This spellbinding fantasy, perfect for fans of Shannon Hale, Juliet Marillier, and Kristin Cashore, continues the beautifully written series begun with Lark Rising.
The Healer Evie saves two herbs for herself—yew, a quick and painful poison, and heliotrope, for the deep, deep sleep that never ends.
After the death of her beloved, seventeen-year-old Evie Carew wants nothing more than to lose herself forever in the wilds of Rood Marsh. But when the old seer Harker tells her she’s meant for a greater task, Evie’s curiosity keeps her going. What is this shell that Harker insists she must find? And why can’t she stop thinking about the handsome Rider Laurent, the young man who saved her on the worst day of her life?
Soon Evie discovers that she is the Guardian of Death, the second of four Guardians who must awaken to their powers to recover four stolen amulets. Together, the amulets—Life, Death, Dark, and Light—keep the world in balance. To take back the shell that is Death’s amulet, Evie has to learn to challenge her Healer instincts and understand that love never dies.
About the Author
SANDRA WAUGH grew up in an old house full of crowded bookshelves, in walking distance of an old library that allowed her to drag home a sack of six books at a time. It goes without saying, then, that she fell in love with an old house in Litchfield County, Connecticut, because of its many bookshelves, and she lives there now with her husband, two sons, and a dog who snores. Loudly. For more information, reveries, and an author blog, visit sandrawaugh.com.
Read an Excerpt
“You have no fear of death.”
The woman lay wide-eyed on the ground gasping this at megargling, really, for her throat was torn open, her voice shredded. She’d not last two breaths beyond those words; ’twas sad she had to waste them on me. But there was no one familiar left with whom to share meaningful last speeches of love or regret, nor anything that might ease her mind. Just the stranger who held her hand.
I smiled and soothed as I’d done through the final moments of all the dying, kneeling next to her on the hardened earth while she struggled, our fingers linked. I said softly, as if we’d continue this conversation, as if we took afternoon tea and commented on the dearth of rain, “There is nothing to fear.”
The woman looked to challenge, but then her eyes drifted from mine and stilled. I kept my hand on hers for a moment longer, slumped back with a sigh. And then all that moved was the smoke.
Smoke. It filtered through the dull green of the trees, carrying the stink of burning things. We were a distance from the ruined village, but the gray wisps slipped through, swirled and surrounded, blinding the eye and polluting the soul. My soul.
“Mistress! Mistress Healer!”
I’d been called that since I first entered Bern, since I dropped my satchel in what remained of their growing fields and kneeled to assist those sprawled among the charred stalks. That I no longer cared about the title made no difference. One is born with one’s gifts.
“Mistress! Here, please!” The brown-bearded man was crouched by some little tumble of clothing. He’d been zigzagging about the field ahead of me, avoiding bits of lingering flame, yelling and pointing at anyone who still breathed. How he’d spied survivors through the choking fog, had found the few among so many, I didn’t know.
I shut the staring eyes of the woman, crossed her arms over her heart, then scrambled up and ran to the man, shoving up my sleeves once more. I forgot my satchel, hastened back for it. The satchel had been light in weight when I abandoned my own village of Merith; it was even lighter now. I’d taken only herbsminion, yew, and heliotropehardly intending they’d serve anyone but me. Now I was nearly out. Three of five villages I’d passed through had been ravaged, the wounded begging to be tended back to life or eased into death. It was a trail of destruction, of pure savagery, witless and cruel. I’d never seen such except in my little town, never imagined that the vicious Troths would attack any defenseless community other than mine. But this time the creatures had run beyond Merith, burning and slaughtering for no fathomable reason. As a Healer I’d seen my share of violence from accident or misfortune; I had no aversion to it. But this was different. This was violence for pleasure.
“Here! Here.” The brown-bearded man clawed at my skirt, pulling me down next to him at the side of a small boylimp but seemingly unharmed.
“Is he the last?” I asked. I kept my voice light and calm to stave off Brown-beard’s mounting anguish. He’d been far too eager in his assistance searching through these fields. Now there were the first trembles in his hands and face. Despair, catching up.
The man nodded awkwardly at my question, eyes darting about. He’d given me his name somewhere in the frenzy of tending: Rafinn. I had not used it. “So many dead.” He fidgeted. “So many.”
I touched the back of my hand to the boy’s temple. “He might live, this one, if we are quick.”
“As if that is good news.”
True. Only seven villagers remained, by my count. This was hardly a triumph.
The man’s voice dropped to a pathetic quiver. “Why did they come?”
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly, peeking under the boy’s eyelids. The whites were still pure.
“But you are from Merith,” Brown-beard muttered. “I heard you say it. I know the story of your village. The beasts came out of the Myr Mountains, attacking you fifty years back, then fifteen years back”
“Thirteen,” I corrected.
“And then midsummer. Three attacks.” He said it roughly, as if he were jealous of our plight. “Merith survived the Troths three times.”
“They only killed those of childbearing age before.” I opened the boy’s mouth to check his tongue, that his throat was clear. “And this time. . . .” My voice hitched. “This time . . .”
This time we’d had warning. That was how we’d survived. My cousin Lark had come back from our field not three months past carrying a severed hand. Lark had the Sighta rare gift that included the ability to sense people’s historiesand she’d told us how the hand belonged to the kind old tailor, Ruber Minwl, how he’d been killed by the Troths and how the beasts had once again turned their vicious gaze to our town. We’d had ten days of warning to ponder, to worry. Ten days to hope.
Lark was the one who sought help for our defenseless villagebound to the task for which she should never have been chosen. She was Merith’s most timid member, had never ventured beyond its rose-hedged borders. Yet somehow she pushed herself north into the hills, found and persuaded the Riders (the twelve of legendary might) to come and protect us. Eleven of them charged into Merith with horse and sword just as the Troths attacked, saving us from the worst. Lark returned afterward with the twelfth Rider in tow, both gravely wounded. And then it was our turn to saveGrandmama and me healing the two of them to the best of our abilities. Shy, beloved Lark, my almost-sister, my dearest friend, had rescued our home.
It seemed a good story. But neither did I attempt it for Brown-beard, nor was he interested in hearing it. “This time? This time is different!” He shuddered. “They’ve gone beyond your Merith; they’ve gone beyond child bearers! Look around. They killed everyone they could!”