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A Witch Hunter Novella
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Format:ebook (Digital original) $1.99 $2.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 11, 2015. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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John Raleigh, one of the youngest and most talented magical healers in all of Anglia, can relieve any ailment except, perhaps, his own broken heart. Since the deaths of his mother and sister who burned at the stake for witchcraft, John has spent his nights lost in nightmares and his days drowning in melancholy. That is until he’s summoned to the home of Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in the kingdom, who suffers from a mysterious illness that has confounded every other healer.
John immediately knows that this is no normal sickness. Nicholas, it seems, is falling apart because of a dangerous curse, and their only clue for a cure is a single name–Elizabeth Grey.
Who is this girl and how has she become mixed up with such dark magic? John must put these questions aside when Elizabeth is brought to him from the palace’s prison on the brink of death. It will take everything he has to save her, and to save Nicholas, but perhaps he’ll manage to save his heart along the way.
It started, as it does, out of nowhere.
Only it wasn’t nowhere. It was the same place every time: the pyre in the middle of the square at Tyburn. A pile of wood heaped around a platform constructed for one use, and one use only. A pole in the center. Bodies bound with chains, not ropes, because those would burn. A single flame from a torch lowered to the hay scattered along the wooden planks, mixed with peat to catch fast and burn hard, a roaring fire you could feel clear across the square. But I wasn’t across the square. I wasn’t across town, or a hundred feet away, or even ten.
I was right there.
Rushing the platform, trying to reach them. My mother, my sister. I remember searching for their faces: I couldn’t see them, not right away, their hair shorn to their scalps, poorly and roughly done with an executioner’s knife, careless of nicks or cuts because they’d be dead soon anyway.
They grabbed me. Two guards, dressed in black and red, that damned red rose embroidered on the sleeve, the flower of the king’s house. They pulled me away just as I saw her. Jane. She saw me, too, her eyes stormy like mine, frantic and full of fear. She shouted my name but it was cut off by a scream and a punch and a shout and a cry, some of it hers, some of it mine, some of it the crowd’s, who watched with equal measures of horror and fascination and pity.
I hit the dirt face-first, a mouthful of dust and ash, warm from the heat and scorched from the fire, stinking of burnt human flesh. I gagged on it. Rolled over to my back just as I saw her face—their faces—first red then yellow then white then black, the alchemy of change from life to death, from before to after, from here to gone.
I bolt upright with a gasp, her name on my lips. My sister, Jane. Two years older than me, a loudmouth and a troublemaker but funny and wild and no one has ever made me laugh harder. She was my best friend.
Gone since a year ago today. November 2, All Souls’ Day, a day of prayer for the dead. I could choke on the irony, were I not still choking on grief. My heart pounds in my chest, so loud I can nearly hear it. I’m breathing fast, but I can’t get air. My hands are shaking, and I feel the urge to run, to get as far away from this as I can—only there’s nowhere to go. The horror is in my head, and I can’t escape it.
I leap out of bed. Cross the room to the window and throw it open. The night air is cool, and judging by the moon in the sky—high but slightly off-center—it’s about three in the morning. I don’t know what’s significant about three in the morning, but it’s when I always wake up.
And I always wake up.
I stick my head out the window. Begin to breathe, the way she told me to.
In for four.
Hold for four.
Out for four.
I look down at the physic garden, just beginning to go dormant for winter. There are a few plants left, coriander and deadnettle and rosemary and honeysuckle, that still grow despite the increasing cold and the never-ending rain, the darkness that begins at four in the afternoon and ends at nine in the morning. My sister hated winter. She was fair, like my mother, but preferred summer because she said the winter months made her look too pale, like a ghost, like the dead.…
I choke on another breath.
The warm, sweet scent of the honeysuckle floats in on an errant breeze. This plant is useless for the most part; it doesn’t do much but look and smell pretty. It has no place in a physic garden, but my mother planted it anyway because when everything else dies, it comes alive.
I push away from the window. Pace the room, my hands clasped behind my head. I’m trembling like I’ve got the goddamned ague. I walk to my desk, fumbling through the stacks of books and rolls of parchment and scattered pens and ink until I come to it: the journal.
Loren—a healer and my mother’s closest friend—gave it to me as a way to come to terms with losing them. A way to work through the nightmares and the guilt and the shock, a way to figure out how to move ahead when everything’s been left behind. She said that if I wrote down my feelings, I could gain control over them. That they wouldn’t seem bigger than me, that I wouldn’t become trapped by them, a prisoner of my own misery.
It’s not going very well.
I slide the journal toward me. A letter slips out from underneath it and flutters to the floor: snow-white parchment, sealed with bloodred wax in the shape of a heart. I can just make out the scent of cypress—one of the primary ingredients in a love spell—mixed with the scent of cinnamon to mask it. I pick it up, taking care not to loosen or break the seal, which would activate the magic, and set it back on the desk. Open the journal to a blank page, easy to do because they’re all blank.
“Write my feelings down…” I grip the pen, dip it in ink, hold it over the page. “Won’t do a damned thing.” I toss the pen onto the desk, watch as it skitters across the surface and lands on the floor. I’ve tried, I have. But I can’t seem to do it. I don’t know what I’m so afraid of, they’re just words. Death. Pain. Torture. Gone. Alone.
But they’re words I’m afraid of.
I stand up and walk back to the window. My breathing has slowed, but my heart still thuds against my rib cage, so hard my shirt twitches. It’s then I realize I’m still wearing my day clothes, the same clothes I wore yesterday. Blood of Christ. I can’t even get it together enough to remember to dress properly. I tear the shirt over my head, not bothering to unbutton it, then fling it into the corner. It’s not on the floor a second before my mother’s voice fills my head.
John, it says. Shirts don’t launder themselves, do they? Then she would ruffle my hair before picking it up and handing it to me. As if on cue, I’m gasping for air again.
In for four.
Hold for four.
Out for four.
I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. Writing it down won’t help. There’s no sense in it. I don’t need to tell myself how I’m coming apart; I already know it. Melancholia, the healers call it. An episode, Fifer calls it. But whatever you call it, the meaning is the same.
I’m losing my goddamned mind.
I walk to my bed, crawl on top of the covers. Think about my breathing, only about my breathing. I lie there I don’t know how long before finally, I start to relax. I never got dressed. It doesn’t matter.
I don’t know what matters anymore.
He pounds on the door, the noise sending me to my feet.
- On Sale
- Aug 11, 2015
- Page Count
- 32 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers