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       Firebolt, p.27

           Adrienne Woods
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  “How do you know about her?” My voice broke at the end.

  “Just forget what I said.”

  I swallowed hard and felt angry; no one was supposed to know she might still be alive. The witch must've told him. After all, he was the highlight of her week.

  He was right; I could have asked to see where my mom was or why those dragons attacked Dad that night. But what good would it have been? “It doesn’t matter. The past isn't going to save us from any of this. I went in that cave to find out about the sword, and I did.”I tried to hide the fact that I’d lost the only chance of ever knowing if my mom was still alive.Maybe I wouldn’t even like what it would’ve shown me, and then what?

  I made the right choice.

  “It's brave of you to have given up that opportunity.”

  Whatever. I wanted to say it out loud, but knew if I did, I would probably say more things I would regret later on. I had to admit, a part of me would always regret not asking the pond where my mom was instead.

  I pushed it from my mind and focused my full attention on the guy in front of me. “You guys were brave for coming with me.”

  “We're dragons, Elena. What kind of a Rubicon would I be if I chickened out?” Blake said with a soft smile.

  “Still, it was very brave.”

  He sighed. “You have much to learn.”

  “So everyone tells me. Thanks for asking that dragon to give me the gift to understand Latin. I would never have been able to go through it, if it wasn't for that.”

  “Tell me about it,” he mumbled, and I gave him a sarcastic smile.

  “So, you guys really don't understand English when you're in your other form?” I asked. It sounded so stupid. Why didn't I just say dragon?

  “No, dragon is what I am. My true colors show when he comes out. I don't have to hide the way I feel.” He lifted up the left side of his butt and took out his packet of smokes. I started to cough as he lit one.

  “So you know every time when you end up hurting someone, during a claim?”

  He nodded.

  “You don't care?”

  "It's not who I am." He released a deep breath. “I don't know how to explain it to you. A part of this form doesn't want to be a dragon and it clashes when I'm one. It's hard to explain.”

  “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” I thought out loud.

  “Exactly. The only thing that we’ve ever agreed on is this mission.”

  “Is it why you and Lucian are no longer friends?”

  He glared at the tent where Lucian slept. His jaw muscles tensed.

  Me and my big mouth.

  “I knew he would tell you about us,” he grunted.

  “You didn't answer my question,” I probed.

  “Yes, Elena. The older I get, the more I want to be a dragon. The more I'm a dragon, the less I will stay human, which means I'll end up losing this.” He gestured at his human form. “Believe me, I did Lucian a big favor.”

  “How can you say that, Blake? It's selfish to make that kind of a decision on his behalf.”

  “Elena, it’s not that easy,”he growled.“I know Cheng gave you the breakdown of what I'll turn into if I'm not claimed by a certain date. That part of me grows stronger every single day. My human form can't fight this. It's just too much, and you have no idea how much it hurts when I'm forcing myself to do the opposite of what hewants.” He sound defeated, as if the dragon in him had already won.

  “Will it change if Lucian claims you?”

  He started to laugh. “He will never claim me.”

  “He could, Blake.”

  "You live in a dream world. I'll become evil, and it's something I struggle to make peace with, but sooner or later, I'll have no choice.”

  “You don't have to,” I said encouragingly. “You have to fight it, Blake, don't give up.”

  “You think I'm not trying. I'm seeing the Viden on a daily basis just for one ounce of hope. Just so you know, I haven't found it yet, and to be honest, every time I leave that fucking tower, I become happier. That’s not a normal reaction,” he snapped.

  “She did predict your true Dragonian being born.”

  He narrowed his eyes. “My Dragonian didn't get a chance to take a single breath. Goran made sure of it the night he killed them.”

  “You don’t know that. What if he's born and no one knows about it? Like maybe not with Queen Catherine."

  He looked at me with disgust. “Are you implying that the king committed adultery? The king loved the queen; he would never do that.”

  “How do you know that?” I was adamant, ignoring his snarky comment.

  “Because his dragon would have known.” He started to get annoyed with me, but I didn't care.

