She walked deep into the forest, beyond the known and into the realm of faeries. There she cast the circle, made the fire, and sang the song for vision. She would see what had beenand what would be.
In the flames, while the moon rose and the single star that dogged it blinked to life, she saw the Battle of the Stars. She saw the bodies of servants, of children as well as soldiers. She saw the kingher fatherfight like a demon, driving back the greater forces. She heard the screams, and smelled the blood.
Her father’s voice came to her ears, a shouted order to Gwayne, who fought beside him, to get the queen, and the child she carried, to safety. To do this thing, as a soldier, even against the queen’s orders, for the world. For the True One.
She saw her father’s death, and her own birth. She tasted her mother’s tears, and felt the force of love beam through the magic.
And with it, the force of duty.
“You will not shirk it.”
“Am I enough?” Aurora asked the image of her mother.
“You are the True One. There is no other. You are hope, Aurora. And you are pride. And you are duty. You cannot turn from this.”
Aurora watched the battle, and knew it was what would come, not what had. This blood, this death, would be by her own hands. On her own hands. Even if it meant her end, she must begin. “I have power, Mother, but it is a woman’s power. Small magic. I’m strong, but I’m not seasoned. How can I lead, and rule, with so little to offer?”
“You will be more. Sleep now. Dream now.”
So she dreamed again of her wolf, her warrior with eyes as green as the hills. He was tall, and broad of shoulder. His hair, dark as her own, swept back from a face of sharp planes and angles, and a white scar slashed through his left brow like a bolt of lightning. She felt a curling in her belly that she knew for desire, one she had felt for no one but him.
“What will you be to me?” she asked him. “What will I be to you?”
“I know only that you’re my beloved. You and you alone. I’ve dreamed of you through my life, waking and sleeping, only of you.” He reached out, and she felt the brush of his fingers over her cheek. “Where are you?”
“Close, I think. Close. Are you a soldier?”
He looked down at the sword in his hand, and as disgust rippled over his face he shoved its point into the ground. “I am nothing.”
“I think you are many things, and one of those is mine.” Giving in to curiosity, following her own will, she pulled him to her and pressed her lips to his.
The wind swirled around them, a warm wind stirred by the great beating of faerie wings. The song rose up inside her, and beat in her blood.
She would have love, she thought, even if death followed.
“I must be a woman to become what I am to become.” She stepped back, drew off her hunting tunic. “Teach me what a woman knows. Love me in visions.”
His gaze swept down her as she stood before him, dressed only in moonbeams within the shimmering circle of magic. “I’ve loved you all my life,” he said. “And feared you.”
“I’ve looked for you all of mine, and come to you here, fearing everything. Will you turn from me? Will I be alone?”
“I’ll never turn from you.” He drew her to him. “I’ll never leave you.”
With his lips on hers, he lowered her to the soft floor of the forest. She knew the thrill of his hands, the taste of his skin, and a pleasure, a deep and drugging pleasure that caused her body to quake. Flames leapt beside them, and inside her.
“I love you.” She murmured it as she raced her lips over his face. “I’m not afraid.”
She rose to him, opened to him, entreated. When he joined with her, she knew the power of being a woman, and the delights.
When she woke at dawn, alone, with the fire gone to ash, she knew the cold kiss of duty.