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Void’s Tale

 

A Schooled In Magic Novella

 

Christopher G. Nuttall

 

http://www.chrishanger.net

http://chrishanger.wordpress.com/

http://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall

Cover By Tan Ho Sim

https://www.artstation.com/alientan

All Comments Welcome!

Cover Blurb

 

A hundred years before Emily, just after the fall of the Empire and the start of the Necromantic Wars, Void worked for the White Council as an agent of last resort, the sorcerer they called upon when no one else could complete the mission.  But this mission may make or break him.

Searching for a missing alchemist, Void is drawn into a deadly plot threatening the newborn Allied Lands, one that may send them plunging into ruin.  And, as he starts trying to unpick the plot, he is forced to confront a truth that will change his life forever ...

Author’s Note

 

The majority of this story takes place well before Schooled in Magic, but the section touching Emily is set between The Face of the Enemy and Child of Destiny.

Prologue

 

Emily dreams.

In the dreams, she stands on a vast ocean, dark waters shifting below her feet.  Strange lights and shapes move within the shadows, things she dares not look at too closely for fear they might look back.  High overhead, the sky is a nightmare of lights and things that burn, eyes belonging to creatures and intellects so far beyond hers that even taking note of their presence risks madness.  She is alone, yet the sense of vast powers moving and shifting around her permeates her mind.  Lightning-fast thoughts dance at the corner of her eyes, daring her to look.  The dream world is a very dangerous place for an unshielded mind.

“I thought we should talk.”  Void is behind and in front and beside her ... somehow, this is not surprising.  “Here, we cannot be overheard.”

Emily steps back, bracing herself.  Void looks ... old, his body bent under the weight of some vast burden.  Grey hair shrouds his face, hiding everything but his eyes.  It strikes her, suddenly, that this is how Void sees himself.  He may look young, in the real world, but he is old.  Emily knows it is just a matter of time before his magic can no longer keep him alive.

Her voice sounds weird, even to her.  “What is this place?”

“This is the dreamtime,” Void tells her.  For a moment, they are master and student again.  The warmth of his regard envelops her.  She likes it and hates it and wishes that certain things were not so.  “This is the place where minds, all minds, come to rest.”

He speaks the truth, Emily realises dully.

The ocean below her feet is the vast dreaming mind of humanity itself.  The things above her are linked to humanity and yet so far beyond it, there are no points in common.  She remembers some of the things she’d seen outside the fabric of reality, when she was thrown back in time or linked to the entity that had invaded Heart’s Eye; she shivers at the grim reminder of just how fragile reality truly is.  The longer she stays in the dreamtime, the harder it will be to return to normal consciousness.  Ice washes down her spine as the implications dawn on her.  She might never escape the dreamtime.

She faces him.  She turns to face him.  She doesn’t face him.  All are true in the dreamtime.

“You thought we should talk,” she says.  “Fine.  Talk.”

Void says nothing for a long moment.  She can see thoughts - shadowy ones - below the water, below his feet.  The surface ripples beneath him.  She thinks, suddenly, of just how much power he’s expending to bring her into the dreamtime.  She knows he will not hurt her, and yet ... she fears.  She looks away, up towards a black sun high overhead.  It seems to look back.  She dreads to imagine what it must be.

“You wanted to know why I was taking control,” Void says.  “And you didn’t like my answer.”

“No,” Emily says, warily.  She understands his point of view, she follows his reasoning, but she doesn’t agree it justifies everything he’s done.  “You have a point.  But your actions have made everything worse.”

“I didn’t account for you,” Void agrees.  A wash of affection follows his words.  “A person from a world beyond my ken ... no, I couldn’t account for you.”

He takes a step back.  “I can’t tell you anything more, directly,” he said.  “There are no words I can use.  But I can show you.  Here, in the dreamtime, you can see my memories.  You can walk beside me as I made the fateful choice, the decision to take power for myself and use it.  You can watch through my eyes and decide if you would have made the same decision - or not.”

Emily cocks an eyebrow, hiding her interest even though she knows it is futile.  “And afterwards?”

“And afterwards, you are free to go,” Void says.  She knows he is telling the truth.  “You have my word.”

“I see.”  Emily thinks, quickly.  She cannot stay in the dreamtime for long.  Her body will die, leaving her a ghost on the astral plane.  “I’ll take your word.”

Void smiles, and snaps his fingers.  The ocean seems to shift beneath her feet ...

... And his memories reach up and overwhelm her.

Chapter One

There is a place near Whitehall, far too close to the Dark City for comfort, where the grass will never grow again.

I stood on the edge of the clearing and peered across the scene.  Two of my brothers had died there, ten years ago; a third had seen something so terrible, the sight had permanently blinded him.  Even I hadn’t been unscarred, although I could never have put the feeling into words someone could understand.  It felt like a shadow of a scar on my soul.

The magical emanations burned at me.  The power we’d unleashed - for a few short seconds -

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