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Infinite Regress
cover art © Brad Fraunfelter



Emily returns to Whitehall, only to discover that things have changed. The new Grandmaster hates and distrusts her, she has to mentor a bunch of younger students and she's expected to work for the history professor as he uncovers the secrets of Old Whitehall. But those secrets should have been left buried in the past...    Book 9 in the Schooled in Magic series.



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Infinite Regress


Christopher G. Nuttall




"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

Whitehall 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.

He didn't deserve to die.

She braced herself, then walked slowly up the stairs towards the Grandmaster's office, her footsteps echoing in the empty hall. Lady Barb had offered to teleport Emily and Frieda to Whitehall, but Emily had insisted on hiring a carriage, even though it took longer. She'd needed time to think about what Lady Barb had said, when she'd come to fetch her. But now there was no more time to think. The wards grew stronger as she reached the top of the stairwell and walked down the long corridor, glancing from left to right as she realized that the portraits hanging from the walls had been changed. She didn't recognize any of the figures looking back at her-all with disapproving expressions.

At least they took down the picture of me, she thought, wryly. She'd never liked that painting, although she did have to admit that anyone who used it to look for her was going to be disappointed. She'd never been that beautiful-or muscular-in her life. But is the picture being taken down actually a bad sign?

A large portrait of the former Grandmaster hung at the end of the corridor, by the door to the Grandmaster's office. Emily paused to study it, silently admiring the artist's talent. The Grandmaster stood in the midst of a crowd of hooded inhuman creatures, holding his staff in one hand and a book in the other; it was hard to tell, somehow, if he was fighting the creatures or directing them. She smiled in sudden amusement as she realized the artist had never seen the Grandmaster in person. His eyes had been drawn in shadow, instead of covered with a blindfold. She still shuddered when she thought of the Grandmaster's missing eyes.

Former Grandmaster, she reminded herself, sharply. The man she'd come to see would not be pleased, Lady Barb had warned, if she treated him as a temporary Grandmaster. He holds the post now.

She braced herself, then cast a reflection spell and checked her appearance. Lady Barb had advised her to wear sorcerer's black, a long dark robe that obscured her curves and made her look studious. It contrasted oddly with her pale skin, brown hair and dark eyes, yet it was probably better than wearing trousers or a dress. She'd considered wearing school robes, but that would have seemed presumptuous. Grandmaster Gordian didn't want her here. The thought caused her another pang as she raised her hand and tapped once on the door, feeling a ward shimmering in response to her touch. Whitehall was the first true home she'd had, even before she'd come to the Nameless World. She couldn't bear the thought of leaving.

You'll have to leave at the end of Sixth Year anyway, she reminded herself, as the door swung open. They won't let you stay on as a teaching assistant until you have far more experience.

The Grandmaster-the former Grandmaster-had allowed visitors to step directly into his office, but Grandmaster Gordian clearly felt differently. Emily stepped through the door into a waiting room, dominated by a horse-faced woman wearing red robes and seated behind a wooden desk. The former Grandmaster hadn't had a secretary either. She couldn't help wondering if that was a bad sign.

She stopped in front of the desk, resisting the urge to curtsey. On one hand, it would be a sign of respect; on the other, the secretary might think she was being mocked. There was no way to know just how close she was to her boss, but she wouldn't have the post unless her master trusted her completely. Or had bound her to him with unbreakable oaths. Emily shuddered inwardly at the thought, then forced herself to meet the older woman's dark eyes.

"Lady Emily," the secretary said. Her voice was very cold. "Be seated. The Grandmaster will see you as soon as possible."

Emily turned and saw a bench, placed neatly against the wall. She felt a flicker of irritation as she walked over to the bench and sat down, understanding that the Grandmaster was playing games. Alassa-and her father-had taught her more about such power plays than she'd ever wanted to know. By making her wait, he was making it clear that she was coming as a supplicant, putting her firmly in her place. She was tempted to pull a book out of her bag-either one of her textbooks or a novel Frieda had recommended-but she forcibly resisted the temptation. There was nothing to be gained by antagonizing the secretary or her master. Instead, she toyed with her snake-bracelet and ran through some of the mental disciplines Lady Barb had hammered into her head. She needed to be calm when she faced the Grandmaster.

Nearly ten minutes passed before a low chime echoed through the air. The secretary glanced up, her lips moving silently, then turned her head until she was looking directly at Emily. Emily resisted the urge to shrink backwards under the older woman's gaze and merely looked back, neither resisting nor bending. There was a long moment of silence, then the secretary nodded curtly.

"You may enter," she said, flatly.

Emily rose and paced through the door, clasping her hands behind her back as she entered the office. Gordian, sitting behind his desk, rose to his feet and nodded to her. He made no attempt to shake hands.

No chair for me, Emily noted, as Gordian sat again. The room felt very cold. And no Kava either.

That, she knew from her etiquette lessons, was a bad sign, a touch of calculated rudeness that made it clear she was far from welcome. A welcome guest would always be offered a drink, which could be politely declined. She pushed the flicker of irritation aside and studied Gordian for a long moment, wondering when the genial man she'd met last year had turned into a cold-hearted bureaucrat. But then, being given responsibility for an entire school had to change a man. And Whitehall was far more than just a school.

Her eyes flickered, briefly around the office. It had changed too; the room was bare, save for a large wooden desk and a chair. A single scroll rested on the desk, but otherwise it was empty. The bookshelves and paintings had been removed, leaving the walls completely bare of anything to catch the eye. It served a double purpose, she realized, as the door closed behind her. There was nothing that would tell her anything about the room's occupant, no hint as to his personality and disposition; there was also nothing that would distract her from him.

Gordian studied her back with equal interest. "Lady Emily," he said. "Thank you for coming."

I wasn't aware I had a choice, Emily thought.

