At 17, Lysandra witnessed the brutal murder of her family and lost her sight. Ten years later, she is a master healer and clairvoyant. Lysandra encounters Father Renan, who explains that the two of them are chosen to install the rightful queen of Aghamore on the throne. If they fail, the kingdom will be plunged into a millennium of darkness and tyranny.
|Publisher:||Grand Central Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.91(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Ten years later:
203rd year of the reign of the House of Baoghil
Ruling House of the Eighth Province,Kingdom of Aghamore
Deep in the heart of the Great Forest, twenty-seven-year-old Lysandra knelt in her garden, feeling the warmth of the spring sun upon her shoulders. At that moment she felt wrapped in peace. But it was a peace that had come hard-earned. Time had taught that such moments were to be cherished but never trusted; security was more delicate than a butterfly's wing-and even more easily destroyed.
She had been in this cottage for almost nine years now. It was a place she had come across by accident, an old hermit's home standing alone and abandoned deep in the forest. She had at once sensed an affinity for the place; her own heart had felt just as empty as this house, just as overrun by brambles and weeds as its garden.
For the first few days of her blindness, Lysandra had stayed in her family home. Although the villagers were kind in their pity of her, she could not stand the silence.of the house that had once been filled with her mother's singing and her father's hearty laughter.
And there was Ultan's death, the death of her love, of her future. Without him, her heart felt as empty and bare as the void her eyes could not see. The only thing that filled them both was the memory of blood and fear.
The memory of death.
The decision to leave Scorda was not one she made consciously; reasonable thought would have told her that, blind now and needy in her infirmity, she must remain where life was familiar. But Lysandra could not stay in that empty place that had once been her home. As she packed those few belongings she could comfortably make into a bundle and headed for the door, leaving felt as inevitable as her next breath.
She did not care where she went as long as it was far away from the reminders of what she had lost. She wandered, somehow finding her way to the Great Forest. She fully expected to die there, of loneliness and starvation. She accepted that fate without care or regret-perhaps, even, with eagerness.
It was instinct that kept her alive as she learned to rely upon her senses other than sight. Touch and hearing kept her from falling down ravines or stumbling into brambles; smell and taste told her what food she had found; and it was the feel of the sun and the sounds of the birds or crickets that separated daylight from the night.
But time did not matter. She ate when she was hungry and found food; she slept when she was tired, beneath some tree or in the shelter of a thicket. None of it mattered to her. Though she walked and moved and breathed, life was only a fagade; she felt as dead as her murdered family.
Lysandra had no sense in which direction she wandered or for how long, but she kept herself away from any human contact. Twice she stumbled upon a crofter's home whose goodwife took her in, fed and cleaned her, and for pity's sake offered her a place to stay. But these acts of kindness only deepened the wounds upon Lysandra's heart until she ran from them, back into the forest and her solitude.
Spring became summer, that faded into autumn. Rumors spread throughout the Province of the crazed woman roaming the forest. She was crazed then-crazed with the pain of her grief and her loss, crazed with guilt that she should live while those whom she loved had given their lives to save her.
If only she had not screamed...
If only she had been stronger...
If only was the voice of her madness...
Lysandra waited for death to claim her and bring welcome reunion with those she had lost. But it was not death that came to her during those timeless months. Instead her mind began to open in a way so new, so unexpected, it was nearly incomprehensible.
Slowly, creeping on her almost unawares, vague shapes began to form, filling her mind with outlines and patterns that at first it refused to recognize. This was not vision as she had known before; to her eyes the world remained in darkness, a void unfilled and unfillable. But into her mind now came images cast in auraed shapes of shadow and brightness.
This new way of seeing was not easy, nor did it come all at once. It was like the morning sun burning through a thick bank of fog-slowly, revealing not only an object before her, but its intent, its inner nature. She could see which plants would harm her and which would nourish, which animals feared her, which were curious, and which might do her injury.
At first, in her heart-numbed state of grief, she felt neither surprise nor fear at this new Sight. She felt nothing, remembered nothing; she merely existed from moment to moment, day to day, not dead but neither truly alive.
She spent that first winter sheltered in a cave she shared with a young female fox. It was there, during the long, snowbound days, that her sanity began to return-and with it came the first puzzled wonderment at the images filling her mind.
Lysandra was sitting across the fire from the vixen when the spark of true awareness glimmered, changing into a spreading dawn that came upon her so gently, she was not certain when, between one breath and the next, the darkness had ended and the light of Self began again. But it was the fire that first caught her attention. She knew, in some vague way, that she had kindled and maintained it this night as on countless nights before. Yet she had no more direct memory of the action than she had of taking shelter within this cave.
