Okay, a slight update. First, sorry this is so late. While we did get the HVAC fixed, last night was the first full night of heating, and we hadn’t turned on the humidifier. In CO that means it was very dry and I didn’t sleep particularly well. But this is done now, and I can go clean litter boxes. (Oh, frabujous day, calloo callay.)
Second, an update on Witchfinder — it’s getting nigh to the time when I take it down. As soon as I ship out Through Fire (I guess this week, with luck and no major issues) I’ll go back through the copyedited/edited manuscript I got back last week. The cover is also near delivery.
But since it’s been decided Goldport will do a conventional “release” this book won’t come out till sometime probably February. Goldport is having arcs printed and sending them out to the trade places for review. Now, before the advance purchasers scream — you’ll get your e-copy at the same time the arcs are printed. So, not only do you get it cheaper, you get it about five months early or so. No worries.
Okay. Now I go clean litter boxes and vaccuum. YAY.
*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 editor and we’re getting the cover done. 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
Into Peril and Darkness
Lady Caroline Ainsling, sister of the Duke of Darkwater
It would have to be Maryanne who opened the window of course. Nine times out of ten, if someone had thrown pebbles at our window – a distinct possibility since Maryanne had the morals of a cat. A bad behaving cat – I’d be the one to answer, as I was usually up later and actually studied and prepared for my lessons, long after she was sleeping the sleep of the pampered, the pretty and the rich.
Not that we were exactly poor. Well, not since my half-brother Gabriel, the king of fairyland, had handed my brother Seraphim a chest of ancient gold. And that was before Seraphim had married the princess Royale. I had to assume the king wouldn’t allow his son in law to be rolled up into debtor’s prison. He certainly wouldn’t if Nell had any say in it.
But Seraphim believed that we shouldn’t spend the ready just to make ourselves comfortable and happy. He believed in noblesse oblige and also that the patrimony of the Darwaters was a sacred trust to be passed on to his children and their children, world without end. While he didn’t evade his duties to his non-inheriting siblings, he treated us with the same parsimony he treated himself.
Why, except for the year when he was pretending to be a dandy, mostly to hide the fact that he and Gabriel were up to something very illegal indeed, he didn’t even much care how he dressed. These days you were likely to see the prince consort and king’s witchfinder, rolled into one unassuming person wearing dark suits more likely to be worn by servants, and forgetting to eat most of his meals, unless Nell made sure he had food taken to him. And he preferred walking form our house in town to his office, rather than sending for the carriage.
Generally, Seraphim was a very un-duke like duke, which meant I was a very unladylike lady, I suppose. I’d been sent to the boarding school – St. Ursula of the Fields – with the minimum troseau and equipment. So many underclothes, so many walking dresses, so many uniforms. Seraphim had told me, from his own experience at Eton, that if I’d brought more than that I’d be ridiculed and called a pampered princess. He was wrong.
What he’d missed is that, unlike Eton, this was a school for well born girls. And that all sorts of exceptions were made.
Cher Maryanne, for instance, whose parents were newly ascended to the nobility, but quite rich, had brought her weight in jewelry. She was fond of acting all sorry for me, and telling me what a pity it was I hadn’t brought so much as a pearl necklace.
I had to keep telling myself that no, I couldn’t strangle her with her diamond rope.
And then this being a school for young ladies, the academic subjects were treated oddly. Take history for instance. It had been my favorite subject, both under my governess and on my own. But I’d liked to know why things happened and how. In this school it was all memorization of names, dates, and things that were irrelevant, like funny stories about a queen’s hair style. Things that I suppose were good to teach you to make small talk, but not good for anything else.
The only good parts were the money management courses, and the management of estates, and even those were taught stilted, as though girls would never need to do the full job. If I asked a probing question, I got told my husband would guide me in the difficult places. My husband. Poor Akakios who was to feel the role was a stranger in this world, far more than I was.
Not to say I was discontented with my fate. Akakios — I think I fell in love with him when first I saw him, and rescued him from an iron cage in fairyland. I didn’t know it, because I hadn’t known what love was. It’s not the slightest thing like in books, where it’s all heart flutterings and things. It was more a feeling of belonging. We were meant to be together, and were happy when we were together.
