Home > Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(4)

Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(4)
Kathryn Purdie

She lifted her nose at us as we crossed the threshold into the east wing. “Basil, tell these girls they have nothing to fear.”

He forced a reassuring smile, even though every one of us had the gift to divine what he was really feeling. “Everything is fine. Go back to your warm beds. This happens every winter. The peasants have yet to penetrate the gate.”

A pinch-faced Auraseer—Lena? Lola? I could never remember her name, nor did I wish to—folded her arms. “The peasants have never come in such numbers.” She shivered and the girl beside her placed a hand to her own stomach. They must sense the mob, but not like I did. They wouldn’t be standing here if they truly understood the peasants’ need.

“Yes, well, I have firearms if it comes to it,” Basil replied. He drew one of the great doors closed. As it thudded into place, my heart pounded with the peasants’ ravenous urgency. I couldn’t be locked in here. I couldn’t. Not when there were so many mouths to feed.

He set his hand on the latch of the opposite door when the solution to my dilemma presented itself.

Nadia’s eyes narrowed, riveted to mine. The careful balance of her head tipped to the side. “Something is very wrong with you,” she said slowly, her words laced with accusation.

I retreated behind Basil. My fingers grazed his over the latch.

His wiry brows peaked. “What are you—?”

“Stop her!” Nadia shouted.

I kicked Basil in the pit of his knee so he crumpled to the floor. I fetched the gate keys hanging from his pocket, shoved him into the huddle of girls, then darted into the hallway and flung the door shut behind me. The wooden beam boomed into its iron casings as I pulled it down across both doors, fastening them closed. The Auraseers were locked inside. They couldn’t stop me now.

Cries rang out from the other side as the girls rammed their fists against the barricade.

I smiled. They deserved to panic for all the spitefulness they’d doled out on me.

Basil’s throaty voice rose above them. “Sonya, don’t do this! Don’t let them in. For the sake of all you love and hold dear—for Yuliya’s sake—do not let them in!”

I backed away from the doors. My hands shook. My heart beat wildly in my chest. A morsel of reason—of warning—wormed its way into my mind.

What was I doing? Had I gone too far?

The thought snuffed out like a breath on weak flame when the peasants’ tidal wave of emotion called to me. They waited for me. I had to deliver them.

I spun around and tripped over the hem of my nightdress as I raced through the corridor, down the winding flight of stairs, past the dining hall, and into the foyer of the convent. I tamped down all remembrances of how the Auraseers would tease me when the sestras took us to the market. Our abilities needed to be tested in crowded places, they said. Within minutes, I would inevitably be huddled on the ground, rocking back and forth, and raving like a madwoman. But not now. Now I welcomed the multitudes. Now I knew with clarity what they felt and how to help them.

“I’m coming,” I whispered, my eyes wide and unblinking as I flung the lock and opened the cedar doors. The peasants were outside, waiting in the distance and held back by the gate. I needed to grant them entrance, let them share our food and warmth, be even closer to their auras. I needed to be whole again.

Swirls of white danced past me and dusted the marble tiles. I stepped into the calf-deep snow. The cold was nothing new to my bare feet. I already felt the sting of a thousand frostbitten toes. “I’m coming, I’m coming!”

Hitching up my nightdress, I pressed forward, riveted to the peasants’ wash of torchlight like a beacon. Could they see me? I hadn’t thought to bring a candle. Did they know the end of their suffering was at hand?

I halted as a new sensation took hold of me, more ferocious in its desire—in its hunger—than the mob had yet been. The twist in my gut buckled me to the ground until I rested on hands and knees like an animal. The deep snow cradled my belly with a coldness I strangely felt numb to. I thrashed forward to the gate, certain only in my target of the peasants. I had to reach them.

Their cries broke apart until the night gave way to the silence of snowfall. The quiet was short-lived. Only a stunned, stuttering heartbeat.

What was happening? Three breaths later, I found my answer. I heard it. Far away, as if from the muffled madness of a dream.

The howling of wolves.


THE HOWLING FELL LIKE MUSIC ON MY EARS. IT LURED ME, MY shoulders rising and falling in rhythm. My lips pulled back to bare my teeth. Hunger—raw, pure, and deadly—encompassed me. My fingers clawed into the snow, ready to shred whatever necessary in order to satiate the greatest need I’d ever felt.

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