I flinch as it comes down again, my arms buckling a little under the force. I can feel blood seeping through my clothes and onto the floor, but we've only just hit two hundred.
Outside, over the cracks, I hear Fintan, shouting something delightedly to whoever else is with him.
Suddenly, just as another lash hits, the tent flaps are thrown open. Immediately I jump to my feet, spinning to see who it is.
Fintan stands in the entrance to the tent, looking appalled. "What...?"
"Fintan, we're busy," I tell him. "Leave."
"No," he says firmly. "What have you done that deserves this kind of punishment?"
"I thought that you of all people would know, Fintan," I say drily. "I've done an awful lot in the past few days."
"But this, Caoilainn..." he trails off, looking to Sheik. I look over my shoulder, sending a warning glare in the chief's direction.
"She asked, Fintan," he says. "She was... insistent."
"Please, Fintan," I say. "This is humiliating. I don't want you to see this. Please leave."
He seems at war with himself, his emotions and logical thoughts duelling each other relentlessly.
I wait, blood dripping from me, for his response.
We pass through one final chamber, and then we're outside in what feels like a very tranquil, peaceful place. That is, until a booming voice that could only belong to a dragon breaks the silence.
"Ah, well met, hero! And the mortal goddess!" Faron exclaims. "Who are your companions today?"
Fintan introduces Melaina and himself to her, and the rest of us give her our names after that. She makes a noise of approval, and is silent for a moment.
"You there, Caoilainn," she says, and I jump a little.
"Your aura is a dark one," Faron notes. "Considerably darker than that of the others."
I falter for a moment, biting my lip. "Would you mind if we discussed that later? I think Melaina's situation is a little more pressing than mine, honestly."
"Hmm... Well, let's get to it, then. Fintan, was that your name?"
Fintan steps forward, whispering something to Melaina as they approach her.
"I understand that your skill lies in the realm of telepathy," Faron says. "Very well; let us see what can be done for your friend."
I follow the sound of the other's footsteps and stand with them while Fintan, presumably, is readying himself. I hear a gentle splash after some soft discussion - Melaina must have stepped into the water. I can only imagine how confused she must feel, receiving all of these instructions, meeting a creature like the water dragon...
"Alright," says Faron, "with the help of the spring's water, you should be able to do this."
There's a moment silence, and I frown, not sure what's happening. Then Fintan speaks up.
"I... I can't... What if I hurt her again..?"