Witch Hunter

Free Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Book: Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Virginia Boecker
long I’ve been here, whatever Nicholas Perevil
    wants from me, I haven’t been ill-treated.
    Yet.
    I don’t know what to do. I can’t run, can’t hide. My
    first instinct is to fight, but I can’t do that, either. Not
    without giving myself away. I don’t know what they know
    about me; I don’t even know what they want with me. But if
    I want to get out of here, I’d better find out both.
    There’s a soft rapping on the door, and before I
    can respond, Nicholas walks into the room, George close
    behind.
    He’s rumpled from sleep and looks even older than
    I remember. He’s got a dark blue dressing gown on, pulled
    tightly at the waist. He looks me over, then gives me a quick
    nod. He’s so thin I can see the cords in his neck, the sharp
    angles of his cheekbones.
    ‘How are you feeling?’
    ‘Fine,’ I say. It’s true. Maybe a little weak, and my chest
    hurts when I breathe. I’m pretty thirsty. Okay, I could eat.
    But other than that, I really am fine.
    Nicholas smiles, as if he’s reading my thoughts.
    ‘We have John to thank for that,’ he says. ‘He has a
    gift.’ With a little groan, he sits in the chair where George
    had been sleeping. George hovers behind him, looking
    84
    protective. ‘And so, Elizabeth, you want to know why
    you’re here.’
    It’s a statement, not a question. I nod.
    Nicholas starts to speak when there’s a soft tapping on
    the door. George goes to open it. In walks a young man
    carrying two pewter goblets. They’re steaming slightly,
    sending tiny puffs of white smoke into the air. He hands
    one to Nicholas, who grasps it gratefully. Then he walks
    over to me with the other.
    ‘Elizabeth, this is John Raleigh, our healer,’ Nicholas
    says.
    Healer? I frown. I can’t help it. For the most part, healer
    is just another word for wizard. He holds out the goblet to
    me. I don’t take it.
    ‘It’s angelica and burdock,’ he tells me.
    I shrug. If it’s not an herb that can poison or kill, I don’t
    know it.
    ‘It’s just a blood purifier. Plus something to help your
    stomach. That’s all.’ A pause. ‘Well, I added in a little
    cucumber for your fever, some burnet and elm for your
    cough. A bit of oat for your rash. Mugwort, too, because
    you have fleas. And a couple of drops of poppy, just to help
    you relax. But that really is it. I swear.’
    He smiles then. It’s a nice smile, warm and friendly. Not
    the smile of someone who wants to fill me with poison and
    watch me drop to the carpet and foam at the mouth and
    twitch out a slow, agonising death in front of him. Still,
    85
    when he offers the goblet again, I don’t take it.
    Maybe he knows what I’m thinking, because he says,
    ‘If I wanted to harm you, I wouldn’t have given you anything
    at all. You’ve been drinking it since you got here.’
    I look at George. I don’t know why, but I feel that if I
    were about to drink a fat batch of poison, he would tell me.
    Or at least make a joke about it beforehand.
    He nods.
    I snatch the goblet from the healer’s hand and drink the
    whole thing in one swallow. It tastes like celery.
    John laughs a little, as if I’ve done something funny. He
    doesn’t look like a typical healer, at least the ones I’ve seen.
    Most of them are old, grey, and toothless. Not to mention
    female. But he’s young, my age. Maybe a bit older. Longish
    dark curly hair, hazel eyes. Tall. A little scruffy, as if he
    needs a shave. But maybe that’s because it’s the middle of
    the night. When I hand him back the goblet, I notice his
    shirt is buttoned up wrong.
    He takes it and goes to check on Nicholas, who doesn’t
    need an explanation of what’s in his cup. But I wonder what
    is. He places his hand on Nicholas’s forehead, then around
    his wrist. He frowns.
    ‘Not too long, all right?’ John looks at me. ‘That goes
    for you, too.’
    I raise my eyebrows.
    Nicholas smiles at me. ‘He’s very strict.’ He nods at John.
    ‘Like a priest on Sunday,’ chimes in

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