Snippet – Wedding Hells (Schooled In Magic 8)

24 Aug

Prologue

“They say you can get a good view from here,” the voice said. “Do you like what you see?”

Gannet ignored the voice, choosing instead to look out of the window at the sight below, even though it tore at his soul. Fourteen people – nine men, five women – were positioned in the stocks, surrounded by the City Guard. They’d been arrested only two days ago and slammed into pillory, without even a pretence of a trial. But then, everyone had known they were guilty of the charges laid against them. They just hadn’t believed that they were crimes.

They won’t last much longer, he thought, morbidly. One woman – she’d been thirty, if he recalled correctly – was already lolling to one side, her head bruised and battered where pieces of rotten fruit had struck her. They haven’t had anything to eat or drink since they were chained up in the stocks.

He clenched his fists in bitter, helpless rage. Five minutes. It had been only five minutes that had made the difference between his escape and him being arrested with the others. If Rahsia hadn’t delayed him with news of potential new allies among the magicians …

I’d be down there too, he thought. Trapped, helpless and surrounded by the people I wanted to save.

It had all seemed so simple, once upon a time. The New Learning had swept through Zangaria like wildfire, bringing change in its wake. Hundreds of thousands of people could now read, write and do their sums, without the aid of a guild. The printing presses had followed, allowing the newly-enlightened population to actually learn about the world surrounding them for the first time in their lives. And, with the political ideas emitting from Cockatrice, Gannet had dared to hope they were on the cusp of real lasting change – and freedom.

He knew, without false modesty, that he was smart. He’d been a merchant, after all, and no merchant lasted long without a canny eye for opportunities. But his low birth had doomed him to obscurity. His lack of connections ensured he would never be anything more than a small shopkeeper, beneath the attention of those who called themselves his betters. But why were they his betters? What separated an aristocrat from a commoner, beyond an accident of birth? Aristocrats were no more or less moral than commoners, he knew from bitter experience; commoners could show more nobility than some of the noblest aristocrats.

Cold hatred flared in his heart as he lifted his eyes and stared at Swanhaven Castle, a brooding dark mass looming over the city. Lord Hans and Lady Regina lived there, competing for the favour of King Randor and struggling to win the Barony of Swanhaven for themselves. One of them had issued the orders to crack down hard on the freethinkers, taking his friends into custody and placing them in the stocks to dry. Gannet neither knew nor cared which of them had actually issued the orders. They were both part of a vile and corrupt system that needed to die.

But how?

There were stories, hundreds of them, of brave swordsmen who’d fought their way into castles and emerged with the maiden fair, but Gannet knew he was no fighter. Like all commoners, he’d been denied the chance to wield anything more dangerous than a club. It was death for him to own a sword, let alone seek training in its use. And, with the castle surrounded by wards as well as armed guards, even a truly legendary swordsman would be unable to find a way past the defences and into the keep. There was nothing he could do.

He swung around, suddenly, to glare at Rahsia. “Did you know this would happen?”

The dark-haired girl shook her head. She was around twenty, if he was any judge, although magicians were fond of making themselves look younger. She’d introduced herself, when they’d met for the first time, as a representative from a handful of magicians who also wanted political change. Gannet had been suspicious – magicians were practically noblemen – but she’d done nothing to justify his concerns. Indeed, he’d even found her quite pleasant company when they’d talked about other things. She certainly wasn’t one of the young firebrands who talked of nothing, but revolution and war – and the paradise that was sure to come, once the aristocrats were dead.

“There was no warning,” she said, softly. “We have no contact with the magicians in the castle.”

Gannet nodded, cursing inwardly as a loud cheer rose up from the square below. Someone had probably thrown a rock and killed one of the prisoners, but he didn’t want to look to find out for sure. A friend of his might have died. If they’d been interrogated first, before being put on display, they might even have betrayed him. He knew he didn’t dare go back to his garret.

They won’t have found everyone, he told himself. I can rebuild

“There’s nothing to be done here,” Rahsia said. She rose from the bed and held out a hand. “We should go.”

“There’s nowhere to go,” Gannet said. It wasn’t quite accurate – a dosshouse would be happy to put him up without asking any questions – but for once in his life he didn’t know what to do. “They’ve won.”

“Not yet,” Rahsia said. She gave him a considering look. “The core problem, as you know, is that the lords and ladies are backed by the king.”

Gannet scowled back. “Of course I know,” he snapped. “Everyone knows that!”

It was true, too. The peasants might – might – be able to overthrow a village headman, or a minor noble. But the barons – or the king himself – would be sure to respond. Entire villages had been burned to the ground, their populations slaughtered or sold into slavery, just for daring to lift a hand against their lords and masters. It had made the survivors unsurprisingly reluctant to risk taking a stand, even when their betters insisted on taxing the villages so harshly that their mere survival was in doubt. No wonder, Gannet thought, that so many had fled the lands to the towns – or Cockatrice. There was nothing left for them in the countryside.

“Then the problem lies with the king,” Rahsia said. “We should seek to kill him and exterminate his line. And there will never be a better chance.”

“The king,” Gannet repeated. He was a minor merchant, by all the gods; he didn’t even live in Alexis! “You want to assassinate the king?”

“Yes,” Rahsia said, firmly. “And his daughter. The Iron Duke – the former Iron Duke – has already been disgraced. With the king and his crown princess gone, there will be no legitimate heir to the throne.”

