For previous chapters, click here
*This is the new free novel I’m posting here a chapter at a time. This is pre-first-draft, as it comes out. 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. *
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
Come Into My Web
The Honorable Jonathan Blythe, Earl of Savage:
The carriage started trundling along at last. I’d tried pulling back the curtains on the windows, but they seemed to be of some magical material that would not budge to all my frantic clawing. I was at the point of considering using magic, though in a container with unknown magical potential that was playing with fire near a pile of lint, when the carriage stopped.
The stop was odd. There was no slowing down, and no sound of the horses’ steps spacing further apart. Just one moment we were bowling along, and the next moment we were completely stopped. Just before that moment there had been a tingle, as though we’d crossed through a veil. I filed this away for future thought, though I had no idea at all what it might mean.
When the door opened, I was shocked to find that the outside was enveloped in such dense fog that there was no seeing anything much past the tip of my nose.
Through this sort of grey-whiteness, I perceived what looked like the guards who’d picked me up at my house, but it was impossible to see them clearly through the fog.
In front of me was the open door of an house that looked very much like the building in Cheapside where Seraphim had made the offices of the Witchfinder.
I looked at the door with some misgiving. There was no reason at all to be wary, except that the fog didn’t feel right, that carriages don’t go from full gallop to a complete stop in ten seconds, and that I’d forgotten to scan the envoys for their origin. A glancing magical probe aimed at them now, showed them covered in the full protection of his majesty’s magic, but by that time I didn’t trust any of my senses, including magical.
I considered running in another direction – any direction but that door – but I had a tingle down the middle of my back, and the uncomfortable feeling that if I ran, there would be nothing under my feet.
So I went to the door. At some point a man has to trust in his magic and in his dagger – of which I actually had three, concealed about my person. I always did, because sometimes you come to a point where you need a blade and it saves your life. There was this one time, when Freddy and I were boxing the watch– I swept the thought away from my mind.
As always when I felt in danger, I also felt awake and alive in a way I never managed at other times.
Inside the open door, in the comfortably dim but not dark hall, I noted that everything looked like the ante-chamber of Seraphim’s office. Don’t ask me why, but this made me more suspicious than ever that it – in fact – wasn’t Seraphim’s office. Perhaps it’s a defect in my character?
In front of me a page who looked strangely indistinct, considering there was no fog inside, opened the door and sang out, “The right Honorable, the Earl of Savage, Jonathan Blythe.” And I walked into Seraphim’s office.
There was a fire burning in the fireplace, and Seraphim himself sat behind his massive desk which was, as always, covered in papers. I’d been in Seraphim’s office often enough to know that the desk looked just so, including the two cups of coffee forgotten atop a pile of paper who knew how many weeks ago. Seraphim’s servants at the office were afraid to touch anything, lest they disarrange a field of magic that the prince consort was keeping carefully tamped down.
The man behind the desk was looking through a pile of papers, and said without looking up, “Hello, Jonathan.”
This too was expected and normal, since he rarely did look up. But I had it now, even from this angle, and with the grey light from the windows playing sideways on the man’s bent head and his features. I sighed as histrionically as I could manage it. “You have an odd sense of humor, your majesty.”
The man looked up. I read unguarded surprise in his eyes, and he cleared his throat. “The prince consort can be addressed as his grace but not as his majesty,” he said, sounding vaguely hurt.
I pulled at a nearest chair, felt it with both hand and magic, because in this place it was hard to tell whether it was real or not, then dropped into it. “Yes, indeed,” I said. “I’m very nice on all matters of etiquette, your majesty. I’m fairly sure that I wouldn’t call the prince consort his majesty. Just like I wouldn’t call the king of fairy your grace. Give up, Penn, do. I remember you from Eton.” When he’d been considerably less insane than at this moment. I wondered, fleetingly, if it was the amount of magic that fairyland put out that made its inhabitants insane. Mind you, Gabriel Penn, given his family’s peculiarities and the fact he’d managed to be at the same time a son of the house and a servant, depending on who was judging his status and how it suited them to act, had more than enough reason to go insane long before becoming the king of fairyland. But with all that, he’d always seemed, with Seraphim, fairly sensible for a Darkwater.
Now he looked so disappointed he might have been a child promised a sweet and given a kick. He dropped to sitting on his chair, behind the desk, and stared at me, “How did I give myself away?”
