Snippet–Cursed (Schooled in Magic 17)

3 Feb

WARNING – SPOILERS FOR THE BROKEN THRONE.

Prologue

When she was young, Cabiria of House Fellini had always loved her family’s library.

It was a monumental collection of books, all the more remarkable for the texts being written and purchased well before the printing press had been invented and thousands of books had become available to all and sundry. Cabiria loved to stand by the shelves and run her hands over the books, yanking her hand away when charms and curses threatened to snap and snarl at her. As she’d grown older, she’d learnt to read some of the oldest books in the world, the ones that had been written by magicians whose names had passed into legend. She spoke five languages fluently and read three more, two of which were only spoken by a handful of scholars. It was easy to believe that all the knowledge of the world was concealed within the library stacks. She could have happily spent all of her life in the wonderful room.

But, as she’d aged, she’d come to realise that not all answers were found within the collection of aging books.

She had never doubted she would have magic, not until puberty had come and gone without even a hint of power crackling around her fingers. She’d muttered spells and chanted long incantations, drawn runes and performed rituals – including some she wasn’t supposed to know existed – without summoning enough magic to light a candle. Her parents had told her, at first, that it was just a matter of time. Later, when they’d thought she couldn’t hear her, they’d fretted about their youngest daughter’s lack of magic. It wasn’t uncommon for a child to have less power than her parents, particularly if her family had put bloodlines over breeding like so many magical families had done before they discovered that it actually weakened the magic, but for a child to have no magic at all? It was almost completely unprecedented. Cabiria herself was the only known case within recorded history.

Not that her family was cruel to her, of course. Cabiria’s parents never even hinted at disowning her, despite hints from some of their more distant family members that – perhaps – Cabiria should be sent elsewhere. Her father had fought a duel with a distant relative after he’d suggested, perhaps a little too loudly, that his wife had cheated on him. Cabiria’s sisters had protected her, as had her cousins. She still smiled at the memory of Cousin Alexi nearly killing one of his friends – his former friends – after the brat had played a particularly spiteful prank on her. But …

Cabiria sat in the library, trying to remember the feeling of wonder she’d one felt when she’d gazed upon the bookshelves. She was sixteen, old enough to expect an invitation to Whitehall or Mountaintop or even – perhaps – Stronghold. But the invitation would not come if she couldn’t draw even a spark of magic from her powerless bones. She would grow into adulthood and then … and then what? She would never be a part of magical society, not without power. She would be forever on the sidelines, looking in. Her family would be good to her, she knew, but … it wasn’t what she wanted.

And my one hope of being normal, she thought, is to take a terrible risk.

She heard the door open, heard someone walking towards her. She didn’t have to lift her head to know that it was Allophone, her oldest sister. Allophone was everything Cabiria wanted to be, a girl who had been favoured with everything from good looks to powerful magic. And she wasn’t even cruel. Allophone treated her young and powerless sister as if she was made of fine china.

“They’re ready,” Allophone said, quietly. She placed a hand on Cabiria’s shoulder. “You don’t have to do this, you know?”

“I do,” Cabiria said.

The words hung in the air between them. She had never told her sister – could never tell her sister – but she resented their kindness and decency more than she cared to admit. She wasn’t a helpless child, not really. She didn’t need to be coddled, to be wrapped in protective spells and guarded every time she walked out of the mansion. And yet, she knew that she was vulnerable. She was the blind girl in the kingdom of the sighted, forever at the mercy of those who could use magic. Better to take the risk of death – or worse – than spending the rest of her life without power.

“It’s risky,” Allophone said. “Uncle Alanson said …”

“I know what he said,” Cabiria snapped.

She caught herself, biting her lip hard. Uncle Alanson, Patriarch of House Fellini, had been even more driven than Cabiria’s parents to find a solution to her woes. It had been he, more than anyone else, who had drawn up the rituals to try to find, somewhere within her, a spark of power. Cabiria loved him for it. He could have pushed her parents to disown her. The hell of it was that he might have been right. House Fellini could not afford whispers about weak blood and powerless magicians. Too many people were already starting to talk.

“Come on, then,” Allophone said.

Cabiria stood, ignoring her sister’s attempts to help her up. Gods! She wasn’t a cripple. Her legs worked fine. She didn’t need a flying carpet to get up the stairs, or sneak down in the middle of the night for a snack. Allophone let out a faint sound – Cabiria didn’t care to wonder what it might have been – and followed Cabiria as she stalked out of the room. The hallway felt … cold, as always. Cabiria knew they were surrounded by powerful wards, spells that her family had been weaving for generations, but she couldn’t feel them. There were parts of the mansion she simply couldn’t go without walking into danger. The last time she’d triggered a trap, she’d been frozen for hours before her parents had found her.

