Archive | March, 2022

OUT NOW – Her Majesty’s Warlord (Stuck in Magic II)

24 Mar

After being trapped in a very strange world, Elliot Richardson found his footing and led the forces of Damansara to victory, only to find himself under threat from jealous and resentful city fathers who thought he was on the verge of overthrowing their rule and taking their power for himself.  Isolated and alone, Elliot accepted an offer of employment from Princess Helen of Johor and finds himself travelling to the heart of her kingdom, to a city caught between the stagnant past, the hope of a better future and factions threatening to burn the world down rather than risk letting it be saved.

And, as Elliot goes to work, he finds himself threatened by powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to see him brought down.

Download a FREE SAMPLE, then purchase from Amazon HERE.  And read the afterword HERE. Or check out the first book HERE.

Snippet – The Infused Man (The Cunning Man (Schooled in Magic Spin-Off) 2)

14 Mar

Prologue I

Background: The following is a transcript of a speech given by Mistress Irene, Administrator of Heart’s Eye, shortly after the university was nearly destroyed by a combination of student misbehaviour and outside infiltration.  It was surprisingly well received, as the speech represents one of the very few times senior authority figures acknowledged their own mistakes, and their roles in creating crisis that brought them to the brink of disaster.


It is not easy to admit one’s mistakes.

I take no pleasure in looking back at the last few weeks and acknowledging my own role in turning the minor disturbances into a major problem, one that threatened to turn the university into battleground, if not a smoking crater.  The decisions I made seemed logical at the time, after carefully weighting up the issues as carefully as I could, but – in hindsight – I can see my own emotions, and my preconceptions, had their thumbs on the scale.  I allowed them to blur my thinking and lead me to make mistakes, mistakes that led to misjudgements that cannot easily be undone.

In hindsight, the problem is clear.  No one has ever tried to found a university before.  There is no pattern to follow, no past examples we could study so we could emulate their successes or seek to avoid their mistakes.  This should not have surprised us.  Whitehall, Mountaintop and even Laughter did not spring into existence as the schools of magic we knew and loved, but began as very simple institutions and evolved over time.   We were blinded by our own preconceptions of what an educational institute should be and, when we ran into trouble, we drew on our own experience instead of seeking new answers.  Those of us who are magicians assumed Heart’s Eye would follow the same pattern as the other schools of magic.

We were not the only ones.  Those of us who are craftsmen, tradesmen and other such workers assumed the university would follow an apprenticeship model, in which the master would train his students in his subject and encourage them to band together with other apprentices to share their experiences, exchange tips and – very quietly – pass on warnings about bad or downright abusive masters.  They believed apprentice gangs would rapidly congeal, eventually becoming the core of new craft guilds even though they were strongly discouraged from taking root at Heart’s Eye. 

These misconceptions caused a toxic mess that came very close to destroying the entire university.  The magical students, raised in a culture that encouraged teenagers to hex each other so they’d learn to defend themselves, started using magic on mundanes.  They saw non-magicians as inherently inferior, and refused to admit they might have anything to learn from them.  The mundane apprentices, raised in a culture that expected them to band together against their enemies, started ganging up on the magical students, finding ways to get around wards and protective charms and striking back at the magicians.  They saw magicians as snooty brats who’d lucked into vast power and refused to admit, too, that they might have something to learn from them.

We, your tutors and supervisors and administrators, made the same mistake.  We assumed we’d have to segregate magicians and mundanes.  We assumed we’d have to separate the two groups so completely there would be no contact between them.  We were even on the verge of separating Heart’s Eye and Heart’s Ease …

… And yet, if a young magician and a young mundane had not become friendly, we might have died well before we realised the depth of our mistakes.

This is not what Emily wanted.

It was her belief that progress, real progress, could be achieved by combining the insights of both magical and mundane students and using them to advance towards a better future.  She told us, only a year ago, that we needed to come up with new ideas, to test them through experiment and learn from our successes as well as our failures.  I will admit that I was sceptical, when I first heard her plans for the university.  It struck me as a waste of time at best, a disaster waiting to happen at worst.  And yet, she was right.  We have made more progress in many areas, from steam engines to magical potions and runic charms, in the last year than has been made over the last few decades.  I can no longer argue with the results of her plans.  We will change the world, if we do not destroy ourselves first.

