Snippet – Trial By Fire (Schooled In Magic VII)

9 Apr


Caleb stopped outside the stone door to his father’s study and paused, feeling his heart pounding inside his chest. He had few good memories of his father’s study; the children had never been allowed to enter, save for long lectures and punishments when they’d disappointed their parents. Caleb had never dared to try to break the complex network of spells on the lock, knowing that it would displease both of his parents.

And both of his parents were formidable indeed.

“Caleb,” his mother called. “Come in.”

Caleb bit his lip, then pushed at the door. The house was small – living space was at a premium in Beneficence – and his mother had had over twenty-five years to weave protective spells and wards into the stone building. She’d always known what her children were doing, while they lived in her house; her children had rapidly learned to keep their misdeeds well away from their home, if they didn’t want to get caught at once. He shivered as he felt another protective ward shimmering over him as he stepped through the door, then bowed formally to his father. His father looked at him for a long moment, then nodded. Beside him, Caleb’s mother kept her face impassive.

They made an odd couple, Caleb had often thought, once he’d grown old enough to meet other soldiers and magicians. General Pollock – his father – was short, stubby and muscular, tough enough to march with the younger men instead of riding a horse to battle, while Mediator Sienna was tall, willowy and one of the most experienced combat sorcerers in the Allied Lands. She might not have been classically beautiful, her stern face edged by long black hair, but she was striking even after giving birth to five children. And there were few people who would dare to insult her to her face.

“Caleb,” his father grunted. He’d never really seen Caleb as anything other than a disappointment, once it became clear that his second son was more interested in theoretical work than fighting. “You wished to speak with us?”

“Yes, father,” Caleb said. His parents weren’t stuck-up enough to insist that their children made appointments to speak with them, but certain things had to be done formally. The little rituals of politeness, as always, kept civilisation going. “I do.”

His father waved a hand, impatiently. “Then speak,” he ordered.

Caleb took a long breath. Casper – handsome Casper, confident Casper – would have found it easy to speak to their parents, he was sure. But his elder brother had basked in the approval of their father, while even their stern mother could rarely remain angry at him for long. What Casper wanted, Casper got. Their parents hadn’t really spoiled him, Caleb had to admit, but he’d had advantages none of the younger children shared. He’d set out to walk in their footsteps, after all.

“I ask your permission to open a courtship,” he said, allowing his voice to slip into cool formality. “I ask for your blessings and your wisdom.”

His parents exchanged glances. A simple relationship was one thing, but a courtship was quite another. It implied that Caleb was willing to spend the rest of his life with the girl, if she proved receptive to his advances. And his parents … they might have to welcome the girl into their family, if the courtship worked out. Caleb was the first of the family to discuss a courtship. Even Casper had yet to bring a girl home to meet his parents.

His mother spoke first. “Who is this girl?”

Caleb held himself steady, refusing to be swayed by the bite in her tone. “Emily,” he said, simply. “Daughter of Void.”

“I see,” General Pollack said. “You overreach yourself, do you not? She is a Baroness of Zangaria.”

“I am a sorcerer,” Caleb countered. He’d known his father would object on those grounds, if nothing else. General Pollack came from aristocratic stock, but his father had been a mere Earl. Grandfather Karuk had been powerful enough to buy his son a commission, yet he’d never been as wealthy and powerful as a Baron. “We are social equals.”

“And her father is a Lone Power,” Mediator Sienna said, slowly. “Do you not fear his thoughts on the matter?”

Caleb hesitated, then pressed on. “That is why I have decided on a formal courtship,” he said. He’d always had the impression that Emily was largely flying free – he didn’t think that an experienced sorcerer would have allowed the crisis in Cockatrice to get so badly out of hand – but marriage was quite another issue. “It would allow him a chance to object before matters became serious.”

“She may reject you,” General Pollack warned. “You are not a wealthy man.”

“I know,” Caleb said. The family wealth, what little there was of it, would go to Casper, once his parents passed away. General Pollack was a poor man, by the standards of their social equals. But not using his position to enrich himself had made him popular with the troops under his command. “I do, however, have excellent prospects.”

His father’s face darkened. “But not as a defender of the Allied Lands.”

Caleb bit down the response that came to mind. His father had expected his children – his male children, at least – to go into the military, to fight for the Allied Lands. Casper, whatever his flaws, was a halfway decent combat sorcerer. But Caleb? He’d always been more interested in raw magical research than fighting. The transfer to Whitehall had been the best thing that had ever happened to him.

“His research may prove useful,” Mediator Sienna said.

General Pollack gave her a surprised look. Caleb couldn’t help staring at her in astonishment. His mother might be formidable, but it was rare for her to disagree with her husband in public. Caleb knew they’d had some spectacular rows, yet they’d always been held in private. They’d always put forward a united front.

His mother ignored their surprise. “Do you believe she likes you?”

Caleb swallowed. That was the question, wasn’t it? He had never been able to read a girl, to tell if she was interested in him or if she was just being polite. The lads in the barracks had bragged endlessly about how many girls they’d slept with – Caleb was privately sure most of them were lying – but he had never had a serious relationship with anyone. Stronghold had had only a handful of female students, while he’d been too busy at Whitehall to consider the possibilities. He’d never had the nerve to go into a brothel when he’d been on leave.