The spellchamber felt creepy, as always, as she walked into the underground chamber. Her uncle stood in the exact centre, carefully drawing out a handful of chalk runes on the stone floor. He’d wanted to use iron, claiming that it would help channel the power, but Cabiria’s parents had said no. It was too dangerous, they’d insisted. Cabiria’s cheeks burnt as she remembered the discussion. Allophone had been experimenting with more dangerous substances than cold iron well before she’d gone to Whitehall …

“Cabiria, my favourite niece,” Alanson said. He was a handsome dark-haired man, with a roguish smile that belied his kind nature. He’d never married, even though his family expected it of him. “Are you ready?”

“Yes, Uncle,” Cabiria said, as she took her place in the circle. Uncle Alanson was the only person who treated her as if she was a living person, rather than a fragile doll. She loved him for that too. He hadn’t spent the endless rehearsals talking about the risks. “I’m ready.”

“Be careful,” Allophone said. She retreated towards the door as Uncle Alanson raised his wand. “And good luck.”

Cabiria felt a flicker of nervousness, even as she braced herself for another crushing disappointment. Her parents and close relatives kept trying, but … she feared, deep inside, that they were starting to give up. The mystery of her lack of power might never be solved, nor might she ever have magic. To hell with the risks. She would take her chances and if she died, she died.

“And now,” Uncle Alanson said. Bright light flared around him. “We begin.”

Cabiria felt, just for a second, as if her skin was on fire. Something was … crawling over her, something she could feel even though she couldn’t see anything. The light was growing brighter, forcing her to squeeze her eyes tightly shut. And yet … she found, to her horror, that she couldn’t move. Someone was screaming, the sound echoing through her ears and pounding into her skull. She thought it was her, but … she wasn’t sure. The world spun around her, as if she was standing on the deck of a ship during a storm …

Someone was laughing. She could hear someone laughing …

… And then her mother was pulling at her arms, yanking her upright. “Cabiria! Cabiria!”

Cabiria opened her eyes, unsure when she’d closed them. Her memories were so confused, so blurred, that – for a moment – she thought she must have dreamed everything. And yet, as she forced herself to sit upright, it was clear the spellchamber had been devastated. The runes and glyphs on the walls were gone, scorched out of existence by the forces Uncle Alanson had unleashed. The walls themselves were scorched and pitted, even though they’d been designed to stand firm against the strongest and deadliest of magics. And the floor was covered in black ash …

She looked down at herself, wonderingly. Her robes were covered in ash and soot, but otherwise intact. Her skin was unmarked. She was alive …

“He’s dead,” a voice said. It took Cabiria a moment to realise that her father was talking, his strong voice echoing in the giant chamber. “Alanson is dead. Burnt to ash!”

“And he nearly took Cabiria with him,” her mother snapped. “No more experiments, do you understand me? No more!”

Cabiria looked down at her fingers. They had always been long and thin – magician’s hands, Uncle Alanson had said – but now … they felt different. She had always hated her hands – their mere existence mocked her – yet … they tingled, as if power was spreading through her skin and bones. Quietly, wonderingly, she muttered a spell. The room filled with brilliant white light.

She heard her father cry out, heard her mother start to cry, but she barely noticed. Her fingertips were sparkling with power. Sparks danced over her bare skin. She could feel the power within her. She had power. She finally had power.

No, not power.

She had magic.

Chapter One

Emily sat in bed, staring at her fingers.

They were long and slender, the skin pale and smooth despite six years of magic and mayhem. Magician’s hands, they’d been called. Emily could have been a surgeon or a pianist, but instead … she was a magician. She took a long breath, then started to chant a spell that she’d memorised six years ago. Her fingers moved in perfect lines, crafting out and directing the spell, but nothing happened. No power crackled around her fingertips. No magic sparked forth to do her will. She might as well have been playacting.

I was a magician, she thought, numbly. A week of being powerless, of being without magic, had left her feeling drained and numb. Her thoughts moved sluggishly, when they moved at all. It had been hard to get out of bed, let alone attend to the growing list of problems she had to handle. I was a magician and now I’m …

She closed her eyes, going all the way back to first principles. She’d been taught how to build a spell up from scratch, how to shape the magic before she’d grown used to channelling her power instinctively, as easily as she’d breathed. Her magic had been a part of her, something she could move at will. Now … she felt as if she’d been crippled. The power within her, the power she’d learnt to sense and cultivate, was gone. Her senses felt muffled, as if she were blind. She knew the stone walls were crawling with wards – some designed to keep her safe, some designed to hide her condition from unfriendly eyes – but she couldn’t sense them any longer. It reminded her of the days when she’d first come to the Nameless World, when she’d been scared to touch anything for fear of setting off a trap. Now … she was afraid to touch anything again.

