THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
An enthralling tale of modern witch Bess Hawksmith, a fiercely independent woman desperate to escape her cursed history who must confront the evil which has haunted her for centuries
My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, and my age is three hundred and eighty-four years. If you will listen, I will tell you a tale of witches. A tale of magic and love and loss. A story of how simple ignorance breeds fear, and how deadly that fear can be. Let me tell you what it means to be a witch.
In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate: the Warlock Gideon Masters. Secluded at his cottage, Gideon instructs Bess, awakening formidable powers she didn't know she had. She couldn't have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.
In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. She has spent the centuries in solitude, moving from place to place, surviving plagues, wars, and the heartbreak that comes with immortality. Her loneliness comes to an abrupt end when she is befriended by a teenage girl called Tegan. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth opens her heart to Tegan and begins teaching her the ways of the Hedge Witch. But will she be able to stand against Gideon—who will stop at nothing to reclaim her soul—in order to protect the girl who has become the daughter she never had?
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Batchcombe, Wessex, 1627
That year the harvest was good. Rain early in the season had given way to a dry summer under a fruitful sun, and the last cut of hay from the top meadow was the finest Bess had seen. She pushed up her shirtsleeves, dark wisps of hair from beneath her cap coiling into the curve of her warm neck as she stooped. Her brown skirts skimmed the mowed grass, snatching up stray stems as she gathered armfuls of hay. Ahead of her, her father, John, worked in swift, practiced movements with his fork, digging deep before flicking the hay high onto the rick, apparently without effort. Atop the stack stood Thomas, at sixteen a whole year older than Bess and a head taller, deftly working the hay into the shape required to repel the weather and hold firm through autumn winds. He shared his sister's coloring and angular body, both inherited from their mother, Anne, as was the seriousness that he wore like a cloak about his shoulders, but his practical way of being in the world, his measured habit of facing life, those were qualities handed down to him from his father.
Bess paused, rubbing the small of her back, straightening to stretch tired muscles. She enjoyed haymaking: enjoyed the sense of completion of another cycle of planting and growing, of a successful crop gathered in, of the security of fodder for the beasts and therefore food for the family for the coming winter months. Her enjoyment did not stop her body complaining about the hard work, however. The heat was fatiguing. Her sweat-wet skin was gritty with dust and itched from a thousand grass seeds. Her nose and throat were uncomfortably dry. She shielded her eyes with her hand, squinting toward the leeward hedge. Two figures approached. One tall and lean like herself, striding with purpose and containment; the other a small bundle of energy, dark, nimble, skipping over the ground as if it were too hot for her dainty feet. Bess smiled. It was a smile only her little sister could induce. The child was a constant source of joy for the whole family. This was due in part to her happy disposition, her prettiness, and her sweet laughter that no one could resist. But it had also to do with the painful years that had preceded her birth. Bess and Thomas had been born quickly and without difficulty, but later siblings had not been so fortunate. Twice Anne had miscarried a baby, and two who had survived to birth had dwindled in her arms. Another, a rosy-cheeked boy, Bess remembered, had lived to the age of two before succumbing to the measles. By the time Margaret arrived, the rest of the family were steeled for further loss and grief but soon saw that here was a child who would grasp life with both of her tiny hands and live every day of it, however many or few there might be.
"They're come," Bess told the men.
They dropped their forks without a second bidding, more than ready for their food after a long morning's toil.
Margaret squealed and ran to greet her sister, leaping into her arms. Bess spun her round and round until they both collapsed dizzy and giggling onto the hay-strewn ground.
"Bess!" Her mother's voice pretended to be stern. "Have a care."
"Aye." Her father dusted down his shirt front with roughened hands. "The mare won't eat her feed if it's had the flavor pressed out of it." His attempt at rancor was even less successful.
Together, the family made their way over to the nearby oak and settled themselves in its friendly shade. Anne placed her basket on the ground and began to lift out the meal she had brought for the workers.
"We made oatcakes, Bess, look." Margaret thrust a cloth bundle beneath her sister's nose, tugging at the corners to...
The Witch's Daughter
By: Paula Brackston