A/N: Welcome to book 4...I'm diligently working on chapters as I post this and have been making the first attempts toward pulling together a second (and maybe final?) draft with an ultimate eye to submission for publication. This book begins a new story arc with a whole different focus; now that the head goon is locked up, everyone's attention shifts to some questions whose provenance—and answers—lead to some astonishing discoveries. I hope you'll enjoy this latest effort!


§ § § - January 26, 2013

She shut herself in the bathroom, locking the door, giving brief and belated thought to whether she might have awakened her sleeping children in her headlong rush to flee the shock her father had just delivered. There was a small nightlight plugged into an outlet beside the door, with a translucent seashell-shaped cover that gently diffused the glow from the little bulb behind it. This was the only illumination she had to find the large soaking tub and sit on the edge of it, leaning her head against the stained-glass window and allowing her despair to engulf her. "A Future-Seer," she groaned. "It can't be."

Leslie Enstad had been a lot of things in her time: an orphan since age thirteen; the ward, and then adopted daughter, of an extraordinary man with what had turned out to be extraterrestrial origins; and even a princess, thanks to her marriage twelve years ago to Lilla Jordsö's most beloved royal-family member, Prince Christian. Now she had just discovered, thanks to her father, that she was also a member of a clan known as the Future-Seers, and she couldn't wrap her mind around the concept. "Impossible," she muttered, shaking her head, all the while knowing deep down that it was true, but rejecting it nonetheless.

Someone tapped on the door. "Leslie, my Rose? Please, let me in."

She hovered there on the edge of the tub for a moment, not quite ready to give voice to all her protests and misgivings, yet already sensing a fast-burgeoning need to dump it all on someone else. Who better than her husband? Of all the people she had ever known in her life, he was the most important, and she knew she was just as vital to him. It was this that drove her to get to her feet and, half reluctantly, unlock the door.

Christian's glossy chestnut hair gleamed softly in the low light as he slipped inside and cupped her face between his hands. "Talk to me, please, my darling."

She gazed into his hazel eyes, which seemed to glow gold in the nightlight. "Is Father still on the deck?" she asked.

"Yes, he's waiting for us. He told me he knew you would have questions, but he certainly didn't expect the reaction you had." Christian's thumb smoothed itself over her cheek, just beneath her eye. "For that matter, neither did I. Why did you do that?"

Leslie closed her eyes and let out a sigh that made her body slump, as if that breath had been holding her upright. "It's not from being a clan member. I don't know if I can explain it. It's..."

"Try," he urged, his voice gentle.

"My power," she finally said, her voice woven densely with despair. "Such as it is. What good is being a Future-Seer when the power's practically nil?"

"Ah...I think I see," he murmured softly, and kissed her forehead. "Well, come with me, my Rose. Let's see if your father can't give us a few answers, hm?"

She agreed and let him lead her back through their spacious bedroom to the moonlit deck that overlooked their backyard and the sloping landscape to the ocean in the distance. Her father remained where he had been sitting when she'd fled into the house, and he watched them emerge through the French doors, waiting till they had sat down again. "Tell me what's wrong, Leslie," he requested kindly.

"I can't quite believe I'm really a Future-Seer," she said, as if in protest. "What I mean is that...it's not even worth it. All I ever get is a feeling of something bad about to happen. I never know anything about it. Future-Seer, ha." She scoffed in disgust. "I don't see anything, I just feel it. My power is useless. What good is having the damn thing when it's so weak I can't help anyone with it?" By the time she finished, her voice had scaled u[ into a hopeless, desolate cry.

Christian's face cleared completely at that, and he exchanged a glance with his father-in-law, who was nodding faintly as full understanding of Leslie's distress sank in. "You are not to blame, my child," he said, his voice low and soothing "The ancestry goes back many generations, and is quite diluted. It seems the mother of your Salem-witch-trial-era ancestor Mary Jane Hamilton was a full-blooded clan member, which is remarkable because even in the late seventeenth century, full-blooded clan members were rare. I don't believe any other Future-Seers joined the family after that; that particular ancestor's power is the same one you have now, though highly diluted, as I said. That's why yours isn't very strong."

"Wonderful," muttered Leslie. "There's hardly any point to it. I might as well not have it at all, for all the good I can do with it."

"Don't despair, Leslie," her father advised, and met her incredulous look with a nod. "You certainly aren't the only one in that position; you'll remember I've advised that in most clans, the power varies in strength from one member to another. The exception, as far as is known, is in the case of the Life-Givers; one either has the power or doesn't, although there are differences in its durability, as you've seen, Christian." Christian had turned out to be the first royal-family member born with the power of the Life-Giver clan, which was clustered in Lilla Jordsö. His maternal grandmother had been born to the clan, and his mother had unknowingly passed it down. Christian had struggled with the realization that he was a Life-Giver for some months after discovering he had the power; he was still coming to terms with it, but by and large had learned to live with it.

