The Otherworld War (The Multiverse War) Cover Blurb




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The Otherworld War



(The Multiverse War)


Cover Blurb



Five years after the Nazi War, the Thande Institute is working to explore alternate timelines. When a timeline hints at vastly superior technology, the institute is more than willing to send an Insertion Team right into the timeline…only to see it become trapped within a timeline where the laws of science are very different. Magic works, dragons fly high in the sky…and all-powerful Powers control the lives of humans within their influence.


Their arrival plunges Otherworld into war, for the established power structure cannot cope with the very notion of such concepts as freedom, democracy and advanced technology. As a magical war rages across the land, few are aware of the true danger; the entire world is a trap for cross-time travellers.


For Otherworld holds a secret beyond price; a clue to the identity of the mysterious Enemy…and the key to understanding their role in the Multiverse War.

Author’s Note


Although The Otherworld War forms Book 3 of The Multiverse War, it is intended to be stand-alone in its own right. All the reader needs to know is that there was a cross-time war (detailed in The Counterfactual War) in which Nazi forces from TimeLine C invaded our world (TimeLine A). In the aftermath of that war, the Thande Institute was set up to explore alternate timelines and provide warnings of further cross-time threats.

Prologue



It was something of a surprise to Grand Mage Akron, one of the greatest of the wizards of the land, that the assembled Council of Wizardry worked as well as it did. In some ways, he understood the success – the Council was the only way of keeping Wizardry under some form of control and keeping upstarts down – but it still astonished him. Wizards rose to power through a combination of learning, experience, luck and bloody-mindedness – it was not a pattern that called for willing cooperation.


He shook his head absently as he paused outside the main council room. The spells on the door tingled as he approached, checking his identity as one of the six Grand Mages; no one was stupid enough to try to pass through the wards without permission. In a unique display of cooperation, the Grand Mages of four hundred years ago had established the Council – and bound a Power to guard the castle from treachery. Even the most capable wizard – and Akron knew without false modesty that he was one of the most capable ever to walk the Earth – would hesitate before taking on a Power, let alone risk releasing the Power from the wards that held it firmly in place.


There were people who prayed daily that the wards would hold, at least until after their time was over. Akron was one of them. He already had his suspicions that not everything was working as well as it had for the last four hundred years.


He stepped through the door and placed his staff in the corner, trusting in the subtle magics around the room to guard it. Staffs were important to a wizard, but not all-important; more than a few wizard-killers had come to grief after forgetting that little fact. He bowed once to the statue of Friar Bacon – the founder of the Council – and took his seat.


“You are late,” Grand Mage Shayde said, without any preliminary. Akron refused to rise to the bait; Shayde was the youngest of the Grand Mages; if it were not forbidden for the Grand Mages to oppose one another directly, he would have tried to slap Shayde down. The man’s short dark hair, and shadowy black eyes, seemed designed to suggest imprudence, if not danger. “After all your time spent talking us into convening here, you have the imprudence to be late.”


“We were warned that he might be a few hours late,” Grand Mage Gorgre said. Incredibly corpulent, Grand Mage Gorgre was one of Akron’s allies on the Council; his smiling face hid a cunning and determined mind.


“We were also informed that the matter was of considerable urgency,” Grand Mage Valastar said. As the only female Grand Mage, Grand Mage Valastar’s position wasn’t as secure as Akron’s – or Shayde’s, for that matter. She changed her appearance constantly, from silver-white hair to the red curls that she wore at present. A small manikin hung from her neck, all that remained of a Sorcerer who’d thought that a woman would be easy to challenge for her position.


Akron took a long moment to study her. Her outfit, outrageously revealing, revealed that she was a magic-user. Her cold green eyes revealed, to one with magical senses, that she was powerful indeed. Under his gaze, she bit a part of the manikin off and chewed it thoughtfully, absorbing the dead sorcerer into her considerable reserves.


Akron shook his head again, stroking his long white beard. How could anyone believe that a woman who wore so little was defenceless? Had the sorcerer intended to violate her after taking her power and position?


