Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 12 (draft)

It was light when Archer woke up.

Not the full, blinding light of midday, thankfully – he’d not slept that long at least – but the blue-white light of early morning sun on new-fallen snow, streaming in through the shutters to lie in bright bars across the threadbare rug and patterned blankets of the room he’d commandeered for himself and Sabbat.

Verist had originally attempted to make them take the guest rooms in the main part of the house, arguing that he’d be a poor host otherwise, but Sabbat had taken one look at the room he’d been offered and point-blank refused to set foot in it, muttering darkly under his breath about hidden doors and un-defensible entrances. Since neither Archer nor Verist had much felt like arguing the matter, the idea had been dropped almost immediately, and the two of them had ended up in a room high in the eaves which had once been set aside for the servants of visiting nobility – smaller and more cramped than the main guest rooms, admittedly, but also a good deal less full of dark corners and potential-assassin-concealing furniture.

Archer was fairly certain that Sabbat’s objection had been more than half making a point – he might be indebted to Archer’s friend (and likely to become more so) but he wasn’t that easily bought – but he had to admit that he’d also breathed a sigh of relief when they’d agreed on simpler quarters.

This isn’t a social call, and we’d all do well to remember as much. Not to mention the fact that it’s a damn sight easier to deal with blood and vomit when you’re not also having to worry about keeping the fixtures and fittings clean and playing the good guest.

Speaking of…

He rolled over, wincing as the motion sent a jolt of pain through the side of his head, and looked towards the bed that Sabbat had claimed.

It was empty.

I am not going to panic.

This is a safe place. There’s no sign of a struggle. He didn’t wake me, which means whatever happened, it wasn’t urgent. The odds are he’s gone to have breakfast or practice throwing knives at unsuspecting hardbacks or something equally mundane.

There is no logical reason for me to be worrying at this juncture.

Which was both entirely true, and went entirely nowhere to explain how, in the course of thinking the preceding four sentences, he’d somehow gone from being on his side in bed to being upright, dressed (after a fashion) and out of the room, his sword banging against his hip as he strode purposefully down the corridor.

At least I didn’t draw it, I suppose. Baring steel in a friend’s house is hardly the height of good manners.

He’d remembered to belt the dressing gown, at least. On the other hand, he’d belted it with his sword-belt, which meant both that the hilt of his sabre was riding too damn high to be either practical or comfortable, and that the pommel of his belt-knife seemed to be trying to burrow its way through the back of his spine.

Gods dammit. Stop and think for a moment, why don’t you?

He forced himself to slow down, closing his eye and breathing deeply through his nose in an attempt to pull his racing heartbeat back down to something approaching normal. The air here tasted… clean, for want of a better word, even in this disused area of the house, and a few good lungfuls of it were more than enough to steady his thudding heart and still his shaking hands, anchoring him more firmly in the present rather than the unknown and unpredictable future.

Better. Now sort your damn kit out so you look less like a raw recruit who can’t dress himself properly.

The buckle on his sword-belt was twisted badly enough that he had to stop walking entirely in order to sort it out – and, by the time he’d done so, he’d calmed down enough to actually start paying attention to what the house was telling him.

Unlike most nobles who set up in the country, Verist lived alone and had very few servants, meaning that the Hall was a damn sight less crowded than it’d otherwise be. With that in mind, once Archer had set himself to the task it wasn’t hard for him to isolate out the different sounds he was hearing and pin them to specific members of the household – the rattle of buckets in the yard that meant Thomas was out feeding the animals, the squeak of the pump handle as Cyra drew water for washing, and the clink of cutlery and buzz of conversation that could only be Verist and the only other person he knew was in residence discussing something over breakfast.

If that was all, then…

Then, I’ll be honest, I’m rather annoyed that he didn’t think to wake me. I could do with something other than blood to fill my stomach.

He’d still have to go out hunting at some point that day – he wasn’t about to deprive his host of an animal in order to sate his thirst, and there were more than enough deer on the mountainside – but a good breakfast would almost certainly make that easier,  not to mention giving him the chance to catch up with the other two now that they were all three rested and in less imminent danger of collapse.

