Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 10 (draft)

It was, it turned out, very hard to continue being righteously angry with a broken finger.

Fest had made a spirited go of it, but his valiant attempts at keeping the flame of irritation burning had been fairly successfully stymied both by the fact that he couldn’t move his hand without the world going distinctly swimmy round the edges and by what had happened when Anneke had tried to take hold of his hand to examine the finger in question – namely, Fest had very nearly thrown up on them.

Between that and the fact that the fire was now out (exactly how that had happened, Fest wasn’t entirely sure, but Anneke seemed to have some sort of theory and was happily expounding on it by way of distracting him from the pain in his hand) he was finding it very difficult to remember exactly why he’d been so angry in the first place. Something to do with sorcery, maybe?

Whatever it was, he was fairly certain it could wait until the morning. Unlike his finger.

“-I think I should be able to splint it,” Anneke was saying, frowning in concentration as they rummaged through the contents of the drawer they’d extracted from one of the workbenches. “I’m sure I had a roll of bandage around here somewhere, and I could probably use a couple of pencils to keep it straight while it’s healing. Or, no, stirring rods maybe?”

“Pencils are fine,” Fest said, through gritted teeth. What he wanted was something to take the edge off the pain, but he had a horrible feeling that voicing that desire anywhere in the little priest’s earshot would probably end up with him being handed a glass of something experimental and asked if he minded taking notes ‘for science’.

That’s unfair. I’m sure they have actual medicine. Somewhere.

“Ah-ha!” They extricated their hand from the drawer, holding a roll of dusty but reasonably clean linen bandage, a paintbrush with a thin flat wooden handle, and a small metal spatula. “This should do it, I think.”

Fest was… not entirely convinced, he had to admit. But he also had to admit that he couldn’t think of a better plan – or, at least, a better plan that didn’t involve more medical supplies than either of them had access to at the moment. “Have you- ngh- Have you ever splinted a finger before?”

“Oh, plenty of times,” the priest said, cheerily. “It’s something of an occupational hazard when you work with experimental rituals – or in a library stocked with very heavy books, come to think of it.”

“Have you ever splinted someone else’s finger before?”

“I’m sure it can’t be that different.” They put their head on one side, considering. “The angles might be a little off, though. But if it heals crooked you just have to break it again and heal it straight – it’s not that much of a problem.”

“I beg to bloody differ!”

“Then I’ll try very hard to get it right the first time.” They smiled in a way that they probably intended to be reassuring. “Don’t worry. I’m very good at fiddly tasks.”

Fest was not reassured. But he also didn’t have much in the way of other options, given that he was pretty sure that if he tried to splint the break himself he’d probably throw up, faint, or, knowing his luck, somehow contrive to do both simultaneously.

He held out his hand, trying to keep the broken finger as straight as possible, and looked away. “Do your worst.”

“I think my best would probably be a better idea. Doing my worst doesn’t seem like a particularly good way of ensuring you end up with a functioning hand.”

“That was a joke, Anneke.”

“No, it wasn’t. It was a figure of speech which I chose to take literally in order to make a joke. The joke was my addition to the conversation.” They bent low over his hand, the tip of their tongue sticking out of the corner of their mouth as they frowned in concentration. “This looks as though it’s probably a clean break, so that’s a good sign. Have you broken your fingers before?”

“Once. I fell over when I was skating, landed badly and broke two fingers on my left hand. And my wrist.” He’d been about fifteen at the time, and the breaks had been almost less painful than the lecture he’d got for going skating on a pond that hadn’t properly frozen yet. “I got told I should have known better, and banned from doing pretty much anything outdoors on my own for the rest of that winter.”

Ouch,” Anneke said, with feeling. “I broke my ankle on the ice on Harbour Street two winters ago – one of the novices went over during a snowball fight and I tried to help them up. Both of us ended up on our backsides in the snow, as did the other novice who came over to help, and one of the senior priests had to flag down a sleigh to get us all back up to the temple.” They pulled a face. “They were not amused.”

“A snowball fight?” Fest echoed, trying not to look at whatever Anneke was doing to his hand. “That doesn’t seem very… priestly.”

“Oh, it wasn’t. But the novices wanted to let off steam after being cooped up in the library for most of the week before due to that blizzard that rolled through, and the High Priest wouldn’t allow them to throw snowballs where they might hit worshippers, so that meant the street outside the temple was out.”

“And you?”

