Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 30 (draft)

He still remembered the way to Verist’s study, even after all these years. Hard not to, the number of times he’d been by there when he’d stayed up at the Hall back when they’d both been studying at the University. Verist’s fathers had been alive then, as had his mother, and the Hall had been a damn sight more lively with all of them around – especially in the winter, when they’d had house parties which lasted for days and filled the whole place with light and laughter (and a fair amount of drink). 

Even in the year of the Revolution, with the price of bread rising and unrest in the city growing, there’d been gatherings out here. Though in that year there’d been a deal less laughter and a good deal less drink, and the billiards tables and dances had been replaced with war councils and weapons drills. Hard for the Usurper to realise there was insurrection growing under his very nose when so much of it was being planned outside the city, after all, and the Hall had more than enough space to stockpile weapons and ammunition against the coming storm. 

Though, by that time, there’d been another agent of change at play in the house – a dream in hunting leathers and dancing boots who’d swirled into their lives and upended what had been until that point a fairly stable social circle. 

Vaudeline Tien. Gods, if there was ever a woman who should have lived to be a grandmother and tell tales of her exploits to her childrens’ adoring offspring… 

But Vaudeline had died young – too damn young – and Lucas had followed her to the pyre not two months later, and the boy who half the Order knew was Philip’s get (Lucas’ parents had opposed his having a three-way match, which meant it was never official, but it was an open secret that he’d not fathered the child he and Vaudeline were raising) had wound up being sent out here to his father, and-

And the rest is history. Up until the point when that same boy stood outside the door of my room and decided, in his infinite wisdom, to let slip something he likely did not intend for me to hear. 

The truth be told, he was almost glad of the fact he’d learned the news that way. It had given him time to find his composure, even if he’d not been able to hide his feelings as much as he’d have liked, and it meant that he’d been able to think through exactly how he wanted to approach the issue when it came to having it out with Verist. 

And yet, when he pushed open the door of the study and Verist stood up and came towards him with his hand out, his face wearing an expression Archer hadn’t seen since Vaudeline’s funeral, he found himself completely at a loss. 


“I…” His hands were shaking again. He gripped the pommel of his sword with his right, tightened his left into a fist in his coat pocket. Gods. Why can’t I- Why don’t I-

“I’m sorry.”

“…I don’t know if I want to hug you or punch you right now, Philip. Possibly both.”

“You know, then?”

“I know that you knew. And you didn’t tell me.”

“Yes.” Verist lowered his hand, resting it carefully atop his cane. “I could tell you why I made that decision, but I doubt that’s what you want to hear right now.”

“I want you to tell me how certain you are. I want you to tell me how long we have. I want you to tell me that there is a godsdamn plan.”

“Sit d-“

“I don’t need to sit down, Philip! I need answers.”

“Well enough, then. I’m hesitant to quantify, but I think it significantly more likely than not that the artefact is killing him, and that it’s doing so fast – a week, perhaps, without intervention. I have several possible plans which may at the very least slow the deterioration, but I need time to go over the practicalities.”

A week. The floor seemed to shift under his feet – he stumbled, catching himself with a hand on the back of one of the armchairs near the door. His breathing and heartbeat seemed suddenly very loud in his ears, as though he were underwater, and he realised with a detached sort of interest that he couldn’t entirely feel the tips of his fingers any more. A week. 

Lady of borders, lady of the crossing places, She who guards the gates of life and death – could you not give him more than a godsdamn week?

“Sit down,” Verist said, again, his voice muffled. “Please, Will. You look as though you’re going to faint, and my leg won’t take your weight if I have to pick you up off the damn hearthrug.”

It felt as though it took an eternity for him to find the armchair again, and, in the end, he only managed it because his hand was already touching the back of it. Why do I- This doesn’t- I-

“Sit down.”

He sat. Or, at least, collapsed in such a way that he managed to hit the chair instead of the floor, though it was a close-run thing. His thoughts seemed fragmented, shattered into sharp-edged pieces that tore at the insides of his mind, and he couldn’t find the thread which would pull them back into some semblance of order. “I… How…”


The non-sequitur managed to do what nothing else had so far – shock his brain into an actual response, if an unhelpful one. “What?” 

