Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Category: Book Excerpt

Ultimate Sources of Power

August 11, 2022

“To a wizard,” Tenoctris said, “the sun is an ultimate source of power and Malkar is an ultimate source of power. But no one can reach an ultimate source directly. The forces that a wizard works with aren’t pure, any more than the water you drink is pure.”

“You’re saying that Malkar isn’t evil?” Garric said with a frown…. “That you serve Malkar?”

“No,” Tenoctris said, tapping her finger on the wall beside her with sharp emphasis…. “No one serves Malkar. And as for using the forces that stem largely from Malkar, I don’t drink seawater either. There are differences of degree.”

Ilna turned her head to watch the waves dancing in the sunlight. Near shore the water was dark, almost purple, but beyond that and as far as her eye could reach the Inner Sea had a pale green translucence like that of the finest jade. It was much more beautiful than the colorless fluid brought up from a well; but of course no human could drink seawater….

Lord of the Isles, Book I, Chapter 18

Powers Beyond Human Comprehension

August 10, 2022

Tenoctris wasn’t a great wizard in the practical sense. She had a scholar’s mind and a jeweler’s soul; large-scale works were for other folk. She saw and understood the forces which had to be shifted; she simply didn’t have the psychic strength to manipulate them.

And perhaps she saw and understood too well. Tenoctris couldn’t possibly have struck the blow that the Hooded One had delivered; but she realized that actions of that magnitude must have consequences beyond those the wizard intended. Consequences that even Tenoctris couldn’t predict….

The Hooded One refused to give his name, but he’d claimed that the chair he brought to Yole with him was the Throne of Malkar. One who sat on the Throne of Malkar became Malkar, became the essence of the black power that was the equal and opposite of the sun.

Tenoctris knew the Hooded One’s throne was a replica, built according to descriptions given by the great magicians of ancient times who claimed to have seen or even sat in it. The original was rumored to be older than mankind; older even than life….

…Tenoctris knew that the Hooded One’s success was a much greater danger [to Yole] than ever [the enemy’s] flame and swords could be. A wizard who used powers beyond human comprehension could not have the judgment to use those powers safely.

Lord of the Isles, Prologue

Author’s emphasis.

A Period In Which Politics Did Not Exist

August 4, 2022

When we retreat from the early modern age into the Middle Ages the distinction between government, army, and people becomes more tenuous still. The term “feudal” implies this was a period in which politics did not exist (the very concept had yet to be invented, and dates back only as far as the sixteenth century [C.E.]) So closely intertwined were a man’s political power and his personal status that his ability to conclude alliances could well depend on the number of marriageable daughters he had sired. Politics were entangled with military, social, religious, and, above everything else, legal considerations; feudalism before it was anything else comprised a network of mutual rights and obligations. The resulting witches’-brew was utterly different from the one we are familiar with today, so that to use the word politics probably does more harm than good. The medieval context hardly even makes it possible to speak of governments, let alone of states….

The Transformation of War, p. 52

Emphasis mine.

Compelling Deities To Yield Their Boons

August 4, 2022

The means by which the priestly caste in India gained the mastery over the nobles—gradually, perhaps, but surely and securely—was the awe that they managed to inspire in all around them by the chanting, and apparent power, of their Vedic charms. In the earliest period the gods were implored. But when it was reasoned that since the gods could be conjured to man’s will the power of the conjuring rites must be greater than that of the gods, the deities were no longer implored but compelled to yield their boons to the warrior clans; and the magic of the Brahmins, the knowers of the potent spells, became recognized as the mightiest, and most dangerous, in the world.

The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology, p. 189

Why Muskets Supplanted Bows

July 4, 2022

…[The Native American] self bow and the seventeenth-century musket had comparable effective ranges (50 yards optimum, 100 to 150 yards at the outside)….

