Home > The Rise of Magicks (Chronicles of The One #3)

The Rise of Magicks (Chronicles of The One #3)
Author: Nora Roberts

PROLOGUE

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.

CHAPTER ONE

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. She turned her head, looked at her father.

“We’ve got this,” Simon told her.

She let out a breath. “Bespelling the surveillance cameras,” she murmured, and relayed that to the elves mind to mind so they’d pass the word.

Now those at security monitors would see only the trees, the rain, the swampy ground.

“Take down the alarms.”

She and other witches worked the spell, painstakingly, while the storm blew.

When the all clear ran through the ranks, she ignored the pang, gave the order. “Archers, go.”

The guard towers had to be taken out, swift and silent. She felt Tonia, lead archer, friend, blood of her blood, nock an arrow, release.

With eyes gray and focused, she watched arrows strike, men fall, in the towers on the four corners of the prison walls.

Moving in, she took the electronic gates, using power to disarm. At her signals, troops flowed through the opening, elves scaled the walls and fences, shifters leaped, tooth and claw, faeries glided with a whisper of wings.

Timing, she thought as she spoke to the elf commander Flynn, to Tonia in her mind. They would breach the three doors simultaneously, and each team leader would focus their troops on priorities. Destroy communications, eliminate security, take the armory, secure the lab. Above all, shield all prisoners.

After one last glance at her father, seeing the courage and determination in the face she trusted completely, she gave the order.

Drawing her sword, she blew the locks on the main doors, charged in, blew the secondary doors open.

Part of her mind overlaid the now with the prison on Hatteras, the visions she’d stirred there at fourteen. So much the same.

But here, soldiers lived, reached for weapons. Even as gunfire rang out, she struck, enflaming sidearms that left hands blistered and men screaming with pain. She struck out with sword, swung out with shield to cut through the enemy.

Fighting through, she heard the shouts, moans, pleading from behind the steel doors, and felt the fear, the terrible hope, the pain and confusion of those locked in.

Drenched in it, she cut down a soldier as he rushed to his comm, sliced her sword across the radio, sent a bolt of shock through the entire system.

Sparks showered, monitors blanked to black.

Boots clanged on metal stairs, and death, more death, met them as arrows sliced through the air. Fallon took a bullet on her shield, sent it flying back and into the shooter as she pivoted to the iron door someone inside the prison had managed to secure.

She blasted it open, taking out two on the other side and, leaping over the smoking twists of metal, cleaved her sword through a third before she rushed toward the stairs leading down.

War cries followed her. Her troops would spread out, swarm through—barracks, offices, mess hall, galley, infirmary.

But she and those with her surged toward the lab and its chamber of horrors. There, another iron door. She started to punch her power through, stopped a breath away from the blast as she sensed something more, something dark.

Magicks, black and deadly.

She held up a hand to halt her team. Forcing patience, she searched, tall in elf-made boots and leather vest, black hair short, eyes blurred with power.

“Stand back,” she ordered, and shouldered her shield, sheathed her sword to hold her hands to the door, the locks, the deep frame, the thick metal.

“Booby-trapped,” she murmured. “We push in, it blows out. Stand clear.”

“Fallon.”

“Stand clear,” she told her father. “I could unwind it, but that would take too long.” She swung her shield up again, and her sword. “In three, two—”

She shoved her power, light against dark.

The doors erupted, spewing fire, raining out jagged, flaming metals. Shrapnel thudded on her shield, whizzed by to impale the wall behind her. Into the torrent she leaped.

She saw the man, naked, eyes glazed, face blank, shackled to an exam table. Another in a lab coat flung himself back, sprang on his hands, then scaled the back wall in a blur of speed.

She flung power at the ceiling, brought the one in the lab coat down in a heap as Simon dodged the scalpel swipe by a third before taking him out with a short-armed jab.

“Search for others,” Fallon ordered. “Confiscate all records. Two to secure this section, and the rest move out, clear the rest of the level.”

She approached the man on the table. “Can you speak?”

She heard his mind, the struggle to form words.

They tortured me. I can’t move. Help me. Will you help me?

“We’re here to help.” She watched his face as she sheathed her sword. Blocked out the chaos of fighting from above while she kept her mind linked to his.

“Got a woman over here,” Simon called out. “Drugged, cut up, but she’s breathing.”

They hurt us, hurt us. Help us.

“Yes.” Fallon laid a hand on one of the shackles so it fell open. “How long have you been here?”

I don’t know. I don’t know. Please. Please.

She circled the table to release the shackle on his other wrist. “Did you choose the dark before or after you came here?” she wondered.

He reared up, glee on his face as he struck out at her with a bolt of lightning. She simply swatted it back with her shield, impaling him with his own evil.

“I guess we’ll never know,” she mumbled.

“Jesus Christ, Fallon.” Simon stood, the woman limp over his shoulder, his gun drawn.

“I had to be sure. Can you get her to a medic?”

“Yeah.”

“We’ll clear the rest.”

   
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