“You need a glass of tea,” said Verist, with an inflection that made it quite clear it wasn’t a suggestion. “As sweet and strong as you’ll take it, if you don’t want to pass out.”

“I don’t…”

“Listen to me. You’ve gone grey, your hands are shaking, and you can’t string a sentence together. You’re in shock.”

That sounds reasonable. 

“I am going to make you a glass of tea. You are going to drink it. And then we are going to work together on a plan to save your partner.”

“He’s not my- He’s not-“

“As you say. But first, tea.” He crossed to the samovar, busying himself with the preparations as he said, over his shoulder “I’m going to assume you’ve done the same groundwork as I have in terms of research into this kind of pre-Fall artefact – the books I lent you should have given you enough detail to get you on the same level, at least. Which means we can start with the fact that the piece is very likely either one of the forerunners of the lifeleech curse which Kara was looking into back all those years ago, or at the very least an inspiration for whoever came up with that particular branch of magic.”

Lifeleech curse? A memory floated upward unbidden in his mind’s eye – Kara, sat cross-legged on one of the tables in the University library, gesturing wildly with a chopstick while she sketched out one of her theories regarding the genealogy of certain branches of blood-magic. “The… It had to do with sheep, didn’t it? I don’t see what…”

Verist laughed quietly. “I forget how good your memory is for the fine details sometimes. You’re right about where she found the first mention of it, though. An old sheep-herder charm against curses on the flock, from somewhere in the Masikan hills.”

He remembered that. It’d been a passing mention in a journal they’d been trawling through, but something in the wording had caught at her and set her off on one of the research dives which used to take her out of the city for months at a time. “Something about… a beaker, or a cup, wasn’t it? A vessel of some kind, at least.”

“Again, you’re right.” He turned away from the samovar, passing Archer a steaming glass of tea before sitting down in the chair opposite him, his own glass balanced carefully on his lap. “Are you aware of the idea of the vessel anima?”

The term seemed familiar, but he couldn’t place it – though how much of that was the shock and how much was the years he had no idea. He tightened his hand around the metal holder of the tea glass, focusing on the warmth of the drink and the lazy curls of steam rising off it. “Remind me?”

“Very well. The theory of the vessel anima posits that every living being possesses a pool of magic within themselves – call it a cup or jug or beaker or whatever other term suits for the analogy. In the case of werewolves or vampires, like yourself, that pool replenishes itself at a very fast rate, drawing on your internal connection to the surrounding magic, such that even if the vessel itself was broken, you would still be able to survive – though you would find yourself needing to feed and thus replenish your body’s reserves a good deal more often than you currently do. In the case of humans, as well as most animals, the pool replenishes itself from the surrounding magic at a much slower rate, since we are significantly less well-connected to it and cannot interact directly with it as you do. Thus, if the vessel is broken, we are unable to refill it fast enough to sustain our body’s function. Simply put, we die.”

I remember now. Given the implications, I rather wish I didn’t. “And that…” He paused, took a breath, tried to shuffle his jumbled thoughts into some semblance of order. “You think that’s what has happened to Sabbat?”

“Yes. Or rather, I do, but it’s a little more complicated than that. My belief is that the half of the artefact he’s bonded to has, in effect, usurped the place of his vessel. I don’t know whether his vessel itself is broken, though I hope to the gods it’s not, but the artefact is acting as though it is a broken vessel – though in place of the magic simply… for want of a better word, leaking out, it is being fed back to the person who is bonded to the other half of the artefact.”

“So when we broke the connection-“

“If you had continued with that experiment, he might well have died. As might the person who is bonded to the other half, though I own I understand the function of that side significantly less well.”

“Gods. I…”

“I also believe that this connection is inherently unstable, which points to the artefact having been modified since its creation – given what we know of the original use-case for these items, they were intended to last for years. Based on Sabbat’s condition and everything you’ve told me about the progression of his symptoms, I’d say this one was either modified with a deliberate intent to kill, or repaired by someone with no bloody clue what they were messing with.”

