“The three of you will do some more training and, when Khaly is back on her feet, we’ll send you out to one of the other continents,” Algernon said.
“Why?” Bancroft asked.
“Just because the Guild has been defeated here doesn’t mean it’s the same everywhere else,” Khaly said. The others nodded.
“But Chahara died in the explosion, you said so yourself.” He pointed at his brother.
“No, I said it is likely she did, but she wasn’t working alone. She couldn’t have been. We have to be sure those robots didn’t get out of Feesia.”
“So, it’s not over then.”
“Don’t be a moron, Bancroft,” Jahallah said. “Of course it’s not over.” Khaly gave her a nudge in the back. Jahallah shrugged.
“I’m excited to see what kind of dragon Khaly’s going to bring to life this time.” Oalina smiled as she brushed her long hair off her shoulder and gently touched Chaith’s bicep. Khaly gritted her teeth at the action.
She also wasn’t sure if bringing another to life was something she intended on doing. The two she already had were a handful.
One of the men sitting on the couch picked up the body of the unfinished dragon.
“Did somebody say you can touch that?” Jahallah said, narrowing her eyes. He slowly put it back down, and Khaly tried to conceal a smile.
Her eyes swept the room, catching Chaith watching her. His gaze steady, he refused to look away. Khaly’s heart skipped a beat and she swallowed hard.
“Ah, Khaly?” Bancroft’s voice came from the other end of the tent, drawing everyone’s attention.
Khaly craned her neck to get a better view. Sumora was perched precariously on the arm of the chair, watching him. Even though she spent a great deal of time protecting Bancroft before he learned to use his active gift, she would still stare at him for no other reason than to intimidate.
“Sumora.” Khaly sighed. The room fell silent, no one knowing what to expect. The dragons spent little time around others and preferred to be left alone. Both Sumora and Orantheio spat either water or fire if approached, or if someone moved too quickly in their presence.
The water dragon kept a steady gaze on Bancroft. She smacked her lips.
“Do you have something in your pocket?” Jahallah asked.
Bancroft shook his head. “Khaly, do something.”
“Sumora, leave him alone,” Khaly said again, this time getting up on her elbows. The motion caused her to wince. Her ribs were still healing from her fall in the warehouse two weeks prior.
Sumora clicked at her.
“Don’t talk back. Get down.”
Sumora refused to move, turning back to Bancroft narrowing her eyes. Her behavior was odd, a little unnerving. The tension in the room grew, and no one dared to move or breathe. Sumora appeared to grow as she took a defensive stance. Orantheio turned toward Bancroft and set a steady gaze upon him.
“Khaly,” he said through gritted teeth, the fear in his voice rising.
People started to get up from their seats, the light atmosphere gone.
“Nobody move.” Khaly tried to keep her voice low, so as not to startle the now visibly agitated dragons. Pulling herself into a seated position she swung her legs over the edge of the bed. Jahallah stood up slowly, offering Khaly her arm so she could easier get off the bed. “Orantheio, come here.”
He didn’t move or respond. Khaly swallowed; never had they defied her this way. Carefully she crossed the tent, hobbling on her bad ankle and holding her ribs.
“Sumora.” Her voice was gentle and Sumora clicked back at her, but she never took her eyes off Bancroft. Khaly eased closer and stepped in front of Orantheio, knowing he wouldn’t spit fire at her.
Khaly took one last step toward Bancroft, reached out for Sumora, then froze. She realized Sumora wasn’t watching Bancroft at all. There was something, or someone, on the other side of the tent. The hairs on her arms stood on end and a shiver ran down her spine. Khaly made eye contact with Bancroft and could see he understood immediately. He was never in danger from the dragons; Sumora was only doing what she had been doing for months: protecting him—protecting all of them.
“What’s going on?” Oalina asked, causing everyone to jump.
