9.12 Juliet Marillier Flame of Sevenwaters

ISBN 13: 9780451414878

Flame of Sevenwaters

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9780451414878: Flame of Sevenwaters

Maeve, daughter of Lord Sean of Sevenwaters, was badly burned as a child and carries the legacy of that fire in her crippled hands. After ten years she’s returning home, a courageous, forthright woman. But while her body’s scars have healed, her spirit remains fragile, fearing the shadows of her past.
 
Sevenwaters is in turmoil. The fey prince Mac Dara is desperate to see his only son, married to Maeve’s sister, return to the Otherworld. To force Lord Sean’s hand, Mac Dara has caused a party of innocent travelers on the Sevenwaters border to vanish—only to allow their murdered bodies to be found one by one.
 
When Maeve finds a body in a remote part of the woods, she and her brother, Finbar, embark on a journey that could bring about the end of Mac Dara’s reign—or lead to a hideous death. If she is successful, Maeve may open the door to a future she has not dared to believe possible....

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About the Author:

Juliet Marillier was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, a town with strong Scottish roots. She graduated from the University of Otago with degrees in languages and music, and has had a varied career that includes teaching and performing music as well as working in government agencies. Juliet now lives in a hundred-year-old cottage near the river in Perth, Western Australia, where she writes full-time. She is a member of the druid order OBOD. Juliet shares her home with two dogs and a cat. Juliet's historical fantasy novels are published internationally and have won a number of awards.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

My aunt taught me to hold my head high, even when people stared. My uncle taught me to defend myself. Between them they made sure I learned courage. But I could not be brave about going home.

I was ten when the accident happened: young to be sent away from home and family. My parents must have believed Aunt Liadan could achieve the impossible. True, if any healer could have cured me, she was probably the one to do it. But my hands were beyond fixing. Although she never said so, I think my aunt expected to keep me at Harrowfield only until I had learned to live with my injuries. But days grew into seasons, and seasons into years, and whenever the suggestion was made that perhaps I might return to Erin, I found a reason for saying no.

At Harrowfield the household knew me as I was, not as I had been before. They had learned quickly that I hated fuss. People let me do what I could for myself. Nobody rushed to snatch things away when I was clumsy. Nobody treated me as if I had lost my wits along with the use of my fingers. They did not stare when I chose to walk about with the scar on my head uncovered. All the same, I did not need to travel far from the safe haven of my uncle’s estate to know that in the eyes of the outside world I was a freak.

Back home at Sevenwaters, the world changed without me. A little brother was born. My sisters married, had children, moved away. Family joys and tragedies unfolded. I would hear about them many moons later, in the occasional letters that reached us in Britain. I could not write back. I sent words of love, penned for me by the Harrowfield scribe.

If I could have slipped back into my childhood home without a ripple, I would have done it long ago. When I’d been under her care two years, Aunt Liadan had spoken to me frankly about my situation. My hands had healed as well as they ever would—there could be no further improvement. I’d always need someone to help me. I’d never hold a knife or spoon with my fingers. I’d never use a spinning wheel or a needle. I’d never be able to comb my own hair or fasten the back of my gown. Swaddling a baby, holding a child’s hand, those simple things would be forever beyond me. My aunt set it out with kindness and honesty. She did not insult me by couching the hard truth in gentle half–lies. In her embrace, I allowed myself to weep. When I was done, I dried my tears and vowed not to weep again. I was twelve years old.

The next morning I made two lists in my mind. Firstly, the things I might as well forget about. Marriage. Children. Plying a craft of some kind. Managing a household, whether that of a chieftain like my father or a more modest establishment. The list was long.