“There are barons,” Gannet pointed out.

“None of whom had a clear-cut claim,” Rahsia countered. “Those who did were killed after the coup attempt in Alexis. The survivors do not have a strong blood-link to the Line of Alexis. There will be civil war if they start disputing over who should take the throne.”

Gannet thought, fast. Like all merchantmen, he did his best to keep appraised of power struggles amongst the aristocracy, even though his ability to affect them was practically non-existent. The strongest surviving baron was, ironically, the one who was least interested in actually wielding her power – and, perhaps, the one who would be the best monarch for the country.

“There’s Baroness Cockatrice,” he said. “Would she take the throne?”

“I have it on good authority that Lady Emily is not interested in such power,” Rahsia said, dryly. “But even if she was, she’d be challenged by the other barons. They would see her as a more dangerous threat than any other.”

“So there will be civil war,” Gannet said.

“Yes,” Rahsia said. “The social structure that binds the country together will shatter once the king is dead. Aristocrat will turn on aristocrat, which will give you the chance to prepare your forces to act. And all you have to do is kill the king and his sole heir.”

Gannet hesitated. King Randor had to go – the man had worked with the commoners to save his throne, then started to marginalise them as best as he could – but he had no particular dislike of the princess. He’d heard stories, of course, yet they’d all been so inflated by the time they’d reached Swanhaven that he didn’t believe them. And besides, some of the stories about Lady Regina were far worse.

But the death of one young girl was a small price to pay for freedom.

“It won’t be easy,” he said. That was an understatement, all right. “How do we even get into the castle?”

Rahsia smiled. “Let me worry about that,” she said. “You just work on building up a strike force.”

Chapter One

The magic felt … odd.

Power sparkled around her fingertips as she cast the spell. A glowing ball of light appeared in front of her, casting a soft radiance over the chamber. It was a simple spell, one she’d mastered very quickly, yet it felt odd. Her magic felt odd. The light globe started to glow brighter as she pumped more power into the spell, then changed rapidly into an ominous red glow that pulsed against her skin. It felt almost as if she were being sunburned. She cursed under her breath, fighting to control the spell; slowly, far too slowly, the light globe returned to normal and drifted into the air.

“Not too bad,” Void said.

Emily scowled at him. “It’s shabby,” she protested, crossly. Her head throbbed as she cancelled the spell. “And it could have turned dangerous.”

“But it didn’t,” Void said. He rose to his feet and held out a hand to Emily, inviting her to stand. “You’re doing better than I expected, under the circumstances.”

Emily felt her cheeks heat. “Thank you,” she said, as she took his hand and allowed him to help her to her feet. “But it still feels frustrating.”

“Your magic has expanded,” Void said, “without giving you the time you needed to learn to handle it. The spells you cast by instinct are now massively overpowered. You just need to learn to control the flow of magic again.”

He turned and walked through the door into the next room. Emily followed him, shaking her head in private amusement as he motioned her to a chair and picked up a large jug of Kava from the sideboard. She knew he had servants – she’d met them when he’d rescued her, so long ago – but he hadn’t brought any of them into her house. Instead, they’d split the cooking duties between them. And he’d never complained about her food.

She studied him as he turned to take the seat facing her. His appearance had changed, several times, since they’d first met; this time, he was tall, with long dark hair that flowed down to his shoulders and an angular face that reminded her of the hunting hawks she’d watched in Zangaria. His dark eyes were easily the darkest she’d ever seen, so dark she sometimes fancied she could just fall into them and never climb out. And the aura of power, which hung around him like a shroud, warned anyone who met Void that he was a very dangerous man.

“You have been doing well,” he said, as he passed her a mug of Kava. “How are you feeling?”

“Tired,” Emily said.

Void frowned. “No nightmares?”

“Not really,” Emily said. She had been taking potions every night for a week, but even after that she hadn’t had many bad dreams. She’d expected to revisit the duel again and again in her sleep, yet she’d seen almost nothing. “Is that a bad thing?”

“You tell me,” Void said.

Emily frowned. She’d killed a man, personally. It wasn’t the first time she’d killed, but it was the first time she’d done it with her bare hands. Master Grey had wanted to kill her and she’d killed him … and she felt almost nothing, as if she’d lost the ability to care. She’d snuffed out his life to keep him from taking hers …

She looked down at her hands. They were shaking.

“I don’t know,” she said, finally.

Void cocked his head. “And how are you feeling physically?”

Emily took a sip of her Kava before answering. “I have a slight headache,” she said. She rubbed her eyes with her free hand. “And it feels like my skin is on fire. Is that normal?”

“Very little about this is normal,” Void said. “I think your mana reserves have swelled past the point you can handle them. You need to spend more time in the spellchambers, casting spells.”

Or draining the magic into a battery, Emily thought. It hadn’t been too hard to set up another couple of batteries, once her magic had renewed herself. But what happens if this carries on?

“It’s a muscle,” Void said, seemingly unaware of her thoughts. “You need to practice constantly to keep it in shape.”

He shrugged. “But you can handle that, I think,” he added. “You haven’t gone mad, thankfully.”

Emily gave him a sharp look. “Is that why you stayed? Did you think I would go mad?”

Void met her eyes, unapologetically. “The possibility needed to be considered,” he said, firmly. “And …”

“And someone had to be there to … handle me if I went mad,” Emily interrupted. She couldn’t help feeling a stab of betrayal. Void was the closest thing she had to a real father, but he’d stayed with her out of fear she’d go mad. “Did you plan to kill me?”

