Rogue Magic, Free Novel, Chapter 16

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

roguemagiccover

 

Miss Helen Blythe, sister to the Earl of Savage

A Most Fantastical Crew

We stood there on that slippery horrid pink…  I tried to think of it as a rock, but I was more or less sure that it was actually a muscle or a gland or … – a part of someone or something – and watched the little boat approach.

As it came closer it became obvious that it was not made of anything sensible like wood.  Instead, it appeared to be assembled of bones.  Not human bones, thankfully, or I might have given way to strong hysterics which likely would have vexed Mr. Merrit very greatly.  As it approached, it looked like it was made of great planks of cartilage, like one finds inside certain sea animals.  But its masts had teeth along the length and looked like they had been built of mandibles.  And the “cloth” hanging from the mast was pink and horrible, and I suspected was really a flap of skin, perhaps from this same creature inside whom we seemed to be lost.

The whole had a fish-like aspect.

When I was very little, Jonathan had a tutor for only one summer, before papa decided that Jonathan would be better off at school or, as he said, being someone else’s problem.  The tutor was a tall, thin man, who coughed a lot, but he had brought with him the most amazing and interesting collection I’d ever seen.  He had mounted skeletons of birds and fish, and pinned butterflies beneath glass.  When he’d caught me spying into his room, he’d asked me if I wanted to be told about his treasures, and had given me an interesting lecture on each of the skeletons and butterflies and insects that crammed the tiny room my parents had allotted him. I’m not lying, it really was interesting, and I’d probably have gone back to him for lectures, except nanny had caught me in his room and nearly had strong hysterics, and treated me to a very long talk about how some older men like little girls.

At the time it had all gone so far above my comprehension I’d thought nanny had lost her mind.  Now I understand what she meant.  One hears stories.  But it wasn’t so with Mister Brim.  He had talked to me as he would have talked to any other interested creature.  It appeared he’d been on a three-year-long tour through Africa or South America or some place that is, at this distance, hard to remember.  It was where he’d contracted his cough and ruined his health, and that had caused him to return home.  But obviously his mind and his passion remained there, and he just wanted to talk about his happy times.  Since Jonathan wasn’t much interested, he’d spent an afternoon talking to me.

I thought of him, as that odd little boat came to dock near us.

From a distance, I’d thought that there were little men aboard the boat, but now I saw that they were monkeys.  A vast number of monks – I thought chimps – wearing ragged sailors uniforms, but not sailors as in our own navy.  More like some exotic navy all silks and odd tailoring.  They were little white tunics, and bulky ballooning pants and colorful silk sashes carried around their waists.

I heard Betsy say, “They’re monkeys,” in an astounded tone, beneath her breath, and then the boat was docking up against the soft pink stuff, and a monkey jumped up and tied it with a thick rope of unknown – and best not examined – provenance to something in the protruberance upon which we stood.  And Wolfe Merrit cleared his throat, “I say,” he said, in the tone of a gentleman trying to make conversation at a social function.  “I say, you wouldn’t happen to know where three forlorn travelers can get shelter, would you?”

The monkey who’d tied the rope looked at us and blinked.  It seemed to me that his eyes were far more intelligent than they should have been, and I wondered why I wasn’t scared.  I should have been.  It wasn’t as though bone-built boats crewed by monkeys were a normal thing in my life.

I could only think that either I’d become too tired and inured by all the successive shocks and incongruencies of the last many hours or that the monkeys were too… entertaining.  They looked much like a circus act trained by someone.  I wondered whom.

The monkey turned and gestured towards the boat, and another of his fellows came scrambling up, and across the rope.  He was better dressed than the others, in that his clothes looked newer and his baggy pants were made of striped silk in gold and silver and red that must at one time have been blindingly bright.  He wore a rope of pearls around his neck.

He bowed deeply to us.  “My fellow here,” he said.  “Does not speak your language.  You talked to him.  What do you need?”

“I …”  This impeccable speech, in the Queen’s English, from a Monkey had stopped even Mister Merrit cold.  He cleared his throat again.  “Who do I have the pleasure of addressing, sir?”

