Witchfinder, Free Novel — Chapters 5 and 6


*I’m posting this novel here, free, one chapter at a time.  I reserve the right to put in more than one chapter, as I did this time.This is being posted as I write it, so it’s in pre-earc (for those from Baen) or in close-to (but not quite) -first draft state. Once it’s finished it will undergo editing and then it will be published in some form. I’m going to put this up with its own category so you can find it.  For those interested in throwing something in the storytellers bowl, there is a donate button on the right hand side of the site.  Anyone contributing $6 or more will get an electronic (non DRM) version of the novel upon completion.  Of course, donating is not mandatory, nor even required in any way.  I hope you enjoy the chapters.  (And sorry if there are typos.  I’m having trouble staying focused today.)*

For first chapter, look here:  here

For chapter four, look here
For chapter seven, look here

The Trouble With Heros

Seraphim Darkwater could feel the spell assemble behind him, tendril by tendril.  The woman’s magic was odd.  Avallonis in origin.  He’d swear to that.  He’d known enough power from other worlds to identify the markers of Avallonis.  But the magic had odd overlays, as though she’d learned it in some barbarous, ignorant place and had reinvented the whole discipline from the ground up.

A part of him, the part that had been a studious young man, rivaling the knowledge of many of his professors at Cambridge when it came to history and theory of magic, wanted to turn around and watch the strands of magic being woven in the air.  But he could not.  Seraphim had been trained – born – to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves.  And right now, he was the only one in possession of a mage-charged stick.

He shot at a soldier running towards him from behind a rock.  Then he shot again.  And again until he hit the man, who screamed and fell, spasming a little as the magic charge hit him.

The soldier wouldn’t die.  Seraphim never charged his mage sticks a lethal amount, mostly because he never knew when the people he might defend himself against might not be the agents of his majesty the king, enforcing the just laws of Great Britain in his native world.  A lot could be forgiven a high born and high spirited young man, even minor assault on an officer of the Empire.  But, should he let those high spirits carry him so far as to commit murder, that would be a trespass too far.

As the man fell, twitching and spasming, Seraphim stepped back.  And all at once he realized two things.  The man had been a decoy, likely a volunteer sent to run at his mage stick and keep him fully occupied as a party of guardsmen sneaked behind and around the rocks to his left.  Now he caught a glimpse of golden braid in the gaudy uniforms, and realized they were too near, and there were two many of them.  And one of them was pointing a magical gun at them, of the type that could disable witches and warlocks, but could kill shifters.  The boy-shifter.  Seraphim must protect him.

He turned around. There were too many of them for his stick to be an effective defense, so he must take himself and his charges out of here, and take them out fast.

The woman behind him had set up almost the entire spell.  Only the capstone lacked, and the coordinates.  Perhaps she couldn’t have set the coordinates from his arrival.  Perhaps her odd learning hadn’t taught her that.  Or perhaps it was all part of a plan to trap him.  Seraphim didn’t know, and, right then, he couldn’t care.  Instead, he poured his own magic into the working, and set the capstone on it, with the coordinates of his bedroom, coordinates as familiar to him as the back of his own hand, or the sound of his own voice.

The portal opened, gaping, and Seraphim, realizing the impossibility of throwing a lion through it, poured more of his magic at the young shifter to make him shift back into human, out of the lion form.  The child shifted and twisted, writhing and moaning in the pain of changing bones and flesh, all at a speed that would never happen naturally.

Barely had his form stabilized, and Seraphim was grabbing his skinny arms and throwing him, bodily through the portal.  Seraphim knew, in doing so he was hurting his own shoulder and arm, but he couldn’t feel pain.  Or anything but the urgency of getting them all through the portal and onto safe territory.  Through the portal he could glimpse Gabriel and hear faint echoes of his talking to the boy.

Seraphim reached for the woman.  She stepped back from him.  “No,” she said.  “You go first.”

“They have magic guns,” Seraphim said, keeping his voice restrained, but letting urgency leak through.  “They are near-lethal.  You go, then I after you.”

But she shied away from him, tried to step in between him and the moving ambush.  Stupid on her part.  She wasn’t armed.  He took a deep breath and mentally apologized to his mother and to his nanny who had taught him that a woman’s body was sacred and not to be touched without permission.  Then he grabbed her by the waist and, deftly avoiding her kicking feet and ignoring her voice saying, “Let me go,” he tossed her into the portal and – as far as he could see through his sweat-stung eyes, more or less on top of Gabriel.

