Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Tag: fiction

One Sharp Knife

May 8, 2022
Joe:
One sharp knife can feed you, clothe you, keep you warm and dry.

— “Band of the Hand” (1986)

Why There Is No Justice in The World

May 7, 2022
Chandler Jarrell:
What’s this knife?
Kala:
The Crossed Dagger of Ajanti. They brought it to this world to kill the second Golden Child, the bearer of Justice. His death was a great loss.

— “The Golden Child” (1986)

To Feed and Protect Our Families

May 7, 2022
Don Raphael Aiuppo:
The world that I found had no room for me, so I had to create my own. Me and men like me. We spilt blood to do that. To do something important, which was to feed and protect our families. Today, our grandchildren remember only how to spill blood. They don’t even know why!

— “Squeeze” – Wiseguy, Season 1

Never Run From Anything Immortal

May 7, 2022
Unicorn:
Don’t look back, and don’t run. You must never run from anything immortal; it attracts their attention.

— “The Last Unicorn” (1982)

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

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

Making a Magical Sword

March 24, 2022

Near the Castle of Erl there lived a lonely witch, on high land near the thunder, which used to roll in Summer along the hills. There she dwelt by herself in a narrow cottage of thatch and roamed the high fields alone to gather the thunderbolts. Of these thunderbolts, that had no earthly forging, were made, with suitable runes, such weapons as had to parry unearthly dangers.

And alone would roam this witch at certain tides of Spring, taking the form of a young girl in her beauty, singing among tall flowers in gardens of Erl. She would go at the hour when hawk-moths first pass from bell to bell. And of those few that had seen her was this son of the Lord of Erl. And though it was calamity to love her, though it rapt men’s thoughts away from all things true, yet the beauty of the form that was not hers had lured him to gaze at her with deep young eyes, till—whether flattery or pity moved her, who knows that is mortal?—she spared him whom her arts might well have destroyed and, changing instantly in that garden there, showed him the rightful form of a deadly witch. And even then his eyes did not at once forsake her, and in the moments that his glance still lingered upon that withered shape that haunted the hollyhocks he had her gratitude that may not be bought, nor won by any charms that Christians know. And she had beckoned to him and he had followed, and learned from her on her thunder-haunted hill that on the day of need a sword might be made of metals not sprung from Earth, with runes along it that would waft away, certainly any thrust of earthly sword, and except for three master-runes could thwart the weapons of Elfland….

It was scarcely dark in the valley when he left the Castle of Erl, and went so swiftly up the witch’s hill that a dim light lingered yet on its highest heaths when he came near the cottage of the one that he sought, and found her burning bones at a fire in the open. To her he said that the day of his need was come. And she bade him gather thunderbolts in her garden, in the soft earth under her cabbages.

And there with eyes that saw every minute more dimly, and fingers that grew accustomed to the thunderbolts’ curious surfaces, he found before darkness came down on him seventeen: and these he heaped into a silken kerchief and carried back to the witch.

On the grass beside her he laid those strangers to Earth. From wonderful spaces they came to her magical garden, shaken by thunder from paths that we cannot tread; and though not in themselves containing magic were well adapted to carry what magic her runes could give. She laid the thigh-bone of a materialist down, and turned to those stormy wanderers. She arranged them in one straight row by the side of her fire. And over them then she toppled the burning logs and the embers, prodding them down with the ebon stick that is the sceptre of witches, until she had deeply covered those seventeen cousins of Earth that had visited us from their etherial home. She stepped back then from her fire and stretched out her hands, and suddenly blasted it with a frightful rune. The flames leaped up in amazement. And what had been but a lonely fire in the night, with no more mystery than pertains to all such fires, flared suddenly into a thing that wanderers feared.

As the green flames, stung by her runes, leaped up, and the heat of the fire grew intenser, she stepped backwards further and further, and merely uttered her runes a little louder the further she got from the fire. She bade Alveric pile on logs, dark logs of oak that lay there cumbering the heath; and at once, as he dropped them on, the heat licked them up; and the witch went on pronouncing her louder runes, and the flames danced wild and green; and down in the embers the seventeen, whose paths had once crossed Earth’s when they wandered free, knew heat again as great as they had known, even on that desperate ride that had brought them here. And when Alveric could no longer come near the fire, and the witch was some yards from it shouting her runes, the magical flames burned all the ashes away and that portent that flared on the hill as suddenly ceased, leaving only a circle that sullenly glowed on the ground, like the evil pool that glares where thermite has burst. And flat in the glow, all liquid still, lay the sword.