And if this wasn’t Sabbat’s life we were talking about, I’d be a damn sight more interested in the theory behind this. As it is, though… “What can I do? How do I fix this?”

“I have a couple of ideas,” Verist said, “though none of them I’m confident enough in to experiment with yet.” He leant forward, steepling his fingers. “Essentially, the problem is one of two parts: breaking the connection with the artefact, and refilling the original vessel, assuming that it’s not been broken. The first part you’ve already discovered at least a temporary solution to, assuming your experiments were successful.”

“Yes. Though there was a fair degree of backlash when the circle around the box was broken – and I’m not certain the connection between Sabbat and his half of the artefact was affected, only the connection between the two halves.”

“Interesting. In which case we may need to look into something a little closer to blood magic than I’d otherwise suggest – I don’t know if you’re familiar with the kind of curses which sever the target’s ability to use magic?”

“Not familiar, no.” He knew that they existed – and that, in the past, they’d been used to bind sorcerers who would otherwise harm those around them, as well as for significantly less public-spirited means – but the exact workings of the spell were something he’d never felt it necessary to look into. “Are you certain that’s the only way?”

“Not in the least, but it’s a possibility. We can potentially use the base sigils of one of those curses with a modifier which would make the effect temporary, if it allowed us to sever the connection for long enough to destroy the box without harming him.” He paused, took a drink from his glass. “The other half of the problem is… more complex.”

“How do you mean?”

“It’s notoriously difficult to, in essence, ‘gift’ magic to another person. It simply isn’t how the world works, in the normal run of things.”

“Are you saying it’s impossible?” Because if it is – if we can’t fix this, if we can’t save him, then-

“No. Just that the solution is likely to be somewhat unorthodox.”

“Tell me.”


Archer nearly dropped his glass. “What?

“Oh gods above, I don’t mean whatever it is you’re thinking. The blood of vampires and werewolves is significantly more magically charged than that of humans – if we find a way to use the magic in your blood to somehow charge his, then there’s a possibility, however slim, that he might be able to tap into something akin to your regenerative ability, at least for a little while.”

“And how do you suggest we do that? Because if you’re suggesting what I think you’re suggesting, then-” then the gods have a crueller sense of humour than I gave them credit for. 

Verist sighed. “I’m not talking about Turning him, Archer. And you know me better than that.”

“Then what?”

“We’ll find something. While the artefact might be unique, its effects aren’t – there are likely records of people trying to deal with the effects of that curse scattered throughout history and, even if our post-Fall ancestors didn’t have the magical knowledge we have access to, they still knew enough to write down their experiments.”

“We don’t have time to look through all of history, Philip. We have a week. If that.”

“I know. I’ve already put together a list of books I think are likely our best hope of finding something, as well as a secondary list of possible avenues of attack if none of those turn up anything usable. I’m also going to spend what time I can take away from teaching tomorrow working on a couple of practical experiments regarding the idea I have for disrupting the connection – I’m not certain how far I’ll be able to get in the absence of a directly equivalent artefact to work from, but I should be able to at the very least test a couple of hypotheses.”

The relief hit him like a physical blow, almost hard enough to drive the breath from his lungs. I don’t have to do this alone. Gods preserve me, I don’t have to do this alone. 

Not that he’d been working alone to begin with, of course. But Sabbat’s condition was worsening, and the last thing he wanted to do was add more stress to that by pushing the assassin to work past his limits (or, honestly, allowing him to do so, if he could avoid it). 

If we can fix this without him having to do a damn thing except consent to whatever ritual we come up with, I’ll count that as a blessing. He needs more rest than he’s willing to take, especially right now. 

“In the meantime, I suggest you get some rest,” Verist said, almost as though he’d been reading Archer’s mind – as Archer opened his mouth to retort, he added, “which I fully admit you’re not likely to do, especially right now. If you must work, then I’d suggest starting with the books of mine you’re already borrowing – there’re a few there which might have something we could use.”