Bancroft glared in her direction, bringing a finger up to shush her. Khaly straightened, widening her stance, and glanced over her shoulder. Jahallah moved to her side. Bancroft carefully slid from the chair and Orantheio eased through Khaly’s legs, skulking toward the back of the tent. Khaly glanced over her other shoulder and saw Chaith give a silent command to everyone in the room.
They all eased from their seats and made for the door. Oalina was the last to leave.
A series of shouts and explosions came from the camp, which for a second shifted Khaly’s attention, but then came instantly back when three men cut through the tent. They were caught off guard when confronted by Khaly and her family, but still they charged.
Sumora sprayed boiling water into their eyes, and Orantheio spat flames. In a flash Jahallah and Bancroft were on two of the men, but it took all Khaly had to remain standing. The third came at her, wielding a short sword, but her mind was so fuzzy she couldn’t throw up any defense. Orantheio spat blue flames, but they didn’t seem to slow her attacker. Khaly staggered back and felt something fly past her ear. A knife had found a home in the man’s neck and he dropped instantly. Chaith was immediately by her side, wrapping his arm around her waist.
“I got ya. It’s okay. You’re okay.”
“What about Oalina? Is she going to be okay with this?” she asked. Bancroft and Jahallah stood heaving for breath.
“Really? You want to do this now?” Chaith was exasperated, yet couldn’t help but smile.
Khaly looked at the other men on the floor.
“Dead,” Bancroft said.
There came several more explosions, rattling the tent.
“What the hell is going on?” Bancroft asked, shoving his feet into his shoes.
“What do you think? Come on.” Jahallah ran out of the tent.
“Go. They need everyone they can get.”
Bancroft chased Jahallah. Grabbing her bag from the floor, Khaly started shoving the unfinished dragon and its parts into it.
“What are you doing?” Chaith had not left her side.
“I’m not leaving this behind. I find it odd—” She was interrupted by a loud squawk followed by an ear-splitting scream.
“Don’t you find it odd they came to our tent first? That the instant they broke through they attacked out there as well?”
He shook his head, obviously confused, but said nothing. Instead, he helped her finish packing. Khaly pulled on her boots, gritting her teeth as one tightened around her sprained ankle. With the dragons on his heels, Chaith picked her up and carried her into the camp. Many of the tents were on fire, and it was mere seconds before another fire bomb came at them. Chaith dropped Khaly to the ground and threw up a shield, deflecting the bomb so it hit the tent instead.
As he picked her back up she scanned the area and spotted Jahallah and Bancroft. Bancroft stood in front of Jahallah, protecting her with his shield as she raised the ground around the intruders and pulled them into the earth. With one arm, Chaith held Khaly tight as he threw out one defense after another. The young man who had grabbed Orantheio’s tail screamed as his heart was ripped from his body. Khaly remembered the conversations they had about his affinity for mechanics, how he wanted to go to the Academy after his aptitude tests. He was so young with so much potential and now he was gone, lost forever and rage grew inside Khaly. The image reminded her of her own father, sitting at their table, his heart in front of him.
Grabbing Chaith’s hand she pulled herself free, steadied her stance, and threw a wall of flames in front of the attacker. She advanced on him as she raised the ground up, wrapping roots around his ankles. He struggled, unsure of what to do. With each step Khaly took she attacked with a different Elemental. All her anger and betrayal she had felt during the last year was built up inside. She closed her eyes and tilted her face to the sky. Clouds formed above and fighters on both sides of the battle froze, watching the power Khaly was demonstrating.
Opening her eyes, she locked her gaze with his as he was struck with a bolt of lightning. He turned to ash in seconds, but there was no smell of burning flesh. There was nothing left to smell.
Without hesitation, Khaly turned her attention to the rest of the intruders. Those remaining backed up and ran away.
Khaly doubled over, hands on her knees, and retched. Her family, and Chaith, ran to her side, and she looked up at Bancroft.
“What the hell was that?” She then collapsed, unconscious.