In her kitchen he found the herbs he needed, and though it had been some time since he'd practiced any kitchen magic, he steeped a pot of rue tea to aid her in spiritual cleansing. She was deeply asleep when he returned. He lighted the candles and incense, then sitting beside her, slid his mind into hers.
"Mia, you need to drink, then you can rest. "
He trailed his fingers over her cheeks, then brushed his mouth over her mouth. Her eyes opened, but the gray was blurred. She was limp as water as he lifted her head and put the cup to her lips.
"Now you drink and heal in sleep. Dreams will take you far and deep. Through the night and into the light. "
He brushed the hair from her face as he eased her down again. "Do you want me to come with you?"
"No. I'm alone here. "
"You're not. " He lifted her hand to his lips as her eyes closed again. "I'll wait for you. "
She let go of him, and slid into dreams.
She saw herself, a child, sitting in the rose garden her parents had neglected. Butterflies fluttered in the palms of her upturned hands as if her fingers were petals.
She and Ripley, so young and eager, lighting the Beltane fire in the clearing. Sprawled on the floor in front of the fire while Lulu sat in a chair, knitting. Walking on the beach with Sam on a hot, close summer night. And the beat, beat, beat of her heart as he drew her up, drew her in. The world standing still, holding its breath in that magical instant before their first kiss.
The feel of tears, the hot flood of them as they'd gushed out of her shattered heart. He'd walked away
so carelessly, left her broken and grieving as she stood by a pretty pool of early spring violets. I'm
not coming back.
With that one statement, he'd broken her to pieces.
Dreams floated in and out, and she with them. She saw herself standing in her summer garden, teaching Nell how to stir the air. She felt the joy of clasping hands, at last, with both of her sisters in a circle of unity and power.
She saw the soft colors and sweetness of Nell's wedding, the bright promise of Ripley's. She watched as they began yet another circle without her, as was meant to be.
And she was alone.
"Fate moves us, and then we choose. "
She stood on the cliffs now, with the one who was called Fire. Mia turned, looked into the face so like her own.
"I regret no choice I've made," Mia said.
"Nor did I. Nor can I now. "
"To die for love is a poor choice. "
The one called Fire lifted her brows, and there was an innate arrogance in the gesture. In the night wind, her hair streamed like flames. "Yet it was mine. If I had chosen differently, daughter, perhaps you would not be here now. Would not be what you are. So I have no regrets. Will you say the same at the end of your time?"
"I cherish my gift and bring no harm. I live my life, and live it well. "
"As did I. " She spread her arms. "We hold this place, but the time grows short. See. " She gestured to where the fog boiled along the edge of the rocks. "It craves most what it cannot have, and what it cannot have will, in the end, defeat it. "
"What is there to do that I haven't done?" Mia demanded. "What's left for me?"
"Everything. " With that last word, she vanished.
And Mia was alone.
Lulu was alone. Sleeping deeply under her hodgepodge quilt, floating on dreams. Unaware of the dark mists gathering outside her house, rising up to slither around her windows. And through the cracks. She stirred, she shivered, when that cold mist slid over her, snuck under the covers to crawl over her skin. With a little sound of protest, she burrowed deeper under the quilt, but found no warmth.
She heard the baby crying, long wails of misery. In a mother's automatic response, she tossed the covers aside, rose in the dark, and started out of the bedroom.
"Okay, okay, I'm coming. "
In the dream she walked, sleepily, down the long corridor of the house on the cliff. She felt the smooth wood under her feet - and not the rough grass of her own yard as she left her house, moving through the thickening fog. Her eyes were open, but she saw the door to the baby's room, and not the street where she walked, the quiet houses she passed.
She didn't see or sense the black wolf stalking behind her.
She reached out, opened the door that wasn't there as she trudged around the corner toward the beach. The crib was empty, and the baby's wails became screams of terror.