Bree couldn’t sleep. To begin with she’d been laying in bed but she didn’t feel comfortable in it. It was softer than her bed at home. Then she’d sat on the floor for a little while and tried to meditate. She hadn’t been able to stop herself thinking so it hadn’t worked. Finally she’d decided to stare out of the window at the garden even though she couldn’t see anything very well. For a few minutes she had managed to divert her thoughts by contemplating whether she should climb out of the window or not. In the end she decided not to, just in case someone decided to check on her.
Fog started filling her vision. Blinking Bree wondered where it had suddenly appeared from because it had been too nice a day for them to expect fog. It wasn’t until she turned around that she realised that the fog wasn’t actually fog. Her entire room was full of smoke. Without stopping to think about what she was doing she grabbed a pillow case off one of the pillows and ripped part of it off. A jug of water had been put on the bedside table so she dunked the fabric into the water jug.
If Bree had been with anyone she knew then they would have told her to just get out of the building. That would have been the safer choice. Instead she was planning on going to find Trey and Logan because she couldn’t leave either of them to die in a burning building. Covering her mouth with the fabric, she left the room, burning her hand slightly on the door handle.
Trey had mentioned his study, and that was the room they’d travelled from to her room, but she had no idea where it was. Where Logan might be was even more of a mystery, so she made the choice to find Trey first, because she at least had some idea where he was. Remembering the route they took was almost impossible, especially as the Residence looked very different when it was filled with smoke, even though it was a square building and should have been easy to get round. All she knew was that she was on the south wing.
Closing her eyes, Bree tried to think about the direction they’d come from when Trey had led her to the room she’d been given. All she could focus on was the sound of the flames burning through wood and it felt like they were all around her. Eventually she picked a direction, hoping that she would find Trey or Logan. It was obvious she wouldn’t be able to help both of them, even though she would have done if she could, and she felt guilty for wanting to find Trey.
As she ran along the south wing Bree opened all the doors she went past, but no one was in any of the rooms. She hadn’t expected Trey to be in any of them, because she didn’t think the garden had been outside his window, although Logan might have been. The east wing was even more smoky than the south and she knew if she didn’t find either of them soon she’d have to abandon both of them. Every room she passed that was empty made her feel as though she wasn’t going to find either of them and part of her wanted to stop. Trying to find people in a burning building was a very stupid idea, especially to look for one person she barely knew and Trey. She shook her head at the thought she was risking her life for Trey.
Finally, at the point when Bree would have had to get out of the building, she opened a door and saw a body slumped over a desk. She didn’t know if it was Trey or Logan, or someone else entirely, but it was enough. The room was full of smoke, like the rest of the Residence, so she closed the door in an attempt to stop the flames from getting in the room before she managed to get out with whoever it was. All the doors were thick wood that it would take fire some time to get through.
More slowly than she should have done, because she was worried she might have found the wrong person, Bree walked towards the body. It wasn’t until she was stood right next to it, and the desk, that she could breathe a sigh of relief, because it was breathing, if unconscious, Trey. A single, unwanted, tear trickled down her cheek as she stared at him, half trying to work out how she was going to get him out of the room and half wondering why he mattered so much after what he’d said to her. Gently she brushed some hair off his face, remembering a time when they’d been friends who occasionally hated each other, before focusing on what she should be doing.
Bree’s window had been open, but Trey’s was closed and seemed to have been jammed with something. Glass wasn’t something they’d used in the village they’d grown up in, so anyone else would have been in trouble because they wouldn’t have understood what they were looking at, while the girl who’d been laughed at due to her choices knew exactly what she needed to do thanks to a couple of diaries she’d been translating for fun. Knowledge was one thing, finding something to break the window was another entirely.
“What do I use?” she asked Trey, even though he could answer, as she looked around the room.
The filing cabinet came into view and Bree had her answer. She pulled one of the drawers open, emptied it of everything she could, before yanking it out of the cabinet. Its weight was a surprise, so she nearly dropped it on her foot, but finally she had hold of it and swung it at the window with all her strength. After a couple of hits it smashed in a tinkling of glass. That just left getting Trey out of the window.