Void held her gaze. “Would you rather leave a prospective necromancer to her own devices?”

Emily shivered. Void had saved her life … but Lady Barb and the Grandmaster had both warned her that he shouldn’t be taken for granted. He’d done a great deal of dirty work for the White Council in the past, trampling roughshod over everything else just to get the job done. She had no doubt he would have killed her if she’d gone mad …

… And he would have been right. A maddened magician with her level of control – and her knowledge from another world – would have been very dangerous. But the thought didn’t make her feel any better.

“No,” she said, finally. She put the mug down on the table. “But I haven’t gone mad, have I?”

“No,” Void agreed. “And the more you practice with your magic, the easier it should become to handle it.”

He cleared his throat, loudly. “There are, however, a number of matters we should discuss,” he said, changing the subject. “For starters, Mistress Irene informs me that you will need to be back at Whitehall within the week if you wish to take your Fourth Year exams. Under the circumstances, Emily, I have no doubt you could redo Third and Fourth Year if you wished, instead of trying to take the exams now. I suggest you think about it over the next day or so and then let me know what you want to do.”

Emily didn’t need to think about it. “I want to go back,” she said. “I can’t leave Caleb in the lurch.”

Void smiled. “Missing him already, are we?”

“Yes,” Emily said, feeling her cheeks warming again. She’d wanted to invite her friends – and her boyfriend – to the house, but Void had cautioned her against it. “Is that so wrong?”

“No,” Void said. He smirked. “I would advise you not to discuss your expanded powers with him, as he might get a little jealous, but that’s your choice. You might also want to warn him that you’re not entirely stable right now. There’s a good chance you’ll say something to him you’ll both regret.”

Emily coloured. The first few days in the house had been bad, very bad, as her magic slowly returned. She’d found herself crying for no reason, then screaming her rage to the heavens, unable to keep herself under control. Void had been immensely patient, she’d come to realise slowly; she doubted there were many tutors at Whitehall who would have put up with her for longer than a few hours. She’d probably have been expelled several times over by now.

Void shrugged. “That does lead neatly to a second pair of issues we need to discuss,” he added. “The first is this.”

He reached into a pocket, produced a small wooden box and passed it to her. Emily opened it carefully, after casting a handful of spells to check it was safe, and blinked in surprise as she realised it contained a ring. There was a faint hint of magic surrounding the gold and silver band, but it didn’t feel hostile. In fact, it felt almost welcoming.

She looked up at him. “Are you asking me to marry you?”

Void blinked, nonplussed. “What?”

Emily sighed. “Where I come from, married couples exchange rings,” she explained. Void had listened to her stories of Earth with great interest, but she’d never discussed marriages with him. “The boy offers the girl a ring when he wants to marry her.”

Void looked faintly displeased. “Traditionally,” he said stiffly, “a sorcerer will receive four rings in his – or her – lifetime. The first one” – he pointed to the box in Emily’s hand – “is a family ring, which is generally presented when the sorcerer is deemed mature. Most families hand them out in a private ceremony after the sorcerer passes his first set of exams. Among other things, they serve as proof of identity.”

Emily looked down at the ring for a long moment. “And what does this one mean?”

“People will ask why I haven’t given you a ring,” Void said, dryly. “That one marks you as a member of my family.”

“Oh,” Emily said. It was suddenly very hard to speak. She had to swallow, hard, before she could say a word. “Do … do you have any other family?”

“I’m the last of my family,” Void said, curtly. “But I do not believe they would object to me welcoming you into the family. It is far from uncommon to adopt promising newborn magicians and they are always treated as if they were born into the family.”

He shrugged. “You can wear the ring, if you like, or keep it with you,” he added. “Certain people may ask you to present it. If they do, make sure you have it on your finger when you show it to them.”

Emily nodded, looking down at the ring. “What are the others? I mean, the other rings?”

Void held up a hand, revealing three rings. “You’ll get a ring when you complete your Sixth Year exams and leave Whitehall,” he said. “Your master, assuming you do an apprenticeship, will give you a ring when you complete your training. And you’ll get a fourth ring when you have a child.”

“You’ve only got three rings,” Emily said.

“So I do,” Void agreed. He tapped the table, firmly. “You have entered a formal courtship with Caleb, as I understand it. You will be going to Beneficence after your exams, correct?”

“Yes,” Emily said. She had no intention of letting him distract her for long. “I’m going to meet his parents. Lady Barb said she would accompany me.”

“She’s there to be your chaperone,” Void said, curtly. “Under the terms of a formal courtship, his parents will be taking a good long look at you and your choice of chaperone.”

Emily frowned. “Will they expect you to come?”

“It is generally assumed that a chaperone will be female,” Void said. “A combat sorceress would be regarded as an excellent chaperone. She will be expected to defend your honour to his parents. However, there will be times when you are expected to defend your own honour.”

“I see,” Emily said, uncertainly.

“His siblings may challenge you, gently,” Void added. “Keep your tone polite, but don’t give them any ground. They’ll be looking for signs of weakness.”

He paused. “You and Caleb will be expected to behave yourselves,” he warned. “His family will be watching to see how you treat him – and vice versa. When you’re at a formal setting, be formal. Don’t kiss in public …”

“I wouldn’t,” Emily objected.