The witch approached it and pared its edges with a sword that she drew from her thigh. Then she sat down beside it on the earth and sang to it while it cooled. Not like the runes that enraged the flames was the song she sang to the sword: she whose curses had blasted the fire till it shrivelled big logs of oak crooned now a melody like a wind in summer blowing from wild wood gardens that no man tended, down valleys loved once by children, now lost to them but for dreams, a song of such memories as lurk and hide along the edges of oblivion, now flashing from beautiful years of glimpse of some golden moment, now passing swiftly out of remembrance again, to go back to the shades of oblivion, and leaving on the mind those faintest traces of little shining feet which when dimly perceived by us are called regrets. She sang of old Summer noons in the time of harebells: she sang on that high dark heath a song that seemed so full of mornings and evenings preserved with all their dews by her magical craft from days that had else been lost, that Alveric wondered of each small wandering wing, that her fire had lured from the dusk, if this were the ghost of some day lost to man, called up by the force of her song from times that were fairer. And all the while the unearthly metal grew harder. The white liquid stiffened and turned red. The glow of the red dwindled. And as it cooled it narrowed: little particles came together, little crevices closed: and as they closed they seized the air about them, and with the air they caught the witch’s rune, and gripped it and held it forever. And so it was it became a magical sword. And little magic there is in English woods, from the time of anemones to the falling of leaves, that was not in the sword. And little magic there is in southern downs, that only sheep roam over and quiet shepherds, that the sword had not too. And there was scent of thyme in it and sight of lilac, and the chorus of birds that sings before dawn in April, and the deep proud splendour of rhododendrons, and the litheness and laughter of streams, and miles and miles of may. And by the time the sword was black it was all enchanted with magic….

And now the witch drew the black blade forth by the hilt, which was thick and on one side rounded, for she had cut a small groove in the soil below the hilt for this purpose, and began to sharpen both sides of the sword by rubbing them with a curious greenish stone, still singing over the sword an eerie song.

Alveric watched her in silence, wondering, not counting time; it may have been for moments, it may have been while the stars went far on their courses. Suddenly she was finished. She stood up with the sword lying on both her hands. She stretched it out curtly to Alveric; he took it, she turned away; and there was a look in her eyes as though she would have kept that sword, or kept Alveric. He turned to pour out his thanks, but she was gone.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter, Chapter 1

This novel is available as a HTML E-book via Project Gutenberg.

Prayer for Forgiveness

March 20, 2022
Ahmed ibn Fahdlan:
For all we ought to have thought, and have not thought;
For all we ought to have said, and have not said;
For all we ought to have done, and have not done;
I pray thee, God, for forgiveness.

— “The 13th Warrior” (1999)

Then You’ve Learned Nothing

March 20, 2022
Jenner:
I’ve learned this much: take what you can, when you can!
Justin:
Then you’ve learned nothing!

— “The Secret of NIMH” (1982)

Cowardice, Sloth, and Mendacity

February 2, 2022
Thetis:
What a dangerous precedent! What if one day there were other heroes like him?
Hera:
What if courage and imagination were to become everyday mortal qualities? What would become of us?
Zeus:
We would no longer be needed. But for the moment there is sufficient cowardice, sloth, and mendacity down there on Earth to last forever.

— “Clash of the Titans” (1981)

Unarmed Combat in Full Armor

January 28, 2022

…In fact, if there was one thing I thought they needed, it was more drill in full gear. A [modern] soldier in the field would probably be wearing body armor that weighed about twenty-five pounds. Plus a field pack and other equipment that could mean he’d be carrying sixty pounds. Throw in gloves and goggles, elbow and knee pads, and what you got was someone who had to move in completely different ways. Balance would be a problem. Nobody was going to do much kicking—it’s hard enough to carry that weight on two legs, never mind one.

I was reminded of one of the more obscure kata in judo—kojiki no kata. The moves are odd and stilted, very different from the other forms that judoka practice. But that’s because that particular kata rehearses movements that would be made in full armor. It’s a holdover from the days when the samurai in armor still stalked the battlefields, and a recognition that the mechanics of fighting can change technique considerably.

John Donohue, Tengu, Chapter 9

Unseen But Nonetheless Real

January 25, 2022

It may be that all this training is paying off. I went home that night uneasy: I felt some sort of psychic barometric shift taking place. It was not a good thing. The Japanese describe seme as the type of pressure and intimidation a master swordsman can force on a lesser opponent, without seeming to do anything. It’s unseen but nonetheless real. I had that sense of something pushing against me, probing my weaknesses.