The spell echoed in her mind. She cast it carefully, with all the precision she could muster after six years of training, giving it the kind of care and attention she’d never had to give it after she’d managed to get in touch with her magic. The casting was perfect – she knew it was perfect – but nothing happened. A wave of despondency threatened to overcome her as she dropped her hands into her lap. The knowledge she’d gathered over the last six years, some of it dangerously won, was useless. She was powerless.

She closed her eyes for a long moment, then opened them and looked around the room, searching for a distraction. But the room’s mere existence taunted her. The lanterns glowed with magical light, but she hadn’t cast the spells. She hadn’t carved the runes on the walls. She hadn’t even lit the fire in the fireplace! It wasn’t her room. Alassa had promised her a suite of her own, but … it wouldn’t be hers. She was nothing more than an unwanted guest.

You’re being unfair, she told herself. Alassa had been nothing but kind to her over the last week, even though she was very busy. The civil war might be over, yet there was no shortage of work to do. Reconstructing the country would take years. Alassa offered to host you forever.

It was a bitter thought. Alassa had meant well. Emily was certain of it. She had no doubt that her friend would do everything in her power to help. But the stone walls felt like a prison, a mocking reminder that Emily no longer had the power to shape her future. She was vulnerable, vulnerable in a way she’d never been for six years. She felt as if she’d lost her confidence along with her magic. What was the point of struggling, she asked herself, if there was no hope of winning?

There was a tap on the door. Emily tensed, despite herself. Alassa and Jade had woven hundreds of protections into the castle, but they couldn’t keep out everyone. How could they? Castle Alexis wasn’t just the monarch’s home, but the centre of government for an entire country. The lower levels were crammed with everything from aristocratic parasites to common-born bureaucrats, the former trying to convince themselves that they were still important while the latter felt utterly underappreciated by their superiors. Emily was all too aware that someone with bad intentions probably could get into the castle, with a great deal of effort. Why not? It had happened before.

The door opened. Lady Barb stepped into the room.

Emily felt an urge to shrink back inside herself as her former teacher – the woman she regarded as the closest thing she’d ever had to a mother – closed the door and strode over to the bed. It was hard to escape the feeling that Emily had failed Lady Barb in some way, as if things might have been different if Emily had listened to the older magicians who’d told her to stay out of the civil war. But … Emily knew, all too well, that she couldn’t have made any other choice. Alassa and Jade were her friends. Emily had owed it to them to stand beside them when they’d gone to war against Alassa’s father. She could not have turned her back.

Lady Barb had been badly injured, during Fulvia’s attack on Whitehall, but now … it was hard to believe that she’d ever been more than scratched. She was still tall and muscular, with long blonde hair and a stern – almost patrician – face. The robes she wore were loose, designed to allow her to move freely; the sword at her belt was a sign that she knew how to defend herself with and without magic. And her utter confidence in herself was daunting, to those who didn’t know her. Only a handful of people had ever underestimated Lady Barb, Emily knew, and none of them had made the same mistake twice. There were girls at Whitehall who wanted to be Lady Barb when they grew up. Emily knew how they felt.

She looked down at herself, unwilling to meet her tutor’s gaze. Her body felt … wrong, somehow. She’d been hurt – badly – during the fight with the mad king, but the injuries hadn’t healed as quickly as they should. The healers had done all they could, mending broken bones and repairing damaged tissues, yet they hadn’t done a perfect job. Emily wondered, morbidly, if her magic had helped her heal, every other time she’d been badly injured. Magicians lived a long time, even without life-prolonging spells. Perhaps their magic countered the onset of old age.

“Emily,” Lady Barb said. Her voice was stern and unyielding, but Emily could hear the hint of compassion. “Look at me.”

Emily looked up, reluctantly. She felt … she felt vulnerable. Too vulnerable. She knew Lady Barb would never hurt her, would never do anything to her that was not for her own good, but she still felt vulnerable. She felt defenceless. All of her weapons, magical and mundane alike, were gone. The healers had even confiscated the virgin blade she’d carried in her sleeve. She knew why they’d done it – the waves of despondency and depression had only been growing stronger since she’d lost her magic – but she resented it. There was no way she could put up even a token fight against someone who wanted her dead.

She should be pleased to see Lady Barb. She knew she should be pleased – and relieved – to see Lady Barb. But …

“Tell me what happened,” Lady Barb said. “Please.”

Emily took a breath and rattled through the whole story, starting with the discovery that King Randor was practicing necromancy to the final desperate battle inside the castle. She left out nothing, knowing – from long experience – that the older woman wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than the complete truth. Lady Barb listened, saying nothing, as Emily told her about the final seconds, before Randor exploded and she blacked out. She remembered nothing between her collapse and waking up in Alassa’s bed.

