*For new readers. No, I’m not now going to switch to just posting chapters. This is something I normally do on Friday, though sometimes on Saturday when things get… difficult. It is a free novel I’m posting here a chapter at a time. You get it free in pre-draft format, glorious typos and all. If you want the edited, formatted and cleaned up ebook when it is done, a donation of $6 will get you that once it’s ready which could be a year or so (if you put in the field that it’s for Rogue Magic.) Once I put it up on Amazon or other outlets, I plan to price it at $9, but I can give readers’ of the blog the price break that amounts to what I’d receive from Amazon. I will probably also have paper editions, but I can’t promise to send those out, as I think the costs would soon become prohibitive. For previous chapters, go here. It is a sequel to Witchfinder which will soon (we’re looking at early July) be taken down (once edited) and put for sale.*
NOTICE: For those unsure about copyright law and because there was a particularly weird case this week, 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
Jonathan Savage, Earl of Blythe,
I stood up. Not in this world seemed to me the ravings of a maid without much experience of magic, and besides the girl couldn’t be much more than thirteen, maybe fifteen, so she could not possibly know what she was talking about.
That the spell Helen had used must have gone wrong was not surprising. Wolfe had, after all, just been telling me that something had gone seriously wrong and there was rogue magic woven in the spells we sold. I had no reason to doubt Wolfe who was neither a maid, nor inexperienced in practical magic.
But there is quite a difference between a spell going wrong and taking you to a place you didn’t intend to be and a spell taking you to another world. There was a difference of degree. If one steps onto a staircase and the step breaks, one can end up in the lower floor – also, with a broken leg, which happened to me this one time that my friend Marmaduke and I went exploring an abandoned mansion. We’d drunk a bit much, and if Duke hadn’t hit upon the idea of screaming for a watchman who’d then brought help, I’d be a gonner today. But damme, what I mean is, if the step breaks, you don’t end up in the cellars, or in the carriage house.
And while the utter prohibition on magical travel to other worlds had been lifted, since the restoration of the princess Royale and my papa’s death, still it was a serious business and overseen and regulated by the king. When you had such a magically powerful world as Avalon, you had to be very careful that your citizens weren’t up to illegal magics in other worlds less well equipped to detect it. It was distressingly easy to swindle other worlds, when no one could match you in magic – as my papa had shown.
So having spells out there that could and would take you to other worlds was unlikely.
I started to rise from my chair, and told the girl, Annabel, “Do you take us to my sister’s room. I trust the hair hasn’t been disposed of?”
“Of course not, Milor’.”
“Good. It will have to be broken, but—” I realized that Wolfe had risen too, and turned to glare at him. “I trust I can get full silence on this. You realize that I—”
His blunt, peasant-stock face looked like he understood this perfectly well, not just as a warning, but as a reminder that his position was tied to the Blythes. “I would not dream of saying anything, Milord,” he said. “And not just because it would affect both your position and mine. I’m just worried that Lady Helen won’t return safely. I’d– I’d like to do what I can to help you.”
There was to it more than the normal old and faithful retainer touch, and I was trying to think of a way to depress his pretensions that wouldn’t tear it in terms of our working together on the things we must work together on, such as the manufactories, when repeated poundings on the front door shook the house.
What I mean is, they weren’t pounding with the knocker. It sounded like multiple, large men, were pounding on the front door with fists and feet.
Through the din, I heard running feet – I’d suspect Harving – and the door opened. Then the pounding ceased, but there were voices, loud and officious. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, not through the study door, but someone seemed to be shouting orders and Harving’s voice, in return, went from his normal to an almost shriek.
This had gone far enough. I opened my desk drawer and took out my pistol. If there were ruffians forcing their way into the house they must be stopped. And if they came to give us news of wherever Helen had gone, they must be listened to.
So I opened the door to my study and stood in the doorway. And froze.
In the hall were two very tall, rough-looking men, in the black uniform of the newly found Witchfinder Police which was overseen by Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater.
The first one turned to Harving and said, “And you said the Earl was not home,” then to me, “Milord Jonathan Savage, Earl of Blythe, you are under arrest at the order of the royal Witchfinder.”
My mouth must have dropped open, and it felt uncommonly dry as I tried to answer. “What? Damme, I told Seraphim I’d be there after noon. Surely this type of unpleasantness isn’t needed?”
They looked at each other. The one who hadn’t talked till then shrugged. Then the other one said, “You are under arrest for unwarranted interference in other worlds.”
“I haven’t interfered anywhere,” I said. I hadn’t even been out of town, except to my country seat, and that not by magical transport, since I ascended.
“That’s all very well, sir, and you can tell it to the Prince.”
“I will tell it to the prince,” I said. I would tell it to the prince in a way he wouldn’t like. What I mean is, there are ways in which to ensure your friends keep appointments, and to do it by sending your minions to arrest him is beyond the line of pleasing. If this was Seraphim’s idea of a joke, I’d make him swallow it.
But something at the back of my head warned that it wasn’t a joke, and that there was something more here than Seraphim’s wish to see me.
I would have to go. There was no doubt of that. These two were not funning. On the other hand, I had the matter of Helen on my hands.
I turned and found Wolfe Merritt’s eyes, fixed earnestly on me. He wasn’t the man I’d choose to deal with this, and bring Helen safely back to me, I thought. And on the back of that, I realized there was no one I would trust to bring Helen safely back to me, and whom I could command to exert himself in that purpose.
Most of the servants were Papa’s handpicked men and women. As for my family – well, Mama would faint, the girls were insufficiently trained and the boys – that didn’t even bear thinking about.
So I turned to Wolfe Merritt, as my last hope in the world, and said, “That matter of the… of the hair, Merritt. I want you to exert yourself in it and… bring it to a safe conclusion as soon as may be. Find the… er… the missing items and bring them back where they belong, undamaged if at all possible. You won’t lose by it.”
I then stepped into the hall and said, “I’m at your disposal, gentlemen.”
Moments later, bowling across town in a black carriage with no escutcheon on the doors, I wondered where I was bound and what this could mean. Most of all I wondered if it was some of Papa’s malfeasance I’d failed to scotch because I hadn’t known it existed, and which was now coming back to crush all my efforts at making our house respectable.
I hoped Wolfe Merritt had taken my hint and would at least try to do something about Helen. What he could do was anybody’s guess since it might very well involve unauthorized travel to other worlds, at least if the maid Annabel was right. And I knew he was a good practical magician but didn’t expect his power to be more than what you got in the lower orders, diluted several times in unmagical blood.
But I’d had no choice. There were no windows in this carriage, and we were trundling along at considerable speed. It was much like speeding forward in the dark of night, towards an unknown destination.
It occurred to me I’d never asked the arresting officers for magical proof of their origin, and I wondered with alarm where the journey would end.