Sensei, chapter 10

Don’t Look For Your Opponent

January 12, 2022
Stick:
Don’t look for your opponent. Know where he is. I’m blind, and I see more than any of you. Because I don’t look.

— “Elektra” (2005)

Use Your Weakness

January 12, 2022
Max Suba:
Make yourself aware of your own weaknesses, as well as those of your opponents. The good ones try to cover theirs up. The great ones use theirs. Use your weakness.

— “By The Sword” (1991)

Being Willing

January 12, 2022
J.B. Books:
It isn’t always being fast or even accurate that counts. It’s being willing. I found out early that most men, regardless of cause or need, aren’t willing. They blink an eye or draw a breath before they pull the trigger. I won’t.

— “The Shootist” (1976)

Fire Is a Living Thing

November 15, 2021
Rimgale:
In a word, Brian, what is this job all about?
Brian McCaffrey:
Fire.
Rimgale:
It’s a living thing, Brian. It breathes, it eats, and it hates. The only way to beat it is to think like it. To know that this flame will spread this way across the door and up across the ceiling, not because of the physics of flammable liquids, but because it wants to. Some guys on this job, the fire owns them, makes ’em fight it on it’s level, but the only way to truly kill it is to love it a little….

— “Backdraft” (1991)

Sandmagic

November 9, 2021

Word spread through the tribes of the Abadapnur that a would-be sandmage was loose in the desert, and all were ready to kill him if he came. But he did not come.

For he knew now how to serve the desert, and how to make the desert serve him. For the desert loved death, and hated grasses and trees and water and the things of life.

So in service of the sand Cer went to the edge of the land of the Nefyrre, east of the desert. There he fouled wells with the bodies of diseased animals. He burned fields when the wind was blowing off the desert, a dry wind that pushed the flames into the cities. He cut down trees. He killed sheep and cattle. And when the Nefyrre patrols chased him he fled onto the desert where they could not follow.

His destruction was annoying, and impoverished many a farmer, but alone it would have done little to hurt the Nefyrre. Except that Cer felt his power over the desert growing. For he was feeding the desert the only thing it hungered for: death and dryness.

He began to speak to the sand again, not kindly, but of land to the east that the sand could cover. And the wind followed his words, whipping the sand, moving the dunes. Where he stood the wind did not touch him, but all around him the dunes moved like waves of the sea.

Moving eastward.

Moving onto the lands of the Nefyrre.

And now the hungry desert could do in a night a hundred times more than Cer could do alone with a torch or a knife. It ate olive groves in an hour. The sand borne on the wind filled houses in a night, buried cities in a week, and in only three months had driven the Nefyrre across the Greebeck and the Nefyr River, where they thought the terrible sandstorms could not follow.

But the storms followed. Cer taught the desert almost to fill the river, so that the water spread out a foot deep and miles wide, flooding some lands that had been dry, but also leaving more water surface for the sun to drink from; and before the river reached the sea it was dry, and the desert swept across into the heart of Nefyryd.

The Nefyrre had always fought with the force of arms, and cruelty was their companion in war. But against the desert they were helpless. They could not fight the sand. If Cer could have known it, he would have gloried in the fact that, untaught, he was the most powerful sandmage who had ever lived. For hate was a greater teacher than any of the books of dark lore, and Cer lived on hate.

And on hate alone, for now he ate and drank nothing, sustaining his body through the power of the wind and the heat of the sun. He was utterly dry, and the blood no longer coursed through his veins. He lived on the energy of the storms he unleashed. And the desert eagerly fed him, because he was feeding the desert.

Orson Scott Card, Sandmagic

Emphasis mine.

Weapons Are Not Everything

November 5, 2021

The Vulcans’ trading ships were still unarmed, but they did not stay so for long. The chief psi-talents of the planet, great architects and builders, and technicians who had long mastered the subleties of the undermind, went out in the ships and taught the Duthuliv pirates that weapons weren’t everything. Metal came unraveled in ships’ hulls; pilots calmly locked their ships into suicidal courses, unheeding of the screams of the crews….

Spock’s World, Chapter 6

Always a Toll in the Underworld

November 5, 2021

I entered the underworld, and did so with unease.

I had read books, perhaps too many, and could easily recount the many myths of travellers who ventured into underworld realms. It was said even Orphaeus himself, whose name ran through the very fabric of the world, had made a pilgrimage into darkness. Such journeys were fraught. In not one single myth did the traveller undertake a crossing without paying a toll or making some sacrifice. There was always a price for admission, and another price for exit.

Penitent, Chapter 8