With her free hand, Bree was still covering her mouth with damp fabric, she yanked Trey’s chair towards the window, hoping that whoever started the fire had left the area because it made a much louder noise than she’d expected. Once it was there she ripped a tapestry off the wall, covered what glass remained in the window, and then stared at Trey as she tried to work out exactly how she was going to get him out of the window.
“What are you doing?” a voice asked from outside the window, making Bree jump and look for a weapon before she realised who it was.
“Who else would be idiot enough to come to a burning building in order to get the people out of it?” He laughed. “Your stupidity just goes to show that we are related.”
“I didn’t know that you were out there.”
Quinn sighed. “That’s not the point, little sister. You should have got out of the building, not gone running around looking for people because you thought they needed rescuing.”
“Maybe this is something we should argue about when I am out of the building.”
“Fine, but we are going to finish this conversation. Grab Trey’s legs.”
Bree did as she was told. Quinn being outside was a surprise and she was glad he was there, but she wanted to know why he was there and why he was helping Trey. It took them a few seconds to get Trey out of the room, before Bree allowed herself to be helped out of the window. Climbing out wasn’t as easy as she had expected it to be, even with Quinn there, and she felt a piece of glass dig into her hand through the tapestry. Once she was outside she looked back at the room she’d been in, at the smoke that filled it, and saw flames beginning to burn the floorboards under the door. Sighing, she turned to follow Quinn, who was busy dragging Trey away from the building. Quinn stopped once they were under some trees that seemed far enough away for them to be safe.
“I knew you’d try to save Trey,” Quinn said, staring down at the Dorma man. “I wish you hadn’t, because you could have died in there, but at least I knew where you were when you weren’t in the room you were supposed to be.”
“Why are you here?”
Quinn looked at Bree. “There’s a girl I met, Aisling, the High Priestess of Persephone, and she wants to save the world as we know it. I believe in her and the people she’s working with, so I’m helping out with a few things.”
“She knew the fire was going to happen.”
“The fire was one possibility. Until it happened there were a number of different futures, but now it has I need to get you and Trey to North Square as quickly as possible.”
Smiling, Quinn shook his head. “That man has done everything he could to help us, even though he knew he could be found out at any time. When he invited you here to look at those books Logan found he told me why, he told me what he was going to say to you, and I told him he was an idiot, but he knew that it would keep you at the Residence, where we needed you to be. From the moment he made that choice he knew he could lose you, but he did it anyway.” The smile faded. “I don’t know yet if we managed to get your mother and siblings out in time. Your father found out about her, which is why he agreed to the fire.”
“Our fathers wanted to get rid of us.”
“Father’s been trying to get rid of me for years and it hasn’t worked yet.” Quinn reached out and wrapped an arm around Bree. “I’m going to find you a horse and then you’re going to go, with Trey, to North Square. You’ll be safe there.”
“What are you going to do?”
“There are other mixed bloods out there who need my help and I’m going to do everything I can to keep them safe. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but there are people in North Square who would never have got there if I hadn’t helped them. Once I knew for sure there’s no one else out there who needs me I’ll stop.”
“I don’t want to leave you.”
“You have to, Bree. When Father finds out you’re alive he’s going to do everything he can to change that. So is Trey’s father. The only place I know for certain you’ll be safe is North Square.”
“I’ve never even heard of North Square before.”
“Most people haven’t. It’s about an eight hour ride from here, so you should be there by sunrise, and the only way I can describe it is as an island attached to an island. Does that make sense?”
Quinn removed his arm and rummaged about in the bag he had over his shoulder. Bree hadn’t noticed it before, but considering what had happened it wasn’t exactly a surprise. After a short time he pulled out a bit of paper and handed it to her.
