Thursday, November 22, 2012

Nineteenth Beginning 25: Worldshore

How do you describe magic to someone who can’t perceive it?  Narnemvar is awash in magic.  He’s floating in it with no connection to the material world.

That isn’t true, of course.  His body is quite material and it’s keeping him connected to the material world just fine.  He trusts it to do so.  He’s never once in his life taken the precautions that other wizards insist on.  He’s never connected his mind to the material world directly, never tethered his awareness deliberately to any physical object or image.

His mind is connected to his body and his body exists in the world.  It’s always been a connection that he trusted completely, implicitly, without consideration. 

His masters never knew, of course.  You tell the masters what they want to hear.  They get nervous otherwise.  The few companion magickers who realized that Narnemvar worked untethered would, at this point, start expecting him to realize in horror the error of his ways. 

They would be disappointed.  Narnemvar has shifted his perception so completely into the spectrum of magic that he cannot feel his body at all.  Yet he’s used his connection to it so many times that he assumes the connection is true.  He assumes that he is aware of his body on some deep and primal level.  It’s a casual assumption.  No other wizard would make it.  It is accurate, though.  If he can ever shift his mind from thoughts of the magic that surrounds him, he will be able to return to the world. 

The magic is so strong, though.  He’s never seen so much in one place.  It’s fascinating and frightening. 

How to describe the magic?  Ignore the theoretical constructs of Guildhouse lecturers and the material philosophers of the princely courts.  They are interesting and entertaining, but Narnemvar has never been able to sit through one of their explanations without laughing.  Not to be rude, although he very frequently is, but because he can’t imagine the things they describe having any connection with the things that he feels when he’s working magic.

Some of the lectures bore him.  Others are such shows that he wants to be in front, doing the tricks.  He’s a terrible showoff.  Some of the theories are true.  Don’t think that Narnemvar necessarily knows what he’s doing.  He’s a natural.  He can do things that no one else can, but he really can’t explain what he’s doing.

Right now he experiences the magic something like this.  There’s a curse attached to Shortbread.  It’s like a tangle of thin, rusty tubes fraying out from something like a loose cable and entering his body, mostly into his torso - into his chest more than into his back, into his back more than into his sides - with a few straggling out to enter him just randomly, here and there.

There’s one strand entering his head just above his supercilious left eyebrow.  Narnemvar has trouble not giggling if he lets himself see that. 

The tubes are ragged and small, but solidly made.  They’d be difficult to break.  He’d probably damage Shortbread while damaging the tubes. 

The tubes are held in place also by strands of fear, like something between cloth and jelly.  Narnemvar experiences the fear as something like thick snot:  warm in places, cool in places, moist in places, dry in places.  The fear should be easy to break, but you had to experience it when you touched it, which was very distracting.

That was why he had followed the fear, followed the curse to it’s source.  It had seemed like the obvious next step.  Spell conduit could be broken, but may cause damage to victim:  go to next step.  Spell connection could be broken, but may cause damage to rescuer:  go to next step. 

Most curses were powered by what felt like crystals of intent.  Sometimes ill health, or the echoes of ill health, were gathered into a crystal of intent, sometimes the crystal was constructed to radiate ill health.  They were usually small and dense, however they were made.

This curse was powered by what felt like a vast blob of throbbing puss.  It was huge and fever-hot.  The little conduits didn’t pierce the blob.  They probably couldn’t.  They were held in place by webs of fear and were only picking up as much ill health as the blob radiated at that one small spot. 

The fear was crusting and cracking from the radiating ill. It wouldn’t hold for long – a few days, maybe.  Without the source, the curse would curl in on itself and slowly wither away.  It might be dangerous to leave it there.  It might pick up and transmit any ill health radiated from any nearby magic source.  Best to remove it once it was tightly curled enough.  Stay somewhere magically neutral for a few weeks, spend a few days teasing the ball out of the servant, and we were home free.