She felt the fire's heat-and then, suddenly, she realized that within her mind she saw the dance of light and shadow that was its flame. Across the fire, the vixen regarded her calmly. Now, her wonder growing with each passing second, Lysandra considered her companion and found she saw much more than the outlined shape of the animal; this was far less distinct than her physical eyes would have seen. Instead, Lysandra saw the acceptance that shone from the fox's eyes, and from this she knew they had spent many weeks learning to live together.
And even more amazing, Lysandra found that by concentrating, by listening beyond the silence, she could share the fox's feelings. They were not thoughts; at least they did not mirror the individual patterns of human thought. But she knew that the fox's wariness of the fire mingled with its comfort in the warmth. Accepting the fire was part of its acceptance of her.
From that moment, Lysandra never again sank into the blackness of unremembered days. It was now she truly began to wonder at this new Sight. What was it exactly and from whence had it come? Was it a gift from the God in whom she was no longer certain she believed-some Divinely ordered recompense for all she had lost?
For this, as for so much in her life now, she had no answers. A part of her, the larger part, did not care. To question was to invite again the grief-filled darkness that still hovered somewhere close. Instead, throughout the winter, she and the fox continued to share their cave while Lysandra learned to choose life again. She knew that the person she had been before, the girl to whom laughter came easily and who believed in love and happy endings, was dead. She had died in that alleyway in Scorda and was part of the dreams that had been buried along with her parents-with Ultan. She could never be resurrected.
Yet this realization was not only one of endings. With the acceptance of youth forever gone, with the choice of the new life waiting, Lysandra knew herself reborn; though she wore the same body, this new Lysandra had a very different soul.
Like all the newly born, each moment held things she must learn if her new life was to continue and she was now glad of the long winter months. Her time in the cave gave her an opportunity to explore the range of her new Sight. She found it was not like physical vision, full of countless hues of bright and muted color. Color in Lysandra's world was more felt than seen, though on rare occasions it would still manifest with sudden and surprising clarity, granting her a glimpse of the world as she used to know it. The first time her Sight expanded, showing her the vixen in the full beauty of her winter coat, it took Lysandra several seconds to realize what was before her.
The vision did not last long, and the brilliant detail of it was almost blinding. But in those few seconds, Lysandra saw again the colors of earth and stone, of flame and fox, of the winter night's darkness outside the cave's opening and the golden glow of the fire's radiance within.
Then, as this revelation of her world began to fade, there came a long awe-filled moment when the two manifestations of Sight blended, when color and clarity melded with aura and pattern. It was a marvel that almost reawakened the depth of her failed faith.
Then the moment passed, leaving Lysandra to question again the nature of this Sight.
Those brief glimpses of color returned upon occasion, but never for long or by any reason Lysandra could find. Nor was her Sight always with her. Sometimes she existed in true blindness once again, as if to remind her of the darkness out of which her new life had been born- and in which a part of her soul still existed.
When spring came again and the vixen moved on in search of territory and a mate, Lysandra was sorry to see her go. The fox had been a good companion, and Lysandra would miss her silent presence and the lessons of existence she had taught.
Soon Lysandra also left the cave. For a while she resumed walking through the Great Forest. But this time her travels were different because she was different. With the fox as teacher, she had learned to be her own companion. There were no more dreams of the future. She had learned to live each moment for what it was, and to accept what it-what she-was not. As the forest and its creatures cycled forward into spring, Lysandra, too, moved on into the life that must be lived by the woman she had become.
She found it here in this cottage, where over the years she had become a healer. The animals came to her and, like the fox, seemed to know that she was someone they need not fear, whose touch and voice were soft and whose actions were only for their good. This pleased Lysandra in a way that went far beyond words. Her devotion to these creatures grew, became her focus, and filled her hours with purpose.
In one section of Lysandra's garden, she grew the food to keep her alive, for she would eat no animal flesh. But most of the beds were filled with healing plants that she tended carefully. Eventually, people in the area also came to know of her healing touch. Crofters and gamekeepers, shepherds and farmers, would occasionally show up at her door, sometimes bringing their animals to her, other times in need of care for themselves or their families. Lysandra did what she could for them, accepting payments of eggs or cheese or bread, of wool or cloth, if they chose to offer such. But she never asked for payment or turned anyone away for the lack of it.
Also over the years, as she learned to use her Sight to heal, she found that other ...gifts ...were occasionally present, as well. As with the vixen that first winter, she could often feel the emotions of her patients. With the animals, emotions were simple, primal-fear, confusion, pain, or relief. But with the nearness of humans came a jumble of thoughts and emotions that bombarded her mind, destroying her hard-won peace.
