Snippet – Little Witches

29 Aug

I just had this going through my head … (Warning: Minor Oathkeeper spoilers.)

Prologue I

The White City felt … different.

Gordian, Grandmaster of Whitehall, felt a chill run down his spine as he walked down the road leading towards the Imperial Palace.  He’d grown up in the White City, learning to play the political game practically from the moment he could walk, but … everything was different now.  The nexus point – the reawakened nexus point – pulsed in the distance, a constraint frission of raw power that that both awed and terrified him.  The grand mansions, houses and apartment blocks that made up the core of the city felt washed out, once-impregnable wards melting like snow in the first days of spring.  Gordian shivered, helplessly, as he walked past a pair of open gates.  The city had been largely abandoned, it’s citizens choosing to decamp and abandon their property.  Gordian didn’t blame them.  It was impossible to escape the sensation that the city was suddenly very fragile, that the merest cough might send it tumbling into ruin.  The longer he stayed within the city, the more he feared the worst.

He forced himself to keep going, even as the tales he’d been told about the city’s distant past haunted his mind.  The White City had been the seat of the Emperors, the most powerful magicians in the known world.  They’d tamed the nexus point and build their palace amidst its flames.  And their successors had built over their works as shellfish might build their nests within a sunken boat, with no more awareness of what the Emperors had done than the shellfish might have of humanity.  Gordian had heard that some brave souls had ventured into the Imperial Palace, in hopes of laying claim to power beyond the dreams of magicians and necromancers.  They’d gone in.  None had returned.

The sense of looming disaster grew stronger as he reached the park and walked slowly down to the lake.  He had many happy memories of sailing toy boats in the waters, when he’d been a lad, but now strange lights were clearly visible under the waves.  The proud swans he’d fed were gone.  He’d been told the city had been deserted by its animal population, the day the nexus point had come back to life.  Even the zookeepers had been unable to keep their charges from making their escape.  Gordian wondered, sourly, if that made the animals smarter than their human counterparts.  The humans had only decamped when it became clear that their wards were steadily starting to fail.  And who knew what would happen when they died completely?

Master Lucknow was standing at the edge of the lake, staring into the glowing waters.  Gordian coughed, although he was sure the older sorcerer had sensed his presence the moment he’d entered the park.  He wasn’t sure why Master Lucknow had insisted on meeting in the park, within the deserted city, although he had to admit it would be effectively impossible for someone to spy on them.  The finest scryers in the Allied Lands had tried to peer into the city, in hopes of finding out what was going on.  They’d reported that it was like staring into the sun itself.

“Grandmaster.”  Master Lucknow turned to face him, his eyes shadowed and grim.  “Kalians is dead.”

Gordian felt a flicker of cold amusement.  “I remember a time when that would be considered good news.”

“It was how he died that interested me,” Master Lucknow said.  “Would you care to guess how it happened?”

Gordian said nothing for a long moment.  Kalians had been a necromancer, his territories on the very southern edge of the Blighted Lands.  He’d never been considered a serious threat.  He would have had to punch his way through at least two other necromancers before reaching the Craggy Mountains, if the march itself didn’t kill him and his slaves.  The Allied Lands had assumed Kalians would be picked off by one of his rivals, if he didn’t kill himself.  There hadn’t seemed any reason to be particularly worried about him,

“A bunch of young sorcerers teleported south,” Master Lucknow said.  “They took one of Lady Emily’s batteries” – the word was a curse – “with them.  They used a wardcracking spell to break the necromancer’s wards, allowing his own power to consume him.  And then they seized his lands.”

Gordian’s eyes narrowed as he realised where the conversation was going.  “They seized a nexus point.”

“Quite.”  Master Lucknow turned away.  “They have effectively declared independence from the White Council and the Allied Lands.  Given that they own and control a nexus point, wrinkling them out may take some time.”

“If it can be done at all,” Gordian said.  “The precedents are clear.  Whoever seizes a necromancer’s territory has an unchallengeable claim.”

“No,” Master Lucknow said.  “But their willingness to seize the territory and stake a claim bodes ill for the future.”

