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The Gordian Knot
cover art © Brad Fraunfelter



Emily had hoped that her sixth and final year at Whitehall would be quiet, allowing her to complete her studies before moving out into the wider world.
But when she returned to the school, she discovered that she'd been appointed Head Girl ...
... And that her new position comes with a nasty sting in the tail.    Book 13 in the Schooled in Magic series.



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The Gordian Knot


Christopher G. Nuttall




"And finally, I'm glad to announce that both of our picks for replacement Charms and Healing tutors have accepted their offers," Grandmaster Gordian said. He allowed himself a thin smile at the whisper of relief that ran around the table. It had been a long meeting, even though they'd had a break for lunch. No one wanted to prolong it further. "They'll arrive tomorrow and take the oaths in the Great Hall."

He leaned back in his chair, silently enjoying the moment. Too many of the senior tutors were not bound to him, either through loyalty to Gordian's predecessor or through ambitions of their own. He could count on them not to do anything that would actively harm Whitehall itself-their oaths would see to that-but he knew better than to expect them to follow him unquestioningly. And it was difficult, even for an experienced political warrior like himself, to edge them out of their positions. They couldn't be dismissed for anything other than gross misconduct.

"You'll be invited to watch and bear witness, of course," he added. "Now, before we break up for the evening, is there any more business?"

Professor Lombardi cleared his throat. "The election of a Head Pupil. I believe we are running short of time to nominate one."

Gordian nodded, keeping his face expressionless. The senior tutors had the right to elect the Head Pupil for the year, if they wished to use it. He'd refrained from raising the issue, half-hoping they'd choose to leave the matter in his hands. There were pupils-several pupils-he would prefer not to see elected.

"Very well," he said. "Nominations?"

"Emily," Sergeant Miles said, immediately. "I believe her record speaks for itself."

"She had to retake four of her exams," Gordian said. It was hard to keep the annoyance out of his voice. His feelings about his most troublesome student were decidedly mixed. "That does not suggest a sterling academic record."

"She failed the exams because she was summoned to war," Sergeant Miles countered, his voice unyielding. "And because she was ... involved ... in that mess in Beneficence."

Gordian tried not to groan. No two accounts of what had happened in Beneficence seemed to agree on everything, save for one detail. Emily had saved the city, somehow. If the more extreme reports were to be believed, she'd battled a god. Gordian wouldn't have believed it himself, if he hadn't read the reports that hadn't been made public. He hoped the full story-or at least the version he'd heard-never leaked out to the rest of the world. Too many sorcerers-and religious sects-would see it as a challenge.

"There are others," Professor Gaunt said. "Melissa has very definite potential."

"But she's politically unacceptable," Gordian said. "She was disowned by her family."

"She does have the talent," Gaunt insisted. "And she is ... more aware of social situations than Emily."

"Cabiria has talent," Professor Thande said.

"She was suspended for a year," Gordian pointed out. "What about Caleb or Cirroc?"

Sergeant Miles snorted. "And how many students have actually saved the school?"

Gordian met his eyes. The hell of it was that Sergeant Miles was correct. Emily was the only student who had saved the school once let alone twice. By any reasonable standard-certainly in terms of achievement-she stood head and shoulders above the rest of the students in her year. There had never been any sign that Emily wanted, let alone expected, to be Head Girl, but everyone else probably expected her to walk into the post. And she deserved it.

And yet, she was a menace too. He'd wanted to expel her last year, when he'd become Grandmaster. Putting her on probation-and forcing her to work with Professor Locke-had been done in the hopes of keeping her out of trouble-or convincing her to quit. It wasn't as if she would have had problems finding a place at another school, somewhere well away from Whitehall. Gordian certainly wouldn't have stood in her way.

She's not evil, he admitted, privately. Technically, she was a probationary student too, although he'd decided to ignore that as much as possible. But she is disruptive.

He kept his face impassive as he contemplated his options. Nothing had happened openly-not yet-but he knew that more and more important figures were growing ... concerned about Emily. Child of Destiny, Necromancer's Bane ... she was a knife that could cut both ways, something that could reshape the world or damage it beyond repair. A sorceress who'd bested two-no, three-necromancers would be alarming enough, but her ... innovations had started a chain reaction she might not be able to control. And she didn't seem able or willing even to try.

And she owns the school, Gordian reminded himself.

Gordian wouldn't have believed that, either, if Emily hadn't shown an astonishing prowess at manipulating and duplicating Whitehall's wards. Even now, a year after she'd told him the full story, he still found it hard to come to terms with it. The Founders of Whitehall had been lost in the mists of time, known only by a handful of contradictory stories. And Emily had gone back in time, taught Lord Whitehall and his fellows the secret to controlling a nexus point, then returned to the present. It was unbelievable.

It was also intolerable. He was Grandmaster, not her. He'd worked hard to secure a position of boundless power and influence, only to see it turn to ashes. He couldn't have a student in a position to overrule him, perhaps even remove him from the school. He'd already started a very quiet program to do something about the whole situation, but he doubted he'd have time to complete it. Too many people wanted something done, now. And they were pressuring him to force her to divulge her secrets.

He cleared his throat. "Emily has earned her reputation. I do not dispute that. But would she be a good Head Girl? She is not the most ... sociable of students."

"She has a gift for making friends in high and low places," Sergeant Miles reminded him, dryly. "And that has saved her life, more than once."

"She'd be required to do more than make friends," Gordian countered. "The Head Pupil has to do everything from organizing the mentorship program to carrying out a project of their own. She would be distracted from her work."

"The same could be said of almost anyone else," Madame Rosalinda said. The Housemother smiled at him. "And while she is not that friendly with anyone outside her circle, she doesn't have many enemies either."

Not in the school, perhaps, Gordian thought.

Madame Rosalinda tapped the table, meaningfully. "Melissa has been disowned from her family. Cabiria is seen as ... as something of a freak. Pandora's marks are too low to justify promoting her into the Head Girl role. Jacqui and Cerise are ... are too power-hungry to take on the role without causing problems. And The Gorgon is ..."

"The Gorgon," Gordian finished. What, in the name of all the gods, had Hasdrubal been thinking? Allowing a Gorgon to study at Whitehall? "Are there no promising prospects amongst the boys?"

