*Remember this is a raw bit, and I haven’t yet had the opportunity to reconcile it. Besides, I’m dealing with a lot of unreliable narrators. So, if I contradict previous chapters, roll with it. I do have a feeling this is the truth at last, though. Witchfinder now has a cover and is waiting only my going over the copyedited manuscript before I remove it from the blog and send out e-arcs to those who have subscribed. (I’ll also send them the very final when it’s officially released around February.) I really hope to do it in the next month. Meanwhile, if you subscribe to Rogue Magic for $6 you shall get copies when it’s done.*
NOTICE: For those unsure about copyright law and because there was a particularly weird case, just because I’m making the pre-first draft of my novel available to blog readers, it doesn’t mean that this isn’t copyrighted to me. Rogue Magic as all the contents of this blog is © Sarah A. Hoyt 2013. Do not copy, alter, distribute or resell without permission. Exceptions made for ATTRIBUTED quotes as critique or linking to this blog. Credit for the cover image is © Ateliersommerland | Dreamstime.com
For previous chapters, read here
Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater and Lord Witchfinder:
There is a point a man attains when he’s been hit on the head once too many times. While I had yet to suffer a physical blow, it felt very much like I’d been under a rain of concussive hits.
First, Jonathan’s arrival. The Earl of Savage, certainly, always had the effect of making me feel like the more drunk he acted, the more I must have been drinking. No, that’s not exactly it. It was more like there was a field of drunkenness that extended all around him in a wide dispersal pattern and made everyone around him dazed and unable to think clearly.
I’d come to believe it was part of his magic, some sort of power that made everyone around him susceptible to what was undoubtedly a cunning mind and a great power of deception. In fact, if you mentioned Jonathan Blythe in most circles, you’d get a shrug and a sigh and sometimes a smirk. That would have been Seraphim’s own reaction just months ago. It was a very useful way to present himself, Seraphim judged. After all, who else could get away with having his father commit suicide while alone in the house with him, and ascending to the honors and dignity without the slightest suspicion of foul play attaching to him.
That Jonathan had come in just as Seraphim thought he was about to crack Miss Ginevra Mythborn, whatever she might TRULY turn out to be was only part of the annoyance. The fact that he’d brought with him some sort of magical bomb that had reduced Richard the Lion Heart, in his dual form, to pebble size rubble that covered Palace square and caused a traffic hazard was only an additional annoyance. In fact, I’d fully come to expect that where Jonathan went real or metaphorical explosions followed.
But in the name of all that was holy, what had I done to deserve having Marlon, earl of Sydell and my brother Gabriel’s… cher ami descending on me talking apocalyptic nonsense, and claiming that Gabriel had split asunder, all in a voice that sounded like he’d either been reading the gloomier prophets or had drunk rather deep of blue ruin, or probably both.
Then there was Caroline, my scapegrace younger sister, and Akakios, the centaur prince she’d got betrothed to. And he was really a centaur in centaur form, something that shouldn’t be possible in this earth, with our amount of magic. In fact, it was because of that, that we’d taken steps to have him taught how to act like a human among humans, though from the reports from his masters about his sullen and solitary rumbles, that hadn’t been going all that well. Still, you didn’t expect him to escape with Caroline, yet, and descend on me in this fashion, also talking about Gabriel and something dreadful happening to Gabriel and by extension all of fairyland.
Of course, if I’d had Jonathan handy, I’d have resurrected the iron maiden, which I’m sure is somewhere in the depths of the palace of my father in law the king, and got him to tell me the truth for once. I did not doubt for a moment that he knew it. Deep files, like Jonathan, always know these things, they just play it close to the vest for their own purposes, which are usually so deep that even they, themselves might not understand them. But Jonathan had vanished with the redheaded siren, and if I knew Jonathan – and I did – was even now performing the act he tended to refer to as “tuping” with her.
