Snippet – Oathkeeper (Schooled in Magic 20)

15 May

Prologue I

Emily dreams.

She knows she is dreaming, although she doesn’t know how.  The dreams are a blur of visions, of things that happened and things that didn’t happen and things that happened, but happened differently.  She sees faces – Alassa, Frieda, Jade, Cat – in places they’d never been, doing things they’d never done.  The dreams are so confusing that she can barely follow the thread, if indeed there is a thread.  And every time she wakes, the dreams are gone.

In her dream, she is a firstie again, in a class she shouldn’t have taken.  Not yet.  She sees herself – and Jade, and Cat, and Aloha – running through the valleys and mountains, trying to escape the orcs.  Sergeant Harkin leads them, bellowing encouragement as he fights to buy them time.  She sees an orcish blade slice through his neck …

She wakes, tears stinging her cheeks.  It didn’t go that way!

And then she dreams again.  The orcs are surrounding them, closing in … each one a shambling parody of the worst of humanity.  She wants to run, but there is nowhere to go … Jade is dead, Cat is dead, Aloha is dead … Alassa is dead.  Alassa wasn’t there … the alternates buzz through her dreams, each one bringing new horrors.  She dies, the last of the team to fall.  The orcs take them, doing unspeakable things before they finally die; the orcs hand them over to Shadye, who takes her power and uses it for himself.  Whitehall falls, the wards shattered, the walls cracked like eggshells.  And a new monster is born. 

But it didn’t go that way!

She tries to focus, tries to break out of the nightmare.   It didn’t go that way!  She tries to recall what really happened, how they escaped from the orcs … some of her memories are missing, her imagination trying to fill in the gaps and failing.  Others … she twists, crying out in her sleep.  The dreams haunt her, mock her.  Nothing is real.  Everything is real.  All is real and nothing is real …

They’d been on a forced march.  She remembers that much, although it’s hard to be sure.  Not in the dream.  And they’d been attacked by Shadye’s minions.  And she’d escaped and …

The alternates surge forward, driving her memories – the real memories – away.  She dies, and wishes she lives.  She lives, and wishes she died.  Her friends die, time and time again; her tutors and mentors curse her name, curse her for what she brought to their walls.  She lives long enough to see everything broken, to see a dark and hungry god unleashed upon the land.  She watches, helplessly, as a nightmare moves north, killing everyone brave enough to stand against it.  Brave or coward, it matters not.  They die.  The world dies.

But it didn’t go that way!

The memories surface, briefly.  She’d made a deal.  She’d made a promise.  And she’d sworn an oath to the Unseelie.  And she’d saved her friends.  And …

Emily wakes, to a bed drenched in sweat.  The dream overshadows her mind.  She isn’t sure if she is awake, or if she still dreams.  The waking world seems a fragile place, weak and frail compared to the realm of nightmares.  She fears she is losing her mind, she fears she is trapped forever within the dream.  She blinks …

… The alarm rings …

… And the dream is gone.

Prologue II

The chamber would have horrified any normal man, Rangka knew.  It would have horrified him, in the half-forgotten days before he’d embraced necromancy.  It was a barren cave, the walls unmarked by paintings or runes or anything else that would have marked it as the home of an intelligent creature.  Servants scurried about, trying not to catch his bright red eyes.  They knew he could kill them – or worse – on a whim.  There was no point in being loyal if one knew it would never – could never – be recognised, let alone rewarded.  Their master was mad.

Rangka knew it to be true.  He was mad.  He was the oldest necromancer known to live, a feat he couldn’t have managed if he hadn’t kept some grip on reality, but he felt the madness howling at the back of his mind.  It didn’t bother him, even though he knew – on some level – that it should.  The person he’d been – the name he’d abandoned long ago – would have been horrified to know what he’d become.  That didn’t bother him either.  The person he’d been was dead and gone.

Power throbbed through the air, his awareness reaching out to encompass the approaching armies trudging their way through the ashy mud.  Neither of his prospective allies had come alone, knowing – as well as himself – that the rewards of treachery could be great indeed.  Thousands of orcs, creatures raised from the depths … and, behind them, slave-soldiers bound to their master’s will.  He drew his awareness back, slightly, as the other two necromancers made their shambling way through the caves, their mere presence sending Rangka’s servants fleeing for their lives.  One necromancer was a nightmare beyond comprehension.  Three in one spot heralded the end of all things.  Reality itself seemed to hang on a knife edge as the necromancers faced each other.  The only thing keeping them from trying to kill each other was the certain knowledge that the one who didn’t join the early confrontation would be the winner.  And yet … the chamber hummed with tension.  Being together, being so close, felt unnatural.  It was the one thing, Rangka acknowledged privately, the necromancers had in common with their enemies.  They should not be together.

He wanted to reach out with a spell to sooth their tempers, to make them listen to him, but he knew such subtle magics were beyond him.  He’d paid a price for his power, a price he hadn’t realised until it was too late.  He had immensely destructive spells at his fingertips – power burned through his veins, threatening to burst out and consume everything if he lost his grip – but he could no longer cast the simple spells of his childhood.  They were beyond him, despite his power.  He could no longer shape the spellwork to make them work … and besides, the others wouldn’t be affected.  They were creatures of magic now, not men.  They couldn’t be manipulated through magical means.

Rangka braced himself, trying to shape his arguments.  Cold logic told him they should work together, against the common foe, but logic and reason had no control over them.  He found the idea of sharing the risk and the reward difficult to comprehend, even though – again – cold logic told him there would be enough rewards for everyone.  It wouldn’t last, he knew.  They would battle their enemies until they were victorious, then battle each other until there was only one, standing in the midst of a dead world.  A dark god, a power beyond imagination … a hungry creature that would eventually – inevitably – starve.

No!  He refused to think about their fate.  It could not be true.

He looked from one to the other.  Bersuit was a hooded man, his skin blackened and burnt by fires until it was unnaturally charred.  He was the most human of the necromancers, yet – perhaps – one of the most dangerous.  His body looked humanoid, to the naked eye.  Rangka could sense things writhing under the cloak, things that defied even his sensors.  Gerombolan was a walking skeleton, wrapped in blue fire.  His red eyes were the only hint he so much as had a face.  It wasn’t clear how he walked.  And Rangka himself was a rotting corpse, animated only by his magic.  He’d long since ceased to care.

“Dua Kepala is dead,” Rangka said, curtly.

“Good.”  Bersuit’s voice was as cracked as his soul, a rasping screech that would have deafened a normal man.  “His lands will be ours.”

“And so is Shadye,” Rangka said.  “They were both killed by the same person.  A sorceress called Emily.”

“The Necromancer’s Bane.”  Gerombolan’s voice was utterly inhuman.  “They say she is our doom.”

“She has killed two of the most powerful of us, in less than five years,” Rangka said.  It was hard to measure time, in the Blighted Lands.   “They’re dead and gone.”

“And so their lands are ours,” Bersuit hissed.  His armies were already laying claim to Shadye’s former territories, doing their level best to avoid the Inverse Shadow.  “So what?”

Rangka stared at the hooded man.  “How long until she comes for us?”

“She will not kill me,” Gerombolan said.  “I am beyond death.”

“Shadye thought the same,” Rangka reminded him.  “He was wrong.”

He understood, better than he cared to admit.  Necromancers died all the time.  A sorcerer who was unable to handle the sudden burst of power would be destroyed by it; a newborn necromancer, a beacon of power to those with eyes to see, could be killed by an older necromancer before he had a chance to establish himself, seizing lands and human livestock to make something of himself.  And even the older necromancers weren’t that old.  The Blighted Lands were a constantly-shifting morass of endless scrabbling, wars and treacherous backstabbing.  They were penned in, held prisoner by the terrain and the ever-watchful guards.  There was nowhere to go.  Shadye had attacked Whitehall and Dua Kepala had crossed the Desert of Death and neither had returned alive.