She was always glad when they left her; she was happier with the birds and beasts. They were friends Lysandra never tried to tame. She fed those who came to her hungry, healed those who were sick or injured, and let them go again in their own time.
There was one exception-a wolf she had found, injured, as a small pup. From the first moment she started to care for him, the pup had touched her heart as nothing had in many years. His trusting nature, the eager way he responded to her nearness, the unquestioning love he gave her was a balm more potent than any medicine in her cupboard.
She named the pup Cloud-Dancer, partly for the softness of his thick silver-and-white fur, whose beauty she had seen only upon occasion, and partly for his habit as a pup of dancing on his hind legs, front paws lifted as if trying to reach the clouds. Now, at two, Cloud-Dancer rarely left Lysandra's side, except once a day when he needed to hunt. He always returned to her swiftly-and never did he make a move toward any animal in her care.
She had come to rely upon his presence and his instincts, especially in those times when her Sight left her. Over the last two years this bond of trust between them had become so strong, that when her need for true vision was great Lysandra could put her hand on Cloud-Dancer and see through his eyes. Like her inner Sight, this, too, was an odd sort of vision, a world of strange perspective seen in tones of sepia, gray, and muted pastels. But, also like the Sight, her understanding of it had strengthened with use and familiarity.
But Cloud-Dancer was more than just a companion and another pair of seeing eyes. Although Lysandra cared about all the creatures of the forest, it was to Cloud-Dancer alone that she gave the only love she had to give.
But the reawakening of her heart came at a price. Life in her cottage moved in a rhythm of simple actions and simpler pleasures, an easy cadence built slowly through the years. On days like today, kneeling in her garden in the warmth of the sun, feeling Cloud-Dancer's nearness soft but ever-present in her mind, the life and dreams of her youth seemed like parts of a fairy story she had once heard before falling asleep-lovely but unreal.
Yet now that her heart had its own beat again, however soft, into moments of deepest silence a half-and-best-forgotten voice sometimes whispered. It brought back moments and memories out of her long-dead past- thoughts of home and family, abandoned yearnings for love, marriage, children.
She had a home, she told herself each time; she neither wanted nor needed another. Her children were her plants, the animals she cared for; her family was Cloud-Dancer. These were enough.
But, despite her brave resolve, the whispered memories still returned.
Lysandra stood and stretched the ache of the garden hours out of her back. The days were lengthening as summer slowly approached, and sundown was still two hours away, but it was time to go inside and close down the day.
As Lysandra headed for the door, Cloud-Dancer came to walk beside her, brushing her thigh as he always did. The walkway to her house was so familiar she needed neither his guidance nor his eyes to find her way, but she reached down and gently ran her fingers through his fur to signal the gratitude she always felt for his company.
At the door, she stopped. Over the years, Lysandra had developed one final ritual, performed each evening before going in for the night. She turned back toward the forest and closed her eyes. She waited until her mind and body stilled, until all she could hear was her breath and the sound of her own heartbeat. When at last that moment of perfect stillness enveloped her, Lysandra opened her mind and embraced it with all the eagerness of a lover.
The quickly cooling freshness of the spring air blew across her cheeks, and Lysandra sent the full awareness these years had developed in her outward to soar upon it. Her questing thought touched the wings of the nearby birds in flight, rustled new sprung leaves, brushed across the creatures of the forest. Her mind reached out, ever farther... listening for the cry of anyone, animal or human, who might need her help.
All remained silent... and in that silence was her rest, her peace, her home. All was well. With a soft smile, she once more touched Cloud-Dancer, then put her hand to the door latch and went inside.
Two hours later, she sat in her chair before the fire. Contentment had settled over her like a soft, warm blanket. Outside, the occasional cry of a night bird heralded the deepening darkness. Lysandra sighed and, closing her eyes, rested her head against the warm fleece that covered her chair. Soon she would go to bed.
Oh, but that means I have to move, she thought sleepily. It would be so easy just to drift off here, by the fire... it's so warm here....
Suddenly, her tranquility shattered and flew into a thousand fragments.
All day long she had felt the presence of... something ...flitting around the edges of recognition, elusive yet insistent. Now it cut through Lysandra's sleepy peace like a sword slicing a remnant of tattered lace. Heart pounding, she sprang to her feet.
What are you? her mind cried. What do you want? Tell me or leave me alone. But still it refused to be pinned down or give itself a name.
Cloud-Dancer whined, responding to her turmoil. She put her hands out for him and he was immediately there, warm and soft, a touchable comfort.