I hope. I’m not entirely convinced that Sabbat’s doing half as well as he’s pretending he is, though I doubt he’ll admit as much. If we could only find some way of dealing with the damn box, then…

His feet had carried him almost to the door of the breakfast room by the time he’d brought his mind back from spinning through half a dozen half-formed plans – he stopped, took a breath, and then pushed the door open and went in.

Sabbat, who was mid-rant and gesticulating with a forkful of pancake, looked up, grinning lopsidedly as he caught sight of exactly who’d just interrupted his tirade. “Will! Y’goin’ t’help me explain t’your friend here why his idea’s shit?”

“And good morning to you too,” Archer said, crossing to help himself to a plate from the side table. “What’s the proposition, and why am I being asked to take sides on it?”

“As to the second, I’m not entirely sure,” Verist said, leaning forward to top up his tea glass. “As to the first, I was merely suggesting that if you’re uncertain as to the whereabouts of the second of the boxes, it might be worth my asking around some of my acquaintances. If anyone’s likely to have come across mention of such an artefact, it’ll almost certainly be one of them.”

“Which is a fuckin’ stupid idea, on account of the fact we don’t know how many of ’em are in the pockets of the Sinnlenst,” Sabbat objected. “Last thing we need those bastards knowin’ is exactly who’s got their fuckin’ cursed box.”

“I’d not put it quite like that, but yes, Sabbat’s right. I know you’re very deliberately not in the game, but spreading that kind of information is hardly a neutral act.”

Verist nodded, leaning back in his chair and frowning over the top of his glasses. “Your point is taken. Though I confess I didn’t know that the box belonged to the Sinnlenst until… well, to be honest, until you mentioned as much, Sabbat.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Archer saw Sabbat’s hand move towards his razor. He sighed, held up his own hand for silence, and then said, very calmly, “Sabbat, please don’t draw steel on my friend, especially when he’s acting as your host. Philip, please clarify your position when it comes to the Sinnlenst, ideally in as few words as possible.”

“They’re traitors all, but I have too much influence and too much at stake to be a part of the game,” Verist said, promptly and somewhat heatedly. “My sympathies are with the Order – as you well know, Will – but I cannot be seen or discovered to be taking sides. In fact, the only reason I’m amenable to the two of you being here at all is that it’s common knowledge that Archer and I have been friends since the Revolution, so there’s every reason for him to come and visit me in my retirement.”

Sabbat looked as though he wanted to make some sort of retort on that front, but his face went suddenly grey and he doubled over, one hand going to his mouth.

“Oh gods,” Archer muttered, hardly realising he’d spoken aloud. He turned to Verist, only to find the other magician already on his feet and busy at the sideboard. “Do you have something we can-“

“Here,” Verist said, turning around with an empty serving bowl in his hand. “It’s not ideal, I admit, but-“

“‘Ideal’ nothing,” Archer said, cutting him off. “Thank you.” He took the bowl, turned back around – and had just enough time to position it under Sabbat’s head before the assassin was violently and noisily sick into it.

“Well,” said Verist, after a while. “I take it things are… no better than they were last night, then.”

“What gave y’that idea?” Sabbat growled, hoarsely. “Everythin’s fuckin’ fine. Never bin better.” He coughed again, spitting bile and blood into the bowl, and glared at the floor. “‘m fine.

“You’re still capable of sarcasm, at least,” Archer said, with more levity than he felt. “Is it worse?”

“Ain’t worse. Not yet, anyhow.”

“And ‘not yet’ is what’s worrying me.” He turned to Verist. “I take it you’ve not had time to look into ways of destroying it?”

“Not as much as I’d like, no. Given the thing’s age, I highly doubt any of the usual methods would work – in fact, I suspect that trying them would only lead to a more sudden deterioration of your friend’s condition-“

“If you’re talkin’ about me, y’can talk to me, not t’him,” Sabbat put in, looking up. “Ain’t so far gone as that yet.”