“How long will it be,” he repeated, “before she comes for us?”

The words hung in the air.  It was hard to believe a lone girl could defeat one necromancer, let alone two.  The stories he’d heard credited her with killing ten necromancers – or a hundred, or a thousand – and he knew that wasn’t true, but neither Shadye nor Dua Kepala had survived their wars.  Rangka had heard enough to believe there was some truth to the story.  It was a rare magician who took on a necromancer and lived to tell the tale.  A lone girl killing two – or more – necromancers was difficult to believe.  And yet it had happened.

“We will end her, if she comes,” Gerombolan said.  “She will feed us …”

“If we survive long enough,” Rangka said.  “We cannot let her come to us.”

He pointed towards the walls – and the distant mountains beyond.  “We must fight now, before she comes for us.  We must get over the mountains and ravage the lands beyond.”

Gerombolan made a hissing sound.  “And how do you intend to achieve this … wonder?”

“By working together, we can break through the mountains,” Rangka said.  “If we combine our powers, and our forces, we can break into the lands beyond.  And then there would be no stopping us.”

He saw it, a vision on the verge of becoming reality.  The Allied Lands had been lucky.  They could hide beyond high mountains, impassable oceans and passes guarded by a network of fortresses and walls.  They couldn’t match the necromantic forces in hand-to-hand combat, or sheer power, but they could slow them down immensely.  If the mountains were to be destroyed, or merely weakened, the armies could advance through the rubble, an endless wave of blood-maddened orcs and monsters and slaves …

His rotting mouth fell open in a smile.  It was going to be glorious.

He spoke on, telling his allies his plans …

… And, all the while, preparing to betray them the moment they outlived their usefulness.

Chapter One

“I have grown to hate mirrors.”

Emily stood in the spellchamber, eying the mirror warily.  It was the only object within the chamber, a large freestanding mirror big enough to show her body from tip to toe.  There were no magics surrounding it, nothing suggesting it was enchanted – or a gateway to an alien realm – but she didn’t feel any better as her image looked back at her.  She looked … tired, tired and worn.  The dreams, the dreams she couldn’t remember, had disturbed her more than she cared to admit.

She rubbed her eyes, feeling them narrow as she studied her reflection.  Was her hair a little darker?  Were her eyes a little harder?  Her bearing a little stronger?  Six months of apprenticeship, six months of everything from magic study to tests that were disguised missions, had changed her, in ways she was only beginning to appreciate.  Void was a good teacher, she acknowledged.  He knew things she’d never known existed.  And yet, she was slowly starting to realise he also had his own agenda.  The missions she’d carried out on his behalf had served a greater purpose.  She just wished she knew what it was.

Forget it, for the moment, she thought.  Right now, you need to stay focused.

She studied her reflection thoughtfully.  She hadn’t changed that much, had she?  It was hard to be sure.  Void had kept her hopping, practicing magic daily.  She’d grown used to being his student.  And yet … she rested her hands on her hips, studying herself in the mirror.  The black apprentice robe was strikingly simplistic, nothing more than a shapeless black dress.  Void had given her very clear orders not to wear anything else, even hairpins or the snake-bracelet.  She’d let her hair fall down her back and left the transfigured snake in her bedroom.  He wouldn’t have told her to wear as little as possible if he hadn’t had a good reason.

“Emily.”  Void stepped into the room, his face calm and composed.  “Are you ready?”

Emily turned to face him, clasping her hands behind her back.  Void was inhumanly tall, easily a head taller than himself.  His face was oddly timeless, framed by dark hair that seemed to have grown a little longer in the past few months.  It was hard to remember, at times, that he was literally old enough to be her great-grandfather.  And yet … she could sense his power, bristling around him like a thunderstorm.  He wasn’t making any attempt to mask his power.  No magician her age had such a presence.

“I think so,” she said.  They’d gone over the spellwork time and time again, assessing each and every section of the spell.  It was easy to see, now, why so few magicians risked casting the spell, even when it would have come in handy.  Being in two places at once wasn’t as simple as it sounded.  “Are you?”

“I’m not the one who has to cast the spell,” Void said.  He moved past her, peering suspiciously into the mirror.  “If you want to back out, now is the time.”

Emily shook her head.  She understood the risks.  The books he’d given her to read had discussed the risks in graphic detail.  They’d even included illustrations that – Void had told her – were surprisingly close to reality.  But she also knew she couldn’t step back now.  Mastering magic – and using it – had become her cause.  She wanted – she needed – to keep going until she reached the top.  The possibility – the very serious possibility – that there was no top didn’t deter her.

And yet, she reflected as Void paced around the mirror, such power came with a price.  It was harder and harder to remember, sometimes, that there was an outside world.  The missions he’d sent her on, over the past few months, had felt like distractions from her real work.  The ever-growing pile of letters from her friends – and others – rested on her desk, largely unopened.  It was hard – now – to keep track of what was happening in the outside world.  She had to force herself, sometimes, to go outside.  Even meeting her friends was difficult. 

She yawned, suddenly.  The dreams – the dreams she couldn’t remember – nagged at her mind, tormenting her.  She’d wondered if they were a sending, a subtle attack from one of her enemies, but it was hard to imagine a spell that could reach through the wards.  Void’s tower was practically invulnerable, even to a magician who operated on the same level.  Emily had lived in the tower for months and yet she knew she hadn’t even come close to learning all its secrets.  It was bigger on the inside, with chambers and lairs she barely knew existed.  She wondered, at times, what might be within the structure she didn’t even imagine existed.

Void glanced at her.  “Are you ready?”

“Yes.”  Emily unclasped her hands, steadying herself.  “I’m ready.”

“Stand in front of the mirror,” Void instructed, as if he hadn’t gone over the details time and time again.  It was a measure of how dangerous the spell could be, if the casting went wrong, that he’d practically nagged her into memorising each and every detail.  It was so out of character for him that she’d studied the spell and all its variants extensively.  “Make sure your entire body is reflected in the mirror.”

Emily stepped forward until she was standing right in front of the mirror.  Her reflection gazed back at her.  Emily studied herself again, silently grateful she couldn’t see any differences.  The reflection was a reflection, not an alternate vision of herself.  Her other self was dead, or trapped on the wrong side of the dimensional barriers.  She’d studied every book she could find on mirror magic and none of them had gone any further than shaping a pocket world on the other side of the mirror.  The meeting with alternate timelines was – apparently – unprecedented.  It was unlikely she’d meet her other self here.

She looked up and down, from tip to toe.  She was encompassed within the mirror.  The wall behind her looked utterly bare, sensibly bare.  There’d be nothing and no one else to be caught up within the spell.  Void had said it was possible to cast the spell with a smaller mirror, or no mirror at all, but it was better to start small.  Emily’s lips twitched at the thought.  It was rather like learning to juggle and starting with knives and daggers, rather than chainsaws.  The danger was only minimised in comparison.  It didn’t go away.

“Start the spell when you’re ready.”  Void’s voice was very quiet.  He’d masked his power so thoroughly she couldn’t sense his presence.  It was hard to remember he was even there, even though he’d told her – time and time again – not to even consider trying the spell without him.  “Or step back, if you’re not up to it.”

Emily lifted her head and looked into her reflection’s eyes.  Magic sparkled through her, pervading every cell of her body.  She’d grown more and more used to thinking of it as a part of her, as much her as her arms and legs.  It was a danger as well as a boon, Void had cautioned her, yet … it was hard to believe it could be dangerous.  And yet, she knew it.  The danger of forgotten how she did things – and then losing the ability to improve upon her spells – was very real.  And if she fell into that trap, she’d peak.  She’d never get any better.

