A long period of silence followed.
The young lady’s face showed signs of her struggle with the charge being given to her, a charge that she had no idea how to carry out. When she spoke again, a flood of words poured forth. “That much light would require an enormous amount of power. Even with hundreds of lanterns–
To his ears, she almost sounded panicked. The Count placed a finger on her nose and her stream of protestations stilled.
Deliberately, he turned his attention to the table and began to set aside the various implements and plates. She could do nothing but watch quietly while he cleared a large area of the table for his purposes. When he was satisfied, he took a biscuit in hand and crumpled it, scattering crumbs unevenly across the table. Elanore gave him a look of disbelief, perhaps even mild outrage to see him waste what was a perfectly good piece of food.
The Count smiled slightly. “This is a crude demonstration of one of the kinds of magic in this world. Transformation is a change in state and order of an object or being.” He looked aside for a moment, considering his pupil’s background. “I don’t mean the kind of magic that you see in many stories — a ridiculous noisy type where people use wands or staffs and wave them about while muttering long winded incantations. This is the kind of magic that exists even without objects and words.”
The Count, hearing no questions, continued along in his explanations. “Transformative magic is defined by its intent and ability to change the shape or form of something beyond its natural shape. I changed the form of this bread with only physical force, but magic must step in to work against nature. For example — ” He dusted the crumbs into a pile. “I can push these crumbs back together, but not cause them to reform into the original shape it was a few minutes ago without magic. And if I wanted to go further, changing it into something different – like bread into wine – it also cannot be done without magic.”
Elanore gave him a bewildered look. “And you have seen this done? And is that what I am to do?”
He shook his head. “I have seen this type often enough, but the type of magic that concerns you involves transference.” He took one cup of cooled tea and placed it in front of them both. As the water settled, he removed one glove. The lady nearly choked as he reached out to touch the surface of liquid inside that cup. “A small disturbance,” he ignored her for the moment, “creates a much larger effect than the initial input. Think of this single teacup as an analogy for a much larger pool of water. A small leaf falls to its surface, barely imparting any force. And yet–the effect is to ripple the water great distances, the waves growing larger the further the water travels.”
“Then are you saying that I am essentially to provide that small bit of … whatever it is that would create the light.”
“Yes. The stones are, in effect, like water. If set up appropriately, they would do the work required to provide an enormous amount of light. The diagram shows this “pool of water” — specifically the alignment of stones and where a person with the gift of transference needs to stand to tap into the stones’ natural properties. The stones will harmonize with your abilities and with the abilities of the proximate stones and the twelve endpoints marked in this diagram. Whatever they may be, they are likely elements that are designed to further magnify some protective effect or the light itself.”
“Why are there twelve?” Elanore puzzled.
“There are likely twelve, because twelve is a perfect number in many sacred texts and in mythology. It is also the number of months in our calendar year and the number of major races said to have founded the world.”
His mention of the major races surprised her. Elanore’s eyebrows drew together and she began to open her mouth.
“You can read about them later,” the Count interrupted, heading off what was likely another question. He reached into his pocket and then thrust its contents on to the table.
Elanore discovered herself examining a small pile of blue stones. To her dismay, they appeared dull and lifeless. “What am I to do with these?”
“Carry them near you,” he responded. “See if you can learn to perceive their presence even when you don’t see them. Try to develop an affinity for them. If you do, they will glow faintly for you in complete darkness. However, handle them only with gloves — for if you err, they will burn your hand just as they did the other day.”
“Is there something I must say or do?”
He frowned. “It is the same as I said before. There is no magic incantation. The stone will respond to you and your feelings. And be aware of where you use it — for others will misunderstand what they see.”
Her face had a rather disappointed look on it, as if she had expected something quite phenomenal to be taught to her. However, she gathered the stones carefully and placed them in a small bag that she carried at her waist. “You mentioned this magic of transference,” Elanore said thoughtfully. “But this other kind that you said was rare sounds far more dangerous.”