The portal wouldn’t stay open much longer.  But it didn’t need to.  Seraphim took a step towards it.

The ray of the magic gun hit him in the shoulder.  Pain shot through his body, seized his mind.  His body shuddered, one long shudder, as his heart seemed to lose the rhythm of its accustomed beats.  He heard a hoarse scream, and was sure it was his.

The fall across the treshold of the portal, one half on either side, jarred his shoulder further.  He gritted his teeth against the chattering that threatened to bite his tongue in half.  He forced his shivering, shuddering body to obey him.  He ignored the pain that coursed through his veins like fire and bit at his nerves like the edge of a well-sharpened sword.

The portal was going to close.  He must get into one world or the other, or his body would get sliced in half and end up one half in each reality.  He must crawl across the portal and to the safety of his room.

For long moments, his body did not obey him.  His hands made frantic motions, but failed to push against the ground, his knees wouldn’t stay under him.  it took a superhuman effort to get them under control, to get them to pull him along the floor. He pulled himself forward one step.  Two.

He felt hands at his ankles, and heard a triumphant scream from behind.  He didn’t turn to look.  He could feel the portal starting to close.  He keened with frustration and told himself he would not cry.  He would die like a man.

From the fog clouding his senses, somewhere ahead of him, he heard a woman’s voice say, “Oh, please, you must help him.”

And he heard Gabriel’s familiar voice say, “Damn you Duke,” then. “Here, take this mage stick.  Lay into them at will.”

Seraphim tried to reach for the mage stick, but he couldn’t even see it, and his hand would not obey him, and he could feel the mage-field of the portal pressing against his middle.

Then strong, warm hands grabbed his hands and pulled.  Seraphim screamed as the pain to his shoulder increased a hundred fold.

Then darkness engulfed him.

The Price of Heroism

Nell hated heroes.  Years ago, when he’d first rescued her from Earth, Antoine had told her that he despised heroes who were men who would give themselves airs, and throw themselves in the breach with great pomp and circumstance, for the pleasure of pinning medals on themselves, no matter how many people died for their glory.

Her fury and surprise at Seraphim’s taking the spell from her and putting his own capstone on it was nothing compared to her fury at his insisting on her stepping through first and on protecting her with his body.  Her entire upbringing on Earth rebelled against letting a man, any man protect her.  And her months in Avallonis, chafing against the arrogance of noblemen and gentry, made her want to scream at his assumed gallantry.

None of this was improved by his throwing her bodily across the portal and on top of a tall man in neat, understated attire.  Disentangling herself from the man who was blushing furiously and who looked past her at the portal with an horrified expression, she didn’t see Seraphim get hit.

But when she turned around, there was no doubt he’d been hit by a magic gun.

She’d never seen one of these in action.  They were illegal in Avallonis, and of course, of no use at all on Earth.  Or at least not that anyone knew.  But she’d heard of them, and Sydell had once shown her a confiscated cache of them and described their effects.  She could still hear him in her mind as he told her how the gun’s discharge would kill a shifter at the barest touch, but was survivable to a mage, provided he or she was in good shape and got treatment immediately.

Only Seraphim wasn’t getting treatment.  He was fallen half across the portal, whose shifting light indicated it was about to close.  Around his body shimmered the blue-yellow lights of a disturbed magical pattern, as clearly visible to her mage-sight as his outstretched hands scrabbling in vain at the oaken floorboards.

He made inhuman grunts as he did so, grunts that seemed like the result of effort beyond his capacity.  All the while – and it seemed forever to Nell – the man on whom she’d fallen, was standing there, his arms akimbo, staring, his mouth open, at the duke about to get sliced in half by a portal.

Seraphim’s hands found purchase at last, and he pulled himself, a minute amount into the room, and then the men on the other side reached him, grabbed his ankles, and pulled him back far more than he’d pulled himself forward.  She had heard of those step pyramids in that world.  She’d heard they performed sacrifices there.  And besides, they’d shot him.

She found her hands were beating frantically at the impassive arm of the motionless man near her, “Oh, help him.  You must save him.”

As though her words had rushed him to action, he stared at the scene before him, and said in a tone of true rancor, “Damn you, Duke.”

