UPDATE: Will do chapters tomorrow. Not morning post. Sorry. Got sidetracked looking for a reference book, ended up reshelving most of my mystery “area” (the hallway between the kid’s room and the attic stairs.) sorry.
*Yes, yes, I know this is just a bite, but first I had to get my file and read it and then… And then I had headache from h*ll yesterday, so not much got done. Being a writer of iniquity I’m betraying my promise to do a non WF post in morning and a WF in evening. Today you’re getting WF in the morning and in the evening. And then more tomorrow evening, after which I’ll probably be done (because really, how long can THEY drag this out?)*
*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. *
The Land’s Heart
Nell stepped forward, and the warmth enveloped her. At first it was almost too hot and too bright, and then…
And then she stopped being separate from the light and the heat and she found herself in the spinning heart of everything: she could feel everywhere and everywhen, she was everywhere and everywhen.
In London, she was streets thronged with people, fighting odd threats. In the countryside, she stood on frost-crackling fields, while ghost riders ran and ravaged the sleeping farms, the silent homesteads.
Fairyland had broken loose and spilled into Avalon.
The part of Nell that could still feel and think felt a clutch at her heart, a fear that Gabriel had lost his battle and that this had always been part of the plan between the traitor in Avalon and the dark ones of fairyland, that now the two would merge.
The part of Nell that now knew more, the part of Nell that was Avalon and whose mind went back through the ages, to King Arthur’s time, and before, knew this was nonsense. Not that it had been the plan. It might very well be the plan, but she knew better. Fairyland and the mundane world could not merge. They could only meet and annihilate each other. Easy enough for the forces of fairyland to romp and storm through the lower-magical world of mortals, for a time. But then the lack of magic in Avalon would starve them, at the same time they rampaged among the mere mortals.
And there was more. Fairyland powered the power of every other world. Without it, magic would leash out of all other worlds. Its sickly state these last few years meant that it had already leaked out of the outer, most distant worlds, such as Earth. If this went on, then it would disappear from all other worlds, and eventually life would go with it. And if this night Fairyland spilled into Avalon and Avalon into Fairyland it would all burn itself out in a moon.
But the land had its strength. What it lacked was a will and a mind. And that – Nell thought – wasn’t right. She felt the connection that should link the land to the king. She was not – yet – the Queen of Avalon. The land should be linked to the man she must learn to think of as her father.
Nell followed the link in her mind, and found the place where the link was cut by a dark, dank stuff like mildew which had eaten at the quick, living magic.
It was as though Nell’s heart had plummeted down around her feet. She could not solve this, and get the King – her father, she must think of him as that – to take over the battle. For now it was her battle and then – and then she would make sure the king received the power. It was too early. She did not want to wear the crown.
But all the same she must lift the sword, symbolically and in truth, the sword of power in the land.
She felt it in her hands, that legendary sword that had been Arthur’s and the first Richard’s, the sword that took form and substance now and then, but which was forever and always a sword of the spirit.
It was heavy, here at the heart of the world, and it was a symbol, more than a real weapon, Nell lifted it.
Against the growing invaders, against the dark armies, against the creatures of ill defined magic and ill disciplined force, she lifted the sword, and with it raised the strength of the land, and she called, “Fight.” And she screamed “Arise.” And she commanded, “Defend.”
From every sacred grove and every cleanly hill, the power of the land, the power rose and the magic grew. The invaders, surprised, fell back in disarray, clambered back in fear. They wouldn’t be banished, not completely, but they would would not rampage. They held in tight circles, defensive, embattled. And around them the magic of the land shimmered and sparkled.
A Fighting Title
Seraphim became aware that he was being dragged over rough floor. He tried to protest that he should be allowed to die in peace. It seemed to him peculiar that the odd man from the dragon den should insist on dragging a dying duke along with him.
Only he wasn’t a duke anymore
And from somewhere anger came. He’d not asked to be the duke of Darkwater. He’d not asked to be the first born of the previous duke’s large and irregular get. He’d not asked his father to die early and to leave Seraphim in charge of an encumbered inheritance and younger children who depended on him.