"None who match Emily," Sergeant Miles said. "Cirroc and Johan are both working on Martial Magic, while Caleb ... has shown evidence of moral weakness. And those three are the best of the bunch."

Gordian pressed his fingers together, hiding his irritation. Jacqui had been his choice for Head Pupil, although Cirroc would have been a close second. The Head Pupil would find a multitude of doors opening for her, when she left Whitehall. It would give Emily the skills she needed-and probably keep her out of trouble-but it would also paint an even larger target on her back. Her enemies didn't need more reasons to step up their plans.

She might decline the nomination, he thought. Does she understand that that would be held against her?

"Let us vote," he said, instead. In hindsight, maybe he should have raised the issue with a handful of tutors privately. If nothing else, he might have been able to get Jacqui or Cirroc nominated before he held the final meeting. "All those in favor of Lady Emily, raise your hands."

He counted, slowly. "Ten in favor," he said. Five tutors hadn't voted, although that didn't prove anything. Professor Thande wasn't known for caring that much about the position-or anything beyond his alchemical experiments. Gordian was surprised he'd even bestirred himself to put Cabiria's name forward. "The motion passes."

"As it should," Sergeant Miles said.

Gordian shot him a sharp look. If he were forced to be honest, one of the reasons he'd allowed Sergeant Miles to take Emily to the war was an unexpressed hope she wouldn't come back. The war could have lasted months, if not years. She might have been killed or moved straight to a more regular apprenticeship. Instead, she'd bested her third necromancer and returned to Whitehall.

"She's due to re-sit her exams tomorrow," Gordian said, calmly. There was one last card to play. "They'll be marked immediately afterwards. If she passes-if she can enter Sixth Year-I will inform her of her nomination."

There were no objections. He hadn't expected any.

"I'll see you all at the Last Feast," he added. "Until then ... dismissed."

He kept his face impassive as his senior tutors filed out of the room, some clearly intending to head down to Dragon's Den for a drink before the students started arriving to re-sit their exams. When they were gone, he sealed the wards and sat back in his chair, forcing himself to think. He was caught in a knot of conflicting obligations, of promises he'd made and rules he could not break ...

And others are already moving against her, he thought. He'd heard rumors. Some of them had been nightmarish. What will happen when their plans come to term?


Chapter One

Emily placed the bracelet on the table, closed her eyes and undid the spell.

There was a surge of feeling as Aurelius came to life, a wave of strange animalistic emotions that ran down the familiar link and through her mind. The Death Viper wasn't hungry-she'd fed him weeks ago, before changing him back to the bracelet-but he was a little confused. Emily steadied her mind, forcing herself to peer through the snake's eyes. Her head ached as Aurelius looked around, tongue flickering in and out of his mouth. It was hard to reconcile her vision of the room with his. To her, the room was tiny; to him, it was vast and cold.

She shivered, despite the warm air. The Death Viper wanted something warmer. His head moved from side to side, hunting for a warmer part of the room. Emily smiled, wanly, as the Death Viper looked at her, then she reached out and picked up the snake. Aurelius curled into her hands, enjoying the warmth. She looked warm to her familiar's eyes.

He sees into the infrared, she reminded herself. And he wants to be warm.

She felt an odd flicker of affection as she cradled the snake in her arms. It wasn't something she could do very often. The familiar bond kept the viper's poisonous skin-the rotting touch-from harming her, but the poison would be terrifyingly dangerous to anyone else. She'd have to make very sure she cleaned herself-and the room-before she left. Even a drop could do someone a serious injury. The handful of people who knew about Aurelius had been horrified, knowing-all too well-that accidents could happen. She simply didn't dare take the snake out to play too often.

The snake brushed against her fingertips, another wave of warm sensations washing down the bond. Emily opened her eyes and peered at the snake, admiring the blue-gold scales running along its back. Death Vipers hadn't evolved to remain unnoticed amongst the greenery. There was certainly no way they could hide from hawks, eagles and other predators. But they were so dangerous, so poisonous, that almost every other living creature gave them a wide berth. A hawk foolish enough to snatch a Death Viper off the ground would be dead before it could claw its way back into the sky.

Emily shook her head, slowly, as Aurelius started to climb into her sleeve and up her arm. It was a shame, really, that she couldn't keep the snake with her-other magicians had far stronger bonds with their familiars-but the danger was just too great. And besides, Aurelius was a secret weapon. The fewer people who knew about him, the better. She caught the snake as he poked his head out of her collar, then put him back on the table. Aurelius shot her a wave of betrayed emotions, silently pleading for her to pick him back up again. The familiar bond drove him to remain close to her at all times.

"Sorry," Emily muttered.

She worked the spell quickly, before she could talk herself into spending an hour playing with the snake. Aurelius shimmered, then became a silver bracelet. Emily felt her head spin, just for a second, as the familiar vanished from her mind. She picked it up and played with it for a long moment, then placed it back on the table and closed her eyes for a second, centering herself. It had been a long day.

And it isn't over yet, she thought, as she turned to the bathroom. Lady Barb said she'd return in an hour.

Her reflection looked back at her as she walked into the bathroom and closed the door. She looked pale, her face almost drained of color. The summer should have been a time to rest and relax, but she'd spent the last two months desperately cramming before retaking her exams. Lady Barb and Sergeant Miles had been merciless tutors, drilling her in everything from advanced charms to fiendishly complex potion brewing. And then she'd returned to the school to retake the exams.

She ran her hands through her brown hair, feeling drained. The exams had been harder than she'd expected, even though Lady Barb had told her-time and time again-that retaking the exams was always harder. She'd been expected to display a breadth of knowledge and comprehension that had been lacking from the original exams, something that irritated her even though she understood the logic behind it. A person who failed the exams might have failed because they hadn't been paying attention, rather than going to war. She'd lost weeks of study during the fighting-and another week in Beneficence-and it had cost her. She hadn't managed to catch up in time to pass the exams.

I suppose I should be relieved I didn't fail them all, she thought, as she removed her dress and stepped into the shower. It was a very near thing.

The warm water was almost hypnotic, cascading over her body and washing away the dirt and grime. She wanted to stay in the shower for hours-or perhaps years-but she knew she didn't have the time. Lady Barb had promised her she'd have her exam results today, even if that meant having the papers marked in a hurry. Emily wasn't sure she wanted to know, not after spending the summer desperately reviewing everything she'd learnt over the past year. If she failed-again-she'd have to retake Fifth Year from the start.

