<P>Prologue</P><P>London, late seventeenth century</P><P>"Be damned to all mages!" the earl snarled as he stormed into the coffeehouse.</P><P>Sally Rainford, the proprietress, rolled her eyes silently. There were more than a thousand coffeehouses in London, but hers, the King's Cup on Saint James Street, had the most aristocratic patrons. And most, like this earl, were a plaguey nuisance.</P><P>The earl gestured to Sally to bring coffee, then claimed a seat at the communal table occupied by a dozen or so of his fellow aristocrats. "We must make the practice of magic illegal in England!"</P><P>Make magic illegal? How could they ban something so natural? Keeping her thoughts to herself, Sally assembled a tray with coffee, a small pot of cream, and little bowls of shaved chocolate, cinnamon flakes, and chipped sugar.</P><P>The cool viscount sitting opposite the earl arched his brows. "That's rather extreme, my dear fellow. What happened?"</P><P>Sally carried her carefully prepared tray to the earl. She'd rather pour the coffee on his head, but that would be bad for business.</P><P>"A poxy mage used his power and almost seduced my youngest daughter." The earl stirred a spoonful of chocolate shavings into his coffee with angry jabs. "I've made sure the brute won't seduce any more wellborn young girls, but if it hadn't been for his magic, he would never have dared try."</P><P>Sally stifled a snort. Maybe it made the earl feel better to blame a mage, but young girls often had roving eyes.</P><P>"Was it Hollinghurst? That young beast has used magic to seduce other women," a tight-lipped baron said.</P><P>The earl gave a sharp nod. "But seduction is not the only trouble mages cause. We should ban the lot of them!"</P><P>"Lord Weebley uses magic to cheat at cards," another man growled. "I'm sure of it, but I've never had proof. Bloody impossible to prove magical cheating."</P><P>The scowling baron stirred sugar chips into his coffee. "Magic is a tool of the devil, and it's time we banned it. Who hasn't suffered at the hands of mages who use their vile powers to cheat and manipulate? I say it's time we start to burn witches again!"</P><P>Disturbed, Sally pressed a hand to her belly. It was too soon for the babe to show, but her husband, Nicodemus, came of a Kentish family known for magical ability. Likely this child would be a mage, too, since Sally was a talented hearth witch. That was why her coffee was the best in London.</P><P>It hadn't been all that long since witch hunts were common, but these days, most people had come to see the value of magic. Plus, witches had started calling themselves mages, which didn't sound so wicked.</P><P>Sally didn't think that the bad old days would come again now that magic was so widely accepted. But far too often she heard patrons of the King's Cup make angry comments like these. Friends who worked in great houses reported similar remarks. Maybe in time the fancy folk would disdain all magic and leave the benefits to commoners like her.</P><P>A tall, lean man whose dark wig cascaded past his shoulders had been lounging by the fire. Raising his voice to carry through the coffeehouse, he said, "A total ban would never work. Most Englishmen like magic. They celebrate if their children show strong gifts since such talents can be profitable." He stroked his thin moustache idly. "No point in passing a law no one will obey."</P><P>Sally gave thanks that the most important man in the room was showing his usual good sense. His opinion encouraged others to speak up. A duke said thoughtfully, "A total ban wouldn't be in our best interests. I almost lost my wife and son in childbirth, but a mage healer saved them both."</P><P>"Can't afford to get rid of weather mages, either," a gruff northerner said. "As wet as it is in Westmoreland, most years my tenants' crops would rot in the fields if I didn't employ a good local mage to send half the rain away."</P><P>Sally nodded approval. The Rainfords were best known for their weather magic, and it was men like the northerner who kept them prosperous. Her husband's earnings had enabled them to start the King's Cup.</P><P>The tall, dark-haired man drawled, "Perhaps social censure might serve you better than a law. The aristocracy is small compared to the great mass of Englishmen. Though it's not feasible to ban magic throughout England, influential gentlemen like you should be able to drive magic out of the nobility. Leave it to the lower orders."</P><P>There was a pause while all the lords in the room considered the words. The angry earl said slowly, "We should speak out about how unsporting and vulgar magic is."</P><P>"We can give the cut direct to mages. Involve our wives, since they rule the social world." The cool viscount gave a faint smile. "My lady recently complained about a mage duchess who uses power to enhance her beauty. My wife was furious. She and her friends will gladly use their influence to make magic unfashionable."</P><P>"My mistress has strong illusion magic, and she can change her appearance to look like any woman I fancy," another lord said. "It's like having a harem of the most beautiful women in England!"</P><P>There was a burst of laughter from the other men. The viscount said, "I foresee a world where people of our sort are above magic, but we benefit by how commoners use it." He smiled slyly. "My mistress has very similar talents."</P><P>Sally sniffed but kept her gaze down while the lords raved about all the ways they could demonize magic among their own kind. Mostly the lords didn't notice her unless they wanted more coffee, but if someone saw the expression of contempt on her face, there might be trouble. These men had power, and it was best not to offend them. Wiser to concentrate on shaving chocolate and nipping loaf sugar into small pieces.