When he reached into his vest and pulled out a mage stick, Nell had a moment of frozen certainty that he was going to shoot Darkwater.  But the man handed her the stick instead, and said, even as he bent down to grasp Seraphim’s hands, “Lay it into them, good and hard.”

She obeyed, almost without thinking, mowing down the soldiers grabbing Seraphim’s ankles and feet, while the stranger pulled the duke into the room by his hands.  A guardsman from the other world tried to plunge in just behind him, but Nell shot him with a bolt of magic, and he fell back twitching.  None too soon, as her mage stick was spent.  And the portal closed.

She let it drop from a nerveless hand and turned– To see the stranger taking a knife to the Duke.  The sound of his voice saying “Damn you Duke,” came to her.  She didn’t pause to think or to consider the consequences of her actions.  She raised a foot, high, and only slightly hampered by the dress and under dress, kicked with all her might at the knife wielding hand.  The knife went flying, and Nell dropped back, hands raised, ready to grab furniture or books or something to defend herself.  Or to send a magic spell against the man, when he came after her.

He didn’t come after her.  He didn’t even seem to notice her at all, though he looked dismayed when the knife went flying from his hand, and he shook his hand, once, twice, as though to rid himself of pain.

But then the took his hands to the duke’s coat, and pulled.  The coat tore down the front, to reveal a shirt all covered in blood.  And Nell realized the man had been about to cut Seraphim’s clothes away from him, so he could minister to the duke.  At the same time, the realization hit that this stranger looked a great deal like the duke and might very well be one of his brothers, though Nell had believed his brothers were all much younger.

She walked to where the knife had fallen, by a blue-velvet covered table stacked high with books, and noted without giving it much thought, that the covering was a little lifted and anxious eyes were peeping from under it.  The eyes were familiar.  It was the boy-lion.

Without a word to him, she retrieved the knife and walked back to the man kneeling by the duke and now trying, ineffectually, to tear the blood soaked shirt.  She handed the knife to him, handle first, and he said, “Thank you, Miss,” as though this were an every day occurrence.  She watched him cut the shirt to reveal, beneath it, a chest criss-crossed in blood-saturated ligatures.  The man said, under his breath, “Oh, the damn fool,” and Nell found herself agreeing.  Only a fool or a madman would take it upon himself to go into another world and get into a fight when he had suffered what appeared to be very serious injuries.  And most injuries were serious in Avalloni, whose magic could at the same time perform healing feats that would startle Earth, and be totally ineffective against infections.  People might regrow an  amputated limb, but they would surely die of the infection, if the amputating instrument hadn’t been properly sterilized.  And she doubted the implement had been properly sterilized before it had made those gashes, now revealed on the Duke’s chest and shoulder, as the stranger cut his ligatures off.

“I…  Is there anything–” she was about to ask if there was anything she could do, and then she realized that the stranger was muttering under his breath, a steady stream of arcane words.  As those assembled in her mind, she realized what they were.  A resurrection spell.

Her eyes opened wide, as she stared at the duke with her mage sight.  He wasn’t dead.  But the force of life around his body had ebbed so low it was like a flame that a careless breath might extinguish.  Used in these circumstances the resurrection spell, forbidden otherwise, as after death it only brought life to a soulless body, was much like the paddles with which, on Earth, people tried to stimulate a failing heart.  Except that it took a massive amount of life-force from the one administering the spell.  And she could do nothing but stand there, clutching her skirts, and watching as the stranger poured a not inconsiderable amount of magic into Seraphim Darkwater, in a desperate effort to save his life.

The stranger himself must be a considerable magician.  Either that or he would end up in almost as bad a shape as Seraphim.

One time the spell was said.  Twice.  Its force flared and fizzled, pale blue against the dying flames of Seraphim’s life which had ebbed down to a dirty sort of orange, like flames that have fed on oil and are almost spent.

Once more, and the force surrounded Seraphim’s body, and it looked for a moment as though it would re-light the force of his life.  But it died down yet again.  The stranger’s face grew stern, his features seeming to become all sharp planes and angles.  He looked more than ever like Darkwater, a Darkwater determined to be brave and strong against all costs.  Yet another damned hero, Nell thought, and it seemed to her she heard Antoine’s derisive tone in her thoughts.  And yet, she couldn’t bring herself to dislike or despise this man who was pouring his magic and his strength so unstintingly into the dying body of … his master?  His brother?