The spell glimmered in her mind, a remarkably complex piece of magic.  She’d seen the spellwork back in her first year, but … she hadn’t been able to follow it, let alone cast it.  Now … she could see how the different sections interacted, how they worked together to create a duplicate of herself.  No, not a duplicate.  Two minds in one body.  One body in two minds.  A balance between the two … she kept her eyes open, focused on the mirror, as she gingerly brought the spell to life.  The magic surged around her.  She felt as if she were caught in a hurricane, as if she were being shoved and yanked to one side … her head spun, unable to cope with the sudden shift in sensation.  She felt …

She stumbled, the magic sparkling out of existence.  “Blast!”

“Calm,” Void advised.  “I didn’t expect you to get it on your first try.”

Emily felt her cheeks flush, even though she knew he was right.  She’d done more, in a few brief seconds, than many other magicians would ever do.  It would be a long time before she matched Void, before she was a Lone Power in her own right, but she was already well ahead of many others.  She scowled at the thought, reminding herself not to get too conceited.  She’d met too many magicians who thought having magic made them little gods to want to go the same way herself.  They’d thought …

“I know.”  Emily put the thought out of her head.  She knew better.  She wasn’t going to go that way.  “I wanted to impress you.”

“You already have.”  Void sounded surprisingly warm.  She felt a thrill of pride.  “But you have to proceed at your own pace.  There’s nothing to be gained by trying to go too fast.”

Emily nodded as she looked back at her reflection.  “I’m going to try again.”

“Then try,” Void said.  “Once more.  Just once.”

Do or do not, there is no try, Emily thought.  She had a feeling Void would not have approved of Yoda, if they’d met.  Sometimes you try as hard as you can and still fail.

She took a long breath, then lifted her head and started the spell again.  This time, the surge of magic felt stronger, more focused.  She felt something pulling at her, but also pushing at her … she was being pulled in two directions at once.  She wanted to resist, to fight the feeling even though she knew that trying would be the worst thing she could do.  She had to give into the sensation, somehow keeping control while giving up control … a year ago, she wouldn’t have had the discipline to make the spell work.  She wouldn’t even have been able to believe two contradictory things at once.

A thoroughly unpleasant – and indescribable – sensation ran through her.  She stumbled to the side, her legs quivering uneasily.  The world was dark.  Her eyes were closed … when had she closed them?  She opened them … and found herself staring into her own face.  The mirror … no, not the mirror.  Her counterpart … her head spun as she realised she was staring into her own face, her true face.  She’d split herself into two bodies …

“Do I …?”

She stopped.  Her voice sounded odd in her ears.  Both sets of ears.  Of course … she didn’t normally hear herself talking, not as if she was a different person.  She’d read something about it somewhere, although she couldn’t remember the details. Alassa had joked that people who fell in love with the sound of their voices did so because they couldn’t hear themselves …

“Incredible,” she – they – said, as one.  It was hard to disentangle themselves completely.  They were the same person.  “Do I really look like that?”

Her perspective shifted.  She was looking at herself.  Her other self.  She could see Void standing by the wall, watching them with thoughtful eyes.  She understood, suddenly, why he’d insisted she wore as little as possible.  It might have been safer to be naked, the first time she’d tried the spell.  But she couldn’t have done that, not in front of him.  Or anyone, really.  She felt her thoughts starting to fracture … her perspective shifted again, until she was looking away from Void.  It felt weird, as if she was in two places at once … she was in two places at once, one mind in two bodies.  She looked down and saw her other self look down too.  They hadn’t split completely, then.  They were still intermingled at a very primal level.

“Good,” Void said.  His voice was suddenly hard, hard and commanding.  “And now, turn away from each other.”

Emily tried to turn, but it was hard.  Invisible ropes seemed to be holding her firmly in place, keeping her and her other self looking at each other.  She felt her mind switch bodies time and time again, Void blinking in and out of view with each shift.  It felt odd, so odd … wrong, yet not painful.  She found herself taking a step towards herself … her head spun as she struggled to stay still, to stay in two places at once.  Her vision blurred, very slightly, as she forced herself to turn.  It felt as if she were doing something fundamentally wrong …

“Emily …”

She looked at Void.  “What?”

Her master seemed surprised, his eyes going wide as Emily’s legs buckled as she fell to the ground.  He hadn’t said anything.  It hadn’t been his voice.  Emily felt her vision start to blur again, growing worse with every passing second.  Her other self … she was suddenly in the other body, staring at herself on the floor.  She couldn’t follow what was happening, she couldn’t understand it and …

“Emily …”

The voice echoed through her mind.  It wasn’t real.  It wasn’t real.  And yet, she felt her thoughts start to fragment.  She was in two places – no, many places.  She was already on the floor, yet it came up and hit her … darkness swallowed her, pain surging through her body.  And …

Void’s face came into view, hazily.  “Emily?”

“I …”  Emily swallowed hard.  Her head hurt.  Her memories … she felt a twinge of pain as she realised she’d literally been in two places at once.  It hurt to even think about what had happened and yet she had no choice.  “What happened?”

“You didn’t disentangle yourself correctly.”  Void helped her to sit up, then conjured a glass of water from the air and held it out to her.  “You split your body into two, but you didn’t quite managed to split your mind.”

Emily sipped the water, gingerly.  It tasted pure, so pure it was practically tasteless.  “It felt … wrong.”

“It does, yes.”  Void sounded pensive for a long moment.  “Even trying can feel like committing suicide.  The trick is to maintain your mental integrity while tearing it in two.”

He smiled, humourlessly.  “And if you can grasp the contradiction,” he added, “you’ll be one step closer to making it work.”

“I’ll try,” Emily said.  Her memories felt weird, as if she’d collapsed and watched herself collapse … as if she had two sets of memories.  She supposed she had, in a sense.  “I thought I heard someone calling my name.”

Void frowned.  “You might have imagined it,” he said, slowly.  “Your thoughts were being split in two.  You could have been thinking to yourself, hearing your own thoughts.”

“… Maybe.”  Emily wasn’t so sure.  The voice hadn’t been hers.  What did her thoughts sound like anyway?  She knew how to recognise someone else, by their mental voice, but … what would her own thoughts sound like?  She thought she’d know her own thoughts.  And yet, it had been oddly familiar.  “I don’t know.”

She passed him the glass, which sparkled into nothingness as soon as he took it, and tried to stand.  Her legs felt weak, as if she couldn’t quite stand by herself.  Void held out a hand, allowing her to lean on him as she stumbled to her feet.  The mirror was a pile of shattered glass, lying on the floor.  Emily winced, despite herself.  The Heart’s Eye mirrors had shattered too, when they’d broken contact with the alternate dimension …

“No more magic today,” Void said, firmly.  If he noticed the way her mind was wandering, he said nothing.  “Go back to your room and rest.  Eat dinner in bed, if you don’t feel up to joining me.  Or sleep.  We can go through the spell tomorrow before we try again.”

“Yes, sir,” Emily said.  She was suddenly very aware of her own tiredness.  Her body felt weak and worn.  Her magic felt as if she’d pushed it right to the limit.  The concept seemed so simple, but turning it into reality had nearly killed her.  She felt a stab of pain in her head and shuddered, trying not to be sick.  The simplest concept could be the hardest to make real.  “How long did it take you to master the spell?”

Void gave her a sidelong look.  “I’d say it isn’t a spell one can ever truly master,” he said.  “It depends on your ability to control magic, true, but also your ability to … separate your thoughts and then merge yourself back together.  My old master made crude jokes to ensure I got the point.  I couldn’t afford to think of myself as two people or reintegration would become impossible.  You’ll have the same problem.”

“I see, I think.”  Emily wasn’t sure that was true.  “And what happens if something happens to me?  I mean, to one of me?”

“It depends on the spell.”  Void shook his head.  “Go get some rest.  We’ll discuss it later, when you’ve had time to consider what happened and then try again.  And don’t try it without me.  You cannot afford to be alone if something goes wrong.”

Emily nodded.  “I understand.”

“See that you do,” Void said.  “Do you need help to get back to your room?”