“I can do that.” It’d mean skipping whatever meeting Mortimer and Viola – and gods, what was she doing up here anyway? – had wanted to drag him along to, but he could almost certainly catch up with that in the morning. And besides, he’d hardly be able to concentrate if he wasn’t in the same place as Sabbat, not right now at any rate, and he’d be damned if he’d let them have a full war council in the room. Not least because he’d not sleep through that, and he’s likely to wear himself out even more trying to solve whatever problem it is they’ve come up with. Especially if it involves something or someone in need of stabbing. 

“Good.” He reached out a hand, resting it carefully on Archer’s arm. “Look after yourself, will you? You’ll be no help to him if you burn yourself out trying to solve this.”

“I know.” But if we only have a week, any time I spend sleeping is time I lose for research. I can sleep when this is over. 

And, if the gods were kind, he’d wake to see Sabbat sleeping peacefully, healthy and whole, on the other side of the room. Though, if I’m honest, I’m more likely to wake up to him using one of my books for target practice. Again. 


“They’re not coming down, are they?” Mortimer said, after a while. 

Viola shook her head, mouth still full of cold venison and stewed apple. She’d come to that conclusion herself a couple of minutes ago, but had decided against sharing it – mostly because the last thing she needed was Mortimer coming over all heroic and deciding to charge off again. 

There’s been no yelling and no sounds of breaking furniture – and my ears are just as bloody good as yours, Archer, thank you very much, so if either of those’d happened I’d’ve heard – which means whatever’s going on up there, it’s not escalated to a full-on brawl. And for all he was fairly sodding furious, I don’t read Archer as the kind of man to stab a friend in the back when he could shout in their face instead. 

Mortimer sighed, picking at his own food despondently. “You’re going to tell me not to go up there, aren’t you?”

She nodded. 

“On the basis of…?”

“Y’g’n-” She swallowed, tried again without a mouthful of food. “You’re going to walk straight into something you don’t understand – none of us bloody understand, as far as I can tell. Let them sort it out between themselves, however long it takes.” She grinned. “Look, most likely they’ve got sidetracked by some old book or other and they’re going to stay up until dawn talking theory without realising it. That seems more likely than some kind of actual fight, doesn’t it, given what you know of both of them?”

“I wish I had your confidence. You heard the way Archer was talking, didn’t you?”

“I did. But I also saw his face, which you didn’t. He’s sodding terrified for Sabbat, and I don’t blame him, but he’s not about to commit murder over it. Leastwise, unless he finds whoever’s responsible for that talisman.”

“Wouldn’t like to be in their shoes when he does,” Mortimer agreed. He speared a forkful of potato and stared at it for a moment. “Just out of interest, have you actually seen the thing?”

She shook her head. “No. I’ve smelled it – it stinks of silver, and dark water, and all kinds of bad – but I’ve never actually laid eyes on it. Why d’you ask?”

“No reason.”

And now I know you’re hiding something. Nobody says that unless they’ve got a damn good reason and they just don’t want to tell you what it is. “Liar. What is it?”

“No, it’s daft. Probably just shooting at shadows.” He twirled the fork between his fingers, still staring at the piece of potato as though it might hold some kind of answer to whatever problem he was grappling with. “But… You remember I said Avebury came to my rooms the night you were shot?”

“Yes.” Might not be feeling as sharp as usual right now, but I remember that much at least. “You said he wanted to sell you an artefact, didn’t you?”

“Not sell. He wanted me to take it off his hands – something to do with the Order wanting to get their hands on it and me being a safer person to keep hold of it for the meantime. I reckoned that he’d worked out who I was really working for, or had suspicions, and was trying to bait me into taking it, so I refused. Told him he’d have to find another person to do his dirty work, and that if he’d managed to get the Order on his tail then that was his problem – the last thing I was going to do was help him undo the consequences of his own mistakes.”