The stranger raised the spell yet a fourth time, and Nell told herself she’d take it next, rather than let the man commit suicide through generosity.

But this time, as the blue flare went out and surrounded the duke, the orange, dying flame of Seraphims life, caught and sparked, then grew into a pale yellow-white flame.  Not quite healthy life, but abundant, reigniting his vitality fully.

In the dead quiet of the room, she heard the Duke take one breath, then another.  And then his rescuer took a breath, which curled upon itself in a sob, which, in turn, quieted abruptly, as if – hearing himself show a sign of weakness – the man had cut it off.

He lowered his head and shook, still taking painfully loud breaths, like a man at the end of miles of running, and Nell found that she, herself, had not breathed in too long a time, and took a gasping breath.  Then she thought that the man looked very ill, waxen-pale and shaking, with the effort and reaction of a resurrection spell so oft repeated.

It wasn’t even that it took a lot of magic, a lot of power, a lot of strength.  No.  It was more than that.  When using such a spell there was always the danger that between sending it forth, and its hitting the target the target might die.  And if such a thing happened, then the mage’s duty was to kill his creation immediately.  In fact, in Avallonis not to do so was punishable with death, though she’d heard that the law was rarely enforced.  But it was certainly punished with exclusion from all society and magical association.

The stranger shook, and his dark hair was pasted to his head with sweat, and Nell surmised that he would not want her to see him in this state.  Men were proud everywhere, but in this world more than anywhere else – particularly the gentry, which this man might very well be, as much as he looked like the Duke.

She fell back on the expected role of women in this time and place.  Going to the wash basin set in a corner, she was relieved to find that it was supplied with an ever-filled ewer, the water magicked in – probably from the well of the estate – as soon as it was emptied, and kept warm in the container, by means of a spell.

She poured it into the basin, and grabbed a bar of soap and a pile of the folded linen towels left by it.  With the towels under her arm and the soap caught her under chin, she walked back carrying the delicate porcelain basin, with the pink and blue roses painted around the edge, and set them on the floor next to Seraphim, who still looked dead, but who was breathing regularly.

She dipped a towel in the water and, very gently, started swabbing at the Duke’s blood-covered chest.  She was relieved to find that he was not nearly as torn apart as it looked from the blood.  His wounds were, in the main, two, one in his chest and one on his arm.  Not that it mattered.  In Avallonis, you could die of a scratch if it were not sterilized in time.  And the Duke’s wounds were no scratch.

“Thank you, Miss,” the strange man said, in the tremulous, breaking voice of a man pushed beyond physical limits.

She didn’t look up.  Instead, she smiled a little, while wiping the blood from Seraphim, and noting those wounds had once been sewn together, though the stitches had now been torn out.  “My name,” she said.  “Is Helena Felix,” she said.

“Miss Felix,” he said.

“But no,” she said.  “You must call me Nell.”  And sensing, even without looking up, his shock at being invited to call her not just by her first name but by a nickname, she smiled again.  “We have fought together.  You would not call a comrade in arms by his last name would you?”

His breath skipped showing an hesitancy.  She looked up to see him open his mouth, then snap it closed.  “I might,” he said.  “If he were well born.  You see, I don’t know what you– That is, you must know my name is Gabriel Penn, and I’m his Grace’s of Darkwater’s valet.”

It was Nell’s turn to be shocked.  She fought having her mouth drop open in surprise, and instead managed to say in a creditable show of composure.  “I see.”  But the truth was that she didn’t see at all.  Not only was the man an enormously powerful magician – she herself doubted she’d have the stamina to do the resurrection spell four times in a row – but he was undoubtedly trained.  And while there was all chance of byblows, men being what they were, and therefore of a servant having some form of magical power, bastards never – at least in Nell’s experience – had as much power as this man had.  And those who did were never taught.  At least not the riskier spells.

Who were the Darkwaters?  Seraphim went looking for fights in worlds where he had no business, in direct contravention of his majesty’s laws, and this other man who looked so much like Seraphim, but who was a servant, used spells no one but a Gentleman could have been taught to wield. Or have the power to manage.

“I see,” she said again, and cleared her throat.  “I shall call you Gabriel then.”