“And I strongly advise you not to be caught in bed with Caleb while you’re in his family home,” Void finished, ignoring her comment. “His family will not approve.”

He held up a hand before she could say a word. “Lady Barb will probably go through how you should behave with you too,” he added. “I suggest you listen to her. She’s been through it herself.”

Emily blinked, distracted from her embarrassment. “I thought she’d never married!”

“Her courtship failed,” Void said. “Yours …”

He shrugged. “The purpose of a courtship is to build up a lasting relationship,” he said, after a moment. “Sometimes, two people find that they are incompatible, no matter what they do. There is no shame in breaking off a courtship, even as you approach the wedding day; better that, Emily, than being tied to someone you don’t like.”

“I understand,” Emily said, quietly. She took a breath. “What happens if his family doesn’t like me?”

“Or thinks you’re too dangerous to bring into the family,” Void added. “It would depend on Caleb. Is he willing to give up his family to be with you?”

Emily swallowed. “I don’t know.”

“You’re not just marrying him,” Void said. “You’ll be joining his entire family. You might discover that you can’t bear the thought of being married to them.”

Emily looked down at her pale hands. She would have left her family without a second thought; hell, she’d certainly never tried to find a way back to Earth. But Caleb? He’d admitted he had problems with his family, but he didn’t hate them the way Emily had hated her stepfather. Would he leave his family for her? Could she ask him to make such a sacrifice?

“I don’t want to think about it,” she admitted, reluctantly.

“No one will think any less of you if you decide that you cannot bear to be married to them,” Void said. “There are dozens of failed courtships every year, Emily. But you are the one who has to make that choice. I cannot dictate it for you.”

“Fulvia tried to dictate who Melissa married,” Emily pointed out, mulishly.

“I’m not Fulvia,” Void countered. “And I have very little to gain or lose from your courtship. Fulvia had the interests of an entire family to consider; I … my position is not dependent on you.”

Emily considered it. “Is that true of his parents?”

Void shrugged. “Caleb is the second-born, isn’t he?”

“I think so,” Emily said. She forced herself to remember what Caleb had said. “He’s definitely got at least one older brother and a second brother – I think he’s three or four years younger than Caleb.”

“They’re not that important a family,” Void said, dispassionately. “They may see advantages in having their son married to you. I think they may be a little disappointed that it wasn’t their eldest son who started to court you, because he’d be the heir. But if something were to happen to him, Caleb would be next in line.”

“Caleb isn’t going to worry about that,” Emily objected.

“He should,” Void said. “Unless he leaves the family, he will be the heir if something happens to his older brother.”

“It all sounds very cold,” Emily said.

“Courtships are cold,” Void said. “But when they work, they tend to work very well.”

He shrugged, again. “If you really want to go back to Whitehall, I’ll arrange for you to be collected tomorrow; we can shut the house down together. After that, you’ll be the only person who can enter and leave at will.”

Emily felt a stab of bitter pain. The Grandmaster was dead. He’d left her the house and a letter, warning her that her life was about to become a great deal harder. Part of her just wanted to stay in the house, wrapping her wards around herself and forgetting the rest of the world. But she couldn’t, not if she wanted to pass her exams. She needed those qualifications to advance.

And Alassa would kill me if I didn’t attend her wedding, she thought.

The thought caused another bitter pang. Alassa and Imaiqah would be leaving Whitehall after their exams. She’d be alone; her only true friend left at the school would be the Gorgon, unless she left too. Frieda would be staying, of course, and so would Caleb, but it wouldn’t be the same. The former was two years younger than her; the latter was her boyfriend, not someone she could confide in.

“I have somewhere I need to be,” Void added, quietly. “I probably won’t see you again for a while. But, for what it’s worth, I’m very proud of you.”

“Thank you,” Emily said, quietly. “For this and … and everything.”

“You’re welcome,” Void said. He tapped the box. “Aren’t you going to put on the ring?”

Emily hesitated, then cast a handful of detection spells. Void nodded in approval – he’d warned her, several times, to be sure she checked before touching anything – and waited until she was sure the ring was safe. It felt warm against her bare skin, she discovered, pulsing faintly with magic. And it felt almost as if it belonged.

“I wonder,” she said, slowly. “Does this make you my father?”

“It makes you part of the family, such as it is,” Void said. He’d never talked about his family, even when he’d encouraged her to open up about her mother and stepfather. “There’s only me now.”

“I’m sorry,” Emily said.

“Don’t be,” Void told her. “Their deaths weren’t your fault.”

Emily looked down at the ring, drinking in the details. It looked as if he’d wrapped a piece of golden thread around a silver thread and melted them together, weaving magic into the raw material until it was almost alive. She’d seen more elaborate pieces of jewellery – Alassa wore them frequently – but the ring was special. It told her that she belonged.

Carefully, she placed it on her finger. It was a little loose, but as the magic spiked around the ring it tightened just enough to ensure it wouldn’t fall off. She pulled at it and discovered that it needed a hard tug to pull it free. She’d never really liked rings – she’d never had the money to buy any jewellery on Earth – but Void’s ring seemed perfect.

“Welcome to the family, Emily,” Void said. He took a breath. “And now you can go practice your spells for the rest of the day.”

Emily laughed and did as she was told.

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79 Responses to “Snippet – Wedding Hells (Schooled In Magic 8)”

  1. ioriangel August 24, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    Awesome ! Thanks mister Chris

    • chrishanger August 24, 2015 at 7:51 pm #

      You’re welcome.