“No,” Emily said.  She thought she could walk to her room before she collapsed.  “I can make it on my own.”

“That’s what they all said,” Void told her.  She remembered, suddenly, that he’d had students before her.  “And they were all wrong.”

84 Responses to “Snippet – Oathkeeper (Schooled in Magic 20)”

  1. stephen May 15, 2020 at 11:31 am #

    Thanks for the snippet. As always as the reader I wanted more, but hey. Hoping that this instalment comes out fairy soon 🙂

  2. Lori Huber May 15, 2020 at 12:12 pm #

    A tantalizing taste making the reader want more,as with every SIM installment. Will make the wait for release that much more anticipated – and frustrating. I have been waiting for her Void apprenticeship from the beginning so these installments are like the creme de la creme I’ve been waiting for, leading to powerful, adult Emily and perhaps more insight into Void – one of my favorite mysterious characters in the series. Looking forward to where this all leads. 🙂

  3. Peter Sleet May 15, 2020 at 12:18 pm #

    As ever, leaves you wanting more. Well done Chris! A good opening laying out so many threads, whilst leaving us to pull on them to see where they might or could end up.

  4. Hanno Frerichs May 15, 2020 at 3:40 pm #

    The first prologue seems a bit odd to me any idea what that is about?

    Still overall I like were this is going.
    And look very much forward to reading it all.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 15, 2020 at 3:47 pm #

      I see the First Prologue as a reminder to the readers of Emily’s Oath to the Unseelie (fairies).

      Of course, it’s Emily’s dream and dreams can be confusing.

      • Hanno Frerichs May 15, 2020 at 7:41 pm #

        Ah well I guess it makes sense some people will likely have it forgotten after 19 books.

        Well it had a lot of time to be already planned for at the start of the series so I look forward to what this will bring.

  5. Dani May 15, 2020 at 3:53 pm #

    Emily’s promise was open-ended. If the faeries want her to confront three necromancers and challenge them to a game of checkers, she’s obligated.

  6. rhino May 15, 2020 at 4:52 pm #

    This is headed in a terrific direction. I buckled my seat belt for a journey of magic with someone who is, finally, growing up. I understand the potentials of the dreams, the coming invasion, and figured mirrors had to come back at some point. Evidently keeping an oath (Emily’s only oath) will be……. I hope there are many future episodes

  7. G May 15, 2020 at 6:37 pm #

    Wonderful! Emily’s apprenticeship with Void is becoming the best of the series! But I thought The Artful Apprentice ended roughly 6 months into her apprenticeship…shouldn’t more time, maybe another 6 months have elapsed since the end of the last book if Emily has grown further in power and skill–as this snippet implies? You need to move her further into the apprenticeship–say 1 year–for these scenes to really work…

  8. William Ameling May 16, 2020 at 2:20 am #

    OH BOY! Although no mention of Nanette.

  9. Hayden May 16, 2020 at 4:00 am #

    So I think we can all agree that Void is the mysterious cloaked member of the star council AND is Nannette’s master right?
    Here let me explain.

    In the “school of hard knocks” we saw void speaking with Emily while wearing a spooky robe that looks like it belongs to a proctor, their discussion concludes with him saying he has business to take care of. In the epilogue Aurelius is killed by a guy in a cloak who has been a member of the star council for seventy years saying that “turning the allied lands into something more viable to fight the necromancers would conflict with his plans”
    AND when he demands to know the cloaked figures identity he nearly faints in shock.
    This mysterious cloaked person also gave nanette a prosthetic arm and her new job (Wedding Hells)and gave her explicit orders not to harm a powerless Emily (Cursed)

    In book one the dragon who flies Emily to Whitehall warns her that her masters plan might “cost the world dearly” while the mage master being one of the only people who really knew Void described him as being something of a revolutionary, and in nineteen he said that things were going to change even without Emily.

    He might be the one who gave mother holly the tools to become a necromancer but I’m not sure, The book “malice” is apparently super rare and only two people knew where Emily and Barb were going (the Grandmaster and Void) while the mysterious figure was both male and knew about the new learning so I doubt an insane necromancer bothered to learn how the allied is counting and reading.

    As much as I love Void I totally think he is going to try to destroy the current order. and wind up as the series final villain.

    • Hayden May 16, 2020 at 4:03 am #

      Oh yeah lady barb also warns her that void collects other talented disaffected people like nanette and Simon

    • Bewildered May 16, 2020 at 4:50 am #

      If true then the question is why did Void take such an interest in Emily? That seems like a convoluted way to commit suicide.

      • Hayden May 16, 2020 at 5:01 am #

        At first I imagine she was something of a novelty
        “ a girl from another world? That’s pretty weird” that sort of thing. Then she killed Shadye. Then he started to take a real interest.

        Enter mother holly.

      • Ethir nandor May 16, 2020 at 8:05 am #

        Void made its his life’s purpose to defeat the necromancers – by any means necessary. (He probably lasted this long because he HAS a purpose).
        It makes total sense to me that he would train Emily.

        I am not so sure he is Cloak however. Nothing Cloak did countered the necromancers. Unless his sole purpose is to create conditions to challenge Emily. In that case he has been training her for 6 years now, and it would explain why Nannette was not allowed to kill her.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 16, 2020 at 4:00 pm #

        Obviously, Void or Cloak don’t want Emily dead.

        Emily might not like what he (or they) have planned.

        Remember, Void is very much into “The Ends Justify The Means”.

    • G May 16, 2020 at 8:07 am #

      I still think Chris has set this up so he can go either way on Void–hero or villain–we shall see. I also still hope Chris adds a book on Emily with demons and freeing Grandmaster Hasdrubal’s spirit (yes, I know he’s dead, but the demons have his soul)…perhaps Hasdrubal gets a message to Emily from the demonic plane telling her of the demon’s plans to open a portal to the unknown world and Emily has to outsmart them…

  10. William Ameling May 16, 2020 at 3:58 pm #

    I can see one possibility coming: Emily duplicates herself, and then has one of them turn into a Mimic to fight a Necromancer as she was shown in one of the demon’s visions of her future way back in Book 5 while she was at Mountaintop.

    • G May 17, 2020 at 5:05 am #

      The demon’s visions were possible futures, not certainties…One possible reason for Void to train both Emily and Nanette is that they are the most powerful and promising young sorcerers of their generation (Aurelious trained Nanette extremely well) and Void cares little for ethics, only power in his future successor(s)–he’s solely focused on magic and defeating the necromancers…

  11. William Ameling May 16, 2020 at 4:32 pm #

    I think that Silence, who waits on Emily in Void’s Tower and who accompanies Emily on her mission that ended up fighting the Dragon, IS Nanette’s current hidden identity. Void even told Emily not to read the minds of his servants that were serving her, i.e. Silence and Barley. Void also told Emily that he will be training and testing her to recognize attempts to control, influence, and spy on her, read her mind, etc. Silence/Nanette is one of those training tests for Emily. Nanette obviously hopes that Emily will fail (with some help from her), and Nanette will take her place as Void’s apprentice.

    Silence is playing a similar role to Nanette’s roles in Books 3 and 5, who was close to Emily in both Books.

    How did Nanette know about and find Simon so fast, only 2 days? Because she was Silence with Emily and knew what happened. Void even tells Emily at the end of the Book, that Silence had requested permission to visit her family to explain why she was not there, while she was off finding Simon.

    I think that Simon may end up becoming a Necromancer under Nanette’s guidance. Nanette becoming a Necromancer (after she decides that Void will favor Emily over Nanette) would be her best chance of killing Void, while inside his Tower or outside his Tower, although that may not happen in this Book, maybe in the next Book. I think that there is a Book titled Lone Power coming soon, and I doubt that Void is going to survive one way or another, with Emily inheriting his Tower. Possibly after killing Void herself (Emily), if no one else kills Void first.