Our failing – my failing – was that we didn’t clamp down on trouble before it was too late.  We were blinded, as I said; we were convinced we should allow the victims to retaliate rather than protect them.  That ends now.  We will not tolerate open hostility, sabotage and anything else done with bad intentions.  Those who transgress will be given a very clear warning, then expelled from the university if they refuse to shape up.  It is not an easy step for us to take, particularly now, but we have no choice.

These are not easy times for the Allied Lands.  The Necromantic War is over – and yet, it has unleashed chaos in its wake.  Old disputes and grudges, buried while we had to deal with the necromancers, are bursting back into life.  Some kingdoms are adapting well to the new realities, others are restive … perhaps even consumed by revolution.  Many of us want to take sides, want the university to take sides, despite our neutrality.  And yet, we must remain neutral.  Our role is to birth the future, not get dragged into faction fights.

We made mistakes.  We have chosen to learn from them.  And we will not make the same mistakes twice.  If you cannot behave yourself, if you cannot act like a civilised person in a civilised world, you will be expelled.

There will be no further warnings.

Prologue II

The king is dead, Prince Ephialtes of Tarsier thought.  Long live the king.

He stood in the Royal Crypt, staring down at his father’s body.  His father had been a good man, and normally Prince Ephialtes – King Ephialtes – would have had no qualms about leaving his father on the throne until he died a natural death.  It wasn’t as if his father had been abusive, or kept all the power firmly in his hands.  Prince Ephialtes had been a partner in ruling as soon as he’d come of age, with lands to rule and money to spend and the promise of a princess’s hand in marriage.  Ephialtes had known, when the time came, that he would step into his father’s shoes and rule the kingdom until he passed it down to his son.  It had all seemed so simple.  But then, everything had changed.

Ephialtes struggled, sometimes, to point to the exact moment he’d realised his father needed to be removed for the good of the kingdom.  The old man had done well, when the necromantic armies crossed the Desert of Death – somehow – and started an advance towards the capital.  He’d summoned help from the rest of the Allied Lands and it had arrived, spearheaded by Lady Emily herself.  And it had worked!  The necromancer hadn’t just been defeated, he’d been killed.  If matters had ended there, Ephialtes wouldn’t have had a single word of complaint.  But they hadn’t.  Lady Emily had reignited the nexus point at Heart’s Eye, declared the former school her personal property and announced plans to turn it into a university.  Ephialtes wasn’t clear on precisely what a university actually was, but it didn’t matter.  It had become clear, very quickly, that Heart’s Eye had become a centre for all kinds of subversive activity.  The university – and the growing town nearby – was a source of radical ideas, up to and including suggestions countries didn’t need aristocracies, or monarchies.  And the ideas had been spreading fast.  They were even taking root …

… And his father had done nothing!

Ephialtes understood, a little.  His father had had good reason to be grateful to Lady Emily.  She’d saved the kingdom.  And she had a truly terrifying reputation, although Ephialtes – who’d met her – suspected it had grown in the telling.  And … it didn’t matter.  The kingdom could turn a blind eye to some things, particularly given the long-standing agreements between the monarchy and the school of magic, but ignoring the waves of subversion spreading from the university was too much.  It was like trying to ignore a sword sweeping towards your neck, threatening to slice through your skin and separate your head from your body.  It could not be done.  The university had to be shut down and quickly, before it was too late.  Ephialtes had tried to convince his father, but the older man hadn’t listened.  He no longer seemed to care about the kingdom his son was going to inherit.

He was scared of Lady Emily, Ephialtes thought.  He didn’t want to provoke her anger.

