"There are those who would strike the heart, if they dared." Unconsciously, Kyna laid a hand on the hilt of her sword. "Who would harm our parents, our people, and our world, even the world beyond, through us."
"I don't understand the need for hate when there's such beauty. And such love," Venora added.
"As long as there are those like Kane and his followers there will be a battle between what is good and what is evil. So it is in all the worlds," Kyna told them. "There must be warriors as well as artists and bards, rulers and scholars."
"There's no need for a sword today." Niniane touched Kyna's hip.
"For Kyna there's always a need for a sword," Venora said with a laugh. "But only look. Love is surely as valiant and true a weapon as steel." She plucked her harp as she studied Rowena and Pitte. "See how they are together, as if they need nothing but each other. One day we'll find that."
"But the man I love must be as handsome as Pitte," Niniane said, "and clever of mind."
"And mine will be all that, but with the soul of a poet." With a flutter of her lashes, Venora pressed a hand to her heart. "Yours, Kyna?"
"Ah, well." Kyna tucked the puppy in the crook of her arm again. "Handsome, of course, and clever of mind, with that poet's soul—and a warrior's heart. And he must be the most skilled of lovers."
They giggled together, as sisters do, gathered close, and didn't see that perfect bowl of sky begin to boil black in the west.
Venora shivered. "It grows chilly."
"The wind," Kyna began, and the world went mad.
She whirled, her sword singing as she drew it from its sheath, as she stepped between her sisters and the shadow that spilled out of the woods.
She heard the screams, the vicious lashing of the wind, the shouts of those who ran to defend. She saw the sly slither of a snake on the tiles and the crawl of a blue mist.
And Kane, his eyes black with power in his handsome face, stepped out of the shadows. He raised his arms toward that boiling sky, his voice like thunder.
Even as she charged, sword held high, the pain ripped through her like vicious fingers, tearing at her heart and dropping her to her knees.
She saw him smile an instant before she was yanked from her own body.
In the attic, under the harsh light of the overhead bulb, Zoe stood again, with an icy pain in her chest and tears spilling down her cheeks.
"I hurt for them." Zoe pressed her hands together on her kitchen table. "I felt what she felt—the emotions, the sun, the warm fur of the puppy, but I was still apart from it. I don't know how to explain."
"A kind of mirror image?" Brad suggested, and nudged the wine he'd poured her a little closer. She'd held on, putting Simon to bed, but whatever she'd been feeling had showed in her eyes.
He'd sensed it, and he suspected Simon had, too, as the boy had gone to bed without even a token protest.
But now she was pale, and she struggled to keep her hands from trembling.
"Yes." It seemed to relieve her to have a name for it. "Like that, like a reflection. I walked into the mirror, like Alice," she said with wonder. "And I knew them, Bradley. I loved them, just as she did. They were sitting in the garden, enjoying the puppy and the sunlight, a little amused, a little envious of the way Rowena and Pitte were so absorbed in each other, and talking, just young girls chatting about the kind of men they would fall in love with. Then it was dark and cold and terrifying. She tried to fight."
Overcome again, Zoe brushed fresh tears from her cheeks. "She tried to protect them. It was her first and last thought. He—he reveled in their pain. He celebrated her failure. I could see it on his face. She couldn't stop it. Neither could I."
She picked up her wine, took a small sip.
"You shouldn't have been up there alone."
"I think I did have to be alone. I understand what you're saying, but I think, I feel, this was something I had to experience on my own. Bradley." She pushed the wine aside, reached across the table for his hand. "He didn't know I was there. Kane didn't know. I'm sure of it. It has to mean something that I was brought there without him knowing it. I think it means she's still fighting, or trying to."
He sat back, considered. "Maybe it's possible, that with the first two locks opened the daughters are able to get something through. Their thoughts, their feelings, their hope. It could be enough to connect to you, especially if they had help."
"Rowena and Pitte."
"It's worth finding out. If you can get someone over to stay with Simon, we'll go up and ask them."
"It's nearly ten now. We wouldn't be able to get up there and back before close to midnight. I don't want to ask anyone to come over at this time of night."