  “Oh, and you know Sir Robert?”

  “Yes, he's my father.”

  I stared at him for a short while. Sir Robert is Blake’s father. The wax doll of him at the museum jumped into my head. His eyes were the same as Sammy's. I should have seen it. “Your father's the Night Villain King Albert claimed?”

  “My dad knew everything about them. He would've told me if that kind of hopeexisted. There is none, Elena. I’ve got no Dragonian.”

  For a second, I felt his pain and tasted his bitter defeat. It seemed that there was no hope, and Blake would eventually become evil.

  “Just try to give Lucian a chance to claim you, Blake.”

  His jaw muscles tightened again. “I can't. I'm already giving everything not to kill him.” He got up while flicking his cigarette butt away.

  I listened to him zipping down his tent with force. He was angry, and it was my fault.

  I started to feel bad. It was insulting; not only to him, but to his father and the King. I sighed. He was right, there was no hope. If the dragon in him was already stronger, he would kill Lucian at the end.

  My eyes stung, thinking how this mission might end up being worthless. If Blake turned evil, we didn't need to worry about Goran destroying Paegeia. Blake would.

  My stomach growled as I walked to the tent, and I crawled back inside to snuggle up next to Lucian again.

  As I struggled to fall asleep,I silently wished that Constance was here to heal my shoulder. Heck, I would even welcome Julia with her drip. Then my mind shifted from the pain and began dwelling on Sir Robert. I couldn't believe he was Blake’s father. How had he escaped that night, leaving his Dragonian alone? Night Villains were not known to be cowardly.

  A series of scenarios played in my head. In some of them, I did see the Night Villain escaping, leaving the King and Queen to fight for themselves. Maybe the Royal Council was right. Maybe the dragons had sided with Goran and his evil plan to destroy the King and Queen.

  Then an opposite scenario appeared.

  What if King Albert ordered Sir Robert away, because he was Blake's father? Goose pimples ran down my entire body. Yeah, it sounded like something the king would do.

  My eyelids started to feel heavy, and I drifted away.

  * * *

  Iwoke up to the smell of fish roasting over a fire. Lucian’s place was empty, and I crawled out of the tent.

  “Good morning, sleeping beauty,” his voice came from the fire pit.

  I smiled. “You know that story too?”

  “We know all kinds of fairy tales. They have been told here for centuries,” he joked. “How's your arm?”

  “Much better,” I lied. I would get it fixed once we were back at Dragonia.

  “I'm glad to hear that. Are you hungry?”

  I nodded without taking my eyes off the fish.

  “It’s almost done.”

  “I’ve never had fish for breakfast, but I don't care. It smells too good.”

  “Fish for breakfast?” Becky said in a singsong tone.

  “Hey, I can only do so much,” he said, shrugging his shoulder.

  “Where's Blake?” Becky asked as Tabitha crawled out of their tent.

  My heart tightened up at her words. "Is he gone?"

  “He'll be ba
ck. He just needed some time alone,” Lucian said and tasted a piece of fish.

  I almost burst out laughing when he discovered that it was too hot. Spitting it out and frantically trying to cool his mouth.

  “He better be. I'm not waiting for his brawny ass,” Becky said in her famous matter-of-fact tone as she disappeared back into her tent. “Wake up, George.”

  We chuckled softly when we heard“oomph”, and I imagined her kicking a sleeping George.

  She came back out with two bottles of water in her hand. “The food supply is getting low.”

  “It's only for tonight, then we'll go home. Right, Elena?”

  I nodded. The dragon said that I was only allowed to tell them what I saw in the vision.

  “Where’s it we have to go?” Becky asked, curious.

  “The mountains of Ekwador. You guys know where it is?”

  “The volcano?” Arianna shrieked.

  I jumped a little. I hadn’t even seen her walk up.

  “Yes, it's where he's going to take the sword to destroy it.”

  “He wants to destroy it?” Lucian's eyes narrowed. He had so much of Blake's habits in him. “Who is it?”