He put his glove back on while he thought what to say. “Both types of magic are inherently dangerous because they can change the status quo. However, transference generally doesn’t violate the nature of its components, from magic user to its end result. It is less of a burden on its user because one can design collaborating objects that bear some of the burden or amplifies the initial input of magic. Therefore, the risk and cost is far less with this sort of magic. But transformation can vary from simple things — like changing water to ice, which is really a small shift in form and has little danger– to changing a bird to a man which has many.”
The woman stared at the mention of the latter example. “Was it this sort of transformative magic you meant you had witnessed?”
He hesitated for a moment before he admitted it to be so. “Rare and sometimes unpleasant when observed. It is worse for the being undergoing that change. There is physical pain and sometimes an additional cost beyond that.” His voice took on a soft, dark undertone. “Time. Memories. Health. Beauty. Your sanity. It is never something one can predict.”
Elanore wisely did not pry. There was something a bit too raw about the topic, something that caused her instructor pain. Bravely, she reached out to touch his arm, to pull his attention back to the present moment. “Are there people who have both gifts?”
“Yes,” his voice remained hard. “And those who have that combination are far more able to shift themselves as well as warp other objects and inanimate things.”
She shivered. “To turn others into a rat or a bug to smash. The use of it sounds unholy.”
“It is unholy,” he said roughly. “Because their power becomes almost limitless. If you ever encounter such a creature, you are better off casting yourself into the arms of an Unthing. For if the person has been so twisted by power and becomes interested in you– imagine what they might do to you, another magic user.”
Elanore did not like what she heard, but did not quite understand what that punishment might be. “How likely is it that they will come here?”
Wolfram shook his head. “Unlikely. As I said, that type is so rare that there is probably only one or two of those kinds of users in existence every few hundred years or more. Worry about the Unthings for now.”
Miss Redley appeared to be relieved by the assessment. So relieved that she picked up another biscuit and began to eat it.
The Count coughed twice to hide his surprised amusement before redirecting his student’s attention elsewhere. “The light should keep them away. But if you are unable to create the effect needed there are other measures to fall back upon.”
“A barrier of some sort?” She asked in between bites.
He went over to the window and pushed aside a curtain, to allow the both of them some light and a glance outside. Elanore understood the unspoken request to join him. She lightly stepped around the table and stood next to him, occasionally stealing a glance at the handsome profile while he continued to speak.
“Yes, the lions should be of help. They, like the guardian at the bridge, have neither flesh to tear or be hurt and are impervious to the Unthings. They can stamp them out or chase them off. And this estate has its pattern of creeks and stones underneath that should naturally repel the creatures or force their movements in a more predictable fashion, away from the inner circle on the diagram.”
Elanore suddenly realized that the strange passages and caves were part of this pattern that made up the schematic. “You mean this estate.”
“Yes,” he responded. “The study and the caves… largely everything part of the old estate is the inner circle. It should be safe against the monsters of the darkness. When we fall into a time of complete unbroken darkness, this will be the place from where you will work.”
“Do you mean for me to live here?” The young lady could not help but interject, surprised.
“It is the only way to make sure that you are safe and can do what is required. Your grandmother will be cared for here so you do not have to worry.”
Her face spoke of her misgivings. “You do realize how that would appear–”
“No one will notice much at that point,” he frowned. “Miss Redley, the darkness that falls here will be absolute with the exception of the light of the stars in the sky. People will be more afraid of the dark than to care that you have taken up residence here. If you care for them, you must agree to this. It is in their best interest, as well as yours.”
Her protestations continued, however. “With them so spread out– shouldn’t they also shelter here?”
Miss Redley made a very good point, one that had never been accounted for in various plans drawn up by past generations. He thought through her question. “I suppose that depends where the outer periphery of this schematic truly extends to. I believe that they would have done what they could to protect the major road. Much of the elves’ food and crops were raised along the roadway.”
