled like I’d just rolled out of a dumpster.

  I needed the showerfor my aching muscles; the knots made it feel like I’d carried weights on my shoulders. This guy was really messing up my routine. Usually I took a shower after exercising, not before.

  I pulled on some sweatpants and a shirt, hoping that it wouldn't be cold. When I got out of the bathroom, it grew lighter outside. My joints didn't want to work, and my knees didn't want to bend.

  I found the slave driver stretching near the cafeteria. He tried to suppress his laughter but failed. Only when I pointed my finger in his face and gave him the not now look did he bite his lip, which made him look extra hot. I looked away so that I could at least stay mad for a minute.

  “You should have stretched yesterday. Sit on the floor. Let’s see what we can do.”

  The moment I tried to bend my knees, I tipped over. He caught me right before I landed flat on my face.

  We both laughed as he lowered me to the ground and started to stretch my legs like a physical therapist. The pain as he pulled my legs to my head brought tears, but when our eyes met, they disappeared. I felt better afterwards,but it wasn't what I’d hoped for.

  We used the last half hour for a run. His pace was fast and my lungs burned after five minutes. I had to make him stop by the lake so that I could catch my breath.

  “I—can’t—go—on.”

  He jogged in the same place. “C’mon, Sweetheart, we still need to do some sit-ups.” He chuckled.

  “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

  “You see how unfit you are?”

  I wanted to hit him with my fist in the gut,but I didn’t have the energy. Instead, I grunted.

  “Can we please go back now?”

  “No, Elena, c'mon.” He pushed me from behind and forced me to run again. I held my breath, wishing for the pain to disappear.

  “We're almost there.”Lucian s
ounded like he hadn’t run at all.

  “I would so like to kill you right now,” I said through clenched teeth.

  “I don't believe that,” he said, and it made me giggle.

  I followed him to an open area right next to the lake. I collapsed on the ground and lay on my back, heaving. “This feels good.”

  “You ready for sit-ups?”

  “Urgh! Fine, let's just get this over with.”

  We had done about a trillion sit-ups when my stomach felt as if it was about to tear. I didn't know if I would ever feel anything other than this excruciating pain again.

  I was so glad I had tutoring with someone else today. Then I realized it was Latin with Blake,and my throat closed up. If he was the best at it, I’d just have to deal with it like I did with Arianna.

  Lucian made sure we stretched afterwards before we walked back towards the dorms. After shower number two, I didn't feel as stiff as before. I was still busy gulping down muesli and yogurt in the cafeteria when the bell rang.

  The day flew fast and before I knew it, it was lunch.

  “Elena.” Sammy yelled my name. She and Becky were sitting at a different table today, because Princess wanted to sit at the table we usually sat. She was such a pain in the ass.

  “So anyone get the riddle yet?” I asked, showing Ariannathat switching tables didn’t bother me.

  “No, but I’m getting my saddle,” Becky said, bouncing up and down on her pillow.

  “Saddle?” I looked at Sammy.

  “Dragon saddle.” She rolled her eyes.

  “George finally let the tailors take his measurements this morning.” Becky ignored Sammy's eye roll.

  “When a Dragonian claims a dragon, Clifford and Brook’s tailor makes your saddle. They were here today to take George's measurements.” Sammy gave me the full explanation.

  “And why is that exciting?”

  “Elena! It means that I'm finally going to feel what it's like to glide with him in the air,” she said as she closed her eyes and sighed.

 
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