Prologue

This is Why

In her heart she never accepted that it was anything else but murder.

The twelve had taken the thrust of the knife with a calm indifference that had chilled her. Each stood before her serenely, some even holding her trembling hands steady as she pushed the blade into their hearts.

They had died so that she might live to avenge them, and although she wept and pleaded that this was wrong, that she should be the one who died, she wielded the knife anyway, because she had no choice.

Twelve from the Circle.

Her friends.

Dead.

Sacrificed.

Murdered.

Now, hours later, she stood on the beach at sunrise, watching the tide come in, the heavy sacrificial knife still clutched in one bloody hand. The blood of her friends soaked her white robe from chest to hem, the sleeves tacky with gore, her face spattered with it.

Behind her she could sense the other two survivors of the nights carnage. Prince Arden of the Blood and her friend Elsinore. At that moment she hated them as much as she hated herself. They had stood by and watched as she killed their friends, and they had done nothing to stop her. Like the others they had known that it was all her fault, and, like the others, they had forgiven her.

Except that she did not want forgiveness. She wanted death.

"Silver?" Elsinore stepped forward hesitantly, touching her arm with light fingers. "It is time to see your father. Only he can finish this now."

Silver let the heavy stone knife fall to the sand, watching as the sea began to wash the blood from it. She looked up at Elsinore, then Arden who hovered beside her and shook her head slightly.

"What is the use of being the daughter of a God if he could do nothing to prevent this nights work?" she said bitterly. "Nor what will happen."

"What would you have him do?" Arden spoke then, brushing his blonde fringe from his eyes as the wind whipped in from the sea. "Magrin has the secret now. How can your father undo that? Its very nature prevents that possibility."

Silver looked away from his direct gaze, saying nothing more, turning back to the rising sun. Then, in one swift movement she unfastened the neck of her robe and slipped out of it, stepping into the sea naked, wading until the water was waist deep then taking a deep breath and diving beneath the waves.

Deeper and deeper she went, the blood washing away with every stroke, all her anger, horror and despair going into the violent movements of her body as she swam towards a series of vertical cliffs beneath the sea. Her lungs feeling as if they wanted to explode within her, she made her way carefully under a ledge, then along a dark underwater tunnel, finally bursting to the surface inside a cave of such beauty her first breath caught in her throat. Roofed in quartz it caught and refracted the sunlight, filling the cavern with rainbows of light.

"Is it done?"

The voice was calm, soothing. Silver climbed from the water and faced her father where he sat on his throne of quartz, a trident by his side. She loved him now as she had always done, even before she knew exactly who and what he was. But her heart was still heavy within her and she stood before him stiffly, her grey eyes hard as flint, her mouth set.

"Yes, father, it is done," she said softly. "Would you have me cut out my own heart now, to complete the deed?"

"Oh, my child," he said gently, his face filled with compassion. "I must ask far more of you than that."

Silver caught the inside of her lip with her teeth, suddenly afraid. She could think of nothing worse than the horror she had just experienced. The death of her mother at Magrin's hand and the harrowing night of sacrifice had left her drained of all but her own self loathing and the fear of what her father would ask her to do to atone for the terrible thing that she had done.

"What must I do to save Atlantis?" she asked in a low voice.

"Nothing can save Atlantis now," her father stood up, his face stern and forbidding. "It was doomed from the moment you placed the secrets of Time into Magrin's hands. You have years ahead of you, my daughter. Long, lonely, desperate years when the only thing that will keep your faith alive is your quest for revenge. No, you cannot save Atlantis, but you must save the Earth, and with it, yourself. That was what your night of sacrifice was for." He towered over her, his face as grim and cold as a winter sea and she felt suddenly afraid. "I have a gift for you, daughter. A gift you would not ask for, and will not want."

He reached out and placed his hand lightly on top of her head. Silver's knees almost buckled under the weight of his power, although his touch was light. She was unable to speak or move for a moment, held in stasis by his benediction. Then he removed his hand and seated himself back on the quartz throne once more, his green eyes mild as he looked at her.

"What of Arden and Elsinore?" she asked, resisting the temptation to reach up and touch the top of her head, where the suggestion of his touch still burned. She didn't know what he had just done, and she didn't really want to know. "Are they to stay here and die? With me, they are the last of the Circle left."

"The Circle are alive within you," her father said calmly, his eyes still fixed on her. "Their life force shall keep and sustain you through the long years of your exile. That is why they died, and why you had to be the instrument of their passing. The Circle was formed to protect and nurture Atlantis, they all knew this."

"I don't understand," Silver said, but she did. The Circle of Fifteen was exalted on the islands, revered as close to the Gods. She had been initiated into the secrets at the age of sixteen and told of their goals and their reason for existence. "What do Arden and Elsinore have to do that is so different?"

"They will leave Atlantis with you," her father said gravely. "Together they will perpetuate their race so that Atlantis will never truly die."

"They hate each other," Silver said, more to herself than anything. "Elsinore dislikes the fact that Arden pushes his Prince of the Blood heritage down her throat."

"A problem you must ensure they overcome," her father said with a hint of a smile. "It is you who has the hardest task, Silver."

It was the first time since she had been a small child that he had called her by her name and she looked up into his face, fear and affection warring in her gaze. "What is it?" she whispered. "What is it that is worse than seeing my mother murdered, slaughtering my friends and leaving the only home I have ever known. Tell me."

He stood up, grasping his trident in his right hand and looking down on her. "You will live for a very long time, Silver," he said relentlessly. "And until you have found and stopped Magrin you will never find peace or happiness. I can see some way into the future and I know that the years will be harsh and long. Far ahead in time are the ones who will aid and befriend you, those who desire revenge upon Magrin as much as you. These you must discover for yourself. Once you have found the way, and found them, I can help. Until then, you must survive alone."

Silver stared into his terrible burning gaze and shivered, realising now what his gift had been. No gift, but a punishment. "You've given me a sort of immortality, haven't you?" she said sickly. "You've made me into a monster."

"Not yet," her father said sadly, resuming his seat. "If you do not watch yourself, soon you will begin to lose what humanity you have, and that is when you will become the monster you believe I am. Never lose your compassion, my child. That is what will make the endless years so hard. To live forever and yet still remain human."

Silver looked down at the rocks she stood on, unable to bear the burden of his gaze, then forced herself to look back up at him.

"Will I ever love again?" she asked, and he smiled gently at her.

"Only you can answer that question," he said. "Now, go back to your friends and prepare them for the journey. You have a long way to go and Atlantis has very little time left."

****

In the endless years that followed, Silver learned, among other things, patience and acceptance. These were hard lessons to learn, and whenever she felt Magrin's presence she would think back to that dreadful day when she had become a murderer and her resolve would harden. He did not have immortality, he coasted the time corridors, breaking in wherever he pleased, killing, looting, and leaving chaos in his wake. But as the years passed, she saw that his actions were not random, they had pattern and purpose.

So, she watched over the descendants of Arden and Elsinore, and searched for signs of Magrin, waiting for the companions her father had promised.

And she studied. She watched the stars, collected books, and learned how to manipulate time, until she finally gleaned a little of what Magrin's ultimate goal might be.

That small glimpse of his terrible purpose put her feet on the road to her companions. Then her father confirmed her thoughts.

She had to choose them from the descendants of Arden and Elsinore. From the thousands already dead and those yet to be born she could choose three. And she had to choose well, for in this she had no second chances.

* * *