Book Excerpt: The Witch’s Salvation by Francesca Pelaccia
Title: The Witch’s Salvation
Author: Francesca Pelaccia
Publisher: Francesca Pelaccia
Genre: Historical Fiction/Paranormal
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Purchase at AMAZON
A witch who demands humanity.
The immortal families who denied her of it.
Two mortals commanded to right the wrong.
That is the fate of the urban princess Anasztasia and the renegade prince Matthias, born shockingly mortal to two immortal families. If they go back in time and restore the witch’s humanity, she will grant them immortality. She will also break a 550 year-old curse that imprisons Matthias’s family in their ancestral homeland and exiles Anasztasia’s family from it.
But to make their lives their own, the heirs must return to the most dangerous day in their families’ past, Easter Sunday, 1457. This is the day Vlad III, aka Dracula, massacred nobles.
How can Anasztasia and Matthias reverse the past when their families won’t speak of their sins? How can they refuse when the witch owns their lives?
In a cave shaped by five centuries of the earth’s temper, the wind’s hand, and the sky’s will, a witch stirs from beneath the dry leaves and twigs that make up her resting place. She pushes herself through, then brushes the blanket of brittle leaves from her furrowed face and shriveled limbs. But after five centuries of sleeping and waking in a bed of earth, she does not recognize foliage from skin.
She plants her emaciated feet on rough stones and drags herself across the cave to the aged branches of her door, her steps shaky like those of an infant learning to walk. The door grinds as it opens with one silent command. The world outside her hovel is as it is inside—dark, dank, musty, the bottom layers of centuries of overgrowth and the absence of human vanity. Yet she hears everything, worms burrowing, insects feeding, foliage breathing. They have been her companions and teachers through the ages as much as they have been her nourishment.
Her bones slipping against the shell of her body, she stumbles toward the ragged stump of an ancient beech. Over five centuries ago, she snapped the sapling from its roots, nurturing its swell to remind herself of the passage of the years, the turn of the centuries, and the approach of salvation. It is as old and as dead in life as she is, but it has kept her will strong and focus sharp.
Instead of resting her frail body on it, or sipping from the water trickling over one of its gnarled roots and collecting in a hollow at its base, she climbs onto it. She crawls to the middle, appearing no bigger than a rodent on a master’s grand table. Her pupils are dull and worn away, but she finds the first ring with her fingertips and begins to count. One, two, three, four, five…It is slow and meticulous work for one taught only the basics of language and numbers by those she once served. But her voice is strong, her need to count a hunger, her focus unrelenting.
Once she had magnificent eyes. Dark, almost black, alert and alive, eager to see the world, to touch it and to know it. Her hair matched the black of her eyes. Long and thick, it shone brighter than those nobles with marigold hair. Once, she was a young woman, until the nobles of the two warring families tore her from her family, wrenched her life from her body and her soul from her flesh, turning her into what she is now. Once, she had a name, a lovely, rhythmic name. But that was robbed from her, too, and she inherited another name. Strigoaic. Witch. A witch who was once a girl. A girl who once had a life. A life now trapped in death.
The Strigoaic counts the rings without stopping, her voice moaning through the clearing and the dense trees around it. She stops when her fingers grasp a ring larger and more pronounced than the others. Her heart begins to thump as it did when she first discovered it, as it did in her human life. Slipping over the edge of the stump, her fingers never leaving that ring of hope, she begins to count again, but from one, to two, to three, all the way to eighteen.
She lowers her head, a drop of blood falling from her eyes.
Crawling back onto the stump, she lies on it, the pulse of the ancient tree pounding against her palms and heating her chilled skin.
The time has come. After centuries of waiting, the time has come to summon those two nobles who robbed her of her humanity. But it is not them she wants. She has already punished them. She imprisoned one noble and his family in the boundaries of the earth once known as their homeland of Wallachia, while the other noble and his family she exiled from it. Unwise about her sorcery, however, she imprisoned and exiled them for eternity to an immortal life.
That will right itself in time, too. Now she wants—no, needs—the last born of each family. She decreed them, and she will have them. Clawing her fingers through the flesh of the stump, she lets a shrill break from her lips that shakes birds and trees and mountains.
The time has come to get her name back.