Category: Before

Snippet Sunday #17

Today, another piece of Princes and Kings (a working title), introducing White Raven. He’s so damn interesting. You don’t see why right away, or in this piece, but he’s very interesting as far as I’m concerned — has a redemption arc. Anyway, go on and meet him, and later you can decide whether you like him or not…

~*~

White Raven jogged up the stone steps from the servants’ quarters, letting his hair down and anticipating a pleasant liaison with Slender Palm of Coral Spires. Lehua was bronze-skinned and dark-haired; she smelled of flowers Raven didn’t know, and her brown eyes and low voice were warm. The memory of his white hands on her dark thighs enticed, particularly with the tattoo that snaked down her leg. He’d first seen it when she wore a dress that was slit up the side to the weapons yard—and she’d seen him.

He was definitely looking forward to it. She fucked like she fought, loose-hipped and free. Too bad they were running out of time. Soon she would be back in Coral Spires, far away from everything, and he would be at Tangletree, and they might not meet again in either lifetime.

A figure flashed past him, well to his left. The exposed whiteness of stomach and the streaming hair might have been anyone, as well might the sobbing, but the way it—he—ran, like an untrained child no matter how much time Raven spent with him, marked him as Rhuez.

With a sinking stomach, Raven pinned up his hair again and strode after. In truth he minded less than he ought. He liked Rhuez, for all the boy was hopeless with the sword. It was only the loss of a night with Slender Palm he minded, and she’d probably tolerate an explanation. She’d seen Rhuez at his lessons.

His legs, longer than the Eiten Liedan’s, kept him close enough for sight, but not too close. He carefully turned his eyes from the huntsman’s cabin, where all the lights burned; he didn’t want to ruin his night vision. A fortunate decision, for Rhuez rounded the front of the Palace—Raven had to hustle after—and made straight for the oak lane that led away into the Valley. Rhuez squeezed into the lane and was lost.

That Night

There were fairies, before that night.

They zipped over every pond in the summertime, like sparkling, rainbow stars, and left glittery dust on everything they touched. Unicorns stood sentinel in the glens, waiting unwearied for their true, untouched loves. The land’s brass-bold knights went questing, and found lovely maidens to rescue and monsters aplenty for the slaying: trolls and giants, manticores and griffins, cockatrices, and the sly, whispering ghosts of drowned girls. A dryad tended every oak, and dragons guarded the secret places in the earth. Of adventure there was no lack, if one only looked for it.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, it’s probably clear that the monsters weren’t the half of it. They were just one of the more obvious signs magic had gone out of Rothganar. The applications of magic in Rothganar went well beyond the typical combat/adventuring spellcasters such as the ones discussed in my series of posts about them. Magic was an important part of everyday life, especially in the cities, which sanitation and industry made simpler and, as a matter of fact, possible.

In smaller towns, there was often at least a circuit healer serving, and magical vaccinations were common, as well as treatment for injuries and disease. Refrigeration was available in richer homes even far out into the countryside, and nearly every dwelling was magically heated. As a matter of fact, Rothganar was generally modernized wherever the traveler went, bearing all the hallmarks of an industrial society with clean water, clean air, and indoor plumbing available for most residents.

All of that ended in a single night. Vandis’s generation, and the one before it, have borne most of the brunt of reconstructing some sort of life from the ashes of the world. I’ve been calling the magic time Before and the time afterward — well, After. Capitalized, like that. Now you know (if you didn’t before now) what I mean by it. A pat distinction for what must’ve seemed like the end of the world at the time, but there you are.

Enchanted Items and Substances

There are two broad classes of enchanted items in Rothganar: manufactured and handcrafted. The classes further break down into items themselves, such as enchanted pillows and the ubiquitous basins and chamber pots, and substances like Zeinger’s Best Cordial or Johnston’s Boom-Boom.

Manufactured items and substances tend toward the practical. Most manufacturing equipment is itself magical, and often driven by sorcerers; foundries, print shops, mills for paper, flour, or cloth, even distilleries can be operated magically, and sometimes by a single caster, though most sorcerers with that level of power would choose to pursue their own designs. Legal boundaries protect weaponry in general, but most of them apply only to the manufacturing sector and not to what a single caster can make; that is, factories aren’t churning out magic swords by the bushel because it’s illegal to do so. However, it’s common for apprentice casters who wish to specialize in making to have their first item be a magic sword, so there are quite a number of them, which work to varying degrees.

The most common handmade substance is a potion, particularly one that will heal disease or injury. An accomplished brewster is never in want of custom, and need not be a trained caster, due to the common occurrence of magical ingredients. Often, medicines simply cannot be manufactured; medical care requires a personal touch. The one exception is all-heal, a salve meant to cure minor scrapes, cuts, and burns, though the recipe has been used so many times it seems to be acquiring a power of its own.

Magic Circles

A magic circle is an aid to casting. It contains a kind of shorthand for the mental processes a caster must go through in order to properly tune their mind to the music of the spheres (that is, to the magical field generated by the planet).

One of the first things a fledgling sorcerer or priest learns is how to interpret these complex symbols. They’re often composed of more than one circle, interlocking or concentric, and each spell has a unique circle and/or combination of Words, if the caster is a sorcerer. By memorizing the necessary gymnastics of mind, the caster memorizes the spell; otherwise, they need the circle visible.

Magic circles may be inscribed on paper, vellum, wood, stone, or metal. In the case of enchanted items, such as message domes or magic swords, the circle often takes the form of a fine wire of precious metal inlay in the item.

Magic on an epic scale always requires a circle scribed in rock, preferably bedrock or some other, single stone. See the prologue to Saga of Menyoral: Hard Luck for more. You can have a look here: Excerpt from Hard Luck.

Snippet Sunday #15

A little piece of The Witch under Mountain, which is what I’ve been working on this week, for your delectation.

~*~

Fox woke in the straw, roused by the humans in the pen beginning to shuffle about and make noise. He sat, though he couldn’t have slept more than an hour, and took stock, painfully aware of how much less his estimation must be than Eagle’s. The cavern was brighter than it had been before, not that it was saying a lot. Sulky torchlight only illuminated so high. It was like that marketplace above, where last night they’d seen the troll sweeping, with the vastness of the ceiling obscured. Fox shivered, and not only from the cold. Darker shapes winged through the black.

He turned his eyes across the cavern, where trolls stoked a great hearth-fire. One of them, clad in a burnt, greasy-looking apron, sharpened a series of wicked knives. He leapt to his feet and hurled himself over to the side of the pen that faced Eagle’s smaller enclosure.

“Vo!” he called, clinging to the bars.

Eagle’s head went up, and he unfolded so quickly Fox had trouble tracking the motion. In half a blink he was at the bars too; he didn’t say a word, only stood there looking at Fox as if from the bottom of the sea, faraway and longing.

Fox took him in. Lacy white sleeves spilled from an outsize velvet doublet. Silk stockings sagged into puddles around his ankles, above the tops of huge buckled shoes. His thighs were too slender for the pantaloons, and instead of puffing up as they ought to, they hung around his knees. The whole effect was dreadfully unbecoming—outright laughable, if it weren’t for the situation—as if the thinnest little chick were given clothes meant for a fat capon.