About the Author
Patricia C. Wrede is the author of several adult fantasy series, including Lyra, the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and Cecelia and Kate, as well as many other series and stand-alone books. Her books are typically steeped in magic, and often detail the trials and tribulations of dragons, princesses and alternate worlds.
Read an Excerpt
Cold rain drizzled on the dark London streets at least, it looked cold. Kim peered out her bedroom window at the deserted square two stories below and pulled her shawl closer around her shoulders, though the fire in the grate was almost too warm for comfort. She hadn't had to shelter, shivering, in a doorway for nearly a year, but the memories lingered.
Still no sign of Mairelon. Is he going to stay out all night? Kim thought resentfully. He gets to jaw with Lord Shoreham and eat at the Royal College of Wizards, and I'm stuck here with a great thick square book and that poker-backed aunt of his. She shook her head. It was not what she had expected, a year ago when she had agreed to become Mairelon's ward and learn reading and magic. Then, she had thought it would be a great adventure.
"'Anything might happen,' I thought," Kim said aloud to her reflection in the rain-dark window. "'Anything at all.' I must have been touched in the head." She crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue at her mirror image.
"Dicked in the nob, that's what I was," she muttered.
The bedroom door opened. "What did you say, Kim?" Mrs. Lowe asked in a mildly disapproving tone.
With a faint sigh, Kim slid off the window seat and turned. The relentless respectability of Mairelon's paternal aunt was very wearing. It seemed much longer than a week since they'd found her ensconced in the townhouse on their arrival in London. And since they were all technically guests of Mairelon's brother Andrew, who as elder son had inherited the townhouse, there was nothing to be done about Mrs.Lowe except spend time elsewhere. Which Mairelon had been doing rather a lot. Kim wished she had that option. "I didn't say anything," she told Mrs. Lowe in as mild a tone as she could manage.
"I was sure I heard your voice." Mrs. Lowe hesitated. "It wasn't any of that . . . that thieves' cant, was it?"
"Flash lingo," Kim said helpfully.
Mrs. Lowe frowned. "After all my nephew has done for you, the least you could do is to be more careful of your language."
"Mairelon doesn't mind the way I talk."
"My nephew is not always as conscious of the social niceties as he should be," Mrs. Lowe said. "Nonetheless, they must be observed. And you really should refer to him as 'Mr. Merrill.' He is your guardian, and it would show a proper respect."
"Did you want me for something?" Kim asked, hoping to dodge the discussion. "I have studying to do." She waved at the fat, leather-bound book on the night stand beside the bed, and suppressed a grimace. There were three more volumes waiting for her in the library below. Why he keeps shoving them at me when he knows I'm no great hand at reading . . .
"More magic, I suppose." Mrs. Lowe shook her head. "I'll speak to Richard about that in the morning."
"Speak to him?" Kim said, beginning to be alarmed. For the past week, Mrs. Lowe had made Kim's life a respectable misery. She had insisted that Kim accompany her to pay interminable morning calls on dull but acceptable acquaintances, forbidden all walks alone, and made it quite clear that, in the unlikely event of Kim's encountering any of her former friends, Kim was to cut them dead. Thus far, however, she had not attempted to interfere with Kim's magic lessons.
"I am sure you will have plenty of opportunity to study when you are back in Kent," Mrs. Lowe said. "Magic is all very well, but it is hardly a necessary branch of knowledge for a young woman in your situation. While you are in London, we must make the most of your chances. I cannot say I have any great hope of success, given your . . . circumstances, but there are one or two possibilities That is why I wished to talk to you tonight."
"I don't understand," Kim said warily.
"Mrs. Hardcastle knows a gentleman who sounds as if he will do very nicely. Well, perhaps not a gentleman, but respectable enough. She has arranged for us to meet him tomorrow afternoon, and I wished to warn you to be on your best behavior."
"Best behavior You can't be thinking of getting me leg-shackled to some gentry cull!"
"If what you just said was some sort of reference to arranging a suitable marriage for you, yes, that is precisely what I was referring to," Mrs. Lowe replied stiffly.
Kim didn't know whether to be amused or appalled. Her, married to a toff? In her wildest notions, she had never thought of such a thing. She looked at Mrs. Lowe, and her amusement died. The woman was serious. "It'd never work."
"It certainly won't if you burst out with a remark like that over Mrs. Hardcastle's tea table. Consider carefully what I have said, and be prepared tomorrow, if you please. I am afraid that your . . . interesting background means that you are unlikely to have many opportunities of this nature; you would be ill advised to waste this one. Good night."
Kim stared at the closing door, then flung herself back into the window seat. Marriage! She's the one who's dicked in the nob. There isn't a toff in London who'd marry a penniless, nameless sharper, even if I have gone all respectable. She shifted restlessly in the window seat. Respectability did not sit comfortably with her, but what other choices did she have?