“Oh, I wanted to let off steam too. I’d had my head down in a copy of Kavaris’ treatise on the seven magical properties of common prairie grass – which I’m half convinced she wrote to win some sort of bet, given how much more boring it is than everything else she ever worked on – and I needed to do something to burn off the irritation I’d worked up over her indexing. You’ve seen Kavaris’ indexing, haven’t you? She was one of the foremost minds of her generation – any generation, honestly – but I think she must have been allergic to the concept of organisation. All her notes are completely illogically put together, and the indexes, when they happen, are more than half just annotations and reminders to buy more burn salve or bite ointment or chilblain rub or similar. I once found a knitting pattern for socks in the back of one of her books – socks! – and that wasn’t the most bizarre thing in that book either. In fact-“

Fest closed his eyes, leant his head back against the table leg, and let Anneke’s voice wash over him. He was more than half convinced that the priest was making half of this up, but that didn’t matter – they were evidently trying to distract him, and it was equally evidently working.

Besides, they have a good voice. I wonder if they ever do any of the readings during services? They’d be very well suited for it. I should probably ask them at some point. I-

There was a sudden sharp pain in his finger. “Ow!”

“There. All done.” The priest patted the top of his hand, careful to avoid the homemade splint, and sat back on their heels. “You should probably get that seen to by a proper doctor if you’re worried about it healing crooked, but that should hold you for the moment.”

Fest looked down at his hand. The splint honestly looked better than he’d expected, for all that it was still very clearly made out of a spatula and a paintbrush, and it was definitely doing the job as far as immobilising his finger was concerned. “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome,” Anneke said. They smiled. “It’s the least I can do, given you got hurt helping with my experiments.”

Which was true, as far as it went. On the other hand, Anneke had got themselves knocked unconscious trying to help him find out what Lucy Foreval was doing to him (a mystery that, he realised with a sudden jolt of panic, they’d still not managed to get to the bottom of) which meant that as far as trading wounds was concerned, he probably still owed them.

“Thank you,” he said again. “I mean it.”

“Again, you’re very welcome,” the priest said. They scrambled to their feet, dusting their robes off as they did so. “How are you feeling, by the way?”

“Not particularly well,” Fest said, honestly. “Though a lot better than I would have been without your assistance.” He tried to haul himself to his feet, swore, and then tried again with his uninjured hand. “I don’t suppose you’ve got anything I could take for the pain, do you?”

“I still have a bottle of poppy-milk from the time I gave myself a week of headaches looking into a broken transportation circle,” Anneke said. “It’s back in my room, though. Can you walk?”

“I think so.” His knees were definitely more wobbly than he’d have liked, but he didn’t feel as though he was about to pitch head-first into the table, which made a change. “Er… out of interest, are there any rules about leaning on priests?”

“I don’t think so,” Anneke said. “And besides, it’s past midnight. I’m fairly certain anyone who cares is either asleep or too buried in their research to notice.” They offered him an arm. “Here. It’s not that far to my rooms, anyway. I doubt we’ll see anyone on the way, and if we do I’ll just… prop you up against a statue or something until they’ve gone.”

“Thanks,” Fest said, drily. He took Anneke’s arm, and the two of them slowly made their way out into the hall, leaving the darkened, soot-blackened laboratory behind them.




“Are you awake?”

Viola’s hand dropped to her knife before the words had made it halfway to her brain. Thank the ancestors I fell asleep in my clothes. “I am now. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Amelia said, quickly. “Or, at least, nothing you need to fight. I was just thinking… What is it that the Sinnlenst are actually after, do you think?”

Ah. We’re feeling philosophical, apparently.

If she was honest, she’d rather have someone to punch. Amelia in a philosophical mood was dangerous, not least because she might decide that she needed to make a midnight visit to  the University library to look out whatever text it was that she’d been thinking over. At least if she’s focused on the Sinnlenst it means most of the books she might want are actually in the house for once.

“Aside from dead magicians, magic either under lock and key or gone entirely, and power consolidated in the hands of a specific subset of bastard humans, you mean?”

“Aside from that.” The younger girl sat up in bed, hugging her knees to her chest, and frowned into the darkness. “I know what they want – or, at least, what they tell everyone they want. But what are they actually after?”

“I don’t follow.”

“The Sinnlenst hate magic, yes?”

“…yes, more or less. They’ve got different factions, and the hardliners aren’t as prevalent as they once were, but they all tend towards wanting it either locked down or eradicated. This is basic schoolbook stuff, ‘melia. I don’t understand what-“

“Shush. I’m thinking. So if the Sinnlenst hate magic so much, why is Adam Avebury studying it at the university? And, more to the point, why are the Sinnlenst leaders allowing him and his faction to do so?”

