Trial By Fire
By Christopher G. Nuttall
Schooled In Magic, Book 7
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Release Date: July 13, 2015
Sample Chapter HERE.
About the Book:
Three years ago, Emily killed the Necromancer Shadye before he could sacrifice her and destroy the Allied Lands. Now, the shadows of the past hang over Whitehall as Emily and the Grandmaster travel into the Blighted Lands to recover anything Shadye might have left behind, before returning to Whitehall to start the fourth year. For Emily, it is a chance to stretch her mind and learn more about new and innovative forms of magic ... and to prepare for the exams that will determine her future as a magician.
But as she starts her studies, it becomes clear that all is not well at Whitehall. Master Grey, a man who disliked Emily from the moment he met her, is one of her teachers - and he seems intent on breaking her, pushing her right to her limits. In the meantime, her friends Alassa and Imaiqah are acting oddly, Frieda seems to be having trouble talking to her and - worst of all - Caleb, her partner in a joint magical project, is intent on asking her to go out with him.
As she struggles to cope with new challenges and to overcome the demons in her past, she becomes aware of a deadly threat looming over Whitehall, a curse that threatens her very soul. And when she makes a tiny yet fatal mistake, she finds herself facing a fight she cannot win, but dares not lose...
EXCERPTPrologueCaleb stopped outside the stone door to his father's study and paused, feeling his heart pound inside his chest. He had few good memories of his father's study; he and the other children had never been allowed to enter, save for long lectures and punishments when they'd disappointed their parents. Caleb had never dared to try to break the complex network of spells on the lock, knowing it would displease his mother and father.And both of his parents were formidable indeed."Caleb," his mother called. "Come in."Caleb bit his lip and pushed at the door. The house was small - living space was at a premium in Beneficence - and his mother had had over twenty-five years to weave protective spells and wards into the stone building. She'd always known what her children were doing while they lived in her house. Her children had rapidly learned to keep their misdeeds well away from home if they didn't want to get caught at once. He shivered when he felt another protective ward shimmering over him as he stepped through the door, then bowed formally to his father. His father looked at him for a long moment, and nodded. Beside him, Caleb's mother kept her face impassive.They made an odd couple, Caleb had often thought, once he'd grown old enough to meet other soldiers and magicians. General Pollock - his father - was short, stubby and muscular, tough enough to march with the younger men instead of riding a horse to battle, while Mediator Sienna was tall, willowy and one of the most experienced combat sorcerers in the Allied Lands. She might not have been classically beautiful, her stern face edged by long black hair, but she was striking, with a trim athletic build even after giving birth to five children. And there were few people who would dare insult her to her face."Caleb," his father grunted. He'd never really seen Caleb as anything other than a disappointment, once it became clear that his second son was more interested in theoretical work than fighting. "You wished to speak with us?""Yes, father," Caleb said. His parents weren't stuck-up enough to insist that their children make appointments to speak with them, but certain things had to be done formally. The little rituals of politeness, as always, kept civilization going. "I do."His father waved a hand, impatiently. "Then speak," he ordered.Caleb took a long breath. Casper - handsome Casper, confident Casper - would have found it easy to speak to their parents, he was sure. But his elder brother had basked in the approval of their father, while even their stern mother could rarely remain angry at him for long. What Casper wanted, Casper got. Their parents hadn't really spoiled Casper, Caleb had to admit, but he'd had advantages none of the younger children shared. He'd set out to walk in their footsteps, after all."I ask your permission to open a Courtship," he said, allowing his voice to slip into cool formality. "I ask for your blessings and your wisdom."His parents exchanged glances. A simple relationship was one thing, but a Courtship was quite another. It implied that Caleb was willing to spend the rest of his life with the girl, if she proved receptive to his advances. And his parents...they might have to welcome the girl into their family, if the Courtship worked out. Caleb was the first of the family to discuss a Courtship. Even Casper had yet to bring a girl home to meet their parents.His mother spoke first. "Who is this girl?"Caleb held himself steady, refusing to be swayed by the bite in her tone. "Emily," he said, simply. "Daughter of Void.""I see," General Pollack said. His voice revealed nothing. "You overreach yourself, do you not? She is a Baroness of Zangaria.""I am a sorcerer," Caleb countered. He'd known his father would object on those grounds, if nothing else. General Pollack came from aristocratic stock, but his father had been a mere Knight. Grandfather Karuk had been powerful enough to buy his son a commission, yet he'd never been as wealthy and powerful as a baron. "We are social equals.""And her father is a Lone Power," Mediator Sienna said, slowly. "Do you not fear his