Next, the things that were possible in my future. I struggled with this, wishing I were a different kind of girl. It was a shame my sister Sibeal was the one with a spiritual vocation, for if ever there was a future suited to a person in my circumstances, it surely lay among the sisters of a Christian nunnery such as St Margaret’s, situated less than a morning’s walk from Harrowfield. I considered this for some time, liking the notion of a sanctuary where folk could not turn that special look on me, the look that mingled pity, horror and fascination. I saw that look on the faces of strangers passing on the road. I saw it in the eyes of visitors to my uncle’s hall, though they concealed it quickly when they learned who I was. And I did like quiet. But try as I might, I could not find much of a contemplative streak in myself, nor a wish to spend my days in prayer to a deity I was not quite sure I believed in. Besides, nuns worked hard. The sisters at St Margaret’s were up at dawn gardening or cooking or performing the hundred and one tasks that kept their establishment going. What use would I be with that?

I could read. We sisters had been fortunate to have parents who saw the value of such a skill for girls, and when I came to Harrowfield, Uncle Bran’s scribe continued my lessons. But I could not write—I would never perform a scribe’s duties myself. I could sing, but did not like to do so in public. I knew plenty about herbs and healing, since I spent a great deal of my time watching Aunt Liadan at work in her garden and stillroom, or observing as she patched up various injuries. But my knowledge was all theory, no practice. Where Liadan’s fingers were deft and strong, apt for chopping and grinding, for gentle laying on of poultices or decisive cutting away of diseased flesh, mine were the claws of a dead thing, stiff and immobile.

My lists had not been encouraging. It was hard to think of any life I might have in which I would not be a burden to someone. Father was chieftain of Sevenwaters, a leader with a broad domain to oversee and a number of powerful and volatile neighbours to deal with. Our family lands were located in a particularly strategic spot, right between the holdings of rival branches of the Uí Néill clan. My uncle and foster–father, Bran, was always prepared to discuss such matters with me. Since I could not exercise my hands in spinning, weaving and sewing, or in baking and brewing, I made sure I exercised my mind instead.

I had seen at the age of twelve that my presence back home would be of little value to my parents. Nothing had occurred since then to change my opinion. Mother would be managing the household perfectly, as she always had. A daughter who could contribute only advice, not practical help, would hardly be an asset. I could not be offered as wife to a chieftain Father wanted as an ally. Who would want me? I would not even be able to eat at the family table when visitors were present. I would be a hindrance, an embarrassment.

I had known this ever since I learned my hands would get no better. But, where my return home was concerned, it was more convenient excuse than valid reason. The fact was, I was afraid to go back. Deep down inside Courageous Maeve, the young woman convinced by her loving aunt and uncle that she was as strong as any warrior, there cowered another Maeve, a child of long ago. Ten years old, stumbling into the smoky darkness of the fire that had broken out in an annexe at Sevenwaters. Bounder was inside; I could hear him whining, frightened, wanting me. Half–blinded by the smoke, I tripped, reached out to steady myself, and laid my hands on an iron door bolt, hot from the fire. Everything went dark for a while. They told me, later, that my father had saved my life, risking the flames to find me and carry me out to the open air. When I came to, the flesh of my palms was burned to angry blisters. My face was marred. And my beloved dog was dead. Back in Erin, the ghosts of that night were waiting for me.

When I made my lists, I was a child. I hardly thought of the one skill I had that might shape the future for me. It came as naturally as breathing, and it was perhaps for that reason that I considered it nothing special. Years later, when the day finally came for me to face my fears, it was this skill that drew me home to Sevenwaters.

‘Maeve, may I speak with you?’

Uncle Bran had come to stand by me at the dry–stone wall surrounding the horse yard. In the yard, Emrys was training Swift to a halter. Stable master Garalt was on the opposite side, eyes watchful. Emrys ran; the yearling moved with him, a vision of power and grace, like clouds before an easterly breeze or summer waves on the shore. His pale coat shimmered in the light; his feet were a dancer’s. That we’d bred such a remarkable creature here at Harrowfield was a source of immense pride for Garalt and for every groom trusted to work with Swift. And for me. I was the one who had gentled Swift’s dam through a difficult foaling, and it was I who had been called in, time after time, to calm and settle this magnificent young creature as he grew toward maturity. For Swift had his mother’s temperament, all fire and pride, and that made him difficult to train. Sometimes it seemed to us that he would sooner die than submit to authority, however kindly that authority was imposed. Hence my presence today while Garalt and Emrys worked to convince Swift the halter was not an enemy to be fought off with all his considerable strength.