She resisted the urge to say it aloud. Lady Barb had warned her to be on her best behavior, no matter what provocation she faced. The Grandmaster would seize on any excuse to expel her from Whitehall, casting her adrift to an uncertain future. Emily had no idea what she'd do, if she couldn't return to Whitehall. Go to Mountaintop? Or try Stronghold? Caleb had told her too many horror stories about that school to make her want to go there unless she had no other choice.

"I do not want you at this school," Gordian said, bluntly. She'd expected it, but his words still stung badly. "You are a disruptive influence. Whitehall's existence has been placed in danger, because of you. The Kingdom of Zangaria has been turned upside down, because of you. The Allied Lands themselves have been changed, because of you."

Emily kept her mouth firmly closed. It was true enough, she supposed, that Whitehall had been in danger because of her, but she hadn't done any of it deliberately. She'd never even known about magic before Shadye had kidnapped her, let alone just how much power her knowledge-from a far more advanced world-gave her in the Allied Lands. And she had to admit that her ideas, her innovations, had wrought considerable change for good and ill. She'd unleashed forces that might never be tamed by the current ruling class.

"You are reckless, headstrong and dangerous," Gordian continued. His voice was calm, but she had no difficulty in hearing the underlying anger. "If it were up to me, you would have been expelled back in your second year. You chose to ignore rules devised for your safety and the safety of your fellow students. Grandmaster Hasdrubal should have expelled you on the spot. It set a poor precedent for later disciplinary action. Challenging a tutor to a duel..."

"He manipulated me into challenging him," Emily said, unable to keep her mouth closed any longer. "If he hadn't wanted the duel, he could have refused the challenge..."

"Yes, he could have," Gordian agreed. He made an odd gesture with his hand; it took her a moment to recognize that he'd conceded her point. "But a student challenging a tutor does set a grim precedent."

Emily met his eyes. "And a tutor accepting a duel does... what?"

It was hard to keep the bitterness out of her voice, the grim awareness that Master Grey had meant to kill her leaking through. He would have killed her too, if she'd lost. And it would have been perfectly legal. There would have been some consequences for him, she was sure, but he could never have been charged with her murder. As far as the Allied Lands were concerned, an idiotic student would have been killed before she got anyone else in trouble.

Gordian ignored her point. "And then you turned Zangaria upside down," he said, repeating his earlier point. "Teleporting out of King Randor's castle, tearing his wards down in the process... what do you think that did to his reputation?"

"You're the one who told me to divest myself of my holdings in Zangaria," Emily pointed out. Hindsight told her she'd been wrong; hindsight told her that King Randor hadn't intended to order her to unleash a holocaust on countless rebels and everyone else caught up in the blast radius. But by then it had been far too late. "He thought he could use me to his own ends."

"I'm afraid you will find that's true of almost everyone," Gordian said. "And you have not-quite-divested yourself of your holdings, have you?"

Emily frowned. Alassa had patched together a compromise, ensuring that while Emily was persona non grata in Zangaria for the moment, she wasn't exiled for good. Imaiqah would rule the Barony of Cockatrice in Emily's absence. In truth, Emily wasn't sure how she felt about it. She'd never wanted to be a great feudal landholder, she'd certainly never wanted to rule the lives of countless people she would never meet. And yet, throwing the barony back in King Randor's face almost guaranteed that whoever took her place would try to roll back her reforms. Imaiqah, at the very least, would hold the barony in stasis.

"They are no longer in my possession." Emily said, flatly.

Gordian studied her for a long moment. "You should have been expelled several times over," he said. "Do you understand that?"

"Yes, sir," Emily said. It struck her, suddenly, that she should have been calling him "sir" all along. Calling attention to it might have been a very bad move. But it wasn't something she'd done with his predecessor. "I understand."

"If Grandmaster Hasdrubal saw no reason to expel you, I have no legal right to do so," Gordian added, slowly. "But I can refuse to allow you to return to Whitehall, if you refuse to attend on my terms."

Emily waited, not trusting herself to speak.

"You will be a probationary student for a set period of time," Gordian told her. "During that period, you will be under close supervision, from both myself and the other tutors. I will be keeping a very sharp eye on you. Should you do anything that concerns me, you will be formally expelled from the school. Your father will have no legal grounds for protest."

She'd known it was coming. Lady Barb had warned her. But it still hurt.

"I understand, sir," Emily said, quietly.

"A probationary student is apprenticed to a tutor, until they are either removed from probation or expelled," Gordian continued. "That tutor will take responsibility for their conduct, in exchange for which they will work for him in whatever manner the tutor deems suitable. You will be apprenticed to Professor Locke. He has a... research project that could use your input. Your free time will be his as long as he has a use for you."

Emily scowled. She would have preferred to be apprenticed to Lady Barb or Sergeant Miles, but Lady Barb was leaving Whitehall and Sergeant Miles had too much else on his plate. She liked the history professor, yet she knew from Aloha that Fifth Year was hard, very hard. If she spent all of her free time, such as there was of it, on his project, how would she manage to keep up with her fellow students? She wasn't quite sure what she wanted to do with her life after leaving Whitehall, but she did know that higher grades would help open doors in the future.

And besides, she thought, remembering the ring on her finger, I don't want to let Void down.

"I understand, sir," she said. She'd have to find a book on probationary students and read it quickly, just to discover what else she'd be expected to do. "What is his research project?"

"I believe he would prefer to tell you himself," Gordian said. "It is his project, after all."

He cleared his throat, then unwrapped the scroll. "Your exam results," he said. "They would normally be sent out a week from today, but I made the decision to unseal yours early."

Emily leaned forward, torn between anticipation and dread. She'd never cared about her exam results on Earth-it wasn't as if they would have any bearing on her life-but on the Nameless World they were the difference between a brilliant career and remaining just another sorceress. She would never be poor-she could brew Manaskol, if nothing else-yet she wanted to do more with her life, even if she wasn't quite sure what yet.