“I don’t think you burnt yourself out,” Lady Barb said, when she’d finished. “You’d probably be insane by now.”

Emily choked down a sound that was both a laugh and a sob. She was insane, by the standards of her new world. The natives didn’t understand her reasoning, didn’t understand her social attitudes … they didn’t understand why she befriended commoners, or helped them to succeed, or … or anything. She’d grown up on a world where social mores were very different. How could she share their attitudes to life?

“I don’t feel insane,” she managed. “But …”

She looked around the spare room. Normally, lying in a healer’s bed would have driven her mad. She would have demanded something to do, even if it was just being given a stack of books from the castle’s library. She wouldn’t have minded – much – if someone had provided her with a stock of cheaply-bound blue books from the nearby printers, if it gave her something to keep distracted. But instead … she’d practically spent the last week in bed, staring up at the barren ceiling. Her friends – even Cat, her semi-boyfriend – hadn’t been able to get her out of her funk. She’d been too depressed to care.

“You’re not screaming at the walls or lashing out at the maids,” Lady Barb said. “And we’re not shipping you off to the Halfway House.”

Emily snorted. She’d heard too many horror stories to take that entirely seriously. “And there are so many people who do abuse the maids that they might just be the sane ones.”

She felt her eyes narrow. “Are you going to send me to the Halfway House?”

“No,” Lady Barb said. The Halfway House was – in theory – a place for people who had been afflicted with unbreakable curses, who could neither be cured nor allowed to live freely. In practice, it was more like a bedlam straight out of Oliver Twist. “I don’t think they’d be able to do anything to help you.”

“I don’t know if anyone can,” Emily said. “I just feel …”

Lady Barb’s lips thinned. “I have to examine you,” she said. “Get up.”

Emily hesitated, but she knew better than to disobey. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood, feeling her legs threatening to buckle as she smoothed down her nightdress. It felt alarmingly thin. Lady Barb looked her up and down, frowning in disapproval. Emily felt a stab of guilt, mingled with fear. Lady Barb was a product of her society too. What must she feel when confronted with a cripple? The Nameless World wasn’t kind to cripples.

It isn’t kind to anyone, Emily thought. The aristocrats and magicians had power, but they also had social obligations. Commoners … had no rights at all. They sometimes lived so close to the edge that they had no choice, but to discard anyone who couldn’t work. A cripple would be lucky if he wasn’t put outside to starve. What will happen to me when the truth comes out?

She gritted her teeth as Lady Barb produced a long silver wand and started to wave it over Emily’s body. No one, apart from her closest friends, knew what had happened to her … but it was only a matter of time until the truth came out. She was – perhaps – the most famous person in the Nameless World, with a string of titles she’d been given by bards and broadsheet writers. There were probably already rumours spreading through the Nameless World. And someone – sooner or later – would try to test them.

“Interesting,” Lady Barb said.

Emily cursed under her breath. Her skin should have tingled as the wand performed its magic. She should have felt something. Her magic should have responded to the probe. God knew there had been times when she’d been told to hold her magic under firm control while the healers had done their work. But now … there was nothing. She shivered helplessly, despite the warmth from the fire. A first-year student could turn her into a frog with the snap of her fingers. She hated to think what an adult magician could do.

“Interesting indeed,” Lady Barb said. “Have you had any other problems? Aches and pains? Trouble with going to the toilet? Anything?”

“Nothing apart from having to use a chamberpot,” Emily said. She didn’t care what anyone said about it. Chamberpots were disgusting. But the castle had been built long before anyone had seen the wisdom in installing toilets, let alone hot and cold running water. “Some of the potions didn’t seem to work quite right, though.”

“They must have been brewed for a magician,” Lady Barb said. She motioned for Emily to turn around, then ran her finger down Emily’s spine. “They’re not always so effective on mundanes.”

Emily flinched. “I didn’t know …”

“It’s something healers and alchemists learn, when they start their apprenticeships,” Lady Barb said. She squeezed Emily’s arm, gently, then muttered a handful of spells. Nothing happened. “The potions you were taught to brew in school were very basic, but these … these can be quite sensitive to levels of ambient magic.”

She let out a long breath. “Sit down.”

Emily sat, feeling drained. “What did you find?”

“Something that doesn’t quite make sense,” Lady Barb said. “You should be a magician. You should have magic. But I can’t detect any magic. It’s odd.”

“Odd,” Emily repeated. She wanted to shout, but she was too tired. It was a matter of life and death. “What does it mean?”

