*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. *
For previous chapters, look here: https://accordingtohoyt.com/witchfinder/
*Sorry this is late and somewhat short. If this hasn’t been the week from Hades, it’s been its near cousin. IF everything goes extremely well I’ll add two other chapters to this tonight, but I make no promises.*
And The Dead
Gabriel felt as though he’d gone back in time. These new lodgings were not the ones at Cambridge, but they were not so much different. In fact, from sounds of children at play and the occasional carriage going past the shuttered windows, Gabriel guessed that they were in a city of medium size. Perhaps Bath.
The inside of the house, too – at least this floor – had the same layout of the house in Cambridge. The front room served as a reception parlor for visitors, perhaps not so much here, but it contained the same furniture, the rosewood sofa and lounge chaise, the golden oak bookcases lining the walls, crammed with books that ranged from ancient falling-apart leather bound books to cheaply printed folios with no cover at all. They also ranged, Gabriel knew, from the most difficult books on the occult and magic to the latest novel making the rounds of young ladies circulating libraries.
A great part of the attraction of associating with Marlon had always been the books. They were everywhere in the house; there was nothing Marlon didn’t consider worth reading, and nothing he didn’t consider worth discussing.
The parlor gave way, to a smaller room, which could be cut off by shutting a pocket door. The pocket door was open, and this room, though in the same position as the dining room at Cambridge, did not have the same furniture. Instead, it was crammed full of furniture that had been in Marlon’s offices at Cambridge: a workbench took up the entire length of the wall under a shuttered window. Above the workbench hung a stuffed crocodile. Against the wall to the right was a set of shelves with jars filled with magical substances. In the middle of the room, in the place taken by the dining table at Cambridge, was a massive golden oak desk, at least twice as large as any other desk that Gabriel had ever seen. It was covered all over in papers and books with marks in them, in notepads with a note scribbled on it, in correspondence that, if Gabriel knew Marlon, might very well be the same correspondence that had remained unanswered when the desk was in Cambridge.
As Gabriel was turned when he answered Marlon’s question – had he truly just agreed to sell his soul? It didn’t matter. He owed Seraphim that and more – he could look at the desk, and its papers and did look at them, rather than look at Marlon as Marlon’s finger traced the line of Gabriel’s jawbone.
For a moment, with the tip of his finger just touching Gabriel’s chin, the silence lengthened between them. Then Marlon stepped away. A quickly barked word seemed to have an affect on Gypson who had been drawing closer and closer, and now stopped, and walked back, to stand against the wall, the scrap of soul clinging to it almost invisible in the semi-darkness.
Marlon looked Gabriel over and made a noise at the back of his throat. “Awakened in the middle of the night and no time to dress?” he asked.
“Not really awakened,” he said. “I’d barely gone to sleep.”
“Upstairs,” Marlon said. “There is a room to the left. I just had a fire lit in it so it will still be chill, but the water in the basin will be warm. Wash and dress. I’ll be in the kitchen,” He pointed towards a door to the back of the house.
At least, Gabriel thought as he took the stairs two by two, he wasn’t being forced to share Marlon’s bedchamber. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that particular detail. There were so many worse things one could do to someone whom one magically owned.
The room itself was tiny but larger than Gabriel’s room with the Darkwaters. And the fire was burning cheerily in the fireplace. Gabriel could tell it had been set and lit by magical means and wondered what Marlon was playing at. It was dangerous to use magic in such trivial matters.
But when he went down to the kitchen, after a quick wash and dressing, he found Marlon himself just finishing making tea. The tea service was his old Cambridge one – silver and polished. Marlon used to say, joking – at least Gabriel assumed it was joking – it was a legacy from his mortal father. It had to be a joke, since Marlon’s father had never acknowledged him and at least no one in fairyland knew his identity.
He nodded to Gabriel, as Gabriel came in, then carried the tray into the next room, where he set it on the table in between the sofa and the chaise. Gabriel stepped forward to pour, but Marlon waved him back.
It wasn’t until Gabriel had a steaming cup of tea in his hand, that he said, “You’re using magic for household matters.”