"You passed all of your exams," Gordian said. It didn't sound as though he was deliberately dragging out the moment, but it certainly felt that way. "Overall, I would have no hesitation-barring the current issue-in allowing you to progress into Fifth Year and take the courses you requested, as well as continuing your joint project. As it is, there will be one major change."

Emily felt cold. Lady Barb hadn't warned her about this.

"You have requested permission to continue to study combat sorcery under Sergeant Miles," Gordian said. "He ensured that you would take the theoretical side of the Military Magic exam, which you passed. However, I am not minded to allow you to continue in your studies, even in exchange for working as a teaching assistant. Your apprenticeship to Professor Locke will preclude any other such commitments."

"I need the training," Emily said.

She swallowed, hard. Nanette was still out there, along with Fulvia and countless other enemies who resented the changes she'd brought to their world. She needed to know how to defend herself. Lady Barb had taught her, more than once, that raw power alone didn't guarantee victory. As it was, her enhanced magic made her a target for more than just the necromancers.

"Regardless, you will not be training under Sergeant Miles," Gordian said, flatly. "It would not be proper."

Emily fought down the urge to say something sharp and unpleasant. She needed that training, but there were several other options. Mistress Danielle had offered private lessons, after all. She made a mental note to write to the older woman once she escaped the office, then looked up at the Grandmaster. He was regarding her with an unreadable expression.

"I advise you to remain in Whitehall until the start of term," Gordian added. "Griselda has the details of your classes, reading lists and other details. Collect them from her, then Lady Barb will show you to your bedroom. Your... friend... will also be staying here."

"Yes, sir," Emily said. Lady Barb had warned her to expect it, so she'd shut up the house before calling the carriage and heading to the school. Besides, there was only a week until the Fifth Year students were expected to return. A week sharing a room with Frieda wouldn't be unpleasant. "And thank you."

Gordian eyed her, darkly. "I've done you no favors, Lady Emily," he said. His voice was suddenly very cold. "And I would advise you not to think otherwise."

He pointed a finger at the door, which opened. "When you see Lady Barb, ask her to attend upon me when it's convenient," he added. "And I hope I don't see you in here again."

Because I'll be in trouble, Emily finished, silently. And you'll be expelling me.

She dropped a curtsey, then turned and walked out of the room. Griselda-Emily had to admit that the name suited the sour-faced secretary-passed her a sheaf of papers, then nodded to the door. Emily walked through, sweat prickling down her back, and caught sight of the portrait of the former Grandmaster. His death meant that nothing would ever be the same again.

Behind her, the door slammed closed.


Chapter Two

"Emily," Frieda called, as Emily stepped into the common room. She was sitting on the sofa, while Lady Barb leaned against the wall behind her, studying a manuscript book. "How did it go?"

"It could have gone better," Emily said. She walked over to the sideboard and poured herself a mug of Kava. Her throat felt parched. "But I suppose it could have gone worse, too."

"You accepted the probationary period," Lady Barb said. It wasn't a question. She'd known what Emily planned to do. "Gordian, I suspect, was hoping you wouldn't."

"He wants to see you," Emily said. "As soon as convenient, he said..."

"You shouldn't have," Frieda interrupted. "Emily, there isn't a school in the Allied Lands that wouldn't take you. Or an apprenticeship..."

Emily shook her head. She didn't want to leave Whitehall. Besides, she'd seen too much of Mountaintop to want to go back, even with a different MageMaster in control. And it would mean leaving Caleb and Frieda behind. She didn't want to leave them either.

"There aren't many masters who will take her as a full-fledged apprentice, now," Lady Barb commented. "Her education is not complete. Anyone who would take her now is likely to do it for the wrong reasons."

"Because they want the honor of training the Necromancer's Bane," Emily said. She sighed, inwardly. She'd never really come to terms with her fame, particularly outside Whitehall. Frieda and she had needed to travel the country incognito to ensure they weren't recognized. "And they might make mistakes."

"They would make mistakes," Lady Barb said. She walked around the sofa and rested a hand on Emily's shoulder. "But it's definitely an option."

Emily shook her head. No tutor, not even Void, could give her access to Whitehall's massive collection of textbooks and ancient tomes, let alone the chance to speak to masters specializing in a dozen different subjects. Magic had fascinated her since the day she'd first set foot in the Nameless World. She didn't want to give up the library either.

"It hardly seems fair," Frieda grumbled. "They expect you to spend all your free time working for the history professor, of all people. After all you've done for them!"

"There may not be much free time in any case," Lady Barb said. "This is your fifth year, Emily. Students have been known to retake the year even without having to work on a professor's private project."

Emily leaned forward. "Do you know what it is?"

"No," Lady Barb said. "But you might find it interesting."

"It's history," Frieda protested. "It isn't interesting."

"Those who don't learn from history," Emily said, "are doomed to repeat it."

She snorted at the thought as she finished her drink. She'd always loved history, both the history of Earth and the history of the Nameless World. Indeed, there were so many gaps in the latter that she'd wondered just how many of the history textbooks they'd studied were actually accurate. Professor Locke had even told them, back during their first set of lessons, that there were hundreds of question marks over anything that had happened more than three hundred years ago. An event might have one date in one textbook, but a different date in another; the outcome of a particular battle might differ, depending on which book one read. It was impossible to know for sure what had happened.

"We shall see," Emily said, finally.

"Mistress Irene offered me a chance to go to Stronghold," Frieda said. "A chance to study there for a couple of years..."

Emily stared at her. "She offered it to you now?"

"Just now, while we were waiting," Frieda confirmed.

Emily swallowed. The thought of being alone in Whitehall-her friends elsewhere-made her uneasy. There had been a time when she'd had no friends, but that had been before Whitehall, before the Nameless World. Now, she found herself enjoying the company of others more than she cared to admit. Frieda was a friend too...