“Because he’s an insufferable bastard who’d do anything if he felt it’d give him an advantage and because he’s got at least one of the Sinnlenst higher-ups wrapped around his little finger?”

“Maybe. But I think there’s something bigger going on here. I think he has a plan.”

Viola groaned. “Did you honestly wake me up so you could tell me that? We know he has a plan. He’s trying to take over the sodding Sinnlenst. That’s why he and Foreval made Caine, it’s why he had Caine kill Tyburn, and it’s why he wants me as an ally.”

“And why he wants you to spy on me, yes. But why are his faction so interested in learning magic in the first place?”

“Because they’re a shower of bloody hypocrites. They know magic’s useful, they just want to be the only ones who can use it.”

“Or… because they want to use it for a specific purpose,” Amelia said, slowly.

A chill that had nothing to do with the snow drifting down outside the window pane ran down Viola’s spine, and she barely suppressed a growl. I really wish you hadn’t said that, ‘melia. Not least because I’m now going to be stuck thinking about it for the rest of the sodding night. “What kind of purpose? Something tells me you’re not about to say ‘making better gateway rituals’ or ‘doing us all a favour and sodding off into the Void’.”



“It’s only a theory, and not a particularly strong one at that. But the only reason we don’t use them is that-“

Viola snarled. “They’re dangerous, more likely to rebound than not, and, oh yes, sodding evil?”

“That. Also that most of the curses we have written records of don’t actually work, or require the target to be present inside the ritual – which severely limits their effectiveness in our kind of warfare.”

“…Please tell me you’ve not been putting actual bloody research into this. I don’t want to have to explain to your parents why you’ve been hauled up in front of the Dean for breaking the rules of the university and the laws of magic.”

“I wasn’t planning on using any of them!” Amelia snapped. “And besides, there’s no rule against research. I checked.” She sighed, leaning back against the headboard. “I’m not a child any more, Vi. I need to know what our enemies are thinking, even if it means poking my nose into places you’d rather I didn’t.”

“Places I’d rather you- Spirits and ancestors, that’s not what this is about!”

“It isn’t?”

“No! Look, if I was feeling that bloody protective, I’d never have let you get involved in the damn Avebury situation in the first place!”

“And who’s to say you get to ‘let’ me do anything!”

“The fact that I’m your damn bodyguard?”

“You- I- Gyah!” With a wordless noise of frustration, Amelia grabbed one of the pillows from behind her and hurled it at Viola’s midsection. “Stop being so damn reasonable about everything!”

Viola didn’t need to dodge – Amelia’s aim was good, but she was still a human and she still couldn’t see well enough in the dark to land a hit at that distance. Instead she stayed silent and still, waiting for the younger girl’s rage to burn itself out. You know I’m right, and I know I’m right. But me telling you that isn’t going to help anything right now.

And, sure enough, after a few minutes of angry silence, Amelia slumped back against the remaining pillows, readjusted her sleeping bonnet, stared into nothing for a moment and then said, in a very small voice, “I’m not trying to make you worry, Vi. You know that, right?”

“I know,” Viola said. And then added, because she’d be damned if she was leaving it at that even if it meant restarting the whole damn argument, “But I could wish you were more careful sometimes.”

“Isn’t that what Sebastian says to you every time you go out on business for the Order?”

She had a point. And good ears. Someone’s been listening at keyholes. “That’s not fair, and you know it. But yes, point taken. I just-” don’t want to lose my baby sister because she’s not figured out that she’s not immortal yet.

…And how many times has Seb thought the same about me, come to think of it?

“I promise I won’t go trying to take down the entire Sinnlenst power structure on my own, if that helps.”

Strangely enough, it did. “Thanks.”

“But only because you’d be sad if I didn’t leave any of them for you.”

Viola sighed. “You are the most infuriating, ridiculous-“

“You love me really.”

“Yes, I do.” She sat down on the bed next to the younger girl and put an arm around her shoulders. “You might be a pain in the arse sometimes, but you’re still my sister.”

“And you’re still mine,” Amelia said, curling up against Viola’s side. “Even if you’re overprotective, and infuriating-“

“Not fair, I already used that one.”

“-and pedantic, and entirely too convinced that you’re right about everything-“

“Which I usually am.”

“-and annoyingly smug sometimes, you’re still my big sister.” She held out a hand. “Truce?”

