Read Infinite Regress Online

Authors: Christopher G. Nuttall

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #New Adult & College, #Sword & Sorcery, #Young Adult, #alternate world, #sorcerers, #Magicians, #Magic, #Fantasy

Infinite Regress

Infinite Regress

(Schooled in Magic IX)

Christopher G. Nuttall

 

 

 

 

Twilight Times Books

Kingsport Tennessee

Infinite Regress

 

This is a work of fiction. All concepts, characters and events portrayed in this book are used fictitiously and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 Christopher G. Nuttall

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, except brief extracts for the purpose of review, without the permission of the publisher and copyright owner.

 

Twilight Times Books

P O Box 3340

Kingsport TN 37664

http://twilighttimesbooks.com/

 

First Edition, May 2016

 

Cover art by Brad Fraunfelter

 

Published in the United States of America.

Table of Contents

Prologue

“I
WANT HER GONE!”

Lady Barb sighed. She’d suspected what the staff meeting, two days after Master Gordian had been formally invested with the robes and power of the Grandmaster, would be about but she’d hoped she’d been wrong. The death of the previous Grandmaster—and Master Grey—had rattled more than a few cages in the White City. Far too many powerful people wondered just what sort of monster Void had introduced to Whitehall.

But Emily isn’t a monster
, she told herself, as her eyes swept the room, silently gauging how much support she might expect from the senior tutors.
She’s... she’s a very flawed person, but a great one. And Gordian...

Grandmaster Gordian dominated the room. He was a tall, powerfully-built man, with long dark hair drawn back in a ponytail. His face seemed somehow ageless, yet lined enough to make it clear he was no longer young; his dark eyes flickered back and forth as they moved from face to face. As the new Grandmaster, a word from him would be quite enough to end the careers of anyone in the room.

Lady Barb doubted that many would dare to challenge him openly. But she had no choice.

She took a breath and leaned forward, drawing his attention. “You have no grounds to expel her,” she said, flatly. It was unwise to challenge a senior magician in his place of power, but she wasn’t planning to remain at Whitehall anyway. “She could challenge your decision in front of the council.”

Gordian stared back at her, icily. “No grounds?”

He calmed his voice, then went on. “In her first year, the school was invaded by a necromancer,” he said. “A number of students were killed...”

“Before she killed the necromancer,” Lady Barb said. She still wasn’t sure
how
Emily had managed to kill Shadye, but Emily
had
. “You cannot blame her for the invasion.”

“In her
second
year, the school was infested with a Mimic,” Gordian continued. “That...
creature...
would not have escaped, was it not for her!”

“You cannot blame her for that either,” Lady Barb said.

“She also conducted experiments that could have proven disastrous, if unchecked,” Gordian snapped. “She should have been expelled for those alone.”

He tapped the table, sharply. “In her
third
year, she went to Mountaintop and left the school in ruins,” he added. “And in her
fourth
year, she
killed
a tutor!”

“Who manipulated her into issuing something that
sounded
like a challenge,” Lady Barb pointed out, curtly. It was true, but it wasn’t the version of the story everyone believed. “I don’t think you can blame her for that either.”

“She should have been expelled for her actions in Second Year,” Gordian insisted. “And all of that does
not
include the results of her conduct
outside
the school. The Ashworths and Ashfalls nearly went to
battle
because of her.”

Lady Barb pressed her fingertips together, a mannerism she knew had always irritated her father. “Grandmaster Hasdrubal was the one charged with determining her punishment for her actions,” she said. “He
chose
not to expel her. You do not have the legal right to retroactively overrule your predecessor and expel her from Whitehall.”

“I am the Grandmaster,” Gordian snapped. “I
do
have that authority.”

Lady Barb forced herself to meet his eyes. “If you expel her—a very big
if
—she will have no trouble finding a place at Mountaintop, Stronghold or Laughter,” she said. “They will be
delighted
to offer her a place.”

“Laughter is very exclusive,” Gordian pointed out.

“The core requirements are breasts and a vagina,” Lady Barb said, knowing the crudeness would irritate him still further. “And I assure you that Emily qualifies on both counts. Her marks in the exams were high and would have been higher still,
Grandmaster
, if she’d had more time to prepare. She will have no difficulty gaining admittance to any of the other schools.”

“Then let her go,” Gordian insisted. “
They
can have her.”

“That would be dishonorable,” Sergeant Miles stated. “She saved the school, Grandmaster: three times, by my count. We are indebted to her.”

“After plunging it into danger,” Gordian snapped.

Lady Barb leaned forward, calmly. “There is another problem,” she said. “She could end up apprenticed to her... to her father. A girl with such remarkable talent, trained by a Lone Power of his reputation... the potential for disaster is staggeringly high.”

“There are any number of prospective sorcerers who would sell their souls to train under a Lone Power,” Gordian said. But he sounded a little uncertain for the first time since the meeting had begun. “Let her father take her, if he wishes.”