She couldn't go back to the streets, even if she were mad enough to want to. What with all the regular eating, she'd filled out more than she'd have thought possible; posing as a boy now would be out of the question. She hadn't the training to be a housemaid or take up a trade, even if she could find someone to hire her. Mrs. Lowe's "respectable gentleman" wasn't a serious possibility, but sooner or later, Kim would have to think of something. She couldn't stay Mairelon's ward forever.
Though that doesn't seem to have occurred to him.
But Richard Merrill whom she still could not think of as anything but Mairelon the Magician didn't look at things the way other people did. Well, if he did, he'd never have got himself made my guardian. For all the awareness he showed, you'd think he was perfectly willing to go on feeding, clothing, and housing Kim until they both died of old age.
Maybe she should ask him about it. Maybe she would, if she could figure out what "it" was, exactly or at least well enough to explain. "I'm bored" would only get her a larger stack of books to study; "I'm not happy" sounded ungrateful; and "Your aunt is a Friday-faced noodle" was insulting. But there had to be some way to put it.
Meanwhile, she had another three pages of Shepherd's Elementary Invocations to decipher before morning. She didn't want Mairelon to think that she wasn't working at her lessons, not if that Mrs. Lowe was going to ask him to stop them. Sighing, Kim climbed out of the window seat.
The text on magic occupied Kim for several hours, but when she finally laid it aside and went to bed, she found it impossible to sleep. She lay in darkness, staring up at the plaster ceiling and listening for the clatter of Mairelon's carriage on the cobblestones outside. Around her, the household quieted as the housemaids and sculleys finished their days' work and climbed the narrow servants' stair to their beds under the eaves. The watchman's cry, muffled and perfunctory, came faintly through the window. Poor old cull, Kim thought as a gust of wind sent raindrops rattling like gunfire across the panes. I'm glad I'm not out in this.
Suddenly she sat bolt upright in the bed. That sounded like.... The noise came again, soft but clear. Someone's downstairs. Someone who's got no business being there.
Kim slid out of bed. Her eyes slid past the bell-pull without pausing. If she summoned a maid, she'd only have to send the girl for a footman, and by the time all the running around was done, the cull downstairs would have gotten away. And if she was wrong, if there wasn't anyone, she'd have to endure endless lectures from Mrs. Lowe. She could call someone when she was sure.
She started for the door, then stopped. Her white nightdress stood out in the darkness; she didn't want the cracksman to spot her and pike off before she got a footman or two to help catch him. Her dressing gown was a dark, rich blue that would blend with the shadows; she picked it up and struggled into it. Then she eased the door open and slipped into the darkened hallway.
Moving lightly, she made for the stairs. Another soft, scuffing sound came from below, followed by a distinct creak; hadn't anyone else noticed? Probably a novice, on his first crack lay. Somebody should have told him to stick by the walls. Mother Tibb wouldn't have sent anybody out that didn't know at least that much.
Suiting her own actions to her thoughts, Kim plastered herself against one wall and started down the stairs, setting her bare feet as near the wall as she could. No creaks betrayed her. Halfway down, she caught the flash of a dark lantern and froze. The light flickered past. A moment later, a figure skulked down the hallway, opening doors and peering through them. The strong smell of a cheap lard candle and the scent of wet wool preceded him; he must have been standing in the rain for some time to be so drenched. Finally, with a grunt of satisfaction, the man let the last door swing fully open and disappeared into the library.
The library? What could a thief want from the library? The silver was downstairs, on the ground floor, and Mairelon's brother didn't keep valuables on display in his townhouse. The whole thing had more of a rum look by the minute. Kim frowned, considering; then a hastily stifled expletive decided her. There was no knowing what this cove was up to. She'd just make sure he couldn't pike off, and then she'd call the footmen.
Silently, she crept down the remaining steps. A cautious look showed the cracksman bent over the end table, peering at the books by the light of the dark lantern. Kim smiled grimly and, holding the handle to prevent the betraying click of the latch snapping into place, carefully closed the library door. Now, if she could just lock it in place somehow.... But the door had no lock, and there was nothing nearby she could use to jam it. Magic, perhaps? She ran over in her mind the short list of spells she could cast with some reliability. There was one that might do the trick, if she could get it right.
She took a deep breath, then focused her eyes on the handle. In her mind she pictured it as it was, staying as it was, motionless, frozen, immovable, and in a voice barely above a whisper began the spell that would make the image real.
An outraged bellow and a loud crash from inside the library rattled her concentration. "... sta, atque " she continued, and then the door burst open, knocking her sprawling. An instant later, the escaping housebreaker stumbled over her and went down. Kim shouted and grabbed at him. Her hands slid against silk, then tightened around thick, damp wool. The burglar twisted and something tore; the man scrambled away from her, leaving her holding a scrap of cloth.
