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
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
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
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.”
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.
happened to my clothes?”