10. Two Weeks Later: Trouble
As Ezra awoke to ring the bells that morning, she realised she felt strange. Dashing to the chamber pot that served as a toilet she was soon violently sick. The dragon seemed worried as she descended down the stairs to ring the bells.
"You've been sick the past week." it commented, "Are you sure nothing's wrong?"
"Honestly I'm fine." Ezra retorted taking hold of the rope, her face white, "In fact I feel better."
The dragon knew she was lying. Something wasn't right. Two weeks ago she had returned that morning carried by the phoenix. She seemed even happier than before. Cleeves had seemed suspicious about the bells not ringing the night before but he didn't question Ezra on it. It was the first time she had ever rejected her duty. For now he had decided to let it go but it wouldn't be forever.
Now she had been sick every morning for the past week. When she looked in the broken mirror she was clearly aware of a change. But clearly not about to reveal it. Cleeves' suspicions had continued to grow. The dragon was aware of the new sinister look that had appeared in his eyes. Ezra had talked about it but now it could see it for itself. It had never seen it before but could see it grow when he looked at Ezra. The fire in his eyes seemed to show a burning desire. A desire for Ezra.
He came that morning with the basket as usual. He watched Ezra carefully as she set the table.
"Are you feeling any better?" he asked carefully not taking his eyes off her.
"I'm fine, thank you," Ezra smiled but it didn't reach her eyes.
"You may like to know I am still searching for the boy. He clearly knows what he's doing."
Ezra didn't look up, giving nothing away.
"But it's strange that he was able to escape in the first place." his dark eyes bored into her, "I had guards at every door."
Ezra continued to avoid his gaze.
"There's no way he could have escaped. Unless..."
Ezra held her breath. Praying he wouldn't make the connection.
Cleeves calm demeanour disappeared as he suddenly stood up, glaring at her thunderously, "You helped him escape!"
Ezra stood up and backed away a little, terrified.
"What were you thinking! You helped a criminal go free!"
Ezra's heart raced as she tried to meet his glare. She fell to her knees in pure terror. The stone dragon let out a low growl behind her.
Cleeves suddenly went calm, "But then, how were you to know? He helped you and convinced you to help him."
Ezra did not reply, just stared directly into those cold hard eyes. He approached her and lightly stroked the short locks of hair that had started growing again. The dragon growled a little louder.
"My dear Ezra." he said under his breath.
Ezra felt sick, but not with nausea, with anger. She wanted to lash out. To attack him. To claw at him. But something held her back.
Cleeves turned away and left without another word. Ezra watched him go.
"Something's going on with you." the dragon jumped down beside her, "Please, tell me what's going on."
"I will," said Ezra, "but I have to tell Aldawin first."
Summoning Blaze, she flew to Aldawin's house twice as fast as last time. Aldawin opened the door anxiously to her urgent knocking.
"What's the matter?" he asked stepping aside to let her in.
"There's something I have to tell you." even her voice was urgent, "Something important."
Aldawin gestured to a chair for her to sit down and he sat down in the other.
"If Cleeves finds this out I'll be executed for sure. But I can't deny this. I've read enough to know what's happening."
She paused to let Aldawin take this in. His eyes widened as realisation dawned on him.
"Are you...you're not...are you sure?"
Ezra nodded, "I'm certain."
Aldawin took her hand in his, "We could leave this place. Flee the city. Run away together. Cleeves would never find us."
Ezra shook her head, "They'd catch us."
"But you can't stay in the bell tower. You won't be able to hide it forever."
Ezra choked up as tears sprang to her eyes, "I know."
Aldawin stood up and took her in his arms. Letting her cry into his shoulder.
"There's no way out, is there?" his voice was grave.
"If there is, I wish I knew what it was."
Aldawin gazed in her eyes which shone with tears, his hands on her cheeks, "Whatever happens. I'll do whatever it takes to get you out."
She smiled through her tears, knowing it wouldn't be enough.