Elspeth is a humble girl who wants nothing more than to marry her true love…
But he’s already married.
And she’s pregnant.
Outcast and alone, Elspeth has an unusual visitor: a ghost with fairy magic to heal the sick—
but this forbidden power demands a sacrifice greater than she’d ever imagined.
A chance meeting with a fairy leaves Elspeth with a spell for the Sight, as well as forbidden knowledge of her cousin’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Her attempts to help her cousin end her pregnancy result instead in the girl’s death.
Elspeth, scarred by these events, swears she will never make the same mistake… But when she eventually falls in love with a young man in a neighboring town, she finds herself in a very familiar situation: alone, and expecting a child.
When she confronts her lover about the pregnancy, she discovers that he has recently married. He threatens her with violence should she ever return and he refuses to have anything to do with Elspeth or the baby.
In an attempt to escape her cousin’s fate, she flees to her sympathetic sister in the far north of Scotland. There Elspeth gives birth to her daughter, and is again approached by a man of the fey—this time a ghost who travels with the fairies—offering her another spell that promises her the chance at a life of freedom for herself and her child.
There’s just one small price: her voice.
She accepts, becoming mute but gaining knowledge of herb-lore, and uses this new power to become a traveling apothecary and midwife, communicating through pantomime until her daughter is old enough to speak for her.
It is only when she fails to cure a town of the bubonic plague that whispers and accusations begin against Elspeth. Before she can flee, she is arrested, tortured and put on trial for witchcraft. Her only solace is that her daughter has escaped, and Elspeth awaits her death sentence alone.
Elspeth’s tragic story ends when she is strangled and burned at the stake in 1622.