Onelle's daughter has been caught in adultery, and faces death at the White Tree. In desperation, Onelle turns to the new village witch to save her. But will Elvienne's magic be strong enough to overcome the prejudices of Whitewood?
Elvienne was startled awake by the hammering on her door. No light seeped through the shutters, and when she flung a fur around her shoulders and threw wide the door, the night was as black as a witch’s heart and the wind whipped her long grey hair against her face.
“Who knocks?” She peered short-sightedly into the rain-lashed darkness beyond her threshold. “Cyrian, is that you?”
“Aye, Mistress Elvienne; you have to let me in! It’s Rosleen, her husband’s been at it again. Can you help her?” Without waiting for her to reply, he shouldered her aside and headed towards the bed. She forgave his rudeness as she saw the concern etched into his face, and the burden he carried in his arms.
“She just turned up at the holding, Mistress Elvienne. She must have walked all the way - I didn’t know what else to do!” His blue eyes were full of pleading as he lay the woman down on top of the bedfurs and stepped back, wringing his hands in anxiety.
Elvienne threw more wood on the fire, and retreated behind the curtain to pull her rough wool dress over her head, silently cursing these fool Estmarchers for interrupting her sleep once more. The woman tossed her head from side to side, moaning softly as she bent over her.
“She’s wed to Hawn the cooper, isn’t she? Do you know what happened?”
Cyrian’s face darkened. “Only that he’s had his fists on her again. I suppose you know all about it."
Elvienne sighed inwardly. She had been at Whitewood since the turn of the year, almost six moons now, and she still had yet to convince these simple folk that she didn’t know everything. Their faith was touching, but she couldn’t help feeling it was misplaced. “I didn’t know about it," she said flatly, “because nobody saw fit to tell me. I suppose she came to you because you happen to be her lover?”
From his expression, she knew she had guessed correctly. “You won’t tell anyone, will you?” he asked, laying a hand on her arm. “They don’t like that manner of thing round here."
Elvienne shook her head. “I won’t," she said, “but you know how people’s mouths flap. You and she should take more care. Does her mother know about any of this?”