“-your condition, then,” Verist amended. “I’d need at least another day or two to study the artefact before I’d even consider putting something together, and, unless we’re ridiculously lucky, it’s likely to involve crafting an entirely new ritual from scratch.”

Archer winced. Ritual-crafting was a dangerous proposition at the best of times – add in the complicating factor of a pre-Fall artefact with unknown powers and a blood link to at least one magician and you’d be safer taking up fire-juggling.

Though, if I had to pick someone to try and keep all those particular flaming torches in the air, Verist would be the magician for the job. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, then. I trust your skills, but-“

“But you and I both know that experimental ritual magic has a tendency to end in burned floors and singed eyebrows at the tamest,” Verist finished, with a wry smile. He settled back into his chair and gestured towards the pile of books balanced in the middle of the breakfast table. “Those’re the volumes I picked out from the library – I’ve an unfortunate pile of estate paperwork to deal with this morning, but if you want to take over where I’ve been forced to leave off, you’re more than welcome to.”

“I think I’ll take you up on that,” Archer said. He crossed to the table, picking up one of the volumes from the stack and leafing through it. “I assume you’ve already covered the basics – fire, water, earth, air, any of the minor rituals of unmaking…”

Sabbat rolled his eyes. “Ain’t goin’ t’work, an’ you know as much. Tried lookin’ through some o’ the older books on curse-breakin’, but since even your mate here ain’t sure whether it counts as a curse or not-“

“A hazard of pre-Fall artifice in general, but more pronounced when it comes to this kind of work,” Verist confirmed.

“-there’s an equal chance tryin’ one o’ those on it’d soddin’ backfire an’ make this whole fuckin’ mess even worse. Somehow.”

Oh, I can think of ways it could be worse, Archer thought. Out loud, he said “Assuming that destroying it isn’t an option – or, at least, isn’t an option at this moment – have you looked into the possibility of some kind of… hibernation, maybe?”

Sabbat laughed. “Th’fuck d’you think it is, a fuckin’ bear?”

Helpful, as always. Though I’ll admit that I’m relieved you can still make jokes about the damn thing. “Stasis, then. A way of pausing the effects of the artefact, or at the very least ensuring that whatever it’s doing doesn’t progress beyond its current state.”

Verist nodded slowly. “It’s not a bad plan. If we use Halsdottir’s runic resonator and then weave in the sigils from the traditional gateway spell which are concerned with holding the portal open… yes, that might do the trick, even if only for a short while.”

“Add in one o’ the protection spells while you’re about it,” Sabbat suggested. He pulled one of the books from the stack, flipped it open and turned it towards the other two, tapping one of the sigil diagrams on the facing page with a forefinger. “This one ain’t got anythin’ in it that’d conflict with Halsdottir or a standard gateway, an’ it’s easy enough t’blood-seal if y’know what you’re doin’.”

Verist looked as though he wanted to raise an objection, but settled for frowning and pushing his reading glasses further up his nose. After a moment he said “That might well work, though I’d need to draw out the geometry a few times to be entirely certain. If it does, I can’t promise that the effect will last for more than a few days.”

Sabbat nodded. “Gives us long enough t’figure out how t’break the fuckin’ thing.” His hand moved unconsciously to his chest, fingertips pressing against the outline of the box. “Sooner rather’n later.”

“I doubt any of us here would disagree with you,” Verist said. He stood up, pushing his chair away from the table, and turned to Archer. “Since it looks rather as though the two of you are going to be making a morning of it – and I’ll be joining you as soon as I’m free – I’ll see what I can scare up in the way of a lunch which won’t result in too many crumbs on the books. I think I’ve managed to locate most of the volumes we’ll need, but feel free to raid the library for anything else you think will help – I trust you remember where everything is?”

“It’s been a while,” Archer admitted, “but I’m sure I can piece it together.” Not least because I was  the one who helped you cart half of those books back from the city after we liberated them from the Sinnlenst vaults.

