Stars of Fortune(2)

By: Nora Roberts


Through the smoke, she lifted her hands, glowing in her own desire. “Your own stars have sealed your fortunes, and given me mine.”

“You are banished.” Arianrhod lashed out, and hot blue lightning that cut like a whip wrapped its tongue around Nerezza’s ankle.

The scream ripped the air, shuddered into the ground. Before Arianrhod could drag the dark into the chasm of her own creation, Nerezza spread thin black wings, snapped the whip of light as she flew up. Blood from her ankle burned and smoked in the white sand.

“I make my fate,” she shouted. “I will come back, take the stars and the worlds I wish. And you will know death and pain and the end of all you love.”

The wings folded around her, and she was gone.

“She can do nothing to us or ours,” Luna insisted.

“Do not doubt her power or her thirst.” Celene stared into the dark gulf, felt a terrible sorrow. “There will be death here now, and blood, and pain and sorrow. She has left it behind her like a stain.”

“She must never have the stars. We’ll bring them back now,” Arianrhod said. “Destroy them.”

“Too much to risk while her power still stings the air,” Celene replied.

“So we only wait, and guard and risk all?” Arianrhod argued. “We allow her to twist a bright gift into something dark and deadly?”

“We cannot. We will not. They will fall?” Luna asked Celene.

“I can see they will, in a bright flash, but I cannot see when.”

“Then we will make the when, and the where. This we can do.” Luna took her sisters’ hands.

“In another place, another time, but not together.” Nodding, Arianrhod looked up at the stars, so bright and beautiful over the land she’d loved and guarded since her time began.

“If even one falls into her hands, or one like her . . .” Celene closed her eyes, opened herself. “Many will seek the stars, the power, the fortune, which is the same. And the fate. It is all one. And we, reflected light, must send of us on the quest.”

“Of us?” Luna repeated. “We do not go to retrieve them?”

“No, that is not for us. I know we must bide here and it will be done as it is done.”

“We choose the time, the place. In silence,” Arianrhod added. “Even in our minds. She is not to know when and where they will fall.”

They joined minds as well as hands, and each took her journey, followed her star where it willed as it tumbled from the sky. Each hid her gift, each laid the power of protection over it.

And with minds joined, with no words spoken, each understood what must now rest in the hands and hearts of others.

“Now we must believe.” Luna tightened her grip on Arianrhod’s hand when her sister said nothing. “We must. If we do not, how will those who come of us?”

“I believe we have done what we must. That is enough to believe.”

Celene sighed. “Even gods must bow to Fate.”

“Or fight what tries to destroy them.”

“You will fight,” Celene said, smiling now. “Luna will trust. And I will do all I can to see. Now, we wait.”

Together they looked up to the moon that lived in sky and soul, and the three bright stars that curved to it.





CHAPTER ONE




Dreams plagued her, waking and sleeping. She understood dreams, visions, the knowing. They had been part of her all of her life, and for most of her life she’d learned to block it out, push it all away.

But these wouldn’t relent, no matter how she pitted her will against them. Dreams of blood and battle; of strange, moonstruck lands. In them, the faces and voices of people unknown but somehow vitally familiar lived with her. The woman with the fierce and canny eyes of a wolf, the man with the silver sword. They roamed her dreams with a woman who rose from the sea laughing, the man with the golden compass.

And through all of them, strongly, the dark-haired man who held lightning in his hands.

Who were they? How did she—or would she—know them? Why did she feel such a strong need for them, all of them?

With them walked death and pain—she knew—and yet with them came the chance for true joy, true self. True love.

She believed in true love—for others. She’d never sought it for herself, as love demanded so much, brought such chaos into a life. So much feeling.

She wanted, had always wanted, the quiet and settled, and believed she’d found it in her little house in the mountains of North Carolina.

There she had the solitude she’d sought. There she could spend her days painting, or in her garden without interference or interruption. Her needs were few; her work provided enough income to meet them.

Now her dreams were haunted by five people who called her by name. Why couldn’t she find theirs?

She sketched her dreams—the faces, the seas and hills and ruins. Caves and gardens, storms and sunsets. Over the long winter she filled her workboard with the sketches, and began to pin them to her walls.

She painted the man with lightning in his hands, spending days perfecting every detail, the exact shade and shape of his eyes—deep and dark and hooded—the thin white scar, like a lightning bolt, scoring his left eyebrow.