The monkey bowed.  The feeling that I was caught in the middle of a circus act was stronger than ever.  “I am Arya,” he said.  “Arya the Voluble.  Arya of the Nimble fingers.”  He looked inexpressibly sad, as though he’d suddenly remembered that his entire family had perished in a horrible way.  “Arya, alas, the great sailor.  Which I misdoubt my lord Hanuman would believe now.”  He sighed, a very human sigh.  “For two years now we’ve been lost in the gullet of this beast, having been swallowed in becalmed sees, and how we’ve survived, milord, it would make you weep to watch it, for there are neither forests nor trees, neither fruit nor plant here, and what our lord Hanuman must think has happened to us, when he sent a crew of his best magicians and his most competent tricksters.” He sighed, then opened his arms and showed us both palms in a very human gesture.  “I know not.”

I knew not either, save that Merritt hadn’t corrected the “my lord” and that his hand had clasped my arm hard enough to bruise.  I didn’t know why, except I assumed something in the monkey’s speech discomfited him.

He finally found his voice and said, “We’re in a beast, then?”

“Oh, aye, a great tentacle beast, like an octopus.  My lord Hanuman sent us for to see if we could put it to sleep again, as it’s been for centuries uncounted.  Instead it swallowed us whole, and our craft too.”  He must have seen us staring at his craft.  “Oh, aye, not that.  A proper craft, which is moored at our home island.  We would not risk it in these daily expeditions to get our living from the gullet of the beast.  Because one day we will defeat the magic on it and leave here to go home.”

“Magic,” Merrit said.

“Magic barriers,” the monkey said.  “Like a magical strainer.  They don’t let anything magical pass out of the beast, once swallowed.”

I shuddered.  The idea of living out my life here did not appeal.  At my side, Betsy gasped but said nothing, which was a vast improvement over what she would have said just hours ago.  The poor girl must be very tired.

“I see,” Merritt said.  “then you can’t tell us how to leave?”

“No,” Arya said.  “Except that perhaps with your magic and our magic we can confound it.”

“Are there… many other people here?”

“If you mean many other magical creatures, there are other tribes of lost travelers, but we stay away from them, for they don’t consider monkeys quite … creatures that shouldn’t be eaten.  We lost a young and well intentioned fool our first week here, and since then we avoid them.  Not that I blame them exactly, for men have often eaten monkeys, and there is little to eat here.  Except that we’ve found you can take vast strips of the beast’s muscles, and they don’t even taste too badly, and they grow back wondrously fast.  If you come aboard my meager vessel now, we shall take you to our village, where you can bathe and get fresh clothes and share our humble repast.”

26 responses to “Rogue Magic, Free Novel, Chapter 16

  1. If they’re chimps, then they aren’t monkeys, they’re apes. 😉

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    It may be coincidence, but IIRC Hanuman is a Monkey *God*. So when Avalon is having problems with magic being stolen by a “myth world”, I’m wondering if these guys are as friendly as they seem.

  3. Ooo! Inside Cuthulu! Or at any rate an apparently very inconvenient humongous magical squid. With monkeys. Ok, apes. Whatever. Yes, of course I’m picturing whats-his-name from Oz the Great and Powerful.

  4. I really need to get caught up.

  5. Where is that dang loved it button *sigh

  6. I hope it turns out that they’re genuinely nice monkeys. The stories I know about Hanuman are fairly benign, and anybody who manages to make a landbridge through playing barrel o’ monkeys for real (or in this case, for myth) has my respect.

    Plus they’re snappy dressers.

  7. In other news, I was taking a break from work and googling random stuff, and happened onto an article in the search results titled “What Do Heinlein Women Want?”. I saw that it was at Tor.com and mentally rolled my eyes.

    …and then I clicked through anyway.

    …and saw that it was by Sarah.

    http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/08/what-do-heinlein-women-want

    OK, I’ll read it!

    • Oh, amusing!

