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Past Tense
cover art © Brad Fraunfelter

 

 

Their past is not what they think it is...

Thrown back in time after the spells binding Whitehall School together nearly collapsed, Emily finds herself in the days of Lord Whitehall. But everything she knows about the past is a lie. The Whitehall Commune is in hiding from a great and terrible foe...
...And, deep beneath Old Whitehall, something dark and deadly is about to be born.   Book 10 in the Schooled in Magic series.

 

 

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Past Tense

fantasy

Christopher G. Nuttall

 

 

Prologue


They were doomed.

Lord Whitehall knew it, knew it with a sick certainty that could not be denied. The magic swirling around the small gathering of magicians would overwhelm their defenses soon enough, no matter how hard they struggled. The brilliant—and sickly—light burned into their minds, making it hard to think clearly. Their wards were cracking, on the verge of breaking, yet abandoning the work would spell instant death as the tidal wave of magic from the nexus point overwhelmed their defenses and crushed them like bugs. It would have been safer to stand in the path of a rushing river and demand it bow to their collective will.

Coming here had been a dreadful mistake, he knew now. The castle had seemed their only hope—it was far from civilization, far from anyone who might want to hunt their commune—but the nexus point beneath the castle was a wild thing. It could not be tamed; the merest touch had unleashed a surge of magic so strong that all of the masters, working together, had barely saved themselves from instant death. And yet they could not even break free to warn the rest of the commune to evacuate the castle. They—the masters and a handful of their most trusted apprentices—would only be the first to die.

His head started to pound as he thrust more and more magic into the wards, knowing it was futile. All he could hope to do was keep his people alive for a few more seconds, before the wild magic slammed into them. Those who lived would envy the dead, if the whispered rumors were true. The monsters they’d encountered as they hacked their way through the forest, towards the castle, might have been human once, before the wild magic transformed them. Now? They were just beasts.

I’m sorry, he thought.

He wasn’t sure who he was apologizing to. His teacher, the man whose secrets would now be lost; his fellow masters, who would die beside him; his apprentice, who would never become a master in his own right; his daughter, who would never have a husband or children of her own ... ? He’d failed them all. They were all going to die in the next few minutes, no matter what he did ...

The demon tricked us.

It was a bitter thought. He’d known for years—his master had hammered it into his skull, when he’d been a young man barely starting out as a magician—that demons were untrustworthy, but they’d been desperate. They’d known they were desperate. And so Lord and Master Alfred had summoned a demon and put the question to the entity, asking where they could go that was safe. The demon told them about the nexus point ...

... And sent them straight to their doom.

Power surged around him as the nexus point grew larger, wild magic spilling into the air and pressing against the wards. They couldn’t hold for more than a few seconds ... he heard someone screaming, but he couldn’t tell who it was. Perhaps it was himself, in the final seconds of his life, all dignity torn from him by the grim awareness that he’d led his people into a trap.

And then there was a flash of light and ... someone ... was kneeling in the middle of the circle, just in front of the nexus point.

There was no time to stare. The wave of magic—the final wave of magic—built up, slowly sliding forward as if it were guided by a mind that wanted the magicians to watch helplessly as their doom approached them. He pushed the last dregs of his power into the wards, knowing it would be futile ...

... And then the newcomer added his strength to the wards.

The wards changed, snapping into a new and complex configuration that was bizarre, yet perfect. Whitehall would’ve been astonished if he hadn’t been concentrating on holding the outer wards in place. It was working! Whatever the newcomer had done, it was working!

The wild magic flashed and flared inside the wards, but it couldn’t escape. A final shudder ran through the entire building, then the wild magic was gone. The blinding light vanished at the same moment, plunging the room into near-darkness. And the nexus point hung in the middle of the room, tiny and yet immensely large at the same time, tamed.

They’d tamed a nexus point!

He found it hard to keep from giggling inanely as he collapsed to the stone floor. For a long moment, all he could do was lie there and fight to keep himself awake. Everything around him blurred as fatigue threatened to overcome him. And then, drawing on his last strength, he pulled himself to his feet, grabbed a torch and stumbled towards the newcomer, heedless of the risk of stepping too close to the nexus. He ...

... No, she.

Whitehall stared. He’d traveled widely, first with his master and then with a string of apprentices, but he’d only heard wild rumors about witches. He’d certainly never met a real witch, just a handful of women who knew a couple of spells. And yet, the girl before him was clearly a full-fledged magician. Her power was faint, perhaps as drained as his own, but he perceived it as it surrounding her, infusing her body and giving her a strength she would not otherwise possess.

She blinked up at him, clearly half-blinded by the light. Her face was perfect, almost too perfect; there were no scars or blemishes, none of the marks carried by the girls and women waiting in the castle above. Her arms were muscular, but it was clear that she was not used to the backbreaking labor of a farmwife. And she was clean, as if someone had scrubbed away all the torments of womanhood and left behind nothing but purity. She was tall, almost as tall as he was; she was easily the tallest woman he’d seen outside royalty. Her long brown hair hung down to the small of her back, contrasting oddly with the shapeless grey garment she wore. He’d never seen anything like it ...

And he couldn’t even begin to guess at her age. But she looked young…perhaps too young.

He held up a hand, motioning for the others to stay back as the girl looked at him. He couldn’t help noticing that her eyes were soft, with none of the hardness that he was used to seeing in women. His own wife had lived a harsh life, even after she’d married a magician; she’d never dared reveal such ... vulnerability to anyone, not even him. The women upstairs, waiting to hear what the magicians had done, were hardly less harsh. Whitehall knew the world was an unkind place, but it was harder on women. And yet, the girl before him was different.

And she was a magician.

The girl seemed to steady herself. “Who ... who are you?”

Whitehall contemplated her for a long moment. Her words were understandable, but they were oddly accented. The common tongue was clearly not her first language, he decided; boys were normally taught the common tongue in childhood, while girls were rarely taught anything other than their mother tongue unless they were destined to marry a merchant or a magician. His wife had spoken three languages and considered herself accomplished, for the youngest daughter of a magician. She’d been a remarkable woman. And yet, she’d died in childbirth ...

I am Lord and Master Whitehall,” Whitehall said, gravely. He didn’t miss the expression of shock that passed across the girl’s face. This was not someone, he reasoned, who was used to concealing her feelings or minding what she said. Had she an indulgent father and no husband? Or perhaps she was powerful enough not to care about her words. “Who are you?”

He held out a hand to help the girl to her feet. It was dangerous, but his instincts insisted that the girl wasn’t a threat. She seemed oddly hesitant to take his hand—that, at least, was a normal reaction—but she eventually allowed him to help her up. Her legs were concealed within her garment, but Whitehall could tell she was tired and drained. Doing what she’d done—doing the impossible thing she’d done—had to have cost her dearly.

I ... I am Emily,” the girl managed. “I shouldn’t be here.”

Whitehall surprised himself by laughing. “Nor should we,” he said. “Nor should we.”