And was she offered the chance to go, she asked herself, to keep me isolated?

"I said I was staying," Frieda told her. "I'm not leaving you alone here."

"Thank you," Emily said. She felt a wave of relief and gratitude that surprised her. "I..."

"And I'm going to be Ken Captain," Frieda added, sticking out her tongue. "And I don't want to go to a third school in as many years."

"I'm sure you'll be a great captain," Emily said. She'd always loathed team sports, but Alassa-and Frieda-loved them. Alassa had founded the team, then left it to Frieda after her departure from Whitehall. "Just remember, you're not allowed to cheat."

"You're not allowed to get caught cheating," Frieda pointed out.

Emily laughed, despite herself. "True," she agreed. "But the referee has seen every cheating trick in the book."

"Then I'll have to invent some new ones," Frieda said.

Lady Barb cleared her throat, drawing Emily's attention back to her. "Grandmaster Gordian inherited a mess from his predecessor," she said, curtly. "Your situation is one of many... issues... confronting him right now. I believe he's doing his best to clear the decks before the term starts."

"I thought he meant well, when he was giving me career advice," Emily said, sullenly.

"He probably did," Lady Barb said. "But it will take time for his position to solidify. He needs to avoid anything that might convince the White Council that they made a mistake in appointing him to the post. I suspect he fears that you were allowed to get away with far too much."

Emily scowled, but conceded the point. Any other student would probably have been expelled for experimenting with pocket dimensions within Whitehall, even though she'd had two different excuses. Neither one, she suspected, would be considered valid, certainly not by a man who wanted to get rid of her by any means necessary. Given what had been at stake, Grandmaster Hasdrubal's punishments hadn't remotely fitted the crime.

"But she saved the school," Frieda protested.

"There's a case to be made that bringing Emily to Whitehall also endangered it," Lady Barb said. She held up a hand before either of them could protest. "And Gordian doesn't have anything like the freedom of action Hasdrubal enjoyed."

She met Emily's eyes. "It's not too late to apply to Stronghold or Mountaintop," she added, gently. "I can take you to either of them now."

"I'm staying," Emily said. She didn't want to leave Whitehall. And besides, the school had been her first real home. She would be damned if she was allowing Gordian to drive her away merely because he found her inconvenient. "Will Frieda and I be sharing a room for the next week?"

"I'm afraid not," Lady Barb said. "You'll have been assigned a room in the fifth year dormitories. I believe your roommate is already there. Frieda will have a room in the third year dorms. I'll escort you both to your rooms now."

Emily swallowed. "And then you'll be leaving?"

"I have to talk to the Grandmaster, one last time," Lady Barb said. "And then I'll be gone."

She gave Emily a smile. "You can always write to me, you know."

"It isn't the same," Emily muttered.

She couldn't help feeling down as she followed Lady Barb out of the common room and up a long flight of stairs. She'd come to think of the older woman as a mother, of sorts; someone who would advise and help her when necessary. The thought of being separated from her was unbearable. And yet, Lady Barb had a life of her own. Emily told herself not to be selfish as they reached the dormitory entrance and stopped. The entrance to the fifth year dorms looked surprisingly elaborate, compared to the fourth. A large golden eagle hung above the door, strikingly detailed. It took her a moment to realize that a real bird had been transfigured into gold, then locked in that form. She hoped, for its sake, that it had been dead before the spell had been cast. The idea of being trapped in an immobile form for days was terrifying, let alone months or years. She'd go mad quickly.

"I'll see you around," Lady Barb said, awkwardly. "And don't forget to write."

Emily nodded. Lady Barb had taught her how to write a letter, then charm it so only the intended recipient could open the envelope without destroying the message inside. They'd created a chat parchment to allow them to talk privately, but Lady Barb preferred letters even though the parchment was more convenient. Emily gave the older woman a tight hug, not trusting herself to speak. She'd see Lady Barb around-if nothing else, she'd come to visit Sergeant Miles-but it wouldn't be the same.

"I'll see you tonight," Frieda said, quietly.

"Goodbye," Lady Barb said.

The wards covering the door parted at Emily's touch, allowing her to push the door open and step into an ornate corridor. She shook her head in disbelief as she saw the fancy decorations on each of the doors-it looked as if every last centimetre had been covered with ornate gold runes-and then slowly walked down the corridor. A handful of wards brushed against her magic as she checked the doors, looking for her name. But there was no sign of it.

She looked up as she heard a woman bustle out of the door at the end of the corridor and turn down to face her. "Ah, you must be our new prisoner," she said. "Welcome, welcome!"

Emily blinked in disbelief. The woman was a powerful sorceress-she was making no attempt to mask her magic-but she looked like an old gypsy woman. She looked almost East Indian, with dark skin, darker eyes and a multicolored headscarf covering her hair, wearing a sari that shimmered from red to yellow as she moved. Looking more closely, Emily thought she appeared around fifty years old, although it was impossible to be certain. Mundanes aged quickly on the Nameless World, while sorcerers could retard aging indefinitely. The woman could easily be in her second century.

She blinked as the woman's words caught up with her. "Prisoner?"

"Just my little joke," the woman said. She looked Emily up and down, then nodded to herself cheerfully. "I am Madame Rosalinda, child. Your housemother for the next two years, unless you actually manage to get yourself expelled. I assume you've had a chance to review the notes on life in fifth year?"

Emily shook her head. It was hard not to stare at the housemother. Anyone less like a Rosalinda was hard to imagine. But she hadn't had time to review anything, not when she hadn't even been given her exam results until she'd faced Grandmaster Gordian. She assumed the details were in the sheaf of papers she'd been given, along with everything else she'd need to know before term officially started. She'd have to read them as soon as possible.