Lysandra rubbed him gently behind one ear. "I'm all right," she said to him. "We're both all right, aren't we, boy?"
Her voice was low and soft, and she felt his ears perk forward in response to it. As always, his eagerness touched Lysandra's heart. She knelt beside him, putting her arms around his neck and resting her cheek atop his head.
"Yes, we are," she whispered her own answer. "We're all right just the way we are."
In spite of the brave assurances she gave herself, she knew that some small corner of her heart now held a new and unexplained foreboding. She feared that somehow the world outside her forest, the world she did not wish to enter again, was about to find her.
It was deep in the night when the dream came, full of vivid color that even in dreams now took Lysandra by surprise.
She saw only a pair of eyes, the deep brown of newly tilled earth, sparked with flecks of green and gold, and soft as the eyes of a fawn. They were looking for something ...for her? She felt that she was being sought, being called, but not in a voice heard with her ears. This call was one she felt in her bones.
Lysandra shook herself awake, away from the disturbing feelings of need that filled the dream. Was it her need... or someone else's? She did not know-nor want to.
She felt Cloud-Dancer's reassuring weight upon the foot of her bed. Through the bond they shared, Lysandra knew he was awake and watching her, made wary by her second burst of agitation. Like her, he, too, was used to the undisturbed routine of their lives.
"It was just a dream," she said to him-to herself.
"Dreams mean nothing."
But as she lay back down she wondered how much truth those words held.
It was easy to dismiss the dream the first time it happened, but not the tenth or the fifteenth. Night after night those eyes invaded Lysandra's sleep-always looking, always searching.
Night after night she felt as if her name were being called, though in truth she heard no word. It became impossible to shake off the feeling. It lingered as she rose each morning and set about her tasks in house or garden. She felt as if those eyes watched her from every bush and shadow, as if every breath of wind among the trees whispered her name.
Then it began to interfere with her work as healer. A shepherd brought a sick ewe to her. Lysandra could tell he was young by the sound of his voice, though, oddly, she could feel none of the tumbling mix of thought and emotions that were always part of human presence. But Lysandra, concentrating upon the ewe, spared this absence barely a thought-for she suddenly faced a new and far more frightening lack.
For the first time since the beginning of her Sight, Lysandra received no impression when she touched the animal.
Her Sight was never a constant thing, present or absent for reasons she understood no better now than she had at its inception. But it was always there for the animals. Always. And so she waited, ignoring the shepherd as she bent all of her will upon the ewe.
No Sight came to show her what was wrong. At this continued darkness, the foreboding that had become her ever-present companion sent a sudden burst of panic through her. Her fingers trembled slightly as she took the ewe's head gently between her palms and held it, once more ordering her mind to stillness.
She slowly exhaled, determined to help the ewe. Whatever her own sudden affliction, she would not let this an-imal continue to suffer. She was a healer, she told herself; she could rely on her other senses and on her past experience.
As other healers do, she reminded herself firmly. Still, the panic turned to bile in her throat as she began to run her hands across the body of the ewe, trying to be sensitive to any signal of movement or breathing. She was so intent upon her patient that she had almost forgotten the young shepherd's existence until she realized he was asking her a question.
"So, who do you think'll get the throne this time?" he asked.
Lysandra looked up, slightly confused. "Get the throne? We've King Anri, don't we?"
"Gor ...you do live cut off 'ere. Anri's been dead these seven months, since Michaelmas. I say good riddance- and I'm not the only one neither. Most of Aghamore's glad to see the last of 'im. There's some what say 'e was poisoned, to get 'im off the throne, you see."
"Why would Aghamore be glad to have no King?" Lysandra asked, still bewildered. She knew-too well- what it meant for a kingdom to have no ruler. It meant lawlessness and the suffering of innocents while those who were supposed to look after the common good turned their attentions to gaining power any way they could- and the common good be damned.
"Right ruinous, Anri was," the shepherd was saying.
"I mean, 's'truth a King's got to have 'is pleasures-every-one knows that. But weren't the old taxes enough to pay for 'em? They was for ol' Osaze, and 'e weren't no hermit from what I 'ear. But Anri-'e raised taxes again and again 'til I knows some folks what couldn't pay and they lost everything to the tax collectors, dirty vultures that they are. Even so, I 'ear the treasury's all but empty. Anri spent it on his 'favorites,' didn't he? And not women what could become 'is wife, neither, if you take my meaning. I'll wager the Church'll be more particular who they support this time, seein's how they's the ones what put Anri on the throne."
"You're rather young to have such strong opinions, aren't you?" Lysandra asked, a bit amused by his vehe-mence. "You can't have been more than-what, four or five?-when King Osaze died."