“They’re not the first,” Gordian said.  “Lord Cat seized control of Kuching Castle.  Jorlem is seriously considering digging its own way through the Craggy Mountains.  Dragora is thinking about sending ships to the southern coastline and establishing military colonies …”

Master Lucknow made an impatient sound.“That isn’t the point.”

Gordian met his eyes, evenly.  “A year ago, we were on the verge of defeat.  These are the problems of victory.”

“Yes, that’s true.”  Master Lucknow waved his hand, dismissively.  “But they are problems.”

He paced as he spoke, ticking off points on his fingers.  “The old conflicts between kingdoms have started to reignite.  There have been border skirmishes between seven or eight kingdoms as monarchs press their claims to disputed territory.  Cities have sought to secure their independence from neighbouring kingdoms.  At least a dozen Vesperian Crisis’s, perhaps more.  Magical and merchant families are even considering ways to make land grabs themselves, or – at the very least – secure their own independence from the rest of the world.  And, working in the shadows, revolutionary movements are threatening to overthrow their monarchs and create a new world.”

Gordian frowned.  “It’s that bad?”

“Yes.”  Master Lucknow made a face.  “And all of these problems can be traced back to one person.”

“Lady Emily,” Gordian said.

“Yes,” Master Lucknow said.  “We only tolerated her because the necromancers feared her.  And now the necromancers are gone.”

“Effectively gone,” Gordian pointed out.

“Effectively gone,” Master Lucknow echoed.  “A year ago, challenging a necromancer in his lair would have been suicide.  Now … it can be done.  We no longer … need … such a disruptive influence.”

His voice hardened.  “The batteries alone, Grandmaster, have changed the world.”

Gordian nodded.  There’d been no way to store magic long-term, not without a nexus point, until Emily had devised the batteries.  Gordian didn’t know how they worked, but it was just a matter of time until someone outside the charmed circle cracked the secret.  Knowing something was possible was half the battle.  And the batteries were, in many ways, the least of it.  The New Learning was spreading rapidly.  He’d heard the stories.  Gunpowder weapons that put the power to kill in the hands of untrained commoners, a written alphabet and printing presses that allowed commoners to write, read and print books, steam engines and railways that raised the promise of binding the Allied Lands closer together … he owed Emily much, he admitted sourly, but he couldn’t avoid admitting she was a disruptive influence.

She’s not a bad person, he conceded, privately.  But that only makes her more dangerous.

“And we are in no state to deal with the crisis,” Master Lucknow said.  He waved a hand towards the distant palace.  “The White Council has been scattered.  There’s no guarantee it will be able to reform, certainly not as anything effective.”

“As if it ever was,” Gordian said.

“It worked, well enough,” Master Lucknow said.  “It kept us from indulging in a self-destructive war.  But now the threat that bound us together is gone.  We no longer need her.”

“We owe her,” Gordian said.

“Gratitude is a luxury we cannot afford,” Master Lucknow said.  “She goes to Whitehall and turns the school upside down.  She does to Mountaintop and turns the school upside down, nearly destroying it in the process before giving the school to a person unsuited for the role.  She plays a major role in sparking a civil war within a powerful kingdom; she plays another role in heading off a civil war within another kingdom.  And she’s unpredictable.  What will she do next?”

His eyes hardened.  “She must be stopped.  Now.  Before it’s too late.”

Gordian let out a breath.  It wouldn’t be easy to stop a person who’d gone toe-to-toe with a small army of necromancers.  Emily might not know it – Gordian had often thought there was something odd about her, a strange lack of awareness of the world – but she had friends and allies who would start a full-scale war if she was harmed.  And, of course, her father could hardly be ignored.  Emily and Void were, perhaps, the two scariest people in the world.

He looked at his companion.  “What do you have in mind?”

“I have a plan,” Master Lucknow said.  “It will require your cooperation.”

Gordian hesitated, then committed himself.  “What do you want from me?”

Master Lucknow told him.

38 Responses to “Snippet – Little Witches”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 29, 2020 at 9:12 pm #

    Good Start!