Lady Barb’s voice was sombre. “Alassa told me that your … familiar is still a bracelet,” she said. “How are you maintaining the spell?”

Emily blinked in shock. Her familiar – Aurelius the Death Viper – spent most of his time as a transfigured bracelet. Emily might be safe from his poisonous touch, but anyone else who picked him up would be lucky if they only lost a hand. Death Vipers were amongst the most dangerous beasts known to exist. But the spell should have run out of magic and faded to nothingness a long time ago. Emily hadn’t protested when they’d taken the bracelet away. It was better to make very sure that no one got near it.

But if the snake was still a bracelet … she felt a flicker of hope. Where did the magic come from? Her?

“It’s possible that the snake’s own magic is maintaining the spell,” Lady Barb said, mercilessly. “But it is odd, to say the least.”

Yeah, Emily thought, as the hope faded and died. It is odd …

“I think Randor hit you with a death curse,” Lady Barb said. “Casting a spell powered by his own death would be difficult, but … he was not inept. He knew he was going to die and … thanks to his necromancy, he had power to spare. “Death curses are nasty things. They can be dangerously unpredictable.”

Emily swallowed. She’d heard some of the stories. There were others, she’d been told, that were never told to unqualified magicians. It was hard to imagine what sort of horrors were kept concealed, not when the stories were told to warn magicians of the dangers they faced on a regular basis. Death curses … were rare. It required a special kind of magician to shape the spell, knowing that his death was only seconds away.

And knowing that he has made his death certain by casting the spell, Emily thought. King Randor had never struck her as someone who was prepared to accept his own death. He’d fought savagely to preserve a social structure that was already doomed. He put his own daughter in prison rather than admit that times were changing …

“Beyond that, I’m not sure,” Lady Barb said. “It’s possible that it might have stripped you of your power, although the shock should have driven you insane. It’s also possible that the curse might be drawing on your power, ensuring you can’t do anything else. Or … it might have simply blocked you from using your magic. There are spells that do you, as you know.”

“Spells that wear off,” Emily said. “Or spells that can be removed.”

“Yes,” Lady Barb said. “But I tried a couple of counterspells and neither of them produced anything. That means …”

She paused, significantly. “If your ability to use magic is blocked, Emily, it will … it will build up inside your head. Right now, you don’t even have any wards you can use to channel and absorb the power. Sooner or later, the power will burst out of you.”

“It might take the curse with it,” Emily said.

“It might take you with it,” Lady Barb said, flatly. “No, it will take you with it. There have been cases – a handful of cases – where someone had their powers blocked and they …”

She kept talking, but Emily barely heard her. She’d lost her powers. And she might be about to lose her life.

“Emily,” Lady Barb said. “Are you listening to me?”

“Go away,” Emily said. She slipped her legs back under the covers, then reached for the blanket. She just wanted to hide. “Please.”

Lady Barb snorted. “Emily …”

“Go away,” Emily repeated.

The older woman seemed to hesitate – Emily could almost see the wheels spinning inside her mind – and then left the room. Emily watched the door close with a sensation of relief, as misplaced as she knew it was. She wanted – she needed – to be alone. She wanted … she wasn’t sure what she wanted. She could feel despair bubbling up at the back of her mind as she pulled the covers over her head. It would be easy, so easy, to simply give up …

There was a crash as the door opened, then shut. Emily looked out, surprised.

“Cat?”

48 Responses to “Snippet–Cursed (Schooled in Magic 17)”

  1. William Ameling February 3, 2019 at 2:28 pm #

    I wonder why Cabiria’s story is the first part of the Prologue, maybe how she was in a magic less state and then cured, will have something to do with Emil’s problem and how she might be cured.

    Maybe the Curse is draining all of her Mana continuously, but any existing spells, like her snake bracelet are still able to draw power from her. I had wondered about her snake bracelet.

    While Emily is like this is the perfect time for Nanette to strike at her again, and try to kill her. It also might be the time when Emily saw possible scenes from her future and saw herself in chains and about to be executed, probably by those Magicians on the White Council and their allies who hate and fear her.

    Emily also has to worry about those who will try to steal her many magical secrets from her (while she is powerless) that she has already developed and was trying to keep them from be stolen and used, because they were too dangerous. Emily might ask Void to reinstall the Spell on her that kept others from trying to question her with Magic and get answers.

    It also when Emily (and us the readers) will learn how true to her, people like Cat, Caleb, Void, and other friends and associates will be. It will either make or break a possible relationship (possibly marriage) with Cat, and her relations with those other people.

    I think we all expect Emily to regain her magic, but there are many things and projects that she can continue to work on that did not depend on her having magic, i.e. developing technology and reforming Society, particularly while rebuilding the Kingdom of Zangaria from it’s currently shattered state. She is still the Baroness of Cockatrice and advisor to Queen Alassa, and major investor in many technology related projects.

