*This is the new free novel I’m posting here a chapter at a time. This is pre-first-draft, as it comes out. For previous chapters, look here. It is a sequel to Witchfinder which will soon be taken down (once edited) and put for sale on Amazon (And at this point I’m hoping that will happen by the beginning of July at the latest). Meanwhile, if you donate $6 or more, I’ll get you a copy of Rogue Magic, once finished and edited, in your favored ebook format. Of course, if you’re already subscribing to the blog at a level at which you get whichever books come out that year, you don’t need to worry. Also, can I light the bat signal for someone to send me the compilation up till now? I know, I know, but I have it on a flash drive and can’t find the right one. *
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
All The Fish In The Sea
Wolfe Merrit, Overseer to the Earl Of Savage’s properties and manufactories:
There are several things you should never, ever, do when wild magic is running rampant in your world, corrupting all magic workings you could perform. Particularly there are things you should not do in a room from which two young ladies disappeared by magical means and almost certainly hadn’t gone where they meant to go.
The first one of them, of course, would be trying to reach through the hair to the creature to whom it belonged and pull her back.
Yes, surely, of course, I know I absolutely should not do that. I passed primary instruction.
What I did not pass was – apparently — the basic test for human common sense. My mother had said so, when I showed home with a wife who was an elf-lady I’d found naked in the forest. I’d protested then, and she’d not said it again. Probably because she liked Jimmy too much to hurt him.
But some would argue my besetting sin was having less brain than the chickens who at least knew how to get out of the wet and go perch.
Faced with that pile of hair, the curly, dark one, the golden one, my hand on it, I thought of Lady Helen.
I’d never spoken to her, but only seen her to look at. She reminded me of my wife, and that’s the truth, even if I rather think the Earl’s family would bring an action at law against me if I ever so much as hinted it outside my own head.
It’s not that she looked like the fey. Most of them are pale and wan, very tall, very thin. My wife was, and even Jimmy has a bit of that look, like he is not real enough for the world. ‘course the king of elves, who came to the princess’s wedding to Darkwater – only some people say as they’d married before, but that’s just gossip – had dark curls, as much as you could see of it, under that head dress of golden leaves, but I figured that came from being half brother to the Darkwaters who are all dark and sharp looking like Greek merchants.
But for all she was neither pale nor excessively tall nor so thin that she looked unnatural, the Lady Helen had something… Something like she wasn’t quite tamed. Like you’ll come along a forest, on a summer evening, and see a deer, and they’re quite tame around our place because the Savages don’t hunt, nor do they like us to. You’ll see the deer there, browsing on leaves, and it doesn’t quite run, but the moment you come around the edge of the leaves, and it catches sight of you, it will get that look in its eyes, like in its mind it’s already galloping away.
Lady Helen gave me the same impression, the same look like at any moment she would turn and kick off her shoes and run, and run into another world, another dimension, the disordered world of the fey where she could be free and finally be herself. Her brother had a touch of it but not as strong, or perhaps I didn’t react as much to it, because he was a man and not a comely female.
Elves will have their glamour.
I can’t put it higher than that, but what I can tell you is that every time I’d seen the lady arrayed in the proper muslins and lace of a debutant, I’d wanted to take her under my arm, toss her across my saddle and run off with her into a land of adventure.
Only of course I didn’t have a saddle, or a horse of my own, and what could I offer an earl’s sister, I who had nothing and came from farmers, and who probably was still legally married to my vanished wife. Insofar as marriage to elves was legal, which was a matter that the courts had been debating for years, in cases more prominent than mine.
So I’d done nothing, and I’d said nothing. I looked around the room with all its books. She couldn’t escape her station no more than I could escape mine, and she didn’t fit it no better. And she’d tried to get away via a fantastic plan. And… Something had gone horribly wrong.
Yes, as soon as the idea that I could free her, I could bring her back to this world by the sympathetic magic in her hair, came to me, I thought that it was a bad idea. The transport spell had gone wrong, after all. All magic was going wrong. Spinning machines were flying off their sockets and sending parts flying all over the shop, destroying other machines and almost beheading two lint boys which had only escaped because I managed to send a protection spell to them in time.
But my protection spell had worked. Perhaps there was something in my contact with fey magic had given me protection.
Before I could quite call myself to sense, I had laid my hand square on the pile of hair, and I started the words of the call-back spell, “Quaero, feri—”
The maid screamed. There was a flash of light, a smell of scorch, a sense, as though the floorboards heaved and moved.