He snorted, then pushed his humor aside as he heard the others whisper behind him. Solving the mystery of just how the girl—Emily—had arrived in the castle was important, but he would be damned if he was going to rip her mind open to find out. They owed her their lives—and those of the men, women and children who had followed them to the castle.

We are in your debt,” he added, grandly. “And you are welcome here.”

 

 

Chapter One


I am Lord and Master Whitehall,” the man said, gravely. For a moment, Emily honestly thought the translation spell had glitched. “Who are you?”

Emily stared up at the speaker in absolute disbelief. She couldn’t have gone back in time, could she? It was impossible! Going forward in time was easy enough—she’d adjusted the flow of time within pocket dimensions to skip forward nearly an entire day—but going backwards in time was impossible. Or so she’d been told. Five years ago, she would have believed that turning someone into a frog was impossible, too!

Her head spun. “I ... I am Emily,” she said. She could feel the nexus point behind her, twisting in and out of her awareness as though both infinitely large and impossibly tiny. “I shouldn’t be here.”

She tried hard to think clearly as Whitehall helped her to her feet and welcomed her to the castle. Her head hurt as she considered the implications. If she was lost in time, she didn’t dare say or do anything that might alter the timeline for fear of accidentally altering the series of events that led up to her departure from Earth. But, at the same time, she’d already interfered—and, in doing so, protected the timeline. Everyone knew Lord Whitehall was the first man to tame a nexus point. No one had ever suggested that he might have had help from the future.

And if I’m meant to be here, she thought numbly, what else am I meant to do?

She looked at Whitehall, feeling oddly intimidated. She was in the presence of a legend, the man who would found Whitehall School and lay the groundwork for educating hundreds of thousands of young magicians. The men behind him, watching her with wary eyes, had to be part of the Whitehall Commune. She wondered, absently, if she knew their names, and if recorded history had been remotely accurate. There were so many gaps in the records that it was hard to know just who was truly significant and who had merely been shoehorned into reconstructions of past events because his writings had survived.

Whitehall himself looked nothing like his portraits. They’d depicted a grand old wizard, Emily recalled, but the man before her was clearly in his late forties rather than pushing into a second century. His face was a dark olive, his beard slowly shading to white as he grew older. His hair was cropped close to his skull; his eyes, darker than hers, seemed to bore into her very soul. She couldn’t help thinking of owls as she let go of his hand, trusting her legs to hold her upright. There was something about the way he moved that reminded her of an owl.

He wore no robes, she saw, as he turned to face his companions. Instead, he wore heavy trousers and a dark shirt, making him look more like a laborer than a magician. Runes and sigils were sewn into his shirt, almost all of them unknown to her. And yet, she recalled seeing a handful of them in the tunnels below Whitehall ... below old Whitehall. If she was truly back in the early days of the school, perhaps even before the school, the tunnel network might not have been constructed yet. She reached out to the familiar wards, but sensed no response. They didn’t exist either, not yet. The only thing she could sense was the constant presence of the nexus point.

She rubbed the snake-bracelet on her wrist, silently grateful that she’d kept it on when she prepared for bed. She wouldn’t be completely friendless ...

Master Baju-Merah is dead,” a voice said. “The strain killed him.”

Emily sucked in her breath as she saw the body. The man—the old man—had died badly, his face twisted in pain. A heart attack, perhaps, judging from the lack of physical wounds on his corpse. There was no way to know. Perhaps a strand of wild magic had escaped ... she shook her head, dismissing the thought. If the wards had cracked, even slightly, everyone in the chamber would be dead…or wishing they were.

She looked at the other magicians as they clustered around the body, glancing at her as they talked in low voices. There was no point in trying to match names to faces, not when the portraits were so wildly inaccurate. They looked ... odd, at least compared to the magicians she knew. A number looked surprisingly old, surprisingly dirty, for magicians; others looked physically young, but mentally old. She found herself staring at a young man who was looking at her, unable to be sure just how old he actually was. But then, she’d never been very good at guessing ages on the Nameless World. People without magic aged at terrifying speeds.

They’re all men, she thought, numbly. There isn’t a single woman amongst them.

The realization struck her with terrifying force. My God, she thought. I’m the Dark Lady.

Her legs buckled, threatening to send her crashing to the stone floor. The Dark Lady was a legend, a person who was only mentioned in a couple of sources ... a person who half the historians in the Nameless World believed to be nothing more than a myth. Her story had either been wildly exaggerated or written out altogether ... there was no way Emily and she could be the same person. And yet, it was impossible to convince herself that she wasn’t. It didn’t look as though there was any other role to play.

She closed her eyes for a long moment, trying to decide what to say when Whitehall finally demanded answers. He would demand answers too, she knew ... and she doubted the Sorcerer’s Rule held sway a thousand years ago. Or was it only seven hundred? The thought made her smile, despite the shock and growing fear for the future. She might be able to learn answers to questions that had vexed historians for the last thousand years.

I have to get back, she told herself. The past was fascinating, but she wanted to get back to her Whitehall—and Caleb. And everyone else she knew and loved. I can’t stay here forever.

Emily,” Whitehall said. She opened her eyes. He’d dismissed most of the magicians, leaving only himself and the young man in the chamber. “I need to ask you some questions.”

Emily nodded, sensing Whitehall’s exhaustion under his words. Up close, it was surprisingly easy to sense his magic. He didn’t seem to be masking his power at all. That was—would be—considered incredibly rude in the future, a bare-faced attempt to intimidate her, but his body language didn’t suggest anything of the sort. He certainly wasn’t trying to lean into her personal space. Perhaps he was just too tired to keep his magic under control. There was certainly something ... discordant ... about it. Behind him, it was impossible to sense the young man’s magic at all.

This is quite a hard place to reach,” Whitehall said. “How did you get here?”

The young man leaned forward. “And how did you appear in the chamber?”

Bernard,” Whitehall said, reprovingly. “One question at a time.”

Emily felt her mouth drop open. The young man before her was Bernard De Born? The man who would be the first true Grandmaster? The man who would write a history of Whitehall and dozens of other books that had been lost over the years? It was impossible to reconcile the image of the older man with the younger one in front of her.

She forced herself to focus on choosing her words. There was no way she could tell Whitehall the truth, even if she swore him—both of them—to silence. And yet, the more lies she told, the greater the chance of being caught out. Whitehall wouldn’t trust her—at all—if he caught her in a lie. She would be surprised if he wasn’t already concerned—and suspicious—about her appearance. She’d arrived right at the moment of their greatest need.

My tutor and I made our way here,” she said, finally. “He had a theory about ...”

He?” Whitehall repeated. “He?”

Emily cursed under her breath. She had the nasty feeling she’d just put her foot in it. But there was no going back now.

He had a theory about taking control of a nexus point,” she said. “He’d worked out a complex set of spells he believed would be sufficient to take control. But it wasn’t enough to save his life. There was a flash of light and I saw him die, a moment before you arrived.”