    It might be interesting to see what she can feel and do when she is near a Nexus Point that she already controls, i.e. Heart’s Eye. Maybe her spell on Heart’s Eve is draining a LOT of mana from her, which keeps her from recovering.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 3, 2019 at 2:54 pm #

      Tum, te, tum, te, tum . . . . 😉

      • joseph beaufait February 8, 2019 at 8:38 pm #

        I was thinking it was that gem of protection she picked up from the bad guy. but with the snippet I’m thinking maybe not.

  2. Linda Thompson February 3, 2019 at 5:08 pm #

    Hmm intriguing, I wonder?

    • Linda Thompson February 4, 2019 at 4:07 pm #

      Didn’t want to spoiler! but has Cabiria ended up with Emily’s Magic through her own death curse? Will have to wait and see…. any eta on this amazing book.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 4, 2019 at 4:21 pm #

        Nope, the Prologue happened years before.

        Emily learned of those events when Cabiria and her were room-mates at Whitehall.

        However, Cabiria will be part of this story. 😀

  3. Rhino February 3, 2019 at 5:53 pm #

    Spoiler alert? Cabiria? The bracelet? I recall an email saying all questions answered, I’d say the mind of Nuttall nullifies prediction. Drak – I’ve wondered for a year if you have a cloaked inside line. I guess its still a prediction, but I think this is the end of Emily’s childhood – finally. And, the worrisome little stone in the shoe – the oath to the fairies – is in play. Mr. Nuttall, gods speed, bring it home!!!

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 3, 2019 at 6:33 pm #

      Well, Chris has been nice enough to give me plots of up-coming books (for commenting on).

      Of course, Lady Barb, Void and others of Chris’s “characters” have made very “interesting” promises of what I’ll face if I snerk his stories. 😈

  4. Jodi February 3, 2019 at 5:55 pm #

    I am anxious to read more. Maybe bracelet will help.

  5. lif strand February 3, 2019 at 5:57 pm #

    I confess I haven’t read any of this series, only because I’ve just discovered them. So I don’t know if Allophone is a recurring character or appearing for the first time in this book, and I don’t know if the name of the character is somehow intrinsic to the storyline. But from the point of view of a person who knows that “allophone” has a real-world meaning (it is a linguistic term that describes a set of multiple possible spoken sounds), I find the name very distracting.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 3, 2019 at 6:28 pm #

      She’s a new character.

    • MorkR February 4, 2019 at 9:52 pm #

      Distracting? I think we will all find out that it is one of Chris’s clues.
      For those who have read the previous books, remember “Dua Kepala” anyone?

      • bret February 4, 2019 at 10:40 pm #

        No. Who’s he he?

  6. G February 3, 2019 at 6:37 pm #

    Can’t wait to read the book! Stay healthy! As an aside to William Ameling, if Emily’s power is gone, she’s less of a threat, so I can’t see the White Council moving against her–people trying to get her secrets is the bigger issue…If Cabira took an insanely dangerous risk to regain her powers, what will Emily have to do?? (I still believe Cabira is possessed either by her Uncle or a demon–we’ll see…)

  7. Jason Keenan February 3, 2019 at 11:50 pm #

    Omg that was a great snippet

  8. bret February 4, 2019 at 12:22 am #

    That was a great snippet.

    However, I sure hope Emily isn’t powerless this whole book (or even most of it), but if that is the case, please let us know so I’ll skip the book. Reading about Emily with no power for a whole book sounds like a miserable slog to me.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 4, 2019 at 1:03 am #

      Well, I think we may a bit more of “depressed Emily” but from what I’ve seen of the plot, Emily’s not going to stay depressed for all of the book.

      Of course, the plot is going to be “how she regains her power” and her dealing with the Bad Guy (not introduced yet).

      Oh, if I thought she was going to be depressed through most of the book as she is in Chapter One, I’d skip it as well.

      • G February 4, 2019 at 2:06 am #

        This snippet where Emily needs her friends does illustrate the main problem with becoming a “Lone Power”–no friends, or allies to help you when you need it…I’ve never really understood why Chris wants to plot out this future for Emily–as from my perspective, it’s neither desirable or inevitable…why not start a community of magical/scientific research in Cockatrice or Heartseye, similar to Lord Whitehall establishing the original Whitehall Communel?? Why be isolated?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 4, 2019 at 2:51 am #

        First, I’m not sure that Chris intends her to be a Lone Power (ie isolated). (While I know some of Chris’ plans for Emily, I don’t know what happens after the plans that I know about).

        Second, while Emily had asked about “how you become a Lone Power”, her desire to have friends and the desire to help them works against (as you said) becoming a Lone Power.