…For Amerindians, because the bow or the musket had to serve in both war and the hunt, something in the technology had to satisfy the needs of both pursuits…. A musket ball was less likely than an arrow to be deflected by vegetation, and it also had a greater kinetic impact on the target. A deer hit with an arrow receives a very deep wound…, which, though eventually lethal, might require the hunter to pursue the bleeding deer for some distance. In contrast, a musket penetrates flesh, shatters bone, and creates a larger wound cavity. It “smacks,” whereas an arrow “slices….” A military musketball at 50 yards hits a target with 706 foot pounds of kinetic energy. An arrow from a typical modern bow hits at 50 yards with 50 to 80 foot pounds of energy. This is more than enough to penetrate flesh and tissue and produce a killing wound, but it is much less likely to drop an animal in its tracks.

The musket has similar advantages against humans. Much of a human target is limbs, especially when walls or trees are used to cover the trunk of the body. An arrow wound to the leg or arm is rarely lethal, although it can be debilitating. But a musketball strike to the arm or leg may shatter the bone and is more likely to carry debris into the wound, lead to infection, sepsis, and death.… In the immediate term, a man with a shattered leg or arm, flung to the ground by the weight of a musket shot, also makes a better target for being taken prisoner…. Unable to flee, he becomes vulnerable and may hold up his fellows trying to carry him away from the field…. More obviously, bullets cannot be dodged, whereas arrows in flight over any distance (especially on an arcing trajectory) can be seen and dodged. Modern film footage of the Dani people’s arrow and javelin battles in New Guinea shows this process clearly, and numerous European witnesses commented on the Amerindians’ ability to dodge arrows.

Empires and Indigenes, pp. 56-58

Emphases mine.

Players of fantasy RPGs should note the quoted effective range for bows. Many games have much longer distances, but those are derived from battlefields where archers are loosing volleys at large enemy formations. Gamers should further note the easy of dodging an arrow at anything beyond short range.

Strong and Subtle, Restless and Powerful

June 22, 2022

“You need one more thing,” Elric said.

“I can’t fit another thing,” Galen said, turning to face Elric.

Across his open palms, Elric held a staff. Given during the welcoming ceremonies that ended the convocation, a staff or other gift of magic was a teacher’s acknowledgment that his apprentice had become a mage. Elric nodded.

Over four feet long, the staff was a lustrous black, with golden etchings of circuits in finest filigree. It fit perfectly into Galen’s hand, warm and smooth and balanced, as if a new limb had sprouted there.

“Associate,” Elric said.

Galen looked to the chrysalis on his table, found that it was missing a small piece from the end of its “tail.” Elric had incorporated it into the staff, making the staff a part of Galen, an extension of him. The staff was a combination of the advanced tech of the Taratimude, which powered the staff and connected it to him, and the technology currently within the power of the mages, with which various tools had been built into the staff.

Galen closed his eyes and focused on it, visualized the equation for association.

It awoke, echoing his equation. A subtle vibration of energy slipped into him. The vibration was echoed back by the implants, echoed again by the staff. The echoes came faster, growing stronger and sharper, reflecting back and forth like the ringing of a bell in a bell tower, swelling in rapid reverberation. His mind raced. He didn’t know if he could control it. Wild energies could escape. Elric could be injured. Elric could be disappointed. Galen must figure out how to prevent that. Galen must not allow that….

And what was happening to him?

The energy from the chrysalis had combined with the undercurrent from the implants to produce a surge of nervous anticipation, as if he’d been injected with adrenaline. He’d read of this effect—parallelism, they called it—and knew that mages became accustomed to it, over time.

He recited the prime numbers, silently, deliberately. The orderly progression echoed back to him, calming him. The vibration remained, yet its intensity lessened.

The staff was now a part of him, a new limb. A menu of options appeared in his mind’s eye, reflecting the more traditional part of the staff’s technology. He studied the possibilities. It could control, hold, and channel energies. It could observe; it could record. It could destroy itself, if he deemed necessary.

He closed his eyes, carefully visualizing the equation to dissociate. The connection broke, the vibration died. His limb went to sleep.

Yet the undercurrent of energy from the implants felt stronger than ever. Galen realized he had begun to grow accustomed to it. Now that he was attuned to it, he began to realize how truly strong it was, a resonance more intimate and subtle than that with the chrysalis, one that was quickly becoming a part of him. It was restless and powerful, quick to respond. No wonder mages got in so many fights. He must control it, always.

