I lie on the cold floor, staring up at the rocky ceiling above me, listening to the sound of deadly silence. The room smells of damp, a lot of bleach, which makes my nose twitch. I stretch my fingers out, feeling nothing but cold, rough stone under my hands. I try to move my body on instinct, but nothing other than my fingers move. Panic starts to set in just before I hear his voice which instantly calms me.
“Isola, you’re okay. It’s just the drugs wearing off. I’m here.”
“Dagan?” I question, knowing it was his voice but needing to see him to reassure myself, yet moving isn’t an option right now. As I lie staring at the ceiling, hearing Dagan’s deep breathing not far from me, I remember coming through the portal. I remember those people shooting us with darts, and Hallie being with them, looking so different from when we last saw each other. Hallie shot me. I wasn’t even fighting her, trying to run or defending myself, and she didn’t hesitate for more than a moment before she pulled the trigger.
I try not to panic when I realise we have been gone from Dragca a lot longer than I thought, and that Eli needs me to get him back. Elias needs me, and all I can do is lie on the ground, wishing to move. I know some part of me is thinking this is all still some big mistake, and Hallie will save us somehow. Then I remember everything she said about Michael. Paris doesn't sound good either as she clearly thinks dragons killed her mother. If I can get her alone, I can explain what happened with Michael; at least I might have a chance of getting her to understand. A million questions run through my head as I’m forced to lie still and remember everything. This is all so confusing, why would she let her father do this? What exactly does he want us here for?
After a while, I manage to pull my head with all my strength to the left, seeing thick bars right next to me as the feeling starts to come back to my body. I focus on the other side of the bars where there is Dagan. He is lying on the floor, looking dazed as his blue eyes meet mine, filled with worry and as much pain as I am in. Dagan’s hair is messy, and he looks very pale but not much different from when we came through the portal. I notice he still has his dragon guard clothes on, and so do I, by the feel of it. I reach my arm up, feeling for the necklace on my neck and am relieved to know it’s still there. I promised never to take it off, and breaking a promise to a fate might not be the best idea. I'm hoping it hasn’t been too much time while we slept, and I hope I can move soon to find answers. Before getting the hell out of here.
“Are you okay?” I question Dagan, my voice sounding dry and cracked even to my ears. “Have you seen the others? Where are we?” The questions rapidly spew from my mouth; I know I’m mumbling them, and I doubt Dagan can understand me.
“I’m okay, princess,” Dagan whispers back, his voice sounding as bad as mine, but at least he understood that bit. I feel relieved, even if he doesn’t look as okay as I'd want him to be and free from here. I watch as he pulls himself into a sitting position, before slowly making his way to the bars, sweat pouring down his forehead from the struggle. He doesn’t say a word, just being there for me as I keep testing my body to see if I can move. I slowly start wriggling my legs after a long time. Even though I’m not strong enough to move like Dagan yet, my strength is coming back which is a relief. I reach for my dragon in my mind, feeling her presence, but she feels dazed and sleepy, before I focus back on Dagan.
“Was that your human friend with the people who knocked us out?” Dagan asks me, clearly remembering Hallie. “I didn’t know humans were so trigger happy.”
“Yes, it was. Hallie believes I killed Michael and four other teenagers. She thinks I've got something to do with her mother dying in Paris,” I mumble. “I don’t know if she is my friend anymore or if we can trust her. The look in her eyes when she shot me…it was empty of emotion.”
“I’m sorry, Isola. Losing a friend is never easy, but we can’t focus on her right now. What happened in Paris?” he asks me, and when I stare into his eyes, he reminds me of Elias for a second which makes this whole situation harder than I know how to deal with.
“I don't know what's going on any more than you do. We need to get out of whatever this is, because Eli needs us,” I whisper, my voice cracking when I speak his name. My Eli. My dragon guard is in danger, and I know I could never survive losing him.
“My brother is alone with that psychopath who hates us all. God knows what she is going to do to him, but we have to save him before she destroys him. The last time we were there wasn’t pretty, but at least he had us with him. Elias has a dark side, and being around a dark spirit won’t be good for him,” Dagan growls, getting angrier with every word before he slams his fist onto the ground. “Fuck’s sake, I can’t lose him.”
“Hey!” I shout getting his attention, and his now red eyes lock on mine. “We can't lose it right now. We need to figure something out and keep calm.”
“I know that, princess. I don't like being weak and defenceless. We can't make our dragons come out with these around our necks,” he points at the metal collar strapped around his neck. It's only then that I recognise that I have one on as well, the cold metal is tightly pressed around my neck. It no doubt stops us from shifting, and I reach a hand, feeling the thick metal and the small box attached to the left side. I’m sure the collar is for more than just stopping us shifting.
“I’m going to look in the cell next to mine. Maybe Korbin, Thorne or Melody are in it,” Dagan states and pulls himself up with the bars as I watch silently. I call out for Thorne in my mind, feeling that he is okay, but his lack of response suggests he is sleeping still. Dagan comes back after a little while, sitting close to the bars and looking down at me, catching his breath back.