Which is a serious problem, she told herself. She climbed out of the shower, using a spell to dry her body. I'd have to find a way to tackle the joint project without Caleb.

The thought cost her a pang. Breaking up with Caleb had hurt, but she hadn't been able to cut him out of her life completely. They'd needed to finish their project-or at least show they'd moved forward over the past year-or they would both have been threatened with being forced to retake the year. The hell of it was that she didn't want to cut him out of her life, despite everything. And yet ... Her emotions were a jumbled mess. There were times, when she'd been lying alone in bed, when she'd wanted to call him ... and times when she'd wanted to make sure she never saw him again.

She walked back into the room, dug through her bag to find a new dress and pulled it over her head. It wasn't anything fancy-a blue gown designed more for comfort and practicality than anything else-but she felt it suited her. Alassa's mother had sent her a whole collection of dresses over the summer, each one expensive enough to feed an entire village for the year, yet Emily hadn't been able to wear them. They'd just been too bright and colorful for her tastes.

And I didn't have time to go out anyway, she thought. I had to study.

Emily couldn't help feeling another pang at the thought. She was still-technically-banned from Zangaria, but there was nothing stopping her from meeting Alassa and Imaiqah somewhere along the border. Or she could just cross the border and dare Alassa's father to do something about it. Or ... she shook her head, grimly. She knew she hadn't had time to visit anyone, even her two oldest friends. There had been a time when she'd shared everything with Alassa and Imaiqah. And yet, she couldn't help feeling as though they were drawing apart.

And Alassa's last letters spoke of trouble in Zangaria, Emily thought. And of her failure to conceive a child.

There was a knock on the door. Emily glanced down at herself, making sure she looked reasonably presentable, then opened the door. Lady Barb stepped into the chamber, carrying a parchment scroll in one hand. She held it out to Emily without speaking. The charm on the seal glowed for a moment, reading Emily's magical signature, then faded away into nothingness. She could open the parchment at will.

Emily hesitated as she closed the door. She really wasn't sure she wanted to know. She thought she'd done well, but she'd thought that before. And that had ended badly. If she'd failed ... she wasn't sure what she'd do. Accept Void's offer of an apprenticeship? Or swallow her pride and retake Fifth Year? She'd hardly be the first student to retake an entire year.

Lady Barb snorted. "It won't go away."

"I know," Emily said. Her fingers refused to open the scroll. "I don't want to know."

"I could read it for you," Lady Barb offered. "But you will have to find out eventually."

Emily looked up at her. Lady Barb had been up for hours, longer than Emily herself, but there was no trace of it on her face. Her blonde hair framed a patrician face that made her look striking-and timeless. Emily felt a sudden rush of affection for the older woman, mingled with a faint dismay that she would never have a presence rivaling her mentor. Lady Barb was formidable and everyone knew it.

"Yeah," Emily said, finally. "If I faint ..."

"I'll catch you before you hit the ground," Lady Barb promised.

The wax seal broke under her fingers. She unfurled the scroll, feeling her heart starting to pound in her chest. If she'd failed ... she forced her doubts aside as she searched for the summary. The tutors would provide a great deal of feedback-she'd been promised entire books of feedback-but that didn't matter, not now. All that mattered ...

"I passed," she said.

She felt her face twisting into a smile. "I passed!"

"Very good," Lady Barb said. "Can I ...?"

Emily wrapped her arms around the older woman, hugging her tightly. "I passed!"

Lady Barb took the scroll. "Four exams ... good marks on all four, plus the joint project ... I dare say you did very well."

"Thank you." Emily let go of Lady Barb. "I ..."

"You won't get the highest of marks," Lady Barb added. "Retaking the exams will cost you, no matter how well you do. But you did well enough to pass into Sixth Year. Unless you've changed your mind ..."

Emily shook her head, hastily. She didn't really want to leave Whitehall, but she didn't want to repeat a year either. It would have meant going over spells and rituals she'd already mastered, time and time again. And everyone she knew would graduate a year ahead of her, leaving her alone.

Frieda wouldn't, she reminded herself. But she'd still be a year below me.

She took back the scroll and skimmed through the detailed feedback. Professor Lombardi and Master Tor had attached a series of comments; Professor Thande had written a short note, asking her to pay him a visit after term restarted. She promised herself that she'd sit down, when she returned to her house, and go through the comments carefully. There was still a week to go before term formally restarted.

"Thank you." Emily felt her vision go blurry and hastily blinked away the tears. "I wouldn't have passed if you hadn't helped me."

"Don't forget, Miles helped too." Lady Barb winked, mischievously. "You owe him a thank you too."

"I will," Emily promised. Lady Barb and Sergeant Miles had driven her mercilessly. She sometimes thought she'd learnt more practical magic over the last couple of months than she'd mastered in the last five years. It made her wonder just how far she would have progressed if she'd hired private tutors during the summer holidays. "Do I get to rest now?"

"Not quite," Lady Barb said. "As you're staying for Sixth Year, the Grandmaster wishes a word with you."

Emily frowned. "Now?"

"Soon," Lady Barb said. "I advise you to go now, then ... then you can decide if you want to go back to Dragon's Den or stay here."

"Oh," Emily said. She'd always had the impression that Grandmaster Gordian didn't like her. He'd certainly tried to make it clear he hadn't wanted her to return to Whitehall after Grandmaster Hasdrubal's death. Their relationship was frostily polite. "Did he say what he wants to talk about?"

"No," Lady Barb said. "It might be nothing more than a formal acceptance to Sixth Year."

She glanced at the clock. "If you go now, I'll be in the Armory until dinnertime. I'll see you there."

Emily turned and walked back to the table, picking up the bracelet and slipping it over her wrist. Gordian wanted to see her ... why? To ask her to-finally-take the oaths? She couldn't still be on probation, could she? Or to ... suggest ... that she left the school and went elsewhere? Or ... she sighed, inwardly. Unannounced meetings-in her experience-were always bad news.

"I'll meet you afterwards." Emily brushed her hair back as she headed for the door. "And have fun with Sergeant Miles."

Lady Barb snorted. "Mind your mouth," she said, warningly. "I can still beat you for cheek."