“In time, you will feel more comfortable with the staff,” Elric said.

Galen nodded, holding the smooth, sleeping surface away from his body. “Thank you.”

“You will find it unnecessary under most circumstances. Yet it can be helpful when a sophisticated channeling of energy is needed.”

Casting Shadows, chapter 7

Emphasis mine.

Commercializing Armed Violence

June 2, 2022

Initially, the decay of primary group solidarity within the leading cities of Italy and of the town militias which were its military expression invited chaos. Armed adventurers, often originating from north of the Alps, coalesced under informally elected leaders and proceeded to live by blackmailing local authorities, or, when suitably large payments were not forthcoming, by plundering the countryside. Such “free companies” of soldiers became more formidable as the fourteenth century [C.E.] advanced. In 1354, the largest of these bands, numbering as many as 10,000 armed men, accompanied by about twice as many camp followers, wended its way across the most fertile parts of central Italy, making a living by sale and resale of whatever plunder the soldiers did not consume directly on the spot. Such a traveling company was, in effect, a migratory city, for cities, too, lived by extracting resources from the countryside through a combination of force or threat of force (rents and taxes) on the one hand and more or less free contractual exchanges (artisan goods for food and raw materials) on the other.

The spectacle of a wealthy countryside ravaged by wandering bands of plundering armed men was as old as organized warfare itself. What was new in this situation was the fact that enough money circulated in the richer Italian towns to make it possible for citizens to tax themselves and use the proceeds to buy the services of armed strangers. Then, simply by spending their pay, the hired soldiers put tax monies back in circulation. Thereby, they intensified the market exchanges that allowed such towns to commercialize armed violence in the first place. The emergent system thus tended to become self-sustaining. The only problem was to invent mutually acceptable contractual forms and practical means for enforcing contract terms.

From a taxpayer’s point of view, the desirability of substituting the certainty of taxes for the uncertainty of plunder depended on what one had to lose and how frequently plundering bands were likely to appear. In the course of the fourteenth century, enough citizens concluded that taxes were preferable to being plundered to make the commercialization of organized violence feasible in the richer and better-governed cities of northern Italy. Professionalized fighting men had precisely parallel motives for preferring a fixed rate of pay to the risks of living wholly on plunder. Moreover, as military contracts (Italian condotta, hence condottiere, contractor) developed, rules were introduced specifying the circumstances under which plundering was permissible. Thus, in becoming salaried, soldiering did not entirely lose its speculative economic dimension.

The Pursuit of Power, pp. 73-74

Emphasis mine.

The Greeks Were the Vikings of the Bronze Age

May 17, 2022

The Greeks were the Vikings of the Bronze Age. They built some of history’s first warships. Whether on large expeditions or smaller sorties, whether in the king’s call-up or on freebooting forays, whether as formal soldiers and sailors or as traders who turned into raiders at a moment’s notice, whether as mercenaries, ambassadors, or hereditary guest-friends, the Greeks fanned out across the Aegean and into the eastern and central Mediterranean, with one hand on the rudder and the other on the hilt of a sword. What the sight of a dragon’s head on the stem post of a Viking ship was to an Anglo-Saxon, the sight of a bird’s beak on the stem post of a Greek galley was to a Mediterranean islander or Anatolian mainlander. In the 1400s [B.C.E.], the Greeks conquered Crete, the southwestern Aegean islands, and the city of Miletus on the Aegean coast of Anatolia, before driving eastward into Lycia and across the sea to Cyprus. In the 1300s they stirred up rebels against the Hittite overlords of western Anatolia. In the 1200s they began muscling their way into the islands of the northeastern Aegean, which presented a big threat to Troy….

The Trojan War, pp. 2-3

Emphasis mine.