"Do you know the name of the clan member who was Mary Jane's mother?" Leslie wanted to know. "And how'd she escape the witch hunters in Salem when Mary Jane didn't? After all, it was Mary Jane who earned the curse, not her mother." Leslie's family had been plagued with a curse that was to have lasted thirteen generations and resulted in the total extinction of her family; but Leslie, the thirteenth generation, had found help from her father and was free of the curse, though it had left her the sole survivor of her family line.

"That, I'm afraid we don't know," her gather said. "There may be a way to find out, but it would require the services of the Future-Seers' mirror-image clan—the Time-Keepers."

"The ones who can travel back in time and observe the past?" Christian asked, and his father-in-law nodded. "But so far we've found only two member of that clan, and they're not exactly volunteering to lend their power to some higher cause." The two members in question, a father and daughter also hailing from Lilla Jordsö, had since moved to Leslie's island and kept to themselves; neither Christian nor Leslie had seen or heard from them since they had arrived here.

"True, but that doesn't mean there aren't others. If Hjalmar Lindblom is not willing to help, or to allow his daughter to do so, we will simply have to find some of them."

"Who knows where they are, though," Leslie mused. "I won't hold my breath waiting to hear from any of them looking to move here, I can say that."

"We'll speak with Hjalmar Lindblom ourselves," Christian said firmly. "He may keep to himself, but there are times when one is called on to contribute to the greater good, and I think his time may have come. Perhaps for now, we can allow you to return to the realms, and Leslie and I can have a chance to absorb this latest news and try to get in touch with Lindblom. It's late, after all, and I'm sure you're as fatigued as we are."

His father-in-law smiled at that. "I wouldn't object to a rest period. Meantime, Leslie, try not to fret so much over this. I realize you feel your power is useless, but I have some reason to believe that it may not be as useless as you think. For now, you and Christian get some sleep, and I'll enlighten you later. Good night, both of you." He smiled when they returned the sentiment, and like the Matter-Shifter he was, disappeared, magician-like, from the chair where he sat.

"Huh," Leslie grumbled skeptically. "I'd like to know where he gets that idea."

Christian chuckled and urged her to her feet. "Then yu can have some fun trying to figure it out. Come on, my Rose, it's close to midnight—let's get some sleep."

She was quiet as she changed into one of her favorite nightshirts and stood brushing her teeth, watching her reflection in the mirror without really seeing it. Christian, who seldom failed to notice his wife's moods, kept an eye on her but said nothing till they had gotten into bed and she lay gazing through the skylight over their heads. "All right, Leslie, what's on your mind? What are you thinking about?" He paused, allowing her a beat or two to respond; when she only drew her lower lip between her teeth, he pressed in a gentler tone, "Are you having the same thoughts and misgivings I did when I first found out I'm a Life-Giver, then?"

"Well, not exactly," she mused, her voice low enough that he had to shift himself closer to her to hear her better. "I mean...it's still kind of weird, finding out that I'm part clan after all. But maybe it's less of a surprise. I...I was starting to get a few flashes of suspicion in the last few days; I just didn't want to pay any attention to them." She let out a long sigh. "But I think my first suspicion was as far back as the first time we went to see Hayley Carpenter and ask her to try to pull up a vision of that goon and his gang."

"Was it?" Christian asked with surprise.

"Yeah, I was wondering offhand if there were some way I could learn to control my own weird little flashes of thinking something would happen soon. That's when I really started putting things together. But I didn't think it applied to me, because it was never visions I got, like Hayley and her grandmother. It was just those stupid vague feelings and nothing else. So I didn't believe that could possibly make me a Future-Seer."

"I can see how you'd feel that way," Christian agreed after a moment's thought. "But there was that one brief scene you saw..."

"That came up too, but it didn't seem like enough," Leslie said.

"And so now you feel you don't make a worthwhile Future-Seer because your sense of future events is little more than some vgue certainty that something untoward will occur soon," Christian summed up, watching her nod and ho back to staring through the skylight. "Well, you never know, my Leslie Rose, it's just possible that there's something more in there than you were ever aware of, and all it needs is some training. Howerver, I wonder if you have that same displaced feeling that I had, about learning that you're actually a clan member with a power, rather than simply another ordinary earth human."

"Sort of," she murmured at some length. "But not to the degree you had it. I guess it's possible that something in me has always felt, well, out of place. Maybe it goes back to my childhood and Michael treating me and my sisters the way he did, making us feel less than others. And Mom with her certainties about the Hamilton curse—even though she wasn't the Hamilton, but married into the family. She was the one who wanted to find out what was going on, and came to this island just before I was born so Father could tell her. But..." She stilled, then turned to him. "I just happened to think about this. Mom put more stock into the curse stories than Michael ever did. She didn't talk about it too much when we were little, but I remember a few times she'd say something about it and he'd tell her to shut up, or that it was fake, or family legend. He just refused to talk about it and treated it like it was a fairytale. It never occurred to me to wonder where she got the story of the curse from. Maybe Michael's parents, the grandparents I never knew since they died five years before I was born. I have to wonder what it was that made Michael dismiss it but Mom take it seriously." She hesitated, frowning lightly, then answered her own question. "Mormor, of course. And if mormor put stock into it, maybe it was because of that Mind-Bender friend of hers, one of the Liljefors clan."