Emily concealed her amusement as she walked into the corridor and headed towards the stairs. Whitehall hummed around her, the wards welcoming her home. She could feel the complex network of spellwork that made up the wards growing stronger and stronger as charm masters and wardcrafters struggled to prepare the school for the next intake of students. There was so much spellwork running through the system that even she had trouble working out what had evolved over the years and what was new. It was the most complex set of wards in the Allied Lands.

Heart's Eye will grow to match it, one day, she thought. She had plans for Heart's Eye. A university, for starters. Caleb and she had talked about a lot of possibilities, back when they'd been lovers. She intended to go ahead anyway, with or without him. And who knows what will happen then?

She passed a handful of younger students chatting at the bottom of the stairs-they'd retaken their own exams over the last few days-and walked up, nodding politely to Master Kay as he walked down. He nodded back, clearly distracted with a greater thought. Emily smiled to herself as she reached the top of the stairs and walked along to the Grandmaster's office. A middle-aged couple was just coming out, looking annoyed. Emily stood to one side to allow them to pass, then stepped into the antechamber. Madame Griselda, Gordian's secretary, was sitting behind her desk, writing something on a newfangled typewriter. Emily couldn't help wondering if it had come out of Cockatrice or Beneficence.

"Emily," Madame Griselda said, flatly. She was a stern-faced older woman with a gimlet stare. Emily had heard she'd once turned an imprudent student into a toad and eaten him, although she was fairly sure that was just another unfounded rumor. "Wait here. The Grandmaster will see you shortly."

Emily nodded and sat down, resting her hands on her lap. Madame Griselda's office was bare, save for a bookshelf, a heavily-warded wooden cupboard and a large painting of Whitehall that someone had hung on the far wall. A handful of faces at the bottom were marked as Lord Whitehall and company, but none of them looked anything like the people Emily recalled meeting. Lord Whitehall had never been so handsome in his life.

He might have been, in his youth, Emily thought. But they grew old quickly, back then.

The inner door opened. "Emily." Grandmaster Gordian stood in the doorway, giving her a searching look. "Come in, if you please?"

Emily rose and followed Gordian into his office. It hadn't changed. The room was bare, save for a large wooden desk and a pair of chairs. A handful of scrolls rested on the desk, but otherwise it was empty. The bookshelves and paintings had been removed, leaving the walls completely barren of anything that might catch the eye. There was nothing to draw her attention away from him, nothing to distract her ...

"Take a seat," Gordian said.

Emily sat, studying Gordian as he looked at her. He hadn't changed either, as far as she could tell. 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 peered at her, as if they could see into her very soul. She could sense the magic humming around him, a grim reminder of his power. Whatever else he was, Gordian was a formidable magician.

His voice was very calm. "Congratulations on passing your exams."

"Thank you, sir," Emily said, carefully. She didn't think Gordian actually wanted to congratulate her. There was ... something ... in his voice. "I look forward to going into Sixth Year."

Gordian's lips twitched. "You worked hard." He didn't sound pleased about that either. "I have been told that you deserved to pass."

Emily frowned. Who'd told him that? And why?

"You'll join the rest of your classmates in a week, when term restarts for you," Gordian said, curtly. "However, there is something that has to be addressed immediately."

The oaths, Emily thought, grimly. She'd anticipated a demand that she swear the oaths months ago. In some ways, it had almost slipped her mind. Do you want me to swear them here and now?

"There was a staff meeting yesterday," Gordian said, sounding vaguely displeased. "My staff saw fit to nominate you for Head Girl."

Emily blinked. "What?"

"You were elected Head Girl," Gordian said, patiently. "Do you wish to accept the nomination?"


Chapter Two

Emily stared at Gordian in shock.

"They nominated me for Head Girl?"

"You were the prime candidate by a considerable margin," Gordian informed her. He seemed to be enjoying her surprise. "Congratulations."

"Thank you," Emily managed. She tried to force herself to think. She'd known there would be a new Head Pupil, of course, but she'd never imagined she would be in the running. She doubted Gordian had put her name forward. Technically, she was still on probation. Who had voted for her? And why? "Who ... who nominated me?"

"The deliberations are private, I'm afraid," Gordian said. "Suffice it to say that ten out of fifteen Senior Tutors cast their votes for you."

"Oh," Emily said. Ten out of fifteen? She knew enough about the post to realize that it would be hard to decline the nomination, particularly when she'd been elected by such a considerable margin. It had just never crossed her mind that she would be nominated. She'd certainly never expressed interest in the role. "I ..."

She looked down at her hands, trying to think of a proper response. She didn't want the post, not when she had so little free time. Her studies-and her private research projects-came first. And she doubted she'd be the most capable candidate. Being Head Girl required skills she knew she didn't possess. Aloha had made it look easy, but Aloha had been sociable as well as smart.

And yet, with so many tutors having voted for her, she couldn't decline the nomination.

Twenty-five possible candidates, she thought. She didn't think any of her peers were disqualified, certainly if she wasn't disqualified. And I received ten out of fifteen votes.

"I'm sure you will bring credit to the school." Gordian picked a scroll off his desk and held it out to her. "I look forward to working with you."

Emily took the scroll automatically. She felt as though she was still in shock. Head Girl wasn't a meaningless position, not in Whitehall. She'd be expected to do everything from supervising detentions to policing the corridors after dark and mentoring the younger students. She wasn't sure she had time to do everything, even with assistance from the other older students. God knew she had to work hard to pass the next set of exams.

She kept her face as impassive as possible as she unfurled the scroll. If she declined the nomination ... she sighed, inwardly. It wasn't possible, not without offending everyone who'd voted for her. Lady Barb had once told her, years ago, that anyone who declined such an honor was unlikely to receive another one, even if they had good reasons to refuse it. And it was an honor. There was only one Head Pupil per year. She'd be in good company.

Assuming I don't mess it up, she thought, wryly. She'd read horror stories about Head Boys and Girls who'd accidentally created all sorts of problems. They'll forgot I ever held the post if I make a real mess of it.

"I look forward to working with you too," she lied, finally. She was fairly sure that Gordian wasn't looking forward to working with her. He'd done his level best to ignore her since she'd returned from Beneficence. "When do I have to accept the nomination?"

Gordian lifted a single eyebrow. "You were elected to the post. It is generally assumed that the person elected will serve."

And no one bothered to ask me if I wanted the post, Emily thought, sourly. Who had nominated her? And why? She knew she couldn't ask. I wouldn't have put my hat in the ring if I'd been asked.