His lips twisted into a snarl.  His father had been king of a vast and powerful realm, master of all he surveyed.  The idea of him genuflecting before a slip of a girl was … it was unthinkable.  How could he be so weak?  Lady Emily really had done most of the things the tales insisted she’d done – Ephialtes had spent a considerable amount of time and money, trying to separate fact from fiction – but she wasn’t all-powerful.  She could be beaten, if one wasn’t hypnotised by her power and reputation.  The kingdom could take steps – easily, with the resources under the king’s direct control – to protect itself.  And his father had refused to take even the first steps towards saving his kingdom for his son.  Ephialtes had wondered, as the first seeds of treachery grew in his heart, what sort of kingdom he’d be leaving for his son.  It wasn’t a comforting thought.

He’d been the crown prince.  He’d controlled the secret police.  He knew, all too well, how far the ideas were spreading.  Radical nonsense – peasants should have land rights, taxes should be fixed, laws should be written down, kings should be accountable to their people – were growing embedded, no matter how hard the secret police worked to suppress them.  He’d watched, helplessly, as radicals fled to Heart’s Eye; he’d ground his teeth in frustration as they kept spreading their lies, showing no shame at hiding under Lady Emily’s skirts.  It was an impossible situation.  He’d needed to do something and yet, as long as his father blocked him, there was nothing he could do. 

And then, he’d heard the news.  Lady Emily had been arrested by the White Council.

Ephialtes was an experienced power broker.  He knew most of the people who’d made the decision to arrest her.  He was sure they’d take steps to make sure she never saw the light of day again.  Arresting her was a dangerous gamble, one that would explode in their collective face if they didn’t make it stick.  He was certain they’d rush through a farce of a trial and execute her, before her friends and family could rally to her cause.  And not before time, either.  The uprising in Alluvia was a stark warning to all the monarchies.  Curb radicalism now, before it was too late, or see your kingdoms fall into chaos.

He’d acted, with a little help.  And he’d killed his father.

It was hard not to feel a  pang of guilt.  He’d sworn to serve his kingdom when he came of age, pledging himself to serve as prince and then rule as king, and the good of the kingdom demanded his father’s death.  And yet, his father was his father.  Ephialtes’s heart twisted as he looked at the body, hoping and praying his father would be treated kindly when he stood before the gods for judgement.  Ephialtes had done the right thing – or so he told himself – but he still felt guilty.  His father hadn’t been a bad man.  He’d just been a poor ruler.  And he’d been on the verge of losing everything.

I will fix it, father, Ephialtes told himself, as he turned and walked back to the private meeting room.  And I will raise a statue in your name when all is done.

The magician was waiting for him, his hands resting on his lap.  Ephialtes swallowed a flash of annoyance.  The magician should be on his feet, bowing before the king, even though – as a magician – he was de facto nobility.  He’d come well-recommended, and he’d lived up to his reputation, but … Ephialtes scowled, inwardly, as he nodded curtly and took his father’s chair.  His chair.  He wasn’t keen on engaging people he knew little about, even if they were deniable assets.  They could easily vanish and tell everything from a safe distance.  And who knew what would happen then?

He’d be hunted across the Allied Lands, Ephialtes thought.  But I’d still suffer the shame of patricide as well as regicide.

“It was well done,” he said, once the privacy wards were in place.  He was used to being careful.  He’d had little privacy as the crown prince and he’d have even less, now he was the king.  “I don’t believe anyone was suspicious.”

“Of course not, Your Majesty,” the magician said.  His voice was as bland as his face.  He was a man who could vanish in an empty room.  “There was no evidence for the court magicians to find.”

Ephialtes kept his face blank.  His father had loved to hunt.  It had been the one bit of freedom he’d had in his life, the one time he could escape the endless rites and rituals of the court and pretend he was a free-spirited man of leisure instead of a king, the ruler who was also the ruled.  And he’d suffered a tragic accident that was nothing of the sort, his horse tripping at precisely the right moment to throw its rider into a tree … Ephialtes shuddered, despite himself.  His father had deserved better.  Really, he had. 

“I trust you will keep your part of the bargain,” the magician stated.  It wasn’t a question.  “The window of opportunity is already closing.   We must act fast.”

“My forces are already being prepared,” Ephialtes said.  “But I must be crowned first.”