Elanore’s eyes betrayed a great deal of concern. “We must be more certain. My grandmother thinks of the town. And she will find the arrangement very odd.” With a glance away, she gently added. “It is still improper.”
The man inwardly sighed, stepping forward to turn her gaze back towards his. He held her face in a gloved hand, ignoring the heat rising on her face as he did so. “Do you require some other promise, Miss Redley? Something more–” he leaned forward “–to the proposal?”
Miss Redley stepped back, almost tripping over the long curtain. “I will consult with her,” she stuttered as she watched him suspiciously. His presence at times made her feel warm and uneasy. “I should go. My grandmother wanted me to return quickly.”
He did not look offended by her clumsy response to him. Instead, his mouth quirked upwards as he looked out the window. “You do not need to hurry an answer. I will be occupied for a few days with family matters. Study the books to see what you might find of use and keep the stones with you. I will send a summons to you or call when it is time to see your progress.’
“I understand,” she said faintly, wondering perhaps if she had imagined that strange predatory smile on his face as he had touched her.
“And you may wish to speak to the lion. He seems to be bothering your gentleman friend outside.”
Elanore turned her head towards the window slowly, afraid to discover what had caught the Count’s attention.
Edmund stood outside, nervously eyeing the stone creature who had decided to come down its pedestal and circle the man.
She grew rather alarmed. “If you’ll excuse me, that beast was quite rough with Giles. I must tell it to stay away from Edmund!”
“Yes, indeed,” the Count did not seem to share her worry. “That lion should be told to sit still. I shall have business for it shortly. On your way out, you may wish to inform the beast that I will have a commission for it and several of its kind shortly. Please ask for his help in waking at least a few of his brothers. I shall need them… or rather we shall need them shortly.”
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Such a thrill to read a chapter like this and see how an author puts together their own rules for magic.
As ever, I’m left quite eager for more, both learning about magic and antics with stone lions.
This was really one of those chapters I was sort of dreading constructing because I think I’m not a particular fan of blackbox magic and yet didn’t want to have a huge ruleset to carry forward. Glad it seems to have passed your laugh test. As for the lions, yes… expect the next update to deal with them substantially….
A huge set of rules can be a pain, though I have seen authors who take a “Eh, it just does” approach to how a worlds magic works, and that has worked.
Yeah – someone put up a chart recently which I discovered while blog surfing last night: http://io9.com/5866306/ Think its’ funny how a lot stay away from defining magic, but probably for the best…. after all, why put in things which bind you later? 🙂
Favorite chapter so far! I liked the description of magic; it was poetic and yet easy to comprehend. I especially like the Count’s conduct, and even if Elanore ends up with Edmund, I’m still looking forward to her and the Count’s stay together.
I like your writing style. You slip in little words that intrigue me (opine, cognizant, etc), and I like that my vocabulary is growing from reading the story. I’ve been meaning to mention this for a while. Can’t wait for the next chapter!
*grabs the delurker*
Thank you for taking the time to comment here. I’m particularly interested in the latter part of your comment as I know that by channeling more of my Austenian tendencies that the language might become somewhat of an issue for folks, but also am glad to hear that you are taking it as a challenge to be enjoyed rather than running away screaming at me x).
Also glad to find that the description of magic works. I’m still sorting through the other kinds of magic in this world in my head and hope the explanation will work when it does come up. (As such, I hope not to delve into it at all with this particular book. I think I’m going to leave that to the elves whenever they become the predominant focus of my writing.)
As for Elanore — well, nothing is set in stone. In fact, I think the way this book ends will probably shock a lot of people. xD
Hmm… Looking forward to it! =D
Elanore:But how am I-
Count: *nose boop*
My face nearly split from smiling!
Haha. He thinks she’s cute, obviously. He just doesn’t know it.
The lion should be excited about finally having friends to talk to.
So…Have you read Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber? Because in some ways the blue stones remind me of some in his story….in other ways they are completely different, but it still made me wonder.