Bernard’s eyes narrowed. “There was no one in the chamber when we arrived.”

She might have been trapped in the nexus point,” Whitehall pointed out. “And our attempt to tame the wild magic freed her.”

Then I thank you,” Emily said. “But I don’t recall anything between his death and your arrival.”

Whitehall frowned. “Who taught you?”

A dozen answers ran through Emily’s head. She could claim to have been taught by Dumbledore, or Gandalf, or Yoda ... it wasn’t as if Whitehall could disprove her words. But she needed to keep it as simple as possible. She knew enough about telling lies to know just how easy it was to say too much and give the listener the key they needed to untangle the entire web of deceit.

I swore an oath to keep the details of my training to myself,” she said, finally. If Whitehall and his commune were anything like the magicians she knew, they’d respect an oath. “Even though he’s dead, he never saw fit to release me from it.”

Whitehall nodded. “It is ... uncommon for a girl to be schooled in magic,” he said. “Your father, perhaps? Teaching you because he had no son?”

Emily kept her face blank with an effort. Whitehall—her Whitehall—taught girls and boys equally, assuming they had magic. But the history books had made it clear that girls were not originally taught magic. It had been Bernard—Grandmaster Bernard—who’d first permitted girls to study at Whitehall, assuming that wasn’t something else the history books had managed to get wrong. There was no point, not any longer, in pretending to be an untrained magician. They’d seen what she’d done to the nexus point.

I swore an oath,” she said, again.

Whitehall nodded. “I understand,” he said. “He must have been a very smart man.”

He taught a girl,” Bernard said. “How is that smart? The curse ...”

Emily frowned. “What curse?”

He didn’t even tell you that?”

Bernard turned to his master. “She’s lying,” he said. “I sense no magic from her.”

I sense no magic from you either,” Emily snapped back.

Whitehall gave her an odd look. “My apprentice has more than enough magic,” he said, coldly. “But yours is well hidden.”

Bernard stepped forward. “This is a joke, master,” he said. “I don’t know how she got here, but she is no magician.”

Emily scowled at him, feeling oddly disappointed. This was the Grandmaster who would invite girls to study alongside the boys? She reached out with her senses and frowned as she sensed magic surrounding Bernard for the first time. He wasn’t trying to mask his power at all; indeed, the only reason she hadn’t sensed it earlier was because Whitehall’s magic had obscured his apprentice’s power. Professor Lombardi would have summarily failed any student who failed to mask his power within his personal wards, she knew. Allowing one’s power to roam free was ... sloppy.

You sensed what she did to the nexus point,” Whitehall said. He sounded puzzled, but calm and composed. There was no anger in his tone. “She showed us how to patch the wards in place to tame the wild magic.”

She’s a girl,” Bernard protested.

Emily felt her temper snap. “Then fight me,” she said. “I challenge you to a duel, if you dare.”

Bernard glared at her, then turned to his master. “Master ...”

She challenged you,” Whitehall said. He smiled, rather dryly. “Are you going to take up the challenge?”

It wouldn’t be a fight,” Bernard objected.

Emily resisted—barely—the urge to stick out her tongue. “Then you don’t have anything to fear,” she said, instead. “You’ll beat me with ease.”

Fine,” Bernard snapped. He turned and paced across the chamber, then turned to face her, his hands clenching into fists. “Master, will you set up the warding circle?”

I doubt one will be necessary,” Whitehall said. He stepped to one side, nodding shortly to Emily. “Try not to kill each other.”

Emily kept her expression blank as she tensed, testing her protections carefully. Challenging Bernard was a risk. She could lose. And yet, his casual dismissal of her abilities hurt. She was damned if she would allow him to talk down to her, let alone treat her as a silly girl who needed a man to make all the decisions for her. It wasn’t as if she was one of the stupid noblewomen who’d made Alassa’s wedding preparations such a trial. And Bernard was a disappointment anyway.

Begin,” Whitehall said.

Bernard didn’t hesitate. His hand snapped down as he unleashed a spell she didn’t recognize, a spell that bled mana in all directions. It was sloppy work—Professor Lombardi would probably have broken Bernard’s hand if he’d cast that in class—but it was powerful. The spell slammed into her protections, shaking them roughly, yet it was really nothing more than brute force. Part of her mind analyzed the spell quickly, noting how it made no attempt to seek out weaknesses in her protections and break through the cracks. Bernard had a great deal of raw power, although it was so sloppy she couldn’t tell just how much power, but very little actual skill.

Impressive,” Whitehall commented.

Emily kept her eyes on Bernard as she deflected or drained the last remnants of his spell. He looked stunned, as if he’d expected her to be knocked out ... or killed ... by his magic. Emily wasn’t quite sure what the spell had actually been intended to do. It had just been thrown together so poorly that merely striking her defenses had been enough to disrupt the spellware beyond repair. She gathered her own magic, readying a retaliatory blow, but waited to see what he would do. And then he tossed a second spell at her. This one was tighter and sharper ... and felt unpleasant as it crawled across her wards. She felt a flicker of horror as she realized what that spell was meant to do.

Careful,” Whitehall said. His smile was gone. “Using that in a duel could get you in real trouble.”

I suppose it could, Emily thought. Trying to take control of your opponent ...

She summoned a fireball and threw it at him, watching dispassionately as it crashed into his magic and exploded into nothingness. His protections were nothing like hers, she saw; they were crude, utterly unfocused. It looked as though he was using his own magic as a baseball bat, swatting away spells as they approached, rather than embedding wards within his magic and concentrating on offense. Emily hated to think what Sergeant Miles would have said to any of his students stupid enough to try that. Splitting their attention between offense and defense meant that they couldn’t concentrate on either.

Bernard flung a third spell at her, so powerful that she stepped aside rather than try to catch it on her protections. Bracing herself, she threw back a ward-cracking spell of her own and followed up with a prank spell. Bernard let out a yelp of shock and pain as his wards came apart—Emily realized, too late, that the ward-cracking spell had actually attacked his magic directly—and then shrank, rapidly, as the prank spell took effect. Moments later, a tiny green frog was looking up at her with disturbingly human eyes.

I think I win,” Emily said.

She looked at Whitehall and saw him looking back in shock. “You did it so casually?”

I had a good teacher,” Emily said. She cursed her mistake—if it had been a mistake—under her breath. She had no idea when transfiguration spells had been invented, but it was possible that Whitehall didn’t know how to use them—or regarded them as too demanding to be practical. “He taught me everything I know.”

Whitehall studied her for a long moment. “I think you win too,” he said. “Undo the spell, please.”

Emily nodded and cast the counterspell. Bernard looked astonished as he reverted to human form, his face pale and wan. A lingering greenish tone hung over his skin for long seconds after the spell faded back into the ether. He would have been trying to break free, Emily knew. If he had no experience with pranking spells—the spells Emily had learned in her first year of studies—he might assume that his mind was on the verge of sinking into the frog’s and being lost forever.