He doesn’t know
, Lady Barb noted. Emily’s
true
origins had leaked in Zangaria, but they hadn’t leaked very far.
He believes the cover story
.

“I submit to you that allowing Void to take her would not be optimal,” Lady Barb said, gently. “Right now, she has friends at Whitehall and tutors she respects. There is time to shape her, to help guide her down a path that will keep her from becoming a danger to the Allied Lands. Letting her go will cost us that opportunity, once and for all. The very best we could hope for is that she would allow herself to be guided by other tutors in other schools.”

“And that would reflect badly on Whitehall,” Professor Locke stated.

“Merely expelling her for
daring
to save us would be bad enough,” Sergeant Miles added.

Gordian scowled. “There is no guarantee that a Child of Destiny will be favorable to
us
,” he pointed out. “Destiny may have his own plans.”

“Keeping her here is the best chance we have of ensuring that we can ride the rapids of change,” Lady Barb said. The prospect of Emily being apprenticed to Void was
not
to be borne. Void was dangerously unpredictable at the best of times. “We cannot—we
must
not—expel her.”

“She is dangerous,” Gordian said.

“Not intentionally,” Lady Barb corrected him.

“She is not a malicious student,” Mistress Kirdáne said. “I have never caught her playing tricks on the younglings, or being cruel to dumb animals.”

“One does not
need
malice to be dangerous,” Gordian said. “Letting her return to Whitehall goes against my better judgement.”

Lady Barb smiled, inwardly. She’d won.

“Allow me to propose a compromise,” she said, pressing her advantage. “You could take her back as a probationary student.”

“That would mean she wouldn’t be taking the oaths,” Gordian said.

“But it would also mean you could expel her if things went wrong,” Lady Barb reminded him. Gordian wouldn’t
want
Emily to take the oaths, not when they were binding on the staff as well as the students. “Apprentice her to Sergeant Miles. She’ll need additional training in martial magic...”

“Out of the question,” Gordian snapped. “She knows
quite
enough dangerous magic already.”

And she’s quite capable of inventing her own
, Lady Barb thought. She’d given a great deal of thought to taking Emily on herself, even though it would have meant staying at Whitehall for another two years.
What will Emily do without proper supervision?

“Then let her work with me,” Professor Locke said.

“You already have one probationary student working under you,” Gordian said.

“I can use two,” Professor Locke insisted. He shot Gordian a look that Lady Barb found impossible to interpret. “My new...
project
... could use an additional pair of hands.”

Lady Barb frowned. She knew little about Professor Locke’s new project, but several of the tutors—notably Professor Lombardi—looked wary. Locke seemed...
too
insistent for her peace of mind. And yet, the Grandmaster had authorized it...

“It could,” Gordian agreed. “And it
would
keep her out of trouble.”

Lady Barb scowled. “Emily is not short of enemies,” she said, flatly. “She needs training in protecting herself.”

“I rather doubt that will be a problem,” Gordian said. “She killed a combat sorcerer!”

“That doesn’t make her invulnerable,” Lady Barb snapped.

Gordian held up his hand. “My mind is made up,” he said. “I will summon Lady Emily to Whitehall and speak with her personally. If she’s willing to be a probationary student until I see fit to lift her probation, she may return for her fifth year. Professor Locke will ensure she is kept out of trouble. If not... she can transfer to another school. Whitehall has stood for a thousand years...”

“More like eight hundred,” Professor Locke said. “Although, to be fair, we have no idea when the castle was actually built.”

Gordian silenced him with a glare. “Whitehall has stood for over a thousand years without her and it will stand for a thousand more, with or without her,” he said. “One student, no matter how interesting she is, cannot be allowed to put every
other
student at risk.”

He rose to his feet. “Lady Barb, you may inform her of our decision,” he added. “And we will hold your exit interview after I have spoken to her.”

It was a dismissal, Lady Barb knew. A rude one, against all the etiquette that had been drilled into her when she’d been declared her father’s heir. And yet, a dismissal nonetheless. She thinned her lips as she rose, nodding in curt understanding. She’d have a long chat with Emily before taking her back to Whitehall. If nothing else, she had to be warned that the new Grandmaster wasn’t her friend...

She shook her head, irritated. It was going to be a challenging year.

Poor Emily
, she thought.
May the gods help her
.

Chapter One

 

W
HITEHALL FELT...
DIFFERENT
.

Emily could feel the change as soon as she stepped through the main doors, leaving Lady Barb and Frieda behind in the Courtyard. The wards were different, no longer echoing with the personality of their former master. She felt a pang, deep in her heart, as she recalled the old Grandmaster, a man she’d loved and admired in equal measure. He’d given his life to save hers, back when the demon had infected the school. And he’d had enough faith in her to believe she’d survive the duel after his death.

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