"You have a common room at each end of the corridor, four private study rooms and two private spellchambers," Madame Rosalinda informed her, as she turned to lead Emily further down the corridor. "If you need to use any of them in the middle of the night, you may do so; there's no set bedtime inside the dorms. You may also order snacks in the common rooms, which will be brought up from the kitchens for you."

Emily had to smile. There had never been a set bedtime at Whitehall, but anyone caught outside their bedroom after Lights Out could expect to get into trouble. Sneaking out, she recalled, was fun as long as no one was caught. The idea of being able to leave her room without getting into trouble was a great deal less thrilling, although she could see the value of a spellchamber she could use at any hour she liked. Her magic was under better control now, but she needed to keep expending it until she returned to classes. She wouldn't have to worry about expending magic then.

"The rules concerning visitors remain the same," Madame Rosalinda added, as they stopped outside a cupboard. "You're not allowed to invite anyone from a lower year into the dorms, nor are you allowed to invite anyone into your bedroom without your roommate's permission. I suggest that you do your best to be friends with your roommate, as your tutors will not accept being turned into a frog as an excuse for being late with your homework."

"Of course not," Emily agreed.

She felt a flicker of déjà vu as Madame Rosalinda opened the cupboard and produced a handful of robes, undergarments and a handful of small potions. Emily felt herself blush as the latter were pushed into her hands, even though she knew how to make the potions for herself now. She wasn't sure if she should be embarrassed or horrified that Whitehall was handing out contraceptive potions as well as everything else.

"You may be a probationary student, but you have the same rights and responsibilities as the rest of the students," Madame Rosalinda said. "I will not be inspecting your room. You and your roommate are solely responsible for keeping it clean and tidy, so if you want to live in a pigsty you may do so. Indeed, I will not be entering your room unless it is vitally important or the wards are sounding the alarm. You're expected to be an adult now."

Emily nodded. Magicians traditionally came of age after completing their first set of studies, according to Void; she'd been considered a child until she'd passed her exams, even though she'd been sixteen when she'd started at Whitehall. Many of her fellow students had chafed against the rules and restraints, but Emily had been relieved-in some ways-that there had finally been someone looking out for her. Now, she would be treated as an adult. The only upside was that Gordian would have less authority over her than he would have had last year.

"I understand," she said.

"Very good," Madame Rosalinda said. She dumped the robes into Emily's arms, then led the way back down the corridor. Emily followed, staggering slightly under the weight. "And here we have the prison cell."

Emily winced. The door looked just like every other bedroom door, but it was right next to Madame Rosalinda's office. There would be no sneaking in or out of the chamber without alerting the housemother. It was a little pointless, now she could use the common room or spellchambers in the middle of the night, but it still felt oppressive. The probation would have to be lifted eventually, Lady Barb had said, if she didn't give Gordian an excuse to expel her, yet she'd still be right next to the housemother. It was a warning-to her and her mystery roommate-to behave themselves.

Something must have shown on her face when the housemother glanced at her. "Don't worry," she said. There was a hint of mischief in her voice. "We only fitted the stocks yesterday. Before then, we had to chain people to the beds every night to keep them from sneaking out. And then there were regular whippings, every hour on the hour..."

She giggled. "I kid, I kid," she added. "It's just the same as every other room."

Emily scowled as the housemother turned back to the door. She was already on edge and feeling alone, despite Frieda staying at Whitehall, too. The joke didn't strike her as very funny at all.

"Now, there're only two of you here," Madame Rosalinda said, as she started to make passes in front of the door. "Once you're a registered occupant, you can come and go as you please; anyone else will not be able to enter without your permission. Should the room be empty, the wards will not allow anyone to enter."

"Same as before, then," Emily said.

"Correct," Madame Rosalinda said.

Emily nodded. She was surprised that Gordian hadn't insisted on the right to inspect her room and search her possessions at any moment he chose. She'd taken the precaution of leaving her notebooks in her house, just in case. But then, searching her possessions would be a gross breach of magical etiquette. Searching her trunk without permission would be a major scandal, even if he had extremely good cause. If Lady Barb was right and Gordian's position was hardly secure, he probably wouldn't take the risk.

"Touch the door," Madame Rosalinda ordered.

The wards tingled when Emily touched them, allowing them to taste her magical signature and record it for later use. They were powerful, she noted; she thought she could break them down, one by one, but there would be no way to hide what she'd done. Moments later, the door clicked open.

"Your trunk is already inside," Madame Rosalinda told her. "Dinner will be served at seventeen bells precisely in the Great Hall, but as there are so few of us in the building you may ask the kitchens for a snack at any time you like. If you have any questions, you can find me in my office."

Emily nodded. "Thank you," she said. She wasn't quite sure what to make of Madame Rosalinda. The housemother didn't appear to be anything like as strict as her two predecessors, but Madame Rosalinda definitely seemed eccentric. "I will."

She hesitated, unsure what she'd find inside. A roommate who was also a probationary student? She had no idea who it could be. Her friends would have told her if they were on probation, surely? Indeed, she didn't think that any of her classmates from last year were in trouble, unless it was the Gorgon. Grandmaster Gordian might not have liked the idea of a gorgon studying at Whitehall and put her on probation too.

Possibly, she thought. She found it hard to reconcile the career advisor she'd met last year with the grim-faced Grandmaster. But then, that man hadn't had to worry about an entire school. It would be just the sort of thing he would do.

Bracing herself, she pushed open the door.


Chapter Three

The room was much nicer than any of her previous bedrooms, Emily noticed, as the door latched noisily behind her. A large window looked over the grounds, allowing brilliant sunlight to stream in and illuminate the chamber. One of the walls was lined with bookshelves, already half-filled; there were two desks, two chairs, and two beds, the room clearly divided into two sections. The wall beside one of the beds was bare, but the wall beside the other was covered with posters, each one showing the anatomy of the human body. She'd seen similar diagrams in Lady Barb's classroom, when she'd been teaching, yet the ones on the walls looked remarkably more detailed. A small portrait of a kind-looking man hung at the foot of the bed, placed to allow it to smile down at the pillow. But the bed was empty...