    • Hayden May 17, 2020 at 1:24 am #

      Holy shit man I didn’t even think of Silent being Nanette. Good catch. Not sure if it’s true but it totally fits the pattern.

      • Hayden May 17, 2020 at 2:17 am #

        Remember Emily finding books on healing and advanced transfiguration open on a desk in voids library and assumes one of the maids can read and wants to be a magician?

      • w May 17, 2020 at 6:10 am #

        Silent also reacted strongly to seeing the Death Viper on Emily’s wrist while it was a Death Viper and not as a bracelet. She reacted so strongly because she remembers almost being killed by it and losing her hand and arm because of it. To me, that what was really confirmed that Silent is Nanette.

        I missed the idea that Emily found some books of magic that Silent or one of Void’s servants was studying in the library.

        What I wonder about is how she (or Void) is hiding Silent’s magic from Emily.

      • William Ameling May 17, 2020 at 6:17 am #

        Could Nanette or Void acting through Nanette, be who provided the death curse to King Randor? We know that Nanette met with Randor at least once, possibly multiple times.

    • William Ameling May 17, 2020 at 6:32 am #

      The only question in my mind is WHO kills Void? It might be the Necromancers in the Prologue, or Simon (doubtful), Nanette (maybe), or Emily when she finds out all the things Void did to her Friends and Zangaria.
      But Emily will be fighting more Necromancers one way or another (possibly Simon or Nanette).

      • Hanno Frerichs May 26, 2020 at 10:44 pm #

        It still sounds oddly convoluted, I can see no real way why void should do such a thing. Hate of the necromancers, maybe, a demon pact or fairy pact or an oath, also possible. else I see no real reason why he should manipulate Emily and her surroundings in such a convoluted way. Of course it might be a way to give her carefully crafted real challenges to overcome and grow her character to bring her to become a lone power if it really was all him pulling the strings, but then it seems like an odd way, to spend resources, like his time attention and concentration.

  12. yetanotherjoe May 16, 2020 at 5:15 pm #

    I certainly enjoyed your snippet Chris. Like others, I am happy to see a more grown up Emily. Personally I think pitting Emily against Void is a bit of stretch,to put it mildly. I thought the memory modification in the Artful Appreciate was a bit much. Of course, who besides you, can say that he does know but just didn’t say anything……. YET! That is why you are an author and I am not. 🙂

  13. William Ameling May 17, 2020 at 3:35 pm #

    What if Nanette knows or learns enough (possibly through her access to Void and by watching Emily) about Emily’s ideas to try what Emily is most afraid of, Make some batteries for magic energy and use them as part of Necromancy and (try to) avoid going mad from the use of Necromancy?

    That could make her powerful enough to defeat and kill Void, perhaps even inside his own Tower where she will then have access to all of his books and tools to use and learn from.

    That would make Nanette into the ultimate sane (not mad) Necromancer, and be Emily’s greatest enemy to face and win or die. Nanette (or Emily if she tried the same thing) could be become that world’s greatest (or one of their greatest) fear, a sane (or almost sane) Lone Power Necromancer.

    She (Nanette or Emily) might have enough power to destroy all of the old mad Necromancers. Which is what Void is working to accomplish, i.e. the end justifies the means, as we already know about Void. Void may not care as long as the person (Nanette or Emily) who does it, does not go mad from using Necromancy. So Void might even help and encourage Nanette to do this, if Emily will not do it when Void tries to get Emily to do it.

    Void might even think that this is necessary to defeat the great Fairie remmants wherever they are hiding on the Nameless World (probably on the 3rd unknown continent, unknown to present day humans, except Void) or on other places reachable through the void (Void got/choose that name for himself because of his studies of the interdimensional void. Void might even be right about the threat to the Nameless World. Emily might be Void’s extremely dangerous plan to defeat not just the Necromancers, but the great Faerie as well.

    Question, how will Void react when Emily tried to redeem her Oath to that group of Faerie whose help Emily got way back in Book 1? He might oppose this, possibly even enough to turn to Nanette to replace Emily (flawed by her oath to the any of the Faerie).

  14. Elkwood May 17, 2020 at 7:57 pm #

    I think that Void is trying to mold/shape M into a weapon. In doing so he is using Subtle magic ?? to guide her into being something she is not.

    I think the dream is the oath fighting against this effect. Do we know for a fact if Void knows about the oath ?

    The dream stuff seems to give hints that she is slowing forgetting some parts of her past. She is letting go of her personal relationships and being single minded in chasing power.

    Be interesting if Cloak is voids bio location twin.

    • Fleeced May 23, 2020 at 11:18 am #

      “Be interesting if Cloak is voids bio location twin.”

      Ah… now there’s a thought. A way of being Void without being Void. If he’d become separate and couldn’t be re-integrated, maybe?

      I still don’t think it’s him, though. My money is still on Master Wolfe.

      • William Ameling May 24, 2020 at 12:36 pm #

        I think that Master Wolfe was probably the Mimic defeated back in Book 3.

      • Fleeced May 31, 2020 at 1:44 am #

        William wrote: “I think that Master Wolfe was probably the Mimic defeated back in Book 3.”

        Oh, I don’t. I seem to recall something about spells being written in handwriting she recognise in the book about religious fanatics (Fists of Justice, book 12). I might have to re-read a few of the books, since my memory is cloudy (and possibly confused with other books).

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 31, 2020 at 1:53 am #

        IIRC Chris has said that the Mimic destroyed in Book 3 was not Master Wolfe.

  15. rachelreveley May 17, 2020 at 8:45 pm #

    I’ve been wondering since maybe 12 books ago whether Emily’s real father is somehow in the same world or if she might ever end up back in her old world somehow.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 17, 2020 at 9:05 pm #

      Chris has made it clear that Emily’s real Father isn’t going to be part of this series.

      He was definitely not from the Nameless World.

      As for Emily returning to her old world, Tum, te, tum, te, tum . . . . 😉

  16. SPINDOC May 18, 2020 at 10:10 am #

    Wonder how many extra kills Emily gets. All 3 necromancers or just 1 and send the others running?

    I would say with her new training in magic fundamentals, she can probably rip the oath to the fae out of her head without consequences. Knowing Emily, if it was to ask for help vs necromancers, she would go help no matter what.

  17. Dani May 18, 2020 at 3:59 pm #

    Splitting bodies isn’t safe. Maybe there are two Voids running around?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 18, 2020 at 4:30 pm #

      Somebody might create their “Evil Twin”. 😈

  18. William Ameling May 19, 2020 at 2:52 am #

    A very old idea of mine and others, Why did Void send Emily on an ride on DRAGON BACK for HOURS to get to Whitehall when he could have just teleported her there himself? All the way back at the beginning of Book 1.
    He used a favor that he had with a dragon to do this, and it was an old experienced dragon who could speak to humans. That favor had to be extremely rare and extremely hard to get. It would not have been expended lightly, just to take Emily to School, because Void was too busy to teleport her there himself. Then at the end of the trip the Dragon tells Emily that her Master was engaged in a very dangerous plan that might cost the world dearly. Dragons are extremely potent with magic, and they get stronger in magic with age.
    I have wondered about this every since Book 1. The only reasonable explanation I can come up with. is that the long exposure at close range (riding his back) for hours, did something to Emily, i.e. it strengthened her magic considerably.

    Also by the way, what ever happened to/with the bad/evil sorcerer/magician that Shadye used as tool to get Emily’s blood when she and Alassa where kidnapped at Dragonsden? Shadye used that blood to control Emily and break into Whitehall at the end of Book 1. Shadye died, but did that bad sorcerer die as well?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 19, 2020 at 3:04 am #

      I suspect that Void wanted to encourage talk about Emily being a “Child Of Destiny” for reasons still not known.

      As for that sorcerer, I thought he was part of the invasion force attacking Whitehall and was killed at that time.