A flash of irritation crossed the magician’s face.  “Lady Emily may already be free,” he said, calmly.  “Her enemies were unable to execute her before her allies came to her aid.”

Ephialtes blanched.  “But that means …”

“I believe she is going to be occupied for the foreseeable future,” the magician told him, calmly.  “But you must act fast.  If you fail, your entire kingdom will pay the price.”

He stood.  “And please let me be the first one to congratulate you on your ascension,” he added.  There was a hint of mocking amusement in his tone.  “Congratulations, Your Majesty.”

Ephialtes shivered.

Chapter One

Adam felt … weird.

It was hard, so hard, to put the feeling into words.  His body felt … liquid, as if he’d drunk so much he could feel it sloshing around his insides.  His skin felt paper-thin; his body felt strong and yet weak … he honestly wasn’t sure, as he stared down at his hands, if he was imagining the feeling or if it was something real.  Flashes of heat washed through him, followed by waves of searing cold … he thought he saw, just for a second, lights pulsing beneath his skin, the radiance gone almost as soon as he looked at it.  The magic infused into his blood seemed to shimmer at the edge of his awareness, like something that would vanish the moment he turned to look at it.  It was hard to believe, at times, that there was anything there …

He closed his eyes, trying to gain a better sense of his own body.  He hadn’t known what would happen, when he’d thrown himself onto the clockwork device threatening to destabilise the nexus point and destroy the entire university.  He’d known it was possible to use blood as a storage medium for magic – he’d proved that himself, only a few short months ago – but the idea of infusing magic into blood within his bloodstream had seemed impossible.  He knew he was lucky to survive, yet … he wasn’t sure if he should be pleased or deeply worried.  It was galling to have magic and yet be completely incapable of using it.

A low hum echoed through the spellchamber as the last of the wards fell into place.  Adam opened his eyes.  Lilith stood at the edge of the circle, her green eyes watching him thoughtfully.  Adam smiled at her, despite his nervousness.  Their relationship was … odd.  They were boyfriend and girlfriend and yet, she was a magician and he was a mundane and their relationship was complicated.  It didn’t help, he admitted, that they’d spent a lot of time sharpening their claws on each other.  Lilith was smart and beautiful – the white coat she wore did nothing to hide either her red hair or her figure – but Adam couldn’t help wondering what she saw in him.  What could he offer, that someone born with actual magic couldn’t?

At least I tried to befriend her, when we first met, he thought.  The rest of the university treated her like a pariah because her father wanted to turn back the clock and chase the mundanes out.

“Adam,” Lilith said.  “Are you ready?”

“I think so.”  Adam felt a twinge of excitement, mingled with fear.  He’d only just gotten out of the infirmary.  He didn’t want to wind up back there in a hurry.  “Are you?”

Lilith nodded, curtly.  Adam wasn’t reassured.  Lilith had a sharp tongue and their new relationship had done nothing to change it.  The fact she wasn’t making a sarcastic remark was deeply worrying, even though they’d gone through the plans time and time again before reserving the spellchamber and isolating it from the rest of the university.  He knew what to do and yet they were heading into unexplored territory.  The whole experiment could easily blow up in their face.

“Do it,” she ordered.

Adam took a breath, gathering himself as he raised his hands.  He’d hoped, once, that he’d discover a talent for magic.  He’d clung to that hope even after he’d flunked the magic test time and time again, even working in an apothecary in a bid to be as close to his dream as possible.  And at Heart’s Eye, he’d made a breakthrough that he thought would change the world.  He’d proved mundanes had a place at the university and, perhaps more importantly, he’d won Lilith’s respect.

And you didn’t realise what Arnold was doing until it was far too late, his thoughts mocked him.  He still had nightmares about the final confrontation, when Arnold had threatened to take him as a slave – or worse.  Arnold had been a magician, hiding in plain sight, and Adam had missed the signs completely.  He was playing you all the way and you fell for it like a chump.