He opened his mouth, then seemed to think better of it, and got up to go to the drawer in the dressing table.  When he returned, he carried a box which, when set by the side of the Duke’s unconscious form and opened revealed needle and thread and what looked like a complete surgeon’s kit.

“You might want to look away,” Gabriel said.  “Miss.”

“No, I don’t believe so,” she said.  “I’ve seen blood before.  You’ll want to disinfect the wound first, though,” she said.  And realized he’d already laid hold of brandy and was pouring it over the Duke’s wounds.  She was about to tell him pure alcohol was better for that, when she decided the man knew his business as well, if not better than, her.

Instead, she watched as Gabriel sewed the first of the Duke’s wounds closed, then started to slather it with a thick grey ointment that seemed to be infused with healing magic.  “Give me the ointment,” she said, firmly.  “I will do that while you sew his chest wound.”

He inclined his head, saying nothing.  “You’ll pardon me,” Nell said at last.  “But what business had he to go about like that when he was this seriously wounded?”

The man made a sound that might have been an hiccup, the beginning of a laugh, or a smothered sob. “None,” he said.  “But no use trying to prevent him.  When he thinks something is his duty– A great one for duty is the Duke.  If you knew how many times– Oh, never mind.”

But Nell had caught both the exasperated affection and the mingled admiration and anger in Gabriel’s voice, and realized it was the feeling of an older brother for a younger brother who was inclined to biting off more than he could chew.  The Darkwaters were unusual indeed.  Clearly Gabriel knew these spells because he had been educated in magic.  And given the aplomb with which he used them, he must have been educated in Cambridge, alongside his legitimate brother.

Because she knew better – had learned better over her time in this forsaken world – than to question legitimacy or the bond of blood between men of two such different classes, she said, instead, as she slathered the newly-sewn wound, and Gabriel finished cleaning the duke – or as much as he could clean him given the inability to submerge him in water, “The young man who came in with us is under the table there.”

Gabriel nodded.  “Good.  I hope he’ll stay out of the way till I can call the housekeeper to get him clothes and, hopefully, to take him to her cousin’s cottage for a spell.”

Nell hesitated.  “He…  That is, he is a lion shifter.”

Gabriel nodded again.  “A lot of the rescues are from that world.  Seraphim usually pays their way into a shifter seminar in Bath.  There are two, one for young ladies, and one for young gentlemen.  All the teachers are shifted and therefore equipped to train the young people in the ways of control of their magic, and in the ability to shift at will.  But I understand they teach them other trades, usually as clerks or secretaries or the like.”

Nell shook her head at the idea of a shifter secretary.  Back in the day when she’d worked in computers, their group’s administrative assistant had looked much like a weasel, but she supposed here it would be more obvious.

“And the housekeeper knows about this?” Truly the conspiracy to breach the sovereign shields of other worlds was extensive.  And law said all of them were due death.  She couldn’t imagine denouncing Seraphim or Gabriel and seeing them beheaded and hung respectively.  No. She had seen Seraphim almost die.  But if she lied on her report and they found out, surely they would hurt Antoine?

“She’s my godmother,” Gabriel said, as though that meant something.  “Now, Miss, if you’d step aside.”

Miss stepped aside, wishing in an annoyed sort of way that the proper Gabriel would call her Nell, a feeling that was dissolved into shock as that man who had just done four resurrection spells, lifted Seraphim in his arms and carried him to the bed.

Oh, the bed was only three steps away, and Gabriel did totter under the weight of the duke, but that he could lift him at all – when both were well-matched for weight and height – much less after the ordeal Gabriel had inflicted on himself, was near-unbelievable.

Yes, the Darkwaters were an odd family.  And they might be made of more-than-human stuff.

Gabriel laid the duke down, and waved his hand at the mage light on the bedside bringing its glow down.  “And now we wait,” he said.  “And pray if we remember how.”

But if there was anyone listening to prayers at that moment, they must have turned away, because – before Nell could answer – the door to the room jiggled, then flung open.  Framed in the doorway stood a small, dark woman old enough to be the duke’s mother.  It seemed to Nell that was exactly what the woman was, in fact.  Nell had memories of seeing portraits.

