I had come to watch my latest acolyte burn.
Delphine Bellegarde had been a good witch. Not that she sided with the angels: hardly that. But she had a taste for revenge, a healthy sexual appetite, and enough of the Touch to draw my attention.
If only she would stop screaming my name. I could not hear it over the anticipation of the crowd, but the form of it shaped her lips into a familiar pucker. Alerting the authorities to my name would only result in chapbooks and woodcuts scattered about France declaiming me as a horrid devil with the ass of a goat and curling horns.
I do not have a goat’s ass.
From my window, she was but a slip of whiteness in a sea of swearing, vicious churls. A Dominican read from the Holy Book beside her pyre, and I was grateful his words were also swallowed by the wretched stink of humanity. I closed my eyes and breathed it in: nowhere in Europe was there a people quite as hungry to burn themselves as the French. I could taste the fear and excitement on the tip of my tongue. Though perhaps that was the ashes from yesterday’s burning. Some brand of heretics they’d been, and the flavor of the air had quite piqued my interest in Delphine’s big day.
“You might save her, you know.”
I hitched my hip onto the windowsill and glanced down at the cat who’d spoken. His sinuous tail curled delicately about his paws as he stared past the casement to where Delphine screamed. I smiled. “Now, Sebastien, why would I want to do that?”
“She isn’t strong enough to do you any good, in the end.”
“If she’d had longer to develop, she might’ve been.” I ran a finger down the length of his fur-covered spine.
He shivered and blinked his golden eyes. He could not answer, for it had been his own inattention to Delphine that had drawn the ire of the Black Friars. And through them had come the Inquisition.
In the square, the executioner lifted his torch. Smoke trickled upwards, and a hush stole over the crowd. The man thrust the fire at Delphine’s bare feet. She writhed against the pole and I was reminded of more pleasurable times.
“She was never strong enough for you.” Sebastien trembled continuously. His attachment to her Touch made the trauma quite difficult for his small body.
I shrugged. Every little bit of power I could accumulate would help in the long run.
Smoke obscured our vision of poor Delphine, just as her cries changed. She no longer screamed my name, but her familiar’s. Sebastien wailed, his fur standing on end.
“Go to her, then,” I said. “But if you give her aid I will scatter the strips of your soul in Hell.”
“If you could get to Hell, Farouche, you would not need me or her.” The words hung in empty air as Sebastien vanished from the sill.
I saw the moment Delphine’s dress caught fire, and then the ends of her long hair. Starving flames nipped at her flesh. The crowd shrieked and raised their approval. Behind the haze of smoke, Sebastien’s lithe black form twisted around her waist, brushing up against the agony that poured from her lips. Her body shuddered again and again with coughing.
From the peace of my window, I reached out a pale hand and drew toward me her pain and power. It gathered in a ball, tickling my palm.