“Thorne is in the next cage, but he is still asleep. As I’m sure you already know, he is fine,” Dagan tells me, looking tense. I don’t need to ask what is wrong because I can see it in his eyes. He is upset about Thorne and me mating, and I don’t blame him one bit. I want to comfort him, explain things, but I know it is not the right time.
“Can you make any fire?” I ask, because I am too weak to make ice right now, but if Dagan could burn the bars, we could get out.
“No. I tried it when I woke up, and the collar electric-shocked me until I passed out. Either whoever knocked us out is clearly watching us, or these collars somehow have some kind of senor in them. Whatever it is, don’t try to call your ice,” he warns me in a frustrated voice. Well, there goes that plan. I know he isn’t frustrated with me, just the situation, and he is right to be. It sucks. I take his advice for now, but the moment I can get this collar off, I am going to let my dragon free to do whatever she wants. It’s not like I can call my powers or my dragon at this moment anyway, but it is nice to look to the future.
“Isola, I need you to get up and try to move. The drugs wear off quicker when you move, I think. I know it hurts, but come to me.” I keep a brave face on as I focus on sitting up, every little movement sending pain throughout my body and making me want to just take a nap. Though I do notice it gets slightly easier and less painful after the first few movements. I manage to sit myself up slowly, every movement is still a little painful and it takes me a long time to do anything. I move my arms a little when I’m sitting up, seeing the spear is still wrapped around my arm. The necklace and spear bracelet must be magically attached to me, because there is no doubt the people that took us here would have tried to take them off. I need to pretend it’s a piece of jewelry, as it would be a good way to defend myself when the time is right.
I feel around my two pockets, not finding anything useful. Dagan is silently watching me, and I know I need to get to him at least. I crawl myself over to the bars where Dagan is resting, even though every part of my body aches and protests against the movement. It reminds me of whatever Michael injected me with, but worse. Much, much worse. Even thinking back to what happened with Michael, and how familiar this drugged out feeling is, freaks me out. Michael must have had something to do with whatever Hallie’s father has got Hallie involved in here. I try not to feel terrified at the thought, but my hands shake, and my mouth goes dry. When I get to the bars, sliding down to the floor, Dagan reaches through and holds my clammy hand in his tightly.
“I will get us out of this, Isola,” he whispers to me, pressing his head on the bars, watching me like he can understand my every thought without me saying a word.
“How can we get out of something when we don't know what's going on?” I ask, resting my head on the cold bars next to Dagan’s, needing the brief closeness for the comfort he gives me. I stare at the door to the cell for a long time, which is the first in the corridor of cages, by the looks of it. After a long time, my legs finally feel like I’m strong enough to move. I stand up and walk around the room, shaking the bars to test them, but knowing it is pointless.
“They wouldn’t have put us in here if we could just get out. Come and sit with me,” Dagan softly suggests, and I sigh, knowing he is right before going to sit back down next to him. I go to ask Dagan how Elias got caught by Tatarina, but the door to the corridor opens, flashing a bright light in. A moment later, someone turns on the lights in the room, which blasts against my eyes so I can’t see for a second. When I can see again, I briefly look across Dagan’s cage, seeing Thorne on the floor in another cell, still sleeping. The cages next to his are too far for me to see in, but I see shadows of people on the floor which gives me hope that they are Korbin and Melody. I look back to the door in time to see a man walk into the room, stopping right in front of my cage.
“It is lovely to finally meet you, princess Isola Dragice, sole heir to the world of Dragca,” the man smoothly says, confusing me a little with how he knows my title and name. “My daughter and your father told me so much about you that it’s a pleasure for us to finally meet.” The human man states. The human has familiar features, with short brown hair that matches his brown eyes. His expensive suit has a yellow dragon symbol embroidered into the breast pocket. I recognise him as Hallie’s father after a moment’s pause, though his cold feeling eyes lack any human emotion like his daughter has. I freeze when I process his sentence, and the part where he claimed my father told him about me. That is impossible.
“My father told you what?” I demand, and he grins widely at me.
“Why don't we go for walk, and I can explain everything to you as I give you a tour of your new home, Isola?” he suggests, though I don’t think for second he is asking me to walk with him as much as he is making a demand. The human holds all the power here, and from his tone and the look in his eyes, he knows it as well as I do.
“My Isola isn't going anywhere,” Dagan sharply snaps. I shoot my eyes to him as he roars out in pain, his hands going to the collar, holding it as it electrocutes him as he falls to the floor. Dagan growls and screams as he tries to stay awake. The awful smell of the collar burning his neck floats over to me, making the whole situation terrifyingly real. My heart pounds in my chest, feeling like it’s breaking into pieces as I watch the dragon I love being tortured.
“STOP!” I scream, pleading with anyone to stop this. Nothing changes, and thankfully a few moments later, I watch in horror as Dagan passes out on the ground, his hands falling away from the collar. I have to watch his chest rise and fall in the silent room before I can even take a breath.
“That is just a taste of what I will do to him—and the others—if you don’t behave. Now, let’s have a talk like civilised people,” the man states coldly, like he didn’t just cause my dragon immense pain before he passed out from it. I pull myself up with the bars, keeping my expression neutral as I face the man, but I promise myself that he will be the first one I kill when I get the chance. No one touches my dragons without paying for it.