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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
I should have been prepared when they came for me, and I should have arranged to receive them in style. I didn’t. I must be losing my edge.
Correction, I had lost my edge. Why else had I written that soppy letter to Jonathan Blythe? What had possessed me, pray? Oh, he was a handsome rogue, all right, and rotten all through, and what business did I have thinking about him, much less being so stupid as to write to him before I left?
But I remembered the way he had fought on that awful night, and the sort hopeless courage in his eyes, that light that was neither enjoyment nor despair, but was both at th same time. And I didn’t want him to think I’d simply vanished, without giving him another thought.
People like him have trouble enough in the world. Well, in this world, at least. They don’t fit too well, and their behavior is seen either as callous or as perverse. It is neither of course, they’re just… different from their kind.
If I had time, if I’d been born in different times and in a different place, if there were no great work that called me, and no greater duty requiring me to attend to it, I’d have spent some time in some retired magical university studying whether people like Jonathan are what gave rise to my people, or perhaps if it is his elf blood that makes him slightly mad in a world not adapted to it.
But I didn’t have time, and this lifetime was not a good opportunity to get to know Jonathan better or to delve deeper into what made him tick.
Which is why that soppy letter was such a bad mistake. And why I should have expected the Witchfinder to send for me shortly after. I could feel him sniffing close and tracking my activities all along, ever since I’d arrived in Avalon. Him and the other. I should have known the moment I let the letter go – and with my tears, yet – one or the other would send for me.
Let’s be glad it wasn’t the other. Though at first I wasn’t sure of that, not when the knocks sounded at the door to my cheap rented room bright and early that morning. I was dressed and ready to go, my valise packed, my coat ready to put on. In fact, I was adjusting my hat over my pile of red, curly hair – ginger, so ugly, as they would think it here – when the knock on the door came.
I did what any half-baked witch would do and sensed through the door, feeling the shape and zing of the king’s magic. Which could be true, or a spoof, but was bad news in either case, so I backed away into the room and tried to cast a transport spell back home. And found the path bricked. And every path around it, equally blocked. Whatever power had sent the men outside my door had taken care to block every magical path around me so that I could not leave.
Which meant I was trapped. Caught like a magical mouse, in a trap. There remained only acting innocent and opening the door, which I did, turning my limpid eyes to the two large men out there, and saying, “Yes? How may I help you?”
They looked at me, and there was no diminution of the suspicion in their eyes, no hint that perhaps they didn’t suspect me of terrible crimes. Of course, they couldn’t suspect me of a crime as bad as what I’d perpetrated on their world. They were tall and dark, and had square jaws and the sort of look that said they’d seen it all and were not going to think me innocent and harmless, no, not even if I chanced to look it.
“Miss Ginevra Elfborne?” the near one said.
“Yes,” I said, and raised my eyebrows, in complete innocence. I wasn’t, of course, but Elfborne was the closest this world could understand to what I was, so I wasn’t even lying.
“By order of his Majesty’s Witchfinder, Seraphim Ainsling, his Grace the Duke of Darkwater, we are taking you into the custody of the department of unauthorized magics.”
“Me?” I said, and aimed for innocence, but my voice fluted out of control all on its own. Oh, I knew I was caught and it was a fair cop before that. But I didn’t expect them to use the full name and titles of either the Witchfinder or the department. In my opinion when people get all fancy with words, the news is bad. It’s very bad. “I mean, why could you wish to apprehend me?”
The one who hadn’t spoken – they looked like twins – shook his head. “Pardon me, Miss, we’re not investigators and we’re not judges. We’re not even judicial mages. We’re just meant to take you to someone who can do what’s needed. By the laws of Avalon, by the writ of Arthur, in the code of Merlin, you’ll get your hearing, and your chance at defense. But now you must come with us.”
I started towards the door, then backed for my valise, picked it up, and, as I walked towards them tried a Cerberus spell, thus called because it had been used once – and only once, mind, before the shields were repaired – for a human to escape Hades. It was the sort of spell that made someone fall into a sleep so you could walk past. Sometimes the sleep lasted very long. One of the worlds has a silly story about a princess and her court who slept for centuries.
Revision. Maybe it’s not a silly story. It’s not unlikely, if it was coupled or followed by a stasis spell so people didn’t eat or breathe in their magic sleep. I don’t know for a fact the veracity of that story, so I can’t bet either way. Betting is bad for the likes of me anyway.
I cast that Cerberus spell with all my might, flinging it at like a net at the magical guards. It flowed around them and then through them, as though they weren’t there, and returned to me quite untouched. I almost screamed with frustration, and more so when one of them smiled and said, “Miss, that will be no use. We’ve been trained.”
This is when I started fearing it was the Other who had sent for me, and the thought so chilled me that I went quietly into a magically protected carriage, from which not even the Pater himself could have transported.
I couldn’t even tell where we were, as the carriage bowled along. I couldn’t even tell – not with magic – where we were when we stopped.
The guards ushered me out and walked with me into a vast building, where men bowed to me – or to them – until we got to a large door, which was opened for us by two uniformed men, who stood aside to let us enter.
He stood behind his desk, a good mahogany desk of graceful design which barely hid the fact that it was in fact a massive piece of furniture, with a top large enough for three normal desks, all of it shockingly piled with papers and clutter.
For a moment, when he looked up, I was afraid it was really the Other and my breath caught in my throat, but then I saw his magic pattern, plain as day, and it wasn’t something he could disguise. It wasn’t even something he was trying to disguise.
He was dark haired, beak nosed, green eyed, as all the Darkwaters, and his magic pattern was all Darkwater, too. Powerful, doubtless. Very powerful. But human and clearly solid and –
Not, definitely not, something with any spark of fairyland in it.
It will tell you how badly I was rattled at that point that the relief made me feel as though my legs had turned to water. It must have shown in my face, because as the man behind the desk rose and bowed to me there was a small smile on his lips.
“Miss Ginevra?” he said. “Pardon me for not calling you Miss Elfborn, but that I know you’re not.”
And this after the relief was a punch in the stomach. “You kn– kn—know? I said, sounding like a low-grade nymph with no more brain than magic.
The smile grew. “Certainly. Or do you think I don’t speak with my brother?”
I closed my eyes. I was hoping he didn’t speak with his brother. Or rather, I was hoping his brother didn’t give him enough access to ascertain the falsehood of my magic’s signature and the tracing of it to a supposed elf mother.
Rats! I thought, which is unladylike, but there it is. Rats! Which is how I was caught, more or less. Like a rat, in an unbreakable cage. And now I would sing for my supper. Or did rats sing? I could never remember how things were supposed to work in this world.
I let myself drop into an armchair facing the desk. When caught Pater always says, there’s two things you can do. One of them is to seduce them. I looked at the man still standing behind the desk, his green eyes full of humorous scrutiny as they rested on me. He didn’t trust me an inch and he was concerned enough about what I was, or who I was, which showed he was no fool. But he was amused by me, which might mean—
I smiled at him, and the echo back had not one drop of lust. He might as well be the Other on that, only if the rumors was truth, this one was just truly bonded to his wife, Avalon’s insipid little found-again-princess.
I sighed. The second path, Pater said, was to act helpless and lost and to appeal to the humans best instincts. I wondered if this one had any.