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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 (It’s now done and with beta readers and editor. My wretched health this year delayed everything. (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 when it’s done. 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
Wolfe Merritt, Overseer of Properties and Manufactories to the Earl of Savage:
If I’d met Hanuman in human form on a London street, I knew what I’d consider him. A bounder or a loose fish.
I’m not saying this because of his dark skin, or because he acted and dressed like the native of warmer climes than England. One of the things about the great leaps in magic and understanding over the last century is that we’ve come to see a lot of the magic abroad is not backward, just different and that with a little logic applied to it – which I grant you the natives rarely have done up to that point, but neither had our ancestors a hundred years ago – it can serve to do things our magic can’t do.
And at any rate, when not raised in their culture and in their often barbarous ways, people of other climes often are very good sort of folk, and very solid. I’d seen it myself, when one of my mother’s friends had taken in a young Indian boy, brought home by some wealthy family who discarded him when they thought his magic too dangerous. He’d been brought up by good village folk from the age of six or so, and at my age he was as solid and respectable an Englishman as you could want.
But there was to Hanuman a feeling of slick slipperiness, a feeling that he might at any moment change his mind or the rules of any agreement with anyone.
And then it occurred to me that as far as that came he was the culture of the warmer climes incarnate. If gods were anything, were they not the outwards projection of that primitive thought which had molded the culture? Or perhaps they preexisted the culture – I conceded, unable to remember my lessons in applied myth, which at any rate were scant and basic enough at the grammar school I’d attended – but had been picked because they fit the collective character early on.
In either case, it boded nothing good for this Hanuman fellow.
I must have given him the look I would give a bounder or a pretender, in my own circles, because he gave me a delighted grin, his teeth sparkling in the light of the lamps. He had a gold tooth, which shocked me, because certainly gods would have no need of dentistry. Then I realized that coating teeth with gold, or painting them, or inscribing symbols on them was long a practice of the human race.
“You disapprove of me, Mr. Merritt?” Hanuman said.
I remembered what I had told Miss Blythe about not disrespecting the god, no matter how outrageous he was, and felt I should have taken my own medicine. “No, your … majesty,” I said, because divinity I recognized but one and he was not a monkey-king.
He grinned wider. “Ah. A man of thought. But feel free to disapprove. I believe our principles are opposed, as you’re a man of consideration and thought and deep planning.” He shifted on the throne, continuously, as he spoke, as a very young child might fidget, but also as a Monkey might. I realized his dual nature might be affecting how I saw him, and I tried to relax. “But see,” he said. “We have need of your deeper thought, and your planning. It is against my nature, of course, thought there are plans I can lay.”
“Indeed,” I said, remembering his reputation as a trickster god. “I have known your majesty to be referred to as cunning.”
He grinned again, then sighed. “I do well enough when I can use people’s preconceptions against themselves, and trick others into doing what I wish, but you tell me, Mr. Merrit, how one can trick this,” his hand gesture encompassed the chamber we were in and everything above and beside. “This creature of ancient myth, formed before man was fully rational and when gods were only things that made noise in the night and which sometimes left the carcass of one who strayed from the firelight half-eaten by the way side in the morning.” His eyes sparkled at my reaction. “What? You think we know not that we originated from the minds and the wistful magic of men, before men knew they had magic. We know. At least we know.” He put emphasis in we. “Myself and mine are well aware of it. This brutish beast, though…” He once more made a gesture, towards the thing that encompassed us. “I don’t think it is aware of anything but a brute desire to be out in the daylight of magic and feeding on the worship of men again, and that we cannot give it.
“And if our presence in its gut does not dispose it to kill us—“ He paused. “We’ll die of starvation ourselves, or of boredom.” He sighed. “We were in transit between our world and another myth world, carrying a load of precious cargo when, out of nowhere it rose from the dark, tossed sea, and swallowed us whole. And here we’ve been since. And we grow weary.”
“I see,” I said. Because what else could I say? “And you wish to leave. Where would you go if you leave here?”
“To your world, I guess,” he said. And he made a little gesture. “Such it must be at least until I get my bearings. Oh, do not suspect me of ill intentions.” He laughed. “Though I can see where you’d get the idea. Yes, myself and mine also crave worship and human attention, but we do not need it. Not in the brutish way this thing does. And besides—“ He took another deep breath. “And besides I suspect not even our ancient devotees would want us now. But something must be done, and the worlds of myth set in their proper sphere again, and for that we must leave the gut of the beast. And for that we need human magic, and human minds.”
I was willing to believe most of what he said. Most of it. But there was still that elusive, slippery quality to him. And I had heard stories.
As he gestured for his monkey servants to bring candles and maps, I wondered if something this cunning, this slippery, this seemingly pleasing could not manage to reestablish himself on Earth, should he get there, and whether we wished to unleash it on unsuspecting mankind.