Snippet–Family Magic

5 Jun

I just had this going around and around in my head.  No idea when it will be written.


Mordred Caldecott had always hated hospitals.

He followed the bewitched nurse through the double-doors, trying not to look into any of the wards. They were a grim reminder that not everything could be fixed by magic, even the family magic running through his bloodline. A handful of doctors and nurses ran past them, thankfully not pausing to question his presence. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the ICU.

“Your brother is there,” the nurse said, nodding down the corridor. Her face twitched as she paused, as if she was trying to remember something. “I …”

“Thank you,” Mordred said. He’d used a very light spell on her, just enough to make her compliant. She had no more magic than the average dull, but she knew that something was wrong. “You may go.”

The nurse turned and walked away. Mordred eyed her back for a moment, muttering a forgetfulness cantrip under his breath. Better she forgot him than start wondering why she’d taken a stranger through two sealed doors and into the ICU. Who knew what would happen if she told her story to the wrong person? The hospital was neutral ground, but a handful of magicians worked there. They’d be irritated if they discovered that someone had messed with the nurse’s mind.

He braced himself, then looked at his brother. Galahad Caldecott was sitting on a bench beside a half-open door, his head in his hands. Galahad was only twenty-three, but he looked older. His hair was a mess, his face was covered in stubble and he barely moved. Mordred would have thought he was dead – or petrified – if he hadn’t been able to see his brother breathing. He looked as if he’d been pushed too far over the last few hours. Something bad had happened.

Galahad looked up as Mordred approached. “She’s dead.”

“I … I’m sorry to hear that,” Mordred said. He didn’t have to ask who was dead. There was only one person in the world who could provoke that sort of reaction from his younger brother. “I … what happened?”

“She died on the operating table,” Galahad said. He looked back at his hands. “I …”

Mordred winced. He’d never really approved of his brother’s marriage to Minerva Swift, not when their families had been enemies for centuries, but he’d done everything in his power to make it work. And it had worked. Galahad and Minerva had bound the two families together, with their children expected to combine the two families into one. But if Minerva had died in childbirth … he swallowed, hard. What had happened to her children?

“They’re dulls,” Galahad said. “No magic.”

“Impossible,” Mordred said. Everyone knew that a witch’s children would have magic, even if she married a dull. Minerva had been strong enough to ensure her children would be powerful indeed. “Galahad …”

“Percival did the test.” Galahad sounded broken. “A boy and a girl, both healthy … but no magic.”

“I’m sorry,” Mordred said, again. It seemed so … inadequate, somehow. To lose both his wife and children in one day … no wonder his brother was a broken man. “Do you want me to make the arrangements?”

Galahad looked at him. “The arrangements?”

“To have them adopted,” Mordred told him. “They can’t grow up here …”

His brother’s face darkened. Magic shifted around him, sharp-edged and dangerous. “Are you suggesting that I should abandon my children? Send them away into a stranger’s home?”

Mordred met his eyes. “And what will happen if they grow up here?”

He waited, unsure what his brother would do. Galahad had always been the emotional one of the family, throwing himself headfirst into things while his older brother took the time to actually think about what he was doing. Perhaps it had been why he’d been so quick to marry Minerva Swift, after they’d fallen in love. His emotions had pushed him into the match even though cold logic warned that there would be trouble ahead. Two feuding families would not bury the hatchet indefinitely. His children might wind up being caught between two fires.

But it doesn’t matter, he told himself. They’re dulls.

“You know what will happen,” he said. “They’ll be mocked, just for having been born without magic. They’ll be hexed and jinxed and treated like …”

His brother clenched his fists. “And do you think I’d let that happen?”

Mordred swallowed. His brother was strong, in muscle and magic. It had been a long time since Mordred had been able to beat sense into Galahad’s head. Yes, Galahad could protect his powerless children – very few people wanted to get on his bad side – but what sort of lives would they lead? And what would happen when their father died? Or remarried? Sibling rivalry could get really ugly if one child had magic and the others did not. Magic children didn’t have to be openly malicious to have a nasty effect on their powerless siblings. It was better for the dull children to be raised amongst their fellows, rather than forced to watch and envy magic they could never have. It was common sense.

“They’ll be better off away from here,” Mordred said, finally. “Let them grow up without magic, away from us and the Swifts and …”

A baby cried from within the room. Mordred felt his heart clench. It was better not to go inside, it was better not to look … it was better not to put names and faces to children he’d have to send away. He started to reach for his brother’s arm, to drag him away, then saw his brother’s face and stopped. He knew that look. Galahad had made up his mind about something and nothing, not even the most powerful and dangerous spells in the family books, would stop him.

“I’ll take them myself,” Galahad said. “I’ll raise them away from here and …”

“Be reasonable,” Mordred said. “Can you raise two dull children …”

“They’re my children,” Galahad snapped. He stood, brushing down his shirt and trousers. “And they’re all that remains of her!”

“They’re dull,” Mordred said. “You’ll be cutting yourself off from the rest of the family …”

“Well, the family hasn’t done much for me,” Galahad snapped. “Look me in the eye and tell me that the uncles and aunts are not going to be pleased at Minerva’s death! Or that her children are powerless.”

Mordred let out a heavy sigh. “Brother, please.”

“No,” Galahad said, shortly. His expression told Mordred that further argument would be futile. Once Galahad had made up his mind it was impossible to talk him out of it. “I’m taking my children and taking them a long way away. And we will never come back.”

“Never is a long time,” Mordred said. There were very few places in the United States where magicians could practice their art openly. The Burning Times might be long over, but the community had never forgotten. Galahad would have to keep his magic concealed, if he was able to use it at all. “And you will always be welcome here.”