Kim tried to roll to her feet and ended up tangled in her dressing gown. The man regained his feet and pelted down the hall, just as a sleepy-eyed footman appeared on the far stairs. The burglar shoved the hapless footman against the wall and dashed down the stairs and out of sight. Crashing noises and yells marked his continued progress. The footman recovered himself and plunged after his assailant. More shouts drifted upward.
As Kim, muttering curses, struggled to a standing position at last, she heard footsteps on the stairs behind her. She turned and found Mrs. Lowe, lamp in hand, staring at her with shock and disapproval.
"Kim! Whatever have you been doing? And in such a state!"
Kim glanced down. Her dressing gown had come undone, and showed distinct traces, even in the lamplight, of having rolled about on the floor. A torn and ragged bit of lace trailed off the hem of her nightdress, and her hair was probably every-which-way, too. Mrs. Lowe, of course, was turned out in more proper style not a wisp of gray hair escaped from under her dainty lace cap, and her dressing gown was crisper and neater than Kim's had been even before her encounter with the burglar. Kim pulled her dressing gown closed and discovered that several of the buttons were missing.
"I heard someone in the library," Kim said as she scanned the floor for the buttons. One of them lay next to the baseboard, beside a piece of wood with a splintered end. Kim bent toward it.
"Nonsense. You were dreaming, I'm sure."
"I wasn't asleep." Kim reached for the button, and her fingers brushed the splintered wood. A light tingling ran up her arm, and she jerked her hand back in surprise. Magic? She touched it again. Not a strong spell, but recent. Mairelon'll want a look at this. Frowning, she picked up wood and button together and shoved them in the pocket of her dressing gown.
"If you did hear something, it was probably one of the maids. They keep different hours in town, and I expect you are not yet accustomed "
Kim tucked another button in the pocket of her dressing gown and looked back at Mrs. Lowe. "It wasn't one of the maids. They wouldn't be carrying on like that if it had been," she added, waving at the stairs. The shouts and crashing noises had ceased, but it was nonetheless obvious that there was far more activity on the ground floor than was normal at this time of night.
"At least you had the good sense to put on your dressing gown before you came down," Mrs. Lowe said, tacitly conceding the point. "Still, wandering about the house en déshabillé at this hour is most irregular, no matter what your reasons."
"I bet Mairelon won't think so." The injudicious words slipped out before Kim thought.
Mrs. Lowe's thin lips pressed together in a hard line. Then, in deceptively soft tones, she said, "Mr. Merrill, Kim, not Mairelon. Showing proper respect is Where do you think you are going?"
"To find out whether they've caught the flash cull that was turning out the library."
"Indeed you shall not," Mrs. Lowe said. "You will return to your room at once, and we will discuss matters further in the morning."
"What matters?" said a new voice from the lower stairs.
"Mairelon!" Kim said, turning toward the voice with a sigh of relief.
Richard Merrill climbed the last few steps and stood eyeing Kim and Mrs. Lowe with a quizzical expression on his round, cheerful face. His dark hair looked damp and a little disheveled, but his coat and pantaloons were immaculate. Kim wondered what he had done with his cloak. Probably left it in a heap in the front hall because the footmen were too busy chasing burglars to take it.
"What matters?" he asked again. "And why wait to discuss them? From the look of things, no one's going to get any sleep for hours. Kim, Harry says he rescued you from someone, or possibly several someones, who from his description were apparently seven feet tall and more indestructible than the strong man down at Astley's Ampitheatre. Ought I to congratulate him, or should he merely be sent to the kitchen to sleep it off?"
Before Kim could answer, Mrs. Lowe frowned and said in tones that promised dire retribution for someone, "Who is Harry?"
"The front footman. He's on his way to the pantry to receive a hero's due, on the strength of a bruised shin and a knock on the head. The question is, does he deserve it?"
"He got banged up against the wall when that cracksman piked off, that's all," Kim said. "Unless they had a run-in later."
"No, the fellow got clean away. Still, I think we'll leave Harry to his laurels, well-earned or no. What I want now is the rest of the story." He looked at Kim expectantly.
"I was upstairs when I heard "
"Not tonight, Kim," Mrs. Lowe broke in. "You have had quite enough excitement for one evening, and tomorrow is going to be a busy day. I'm sure that if Richard thinks about it, he'll agree that you ought to be in bed. You'll have plenty of time to talk in the morning. Come along."
Mairelon put out a restraining hand. "I appreciate your concern, Aunt, but I wish to speak to Kim now, if she's agreeable. It won't take long."
"Of course I'm agreeable," Kim said.
"That's settled, then." Turning his head, he called down the stairs, "Hunch! Bring a lamp when you come up."
Mrs. Lowe looked startled. "Kim is not the best judge of what is most appropriate, Richard. If you will stop for a moment and think, you will see that."