  2. Kaesha August 29, 2020 at 9:22 pm #

    Was this supposed to be a part of a novella or part of the next book? It reminds me of a prologue to the next book. I like seeing Gordian’s point of view in this one off.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 29, 2020 at 9:49 pm #

      Prologue to next book. 😉

  3. benbailey12373 August 29, 2020 at 9:26 pm #

    Hmm. In Oathkeeper Master Lucknow told Emily she would be welcome to join them as equals once she completed her apprenticeship but now he’s saying we only tolerated her. Talk about bipolar

    • Jared August 29, 2020 at 9:31 pm #

      Keep your friends close!

    • Nick August 29, 2020 at 9:36 pm #

      I agree it seems to be a huge shift of loyalties

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 29, 2020 at 9:51 pm #

      I think that statement was made earlier in Oathkeeper but by the end of Oathkeeper he developed the idea that Emily is dangerous. 😉

  4. Jared August 29, 2020 at 9:29 pm #

    O ya!!!!! Let’s see Emily kick a**lol

  5. stephen August 29, 2020 at 11:17 pm #

    No good deed goes unpunished.

  6. Fahnir August 29, 2020 at 11:28 pm #

    I love the beginning of the book, but it has two major problems: 1.) Emily’s major innovations are already done–killing or neutralizing her changes nothing; 2.) If Lucknow/Gordian already know she has powerful major supporters who would go to war over her, why take the risk?? No upside/major downside. Eliminating Emily solves nothing for them. Now if Emily were to actively oppose them in something, that would be different…

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 30, 2020 at 12:05 am #

      IMO Both of your points are valid to a degree.

      However, for the first point there is a valid concern about what she might think of in the future that would cause additional problems. Sure, they can’t “undo” what she’s already done but they might prevent future innovations. (Note the “might” as what she’s done may generate more innovations after she’s gone.)

      On your second point, Lucknow may have a plan to neutral possible support for Emily. Of course, that plan might not work as well as he believes. 😈

      • Alejandro August 30, 2020 at 1:11 am #

        A lot of people, VIP people, believes that if you kill the inventor, the invention is forgotten by the public. And they believe too, that once it happens, the loyals to Emily will accept the “fait complit”. About Gordian, he KNOWS that Emily is resourcefull, so I believe he will be try to play double agent

      • Fahnir August 30, 2020 at 5:06 am #

        This sounds like a replay of Trial by Fire, where Emily was betrayed by a Master she trusted–Master Gray. This book should show how Emily’s character has developed since then by showing her figure out the trap before it closes and reverse it…catching and destroying her enemies. I hope it also shows her having matured and grown more ruthless…

  7. anotherwoodopple August 30, 2020 at 1:30 am #

    Love it! Sets the stage straight up. Emily now has to deal with the blow-back from her exploits. I wonder who will come to her aid and what the White council will ask of her (as well as the back room ‘problem solvers’)

  8. Daniel August 30, 2020 at 4:39 am #

    Keep in mind it says Gordian commited himself but we don’t get the internal for that one. I’m betting he ends up in her corner and is gonna act like he’s part of this plan but turns in the anti Emily people at the end

    • benbailey12373 August 30, 2020 at 2:14 pm #

      Yeah I don’t think Gordian is really anti-Emily. He couldn’t bring himself to kill before, then they had that moment when he realized he’d been completely wrong about her so I can’t see him going against her just for that reason. Also he’s very practical – he knows killing her won’t actually solve any of the problems but would definately create a whole lot of new ones so don’t think he’d go for it for that reason as well. Throw in the fact he thought to himself that Void and Emily are the two scariest people in the world – no way he then decides to go up against them, especially knowing it won’t solve anything!

      P.s sooooop happy there is another SIM book added!

  9. Kell August 30, 2020 at 10:00 am #

    I knew this was coming. No good deed goes unpunished. I had hooes Guardian won’t be stupid but….. I alsonwonder why no one has claimed whitehalls nexus point. I think Emily and her friends should make a new white council.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard August 30, 2020 at 3:06 pm #

      “Claimed Whitehall’s Nexus Point”?