      I read the article and I’m in the comments now, and see that Sarah got flamed hard by one N. K. Jemisin.

      This is the same person who flamed Vox Day hard, and then got all upset at the “aggression” when he responded, right?

      Small world.

      • I didn’t get into the comments. They’re all idiots.

        • Some of the comments defended you. But yes, many of the commenters didn’t read the article, don’t read Heinlein, or don’t read Heinlein with any kind of reasonable lens. There’s also a lot of “feminists never said what you said” with other commenters pointing out that oh, yes, they have and did.

          We also learned that it’s more creepy for a teenager in a book to flirt physically with an adult male than for teenagers in a book to have unmarried sex with each other. Glad that was cleared up. I feel so much more wholesome now.

      • Such as that remind me of my thumbnail analysis of Bill & Hillary Clinton as playground archetypes, back in the early Nineties. Bill struck me as the kind of guy who roared his eagerness to fight … so long as people were holding him back.

        Hillary seemed like one of those Lucy van Pelt types who would slug a boy on the playground and, when he went to retaliate, would declare “You can’t hit me, I’m a girl!”

        Some people are much better at dishing it out than they are at taking it.

      • To be fair, Vox Day is kind of a troll. Good writer, but his blog is pretty much one long provocation (which has always been a successful and entertaining blog style for those who can work it). So sometimes he’s an original and a gadfly, but sometimes he’s full of bovine manure products (like when he gets onto that Game silliness). In Jemisin’s case, he laid a provocation trap and waited for people to walk into it. And of course she complained about it, because she didn’t understand the trap and didn’t want to, and she didn’t understand that she was getting into a trollfight with a troll above her weight.

        Instigators have always been a big part of fandom. Speaking as one with brothers, I can only conclude that a lot of fannish people today must have been only children, because they keep walking right into these things.

        Eh. My beef with Vox Day is that his fantasy novel’s big Latin quote was pretty obviously later than the historical period he was emulating (okay, it’s obvious if you’ve been slaving your way through earlier Latin), and that he made nasty comments about Scholasticism in the epilogue after using it for the rest of the book. But it’s not like he’s not _allowed_ to do those things. I don’t have to approve of his every viewpoint or action. If he annoys me, I don’t have to read him.

      • Ah, a pretext to insinuate something I was going to post off-topic on this, so far, slow ATH weekend.

        1. N.K. Jemisin’s write-up at the Aussie continuum 9 convention describes her a an “anti-oppression activist”. I don’t know what that is; I strongly suspect I’d find it risible if I knew; and I fear that I may be seeing the phrase again.

        2. I came across her name on Scalzi’s post regarding his refusal to attend events that don’t have a formal “harassment policy”. Scalzi’s position has turned into a petition with over 1000 signatures.

        3. Of course people should feel safe at public events. Of course organizers should take steps to that end.

        4. However, apparently unimpeachable policies can be used as political weapons. A harassment policy can be used to harass.

        This is the same person who flamed Vox Day hard, and then got all upset at the “aggression” when he responded, right?

        My point exactly. Cf. the SWFA Bulletin affair.

        • Here is Jemisin’s Guest of Honor address to that Aussie convention. If I flew somebody halfway around the world and she spouted stuff like this, I’d be beyond livid, but apparently her audience was fine with it.

          Till the Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.

            • I have no objection to a purely fantasy/paranormal romance writer being a guest of honor, but I think it’s a bit weird for someone in a funfun field to be pompous about one’s work. Possibly this is why she is pompous about being oppressed instead, like the young man in the Gilbert and Sullivan song about the poet.

              Personally, if I were made GoH for a fantasy romance book, I would demand that the convention provide me with a silk-swathed litter, for me to be carried into the hall by brawny young men. Also, a bowl of cherries or grapes that I could eat while lounging in my litter. Very thematically appropriate. (Just don’t get carsick while eating cherries.)

    • Oh yeah. That was the seminar in which I was the only pro-Heinlein blogger. (rolls eyes so hard they fall on the ground.)

  8. Birthday girl

    Totally did not see monkeys coming. 🙂