Terrifying Initiation Ordeals

May 17, 2022

…But Zarathustra escaped from prison and also from attempts to murder him. He lived to fight many battles against the forces of evil, battles where he pitched his magic powers against the powers of evil sorcerers. Later he became the archetype of the wizard, with a tall hat, cloak of stars and an eagle on his shoulder. Zarathustra was a dangerous, somewhat disconcerting figure, prepared to fight fire with fire.

He led his followers to secluded grottoes, hidden in the forests. There in underground caverns he initiated them. He wanted to provide them with the supernatural powers needed to fight the good fight….

Zarathustra prepared his followers to face Ahriman’s demons, or Asuras, by terrifying initiation ordeals. He who fears death, he said, is already dead.

It was recorded by Menippus, the Greek philosopher of the third century [B.C.E.], who had been initiated by the Mithraic successors of Zarathustra, that, after a period of fasting, mortification and mental exercises performed in solitude, the candidate would be forced to swim across water, then pass through fire and ice. He would be cast into a snake pit, and cut across the chest by a sword, so that blood would flow.

By experiencing the outer limits of fear, the initiate was prepared for the worst that could happen, both in life and after death.

The Secret History of the World, Chapter 10

Author’s emphases are in italic. Mine are in bold.

Intermediate World of Spirits

May 15, 2022

Neither angels nor devils, jinn can move in both directions, as is clear from the romance of Sayf al-Kulut and Badiat: they can surpass the devil’s works in wickedness and also act vigorously on behalf of the supreme God and goodness. In the sura called ‘The Jinn’ in the Koran, the jinn tell us, ‘That among us there are the righteous, and there are the less so—of diverse persuasions are we’….

In a plot, the supreme being can act as a narrative force embodied in providence, but there are limits to the spectrum of his behaviour. Even the furious God of the Old Testament does not possess the degree of idiosyncrasy and vitality that less strictly perfect beings, intrinsically various and unruly, can add to a story. It is not simply a question of the devil having the best tunes, but a reflection of the inherent demand that this kind of fairytale storytelling makes: for surprise, for wonder, for astonishment. The Greek myths could imagine gods and goddesses behaving badly and the stories correspondingly fizz with inventive plots: with the fairytale and the tales from [A Thousand And One] Nights this variety and spice, so necessary to a good story, moves out of the ranks of the divine into the intermediate world of spirits.

Stranger Magic, p. 48

The American Spiritual Temper Is Unconsciously Calvinist

May 13, 2022

[The] American spiritual temper is…uniquely oriented toward the will. Our soil produces more magicians than mystics. We inherited part of this strong will impulse from a source that most of us now find repellant: the Calvinist religion of the early settlers. According to Calvinism, God likes some people better than others and expresses his approval through earthly gifts. Health, wealth, and happiness are proof of God’s favor. Poverty and suffering are telltale signs of sin. Whether people will be favored or rejected by God is already decided before they are born. Some are predestined to be saved, and some are earmarked for damnation.

Contrary to what you might expect, this peculiar doctrine didn’t plunge its believers into despair or stop them from making an effort. On the contrary, it spurred them on. By working hard, amassing wealth, and keeping their lives in good order, they could prove to themselves and others that they were among the elect. This was the source of the Protestant work ethic.

Nowadays, you don’t find many card-carrying Calvinists. I’ve never met one personally. But I have known many who pursue yoga or Buddhism or even paganism in a Calvinist way. The Calvinist impulse has broken free of its Protestant origins and entered the collective unconscious of Americans. When I spell out its doctrine explicitly, you probably think it’s the dumbest spiritual teaching you ever heard. Yet, at some level, you are almost sure to be influenced by it. Rare is the American who isn’t.

You might say that you don’t believe in predestination, but if you are fond of the phrase “meant to be,” you’re leaning in that direction. If you think that an unhappy marriage, poor health, or money troubles are a sign that you’re on the wrong spiritual track, or that spirituality will fix it, you are making a Calvinist assumption.

In medieval Europe, people looked to the impoverished and emaciated for spiritual teachings. Austerity was the mark of a saint. In America, the prerequisite for any spiritual teacher is a life that works. We don’t turn for guidance to someone who can’t pay their electric bill. Consciously or unconsciously, we assume that the spiritually accomplished lead healthy, prosperous, and well-ordered lives….

