*Another short chapter, and I apologize. I’ll try to get a double one up next week. We’re still recovering from “Home hell week.”*
*This is the Fantasy novel I’m posting here for free, one chapter every Friday. If your conscience troubles you getting something for free, do hit the donate button on the right side. Anyone donating more than $6 will get a non-drm electronic copy of Witchfinder in its final version, when it’s published.
There is a compilation of previous chapters here all in one big lump, which makes it easier to read and I will compile each new chapter there, a week after I post. When the novel is completed and about to be edited the compilation page will probably be deleted.
Oh, this is in pre-arc format, meaning you’ll find the occasional spelling mistake and sentence that makes no sense. It’s not exactly first draft, but it’s not at the level I’d send to a publisher, yet. *
Little Necromancer Lost
“My rooms?” Jonathan said. Then nodded suddenly. “Aye. My rooms. We can go there. I have some fine smuggled brandy which I–”
“Have had quite enough of?” Seraphim essayed.
Jonathan grinned. “Nonsense. I can tell you’re not a Blythe. If you were linked to those mad people by family ties as I am, you’d know as I do that there is no such thing as drinking enough.” He blinked in Seraphim’s direction. “Have you considered, dear chap, that everything that has happened to you, even the royal seizing of your estates and the attainder of your title do not compare in misfortune to being related to m’sister?”
Seraphim felt as thought the world had whirled under his feet. “The attainder of what?”
Jonathan looked almost comically dismayed, a school boy caught in an horrendous gaffe. Which, in many ways was exactly what Jonathan was. An overgrown, bumbling, schoolboy. “Very sorry, Darkwater, that is–”
“That is, I don’t actually have any right to that title any longer?” Seraphim asked.
“I’m sure it’s all a misunderstanding. Or at least not a misunderstanding, but you know, they mean to do it, only not–”
“Indeed,” Seraphim said, and felt more than ever that they shouldn’t in fact have this conversation in an alley. But it came to him, like a flash, that they probably also shouldn’t have it in Jonathan’s rooms. They might not suspect Jonathan of betraying them to Seraphim, exactly, but when someone was that unhappy with the course of events that he gave off his despair and anger like a cloud, his family couldn’t avoid knowing it. Particularly not his very magical family.
But Seraphim’s pockets were sadly to let. Particularly since these pockets weren’t even, technically his but belonged to the pants he’d got from Nell.
The thought of Nell was not a good one. Their match had never been a likely thing, but now… “Perhaps we can find a parlor somewhere that we can let for an hour or two,” he said. “In some hostelry. A coffee room or something.”
“At this time of night?” Jonathan said. “Unlikely. Everyone will see us coming and going. I’d think you’d not want to be seen. That is, I’d not want to be seen if there were a price on my head. What I mean is–”
“You can explain your meaning better shortly,” Seraphim said.
“My rooms,” Jonathan said, “Are this way.” And, with the cocksure certainty of the very drunk, turned away from where the alley met the street and towards the other end, where it was blocked by rubbish bins.
Seraphim lurched after him, trying to stop him, but before he could get hold of Jonathan’s sleeve, Jonathan tripped and fell – head long forward.
From where Jonathan had fallen came a sound like someone wakening, and then a male voice – not Jonathan’s – asked, “Who are you?” Even as Jonathan said, in a startled tone, but in the same vaguely polite way he’d employ to someone he’d stepped on at a ball, “Pardon me, pardon me. Exceedingly clumsy of me dear fellow. That is– I do beg your pardon.”
“I don’t want you to beg my pardon,” the other man said. “I want you to get off from on top of me. Where am I? Why have you brought me here? What kind of perfidious magic did you use to pull me–”
“Marlon,” Seraphim said. “Elfborn.”
Now Marlon surged out of the alley muddied floor, shoving Jonathan to the floor, and was on his feet, suddenly, his fists balled. “Darwater. I should have known. You brought me here to get me way from him. How dare you? How dare you?”
“I beg your pardon,” Jonathan said, mildly from somewhere near the floor, “But you should just call him Ainsling. His title is under a decree of attainder. I wouldn’t wish you to commit a social solecism, old fellow. Who are you, anyway? Elfborn? Marlon– Not the necromancer?”
Marlon cast the man a look over his shoulder, while Seraphim decided to ignore Jonathan entirely and instead to respond to the necromancer with withering disdain, “I did not transport you, if that’s what you ask. Last I left you, you were talking to Gabriel in the room under the house. I went to my own room and decided it was time I stopped hiding and worked on solving our difficulties. I don’t know what happened to you nor why nor even who might have transported you here.”
Marlon stepped forward, Seraphim was not sure why and never asked, because as Marlon surged towards him, the light from the street behind Seraphim hit the man’s face, and Seraphim saw that it was covered with black residue, as though someone had coated in coal. His expression must have shown his horror, because Marlon said, “What? Am I quite disfigured?” His hands went up to his face. Meanwhile Jonathan had stood up, and blinked at Marlon, “No. It is magic explosion stuff– Ice and – magic. It will come off. But it is the result of dragon magic.”
“Dragon?” Marlon asked, and blinked.
Seraphim realized with a sinking feeling that the two of them, one drunk and the other possibly concussed – he couldn’t imagine how Marlon could have found the time to be drunk, but he had been lying unconscious in an alley – could discuss this till the end of time, possibly loudly. And if there was a price on his head or not, there surely was one on Marlon’s. He let out air with an explosive sigh. “Jonathan,” he said, keeping his voice low. “Says Sydell is half dragon. Please, say nothing, Mr. Elfborne, there is no time for this. I believe there is a conspiracy afoot that has ensnared both myself and my whole family including Gabriel.” He felt obscurely he should despise himself for using the man’s misguided affection, but a drowning man will get hold of any floating straw. “Jonathan seems to know something of it, and wants to go to his rooms, to talk, but I’m afraid his rooms might be bugged.”
Elfborn nodded. He didn’t speak or protest, which at least spoke well for his intelligence.
He was quiet a moment, then gave a disquieting little laugh. “Well,” he said. “I’ve been hiding for years. I can take you to the place where I’ve hid.”
Seraphim bit off the question of how many corpses were hidden there too. This was the most unlikely ally and the most unlikely offer of help.
“If you must know,” Marlon said, sounding stiff and forlorn. “Gabriel ended or attachment quite decisively just before… whatever this spell was, but…”
“But I would like to see him and your family restored to a safe position. He’s lost too much already, partly through my fault. And I… might even know something about this puzzle.”
Seraphim wanted to say no. He wanted to turn back such tainted help. But he met Marlon’s gaze and read in it concern and sincerity.
“Very well, then,” he said. “We’ll go to your… hiding place.”