"I see," she said.

She considered-briefly-declining the nomination anyway. There were good reasons to want to decline it. They couldn't force her to serve, could they? But it would cost her later on, she was sure. The Senior Tutors wouldn't be too pleased with her ... she wondered, grimly, if Gordian had deliberately created the whole situation. Either she accepted the post and ran the risk of messing up or she declined, offending the other tutors. Or maybe she was just being paranoid. Gordian didn't like her. That didn't mean he was out to get her.

He knows I can control the wards, she reminded herself. That can't sit well with him.

"You'll be familiar with most of the Head Girl's duties," Gordian said. He nodded to the scroll in her hand. "However, there are two issues that I need to discuss with you."

Emily nodded, slowly. "Yes, sir."

"First, we will be continuing the mentorship program from last year," Gordian said. "You will be responsible for assigning the Fifth Year students to mentor First Year students, then supervising their progress over the first three months. I expect you to ensure that the newcomers get the sort of mentoring they need."

Without making life too easy for them, Emily thought. It was a fine balancing act and she suspected she'd fallen off, last year. She'd wound up helping her mentees more than she thought she should. But then, the entire school had nearly collapsed in on itself. The new students had endured a baptism of fire. It won't be easy to supervise the older students without being far too intrusive.

She pushed the thought aside and forced herself to think. Aloha had just assigned people at random, as far as she knew. She'd have to check the records to be sure. That wouldn't take too long. There were roughly two hundred new pupils every year. She could simply parcel them out to the Fifth Years, then watch progress from a distance. Aloha hadn't watched her that closely, had she? She'd have to check that too.

"I'll do my best," she said. The mentoring program was important. She knew she would have avoided a number of missteps if she'd had a mentor, back when she'd first entered Whitehall. "Did Aloha leave behind any records?"

"They'll be made available to you." Gordian held up a hand. "I shouldn't have to remind you that they're confidential. You are not to discuss them with anyone outside the staff without permission from myself."

Emily nodded. "Yes, sir."

She looked down at the stone floor, thinking hard. She'd have to read through the records carefully, then decide how to proceed. It wasn't going to be easy. Perhaps Aloha had put more thought into the whole process than Emily assumed. Pairing up the wrong students and mentors would be disastrous. It was something to discuss with Lady Barb, then perhaps Aloha herself. But the former Head Girl would be busy with her mastery ...

And she'd expect me to stand on my own two feet, Emily reminded herself. She won't come back long enough to hold my hand.

"The second matter is considerably more important," Gordian added.

Emily straightened up and looked at him.

"You are aware, of course, that the Head Pupil is supposed to undertake a special project?"

"Yes," Emily said. "The mentoring program ..."

Gordian smiled. "The mentoring program was Aloha's idea," he said. "You will need something different."

Emily's confusion must have shown on her face, for Gordian started to explain.

"The Head Pupil is required to design and implement a special project of their own," Gordian said. "The project can-and will-be maintained after the Head Pupil has left, provided it proves itself beneficial. I believe the mentoring program was beneficial, correct?"

"Yes, sir."

"You are required to come up with something of your own, along the same lines," Gordian said. "Something that actually benefits the school."

Emily looked down at the floor. She couldn't think of anything-offhand-that might actually benefit the school. The mentoring program was a good thing, but ... what could she do? More importantly, what could she organize that wouldn't cut too much into her limited time? Everything she knew she'd needed, over the last five years, would be too difficult to implement for the entire school. And she doubted Gordian would let her implement some of her more radical ideas.

More experience outside the castle would be a good thing, she thought. She'd found herself hampered by a lack of proper experience. The Nameless World was nothing like Earth. And while she was the only student from another world, the upper-class students had little comprehension of the lives led by the lower-classes. But students already go out on work experience over the summer months.

"I understand that you might not have the time to find something suitable," Gordian said, after a moment. "Fortunately, there is a project that you could implement without much additional work."

Emily's eyes narrowed. Gordian was unlikely to be doing her any favors out of the goodness of his heart. He might be pushing her to implement something he wanted, rather than something she'd devised for herself. Or he might be trying to ensure that she'd fail-or at least do something harmless. Or maybe he was just trying to keep her busy. He'd certainly tried to keep her busy last year.

"Whitehall has not competed in any of the dueling contests over the past two decades," Gordian added. "Our failure to send contestants has ... weakened ... our position amongst the other schools. Many questions have been asked about our reluctance to take part in the noble sport. I believe that establishing a dueling club and running an in-house dueling contest would lay the foundations for a return to the dueling league. Ideally, we'd be sending an official dueling team next year and-perhaps-hosting a contest the year after."

"I was under the impression that dueling had little in common with real warfare," Emily said, carefully. She had dueled at Mountaintop-and fought both Master Grey and Casper-but both contests had been formalized. There were no rules in actual war. "I believe that was why Grandmaster Hasdrubal banned dueling circles."

"There is some truth in that," Gordian conceded. "But do we not play Ken even though it has nothing in common with actual life?"

He smiled, rather thinly. "No one would mistake a dueling circle for an actual war. But dueling is a game, not training for war."

Emily nodded. Dueling-at least, the dueling she'd been taught at Mountaintop-was one-on-one. There were no teams, not in a formal duel. Each contestant won or lost by his own abilities. There were rules, strict limits on what spells could be used ... rules that had no place in war. Necromancers certainly didn't bother to restrict themselves when they invaded new countries, not when there was nothing to be gained by holding back. She couldn't help thinking that Grandmaster Hasdrubal had a point. Dueling taught bad habits for magicians who actually had to go to war.

Sergeant Miles is not going to be pleased, she thought, grimly. He'll spend months teaching his students to forget everything they learnt in dueling club.

"You'll be responsible for setting up the club and supervising the first set of contests," Gordian told her. "You may request assistance from the staff, of course, but it may be held against you if it is something you should be capable of doing yourself. I suggest you model the club on what you saw at Mountaintop ..."

"If I can't think of anything else," Emily interrupted.

Gordian looked displeased. "If you can't think of anything else."

Emily shook her head, ruefully. She couldn't think of anything else. And she had to admit that a dueling club-and contest-might be fun, at least for the younger students. She'd never cared for team sports, but that made her fairly unusual in Whitehall. They'd have a lot of fun drawing up dueling rosters and preparing for the interschool championships. But it was going to be a great deal of work for very little reward ...

