Esmeralda is shunned for being an orphan and helping a poor widow collect herbs to keep her village healthy.
Tiobald is a warrior in a group of men who desperately need women to keep their family lines going.
He has to select one woman to take with him. He knows what her fate will be, and refuses to love her. But what if Esmeralda is not just what he needs but the one who will remove the curse plaguing his men?
The king went into hiding years ago. The kingdom is weak and at the mercy of raiders. Faith is used as a weapon against the weak and outcast. What could one young woman do that would make any difference?
Esmeralda is alone in the world, and clings to the one person her late mother called a friend. MeeMa is the town healer, though they all call her a witch. Esmeralda goes about barefoot and in rags as her village labels her a witch too, while still seeking the two women’s healing potions in secret. But Esmeralda goes too far to help a sick child. The village tanner wants to killer her, but the horn sounds, calling all the unwed woman out to meet the approaching barbarians. Her only hope is to be chosen in The Culling. But could that be an end worse than death?
Tiobald is last to make the selection in the Great Choosing. His put it off as long as he can, for he knows any woman he brings back to his home is doomed to die a horrible death. As he walks the line of simpering quaking girls and women, one looks boldly at him. Her jewel-toned green eyes hold his gaze unwavering—daring him to choose her. When she accepts Tiobald’s request to leave with him there is no tremor in her simple yes. With that one word Esmeralda has sealed her fate, set the destiny of his village, and changed the course of the entire kingdom.