Sensible, sixteen-year-old Romay Darkadder couldn’t be happier in the sophisticated city of Asturex. At the prestigious academy where she’s studying towards a respectable medical career, she’s appreciated for her intellect. And she’s nowhere near her superstitious, melodramatic family back in rural Abrecanscir. No one mentions the name Darkadder or her family’s embarrassing belief in magic—no one, that is, except Romay’s roommate, Byeth. Having read far too many of those silly fantasy novels, Byeth can’t stop talking about the rumored magic of the Darkadders.
When a letter arrives, begging Romay to come home and help lift a curse that’s killing the crops, she reluctantly returns. An eager, romantic-adventure-seeking Byeth accompanies her. Despite her family’s blind faith in magic, Romay is determined to save the crops with science. She’s convinced she’s nothing like these out-of-touch, uneducated people. There’s no way she could possibly be wrong.
Romay would hate to be wrong.
A letter came from Dragonkeep today. I was in the school infirmary, preparing a poultice of yfelwyrt leaves, which requires a great deal of concentration, when my roommate Byeth came running in.
“Romay! Romay!” she said very loudly from a few feet away.
I told her I was busy, but she shoved an envelope with an all-too-familiar seal under my nose and my concentration was broken.
“It’s from Dragonkeep…” she said in that reverential tone she uses when speaking of my home for reasons I can’t understand.
I sighed as I opened the letter, assuming Mother would have more bad news about the crops. It was even worse than I feared. Not only does it seem the crops will fail again this year, the family has gotten it into their heads that the lands are cursed. According to Mother, “The only way to lift this foul curse is for the whole family to celebrate the ancient ritual of Eorthwela in the ways of the Darkadders of old.” She had underlined “whole family” several times.
Byeth bounced on her toes while I read the letter. She’s too well-bred to pry off the seal and read it before me, but she pounced on it as soon as I handed it over. She perched on a stool, her dark-lashed brown eyes devouring every word, while I went back to my yfelwyrt poultice.
Or tried to. Normally, I find it easy to focus on my tasks in the infirmary.