Unless I can put it on my resume, she thought. It might work in my favor.

Her thoughts raced from point to point. She wanted to be a teacher, although she knew she needed to complete her mastery and gain more experience before anyone would consider her for a teaching position. This was a chance to gain experience, even if it was dueling rather than a more serious subject. Hell, it would be easier to teach dueling than charms or alchemy. She wouldn't have to worry about screwing up the basics, ensuring her students couldn't progress to the upper levels. Failing to master the fundamentals of charms, she knew from bitter experience, made it impossible to pass on to the more interesting levels.

"I'll try and think of something," she said, slowly. "How long do I have to decide?"

"You have a week to give me a proposal." Gordian cocked his head. "If I accept it, you may proceed; if not, you'll have less time to come up with something new."

Or just accept the dueling club, Emily thought. It wouldn't be that hard, she admitted privately. She could just copy the setup at Mountaintop for the club, then model the contest on the standard league rules. It might just work in my favor.

"I'll let you know," she said. She wished, suddenly, that someone had told her she might be elected Head Girl. A few weeks to think about it might have let her come up with something more interesting. "Do I still have to come up with a proposal for the dueling club?"

"You have to sketch out an outline," Gordian told her. "But you don't have to come up with a formal proposal."

Good, Emily thought.

A thought struck her. Would it be cheating if I hired someone from the outside world to handle the club?

She shook her head, mentally. It probably would be.

Gordian cleared his throat. "There are a handful of other matters that we will discuss over the next few weeks." He picked up another scroll and held it out to her. "Right now, your father has ... requested ... that we include you in Soul Magic classes. I have reluctantly granted this, as I believe you already have some basic training in Soul Magic."

"Very basic," Emily said. Aurelius-the original Aurelius-had shown her the basics, but he hadn't taught her anything more. She'd assumed it was something she was going to have to study later, after she graduated. "I thought that only Healers studied Soul Magic."

"Your father was very insistent," Gordian informed her. "He appears to believe it would be useful."

Emily frowned. Void-her father, as far as anyone outside a select group knew-wouldn't have found it easy to convince Gordian to let her study Soul Magic. Soul Magic was extremely dangerous, even in the hands of a trained Healer. It was normally hedged around with all sorts of warnings and oaths, just to prevent accidents. She wasn't even sure she could keep up with the other students in the class. Prospective Healers would have been studying it last year.

He thinks it might be useful, she thought. Why? She'd have to write to him, soon.

"Understood," she said, finally. She was going to be very busy. Perhaps she could work her way through her schedule, then put some of her classes off until she had a grip on everything else. Or perhaps that was a little optimistic. "Is that the only major addition to my schedule?"

"For the moment." Gordian shrugged. "You'll have quite a bit of free time on your schedule, but ... you're expected to actually use it for study. Running down to Dragon's Den every day will cost you."

"I know," Emily said. She hadn't had much free time over the past year, not since she'd returned to Whitehall. It had been easy to decline the handful of invitations to visit Dragon's Den or go walking up the hillside. She supposed it would have been harder if she'd still been dating Caleb. "I'll be spending most of my free time in the library."

"And running the dueling contest." Gordian's lips twitched. "And doing everything else a Head Girl is supposed to do."

Emily groaned. "Is sleep included on the list?"

"I believe it's an optional extra," Gordian said, deadpan. "Pencil a nap in for some time next week."

Emily had to smile. "Is there no spell that allows someone to go without sleep for a full year?"

"Only if you don't mind seeing things after the first few days," Gordian said. "I believe the hallucinations can be quite unpleasant."

"I know," Emily said. They'd been warned, time and time again, not to abuse wakefulness potions. One or two doses might be tolerable, but after that the side-effects turned nasty. It was better to sleep than risk stumbling around in a daze. Cabiria had taken five doses last year and wound up sleeping for a week when they'd caught up with her. "I won't risk it."

"Very good." Gordian glanced at his watch. "We'll discuss the other matters later, when we have time. Make sure you bring your proposal to me before term starts."

"Yes, sir," Emily said.

"And one other thing," Gordian added. His voice was suddenly very hard. "Do you recall what you were told, last year, about punishments for younger students?"

Emily had to force herself to recall. "We were told that if we issued unjust punishments to our mentees, we would share them."

"Correct." He pointed a finger at her. "That is also true-perhaps more true-of being Head Pupil. You have significant authority over your fellow pupils, even the ones your age. Abusing it will not be tolerated."

Emily nodded. "I understand."

"Very good," Gordian said. "You may go now."


Chapter Three

As soon as she was outside Gordian's office-and antechamber-Emily leaned against the stone wall and closed her eyes. It was hard, so hard, to think clearly. Head Girl? She had never expected to be Head Girl. No one had even suggested she might be in the running for the nomination! Hell, if anyone had suggested it, she would have assumed that failing four of her eight exams would have disqualified her. God knew she wasn't going to get full marks for the exams she'd retaken ...

She took a deep breath, centering herself as she clutched the two scrolls to her breast. Head Girl ... she could cope. She'd have to cope. It wasn't something she'd wanted-she'd always assumed that her feelings would be taken into account-but there didn't seem to be any way to get out of it. The election wouldn't even have been a close-run thing, not if ten out of fifteen senior tutors had supported her. That was enough of a majority to ensure that Gordian couldn't simply veto her election.

And that would be great, if I wanted the post, she thought. There were too many things she had to do to welcome more work. This is going to keep me very busy.

She opened her eyes and looked down at the first scroll. It was a list of duties, ranging from the simple to the complex. She would have to do all of them, while somehow keeping pace with the rest of her classmates. She'd assumed she'd have plenty of time to catch up and move ahead, now that she was single again. Instead, she was going to be wasting valuable time trying to handle the Head Girl's responsibilities as well as her schoolwork. Patrolling the corridors, supervising trips to Dragon's Den ... offering advice to younger students ... she had no idea how she was going to cope. She wasn't even sure what she'd be asked. She'd never bombarded the Head Pupil with questions.

The second scroll was an updated timetable. Emily glanced at it, wondering just why nearly all of her classes were in the morning. It looked as though sleeping in was going to be impossible, even though-as a Sixth Year-she wouldn't have the bed tipping her onto the floor if she didn't get up before classes began. She wondered, absently, why the tutors were punishing themselves too. They could sleep in too ...