“I think so,” he said, finally. He went on before his mother could start demanding details. “That’s why I determined on a formal courtship. If she thinks otherwise …”

“You can back off without shame,” his mother finished. It would be embarrassing to be rejected, Caleb was sure, but better that than getting into a muddle. Courtship, if nothing else, was a ritual intended to ensure that everything was open, without even the merest hint of impropriety. “I would advise you to be careful, though. It is rare for a Lone Power to have a child.”

“And one grossly irresponsible, at that,” General Pollack growled. “Inviting both the Ashworths and Ashfalls to the Faire. What was she thinking?”

“She shut them both down,” Caleb reminded him.

His mother met his eyes. “Yes, she did,” she agreed. “But it was still irresponsible.”

“I like her,” Caleb said, refusing to look away. “I request your blessing for the courtship.”

General Pollack exchanged a long look with his wife. “We shall discuss it in private,” he said, finally. “Wait.”

Caleb scowled as his mother cast a privacy ward, ensuring he couldn’t hear a word of what passed between them. It galled him to have to go to his parents, but he knew they would have been furious if he’d approached someone with serious intentions without consulting them first. There were times when he wouldn’t have minded being disowned, yet – in truth – he loved his family. Even Casper …

Father has no magic, he reminded himself. And yet he rules the family with a rod of iron.

He looked down at the stone floor, then up as the privacy ward dispelled. His father looked irked, while his mother was smiling coldly to herself. Caleb schooled his face into a dispassionate expression, waiting patiently for their answer. There were strong advantages to the match, he was sure, but there were also dangers. His mother was powerful, yet she was no match for a Lone Power.

“We have considered the matter,” General Pollack said. “You may proceed with your courtship.”

Caleb let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, father …”

“And now we will discuss the practicalities,” his mother added, cutting him off. “And precisely how you intend to proceed.”

“Yes, mother,” Caleb said.

He cursed under his breath. It wasn’t something he wanted to talk about, not to his blunt plainspoken mother, but it was clear he wasn’t being offered a choice. His father’s brief lecture on matters sexual had been bad enough, back when he’d started to realise there was something different about girls, yet this was likely to be worse. He cringed mentally, then steadied himself. At least they hadn’t said no.

And now all you have to do is go through with the Courtship, he told himself. And that won’t be easy.

Chapter One

… Shadye looms above her, his skull-like face crumbling as the power within him threatens to spill out. Emily stumbles backwards, clutching desperately for something – anything – she can use as a weapon, but there is nothing. The necromancer grabs her shirt, hauls her to her feet and draws a stone knife from his belt. Emily feels her entire body go limp as he holds the knife in front of her eyes, then stabs it into her chest …

Emily snapped awake, feeling sweat pouring down her back and onto the blanket. For a long moment, she was unsure where and when she was; the nightmare had been so strong that part of her half-wondered if Shadye had killed her and everything she’d experienced had been nothing more than the final flickers of life before she died. And then she forced herself to remember, somehow, that she was in a tent, in the Blighted Lands. She’d had nightmares every night since they’d crossed the Craggy Mountains and started their long walk towards the Dark Fortress.

Just a dream, she told herself, as she wiped her forehead. It was just a nightmare. It wasn’t real.

She started as something slithered towards her, then smiled as Aurelius butted his head into her thigh. The Death Viper looked up at her beseechingly, his golden eyes somehow managing to convoy a sense of hunger even though she’d fed him only the previous night and he should still be digesting his meal. Emily had been told, when she’d brought the snake back to Whitehall, that Death Vipers could live for weeks without eating, while their last meal was digested in their bellies, but Aurelius seemed to disagree. Perhaps the familiar bond that bound them together demanded more energy …

Or perhaps he’s picking up on my hunger, she thought, as she sat upright and picked up the snake. I could do with something to eat too.

Aurelius slithered forward – she giggled helplessly as the snake crawled up her arm – and settled around her neck. She reached into her pack, pulled out a piece of dried meat and offered it to Aurelius, then pulled her trousers on, followed by her shirt. Sleeping without her clothes hadn’t been easy, but it had just been too hot inside the tent. The Grandmaster had forbidden her to use magic unless it was urgent. Thankfully, he’d insisted on keeping watch half the night rather than sharing a tent with her.

She crawled forward and opened the flap, then poked her head out of the tent. The Grandmaster was sitting in front of a fire, his back to her, cooking something that smelled faintly like bacon, although she had no idea what it actually was. It smelled good, but the stench of the Blighted Lands – a faint hint of burning that seemed to grow stronger with every breath she took – threatened to overpower it.

“Good morning, Emily,” the Grandmaster said. “I trust you slept well.”

“Well enough,” Emily lied. There was no point in complaining about the nightmares. “And yourself?”

“I don’t sleep,” the Grandmaster said.