      Chris

      My Site: http://www.chrishanger.net/
      My Blog: https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/
      My Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall

      • Kyle November 24, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

        Hey thanks for the snippet. Looking forward to the new book/books.

        One thing I have been wondering since I started reading this series is just how much raw power does emily actually possess compared to that of her class mates or even if it was stacked up against one of the lone powers such as Void. Where does she fall on that ladder.

        With the last book it was stated that most would see this duel as farce considering how many years of experience he had over her. I was under the impression that the reasons for this were as follows

        1. Years of Combat Experience
        2. The amount of raw power at his disposal

        I figured that these two things were why no one thought it was possible she could win even with her staff. Yet when they fought he did not just overwhelm her with pure power but he tried to ware her down and get around her defenses.

        I also love how her power has expanded but that leaves me with some more questions that will probably be in the next book. 🙂 For example as its been stated that magic is like a muscle it has to be worked and from the first book where it was difficult to cast a light spell to where is that last book she was flinging fire around. Is her powers expansion something all magicians go through as they are able to channel more and more power? Or is this more unique, possibly something that does not happen very often considering how necromancers go insane from to much power pushing through their brains. This leads to the next question how much did her power increase?

        Anyway I love the series and Please continue writing. I am eagerly awaiting the next books in the series and thanks for sharing this snippet with us.

      • chrishanger November 27, 2015 at 8:48 pm #

        Hi

        There are details I don’t want to get into, for various reasons, but as of WH Emily is pretty much the most powerful student in the school. That still puts her well below the Grandmaster, Void or Lady Barb (or Master Grey).

        That said, Emily managed to put Master Grey off-balance fairly early on in the duel, which is why he was a little more careful than, perhaps, he should have been. (And there was a certain amount of self-disgust involved too.)

        As a general rule of thumb, the older the magician, the more powerful. (Particularly as they work to develop their muscles.) Pushing one’s self too far can cause a power boost, but it can also cause madness, death, or burn-out; most magicians prefer not to take the risk of trying.

        This is something I intend to touch on in Book 9.

        Chris

        My Site: http://www.chrishanger.net/
        My Blog: https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/
        My Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall

  2. Mark August 24, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

    Must have more…..

  3. Bradley August 24, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

    Thanks for the preview! When do you expect the next book to be released?

  4. Eric August 24, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

    Hrm… Rahsia an alias for Lin/Nanette 😀

  5. Bradley August 24, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I’m missing the Why of her power expanding. Are we to assume that it was due to the battle with Master Grey?

  6. Scott August 24, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

    Ahh, such a tease. Can’t wait for the rest….

  7. Paul August 25, 2015 at 2:42 am #

    You mentioned four rings. Shouldn’t Void have a fourth ring; the ring for having a child, since Emily is stated as being his daughter. Or is the ring for having a child only meant for female wizards? It might help to specify this point.

    I love the Prologue and was wondering when the peasants would revolt; or have the peasants always been revolting 🙂

  8. Martin August 25, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    Awesome! But But but 3 monts! It’s too long! Damn Now I want to read it like… this night! =(

  9. G August 27, 2015 at 3:00 am #

    Wonderful snippet! Just wondering…if Emily touched master grey’ soul during the duel, should their be any exchange of memories that Emily would have to integrate…including memories of combat and combat spells to go along with her expanded power reserves…you might also show Emily spending some time with correspondence with her steward in cockatrice if you want to show her becoming more responsible…or not.

    • Fred Sanders August 29, 2015 at 6:17 am #

      She didn’t touch his soul that way, your thinking of blood magic. She cast a spell during the duel that used soul magic, and was basically the equivalent of a super-charged nightmare hex.

      • Dustin August 31, 2015 at 3:50 am #

        I understood it as her using an advanced healing spell, or rather the inverse of an advanced healing spell that caused his cells to start tearing him apart as opposed to healing. Which is why she flamed him so fast because she didn’t want people to realize that she used a spell that only people that had sworn the healer’s oath should know.

      • Fred Sanders August 31, 2015 at 4:53 am #

        She did that too, but it was after she did the soul magic version of nightmare hex, that @G was asking about, the confusion was with the phrase soul magic, and should or shouldn’t she have gotten some of his memories. Your right in that she used a forbidden spell taught to healers whom have sworn an oath not to kill people with their magic, and to not incur debts from people they’ve healed.

      • chrishanger August 31, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

        That’s what happened – basically, she gave him super-cancer.

        Chris

        My Site: http://www.chrishanger.net/
        My Blog: https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/
        My Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall

  10. Fred Sanders August 29, 2015 at 6:22 am #

    For those that don’t already have access to Baen’s Bar in the Slush Pile that was mentioned teasingly by @Paul(Drak…)[Its an invitation only area], you should go have a look at survivalmonkey, link is in a previous post on this page. Be sure to sign up and post errors though.

  11. Katharina I. August 29, 2015 at 7:10 am #

    Question: Is Void the Grandmaster’s last brother?

    • Fred Sanders August 29, 2015 at 8:12 am #

      Wow, now that’s an interesting theory, and not one that’s be answered as far as I know. He actually could be, and what little we know about Void & the Former Grandmaster, it could actually fit.

      That was a really, really good question Katharina!!

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 29, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

        David Weber once talked about the importance of keeping “background info” about his characters and universe private. IE not public knowledge. This allows him to “have a better idea” later on.