        Third, I suspect her thoughts about becoming a Lone Power reflects her dislike for the type of politics present in the Allied Lands. IE She doesn’t want to “play those sort of games” and doesn’t think she’d be good at them.

        Fourth, I personally think that she could learn to be better in dealing with others (besides her friends).

        Fifth, She is planning for Heartseye to become a community for magical/scientific research and that would have to involve her learning to deal with others.

      • G February 4, 2019 at 8:14 am #

        Chris said tittle of last planned book in the series is “Lone Power.”

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 4, 2019 at 11:11 am #

        Glances at Snerk Collar, based on what I know about his plans “Lone Power” doesn’t refer to Emily. 😀

      • Hanno Frerichs February 4, 2019 at 4:11 pm #

        Well not all Lone Powers seem to be as Lonly as Void is.
        Fatty or what was his Names, the Lone Power that vised the fair in Love Labors Won, was in his option a more social Lone power. Even being a Lone Power must not true mean that you are alone and can’t have friends It just means that you with your abilities are strong enough to play in the same weight class as whole fractions like city states or Kingdoms. Of course that can drive potential allies away from you.

      • callum gow February 5, 2019 at 7:49 am #

        It is also worth pointing out that becoming a Lone Power might not be entirely up to Emily. The simple problem is someone powerful, beholden to no one (or at least appearing so) is not a person an organization necessarily wants hanging around.

        Especially when that person has shown that they are willing to completely uproot/destroy societal norms/customs in view of what they think is right. Everywhere she goes upheaval seemingly follows.

        I imagine many on White council wish for Emily’s demise, they just hope she takes a boatload of Necromancers down with her.

    • Bill February 12, 2019 at 2:16 am #

      Actually I think the whole point of the Cabira story is to establish that it is possible for a non-magical person to become a person. If you think about it Emily’s biggest strength is that she is full of all these ideas of what can be done and that it is just a matter of figuring out how to develop the base knowledge to get there.

  9. William Ameling February 4, 2019 at 7:12 am #

    Another thing that might give useful information about Emily’s problem (“Curse”), what will happen when she goes through a Portal. Will she react like before when it causes an extreme reaction, or will she feel nothing. If she has a reaction then she is still sensitive to Magic, which I would consider a good sign. If she does not react, then she is more likely burned out.

    • Joe February 9, 2019 at 12:03 am #

      this is a great idea! I’m sure Chris could work it either way. I would like to see it give her a headache and sort of start a 10th toward recovering her magic.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 9, 2019 at 12:19 am #

        Chris is posting this story over on Baen’s Bar (Slush Pile Conference).

        Emily does use a Portal and it isn’t very fun for her. 😉

  10. Puffin Muffin February 4, 2019 at 3:15 pm #

    Well, I’m looking forward to this. Any idea of ETA?

  11. Rhino February 4, 2019 at 5:53 pm #

    Outstanding comments! One of the better postings/discussion. Ahhh, Drak, ya hound dog, I’m envious. Still don’t see a spoiler, publish soon!!

  12. Joe February 7, 2019 at 1:29 am #

    Stay well Chris. I loved the snippet, I hope some of the background stories continue.

  13. Pixie February 7, 2019 at 11:18 am #

    I want to see more interaction with the white council as she is an adult and still not under any oaths to them.

  14. Brian February 7, 2019 at 2:36 pm #

    Loved the snippet. I hope this means the book is very close to release!
    I’m just concerned that Emily will never get as strong as I feel like you’ve teased. Every time I feel like shes really strong she somehow manages to be on the weaker side of the spectrum of power lol.
    P.S. I want to see more of Void!

  15. G February 8, 2019 at 5:50 am #

    Chris has built up Emily’s power…v.e.r.y…..s.l.o.w.l.y…–but at book 17, if he wants her to become feared as a legendarily powerful sorcereress, he needs to start having her seriously ramp up her power levels (with more dangerous situations). So far in the series, she’s just a precocious 22 year old–powerful for her age–but no more powerful than a many adult sorcerers.

    • stephen wilson February 8, 2019 at 10:49 am #

      Are you sure. Taking on a necromancer in a one on one dual and comming out the victor, is a challenge that even a lone power would back away from.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 8, 2019 at 1:07 pm #

        Well, Randor was likely the weakest of the Necromancers that Emily fought and he still out-matched Emily in terms of power.

        Basically Emily managed to stay alive until Randor started to lose control of his power (which would have killed himself) and she made it worse for him before she was able to kill him with a regular knife.

        In addition, as Emily puts it, she killed her other Necromancers with a “trick” not via one-on-one combat.