The bare side of the room must be mine, she thought.

Emily dropped the blue robes and undergarments on the bed, then carefully placed the tiny potions bottles in the bedside cabinet. They were probably charmed to be unbreakable, save by magic, but there was no point in taking chances. The idea of going back to the housemother and asking for more already was embarrassing. She would be given them, she was sure, yet she would also be given a lecture on the proper care of potion bottles.

She looked up as a side door opened-the bathroom, she guessed-to reveal a tall girl wearing a long dark dress. Emily started as she realized she recognized her roommate; she'd seen her once before, being told off by Grandmaster Hasdrubal. Cabiria, she recalled; Cabiria of House Fellini. She'd been in trouble for something, according to Lady Barb, and had been lucky not to have been expelled outright. Lady Barb hadn't gone into details, but if Gordian had been annoyed at Emily escaping expulsion for her actions, he had to be outraged at Cabiria doing the same. Oddly, the realization made Emily feel a little better...

"Emily," Cabiria said. Her voice was stronger than Emily had expected, reminding her a little of Lady Barb. "I was wondering who it would be."

Emily tensed, one hand reaching down to touch the snake-bracelet on her wrist. Cabiria and she had only met once, but it had been awkward; Emily had honestly feared Cabiria intended to hex her right in front of the Grandmaster's office. Now... now they were roommates. If they couldn't get along, they would probably both be expelled.

"I think we've both managed to displease the Grandmaster," she said, carefully. "I should have realized it would be you."

Cabiria nodded, then smiled. "I think I can get along with you," she said. "I've heard a great deal about you."

Emily studied her carefully, aware that Cabiria was studying her as well. Cabiria was tall and willowy, taller than Emily, with long black hair that hung down to her waist. Her skin was inhumanly pale, as if she'd never seen the sun; her eyes were so dark they were like pools of darkness set against the light. Emily wondered, for a moment, if Cabiria had some vampire blood in her before dismissing the idea as impossible. Vampires couldn't breed with humans, mundane or magical. Cabiria was as human as Emily herself.

"I know," Emily said, glumly. "Everyone's heard of me."

"Better that than being obscure," Cabiria said. She shrugged as she walked over to the bed and sat down, never taking her eyes off Emily. "Why are you in trouble? Everyone said you were the Grandmaster's golden girl."

Emily sighed. "What are you in for?"

"Apparently I was sold to Professor Locke," Cabiria said, cheerfully. "I don't think he's going to get his money's worth."

Emily's mouth dropped open. "They sold you to him?"

"Oh, not literally," Cabiria said, reassuringly. "But the price of my remaining at Whitehall was being his apprentice-one of his apprentices. And I don't think I'm actually going to be of much help, either. I dumped history as soon as I could."

"Ouch," Emily said. "Why were you suspended?"

Cabiria smirked. "They caught me in the Black Room one too many times."

"Oh," Emily said. She'd never tried to break into the Black Room, the restricted section of the library. It was hard to get permission to look at any of the books, certainly not without a convincing case to present to a tutor. She'd been told that anyone who tried would be lucky not to be expelled. "How many times did you break in?"

"Only once," Cabiria admitted. Her smirk grew wider. "But I was actually reading the books when they dragged me out by the hair."

Emily lifted her eyebrows. She'd sensed the wards surrounding the darker parts of the library, the collections of books regarded as dubious or dangerous; she couldn't imagine the Black Room having any lesser protections. And yet Cabiria had managed to break in and start reading the books before she'd been caught? It was an impressive achievement, even if it was forbidden. No wonder she hadn't been expelled, even if she had been suspended. The Grandmaster would have been reluctant to let her talent go to waste.

"That's impressive," she said, honestly.

"Thanks," Cabiria said, wryly. "But being sent home for a year was not fun."

Emily nodded and turned to study the bare side of the room. "I suppose it wouldn't have been," she said. She had no idea where she would have gone, if she'd been suspended midway through second year. "What were you looking for?"

She turned back to her trunk and opened it, removing the handful of clothes she'd brought with her and dumping them on the bed. Cabiria smiled and lay back on her bed, watching Emily through mischievous eyes. Despite their first meeting, Emily found herself almost liking Cabiria. She would have been expelled, no matter her potential, if she had been studying something as dark as necromancy or demonology. But then, any halfway competent sorcerer could reinvent the necromantic rite with ease.

And a smart one would know better, she thought, as she opened the underside drawer and started to pack her clothes away. Necromancy leads to madness.

"Healing texts," Cabiria said, softly. "I wanted to read books that were marked forbidden."

Emily felt a flicker of guilt. She'd been shown some of those books at Mountaintop, books that were normally only available to those who had sworn the Healer's Oath. And she remembered some of what she'd read too. She'd even used one of the spells to save Alassa's life after her near-death in Zangaria. Cabiria, without such private training, would have to take the oaths if she wanted to read the books.

She glanced at the older girl. "You wanted to study Healing?"

"Not at all," Cabiria said. "I wanted to know how to use magic to... improve... animals. The Grandmaster didn't like the idea."

Emily frowned. "I thought there were animals bred for greater intelligence and suchlike."

"Oh, there are," Cabiria said. "But they don't use magic!"

She smiled as she sat up and paced over to the bookshelves. "If one can use magic to modify the human form," she said, "why can't one do the same to animals?"

Emily considered the problem for a long moment. "Someone must have thought of it long ago," she said, finally.

"Yes, of course," Cabiria said. "But why aren't such practices normal?"