“Excellent,” the other man said, with a smile. He picked up his cane and limped to the door, turning at the threshold to add, almost in passing, “There’s something I need to talk to you both about later, by the way. It’s about the University.”


Coincidentally, the University was also uppermost in Jonathan Fest’s mind at that precise moment, though in his case this was mainly because he was both running horrifically late and exceptionally aware that his odds of sneaking into the back of the lecture theatre without getting noticed were dwindling by the second.

It really is not my fault this time, though, for all the good that’s going to do. It’s not as though I chose to spend half of last night dealing with a break-in. And I could hardly have left Anneke on their own after that – even if I hadn’t owed them already, that’s not the kind of thing you do to your friends.

The entry hall was more crowded than usual, but he didn’t have time to wonder why, not with the bells already starting to ring out the hour as he shoved his way through the throng.

Gods dammit, why did it have to be bloody Beckett’s class out of all of them? Half the others would just let it go, but he’s bound to make some kind of joke about it and then everyone’ll turn around and stare at me, and I’ll be lucky if the damn windows don’t go out this time, and hells, why did I have to get the kind of sorcery that flares up every time I’m embarrassed anyway? If I’d just got something actually useful, I’d-

“Hey, Fest! Hey! Over here!”

He skidded to a halt, staring around the hall until he caught sight of a familiar face bobbing above the crowd. “Alvasdottir? Why aren’t you in lectures?”

The shorter student shook her head, her long black braid whipping behind her like the tail of an angry cat. “Not on this morning, remember?” She elbowed her way through the press towards him and, when she was close enough, gestured emphatically towards the knot of students crowded around the noticeboard at the base of the main staircase. “See, I told you you were going to be one of the lucky ones!”

“Slow down!” Fest exclaimed, though he couldn’t help laughing as he said it. Zophia Alvasdottir was one of the few people in his year he actually liked – not least because it was practically impossible to dislike someone who managed to be quite so enthusiastic about practically everything – but even he had to admit that her brain had a distinct tendency to run ahead of her mouth when she was excited. “What’s going on, and what’s it got to do with me?”

“You mean you don’t know?” She grabbed hold of his hand, all but dragging him in her wake as she forced her way through the chattering crowd. “Gods above, Fest, did you have your head in a book all week?”

No, I was too busy being kidnapped. And joining a secret society. And getting blackmailed. “It’s- I’ve had other things to worry about.”

Thankfully Alvasdottir seemed to be too caught up in whatever it was she was trying to show him to ask any more questions. “Come on! At this rate, everyone else at the university will know about your apprenticeship before you do!”

Know about my-

Oh no. How in the name of all the gods did I manage to forget?

Two weeks ago, the apprenticeships had been close to the most important thing in his life: he’d lain awake fretting over essay marks and wondering if the answers he’d given in a practical exam half a year ago were going to count against him when it came to deciding where he’d be sent (and wondering how he was going to break the news to his parents if he ended up not being sent anywhere at all).

But then again, two weeks ago his life had been considerably less complicated.

“There!” Alvasdottir said, pushing her way to the front of the throng. She jabbed a finger towards the long list of names tacked up on one side of the noticeboard. “Told you you were lucky! Look!”

Fest looked.

For one horrible, heart-stopping moment, he thought that she must be mocking him. His name wasn’t anywhere in the bottom half of the list – not even in the small collection of those who’d be serving their apprenticeships at the university, which was widely regarded as a euphemism for spending most of your time catching up on work you’d failed to complete satisfactorily the first time around.

But Alvasdottir wasn’t the kind of person to pull that kind of prank – not least because, as far as he could tell, she’d been the victim of it a time or two herself. Which meant…

His eyes went, almost unbidden, to the top half of the list – and then, with a growing sense of vertiginous disbelief, to the ten lines at the very top of the page which marked the assignments for the most coveted positions.

“You can’t be serious!”

“I double-checked. It’s real.” She grinned, showing the gap where one of her teeth had been knocked out in a barfight last term. “Lucky bugger.”