I fell from a great height, but couldn’t see where I was, until I landed. I’d prepared for it, and landed on my feet, my legs held loose, to take the impact. But I wasn’t ready for cold water up to my ankles, and I almost fell. I’d just retrieved my balance, when someone fell on me and someone beside me. In the dim greenish light, I couldn’t see who for a moment, then I realized it was the Lady Helen in front of me, outlandishly attired in breeches and coat, her short hair on end, a splash of greenish something across her face.
She fell on me, and we both fell back into the water, or whatever it was. It smelled like water that had been used and passed through a living thing. Several times. She was so warm, and, despite the reek surrounding us, she smelled so good that I hesitated a moment before pulling her up to her feet and standing myself.
I’d never seen such a beautiful woman, not even my wife in the forest, in all her elven splendor.
But I had no time for daydreaming, as something came from somewhere ahead of us. It’s hard to describe. There was this sound like a big creature splashing in deep water, and then there was … It looked like a shark made entirely out of iron, and it lunged at us.
I said “Hell,” and grabbed Lady Helen and her companion who I assumed was the maid, around the waist, and I pulled them both backward with me, reasoning that if the place forward was deeper water, this would be shallow.
I was right, as we landed in a soft, sort of squishy place, and the creature who hand lunged at us landed where we had been, and glared at us with glowing, vicious yellow eyes, before somehow sliding itself back into the water.
The maid was crying, softly by our side, and the Lady Helen was heaving with deep breaths atop of me, and I thought she was going to cry, and I said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I tried to use the bringing spell to bring you back to your room.”
She took one large, long sigh, and she pounded her fists on my chest. It didn’t hurt. It was much like when my little sister used to try to punch me when she was little. But it was startling. As were her words. “You stupid man,” she said. “You stupid man. I tried to transport us home and your stupid spell had bring us here to this stinky place where you were. Why did you think I wanted to come here?”
“I didn’t. I was in your room. I tried to bring you there.”
She disentangled herself from my arms. She glared at me. “You did not. You can’t have. If you did why am I here?”
“The magic has gone rotten,” I said, pulling myself to my feet and standing. “the magic is doing odd things. That’s why your transport spell went wrong. It’s happening all over the world.”
I thought she was going to cry, but she didn’t. Her lips did funny things but when she said, “Oh!” it was in a tone of great anger. “I cannot believe my cursed luck. Just when I had everything ready to esca—” She stopped as though it occurred to her she was about to give away her grand plan, as though anyone with more sense than a kitten wouldn’t already have figured it out. She really needed a minder. She should be kept inside and warm. The image of my mother’s kitchen fire flashed in my mind, and of Lady Helen all cozy in the big rocking chair, wrapped in mamma’s best quilt. The idea was so incongruous I almost laughed. Instead I said, “It’s worse than that. If it goes on, it will unravel the magic of the whole world, and we all die.”
She glared at me. Then she said, “Even Jonathan? My brother?”
I nodded. It seemed obvious that if everyone died the Lord Savage would too. But people in shock think in strange ways.
Her mouth compressed tight. “Well, we mustn’t let it happen then. He has never had any happiness you know, and it wouldn’t be right.”
I was sure there were a lot of other people who’d never had any happiness, and that she herself must not have much, and that if the Lord Savage hadn’t had happiness, he must have had something that passed for it, if rumors of his drinking and routing were true. But I started to suspect this unhappy girl-woman thought she was going to protect her big brother.
And meanwhile, I was looking around, trying to size up our predicament, and I wasn’t liking it at all. It was far, far worse than I thought or else I was seeing things.
“Who are you anyway?” she asked. “And where are you.”
“I’m Wolfe Merritt, m’lady, the supervisor of manufactories and general factotum to your family. I’ve seen you once or twice, but I don’t think as we ever had occasion to get acquainted. And as to where we are. I think we’re inside something.”
“We’re obviously inside something. The open air doesn’t smell this foul. Well, except near the privies. But what?” Her little maid had picked herself up and was looking at me with huge eyes behind the lady’s shoulder. I hated to say what I was going to say both to the lady false courage and to the maid’s obvious fear. But they had to know.
“No,” I said. I pulled the lady over, and pointed upward, to where the low roof looked like a pink membrane, rising and falling like something… breathing. “I think we are inside something living. A creature.”