The Rise of Magicks - Nora Roberts
On the shield, one of seven forged in the timeless past to hold back the dark, fell a single drop of blood.
So the shield weakened, and the dark, spider-patient, waited as the decades passed, and the wound spread under the grass and ground.
And on the last day of what had been, a good man, in all innocence, broke the shield open. The dark rewarded him with deadly infection, one that would pass from man to wife, from parent to child, from stranger to stranger.
While the dying world reeled, its framework—governments, technology, laws, transportation, communication—crumbled like bricks of dust.
The world ended with bangs and whimpers, with blood and pain, with fear and dread. A cashier handing change to a customer, a mother nursing her child, businessmen gripping hands over a deal—these and so many simple contacts spread death like a poisoned cloud over the world.
And billions fell.
They called it the Doom—for so it was—a murderously speedy sickness with no cure that killed villains and innocents, statesmen and anarchists, the privileged and the penniless with equal glee.
While billions died, those who survived—the immune—struggled to live one more day, to find food, to protect whatever shelter they might have, to escape and evade the unchecked violence unleashed. For some, even in their most dire hour, would burn, pillage, rape, kill for the sheer pleasure of it.
Through the poisonous cloud that enveloped the world, light sparked. Darkness pulsed. Powers, long dormant, awakened. Some bloomed bright, others black through choices made. But they bloomed.
Magicks began to hum.
Some embraced the wonders while some feared them. And some hated.
The other, the not-like-me, would always spark hate in some hearts. What came to be known as the Uncanny faced the fear and hate of those who hunted them. Governments, desperate to hold their own power, sought to sweep them up, imprison them, experiment on them.
Magickals hid from or fought against those who called on a fierce and bitter god to torture and destroy, from those mated to their own bigotry like a lover.
And from and against those who bloomed dark.
On a storm-lashed night, a child whose light sparked at the moment of a good man’s death drew her first breath. She came from love and sacrifice, from hope and struggle, from strength and grief.
With that loosed cry of life, a mother’s tears, the strong hands of the man who held her, the warrior, the leader, The One took her first step toward destiny.
Magicks began to beat.
In the years that followed, wars raged between men, between dark and light, between those who fought to survive and build and those who sought to destroy and rule the rubble.
The child grew, as did her powers. With her training, her mistakes, her triumphs, she took the next steps. So a young girl full of faith and wonder reached into the fire and took up the sword and the shield. And became The One.
Magicks began to rise.
A storm raged. It crashed around her with wild, wind-whipped rain, sizzling strikes of lightning, bellowing booms of thunder. It whirled inside her, a torrent of anger she knew must be suppressed.
She would bring death tonight, by her sword, by her power, by her orders. Every drop of blood shed would be on her hands—that was the weight of command, and accepted.
She was not yet twenty.
Fallon Swift touched her fingers to the cuff she wore on her wrist, one she’d conjured from a tree she’d destroyed out of temper, and carved to remember never to destroy out of anger.
It said: Solas don Saol.
Light for Life.
She would bring death tonight, she thought again, but she would help others live.
Through the storm she studied the compound. Mallick, her teacher, had taken her to one similar enough on her fourteenth birthday. But while that one had been deserted, with only the stink of black magicks, the charred remains of the dead, the dying cries of the tortured left, this one held more than six hundred—two hundred and eighty personnel, and three hundred and thirty-two prisoners.
Forty-seven of those prisoners were, according to their intel, under the age of twelve.
She had every inch of the compound—the containment center—every room, every hallway, camera, alarm, in her head. She’d made detailed maps, had spent months planning this rescue.
It would be, in the three years since she’d begun to raise her army, since she and her family had left their home for New Hope, the biggest rescue attempt by her resistance forces.
If she failed …
A hand gripped her shoulder, steadied her as it always had.