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
Miss Ginevra Mythborn
“You know, it really is too bad of you to waylay me like this,” I said, and crossed my legs below the knee, in a way that looked like I was relieving the tension of my position, but which, in fact, gave me a chance to display my ankle by folding an edge of the skirt “accidentally.”
Yes, the Witchfinder was bonded – married to the princess Royale – and quite faithful to her, it was rumored at least. But that didn’t mean he was dead, and most men in this land had been so deprived of the sight of female flesh that a displayed ankle was enough to set their hearts aflutter.
But Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Dark Water, the King’s Witchfinder, didn’t even flick a look of interest at it. I remembered it was said that his wife had been raised in, and still sometimes visited other lands, and I wondered if he’d grown inured. I’d been in a world, once, where full nudity was the norm, and men wouldn’t even look – unless they were alone with you and then they did. It seemed to me to make life very bland, taking the pleasure of the daily looks women cast men and men cast women – a pleasure that costs nothing. Well, except in this one word—
I disciplined my mind forcefully, and looked up at the Witchfinder. Too late I realized I’d advanced my lower lip in what could be regarded as a pout, and looking up at his eyes, I found them full of amusement. He’d understood our play as well as I did, and I amused him. I, who had made men cry, and driven more stable men than he to despair and suicide, amused His Grace. I tried not to grit my teeth. It would only amuse him more.
“I know why you came over,” he said. “And what hooks you set into our world. What I’m not sure of, or not absolutely, is how the hooks were set, or how to remove them. I am also, pardon me, somewhat at a loss to parse out your history. Are you born elsewhere and elsewhen but raised here? The marks on your magic seem to show that, but of course your magic is so unusual. And are you a standard siren, or something else entirely?” On the word siren he looked towards my ankle, and then up at my face, and I realized he was teasing me.
It was such a shock, such a surprise, that it robbed me of power of speech. Not that it would have done him any good, could I have spoken, as I had absolutely no idea what I was, something very hard to explain to him. The Pater might know what I was, but even then I doubted it. The old soot was as likely to sleep with whatever crossed his path as Jonathan Blythe, with perhaps even less regard to gender. And what he’d got me from only he knew. Or perhaps he didn’t.
As for the rest. “I’ve been in many worlds,” I told him, my voice flat of emotion, because it was, and also because there is absolutely no reason to give the opposition more tools than you can help.
“Of course you have,” Ainsling said, and smiled civilly, and walked behind the desk. “As a sort of all purpose agent, and assassin for your… For your king, at least, though he might be more for all I know. In fact, among your people, he might very well be your king, your lover and your father, might’n’t he?”
I felt blood climb, hot, from my neck to my cheeks, and said, “Not among– Not myself,” because again, it was hard to defend. I’m not sure what Pater is, exactly. He’s not my lover. I’ve done things that would make Seraphim blanch, but not that. Not because Pater – likely – sired me, but because of what Pater is. As well lay with a bout of the plague as with the Lord of the Thunderbolt.
Then I felt it, the little jab beneath the surface of my magic, and I realized what Ainsling was doing. And I cursed myself for several kinds of fool.
Look, the first thing they teach you, at schools for the control of magic – they don’t teach magic as such. That you’re born with. They teach you to control it and aim it – is that emotions make your shields less efficient. Anyone trying to interrogate you, and unable to force a truth spell beneath your defenses will try to get a rise out of you.
In my defense, most men didn’t try. Not around me. The type of power I have seems to strike most men with a sort of wonder and awe and they either find me repulsive – this happened a lot while I was growing up in Avalon, and for the longest time I thought that it was my ginger hair – or they treat me with a respect normally reserved to elderly and infirm females who have the capacity to disinherit them.
I never had to do anything to command respect. Even raised in a home for magical orphans, even taken to balls to meet likely husbands, even while wearing threadbare clothes and last year’s fashions, I’d never had any trouble commanding respect. In fact, the opposite used to gall me. My friends, whom I objectively knew were not half as beautiful – let alone accomplished – as myself, found husbands within two or three balls, but most of the time I wasn’t even asked to dance, and just stood there, like a mannequin, while men bowed to me and treated me as though I were a duchess in disguise, but never talked to me, or… much less, dared touch me.
There I was, as dignified as a chicken taken to fair, with her legs tied down, and there they were, acting like I could smite them without thinking. Which I could, of course. Which is why I was three years older than all the other girls, too. It had taken that long for them to teach me to control my magic.
It wasn’t until Pater had sent his agents to find me, that I’d discovered what had been wrong, then learned to enjoy it. And learned to turn it upside down, as it were, so men couldn’t help being attracted, and wishing to talk and touch. Which had been very useful, the last ten years in the places Pater had sent me.
To find out, now, that both the awe-inspiring facet of my power, and the seduction ability had failed me, was like walking down a familiar path in the night, and feeling the ground give out under you.
But then I realized that Ainsling wasn’t much happier than I was. The amusement had gone out of his eyes, and his mouth quirked in a way that might betray amusement, but betrayed bitterness most of all. He sat behind his desk and looked at me. “Here is the thing, Miss … Mythborn. We are not savages. We use magic for everyday things. I understand your land – or so my brother tells me – attaches here and there, bleeding magic from the worlds it touches. I can give you a hundred such worlds where you can bleed the magic and cause no disruption. In some of them, in fact, magic being illegal, taking it away from the poor unfortunates who can’t help having it would be an improvement. In Avalon, though, we’re not savages, and magic powers all our civilization. We can’t allow you to bleed our world, and I’m amazed you’d even try. Surely, you must know if you try, it will be a battle to the death between our worlds.”
I almost told him, then, why his world. It was a calculated risk, and Pater had said I could take such. I looked up at him, and was about to tell him we had no more choice in this than he did, but the door opened suddenly.
In the doorway stood a young man, who looked much like Darkwater but was younger – at that age when men are no longer boys but are not yet men.
“Michael!” Darkwater said, standing. I sensed shock, and concern. “What are you doing here, past the guards, past—”
“It’s Gabriel,” the young man said, and I shivered, understanding that to be the name they gave the other, their half-mortal brother.
“What is Gabriel?” Seraphim asked.
“I think that’s the thing,” Michael said. “It’s not Gabriel at all. Fairyland has been breached and has its own kind of… changeling.”
I opened my mouth to say fairyland couldn’t be breached, then thought it might be if– And then I ran for the door.
It was the work of a minute, to get up off the seat and run. But the magical net stopped before I reached the door, and the Witchfinder said, “No, you don’t. A moment, Michael. I’ll see Miss Ginevra safely stowed, and then we can continue this talk without evesdropping.”