*Sorry to be so ridiculously late. I still haven’t had time to go back and “reconcile” what I’ve written so I couldn’t go where I wanted and had to go where I wouldn’t increase the damage.
The ear infection is gone and I hope the late sleep today cleared the rest of the tiredness from it. So hopefully I can devote the rest of the weekend to working on Through Fire, and then when that is done I can go over the edited Witchfinder, and fix it and send out the early copies to the subscribers (who will get the fully revised ones later, too.) And I can send copies out for review also. It’s very cold in Colorado but younger son’s college didn’t close, so if you can spare a prayer that he doesn’t come to grief driving in this, it’s much appreciated. We’re supposed to remain freezer-locked till Sunday, but after his classes and a quick run to the store, we’re going to stay locked in and warm, and hopefully safe.*
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
Gods, Kings and Tricksters
Wolfe Merritt, Manufactories and Properties Manager for the Right Honorable Earl of Savage.
The Lady Helen gathered her borrowed clothes about her and looked sullen. She spoke in a much younger voice, “But I don’t want to be in the myth world.”
I took a step towards her, wishing to help, somehow. Something in her face was unguarded and lost. The fierce daring girl was gone, and even the girl I’d sensed in her room, the confined and well behaved girl who longed for escape and adventure. All that was left was this young girl, seemingly stripped of all defense and pretense, protesting in a disconsolate voice, like a child facing something she can’t quite face.
“You must see it’s better than the interior of that horrible beast,” I said.
“I see no such thing,” she said. “At least there you knew what we faced.”
Hannuman gave her a curious look. He seemed to be considering something, as though internally making imaginary moves on a chess board the rest of us could see. I didn’t like the look in his eyes, the laughing devil aspect of him. I tried to imagine the game he was playing, but how is a mere human to follow the mind of a creature that had lived… perhaps forever.
I’d never really understood what the pagan gods were, but Mr. Mayhew, the pastor in the church near my mother’s house, used to say that they were forces or impulses, of both nature and the human heart. As such they couldn’t be said to have been born or ever to die. They were just things, impossible to understand, and powerful, though not like the only god was powerful.
But that talk was so similar to the talk that Mr. Mayhew had had with Wolfe when he brought his wife home, that there was no guessing if the pastor himself understood the difference between elves and gods, and all the other supernatural forces.
He didn’t know what to tell the Lady Helen because to be quite blunt he also didn’t want to be in the myth world. But if she were going to go to pieces now, it would make it more difficult to escape. And if she did not go to pieces, yet she wrung her heart when she looked at him in a piteous way that demanded he take her out of here.
Meanwhile, Hanuman, ancient and unknowable was making his own rules and playing his own game, and there was nothing that Wolfe could do to anticipate. He guessed that they’d been brought here on purpose, and while there might be a certain relief in knowing he hadn’t unleashed the trickster’s monkeys on the world, yet there was also fear, because what would happen to them in this world. And why had he brought them here?
“Why did you bring us here?” Helen said, looking at Hannuman, and now a peevish note added to her voice.
In that snap he seemed to make his decision. He bowed low to her, and said, in a voice that was oil and honey, “Why, milady,” he said. “to give you the place you should have. To make you my wife.”
Helen jumped back as though burned and made a sound that was wordless refusal. But Hannuman grinned and bowed lower. “You must admit, milady, that in this place and at this time it is highly unlikely that a better offer will be made to you, and highly unlikely that anyone else will want to marry you. And here, I am a king, god of all of monkey, prince of tricksters. If you marry me you’ll belong here, and all your needs will be attended to.”
“Beware, lady,” Wolfe said, and stepped in front of her; in between her and the monkey god. The words had been wrenched for him before he could think, and now he thought that she might think he was intruding, and given her temperament, might run the other way. He said, his voice strangling in his throat, “Marriage with them who are not quite human is always a mistake.”
But the lady had recovered her footing. She stomped on the grass and said, in a tone of great disdain. “I have not the slightest interest in marrying him. Why,” Her hands went to her waist, “Does every supernatural creature wish to marry me? He’s better than the fish-man but not by much.”
Merrit could see the monkeys gather around, though, some in human form and some as monkeys. They’d looked amusing before, but now they looked somewhat scary and… odd. Like they had a light turned on inside them that lent them an eery glow.
“You’ll marry me, my dear,” Hanuman said, sounding amused. “And you’ll like it. Or at least be grateful of it.”
The monkeys were gathering.
Wolfe Merrit hadn’t dared pray, not since that day long ago when his wife had left. He’d never thought of it, again. He’d set himself outside human laws. He’d violated the separation between man and magic. And he’d brought a poor innocent into the world. The homely comfort of the village church had become as alien to him as the face of the moon. But now he closed his eyes, and he thought, intently, in the direction of that God he hadn’t approached in far too long, “If I’ve ever done anything right, Lord. Just once.”
And then, knowing it probably would come to nothing, he prepared to die defending Lady Helen. He knew what the Monkey had meant, and what could be done to make a woman happy of an unwanted marriage. He might not be able to prevent it but he would ensure he wasn’t alive to see it. There were things the eye could not endure, nor the heart – not without breaking.
“Deluded mortal,” the Monkey king said, in a tone of amused derision. “Get him, my monkeys.”
There was movement and Wolfe, wishing he had a weapon to hand, found himself taking a fighting pose. He felt a hand – paw? – touch his arm. He gritted his teeth.
“That will be enough of that,” a female voice said, vibrant and clear like a clarion call. “Enough of that and a bit more besides. You have overstepped your power, Hanuman.”
Shocked, Wolfe turned in the direction of the voice and blinked. It was Betsy. Or at least, there was in the face the remnant features of what had been Lady Helen’s maid. But they had… grown up? Become glorified? The clothes had altered too. Where there had been the fantastical clothes that the monkey had lent them, there was now a gown to the ankle, flowing in a way no normal fabric ever flowed. The feet were in sandals. And across the woman’s shoulder was slung a bow and a quiver of arrows.
Wolfe felt like he was dreaming, but knew it was all as real as anything here.