“This is a map I’ve been making for everyone who’s travelling to North Square. If Trey was awake he’d be able to take you, but he’s been drugged and isn’t going to be much use for at least twelve hours. All you really need to do is keep going north until you reach water, then follow it round until you come across a small land bridge. The bridge isn’t very long at all, but it can be a little scary at times. Once you’ve crossed the bridge you’ll find yourself about half a mile away from a wall and if you keep going forwards you’ll find yourself in front of a gate. Knock on the gate and someone will open it for you.”
Bree took the map, even though she could barely see it and that was due to the burning building, because it would be dawn before she arrived at North Square, if she went at all. She looked at Quinn and then at Trey, trying to work out if travelling to a town she wasn’t even sure existed was a good idea. If Quinn was right about her father then going home wasn’t a possibility and… sighing, she ran a hand through her hair. There was every chance the only family who cared about her was gone for good, so all she had was Quinn and he thought she’d be safe in North Square.
“I’ve lost everything, haven’t I?” she said, sounding more matter of fact than she felt.
“Not everything, little sister. You still have me.”
“You’ll do everything you can to make it safely to North Square once you’re sure no one else needs your help?”
“I promise, Bree.” He smiled. “There’s another girl there I promised I’d get back safe and I’m not going to let either of you down.” Quinn turned to look out into the darkness. “We need a horse over here.”
It was then that Bree remembered the other person she’d been worried about. “Did you get Logan out safely?”
“Yes, and he’ll be going back to his Tein-Igni village.”
“Why isn’t he coming to North Square?”
“He’s not… basically Aisling doesn’t like him, Persephone thinks he’s taken the wrong path, and I’m pretty sure he’s a part of the group that believes Anubis should be the only deity of Thear.” Quinn shrugged. “From what I’ve heard Anubis hasn’t been able to talk to Logan for months and that’s normally a bad sign.”
“I knew that Logan was lying to me, but I couldn’t work out what he was lying about.” Bree sighed. “I thought maybe he was trying to keep any secret knowledge he had to himself until he knew me better. It never crossed my mind that he might be lying about his connection with Anubis.”
The sound of someone walking towards them in the darkness silenced them and out of the darkness came one person leading a horse. Bree paid more attention to the horse than she did to the man with it, remembering all the time she’d spent on horse back. Slowly she took a couple of steps towards the horse, holding out her hand for it as she moved.
“Hello, gorgeous,” she said, smiling as it nuzzled it’s nose into her hand.
“Bree, can you hold the reins while we get Trey onto the horse?”
Without giving her time to answer the question Quinn put the reins into her hand and started talking to the man about how they were going to get Trey safely to North Square. As they talked Bree realised that she would have been lost if Quinn hadn’t been there, so the first thing she’d need to do when she got to North Square was thank Aisling. If it hadn’t been for her, and Persephone, Bree would have been alone in the darkness with a drugged man and no idea of what to do next.
Bree watched as Quinn, with the help of the man she still didn’t know the name of, lifted Trey onto the back of the horse. Once Trey was in a sitting position on the horse Quinn tied him to it with two bits of rope and Bree couldn’t stop herself giggling at what was happening. She couldn’t imagine what she would have done to get Trey on the horse, but she didn’t think he would have been in a sitting position with his hands and legs tied together so he wouldn’t fall off. It didn’t look particularly comfortable, and Bree was glad that she hadn’t been drugged because she was sure that all of Trey’s muscles would ache when he woke up.
When Quinn nodded to say it was okay Bree got up behind Trey, not wanting to jostle him too much because she didn’t know how secure he was, trying to keep the map flat in case she needed it. Their eyes met for a moment and she could see the worry in her brother’s eyes, thanks to the fire still burning behind them.
“Go straight to North Square,” he said, squeezing her hand. “Aisling will look after you.”
Gently Bree kneed the horse to get it moving, not wanting to leave Quinn behind and knowing she had to, because he needed to do what was important to him. Even though he was her older brother she’d spent all the time she’d known him wanting to look after him. From the time their father found out he existed he’d been in danger and there had been nothing she could do to help him, so she didn’t turn to look at him as she rode off, in case she decided to go back. She still couldn’t really help him, but she could at least do what he asked her to.