He didn’t feel all that lucky. Mostly he felt as though he was going to be sick.

This can’t be real. This can’t be real. I’m not even in the top ten in my class, there’s no possible reason for me to be sent to apprentice to someone that powerful. It doesn’t make any sense.

Alvasdottir tugged at his arm. “Are you alright? You’ve gone green round the edges.”

“I’m… You’re sure this is right?”

“Oh,” said an all-too-familiar voice from somewhere behind his left shoulder, “I assure you, it’s right.”

“Hello, Avebury,” Fest said, without turning around. He took a deep breath, trying to keep his shoulders from instinctively going up around his ears. “Was there something specific you wanted, or did you just come over to…” Do what, exactly? There’s no reason he should be feeling so smug about this, given I don’t see his name anywhere on the-

He looked up at the list tacked to the board again, actually focusing on the rest of the sentence beyond his own name and the (impossible) name of the master magician he’d been chosen to apprentice under. There was a third name there, partnered with his own, and he didn’t need to get more than a couple of characters into it before he suddenly realised exactly why Avebury had decided to make his presence known.

“You bastard,” he said, very quietly. “You absolute bastard. You planned this, didn’t you?”

“Of course,” the Sinnlenst said, conversationally. “It helps to have friends in high places, after all.” He placed a companionable hand on Fest’s shoulder. “I look forward to working with you, Mr Fest. Between the two of us, I have the feeling this could be a very interesting apprenticeship.”


“Don’t,” Amelia said, quietly. She laid a hand on Viola’s arm, looking up at the taller girl with an expression that seemed to be equal parts amusement and concern. “If for no other reason than I’m fairly certain if you tried it someone would probably go for the porters, and then I’d have far too much explaining to do.”

She was right, of course, not that it made Viola any happier about the situation. I know, I know, the last thing we need is me blowing both our covers, causing a scene, oh, and very possibly getting thrown out of the university in the bargain. But hells, if I cared even a little less about the consequences…

It was Avebury’s expression that’d done it. The fact that he was talking with Fest was workable, even if it made the back of her neck crawl. The fact that he’d apparently manipulated the apprenticeship assignments to ensure that he and Fest were assigned to the same place was… if not workable, then at least something they could probably use to their advantage even while they were working behind the scenes to discover how in the name of all the ancestors he’d managed to pull thatoff. But the smug little I’m-smarter-than-you-and-I-know-it smile that he’d not even been trying to hide – that was what had set her hackles up and her jaw clenching as she fought back the impulse to stride over, grab him by the collar, and put him bodily through the nearest sodding window. For a start.

Oh ancestors, give me the chance once we’re done with this bloody blackmail situation and the bastard’s down as expendable. Please.

She had a strong suspicion she’d be going up against Sabbat for that particular contract, but if that was the case then the assassin could sit down and wait his sodding turn. She’d a good deal more personal reasons to want Avebury dead than he did, after all.

Nobody treats me like a fucking prize and gets away with their throat intact. Nobody.


She blinked.

“You’re growling, Vi. People are starting to notice.” She nodded towards the far side of the hall, where the double doors that led into the east wing of the library stood invitingly open. “Come on. I need to do some research, and you need to watch my back while I do it.”

“To make sure that bastard doesn’t put a knife in it?”

“Something like that,” Amelia said, quietly. She squeezed Viola’s arm. “I’m going to miss you while you’re away, you know.”

“What do you mean? I’m not going anywhere – at least, not for long.”

“Yes, you are.” She looked back towards Fest and Avebury, still stood in quiet conversation by the noticeboard. “Or didn’t you notice who our two friends there are apprenticing with?”


At least the apprenticeship nonsense is keeping the majority of them out of the library, Mortimer thought.

He slung his satchel of books over his shoulder and kicked the brake on the ladder into place, locking it halfway down the towering row of stacks which stretched away into the dust-filled recesses of the restricted section. Normally, students weren’t allowed anywhere near this place without at least three rounds of interviews and a signed permission slip – but then, normally, students weren’t also working as junior librarians in order to fund their studies.