      I’ll have to reread that book. Terrible that I have to do that. 😉

  19. William Ameling May 19, 2020 at 2:15 pm #

    That may be what Void wants Emily to believe about why he sent Emily on dragon back to the Whitehall School of Magic, that it was to make people believe the stories/rumors that Void was spreading that Emily was a “Child of Fate”.

    I think that there is more to it than that, i.e. something to help Emily gain magical strength faster and sooner, when as someone from another World with no connections to Magical Families of the Nameless World, she would have no knowledge of the dangers involved in such fast growth so early.

    That dragon favor was not expended for a light or small purpose. The question is what purposes.

    Void never knew or expected or valued (after she started) what Emily introduced to the Nameless World about ideas from Earth. He would only be concerned about her impact from a magical perspective.

    • G May 19, 2020 at 4:15 pm #

      Void sending Emily to Whitehall on a dragon drew attention to her, screamed her importance, gave her social status, and implied she was either Void’s daughter or under his protection–in a snobby, status obsessed society this helped her enormously…Back to Oathbreaker, Chris usually uses spells he introduces early in his books–if Emily uses the bilocate spell and splits herself, and one Emily dramatically boosts her power and the other doesn’t, how can she re-integrate two Emily’s with different memories, power levels, etc.??

      • Hayden May 19, 2020 at 6:46 pm #

        Pretty sure she is going to feed her clone to a mimic then point it at one of the necromancers.

        A guy pointed that out earlier in this thread.

        He made mother holly to give her an opportunity to kill another necromancer thus creating one hell of a reputation that he could then use to terrify the necromancers.
        (nobody knew how the news of her killing the necromancer got out before they even got back to Whitehall.)
        This bought the allied lands years of peace that they used to rebuild and prepare.
        (I’m pretty sure that void could handle a brand new necromancer)

        She was growing more ties to zangaria so he sent nanette to drive a wedge between her and the the king. His best case would probably have been Alassa and imaqiah dying at the wedding and in so doing killing her ties to a mundane power. He was satisfied with her nearly killing randor and getting exiled.
        THEN he shows up at her house to tell her how proud of her he is about her abandoning the country.
        Void does not see Emily as a daughter, hedoes not wear that fourth ring and he has likely rid himself of the ability to form those types of connections but he definitely plays off emily’s need to belong.

        We know void does not want Emily dead, if he wanted her dead she would be dead. If he wanted her secrets/inventiveness/super scary he could compel her very easily and have everything she knows. if he wanted an ultra loyal subordinate he could have had that by playing into the father figure thing. I think he wants her to be a lot like him, in 19 we see him push her into a really shitty situation expecting her to kill an innocent little girl. He is shaping her into whatever the heck he is.

        Also I saw someone saying that Emily is voids ”sole purpose” which is silly. He only spent maybe a few minutes in conversation with her every year or so.

      • Hayden May 19, 2020 at 6:50 pm #

        I meant to “say super scary spells”

      • Hayden May 19, 2020 at 6:57 pm #

        Void keeps using words and phrases such as
        “People like us” and “we” in reference to just her and void. He also talks about her “true purpose” so he clearly has something in mind for her.

  20. Phoenix May 20, 2020 at 8:03 am #

    Here another thought who is the one power ( in labor of love ) because when he was talking to Emily he said he knew void but void told Emily that after he graduated white hall he changed his name so how would he know him if he changed his name?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 20, 2020 at 11:27 am #

      “Fatty” said that he knew Void “when we were young”.

      That could refer to knowing Void after the name-change. IE A man who is around a hundred years old would see men in their twenties as young.

      On the other hand, even in our world a person can “change his name” for other reasons than hiding from people who knew him before.

      One example is people joining a religious order will take a new name to reflect their new life.

      After the death of two of his brothers, the blinding of the third, and his own mental injures he may have changed his name to reflect his new life as a Lone Power.

      If he changed his name for that reason, there’s no reason for him to deny “who he was” to somebody who knew him before he changed his name.

      Oh, I’m seeing later chapters of this book over on Baen’s Bar and in Chapter Six Emily asks Void if he was the brother of the Late Grandmaster.

      Void acknowledges that he was the half-brother of the Late Grandmaster.

      • Hayden May 21, 2020 at 1:02 am #

        What the heck is baens bar? It has content from oathkeeper? Link?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 21, 2020 at 2:04 am #

        Baen’s Bar is a forum originally set up by Jim Baen of Baen Books for discussions of SF/F and what ever else the patrons (called Barflies) want to talk about.

        One of the conferences is called “Baen Slush Pile” where Barflies (and anybody else) can post parts of stories that they want feed-back for.

        In spite of the name, this isn’t the Baen Books Slush Pile and Chris posts all of his books/stories there for feed back.

        Oh, comments about the books/stories in “Baen Slush Pile” are made in the appropriately named “Baen Slush Comments”.

        The link for Baen’s Bar is

        You will have to register to access Baen’s Bar but you won’t get Spam by registering.

        Check out the “Welcome To The Bar” conference (which is the only conference you’ll see before registering) and after registering check out the “FAQs Conference”. 😀

      • Michael May 23, 2020 at 9:22 am #

        Saw that. The brotherly connections, not the forum. It was a really cool “oh shit” Moment. I’m guessing Void doesn’t know Hasdrubal told Emily their story, and therefore wouldn’t know the painting would give him away.

        Also, I see the connection of the unmasked master to void as well. Or at least the possibility. Chris could go a different direction as well. That’s what we are all waiting to find out right? Does Void have Emily’s interests in consideration at all?

        Something ya’ll aren’t thinking about… Nanette doesn’t know who her master is. This would reveal himself to her quite clearly. Not sure he would do that.

        Guess we’ll find out.

        Thanks Chris for the entertainment.

  21. G May 20, 2020 at 5:30 pm #

    Could Void have taken two apprentices–Emily and Nanette–and knowing their history, has hidden it from Emily (but Nanette obviously knows)??

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 20, 2020 at 6:23 pm #

      Assuming that Void is Nanette’s “Unnamed Master”, then he has. 😉

      But that’s assuming that the “Unnamed Master” is teaching Nanette. 👿

      Going more serious, the “Unnamed Master” is using Nanette as an agent for reasons of his own but is likely also training her.

  22. Quillan May 21, 2020 at 12:53 pm #

    The danger of forgotten how she did things – and then losing the ability to improve upon her spells – was very real. And if she fell into that trap, she’d peak. She’d never get any better.

    Forgetting Thank you Chris for Everything

  23. William Ameling May 22, 2020 at 6:08 am #

    The question is how is Nanette if she is Silent and Void (who I assume knows this) keeping Emily from sensing her ability to do magic. That can not be easy, but if anyone knows a way to do it, it is Void. Remember Void once sent Lady Barb, who was his magical apprentice, on a mission to infiltrate someone he wanted to investigate, where Lady Barb got her scares from being whipped. They may have needed to hide Lady Barb’s ability to do magic when they did that.

    Also notice that Emily no longer has the spell that Void gave her to protect against anyone from forcing her to tell anything, as well as losing the rune that protected her against Subtle Magic (she had to cut the Rune into her own skin with help/advice from Lady Barb and a Teacher at the Whitehall School of Magic) that she got back in Book 4 or 5 before she went to Mountaintop.

  24. William Ameling May 22, 2020 at 6:26 am #

    He also told Emily that he was training and testing her against attempts to read her mind, influence her, and spy on her, and that he she had to expect him to test her on this. If Nanette is Silent, then she is also one of those forms of training and tests. Void may be testing Emily to see if Emily can recognize the threat from Silent/Nanette. If Emily is to be Void’s true apprentice and heir, she has to recognize this about Silent/Nanette. Meanwhile it can also be a form of testing of training and testing on Nanette as well, as another servant as a spy and agent and probably an apprentice of Void. They may be each other’s ultimate test as Void’s two competing apprentices, with only one of them to be the “true and final” apprentice, and heir to Void, and his TOWER.

