*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
Belle Dame Sans Merci
The Right Honorable Jonathan Blythe, the Earl of Savage
The lovely Ginevra, sitting incongruously amidst a welter of pillows, in a consciously prim little-girl position, widened her quite distractingly silvery gray eyes at me, and said in that pat tone that she had set a blight on my world to save fairyland.
It wouldn’t fadge. I let the rasper fly over my head, and smiled at her, my best unnerving smile, the one I used to grace dad with when I was trying to hide something from him, and he had no idea what – besides knowing it was, as he would put it “monstrous.”
“How fascinating,” I told her, my voice even.
The lovely grey eyes widened again, this time with surprise. “What?” she said. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, nothing. Only I didn’t know someone so magical and so lovely could be so foolish.”
There was a beat of confusion, and I’d swear it was genuine. “I’m not—“ she said, then sighed. “But it’s true.”
“You had to set a blight on the Earth of men to save… fairyland? And what was fairyland in danger of?”
She squinted her eyes at me. “You stupid man,” she said, with a force that showed that she meant this at least. “Don’t you understand anything? All of those lies that floated for years, about fairyland being a parasite upon the worlds are true of the myth world. My guess is they got confused because some types of creatures – centaurs and mermaids, for instance – live in both. But in the end, milord, myth is a parasite. It needs human belief and human emotions to keep going. And it is a wholly separated world supported only by the world of humans. Except what your father did—” She paused. “Your father and the dragon thought they were so clever, setting spells to confuse the succession here, the oldest of all worlds, and then getting this world and fairyland enmeshed. They thought of course that your Earth would acquire much magic from fairyland, an alliance of sorts. They didn’t realize that magical worlds are not like the nations of this world and able to ally or break alliance. It’s not a political thing. It’s a magical thing.
“When their spell broke, the worlds became entangled, and fairyland bled onto your world. And then my world saw it, and spilled demons onto fairyland. The king was mad and unable to defend it. I had to… I had to call their attention elsewhere, so that they would feed on another world, not fairyland. You don’t understand, nor does the All-Father either, that if they suck fairyland dry they’ll kill all the other worlds. My– The All Father said that he would keep it to a minimum.
“But just the initial infusion of magic from fairyland woke the old ones. The old, old ones. The unreasoning ones. They will feed without limit. There is nothing we can do to that. So I had to attach the magic elsewhere. And I’d grown up here.”
I rubbed my hand from top to bottom across my face and caught myself up half way through the gesture. I was trying to remove a magical veil, but damnme I had no idea that the veil was there. All I knew is that none of this could be true, even if it had the ring of truth.
Careful now, Jonahtan, I told myself. Whatever she is, you know she is a siren, and her type of magic is likely to be one that you can neither detect nor fight.
But she had said that I had fought it without trying before. Yes, and likely that’s a lie too. I felt very impatient, suddenly, and it occurred to me that it was likely this was how normal people felt about me, never sure if they had me by the head or by the heels. My. I must be a thoroughly ramshackle fellow. No wonder so many people hated me so heartily.
She was looking at me as though trying to get a reaction, and it occurred to me the last words she said, and I said before I thought, “Well, that I understand. Having grown up here, also, I have often wished to destroy it. But none of this makes any sense, milady. If you think I’m going to believe that somehow what you describe caused Gabriel Penn to wish to blow his brother and his brother’s office up to kingdom come, you’re fair and far out. And I’d wager good money what received me on that side was Gabriel.” I warmed to my theme as I spoke. “You see, I have known Gabriel since we were boys, and I know his expressions, his gestures, the tone of his voice. There is nothing, nothing that could imitate him that perfectly.”
She made a sound deep in her throat. It might have been laughter or a sob. “Of course it was Gabriel,” She said. “But it wasn’t Night Arrow the king of fairyland. You don’t understand.”
“Clearly,” I said. “I must be very dumb. How disheartening this all is. I must be as hen-brained as mama. And I always used to think myself needle witted.”
She shook her head. The sound came again, half sob and half laugh. “I wish you were. It would be easier to explain this to you. Instead you keep thinking you know the rules. Son of Adam, you don’t.”
“I’ll have you know my Papa’s name wasn’t Adam.” It was a weak gest and it got not even a courtesy laugh. She glared.
“You don’t understand anything. Our people don’t play by the rules of fairyland. In a way we could call us the anti-fairyland, only that our world isn’t too organized and strict. It’s more chaotic than fairyland, more dependent on belief and ideas.” She frowned at me. “Part of the reason fairyland is at danger, oh foolish one, is that the king isn’t whole.”
“I’ve seen him. He looks whole to me.”
She shook her head. “Inside. It is a horrible thing for a land to be ruled by someone who hates it. It is far worse for a magical kingdom to fall to that. Only fairyland can’t, because the king is the land. Except this king hates fairyland and that portion of himself that rules it. And he’s split himself neatly in two.”
“You’re telling me Gabriel Penn has become two people?”
“If it were that easy,” she said. “Then we could send the mortal Gabriel back to Earth, and Night Arrow could rule fairyland. He’s supposed to, you know. It is his destiny. In Fairyland, you can’t fight destiny.”
“None of this,” I told her. “Makes any sense.”
“It wouldn’t,” she said. “We are older and deeper than sense and so is fairyland. Look, Night Arrow wants to save fairyland. And Gabriel Penn wants to destroy it. Even if it would take himself with it. Perhaps particularly if it would take himself with it. His mind does not do well – it is to human for the magical confines the … the inhuman aspects of fairyland.”
“Again, I say, if you think that Gabriel in any circumstance would be willing to kill his brother to destroy fairyland– And why should he, since his brother is on Earth?”
“Because he knows Seraphim would find that I’d got the Mythworld to attach here, instead of to Fairyland. And he knows – or suspects – that Seraphim could fix it. And he can’t allow that. I don’t know if he realized it would kill his brother – a magical bomb is different, and I don’t think he thought through the logistics of exploding buildings and masonry. I think he’s desperate enough he just thought of the ah—non physical effects of a magic bomb, which don’t kill anyone.”
“What do they do then?”
“They render you deaf and mute to magic for a year or so. Time enough for Penn to consign Fairyland to the maw of Mythworld and kill it and himself.”
“But … but Seraphim would be trying to solve the blight on this world,” I said. “Once he figured out that it was set here.”
“Oh no,” she said, and her voice sounded horrified at my stupidity. “Oh, no. You don’t rightly perceive it at all. Once the Witchfinder figured out that Fairyland would be eaten if the mythworld were detached from this world, then he would try to find a way to save that too. He knows whence magic comes.”
My head was reeling. “But then,” I said. “Why didn’t you find it?”
“Because I don’t think there is a way. The king of fairy might think there is, but there isn’t. Better to let the mythworld devour your world, and then for both to wither out of contact with the other worlds, than for it to devour fairyland, and unspool the other worlds with it.”
Her face grew all hard lines, her eyes stern. “We must sacrifice your world and do it quickly. We must let mythworld devour all that—Well, fortunately neither you nor I love anything in this world, do we? – because we must let mythworld eat this world. To save fairyland. Only we have the king of fairy and… and the All Father working against us.” Her face broke down and she was suddenly all little girl again. She sniffled, and tears shone in her eyes. “And I don’t know how to do it.”