I was sure when Akakios and I were married and in our own house we’d be fine, but it was so long till then. My weekly or so meetings with Akakios when the two schools met to go on walks or for teas or such were the only fun part of this waiting time. I could always tell him anything.
So I wasn’t in the least angry when he came to me. I was only upset Maryanne – who’d been brushing some strange potion into her hair, and therefore awake – was the one to open the window.
“Ainsling,” She said. “There’s a centaur asking for you.”
I got up from my desk, turning on the magelight and thinking, of course, that it was just Akakios and that he would be, of course, in human form, but that news of what he was must have spread. I sighed. We’d kept it silent long enough. Most girls believed he was half-Greek. But it was inevibitable it would come out.
Imagine my surprise when I looked out the window to see him standing there, just like he had in fairyland. Well, not just like. He was wearing a jacket. And a shirt. And a cravat. For some reason, the fact he’d gone through the trouble of tying a high, snowy linen cravat around his neck made my eyes tear up.
And then I realized that for him to be in centaur form…
“Caroline,” he said, urgently. “Caroline. I need your help.”
“What do you need?” I said.
“Please? I must talk to you.”
“Sure. Hold on.”
I wasn’t sure what I was about to do, as I turned around to face Maryanne’s grin. “A centaur, isn’t he? Your fiancé? I know that you—”
I shook my head at her. “You don’t even know what’s wrong, do you?”
“What?” She had beautiful blue eyes, large and round, and all the young men from the boy’s school swooned over them. Well, all besides Akakios.
“He shouldn’t have shifted into a centaur in our world. There isn’t enough magic.”
“But… but… but…” she said. “We have shifters!”
My mind must have made some sort of decision, because I was opening the little cupboard where I kept my clothes, and taking out my riding clothes, putting them on, binding my hair. “Yes,” I said. “But centaurs aren’t normal shifters. Like … naiads or dryads they don’t exist in our world. Their … internals don’t work without enough magic. A centaur, no matter how carnivorous, can’t eat enough to keep both bodies alive. And the lungs aren’t enough for both bodies, either. Think, woman! That’s why when magical creatures are brought to our world they have to be kept under magical conditions, and they usually die anyway, after a short time. He shouldn’t have been able to even shift, much less stay conscious while shifted.”
And now Maryanne was quiet and I’d worried myself into a fret. What if Akakios suddenly lost whatever magic was keeping this going and—
No, he’d just shift. It was a built in safety mechanism.
Maryanne seemed to realize I was fully dressed, and gasped. “You can’t mean to go out now. You know the porter will stop you!”
True. Which was why I pulled the sheets from my bed, tied one to the other and to the leg of my bed, before throwing it out the window.
Maryanne’s “I should give the alarm,” was met by me with a stern face. “I’ll tell them about the gardener boy if you do.”
“But I’ll be punished if you don’t come back before morning call.”
I didn’t tell her I’d be back before morning call. It was rather like lying. I had a feeling that this trouble was much too big for that. Instead I said, “No. Tell them you were asleep and saw nothing. Then cry. They let you get away with anything when you cry.”
Which was true, and puzzled me, since I could never cry on command.
She dithered at the window as I climbed down the rope ladder, but didn’t untie it, as I half feared she would.
At the bottom, Akakios put out his arms to receive me. He smelled of sweat and fear, and he looked pale, but he hugged me close, for just a moment. We’d never really had much physical contact, of course, because of chaperonage.
“Thank you for coming down,” he said. “I had a dream-message from my father.”
He told me about Gabriel being maybe kidnapped, maybe killed. I refused to admit he could be killed. “I’d know if one of my brother’s was dead!”
“Caroline, Night Arrow is—”
“No, I’d know.” I said. He calls Gabriel Night Arrow, which is the closest translation of his elf name. I didn’t know, of course, Gabriel was alive. I couldn’t know. But I was trying to keep my fear at bay with words.
Akakios must have sensed that and didn’t argue. He pulled back my hair gently and said, “I’m glad you put on your riding habit, because we must go to the duke your brother and see what he can do.”
“And if he can’t—”
“Then we will somehow cross over to fairyland and go to my people.”