She put both of the scrolls in her pocket and walked back to the stairs, heading down towards the lower levels. The school was surprisingly quiet. She didn't see anyone as she reached the bottom of the stairs, not even a handful of cleaning staff. No doubt the students she'd seen earlier had headed back to their bedrooms, if they'd finished their exams. The library wouldn't be open until classes resumed, unfortunately. Emily had considered trying to sneak in herself, but she knew that would be far too revealing. Besides, she had no idea what protections Lady Aliya and her staff might have added over the last few months. They wouldn't be connected to Whitehall's wards.

They were trying to upgrade the whole system, after the entire school nearly collapsed, she reminded herself. The library had been a ghastly mess. Hundreds of students had worked hard just to put the books back on the shelves. They didn't want to rely on the school's wards again.

She frowned as she heard the sound of raised voices, dead ahead of her. Lady Barb was arguing with Sergeant Miles, their voices echoing down the corridor. Emily froze, unsure what to do. She couldn't quite make out the words, but they sounded angry ... she shivered, remembering the one time she'd seen Sergeant Miles mad. He was so calm-normally-that his anger had been frightening.

The sound cut off, abruptly. A moment later, Lady Barb strode out of the office.

"Emily." She looked like an angry cat. Her voice was so tightly controlled that Emily knew she was furious. "Come with me."

She swept past Emily and headed down the corridor. Emily hesitated, then followed her into a small workroom. It was clean and tidy, the tools placed on the workbench or hanging from the walls. She wasn't surprised. Anyone who was allowed to use the workroom would know that it had to be kept clean, that they had to tidy up after themselves. Sergeant Miles would not be pleased with anyone who didn't take care of the school's tools. They'd spend weeks on punishment duties.

"Have a seat," Lady Barb said. Her voice softened, just slightly. "Just let me put up a privacy ward and I'll be right with you."

Emily eyed her, worriedly. Lady Barb didn't seem to be angry at her, but it was clear the older woman was pissed. She strode up and down, her fingers curling into fists as she cast a trio of privacy wards into the air. Emily watched her, sensing the wards falling into place one by one. Lady Barb wasn't just trying to keep their conversation private, Emily realized grimly. She was using the spellcasting to calm herself.

"That should do it," Lady Barb said, finally.

Emily braced herself. "Are you all right?"

"No," Lady Barb said, curtly. She shot Emily a look that warned her not to ask any more questions. "What did the Grandmaster want?"

"I'm Head Girl." Emily looked up at her mentor. "Is there any way of getting out of it?"

Lady Barb rolled her eyes. "Only you would try to get out of it," she said, her voice sour, as if she was still distracted. "Everyone else schemes to get in."

"I didn't want it," Emily said.

"I suppose it wouldn't look quite so good on your particular resume," Lady Barb said, with a grimace. "Necromancer's Bane, Baroness of Cockatrice, Savior of Farrakhan, Savior of Beneficence ... Head Girl."

Emily had to smile. "It does look a little small," she said. "But ... is there any way to get out of it?"

"Not without paying a price," Lady Barb told her. "If nothing else, they'd have to meet and elect a new Head Pupil."

"Ouch." Emily met Lady Barb's eyes. "He also wants me to set up a dueling club and run a contest."

Lady Barb looked irked. "As your special project?"

Emily nodded. "I can't think of anything better ..."

"It's never easy to come up with something that hasn't already been done," Lady Barb admitted. "Finding something that will succeed is even harder."

She sighed. "There has been a push to reopen a dueling club for several years," she added, tiredly. "But it was never a possibility until a new Grandmaster took up his office."

"I was told it isn't good training for war," Emily said. "That's true, isn't it?"

"Yes." Lady Barb shrugged. "To be fair, it does teach some of the skills combat sorcerers need. Thinking on one's feet, snapping off curses and hexes at speed ... they're skills that are desperately required in combat. But duelists are also taught to hold back, something that can be disastrous in a real fight."

Emily made a face. She knew hundreds of spells that couldn't be used in a duel without-at best-forfeiting the match. The risk of maiming-or killing-her opponent would be far too high. And yet, in a real fight, she'd use those spells without a second thought. Training herself not to use them would hamper her in later life.

"It will be fun, for everyone who wants to take part," Lady Barb added. "But not everyone will want to take part."

"They'll want to keep their skills a mystery," Emily said. She'd been cautioned not to show everything she could do. "What happens when younger students want to go up against older students?"

"The younger ones will get their butts kicked," Lady Barb said, dryly. "Or you'll have the perfect excuse to humiliate the older pupils."

Emily sighed. "I don't want to do this. But I just can't think of anything else."

She looked up. "What about reorganizing the library?"

"That wouldn't be quite so spectacular," Lady Barb said. "You'd get more credit for something that lasted."

"Like the mentorship program," Emily mused. "But how much work did Aloha actually do after it got started?"

"Probably quite a bit," Lady Barb said.

She held up a hand. "You shouldn't have any trouble setting up a basic roster, perhaps selecting a few older students to serve as additional supervisors. That won't take much work. Then you can run the club one day each week. I don't think you'll have to do that much work, once you get started. It'll probably wind up running itself."

"I hope you're right," Emily said. She'd never liked dueling, even before she'd killed Master Grey. But then, she'd never liked team sports either. Just because she didn't like something didn't mean everyone else detested it too. "If I do as little work as possible ..."

"Do enough to give the club a reasonable chance of success," Lady Barb advised. "It does have a great deal of potential. If nothing else, it will give dozens of other students-the ones who haven't been able to get onto sports teams-the chance to compete. It will certainly be more fun than Martial Magic."

Emily nodded, ruefully. Martial Magic wasn't fun. She had to admit she'd put on a great deal of muscle over the last five years-as well as learning countless spells and techniques-but it hadn't been fun. She'd ached every day until her body had grown used to heavy exercise, then crawled through mud and sneaked through woods ... she'd never liked it. She wasn't surprised that only a handful of pupils took the course every year.

"And do the same for the rest of your duties as Head Girl," Lady Barb added. "You have to show willingness to reap the full reward."

Emily rubbed her forehead. "Why didn't they ask me first?"

