Home > Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(8)

Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(8)
Kathryn Purdie

He didn’t slow his pace. His shrieking bounced off the corridor walls. I stumbled behind him, leaving a trail of water. Soon all I’d have left would be ice.

He veered right, headed for the dining hall. At least there I could corner him. “Feya, please,” I prayed. “I’ll offer you my soul if he doesn’t die.”

I hadn’t intentionally burned him. It was an accident. Wasn’t it?

He flew past an archway into the dining hall, his body nearly encompassed by flames. I rushed into the room and followed him to the large windows at the far wall.

“Stop! I can help.” I tossed the contents of my bucket at him. A feeble amount of water splashed his face. The ice clunked at his feet.

He threw himself backward. The flames on his clothes—untouched by the water—caught the window draperies. My stomach plummeted with dread.

“Don’t move!” I shouted as he did the opposite and smothered himself with another curtain. He only succeeded in spreading the fire.

I jumped back as the flames raged higher. They fed off the curtains like they’d been soaked in oil. The man crumpled to the ground, moaning and twisting and rapidly losing his battle to live. The curtains fanned in the flames, and the fire next caught a rug.

Growing frantic to find a quick exit and help the man, I hefted a wooden bench and charged the window. Glass shattered all around me. I barreled past it and tumbled outside. The bench crashed in the snow, and I along with it. Coldness sliced through my nightgown. I welcomed it, needed it. The man needed it, too. I would save him, then do something about the fire. What, I didn’t know.

I lumbered through the snow, back to the broken window. Before I could enter, the curtain rod fell and landed at an angle to create a flaming barrier. There was space to leap over it, but not from where I stood at the foundations of the convent.

“Jump!” I shouted, hoping my voice carried to the man above the roar of the fire. “Please! Save yourself!”

I couldn’t hear him moving. I crept closer, coughing on the smoke, and struggled to see past the flames burning spots in my vision. “Jum—”

A dark figure crashed through the jagged hole. Shards of glass fell over me like glittering snow. I threw my arms up to protect my face. Nothing could protect me from what came next—the bony, flaming leg of the man as it connected to my skull and knocked me backward. My spine hit the wooden bench. My head whiplashed back, taking a second blow. The snow crunched as I ricocheted into it.

The last thing I saw were the writhing flames devouring the dining hall.

CHAPTER THREE

I OPENED MY EYES TO DAYLIGHT. TO A DEAD MAN LYING BESIDE me. To fire-eaten stone walls. Scattered, smoking wooden beams.

Half of the convent was in ruins.

I gasped in horror. Head throbbing, I sat up slowly. My heart trembled a stuttering rhythm that reflected my confounding awareness. Growing more panicked, I scanned the convent and tried to orient myself from the outside.

Which half was destroyed? Which half?

I located the library chimney—the library below the infirmary. My lungs expanded, allowing a breath. The half with Yuliya had survived. The half with Sestra Mirna, Tola, Dasha. But the bell tower was gone. The half with the east wing. With every other Auraseer and sestra. The half with gentle Basil.

The half I’d locked inside.

My hand clapped to my mouth to stifle a ragged sob. Only four had escaped. Four. The rest of the Auraseers were dead. I knew it. I felt it. The pulse of their auras was absent. The remaining flickers of energy buzzing along my nerves could only belong to the ill and the sestra who watched over them.

So much life had been snuffed out while I slept without dreaming. While a stranger died beside me. So much death and destruction.

All because of me.

A soft keening arose from my throat. It grew louder as I curled my legs to my chest and rocked back on my heels. I hid my face in the folds of my skirt. Why hadn’t I unlocked the door to the east wing? Why hadn’t I let everyone out?

The pain inside me was unbearable. It crushed me to the core. It made me rip up clumps of half-frozen grass. Slam my fists on my breastbone. Wail like a lost child. I didn’t know it was possible for one person to feel so much sorrow and regret. Such rage. This was me down to my horrible depths. No borrowed auras were necessary to complete my misery.

I saw myself as if outside my body. I watched the smile on my face when I barred the door to the east wing, how I’d casually sipped my soup with a man I didn’t know while my sister Auraseers pounded the floor above me, begging for release.

I’d wanted to help the peasants. I thought I had so much empathy, but I didn’t. A compassionate person could never have done such a terrible thing.

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