She walked deep into the forest, beyond the known and into the realm of faeries. There she cast the circle, made the fire, and sang the song for vision. She would see what had been and what would be.
In the flames, while the moon rose and the single star that dogged it blinked to life, she saw the Battle of the Stars. She saw the bodies of servants, of children as well as soldiers. She saw the king her father fight like a demon, driving back the greater forces. She heard the screams, and smelled the blood.
Her father s voice came to her ears, a shouted order to Gwayne, who fought beside him, to get the queen, and the child she carried, to safety. To do this thing, as a soldier, even against the queen s orders, for the world. For the True One.
She saw her father s death, and her own birth. She tasted her mother s tears, and felt the force of love beam through the magic.
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September 30, 2003
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Excerpt from Once Upon a Midnight by Nora Roberts
SNOW FELL IN streams of icy white. It chilled to the bone, but she didn't curse it. It would blind any who pursued, and cover the trail. The bitter white cold was a blessing.
Her heart was broken, and her body nearly done. But she could not, would not yield. Rhys spoke to her, a spirit whisper in her mind that urged her to be strong.
She did not weep for his death. The tears, a woman's tears for the man she loved, were frozen inside her. She did not cry out against the pain, though the pain was great. She was more than a woman. More even than a witch.
She was a queen.
Her mount plowed through the snow, surefooted and loyal. As loyal, she knew, as the man who rode in silence beside her. She would need the loyalty of the faithful Gwayne, for she knew what was coming, what she could not stop. Though she hadn't seen her beloved Rhys's death, she knew the instant the usurper's sword had struck him down. So inside her cold and shattered heart she was prepared for what was to come.
She bit back a moan as the pain tore through her, breathed fast through her teeth until it eased again and she could say what needed to be said to Gwayne's silence.
"You could not have saved him. Nor could I." Tears stung her eyes and were viciously willed away. "Nor could I," she said again. "You served him, and me, by obeying his last order to you. I regret . . . I'm sorry that I made it difficult for you to do so."
"I am the queen's man, my lady."
She smiled a little. "And so you will continue to be. Your king thought of me. Even in the heat of battle, he thought of me, and our world. And our child." She pressed a hand to her heavy belly, to the life that beat there. "They will sing songs of him long after . . ." The pain ripped a gasp from her, had her fumbling the reins.
"My lady!" Gwayne grabbed her reins to steady her mount. "You cannot ride."
"I can. I will." She turned her head, and her eyes were a fierce and angry green in a face as pale as the snow. "Lorcan will not find my child. It's not time. It's not yet time. There will be a light." Exhausted, she slumped over the neck of her horse. "You must watch for the light, and guide us to it."
A light, Gwayne thought, as they trudged through the forest. Night was falling, and they were miles from the City of Stars, miles from any village or settlement he knew. Nothing lived in these woods but faeries and elves, and what good were they to a soldier and a woman ' queen or no ' who was great with child
But here, into the Lost Forest, was where she'd ordered him to take her. She'd fought him, that was true enough, when he bowed to the king's command and dragged her from the castle. He had no choice but to lift her bodily onto the horse and whip her mount into a run.