But unlike the portraits, the woman wasn’t smiling.  She had her opulent dress clutched in either hand, lifting it away from the legs as women of this world did, when they must move swiftly.  And she was saying, “Seraphim, I demand that you explain…”  The words died, as she looked towards the bed and Seraphim, sprawled on it, unconscious.  And then she said, “Oh.”

49 thoughts on “Witchfinder, Free Novel — Chapters 5 and 6

  1. Well, I suppose we have to allow writers their little amusements, like ending samples in spots like this.

    Excellent, Sarah!

        1. He’s fairly major in THIS book.

          BTW, the novel has been installanched starting at chapter one. I was wondering why I had 400 hits in half an hour… Not that that’s rare — coff — of anything. Oh, okay, it’s only as rare as teeth on hens…

  2. Found my way here through Instapundit, and so far, I really really like it. It reminds me of the Scarlet Pimpernel, with alternate universes and magic instead of revolutionary France and aristocrats. Keep up the good work!

    1. Yes! Yes! Yes! At the second chapter my head was muttering,

      They seek him here, they seek him there, the ? seek him everywhere, is he in heaven is he in hell, that demmed elusive Seraphim.

      1. CACS — if you go to the tab above the logo, that says Witchfinder, you have the whole thing with fewer typos and SOME continuity issues fixed. The others will be fixed when I finish 😉

  3. Just found your site through Instapundit. Great story so far; I look forward to the rest of the story and I will look for other works to read while I wait for the next chapter.

  4. Ugh! Sorry, Sarah, but Nell is a frickin’ idiot. Getting in a femi-nazi huff about being told by the more-accomplished mage to get her butt through the (time-limited!) portal when surrounded by enemies? Beating on Gabriel’s arm instead of grabbing Seraphim and pulling him through the portal? Gabriel’s not much better, to stand there gaping instead of doing the same. Ditto for Seraphim for taking a step instead of diving through (he does have one good side to land on). And is there some reason that Nell, who can SEE the magical weaves, didn’t add to Gabriel’s resurrection spell instead of standing there like a dithering drip?


    I trust you enough to not, yet, do the online equivalent of throwing the book across the room for a three-pointer in the wastebasket, but for Ghu’s sake, give these morons some situational awareness and sense of urgency beyond hysteria!

    1. Actually I think Sarah’s going for that “deer in the headlights” thing a lot of us get in moments of trauma. She’s trying to create a scene of general panic, chaos and mayhem. If it lasted for the whole book I agree it would be tedious, but I can trust her to tease it out a little while longer. Seraphim is unwise, Nell isn’t self-aware, but we need to see them grow, but that can’t happen unless we see them stumble.

      Or Nell and Seraphim can die and the super-awesome Gabriel can take over the story. That would be ok too. Just saying.

    2. LOL. Nell is a dithering drip. But she improves on acquaintance. 🙂 She’s a dithering drip in more ways than one. And yeah, probably in the final he’ll dive rather than step. That tends to happen in my second passes. BUT they are all — except Nell, but Nell was raised on Earth, poor thing — beginners.

  5. I just came back to apologize to Sarah. I posted “in the heat,” as it were, rather than taking a while to examine my reaction. If this were the way that Seraphim and Gabriel usually behaved, at least Seraphim would have been dead long ago. Nell being a useless femi-nazi git could be a starting point for character development, but S and G are supposed to have been at this for a long, successful, time.

    Being a “hero” is one thing, but slow reactions is deadly. Faced with a gun, you don’t step, you DIVE. Wounded shoulder or not, you face death on one side and safety on the other, you don’t step.

    I doubt that this is the first time that something unexpected has come through the portal. “Deer in the headlights” would have killed one or both of them before this. Gabriel should have shoved Nell off and been ready to help Seraphim, just that fast. This is mission focus, and having even the inclination to lose it is deadly. You take care of the immediate stuff, then worry about the oddities. The immediate stuff is getting S through the portal. G laying into the attackers with the wand and telling dithering Nell to grab S; G handing the wand to Nell and grabbing S; either would be in character for someone who’s been doing this for a while. The above is not.

    1. Um… actually they haven’t been doing it THAT long. Only since he found his father’s diaries, and he’s just now become BOTHERSOME enough to get the attention of the opposition. Which is why he’s making rookie mistakes. Like… going off half cocked at the beginning of the book. He’s got wounded before, which is part of the learning curve, but he’s got wounded by people from “less developed magical cultures” which means he had the upper hand. UNTIL he got the knife attack, it had all been minor, and, to be frank, great fun for someone who grew up uptight and feeling he was on the spot all the time. The knife attack has scared Gabriel out of his wits. It ties in with how their father died. Which is why he froze. Also, why he was pissed at Seraphim for going off while wounded.

