*Oh, yeah, the next musketeer mystery is ALMOST ready to go — my proofreader caught the death flu. And Witchfinder is hanging by a thread, before subscribers get it. Thanks to everyone for your patience to me this last year. I’m not kicking anyone out of my subscription, even if they don’t renew, because I figure I owe you a year of freebies, anyway. I think I am FINALLY crawling out from under, just up to my neck in overdue stuff both traditional and indie.*
The prequel to this — Witchfinder — has been removed. I do promise to go through the copyedits as soon as humanly possible and send the advance copies to those who pre-ordered. You’ll know when that’s eminent because I’ll remove 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
Wolfe Merritt, Supervisor of Manufactories for the Earl of Savage
The Promises of Rogues
I never knew when we went through the portal. What I did know for sure was that we were not sent to the Earth, which is what we were promised.
There might be reasons. After all the magic had gone bad, and was twisting everything. The Lady Helen had not planned to end in the myth world, and none of us had planned to end up in the belly of leviathan.
Perhaps Hermes didn’t mean what happened. Or perhaps he did. The gods can be right bastards.
But I knew that something was wrong the moment I broke through the portal. First, it was the oddest portal I’d ever seen and there was not the momentary freeze of the inbetweener. Only we were in Mythworld, then suddenly we were not, and there was mist all around and in the distance a glimpse of a fairy-like castle, and I groaned, and then I cursed under my breath, and then I regretted cursing, because in fairyland words can make things happen.
The Lady Helen, still firmly grasped within my arm, a promise of warmth, a bit of life in this world that had none, turned to look at me.
“We’re in fairyland,” I said. “In fairyland.”
My voice must have echoed my dismay. Indeed, I felt as though a hole had opened at my feet and I would presently tumble into it head first. And from there to the madness I’d known once before was but a breath.
The Lady Helen looked at me, her eyes wide and scared. I tightened my arm around her, involuntarily and she said, all gasping, “How do you know? How can you know? What—”
“I’ve been here before,” I said, between gritted teeth.
And to her look of great shock, because I suppose it is not normal for people of my station – or indeed for anyone – to go traipsing out to fairyland on a whim, I laughed. I would not normally laugh at the lady nor at her surprise, but indeed it was the strangest thing, for how could one explain one’s life when even one’s own mother found it strange and inexplicable how her son had turned out. “Pardon me,” I said. Myrth still colored my words. “Pardon me, but it is a long story, and a complicated one. You see, I had to go to fairyland, open a portal on my own, and pay the forfeit too, because it was the only choice I had to get my son back.”
“Your son,” she said in a wondering tone. Around us, the tendrils of magic fog grew, a sort of pink dazzle in which I could almost see forms. “You told me you had one,” she said. “And that you were married.” She pulled a little away from me, though not much, and to own the truth it was all foolishness. The barriers between us were much stronger than the mere objection of my being married. As though her family would ever let her marry a man with no title, no position and one, moreover, who worked for them in a menial position. She must know that as I did, as I had been conscious of ever since fate had pitchforked us together into this strange adventure.
Before this moment, I’d known that I admired the Lady mightily. I knew nothing of her, then, of course, save her looks and that expression she had, as of a mouse caught in a trap, but a mouse who means to fight back tooth and nail. But I didn’t love her, anymore than one would fall in love with a statue or a picture. That is, one hears of men doing so, but they’re invariably the sort of noblemen who also would fall in love with a tree, if the fancy took them.
But after the time we’d spent together, I knew her. Her quick wit, her indomitable courae. I knew that she was perhaps the one woman I could love.
And yet, it went for nothing. I was married, though both the legality of my marriage – since there were varying opinions on the legal status of marriage to the fair folk – and the status of it – since my wife had disappeared into fairyland seven years ago – were not very clear. But more important than that, she was so far above me as the moon is above the Earth. And what was more, Jonathan Blythe, Earl of Savage was my employer. And Jonathan Blythe was the image, and in many ways the echo of his grandfather. If he even learned I was in love with his sister, even with my never having done anything to make my love into a more practical concern or a more physical affection, I knew him well enough to know he’d have me horsewhipped. And that was if he were in one of his more lawful moods. If he were in one of his other moods, if the stories of his grandfather which I’d heard were true, I might find myself stabbed in an alley, in a darkling midnight. And that was if he didn’t bind me, hand and foot, and sell me to some amphibian magical people in some parallel world, where I’d spend the rest of my life fanning water larvae or whatever else nasty job he could think of.
I sighed and told her, in as cold a voice as I could manage – though let go of her I could not. Not in this eery, irrational place – “I married a maiden of the fairfolk I found in the woods near my mother’s house.”
She gasped, and this time, though she too didn’t fully wish to leave I think – because there is much comfort in sheer human company in the fairy woods – managed to be within the circle of my arm, without touching. “But you must know—”
“That it’s not advisable? Yes, I knew. But you see, she looked so lost, so forlorn. She didn’t know how she’d come to be in our woods. She was mother-naked and lost, and she looked….” I paused. “Like one of the naked little birds who have fallen from a nest, and who will die if you don’t care for them.”
It seemed to me she giggled, quickly suppressed. But when I looked at her, she was red and just nodded. She cleared her throat. “So you did it… to protect her?”
“I think so,” I said. “though there was the glamour, of course. You know how … no, you probably don’t. But there is glamour to the fey. After a while I thought I was in love with her.” I shrugged. “I was in love with something, though it might be a counterfeit of what I thought I loved. Like…. Like when they give you gold coins that are nothing but rubbish.”
She nodded. The mist around us was thicker, and I wished to heaven that I didn’t have to tell her this story in fairyland, where words were like living things. It tried to hurry the narration, “I married her. After a year she left. She left behind – we thought – my son, Jimmy. Until we realized it was but a counterfeit, too. And then I came to fairyland, in search of him. And I took him back.”
Oddly, it seemed to me she relaxed. “Oh,” she said. And then with a sort of nascent hope. “Then you’ve been here. And left before. And… and won.”
I bit my lower lip. I really didn’t want to tell her what I had to tell her next. But she had to know, “Not unscathed,” I said. “there is always a price. And mind yourself, and try to stand beside me. What I heard is that in fairyland you always walk alone. I don’t know if that is true, but I know you can find yourself alone, away from all your companions. And that no one can protect you.”
I don’t know if she heard me, because on that moment, she was gone. I was alone in fairyland and the magical fog made me cold to the bone.
Around me echoed the sound of laughter – sharp, little laughter like bells out of tune. Laughter with sharp teeth in it.