Marlon shrugged. “It wouldn’t do otherwise, would it? I can’t exactly hire servants. Or I could, but considering that every local magician knows who I am and that I’m a wanted criminal, it wouldn’t answer.”
Gabriel didn’t say anything, but his eyes went involuntarily to the wall, where Gipson stood, immobile, save for the vague flap of his soul against the darkness surrounding him.
“As a servant?” Marlon said, answering the unspoken words. “One doesn’t use the remains of someone one once loved as a servant. One doesn’t use slaves, Gabriel. Drink your tea, Gabriel. I should have asked you if you preferred wine. I beg your pardon. I’ve grown quite unused to company.”
“Not wine in the middle of the night and after all that’s happened,” Gabriel said. “I try not to tempt fate.”
“Wise that,” Marlon said. “You said you want to rescue your… brothers. What do you wish me to do?”
“I want to take Michael from Fairyland,” Gabriel said. “That is the first imperative. Seraphim…” He paused, to control himself. “Seraphim is an adult, and should be able to protect himself. Though he could very well be dead by now, as ill as he was when he fell into their trap.”
Marlon gave him a look with raised eyebrows. “Prince, do you know what you’re up against if you ever step foot in fairyland again?” He shook his head. “Or I for that matter.”
“I know what I’m up against. And that’s why I needed you. I might have more raw power, particularly on the other side, but you know more.”
The eyebrows raised impossibly more. “Perhaps,” he said. And then, “And Seraphim isn’t dead, not if what I sense is true. Though we might not be able to get to him.” He sipped his tea, then lifted the cup, staring within, and Gabriel knew he was reading the tea leaves left on the porcelain. “He was sent to pyramids, but transported from there, very rapidly, to a world where magic is low. It must be an odd world, because there’s a sense of… iron about it?”
“Oh. The madhouse,” Gabriel said. “Or one of the worlds in that series. I think, you know, they have magic, just a different type of magic. When Seraphim and I went there, it was full of animated carriages that went by themselves.”
For a moment he thought Marlon was going to call him a liar, but instead the older magician shook his head. “Some day, Prince, you’ll have to tell me what you’ve been doing with yourself these years. It sounds terribly fascinating and more than a little addle brained.”
“My father committed suicide and Seraphim and I discovered–”
“Someday, Gabriel, means not now. I know you dropped out without finishing semantics, but I assure you that’s what it means.” Marlon stood up, with an appearance of unfolding, and, setting the tea cup down on the tray, and waving a hand, to make the whole thing disappear, walked over to this work bench. “You want to go to fairyland, we shall go to fairyland. After all, you know, I hadn’t anything planned for the next sixty years or so of life, so it makes no difference if it’s ended prematurely. First, let’s locate that tiresome youngest brother of yours.”
Locating Michael proved far harder than it seemed. Working with fairyland was always hard. Scanning fairyland was harder. No one who had no elven blood could hope to do it, but even with elven blood there were easier things to do. Extracting blood from stones, for instance.
But more than that, after using his crystal ball and a not inconsiderable amount of magic, Marlon fetched a book from the shelves, and tried another approach. At this point, Gabriel could tell his magic was running down and quite worldlessly provided his own to lend force to the endeavor.
He was rewarded with a brief, brilliant smile. And then Marlon sighed. “It is occluded,” he said. “I can’t see. OH!” The oh was loud and echoed dismay, and his hand went up to his forehead. “Oh,” he said again. He looked at Gabriel, with a look of almost dismay.
“Tell me, Marlon, damn you.”
“He’s in the royal dungeons,” Marlon said. For the first time there was a hint of fear in his voice. “They’re strip mining his magic!”
“Well then, we must rescue him from them,” Gabriel said, even as his heart thudded fast and he felt, incongruously, cold as ice.
“You’re ready to face the assembled armies of fairyland in the name of rescuing your misguided brother?” Marlon asked, with something like a hollow laugh.
“Yes, yes, I am.”
The hollow laugh became louder. “Very well then,” Marlon said. “We can die but once.”