I am sorry for doubting you,” Bernard said. He stood upright, then held out a hand. Emily shook it firmly. “And you are clearly a great magician.”

A useful lesson, young man,” Whitehall said. “You are strong, but your training is far from complete.”

Emily kept her thoughts to herself as Whitehall turned towards the gaping door. Bernard, at least, didn’t seem to bear a grudge. But then, Sergeant Miles had told her she might have to fight to prove herself, if she was dumped in with the men. Beating a man fairly would work far better, he’d said, than whining to his superiors. The former would earn respect, the latter would breed resentment.

She rubbed the side of her head as she followed Whitehall, Bernard falling into step beside her. Her head hurt, a dull ache that was making it hard to think. She’d been awakened in the middle of the night, after all. She needed to sleep, to rest and figure out a way home before she accidentally tore a hole in history and erased her friends from existence.

And hope I can survive here long enough to find a way home, she thought, grimly. This isn’t the Whitehall I know.

 

 

Chapter Two


If the history books were to be believed, Emily recalled, Whitehall Castle predated the Whitehall Commune by at least two hundred years, perhaps longer. No one knew who had built the castle or why, let alone what it had been called before Whitehall arrived, but it was clear that the multidimensional interior had come later. Old Whitehall looked like a darker, grimmer version of King Randor’s castle: stone walls, no windows, empty rooms or sealed doors. The passageways were hauntingly familiar, yet all the details were gone. There was so much dust and grime on the floor that they left trails as they made their way up to the Great Hall. The only source of light was burning torches, which hung from the walls and added an unpleasant stench to the air.

Stay on the beaten track,” Whitehall called back, without looking around. “We found hundreds of traps scattered throughout the castle. Clearing a path down to the nexus chamber took a week.”

Emily nodded, silently grateful he couldn’t see her face. She would have been fascinated with the castle if she hadn’t been tired and hungry. Her headache was refusing to fade, while her stomach insistently reminded her that she hadn’t eaten for hours. She had to concentrate to keep walking, unwilling to show weakness in front of either of the men. Bernard didn’t seem to like the idea of women learning magic—at least, he didn’t like it now—and Whitehall was a hero. But then, just how much of what she knew about him in the future was false, based on half-remembered stories and outright lies? Professor Locke, for all of his research, had never had a clear idea of just how much his idol had actually done.

He’d love to be here, Emily thought. She’d love it too, if there was a way home. The chance to actually meet the ancients in person ...

Whitehall tossed questions at her as she walked, asking if she knew the name of any of the local kings or warlords—or magicians. Emily was quietly impressed—if she’d been telling the truth, it would have allowed him to deduce how long she’d been trapped in the nexus point—but she pleaded ignorance on all such matters. She was a peasant girl, after all; a peasant girl would not be expected to know the name of the king, not when she would probably never leave her home. Whitehall seemed to understand her ignorance, although it was hard to know what he thought. She could only hope that he’d accept her story without asking too many more questions.

They stepped through a stone archway and into the Great Hall. Emily stopped and stared in disbelief at the scene before her. This—this—was the Whitehall Commune? Dozens of people—men, women and children—sitting on the stone floor, their eyes going wide as they looked up and saw Emily. Their clothes were ragged, their faces were dirty ... it looked like a refugee camp, not the start of a brand new era. She couldn’t help noticing just how many of the people before her were scarred, a handful nursing broken bones or walking on wooden legs. Healing—true Healing—had come later. The thought made her feel sick.

She sucked in a breath and instantly regretted it. The Great Hall smelled worse than the slums she’d seen outside Swanhaven, a year in her past and nearly a thousand years in their future. Too many people in too close proximity, too little washing ... she looked towards a makeshift tent and shuddered, inwardly. Whitehall had been the cleanest place in the Allied Lands, by her reckoning; she was, perhaps, the only student whose living conditions had degenerated after moving to the school. But that, too, was in the future. A handful of children—she thought they were five or six years old—had pockmarked faces, while most of the adults looked almost painfully thin. Disease and deprivation had to be rife.

They’re running, she thought, shocked. And they’re on the brink of starvation.

They stared back at her, their faces torn between hope and fear. The women, in particular, seemed to find it hard to look at her, even though she caught them glancing at her when they thought she wasn’t looking. Several mothers even caught their children and pulled them away from Emily, while a number of young men stared at her as if she was a vision from heaven. It struck her, suddenly, that she was the cleanest person in the room, even though her nightdress had picked up a great deal of dust and grime. And if women weren’t allowed to study magic, the young men might not know how to relate to her at all.


Wait here,” Whitehall ordered, nodding to a small campsite. Someone had set up a fire for warmth, adding to the smell. Emily hoped they had good ventilation within the castle, although it seemed unlikely. “I’ll be back in a moment.”

Emily sat, crossing her legs and wishing—desperately—that whoever had pulled her out of bed and lured her down to the nexus chamber had thought to make her get dressed first. The nightdress was surprisingly decent, compared to some of the garments Imaiqah had worn during her time at Whitehall, but she was still underdressed compared to most of the women in the hall. They wore several layers of clothing apiece, judging by the way their garments bulged in odd places. Were they trying to cover themselves, or were they merely trying to stay warm? It had been cold, down in the nexus chamber. It might well be cold in the upper levels too.

And I don’t even know the time, she thought, grimly. It could be the middle of the night for all I know.

Whitehall had walked over to a handful of men—she recognized four of them from the chamber—and was chatting with them in a low voice, too low for her to hear anything more than a couple of words. She briefly considered trying to cast a spell to make it easier to overhear their conversation, but she knew there was a very good chance she’d get caught trying. The tutors at Whitehall—her Whitehall—wouldn’t be amused if someone tried to spy on them, and she dared not assume that Whitehall was any different. His commune had no reason to trust her.

I did help them tame the nexus point, Emily reminded herself, as Whitehall beckoned a young woman to join the group. Surely they’ll want to keep me around.

She settled back—Bernard had headed off to join a couple of other young men—and studied the Great Hall. It seemed to be no smaller than the hall she remembered from the future, but the walls were nothing more than bare stone, save for a handful of runes carved just below the ceiling. She didn’t recognize them from her studies, but she did recall seeing a couple just like them in the tunnels below Whitehall. The fireplace was gone—no, it hadn’t been built yet. Her head swam as she tried to grapple with the implications. It was hard, so hard, to know just how much she knew about the castle might still be relevant.

A young woman walked towards her, carrying a bowl in one hand and a mug in the other. Emily looked up and frowned as the girl stared at her, her face torn between fear and ... and a kind of awe that she’d seen on peasants, back in Cockatrice. The girl was strikingly pretty—she had soft blonde hair and blue eyes that shone, despite the dirt and grime on her face—yet there was a hardness to her that chilled Emily to the bone. This was a girl who had seen terrible things.

This is all we have,” the girl said, as she passed the bowl to Emily. “Father”—she nodded towards Whitehall—“bids you eat.”