  25. William Ameling May 22, 2020 at 7:07 am #

    Remember at the end of Book 8, that normally the Grand Master’s surviving (half) brother should have been in charge of his funeral, but was not, instead Mistress (and Teacher/Professor/assistant head of the School) Irene was in charge of the funeral. Emily wondered a little about this at the time. Obviously Void did not want to reveal, or acknowledge, to those who did not already know, that he was the half brother of the Grand Master. But he was still present at the funeral. At least some people knew that Void and the Grand Master knew each other well and worked together, even if they did not know they were half brothers. While all four of them were students at Whitehall, this was probably not concealed. But after their graduation, several years passed, then they attempted the spell (involving a Demon) that caused the deaths of two of them, the loss of Hasdrubal’s eyes, and the mental injuries to the last brother, then Void changed his name at some point.

    We do not know if this (what ever killed and injured them) was before, during, or after Void’s apprenticeship to the old Master of the Tower (if it was several years then it was probably after completely Void’s apprenticeship), or Hasdrubal’s becoming the Charm’s master at Whitehall (probably before this). We do not know (yet, if ever) the exact amount of time and the relative timelines and story lines involved here.

    An interesting question, did the 4 half brothers take and complete apprenticeships to Masters in different forms of magic (probably)?

    • G May 23, 2020 at 2:39 am #

      I believe Trial by Fire stated that the brothers cast the demon summoning spell shortly after graduating Whitehall–but what mental injuries did Void incur?? I’m coming to believe Emily’s servant likely is Nanette–but how did Void think this was going to end anything but badly? He’s gone to a great deal of trouble to develop Emily–why would he place Emily’s worst enemy as her servant, knowing it might rupture his relationship with her permanently? If Chris writes the story this way, would this really make sense??

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 23, 2020 at 2:56 am #

        The Grandmaster said “The fourth was left with scars on his soul.”

        I suspect that meant his inability to connect with other people and perhaps refers to his “do want it takes no matter what harm is done to others” attitude.

        As for what Void is planning concerning Emily and why he might have put Nanette close to Emily, what little I know I can’t say.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 23, 2020 at 2:58 am #

        Remember “Fatty” saying that “Void has a void in his soul”? I suspect that was part of what happened to him.

      • Fleeced May 23, 2020 at 11:33 am #

        “Void has a void in his soul”

        I don’t recall that, but that also fits with some form of bilocation damage suggested above. A split personality, so to speak.

      • Callum G May 23, 2020 at 3:06 pm #

        I’ve always liked the idea that he chose the name Void, because there is a part of his soul missing. And I imagine the soul of a extremely powerful sorcerer doesn’t just “dissolve”. Mayhaps it starts to see itself as a different entity, with its own goals and motivations.

        I’m also still skeptical that Silent is Nanette based on this assumption. If I assume that all this Cloak = Void stuff is a misdirect then it’s very easy to assume that Silent = Nanette is too.

        Of course, I look forward to being made to look like an idiot!

      • Callum G May 23, 2020 at 3:28 pm #

        Oh also forgot to mention that Zugzwang, the name of the area (or town, cant remember) may also support that there is another powerful Sorcerer/Enemy.

        Though the term Zugzwang doesn’t necessarily mean anything more then he who goes first gets it worse, I think more people understand it in the context of chess and extremely complicated endgames.

        Two master players, each playing an extremely sophisticated game just doesn’t fit with my image of Necromancers. They don’t seem capable of anything more complex than “Big army, much power”. Leads me to believe there must be another “player”

        Chris has used names to give hints before, Dua Kepala (Two Heads) being the obvious one. So I have to believe choosing the name Zugzwang was for a purpose.

        Then again, that purpose may of been “I need a cool name for this place” 🙂

        And yes, I love going on rampart speculation on as little information as possible!

      • Fleeced May 24, 2020 at 2:44 am #

        “Oh also forgot to mention that Zugzwang…”

        I didn’t even pick up on the meaning of that word: “a situation in which the obligation to make a move in one’s turn is a serious, often decisive, disadvantage.”

        It could just be a reference to Emily’s Oath obligation.

        “And yes, I love going on rampart speculation on as little information as possible!”

        Likewise. As much as I like binge watching shows on Netflix, I fondly remember the days of Babylon 5 where we eagerly discussed and speculated on the unfolding story on usenet. It’s all part of the fun of well-crafted sf.

  26. Billy May 22, 2020 at 9:37 pm #

    When is it coming out ?

  27. Michael May 23, 2020 at 9:29 am #

    You are all assuming Silent is Nanette if Void really is the unnamed master. I don’t remember her name but I see her being the one with the attitude, the one Emily performed magic on.

  28. Fleeced May 23, 2020 at 11:34 am #

    Loved the snippet. Can’t wait. (And yet, I have no choice but to wait).

  29. William Ameling May 24, 2020 at 12:26 pm #

    Here is an obvious connection that we have ALL missed (mentioning), and shouldn’t have missed, remember Dua Kepala (he is even mentioned in the Prologue to this Book)? He used a bilocation spell to create a 2nd body and spread his mind over the two bodies as a way to try to maintain his sanity while doing Necromancy. He retained some of his sanity and lasted longer as a Necromancer than most of them do. Where did Dua Kepala LEARN that spell? Unless he developed it himself, apparently it is a very high level.

    Now guess what, we find Void teaching the same spell (or something very similar) to Emily!!!!

    Why not try to develop an improved version to spread the mind over more than two bodies?

    Was Dua Kepala an apprentice of Void, or one of the other Lone Powers (or any of the powerful magicians who know of the spell), who learned the bilocation spell as an apprentice, and then actually tried it as a way to retain his sanity as a Necromancer? It is a logical idea for one (or more) such apprentice(s) to try doing it, hoping/expecting that it would work. It is possible that Lady Barb and Sergeant Miles already knew about the bilocation spell, before Emily told them while explaining what happened after Dua Kepala was defeated.

    We certainly know nothing about Dua Kepala’s history before becoming a Necromancer. There is a good chance that Void and/or other Lone Powers do know more about the history of Dua Kepala, particularly if he had been an apprentice to one of them.

    Void had been a Lone Power for many decades (he is at least a century old), long before Dua Kepala became a Necromancer. He might even have an apprentice(s) who became (or tried to become) an Necromancer. I think that Void may have had to destroy/kill some of them. He certainly had a bad record with previous apprentices succeeding, that is why he sent Emily to the Whitehall School.

    Another thought, besides Emily or Nanette using batteries to store the power released during the sacrifice performed in Necromancy, what about VOID himself, trying to use it for Necromancy, after more testing and development of the batteries? We think/know that Emily is worried that ANYONE (and people who learn from them, etc.) who learns about batteries may misuse them, particularly to perform Necromancy. Void might use Emily or Nanette to try the idea first. Nanette (or Void through Nanette) may use Simon to try the idea as well. Which creates a Necromancer for Emily to have to fight and defeat. That could lead to Emily finding out more about Nanette’s and/or Void’s activities (and misuse of her battery idea).

    For that matter, where do Demons come from? Could a human magician, accidently or delibrately, turn him(her)self into a Demon? Possibly the Demons are trying to create more of themselves when they corrupt human magicians. Maybe something derived from or using Necromancy, can be used to make Demons.

    • G May 24, 2020 at 10:49 pm #

      Void was dismissive of Necromancers in one conversation with Emily saying [to paraphrase] they’ve lost the ability to do complex spells and are poor magicians…It would be fun for Chris to write a book with Emily confronting demons again though…possibly freeing the late Grandmaster’s soul as well…

  30. William Ameling May 24, 2020 at 12:30 pm #

    While it is certainly possible that Nanette is not Silent, she is the only visible candidate in the story line that we have.