      Do you mean the White City Nexus Point? 😉

    • Christian August 30, 2020 at 5:15 pm #

      They all died trying to claim the nexus point. Also this action of the White Council is known to Emily because the demon showed her them trying to seal her powers (what would maybe a way to escape war over it but wouldn’t eliminate any inventions she might come up with in the future). Also Void’s book includes the sealing spell so she could come up with countermeasures like she did in the Zangarian civil war against the net formation spell used by the White Council to capture stronger magicians. Also Emily has a special relationships with nexus points as seen in the fact that she didn’t die awakening the Nexus point. So her taming the White City Nexus Point and eliminating the old White Council would boost her powers if what Gordian told about the Emperors powers is correct and puts her in a optimal position to recreate the Empire. Empress Emily would be an ironic end to SIM.

  10. nextjobhelp August 30, 2020 at 11:14 pm #

    I don’t know how you pump out so many great books in parallel. This is a great start.

  11. Dan August 31, 2020 at 4:55 am #

    So the snakes and vultures take to sharpening their knives it’s as they say “no good deed goes unpunished”.

  12. James Jeffery August 31, 2020 at 9:04 am #

    Certainly builds up the tension. Looking forward to reading the book.

  13. Dani August 31, 2020 at 5:28 pm #

    Going after Void’s apprentice at this point seems dangerous, too late, unhelpful, and politically risky. This snippet represents a convenient way to set up a story, but it feels arbitrary. Wouldn’t it be in their better interests to ask/bribe Emily to fix or control the nexus on their behalf?

    • Fahnir September 12, 2020 at 4:37 am #

      Agree. Lucknow and Gordian going after Emily for what she MIGHT do in future seems stupid….

      • Jared September 12, 2020 at 9:53 am #

        Perhaps it would be prudent for them to stop and think. But these are men who are used to power and they see that power slipping away. They can’t see that it doesn’t matter their power is already gone. As one of the demons said to Emily no matter what you do a lot of people are going to die.

  14. Bill September 1, 2020 at 4:40 am #

    This is awesome! Wet my appetite! More! 😀

  15. Emily September 1, 2020 at 7:18 am #

    Poor emily! But this is yet more gripping stuff! Next chapter please 😉

  16. William Ameling September 1, 2020 at 6:11 pm #

    Here comes another of Emily’s visions from the Demon back in Book. Will Jan break with his Master, and help rescue Emily?

  17. Dale Switzer, DO September 1, 2020 at 10:05 pm #

    Gordian is confusing. He goes back and forth between realizing that killing Emily is a mistake and then starting yet another plan to cripple and kill her. I can’t see him falling for this a third time,

    And we still don’t have an identity for the hidden cloaked adversary(?)

    I love Christopher Nuttall’s work ethic. I hope he keeps it up. I am going back and reading all of his series.

    • chrishanger September 2, 2020 at 9:03 am #

      Gordian is caught between multiple different factions, all of which expect him to toe the party line


      • Dale Switzer September 3, 2020 at 4:59 pm #

        I see that Gordian is a politician, but you have created a character who is smarter (and more likeable) than a simple pool ball pinging around the table by other forces. He should at least marginally be on the side of the angels.

      • Jared September 3, 2020 at 8:49 pm #

        I see Gordian as an opportunist. He’s always been against Emily. He’s never taken direct action against Emily herself but he’s tried on several occasions to remove Emily from the school and to remove any power she had over him. Remember he’s a politician despite his magical power. And he must seem to be In control of the school even though Emily is capable of removing his access rights. With his position in the magical community and the political balance he must maintain he is limited in his ability to openly act/oppose her. I think he sees this as an opportunity to move against Emily and keep his hands clean.

