The dappled sunlight on the cart road was deep gold, the shadows cool and deep in the late afternoon light. Frost’s hand was warm around hers as they jogged awkwardly down the hill that lead to the Quaker Hollow burial ground.
The last week’s snows had melted, but the following hard frost left the track welted and uneven.
The gates welcomed her, just as they had since she was old enough to ride her bike out from town. There was a touch more rust on the arch, the frostbitten grass longer than she remembered at the base of the stone pillars, but her grandfather was too old now to tend to the upkeep, and he was the last living member of the Friends Meeting.
She felt some guilt that the old stories had kept her away.
Her eye coasted over the patch of inexplicably scorched earth in front of the gates and inside to the neat rows of mossy graves. Frost pushed through the screeching wrought iron—she winced when his pricey European boots touched down on the Firebrand’s path. She turned her face to the left and hopped over the dead ground and followed him up to the mound where the Meetinghouse once stood.
He sat, patting the cold grass. His shadow was long and blue, stretching towards the woods. It occurred to Roxanne that even the trees had gone quiet and a shiver rolled down her back.
“Roxanne,” Frost said. It was the first time he’d said her name. “I’m sorry about losing my temper back there—”
And the gravestone behind him shattered. Shrapnel blew out against their backs. Roxanne shrieked as a shard of ancient slate sliced her cheek. Frost knocked her to the ground as another round buried itself in the grass to their left.
She pressed her fingers to the cut; they came away bloody. She smeared her fingers on the ground as a third round tore through the bark of a nearby tree. The blood sizzled slightly in the soil. A wailing cry rose up as the waning sunlight was extinguished by fingers of mist creeping out of the woods. The smell of hot metal drifted on the fog.
“Jesus,” Frost whispered.
Roxanne barely drew breath as footsteps crashed away through the brush. They stayed down as the air cleared. Frost sat up first.
“Roxanne.” His voice was urgent. She pushed herself up. A melted heap of metal steamed in the center of the cart road outside the gates. The grass around it was charred and smoking.
“The Firebrand.” She stood and left him. Pushing back through the iron gates, she turned her bloodied cheek to the left and hopped over the bare earth. Stopping in front of the wrecked weapon, she dug into her pocket and pulled out a penny.
With a kiss, she dropped the penny onto the road.
“Frost,” she called. “We should go back to town.”
Let that inscription lead, but not necessarily define, your piece for Friday’s link-up.