  “I don't know. He was old with dark brown hair that had started to turn grey. His dragon is a Sun-Blast.”

  “You saw him destroying the sword tonight?” Becky asked.

  I nodded.

  “We need to hurry up then,”Lucian said.“Ekwador is a push from here.”

  “Which way?” I hated the fact that I was going to be on top of a dragon again, even if that dragon was Sammy. Where is Sammy?

  “It's northwest of Areeth,” he said. “Brian, see if you can find Blake. We have to pack up soon.”

  “Got it.” Brian yanked off his jeans and exploded into his dragon form. His wings made such a thunderous noise that we all covered our ears with our hands. I unfortunately could only use one hand.

  It was weird how everyone else went back to what they were doing, pretending that they hadn’t just witnessed a human transforming into a dragon. My eyes still watched Brian flying in the distance. I guess I needed to get used to the idea that it was normal to see dragons sharing the sky with birds.

  Master Longwei was right about how easily someone like me could lose her mind.

  As I stood thinking, Sammy emerged from the surrounding woods. Her hair was soaked, and she had a towel in her hand, which I assumed meant she had gone for an early morning swim in the river. She came over to me, and gave me a small hug.

  We all dug in when the fish was ready. Lucian must have woken up early to catch all of them. I didn't know if I should tell him about my conversation with Blake last night or not.

  Brian came back and morphed the minute he landed with Blake not far behind him. I looked away as both of them pulled on their clothes. They took the plates Tabitha dished up for them hungrily.

  Blake glared in my direction, and our eyes met for only a second.

  I felt bad about last night,and I knew I shouldn’t have said those horrible things. He was right I had a lot to learn and hoped that he could forgive me for what I’d said.

  We finished breaking down the campsite after breakfast.

  “So where do we go?” Blake asked, having missed our earlier conversation.

  “Ekwador, he's going to destroy the sword tonight in the volcano.” Lucian gave him the lowdown while breaking down our tent.

  “Who is it?”

  “Don't know, Blake, Elena had never seen him before.” Lucian sounded irritated.

  “Let me guess, we wing this one too.”

  I rolled my eyes behind Lucian’s back.

  “Yeah, and if you got a problem with that, you're free to leave.”

  “Lucian?” I came up for Blake, and he just looked at me. I begged him with my eyes.

  They were best friends for crying out loud.

  “I hope you're right about this, Elena,” Blake snapped at me, and closed the bag he carried with him.

  The five dragons started to take off their clothes again, and I looked away, scared of blushing. The people of Paegeia were so at ease with naked bodies. It was something I still needed to get used to. I listened to them changing and then the beating of their wings as they flew away, except Sammy and George.

  I took a deep breath as Lucian helped me on top of Sammy's back. I really didn't like flying and held on to Lucian again as if my life depended on it. I shut my eyes and shrieked as Sammy took off.

  I didn't open them, but concentrated instead on her breathing. Her body expanded every three seconds and the sound coming from her wings made me wish that I had an iPod like Becky.

  The trip wasn't as far as the one to the Sacred Cavern, but it was a stretch, like Lucian said. He tapped my leg and I opened my eyes. In front of us was the picture I’d seen in the millpond. It was Ekwador.

  Chapter Thirty-One

  I felt Sammy start slowing down beneath me, following the other dragons as they made their descent. I held Lucian's chest as tightly as I could with my good arm, and buried my face between his two shoulder blades. I’d kept my eyes shut, trying to soothe my rolling stomach.

  We landed with a hard thud, although I knew Sammy did try to make her landing as graceful as possible. She transformed back into a human after we’d slid off her left wing and were back on solid ground.

  The dragons dressed quickly while the rest of us spent time discussing a plan of action. This mission was getting more dangerous by the minute, but the thought of returning home with the sword somehow made everything seem worth it. Blake and the others joined in the discussion once they had all dressed.

  “Elena, what side is he coming from and when?” Blake started asking important questions.

  I looked around and compared our surroundings with those I had seen in the Sacred Cavern. “It showed nightfall, we're in the exact right spot.”

