Home > Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(2)

Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(2)
Kathryn Purdie

Our games taught me more about my ability than any of the sestras’ fruitless exercises for separating what I felt from what everyone else did. At least Yuliya believed in me. She had a way of making me feel her equal, despite being two years older. Even if she outlived the other Auraseers and became guardian to the emperor herself, I trusted I could always depend on her genuine friendship. That was why she needed to live, why I ached to give her some means of healing, instead of a lump of wood depicting a nonexistent and powerless goddess.

“You’re trembling.” Sestra Mirna’s attention returned to me, her wrinkles twisted with the shape of worry.

I shrugged a shoulder. That strange and still-present hunger gnawed inside me. “Yuliya must be cold.”

The sestra’s wrinkles deepened. “Yuliya has a fever.”

“Then you must be cold,” I said while she felt my brow.

She was no Auraseer, but her sharp gaze seemed to look through me.

Unease prickled the downy hairs of my arm. “I am cold?” I didn’t mean for my voice to sound small or my words to be a question. Because I was more than cold. Deep in the pit of my stomach, an unknown something was forming and clawing its way through the rest of me. Worse than hunger, it made my hands clench with urgency, my jaw lock with an angry need, my eyes mist over with helpless desperation.

“This room is a furnace, child.” Sestra Mirna frowned. “And your skin is like ice.” Her wrinkles crisscrossed into fear. I felt fear, too, its force thudding my heart against my rib cage.

“Am I ill?” Perhaps she was right; I shouldn’t have come to the infirmary. But I’d had the ague last winter at the Romska camp, so I thought myself immune.

She stood and released the pressure from Yuliya’s arm. “Hold this,” she commanded.

For a brief moment, I hesitated, watching the blood pool from my friend’s inner elbow. Then I inhaled, squared my shoulders, and pressed the flat of my palm to Yuliya’s bandage.

At once my muscles cramped, my spine rounded, my breath spilled out in a ragged gasp. A weak but determined longing seeded in my chest. A fight to live. Pure and simple.

Sestra Mirna squinted out the window. Warm light danced across her face. I mistook it for the glow of the candle bouncing its reflection off the glass. Until the sestra’s weathered lips parted in horror. “Feya, protect us,” she whispered, and made the sign of the goddess by touching two fingers to her forehead, then her heart. “They have come.”

Her fear—my fear—perhaps both our fear—collided.

“Who?” I angled my position in an effort to see what she could. “What is happening?”

When she didn’t answer, my trembling doubled and the yearning in my belly grew teeth. I needed to eat. Now. Something. Anything.

I slackened my hold on Yuliya’s arm. Blood trickled between my fingers. It almost looked the color of wine. Staring in fascination, in desire, I raised my hand near my mouth to smell it.

Basil burst into the room. The old man bent over, hands on knees, panting to catch his breath.

I blinked at the blood and wiped it off onto my nightgown.

“Peasants . . . at the gates,” he managed to say between rasps. His bald head gleamed with a sheen of sweat. “A mob—no, more like an army—of them.”

I took a step to the window, but caught myself as I remembered Yuliya’s arm. “What do they want?”

Sestra Mirna’s shriveled lips pressed into a flat line. “What they always do when they bring torches and every sharp implement they farm with—our food.” She looked back at me, her gaze skimming me over. “Let me guess, you’re not only cold now?”

In response, my stomach emitted a vicious growl.

Her eyes narrowed on my mouth. “What is that?” She stepped closer. “Did you taste blood?”

I shrank back. “No.” Did I?

In an instant, her countenance changed. “Basil, take her away this moment. Lock her in the east wing with the other girls. She is a danger to us with so many emotions on the loose.”

I pressed the crook of Yuliya’s arm with renewed purpose. “I’m not leaving.”

The sestra yanked me to my feet. My shawl fell to the tiles smattered with Yuliya’s blood. “You must accept your fate and at least try to control your ability.” She gripped my shoulder. “You put us all at risk!”

I winced, the hurt registering deep in my chest. “I would never harm Yuliya.” I struggled to reach her bleeding arm again, but Sestra Mirna held me fast.

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