"The techniques must be secret," Emily guessed. "If someone had come up with a way to enhance horses, they might not want to share their techniques."

"Precisely my conclusion," Cabiria agreed. She pulled a book off the shelves, flicked through the pages until she found what she was looking for and held it out to Emily. "But if they're publishing pieces of information like this, why aren't they doing the same for animals?"

Emily took the book and read the page quickly. The alchemical potion, combined with a handful of spells, claimed to be able to grant perfect eyesight, both to the drinker and his children up to the next four generations. It looked workable, but she had her doubts about its value-or about its safety. She knew more than she wanted to know about the Royal Bloodline of Zangaria, the alchemical breeding program that had produced Alassa-and, perhaps, rendered her infertile. It was quite possible that the potion had its own drawbacks, drawbacks that might only emerge one or two generations down the line.

Lamarck was right where magic is concerned, she thought, as she passed the book back to Cabiria. A change in the parent's body may have effects on the child.

"I don't know," she said. "Why aren't they doing anything like this for animals?"

Cabiria smiled. "Either the techniques are secret, as you said, or no one has done any research on it at all," she agreed. "And I needed to know what had been done..."

She shrugged. "Ah, well. Water under the bridge and all that rot."

Emily had to smile. "And you're interested in humans too?"

"You need to be a Healer to take a real interest in humans," Cabiria said. "And besides, a great deal of work has already been done on humans."

"True," Emily agreed. She bent down and retrieved a handful of textbooks from her trunk, placing them on the bed. "Perhaps a little too much, in some cases."

Cabiria frowned. "Too much?"

"There are long-term side effects of some magical treatments," Emily pointed out. The Royal Bloodline was the most serious case she knew about, but there had been others. She'd read about them after discovering what had happened to Alassa's family. "People going mad or being born with deformities that are impossible to fix..."

She sighed. "Anything you do to the animals might cause them problems further down the line too," she warned. "You might have a fast horse in one generation, but a lame horse in the next."

"There is always a price to be paid for understanding," Cabiria said, bluntly. "Magic always comes with a cost."

"Which you won't be paying," Emily said, irked.

Cabiria smirked, widely. "This from the person who invented the printing press and a whole new system of letters and numbers?"

Emily winced. Cabiria was quite right. Emily hadn't thought too much either before releasing her innovations into the wild. How many people had watched helplessly as their lives were turned upside down, just by the introduction of something new? She wouldn't shed a tear for the Accountants Guilds'-they'd tolerated far too many crooks amongst their number-but innocents had been hurt too. And the secret of gunpowder, out and spreading, would send thousands more to their graves in the very near future.

"Touché," she conceded. "But I should have been more careful too."

"Perhaps," Cabiria agreed. Her voice hardened, tinged with bitter pain and regret. "My... family... isn't keen on my little obsession. They thought I should do something a little more conventional with my life."

Emily looked up at her. "Conventional?"

"Studying a field of magic or becoming a specialist," Cabiria said. "Something the Patriarch would find useful."

"Ouch," Emily said. She knew nothing about House Fellini-she made a mental note to look them up in the library, when she next had a moment-but she doubted they were that different from either House Ashworth or Ashfall. There would be a Patriarch, a handful of elders... and everyone else, who would be expected to do as they were told. "Didn't they try to force you to study something useful?"

"I told them I'd leave if they tried," Cabiria said, bluntly. "And I swore an oath too."

Emily stared. Swearing oaths was dangerously reckless at the best of times. The consequences of breaking an oath ranged from losing one's magic to death, depending on just how the oath had been shaped and sworn. Cabiria's parents had to have recoiled in horror when they realized what their daughter had done. She was surprised Cabiria hadn't been unceremoniously disowned. In some ways, her actions had threatened the whole family.

"You must have been determined," she said, finally. "Why...?"

Cabiria snorted. "You don't know?"

"No," Emily said. "Should I?"

"It was quite the story, seven or so years ago," Cabiria said. She laughed, rather harshly. "I suppose your appearance took some attention away from me."

"That would have happened two years before... two years before I came to Whitehall," Emily said, slowly. She picked her next words very carefully. "I don't recall hearing anything about you."

"You must be the only one," Cabiria said.

Emily held up a hand. "If you don't want to talk about it..."

"You'll just go look it up in the library," Cabiria interrupted. "At least this way you'll get the unvarnished truth."

She scowled down at the floor. "I was the third daughter of my parents; my father the third son of House Fellini. My mother was a newborn magician. They had my two elder sisters in short order, barely pausing long enough to teach the last child to walk before having the next one."

Her voice lowered. "Until they had me."

Emily frowned. "You?"

"I had magic, all the tests said," Cabiria said. "But I couldn't use it. No matter what I did, my magic refused to work. I might as well have been a powerless mundane! I should have gone to Whitehall or Mountaintop when I turned sixteen, but... no magic. My parents were on the verge of giving up on me."

"Shit," Emily said. "They treated you badly?"

She wasn't sure she wanted to know. Squibs-for want of a better term-were almost completely unknown in the Nameless World. The children of magicians would almost certainly have magic themselves. Most families actively sought out newborn magicians to marry their children, knowing that it would make the bloodlines stronger. The thought of growing up in a magical household, without magic, was terrifying. She knew, all too well, just how cruel kids could be.

"Oh, no," Cabiria said. "They were very kind to me. My parents would have taken care of me for the rest of my life. I would have wanted for nothing. And my sisters were very solicitous of my welfare. But I wouldn't have wanted to do anything either."

"They treated you as a cripple," Emily realized. She shuddered. Being mistreated was one form of abuse, but having everything done for you was another. "What happened?"

"Uncle Alanson"-she nodded towards the portrait at the foot of her bed-"dug up a really old rite he claimed would work and insisted on using it on me, over my father's objections," Cabiria said. "He was the Patriarch, Emily; his word was law. So he took me into his private spellchamber and..."