      • chrishanger September 24, 2020 at 9:00 am #

        That’s pretty much true, with the added disadvantage he has excellent reasons for disliking/distrusting/resenting Emily,


  18. Guy Marc GAGNÉ September 4, 2020 at 10:20 pm #

    Regardless of the opportunistic inclinations of the protagonists, it is beyond obvious that her actions had elicited angst from the powers that be. The many allusions, in previous tomes, to the need to reign Emily in, by whatever means, are clear that it was but a matter of time before concerted/concrete action was undertaken on this front. As to the measures being contemplated – she has previously been subjected to a number of direct and subtle attacks up to and including the life threatening variety, so… A no holds bared assault seems somewhat unlikely as the perpetrators and their sponsors could/would conceivably face the reprobation of both Emily and her legion of supporters (aristocratic, magical as well as common folk). Her ideas having led to emancipating thought and rhetoric if nothing else; that would be an impetuous to lend credence to the half-hearted and accelerate defiance and cries for change.

  19. SnarkOrBoojum September 11, 2020 at 3:39 am #

    When we see the return of master Wolfe? In this book or in the book after it? It is obvious that history progression in Emily’s world was manipulated in order to slow it down. Emily went back a thousands years and practically nothing changed – the society still feudal. In our history also exists similair period when our civilization stuck in the shuckles of faith unable to move forward. No wonder we calling it dark ages. It was possible in our world, but in Emily’s world with institute of magic and magic’s adepts whose goal in life is research and development how a progress can be stopped? So there is some power behind the scene which opposed progression of the society. And what that power would be(or who exactly it is) and what they goal?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard September 11, 2020 at 4:21 am #

      A few thoughts on “progression of society” in the Nameless World.

      First, I got the idea that Lord Whitehall’s time was less advanced in many ways than the “modern” Nameless World. There were no mention of organized kingdoms in Lord Whitehall’s time (for example).

      Second, from what Chris has said Lord Whitehall’s time was the beginnings of the Fairie Wars. These Wars lead to both the formation and the destruction of the Empire. These periods would have periods of advancements in terms of organized society even after the breakup of the Empire.

      Third, in some ways supporting your idea of “a force opposing advancement” Emily reflects on the lack of historical knowledge of the past. It’s possible IMO that the Nameless World had periods of collapse where much historical knowledge was lost. Were they “natural” periods of collapse or did some force cause the collapses?

      Fourth, I think you need to realize that powerful people in most societies often dislike change. Just look at Imperial China. In Imperial China, the powerful bureaucrats disliked change and worked against any changes. It is very possible that the Roman Empire could have taken that path if it hadn’t fallen. We’ve already seen that plenty in the White Council dislike the changes Emily has made. It is very possible that members of the White Council discouraged earlier attempts of advancement.

      Oh, off topic from the Nameless World, but most modern historians don’t view the “Dark Ages” as that “Dark”. It contained plenty of advancements and growth. And the Church in Europe didn’t attempt to “hold things back” and really lacked the power to do so. For that matter, the Church preserved much knowledge from Roman times and Church Latin provided a common language for the educated class which enabled spread of new ideas. Of course, with the multiple secular powers there was nobody who could work against change. And then if one secular power tried to discourage change, they’d fall behind other secular powers that didn’t discourage change.

      • SnarkOrBoojum September 24, 2020 at 4:42 am #

        I am semi-agreed on most points(it is unproductive to argue about dark ages and what caused them, we will immideately start bikering about what dark and what white meaning) except kingdoms was definately exist in Whitehall’s times. Whitehall himself was mentioning members of royalty when he was puzzled by Emily’s appearance. Also, if i am not mistaken, it was mentioned that children with magic were usually subjests of destruction by mundanes, but Bernard say that “king has banned hunting of magicians”.
        Personally i was just fascinated with idea of master Wolf’s returning. It was hinted in “Fists of justice” that he may be still alive. How can this be when in the last scene of “Past tense” he died and become mimic? And if mimic somehow retain master Wolf’s persona where he was and what was he doing all those years?

  20. Jared December 23, 2020 at 8:56 am #

    I feel the need to share this. Lol I was board so I searched for little witches in the discovery section of the Kindle app. And I found the sample for the book which included chapters 2&3.

    Just thought I’d let you all know lol

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