Emily stood and looked around. The Blighted Lands were strange, perhaps the strangest place she’d ever seen. Lands that had once been green and verdant were now covered in a thin layer of ash, without a single living thing apart from the pair of them in sight. A faint haze shimmered in the air, making it hard to see beyond a few dozen metres. The sky was a dull grey, the sun barely bright enough to burn through the clouds hanging in the sky; the air was unnaturally still, tinted with the faint scent of burning and flickers of raw magic that flickered across her awareness for long seconds before fading away. She could barely force herself to remain calm, even though she knew there was no real threat. The landscape spoke to her on a very primal level.

It looked very much like hell.

“I’m pleased to see that monster is taking things calmly,” the Grandmaster said, as she paced around to face him. He was a short wizened man, with a dirty cloth wrapped around his eyes, but he was surrounded by an aura of power she knew to take seriously. “I was worried, but I would have preferred not to deprive you of your familiar.”

Emily nodded. If anyone else had tried to hang a Death Viper around their neck, she knew all too well, it would have killed them within seconds. It was hard to remember, sometimes, that Aurelius was one of the deadliest creatures known to exist, with a venom so poisonous that even a mere touch could prove lethal. Only the familiar bond protected her from the snake, allowing her to keep Aurelius as a secret weapon. He’d already saved her life twice.

“He seems to be happier here than I am,” Emily admitted. She squatted down and took the mug he offered her with a nod of thanks. The Kava tasted strong, but she knew from experience that it would jolt her awake. “Is that normal?”

“The Blighted Lands may be where the Death Vipers were spawned,” the Grandmaster said, as he ladled food onto two plates. “He may feel like he’s home.”

Emily looked up, staring at the mountains in the distance. “I hope not,” she muttered. “I wouldn’t want to live here.”

The Grandmaster laughed, then passed her a plate of food. “Eat quickly,” he urged, as Emily took it. “I want to get to the Dark Fortress before it gets dark.”

Emily swallowed. Years ago – so long ago it seemed almost like another life – Shadye had accidentally brought her to the Nameless World, seeking a Child of Destiny. It had never occurred to him that someone would be named Destiny, or that her child would be a literal Child of Destiny. Shadye had meant to kill her, to sacrifice her to something called the Harrowing, yet in some ways she was almost grateful to the mad necromancer. If she’d stayed on Earth, she was sure, she would be dead by now.

“Yes, sir,” she said, as she ate her meal. It tasted better than anything she’d cooked back on Earth, although the ever-present scent of burning had worked its way into the food. “How long will it take us to get there?”

“About an hour,” the Grandmaster said. “Unless we run into trouble, that is.”

They finished their breakfast, then Emily wiped the plates and cooking equipment while the Grandmaster answered the call of nature and then started to pack away the tent. He hadn’t wanted a tent for himself, something that made her feel vaguely guilty, but he’d dismissed the matter when she’d offered to sleep in the open too. She couldn’t help feeling relieved; quite apart from her concerns about sleeping near a man, she wouldn’t have cared to sleep in the open, not in the Blighted Lands. The raw magic seemed to grow stronger at night.

That must be why so few people risk entering the Blighted Lands, she thought, as she packed up the rucksack. You could go to sleep in the wrong place and wake up in a very different form.

She shuddered at the thought, then pulled the rucksack on and braced herself against the weight. The Grandmaster nodded to her, checked the campsite for anything they might have left behind, then led the way into the distance. Emily gritted her teeth, then forced herself to follow him. The flickers of wild magic in the air were growing stronger, the further they moved from the Craggy Mountains blocking the way to Whitehall. If she’d been alone, she had a feeling she would have turned back a long time before reaching the Dark Fortress.

“There’s no need to push yourself too hard,” the Grandmaster said, slowing. “If worst comes to worst, we’ll set up our tents near the Dark Fortress and wait until sunrise.”

Emily glanced upwards. It was early morning, by her watch, yet the sun was already high in the sky. And yet, the light seemed dim, the clouds growing darker as they walked further into the Blighted Lands. She’d thought it was night, when Shadye had snatched her, but had his lands been buried in permanent darkness? Or was she merely imagining things?

“I thought you said it wasn’t safe to lurk too close to the fortress,” she said, instead.

“It isn’t,” the Grandmaster confirmed. “But I would prefer not to have to enter the Dark Fortress in darkness.”

He said nothing else until they stumbled across the ruins of a village, so hidden within the haze that they practically walked into the ruins before realising it was there. It was hard to imagine that it had once been a living village, with farmers tending their crops and raising their children; now, it was nothing more than gray stone, all life and light leeched away by the Blighted Lands. The eerie sameness sent chills down her spine.

“Be careful,” the Grandmaster warned, as she peered into one of the buildings. “You never know what might be lurking here.”

Emily nodded, then paused as she caught sight of a child’s doll lying on the ground. It looked … normal, surprisingly intact despite the Blighted Lands. But when she reached for the doll and picked it up, it crumbled to dust in her hands. She swallowed hard, trying not to cry for the girl who’d owned the doll, untold centuries ago. Had she died quickly, at the hands of a necromancer, or fled with her family to the untouched lands to the north? There was no way, she knew, that she would ever know.

“There has to be something we can do for the Blighted Lands,” she said, as she wiped the dust off her fingers. “Can’t we … cleanse the lands or something?”

