Apparently Ronodin's castle was on something called a dragon sanctuary which Seth had translated to mean, "full of things that want to eat us."
Which was why they were currently huddled under a thicket of trees while Seth wove a web of shadows around them. The wraiths had flown onward at Seth's order. The dragons raced after them, and Seth looked upward in wonder as flames that looked like molten gold lit the night.
"Whoa," he breathed. "Dragons are awesome."
Bracken didn't respond, and Seth turned to him, worried. Blood had seeped through several spots on the other man's clothes, and his breathing was making Seth nervous.
"Are you okay?" he whispered.
"Fine," Bracken said. It didn't sound particularly convincing. He took a ragged breath. "There should be a pond just to the north. We should - we should head there."
It sounded like a good idea to Seth. Water would confuse anything tracking them by scent, right? And maybe they could wash some of the blood off Bracken.
"Sounds good," he agreed. "Which way's north again?"
By the time they got to the pond, they'd had to hide from dragons twice as well as from something that had slithered through the undergrowth that looked like a snake with three heads. Seth was nearly carrying Bracken by then, which wasn't nearly as easy as it sounded. Seth's body was one big ache.
The pond was surrounded by dark cliffs that made it seem even more inviting. They'd be boxed in, but maybe it would be worth it.
"The cliffs," Bracken muttered.
"The cliffs?" Seth said incredulously. "I thought we were headed for the pond."
Bracken shook his head. His face looked pale and strained in the waning moonlight. "There's a path."
There was a path, a narrow, steep one that led up to a narrow notch in the cliff that might have been the mouth of a cave.
Seth didn't much want to find out what might be in that cave.
But he was out of ideas for getting out of here, so their best hope was probably praying Bracken was lucid and knew what he was talking about.
So now he just had to haul Bracken up a cliff. Toward a possible monster. Without weapons.
Seth could totally do this.
Halfway up the mountain, Seth revised that to: He could totally do this.
Seth was panting heavily by the time he reached the top, and Bracken had turned a sick grey.
Maybe the cave was a good idea. Bracken obviously needed rest.
The opening was a larger than it had looked at the bottom of the cliffs. There was also something rustling inside.
Seth angled himself so that he was the first into the cave. "Please don't kill us, please don't kill us, please don't kill us . . ."
He turned a sharp corner and blinked. There was no monster in the cave, just a lot of tiny women flying around with exquisite wings. They were particularly thick around a tiny gold statue of a woman in the corner.
"Mother," Bracken said, collapsing to his knees.
"Mother?" Seth echoed. Bracken was more out of it than he'd thought.
Then a warm breeze that smelled like warm bread and honey filled the cave, and an unexpectedly deep voice spoke into their minds.
My son. And Seth. I had wondered how things turned out after your last visit. The voice sounded pleased and curious, which was at least better than hostile.
"Father," Bracken breathed. "I hadn't heard - It's been so long - "
And long since you came to see me, the voice agreed. Your mother won't tell me why, so I assume you've been doing something dangerous. His voice grew concerned. You're injured. And the boy . . . What has happened to you, Seth?
"I don't know the whole story," Seth admitted. "I don't know a lot of things. I forgot just about everything."
A wave of concern washed over him. Then you need aid, both of you.
"Can you bring us through?" Bracken asked.
"Through where - ?"
Seth blinked as he took in the sudden surge of light. They were in a garden that seemed unnaturally beautiful, though there was something unfinished about it. A man he didn't recognize who looked regal but weary was on his knees beside Bracken so that he could lift the injured man into his arms.
"You're Bracken's father?" he asked, swaying a little from the toll the night had taken.
"I am," the man said, rising with Bracken still in his arms. "It is one of my favorite titles." Bracken's eyes had closed. The man turned toward the elegant white building in the distance and began to walk towards it hurriedly. "This way, please."
Seth followed. "You sounded like you knew me earlier."
The man glanced back at him. "We've met twice before. Both were . . . memorable experiences."
"I'm sorry," Seth said. "I don't even really remember my own name. It just seems to be the one fact everyone I run into can agree on, so I'm hoping they can't all be wrong. Um, what should I call you, by the way?"
A frown had crossed the man's face. "We shall have to see what the healers can do about this," he said, not answering the second question. "Once they've seen to Bracken, I'm sure they can be of some help."
"They can help Bracken?" Seth said in relief that only grew as the rest of it hit. Whatever he had done, this man at least thought that he could still receive help here. "They'll help me?"
"They cannot fix everything," the man said, a shadow crossing his face. It passed quickly. "And as we work on removing the dangers here, their skills are much in demand. But for my son and for the hero who has once again helped save one of my family - yes, Seth Sorenson, I think this will be well within our means."