    • Brian February 8, 2019 at 10:41 pm #

      I agree it has been a slow build up. I’m more confused by the story pointing out that her reserves of power have grown much stronger than her peers and she sometimes flexes this power to intimidate people. Where is this power when she needs it? Lol that’s pretty much my only gripe, other than there being a big lack of magic in the books when things get political.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 8, 2019 at 11:00 pm #

        “More Powerful Than Her Peers” is the key phrase.

        Several places in the books, Emily is aware of how much more powerful some adult is than she is.

        I don’t think she’s ever “flexed her magic” toward an adult (older than her) magician.

        Now Emily’s out in the adult world of the Nameless World and it makes sense that she’s going to met more sorcerers that are more powerful than she is.

        It’s been clear that as a sorcerer matures, they grow more powerful. Emily is more powerful than most 22 year old sorcerers but is likely less powerful than (for example) the average 50 year old sorcerer.

        Oh, I seem to remember that both Jade and Cat are more powerful than Emily and they are about 4-6 years older than her.

      • G February 8, 2019 at 11:54 pm #

        I agree with Paul–so far, Emily, while more powerful than is typical for her age, has won her victories largely by her wits, knowledge from Earth, and a lot of luck. This worked relatively well during her time as a student at Whitehall, but if Chris wants her to become an immensely powerful sorceress in the adult world, where there are extremely powerful sorcerers in their second century of life, and complete the series by book ?23?, she needs to step up the power development soon. Otherwise, a drastic step up in book 22 or 23 won’t be as credible…

      • Kell February 21, 2019 at 12:07 am #

        I don’t recall it saying anywhere that cat and jade where stronger then her.

  16. joseph beaufait February 8, 2019 at 8:40 pm #

    I felt like Emily could have pounded him flat if she had had a battery on her.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard February 8, 2019 at 9:19 pm #

      The battery was the “first casualty” of the fight.

      IE She had brought one to the fight but Randor “got lucky” and it was destroyed.

  17. stephen wilson February 9, 2019 at 10:31 am #

    We learned from Emily’s trip back in time that power is not always everything. So having a lot of power at a young age can be a disadvantage (i think the zero series might be having a impact on my thoughts, perhaps). To keep calling Emily lucky is too dismissive of the little swat. As the old saying goes, the more you practise, the more lucky you get. Don’t forget just because we the readership knows she was lucky, the world at large just know Emily the necromancers bane won a master of dulling while still in school and now a king killer.In a largely uninformed world reputation is everything

    • G February 11, 2019 at 2:32 am #

      The problem is that, when your fighting continuously, eventually the odds catch up with you…(the reverse is that its not credible for Emily to continuously win against stronger opponents for 23 books).

      • Conrad Bassett Jr. February 16, 2019 at 4:42 pm #

        Here is my two cents. Emily is more powerful than cat. She’s more powerful than Alassa and Jade according to the books,. Her magic has expanded and he continues to do so. To compare her to necromancers who are insanely powerful is ridiculous . It took Void to fight one of them to a standstill. I wouldn’t underestimate Emily’s futuristic knowledge when she applies it to her magic . That can create a deadly combination. Emily’s biggest problem is her lack of experience . Emily could be one of the most powerful sorceresses on the planet but what’s holding her back is her lack of know-how . Once she matures, her power will rival most.

  18. M W Stewart February 10, 2019 at 5:20 am #

    “has won her victories largely by her wits …” is the operative thought. A protagonist who has power but must “win” by virtue of wit and, dare I say it, moral fiber is infinitely more interesting and attractive than one who is merely powerful, merely capable of being the Hobbesian Bully. I look forward to her evolution and growth in all phases of her character.

  19. douglas lake sr February 11, 2019 at 10:17 pm #

    How soon, please. Thank you.

  20. George Zolin February 13, 2019 at 3:50 pm #

    What’s the count on Dead Necromancers now, 4? 4 in six years? That just demonstrates that power isn’t everything.

    Regarding some of the previous comments, I think Emily could become a Lone Power just by virtue of not having ties; no family ties and no real ‘group’ ties. (I’m thinking of the groups she was told to avoid when we went to mountaintop and I’m drawing a blank).

    Without those bonds, she’s not beholden to anyone else choices and all her decisions are purely her own. Her friends can impact her choices, but not to the degree that a family tie or an oath would. Even now – regardless of her powers – she’s effectively on the outside of the magical community. I just don’t think the Magical Community truly realizes the extent of her independence yet. They can’t. They don’t know she’s from Earth.

  21. SP February 25, 2019 at 3:42 am #

    Wonder if Void appears in this book. At the end of Princess in the Tower, he dismissed the civil war against Randor as a petty little struggle when it turned out to be another front in the Necromancer wars.

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