“The necromancers unleashed wild magic,” the Grandmaster said. “Every year, some people try to set up settlements within the edge of the Blighted Lands, in hopes of reclaiming the territory for themselves. And they always come to grief. If the necromancers don’t get them, the wild magic does.”

He took a long look around the village – Emily was sure he had some way to see, despite losing his eyes years ago – and then led the way out of it, back to the south. She followed him, feeling an odd urge to stay within the village even though she knew it was suicide. It worried her for a long moment – it could be a sign of subtle magic – and then she realised the village had felt safe, despite being within the Blighted Lands. The urge to turn back and flee grew stronger with every step they took.

“The White Council was quite impressed with you,” the Grandmaster said. He spoke in a conversational tone of voice, clearly trying to keep her mind off the growing urge to just turn and run. “They were not too pleased with the management of the Cockatrice Faire, but … they were relieved at the outcome.”

Emily nodded, wordlessly. Everyone from Lady Barb to the Grandmaster himself had pointed out that she’d been careless, at the very least, and that her carelessness could easily have resulted in disaster. If the Ashworths and the Ashfalls had gone to war, it would not only have killed the leadership of both families, but also slaughtered hundreds of other magicians and devastated her lands. She knew she’d been lucky, very lucky. If she hadn’t managed to get a battery to work …

She touched the ring, hidden within her pocket, and smiled. Lady Barb had urged her to create and charge a second battery while preparing for the trip to the Blighted Lands and Emily had done as her mentor suggested. Now, she had a battery she could use, although without the value it was useless. Putting a second valve together with the help of an enchanter in Dragon’s Den had been harder than charging up the battery.

“You showed a staggering amount of power,” the Grandmaster added. “They were very impressed.”

Thank you, Emily thought, sardonically. Is that actually a good thing?

She eyed the Grandmaster’s back, wondering if he knew just what she’d actually done. He hadn’t treated her any differently, when Lady Barb had returned her to Whitehall after the Faire, but he wouldn’t have done. Others … had stared at her in awe. In some ways, she was even dreading the day when the rest of the students returned to Whitehall. If they’d stared at her after beating Shadye – and they had – they would be paying far more attention to her now.

“Some of them even considered … insisting … that you took the oaths now,” the Grandmaster told her. “Others thought you should be apprenticed at once to someone who could control your power, if necessary.”

But I cheated, Emily thought.

It wasn’t a reassuring thought. If she’d tried to channel so much power through her mind, it would have killed her or driven her insane. It had been bad enough, years ago, to have people watching her, suspicious of necromancy. Now … they probably thought she was a staggeringly powerful magician instead, a young girl fully on the same level as Void or another Lone Power. The idea she could match the Grandmaster for raw power was absurd …

… But, to anyone who didn’t know about the batteries, it might not seem absurd.

She swallowed. “What are they going to do?”

“Nothing,” the Grandmaster said, simply.

Emily blinked. “Nothing?”

“I am Grandmaster of Whitehall School,” the Grandmaster said. “I have never had a student forced to take the oaths ahead of time and I’m not about to start now. If you want an apprenticeship with someone … well, that could be organised, but you have no obligation to find a master. Or mistress. Still …”

He shrugged. “Have you thought about your career?”

“I don’t know,” Emily admitted. “I’d like to stay at Whitehall for the rest of my life.”

“You’d need much more experience before you could teach,” the Grandmaster said. “I like my tutors to have at least ten years of practical experience before they start touching young and impressionable minds. But you could get a slot as a teaching assistant, I suppose, or a research student. We do have a few of them at Whitehall.”

He paused, then turned to look at her. “You do need to decide on a major before you enter Fifth Year,” he added. “Going by your marks, I’d recommend majoring in charms and perhaps healing, but it depends on what you actually want to do with your life. If you want to be a healer, you’ll need alchemy; if you want to be a combat sorceress, you’ll need martial magic and history …”

Emily sighed, feeling a little overwhelmed. “Randor expects me to go back to Cockatrice and be the Baroness,” she said. “I …”

King Randor,” the Grandmaster corrected, quietly.

“But I don’t know what I want to do,” Emily added. “There are so many interesting subjects.”

“You could probably study them all, if you spread out your years,” the Grandmaster mused. “It isn’t unknown for students to repeat their last two years at Whitehall. However, most students tend to discover the subject they want to major in while they’re in their Fourth Year and stick with it. Your marks in Healing are not bad.”

Emily winced. Healing was an interesting class, but she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life working with ill people. She’d seen enough of that life during the walk through the Cairngorms to know she didn’t want to do it permanently. There had been too many horrors there, hidden in small shacks or behind high stone walls. She had no idea how Lady Barb did it without cursing everyone in sight.

“I think I just want to study,” she said. It was a shame there were no universities in the Nameless World. She could have stepped into one quite happily and never come out. “And go into magical research, perhaps.”

“That would suit you,” the Grandmaster agreed.

He shrugged, then turned back to resume walking. “You need to remember that you’re not just any magician,” he added, as he walked. “Too many people are already showing an interest in you, not least our friends to the south.”

The necromancers, Emily thought.

