Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘magic’


Fire Is a Living Thing

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

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.

A Locus of Strange Energy

For the Japanese, all things have a spiritual essence. And the power and beauty of swords make them a locus of strange energy. Folktales tell of swords that hum to warn their masters of danger, that leap of their own accord to battle. Of swords that can make a warrior great or that can drive the bearer mad.

John Donohue, Tengu, Chapter 7

Blinkblades

He swung his fist at my head.

It seemed the wild thrash of a desperate man, but it was not impulsive. I had fought, and been schooled in fighting, enough to read the blow, and the fact that it was not telegraphed. There was no micro expression of warning, of prior tension or bracing. It just came, expert and fluid. Just as fast, I dipped down to avoid it. But even as I did so, I was puzzled, for it was not a blow that anyone would strike with the hand, especially not a man who was clearly proficient. The move was more a sword-stroke, aimed at the side of my neck. Why strike so, with a fist?

All this I relate now in a hundred, perhaps a thousand, times the instant it took for the blow to come. It was fast, and I barely avoided it.

And in avoiding it, I found my answer.

A sword’s blade missed my head and buried itself in the side of the old clavier. It buried itself deep. The impact shook the instrument, and knocked over the glasses of amasec standing along its top.

There had not been a sword in his hand a half-second before. There had not been a place for him to conceal a sword. It had just appeared in his grip….

…His sword, which had come from nowhere as if by magic, was a blinkblade. I had never seen one, but I had read of them…. They were blades held in scabbards of what I now know is called extimate space. Bidden by their masters, they appear in corporeal reality, conjured from pocket-space….

Dan Abnett, Penitent, Chapter 16

Dreamers, Shapers, Singers, and Makers

Elric:
…We are dreamers, shapers, singers, and makers. We study the mysteries of laser and circuit; crystal and scanner; holographic demons and invocation of equations. These are the tools we employ, and we know many things.
John Sheridan:
Such as?
Elric:
The true secrets. The important things. Fourteen words to make someone fall in love with you forever. Seven words to make them go without pain. How to say good-bye to a friend who is dying. How to be poor. How to be rich. How to rediscover dreams when the world has stolen them from you….

— “The Geometry of Shadows” – Babylon 5, Season 2

The Sorcerer as Terrorist

…A sorcerer uses their arts and powers to live off peoples’ fear of them. In myths and folktales, from sources as widely spread apart as Russia’s koldun and the mangkukulam from my own country, the sorcerer or witch is depicted as making demands backed up by threats of curses, essentially blackmailing the community. In other words, terrorism….

The Sorcerer as Terrorist – Hari Ragat Games

Thank the gods for the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, else I could not have linked to the source blogpost.

Magic Is the Opposite of Banality

…[Magic] is the opposite of banality—try to use magic for banal ends and it will simply refuse to cooperate. If you want to illuminate for the next thousand years the hidden tomb of a dwarf lord buried with an artifact of great power, Continual Light is your friend! If you would instead like to spend your time lighting up street corners in the muggle village of your choice, the spell itself will tell you to go fuck yourself….

Let’s talk about Continual Light – RPGnet Forums

The Weapon That Could Not Miss

T’Thelaih woke up cold and alone. “Mahak?” she said, confused, and sat up on the couch, looking around for him. There was something wrong at the other end of their bond: he was upset—then she froze.

Sitting at the end of the couch was the Lady Suvin. She looked at T’Thelaih, and the look was cold and terribly pleased. “You are a foolish child,” Suvin said, “but it does not matter. I have what I want of you.”

“Madam,” T’Thelaih said, holding on to her manners, “what do you mean?”

“The child,” said Suvin. “This will be your home now: you need fear no interference from your own house, poor thing though it be. I much regret that Mahak may not join you again until your confinement is done. But you will be given every care … so long as you take proper care of the child.”

T’Thelaih felt her head beginning to pound. “What good can our child do you?” she said.

Suvin leaned closer, looking even more pleased. “Fool. You have the killing gift. Imperfect, at best: you did not kill my grandson, for some reason. I suspect it is the usual problem, that one must feel her life to somehow be threatened. But did you not know? His great-grandmother had it as well. When two with the gift in their blood, so close in degree, engender a child, it will have the gift as well.”

TThelaih shook her head, numbed. “A weapon,” she said at last.