“Truce,” Viola said. “If only because I’m not going to get to sleep any time soon now you’ve put that damn Sinnlenst curse idea into my head.”

The younger girl winced. “Sorry. It’s only a theory, as I said, and not a particularly well-thought-out one at that. I don’t even have any evidence for it.” She paused, then added “Or, at least, nothing that’s not very circumstantial.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s probably nothing. Or, at least, I think it’s probably nothing. But when I was in the library last week looking for a book on specific geometries of ritual spaces-“

“The one for Professor Ivarsson’s class?”

Amelia nodded. “I thought if I could get another angle on the material – that wasn’t an intentional pun, stop looking at me like that – then I might be able to understand the essay we’d been set a little better. It didn’t help, but I did manage to find a book on gateway spells which I don’t think anyone’s touched for at least a few decades. I- Anyway, that’s not the point. I was looking in the far stacks, because I’d exhausted all the possibilities in the more accessible shelves, and I caught sight of our mutual Sinnlenst friend sitting at one of the tables with a book open in front of him.”

Viola winced. “Tell me you didn’t decide to go talk to him.”

“Of course not. I waited until he’d left, then I came back out of the stacks and picked up the book he’d been reading.” She lowered her voice. “It was Parsifal’s On The Nature of The Forbidden.

By itself, that wasn’t much proof of anything – Parsifal’s book might be infamous, but it was also fairly widely available and most young magicians had tried to read at least a chapter or two (and then given up, because Parsifal’s prose was so dense that reading it was the mental equivalent of running laps around the city walls. In winter).

But then again, Avebury wasn’t most young magicians.

“As I said, it’s circumstantial at best. But if he’s researching that kind of thing then I think we should be on our guard against magical attacks as well as physical. At the very least, we should make sure all the wards around the safehouses are properly checked.”

“That’s a bloody good idea. Do you want to raise it with your father?”

Amelia shook her head. “Papa would only tell me not to worry, and that I’m still too young to be getting involved in that side of the Order’s business. Mama would probably listen to me, but she’d also make me submit any plans I made so she could critique them, and that’s going to waste time that we don’t have if Avebury’s already making his move.” She frowned. “No. I think I’ll have to do this one by myself.”

“With me, you mean,” Viola said.

“No, I don’t mean.” She held up a hand, forestalling Viola’s protests. “You’re almost certainly being watched by the Sinnlenst already, so if we go to different places we can split whatever eyes they have on us at least two ways. And besides, I thought you were going up to see Archmage Verist tomorrow.”

If that’s where Sabbat and Archer went. Unlike you, I can’t exactly go dropping in on a noble unannounced, especially one who’s supposed to be a neutral party.”

“Ah.” She chewed her bottom lip, thinking for a moment, then beamed. “I’ve got it! I know who’ll be able to tell you where they’ve gone – or, at least, might have more of an idea.”


“That girl, the one who brought the letters. Archer said she was trustworthy, didn’t he? And even if he didn’t tell her where they were going, she might have overheard something which could put you on the right track.”

It wasn’t a terrible idea. Radish was one of Jenny’s grandchildren, which meant she’d almost certain be living at the Daggers, so finding her wouldn’t be an issue. And, if Amelia was right and she had overheard something…

“She knows I’m Order, doesn’t she?”

“I suspect so – or, at least, that you’re someone Archer trusts.”

“Good. Last thing I need is for her to steer me wrong because she thinks I’m a Sinnlenst assassin or something.” She sat back on the bed, hands behind her head, and closed her eyes. “Tomorrow, then. I’ll go find her tomorrow.”

“After lectures? I’ve another round of ritual mathematics with Avebury tomorrow and I’d rather have the backup. Not to mention the fact that they’re announcing apprenticeships tomorrow, so the corridors will be ridiculously crowded. I could use your height.”

“Am I your bodyguard or your battering ram?” Viola muttered, grinning.

“Both. And also my big sister, who’d probably rather I didn’t get squashed flat by a herd of rampaging first years.”

“True, but only because if you were flat it’d be a sodding hassle trying to get you into your dresses.”

“We’d probably have to iron them on,” Amelia agreed. “Or do something clever with paper-folding and sealing wax.” She yawned, nestling her head against Viola’s collarbone. “So we’re agreed, then. Tomorrow after lectures, you’ll go look for Radish, and I’ll start hunting down the names of people I need to talk to about safehouses and warding.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Viola agreed.

I just hope the Sinnlenst are obliging enough to keep their heads down while we put it into action.