"Six I was," the shepherd replied, just a little indig-nant. "But I got ears, 'aven't I? And eyes? I 'ear people talk. I see what's what around me. You'd 'ave to be a blind fool-"
The shepherd stopped, embarrassed. "I ...um ...I'm sorry. I didn't mean-" he quickly stammered an apology.
"It's all right," Lysandra gently assured him. "My blindness is a fact I long ago accepted. And it's true ...I am isolated here. I have little interest in who is on the throne or what is happening away from this forest."
That said, Lysandra turned her full attention back to the ewe. Still no Sight had come, nor had her tactile examination revealed anything to cause the ewe's symptoms. Yet the animal's distress was quite real. Confused, frustrated, and more than a little frightened that her Sight should so completely abandon her, Lysandra made a bold decision. There was one final thing she could try; it was difficult and something she attempted only in rare cases, but the truth was she did not know what else to do.
Lysandra closed her eyes and drew one more deep breath. Then, as she slowly exhaled, she forced every fear and feeling of failure aside, opening herself to the ewe and its pain, willing herself to be one with the animal and to take its distress into herself.
But, though Lysandra was willing, though the gates of her mind were open and her instinct for self-protection suppressed by her commitment to healing, she could not create the necessary bridge. Her inability to help the ewe made her want to weep.
She knew she needed to be alone. The sudden possibility that she might now face a future in true and complete blindness was too frightening to imagine and too real to be ignored. She needed solitude to think.
And, perhaps, to find a new path through the threatening darkness.
With a deep sigh, she sat back and lifted her hands from the ewe's body. "I can find nothing physically wrong," she told the shepherd. "I would guess that something is stalking your herd and has frightened her badly. Sheep will manifest their fright in illness sometimes. They can even be frightened to death. I suggest you keep her close to you for these next few days. Touch her, carry her, let her feel the constant safety of your nearness-and keep more vigilant watch than usual. It's the time of year when many predators are giving birth and have new, hungry mouths to feed. If she's not better in a few days, bring her back and I'll look at her again."
"Right," the shepherd said, gathering the ewe up into his arms. "I've brought you a pot of cheese and some bread. Is that enough?"
"More than enough," Lysandra said. "I don't deserve any of it. I didn't do anything."
"You deserve your pay, same as the rest of us," he replied firmly. "But you'd best pray a new King gets settled quick-like, and that 'e's better than the last, before the tax collectors find you, too. Though 'ow they'd tax bread and cheese, I don't know. But sure as sunrise, they'd find a way."
When the shepherd left, taking with him all the energetic convictions of his youth, stillness settled again in Lysandra's garden. But her mind was filled with the shepherd's news and with the emotions they set to whirl within her.
The King was dead, the throne empty again ...well, what had that to do with her? With her Sight gone-for how long or if permanently, she did not know-she now had problems of her own.
Yet, even as that thought came, she knew it was why the dream was calling her.
Copyright (c) 2001 by Rebecca Neason
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Although I enjoyed the delightful way Ms. Neason writes, I found the book to lack a true ending. I felt it had to have a sequel what with all the questions left unanswered. But it doesn't. I loved the characters, but without knowing what happened to them, I do not know what to think. It was good throughout, minus the ending.
The Thirtenth Scroll is a book that can be enjoyed by all. Rebecca Neason creates a world of heroic fantasy that join together to fight the evil to save the world. Her charactor description makes you feel as if you're walking through the fields and streets right along with Lysandra and Renan,or casting mind control spells with Aurya. It is truly a book that all can read more than once.
When King Ozaza died with no heir, the Kingdom of Aghamore fell into turmoil and chaos. The barons conduct a bloody feud and cutthroats roam the countryside. Men hide to avoid conscription by some petty lord. Lysandra is on her way to say farewell to her betrothed when thugs attack their town, killing him and her parents while leaving her unconscious. When she awakens she is blind and has been raped. Unable to cope, she journeys from her home until settling in a small cottage with a wolf as her companion. Although she lost her vision, she gained the ability of ¿sight¿ that enables her to see through the wolf¿s eyes. She will soon play a key role in seating the next ruler of the country if she can elude an evil sorceress and her malevolent consort who plan to become the next monarchs. The ending is a cliffhanger because Lysandra has evil to battle and her own past to contend with before the true king sits on the throne of Aghamore. Lysandra is a complex person who readers will enjoy getting to know through her relationship with the wolf and her adventures. Rebecca Neason is a gifted storyteller whose tale compares favorably with the Shannara saga. Harriet Klausner