        IMO Chris believes the same thing. IE Void’s “background info” isn’t important now and if he revealed it, Chris couldn’t change his mind later.

        Note, Raymond Feist once had a character give out info about himself that made him sound like the “Wandering Jew”.

        Later, Raymond Feist had a better idea about the character and had to explain it by saying the character lies. [Smile]

      • Fred Sanders August 29, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

        Oh I agree that things should be on a “need to know” basis, for the sake of the story and of the series. That being said, it’s fun to speculate about possibilities from time to time. I had honestly not thought much about the family members of Void, simply because we don’t see much of him, do he’s out of sight out of mind, so to speak. I was just saying that its a very plausible idea with “the facts in evidence” as they say. 🙂

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 29, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

        At least we don’t have any facts to rule out that Void is the last brother of the late Grandmaster. [Smile]

        For all the facts we know, Void is one of the gods of the Nameless World meddling in human affairs. [Evil Grin]

      • Fred Sanders August 31, 2015 at 4:56 am #

        Actually we might. I believe The Grandmaster told Emily once that Void was a student back when he was the Charms Master at the school, but I might not be remembering that correctly.

      • chrishanger August 31, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

        That is the problem

        Put it this way – I know a great deal about some characters that may never be important and other details that I may change, if I see a better way forward .

        Chris

        My Site: http://www.chrishanger.net/
        My Blog: https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/
        My Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall

      • medialook15 September 4, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

        The last of 4 brothers?? To bad it wasn’t the last of 3 brothers. To be similar to knights of the first crusade…😉

        So Baen’s Bar & survivalist is where everyone hangs out ??

        The other site for Chris that you & I have posted on doesn’t seem that have anyone else contributing….

    • MAD-ness August 29, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

      Void fits for the brother who had his soul damaged. This is my theory.

      Prior to the most recent book I was beginning to wonder if maybe Void wasn’t an extremely old wizard who just created various identities and used them for a century or so before letting them ‘die.’ It would be a good way to hide the fact that he figured out how not to die of old age as well as to let him play both sides against the middle by using the various identities for various purposes. I think that he was the hooded one in the Mountaintop council and I think that he might have been ‘Fatty’ so this theory could possibly fit the facts. Maybe not quite a god like suggested below but an arch wizard who meddles with things down through history.

      • Fred Sanders August 31, 2015 at 12:16 am #

        While I think your absolutely correct that he’s was Cloak at the star council meeting. I don’t believe he was Fatty, that doesn’t make sense. For a while I suspected he was the sorcerer talking to Crow at the beginning of the second book, I changed my mind because he would have already known the answers to the questions that sorcerer asked Crow to verify. With the various spells to increase ones lifespan, up to and including using a ritual to steal someones lifeforce, and the lack of ethics it would need to use them, I could see Void being centuries old, and not just over one. The only thing that puts a snag in that belief was the Grandmaster knowing him when he was a student, and the Grandmaster was the charms tutor. That would make the Grandmaster even older than Void. Of course, the Grandmaster could have been lying about that, and could still have been his half brother.

      • medialook15 September 4, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

        Could Emily heal his Soul ???

      • medialook15 September 4, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

        If Void was Cloak, then what he’s says to Aurelius at the end of School of Hard Knocks , makes him far more ominous…

        “The existing order has to go,” Cloak said.“I believe you know that, don’t you?
        All your plans to reshape it into something more viable, something that could fight the Necromancers and change the world. But I fear that would interfere with my plans.”

        So if Cloak is Void, what’s he playing at & if the existing order has to go, does that mean more than just Mountain Top ??? Does that mean the aristocracy & Alassa has to go???

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard September 4, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

        Well, the problem with Void’s (assuming he’s Cloak) plans may be more in the means than in the end including “using people” when the people being used might have volunteered if asked.

        Let’s be honest, Chris had made it clear that Void isn’t always a nice person.

  12. Kaesha August 29, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    Amazing snippet! I actually started tapping on the side of my phone like I was reading off my kindle to get to the next page only to realize I have to keep scrolling down. This is one of my favorite book series. I love all the plots, mysteries, and seeing how Emily handles going through each trial learning a great deal afterwards.

  13. Lily August 29, 2015 at 6:43 pm #

    this is AWESOME!!!

  14. John Stoddart August 31, 2015 at 10:09 am #

    Are the wedding gowns poisoned as happened to Elizabeth the Firsts handmaiden who tried them on This would fit in with one of the visions on Mountaintop
    What was in Master Grays possessions that should be registered
    Looks like gunpowder is about to make an appearance
    Is Void. Nanette? He’s never around much and with what Emily does,it’s a sure bet that someone would try to watch closely

  15. G August 31, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    I thought Lady Danielle told Emily in Trial by Fire she had 1 month from leaving the hospital to go over Master Grey’s estate–did she ever do this or get an extension??? And Lady Danielle offered to pick up martial magic for the rest of term…

  16. G September 1, 2015 at 2:49 am #

    Just a thought, Chris…if Void is spending a month with Emily, wouldn’t he want to make the most of the time and teach her some new, powerful spells to practice with her new expanded powers…it would create more possibilities for you in writing the series in the future…As she has more power, Void might also upgrade her magical shields…finally, Frieda has been spending considerable time with Alassa in Alexis and playing Ken…you might show their relationship deepening…with Frieda beginning to think a little like the aristocracy…

  17. Bill Wolf September 1, 2015 at 8:10 am #

    I love this series. I really hope that Emily has the power to teleport now. With her new reserves it would fit. I am anxious to hear more about how the bank worked out. I also think her new idea of putting the battery with her project should some how tie into a new way to create castle wards that are amazingly powerful. Almost like a if then formula. Like if someone uses a spell to harm someone (other than Emily) they absorb the power. If they try again they eliminate them being able to use magic. Anyway great series Chris I look forward to many more of them.

