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            It was Ezekiel who protested first at Raziel’s statement of taking me to the dragon. I wasn’t exactly stunned, more curious and confused. What does a dragon need with a soothsayer?

            “We agreed to this on the way here, Roz, we were not gonna give Hazel to the dragon,” Ezekiel spoke on my behalf.

            “I didn’t agree to that. You agreed to that. I will do anything to save our father!” Raziel’s voice was getting louder with each sentence, he had actually shouted ‘father’ at Ezekiel, his deep voice booming in the small hut.

            “We cannot sacrifice an innocent girl!” Now Ezekiel was shouting, “Our father would not approve!”

            “She’s a witch, probably saw this coming! She probably summoned the dragon!” Raziel was indicating me with a wave of his hand.

            “I did not summon the dragon, and neither of you bothered to ask me if I wanted to meet this dragon or not,” now I was angry though my voice was low, and at my words, both brothers were suddenly silent and looked at me. I felt myself blush under their gaze. Raziel was breathing hard, and I was certain he was gonna break something else in my home, either me or the jars of herbs. “I’ll go with you, Raziel.”

            “What? No! Hazel you can’t go, who knows why the dragon wants your grandmother,” Ezekiel was protesting again. Raziel looked smug, as if my siding with him had anything to do with his persuasive abilities.

            “It is the right thing to do,” I said, “I’m sworn to protect others, just as you are sworn to protect the king, and if means being eaten by a dragon to save Sir Hammael, so be it.” I wasn’t entirely lying, I was sworn to protect others, but I felt this was my atonement for having broken the very first oath, the most important one: Do no harm. It was my fault the dragon had Hammael, my fault that Ezekiel had been poisoned. I had to undo what I’d done.

            “Hazel-“ Ezekiel began and I shushed him, sitting next to him on the cot and taking his hand. His hands were small, calloused, and he gripped mine with strength I wished I possessed. I looked at his face, paled from the poison, I could see an admiration there I wished I was worthy of. Maybe Ezekiel would make a good husband, and I hoped one day he’d find the right woman.

            “It’ll be okay,” I said to him in a low voice.

            “Don’t go with him, stay here in the safety of your cottage, stay here… with me,” he said so quietly I almost thought I hadn’t heard him exactly. He glanced away from me to his brother. I could’ve sworn I saw his ears turn bright red. He was a bodyguard to the king, he was tough as nails, Nightsorrow men didn’t blush. I didn’t respond to him, I didn’t know how. I looked at Raziel and that seemed like a bad idea. The big man was bristling, he said nothing but left the hut, once again slamming the door.

            “It doesn’t take that much force to close a door,” I whispered and glanced at Ezekiel who was smiling and trying not to.

            “Roz is usually grumpy, but I don’t know why he’s so much more cross around you,” Ezekiel, “You must really remind him of Gretchen, and… I think it hurts him.”