(Those of you who are writers, if you wish to post your links in the comments OR to send them to Free Range Oyster [his screen name without spaces – at – gmail dot com], he’ll be compiling them for a promo post on Saturday.)
The prequel to this — Witchfinder — is still in a tab on top. I do promise to go through the copyedits as soon as humanly possible (I have stopped getting ill, but I’m digging out from under a mountain of work) and send the advance copies to those who pre-ordered. You’ll know when that’s eminent because I’ll tell you and remove the tab and the scattered chapters from this blog. I do hope to manage it next week, but I’m not promising as I’m still finishing a novel under contract to Baen. Meanwhile, if you donate $6 and note it in the field, you’ll get advance-subscribed to this novel. I do, however, understand it can be a long time to wait, and if you want to, do so. I will continue to post chapters here, roughly one a week.
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 Though you might have to hunt for the last two as I haven’t added them.
The Lady Helen Blythe, sister of the Earl of Savage:
Betsy! I couldn’t believe my hears when I understood her command to Hanuman and stepped in to prevent the monkey king attempting to marry me.
My first reaction to it was the purest shock, turning around. And then I saw that Betsy was not Betsy, but was still Betsy.
I am putting it very badly. Let me attempt to explain. I’d known Betsy many years, as my personal maid. I’ll grant I’d never asked much about where she came from, though sometimes she talked of many siblings, and gave hints that related well enough with the type of childhood father’s tenants or servants would have had.
What it didn’t correlate with was Betsy also being Diana, virgin goddess of the hunt.
My nursemaid, when I was little, used to object to my brother Jonathan for all kinds of reasons, but no reason was more strenuously carried than Jonathan’s reading me about the classical goddesses.
She’d eventually gone to mother and father, to complain that it was heathen nonsense and that Jonathan was corrupting my mind and – possibly – making me unmarriageable.
Only she’d come up against my father’s quirks, one of which was to like his children well-read. He said it was all nonsense, and that he was glad that Jonathan read the classics and was willing to share his erudition.
After that, nurse would turn Friday faced, but let Jonathan read to me, as she had no other choice. And Jonathan read.
So in addition to my – later, under my governess – reading of properly tidy and cleaned up stories of the gods and goddesses of old, I’d heard the more robust legends from Jonathan, from a very early age. I remembered and well enough hat Diana, the virgin goddess of the hunt was a moon goddess; that she had sworn eternal virginity; and that horrible fates befell those who spied her naked.
Right now, her idea of what should happen to uppity men who tried to marry you by force seemed good enough.
What I couldn’t understand is what she was doing in Betsy’s body. I assumed she’d taken over, since we were in the land of myth, and that somewhere there, Betsy, my little maid, was terrified, bewildered and lost, and that I couldn’t allow. I did my best imitation of Mama-depressing-pretensions and said, “Madam, I request you that you leave the body of my servant, Betsy, who is not asked to take part in this madness. She is a simple girl and obedient, and I would not with to hurt her in anyway. I’m sure in this land of myth you can communicate with me in your proper form.”
The face that turned towards me had amusement and a hint of malice in the blue eyes that were still Betsy’s. She smiled. There was satisfaction and amusement in that smile, and something else I could not quite guess at. “Ah,” she said. “Betsy.” That was also pronounced in the tone Mama might have pronounced it, a superior referring to an inferior. But then the blue eyes danced and sparkled and, yes, there was definitely malice there. “Ah, indeed,” she said. “Was she not a good enough creation? Was she not a very good disguise?” This creature of myth and power changed suddenly to Betsy’s muddled accents, “And you never suspecting, Miss, as I was not what I was supposed to be, and right enough, taking all my suggestions for how you should run away and be a pirate queen, while you thought you were suggestioning the whole to me. Indeed, Miss, very foolish of you. A real Betsy, a real creature with her background, would have run to your Mama with the full tale, the moment you suggested she should leave with you, by magical means to go to the sea and be a pirate queen. And how you thought you’d manage that, when most women at sea are either chattel or victims, I don’t know, only I took care your head was stuffed only with the more fanciful tales of the sea, and not with the cruel hard truth of what would have happened had I intended to let you go to sea like you wanted.”
The combination of the splendid persona and Betsy’s sniveling accents made me say, “Betsy!” in my reproving tone, at the same time that Mr. Merritt said, “You mean you were pretending to be Lady Helen’s maid? How did you get yourself hired?”
She laughed, a scornful laugh. “Oh, easy enough. It is not hard to give mortals ideas. It is just a matter of suggestion and the muddling of human minds that’s easy enough.”
“But… why?” I said.
She looked at me and widened her eyes and for a moment I had the impression of the kind of guileless confidence and scrutiny I’d got from Betsy. “Why, bless your heart, Miss, to protect you, of course, because I knew all sorts of men from the myth world, from the dank servants of Neptune to this…” She gestured towards Hanuman who was staring at her with a concerted frown and – I could feel it – trying to work some sort of magic on her. “This desperate Monkey creature. It is part of my creed that no woman should marry who is not predisposed to it, and doesn’t wish to marry that particular man, and sensing they would try to force into marriage, I established my place in your household, in advance, so I could guard you.”
She smiled at me, and her smile was full of welcome and reassurance. “Now, if only you’ll join my band, I can keep you free of entanglements forever.”
“Except that your band—” Hanuman said. He stopped, as a wave of magic left her hand and hit him in his mobile face.
“Be still Monkey,” she said. “I have had enough of your impudence. Next you will feel my dogs.”
“But why?” Wolfe Merrit said, slowly. “Why would everyone want to marry the lady Helen? If you’re trying to take power over our world, wouldn’t the princess Royale be better? Or even the Duke of Darkwater’s sister?”
The goddess that had never been Betsy – or had she – lifted a hand again, and I sensed she was about to hit Mr. Merrit with the same king of magic force she’d attacked Hanuman with. I wasn’t sure he’d survive. So I interposed my meager magic, although not sure I would survive, either, and I said, “But I wish to know, and I do not wish Mr. Merrit to be silent. If you want me to join your band, you must tell me the truth. Why would everyone want to marry me.”
I felt her magic attempt to scramble my mind. Only Jonathan had taught me something early on, and I knew how to make the surface blank, reflecting only the thoughts of the person trying to touch my thoughts.
Diana made a sound of annoyance. “Your brother!” she said. And suddenly I had a strong feeling this was both the answer to my question and a familiar complaint about Jonathan.
I also had another thought. If I joined her band, it would also be a form of marriage. Oh, perhaps not sexual, but like nuns entering nunneries in the middle ages were said to marry God himself, this would be the same sort of bond. And I wasn’t sure about the not sexual. I had a feeling Jonathan had read around some things that even he didn’t think suitable for my mind and age.
And I had absolutely no interesting in becoming a devotee of Diana.
I had been thinking through it. Diana and Hanuman, and I was lost in their world, of course, and now there was something with Jonathan, and it became clear as day to me, that I must get Jonathan to me, or I to him. But first, I had to try to survive this unmarried and, force, I must have some power – power enough – or they wouldn’t be trying to trap me into marriage.
I reached out suddenly and grabbed Wolfe Merrit’s hand, even as I started running for the shelter of the trees. I had a kind of idea that as far as this world was concerned it would be a finely tailored series of territories, and if I could just use one god against the other.
Mr. Merrit was intelligent enough. He responded to my pull and ran too. Halfway to the line of trees, he hooked his arm around my waist and half lifted me, as he ran faster. I felt an arrow fly by me. There was a sound of chattering monkeys.