</P><P>Sally set a pan of coffee beans to roast, thinking the viscount was right. Foolish aristocrats would drive the mages from their ranks. She touched her stomach again. Her babe would have magic. When it was born, its talents would be welcomed, and that was as it should be.</P><P>But she felt sorry for those poor doomed magelings who would be born to the nobility.</P><P>Chapter 1</P><P>England, 1803</P><P><I>Lady Victoria Mansfield flew high, high over her family's estate. Arms and legs outstretched, long skirts fluttering around her knees as she gloried in her freedom and in the soft scented wind.</I></P><P><I>She laughed with delight as she saw the familiar Somersetshire hills from above. Here was the vast stone length of her home, Fairmount Hall, there the beautiful gardens that ran to the bluffs. Waves crashed far below, and gulls soared at Tory's height, their cries haunting.</I></P><P><I>She swooped down to investigate the round stone dovecote. Doves squawked in protest when she flew inside. Startled, she almost plunged to the ground.</I></P><P>Concentrate on staying aloft. <I>With a giddy rush, Tory swooped up again, soaring through the door of the dovecote and into the sky. Perhaps she should fly to the nearby estate of the Harford family. The Honorable Edmund Harford was the eldest son and heir to his father's title and property.</I></P><P><I>She'd always admired Edmund. He was back from university for the summer and she wanted him to see that she had grown. Perhaps he'd think she was almost as pretty as her older sister, Sarah.</I></P><P><I>Tory banked into the wind and turned east toward the Harford estate.</I></P><P><I>A horrified cry shocked her awake.</I></P><P>Jolted from sleep, Tory realized she was floating a yard above her rumpled bed, terrifyingly unsupported. Her mother, the Countess of Fairmont, stood in the doorway, her expression horrified. "Victoria," she breathed. "Oh, please, <I>no</I>!"</P><P>Tory glanced up into the canopy above her head. A spider had spun a web in the corner, and the ugly creature was looking right at her.</P><P>She shrieked and crashed down on the bed, her breath whooshing out as she flopped onto her stomach. Shaken and afraid, she pushed herself up with her arms. She couldn't really have been flying! "What . . . what happened?"</P><P>"You were flying." Her mother closed the door, her white-knuckled hand locked around the knob. "Don't ever do that again!" she said, voice shaking. "You know how society feels about mages. How . . . how your father feels about them."</P><P>"I can't be a mage!" Tory gasped, shocked by the impossibility of her mother's words. "I'm a Mansfield. We're not magical!"</P><P>At least not that Tory had ever heard. Seeing the countess's guilty expression caused her to ask incredulously, "Mama, have there been mages in our family?"</P><P>Such a thing wasn't possible. It just <I>wasn't</I>! Magic corrupted, and she wasn't corrupt. Yes, she'd felt herself changing as she grew to womanhood. Strange dreams, new desires. But those were just growing pains. Not <I>magic</I>!</P><P>Tory refused to believe her mother could be a mage. Lady Fairmount was considered the greatest lady in the county, an example to all wellborn young ladies.</P><P>And yet . . . guilt was written as plain as day on the countess's lovely face. When the countess refused to reply, Tory's world began to crack beneath her.</P><P>"Do <I>you</I> have magical ability?" she said, shocked and desperately unwilling to believe such a thing. Yet looking back . . . "You always knew what we were doing. Geoff and Sarah and I thought you had eyes in the back of your head."</P><P>"There were rumors," her mother whispered, tears shining in her eyes. "About my Russian grandmother, Viktoria Ivanova. The one you're named for. She died when I was very small, so I didn't really know her, but . . . it's possible she brought mage blood into the family."</P><P>Tory's namesake had poisoned the blue-blooded Mansfield family with magic? And Tory might suffer for that? It wasn't <I>fair</I>!</P><P>Feeling utterly betrayed, she cried, "How could you not warn me? If I'd known I might have magic, I could have guarded against it!"</P><P>"I thought you children had escaped the taint! I have very little power. Scarcely any at all. It seemed better not to worry you about such an unlikely possibility." Lady Fairmount was literally wringing her hands. "But . . . you look rather like Viktoria Ivanova. You must have inherited some of her talent."</P><P>Tory wanted to howl. Voice breaking, she said, "I've never floated like this before. It's just a freak, something that will never happen again, I swear it!"</P><P>The countess looked deeply sad. "Magic appears when boys and girls grow to adulthood. It's hard to suppress, but you must try, Victoria. If your father finds out, he'll certainly send you to Lackland."</P><P>Tory gasped in disbelief. Though children of the nobility who had magic were often sent to the prisonlike school called Lackland Abbey, surely <I>she</I> wouldn't be forced to leave her friends and family! "You've managed to hide your power from everyone, and so can I. I'm another whole generation away from Viktoria Ivanova." Tory drew a shaky breath. "No one will ever know about me, either."</P><P>"The ability to fly is not minor magic," her mother said, expression worried. "You may find it harder to hide your abilities than I have."</P><P>"I wasn't flying!" Tory protested. "I always toss and turn when I'm sleeping." Knowing how feeble that sounded, she continued. "If I am cursed with magic, I'll learn to control it. You always said I was more stubborn than Geoffrey and Sarah put together."