This novel will get posted here a chapter every Friday or Saturday, or occasionally Sunday. If you contribute $6 you shall be subscribed for the earc and first clean version in electronic format. I think it will probably take another three months to finish. Less, if I can have a weekend to run through and get ahead of the game. It hasn’t happened yet.
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
Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, Prince Consort of Britannia, the King’s Witchfinder:
It would be all too easy in my position, I suppose, for me to become convinced that I have a great deal of power. No. Correction on that. It would be all too possible for someone looking at me from the outside to become convinced that I have a great deal of power.
After all, they would say, the king has only one daughter, and I’m married to her. And I’m accounted one of the richest men in Britannia in large part because my half brother, the king of fairyland has gifted me with long buried and forgotten treasure.
And besides, I’m the king’s Witchfinder, whose command over a force of volunteers who travel to other worlds to rescue those in need gives him a small private army at his command.
Ah, if only I could live in the reality of these people’s fantasies about me.
On the other hand, maybe not. After all, they view me as married to a sort of well dressed puppet, the Princess Royale who, to judge from our newspapers and ladies journals, is mostly concerned with beatifically waiting the arrival of her first child, picking out suitable lace for the nursery and dreaming of sunshine and butterflies.
I’m not going to say my wife, the Princess Helena, who would much rather be called Nell, isn’t concerned with laces, patterns and nursery furniture. Sometimes I think I’ll suffocate in lace, and it wouldn’t be the first time, after dinner, in the royal palace, in the family suite, that my father in law the king and I trade a long-suffering look over two women who are comparing lace patterns different only to their eyes, and asking our opinion when we have no idea what we’re supposed to say.
No, what I’m saying is that my wife, Nell, is as different from that puppet in royal robes as it is possible to be, a difficult, stubborn, complex, wholly fascinating creature, raised in a world full of egalitarian notions and strange ideas about the condition of men, a world in many ways richer than our own even when you’re a princess. She disapproves of servants, for instance, and has had a small cottage built on the grounds of the royal palace – and still within its magical shields, since it’s not advisable for her to go outside them while bearing the next heir of Britannia – where she cooks and cleans and gets to be alone with me.
I’ve read a little about the history of the world in which she grew up, and know of a queen Antoinette who played at being a farmer in a similar mannter.
Nell is so happy with her pretend life, being a housewife as she would be in her world, that no one has the courage to tell her that she can only manage it because servants turn out the house, black the range, and clean the rugs while she’s out at her official duties. Or even that they split the wood for cooking and warming fires because I lack the time.
If she thinks about it, she will know, but then her beautiful illusion will be shattered. Sooner or later, she will come to realize it, and to realize that dispensing with servants in Avalon is only possible if you either live in someone else’s house, as a servant yourself, or if you live in a hovel, where there is nothing to clean and nothing to cook. Some day she’ll realize the reason for the beautiful privacy and near-equality-of-circumstances on Earth, where servants are rare at least where she was brought up are the ubiquitous machines that do the boring, tiresome work that is done by servants and serfs on Avalon.
Which is why my brother Michael, who is a genius, and who does understand this, works day and night to replicate the same machines on Avalon, in our land moving on magic, so we don’t have to recreate the infrastructure of Earth, which might or might not work here, and besides would interfere with magic in many ways.
He has a workshop in the back of Ainsling house in town, and of our estates in the country, and though there have been notable failures, such as when the magical barber chased him out of the workshop, pursued him through the garden, and was only stopped by our butler with a magical gun, there have been notable successes too, like his solo flying ship, ever so much more practical than flying carpet ships and twice as fast – even if his first experiment with them almost got him married to a spirit of the air, and might eventually get him married to an evil magician’s daughter.
The point is that I was born to the peculiar position of being the least important of my brothers, even if the heir. And I’d married into a position that looked full of peculiar power but was indeed a prison, hemmed in on all sides.
I’m not complaining. I love my wife, real and complex as she is. And I love my in laws, gentle people with a sense of humor. I don’t love being prince consort and the endless interviews about what kind of blacking I prefer for my boots or what I think should be done about the welsh dragons. (Apparently the answer isn’t kill them all, even though welsh dragons are not human shifters and are quite devoid of self-awareness. It took the king’s spokesman weeks to undo that damage, after which I was politely requested not to pronounce on matters I know nothing about, such as magical balance.)
And I love my brother. Both of them. Even though Gabriel, in his persona as king of fairyland is more force of nature than human being. But even at his grandest, coldest, most magical there is still in there, somewhere, the friend hwo helped me raid the forcing houses when we were both boys.
None of which explained why he’d planted a magical bomb on Jonathan Blythe which would have killed me and those close to me when it went off, including Jonathan himself.
And I loved Michael, too, but there were times when I’d gladly have traded him for a litter of puppies and a gallon of milk. This was one of those times.
He was deep in mathematical conversation, discussing magical vectors with the– Oh, there is no delicate way to say this, so if any ladies from Avalon read this account I apologize for offended sensibilities, with the Earl of Sydell, the lover of my half-brother, Gabriel, King of Fairyland.
The Earl of Sydell, who much preferred to be called Marlon, and who had at one time gone by the name Elfborne, was probably the only person in the world who could understand the magical theory that was meat and drink to Michael. That was well enough.
What wasn’t well enough was my realization they were planning to go into fairyland to rescue Gabriel from some terrible doom that might mean his death.
“Here,” I said. “What are you about? Sydell is three quarters elf, and might not be allowed out again. And Michael was a changeling and will be in like danger.”
Which is when Sydell told me all he wanted was for me to assume custody of his presumptive son should he disappear. I thought there was demmed “should” about it, but I also saw I wouldn’t persuade him. So I sent for the clerks to draw up the papers, and make the arrangements he wished.
I intended of course not to let Michael go with him, and I believe I’d have succeeded, too.
Only as the papers were signed, I looked up and realized Caroline and Akakios were gone. Since the damnfools were quite likely to go to fairyland too, I walked to the door, hoping to see them.
But not only were they nowhere in sight, but no one in the plaza remembered seeing them, which considering Akakios was in centaur form was peculiar enough.
I wanted to scream, but instead politely thanked the men who were cleaning up what remained of the Lionheart Fountain, the loss of which would be mourned by tourists forever.
Then I turned back to my office. Which was … quite empty, and had that peculiar smell of a place where transport magic has recently been done.
The clerk was looking, bewildered and big eyed. “His Grace, they—”
I groaned. For a moment, for a wild moment, I had the idea of doing the transport spell myself and going into fairyland and shaking them all, including however many pieces Gabriel had split into, until all their teeth fell out.
But part of being the Witchfinder, part of my promise, was to coordinate but not travel to those lands. Nell had made me promise, because she couldn’t bear for me to disappear and for her to never know what had become of me, she said.
Other people would say she had no right to lay such an injunction on me, but considering she’d given up everything, including every hope of seeing the world she’d grown up in in order to fulfill her duty, she knew something of sacrifice.
I stared in despair at the empty office, and thought of those I loved heading into mortal danger. And nothing I could do to save them. Nothing I could do to influence the fight.
Little by little an idea formed. It could cost me the world – quite literally – if it failed. But if it succeeded, it might be the answer to the whole thing.
Nell would kill me for running the risk. On the other hand, if I failed there was a good chance my world and my wife were lost already.
And sometimes a man has to fight for what he loves.