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1810 – Scotland
The stone was hard and cold. Light in the church came from flickering candles next to the altar and fading sunlight breaching the tiny windows and door. Dara rested her head on the rough floor, tears mixing with dirt tracked in by decades of worshippers. "Is this Your dictate? They did nothing-"
The old priest had tried to comfort her, but his words were empty platitudes, meaningless despite good intentions. Her beautiful brothers were dead, burned with their nurse. The fire, some said, had been unnatural, lighting up the sky for miles around. Father Garrick had told of wild tales of magical beasts taking flight, cackling witches and demons spreading through town. In the end, she didn't give a damn. Edward and Jeremiah were gone.
The comfort of her sister, Caila, was slight. Two years Dara had stayed with Anthony out of selfishness, and lost a fifth of the boys' brief lifetime. I came back too late. I failed them when they needed me, she thought. I saved them just to let them die ten years later. Forcing herself onto her knees, she wiped grimy hands over her cheeks. The gown she'd worn, one that he'd picked out for her, was filthy after three days ride in the back of a wagon.
A sound from the entrance of the church brought her attention from sorrow. Father Garrick had gone to comfort wee Caila, letting Dara cry in solitude. They were the tears she couldn't have freed in front of the one person who still needed her. She couldn't let Caila down too. Brushing dark red strands of hair out of her eyes, she glanced back toward the heavy planked door and her breath caught in her throat. It was a vision, had to be. He was there. Had God sent an apology for taking the little ones by bringing him to her now?
"Your gr-Anthony-" Even after two years, she stumbled over the words. She despised herself for the misstep.