Now, We Burn

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2 | Eliza

2
| Eliza |

“Oh, no,” Eliza muttered under her breath, walking against the huge mass of panicking people, gang members and loners alike. She didn’t like the crowd -- she was much less knowledgeable about people than her younger sister. She didn’t like that either. “Oh no, oh no, oh no.”

She had to admit though, as much as she envied Ember and her less than intelligible actions, she loved her and needed to protect her. Soon enough Eliza reached the open part of the city that had long been in ruins and raked her eyes across the landscape, looking for that harking building that her sister had always gone to. She soon found it and started to run.

Honestly, she thought, can’t I just spend a single one of Mom’s anniversaries that doesn’t involve Ember sneaking away?

The large building loomed over Eliza -- the No-Man’s Market, as Ember had called it -- and she squelched the fear pitting in her stomach at the height. She didn’t want to climb, but she didn’t have the time to go all the way to the top from the stairwell. She probably wouldn’t be able to go up them anyway, considering how broken the building was. There would be holes everywhere. Wall scaling, it is.

Eliza tentatively wrapped her pale fingers around the moss that hugged the brick, and pulled herself up. She had seen the window that Ember always went into, about halfway up, and wondered how the girl possibly did this almost every day, but her thoughts were whisked away with the sound of the alarm that had sounded in response to the dragon sighting.

“Oh, sister, where have you gone?” Eliza wondered aloud as she pulled herself into the broken window, carefully avoiding the glass that protruded from the weather-stained frame. She stared at the dark, old wood of the stairs and questioned their sturdiness but stepped up onto the structure still. Eliza hurried up the stairs, forgetting the unsafety until she reached the top, where the roof of the building lay. Just as she was about to go looking, though, she shrunk back into the stairwell. A good-sized, emerald green-colored dragon walked around the hole-laden roof, picking and prodding at the empty vendors. There were no people in sight.

Eliza watched the winged, artificial beast before her, her rapid heart pounding in her ears. She surveyed her surroundings closely, trying to find a sign of life. With closer inspection, Eliza could spot people littered around the landscape -- a gang person in a hole here and a loner hanging from the building’s ledge there. She checked every single face she could see, keeping one eye on the dragon. There, wedged inside a tight crevice, Eliza could see the dark curls of her sister’s head. Her heart thundered in her chest. The dragon was nearing Ember, almost looking straight at her. Eliza wanted to scream. She wanted to yell a warning to her sister, but it was too late. The green monster raised its winged limbs into the air, claws out, before bringing them down and flying up into the clouds. She watched it drift away before getting up, along with all of the other people who had been at the market. Ember was getting up out of the crevice and talking to a man in a makeshift wheelchair -- one that was probably fixed up after the big war. He was devoid of his legs, and Eliza felt bad for him, but only for a moment before her priorities set in. She ran to her sister, almost tripping and falling into the small holes multiple times. Her fear only just didn’t consume her from seeing the large fall down from the roof. How could those gang people hang from there?

“Ember!” Eliza cried, taking Ember into a bone crushing hug, but then let go, slapping her arm lightly. Ember had a bored look on her face, that only just tinged with worry. “You can’t run off like that and this,” Eliza gestured to the scene around her, and in the direction of where the dragon flew off, toward the edge of the city. “This is why!”

“Whoa, there, Liz. Calm down,” Ember said, voice quiet.

“No, I will not ‘calm down,’ Ember. You have to stop doing this! Dad was freaking out, as usual. One of these days there will be serious consequences,” Eliza spat, feeling out of character. She didn’t usually do this -- Ember was normally the one to yell.

“Well, it’s not my fault I don’t want to be a crussing healer!” There she was, Eliza thought fondly, her rowdy spit-fire of a sister.

“But you have to be, okay? Or else no one will.” Ember had an angry look on her face.

“Ladies, ladies! I think ya two should settle yer differences elsewhere,” the man who had been talking to Ember said carefully. Only now that he spoke up, Eliza noticed the small crowd forming around them. Quiet whispers erupted from the people, talking of ‘loners’ and ‘clashes’ and ‘fresh meat.’ They frightened Eliza.

“Come on,” she said quietly, grabbing Ember’s hand and tugging her back toward the roof’s entrance. The two girls exited the building and walked back in the direction Eliza came, toward the edge of the broken city.

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