"What? No, no, Kim is quite good at this sort of thing. Go on, Kim you were upstairs, and you heard something."
"She will catch a chill, running about half dressed at this hour," Mrs. Lowe said firmly. "She belongs upstairs in her bed."
"Half dressed?" Mairelon said with mild interest. He looked at Kim and shook his head. "Nonsense. She's got a dressing gown. Now, I'll grant you, it wouldn't be quite the thing if she were going to walk down to Grosvenor Square in the rain, but I promise you I won't let her. We'll stay right here in the library."
"Kim needs her rest, Richard."
"She's more likely to get it if she has a chance to talk first," Mairelon said, frowning slightly.
"I'm not sleepy," Kim put in.
Mrs. Lowe sighed. "If you insist, Richard. I shall join you as chaperone, of course."
"I think not." Mairelon's attention was firmly fixed on his aunt at last, and his expression had gone bland and unfathomable, the way it did when he was about to be particularly stubborn about something. Mrs. Lowe did not seem to realize it.
"Richard, Kim's reputation..."
"...is quite safe. I'm her guardian, remember." His tone was polite and gentle, but brooked no contradiction.
Mrs. Lowe hesitated, then acquiesced. "Very well, Richard. No doubt you have your reasons. I must tell you, however, that it is most irregular, and the possible consequences..."
"In the morning, Aunt," Mairelon said. He glanced at Kim and gave a tiny nod in the direction of the library. Turning back to Mrs. Lowe, he went on in a soothing tone, "As you said, it is late, and I'm sure this has been a strain on your nerves. Things will look different when you've had a good night's sleep."
Kim slipped quietly around behind him and into the darkened library. The murmur of voices in the hall continued; then she heard heavy footsteps on the stairs, and Mairelon's voice: "The library, Hunch." She stepped back as Mairelon's manservant came through the door, carrying a candle. He was tall and thin, and everything about him drooped: his shoulders, his mustache, the baggy trousers he insisted on wearing.
"'Ere now, Kim, where oh, there you are. Stay still; I'll 'ave these 'ere lamps lit in no time."
Light flared, then steadied as Hunch adjusted the lampwick. "There. Now 'Struth! That 'Arry wasn't 'alf right, by the look of it. What 'appened?"
The burglar's dark lantern lay on its side next to an overturned end table; it was a good thing the candle had gone out. A dozen books were scattered across the floor, some looking as if they had fallen when the table went over, others as if they had been dropped or thrown.
"An excellent question, Hunch." Mairelon entered, closing the door firmly behind him. "We've heard Harry's tale; I trust yours will be somewhat .... less imaginative, Kim."
"I thought I heard something, so I came down to have a look," Kim said. "A man with a dark lantern was in the hall, looking in all the rooms. He went into the library. I was going to lock him in and call a footman, except he must of heard me working the spell or something, because he came charging out while I was still in the middle of it. He tripped over me, and I yelled, and he got away from me. The footman Harry? was coming up to see what the noise was, and the rum cove ran slap into him before he piked off down the stairs. That's all."
"Brief and to the point," Mairelon said. "Though not, perhaps, up to Aunt Agatha's standards of elocution. What a good thing we sent her off to bed."
"I found this in the hallway after the turn-up," Kim said, pulling the scrap of wood from her pocket and laying it on top of the books. "I don't know what it is, but it's been magicked."
Mairelon picked up the scrap and turned it over in his hands. It looked like a piece of a wooden rod, about four inches long and as big around as Kim's little finger. "Technically, the term is 'infused,' not 'magicked,' but in a general sort of way you're quite right."
"What's the difference?"
"Something that's been enchanted, or 'magicked,' as you put it, has had a spell cast on it. Something that's been infused has had a spell stored in it." Mairelon frowned at the piece of rod.
"What kind of spell?" Kim asked.
Mairelon blinked, then smiled. "That is the next question. One of them, anyway. Normally, once the spell has been invoked, it's used up there's no way to tell what it was."
"That's normally," Kim said, recognizing the tone. "What's weird about this?"
Mairelon's smile broadened. "Whoever made it was exceedingly clumsy; it's as if he put the spell together from bits and pieces. And not all the bits and pieces went off when the wizard invoked it."
"'E's a beginner, then?" Hunch said.
"Mmm. Possibly. But Kim's a beginner, and she could do a better job than this."
"Well, are there enough bits left that you can tell what it was supposed to do?" Kim said, trying to decide whether she should be pleased or insulted by the comparison.
"Let's find out, shall we?" Mairelon pointed the piece of rod at the nearest bookcase and muttered something under his breath.
Nothing happened. Mairelon frowned and said something longer that sounded like Latin to Kim. As he spoke, he waved the rod in a slow circle.