Thank you,” Emily said. Her mind reeled. Whitehall had a daughter? There was no mention of any children in the texts, as far as she could recall. But a daughter might go unrecorded. She smiled at the girl, forcing herself to be friendly. “I am called Emily. What are you called?”

Julianne,” the girl said. She stepped backwards. “I must go.”

Emily watched her go, then turned her attention to the bowl. It contained something that resembled stew, although it didn’t smell very appetizing. But then, some of the meals Sergeant Harkin had concocted hadn’t smelled very appetizing either. He’d insisted that skunks could be eaten, when wandering travelers couldn’t catch and butcher rabbits. And yet, she’d been able to eat his food without stomach cramps afterwards.

She used a spell to test the stew, just to make sure it was safe to eat, then started to eat with her fingers. The food tasted little better than it smelled, as if it had been cooked for so long that all the flavors had merged into sludge, but she was too hungry to care. She wolfed it down with her fingers, then checked the water. Her spell warned her that it was far from pure, so she used a third spell to purify it before taking a long gulp. The food made her feel somewhat refreshed as Whitehall finally separated himself from the other magicians and walked back towards her. She started to rise to her feet, but he motioned her back down. He sat, facing her.

We don’t know when you entered the castle,” Whitehall said. He sounded tired, as if he’d pushed himself right to the limits of his endurance. “And we have no idea what happened to your family.”

Neither do I,” Emily said, truthfully.

Whitehall shrugged. “We are grateful for your help,” he added, after a moment. His daughter brought him a mug of water and he sipped it gratefully, without using any magic to cleanse the water. “We would not have survived the day without you.”

Emily nodded. She’d had no time to analyze the spells they’d been using, but it was clear that they’d been on the verge of losing control completely. And once they lost control, they wouldn’t have had a hope of surviving more than a few seconds. There were horror stories about what happened to people who lost control. The surge of wild magic would have killed everyone in the castle.

Still, we don’t know what to do with you,” Whitehall added. “Some of my ... companions are proposing that you should be sent out of the castle. Others ... think you should join the women.”

That’s gratitude for you, Emily thought, darkly.

The thought made her scowl. She couldn’t afford to leave the castle, not when the nexus point was probably her only hope of getting home. And yet, it didn’t look as though the women were treated as equals. She was damned if she was allowing herself to be bossed around like a servant. But what could she do? She could hide—probably—but it wouldn’t give her any time to plan a way home.

I have decided to offer you a provisional apprenticeship, at least for the moment,” Whitehall said, after a moment. “You are clearly a trained magician, despite being a young woman.”

Emily nodded, relieved. Whitehall would be foolish to simply let her go, after she’d saved their lives and beaten his apprentice in a duel. And yet, she didn’t want to swear any oaths to him, certainly not ones that would oblige her to tell him the truth. She didn’t dare tell him that she was from the future. It would change history and quite probably erase her from existence.

I can do that,” she said. “But I can’t offer you any oaths.”

Whitehall eyed her, narrowly. “Your tutor is dead.”

Emily cursed under her breath. Telling them that her tutor was dead had been a mistake, clearly. She could have claimed she had no idea what had happened to him and escaped the need for swearing oaths. It wasn’t as if she could be oathsworn to two different masters.

Some of his family may still be alive,” she said, reluctantly. “I must keep their secrets as long as I suspect the oath binds me.”

True, I suppose,” Whitehall said. He didn’t sound pleased. She rather suspected he’d been intending to grill her extensively. “You do understand that refusing to swear an oath means I won’t be teaching you some of my private spells?”

Professor Locke would give his right arm to see them, Emily thought. She was starting to think the Whitehall Commune was nowhere near as powerful as the legends insisted. The magicians were clearly powerful, but their magic was slopping everywhere and they hadn’t shown any of the subtle spells she used on a daily basis. But would they be worth the risk of damaging the timeline?

I understand,” she said. “But I am already a trained magician.”

Whitehall nodded, curtly. “You’ll be learning alongside Bernard, for the moment,” he told her. “Treat your fellow apprentices with respect—and if you can’t do that, try not to kill each other.”

Emily had to smile. Some things never changed, it seemed. Magicians would always be competing, always testing their powers and skills against their fellows. It would be different too, she suspected, when there was one master to one apprentice. The masters would be pleased to see their apprentices win fights, even though they were supposed to remain above the fray. But judging from some of the arguments she could see on the other side of the hall, they weren’t that far above the fray.

They’re only teaching one student at a time, she reminded herself. They have far more emotional investment in their apprentices than any of the tutors from Whitehall.

I can try,” she said, dryly.

She wondered, briefly, what Bernard De Born would think of Whitehall taking on a second apprentice. She’d already beaten him in a duel. Would he accept her presence or would he resent her? And what would Whitehall do if they started fighting?

It won’t be easy,” Whitehall warned. “Apprenticeships are never easy.”

I know,” Emily said.

Whitehall gave her a sidelong look. “Why did your tutor choose to teach you?”

Emily frowned to herself. Was Whitehall always going to be prying? But then, it was hard to blame him for being curious. Emily had shown him two impossible spells in less than an hour, assuming she was right about prank transfigurations coming later. He had to be wondering just who had taught her and why he hadn’t heard of him. And, perhaps, just what other secrets might be locked up in Emily’s head.

I believe I was a good choice,” she said, tartly.

It was hard to keep her voice under control, but she had no choice. She didn’t want to tell too many lies or she’d have problems keeping them all straight. Whitehall might not be as capable as Void or Lady Barb, but he was far from stupid. If he caught her in a lie, he’d start hacking the rest of her story apart. And who knew what would happen then?

She hesitated, then asked the question that had been bothering her from the moment she’d entered the Great Hall. “Who are you running from?”

Whitehall tensed. “You don’t know?”

No,” Emily said. She kept her face under tight control. Was it common knowledge, something she should have learned when she was studying magic? Her ignorance would be suspicious, but what else could she do? “What drove you to the castle?”

His eyes studied her face for a long moment. Emily forced herself to look back, even though she was afraid that he might be able to tell she wasn’t being entirely honest. No magician in her era would want to mess with a sworn oath, but that might not hold true for Whitehall and his commune. They might not understand Soul Magic—the power that binds oaths—any more than they understood Healing.

We were attacked,” Whitehall said. “We were being hunted.”

Emily leaned forward, alarmed. “By who?”

Or what, her mind added.

We don’t know,” Whitehall said. “But they seem to hunt magicians.”

He rose, slowly. “Bernard will take care of you, for the moment,” he added. Emily had the feeling he was going back to consult with his fellow masters. “And then I think you had better bed down with Julianne.”

I need some sleep,” Emily agreed. She also needed more food, but she suspected the commune simply didn’t have any to spare. It wasn’t as if they could walk down to Dragon’s Den to purchase food. The town had only been founded three hundred years—give or take a few decades—prior to her arrival. “Which tent is hers?”

We cleared a room for her,” Whitehall said. He made an odd gesture with his hand, casting a spell. “I’ll have her take care of you instead, if you don’t mind. You can talk to Bernard tomorrow.”