But that was for the future.  It was a good thing that Narnemvar had straightened and crimped off the tubes before following them.  The magic of the conduits and the magic of the connection were weakening the boundary of the pocket of puss.  (Possibly the magic of someone seeking out the source contributed, but Narnemvar wouldn’t let himself think of that.  He had a confirmed standard operating practice of not noticing his contribution to the messes that happened around him.)  The blob was bulging, following the path of the curse like an extruding intestine.  Narnemvar was in that intestine.  It was not a good place to be.

Narnemvar ignored the ill, as it steamed into him.  He concentrated on twisting off the intestine near the blob end.  When he finally got it twisted firmly enough that no more came through, he concentrated on the feel of the boundary.  He didn’t think in theories or in types of spell.  He simply felt the fabric of it.  Fabric was the right word.  This containment was fibrous, reinforced.  He set about sealing the containment around his twists.

Narnemvar thought of all the twisting, entwining things he knew.  He thought of spells and threads and ropes and tree roots.  He held a firm image in his mind of the shape of the blob and the bulge and the twist that connected them.  He held a firm image in his mind of the sealed blob and bulge that was the result that he wanted.  He held a firm image in his mind of all of the twining things he knew, first one after the other and then in combination.  He stacked them.  He wove them.  He remembered watching a woman darning socks.  He remembered a sailor splicing rope.  He remembered watching Bess reach out and spell the scattered, hidden mycelium of a mushroom patch into fruiting into a ring of tasty mushrooms.  He remembered Mr. Conehead using the pattern of the growth of nearby ivy to weave a Notsee onto the door of a rented cottage.

The imaging went on for hours.  Another wizard might have gotten nervous, when it took so long, with no answer yet in sight.  Another wizard might have panicked at the thought of staying in the middle of such a dangerous emanation with no backup to pull him out if he tired.  Narnemvar never wasted a thought on worry.  The magic was too absorbing.  He went on and on, trying every possibility.  He started from the blob end.  He started from the bulge end.  He started from the twist in the middle.  That felt best.

After a time, he decided that no combination of things would work all at once and began thinking of things to do in series.  Once at a philosophical presentation on decision-making, the philosopher had talked about rock climbing.  The gist was that you could spend forever planning how to climb a particular stretch, or you could decide and get going.  Once you were committed, you had to find a way to keep going without killing yourself.  Once you were committed, you got creative in ways that you never would if you were still back on the ground, looking up and planning.

Narnemvar remembered that because he agreed with it so thoroughly.  Let’s see.  Rope-splice the middle until it’s solid and nothing can get through.  Then darn the reinforcing into both bulging ends.  Use the mushroom spell, sort of, to pull the mass from the center twist into a patch on both sides.  Have to do both at once, that’s a mirror spell.  Maybe a twining of Notsee so that the puss couldn’t find any minute weaknesses in the patch.  And if something unexpected comes up – get creative.  Now go.

And hours of consideration came down to a series of spells that were installed in a matter of four minutes.  The twist sent off bulges of its own as it was spliced, but a series of spider spells encased them and plastered them back to the main mass.  The darning spell wrinkled and puckered and required an ironing spell to keep flat enough to absorb all of the splicing.  The mushroom spell required a banishing in the middle, about halfway through, to get the strongly spliced mass to let go.  And the Notsees had to be installed on both sides of each patch.  He overlaid the whole thing with a layer of silkworm cocoon.  He placed threads of personal mark on both the blob and the bulge and, instead of worrying how to get disentangled from the whole mess, simply let himself pass out, assuming he’d slide back into his body.  He woke to the feel of a bucket of sea water being thrown onto his face.

The cold and the salt were a shock.  He was too weak to do more than gasp and sputter.  Lavvi turned him onto his side and he coughed his mouth and nose clear. 

“How long?” he croaked.

“About five hours.  We thought you’d want to know.”

“Right.  Give me a few minutes for my eyes to focus and then we’d better go.  I crimped the curse a bit, so it shouldn’t leak ill nearly so fast.”

“That’s good.”

Narnemvar curled into a more comfortable position and looked at his feet.  He waited for the sight of his foot to make some kind of recognizable sense.  He wiggled his toes to draw his eye.  .   .   .  He wiggled his toes.

He followed his ankle up from his foot to his knee.



“What happened to my clothes?”

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