On Becoming an Alchemist, pp. 149-50

The Cost To Be a Knight

May 13, 2022

Fighting as a knight involved expense that became greater over time. In the twelfth century [C.E.] the knight’s basic equipment (horse, helmet, hauberk, and sword) required the annual revenue of 150 hectares. Three centuries later it cost the yearly income of 500 hectares. The horses alone of Gerard de Moor, Lord of Wessegem, amounted in 1297 to 1,200 livres tournois….

Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels, p. 177

Odic Shields and Shrouds of Concealment

May 9, 2022

In magical theory and practice, [an odic shield is] a field of etheric energy established around the outer edge of the human aura to protect the user from hostile magic or assaults of spirits. Several different methods have been used to establish and maintain an odic shield. The shroud of concealment, which is used in rituals of invisibility, is a closely related phenomenon….

In Golden Dawn magic, [the Shroud of Concealment is] a shell of etheric substance built up around the magician by intensive ritual work that prevents other people from perceiving the magician. The creation of the Shroud of Concealment is fundamental to the Golden Dawn method of magical invisibility….

The New Encyclopedia of the Occult

A Weapon Against the Dark But Also a Beacon That Summons It

May 5, 2022

“You see,” [Ravenor] remarked, “why I prefer to use my mind with restraint. Here in Queen Mab…indeed everywhere…any manipulation of the warp causes ripples. The more you use such powers, the greater the force of them, then the greater the reaction. I am a weapon against the dark, Beta, but I am also a beacon that summons it. We must keep ourselves guarded and hidden….”

Penitent, Chapter 19

‘Woke Up’ Has Always Been an Anthropomorphism

May 4, 2022

Harb stared at [Dr. McCoy]. “Moira?? You’ve got my Games machine hacking into strange computers and stealing data??”

“Harb, Harb! ‘Borrowing.’ ”

“But you cannot do that, Doctor,” Spock said, looking rather distressed. “I am not speaking in the ethical mode, but in terms of possibility. The Games computer does not have outside access, does not have any of the access or authorization codes you need, does not have—”

“Spock,” McCoy said, “there’s one thing this computer definitely does have. A personality. And you know who put it there.”

Sarek looked at Spock, very surprised. “I did not know you were doing recreational programming, my son.”

Harb looked from Spock to Sarek. “I asked him to, sir. It’s easier for me to work with a machine that has some flexibility in its programming ability. The ‘personality’ overlays have that: they’re effectively self-programming. I had a personality program in here before that was a great joy to work with—the For Argument’s Sake personality generator—but it was a little limited. So I asked Spock if in his spare time, he would add some memory to it, and increase the number of associational connections.”

Sarek looked at Spock. “You surpassed the critical number, did you not? And the machine—”

“‘Woke up’ has always been an anthropomorphism,” Spock said, a little defensively, “and at any rate there is no evidence that—”

“The point is that a computer that’s had that done to it acts alive,” Jim said, “and some of them have created problems. That way lies M5, for example.”

“I would never do any such thing,” Moira’s voice said reproachfully, “and you know it. My ethical parameters are very stringent.”

“Not stringent enough to keep you from calling a system that should be locked up tighter than the Bank of Switzerland,” Jim said, “prying it open, and yanking out reams of confidential material that—”

“It was the right thing to do,” Moira said. “Dr. McCoy explained the situation to me. And he is my superior officer, Captain, after Mr. Tanzer. Programming requires me to obey a commanding officer’s orders. So I asked the bridge computers to handle the downlink, and as for the satchel codes, they appear in various altered forms in my own programming, because it was Spock who designed them—”

“From my algorithms,” Sarek said, very quietly, paging through the printout.

“Yes, well, Father, they were the best and most complex available—” Spock looked nonplussed….