Not that he’d have declined the offer even if he had been able to pay his fees, mind. He’d never been able to concentrate properly in lectures, and the quiet and dark of the library allowed him to work through theory problems a good deal faster than the hustle and bustle of the rest of the university. And besides, I’ve always been happier working with my hands- hand.

The books in the satchel were all bound for one of the higher shelves – worse luck – but the ladder was stable enough that, even one-handed, the climb was relatively easy. Once he’d found the correct shelf, though, things got more complicated.

Could wish the aisles were wide enough for a decent set of stairs. That’d make this a damn sight easier.

When he’d first started working in the library, he’d tried to use the ladders the same way any of the other junior librarians might – standing halfway up the rungs, trying to keep his balance as he worked one unwieldy volume after another into a shelf which’d warped badly enough that it was mostly being kept up by the tallest of the books underneath it. And it had worked, for a time.

But then he’d been working late one evening and, distracted by the title of one of the books on the shelf he was working on, he’d reached out too far, lost his balance, and fallen off the ladder, pulling what felt like half the stack down on top of him in the process. He’d broken his nose, bruised his ribs, and only just escaped being knocked unconscious – and, by the time he’d recovered enough to be allowed up the ladders again, he’d come to the conclusion that he’d have to find another way around the problem.

Carefully, keeping a tight hold on the side of the ladder, he brought one leg up and over one of the middle rungs, leaning back as he did so to catch the rung with the back of his knee. The second leg followed and, after a brief shaky moment where the satchel shifted against his chest and almost pulled him off balance, he found himself sitting surprisingly comfortably on one of the higher rungs of the ladder, his boots dangling over empty space as he took a moment to catch his breath and consider his next move.

Which was, of course, the point at which someone tapped the bottom of the ladder.


Least they waited until I was sitting down, I suppose. “What is it? Aren’t you lot supposed to be-” and then, as his brain caught up to his mouth and he realised exactly who had just hissed at him, “-Amelia?! What’re you doing here?”

“Research, obviously,” she said, eyes wide in mock-innocence. “What else would I be doing in a library?”

“I’m- Not that I’m not glad to see you, but-“

“You’ve only just got yourself up there and you’d rather not try and get down again without getting those books shelved?” She smiled, and he felt his heart skip a beat. “I know. Wait there for a second.”

“Amelia, what’re you-“

But she was gone, disappearing into the gloom of the stacks in a whirl of brightly coloured cloth and jingling jewellery.

Mortimer rested his forehead against the top rung of the ladder and sighed, very quietly. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate Amelia’s impulsiveness – far from it, in fact – but sometimes he really did wish that she’d tell him what she was planning. Though the gods know I’ve kept enough from her that I don’t get to make that complaint out loud. I’m only glad that we got all of that settled before my father decided to get involved.

It wasn’t that he thought his father would disapprove of Amelia. Quite the opposite, in fact – he had a fair idea that within ten minutes of the two of them getting acquainted they’d have disappeared off into the library or the workshop, excitedly chattering away about some new discovery in the field of theoretical magic.

Which means that if I’d not told her about what I’ve been up to with the Sinnlenst, and he found out… well, a lecture would be the least of my worries.

There was an ominous rattling sound from the far end of the stack. “Oh gods. Please tell me she’s not…”

“If it’s any consolation,” said a voice from behind him, “she does know how to use them properly. She bullied one of the older librarians into showing her the first time her parents brought her up to the library.”

Somehow, that actually helps. “Morning to you too, Viola. Did the two of you come all this way just to sneak up on me?”

“Hilarious as that’d be, no. She’s not lying about needing to do research, and I’m not letting her wander around on her own right now.”

“Did something happen?”

“Not yet. I’ll-” She broke off, and Mortimer distinctly heard the sound of her palm hitting her forehead. “Oh for the sake of my favourite ancestors, ‘melia, that was your plan?”