thoughts on the matter?"Caleb hesitated, but pressed on. "That is why I have decided on a formal Courtship," he said. He'd always had the impression that Emily was largely flying free - he didn't think that an experienced sorcerer would have allowed the crisis in Cockatrice to get so badly out of hand - but marriage was quite another issue. "It would allow him a chance to object before matters became serious.""She may reject you," General Pollack warned. "You are not a wealthy man.""I know," Caleb said. The family wealth, what little there was of it, would go to Casper, once his parents passed away. General Pollack was a poor man, by the standards of their social equals. But not using his position to enrich himself had made him popular with the troops under his command. "I do, however, have excellent prospects."His father's face darkened. "But not as a defender of the Allied Lands."Caleb bit down the response that came to mind. His father had expected his children - his male children, at least - to go into the military, to fight for the Allied Lands. Casper, whatever his flaws, was a halfway decent combat sorcerer. But Caleb? He'd always been more interested in fundamental magic research than fighting. The transfer to Whitehall had been the best thing that had ever happened to him."His research may prove useful," Mediator Sienna said.General Pollack gave her a surprised look.Caleb couldn't help staring at her in astonishment. His mother might be formidable, but it was rare for her to disagree with her husband in public. Caleb knew they'd had some spectacular rows, yet they'd always been held in private. They'd always put forward a united front.His mother ignored their surprise. "Do you believe she likes you?"Caleb swallowed. That was the question, wasn't it? He had never been able to read a girl, to tell if she was interested in him or if she was just being polite. The lads in the barracks had bragged endlessly about how many girls they'd slept with - Caleb was privately sure most of them were lying - but he had never had a serious relationship with anyone. Stronghold had enrolled only a handful of female students, while he'd been too busy at Whitehall to consider the possibilities. He'd never had the nerve to go into a brothel when he'd been on leave."I think so," he said, finally. He went on before his mother could start demanding details. "That's why I decided on a formal Courtship. If she thinks otherwise...""You can back off without shame," his mother finished. It would be embarrassing to be rejected, Caleb was sure, but better that than getting into a muddle. Courtship, if nothing else, was a ritual intended to ensure that everything was open, without even the merest hint of impropriety. "I would advise you to be careful, though. It is rare for a Lone Power to have a child.""And one so grossly irresponsible, at that," General Pollack growled. "Inviting both the Ashworths and Ashfalls to the Faire. What was she thinking?""She shut them both down," Caleb reminded him.His mother met his eyes. "Yes, she did," she agreed. "But it was still irresponsible.""I like her," Caleb said, refusing to look away. "I request your blessing for the Courtship."General Pollack exchanged a long look with his wife. "We shall discuss it in private," he said, finally. "Wait."Caleb scowled inwardly as his mother cast a privacy ward, ensuring he couldn't hear a word of what passed between them. It galled him to have to go to his parents, but he knew they would have been furious if he'd approached someone with serious intentions without consulting them first. There were times when he wouldn't have minded being disowned, yet - in truth - he loved his family. Even Casper...Father has no magic, he reminded himself. And yet he rules the family with a rod of iron.He looked down at the stone floor, then up as the privacy ward dispelled. His father looked irked, while his mother was smiling coldly to herself. Caleb schooled his face into a dispassionate expression, waiting patiently for their answer. There were strong advantages to the match, he was sure, but there were also dangers. His mother was powerful, yet she was no match for a Lone Power."We have considered the matter," General Pollack said. "You may proceed with your Courtship."Caleb let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you, father-""Now we will discuss the practicalities," his mother added, cutting him off. "And precisely how you intend to proceed. You will have to present her with flowers within the month. Choosing the right ones will be important.""Yes, mother," Caleb said.He cursed under his breath. It wasn't something he wanted to talk about, not to his blunt, plainspoken mother, but it was clear he wasn't being offered a choice. His father's brief lecture on matters sexual had been bad enough, back when he'd started to realize there was something different about girls, yet this was likely to be worse. He cringed mentally, then steadied himself. At least they hadn't said no.And now all you have to do is go through with the Courtship, he told himself. And that won't be easy.
About the Author
Christopher Nuttall was born in Edinburgh, studied in Manchester, married in Malaysia and currently living in Scotland, United Kingdom, with his wife and baby son. He is the author of twenty novels from various publishers and thirty-nine self-published novels. His books have sold over 100K copies in the last year. His latest book, Trial By Fire (Schooled In Magic 7) is currently an Amazon bestseller.
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