      There is a difference between “hide and seek” rescue missions and outright attack and sabotage, which he’s facing now. Which is why he starts this out SEVERELY wounded.

      I have no idea if I put in how long they’ve been doing this, but it’s actually somewhere between six months and a year. (At least that’s what’s in my head. What made it to the page…) The Others (which are human, btw. Very) only started noticing about three months ago, and only got serious about stopping him about a month ago. The reasons will become obvious. (And yes, this is a downfall of writing this chapter by chapter. Explanations are long coming.)

      1. And yes, going off half-cocked and unprepared is one of Seraphim’s issues, and probably (I don’t KNOW my characters come full formed, and it takes me a while to figure out this stuff) will get spanked out of him in time.

        1. My son says I should put my comments at the end of each chapter, sort of like the voice in the director’s cut, for the other writers who are following along at home as it were. Particularly what I knew going into the chapter, and what I know now. That sort of thing. What might get cut/changed on revision, too. Would there be interest in this?

        1. Heck, I might have WRITTEN that. I didn’t realize there was a whole back-story with their father, having taken his wife’s opinion of him at its face value. BUT I realized when diaries were mentioned, this wasn’t so. Mind you, I think he was still a philanderer and bon-vivant, but… HE was the real deal — probably twenty? thirty years of doing this. The guys just faced their moment of reckoning and growing up.

      2. One, Look, you wrote Gabriel super awesome, so if he isn’t super awesome, stop writing him that way. (DON’T! Please don’t!! I love him!!)

        Two, yes yes YES! we are interesting in the running commentary, and

        Three, if I have a critique it is that a lot of what you just said, I had already guessed, but it should be implied in the book, perhaps a wee bit stronger. I had inferred that this was their worst scrape so far by their reactions, but if it’s a bit unclear to Deann than that means that others are having the same problem.

        So maybe Gabriel chastises him a bit stronger or something earlier when he’s patching him up, and actually says something like …we haven’t been at this too long and we are stumbling around in the dark – we don’t knwo what we are getting into…yada…yada. Only gooder.

        1. Or not. You “guessed it” Deeann assumed otherwise, the average is probably tracking jus’ fine. But I’ll decide when it’s finished. ONE of the downsides of this sort of thing if you take the comments to heart is that you end up WAY over explaining. Why? Because the experience of a chapter a week is not the same as reading the book at one sitting. There’s stuff you miss, stuff that slips from the subconscious that would otherwise have stuck. EVEN if you reread from the beginning each time. (And I hope you don’t. You’d zone.) I had to learn this the hard way at austen.com and I ruined a story (By Her Arts and Allurements, for my Austen fanfic fans) by trying to explain for the commenters not following along.

          Will I do a final pass and probably put in a bunch of subtle stuff? Sure. This will probably have… three passes from where it is now. And I’m a putter-inner, meaning my first draft is always too sparse. BUT I’m NOT going to worry about the occasional slipped info at this stage, or any more than I would in reading ANY finished draft. Someday, if I’m in a cruel mood, I’ll post what DST looked like after my group did this to the first five chapters. THERE WAS WAY TOO MUCH EXPLANATION. Like, how the lifeboats worked, because some people weren’t convinced, etc.

          Now, do I find the reactions, in their general sense, useful? Sure. But explaining everything one person got wrong would kill the book. It would kill it dead. There are tons of books where I “see too much” from the author said, because it’s my area of specialty and not the author’s (which is what happened with Deeann, because she’s with the physical stuff, and I’m not… or at least I was never trained. So I didn’t realize how pathetic Seraphim’s brave struggles at controlling the situation would look to a trained person and didn’t obviate that route.) like… linguistics. They’ll say something and I leap to the logical conclusion, then realize the author didn’t even SEE the conclusion because it’s not their field. So I read past that bit, often shaking my head, but I read past. The number of people reading me trained in that sort of situation is probably about one in ten, and that only because I have a lot of Baen readers. Is it worth not exasperating them? Oh, sure. Is it worth it at the expense of stopping other readers cold? Uh… no. Particularly not as the info comes out in the next five chapters.