The rattling intensified, and Mortimer lifted his head in time to see another one of the library ladders moving surprisingly fast along the stack towards him, the lantern hooked to the side bobbing dangerously in the gloom.  He had just enough time to wonder what in the hells he was going to do if the damn thing didn’t stop in time before it squeaked to a halt barely a foot away from him and Amelia swarmed up it, her face flushed with exertion and the tight coils of her hair framing her head like a halo in the warm light.

“Much better,” she said, once she’d drawn level with him. She leaned across the gap between their ladders, planted a quick kiss on his cheek, and then whispered “We have a problem. Avebury’s going up to the Hall.”

Mortimer nearly fell off the ladder.

By the time he’d recovered his balance (which, thanks to the heavy satchel and his missing arm, took longer than he’d have liked), he’d managed to marshal his panicked thoughts into some semblance of order – enough, at least, that his first question wasn’t ‘where is he now and how quickly can we get rid of any witnesses?’

Instead, he took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and then said “Why?”

“We don’t know,” Viola growled. “But whatever it is, it can’t be good. For any of us.”

“He’s interested in magical research,” Amelia put in. “And, given Archmage Verist’s area of expertise, it does makes a certain amount of sense that he’s somehow managed to get himself apprenticed to him.”

“He’s what?”

“He and Fest both,” Viola said. “Which means I’m also going up there, because I don’t trust the bastard as far as I can throw him.” She frowned, twisting the end of her braid between her fingers. “Though I’m damned if I know how I’m going to explain any of it to your father.”

“You’re not,” Mortimer said, before he could stop himself. “I am.” He took a deep breath, steadying himself on the ladder. “I got a letter from him last night. He apologised. Said the Hall was always open to me, if I needed it.” Dammit, I am not sodding crying about this again. Not here. Not now. “Wrote a postscript under it saying he’d been hearing rumours of something going on in the city. If he doesn’t know there’s a sodding Sinnlenst about to turn up at his door- gods dammit, I need to get up there and warn him before they show up.”

Viola scowled. “Or you could let me do that and not risk blowing your cover by getting in between the two of them.”

“Or you could stay the hells out of my family’s business,” Mortimer snapped, his fingers tightening on the wood of the ladder. “Unless you think I’m not capable-“

“Oh for fuck’s sake! You’re perfectly bloody capable of getting your head torn off because Avebury’s threatening your pack and you can’t keep your temper under control! He’s already suspicious of you – what if this is a trap?”

“Then I’ll walk into it with my eyes open and it’ll be my damn choice – and meanwhile you can stay back here and keep an eye on Amelia, like you’re bloody supposed to!”

“Don’t you tell me how to do my damn job!”

“Peace!” Amelia hissed, throwing a hand up between the two of them. She sighed. “Look, how’s this? Harry, you go up now, before the other two have had a chance to pack – with any luck, you’ll beat them there and you can find out for yourself whether your father knows what’s going on. Vi, we’ll stay back here-“


“Shush. Let me finish. We’ll stay back here until this evening. Then… Harry, your father has a gating circle, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, but it doesn’t work for anything other than communication – there’re enough underground streams between the Hall and the city that he had to do some fairly heavy modifications just to get it to work at all.” Mostly when he was meant to be helping me with my homework, as far as I recall.

“That’s all we need. I’ll ask Mama to let me borrow the one in her study tonight – let’s say at around ten – and you can tell us what you’ve learned. If the situation’s dire, or if you don’t make the rendezvous, then Vi can go up. Does that sound like a plan?”

It sounds like a compromise, Mortimer thought, but it was better than anything else he could come up with. And besides, I wouldn’t say no to having Viola up there with me, especially if this goes badly. “It sounds like a plan,” he said, out loud. “Though I’ll need to go back to my lodgings and get my kit in order, and-” And work out how in the hells I’m going to broach any of this with him, especially if he doesn’t know any of what’s going on.

Gods, this whole situation just got a lot more complicated.


[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 12 (draft)

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