Spock’s World, Chapter 7

The Air of the Town Makes You Free

May 2, 2022

Into [European feudalism’s] backward-looking, ritualistic, rigidly structured life, the growing economic forces at work in the new towns brought stress. As the trade in surplus goods increased, merchants found that the raw materials they needed were controlled by feudal lords who neither understood nor cared about commerce. Transportation of goods through their lands was both dangerous and costly. Alternative sites for commerce had to be found and the towns seemed to offer the best alternative.

Free from the feudal bonds of the countryside, the urban dweller was envied by his peasant counterpart. ‘Stadtluft machtfrei’ (the air of the town makes you free), they said in eleventh-century Germany, because after a statutory period of residence there a serf would automatically become a freedman. Soon enough the townspeople, with their economic strength and their craftsmen supported by the general surplus, began to demand from kings and emperors those statutes which would reinforce their freedom in law. Merchants who had no place in the feudal pyramid of serf, knight, priest and king now had the money to buy social status.

As the aristocrats began to commute their serfs’ dues from service to cash, money began to weaken the old social structure. Ambition began to express itself in outward show. ‘It is too easy to change your station now’ complained the Italian, Thomasin of Zirclaria. ‘Nobody keeps his place!’ The word ‘ambition’ took on common usage for the first time.

The Day the Universe Changed, p. 31

Emphasis mine.

No Rules In Mortal Combat

April 29, 2022

They would fight not only without quarter but also without rules. In mortal combat, unlike a friendly tournament, nothing prevented a man from stabbing his opponent in the back or through the eye-slits of his helmet, or blinding him with sand, or tripping him, or kicking him, or jumping on him if he should slip and fall. In a duel fought in Flanders in 1127 the two exhausted combatants finally threw down their weapons and fell to wrestling on the ground and punching each other with their iron gauntlets, until one reached under the other’s armor and tore away his testicles, killing him on the spot. Chivalry might have been alive and well in jousts of sport, and even in the preliminary ceremonies of the judicial duel, but once the actual combat began, chivalry was dead.

The Last Duel, Chapter 9

To Test Your Powers Or Prove Their Own

April 28, 2022

Elric turned his stern gaze on [his apprentice].

“As a group we seek wisdom. As individuals we can be eccentric, peevish, perverse, opinionated—apt to take offense upon small occasions. Act with restraint. Be courteous. We get along best at great distances from one another.”

“Every convocation has its confrontations, its challenges. You’ve been sheltered in the past. Once you’re initiated as a full mage, you won’t be under my protection any longer. Others may challenge you, to test your powers or prove their own. Do not rise to the fool’s challenge to be a fool yourself….”

Casting Shadows, Chapter 1

Battle-Hardened But Still a Squire

April 25, 2022

Jean [de Carrouges]…held the rank of squire. Rather than the “gallant youth” this term often brings to mind, he was a battle-hardened veteran already in his forties, one of those “mature men of a rather heavy type—knights in all but name.

By 1380 [C.E.], Jean…commanded his own troop of squires, numbering from four to as many as nine, in the campaigns to rid Normandy of the English. In war he sought to burnish his name and enrich himself by seizing booty and capturing prisoners to hold for ransom, a lucrative business in the fourteenth century. He may also have sought a knighthood, which would have doubled his pay on campaign…. [A] knight’s daily pay on campaign was one livre, while a squire received half that.

The Last Duel, Chapter 1

Emphases mine.

A squire would not be knighted if he could not afford to maintain that higher station. Thus the drive for booty and ransom.

The Wand Is a Symbol of the Will

April 18, 2022

Far and away the most common magical instrument in legend, as well as in actual magical practice, the magical wand was originally one of many devices in the toolkit of the ancient and medieval ceremonial magician. In the Key of Solomon, the most famous of the medieval grimoires, it is one of more than a dozen tools carried by the magus and his five disciples, although its importance is marked by the fact that the magus himself, and not one of the disciples, must carry it…. Many other grimoires give it a lesser place, or omit it altogether.

The writings of French magician Eliphas Levi, who kickstarted the nineteenth-century [C.E.] magical revival, paid much attention to the wand as a symbol of the will, and it was Levi who assigned the wand to the element of fire, still its most common attribution….

The New Encyclopedia of the Occult