She’d killed Shadye – and the Allied Lands had declared her the Necromancer’s Bane. The other necromancers seemed to believe she could kill them at will, if only because none of them had tried to claim Shadye’s lands or attack Whitehall. But that wouldn’t last, she was sure. Sooner or later, the necromancers would resume their offensive against the Allied Lands. Their endless demand for new victims to sacrifice would make sure of it.

And what will happen, she asked herself, when they do?

She kept her thoughts to herself as she followed the Grandmaster, feeling the air grow steadily colder as they made their way to the south. Slowly, the twisted shape of the Dark Fortress – and, beside it, the Inverse Shadow – came into view. They didn’t look anything like the half-remembered shapes she recalled, but there hadn’t really been time to take much note of the scenery, last time she’d visited. She’d been half out of her mind with fear when Shadye’s animated skeletons had dragged her into the Inverse Shadow, preparing her for death. If Void hadn’t been there, she would have died that day …

The Grandmaster stopped, sharply. “Listen,” he said. “Can you hear that?”

Emily paused, listening hard. There was a faint sound in the distance, a howling that seemed to come from many throats. It was growing louder, although she didn’t think the source of the sound was actually coming closer. Whatever it was – and there was something about it that touched a memory in her mind – it chilled her to the bone.

“I think we’d better go see what that is,” the Grandmaster said, after a quick glance at his watch. “Follow me.”


84 Responses to “Snippet – Trial By Fire (Schooled In Magic VII)”

  1. medialook15 April 9, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    Of all your series , Schooled in Magic is by far my favorite. There is just so much that can be explored with Emily , White Hall, Cockatrice, Void, that can’t wait for the next story to find out.

  2. Martin April 9, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    Woa, how long until the rest of it is ready?

    • chrishanger April 9, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

      The first draft should be done in early may. After that, there will be the dreaded editing process. I’ll be able to give a more definite date after that.


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      • GJ April 10, 2015 at 5:59 am #

        Thanks for the wonderful snippet–I really enjoyed the interaction with the Grandmaster. Does the fact that the Grandmaster suggested she study healing imply he doesn’t know what she studied with Aurelius at Mountaintop? Like anti-healing magic that would prevent her from becoming a healer?? Or demon summoning…

        Also, I’m confused about the ongoing conflict between being a Baroness of Zangaria vs. a sorceress–I thought at the end of Love’s Labor’s Won King Randor himself had told her she could pursue magic and hire managers for Cockatrice “That’s what managers are for, Lady Emily. Hire more, give them a basic set of orders, and then leave them to handle the job.” Can’t she use her wealth and position to carve out her own independent role mixing both?? It’s not like she needs to work or please a boss for an income…she can customize what she wants, within reason…

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard April 10, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

        Well considering the problem of the two feuding families at the Fair was caused by her “trusting” her manager (he wasn’t aware of why you didn’t invite both), she has to be concerned about what her managers do. [Smile]

      • chrishanger April 10, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

        That’s very true (grin)

        Sent from my iPad


      • chrishanger April 10, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

        She thinks she should be there, if she is to be the Baroness.

        No, the Grandmaster doesn;t know what she studied in detail. That will come back to bite her later on.


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      • medialook15 April 13, 2015 at 4:32 am #

        Well, can’t wait to read more. It’s a great series, with great characters, storyline, & world building.

      • chrishanger April 13, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

        Thank you! More coming soon


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  3. Yanai Siegel April 10, 2015 at 1:52 am #

    Enjoyed this very much. Look forward to seeing more.

  4. debbieravensky April 13, 2015 at 6:31 am #

    Thank you so much for the sneak peek! This is my favorite series of your as well. The characters are all so interesting. Emily, Lady Barb and the Grandmaster are my favorites. I miss them when I finish the books! 🙂

  5. Paul April 13, 2015 at 6:49 am #

    Thank you for the preview. It is always hard to finish the most recent novel in a series knowing that one must wait for the next installment. The speed at which you release all of your novels is greatly appreciated.

  6. chryssie April 13, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    I was sad the last book didn’t have any void in it.It feels like your saving his character up for the final books or something but he usually gets to come around near the end of the books for the “good job” thing and offer some snippet of advice.Is he gunna be in trial by fire? Emily seems unwilling to commit to anything is there a chance of her becoming a lone power? Also thx for not turning Emily into a love crazy idiot who can only think of her true love. It super rare to find a book in fantasy with a girl lead without overly exaggerated romance.Oh and what about the dragon? He was super cool any chance of dragons being in later books?

  7. elkwood April 13, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    Thanks for posting the snippet !! Can’t wait to read the rest.

  8. Justin April 14, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    great snippet. I’m always intrigued by some of the small details that are always consistent. The grandmaster’s cloth that covers his eyes is always dirty. It feels like symbolism, but I can’t decide what for 😉

    It also reminds me of the refrains in the odyssey. Whenever a character encounters a new one, you go through the refrain about that character. Maybe it’s not though and one day he’ll have a clean polka dot silk scarf over his eyes. 🙂

    I eagerly await the next book.

  9. Thomas Tomiczek April 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm #

    Give. To. Me. 😉 Now 😉 Chris – since reading one of your books by accident I have been buying them nearly all… and you keep them coming in a good speed. I really look forward to your publications in the future. Amazone Prime member here with the nice unlimited membership – and I pay full price for every book because I think they are worth it 😉 Great. I look forward to this – Emily is making waves, I wonder how that develops. And how much power she really develops one day.