He let out the breath slowly, trying to centre his mind.  It wasn’t easy.  The entire world felt as though it was holding its breath.  Lady Emily had been arrested, Heart’s Eye had come within a heartbeat of being destroyed, King Vanunu of Tarsier had died in a hunting accident and … Adam had felt it, when he’d been allowed to get out of bed.  Everyone was waiting for something to happen.  The university rested on a knife edge.  It was hard to escape the feeling disaster was rushing towards them at terrifying speed.

Lilith cleared her throat.  “Get on with it.”

Adam smiled, then started moving his hands as he chanted the spell.  It was a very basic charm, one of the first taught to novice magicians.  Lilith had told him she’d felt the magic moving around her, shaped by her will.  Adam felt vaguely silly, as if he was doing a dance without music or partner.  His hands finished the motions and dropped to his lap.  A wave of disappointment washed over him.  The spell should have produced a light, hovering in front of him.  Instead, the air was empty.  He hadn’t really expected it to work, but …

“Try again,” Lilith said.  He thought he heard dismay in her voice.  If he was any judge, people were already talking about their relationship.  She’d probably already been teased for dating a powerless man.  It would be so much easier for her – and him – if he had power.  “This time, focus your mind.”

“I’m trying,” Adam said.  “It feels as though I’m trying to swim without water.”

He went through the motions again, chanting the words one by one.  His first master had humoured him, just a little, by drilling precision into him, insisting that everything had to be just right at all times.  Adam knew how to cut roots perfectly, how to pluck seeds from plants and grind them into power, how to measure weights so precisely there was no need to hastily adapt the potions recipe because something wasn’t quite right.  He knew better than to let even the slightest mistake get passed on, when his master might take it as an excuse to end the apprenticeship.  Adam had loved Master Pittwater like a father, but he knew – all too well – that the old man has thought he was indulging his apprentice.  Matt, Master Pittwater’s real apprentice, had pointed it out repeatedly.  And if Master Pittwater hadn’t sent Adam to Heart’s Eye …

“It doesn’t work,” he said, finally.  “I don’t even feel as if anything is happening.”

“And yet, you have a reserve of magic inside you,” Lilith said, as she cancelled the protective spells.  “You should be able to make some use of it.”

Adam nodded in agreement, although he feared it was impossible.  No one had been able to isolate the precise difference between a person with magic and a person without, but it was clear he was missing something.  His blood might be charged with magic, fully the equal of hers, yet … he couldn’t actually make use of it.  It bothered him to think all that power might be sloshing through his bloodstream, doing … what?  He didn’t know, but he’d heard all sorts of horror stories about people who walked into high magic areas and came out changed.  Was he becoming something else?  He wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

He stepped over the circle, feeling oddly desolate.  He’d thought he’d come to terms with his lack of magic, when he’d discovered how to use his blood to provide the power he needed to brew potions.  He could hardly deny he’d done something remarkable, when he’d changed the world.  He’d even given the mundanes the tools they needed to teach the magicians a lesson … he cursed inwardly, all too aware he’d also given Arnold the tools he needed to bring the university to the brink of destruction.  He wanted to think he’d been enchanted, that Arnold had twisted his thoughts until he could no longer tell the difference between right and wrong, but he knew better.  The wretched sorcerer hadn’t used any sort of compulsion and yet he’d still been able to manipulate Adam effortlessly.

“We could try something else,” Lilith said.  “What if we cut your hand and allowed the blood to pool in your palm, while you cast the spell?”

Adam frowned.  “Would that work for you?”

“I don’t know,” Lilith said.  She sounded doubtful.  “It wouldn’t be easy to cast the spell through the blood.”

“No,” Adam agreed.  “You’d be too used to casting the spells normally.”

He studied her thoughtfully, understanding the frustration she couldn’t quite hide.  Lilith was powerful, perhaps one of the most powerful students at the university, but she’d never been allowed to develop her powers.  Her father’s obsession with regaining Heart’s Eye, and turning it back into a magic school, had ensured she didn’t have the chance to win an apprenticeship more suited to her talents.  Arnold had tempted her with the promise of proper training and, even though Lilith professed to have no regrets, Adam knew she’d been tempted.  He wondered, not for the first time, if that was the one thing they had in common.  They both thought they’d been held down unfairly …

She could have left her father at any moment, he thought, tiredly.  And yet she chose to stay.