And, most of all, he’d not asked to find his father’s secret papers, not to feel obliged to rescue the unfortunates that his father could no longer help.
He had asked for none of this.
And now, now, that he must die for it, some lunatic wouldn’t let him alone.
He moaned loudly, and there was a moment of hesitation, but then the dragging resumed.
Seraphim became aware that the ground was shaking beneath him, that his arms hurt as he was being dragged, and that – and this part galled him – someone was shoving quite an unreasonable amount of magic at him, pushing and forcing it past Seraphim’s weakened defenses, forcing Seraphim’s body to heal itself.
It was an odd magic, not untrained, but strangely structured. Instead of healing Seraphim it was forcing him to heal.
Now, there was somewhere –
Seraphim had seen that magic somewhere, felt it somewhere. As his body started to recover, his mind pursued the mystery, and found in its unraveling enough incentive to wake up more fully. There, there, the taste of it, the force of the magic… He knew that type of work.
And then it hit him. The Madhouse. No. Nell’s world. Earth, they called themselves – though, of course, every unaware world called itself Earth – the world without magic. People from it always learned magic backwards and sideways and did things by methods no sane trained magician, let alone a teacher of magic would think right. It was as though an entire world had decided the way to build a house was to start with the roof.
And yet, the misbegotten, scrambled magic worked, after a fashion. Not well, on Earth, but pretty well everywhere else.
He had woken now, enough to feel his whole body. The annoyance of being dragged, the rough stone tearing at his skin, all of it combined to bring his eyes open.
He was still in the dragon cave. Rocks were falling from a cracked ceiling. Through the fissures, he could see glowing red lava and as if fires of hell. He wondered if they were beneath a volcano now coming awake, and wondered how long till glowing lava dripped through and icenerated him and his—strange savior.
He looked up the length of his stretched arms, to where a man who looked, much like Gabriel, was walking backwards, while pulling on Seraphim’s hands.
“Stop,” Seraphim said. “Stop.”
“I’m not leaving you here,” the young man said. “Not on your life. But I can’t do transport. Never learned how. So we must get out this way. I think this hallway will—”
“Stop,” Seraphim said, and as the only way to avert this humiliation of being dragged along like a sack of rocks, said, “I’ll stand. I’ll stand.”
His hands were let free, and he did manage to stand, unsteadily, on legs that felt as though they were made of running water and insufficient will power.
The man who looked like Gabriel stepped back, rapidly, as though even wounded Seraphim might wish to, and be able to, take a swing at him. Seraphim focused a swimming vision on the man and said, “Thank you for healing me. Are you from Earth?”
He got back a surprised, feral smile, a fugitive thing. “I am from Earth, milord. I am– I was lured here, on my insufficiently tutored magic, and I—” He closed his mouth on visibly unsaid thoughts, as the ceiling above gave a loud crack, and rocks fell all around. “Milord, can you run?”
“No,” he said. “No.” He felt himself swaying on his feet. “A transport spell might be easier.”
He reached for the man’s hand, because he didn’t think at this moment he could transport anything he wasn’t actually touching. The man’s hand felt too hot and rough. Seraphim started saying the spell, wondering if he could in fact make a transport spell. He wished them out of this hole, out of this horrible enclosure, and into a safe place. He didn’t much care where just now.
“Use my magic, also, milor’,” the man said, and Seraphim gratefully found it accessible, even if strange, and ignorance-twisted, and he made use of it, weaving his transport spell rapidly, turning it so that it closed finally with a resounding thud.
In a moment they were out of the cave, the heat, the threat of cave ins, and cold rushed in upon them. They were in a vast, white clearing. Seraphim realized, in shock, that there was snow all around, white snow, sparkling and reflective like ground glass.
In the middle of the clearing was what looked like a tomb, stone and sculpted, beside which a heavily veiled woman mourned. Atop of the tomb, where normally a pious, joined-hands statue lay there lay a man.
“Father!” Seraphim said.