    • chrishanger April 15, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

      I’ll try to get it into your hands as quickly as possible


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      • G April 16, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

        Chris, your SIM series is one of the most wonderful series I’ve read, with great character development. Your imagination is incredibly vivid, and I love your books.

        But as someone who has studied a lot of medieval history, I’m not aware of any historical occasion where a high ranking noble with lands and great wealth ever gave it up to become an influential commoner–even if a powerful position–not in the Angevin empire of Henry II of England and France, the Holy Roman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German Empire–if anything, usually these powerful commoners who served the empire aspired to become nobles–and often did. Similarly, no Japanese Daimyo ever surrendered their lands to wander the country serving the Shogun. Powerful councilors in the European Union today absolutely have lands in France and Germany, etc. Conflicts of interest are routinely dealth with–or not…

        Emily would have far more influence in the Allied Lands as a powerful noblewoman from Zangaria and powerful sorceress and be able to work against the necromancers on her own terms as the Baroness–she could always have Alassa appoint her Zangaria’s representative on the White Council and have far more power and influence than as an employee. (You’ve stated that the White Council is made up of representatives of countries, city-states, etc.)

        That said, you’re far better at this than I am…Thanks again for the great series.

      • chrishanger April 16, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

        Hum – the only person I can think of who did so willingly (and with much less at stake) was Claudius, although he was a Roman and probably didn’t give up as much as it seems. Quite a few others were bullied into giving up their titles.

        The problem is, I think, that Emily’s title – which she was more or less manipulated into taking – comes with a whole raft of obligations and problems. She is more or less directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of lives, she has certain responsibilities to her liege lord … and she was in no way prepared for any of those. She doesn’t have the training, she doesn’t have the mindset and she doesn’t have the simple bloody-mindedness of a Middle Age aristocrat that says she has every right to grind the faces of the poor if she feels like it. She’s just not comfortable with such power in her hands, let alone anyone else’s.

        So it isn’t out of character for her to consider simply giving it up, because part of her thinks she really shouldn’t have it.


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  10. G April 17, 2015 at 4:17 am #

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. But if, at book 7 and halfway through the series, Emily still “isn’t ready, isn’t prepared, and isn’t comfortable” with her position in her new world, then you have a bigger problem.

    You’ve created a tough, eat or be eaten, politically gritty world (which is wonderful, by the way). At this point, Emily either rises to the occasion and becomes a self-confident, (mostly) capable heroine able to handle her position, powers, and challenges or the series runs into problems that erode the credibility of your story. It’s simply not credible that an awkward, lacking confidence, shy girl stumbles through 14 books and always defeats tough, intelligent, driven enemies–at some point to remain credible, she has to either grow or be crushed, or the series loses credibility.

    Best of luck to you.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard April 17, 2015 at 5:34 am #

      Well, I suspect she may develop more self-confidence in this book.

      I believe that she may be at Whitehall for another couple of years…

      Assuming she survives this school year. [Very Big Grin]

      • chrishanger April 17, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

        She will, yes (grin)

        Sent from my iPad


      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard April 17, 2015 at 9:26 pm #

        But will Whitehall? [Very Big Evil Grin]

    • medialook15 April 22, 2015 at 12:01 am #

      I think that lone powers like Void are like Emily. They have figured out how to store magic , then use it. Void did have a device like a small compass in his hands when he showed up at Mountaintop in School of Hard Knocks. If I were betting,maybe Void is her real Dad . He did disappear when Emily was just a baby, …and he just happened to appear when Shadye was going to sacrifice Emily. How coincidental is that.

      Emily’s real problem is when to keep secrets. If she lets everyone know how to store and use magic , that could be worse than the nuke spell. Everyone would be a lone power …

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard April 22, 2015 at 1:38 am #

        Chris has been clear on this. Void isn’t Emily’s real father. Oh, the question came up in a discussion of School Of Hard Knocks on Baen’s Bar. [Smile]

      • medialook15 April 23, 2015 at 11:47 pm #

        Did not know that. Don’t go to Baen’s Bar so didn’t know. To bad though, would have been an interesting spin

      • chrishanger April 27, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

        Yep. But then Emily would have demanded to know where he was all those years.

        Sent from my iPad


      • medialook15 May 1, 2015 at 5:21 am #

        He got stuck in the nameless world, for once there , the price to go back is stripped of all magic. Time is different in the Nameless World than earth. A decade on earth is 100 years in the Nameless World going back meant Death due to old age.

        Well maybe… but Voids not ‘s her Dad.

      • Fred Sanders May 13, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

        I’ve thought of the twist of Void being the missing dad, but it didn’t fully play to me. I kind of figured the compass was his Emily GPS, since he manages to always know exactly where she is.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 13, 2015 at 8:07 pm #

        One thought on Emily’s “missing” father is that there are hints in this book that Emily’s parents were never married. IE Emily’s mom sleep with this guy while not married to him and he then left. I suspect he may have left when he learned that Emily’s mom was pregnant.

      • chrishanger May 13, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

        It’s a possibility

        She does have vague memories, but they could easily be her imagination.