The lion is already pretty excited with Edmund out there, but he and his friends are going to be really busy from this point forward :D.
I have not heard of Zelazny or any authors who generally aren’t well known in the mass media. To be honest, it comes down to a list of a dozen or less fantasy authors that I”ve read– Tolkien, C.S., Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, McCaffery, Terry Brooks, some random TH White, JK Rowling, and if you count Madeleine L’Engle and her Wrinkle of Time trilogy — more like that. (Oh and then I tried to start the Wheel of Time series by Jordan and the Deverry series by Kerr but didn’t complete either.)
From what I can tell, a lot of authors like the idea of “one stone”, “one ring,” “one talisman.” A lot of games do too… and if this were a game, these stones would probably be the kind that you mine and hoard for later use xD. They’re consumable and exchangeable… which I guess probably violates some fantasy trope out there.
But back to your question which is about this magic system that is being unfolded here. Like Brooks and McCaffery, there is a scientific or methodological process to the “magic” that is described here, or at least with the stones and other items capable of “transference.” The best modern day analogies to these stones and their properties would be to examine some of the laws of physics — magnets and waves 🙂
SOrry for such a convoluted answer… xD I hope it was interesting though!
I loved your explanation of the different types of magic and how they work. Th Count’s certainty that they won’t have to worry about someone with both abilities has me a little worried now, though…
The stone lions are so much fun 🙂 Glad to hear they will be more active in coming chapters!
Yes, it’s like saying the probability of getting struck by lighting is 1 in “xyz” and yet, people get struck quite often xD.
The lions are rather interesting in themselves. I don’t know how much play time they’re going to have after this point, though .We’ll see… they’ve already set their sights on someone possibly quite surprising as a playmate xD (at least in this next installment I’ve started to write).
Loved it. Can’t wait to read more.
🙂 Thanks! Will do and guessing you’re now caught up. Should be posting the next installment tonight… if my brain functions kick in long enough to update xD
Just what it is that makes us love these ambiguous characters, full of dark spots and riddles … actually I would rather fall for the Count than for a comparatively plain man like Edmund, although he has his own share of riddles hidden in his descendancy. But I guess in the end the open and honest ones make the better company 🙂
But I can’t stop my self imagining a scene with the Count telling Edmund: ‘So you thought I have intentions on Elanore? Wrong … I only draw her to me because I know you will follow!’
Now that would be a bit surprising, wouldn’t it? And we still would not know if it is about the peron or the magic, because the earlier encounter with the lion seems to imply that he also might be susceptible to this sort of power … oh well, we will see. I am just half through the existing chapters, and eargerly awaiting the rest!
I think it would have been really cool to go with what you were thinking regarding the Count/Edmund. I think the Count, however, is as much a puppet as the other two– if anything, there are a few unseen hands manipulating the Count, Elanore, and Edmund. (Or you have brief hints of what those entities might be.)
As for Edmund being plain — he’s actually handsome, but his personality seems to be rather vanilla to folks. I think most good guys tend to be thought of as that way, although, honestly I want to see how people react as he continues to change. He was a funny kind guy in the beginning and lately has been evolving into a tired, angry dude xD.
Whoa, not just puppets of ThePuppetmaster, but even of some higher entities within the story? Now I’m getting hooked even more! Although I feel a bit sorry that even the Count is not the start of the food chain … but then, the more we get into his story, the more ‘human’ he feels, including that he might occasionally err in his asumptions. But he is still extremely cool 😉 Looking forward to learning more about his past.
Btw., I found this via a ProjectWonderful add in oglaf.com :)I liked the graphics used and did not realize at first I was jumping to a serial novel, not another comic. But … got me hooked, as you see 😉
xD oglaf.com? Oops. I seem to have a lot of random ads through Project Wonderful. That seems a total mismatch … but glad you clicked through.
As for the Count – yeah, I think as “old” as he is, he’s still kind of young compared to the other unseen figureheads in this world.