    Bill

  18. michael Holzapfel September 2, 2015 at 2:26 am #

    Chris, its an amazing series and this snippet is continuing the tradition :>
    Keep up the great work! Hope the series never ends. I’m well and truly hooked :>

    Kind regards

    Mike

  19. The Evil Nurse From Hell September 3, 2015 at 3:43 am #

    Very Nice! Now I’m really geeked for the next book! Well done, Sir.

  20. G September 3, 2015 at 6:07 am #

    I love the series, but I have trouble understanding how Emily has owed fealty as a Baroness of Zangaria to King Randor for the last 3 years and yet hopes to swear a magical oath of loyalty to the Allied lands at the beginning of 5th year in Whitehall–in a world where having a conflict with a magical oath can get you killed…

    • Fred Sanders September 4, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

      She knows about the conflict of interest, and has been lectured briefly about it in the last book.

    • Dustin September 5, 2015 at 11:42 am #

      To me, it seems like it’s been implied that she’s still trying to figure out what she’s going to do.

    • Medialook15 September 6, 2015 at 12:47 am #

      Well if she dumps the barony , then that changes where future stories go. If she keeps it , but tries to change the Monarchy, that changes , that also changes future stories, & either way that changes her relationships with her friends & Caleb.

  21. Meg Dunbar September 7, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    I only just discovered your books and I’m really glad I did. My biggest disappointment however is that when she got to choose an alias she did not chose to be called Beyonce as a little destiny’s child joke. That would be hileriously funny.

    Fantastic snippet, I’m really looking forward to the rest 🙂

    The relationship Void has with Emily is rant interesting.

    My current head cannon is that Void actually is her father as hers left and there was that little implication that children of such powerful magicians could not survive growing up. Perfect solution would be a magicless world!

  22. G September 10, 2015 at 7:19 am #

    Would political revolution and a proto-democracy movement really have developed within 4 years of the introduction of the printing press/arab numbers/English spelling??? In our world modern english begins around 1300, printing press invented around 1440, Arab numbers earlier, renaissance begins 1300’s in Italy spreading north to England in 1500’s–proto democracy–people asking what makes aristocrats better than commoners–didn’t begin before Locke in 1600’s, Rousseau in 1700’s…you might just want to stick to basic rebellion because of horrible conditions in Swanhaven–skip questions about why the aristocracy better than commoners…that thinking took centuries to develop…

  23. John Stoddart September 18, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    > Hi Chris
    > A few things for your edits
    >
    > Ch 1. Shabby. -word does not fit
    > Ch 3. Arrange it for when you arrived. //// do you mean. AFTER
    > It was almost certain that many of the students had watched the duel. NOT CORRECT. attendance was restricted
    > End of Chapt. Maniac not. Manic
    > Ch 4 They followed her as she dressed, They would have showered and dressed too
    > Ch 5. You have been entered. Earlier in the Chapter the proctor said she’d check
    > This seems a non sequitur
    > Ch 6. many of the students had completed their exams and sent home. BEEN sent home?
    > ch 7. the mimic had been released. I don’t think that this was established in that book
    > It was quite possible that the healers will take Melissa anywhere. ANYWAY??
    > Fulvia had been stripped of most of her power. Not so. Just insulted from what I read
    > Ch 8. The trunk does not get put in the carriage only the bag. Yet later appears in Alexis but the bag does not?
    > Can Emily take the portal now with even more magic
    > There seems to be a lot of room for fortifications of Beneficence but not enough for accommodation. Fuedal cities crowded their ramparts
    > Ch 9. Markus had to have started with a major investment. Didn’t Emily provide this
    > Ch 10. You’ll be travelling incognito. She reminded them. Do you mean HER?
    > Ch 11 She had a feeling. THAT she could have kicked him as hard as SHE wanted. Not HE
    > A young woman kissing strangers. Seems out of place at this point
    > Who carried the bags as well as Lady Barbs when they arrived. Nobility wouldn’t. ( slack bastards)
    > Ch 12. Either trying to gourd. should be GOAD
    > she hadn’t seen anything of Queen Marlena in years. Lessons in etiquette was end of year 2 and this is end of year 4?
    > Ch 13. Just make sure that you don’t let anyone else in her. HERE
    > Ch 15 duty and parental outage. OUTRAGE
    > CH16. It had been nearly four years. I think this is 2 years or at the most 3
    > Xxxxxxxxxxxx
    > Xxxxxxxxxxxxx
    > I’ll do some more if you’re interested in me doing that
    > Regards and thanks for the great reads and superb imagination
    > John
    *

  24. John Stoddart September 18, 2015 at 8:02 am #

    I did post other edits in the wrong place on Baens Bar apparently,
    They’re now lost
    Someone called Drak may have a copy
    One standout though was Nanette
    Didn’t Emily try to save her life at Mountain top and amputate her arm hoping that someone would regrow it
    And didn’t Emily order a servant’s hand restored when she was doing her cockatrice judging stint She would not say that she didn’t know it was possible
    Loose ends. Mimic’s spell that she memorised and Nanette or Lyn was not there when mimic came from wherever and
    promise to Faerie in Book one

    • chrishanger September 18, 2015 at 10:51 am #

      I got them, thanks.