Emily nodded, relieved. Bernard might seem to be the typical cocky teenager, but she’d read his writings, his future writings. He’d been no fool. And she was too tired to engage in pointless verbal duels. Besides, she’d probably shocked him quite badly. A good night’s sleep would do them both a great deal of good.

Julianne walked over to her father, looking as tired as Emily felt. She gave Emily a sharp glance as Whitehall explained what he wanted her to do, then beckoned for Emily to follow her towards the nearest door. The corridor outside was dark, illuminated only by a single burning torch. Emily resisted the urge to cast a light globe as Julianne led the way down to a line of doors and opened one, revealing a tiny bedroom. A handful of blankets lay on the floor.

This is my room,” Julianne said. There was an odd note in her voice—resentment? “I’ve only got a couple of blankets.”

I don’t mind,” Emily said. She’d slept in worse places on camping trips. And there were spells she could use to keep warm, if necessary. “Thank you for sharing.”

Father insisted,” Julianne said, wryly.

She nodded towards a bucket at the far end of the room. “Make sure you don’t tip it over,” she added. “You’ll have to help me scrub the floor if you do.”

Emily shuddered. It wasn’t a pleasant thought.

I will,” she said. She took one of the blankets and lay down. “And thanks again.”

 

 

Chapter three


She couldn’t sleep.

Her body felt tired, her mind felt tired, but she just couldn’t fall asleep. The floor was hard, despite the blanket; no matter how she tossed and turned, she just couldn’t get comfortable enough to relax. And she was too tired to cast any spells that might have made the makeshift bedding more comfortable. She could hear Julianne snoring quietly, sleeping peacefully, yet Emily couldn’t follow her into dreams. The constant sense of being out of place, of being in danger, nagged at her mind.

She sat upright, cursing her body as she rose. It had taken her time to get used to sharing a room at Whitehall, but it shouldn’t be a problem any longer. She’d had no trouble sharing her bedroom with Cabiria. And yet ... now, she just couldn’t sleep. Her mind was too active to let her rest. She tested the privacy ward she’d cast on the door—Julianne hadn’t noticed, somewhat to Emily’s surprise—and then stepped through the door, out into the corridor. It was as dark and cold as the grave. Someone should be on watch, she thought, down in the Great Hall, but she could hear nothing. She closed the door behind her and cast a night-vision spell, then started to walk up the corridor towards the stairs. They, at least, seemed to be where they should be.

No one blocked her way as she reached the stairwell and headed upwards, reaching out with her senses for traps. Whitehall had warned her, after all, but she sensed nothing until she reached the fifth floor. A nasty little hex lay on the stairwell, ready to blast anyone stupid enough to step on it. It looked odd, compared to some of the hexes Sergeant Miles had taught her; she honestly wasn’t sure just how it had endured for so long. It didn’t seem to be connected to the nexus point.

And power doesn’t run through these wards, she thought, as she dismantled the hex and walked further upwards. Two more hexes barred her way, but she took them apart just as easily. These hexes couldn’t have been set that long ago.

She reached the top of the stairs and stepped out onto the battlements. Her eyes widened as she saw the night sky, the stars twinkling down in all their glory. There was nothing beyond the battlements, save an utterly unbroken darkness. The wind blew hot and cold, blasts of icy air alternating with gusts of warmth that left sweat trickling down her back. She was used to the weather surrounding Whitehall being somewhat unpredictable, but this was odd. There was magic in the air, she realized slowly, that was far stronger than anything she’d sensed back in her day.

Bracing herself, she inched up to the low barrier and stared out into the darkness again, trying to see something—anything—that would remind her of the world she’d left behind. But she saw only darkness. The lights that would have marked Dragon’s Den were gone; the lights that marked the edge of the wards surrounding the castle hadn’t been created yet. It struck her as she turned to peer east that she was actually back in the era before the necromancers, before the southern continent was overrun and turned to ash. The Blighted Lands had yet to exist.

And the reality of where she was crashed down like a physical blow.

This is not good, she thought, numbly.

She sat down on the hard stone and forced herself to think. She’d fallen back in time—and she had no way back to the future. Or did she? If she’d crafted a pocket dimension that had allowed her to skip forward a day, she could create one that would last for much longer ... couldn’t she? And yet, she wasn’t remotely sure just how long she’d need to hide in the pocket dimension before emerging back into her world. Professor Locke had made it clear, more than once, that even the dating system was imprecise. She had no way to be sure how much time had passed between Whitehall and Grandmaster Hasdrubal, let alone timing her emergence to make sure she didn’t clash with her past self. And if she went too far into the future, she wouldn’t have a hope of getting back.

No, she told herself. This is definitely not good.

She frowned, considering her options. Perhaps she should simply leave the castle and step outside recorded history. It was the safest way to ensure she didn’t fiddle with the historical record—unless, of course, she was meant to be there. She’d seen nothing to disprove her theory that she was the Dark Lady. And if she did leave, what would that do to history? She was living proof that different worlds and alternate universes actually existed, but if time changed around her ... what would happen? Would there be two timelines, or would she simply blink out of existence? Or would she set off a series of catastrophic changes in history?

A flash of light, in the distance, caught her eye. She was on her feet before her mind had quite registered what she was doing, peering into the darkness in desperate hope of seeing something—anything. A flicker of lightning danced in the air for a long moment, followed by faint glimmering lights near the ground. It looked almost like a forest fire, save for the eerie—almost translucent—lighting. Wild magic hummed on the air as she looked closer, then pulled back before she could accidentally tumble over the battlements and fall to her death. There was more magic in the past, she realized dully, than she’d ever seen in the future.

Rain started to fall seconds later, drenching her. She cast a spell to shield herself from the downpour, then cast a second one to dry her clothes. The magic felt normal, as far as she could tell, but there was a faint resonance in the mana that bothered her. And yet, the spells had worked perfectly. She turned to watch as the rain fell harder and harder, water washing over the battlements and draining over the edge; she hoped—prayed—that someone had had the sense to set out barrels to collect the falling water. But would it be safe to drink?

She cursed inwardly as her stomach rumbled, reminding her that she hadn’t eaten anywhere near enough. But there was nothing she could do about it ... she shook her head, irritated, at just how spoiled she’d become in five years. There had been days on Earth when she’d eaten so little that she’d had trouble concentrating on anything, yet she’d managed to keep going until she’d finally had a bite to eat. But three regular—and large—meals a day at Whitehall had clearly ruined her endurance. Hell, thanks to the sergeants, she could even live off the land, if necessary. She disliked cutting up rabbits or fish, but she could endure it if there was no other choice.

But I have to stay here until I find a way home, she told herself, firmly. If nothing else, I’ll need the nexus point to power my spells.