Several of the books began to glow with a soft, golden light. Mairelon gave an exclamation of satisfaction, then began muttering rapidly, moving the rod in a rapid, complex pattern. The glow dimmed, then steadied. After a moment, Mairelon relaxed and set the rod on the table.
Kim looked down. The books that lay scattered about the floor were all glowing as well. "This is crazy! He couldn't of sherried off with all those."
"If it were that simple, we wouldn't have books all over the library floor," Mairelon said. "I'll wager he was looking for one or two particular volumes. The question is, which ones?"
"If you was to clean up a bit o' this 'ere mess, you might 'ave an easier time figuring it out," Hunch said.
"An excellent notion." Mairelon stepped forward and lifted the little table back onto its crocodile paws. "Put the books here, and we'll have a look."
Hunch picked up the scattered volumes, while Kim rather gingerly helped Mairelon pull glowing books from the shelves. When they were all piled on the center table, they made an impressive heap.
"Now, what have we here," Mairelon murmured. "The Mountains of Doubt, Collegium Sorceria,Discoverer, Après Cinq Cents Ans, Fire Keepers Vol. VI I wonder why he didn't take the first five? A Pottery Pigeon, Reflecting Quadrille, Maturing Without Heaviness .... Our housebreaker appears to have excellent taste."
"Well, 'e can just taste things somewheres else next time," Hunch muttered.
"I am inclined to agree with your recommendation, Hunch," Mairelon said. "I don't suppose you got a look at his face during all the excitement, Kim?"
"No," Kim said with regret. "I got a piece of his coat, though. He's a toff, or someone as wants to be."
"Really?" Mairelon looked at Kim with interest. "How did you deduce that?"
"He was wearing a silk waistcoat. I felt it. And this isn't homespun." Kim pulled the torn piece of wool from her pocket. Two buttons came with it, and bounced off under the settee.
"Ripped his coat, did he?" Mairelon said. "How lucky for us."
"Lucky?" Kim said, mystified.
"Yes, of course. Help me move this table closer to the center of the room. Hunch, get me the blue chalk and a pot of ink. Oh, and an unused candle for Kim."
"You ain't doing nothin' dreadful now, Master Richard," Hunch said in a stern tone. "Not in Master Andrew's 'ouse."
"Hmm? Oh, not at all, Hunch," Mairelon said as he and Kim shifted the table. "It's only a spell Shoreham's been working on for a while an adaptation of the standard scrying spell. He showed it to me the day before yesterday; it's quite clever. You'll see."
"All right, then," Hunch said, though he continued to frown. "Lord Shore'am is a proper gentleman."
Mairelon shot his servant an amused glance and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. Carefully, he spread it over the tabletop, smoothing the creases with his fingertip. The corners of the handkerchief hung over the center of the table's sides, so that a triangle of bare wood was left in each corner.
"Yes, but what is this spell supposed to do?" Kim said.
"Help us catch our burglar, with luck," Mairelon replied. "Hunch, where's that ink? Thank you. Give Kim the chalk." He set a small ink bottle on one of the bare corners of the tabletop.
"You'll see in a minute. Now, what can I use ah, yes, this will do nicely." He plucked a small silver salver from a shelf beside the door and positioned it carefully in the exact center of the handkerchief. "There. Hand me that scrap of cloth you found."
"Mairelon, I'm never going to learn any magic if you don't give me any explanations," Kim said in exasperation as she gave him the piece of wool.
"And you'll never be a great magician if you can't make half an understanding do for a start," Mairelon said, dropping the scrap into the salver. "A competent one, perhaps, but not a great one. The chalk, if you please."
Sighing, Kim handed him the chalk. He sketched three careful crosses in the remaining corners of the table, then drew an unsteady circle around the salver on the handkerchief. Absently, he stuck the chalk in his coat pocket as he surveyed the setup. Then he looked up at Kim. "Now you may demonstrate the results of your studies for me. I want you to set the ward."
"Me?" Kim stared at the candle in her hand, suddenly appalled. The warding spell was nearly always set when a complex or dangerous enchantment was being attempted; in theory, it protected the mage from outside interference, and any bystanders from the consequences of a spell gone wrong. In practice, the degree of protection such a spell afforded was directly related to the skill of the spellcaster. An apprentice's ward was unlikely to stand up to more than an apprentice-level mistake. And Mairelon wanted Kim to set a ward while he worked a new spell.
"Don't worry," Mairelon said. "This is a relatively simple enchantment. Normally, I wouldn't bother with a ward at all, even though this is the first time I've ever cast it. But you can use the practice, and it will keep our work from disturbing anyone. Or from attracting attention outside the house," he added as an afterthought.
Only partially reassured, Kim nodded. She thought for a moment, to make sure she had the steps of the warding spell clear in her mind. Then she took a deep breath. "Fiat lux," she said, concentrating on the candle.