‘Of course,’ I said with a smile, wondering what made Bran sound so serious. My uncle and I were friends; we did not stand on ceremony.

He was not quick to enlighten me, but stood by me watching as Swift tested Emrys’s control, now seeming almost compliant, now fiercely resistant. There was a long way to go with him. Not that he’d ever be a riding horse; he’d be too valuable as a breeding stallion. But he must be trained to tolerate human touch, to submit to being haltered and led, to being rubbed down and checked for injuries, to having draughts administered, and all the other handling needed to keep him in robust health. Garalt and I had already discussed which mare Swift would be put to first, when he was mature enough, and what the chances were that he’d sire a foal that was his own equal.

‘I’m sending him away,’ Bran said. ‘First as far as Sevenwaters, then on to Tirconnell, at your father’s request. A gift for one of the Uí Néill chieftains. It will be partial restitution for an event that occurred on Sean’s territory last spring, something they’re calling the Disappearance. That,’ he indicated the horse with a movement of his head, ‘is the kind of gift that would placate the most difficult of men.’

I felt as if I had been dropped from a great height. For a while I had nothing to say. Bran’s dogs had come with him and were jostling around my skirts, nosing into my hands, seeking attention I did not have in me to give right now. I cleared my throat, wondering if what I felt was the onset of tears. ‘Have you told Garalt? ’ I managed.

‘Not yet. I will when he and Emrys are done here. This decision will upset a lot of folk, Maeve. I didn’t make it in haste. I received the message from your father some time ago. While I was considering it, further information came in through my own sources. This is necessary.’

‘When?’ I asked. Garalt’s seamed features were all concentration as he watched the stallion. I wasn’t sure I could bear to witness the moment when he was told his pride and joy was being packed off across the sea, so far we would likely never hear whether Swift had sired any foals at all, let alone a charmer with quicksilver in its steps.

‘Before the autumn gales set in.’ Bran turned his gaze from Swift to me. I thought he was about to express regret or sympathy, for both were in his steady grey eyes, but what he said was, ‘There’s something further I want to put to you.’

‘Oh?’ I could not imagine what was coming, unless he was about to ask me to break the bad news to Garalt for him.

‘The most even–tempered of horses hates the motion of a boat. I don’t need an expert to tell me what a risk it is to transport this particular creature over to Erin. Swift is going to need more than the attentions of a groom or two, even if they’re as capable as Emrys. Liadan tells me Garalt’s injured foot won’t heal in time for him to travel with the horse. Would you be prepared to go?’

My jaw dropped.

‘Only as far as Sevenwaters, of course. You’d take your maidservant with you. Your father can arrange for Swift to be safely conveyed on to Tirconnell.’

When I did not answer—I was still trying to put the pieces together in my mind—my uncle added, ‘It’s a great deal to ask, I know that. You have your reasons for not wanting to go back and I respect them. But this isn’t a request that you return to live with your parents. I’m asking you to do a highly skilled job; a job nobody else can do. It’s not so much for my sake as for your father’s. He’s in a difficult position, and this will help him. It’s for the horse’s sake, too. I know you’re attached to the creature. With you there, we can be reasonably sure Swift will survive the trip without doing himself serious damage.’

Emrys had brought the yearling to a halt. Garalt had limped over to speak to him and was standing beside Swift, one hand resting on the animal’s neck. Swift stood still for now, but he was trembling. They’d lead him into the stables for a rub–down, and then, I supposed, Bran would break the news. What if I told my uncle the truth: that the thought of going home awoke the frightened child inside me? What if I refused to do it? Then Garalt would not even have the reassurance that Swift would travel safely. He would be as quick as I was to imagine the possibilities if a highly strung creature, taken away from everything familiar, were to be loaded into a boat and sent off across an expanse of unpredictable ocean.

‘I have some questions,’ I told Bran. What sort of insult or injury required restitution beyond the means of a prominent Irish chieftain? What in the name of the gods was the Disappearance? ‘But you should tell Garalt now. I can’t pretend to him that nothing’s happened. Can we speak about this later?’