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      • Fred Sanders May 14, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

        Actually I believe he left shortly after she was born. But I thought about that.

        If we’re looking at guesses I have a different one, the person sent to assassinate Emily in book six,
        is Master Grey

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 14, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

        I’ve read the early version of Trial Of Fire and I’ll neither confirm or deny your theory. [Wink]

      • chrishanger May 13, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

        I thought about going that way, but it didn’t really make sense.

        He stumbled across her the first time through luck – after that, well he has some other advantages.


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      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 13, 2015 at 9:58 pm #

        It wasn’t Luck. It was Destiny!!! [Very Big Grin]

    • Fred Sanders May 13, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

      Dude, she was sixteen and from earth when she got there, she’s barely 19 now. Would you be ready to manage the lives of 100,000’s of people, make laws, pass court judgements, and still go to school, plus a few side trips, oh yeah stop a coup, barely kill two necromancers, be bait for a mimic, another school’s medling overly ambitious employee, plus everything else? Seriously? Its perfectly understandable she’s feeling unsure of herself where running a small country, or by earth standards a medium-large city, especially when she’s at the age where she should start deciding what she wants to do with her life. The seven book marks the start of her fourth year there.


  11. Don Miller April 17, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    Thanks for the Snippet

    I have really enjoyed the SIM series. After I finished book 6, I realized I had forgot some of the details from the previous books, and reread them.

    It is amazing how much foreshadowing there was in earlier books, that I had completely missed or glossed over.

    I feel like Emily is on her own journey to the future. It feels like she will be independent magically, like a lone power, but eventually a strong, reform minded aristocrat. I can see Cockatrice’s economy flourishing under her reign. I can also see this causing even more problems in the future with other aristocrats because their best and brightest will all move to Cockatrice. Emily will be come one of the wealthiest people in the world, while the other Barons in Zangria become poorer and poorer.

    She needs to study magical construction more and design and build a new castle with proper wards and running water.

  12. james May 4, 2015 at 3:26 am #

    Hopefully editing has started, based on Book 6 from editing to delivery date about 2 months for book 7. So early July for release date

  13. hahaha May 4, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    Heres something that probably needs to be edited.

    I always see things in your books that need to be fixed. is there an email address i can submit them to or something?

    Do you ever send out screaner versions of your books to people who can point out misspelled words and other small errors?

    although without the value it was useless. Putting a second valve together with the help of

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 4, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

      First, Chris posts the entire book (in three chapter chunks) on Baen’s Bar in the Baen Slush Pile for comments (including reports of mis-spellings).

      Second, Chris does send these chapters to various people in return for comments. I’ll leave it up to him if he wants to add you to the list. [Smile]

      • Fred Sanders May 15, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

        Baen’s Bar doesn’t seem to want to take new people.

    • chrishanger May 4, 2015 at 10:54 pm #

      If it’s published, please send it to my email. (On the site).

      If its an ongoing project, I do have a list of beta readers. Let me know if you’re interested.


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      • Chryssie May 5, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

        I adore your stories but there is one thing that drives me crazy. I’m actually a computer programmer and the wat you describe programming like spells is just off and it’s super distracting specially the whole varible thing it’s like you read about programming but never tried it or maybe it’s just how you describe it I don’t know. Why the focus on the computer stuff is she gunna end up making a spell computer gah sorry every time I read bout her setting varible sets I want rip my hair out specially since a magic compiler prob be more useful

      • chrishanger May 5, 2015 at 11:10 pm #

        I had to program one of those little robots as a kid and a lot of that is reflected in Emily’s work.

        1 – Move forward 30cm

        2 – Turn 90 degrees to the right.

        3 – Move forward 30cm, etc, etc.

        Someone with more computer programming experience and skills than Emily would probably be very powerful by now. But that’s been done.


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      • Fred Sanders May 13, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

        Where do you apply to be a beta reader? That would be a fun job, at least for this series. Then we could suggest ideas like how she could use bubble dimensions as personal portals using the rules you’ve already outlined for how they work. Or her using the same rules to power her battery with a nexus point using one ring like battery, while accessing it with a linked one she caries with her. She could use the setup to power mountaintop from red rose without moving the school, and since she knows the coordinates for the shared bubble, access herself when she needs to.

      • chrishanger May 13, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

        You ask . I add you to the main list, you sign up for the ongoing projects that interest you.


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  14. G May 6, 2015 at 5:58 am #

    Have you stopped doing annotations for the SIM books? I didn’t see any for books 5 or 6.

  15. Rod May 11, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    Now, she had a battery she could use, although without the value it was useless. Putting a second valve together with the help of an enchanter in Dragon’s Den had been harder than charging up the battery.

    I think that “value” is supposed to read “valve”. By the way I have enjoyed the Schooled In Magic series and have also enjoyed quite a lot of your other books. Even if some of them do need some serious editing.
    Keep them coming!


