Now, We Burn

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12 | Eliza

12
| Eliza |

It took all the strength Eliza had to steady her heart. Pierce was looking at her expectantly, still holding his hands on the wall by her temples.

“Dragon?” she asked. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Anyone who messes with dragons has a death wish…” Hark, she was babbling. If Eliza didn’t shut herself up, she’d give herself away. She sighed by way of calming herself. “There is no dragon.”

“There is a dragon, actually,” Pierce said. “I saw it, when we were in the woods. Why were you hiding it, hm? Why hold something that can kill you?”

Eliza had no words. Her heart rate spiked again, and she began to stutter. He had her in a rut, flustered and useless, and she couldn’t do anything about it. Pierce was literally pinning her up against the wall. His dark eyes bored into hers, waiting for a response, an objection to his accusation. But she had none. Eliza was a terrible liar, she always had been, and she knew she couldn’t get herself out of this. Instead, she tried evading him.

“Listen, I have work to do.” She placed her palms to his chest and pushed him away from her, stepping away from the wall. He was easier to move than she’d anticipated, stepping out of the way. “There’s no dragon,” Eliza stated as she walked into the aisle of the infirmary. Ember was gone, Eliza had seen her leave a few minutes before. Maybe Eliza would try finding her.

She walked out of the infirmary dutifully before hiding herself behind her hair again as she made her way through the small alley, between the storefronts and the wall the gang was building around the mall. It offered her some cover while Eliza beelined to the forest. It was the second time that day, but she found the dark foliage and silence comforting. Plus, Ember was probably there.

It wasn’t very long a walk before a strange sight caught her eye. Eliza reeled back when she saw it, tripping over a tree root and falling on her rump. She cringed at the sound of leaves crumpling and twigs breaking beneath her as the thing in the forest turned its large reptilian head in her direction, seeking out the source of the ruckus.

Then, she saw Ember, standing only a meter away from the fiery dragon and looking up at it confusedly. Eliza wanted to scream for Ember to run away from the beast, but she held back. Ember knew what she was doing, she could take care of herself. Most of the time.

Eliza tentatively stood from where she knelt on the ground, planting her feet into the earth to steady herself from slipping. The dragon barely paying attention to her, it turned back to Ember and gazed at her face with amber eyes. Ember finally noticed Eliza, and was now staring at her, wide-eyed and afraid. Her eyes said run, but the ones staring back at Ember were not afraid, only concerned. Eliza saw no threat in the dragon.

Eliza moved, slowly walking closer to Ember and the dragon. She didn’t entirely know why she wasn’t afraid, but she wasn’t. Fear was such a familiar emotion to her that its absence felt strange.

Eliza’s hand twitched. She watched the dragon’s nostrils flare and blow smoke out as she raised her palm toward its scaly muzzle. Her hand was only a few inches away when a sharp noise caught her attention, causing her to pull it away. A twig had snapped to their left.

When Eliza turned and laid her eyes on the source of the noise, she was unsurprised at the sight. That harking boy had followed her, yet again.

“Eliza! What the--” Ember started but Eliza cut her off.

“What are you doing here, Pierce?” Eliza asked angrily. That boy was getting on her last nerve. “Why do you keep following me?”

“I’m the one who should be asking questions, here,” Pierce stated coolly. “For example, why have the two of you been consorting with dragons?”

Ember was fuming, as was Eliza, but not for the same reason. In her anger, Ember seemed to forget all about the dragon that was slowly moving away from the trio.

“Eliza!” she demanded more firmly. Eliza turned to find her sister’s dark eyes blazing. “How could you let this harking son of a dragon follow you? He’s the enemy. He’s trash, no-good gang scum, and you shouldn’t have let him follow you here!”

Ember was already starting to walk back to the mall as she said the harsh words. Eliza watched her leave before turning and giving Pierce a stony glare. She then stalked off in the direction of her sister, leaving Pierce in the woods.

When she caught up to Ember, Eliza kept trying to talk to her to no avail. Finally, she gave up and simply walked beside her all the way back to the infirmary. What they found, though, made them both stop in their tracks.

Thane stood by Eeros’s cot, staring down at the boy before noticing the two girls and looking up. His expression turned from despondent to fierce.

“You!” He pointed a long finger at Ember. His next words came out strained and breathless. “How could you leave Eeros here? You let him die!”

He moved quickly to them, bringing his fingers to her neck and holding them there. “You two left the camp against my orders and let Eeros die.” Although his gaze was directed at Ember, Thane was talking to both of them. He then pulled a knife from his belt and pressed it to Ember’s chin.

“An act punishable by death,” he said as Ember’s blood dripped on the blade.

“Wait!” A voice came from behind them, frantic. The three turned at the sound. Pierce stood a few feet away from them, breathless and sweaty. Eliza’s eyes narrowed.

“It wasn’t their fault, Thane,” Pierce stated.

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