  “Are you sure?” Arianna asked. She had that set to her jaw that told me she didn't trust me one bit.

  “Yeah, positive. If I'm not mistaken, the volcano is just ahead about two miles.” I pointed into the direction, and Brian sprinted down the path. He was the only dragon able to get close to a volcano.

  “Okay, we have to corner the Dragonian here. We can't let him get past the P.O. N. R,” Blake said.

  “What is P.O. N. R?” I whispered to Lucian.

  “Point of no return.”

  “Where's the sword, Elena?” Blake asked quickly.

  “He was carrying it close to him. It was covered with some sort of fabric bound with strings.”

  Pondering this information, Blake gave us our first goal. “So we have to find a way to snatch it from him. I doubt that he'll be compelled─”

  “You're wrong,” I interrupted, and Blake’s facial expression changed from being sure about his plan to a huge frown.

  He gazed at the ground for a minute. “Are you sure?” His voice broke, and he cleared his throat with a cough.

  “Walking to the volcano, melting away to accomplish the task. I would say he's compelled.”

  Melting away? Becky mouthed, and I nodded. She shivered.

  “What is it, Blake?” Lucian asked.

  “It's not good.” He started to pace around, clutching his hair. “If Goran controls him, he'll see everything, including us.” There was a sense of alarm in his tone. A frown creased his forehead, and I could tell Blake was thinking really hard to come up with plan B.

  “Is that bad?” I asked.

  “It's very bad, you crazy lunatic,” Tabitha yelled. “You've led us to our deaths.”

  “Tabitha, back off!” Becky jumped in, and Sammy uttered something that sounded like a swearword.

  I didn't like Tabitha's tone one bit, but had to admit, she was really brave for sticking with us this long. Usually Snow dragons disappeared at any sign of danger.

  “Tabitha’s got a point, but we’ve made a choice,” Blake said, in order to stop the backbiting. “We can't transform Lucian. We have to fight in o
ur human form. Elena, to get back to your question, yes, the mission just turned into something suicidal. If Goran does compel the Dragonian, we are going to fight him indirectly. None of us are ready or trained for that.”

  We all fell silent. Fighting Goran wasn't on the agenda and running seemed like the only option.

  “Blake, I will change!” Sammy sounded terrified.

  “Sammy, if Goran controls the Dragonian, he'll see through his eyes. If he knows that we're dragons, he'll use magic. We will all die. We have to stay hidden, let him think that we're humans.”

  “I can't control it yet!” she shouted frantically.

  “You can't change, Samantha!”

  Tears rolled down her cheeks. “I really suck in Transformation class. I always turn when it gets too scary.”

  “Try,” he pleaded with his sister.

  She nodded, and Becky's arm curled around her shoulder.

  “I can't fight Goran, Blake.” Arianna had tears in her eyes, too.

  He walked over to Arianna and cupped her face in his hands. For a second I thought he was going to kiss her. “Don't think of it like that. You’re the best with chants and spells. We need you, Arianna.”Blake's tone was soft and sweet. He’d taken charge of this whole mission, and the worst part was that Lucian let him.

  Lucian finally opened his mouth. “He's right, Arianna. Don't do anything stupid. If Goran knows that you can do counter and reversal spells already, he’ll take you out first.” Arianna started to panic.

  “You have to stay calm,” Blake ordered her with her face still cupped in his hands.

  Does he have the ability to compel someone?

  “We'll have to hide, wait for him until he's surrounded. We can trap him, and if we need to fight, so be it,” Blake said.

  “Blake, who will get the sword?” George asked.

  “Elena has already proven herself ready for something like this. Lucian said that you have crazy reflexes?”

  I just looked at him with huge unblinking eyes.

  “Urgh! For crying out loud, what is it?” he asked in an irritated tone.

  “I can't do this, Blake,” I said through gritted teeth.

  “Elena? You're the only one that knows where the sword─”

  “It's not that! My arm is killing me. I won't succeed with only one arm.”

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