“Sounds like him.” She grabbed another chunk of venison, tearing a strip off it with her teeth. The clawing hunger in her belly had finally been sated enough that she could think properly, but she was still desperately aware of the fact that she needed more food and more energy to rebuild her reserves, especially if she wanted to have any chance against Caine. “So, what? You think it’s the same thing?”

“I think it’s a possibility. When I spoke to Sabbat earlier, he said he stole the talisman from Avebury back in the fight that night – apparently he didn’t know what it was at the time, but he pickpocketed it on the basis that it might’ve been worth something later.” He shrugged.  “Can’t blame him, honestly – I’d’ve likely tried something along the same lines in his place just to mess with the bastard, even if I’d not have been able to pull it off nearly as cleanly.”

She’d forgotten that particular detail – and, with that in place, certain pieces of the puzzle suddenly started to make a grim kind of sense. “Which means Avebury had the talisman on him when he was heading back from your rooms. As well as the artefact he was trying to palm off on you. Which, if we go with most likely answer is the one which needs the fewest extra steps to make it work, means it’s entirely likely they’re one and the same thing, and if that’s the case, then-“

“Then whatever it is, Avebury meant for it to bond to me.” He winced. “Gods. I can’t decide whether I’m relieved to have escaped or guilty that the poor bastard is having to deal with something that was supposed to be pointed my way.”

“Both, I’d guess. But it’s still conjecture at the moment, remember.” Not that it’s going to stop you beating yourself up about it, from the look on your face. “What did the artefact Avebury wanted you to take look like?”

He closed his eyes, obviously trying to call back a memory. “Small-ish – about the size and shape of a deck of playing cards, maybe. Dark coloured. There was some kind of inlay, as well – silver, maybe? Silver-y, anyway. It looked… odd, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how. Just that I didn’t want to look at it for any longer than necessary.”

“So if we can get a look at the talisman, then we can figure out if it matches that description. Though I doubt Archer’s going to be too happy with us poking around in that room.” On the other hand… “You’ve been up here for longer than I have.”

He blinked. “Yes. But I don’t see what that’s got to do with-“

“How badly is Sabbat doing? Honestly?”

“He looked like a damn corpse the last I saw him, but he was up and walking, and himself enough to be sarcastic, to boot. Why?”

“Because if he’s still awake and capable tomorrow, we could just ask him to show us the talisman. It’d save trying to convince Archer we’re not about to do something stupid, and it might get us more information on what’s going on.” 

“…You’re not wrong. Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Because you’re tired, stressed, and look like ten miles of bad road?” And because you’re too busy worrying about your da to think about much beyond that. 

She couldn’t fault him for that, if she was honest. She and Seb had lost their parents young enough that she had very few memories of them, but if Seb or Granmamma were potentially in danger and she’d been told not to intervene, she’d have had a bloody hard time keeping any other thoughts in her head as well. 

And I’ve not been helping with that, have I? 

She’d never been particularly good at tact – Seb was the diplomatic one, not her – and she’d never previously thought it much of a failing. And yet, here she was, wishing that she had even half of her twin’s way with words. 

Though he’d have done worse dealing with that mess in the forest, I suppose. He’s always been less willing to work on instinct than me. 

Which is why this’d be going a hell of a lot better if we were both working on it. Spirits, we could even do with ‘melia’s research brain on this problem, though I don’t want her within half a mile of what’s going on here if we can avoid it. 

She shoved another spoonful of the stewed apple into her mouth, letting the warmth of the spice and the sharpness of the fruit break over her tongue and flood her palate.

Not about to get anywhere chewing over might haves and may haves. Work with what we’ve got. 

Mortimer seemed to have given up on his food, leaving half the plate untouched. She reached out, snagging the edge and dragging it across the table. “Mind if I help you out?”

“Be my guest.” He smiled, though it looked more forced than she’d have liked. “I mean, technically you already are.”

“Uninvited. Though you did hit me with a plank, so I’d say that evens it out.”

“It was a stick, not a plank.”