“Such a weapon as none will be able to defend against,” said Suvin. “Trained with the Last Thought technique, raised under my hand, obedient to me—those who resist me will simply die, and no one will know the cause. How much simpler life will become. I have much to thank you for.”

She saw T’Thelaih’s glance at the table. “Forget your little bodkin,” she said. “You’ll not lay hands on yourself: if you try, Mahak will suffer for it. I shall see to that. Resign yourself to your confinement. It need not be uncomfortable.”

“Bring me my husband,” T’Thelaih said. “Now.”

Suvin’s eyes glittered. “Do not presume to order me, my girl. You are too valuable to kill out of hand, but there are ways to punish you that will not harm the child.”

The pounding was getting worse. “My husband,” T’Thelaih said.

“Folly,” said Suvin, and got up to go. “I will talk to you when you are in your right mind.”

And from the courtyard below came the sound of swords, and the scream.

“T’Thelaih!!”

And nothing else…except, in T’Thelaih’s mind, the feeling of the bond, the connection, as it snapped, and the other end went empty and cold.

“My husband,” she said. Suvin turned in shock, realizing what had happened. An unfortunate accident—

She realized too late.

T’Thelaih was getting up from the bed. The pounding in her head she had felt before, at her first binding, and remotely, in the heat of plak tow, at the second. Now she knew it for what it was, and she encouraged it. Yes. Oh, my husband, yes

“Old woman,” she said to Suvin, getting out of the bed and advancing slowly on her, “beg me for your life.” Suvin backed up, slowly, a step at a time, coming against the wall by the door. “Beg me,” T’Thelaih said, stepping slowly closer. “Bow yourself double, old lematya, let me see the back of your neck.” Her teeth gleamed. Suvin trembled, and slowly, slowly, began to bow.

She didn’t finish the gesture: she came up with the knife, poised, threw it. T’Thelaih sidestepped it neatly and replied with the weapon that could not miss: slid into the hateful mind, cold as stone, reached down all its pathways and set them on fire, reached down through every nerve and ran agony down it, reached down into the laboring heart and squeezed it until it burst itself, reached down into the throat and froze it so there should not even be the relief of a scream. From Suvin she turned, and her mind rode her gift down into the courtyard, and wrought death there, death—left minds screaming as a weight of rage like the whole universe collapsed onto them, in burning heat, pain, blood, the end of everything. Her mind fled through the house, finding life, ending it, without thought, everywhere.

Finally the rage left her, and she picked up the little knife that Suvin had taken, thought about it … then changed her mind. “No,” she said aloud, very softly: “no, he is down there.”

She went to the window. “Child,” she said, “I am sorry.”

The fall was too swift for there to be time to start an argument, even with a ghost.

Diane Duane, Spock’s World, pp. 176-78

Guarding the Balance

“…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….”

Ilona Andrews, Magic Steals

Walls of Air, Bars of Light

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.

Judith Tarr, Kingdom of the Grail, Chapter 8

Lower-Order Spirits and the Ancestral Dead

In the underworld dwelt the spirits of the dead, who could affect the living, along with a range of other devils, potentially troublesome. Gods were treated respectfully at all times, but lower-order spirits and the ancestral dead could be cajoled, mistreated and forced into acts through binding oaths or attacks on their effigies…. Spoken or written spells produced powerful effects.

Chris Gosden, Magic: a History, p. 83

The Magic of the Past Is Reworked For Each Age

The Lady of the Lake drew out Excalibur and placed it in Arthur’s hand. The past is a lake from which we draw resources, which come to exist as part of our present. But things have power not just because they derive from a past, but mainly because they can help with contemporary problems, whether these are to do with identity, our connection to the cosmos or more everyday, practical issues. The magic of the past is reworked for each age, and dies only when it has no present use.

Chris Gosden, Magic: A History, pp. 237-38

Zakal the Terrible

Zakal spent the first half of the night coughing up green-black blood and listening to the wind hurl sand against the side of the mountain fortress. The cavernous chamber was windowless and dark, save for the feeble light emanating from the initiates’ room, but Zakal had seen enough sandstorms to picture this one clearly in his mind’s eye: a huge, vibrating column of red sand that blotted out the sky until nothing remained but moving desert. Any creatures foolish enough to venture unprotected into the storm would be found the next day, mummies leached of all moisture, their skin crackling like parchment at the slightest touch.