She shook her head. "I'm not sure what happened then," she added. "My memory goes fuzzy after he started the first incantation. The next thing I know for sure is crying over his ashes, magic sparkling over me. I could finally use my powers. And I went to Whitehall a year later than I should."

Emily leaned forward. "You didn't think to use memory charms to recover the lost memories?"

Cabiria gave her a rather droll look. "First thing my parents tried," she said, sarcastically. "It did nothing. My father thinks I must have blacked out as soon as the rite began, but we don't know for sure. All I really know is that my uncle gave his life to let me use my powers."

"I see," Emily said. "And now you're studying how magic interacts with flesh?"

"More or less," Cabiria said. She looked up at Emily. "I'm a fluke, as far as I can tell; there are no recorded cases of anyone like me in history. I don't know why I couldn't use my powers until my uncle did something to me. Finding out why-unlocking the great mysteries-has been my calling ever since I first came to Whitehall."

"And Healer Oaths would make it impossible for you to study the root of magic," Emily concluded.

"More or less," Cabiria agreed. "They are very restrictive."

She smiled. "So... what's your story? What did you do to piss off our lord and master?"

"Too many things to list," Emily said. "He seems to believe I should have been expelled long ago."

"You did get away with a lot," Cabiria pointed out. "Anything in particular?"

"Accidentally challenging a tutor and then killing him," Emily said. "I think that was the matter he considered to be beyond the pale."

"Idiot deserved it," Cabiria said. She smiled, rather gently. "My parents went through the whole affair in some detail. Master Grey should never have accepted your challenge. Or he should have beaten you to a pulp instead. The best he could have hoped for would be spending the rest of his life as an outcast."

"Probably," Emily said. She didn't want to talk about Master Grey. "Do you have any idea what Professor Locke intends to do?"

Cabiria shook her head. "The Grandmaster may think that a history apprenticeship will keep us both out of trouble," she said. "I can't see him coming up with anything important."

She shrugged, dismissing the issue. "You can read my books if I can read yours. How does that sound?"

"Great," Emily said. She wasn't sure if she wanted to read Cabiria's books or not, but there was no point in picking a fight over the handful of books she'd brought with her from the house. "Trunks remain private?"

"Of course," Cabiria said. "I should warn you that mine is protected by a series of very nasty hexes."

"Likewise," Emily said.

Cabiria nodded. "Let me know if you and your boyfriend want to use the room," she added, mischievously. "I don't mind."

Emily colored. "Of course," she said. "And you can do the same."

She smiled as she finished unpacking, then pulled the chat parchment out of her trunk and started to scribble out a note to her friends. She'd feared the worst, but Cabiria didn't seem like a bad person. Perhaps having her for a roommate wouldn't be so bad after all.




Author Bio

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

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

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

Discussion Forum

TTB titles:

Schooled in Magic fantasy series
  Lessons in Etiquette  book 2
  Study in Slaughter  book 3
  Work Experience  book 4
  The School of Hard Knocks  book 5
  Love's Labor's Won  book 6
  Trial By Fire  book 7
  Wedding Hells  book 8
  Infinite Regress  book 9
  Past Tense  book 10
  The Sergeant's Apprentice  book 11
  Fists of Justice  book 12
  The Gordian Knot  book 13
  Graduation Day  book 14
  Alassa's Tale  book 14.5
  The Princess in the Tower  book 15
  The Broken Throne  book 16
  Cursed  book 17
  Mirror Image  book 18
  The Artful Apprentice  book 19
  Oathkeeper  book 20
  Little Witches  book 21
  The Right Side of History  book 22
  The Face of the Enemy  book 23
  Child of Destiny  book 24
  The Demon's Design  book 25
  The Apprentice Mistress  book 26

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

Author web site.




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


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  Author News


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

"The Stronghold Academy of Martial Arts"

"Emily's Finances"

"Religion in the Nameless World

"The Military in the Nameless World - A Very Brief Overview"

"Wedding Hells: Randor and Alicia"

"Past Tense: Freedom and (Women's) Rights"

"Wedding Hells Appendix (II) - History Exam"

"Idle Musings (SIM 10)"

"Whitehall's Liability Insurance"

"Emily and the Barony of Cockatrice"

"Bonus Material: Whitehall History Essay Question"

"Schooled in Magic: Jade, Emily and Alassa" [Warning: spoilers]

"Deconstructing Emily" [...There are a handful of spoilers for Books 1-6, so read carefully.]

"Love's Labor's Won: Playing the Blame Game [Warning; spoilers!]

"Christmas Post: Five Things that Could Have Happened to Emily"

"The Tragedy of Marius Drake [Warning: massive spoilers in this post.]

"Meet My Character Blog Hop" [Master Tor]

"Draft Afterword (I)" [Cincinnatus]

"But What Do We Do on Our Hols? An Introduction to Lessons in Etiquette"

"The Free City of Beneficence" [A new setting for Schooled in Magic.]

"An Introduction to Schooled in Magic"



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

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

Character interview with Princess Alassa on Beyond the Books

"Deconstructing Emily" blog post

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

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

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

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

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

Trial By Fire chapter reveal on Plug Your Book



"I've also been following Christopher Nuttall's Schooled in Magic series about a young woman from our world who finds herself learning magic and providing information she remembers from Earth. The 8th episode it's time for Princess Alassa's Wedding Hells (ebook from Twilight Times Books). Gunpowder and the printing press have created political/economic changes and the nobility, especially King Randor, is trying to use force to keep calm. Between the craziness of a royal wedding and visions of the French Revolution running in her head, Emily can only try to protect her friends. Over the four years that Emily has been on this world, she has become stronger and more confident. I really look forward to her 5th year in school."
~ Henry L. Lazarus, Philadelphia Weekly Press





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