"Probably because most people would leap at the chance to prove themselves," Lady Barb answered. "Being Head Girl here, Emily, is something that will add breadth to your resume. It will definitely count in your favor when you start looking for an apprenticeship."

I already have an offer from Void, Emily thought. And that comes without conditions.

She frowned. Void had already made her the offer. He wouldn't care if she was Head Girl or not. Or would he? Aloha had had masters clamoring to take her as an apprentice ... had they been impressed by her conduct as Head Girl? No one could deny that Aloha had been brave as well as clever, risking everything on a mentoring program that could easily have gone bad. Failure would have tarnished her future.

"I'll see if I can think of anything else," she said. "But if not ..."

"Good thinking," Lady Barb said. "Gordian wants this to succeed. I daresay he'll be more inclined to help you if you're doing something he chose."

"And it saves me the job of coming up with something else," Emily said.

She looked down at her hands. "Which way did you vote?"

"I wasn't there," Lady Barb reminded her.

Emily scowled. It had been easy to forget, over the past three months, that Lady Barb was no longer a tutor. She'd hoped Lady Barb would return to Whitehall, even though Lady Barb herself hadn't been keen on the idea. If nothing else, she'd be near Sergeant Miles. But they had just been arguing ...

"I don't know which way I would have voted," Lady Barb added. "You're not the only student with a heavy workload. And I would have wondered about your ability to handle the more ... social ... aspects of the job. And yet ... you did save the school more than once. You deserve some kind of reward for your services."

I would have preferred permanent access to the library, Emily thought. Or a place at the school for the rest of my life.

She pushed the thought out of her head. She wanted to stay at Whitehall, but she knew that wouldn't be possible. There was too much else she had to do. Besides, Gordian wouldn't hire her as a tutor until she had her mastery and a great deal more experience. Merely having a certificate wasn't enough, not at Whitehall. A tutor who didn't know what he was talking about wouldn't last long at a school of magic.

"I'll do my best," she promised. "I ..."

"I'll be leaving tonight," Lady Barb said, cutting her off. "I have to head back to the border. There might be more trouble to the south, near the Inner Sea."

Emily felt a stab of dismay. "So soon?"

"Work doesn't stop, not for us." Lady Barb reached out and squeezed Emily's shoulder. "I'll keep the chat parchment with me. You can write whenever you like."

"I wish you could stay longer." Emily swallowed, hard. "Why were you fighting with Sergeant Miles?"

"None of your business," Lady Barb said, her voice suddenly very cold. "Suffice it to say that we had a small disagreement."

Emily winced. "I ..."

"Don't worry about it," Lady Barb said. Her lips twisted. "He managed to blindside me and ... things went downhill from there. I'll speak to him before I go."

"Oh," Emily said. "I ... was it my fault?"

"Not everything is your fault, Emily," Lady Barb said. She smiled, suddenly. "Although, if you want to accept the blame, I'm sure Miles will be happy to give you a truly appalling detention."

"I don't have time for detention," Emily said, quickly. "Will you be staying for dinner?"

"I think so," Lady Barb said.

She rose. "I believe Madame Rosalinda wishes to see you in the dorms," she added. "Go there. I'll see you at dinner."

Emily nodded, wondering just what had actually happened between Lady Barb and Sergeant Miles. They'd been lovers for the past two-perhaps three-years. She'd never heard them argue before, certainly not like that. They'd been so angry they'd forgotten to put up a privacy ward before starting to shout at each other. It didn't bode well for their future.

She hurried out of the door and up the stairs. The Sixth Year dorms were in the upper levels, isolated from the lower dorms by a layer of study rooms and spellchambers. Gordian had put a small army of wardcrafters to work updating the protections over the summer, according to Lady Barb. In hindsight, Emily suspected he'd been planning the dueling club for the last year or two. The duelists would need dozens of spellchambers to practice their arts before entering the dueling circle.

And I still can't think of anything else, Emily thought, as she stepped through the door and into the corridor. The wards shimmered around her, checking her identity before they allowed her to proceed. There's nothing that will appeal to most of the school.

"Emily," Madame Rosalinda said. She hadn't changed either. She still looked like an old gypsy woman, wearing a long dress and a headscarf that concealed her hair. "Come with me."

Emily looked around with interest as Madame Rosalinda led her down the corridor. She'd never been allowed into the Sixth Year dorms, not even to see Aloha. The Sixth Years guarded their privacy, she'd been told. Younger students tried to sneak in, of course-it was an old tradition-but most of them wound up being turned into frogs or kicked out by the Sixth Years. It was vanishingly rare for anyone to get an invitation into the dorms.

They looked very similar to the Fifth Year dorms, she noted, but the common room and study chambers looked larger. Magic hung in the air, including a handful of protective charms she didn't recognize. Emily felt them inspecting her as Madame Rosalinda stopped in front of a gold-edged door at the far end of the corridor. A touch of her finger opened it, revealing a large suite. Emily followed her into the suite, shaking her head in disbelief. It looked like a luxury hotel.

"These are the Head Pupil quarters," Madame Rosalinda said. She jabbed a finger around the suite. "You have a large bedroom and bathroom in there, a private office there ... even a small kitchen, if you wish to cook for yourself. Draw supplies from the kitchens downstairs and bring them up. You're the only one allowed to enter these rooms without special permission, but you can invite whoever you like. You also"-she pointed to the office-"have a private door. Students who want to see you can visit without having to walk through the dorms."

"It's too much," Emily said.

"Every other student has a large bedroom to themselves," Madame Rosalinda informed her. "It's one of the perks of surviving five years in school."

"Thanks," Emily said, dryly.

She peered into the bedroom. It was easily large enough for two or three people-the bed alone was large enough for two people to share comfortably-and the bathroom was even bigger. She'd never had a private bathtub before, not at Whitehall. She had the sudden urge to undress and take a soak for the next few hours. It was a luxury she'd grown to love over the past five years.

"You can also arrange for the floor to be swept and the bedding to be changed by the staff," Madame Rosalinda added. "But you would be well advised to do it for yourself."

Just to keep from getting lazy, Emily thought.

"Thank you," she said. "But it seems too large ..."

"You're the Head Girl," Madame Rosalinda said. "You are expected to work for this, you know."

"Yeah," Emily said. "I know."




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
  Schooled in Magic  book 1
  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 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.




The Gordian Knot Copyright 2017. 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






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