(13-5) That to live is to burn

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Samuel lead Silas and Amanda down the final set of stairs, and felt hope swelling in his chest as he saw the way to the front entrance empty. Nothing but stairs, cobblestones, and a single door laid between them and the front door.

They were close. Samuel smiled and let the rifle's barrel swing and point at the ground as he let out a sigh of relief.

That was the moment Amanda dropped to her knees and started coughing blood.

"Amanda!" Silas exclaimed, crouching down next to her and held her in place, keeping her from falling down the stairs. In Silas' arms, Amanda coughed continuously for a long, terrifying moment. And each cough splattered blood onto the steps.

"Get," Amanda gasped, pushing at Silas. "Get off, burn you!"

"Are you falling ill?" Samuel asked.

"No. I'm Crafting. Quashing the heat in this room, as much as I can. I can't believe neither of you have felt it yet," Amanda said in wheezes, every few words broken by a long gasp for air.

"Felt what?" Samuel asked.

"I feel it," Silas admitted. "Someone's raising the temperature in the air. Throughout the entire building, all at once."

"Someone?" Amanda asked with a scathing sneer.

"We need to stop him," Samuel said as he put himself two steps below Amanda and looked her in the eyes. "Can you walk?"

"Yes," Amanda said. "Hurry."

Samuel offered Amanda his arm, which she took and leaned on as they made their way down the rest of the stairs. Silas made it to the door first, and set his hands on it. He closed his eyes and held still for a moment.

"What's he doing?" Samuel asked Amanda.

"He's making a small craft, just on the other side of the door," Amanda replied. "He's trying to see if there's anything out there."

Silas pushed away from the door, blinked a few times, and shook his head. "What that Crafter's doing is so bright, it's casting shadows. I've never seen anything like it."

"Is there anyone else out there?" Samuel asked.

"No," Silas said. "Just that man in a red coat."

Silas began to open the door, but he paused after moving it just a few inches. The reject's hands shook, and his face was pale. "If I went out first, and he killed me, would he stop?"

Amanda let out a single, quiet gasp. Samuel turned to look at her, to see her lip twist as her expression warred between rage and grief.

"No," Samuel said kindly. "Even what you've done wouldn't warrant his attention. He's here to keep Amanda from sharing her secrets."

"What about that rifle of yours?" Silas asked.

"No," Samuel said, and he wrenched the door open, pushing Silas aside.

"If he's going to kill Amanda, I'll-" Silas began to say.

"You'll do nothing but die," Amanda said, stepping through the open door. "Like you deserve."

Samuel noticed that the anger in her words was gone.

"Let's go," Samuel said to Silas, gesturing with his hand. Silas nodded once and followed Amanda through the doorway.

Samuel followed, and walked out into a strange, terrifying blue light.

It was a darker shade than the blue of the sky, a hazy blue that came from slow-moving swirls of light that spun around in the air, illuminating the dark clouds lying low in the sky.

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