The candlewick burst into flame. Kim held it still for a moment, until the smell of melted beeswax reached her and the tingly pressure of a spell in progress ran up and down her arms. Then, keeping her eyes fixed on the candle, Kim turned and walked in a slow, clockwise circle around Mairelon and the table. As she walked, she recited the words of the warding spell four times, once for each side of the table. She had more difficulty than she had expected in judging her speed correctly so that the words came out even, but she managed it. When she reached the spot where she had begun, she turned to face Mairelon and said the final "fiat." With considerable relief, she felt the ward rise around them like an invisible curtain.
"Very good," Mairelon said softly. "I couldn't have done better myself. Now, watch carefully, and try to split your concentration so that you can still hold the ward while you watch. You may not always have someone handy to cast a ward for you when it's needed, so you'll need to learn to hold it without even thinking about it."
"Sort of like picking a lock and listening for the nabbing culls at the same time," Kim said, nodding carefully. She felt the ward shift as she spoke, and hastily returned her attention to it. When it was steady again, she whispered, "Only trickier."
Mairelon laughed. "Yes, I imagine it would be. Very well; it's my turn."
He picked up the scrap of cloth and concentrated for a moment, then crumpled it and dropped it into the salver. The springy wool flattened out immediately, but the scrap was too small to cover much of the salver. Uncorking the bottle of ink, Mairelon poured it slowly over the cloth. The ink soaked quickly into the wool, then rose around it in a flat black pool. Mairelon studied it a moment, then picked up the salver and tilted it this way and that until the ink coated the bottom with shiny blackness.
When he was satisfied at last, he set the salver on the handkerchief once more. Holding his left hand over it, he began speaking, too rapidly for Kim to follow. All she could tell was that it was in one of the jaw-breaking foreign languages that were nearly always used for spells. She would have known that much in any case, for the words had the hard-edged feel that only came with magic, and the tingling sensation of a spell in process struck her with renewed force as he began to speak.
He finished the spell and lowered his hand. "Now, we look," he said.
Puzzled, Kim stared at him; then she realized that he meant for her to look at the salver. She lowered her gaze, and saw that a picture had formed on the surface of the ink, like a reflection in a mirror or a puddle of water.
A man muffled in a scarf, top hat, and a long cloak hurried along a narrow street. The shop windows behind him were dark and shuttered, and the wind whipped his cloak out behind him. "Well, well," Mairelon murmured. "It looks as if you were right, Kim. Our housebreaker is a gentleman. Let's see.... "
The picture in the ink wobbled, then shifted so that the man was hurrying directly toward them. His head was down, and one hand gripped the brim of his hat; between that and the scarf, little of his face was visible. Gold gleamed on his middle finger, and Kim leaned forward to look more closely.
"Blast!" said Mairelon. "I wanted a look at his face. Perhaps if we try another angle..."
The image wobbled and distorted, like a reflection in water when a pebble drops into it. Kim got a brief impression of blue eyes and a damp wisp of hair plastered wetly to a high forehead, and then the picture was gone. The shiny surface of the ink reflected only a glimmer of light from Kim's candle.
Mairelon scowled at the salver, then reached for the ink-soaked wool. As he lifted the cloth, the ink slid off like hot oil running out of a pan, leaving the threads clean. "You can drop the ward now, Kim," he said as he pocketed the scrap.
Obediently, Kim recited the closing phrase and blew out the candle. Hunch collected it and the empty ink bottle and carried them off. Mairelon continued to frown at the salver. "That was not nearly as useful as I'd hoped," he said. "Perhaps I should have waited; we might have gotten a glimpse of his rooms. But I was hoping to see his face, and I didn't want him to have a chance to change his coat."
"Well, if you'd waited much longer, he wouldn't of had the coat at all, I'll bet," Kim said.
"Why do you say that?"
"Why else would a toff be on Petticoat Lane at this time of night, unless he had something for the togs-men?"
Mairelon blinked. "Petticoat Lane? You're sure?"
Kim snorted. "I spent enough time there. He was just down from Flash Annie's, by where Willie Bast used to lay up. It's a good job for him that it's a mucky night out, or he'd be rid of more than his coat."
Hunch returned and picked up the salver with a disapproving look. "Are you done with this, Master Richard?"
"What? Yes, of course. Did you notice anything else, Kim?"
"He has blue eyes," Kim offered. "And he wears a gold ring with a flower on it and a ruby in the center."
"And he has his boots from Hoby," Mairelon said. "It's not much to go on, but it's a help. Now, let's make a list of these books and see what we can tell from it."
The pile of books on the table had stopped glowing sometime during Mairelon's scrying spell. Mairelon sat down and began sorting through them, while Hunch brought him a pen, paper, and a fresh bottle of ink. As Mairelon wrote titles, Kim shifted books so he could see the ones he hadn't written down yet, and in ten minutes the list was complete.