  16. Lodrik June 29, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    The next Elemental Magic Series Book comes this summer, so read it up ^^ (posted on goodreads)

    I would love to know how the editing on Trial by Fire goes
    A passionate fan

    • Lodrik June 29, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

      sorry, saw the news on the update page (my handy had problems with that)

  17. G August 20, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

    Could you elaborate on one point I never understood in the ending from Trial by Fire??? Why isn’t Master Grey worried about angering Void…it isn’t as if Void cares about what magical or aristocratic society cares about him…given the amount of time he’s put into Emily, I would have thought he’d intervene before the climax… (I’m trying to write carefully so as to not leave spoilers, thought at this point most people have read Trial by Fire…)

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 20, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

      I’m not Chris but have some thoughts on that.

      1) Master Grey wasn’t concerned about the results of his actions (ie he was willing to pay the price because he thought It Was The Right Thing To Do) and believed that Void wouldn’t be able to interfere in time.

      2) Even if Void could have interfered in time, socially the damage had been done to Emily. She would have been seen as doing something wrong, by the standards of Magical Society, and then “hiding behind Void”. No way could Emily be a factor for change on the Nameless World if she had ran or if Void had protected her.

      Grey had put Emily in a No-Win with the only way out being seen as impossible.

      • G August 21, 2015 at 1:14 am #

        What was strange was in his conversation with Emily on the battlements the night before, he seemed to think the worst that would happen to him is that he would have to give up his career–and take a hit to his reputation–when Fulvia in Love’s Labor’s Lost calls Void the most powerful sorcerer in the world and he’s known as not someone you want to cross…bad (and permanent) things happen to those who do…if Master Grey had killed Emily, there would have been no more worries about any “social damage” to Emily, and nothing to stop Void from wreaking bloody vengeance…Void doesn’t care about social damage to himself, he’s outside of society…Master Grey should be terrified–he knows better than most just what a Lone Power can do and there are no wards he could hide behind where Void couldn’t reach him…

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 21, 2015 at 1:45 am #

        Possible misjudgment on your part concerning Void.

        He likely doesn’t care about the minor social rules of Magical Society.

        But the Rules concerning Dueling may not be something he can afford to ignore.

        For him to avenge Emily’s death in a duel likely was something that would cause Magical Society to consider him a dangerous criminal to be hunted down and killed if possible.

        Magical Society knew that Master Grey was “playing the rules” in order to murder Emily but after her death would been able to only shun him not punishing him for murder.

        Void would be making a major violation of the rules if he went after Master Grey for Emily’s death and would face more than shunning if he did so.

        IIRC even challenging Master Grey to a duel would have been a violation of the rules so Master Grey according to the rules could decline the challenge.

        Void would have to play the same game that Master Grey did. IE arrange a situation where Master Grey challenged Void to a duel.

        Very likely Master Grey believed (perhaps correctly) that he wouldn’t fall for the same trick that he pulled on Emily.

      • chrishanger August 21, 2015 at 10:28 pm #

        I can probably go into more detail on a blog post, but basically Grey believed (rightly or wrongly) that Void wouldn’t upset the Code Duello system, even to avenge his ‘daughter’. It exists, at least in part, to keep super-powerful magicians from causing devastation everywhere they go – basically, the idea is that two feuding parties will fight, one will win and that will be it. (The Ashworth/Ashfall Feud is what happens when this system goes off the rails.)

        But he did believe (with reason) that she had to go, so even if Void did react violently (or secretly) it was still worth doing. He just didn’t take the possibility of him losing into account.

        Grey didn’t try to keep her from running, through, on the assumption he’d still win if she ran.


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  18. G August 21, 2015 at 5:29 am #

    I wasn’t thinking Void would play by any rules if Emily was killed…simply that Master Gray would mysteriously disappear one day…with no proof of foul play or evidence pointing to anyone…and spend a decade or so screaming in torture in the dungeon of Void’s tower before what was left of him was disposed of…the same circumstances to your scenario would then apply–magical society might suspect what had happened, but with no evidence could only shun him…

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 21, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

      That could have happened if Emily had been killed, but Master Grey might believe that Void would be as “trapped” by the Rules as Emily was.

      For all of Void’s fearsome reputation, he may still “play by the rules”.

      Void could still be a dangerous foe when “playing by the rules” because there may be two sets of rules.

      The polite set of rules and the set of rules where politeness & mercy aren’t involved.

      Under both sets of rules Void could take no action against Master Grey.

      Now it’s very possible that Void has taken action that violates both sets of rules but Master Grey isn’t aware of Void doing so.

      • Yanai Siegel August 21, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

        All of this ignores the primary reason Grey set up the duel in the first place. To pay off a debt to Family. He also agreed that it needed to be done.

        Void’s reaction may have been considered like the weather… Best to hope to survive any extremes.

  19. Arrow Tree Photography July 10, 2016 at 10:43 pm #

    In the first book, who caught Emily be fore she passed out, after she killed Shadye? He went back into the shadows after? Has this been addressed in any of the books yet?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard July 10, 2016 at 11:24 pm #

      It’s not been mentioned in the books, but IIRC Chris has said that it was Travis, the student taken over by the Mimic.

      • chrishanger July 15, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

        It was. But it’s not something i can work into the books.



  1. Of EASTERCON, Hugo Awards and Little Else | The Chrishanger - April 9, 2015

    […] a new snippet for Trial By Fire (Schooled In Magic VII) is up […]

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