Ezra had been forbidden from leaving the tower again. It didn't matter. After what had happened today she had no intention of leaving again. The stone dragon watched sadly as she felt her hair now cut short, always expecting it to be longer. Having her hair cut was not too bad. Hair grew back. It was her master's betrayal that shocked her. She felt between her shoulder blades where the whip had bitten. Yet her skin felt smooth and soft as ever. She remembered the man touching her. The way the pain had instantly subsided and her wounds from the whip had healed. The man had used magic! She couldn't believe he had been so defiant.
The two books she had been given had also somehow made their way to the tower. As if they had some strange power of their own.
There was a sudden commotion coming from below. The sound of shouting voices and pounding footsteps travelled up through the wooden floorboards. A loud, light, mocking laugh also echoed up from below. There was a cry of "Sanctuary!" and the footsteps gradually faded away. Ezra noticed the stone dragon eyeing her curiously, its stone eyes glowing brightly.
"What's going on?" she noticed it was quivering slightly.
Ezra said nothing, just shook her head. She could feel her blood run cold but didn't know why. She went to the trap door behind which was a spiral staircase that led down to the cathedral. But she didn't go near that. Instead she clung to one of the ropes that rang the bells. Thankfully as long as she didn't pull it hard, the bells would remain silent. Slowly, carefully, she slid down and leapt to a nearby rafter where she carefully balanced. She could see Cleeves standing below facing a hooded figure. He looked furious. The archdeacon was standing beside the figure holding a long pole for lighting the high hanging candles that gave the cathedral a gentle, warm glow. With a sweep of his long black cloak Cleeves turned and left slamming the doors behind him. As the archdeacon walked away the figure glanced up. Breathing heavily, Ezra tried her best to conceal herself in shadow. Shrugging the figure looked away again. As he walked towards a hanging of Jesus on the cross. Ezra silently dropped, sliding down the wooden support and landing lightly on the stone floor.
Some people had been praying and one happened to glance up.
"You don't belong here, fire demon!" he yelled shattering the silence.
The figure (as well as everyone else) turned and saw her. Without another thought Ezra turned and ran. In her terror, she felt as though her strength had left her. Sprinting towards the staircase in the corner she suddenly heard footsteps behind her.
"Wait!" cried a voice.
She wanted to stop but instead ignored it and kept running. Shooting up the staircase like a rocket, it didn't take her long to reach the door to the tower. It wasn't locked. It never was. But as she tried it, it didn't budge. Cleeves clearly had not trusted her to stay in the tower this time. Suddenly panicking she sprinted back down the stairs. She didn't even realise someone had followed until she collided with him, again.
This time she didn't stop.
She slipped silent as darkness into the cathedral and leapt onto one of the thick wooden supporters. Her jump was so strong she managed to grab it at quite a good height. Pausing to catch her breath she clung to it like a cat to a tree. Then she shot up it like a rat up a drainpipe. Clinging to the rafter she sat and caught her breath again. The man who had yelled had resumed praying. The church was silent again. There was no sign of the hooded figure.
It didn't take her long to climb back up to the bell tower. The dragon watched her but didn't ask any questions. As if it knew what had happened. Outside the sun was beginning to set. Soon it would be time to ring the bells again. Both the dragon and Ezra jumped as there came a pounding from the trapdoor. It couldn't have been Cleeves, he had the key to get in. She always saw it in a bunch, dangling from his belt. Tiptoeing to the trap door she got down on her knees beside it. The pounding came again. There was a silver handle at one end. A curved bar nailed into the wood. Wrapping her fingers round it she once again questioned herself. Even if she did want to open it she couldn't. She didn't have the key and she wasn't allowed visitors. The bar suddenly went warm and seemed to pulse with energy beneath her fingers. Making up her mind she pulled at the handle. To her surprise, it opened.
The figure, whose hood had now fallen back from his head, gazed up at her equally surprised. It was the young man from the festival. He grinned.
"You have magic?"
"That door was locked yet you opened it."
Ezra stared at her hands for a moment, then back at him.
"What are you doing here?"
She stood up and backed away a little allowing him to enter the tower.
"Cleeves was trying to arrest me. I've claimed sanctuary here. As long as I stay in here I can't be touched."