“It felt like a sodding plank.” He’d left enough of the various components of the meal that, between the remnants on his plate and one of the rolls they’d plundered from the cupboard, she was able to assemble a fairly decent sandwich. It probably didn’t look all that appetising to anyone who wasn’t a werewolf, mind, given the sheer variety of flavours she’d piled together, but since she wasn’t planning on sharing it, that was besides the point. “Have you got the time? My watch is in my other waistcoat, and that’s back outside the city.”

He nodded, pulling his own pocketwatch out of his waistcoat and flipping open the case. “Six minutes to ten, exactly. Why’re you-” He stopped, his face going grey all of a sudden. “Gods dammit, I flat forgot! Amelia’s expecting us at ten, isn’t she?”

“Yes.” And it usually took at least ten minutes to set up a ritual circle, and that was if you knew your space and your components. “Where’s the circle?”

“Cellars. Second door on the right once you get down there.” He stood up, shoving his chair back fast enough that he almost knocked it over. “Come on. I’ll show you.”

And that’d be why I took the time to make a sandwich, she thought, as she followed him out of the kitchen and down the narrow stone steps which led to the Hall’s main cellars. Can’t eat a plate of venison while you’re on the move. 

Or rather, you could, but it’d be bloody messy, and she’d no desire to make any more of a nuisance of herself than she’d already managed, or to get any more muck on the clothes she was borrowing than strictly necessary. 

After all, I’m still a servant. Even if pretty much everyone I’ve run into up here seems to either forget that fact or not care about it. 

“Through here,” Mortimer said, from up ahead. He pushed open the heavy wooden door with his shoulder, revealing a magician’s workroom which would’ve been the envy of any number of students (and some of the lecturers) at the university: a brightly-lit stone-walled chamber, lined with shelves and cabinets laden with equipment and supplies, with circles and sigils inlaid into the floor in shining copper and gleaming brass, and one entire wall taken up with a chalkboard covered floor to ceiling with calculations and equations that made her head spin when she tried to puzzle out even a quarter of them. 

And to think I thought that the Luciels’ workroom was fancy. This about knocks it into a sodding cocked hat. 

“I’ll sort the herbs. Candles are in the cabinet by the door – second drawer down. You know which ones you need?”

She did. “Beeswax, single wick, ideally ten but six’ll do in a pinch. Where’s the pump?”

“Upstairs in the yard, but there’s already water in the barrel in the corner – da was doing some work earlier in the day, and left it filled. Can you grab me some candlesticks while you’re over there?”

“Same drawer?”

“No, one above. Oh, and the resonance bowls are in the same cabinet. Cupboard to your right, second shelf, get the half-size ones if you can.”

Thank the ancestors for a working partner who gives clear instructions and doesn’t think I’m a complete idiot. She’d run across her fair share of folks at the university who either assumed she already knew everything (because she was Amelia’s maid) or, conversely, assumed that she was completely incapable and needed constant hand-holding (because she was Amelia’s maid. Or, occasionally, because she was a werewolf) and, while she vastly preferred the former to the latter, neither of them made for pleasant lab partners. Mortimer, on the other hand, seemed inclined to treat her as an equal, just one who didn’t know this specific workspace as well as he did. 

Which is fair. He’s likely been doing rituals in here since he was a cub, and I’ve never set foot in the place before. 

That wasn’t slowing her down too much when it came to finding the components they needed for the ritual, though – Verist had laid the place out in such a way that even a halfway competent magician would be able to intuit where most things were, and Mortimer’s directions ensured that she could lay hands on the few supplies which weren’t immediately obvious. 

At least, until he turned to her with the satchel he was holding full to the brim with dried herbs and preparation bowls and said, as though it was the most reasonable request in the world, “Could you grab me the silver?”

Her first instinct was to punch him in the nose for the suggestion. Her second, which was thankfully the one she chose to listen to, was to close her eyes, take a deep breath, and say, as calmly as she could, “No.”


“I said no. I don’t have gloves with me, and I can’t fight if my hands are covered in blisters.” Not to mention the fact that if I have to somehow build up enough energy to heal from sodding silver burns then you can kiss goodbye to the rest of the contents of your pantry. 