It didn’t even cross Bree’s mind to attempt galloping. Under normal circumstances she was a good rider, but riding with another person tied to the poor horse was definitely not what called be normal circumstances. She let the horse go at her own pace instead, knowing that it was much safer, especially for Trey. Every so often she checked to make sure that his hands were still tied together, hoping that would be enough to keep him on the horse because she couldn’t check his feet.
Bree couldn’t see much because it was dark, so all she could do was think. She was worried about her mother and the rest of her family, about Trey, about Quinn, and she even found herself worrying about people she didn’t even know. Trey’s father setting fire to the Residence was a sign that things were happening, things that many of the Dorma had wanted to happen for years, which terrified her. All mixed bloods were in danger because of one man’s prejudice, but at least there were people like Quinn out there trying to stop it from happening. Her eyes locked on Trey as she tried to work him out, wondering why he’d made the decisions he had.
Sighing, Bree tried to stop thinking and focus on where she was going. She was sure that she was going north, but that didn’t stop her from worrying she might be going the wrong way. It didn’t help that she wasn’t sure how long she had been riding. There was no way she could know, until the sun began to rise and she worked out the time, as well as she could, in her head. At eleven, maybe eleven thirty, she realised there was a fire, by midnight at the latest she left the Residence, so that meant she’d been riding around seven hours. It was hard to believe that she really had been riding for that long, even though her muscles told her that she was probably right.
Finally, after what felt like hours more, Bree found herself on the bridge that Quinn had told her about. The first thought she had was that Quinn had been too nice to call it a bridge. When she looked down she felt sure that the tide was going to come in and sweep them all away, so she did her best not to look down until she got to dry land again. As she rode towards the wall she found herself wondering what she was going to find behind it.
Carefully Bree got off the horse, in part so she didn’t knock Trey and in part because her legs were reminding her how long it had been since she rode a horse. She hobbled towards the gate and knocked on it as hard as she could. For the first time she could actually feel the pain in her hand where she had impaled it on the window glass. Looking down at it she saw that she had a piece of glass stuck in it. With her other hand she pulled it out before knocking on the gate again.
“Who’s there?” a female voice asked.
Biting her lip Bree tried to work out what she should say, because she had no idea who was on the other side. “I’m Bree, Quinn’s sister. I think you’re expecting me.”
The gate swung open before Bree had a chance to say anything else. A blue woman stood there, with a welcoming look on her face but not smiling. “I was hoping you wouldn’t turn up, because your arrival means our world is changing, but it’s very nice to meet you. I’m Aisling, the High Priestess of Persephone, and this is North Square.”
“Thank you, for having someone there.”
Shrugging, Aisling walked over to the horse and took hold of the reins. “I wouldn’t have been doing my job as High Priestess if I didn’t have someone there. Follow me and I’ll take you both to my house.”
Bree let Aisling go through the gate first, with the horse and Trey. Once they were through Bree followed them, knowing that she probably wouldn’t ever be able to leave North Square again, and tried not to let herself think of everything she’d left behind. It was hard, but it helped to know that she was safe.
“Close and lock the gate behind you,” Aisling said, pulling Bree out of her thoughts.
With the unhurt hand Bree pushed the gate closed. At the top, middle and bottom of the gate were bolts, so she slid them into place. Having the gate locked did make her feel more safe, as did the huge wall she realised was keeping her safe from the Dorma supremacist movement and any vigilantes who might want to hurt her because she was mixed blood. Slowly, because everything needed to be done slowly until her legs started working again, she turned around. Aisling was watching her, with worry written all over her face.
“My legs ache from horse riding,” Bree said.
“We’ve got a bit of a walk ahead.”
“That’s good. Hopefully walking will get my legs to start working again.”
“If you need to stop at any time tell me.”
