Brigid choked on her horror and her tears; she felt the demon’s embrace reluctantly tighten, heard him mutter, “Forgive me,” as he held her fast.
Riordan’s gaze swept the room for a final time.
“I’ll find you, Brigid. And whether you seek absolution or you continue to stand in defiance of the church, you will be delivered. I will not rest until this is so.”
He let the words sear the silence, as though hoping for a response. He clenched and unclenched his fists. Then he turned and walked back up the steps, where he lingered.
His voice cracked. “Please, Brigid, for your sake and mine, make the right choice.”
Riordan shut the door behind him and then was gone.
Moments later, the house began to burn. The acrid smell of melting glass and smoking stone assaulted Brigid; she could not see through the film of water over her eyes. She had no time to register any feeling beyond that; Mordecai grasped her about the waist and extended his wings.
“N-no,” she managed, reaching for the remains of her mother’s things: the scattered, pulverized herbs, her mortar and pestle, the ritual knives. From the upper floors, she wanted the dresses, the perfumes, the recipe books. But these were already ash, and the flames now slid their tongues beneath the cellar door. Smoke poured into the basement; a herald of the destruction to come.
“We must go, my lady,” Mordecai said, his guttural voice painstakingly soft.
Brigid let her body go slack. He was right: there was no help for it. If she tarried any longer, she would die.
Mordecai lifted off from the dirt floor and flew at the back wall. “Close your eyes and hold your breath,” he whispered. She obeyed, and as Mordecai burst through the wall, Brigid felt a flash of heat so intense she could swear her flesh had curled and blackened like meat left too long on a spit. But then the fresh, chilled air of the autumn evening buffeted her, and she opened her eyes to find that both she and her demon were intact.
They were also flying.
“I will not drop you,” Mordecai said, and certainly his arms were cinched securely around her small frame. “We will come down as soon as I find a safe place.”
Brigid nodded, but after that did not dare to move or speak or look in any particular direction, for fear of unleashing her rising panic. Mordecai’s grip on her stayed firm until her boots touched solid earth; she pitched forward, and he caught her, easing her down to a sitting position on the grass. She forcefully restrained the bile in her throat, produced from the dizzying flight and the stress of everything that had preceded it.
Mordecai sat across from her, watching her with his luminous, amber-colored irises, as wide and curious as a cat’s. He had brought them to the forest that was several miles south of her old home. They were in the thick of it, surrounded by tall, thin trees that grew in clusters, trees that formed a heavy canopy in the summer, but were presently shedding their red-gold coats onto the forest floor. Brigid picked up a fat leaf; its sheen of dew slicked her hand. She traced the leaf’s veins with her nail.
“It’s dead,” Mordecai said. “But it will return to the earth and nourish the next season’s life.”
“My mother told me that before,” Brigid said.
She dropped the leaf back onto the blanket of them that lay over the brittle grass; it was a burial shroud, she thought.
She curled up against the tree behind her. Now that the danger had temporarily subsided, the grief and the uncertainty took their cues. She hid her head between her knees and sobbed.
The demon did not try to touch or converse with her again that night. Instead, he set about gathering dry wood, so that he could build a fire for her. Something to warm her, and to keep away the predators.
Thus ends chapter 1! What say you?
(It should be noted that the chapters in this story alternate between the past and the present; the second chapter is in first person, present tense)