‘Of course. So you will consider it?’

Through the gathering clouds of misgiving in my mind, I recognised his courtesy in making this a request, not an order. Bran and Liadan were my foster parents; they had authority over me. Bran could simply have told me I was going home. Instead he had shown respect, and I honoured him for it even as I shrank from the task itself.

‘I’ll consider it, Uncle. You should tell Garalt that you’ve asked me to go with Swift; that will soften the blow.’ I drew a deep breath. ‘I’ll come with you when you tell him,’ I made myself say.

My foster father offered me his heavily tattooed arm and I hooked mine through it. ‘Thank you, Maeve,’ Bran said. ‘You have a gift for imparting fortitude, and not only to creatures. Come then, let’s do this.’


After supper, I sat with my uncle and aunt in a little private chamber, and Bran gave me Father’s letter to read. Much of it concerned matters my uncle had already discussed with me, and all of it was couched in careful language, for such missives, even when borne by the most trusted of messengers, could still fall into the wrong hands. In a time of unrest this might lead to the destruction of alliances and the breaking of treaties. My father wrote in part:

Of recent times there has been a marked increase in the activity of which we advised you some time ago: unexplained acts of violence against both people and property, instances of malevolent meddling, the circulation of strange rumours and tales. We have been plagued by events of this kind since before the time of Finbar’s misadventure; it is easy enough to guess their source. You understand, as I do, that there is a possible solution to this difficulty, involving the return of a certain family member. This would involve immense risk. It seems a monstrous thing to ask of anyone. I seek your honest advice on the matter.

There have been accusations from all sides regarding the events to which I refer, and many of those are directed at me and mine. In the past it has generally been possible to make peace with the offended folk, in some cases through restitution in goods or silver.

However, an event has occurred that dwarfs the previous occurrences. It is a deeply troubling development. The offended party is Cruinn of Tirconnell. If he were able to prove the fault was mine—the circumstances suggests that it was—this could become a matter for the High King. I am, therefore, now reassessing my approach in consultation with my druid uncles.

You may already have heard what occurred through other sources, but in summary it was this: a troop of Cruinn’s warriors, led by his two sons, was riding southward on the track that skirts the ...

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Descrizione libro Roc, United States, 2013. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Maeve, daughter of Lord Sean of Sevenwaters, was badly burned as a child and carries the legacy of that fire in her crippled hands. After ten years she s returning home, a courageous, forthright woman. But while her body s scars have healed, her spirit remains fragile, fearing the shadows of her past. Sevenwaters is in turmoil. The fey prince Mac Dara is desperate to see his only son, married to Maeve s sister, return to the Otherworld. To force Lord Sean s hand, Mac Dara has caused a party of innocent travelers on the Sevenwaters border to vanish--only to allow their murdered bodies to be found one by one. When Maeve finds a body in a remote part of the woods, she and her brother, Finbar, embark on a journey that could bring about the end of Mac Dara s reign--or lead to a hideous death. If she is successful, Maeve may open the door to a future she has not dared to believe possible. Codice libro della libreria ABZ9780451414878

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Descrizione libro Roc, United States, 2013. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Maeve, daughter of Lord Sean of Sevenwaters, was badly burned as a child and carries the legacy of that fire in her crippled hands. After ten years she s returning home, a courageous, forthright woman. But while her body s scars have healed, her spirit remains fragile, fearing the shadows of her past. Sevenwaters is in turmoil. The fey prince Mac Dara is desperate to see his only son, married to Maeve s sister, return to the Otherworld. To force Lord Sean s hand, Mac Dara has caused a party of innocent travelers on the Sevenwaters border to vanish--only to allow their murdered bodies to be found one by one. When Maeve finds a body in a remote part of the woods, she and her brother, Finbar, embark on a journey that could bring about the end of Mac Dara s reign--or lead to a hideous death. If she is successful, Maeve may open the door to a future she has not dared to believe possible. Codice libro della libreria ABZ9780451414878

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