“We have a problem,” Akron said, using the formal words. The Council sat up and paid attention; those words were not used lightly. The last time they had been used, there had been a rebellion against the authority of the Council, led by a Prince who had been allied with a Power. The Prince had been killed and his family had been turned into toads, a salient lesson to any who would defy the Council.


Magic-users above a certain power level could not be allowed to stay on their own. Everyone agreed on that, even Shayde. The Prince’s crime had been to believe that he was permitted to develop his own band of wizards, perhaps even necromancers, and turn them against his neighbours…and the Council itself.


“Two weeks ago, a young man who had developed magical abilities tried a spell to generate fire,” Akron said. The fire-generating spells were simple; unlike the more complicated spells, which tended to be the property of only a handful of wizards, they could be used by even the smallest magic-user. “The result was…illuminating.”


There were no responses to the bad pun. “The entire village was destroyed,” Akron said. “The fireball scorched across the village, setting fire to everything and everyone. Only the local wizard, a man by the name of Hawthorne, survived the blast, and then only because he was inside his wards at the time.”


Shayde crooked a single dark eyebrow. “And I assume that the man himself died?” He asked. Akron nodded. “Then the Six Hundred and Sixty-Six loses a possible addition to its – our – ranks…so what?”


Akron scowled darkly. Friar Bacon had outlined the formal ranks of wizardry in simple terms; six hundred wizards, sixty mages…and six grand mages. The only way to advance was to take the place of a senior wizard; a formality that kept everyone on their toes, watching to be certain that an imprudent young wizard wasn’t trying to cut them off. Under normal circumstances, a wizard who had managed to destroy an entire village in his first week as a wizard would be a formidable challenger…but these were not normal circumstances.


“I travelled to the ruins as quickly as I could and used revealing spells,” Akron said. “The young idiot used flambé, which, I might remind you, is only suitable for lighting dry wood. Revealing spells are not very reliable, but it seems likely that the young man – whose name escapes me – used the only one he knew.”


He paused for comment. Grand Mage Shan spoke first. “Flambé is not a spell that can destroy a village,” Shan said. “It would be quicker to burn the village down without magic.”


Akron nodded without comment. Flambé, as Shan had pointed out, was only suitable for lighting a campfire, nothing else. As a weapon of sorcereous warfare, there were dozens more that were more effective, even assuming that the young fool had meant to burn down his home. He waited for someone to make the connection…and was not disappointed.


Valastar spoke in the tone of a puzzled woman, one attempting to convince her husband that she knew nothing…when in fact she was hiding the evidence of her adultery. It was so out of character that Akron knew that she understood, or at least suspected enough to suspect the truth. He saw Shayde blink…and realised that Shayde had counted Valastar as an ally.


“How did the spell destroy the entire village?” She asked. “That cannot happen; I have used that spell thousands of times and it often refused to do more than warm me.”


Akron smiled. “The village was very near the Castle at the End of the Land,” he said. “I experimented there with several other spells…and was lucky to escape with my life. The power levels were so high that several other harmless, inoffensive spells had quite unpleasant effects.”


He paused. “Hawthorne, by the way, was literally blown apart by a wind spell that should have caused a mild breeze and managed to raise a tornado.”


Shayde made a show of preparing to stand up, ending the Council. “Exactly what is the point, old man?” He sneered. “We do not normally worry when a handful of peasants, and possible competition, die experimenting with magic.”


“Our magic is threatening to get out of control,” Akron said, calling on all of his authority and power to hold them in place. “What will happen when someone tries to summon a demon and gets Satan himself?”


“Satan never appears in person,” Valastar said. Her tone was grim. “What do we do about it?”


Akron took a breath. “All magic emits from the Castle at the End of the World,” he said. “We have to control the flow somehow.”


There was immediate uproar. The magic of the Council Chamber came into play, dulling the noise until only one voice remained. “You are suggesting that we risk our lives in the Castle at the End of the Land,” Shayde said. He sounded…stunned, astonished, unable to believe that Akron had suggested anything like that. “Do you have any idea how many people have attempted to penetrate the Castle at the End of the Land?”


