*Sorry to be so late. Honestly, I JUST have a head cold, but it feels like my brain is stuffed with cotton wool.*
*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. *
Seraphim felt the power pull before he could think where it had come from or what it meant.
In panic, he clutched at it, holding, as a forceful pull snatched it clear away. A pull stronger than any human could employ.
In that moment, he had a picture of Gabriel, of Caroline, of Nell, hurtling through space. No. Gabriel was jumping. But he wasn’t Gabriel, he was… a creature. A giant creature, made of something not human flesh, but made of something crackling with energy and power. Yet, undeniably Gabriel, with Gabriel’s grimace as if he’d just realized whose power he pulled.
Only it wasn’t Seraphim’s own power, he realized with a start. It was. Marlon’s power. Marlon’s power which had served to disguise—
“Darkwater,” the voice was Honoria’s, raised in startled surprised.
Seraphim had been in the princess’ nursery, looking around, amid a lot of other workmen and people outfitting the nursery for the next generation of heirs to the throne. The idea that those would be Honoria’s and Sydell’s children made him want to shudder and abandon the world all together.
Something else that made him wish to abandon the world was the crisscrossing of power in the room. It would be invisible to most of the workmen and, he would guess, to all the people willingly admitted to that room, at least if Honoria had anything to say about it.
No simple household magician or maid would know any better, and those higher up who would be admitted would be either screened to make sure they knew nothing of malevolent magic, or else within the conspiracy to lie to the king about his daughter.
But to Seraphim’s eyes, to the eyes of anyone who had trained in dark magic – though not for the performing of it – the ropes of dark and filthy stuff cross the room and forming a cat’s cradle made him think that no one, not even Sydell’s spawn deserved to live in this room. Unless he was very wrong, it had taken human sacrifice and worse to create these, and Seraphim did not even wish to think about what the “worse” might be.
In his guise as a common tradesman, he’d been pretending to look at the drapes, and measure the walls, all the while trying to figure out where, in the center of this, the knot was holding the working in place.
For a working of this kind, to disguise and deceive people like the king who certainly knew better, it needed something material to hold it in the center. For this filthy a magic, probably a captive human – or supernatural – soul.
He had been working through the tangle of magical ropes, and thinking only of that, when Honoria’s voice calling his title made him turn. In it, he’d almost lost the squeak from Valerie, which was not quite his name, but might have been meant as a warning.
Seraphim’s first impulse was to hide or fight, but he could do neither, and besides both would be foolish. After all, he still had his power, and he still had his wits. At least he hoped he had his wits.
In power and wits – he’d never deceived himself otherwise – he was Honoria’s superior. What he lacked, of course, was the back up of several palace guards. But he’d been in worse situations, after all, and if worse came to worst, he could port out of here, to another world, and from that other world fight his way back here, to this moment, to confront Honoria again.
So he looked around and smiled at her, his best, dazzling smile. “Hello Honoria,” he said. “Or should I call you by the false name you’ve appropriated? Did no one ever tell you, Miss Blythe, that pretending to be the heir to the throne is treason and likely to lead to stretching that pretty white neck of yours?”
She didn’t count on his coolness, he saw, and immediately perceived he’d scored a hit when her hand went to her neck, reflexively. It took her a moment to find her voice too, and it came out squeaky and high, “How dare you? How dare you? After kidnapping me and giving me to a family not my own? After making me become engaged to you? After—”
Seraphim had taken note of the fact that the room had gone deadly silent, with every maid and servant hearing this, drinking it in. They wouldn’t remember it though. Part of the working in the room was to make sure that anyone in here would believe the story that Honoria had put about.
So he must still find the center of this – though it was akin to finding the tip to embroidery floss the cat had been at.
And at that moment, on that thought, he remembered Gabriel’s method for doing just that. When Gabriel was young and still out of place in the household, Seraphim’s mother, out of kindness, often called to him to help her disentangle the threads of embroidery floss. Gabriel’s methods were unique. He would break the thread, anywhere, he said, then start rolling it, and when the came to another point that was raveled, fix them together by magical means.
Seraphim didn’t have the need to do that here. He wouldn’t be raveling this thread again.
So he answered cooly, “I don’t recall making you anything, milady. I made you an offer and you jumped on it eagerly enough.” He grabbed the nearest thread, and, employing all his power, broke it.
Honoria’s eyes widened, seeing what he was doing, though to the rest of the room it must look like he clutched at nothing.
“What are you doing?” She asked.
There was no appropriate answer for that, so he tried none. Instead, he yanked on the filthy thread with all his might, at the same time opening a very small gate into a world of fire, where he disposed of such things. He put the thread in it and started feeding it.
“Guards, guards,” Honoria screamed.
Seraphim ignored her. He was now pulling on the thread, with both hands, feeding it as fast as he could, into the fire.
Ahead, he saw a knot in it, and bit his lip, because it meant he’d have to cut it again.
Guards approached, running. There were guns pointed at him. Honoria was saying something about being wanted. Valerie, somehow withstanding the magic, was screaming a counterpoint.
But one thing Seraphim knew was that by virtue of his birth, only the king could order him fired upon. Stopped sure, but not fired upon. The guards were approaching, cautiously. Cautiously because Seraphim must look to them like he was clutching at nothing, and a madman was always to be feared.
And then the knot was within Seraphim’s hand, only it didn’t feel like a knot, but like a tiny birdcage, of the sort that some people kept crickets in. Jumping out of the way of the nearest guard, Seraphim applied all his magic to breaking the cage, so he could keep feeding the thread into the gate.
It resisted his efforts and he thought of throwing it through the gate, cage and all, but…
A guard grabbed Seraphim’s arm. “You’ll come quietly your Gra– Mil– Mr.”
And Seraphim, in despair, before the other guard, approaching, could use a magic-restrainer on him, put all his strength into crushing the cage.
It broke like glass, the shards biting deep into his hand, blood pouring down. It didn’t matter.
The moment the cage broke, all the threads unraveled, with a hissing sound like a raging fire. Anyone with magical power in the vicinity felt it like a flail upon the magical sense. Honoria screamed. Valerie covered her eyes. The guards let go of Seraphim who stepped back, stunned, letting the remains of the cage fall from his wounded hand.
From the cage, like a fog, a figure emerged and materialized, and looked around with a puzzled expression before saying, “At last! It’s been such a long time in that filthy prison.”