One of the things all the fey delight in is fooling humans. I’d never expected it from Gabriel Penn who until a few months ago had been full human, or at least passed as such, but I wondered if it was a need of fairyland. I ticked his mistakes on my fingers, “The carriage stopped too suddenly, there was no sound of hooves slowing down, there was no sound from the horses in the front of the carriage either, the fog was a bit much and didn’t feel right. It was like being inside clotted cream. Oh, and Seraphim calls me Jon, not Jonathan. And if he’d been fool enough to send for me, as though under arrest – that didn’t ring true either, your majesty – he’d have kept those two men one on either side of me all the way in here. Because he doesn’t trust me more than he can help. Perhaps with good reason. Oh, and your spoofing of the Avalon king’s magic was too perfect, like… like a memorized spell.”
To my surprise, he grinned at me. He looked a lot like Seraphim, though if I remembered correctly, at least when he’d been fully human, he’d been somewhat shorter. He had the Darkwater aquiline nose, the oddly bright eyes, and the dark curls that had all been the old Duke’s – and very liberally spread all through Avalon and not a few other countries besides, given the old man’s proclivities.
Gabriel Penn, a year older than Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, but not legitimate and therefore not the heir, had been raised with the family from childhood, and had attended school with Seraphim, rooming with his younger brother and occupying a slippery position between roommate and valet. As far as I could tell from their interaction, Seraphim considered him a brother and roommate, and Gabriel Penn considered himself Seraphim’s valet. This made it impossible for any one else of us to know how to relate to this strange figure in our midst.
He was still a strange figure. Perhaps more so, since through a series of odd circumstances he’d become the king of elvenland almost a year ago.
His smile discomfited me, and now that he wasn’t bothering to hide it, I could see tendrils of his power spreading all over, so that the person I was facing, what used to be Gabriel Penn, my classmate at Eton and Cambridge, was … something fully powerful and not fully human.
He sighed, a very human sigh, removed one of the several rings on his fingers, and played with it nervously between his hands. “I was hoping,” he said. “To have a little more time to lay out the problem to you, which is why I thought if you believed I was Seraphim…”
Which would be like his believing I was a bunny. Again, what is it about fey magic? Does it render them all a little mad? Gabriel had lived in the world of men and knew the rules. Surely he could have pretended better?
He seemed to read my thoughts, something that always discomfited me. “Time is odd here,” he said. “Or perhaps it is that the change was so great. It feels like centuries since I lived on Earth. One forgets details.”
One might very well, but this one, I thought, was rumored to visit Earth often enough, to consort with his lover, my brother in law, and to spend time with his half-sibling and other family, that one would think one would maintain some grasp on earthly realities.
I didn’t say it. If you argue with a king, you’d best be prepared to kill him. Instead I said, “I have a meeting with Seraphim at noon.”
“I know. I wished to talk to you first. You can decide how much to tell him.”
“I thought you told your brother everything, your majesty?”
He looked puzzled. “Seraphim and I have different… I don’t want to burden his conscience unnecessarily.”
“But you’d burden mine?”
“You have one?”
Touche. I raised eyebrows at him and said nothing, though in fact, I do have a conscience. It’s just constituted differently from other people’s, and I do not even know why.
“Very well,” he said. “My brother will have told you the magic has gone rotten. What he’ll not have told you…”
He sighed. “You know there are many other worlds?”
“Elementary. Else the need for a witchfinder to rescue the magical from a world where it’s forbidden would be none. Besides, we learn it in nursery.” Fine, so fey really made these people mad.
“Indeed. Well… we were taught when very young that fairyland was a parasite world, which sucked magic out of other worlds, and that in fact some of the known worlds without magic were sucked dry by fey. As you know that has been revised to fairyland being the spoke on the magic wheel, the one thing that keeps magic flowing.”
I nodded. All this had been explained through our late and rather unpleasant adventure.
“So…” He brought the fingers of his hands together, tip to tip, a very Gabriel Penn gesture, and leaned forward, colored motes dancing in his eyes in a way that was nothing human. “Suppose there really is a world that is a parasite. It has for years been confused with fairyland, partly because humans ascribe divine attributes to both – erroneously, in our case at least. We’re just… more magical. A world that needs human worlds to survive and that has been careening from world to world, hitting where might, stealing magic and moving on?”
“I’d need some proof before—”
He waved that away. “I can show you proof. Proof enough. Mathematical proof. Marlon worked it out for me.”
Ah. My brother in law was one of the true geniuses of our generation. All the same, I’d talk to him outside this cursed place. Fairyland is not good for even part-elves and it can twist their reason, and if this king was going as mad as the last one, Marlon wouldn’t be far behind. Propinquity and all that.
“So, what would this world be?” I asked. “A… anti-fairyland?”
The thing that had been Gabriel Penn pursed his lips and looked for a second wholly human and very worried, at least if one ignored unseen magical winds making his hair flutter and the tendrils of power extending from him, power that would be enough to kill a mortal man if he held it for a second.
“You humans called it, among other things, Olympus. Also, Valhala, also many other names.”