As a Christmas gift for my readers, I have written a set of short snippets set in the universe of Schooled In Magic. These are all glimpses of how different Emily’s life could have been, if someone made a different decision. They are not, of course, canon. I probably won’t expand on them either (unless someone really wants it.)
Enjoy! If enough people like this, I may make this a regular thing. <grin>.
Five Things That Could Have Happened To Emily
One – Slave
Emily has no idea why Shadye kept her as a slave.
Certainly not for sex, or for what little she can do for him. Shadye shows no interest in her scrawny body – thinner now than she was before he took her – and she simply can’t do much for him in any other respect. His skeleton servants cook, when Shadye remembers to eat, and do most of the chores around his fortress. Emily spends her days wandering the extensive passageways, feeling her fragile clothes from Earth slowly turning into rags, and silently trying to understand the madness surrounding her.
He has her under a spell, she knows from bitter experience. His merest words to her have the force of law, commands she must obey. There are times when he makes her pose for him, or dance, or humiliate herself … and times when he says a word the spell takes as an order, forcing her to obey. She has tried to escape twice, only to discover that her body simply won’t walk more than an hour away from the fortress. Not that there’s any real hope of escape. Even if she could break the spell, where would she go?
She tries to read his books, to study the power he uses so freely, but she can’t parse out a single word. Shadye merely laughed when she asked him to teach her magic, then told her never to ask again. His power makes him unstoppable. She tries to kill him once, in sheer desperation, and her body does as she wants … but it doesn’t matter. Shadye calmly plucked the knife out of his chest, then tossed it to one side. The lack of punishment for her act only makes it worse. There is no hope of escape.
Shadye mumbles and rages, muttering to himself in languages she doesn’t understand. There are times when he seems to see her as a pet, something to be petted, and times when he seems angry at her for reasons she cannot understand. One day, she is sure, he will kill her … or command her to kill herself.
And if he doesn’t, she knows she will end her days in the dark fortress; lonely, starving, helpless, naked … and enslaved.
Two – Apprentice
Perhaps it is the stricken look in her eyes that makes Void think twice, after telling her she needs to go to school. Or perhaps it is the challenge she presents to him, the chance to teach magic to someone who did not even know it existed two days ago. But he changes his mind and tells Emily she can study with him.
Void is a stern taskmaster, Emily discovers. He expects her to rise with the sun, eat a small breakfast, and then study until the sun starts to set behind the distant mountains. But it doesn’t matter, because she is learning magic! Within the first few days, she casts her first spells; within the first two weeks, she learns how to string concepts together to cast several spells in quick succession. Power sparkles over her fingertips as she moves from spell to spell, learning how to use them and open the next layer of magic.
Two months after her arrival, she accidentally turns one of the maids into a toad. She calls for Void, expecting punishment, but he only praises her for her achievement. The fear in the maid’s eyes daunts her for a second, yet it fades behind the praise of the first true father figure she has ever known. They’re there to serve, Void says, and it is true.
Later, perhaps two years after her arrival, Void takes her to Zangaria. There, she sees the Queen, ruling the country with an iron hand. And yet, one look tells Emily that Queen Alassa is under a spell, keeping her nothing more than a helpless puppet.
But it isn’t important to them, so they walk on.
Three – Friend
Emily had always hated and feared girls like Melissa – and, when she was honest with herself, envied them too. Melissa is popular, the queen of first year; Emily has always been a loner and a freak. But she has no choice, Madame Razz says; she has to share a room with Melissa. All of the other rooms are taken.
She grits her teeth, expecting to have her study time interrupted constantly. But she is completely unprepared for Melissa welcoming Emily into her circle of friends. Beauty and wit are important, true, but so is magical prowess. There, Emily can do well … and, slowly but surely, she begins to come out of her shell.
It takes time for her to build up the confidence to seek out new friends, but Melissa is with her every step of the way. By the time she completes First Year, she has a whole circle of friends of her own; by the time she graduates from Whitehall, she is one of the most accomplished students in the school. And, a year after her graduation, she marries Melissa’s cousin.
And, at last, she has a family of her own.
Four – Murderer
Emily offers no resistance when they come for her.
There’s no point, she knows, as they bind her hands and march her through Whitehall, down towards the portal chamber. She is a murderer, a killer … no, a mass murderer. Alassa is dead, Zangaria will have a civil war, millions of people will die …and it is all her fault.
The blood of the murdered princess will never leave her hands, she thinks. She was told, time and time again, not to combine her spells, not to risk something that could have fatal effects. The image of Alassa’s face, half-frozen in stone, will never fade from her mind, no matter how long she lives. Magic is a deadly weapon, not a game. She killed … and she knows that, even if she could run, she wouldn’t. She must face justice for what she has done.
It is an hour before she faces the court, nine magicians garbed in black and red. They ask her if she has anything she wishes to say, before they pass judgement. She hesitates, then shakes her head silently. The verdict is unanimous, as she expects. Guilty.
“This is the fate of a murderer,” they say, as they cast the spell.
She wants to scream as her flesh hardens into stone, but it is already too late. This is the punishment for murder, for magical crime; to remain trapped in stone forever, one of the stoned philosophers. They carry the statue to the garden, then leave her there, helpless and alone. It will be centuries, she thinks, before the statue erodes to the point she dies, her thoughts and soul released to an uncertain future. By then, she may well be completely insane …
But what other fate, she asks herself, does a murderer deserve?
Five – Necromancer
They find her, the sole survivor, in the ruins of the Great Hall, lying on top of the bodies.
It is a week before she is able to talk, to tell them that Sergeant Miles did something that disrupted Shadye’s power. (It’s a lie.) She tells them there was a flash of white light, that he did something else to shield her, that in the end he saved the school. (It’s a lie.) And she tells them that she can’t remember anything else, save for the light. (It’s a lie.)
She lies, but she knows what will happen if she tells them the truth. Shadye told her to kill Sergeant Miles, to drain his magic and life … and compelled her obedience when she refused. She pressed the knife into his flesh and felt a surge of magic, so powerful that even to touch it risked madness; she grasped the magic and hurled it at Shadye, feeling her thoughts burning even as the necromancer exploded into a blaze of light. And now …
It pulses through her thoughts, as if the back of her mind is constantly on fire. She knows that something isn’t right, but she tells herself that she can handle it. (It’s a lie.) Her thoughts seem to be twisted, yet she is still the same person. She snickers cruelly when someone suffers, when someone is in pain, when someone is the victim of a practical joke … something that would have horrified her, once upon a time, is now amusing. And she pranks people too, herself, merely because she’s bored. It’s just a joke, she tells herself … (It’s a lie.)
Jade likes her, she knows; she can use him, twist him until he is bent around her little finger. Alassa owes Emily her life; Imaiqah owes Emily her freedom … they can both be used, perhaps without ever knowing they were being used. And she has so many ideas … once, it would have bothered her to introduce so much so quickly, but now she doesn’t care. Change is coming, she tells herself, and the Nameless World can cope. (It’s a lie.) She will steer the Nameless World’s development for its own good. (It’s a lie.)
And sometimes, when she looks into a mirror, she sees a pair of red eyes looking back.