Home > Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(5)

Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(5)
Kathryn Purdie

The chorus of wolves built in volume. Urgency flooded my limbs. I tore through the snow and the gate loomed closer.

The peasants didn’t see me. They had their backs to the convent. Their murmured arguments sifted through the air. A few of them darted away, followed quickly by others, running in the opposite direction of the echoing wolves.

“No!” My voice ripped through my throat, garbled and guttural. “Wait!” I lunged forward, then ground my hands in the snow, trying to stand as the emotions of the peasants grew stronger inside me than the wolves’ deadly urges. “I’m coming!” I called to the people. “Don’t leave!”

No one turned. No one heard me above their own cries and growing frenzy. A single howl sliced through the frigid night, louder and much nearer than the others. The remaining peasants shrieked and launched after those who had left.

“No, please!” I kicked past the snow until, at last, I reached the gate. I shook the iron bars as I fought to gain their attention. “There is enough food for all of you!”

They fled into the forest without glancing back at the convent. Or me. I cried out in frustration and hit the gate again and again. My hands smarted with pain, but I didn’t care. All of this had been for nothing.

Crumpling to the ground, I hit the gate once more, then screamed as hunger bit inside me with renewed ferocity. A large wolf raced across the clearing between the convent and the forest. Its jaws gaped open to reveal a flash of deadly teeth. The howls of his companions mounted behind him and they emerged past the evergreens. The pack ran, streaks of brown and gray against the field of white.

I thrust my arms between the bars and tried in vain to reach the wolves. They would feast on their prey without me. I threw myself to the icy ground and started digging. I could tunnel a path. Join them. I wasn’t too late.

I paused. Blinked. I’d forgotten about the keys. I must have dropped them in the snow. I crawled in a circle, sniffing at the ground. No, I couldn’t smell them. What was the matter with me? I stood, trying to think clearly and retrace my steps. I didn’t move one foot before I buckled over and growled again. My entire body trembled as I fought to gain control of my bloodlust.

Keys, keys, keys . . . I had to stay focused. The wolves’ howling softened with their growing distance. My hunger faltered. I clawed at my stomach, trying to trap it there. The wolves would have release when they ate—after they earned it. I would feel the same.

Dull silver winked at me. I flared my nostrils and flung myself at the ring of keys. Just as I touched them, the warm light emitting from a convent window dimmed and darkened a patch of snow. I clutched the keys to my breast and glanced up. Sestra Mirna’s unmistakable silhouette framed itself in an upper-story window.

A fragment of logic nudged me to hide. I crouched behind a currant bush and peered past its dead foliage. The sestra didn’t move.

“Go away,” I growled.

The swish and patter from the wolves’ feet lightened as they left the clearing and raced after the peasants. Their howls sounded mournful. Or had I twisted the sound to mirror my own deepening loss? How could I catch up with them now?

“Go away, go away,” I said to the silhouette at the window. The wolves are gone. I imagined Sestra Mirna could hear my thoughts. Go back to Yuliya. She might bleed to death if you don’t watch over her. She needs you. The convent is safe.

My heart thundered. The howling grew faint. The silhouette hesitated.

“Please.” My breath misted in the air.

Sestra Mirna stepped back into the room. The patch of snow pooled to amber once more in the full light of the window.

I muttered a prayer of thanks to Feya—a mark of my profound relief that I stooped to acknowledge my threadbare belief in the goddess—and raced back to the gate, keys in hand.

The last wolf exited the clearing as I reached the lock. “Wait!” I called as I jammed the largest key into the hole and fought against the rusted and frozen inner workings. “Wait!” I called to the peasants who were already gone.

The key turned, but a locked chain wrapped the barred doors together. Basil’s reinforcement. Hands shaking in anticipation, I tested the smaller keys on the padlock. At last I found the right one. I yanked the chains off the bars, and with a great exhale, pulled open the gate. It creaked on its hinges, but only budged a finger’s length. I growled with frustration. The deep snow dammed its path. I crouched and beat at the snow. Trampled it down. Flung it aside. Scooped it away by the armful.

“Come back,” I told the wolves.

“Come back,” I told the dwindling yearning inside me.

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