“I will. Thank you.”
Every step Bree took was agony at first, but the pain faded. It seemed to take longer than she ever believed it would though. During that time she passed through another gate, which stayed open, and soon found herself stood next to a house. She looked around, and found that she was stood in between two rows of houses made of stone. They reminded her of the Residence,
“There are other people living in North Square, but most don’t live this close to the gates,” Aisling explained, as she led Bree, the horse and Trey into the garden behind a house. “I chose to live here so I could be the first to greet the new arrivals, and that meant the old greeter could choose a house somewhere else in North Square. She was very grateful to me because she’d been looking for someone to take on the job. A lot of people don’t want to be this isolated, but it’s been a long time since I had the chance to spend time alone, so I’m happy to do it.”
“Have there be many new arrivals?”
Aisling sighed, untying Trey’s hands. “There have been a lot recently, thanks to the work that Quinn and Trey have been doing. I’m glad they’re here, because it means they’re safe, but there are people I’ve been waiting for who haven’t arrived yet and I’m worried about them.”
“I’m sure they’ll get here safely.”
Smiling, Aisling knelt to untie Trey’s feet, and Bree stepped forwards to hold his weight so he wouldn’t fall off the horse. “I’m sure they will too, but that’s not going to stop me from worrying about them. Thear’s changing into a place I wouldn’t want to live and I want to know that they’re safe from those changes.” Aisling stood up. “Shall we?”
Between the two of them they got Trey off the horse and into the house. Quinn had made it look easy, but it wasn’t. Eventually they got Trey onto a bed in a bedroom, which was when Bree breathed a sigh of relief, even though she wasn’t sure that he was going to wake up. She sat on the bed next to him and brushed some hair off his face, hoping that he would wake up and they’d be able to talk about what happened between them before the fire.
“He’ll be fine,” Aisling said, gently putting her hand on Bree’s shoulder. “Do you want a cup of tea?”
“That would be nice.”
Bree stood up, glancing at Trey one last time. They walked together to the kitchen, which was just across the hall. Bree couldn’t stop herself staring at the Uisdro girl because she was the first of her blood that she’d met. It was the webbing between Aisling’s fingers that fascinated Bree the most. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have hands like that and she found herself moving her fingers, wondering how Aisling held pens, mugs or anything that seemed to need unconnected fingers.
“Make yourself comfortable.”
Bree sat down at the table, watching Aisling as she made the tea. Yawning, she rested her head on her hand before remembering that she’d just pulled a piece of glass out of her hand. Wincing she looked down at the hole that had been left and realised that it was oozing blood, probably from carrying Trey around. She wrinkled her nose at the thought of the blood in her hair as Aisling turned to bring the tea over to her.
“I cut my hand on some glass when I climbed out of Trey’s window.”
Aisling looked at Bree, curiosity filling her eyes. “You’ve also got a cut on your forehead.”
Sighing, Bree put her hand up to touch it. She hadn’t even realised she’d done it, but as soon as she knew it was there it started throbbing. The cut in her hand seemed to be the worse of the two cuts and needed cleaning soon, because she had no idea what dirt might have got in it from the fire and travelling to North Square.
Aisling put both the mugs down on the table and then went over to fill a bowl with warm water. Bree watched as she looked in one of the cupboards, took out a small bottle and put a couple of drops of whatever was in the bottle into the water. After stirring the water she brought it over to the table.
“The lavender oil should stop the cut from getting infected.”
Carefully, Bree put her hand into the bowl. She wrapped her free hand around the warm mug, grateful for the warmth. Whenever she was tired she felt the cold. Yawning again she looked at Aisling. Aisling smiled at her before sipping her own tea.
“Do you want to talk about what happened?”
Bree nodded, looking down at her hand for a moment. It was hard to know where to start even though it had been less than a day since she had arrived at the Residence. After sipping her tea a few times she made the decision to start from the beginning because it would be easier that way and then she started talking.<<< Thear: Bree: The Residence***