*Sorry to be late and for the somewhat short chapter. It’s been an odd day.*
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*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
Jonas Was Not An Instruction Manual
Lady Helen Blythe, sister of the Earl of Savage:
He said we were inside something – inside a living creature. I didn’t shriek. I pride myself on not shrieking. Betsy didn’t shriek, either, but I think that’s because she hadn’t quite understood what he said. Instead, she clung to my arm and looked all around with big, worried eyes.
Part of my mind was misgiving me, because I should never have brought the poor child into this adventure, and the other part of me wondered at my misgiving. The servants had just always been there, and it was their job to do what I wished, was it not?
I looked at the big rough man in the dark suit, with his bad haircut and his blunt features. I had a sudden feeling he would in no way agree with my assessment, since, in a way, he could be considered a servant, could he not?
Laughter bubbled up my throat, and I coughed to disguise it, and when Mr. Wolfe looked at me, I said, very seriously, “It truly is an awful smell, is it not?”
His eyes were grave, and narrowed, as he nodded. “I suspect,” he said. “That we’ve been… swallowed.”
I tried to imagine something large enough to have swallowed us whole, and to contain this immense chamber as well as… surely more? I looked upward, towards the place he’d pointed, the place from which light came. I remembered nanny reading to us about Jonas. That was something I’d never thought would happen to me. Sure, piracy and running away to sea… All right, perhaps my understanding of such things hadn’t been – still wasn’t – perfect, but was it not probable that I could have managed to learn it? Surely, even the pirate world couldn’t be more complex and baffling than the world of the ton.
Mr. Wolfe was walking, decidedly. I said, “Where are you going?” He turned around and looked at me blankly for a moment, then said the one word, “out.”
I hate men like that, who will answer things as though they were obvious when they clearly can’t be. “What do you mean out?” I asked. “You can’t know which way is out.”
He frowned a little. “I think we’re in the alimentary canal of some large creature,” he said. “I think one way or the other we will go out, but we must perforce go one way.”
I thought of the “one way or the other” and shuddered and almost said “you can’t mean it, which was stupid, for it was plain as his square, undemonstrative face that he did mean it.
I bit my lower lip and refused to act like a gabby. After all, if we needed that I’d explain to Betsy exactly where we were. I looked at her glazed looking eyes and felt bad again I’d dragged her into this. No. I was not a monster of cruelty.
I couldn’t however just go meekly so I said, “Why don’t we use magic?”
He clamped his hand on my upper arm and said, “Listen … lady,” the pause led me to believe he’d almost said something quite different. “Listen, look up.”
I looked, to where the pink ceiling that was all too obviously flesh moved. And then I saw it, the almost too subtle sparkle. “It’s a magical animal,” I said.
“I think so,” he said. “Indeed, I do think so. And you will realize with the magic going bad, it would be a very bad idea to use it inside a magical being.”
“I think—” I said, then stopped, because I couldn’t explain to him that I thought we were inside the thing that shook and rattled and tried to break through beneath the fish-men city. But he looked quizzically at me. He hadn’t let go of my arm, and I didn’t make him. He wasn’t holding too tightly, and his human warmth was strangely comforting in this place. “What do you think?” he asked. “You said you were trying to get out before, trying to transport home. Were you two always inside this, since you disappeared?”
“No,” Betsy wailed. It was sudden and decisive. “Noooo. We were in the city of the mermen, and their king wanted to marry Miss.” She paused a moment. “At least I think it was Miss he wanted to marry, as he kissed her.”
Now Mr. Wolfe’s eyes were concerned indeed, as he turned on me. He moved all the while, walking close to a moving, vertical pink wall, on a little ledge that was probably tissue, although I was choosing to think of it as a path. To the right of us, as we followed this ledge, there was a foaming… I’d have thought it was an ocean, except it smelled sulfurous, and was a deep glowing green. I was afraid if we fell in it, we’d dissolve, but I was none too sure that the path would continue. What animal was this? Even when I’d heard it – if that was what it was – beneath the city of the fishmen, I couldn’t tell what it was. An aquatic animal? The idea of the whale flashed again, but I had an idea that whales swallowed a lot of sea water, and surely it would be cleaner inside a whale.
“Tell me,” Mr. Wolfe said.
And to avoid thinking of the foaming green liquid, to avoid thinking the path might run out, I told him everything since we’d got out of my room. For a moment I thought he was amused, when I told him how it couldn’t be any harder to be a pirate than to be a debutant in the ton, particularly given the rumors about my family. But then his face grew grave, and when I told him about the fish place, he said, “This world is not known.”
“Well, it’s not my fault,” I said.
Strange amusement danced in his eyes. “You know, my lady,” he said. “You are, in many ways very young. You remind me of my son.”
“Your son!” I said. And then because I’d rather think of anything than actually where we were, I said. “How old is he?”
He shrugged. “Jimmy,” he said. “Is six.”
“Is he very smart?” I asked. It’s been my experience that high born or low born every parent loves to speak of his child, and I needed Mr. Wolfe to like me and want to help me. But he only gave me an odd look. “He is… very odd,” he said, which made me think that Mr. Wolfe himself was very odd, but I didn’t know what to say.
“The pearls,” he said. “Do you still have them?”
I nodded and prepared to do battle if he told me I had to toss them into the acid bath, or whatever it was on our right. But my tense muscles relaxed, when he said, “I think they might protect us. I think– There is a structure… Can you wind them around your waist, though, under your clothes, so you don’t risk losing them or their being immediately visible? We might met with malefactors.”
I stared at him, “Inside a whale?”
He looked above us. “I don’t think this is a whale.”
“Inside whatever it is?”
“Well, we are here, are we not? And it looks very large.”
I didn’t like the idea. But I shut up, extracted the pearls from my soggy pocket and did as I was told, tying them firmly in a knot. They wouldn’t have been very well concealed, except my clothes were now such a mess that a few bulges would never be noticed.
Mr. Wolfe stopped. “Ah,” he said.
“Ah?” I said.
“Ah. We can’t go any further. “ He showed me pink ledge enlarged into a sort of protuberance, and then ended.
“Oh,” I said.
“Fortunately,” he said. “It looks like I was right about there being people in here.” He pointed with a trembling finger. On the… green liquid, there was a very odd looking ship, with sails that seemed inflated by an unfelt wind. It looked somewhat like the Spanish ships at the time of the armada.
“They can’t be people,” I said, my mind rebelling.
Mr. Wolfe sighed. “Let’s hope they are.”
“And let us hope they have food,” Betsy said, with a small sigh.