      Chris

      Sent from my iPad

      >

      • G September 19, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

        Chris– some suggestions–1. Put in some comments on where and how “rights of man” thinking originated and spread–even with Italian city-states and cities of hansatic league on Baltic Sea, this took centuries in Europe, not 4 years–needs more background to be credible. 2 if you end up having Emily abandon cockatrice, make sure it’s credible. In real life–normal human behavior– people don’t abandon vast wealth and power willingly even if they are mad as hell–they plot and scheme and make excuses–and when pushed, they rebel. No instance in human history where noble has screaming match with king and renounces tittle. Not credible.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard September 19, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

        G, Emily didn’t want the job in the first place. So now the King orders her (as his right) to do something she’d strongly dislikes, she’s seeing even more reasons to “quit”.

        While a “born Noble” might never “renounce” his/her title, this is a case where Emily isn’t a Born Noble and really didn’t want the power over other people nor did she want to be under the power of the King.

      • chrishanger September 20, 2015 at 8:45 pm #

        That pretty much nails it.

        Chris

        My Site: http://www.chrishanger.net/
        My Blog: https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/
        My Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall

      • Baldur Norddahl September 20, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

        Some things are moving too fast to what I would consider realistic. But you can not compare the situation directly with earth history. We did not have portals that allows news to travel if not instantly, then with less delay than a day.

        I would however think that the ruling class would be magic users. It would be too easy for mages to take power from a mundane ruler. And there is no reason that the mage community should allow mundanes to rule over them.

        In the books it is repeated that nobles are not any better or different from ordinary people. But mages are in fact better. They are super humans. To some extend this is what Void tells Emily – do not bother ruling over mere mortals. Their rules do not apply to you.

        Yet King Randor believes he can bar her from his kingdom. Who is going to uphold that? It would be suicide for mundane soldiers to attempt to stop her and they could not hold her anyway (she just teleports out). He could hire mages as hitmen, but if they fail, he can expect that she will take him out. I see very little that could stop Emily if she wanted to kill King Randor. Or anything that could stop another powerful mage, see the point about mages being the ruling class.

        The white council could punish her if she went there, but why would they want to be a police force for King Randor?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard September 20, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

        Well Chris has shown that Magic Society is divided into major factions.

        It is also very possible that the major Magic Families are not under the authority of any non-magician rulers.

        The attitudes of the students at Mountaintop does show IMO that their families are likely not under the authority of any non-magician rulers.

        But yet, why should the major Magic Families want to go to the trouble of ruling the “mundanes”?

        They might think it would be much better to let mundane kings rule over the mundanes as long as the Magic Families could purchase (by various means) the products that they don’t want to produce themselves.

        Of course, there is the threat of the Necromancers.

        One of the major reason for the existence of the White Council is to met the threat of the Necromancers.

        To met that threat, they need mundane troops to “cover their backs” against the monsters controlled by the Necromancers.

        Otherwise, they would forced to waste time and magic against the monsters while they are also using magic to oppose the magic power of the Necromancers.

        Of course, the various factions of Magic Society may include groups that would want to directly rule mundanes but other groups may not want to go to the trouble of doing so and other groups might have other reasons to not want to control the mundanes.

        By the way, Chris has shown that “slave spells” exist on the Nameless World but we haven’t seen any possible “limitations” on such spells.

        One of the most likely limitations on such spells is that the “slave” lacks initiative. IE they do only what they are ordered to do.

        Such slaves are not likely to make good soldiers as they likely would face situations not covered by their magically enforced orders.

        So the White Council wouldn’t want “slave soldiers” as they might not be able to do the job that the White Council wants them to do.

        Oh, final note. IMO King Randor was very lucky that Emily had no intentions to oppose him for all the reasons you mentioned.

  25. Jordan M October 3, 2015 at 8:14 am #

    If void was cloak and cloak has plans for Emily is it possible that cloak/void waned Emily to come and advance the civilisation for reasons unknown? And could void/cloak be using minor characters such as her friends and people like fatty and lin/Nanette to het information he doesn’t know off her and to manipulate her into situations where she has o show more of her powers so he can learn from them?
    Also what has happens with the bank at the end of love labours won?

  26. Rich B. November 12, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    Loving the books so far, thanks.

    But no sign of a publication date yet on Amazon Kindle for Wedding Hells… I’d love to set up a pre-order.

    Any chance of Emily getting more involved with the Dwarfs or other magical creatures?

  27. Katharina I. November 16, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

    Ever since the first book I’ve been wondering about the same thing but more to do with a darker species like the Faerie. Also, in the first book Emily promises a favor to the fairies (not to be confused with the Faerie) and it’s never been called in, to my knowledge. Do you have any plans for that, Chris?

  28. iheartdeer December 18, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    Hi Chris! I love this series. Any idea when WH will be released? I’m sure you’re getting tired of that question, but it’s hard waiting,

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard December 18, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

      It’s OUT!!!!

      • iheartdeer December 18, 2015 at 5:48 pm #

        How in the world did I miss that??? Thank you so much! I just downloaded it. So much for cleaning today! Lol Chris you rock!

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