          Yeah, rewrite and fleshing out will happen. Always do. But particularly when it comes to Seraphim’s father’s character, I still don’t get the full extent of it. There’s something with Gabriel’s mom, too. I know she’s an opium addict, and there’s something very, very, very wrong about her. But I have no idea how wrong or why. To explain, I’m not a pantser. This is outlined. Well, the main plot is outlined. Subplots, I’m totally a pantser on. I’ll be discovering it along with you. And I’ll have to trust my subconscious to tie them up to the point you ‘get’ it even before the final smoothing. Should be able to, these days it mostly does.

      3. Yeah, after I’d thought about it for a while, I thought I recalled that it’s one of your sons, not you, whose been studying martial arts? Or am I completely confused? 🙂 Anyway, that’s why I went back and explained the reaction.

        So I take it that neither G nor S has had anything but magical training, nothing like sword fighting or such?

        And it’s interesting that they need wands that run out of charge to provide immediate offense, and long(er) times to cast a spell. No bolt-lobbing in this milieu, then? Or is that something even more advanced than their respective levels of skill?

        1. Deann (do you know your name is HELL on dyslexics?) even the kids haven’t studied martial arts. Actually my level was probably like S. and G.’s level at least about a year in — I learned fighting the way G-d intended, by getting into fights, mostly on the street and with whatever came to hand. Later I learned to use an umbrella as a near-lethal weapon (and no, not like old British ladies with umbrellas. These were what the US would call golf umbrellas, for one.) I’ve also used a stilleto heel, which I then translated to Ariadne’s skein (the short story.)

          No, in the world — which is a different world but same universe as my MBE they don’t TEACH aggressive magic. (Nell might be able to figure it out, since she’s self-taught.) It’s a regulation thing. Instead, they sell mage sticks charged with some level of charge. You can recharge them from pre-arranged spells. Think riffles. In fact, the mage companies that sell these have the same name as the weapons manufacturers in England at the time (Well, Victorian time.) These are used for hunting and duels and (well, of course, though supposedly not) crime. They were taught a “gentleman’s education” (And during the night I figured out what’s weird about Gabe’s mom and why he of all the old Duke’s byblows was brought into and brought up with the family) which included fencing and boxing, but by “marquis de fantail” (bows to Pratchett) rules, that is exhibition/salon rules, which as you know are not useful at ALL in real life.

        1. The one time I saw you critique, I made a note “If I ever get a writing group again, I want Deann in it.” Because you were that awesomely insightful. I sort of do want one, I just haven’t had the TIME.

    1. yes, it’s his worst scrape. The reason I took two chapters on Gabriel being horrified he’s intending to go out again, is that it’s the worst peril he put himself in so far. He’s been wounded before, etc, but not faced a magical attack, then gone off to one of the more dangerous worlds. Also, as far as they can tell, what just happened mimics their father’s death. (It’s actually more complex than that, and it’s tied with Gabriel’s mother and… a lot of other stuff. And Gabriel isn’t super-awesome. He’s the quiet member of the association.)

    1. Same here. I’m getting something similar from another authors beta list, and it can be entertaining at times.

  6. I like to read the work in progress and later compare it to the final version. The process can be as interesting than the book. I look forward to reading this one. Still working on your older works, but getting closer to current all the time. Author development is fascinating.

    1. I’ll race you. I have about twenty started to almost finished novels, which I intend to hit running in the new year. The NEXT novel to post here after Witchfinder is done is a weird sf tech/supernatural that wants to be called The Damned Die Hard despite that being the title of a Non-fiction book on the Foreign Legion. it is also a weirdly apt title and as with A Few Good Men, it might have to give in.

      1. Heck with it, Sarah. If that’s what it wants to be called, call it that. The only glitch would be if someone *trademarked* the title, as titles can’t be copyrighted.

        1. actually what’s been holding me up on this book, is that my main (female) character is special special forces (yeah, I’m going with a branch so secret like in Puppet Masters. ) And my reading isn’t ENOUGH to keep me from making stupid mistakes. It would be a great relief to be able to run it by someone who will spot those BEFORE I put them out in public. Probably less important as the action gets weirder, but in the beginning, she’s doing it very much by the book.

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