"There," Mairelon said, and glanced around the library. "I believe that's all we can do tonight." He picked up his list and, in the absence of a blotter, blew gently on the ink to hasten its drying.
"What about tomorrow?" Kim said.
"Tomorrow, I'll take this over to the Royal College and see whether Kerring has any thoughts on it."
"Lord Kerring is head archivist at the Royal College of Wizards," Mairelon replied. "If there's a connection among all these titles, he'll spot it. He might even have some idea which wizards would be likely to know a bit about burglary."
"That cove didn't know the first thing about the crack lay," Kim said. "I wouldn't of heard him at all, if he had."
Mairelon looked thoughtful. "Possibly he's more of a magician than I'd been thinking. If he was depending on magic to pull off his theft..."
"He was still a clunker," Kim said firmly. "And I didn't notice any spellcasting."
"He invoked the spell he had stored in this," Mairelon said, holding up the broken rod.
"Then why didn't I notice it?"
"Because it was invoked, not cast," Mairelon replied. "The spellcasting took place when the spell was originally stored in the rod, which could have been hours ago, or even days. When the spell is invoked, you wouldn't notice anything unless you were touching either the storage container or the object the spell was intended to affect."
"I think I see," Kim said.
"If our burglar had another trick or two like this, he could have used them without alerting you," Mairelon went on, fingering the rod. "Rather a good precaution to take if you're going to burgle a wizard's house, now that I think of it. I believe we should set a few wards around the house tomorrow, just as a precaution."
"What if that there burglar comes back tonight?" Hunch said.
"Then the library will no doubt be a wreck when we come down in the morning, Harry will probably collect another lump on his head, Aunt Agatha will be prostrate with the vapours, and I shall have to apologize to everyone for my carelessness." Mairelon smiled sweetly at Hunch. "Unless, of course, you spend the night here, on watch."
"I might 'ave known you'd think of that," Hunch muttered. "Well, as long as you don't go 'aring off after 'im while I'm busy elsewhere."
"Hunch! Would I do such a thing?"
"You 'ave before."
"I'm a reformed character."
Kim choked back a snort of laughter. Mairelon turned and looked at her with mock disapproval.
"I seem to recall telling Aunt Agatha that I'd send you up before you took a chill. As we appear to be finished here, for the time being "
"As long as you don't go haring off after that burglar without me," Kim echoed.
"You're getting to be as bad as Hunch," Mairelon said, and Kim laughed and left him.
Excerpted from MAGICIAN'S WARD by Patricia C. Wrede. Copyright © 1997 by Patricia C. Wrede. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Now Mairelon's ward, Kim must learn to deal with London Society, while also handling the unusual events occurring around her.The Magician's Ward is a fun book full of powerful female characters, including Mairelon's overly-strict aunt and his charming and brilliant mother, their friend Renee, and other Society ladies. It's interesting to see London Society through all of those perspectives, especially Kim's, while at the same time they are trying to deal with a burglary, a mysterious wizard, and other problems that arise.
I can't believe I've missed this book all these years, along with its predecessor [Mairelon the Magician], which I used to see in bookstores and somehow never picked up. I have Wrede's Alkyra novels and have greatly enjoyed them as light, fluffy young adult derivative fantasy that does a good job portraying the discomforts of both travel and growing up. I stumbled across [Sorcery and Cecilia] only last year, which I greatly enjoyed. I have not yet found the rest of that trilogy, which is set in the same time period as this book.The novel is set in Regency London, which is about the only genre of romance novels that I read (though not much anymore, since the modern works are not to my taste). The author does a good job portraying the language, manners, attitudes, and general ambiance of the time, but with magic too. In this case, our heroine Kim has been elevated from street urchin to rich man's ward and apprentice. The class distinctions of the day are nicely sidestepped by the author's convention that magicians (at least those trained and effectively certified by the Royal College of Magicians) are always socially acceptable, whatever their background may have been. As far as I can tell, this story effectively takes up where [Mairelon the Magician] left off. In that case, Mairelon was traveling incognito and using his skills to uncover some sort of plot during the Napoleonic War. Kim got entangled in the shenanigans and doubtless helped save the day and is rewarded for her efforts. In this novel, she struggles to become acceptable and study magic, learning to read and speak properly and so on, while once again working with Mairelon to foil a mysterious plot after she interrupts a burglar in the library.This is another classic Wrede send-up, a sweet, simple, straightforward story of a young girl struggling to find her place in a society where she doesn't quite fit.
Fun. While still being clearly Kim's and Mairelon's story, it's also a near-standard Regency romance. The young lady who does not fit the standard Society mold, who none-the-less becomes a success - and rejects a rich marriage for more important things... And then the magic and the adventures entwined with the romance. The scare Mairelon gets, that only gets worse right up to the climax; Aunt Leticia, showing unexpected depths only in the crisis; the people from her former life that Kim encounters and deals with... It's a great story, with a happy ending and a lovely (funny) last scene. I do wish she'd written more - I'd love to see what Kim gets up to as a full wizard. But these two stories are great as is.
