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DEDICATION





To white knights. Sometimes your armor is a little rusty, but you still come to the rescue. Thanks.

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CHAPTER 1


In another world, another time....


Ceylon stared at the deep red paste in her mortar. Twenty-three years of being ugly was about to change. Twenty-three years of being the ‘horror of Marksheath’ was nearly over.

Gears whirred in her father’s old grandfather clock, marking the minutes. The scattered beakers, glass tubes and copper distillers littering her workbench testified to her many experiments. A huge leather tome sat open on a bookstand near her, a slimmer journal on top. The journal was weighted with a large brass magnifying glass. Shelves of books lined the walls, still smelling of her father’s pipe smoke, though he’d been dead for some time. She was alone.

Eyes on the hand mirror, Ceylon briskly rubbed the bloodroot paste over the red stain on her left cheek. She’d been born with it, had endured the pity and revulsion of strangers but by all that was holy she would not endure it another day.

Herb lore had fascinated Ceylon since she was a little girl, and she’d spent a great deal of time accumulating knowledge and experimenting on herself. The results of her studies filled several journals that she was working to combine into a book. Many tomes, both ancient copies and modern translations by other authors, filled the shelves of her workplace. Jars of herbs and pots of ointments, pills and tinctures took up the remaining space.

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