Akron nodded, feeling the pressure of his age. “I have seen hundreds go into the castle,” he said. “None have returned…and the magic remains.”


Shayde stood up, making a speech to the room. “It is the dream of the entire population of wizards that one day someone will succeed in penetrating the Castle at the End of the Land and therefore managing to gain complete control of the magic within,” he said. “So far, many have tried…and all have failed.”


Akron spoke with quiet authority. “I spent time with Old Mother Daughter,” he said. “She was as unhelpful as she normally is” – there were some chuckles – “but she made a prophecy. It was, in fact, clearer than any other she has ever made.”


The room stared at him; time itself seemed to stand in the balance. Old Mother Daughter, one of the handful of soothsayers with any reputation for accuracy, rarely made any clear predictions. They tended to be vague…useful only in hindsight.


“She said that five people from outside would enter our world,” Akron said. “She said that they would enter the Castle at the End of the Land and they would change the magic forever.”


There was a dead silence. “From outside?” Shayde asked, and his voice held none of its constant arrogance. “From outside the brass walls?”


Akron shrugged. “No one has ever come from outside the brass walls,” he said, citing long history. “It is hard to know how to interpret the prophecy…except the part about them entering the Castle at the End of the Land.”


“And change the magic,” Valastar said thoughtfully. “I don’t think that we can allow that.”


Just like that, the attitude in the room changed. The Grand Mages, the six most powerful wizards in the world, looked at a changed world and shivered. They had grown used to their power; the prospect of change was more than they were prepared for face. For Valastar, who was condemned to permanent servitude as a woman without her powers, it was worse than most.


“We do not have a choice,” Akron said, suspecting that he had already lost. “If we assist them, we will have a say in what happens in the Castle at the End of the Land. We will be able to prevent the magical tides from overwhelming us.”


“And if we try to stop them and fail, they might be able to destroy us,” Shayde said. “If they gain control of the Castle at the End of the World, they will be able to stop the magic from flowing out over the land. We will be destroyed.”


“We cannot allow them to reach the Castle at the End of the Land,” Grand Mage Shan said. “We have to stop them.”


Shayde nodded. “We all have to work together,” he said. “Between us, we control a large portion of the country. If they arrive within our lands, we stop them and kill them.”


“No,” Akron said. He tried hard to keep his voice calm. Losing his temper would not help. “The risk of the magic overwhelming us is too great.”


“You’re old,” Shayde sneered. His tone darkened with scorn. “You have nothing left to lose, not like us. If they enter my territory, I will kill them.”


“And I,” Grand Mage Shan echoed.


“And I,” Valastar said. Her tone darkened. “Many of the wizards will support us.”


“You are talking about a war within the ranks of the Wizard Council,” Grand Mage Gorgre said. His tone was horrified. “Do you have any idea of the potential for outright disaster?”


Shayde stood up again. “The disaster will be far worse if we allow strangers within the Castle at the End of the World,” he said. “I will not allow it…”


“You imprudent young pup,” Gorgre snapped. “We will not allow you to kill them.”


Shayde glared at Akron. “If this place was not protected by a Power, I would kill you now,” he snapped. “For the moment, goodbye!”


He stormed out of the door, grabbing his staff as he left, followed by Valastar and Shan. Akron watched them go, his heart heavy. As the doors slammed shut again, he turned to face the remaining two.


“Gorgre?” He asked. “Will you join the effort?”


“The war effort, you mean,” Gorgre said. He smiled wryly. “Yes, I will,” he said. “It might just be interesting.”


Akron smiled. “And you, Ixa’em?”


The dark-skinned mage looked up at him. He’d said nothing during the meeting. “I think I will stand on the sidelines for the moment,” he said. “You will have enough support without me, for the moment.”


He stood up and left the room. Akron smiled, concealing his annoyance. Without Ixa’em, the two sides would be seriously unbalanced…perhaps tempting Shayde to a first strike against Akron.


Gorgre lifted an eyebrow. “So, what do we do now?”


Akron sighed. “We gather our forces,” he said. “Once that’s done, we wait and see.”
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