This is a sequel to Mairelon the Magician, and it is just as good. In this pair of books Ms. Wrede has mixed two of my favorite genres: fantasy and regency romance.
Summary: Now that Mairelon has taken Kim on as his apprentice, the determination and quick intelligence that she developed as a common pickpocket and street thief are proving surprisingly useful in the study of magic. However, nothing could have prepared her for the terrors she will have to face as a young lady about to come out into polite society. Now Kim must not only learn the laws of magic and the equally unforgiving rules of society, she must also deal with an attempted burglary of Mairelon's library, which is only the tip of an international plot decades in the making.Review: Wrede's done it again: blended genres effortlessly, telling a interesting story with strong characters, a flair for snappy dialogue, and more than enough humor to round things out. It's not quite of a piece with Mairelon the Magician - while the first book felt primarily like a farce, Magician's Ward feels more like a comedy of manners - but it's equally enjoyable. In fact, I think it's actually better: the plot is less convoluted and flows more smoothly, and the supporting cast is smaller and more easy to keep straight. I also liked the touch of Regency Romance (which would admittedly have been out of place in the first book), and the addition of Mairelon's mother, who is a proper (if somewhat quirky) Lady *and* a practicing magician, is absolutely brilliant. I tore through this book in a single evening, and now definitely need to find my own copy, because I can easily see this joining Wrede's other books as a perennial comfort read. 4.5 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: This book could probably be read and understood independently of Mairelon the Magician, but they're both so much fun that I can't see why you'd want to. Fans of Wrede's Sorcery & Cecelia will like this for sure, as will anyone who likes historical fantasy, Regency romance with a little magic thrown in (a la Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but less magic-y and much lighter), or who is just looking for a fun, funny, and engaging read.
This is the sequel to Mairelon the Magician. A couple of years after Mairelon (known in society as Richard Merrill) discovers Kim and takes her on as his apprentice, they're living in London with his prim and proper aunt.When Kim discovers someone breaking into Mairelon's house, attempting to steal a particular book, it leads them into a mystery involving the disappearance of people with minor magical talent, hidden treasure, and ultimately the theft of Mairelon's power, leaving novice Kim to handle the magical part of their investigations.In the meanwhile, Mairelon's mother and his disapproving aunt are busy introducing a reluctant Kim to Society. When she begins to be courted by young men, she realizes it's Mairelon she's really in love with.One of the Amazon reviewers called this "J. K. Rowling meets Georgette Heyer," and that's a very apt description. The Magician's Ward is just as much a Regency romance as it is a Regency-set fantasy-mystery.
This is the sequel to "Mairleon the Magician" and begins soon after the first book ends. This book delves more into the impoverished world Kim left when she became Mairleon's ward, while also showing us more of the society world she is entering. Fast paced and quit enjoyable.
This and the first books are the best books I've read in a long time. I couln't put the first one down and went right to the second. The characters personalities,the magic, and the way the story comes together in the end. These kind of books have always been my favorite.( if you liked Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones you'll more than likely love this and vis versa ) Hope you like it!
This book is superb. It is about Kim, who was taken on to be Mairelon's, aka Robert Marril, ward and apprentice, struggling against propriety and entering society. She meets up with some characters from her past after a burglar breaks into Mairelon's library. Wrede once again masterfully combines hilarity with seriousness, danger, suspense, struggles, memories, and of course, what no story is complete without, love.
One of the best books I've read since Mairelon the Magician. I really hope Patricia will make a sequel to this one. It would be wonderful to see what will happen to Kim and Mairelon.
This was one awesome book. I liked the first one, I liked the EFCs, and I liked the Lyra series. Magicians Ward just as fantastic.
I enjoyed this novel immensely. In fact this is one of my favorite books, and I reread it so much that my copy of it is falling apart. This novel is guaranteed to entrall anyone. I love fantasy, but when I recommended it to a friend of mine who has a self-professed hatred of fantasy, she adored it.
I love Patricia Wredes books, and this is one of the best I have every read. This book is riviting; a perfect mix of adventure, fantasy, romance, and emotion! I recomend this and it's equally desierable prequal, Mairelon the Magician!!!!! BUY IT NOW!!!
It is most definetley a young adult book, but it is an adorable, fun story with well developed characters. This is the type of book I like to read when I'm in the mood for a cute romance.
Yes, Kim is back with her now step-father, Meirlon. Along with Hunch, Meirlon's mother, and a few other new-comers on sceen, Kim has to find out what a burgular is doing in the town house of Meirlon's brother, Andrew, wants with a book of a dead Frech magician. This will be one adventure not quickly forgotten. But that's not the onely thing. (Guess who's getting married.)