</P><P>"I hope you succeed," her mother said sadly. "If your ability becomes known, I don't think I'll be able to save you from Lackland Abbey. God keep you, my child." Silent tears fell unchecked as she backed from the room, closing the door behind her.</P><P>Leaving her daughter alone in a shattered world.</P><P>Tory struggled not to panic. She <I>couldn't</I> go to Lackland Abbey. Even when students were cured and sent home, they were considered tainted, like the madmen at Bedlam Hospital.</P><P>Uneasily she remembered a story whispered by her best friend, Louisa Fisk. The daughter of a baron from nearby Devon had been sent to Lackland after her family discovered she was a mageling. The girl had been betrothed from birth to the son of a family friend, but the betrothal had been broken immediately.</P><P>When the girl finally left Lackland, she'd been forced to become a governess. A year later, she walked off a cliff.</P><P>Tory's bedside candle cast enough light to reveal her dim reflection in the mirror opposite her bed. The rest of the family was tall and blond, while Tory was petite and dark-haired. The countess always said her dark hair, slim build, and slightly tilted eyes had come from her Russian grandmother. Tory rather liked her exotic looks. It was horrible to know they might have come with despicable magical ability.</P><P>But the magic didn't show. With her wide eyes and a glossy night braid falling over the shoulder of her lace-trimmed white nightgown, she looked like any normal, harmless schoolroom girl.</P><P>Her gaze traveled around her bedroom. Her beautiful, grown-up room, redecorated as a present for her sixteenth birthday because Mama had said she was a young lady, and a lady's room might make her less of a tomboy.</P><P>Tory loved the rich moldings, the elegant rose-patterned brocade upholstery, the carved walnut posts that supported the matching brocade canopy of her bed. It was the bedroom of a young lady who would soon be presented to society and would have her pick of the most eligible young men in England.</P><P>Her mother had given her this beautiful room but failed to warn her that she might be cursed with magic. It was <I>damnable</I>!</P><P>Tory shivered, wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed and pull the covers over her head. But she must discover if she truly did carry the taint of magic.</P><P>She sat on the edge of her bed and imagined herself flying as she had in her dream. She felt a fluttering in her midriff, but to her relief, nothing happened. She remained solidly on the bed.</P><P>But was she trying hard enough? She closed her eyes and thought of herself floating in the air. She concentrated so hard that her head began to ache. Still nothing.</P><P>She wasn't a mage. It was some kind of misunderstanding!</P><P>Then the inner fluttering stabilized with a silent click. Dizziness‚Äîand Tory shrieked as her head bumped a yielding surface. Her eyes snapped open and she saw that her head was pushing into the bed's brocade canopy.</P><P>Shocked, she fell, bouncing from the edge of the mattress onto the soft Chinese carpet. Knees bruised, she got to her feet and tested herself again. This time she kept her eyes open as she consciously sought that inner change.</P><P><I>Click!</I> She rose from the carpet with alarming speed. Too fast!</P><P>With the thought, her movement slowed and she floated gently up to the ceiling. She felt light and no longer afraid as the air supported her as softly as a feather mattress.</P><P>For an instant, excitement blazed through her. She could fly!</P><P>Her pleasure vanished instantly. Wielding magic was vulgar. Dishonorable, even. Noble families like Tory's were the descendants of kings and warriors. Mages were mere tradesmen like blacksmiths and seamstresses. A Mansfield would rather starve than go into trade.</P><P>Yet the pulse of magic that held her in the air felt so <I>good.</I> How could it be evil?</P><P>Her lips tightened. Teachers and vicars invariably said that feeling good was the mark of sin. She must never fly like this again.</P><P>But before she put magic away forever, Tory wanted to explore her amazing, appalling new ability. She tried to swoop across the room as she'd done in her dream, but the best she could manage was drifting a little faster.</P><P>She looked down onto the top of her bed's canopy. Ugh! Dead bugs. She'd tell a maid to take the canopy down for cleaning.</P><P>Tory drifted along a wall until she reached one of the carved angels set in each corner of the room. This close, she saw patches where the gilding had peeled away from the wood. The bare spots weren't visible from floor level.</P><P>She wasn't really flying, she decided. Not like a bird, not like a Turk on a flying carpet. But she could float safely and control her direction and speed if she concentrated.</P><P>Her new ability wasn't very useful, apart from allowing her to get books from the top shelves in her father's library. Tiring, Tory descended too fast and banged hard on the carpet.</P><P>She winced as she rubbed the stinging sole of her right foot. She must take more care in the future. . . . </P><P><I>No!</I> She would never fly‚Äîfloat‚Äîagain. Doing so was <I>wrong,</I> and exhausting as well. Tory could barely manage to climb the steps up into her bed.</P><P>Tory rolled into a ball under the covers, shivering despite the warm night. It was impossible to deny the truth. She, Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest of the Earl of Fairmount's three children, had been cursed with magic from her unknown great grandmother.</P><P>But she wouldn't let it ruin her life. She <I>wouldn't</I>!</P> <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Dark Mirror</b> by <b>M.J. Putney</b> Copyright © 2011 by M.J. Putney. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.