Home > Of Blood and Bone (Chronicles of The One #2)

Of Blood and Bone (Chronicles of The One #2)
Author: Nora Roberts

PROLOGUE

They said a virus ended the world. But it was magick, black as moonless midnight. The virus was its weapon, a barrage of arrows winging, silenced bullets striking, a jagged blade slicing. And yet the innocent—the touch of a hand, a mother’s good-night kiss—spread the Doom, bringing sudden, painful, ugly death to billions.

Many who survived that first shocking strike died by their own hand or by another’s as the thorny vines of madness, grief, and fear strangled the world. Still others, unable to find shelter, food, clean water, medications, simply withered and died waiting for help and hope that never came.

The spine of technology cracked, bringing the dark, the silence. Governments toppled from their perches of power.

The Doom gave no quarter to democracy, to dictators, to parliaments or kingdoms. It fed on presidents and peasants with equal greed.

Out of the dark, lights dimmed for millennia flickered and woke. The rise of magicks, white and black, sprang from the chaos. Awakened powers offered a choice between good and evil, light and dark.

Some would always choose the dark.

Uncannys shared what was left of the world with man. And those—man and magickals—who embraced the dark struck, turning great cities into rubble, hunting those who hid from them or fought against them to destroy, to enslave, to bask in blood even as bodies littered the ground.

Panicked governments ordered their militaries to sweep up survivors, to “contain” Uncannys. So a child who had discovered her wings might find herself restrained on a table in a lab, in the name of science.

Madmen claimed God in their vicious righteousness, stirring fear and hate to build their own armies to purge what was “other.” Magick, they preached, came from the devil’s hand, and any who possessed it were demons to be sent back to hell.

Raiders cruised the ruined cities, the highways, and the back roads to burn and kill because they enjoyed it. Man would always find ways to wreak cruelty on man.

In a world so broken, who would stop them?

There were murmurs in the light, rumblings in the dark, that reached the ears of men—of a warrior to come. She, daughter of the Tuatha de Danann, would remain hidden until she took up her sword and shield. Until she, The One, led light against the dark.

But months became years, and the world remained broken. Hunts and raids and sweeps continued.

Some hid, skittering out at night to scavenge or steal enough to survive another day. Some chose to take to the roads in an endless migration to nowhere. Others took to the woods to hunt, to the fields to plant. Some formed communities that ebbed and flowed as they struggled to live in a world where a handful of salt was more precious than gold.

And some, like those who found and formed New Hope, rebuilt.

When the world ended, Arlys Reid had reported it from the New York anchor desk she’d inherited. She’d watched the city burn around her, and in the end had chosen to tell the truth to all who could still hear her and escape.

She’d seen death up close, had killed to survive.

She’d seen the nightmares and the wonders.

She, along with a handful of people, including three infants, found the deserted rural town they had christened New Hope. And there they made their stand.

Now, in Year Four, New Hope was home to more than three hundred, had a mayor and town council, a police force, two schools—one for magickal training and education—a community garden and kitchen, two farms, one with a mill for flour and grain, a medical clinic—with a small dentistry—a library, an armory, and a militia.

They had doctors, healers, herbalists, weavers, sewing circles, plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, cooks. Some of them had made their living on those skills in the old world. Most studied and learned them in the new.

They had armed security posted around the clock. And though it remained on a volunteer basis, most all residents participated in combat and weapons training.

The New Hope Massacre, in their first year, remained a raw scar on their hearts and minds. That scar, and the graves of the dead, led to the forming of the militia and to the rescue parties who risked their lives to save others.

Arlys stood on the sidewalk, looking at New Hope, and saw why it mattered. Why all of it mattered. More than surviving, as it had been for those first horrible months, more even than building, as it had been for the months that followed.

It was living, and it was, like the town, hope.

It mattered, she thought now, that Laurel—elf—came out to sweep the porch of the building where she lived on a cool spring morning. Up the street, Bill Anderson polished the glass on his shop window, and inside the shelves held dozens and dozens of useful things for easy bartering.

Fred, the young intern who’d faced the horrors of the underground out of New York with Arlys, would be busy in the community garden. Fred, with her magick wings and endless optimism, lived every day with hope.

Rachel—doctor and good, good friend—stepped out to open the doors of the clinic and wave.

“Where’s the baby?” Arlys called out.

“Sleeping—unless Jonah’s picked him up again when my back was turned. The man’s bedazzled.”

“As a daddy should be. Isn’t today your six-week checkup, Doc? Big day for you.”

“This doctor’s already given her patient the all clear, but Ray’s going to formalize it. Big day for you, too. How do you feel?”

“Great. Excited. A little nervous.”

“I’ll be tuning in—and I want to see you in here when you’re done.”

“I’ll be there.” As she spoke, Arlys laid a hand on the mountain of her belly. “This baby’s got to be about cooked. Much longer, I won’t even be able to waddle.”

“We’ll check it out. Good morning, Clarice,” Rachel said as the first patient of the day came up the walk. “Come right on in. Good luck, Arlys. We’ll be listening.”

Arlys started to waddle—really, what other word was there—and stopped when she heard her name called.

She waited for Will Anderson—her childhood neighbor, current town deputy, and, as it turned out, the love of her life.

He laid a hand over hers on her belly, kissed her. “Walk you to work?”

“Sure.”

He linked fingers with her as they walked to where he’d lived during his first months in the community. “Okay with you if I hang around and watch?”

“If you want, but I don’t know how long it’s going to take to set up. Chuck’s optimistic, but—”

“If Chuck says we can do this, we can.”

As her belly pinged with nerves, she let out a breath. “I’ve got to go with you there.”

Chuck had been her primary source during the Doom, a hacker and IT genius who now ruled over what technology they had. In the basement, of course. The man was a confirmed basement dweller.

“I want to see you at work,” Will added.

“What do you call what I do at home with the New Hope Bulletin?”

“Work, and a boon to the community. But we’re talking live broadcast, baby. It’s what you’re meant to do.”

“I know some people are worried about the risk, about drawing attention here. The wrong kind of attention.”

“It’s worth it. And Chuck not only knows what he’s doing, but we’ll have the magickal shields going. If you can reach one person out there, you can reach a hundred. If you can reach a hundred, who knows. A lot of people still don’t know what the hell’s going on, where to get help, supplies, medicine. This matters, Arlys.”

It mattered, a great deal to her, when he risked his life on a rescue.

“I was just thinking about what matters.” She paused outside the house, turned to him. “You’re top of the list.”

They circled around to the back of the house to the basement door.

Inside, what had been a large family room now stood as a computer geek’s wet dream—if he dreamed of cobbling together components, cables, hard drives, motherboards, gutting ancient computers, reconfiguring desktops and laptops, hanging various screens.

She figured Chuck did.

He sat at one of the keyboards in a hoodie and cargo pants, a backward ball cap on hair recently bleached white courtesy of the community beautician. He’d gone bright red on his pointed little beard.

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