“There are other things we could try,” Lilith said.  “We should go to the lab, see if your blood can be used in spells …”

“You mean, like yours?”  Adam glanced at her notes.  “We already know mine can be used to store magic.”

“Yeah, but can you do it without taking the time to charge it?”  Lilith grinned as she picked up her notebooks and headed for the door.  “Coming?”

Adam followed her through the door and down a long series of corridors.  They were surprisingly empty, even though it was a weekend.  Someone had hung a pair of signs on the walls – FREE EMILY, JOIN THE MILITIA TODAY – and added their contact details underneath.  Someone else had added a set of notes about events in Heart’s Ease, ranging from plays and music performances to political speeches and rallies.  Adam hoped, now that Arnold was gone, the events would go ahead without incident.  In hindsight, Arnold had done a hell of a lot of damage.  He’d had magical and mundane students at each other’s throats, giving him all the cover he needed to make his bid for power.  And he’d come very close to destroying the entire university.

There was no sign of Master Landis as they entered the lab.  Lilith set up a cauldron and started to brew with practiced ease, while Adam carefully cut his palm and allowed droplets of blood to fall into a glass bowl.  It wasn’t easy to measure the droplets – he knew better than to guess, when magical blood was involved – but he did it.  Thankfully, it didn’t seem to matter how powerful the magician was, when it came to donating blood for potions.  There was no need to calculate his own power, then determine how much blood he actually needed.  It was curious …

“Ready,” Lilith said.

“Here.”  Adam passed her the bowl and watched her drip the blood into the mixture.  “If we …”

He broke off as light flared, the cauldron shaking as the magic transmuted the liquid into potion.  He gritted his teeth, fighting back a flare of bitter frustration and resentment.  There was no way he could have brewed that potion, even if he’d had rune-charged blood.  No wonder he’d been relegated to cutting, chopping and other preparations, while Lilith and Matt and the rest of their counterparts had done the exciting part.  And to think some of them were completely blasé about the wonders in the palm of their hands.

“It works, like mine,” Lilith said.  “Interesting.”

Adam nodded, passing her a rack of vials.  “Does it have the same effect?”

“It should,” Lilith said.  She filled the vials one by one, giving him time to wash the bowl and dispose of his blood.  “But I’ll run them past the master first.”

Her lips twisted, slightly.  Adam understood.  Master Landis wasn’t a bad master – Adam knew there were far worse masters out there, from the ones who exploited their apprentices to the ones who abused them – but he wasn’t what Lilith needed.  She needed someone better, someone who could push her right to the limits … he wondered, numbly, if she’d leave the university if she found someone more suitable.  And what would happen to them then?

He slipped into the backroom and put the kettle on, then found a pair of mugs.  “Kava?  Or something else?”

“Kava,” Lilith called.  “And biscuits.”

Adam smiled wryly as he filled the mugs with water, then picked up the tin of biscuits and placed them on a tray.  “Coming …”

He stepped back into the main room, just as the door opened.  Master Landis stepped into the room, nodding politely to his two apprentices.  He looked tired, after a long session with the staff council.  Adam guessed they’d been debating the situation – Emily’s arrest, the uprising in Alluvia, the king’s death in Tarsier – and trying to decide what, if anything, they could do about it.  There was no easy solution.  The neighbouring kingdom had grown increasingly hostile to the university even before the king had died in an accident.  Adam had heard theories – and he knew many students shared them – that the king had accidentally stabbed himself in the back repeatedly.  The claim it had been a hunting accident was just a little difficult to believe.

“Master,” Lilith said.  “How did it go?”

“Poorly.”  Master Landis sat, resting his hands on the table.  “Did your experiments bear fruit?”

Adam passed Master Landis his mug.  “We learnt I can’t cast spells myself,” he said, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice.  “And that my blood is a fair substitute for a magician’s blood, in a blood-based potion.”

“Which may be useful,” Master Landis said, sipping his drink.  “It is always risky to use one’s own blood in brewing, as it is hard to determine where your magic stops and the blood begins.”

