Broken (The Divine, Book Three)

By: M.R. Forbes

CHAPTER ONE



"Landon."

The voice was a whisper, an ethereal suggestion that registered somewhere in the depths of my soul, a vaguely understood siren's call.

"Landon."

A little stronger this time, almost loud enough for me to recognize the source. Almost loud enough for me to follow.

"Landon."

I heard it. I knew it. Sarah. She was calling me. I tried to open my eyes, but they didn't respond. They refused my command. Was I being Commanded? No. She was calling me, asking for me, but not demanding.

"Sarah?" I responded finally.

"Help me," came the reply.

Help her? I already had. As far as I knew, we were still laying on the old bed in the abandoned farmhouse where Dante had left us, not long before.

"Josette?" I called out for my angel, tried to focus and find her. I could feel my power, see the threads. They were still frayed from the damage the Beast had done, and I wasn't sure they would ever repair. It was such a tangled mess, I couldn't feel Josette anywhere. I could see her there, but it was as though she had been torn apart. Time was the only thing that would put us back together. Time we didn't have.

"Where are you?" I shouted out, searching for her. Her presence was a nudge, a tap, a sleight of hand.

I saw a point of light, and it began to spread, expanding outward until it appeared to me as a doorway. The door was fresh, new oak, but its surface held deep claw marks. I had never seen this kind of doorway before, but I knew what it was. Josette had said that was how she had found me, when the demon Reyzl was about to end my life. She had come through it, and she had saved me. Now I would save her daughter, again.

"I'm coming," I said, feeling myself floating towards the doorway. There was nothing else in my vision, just an infinite blackness, and the oak doorway floating in the ether. As I approached, I could hear the sobbing behind it. I put my hand up to it, ran my fingers across the deep grooves the claw marks had created. A sharp pain, and I drew my hand back, blood running from a sharp splinter. I focused, and it vanished. The wound vanished. The door opened.

There was nothing beyond it. A white, impenetrable light. I knew it for what it was; a transport from my soul to Sarah's.

I didn't hesitate to step through. I was blinded for a moment by the light, and then I was there, and she was there. We were in her Source, the place where her demonic heritage and her angelic heritage combined and her power pooled. I expected it to be a calm place, a peaceful place, a place of meaning to her. Josette's was the room she had lived in as a child. Mine was all of Purgatory; something I hadn't understood before, but I now knew was the result of tapping into the Beast's power. Power that had been leaking out into the realm for thousands of years.

Instead, it was a place of contrasts and chaos.

It was large, larger than I could have expected from anyone who was still technically mortal. A forest that stretched out around me, a mixture of dense, green vegetation and the greyness of death and decay. Green vines snaked around rotted tree trunks, while dry, brittle branches threatened to snap and drop from otherwise healthy growth. The sky was both heavy and blue, with thick clouds racing unnaturally across a bright morning sky. In the distance, I could hear birds calling. In the distance, I could hear animals screaming.

I could also hear the sobbing, and I followed it into the foliage, stepping carefully past the corpses of squirrels and rabbits, and sending their living counterparts scurrying away. A blast of thunder shook the earth below me, and I heard a snarl from the trees to my left.

"Landon," came the cry, from up ahead. It was sharper now, more desperate. I scanned the trees for the source of the snarl, but couldn't see anything. I started running, not even noticing the thick mist that had begun to fill in around me.

My feet pounded the dirt even as the rain began to fall, and in moments the dry turf was a muddy mess. I had to strain to pull myself forward, to get my feet out of the muck and keep moving. Another snarl, this time on my right. She was calling to me for help, but there was something here. Something that wanted to stop me.

I saw a clearing through a copse of bramble, with a small, open pagoda resting in the center. I could see her through the vines, kneeling there, her head in her hands. I didn't hesitate, didn't slow. My body crashed into the vines, into the thorns, and they ripped and tore into me, doing their best to impede my rescue. For a second, I thought I was hooked, as I pressed into the bramble and it pulled back against me, gripping me tightly in a thousand fingers of sharp pain. I focused, strengthening my will, grunted and shoved forward. I could feel the thorns release, and I stumbled out into the clearing, the blood running down into my eyes, down onto my hands, down to fall at my feet.

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