“But they won’t be welcome,” Galahad said. He pushed open the door. The noise of crying babies grew louder. “And as long as they’re not welcome here, I won’t be coming back.”

15 Responses to “Snippet–Family Magic”

  1. Roxanne Piotrowski June 5, 2018 at 9:27 pm #

    Yes please!

  2. Jill June 5, 2018 at 10:51 pm #


  3. Dan June 6, 2018 at 4:49 am #

    Interesting but haven’t you already done something similar with zero enigma and cat ?

    • Thomas Tomiczek June 6, 2018 at 3:38 pm #

      That would be my fear, too. There is a lot of danger of “too much of the same”. I would rather see this time budget spent on another SF series, or more of the existing series (sf, that is) than having yet another magic fantasy coming of age style.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard June 6, 2018 at 4:29 pm #

        Just a note. I know where Chris is going with this story.

        It’s set in a world similar to the Harry Potter world.

        IE A world were the majority don’t know that magic is real but there are “hidden” magic users.

    • chrishanger June 18, 2018 at 8:04 am #



  4. stephen wilson June 6, 2018 at 7:26 pm #

    Feel’s a lot like a merlin lite story. While I eat up books with magic all too often, this story sounds like a victorian melodrama. Probably underestimate the full scope of the story, but just doesn’t grab me

  5. Lucy June 7, 2018 at 4:18 pm #

    I’m looking forward to reading the book. It sounds like fun.

  6. Bewildered June 7, 2018 at 8:08 pm #

    My first thought upon reading the names Galahad, Mordred and Percival is that the King Arthur tie is too blatant. Without a strong justification for the duplication of names copying the name of knights seems … lazy or something. I suppose it’s possible the family is descended from (or honours) the original Round Table, but Mordred quite definitely wasn’t which makes it an odd choice. Either way how do you reconcile folk who may honour the knights of old marrying witches?

    Dan and Thomas above note it sounds a little like Cat, and stories you’ve written in the past. My first thought was something akin to Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera – a ‘zero’ in a gifted society who has to use his wits to overcome his limitations. The hero of that takes an interest in technology which is something lost to the society as magic works better, but he eventually does discover his own power – he’s late to develop due to ‘abuse’ by his mother as an infant. Since you mention United States (of America?) in your short section and ICU I’m guessing comparable technology already exists.

    Drak said that this is a Harry Potter type world – wizards exist alongside non-wizards who don’t know magic is real. The problem is this passage says magicians can’t practice in most parts of the US, that the Burning Times are over, and that the community remembers – more accurately has never forgotten. That suggests a conflict occurred perhaps several hundred years ago and the magicians who survived went underground. If there was a war then (horror) stories would be passed down the generations.

    Not sure where you’re thinking of going with this and there appear to be some hurdles and contradictions to resolve.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard June 7, 2018 at 8:32 pm #

      “The Burning Times” invokes “Witch Burnings”.

      Mind you, my problem with the Harry Potter version of that (ie the Wizards had to go into hiding because mundanes hated/feared them” was that any Wizards worth their wands wouldn’t have needed to hide. 😈

      Of course, I know where Chris is “going with this story” and the “Witch Burnings” aren’t going to play a part in this story.

      • Bewildered June 8, 2018 at 5:23 am #

        In our world the Salem Trials are part of popular culture, even if the facts aren’t. Of course there were plenty of other folk burned at the stake who weren’t witches so it depends if ‘The Burning Times’ refers to a specific brief period of increased witch burning activity, or more generally to when folk were burned at the stake.

        Did the Potterverse need to go into hiding, or did they choose to? Questions like that were never really explained. An archer with a bow hidden in a bush could possibly kill an unwary wizard meaning it’s possible that mundanes would have been able to cull wizards into extinction, but that’s speculation.

        I wasn’t meaning to suggest the Burning Times will play a direct part in the story, just that they could influence the culture. Same as past events effect modern views. Take Islam and Europe. Islam first invaded Spain in 711 AD and was finally forced out in 1492 AD. Roughly 50 years prior to that Islam seized Constantinople and would go on to push through to Vienna and retain significant European territory until the end of WWI. Whilst under Islamic (Ottoman) control Albania and Bosnia–Herzegovina were morphed into Islamic nations. Now that’s all past history, but does it influence thinking about the current Islamic colonisation of Europe? Might not the Burning Times, even if not directly referenced, impact the views of the majority of the population?

        Just hope my periodic comments are of some use 🙂

      • Ihas June 12, 2018 at 2:05 am #

        IIRC, there were no witch burnings in the new world, just one drowning and the rest were hangings, but I don’t know for sure. I seem to recall the burnings were all in Europe.

        I’m a bit thrown by the use of Camelot names. If there is a tradition of naming children by such names, it seems like there would not be enough names to go around. But if they are the original legendary folks, then that is a whole different thing that has been done to death and resulted in a bunch of really bad movies. I’d be prone to skip it on that basis alone.

        I also don’t care for the “dulls” label. It makes the whole society seem unlikable. Maybe “blissed,” to connaught ignorance rather than stupidity?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard June 12, 2018 at 2:29 am #

        Based on this snippet, the “the whole society seem unlikable” may be deliberate.

        Galahad seems to believe that his magicless children won’t be welcome in that society. 😦

  7. Kell Harris June 9, 2018 at 2:32 am #

    This looks good. I lo e this kinda story. Im already excited.

  8. Aleisha June 14, 2018 at 4:43 am #

    I was curious about this one and happy to see a snippet of it, it’s an interesting set-up but I’m not sure where he’s going with it if it’s just “raising non-magical children in normal society where not having magic is normal” though I’m intrigued enough to want to read further.

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