There was a long, awkward silence. Then she heard the satchel hit the floor, shortly followed by a noise which could only be Mortimer’s palm making contact with his forehead. 

“Gods, I’m an idiot. I’m sorry.”

“No harm done. I know you didn’t mean anything by it.” At least, I bloody hope you didn’t, else you and I are going to have to have a conversation you’re not going to enjoy very much. “Do you want me to sort out the herbs while you deal with the silver?”

“That sounds like an excellent plan.” 

With the division of labour sorted so that she didn’t have to put her bare skin anywhere near the bastard metal, they managed to get the circle set up in almost record time. But, even with that, it was still a minute past the hour when Mortimer sat back, brushed the last of the chalk dust off his knees, and said, with a cheeriness that he clearly didn’t feel, “There. That should about do it.”

There was a woumph of power and displaced air as the sigils caught, strong enough to start them both bleeding from the nose, and then the air in the middle of the circle began to shift and ripple like a heat haze, slowly forming into a blurry image of another workroom, this one wooden-floored and filled with bookshelves, with a writing table dimly visible in one corner. There was a familiar brightly-coloured figure kneeling at the centre of the image – as they watched, she looked up, caught sight of the two of them, and started shouting, though whatever it was she was saying seemed to have been lost somewhere between the two portals, and all they could see was her mouth opening and closing (and her gestures, of which there were many).  

“Gods dammit!” Mortimer hissed, grabbing for the chalk again. “I knew there was a missing tail on that bloody sigil.” He leant around the side of the circle, and, biting his lip with concentration, added a tiny line to the end of one of the chalked sigils on the very edge. 

“-you were going up there, Vi! I covered for you at dinner, you know – I told Mama that you were off on an errand for me, and that you’d likely be gone overnight – but I can’t keep doing that unless you give me something I can actually use to explain to them why you’re not around! Also I can see Harry there – hello, Harry! – so it’s not that something’s happened to him, unless you arrived in time to stop that, in which case thank you, so what’re you doing up there? Is it to do with Lord-Captain Archer? Or Sabbat? Did something happen to one of them? Or did you go up there because you found out something about the apprenticeship? I know that Avebury doesn’t know you’re up there, because otherwise he wouldn’t have sent a letter here for you, so that’s at least something, but-“

“It’s good to see you too, ‘melia,” Viola said, feeling the corners of her mouth curve upward into a genuine smile. “And I’m sorry I headed up without telling you, but it really was an emergency. Caine’s up here.”

Amelia blanched. “Mother Moon preserve, you didn’t run into him, did you? Are you alright?”

“I did, sort of, but I’m fine. We’re all fine.” Except for Sabbat. And Archer. But that’s not your problem right now, and I really don’t need you deciding to come up here and try and solve it. “Look, I’m going to stay up here for a couple of days. Probably a week. Tell my lady… Spirits, I don’t know. Tell her the Archmage needs me to work on something for him.” Which he almost certainly does, he just doesn’t know it yet. 

“I can do that. But in return you need to tell me everything about what’s going on up there. Both of you.” She turned to face Mortimer, reaching her hand towards the portal as though trying to touch his face, for all that this variant of the ritual wouldn’t allow for that. “Are you alright, Harry? You look…”

“I’m alright. Or, at least, I will be. How’re you?”

“Better for seeing you. I knew you’d be alright on the road – you’re a good rider, after all – but I was worrying when the storm blew in, and-“

Viola sat back on her heels and let the sound of the conversation wash over her, as much to give the two of them at least some kind of privacy as anything else. ‘melia was safe, which meant that she could stop worrying on that front, and ‘melia now knew both she and Mortimer were safe, which meant that she’d stop worrying, and-

“Wait a second. ‘melia?”


“Did you just say that Avebury sent me a letter?”


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

[Author’s note: this is raw NaNo content, so I apologise for the likely increased number of typos]

Copyright © 2023 by Finn McLellan.  All rights reserved.

One thought on “Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 30 (draft)

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