So he was on the run. For using magic as well as rebelling. Her heart sank to hear this. He was an outcast like her. Persecuted for being different.
"What is this place?" he asked gazing round.
"Where I live. It is both my home and my prison."
To lighten the mood she smiled a little, "You saved me yet never told me your name."
He laughed, light and musical. The sound danced in her ears.
"Ah, meaning noble friend or noble warrior." she was surprised to see he was frowning.
"It's a name I chose for myself. My parents called me Adwr."
Ezra had never heard this name before. Seeing her expression he explained, "It means coward. It was what they thought I'd become."
Holding her hand over her mouth to stifle a gasp she lowered her gaze for a moment. She felt guilty, her heart heavy in her chest.
"It's ok." he said gently, she felt his hand on her shoulder.
Her heart raced a little. She looked up so their eyes met. Her heart leapt realising he was gazing into her eyes instead of staring at her hair. For a moment they seemed to move a little closer. Then closer.
Suddenly, Ezra broke the contact by looking away. The stone dragon was staring at them, its eyes were glowing again and its tail was swishing wildly with excitement. She ran her fingers through her short hair. Trying to still her pounding heart. Aldawin stared out at the view over the city.
"You seem to get a nice view from here."
Ezra turned to look at him, "Oh that's nothing. Follow me."
She climbed up a ladder to where her sleeping area was. Sunlight streamed in as it set. Climbing on top of an old cabinet she pushed aside a large plank of wood revealing an opening in the ceiling. Climbing through they found themselves on the roof of the tower. A raised stone ledge surrounded the edge acting as a balcony wall. Behind them in the centre the slated roof raised into a gently sloped cone shape. The dying sun warmed their faces and bathed them in a warm orange light.
"How's that?" she asked pointed over the ledge.
Aldawin gasped in awe. He had never seen anything so spectacular. The entire city lay spread out before them, the colours of the sky washing over them like a painting. The river glittered pink as the rays danced over the waters.
"You certainly get a room with a view." he said, "I bet no one else has a view like this."
"Yeah I'm lucky." Ezra said sarcastically fingered her hair as she said on the slope of the cone.
"You are!" exclaimed Aldawin sitting down beside her, "To have a view like this but also to look the way you are. I know red hair is not really hated here. Cleeves forces it on the people. Your hair is beautiful. And you have magic. Both are gifts not curses."
Ezra laughed shortly, a smile creeping across her face.
"Yet I am a prisoner here."
Aldawin gave a small nod. But he didn't take his eyes off her face. He then clicked his fingers and a large red and golden yellow bird came soaring through the pink sky towards them. Ezra recoiled slightly as it landed on the ledge and eyed her curiously, its dark eyes glittering.
"It's a Phoenix." said Aldawin grinning, "Also known as the fire bird."
Ezra remembered reading about them in one of her books. Gingerly reaching out her fingertips brushed its smooth feathers which felt warm to her touch. As she pulled her hand away it gently rubbed her with its head. She couldn't help smiling. After a few minutes it spread its wings and took to the skies again. Ezra felt sad to see it go.
"One day we will all be free." observed Aldawin watching the Phoenix disappear.
Neither noticed their hands were touching until Ezra suddenly pulled away.
"Do you need a bed for the night?" she asked standing up, "Especially if you have sanctuary."
Aldawin stood up as well, "The archdeacon said he'd find me somewhere."
Ezra shook her head as she climbed back down the ladder, "You're welcome to stay up here. There's plenty of room."
Aldawin made sure to close the opening to the roof with the wood as he climbed down after her. He noticed the mattress on the floor with blankets of different thicknesses and a pillow on top.
"You can have my bed." Ezra offered, "I'll sleep on the floor."
Aldawin was about to insist that he would be on the floor when she raised a hand signalling an end to the conversation. She told him to wait while she climbed down to ring the bells. For about ten minutes the tower was alive with the sound of bells singing. When she was finished she climbed back up and pulled a couple of the blankets onto the wooden floor and lay down curled up in them like a sleeping puppy.
Aldawin waited til she was asleep before climbing into bed himself. Lying with his arm slightly draped over the side he felt her hand touch his. As he drifted off to sleep he felt her fingers twist with his and his heart leapt with delight.