If there were any more Sinnlenst out on the mountain that night, they were lying low.

Archer bent forward over his mare’s neck, peering into the gloom. Ahead of them, the path wound up between the trees, pale moonlight lying in pools and puddles between the shadows of the overhanging branches. It’d started to snow again – common enough in this season – and the white flakes blew across the road in flurries, scattering and dancing in the freezing air. The horses’ breath came in plumes of steam, rising up in front of them like volcanic clouds, and, just for a moment, the whole world seemed balanced on a silvered knife-edge of perfect stillness.


The reality of the situation, of course, was a good deal less poetic.

He sat up in his saddle, turning to look towards the source of the expletive. “Are you alright?” Bloody stupid question. Of course he’s not alright.

The assassin shook his head, face grey. “No.”

“What’s wrong?”

“-th’fuck d’you-” Sabbat began, and then groaned and doubled over, one gloved hand pressed to his mouth. “Ngh.”

“Do you need water?”

“Gngh.” He slid gracelessly out of the saddle, landing knee-deep in the drift at the side of the road, bent forward and retched, vomiting a mixture of dark blood and red-tinged foam onto the packed snow.

“Gods,” Archer breathed, not realising until after the word had left his lips that he’d been speaking out loud. “Gods above.” He slipped from his own saddle, giving his mare a reassuring pat on the neck as he did so, and hurried through the snow to the assassin’s side.

Sabbat was still doubled over, hands on his knees, his chest heaving as he coughed. As Archer reached him he straightened up, wiped the back of one hand across his mouth and said, hoarsely, “-th’fuck’re y’lookin’ at me like that for? ‘m fine.”

“Liar.” He reached out, placing a hand carefully on Sabbat’s shoulder. “Are you going to pass out before we get to the Hall?”

“‘m fine,” Sabbat growled, but he didn’t pull away from Archer’s hand. “Jus’ need a moment, ‘s all.”

If I didn’t know throwing that damn box away wouldn’t solve anything, I’d be sorely bloody tempted. How much worse is this going to get? The snow was falling faster now, dizzying spirals of flakes swirling and twisting in the wind as it whistled around the trunks of the looming pines. Damn it. We need to be moving.

“Wind’s pickin’ up,” Sabbat said, after a moment. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth again and spat into the snow. “Ain’t gettin’ much done standin’ around here.”

Archer nodded. “It’s only a few miles more. We should be able to make it before the worst of this blows in, if we’re lucky.”

“An’ if we ain’t?”

“Then we head off the path and find somewhere to wait it out.” And let’s pray it doesn’t come to that.

It took three tries for Sabbat to get back into the saddle. In the end, he grudgingly accepted Archer’s offer of a leg up, though he also made it very clear that he was only doing so because the snow was blowing in his eyes and making it hard for him to see where he needed to put his hands. (Archer, who’d watched the assassin climb a three-storey building in a snowstorm in the dead of night, said nothing and let him have the excuse. Better that than an argument, when they were already racing the worst of the weather).

The snow came in thicker and faster the higher they climbed, the wind howling around the peaks high above them like a living thing. Archer breathed a silent prayer of thanks for the protection of the forest – aside from anything else, if they’d been out on the bare mountain they’d have been barely able to see where they were going by this point.

“Not much longer now!” he called back over his shoulder, raising his voice to be heard over the rising storm. “Just around the next curve, unless I’ve missed my mark!”

“Good!” Sabbat yelled back. He hunched deeper into his coat, glaring up at the sky above the branches as though it’d personally offended him. “Sooner we’re out of this the better!”

Archer was inclined to agree. He tugged gently on the lead rope, bringing the erstwhile carthorse up beside his own mare, and reached out to rest a hand briefly on her neck. “Gently now, ijali. Stables and food for you soon.”

Verist was a keen rider and, unlike some nobles Archer could name, actually gave a damn about the wellbeing of his mounts. There’d almost certainly be space for the new addition in his stables, and she’d not be short of care and attention for the time she was there. (Archer didn’t have much inclination to find out who the Sinnlenst had hired the cart from, if it had been hired, but he’d leave that decision up to Verist – if the other man wanted to make right with the horse’s original owner, Archer wasn’t going to stop him).

Up ahead of them the road forked, one branch carrying on further up the mountain while the other curved to the left, cutting through the deep forest and running parallel to a ridge of bare rock. There had once been a signpost at the Y of the fork, though both signs had long since broken away – now there was just a single wooden post topped with an ancient lantern whose orange flame, somehow still alight despite the weather, guttered and flickered in the howling wind.

