*Okay, so, Witchfinder is edited, but I’ve not had the time to go over it, and I’m still waiting for a cover. Also, I’m working as hard as I can to get Through Fire to Baen. This week our furnace gave out and it’s been a right mess, not counting the expense (not fixing your furnace in CO is not an option.) So it will probably be another two weeks. Meanwhile I’m doing a final read through on Musketeer’s Apprentice, to put it up tonight. I’m still in need of time travel or a duplicating machine.*
*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
For previous chapters, read here
A Centaur in London
Lady Caroline Ainsling, sister of his Grace the Duke of Darkwater,
Perhaps the decision to go to London wasn’t the best we’d ever made. London was not that far, but it was far enough, and the London road from our schools would be the most traveled of all roads around. Plus the journey would take us well into daylight.
I think it took Akakios only half an hour or so to realize this. What he did then surprised me. He stepped off the road, and it seemed to me into the dense woods. I was about to tell him that this was foolishness and that he would twist his ankle in some badger hole, when he started running.
I’ll never be able to explain it, but what it felt like to me, was as though we were running in a dense wood, only trees jumped out of the way when we approached, and Akakios galloped like no horse I’d ever ridden, each leap seemingly miles long.
It wasn’t till he stopped, in a very different sort of wood, one that seemed manicured, and had a lawn near the cluster of trees in which we stood, that I found the breath to say, “What did you do?”
“That was—” he said, and paused for a deep breath. Indeed, his jacket and coat were wet with sweat. “That was a bit of transport magic, the sort of thing we used in Fairyland.”
“Did you—Did we cut through fairyland?”
He shook his head. “No. Too dangerous. If we have to go into it, we have to go into it, but for now, no. No, this is a magic called Broken path.”
“I’ve never heard of it,” I realized my voice came out a little shrill. After all, one likes to be sure of one’s magic and what it can do, and after all, again, when one has been exquisitely well educated in magic, one expects such a handy thing as this spell to have been taught to one.
“No,” he said. He’d calmed down, but I could feel beneath my hands, clasped across his chest, the ragged beating of his human heart. Centaurs have two. One in their human chest and one – and a bigger set of lungs – in their horse body. Needed, of course, for that enormous body. “No. Until now there was not enough magic in this land to support it. Caroline, if magic is pouring in here, the way it is… Night Arrow—”
I primed my lips, though he couldn’t see me, and put on my haughtiest of voices. “I refuse,” I said. “To admit my brother might be dead.”
Akakios didn’t say anything to that, only “Well, we’re in Green Park. I don’t know how to get from here to your brother’s offices, and I’m afraid to sense him, because with the magic out of kilter, who knows what—”
I nodded, again for my own reassurance, though I was aware that he couldn’t see me. “We came here for the season ever since I was little,” I said. “Mama didn’t like to leave the little ones in the country, so I know London. If we’re at Green Park, we must be near the meadow where they pasture cows during the day, of course. If you would but walk that path, and when you come to the road, take a left.”
I led him, step by step towards the royal palace and Seraphim’s Witchfinder offices.
I’d thought it would be much harder, I own, to ride a centaur through London without attracting any attention. Only it wasn’t. Not at this time of night. As we walked along darkened streets, I took care to stay away from theaters and offices, and other places where people might cluster in great numbers. We met only two people who even looked twice at us – the other people hurrying past in the demi-dark, I assume didn’t look closely enough to realize it was a woman riding a centaur and not two people on a horse – one of them a woman who wore rather gaudy clothes and who I’d guess was what mama would have called “not quite the thing.” She knit herself with the wall and stared, open mouthed, as we rode past. The other was a man who was walking in the weaving step of a drunkard and who stared at us with his mouth open then said, “Strap me. Centaurs now. As though hookah smoking caterpillars weren’t bad enough. I swear by all living I’ll never touch blue ruin again.”
It was inevitable we’d run into more people near the royal palace, where Seraphim’s offices were, but even there, no one seemed to pay attention to us. The reason was obvious after a startled blink. The statue that had stood in the plaza royale since … ever, I presume, the statue of Richard the Lionheart in both his forms, had been shattered to fragments no larger than pebbles, and a mort of judicial magicians was wandering around it, taking readings and sensings and doing who knew what.
Seraphim himself, stood at the door to his office, and must have come out in some haste, because I’d never before seen my dignified brother in his shirt sleeves in a public situation. Even in our house he normally didn’t show without his jacket at breakfast.
Akakios picked his way slowly through the rubble, so it wasn’t until we were almost upon Seraphim, that the person next to him turned and saw me, at the same time I recognized my tiresome twin brother, Michael. Since he was tiresome mostly by spending his days wrapt in machinery of a magical kind, and by not being forced to attend a school for young gentleman, which in fairness he should have been sent to if I was sent to one for young ladies, I was not amused that he said, “Caroline! What are you doing here?”
And then Seraphim turned. He looked at me and started to open his lips, doubtless to ask me why I’d left school. Then he saw Akakios and seemed to realize what form Akakios had taken. He opened his mouth, closed it, and he turned the approximate color of milk. I’d never seen someone so pale and shocked. “What—” he said. He never finished it.
A grand coach drove into the square, seemingly heedless of the fragments of statue all over, or of the judicial magicians for that matter. Three of them had to jump out of the way of the magnificent team of matched bays.
The door to the carriage opened before it was fully stopped. It opened so fast that no one could see the emblem on the door. But the man who more or less spilled out was none other than the earl of Sydell, who is – and it’s no use at all Seraphim tellin me otherwise. I’m young and I’m female, but I’m not stupid – somewhat more than Gabriel’s close friend. His cher amie in the sense men use it around town for women with whom they cannot contract marriage but with whom they contract everything else would be closer. And no, it’s no use telling me I’m wrong. You see, I’ve seen the way they look at each other.
He’s a short man, with a shocking mane of blond-red hair, and while he was wearing a jacket, he looked like he’d dressed himself by touch in the dark, with his cravat all in a big lump, his jacket not matching his pants and looking, besides, as if he’d slept in it.
Which I gathered was exactly what he’d done, when he said to no one in particular, “I beg your pardon. I would have driven and gotten here earlier, only I’d been up working on a spell and I needed to sleep, so the coach…”
“Why would you need to get here earlier?” Seraphim said, his voice suddenly found, his expression fulminating. It took knowing Seraphim very well to know that tone of voice meant that he wasn’t angry so much as terrified. Though he gave away the reason for his fear in the next second, making me wonder what had happened here before our arrival. “Is it Gabriel?”
The earl of Sydell nodded. “Night Arrow,” he said, in elven, which made sense because he was himself part dragon and part dryad and who knew what else. “Gabriel.”
“He’s dead!” Akakios said, and brought Sydell’s startled gaze to him.
“Dead?” Seraphim said. He staggered back to lean against the door lintel as though his legs would give out. Gabriel was probably of all the siblings the one closest to him. Even though Gabriel was illegitimate and had only been brought to live with us at the age of seven, he and Seraphim had quickly become as close as twins. Well, closer than Michael and I. If I lost a brother, I’d lose part of the other as well.
“No,” Sydell said. “Oh no, no. It’s much worse than that. He’s split.”