She wished, bitterly, that Lady Barb had fallen through time with her. Or Sergeant Miles. Or even Master Tor. Someone—just someone—who would have understood what she was going through, someone whose understanding of modern magic was far in advance of her own. She thought she could construct a pocket dimension, with or without the nexus point, but keeping it going for nearly a thousand years would be beyond even her magical reserves. And yet, the spellware that had controlled the nexus point in her time didn’t exist yet. She’d have to wait until it did before using it to get home.

The downpour stopped, as suddenly as if someone had thrown a switch. She looked up as the skies cleared rapidly, revealing the stars once again. Sergeant Miles had tried to teach his class how to read them, to use them to navigate, but Emily had never mastered the skill. And yet, even if she had, she doubted the skies changed that much in a mere thousand years. She couldn’t even begin to use them to deduce how much time had passed between Lord Whitehall and her arrival on the Nameless World. It should be possible, in theory, but she didn’t even know where to begin. Maybe some of the people sleeping below her knew, yet she didn’t dare ask. It would be far too revealing.

They wouldn’t know what the skies looked like in the future, she told herself, as she peered back into the darkness. And I couldn’t tell them that either.

She shivered, cursing the nightgown under her breath. It was heavy, but hardly warm enough to serve as an overcoat. Julianne had promised to find her something to wear, in the morning, yet Emily doubted the commune had much to spare. Was someone going to be walking around naked because of her? She could transfigure her nightgown into something more useful, she knew, but it wouldn’t last forever. A single cancelling spell, cast at the wrong time, would put her right back in the nightgown. She shook her head, dismissing the thought, then resumed her silent vigil. The darkness almost seemed to welcome her.

A chill ran down her back. The strange glimmering lights were still there, flickering out in the darkness. She couldn’t escape the feeling that something out there was looking back at her. Whitehall—this Whitehall—was no longer safe, had perhaps never been safe. Who’d laid the traps? Who’d been so determined to build a castle around a nexus point and then abandon it? All the records agreed that the castle had been empty when the Whitehall Commune arrived ...

Maybe they were experimenting with the nexus point, Emily thought, as she forced herself to turn away from the darkness. And something went wrong, killing them.

She yawned, tiredly. Gritting her teeth, she walked back through the door and down the stairwell. It was harder to know just how far down she had to go now, she discovered; there was no way she could use the wards for directions. Her footsteps were barely visible in the dirt and grime ... she shook her head as she reached what she thought was the right floor and padded towards her bedroom. And then she stopped as she heard voices ahead of her, a faint mumbling that drew her onwards. She resisted the urge to use magic to spy on the speakers, even though she had a feeling it would be safe enough. Instead, she slipped closer and listened.

... Not natural,” a voice was saying. “She shouldn’t have survived for a second in the nexus.”

People have been killed or transformed by wild magic,” a second voice said. “Why can’t they be trapped in a nexus?”

She’s a magician,” the first voice said. “The wild magic should have killed her outright.”

Maybe she’s a fake,” the second voice said. “How many women do you know who can cast spells?”

Emily felt her cheeks heat. They were talking about her!

The first voice sounded amused. “You were there when she saved us all,” he said. “She is very definitely a magician.”

Then she’s cursed,” the second voice insisted. “You know it to be true.”

Emily blinked. Cursed?

She’s dangerous,” the second voice continued. “If she could beat Bernard in a duel ...”

Whitehall has chosen to take her as an apprentice,” the first voice pointed out.

An unwise choice,” the second voice snapped.

She’s a magician,” the first voice reminded him. “Do you want her walking around with incomplete training?”

He spoke on before the second speaker could interrupt. “If she’s cursed ... well, it’s not our problem,” he added. “She’s already gone too far to step back to safety. It isn’t as if she was ever our responsibility.”

Whoever taught her was derelict in his duty,” the second voice snapped. “Do you think her story makes sense?”

Her tutor is dead, if she is to be believed,” the first voice said. “And if you have a problem with her joining the commune, take it up with Whitehall.”

Emily heard the man striding along the corridor and pushed herself into an alcove, calling on magic to hide her presence. Sergeant Miles would probably not have been fooled, certainly not if he was looking for her, but the first speaker strode past her and into the distance without looking back. She stared after him, then peered back down towards the Great Hall, feeling oddly conflicted. Cursed? She wasn’t cursed. What did they mean?

I need answers, she thought. Her thoughts churned as she slipped back down the corridor and into the bedroom. And I don’t even know who to ask.

She glanced at Julianne—still sleeping peacefully on the stone floor—and then settled down herself, closing her eyes as she tried to concentrate on her meditation. Maybe, just maybe, she could go to sleep now. And yet, sleep was elusive ... her mind just kept going back to the conversation she’d overheard, wondering just what they’d meant. A curse on female magicians? She’d never heard of such a thing ... or had she? There had been that vague note from one of Professor Locke’s books, suggesting that female magicians had trouble bearing children. But she could name a dozen magicians she knew who had had children.

Whitehall won’t believe how ignorant I am, if I start asking questions, she thought. She’d been given a great deal of slack when she’d first come to Whitehall because she wasn’t even from the same world, but she’d already told Whitehall that she’d had a tutor. And yet, if I don’t know the basics, I will keep making mistakes.

She sighed. It was clear that not everyone had believed her story. She really shouldn’t have been surprised. But it had been the best story she could make up on short notice ... if she’d known she was going to fall back in time, she’d have taken the time to do her research and compose an airtight cover. And yet, given how inaccurate the history records seemed to be, it was unlikely she could have come up with something perfect. Maybe, just maybe, she’d come up with something that would suffice. Maybe ...


There was a flicker of magic. Emily jerked awake, shocked. She’d fallen asleep ... when had she fallen asleep? Julianne knelt beside her, unable to move. Emily stared at her, blearily. It took her several seconds to realize that Julianne had tried to wake her, only to trigger one of her protective spells and wind up frozen. Surely, that spell had been invented before Whitehall ...?

I’m sorry,” Emily said, sitting upright. The spell was normally an easy one to cancel, but she took a moment to catch her breath before casting the counterspell. Julianne unfroze and toppled forward; Emily caught her before she could hit the ground. “That’s just one of my protections.”

It must be a very useful protection,” Julianne said. She sounded annoyed—and bitter—as she pulled free of Emily and stood. “I wish I could do that.”

Emily frowned. “Your father hasn’t taught you?”

Girls are forbidden to learn magic,” Julianne said, flatly. “Those who do are cursed.”

Cursed,” Emily repeated. “In what way?”

Julianne shook her head. “There’s a set of trousers and a shirt for you,” she said, tossing Emily a bundle of clothes. “They should fit, but if they don’t I’ll make the alterations now, before we go to breakfast.”

Emily frowned as she unwrapped the bundle. Julianne wore a long dress that wouldn’t have been out of place on a peasant farm in Zangaria, but Emily had been given male clothes. She had a sneaking suspicion it had something to do with her status as an apprentice, yet she didn’t want to ask when Julianne was clearly out of sorts. Did she want to learn magic? If she had the talent—and she should have the talent—she shouldn’t have any trouble learning ...

