“…I am the chosen of Barong. I’m the White Tiger, a force for good, and I guard the balance. When a black magician does something like create a jenglot or unleash a tuyul, it creates an imbalance and I correct it. It would be the same if I tried to use my power for something unnatural, like stave off a normal illness in my relative. I could save them for a time, but a chosen of Rangda, the Demon Queen, would appear and undo what I had done. The balance must be maintained. Right now there is no champion of Rangda in the community. He went to live with his daughter in Orlando, because he is elderly and she is worried about his health. And if there was a new one, he or she would come and talk to me. It would be my business to know about them and their business to know about me.”
“You would talk?” Jim asked.
I nodded. “We would both be guardians of balance. Do you remember that Russian, the one who is the priest of the God of All Evil?”
“Roman?” Jim asked. “Yes. Nice guy.”
I spread my arms. “It’s like that. I could have a nice, civil meal with the chosen of Rangda. Not that we would like each other and some of them do go nuts and become aggressive in her name, but it’s about balance….”
Tag: fantasy magic
There were things that Merlin had taught him. Defenses against dark things. Walls of air. Their like had imprisoned the enchanter in the wood; but in lesser strength they could protect a man—or a woman—beset by ill magic.
…[Roland did not need] to go into the tent for this. He had simply to know what the boundaries were….
True magic was quiet, a thing of the spirit. It had no need for extravagant displays. He spoke the words softly, without drums or trumpets, magic gestures or sleights of the magician’s art. He raised the walls as Merlin had taught him, secured them with bars of light, and bound them with the chains of the earth. He delved deep in his strength for that, but there was enough. He even kept his feet after, bowed to Sarissa without falling over, and walked away.
— Kingdom of the Grail, Chapter 8
The prior of Bec…waved away her honest respect. “I’m a man like any other, lady.”
She arched a brow. “Truly?”
“Truly,” he said.
“There is the matter of…” She flicked her hand. The lamps went out. In the sudden dimness she bade a light grow, shimmering over her fingers, unfolding from them like a strange flower.
He quelled her working with a gesture. That same gesture, completed, restored the lamps to their former condition. “This too is God’s gift,” he said.
“Surely,” she said, “but it’s given to few, and to precious few in such measure as yours.”
“Or yours, lady. You will be stronger than I.”
“But not yet.”
“You are young,” he said, “and while not foolish, perhaps not granted such judgment as will be yours with greater age and maturity.”
She had had enough of dancing around the point. “Yes, I made a mistake. Yes, I know what mistake I made. And what part do you play, Father Prior, in this game of arts and powers?”
“A small one,” he said, “by the grace of God.”
That was disingenuous. She swept it aside. “So. You’re a Guardian of Gaul. Have you come to impose sentence upon me for dereliction of duty?”
“If anyone is to do that, lady” he said, “it should be your father. No; I came to offer such aid as I could….”
He was all alone in the empty land, surrounded by people whose souls he could not sense at all. He was in hell, with no hope of earthly salvation.
He lashed out, still in a fit of panic—even knowing it was folly; knowing he hovered in delusion. Fire surged up out of the earth and poured down from the sky.
In the last instant he flung it away from the crowd, but he had neither the strength nor the speed to unmake it. It plummeted into the midst of the city. Blood-red flames roared to heaven, then sank down into mortal gold and blue and the black of smoke.
The crowd fled in a chorus of screams. The few with their wits about them surged toward the flames. The rest scattered in panic no less mindless than Henry’s, but far less perilous.
Only the monks were left with the king’s body, and Henry with the drawn and empty sensation of too much power expended too quickly….
The Lady of the Lake had a secret. It was nothing mortifying or dangerous, but it might have caused difficulties if certain persons discovered that behind the veils was a maiden younger than Mathilda. Mortals, especially men, needed to see an aged face before they would believe in either power or wisdom.
Her name was Etaine. It was not something she shared with the world, any more than her face or her manifest youth. When she walked abroad from the lake of Avalon, she walked veiled, stately, and mantled in mystery.
Mathilda did not make the mistake of discrediting her wisdom because she had, at the most, fifteen summers on this side of the Otherworld. She remembered who she had been. Her knowledge passed from world to world, life to life, Lady to Lady, back beyond Morgaine and Rhiannon to lives so ancient that even bards had forgotten them.
“…We are no friends to the prince below,” she said, “or any other force for the world’s destruction.”
“You are no more or less dangerous than ignorance ever is.”
“It can be taught,” she said, “and will. I am bound to it….”
“Tomorrow I will teach you how to undo what you have done.”
“That’s not possible.”
Her brow arched. He did not quite see what she did. It had something to do with a gesture of the hand, and some part of it was a slant of the eye and a turn of mind.
The charred branches stirred and cracked. Black scales fell; ash blew away in a sudden swirl of wind. Living branches unfolded, sprouting leaves as bright as the first morning of the world. They glowed in the night. Blossoms budded and bloomed, a cloud of white and palest rose. Their scent enveloped him in sweetness.
William’s mouth hung open. He could barely muster wits to shut it.
“You are meant for more and better than this,” she said, “but whatever you have done, you must know how to undo. It’s a law of our order.”
“You are born to it, and reborn, for ages out of count.”
Mathilda sat where she always sat, among the oldest students, young women who would be passing through the shadow and the fire come the dark of the year. A few would emerge as Ladies [of the Wood] of full power and learning. Many would die in the testing.
Every year at Beltane, one or more of the young women in the acolytes’ house passed through darkness and fire. Then they were Ladies of the Isle; or they were gone.
“You can’t leave me in this condition. What if I blast the king, or one of his courtiers?”
“You won’t,” she said.
“How do you know?”
“Magic costs,” she said. “Go to the kitchens first, before you sleep.”
She had laid a binding on him. A fugitive memory told him what it was. Then the griping in his belly bound him more tightly still.
He was ravenous—starving. He was dizzy with hunger. If the cooks were not awake, he would raid and pillage on his own. Then he would sleep like the dead.
Not the worst battle he had ever fought, on the field or in lordly hall, had taxed his mind and body as this little bit of magic had. Small wonder wizards did not rule the world, if this was what it did to them to try.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to teach me to read? Then you could go off and do whatever you do when you’re not torturing me, and I could see this blasted nonsense laid out on a page. Writing’s like a map, isn’t it? Only it’s words instead of castles and rivers. Give me a map and I can learn this.”
“Writing would catch it on parchment,” she said. Her knuckle rapped his much-abused forehead. “You need it in there. The powers you’ve been facing, and will face, won’t wait for you to run to a library before they crack open your skull and suck out your brains.”
William realized he was gaping. He did a great deal of that when he was with Mathilda. “You are the most indelicate noblewoman I have ever met.”
“This is not a delicate art,” she said….
It was still broad daylight, though the shadows were lengthening. The warmth of early spring was giving way to a creeping chill. Turpin shivered. Roland tossed a new log on the fire, feeding it till it swelled to a respectable blaze. He stayed there on one knee….
…Roland seemed lost in a dream, or in contemplation of something very far away from this royal assembly of the Franks. The fire cast ruddy light on his face and lost itself in his eyes. Such odd eyes, yellow as a hawk’s. Sometimes he did not look human at all.
He raised a hand idly, slipping it in among the flames. They licked his fingers. He stroked them as a woman pets her cat. They purred as a cat purrs, leaping, curling about his hand, arching under his palm.
Turpin set his lips together carefully. Equally carefully, and with an effort, he turned his eyes away. Roland was not as other men were. All the Companions knew it; and none of them said a word. Roland was their brother, their comrade in arms. They would not betray him….
— Kingdom of the Grail, Chapter 1