So I was left with the option of either pulling all my hair out – and it would look very odd at the next royal affair to have the prince consort exhibit bald patches and raw flesh on his scalp. It would lead to rumors that I was diseased and would doubtlessly cause my wife and future son to die. The other option was to run to my apartments in the royal palace, kidnap my wife, and take her back to the world in which she’d been concealed from our magicians while growing up. Earth, she called it, which was nonsense, since there are dozens of earths. Perhaps hundreds. Of course, she didn’t know that growing up, because her earth is quite devoid of magic, and therefore they can’t walk between the universes. But that same characteristic seemed very reposeful now. I’d take Nell back to her adopted grandmother, and we’d settle in to look after their farm there, and we would never again cross between the worlds, nor have anything to do with magical worlds attacking each other nor, for that matter, with magic, nor…
The dream lasted about three seconds, and burst like a soap bubble. The problem is that Nell is not just the heir to the crown of Avalon. She is that, and descended, in unbroken line, from Richard the Lion Hearted and beyond that probably from Arthur, though a great disruption occurred with Merlin was encased in his prison, and we can’t be sure of any history before that.
But Avalon being a highly magical world, kingship is more than that – possibly part of the reason we’d never gone in for more democratic and people-driven forms of government as Nell’s Earth had. It is a mystical bond between king and land.
When Nell had been missing, even though her father was yet the monarch regnant, we’d been fractured and at great risk, and the magic hadn’t worked quite right.
Of course, at this point I was willing to take that over staying here and enduring the madness, but Nell wouldn’t. She’d tell me about her duty and how she belonged here. She’d tell me that all the more convincingly because she felt a great temptation to go back to being Nell Felix, on earth, and forget her real origins.
Worse, she was carrying our child, the next royal heir. She would not leave and take the child with her, but worse, she would not deprive her parents of their grandson. Too long, they’d missed and mourned their missing daughter, and now they were to be rewarded by seeing their grandson grow before their eyes.
No. That was a bust. I could not remove Nell from Avalon.
Which left me only one option.
“In,” I screamed. “In to my office this very instant.”
They had been arguing with each other, Akakios, Marlon and Caroline. Akakios maintained that Gabriel was dead, Marlon screamed back at him that no, he wasn’t, and Caroline… Heaven only knows what she found to add to the discussion, except that I could hear her shrill voice over both of them. It’s possible she was telling Marlon her fiancé was a prince, though surely that was too strange even for Caroline?
At my scream – you must understand I was properly trained and I very rarely even raise my voice – they looked surprised. For a moment I thought they’d argue with me.
They thought so too, but they didn’t. Instead, they scrambled over the pebble-strewn ground into the building.
When I followed them, I found Marlon pacing in front of my desk, Caroline primly seated in a chair, and Akakios standing behind her, with his hands on her shoulders. I will point out that despite the straits we were in and the fact that it was taking me all my will power not to tear my hair out, they presented a very odd picture. I didn’t know whether to be grateful or worried that Akakios had taken the time to dress in a coat and shirt which made his human half look entirely incongruous atop the horse body.
As I went around behind my desk, they all talked at the same time. I held up my hand. “No, let Marlon speak. I must hear this.” I thought feelings or no feelings, a juvenile centaur could not know as much as the most learned taumathurgic mathematician of the century.
“Gabriel,” he said, looking at me, “Has splintered. It is possible, you know, for a creature like him—” he paused. “I suppose like me too, half human and half elf. He’s torn in two, a human half and an elf half. I think it happened a month ago, because he’s been…” He frowned. “He’s been all like them. I thought it was just that he was adapting. He does that, become all elf, then al human for a time, then… But I don’t think so. I think this is more serious. I think… I think something has happened. He’s been encouraged to split.”
“But why?” I asked.
Marlon sighed and flung himself on a chair. “Because like this, he is not a strong enough elf to hold the throne of fairyland. Strangely, his human half lends the other half power. But this… this will lead to civil war in fairyland. It might be a local conspiracy, but I think… I think it is an attack by the mythworld. You see, they’d need to go through fairyland to absorb us.”