"Do you think perhaps she knew about the Liljefors powers?" Chrisian asked.

"Beats me," Leslie admitted with a sigh, "but I kind of think she did. She must have seen r experienced something. When I was little and she told me about this island, her voice was serious—I mean, not light or teasing, or humoring a little girl who still subscribed to all the childhood holiday stories and magical legends. She actullly believed. She accepted it as being the real thing. I wish I could find out how she knew."

"Tell me about that ancestor of yours," he requested suddenly, after a moment or two. "Mary Jane Hamilton. I know about the curse, but not the full story."

Leslie rolled over onto her right side, facing him, and thought back for a few seconds, casting about in her memory to the first weekend she had been on the island. "Father was the one who told me what I know. I think Mom was afraid that if she said anything to me, I'd start asking questions she wasn't prepared to answer. So this is what Father said.

"He told me that the curse originated from the time of the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts—that was in 1692, in case you weren't sure. I remember him saying that 'a certain goodwife' accused a neighbor's household slave of being a witch. The goodwife was Mary Jane Hamilton, and the slave turned out to be a Jamaican native by the name of Tituba. She apparently had some kind of notoriety around the area for supposedly employing magic, although I'm not really clear on the details. They sentenced Tituba to burn at the stake on the basis of Mary Jane's accusations. Tituba knew perfectly well who'd accused her, and just before the flames consumed her, she put the curse on Mary Jane and all her descendants for the next thirteen generations. Any Hamilton descended from Mary Jane was doomed to die in a fire. And the only way to break the curse, Father found out, was for a family member to survive three fires."

Christian thought about it. "Well, if this Tituba was considered a witch, surely Mary Jane wasn't the only one who thought so."

"No, she wasn't. I remember doing a little research in the school library a few weeks after Father helped me break the curse, and it turned out that quite a few others made the same accusation against her. Why do you ask?"

"Because it seems strange to me that Tituba should have cursed only your ancestor, while the others got away with their allegations. I wonder why that would be so."

"Probably because she waited so long to curse anyone at all. From what Father told me, she cast her curse right before the fire got her. If she'd started doing it from the moment they tied her to the stake, she might've gotten around to some others."

Christian grinned at Leslie's wry tone. "That makes sense." The grin faded as he considered it further. "Thirteen generations, and you were the thirteenth—you and your sisters, of course, Most authorities tend to consider that there are three generations per century, which wouldn't have added up in the fewer than three that had elapsed between the witch trials and your birth. If you divide one hundred by three, you get approximately thirty-three, which seems old to spawn a new generation—or at least it used to. It would make more sense to assign four generations to a century, assuming that one generation was about twenty-five before producing the next. Even at that, though, you should still have been perhaps the eleventh generation. So I suppose there must have been babies born to quite a few very young couples."

"That was my thought too. We never did a formal genealogy or even really looked into it all that much, but I'm sure that at least during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people were still getting married pretty young. So I figure that there must've been at least two generations that popped out kids before they were out of their late teens. Maybe more than that, actually. If Michael and Mom constituted generation number twelve, then I'd have to think that there was a lot of teenage sex going on in prior generations, because they were both born in the early 1930s. And on top of that, since Michael didn't want kids, he kept putting Mom off—so by the time I was born, Mom was already thirty-two and Michael was thirty-four. Which actually fits in with the supposedly accepted timespan for one generation to produce the next. But if Kristy and Kelly and I were the thirteenth, there's no way all of them waited even till they were only twenty-five to have kids. I admit I wouldn't mind poking through the family tree."

"I'd find it interesting myself. Thirteen generations in the space of a mere two hundred seventy years. Well, who knows, perhaps there'll be a reason and an impetus for us to look into that someday. After all that, you see, the reason I asked for the story is that I find it interesting that your father said Mary Jane's mother was the Future-Seer. Could it be possible that Tituba knew that, and therefore confined her family curse to your ancestor? Which also raises the question of why Mary Jane was cursed, rather than her mother the clan member. Perhaps by then her mother was dead, so Mary Jane was the next available option. At any rate, I found myself wondering if your mother's mother might not have had some clan ancestry as well. Either that or she was simply very open-minded."

"I never really considered that, but now that you mention it, it makes some sense. I guess that's another thing to track down. I only wish I knew exactly where to start."

"Tomorrow is one good place to start," Christian teased, "since it's so late now and we really need to get some sleep. Don't fret, my Rose. Just consider that now you and I have yet something else in common—both being members of clans." He smiled warmly at her grin, and kissed her. "Sleep well, then."

"You too, my love," she murmured, and tucked her hand into his. As usual, he fell asleep first, but as she waited to drift off, she realized she was strangely comforted by their conversation and his attempt, whether conscious or not, to distract her.