Face the Fire Prologue

Author: Nora Roberts

Series: Three Sisters Island #3

Genres: Romance



H er heart was broken. The jagged shards of it stabbed at her soul until each hour, each moment, of what her life had become was a misery. Even her children - those she had carried in her body, those she carried for her lost sisters - were no comfort.

Nor was she, to her great shame, any comfort to them.

She had left them, even as their father had left them. Her husband, her lover, her heart, had returned to the sea, and the parts of her that were hope and love and magic had died that day. Even now he would not remember the years they'd had together, the joy of them. He would not remember her, or their sons, their daughters, the life they'd made on the island. Such was his nature. Such was her fate.

And her sisters', she thought as she stood on the cliffs she loved, above a sea that boiled and bucked. They, too, had been fated to love and to lose. The one who was Air had loved a handsome face and kind words that had disguised a beast. A beast who had shed her blood. He had murdered her for what she was, and she had not used her power to stop him.

And so the one who was Earth had raged and grieved and built her hatred stone by stone until it had become a wall that no one could breach. She had used her power for vengeance, forsaken her Craft, and embraced the dark.

Now the dark closed in, and she who was Fire was alone with her pain. She could fight it no longer, could find no purpose for her own life.

The dark whispered to her in the night, its sly voice full of lies. Even knowing them for what they were, she was tempted by them.

Her circle was broken, and she could not, would not, withstand alone. She felt it, creeping closer now, sliding along the ground in a filthy fog. It hungered. Her death would feed it, and still she could not face life.

She lifted her arms so the flame of her hair snapped in the wind that she called up with a breath. She had such powers left in her. And the sea howled in response, the ground beneath her shuddered. Air and Earth and Fire - and the Water that had given her great love, then had stolen it away again. This last time they were hers to command again.

Her children would be safe, she had seen to that. Their nurse would tend them, teach them, and the gift, the brightness, would be passed down.

The darkness licked along her skin. Cold, cold kisses.

She teetered on the edge, will straining against will as the storm within her, and the storm she'd conjured, raged.

This island, that she and her sisters had conjured for safety from the ravages of those who would hunt and kill them, she thought, would be lost. All would be lost.

You are alone, the darkness murmured. You are in pain. End the loneliness. End the pain. And so she would, but she would not forsake her children, or the children who came from them. Power was still in her, and the strength and wit to wield it.

"A hundred years times three, this isle of the sisters is safe from thee."

From her reaching fingers, light whipped, spun, a circle in a circle.

"My children your hand cannot reach. They will live and learn and teach. And when my spell comes undone, three more will rise to form the one. A circle of sisters joined in power to stand and face the darkest hour. Courage and trust, justice with mercy, love without boundaries are the lessons three. They must, by free will, join to face their destiny. If this they fail, one, two, or three, this island will sink into the sea. But if they turn back the dark, this place will never bear your mark. This spell is the last cast by me. As I will, so mote it be."

The darkness snatched at her as she leaped, but could not reach her. As she plunged toward the sea, she hurled her power around the island, where her children slept, like a silver net.

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