Around the middle of the night, the stains on his handcloth changed from dark green to bright, the color of a d’mallu vine after a rare spell of rain. Shortly thereafter, the healer left him, a sign that there was nothing more to be done, no more easing of pain possible; a sign that he would be dead before sunrise. The relief on her drawn face was all too evident. She was not of the Kolinahru, and had attended her charge with a mixture of loathing and terror. For this was Zakal the Terrible, the greatest of the Kolinahr masters, with a mind so powerful he had twice used it to melt the skin of his enemies into puddles at his feet.

He said nothing to stop the healer from going, merely closed his eyes and smiled wanly. It was fitting to lie here and listen to the roar of the storm on the last night of his life. Eight hundred and eighty-seven seasons ago, he had been born in a storm like this one, and so his mother had named him Zakal: the Fury, the Desert Storm.

He was drowsing off when an image jolted him awake. Khoteth, lean and young and strong, furling himself in his black traveling cloak, his expression severe, brows weighed down by the heaviness of what he was about to do. Khoteth was crossing the desert, Khoteth was coming for him. Zakal knew this with unquestionable surety, in spite of the three initiates in the next room who stood guard, not over his aged, dying body, but over a far more dangerous weapon: his mind. Even their combined efforts to shield the truth from him could not completely sever his link to the man he had raised as his own son. Khoteth had sensed his master’s impending death, and would be here well before dawn.

The new High Master was risking his life by crossing the desert in a sandstorm…and oh, how Zakal listened to the wind and willed for Khoteth to be swallowed up by it! He tried in vain to summon up the old powers, but fever and the continual mental oppression caused by the initiates made it impossible. Zakal contented himself with cheering on the storm as if he had conjured it himself. Even so, he knew that Khoteth would complete his journey successfully.

So it was that, a few hours later when Khoteth’s soft words drew Zakal from a feverish reverie, they brought with them no surprise.

“Master? I have come.”

Outside, the wind had eased, but still moaned softly. Zakal kept his face toward the black stone wall and did not trouble to raise his head. The sound of his former student’s voice evoked within him a curious mixture of fondness and bitter hatred.

“Go away.” He meant to thunder it with authority, but what emerged was weak and quavering, the ineffectual wheezing of an old man. He felt shame. Could this be the voice of the Ruler of ShanaiKahr, the most powerful and feared mind-lord of all Vulcan? He had known more of the secrets of power than the rest of the Kolinahru put together, but fool that he was, he had entrusted too many of them to the man who stood before him now. He turned his head—slowly, for any movement made him dizzy and liable to start coughing again—and opened fever-pained eyes to the sight of the one he had loved as a son, had chosen as his successor, and now despised as his mortal enemy….

J.M. Dillard, Star Trek: The Lost Years, Prologue

Shamanism in Ancient Maya Life

Shamanism—the powerful psychological and spiritual process for re-creating the cosmos and turning death into life in all the dimensions of Reality—was the driving force behind every aspect of ancient Maya life. It always required that the shaman-creator sacrifice himself or herself, allow himself or herself to be struck by the terrible lightning of the gods, descend into the Abyss, and die in the Black Hole at its center. Death in its many forms—emotional, spiritual, and physical—was the price all creative individuals paid to become “Lords of Life.”

Douglas Gillette, The Shaman’s Secret, p. 117

The Game of Arts and Powers

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….”

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 10

Emphasis mine.

Too Much Power Expended Too Quickly

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….

Judith Tarr, King’s Blood, Chapter 7

Emphasis mine.

The Lady of the Lake Had a Secret

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.

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 29

Conversing With the Dead

Robin sank down where the shade had been sitting. With its passing the air was noticeably warmer, but Robin had begun to shudder. Even for one of his arts and powers, it was no easy thing to converse with the dead.

Judith Tarr, King’s Blood, Chapter 12

Emphasis mine.

Ignorance Is Deadly

“…We are no friends to the prince below,” she said, “or any other force for the world’s destruction.”

“Including me?”

You are no more or less dangerous than ignorance ever is.

“That’s deadly.”

“It can be taught,” she said, “and will. I am bound to it….”

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 8

Emphasis mine.

You Must Know How to Undo

“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.”

“‘Our’ order?”

“You are born to it, and reborn, for ages out of count.”

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 8

Emphasis mine.