Legacies (Mercedes Lackey) - By Mercedes Lackey

PROLOGUE

Someone was moaning. Spirit wished whoever it was would be quiet. It sounded horrible, like a dying animal. Why didn’t someone do something about it?

And her bed was moving, bouncing, rattling. Was it an earthquake? How could there be an earthquake in Indiana? Her head hurt. She tried to move her arms, but she couldn’t, then tried to open her eyes, but she couldn’t do that, either. It was like her eyelids were glued shut.

Her head really hurt. More every second. And now it hurt to breathe, too.

She wished the person who was moaning would stop. She couldn’t think with that horrible sound in her ears. She could hear people around her—why didn’t they do something about the person who was moaning?

Everything hurt. Why did everything hurt? She tried to open her mouth to call for her Mom, and that was when she realized who was moaning.

It was her.

There was a strange taste in her mouth, metallic and nasty, like burned rubber, or plastic mixed with blood. She felt something wet and warm on her face. She tried again to move her arm, to swat whatever it was away, and couldn’t. It was all over her eyes, pushing at them, and she tried to move her head away since her arm wouldn’t work. But her head wouldn’t move either, and the something kept swabbing at her eyes until suddenly they came unglued, and she was able to open them.

She regretted that immediately, as bright light stabbed into her brain exactly like a knife, sharp and piercing, and she let out another moan.

A dark shape interposed itself between her eyes and the light. No, not a dark shape. A person. Head and shoulders. “Ms. White?” The mouth of the person moved, but the voice seemed to come from far away. “Spirit White?”

Oh, how she hated that name. “Spirit” . . . legacy of parents who just couldn’t let the Sixties die. Who named their kid “Spirit” anyway? She was Spirit and her sister was Phoenix and if there had been a third girl she’d have been called Seraphim. All her life that name had been a plague. “Spooky” was the kindest of the nicknames she’d gotten. But the man was waiting for an answer, and she managed to groan out an affirmative.

“Wha—Where?” she asked.

The man looked away, to someone she couldn’t see because she couldn’t turn her head. “There was an accident,” he replied. “You’re at St. Francis Hospital.”

An accident? But—

They were almost home from the crafts fair, just making that hairpin turn over the ravine with Keller Creek at the bottom of it. Why they had to live back of beyond of everything was just one more instance of the ’rents being holdover hippies. She was already home in her mind, trying to figure out a way to outsmart Phoenix and get to the good computer first so she could keep more than three windows open without it slowing to a crawl. It didn’t matter if you had high-speed ’net if the computer had so little memory you couldn’t use all that bandwidth! She was trying to think of something she might be doing for school that would mean a lot of research without actually lying about it. What could possibly—

—and then there was a—a flash of dark—all around the car.

It was night, how could there be a flash of dark?

But it had been. It was like a flash, only negative, and before any of them could react with more than a flinch, there was something in the road—right in the middle of the road. It was—

Oh God! It couldn’t be—It couldn’t be—

And it looked at them and Mom screamed and Dad yanked the wheel sideways—

She opened her mouth to ask where her Mom and Dad and sister were, and all that came out was a moan.

“Spirit, we’re going to take you to surgery now. You’re going to be fine.” There was a sharp pinch at her shoulder, and a moment of burning, then suddenly things stopped hurting. A shot. They’d given her a pain shot. “Don’t worry, you’re in good hands.”

She was all floaty now, and she couldn’t keep her eyes open. Never mind me, she wanted to say, where’s Mom and Dad and the shrimp? But she was falling away now, falling into soft, warm blackness, and couldn’t get the words out, couldn’t even hold onto the thoughts.

Couldn’t even beg to be kept safe from that thing that had loomed up in the middle of the road. The thing,

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