I could teach her, Emily thought. But what would her father make of that?

There were no underclothes, she discovered, as she undressed and started to don the new outfit. The clothes were clean, but itchy against her bare skin; the shirt was loose, while the trousers felt uncomfortably tight. Emily couldn’t help thinking that the outfit had been designed to show off male muscles, just like some of the more absurd fashions she’d seen at King Randor’s Court. Julianne looked disapproving, then motioned for Emily to step back out of the trousers and let her fiddle with them. Moments later, the trousers were much looser around her thighs.

You look relatively decent,” Julianne said, finally. “But you really should cut your hair.”

Emily gave her a sharp look. “Why?”

You never know what might try to grab hold,” Julianne said, evasively. Emily couldn’t help noting that her hair was long too. “I can cut it for you now, if you like.”

No, thank you,” Emily said. She hadn’t cut her hair for nearly a year. It was her one true vanity. Besides, Caleb liked playing with her hair. “I like it the way it is.”

As you wish,” Julianne said.

Emily sighed, inwardly. There was so much she didn’t understand, so much she didn’t know ... so much she didn’t dare ask about, when it would reveal just how much she didn’t know. If only someone else had fallen through the nexus and into the past with her!

There was a sharp knock at the door. “Company,” Julianne said. “Are you ready?”

Emily glanced down at herself. She looked odd, she thought, in clothes that had definitely been designed for a man, but Julianne was right. She was decent.

Yeah,” she said. “Shall we go?”



 

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Author Bio

Christopher G. Nuttall is thirty-two years old and has been reading science fiction since he was five, when someone introduced him to children's SF. Born in Scotland, Chris attended schools in Edinburgh, Fife and University in Manchester ... before moving to Malaysia to live with his wife Aisha.

Chris has been involved in the online Alternate History community since 1998; in particular, he was the original founder of Changing The Times, an online alternate history website that brought in submissions from all over the community. Later, Chris took up writing and eventually became a full-time writer.

Chris has produced The Empire's Corps series, the Outside Context Problem series and many others. He is also responsible for two fan-made Posleen novels, both set in John Ringo's famous Posleen universe. They can both be downloaded from his site.

Website: http://www.chrishanger.net/
Blog: http://chrishanger.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherGNuttall
Discussion Forum http://thewritersclub.prophpbb.com/

TTB titles:

Schooled in Magic fantasy series
  Schooled in Magic  book 1
  Lessons in Etiquette  book 2
  Study in Slaughter  book 3
  Work Experience  book 4
  The School of Hard Knocks  book 5
  Love's Labor's Won  book 6
  Trial By Fire  book 7
  Wedding Hells  book 8
  Infinite Regress  book 9
  Past Tense  book 10
  The Sergeant's Apprentice  book 11
  Fists of Justice  book 12
  The Gordian Knot  book 13

The Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire military SF series
  Barbarians at the Gates  book 1
  The Shadow of Cincinnatus  book 2
  The Barbarian Bride  book 3

Author web site.

 

###

 

Past Tense Copyright 2016. Christopher Nuttall. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

To order this book:
Format: ePub, PDF, HTML, Kindle/Mobi
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List Price: $6.50 USD

 

  Author News

  Articles

Christopher has a number of interesting articles up at his blog, The Chrishanger.

"The Stronghold Academy of Martial Arts"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/the-stronghold-academy-of-martial-arts/

"Emily's Finances"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/emilys-finances/

"Religion in the Nameless World
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/09/29/religion-in-the-nameless-world/

"The Military in the Nameless World - A Very Brief Overview"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/the-military-in-the-nameless-world-a-very-brief-overview/

"Wedding Hells: Randor and Alicia"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/wedding-hells-randor-and-alicia/

"Past Tense: Freedom and (Women's) Rights"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/past-tense-freedom-and-womens-rights/

"Wedding Hells Appendix (II) - History Exam"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/wedding-hells-appendix-ii-history-exam/

"Idle Musings (SIM 10)"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/06/08/idle-musings-sim-10/

"Whitehall's Liability Insurance"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/whitehalls-liability-insurance/

"Emily and the Barony of Cockatrice"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/emily-and-the-barony-of-cockatrice/

"Bonus Material: Whitehall History Essay Question"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/bonus-material-whitehall-history-essay-question/

"Schooled in Magic: Jade, Emily and Alassa" [Warning: spoilers]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/schooled-in-magic-jade-emily-and-alassa/

"Deconstructing Emily" [...There are a handful of spoilers for Books 1-6, so read carefully.]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/deconstructing-emily/

"Love's Labor's Won: Playing the Blame Game [Warning; spoilers!]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/loves-labours-won-playing-the-blame-game/

"Christmas Post: Five Things that Could Have Happened to Emily"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/christmas-post-five-things-that-could-have-happened-to-emily/

"The Tragedy of Marius Drake [Warning: massive spoilers in this post.]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/the-tragedy-of-marius-drake/

"Meet My Character Blog Hop" [Master Tor]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/meet-my-character-blog-hop/

"Draft Afterword (I)" [Cincinnatus]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/draft-afterword-i/

"But What Do We Do on Our Hols? An Introduction to Lessons in Etiquette"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/but-what-do-we-do-on-our-hols-an-introduction-to-lessons-in-etiquette/

"The Free City of Beneficence" [A new setting for Schooled in Magic.]
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/the-free-city-of-beneficence/

"An Introduction to Schooled in Magic"
https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/an-introduction-to-schooled-in-magic/

 

Interviews

"When did you start writing and what got you into fantasy?"
Author interview on Blogcritics

"When did you decide you wanted to become an author?"
Author interview on Blogger News

Character interview with Princess Alassa on Beyond the Books

"Deconstructing Emily" blog post

"Schooled in Magic is a fantasy book, but it draws extensively from real history."
Guest post on As the Page Turns

"The Inspiration behind 'Trial by Fire' by Christopher Nuttall"
Guest post on Review From Here

"The Story behind 'Trial by Fire' by Christopher Nuttall"
Guest post on The Story Behind the Book

"I was asked, at Ravencon, just what makes an indie writer successful.
I think they were hoping I'd know some great secret to success that I could tell them."
Guest post on The Writer's Life eMagazine

"No matter how well you write, you will get bad reviews."
Author Christopher G. Nuttall discusses The Decline & Fall
of the Galactic Empire novels in an interview with Edinburgh49

Trial By Fire chapter reveal on Plug Your Book

 

  Reviews

[Past Tense]"After reading this book, all I could say was WOW!!!.
"This is definitely the most entrancing book in the series, every book in this series just keeps surpassing its predecessor. The storyline of Emily being in the past was written carefully and so well constructed that I was fully immersed in it. The thing about Christopher Nuttall's books is that from the very first pages, it grabs your attention unwilling to let go and this book is no different.
"...Everything Else. Every single word, detail and simply everything else in this book makes it an awesome ride.
"If you haven't got this series, I am advising you to jump on the wagon."

Cassie James's Blog: Random Things
 



 

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