“Left!” he shouted, lifting a hand from the reins to point the way. “And we’re in luck!”


“Lantern’s lit!” He’d been assuming that Verist would be at home to meet them – given the other man almost never came down to the city these days, it had been a fairly safe bet – but the sight of the little flame dancing in the darkness had cheered him more than he was willing to admit.

“He expectin’ us?” Sabbat asked, drawing level with Archer. He scowled into the darkness ahead of them, one hand dropping to his knife. “Thought you din’t have time t’send word.”

“I didn’t. And, unless he’s still in contact with significantly more of our old colleagues from the days of the Revolution than he’s ever told me, he isn’t expecting us.”

“Then what’s he doin’ lightin’ the way?”

“It’s not for us. And it wasn’t for the Sinnlenst, either, if that’s what you’re worrying about.” He sighed, turning his mare’s head towards the road leading to the Hall. “He’s lighting the way for his son.”

“Ain’t that-” Sabbat began, but something in Archer’s face must have told him not to push the issue. “Y’mean the soldier-boy wi’ the missin’ arm?” he asked instead, after a moment.

“That hardly narrows it down in our city, but if you’re talking about Mortimer, then yes. Though I note that, as far as I’m aware, he’s practically of an age with you.”

Sabbat didn’t bother justifying that last comment with a response. “Could make somethin’ of him, y’know,” he said, after a moment. “Ain’t proper shadow arm material yet, but he’s got the makin’s of a decent spy.”

Archer wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about that pronouncement. On the one hand, he’s already neck-deep in the war by his own choice. Better someone take him in hand before he winds up dead in the river. On the other, Sabbat’s not someone I’d wish on anyone as a mentor. Or, at least, on anyone who didn’t know exactly what they were getting themselves into.

“Much further?” the assassin asked, after a while.

Archer shook his head. “We’re nearly there.”

They were riding in the shadow of the ridge now, the high rock wall shielding them from the worst of the weather. Ahead, marked by another lantern, the road bent sharply to the right and seemed, from the angle they were approaching it from, to disappear into the bare rock.

“Y’sure we’re goin’ the right way?”

Archer would’ve laughed, if the situation hadn’t been so serious. Every time. Though I suppose I said exactly the same thing the first time I rode this way as well. “I’m certain. You’ll see when we get there.”

Sabbat raised a sceptical eyebrow, but didn’t argue – though Archer had the distinct impression that was more because he was too cold and too tired to string a consistent argument together than because he was in any way convinced by Archer’s point.

You might be better at dealing with this weather than most humans, my friend, but you’re human all the same. And down a fair amount of blood, to boot. The sooner we get inside, the better.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, after the silence had dragged on for long enough to start becoming worrying.

The assassin rolled his eyes. “Like I said the last ten fuckin’ times – been worse, been better.”

Archer gave him a look. “Unhelpful.”

“An’ what good’d bein’ any more fuckin’ specific do? Aside from makin’ you fuss even more’n y’already are?”

“I’m not fussing. I’m-“

“You’re fussin’,” Sabbat said, bluntly. “Ain’t anythin’ either of us can do about it – ‘s why we’re talkin’ t’your fuckin’ toff friend, ain’t it? – an’ you worryin’ y’self sick ain’t helpin’.”

He had a point, damn him. “We’re almost there. Just around this corner.”

“An’ through the fuckin’ rock?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.” The cliff face stretched up above them, the top of it almost invisible in the tree-shrouded gloom. Archer urged his horse onward, following the curve of the path round and into the mouth of a short passage carved through the rock itself, just wide enough for three horses harnessed abreast to pass between its rough-hewn walls.

Beyond the dark confines of the tunnel stretched a broad, open expanse of snow, bounded on two sides by high sky-sweeping pines, and on the third by an edifice that looked almost as though it’d been carved out of the stone of the mountain itself. To call it a house seemed inadequate – ‘fortress’ would have been more apt (though, in Archer’s experience, most fortresses were a good deal more filled with noise and life than the seemingly empty monolith rising in front of them).

“Welcome,” Archer said, taking a hand from the reins for long enough to gesture towards the forbidding frontage, “to Cauldwell Hall.”


[START (SERIES) – Blood on the Snow: Chapter 1]

[Author’s note: this is first/discovery draft content – I apologise for the likely increased number of typos]

Copyright © 2021 by Finn McLellan.  All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 10 (draft)

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