  31. William Ameling May 24, 2020 at 12:32 pm #

    Chris should gave given us an additional candidate for Nanette, so we could argue over which one she was

    • Hayden May 24, 2020 at 4:14 pm #

      Void totally had one apprentice become a necromancer, he talks about it when listing how all his apprentices died.

    • Michael May 24, 2020 at 6:47 pm #

      Artful Apprentice Chapter five, her name is Barley. She was oddly not afraid of the magic performed on her and she looked at Emily directly.

  32. William Ameling May 24, 2020 at 10:44 pm #

    Perhaps it is Barley, but she would not have know about what happened with Emily on her mission, or anything about Simon and finding him. While Void tells Emily that Silent had requested permission to visit her family and therefore was gone from the Tower exactly during the time frame than Nanette was seeking and finding Simon. While Barley has stayed in the Tower and will be looking after Emily’s needs for a couple of days while Silent was out of the Tower. Plus remember Silent’s strong reaction to seeing the Death Viper on Emily’s wrist as the Death Viper and not the usual bracelet.

    Why not much of a reaction to my idea about Dua Kepala? He might not have been Void’s apprentice, but I think he may well have been an apprentice to someone like one of the other Lone Powers.

  33. William Ameling May 25, 2020 at 1:17 am #

    I think that Emily has already figured out how to turn herself into a Mimic, or is close to figuring it out. So creating a bilocation duplicate and then turning one of them into a Mimic certainly could fit one of the Demon’s prophecies about Emily’s future, i.e. the one where Emily is facing a necromancer and turns into a Mimic to attack it. Of course a Mimic that has just eaten a Necromancer and absorbed all of his memories, might actually be just as bad or worse a threat as the original Necromancer, unless the original (non transformed) version of Emily can kill it off fast or turn off the bilocation spell (but by that point it might not work) on a Necromancer+Mimic version herself.

    A Necromancer Mimic might be able to use Necromancy to get the energy needed to sustain itself without having to absorb/copy and lose all of the old Neromancer’s memories/identity. Particularly, if it retained some of the old Emily’s memories.

    • Jacob Shaw May 26, 2020 at 10:02 am #

      The mimic is a spell not a person. In book 10, they said that you could place your consciousness if you needed to. But the basic spell for a mimic has it seek out and absorb magic.

      • Michael May 27, 2020 at 7:07 am #

        Who is they? The only person we get info from, in fact the expert in the field as it were is Emily herself.

        But yes, the mimic replicates itself from a “being” using soul and illusion magics to copy the host completely, so Emily could use it on herself.

        Also, I don’t think Wolfe programmed the original mimic to hunt for another victim in the spell. He thought he was going to live forever. So “the basic spell for a mimic has it seek out and absorb magic” is not true.

    • Michael May 27, 2020 at 6:58 am #

      William, there are some assumptions in your theory. The unnamed master can have intel into various things, Nanette finding Simon quickly doesn’t need her to be on the ground in the role as Silent.

      Also, I don’t recall Barley having to take care of Emily when she got back. If Void is the master, then he could just send her along quite easily.

      Also, her reaction to the death viper could just be a reaction to a DEATH VIPER. So could be reading into it.

      Like all of you, I see the possible connections to the unnamed master and void, and thus Nanette being there “undercover” during her apprenticeship. It just seems too obvious. I wouldn’t be surprised but I suspect it is someone else. Two points on this, I don’t think Aurelius would be that shocked if void was cowl. And also, Nanette was told quite explicitly not to unravel the teleport spell. The unnamed master does not like being known. There isn’t a single of his underlings who know his/her identity; not even the raven guy from the second book. So Nanette being in that tower playing Emily’s servant would be giving his identity away.

      About the bilocation: your thoughts could be true, but given all the books on bilocation in Dua Kepala sleeping quarters, I think this provides the explanation; possibly. Maybe he was a former apprentice. We just don’t know at this point. Fun to speculate though.

      Oh, and given that the mimic spell is a spell, Emily doesn’t need to be consumed. She can alter the components of the spell to take on her form while not replacing her; copy her soul and illusion rather that replacement. And on that note, she could build the spell components to fragment after and injuction of power, or even a spoken word from Emily. It’s code. It could be altered infinite ways.

  34. William Ameling May 27, 2020 at 11:24 pm #

    But can Emily turn herself back into a human after becoming a Mimic to defeat a Necromancer? Possibly if she made the preparations to do it before becoming the Mimic as part of the spell that creates the Mimic.

    The question is after Mimic/Emily defeats a Necromancer, which in the old, original version of the Mimic spell then considers itself to be the Necromancer, does the Mimic still have all of her Emily memories and still consider herself Emily, rather than the Necromancer?

    The other question is related, if a bilocation version of Emily becomes the Mimic that defeats the Necromancer by absorbing/eating it, what happens NEXT? Does it continue on as a Necromancer Mimic, or does Emily somehow absorb the Mimic version of herself back into one person who is a human, and not a Mimic? Will she have some/most/all of the Necromancer’s memories if she can do this?

    The alternative is that human Emily has to fight Mimic/Emily/Necromancer. Hopefully Emily will have enough power to use the dispersion spell and break the spell that is a Mimic. Remember that even several really good Magicians: the Grand Master, Lady Barb, and Sergeant Miles had trouble dispersing the Mimic, until finally the Grand Master was barely able to do it.

    • Michael May 30, 2020 at 4:41 am #

      While using a staff. I remember. Because the mimic spell heals itself.

      Demons are tricky. Just because it was shown that emily breaks down into multicolored lights and drifts towards the necromancer, doesn’t mean it was emily (And not a new spell creation from Emily that uses her form as the illusion). Although all your questions got me really excited to find out the answer.

      My hang up with one of her bilocation twins breaking down into a mimic, and all the what ifs that come from that, is knowing what happens to a person with one of the twins dies (which is basically what happens with a mimic). The remaining goes insane.

      It would be really cool if things played out how ya’ll are theorizing, and because it was a bilocation twin, and she is somehow able to recover that half, she gains new insights into magic and the mimic spell because of it.

      I reread your comment again about Emily being able to defeat the mimic/necromancer and if she would be able to do it. I really think Emily tweaks the mimic spell that allows her to defeat it.

  35. Erin May 30, 2020 at 9:23 pm #

    Did anyone else on this thread catch the hints of Void’s identity? He mentions that he is the last of his family and that the last of his family recently passed. I am guessing Void is the the grandmaster’s brother. I went back to book 5 because Emily makes some bad assumptions when he attends the grandmaster’s funeral. She assumes he’s there for her, but he’s there for his brother. He knows where the house is that was given to her and can access the wards. He hands her blood which could either be his or the grandmaster’s. He even states he’s been there “once or twice” and that “he always cared too much. That was his problem”. He can teleport into Whitehall (assuming only the grandmaster or his bloodline can do so). He sent her to his brother once he discovered she had magic, one because he would be able to develop her magic or because he would actually care for her development unlike Void himself.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 30, 2020 at 10:19 pm #

      It has been confirmed later in this book. Emily finally asked Void and Void confirmed it.

      • Fleeced May 31, 2020 at 1:36 am #

        I do not recall seeing that anywhere. When you say “this book” are you referring to Apprentice, or a draft release of Oathkeeper.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 31, 2020 at 1:51 am #

        I’m seeing (on Baen’s Bar, Slush Pile Conference) additional chapters of Oathkeeper.

        Chris posts chapters there for feedback.

        You’ll have to register and log onto Baen’s Bar to see them but they are available.

      • Fleeced May 31, 2020 at 4:53 am #

        “I’m seeing (on Baen’s Bar, Slush Pile Conference) additional chapters of Oathkeeper… Chris posts chapters there for feedback.”

        Ah, OK… since Oathkeeper hasn’t been released yet, I’d consider that a spoiler (though in this instance, not much of one).

        Not really sure what the rules are for this forum, but I enjoy speculating with fellow fans, and it kind of takes the fun out of it if they have advanced knowledge.

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