“It was easier to brew using Adam’s blood,” Lilith said.  “But there was no real difference between using his and using yours.”

“You’ll need to do a little more research,” Master Landis said.  He looked up, meeting Adam’s eyes.  “The council and I discussed your case extensively.  It was their feeling it would be better if you were released from your apprenticeship, so you could continue your experiments without obligations to me.  You and your friends” – his eyes flickered to Lilith, then back again – “are entering unexplored territory.  It would be unwise to limit your development by forcing you to remain within the strictures of a formal apprenticeship.”

Adam said nothing for a long moment, torn between the awareness the council was probably right and the grim sense that he was being effectively dismissed.  His thoughts were a tangled mess.  He had some savings, from his allowance, but they wouldn’t last long, even if he stayed in the university.  And if he wanted another apprenticeship later on … it would look as though Master Landis had kicked him out.  No master would give him a fair hearing …

Lilith’s thoughts were clearly running along the same lines.  “Will the council give him a research grant?”

“Yes.”  Master Landis looked torn between surprise and amusement.  “Adam will be given a grant, which should fund his research.  He will also be given free bed and board in the dorms, at least for the next five years.  Should he make progress, I am sure the council will look kindly on making additional grants and suchlike.”

He smiled at Adam.  “I think this is for the best,” he said.  “It will certainly offer you a better chance of making a mark, than staying with me.”

Adam nodded, slowly.  “I’ll take the grant and do what I can.”

“Don’t spend it all at once,” Master Landis advised, mischievously.  “You may have to account for every crown you spend.”

Lilith cleared her throat.  “Master, I must request to be released from my apprenticeship too.”

“You must?”  Master Landis studied her for a long moment.  “Might I ask why?”

“First, I am not suited to a potions apprenticeship,” Lilith said.  Her voice was very calm, but Adam could tell she was nervous.  “Second, Adam will need help exploring his discoveries and figuring out how to turn his theories into practical magics.  I can assist him while applying for an apprenticeship more suited to my talents.”

Master Landis frowned.  “Your father will not be pleased.”

“I am old enough to make the decision for myself,” Lilith said, flatly.  “And” – she hesitated, noticeably – “I believe that is my problem.”

Unless Master Dagon makes it Master Landis’s problem too, Adam thought.  He called in a lot of favours to ensure Master Landis would take Lilith as an apprentice.

“And not mine.”  Master Landis smiled, rather dryly.  “You will discover, I should warn you, that your next master may not be as forgiving as I.”

“I know,” Lilith said.

“Very well.”  Master Landis finished his drink and placed the mug on the table.  “I’ll prepare the paperwork for your release.  If you change your mind in the next couple of days, let me know and I’ll destroy them.  If not … come back and we can sign the paperwork then, after we discuss what access you, both of you, will have to the lab.  It won’t be your workplace any longer.”

Adam nodded.  “Yes, Master.”

“You probably don’t have to call me master any longer,” Master Landis said.  He grinned, suddenly.  “I’m going to need a new apprentice, aren’t I?”

What Next?

12 Mar

Hi, everyone

My family and I are hoping to take a long holiday this year – we normally go to Malaysia to meet the family and soak up some sun, but obviously we haven’t been able to go for the last two years.  Malaysia is currently opening up again and we are hopeful of being able to go this summer.   Hopefully, I’ll be taking a 6-7 week break in July-Aug.  Hopefully. 

I’m hoping to cram as much work as possible into the period before then.  My current plan is to write The Infused Man next, followed by Frieda’s Tale (for Fantastic School Hols).  What do you want after that?  By my rough estimate,  I can do two more projects before I hit a hard deadline.  Right now, the choices are:

-The Prince’s Alliance (The Empire’s Corps)

-All for All – (Cast Adrift III, provisional title)

-The Alchemist’s Secret (The Zero Enigma)

I think I can do two of the three.

Or something else?  Endeavour is still being edited, so I’m reluctant to commit to writing Book II just yet as I need to know the final version of the first novel.  I do have a huge list of other ideas, but none of them have really gelled yet. 

Let me know!