Archive for April, 2010

This inquiry is driven by exigency.

The charm sleep as it is traditionally written and performed is an acceptable and worthy bit of magic–tried and true.  It is one of the most basic spells a young prestidigitator might assay and under certain circumstances can be remarkably effective.  Its casting takes mere moments, the material components are easily obtainable, its motions simply performed and accomplishable in even the most dire of melees.

I have found it to be ineffective against more formidable foes.  It is this that I endeavor to rectify by creating a more potent version of the spell.

Let us examine first what is right about the spell; what should not be changed.  Certainly I would not change its simple spoken delivery.  All casters are free to use whatever verbal component they choose; elvish is preferred, but any tongue will do.  A simple “goodnight” or something of that nature is all that is required.  The simplicity, I am told, is to aid in relaxing the mind of the target. There are a few other basic utterances that I will not transcribe here; simple things about unlocking the energies of the material components and the building of the conduit betwixt the couldron of magical energy and the target – but those are less particular to the spell and have much more to do with general spell procedure.  Those cannot be changed.

Perhaps what could be narrowed in on is a more emphatic, compelling set of verbiage; something more universally resonant, perhaps.  Or–I have heard tell of yet more esoteric magicks that employ things known as power words; perhaps there is one for sleep.  At any rate, this is an area where potency perhaps can be increased with a minimal increase in casting time.

I wonder if there is an interstitial plane, or dimension, from whence dreams come?  Opening a conduit to that plane would certainly seem like a possibility.  Dangerous, though; and, of course, this is provided such a plane even exists.

As the words, the motions of the casting are utilitarian.  It consists merely of the dissemination of the material components into the couldron and then guiding the released energies to their target.  While there are hand and body movements and position associated with many spells that aid in their power (magic missile being a particularly good example of this: the hand geometries combined with the bracing of ones body channels the energies and actually propels the missiles forward), in this case I cannot imagine that a more subtle (nor more forceful) delivery seems to be the correct avenue to pursue.

The material components are where I think the most marked improvement may be effected.  There is nothing particularly inherently powerful about a pinch of sand, rose petals, crickets, or any of the number of tiny items used in this charm.  The only power within them is in their mythic weight as items associated with sleep.  What if something with more latent energy is used?  I have heard of flower extracts that are used as medicinal treatments to induce sleep.  Certainly fine spirits, wines or more potent brews, have the ability to bring on slumber.  There are poisons employed by my thieving brethren, both powders and liquids, that will send even the most robust, alert of men spinning to the floor, absolutely catatonic.  Though I have not personally encountered any there are beasts and creatures whose venom induces sleep.  And there are magickal beasts that inherently are able to cast this charm, via their eyes or some such.  Any one of these avenues seems like fruitful area for further research.  Extract from poppies, or powdered opium, seems a good first step.

There are many leagues between Dyvers and Celene; the land is both fertile and rife with life of all sorts.  On the journey I shall endeavor to gather plants and perhaps animals that might aid me in my research and provide the first test materials for my experiments.


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To ask whether the owl has a name is like unto asking whether it has a profession.  From what I glean from the owl it no more has a name than it has clothing.  Both are  equally useless.  Names and the like are a construct of the Races of Man.  For a beast with the ability to count the hairs on the back of a mouse’s head in total darkness while flying at a height of many feet, names (which really are merely to identify ourselves, feed our own sense of self-worth, distinguish one being from another) are unnecessary.  The owl recognizes.  When necessary, it recalls from memory.  That is all.  I am familiar to it as it is familiar to me.  I recognize him; he recognizes me.  There is no need for names.  We do not greet each other; observation and eye contact is all the greeting required.  Imagine owls calling each other by name; saying ‘good morning, how are you, thus and such is happening today!’  The idea is absurd.  How the elf has arrived at a name for his owl has, I believe, much more to do with the hubris of high elves than the beast’s need for some kind of label.

I have asked the owl what his name is and receive only the briefest impression of his most recent action.  At any given time, then, the owl’s “name” could be “Flying,” “Eating A Mouse,”  “Perching.”  It is not self-aware in the sense that we are.  It has no need to be!

The owl does not ask questions.  It’s reality is self-evident and does not need to be questioned.

If I need the owl to do something it is merely enough that I indicate my will to it.  It is a peculiar feeling.  It’s rather like having gained another limb.  I’m not aware, especially, of the owl as another being.  I am, of course.  This is contradictory, I recognize.  I wish to indicate only that communicating with the owl does not take effort.

I would never say that we are one.  He is an owl, I am of the Races of Men.  But if he needs to eat, he makes that aware to me; if I need him to inspect something he comprehends my meaning and does it to the best of his ability, without strain or questioning.  Clarity is inherent in our communication.  There is no arguing.

He is a stalwart companion.  By whatever magics make up the world and by the power I wielded his life became redirected and realigned to me.  As my life did to his.  We understand each other – not in a traditional, verbal communicative manner –  but on a basic level.

The benefits are measureable.  I feel stronger.  His strength – and to a certain degree his mobility – has been added to mine, which is fascinating.  My eyesight has improved; I can now see in the dark, and not in the manner of my mother’s kind.  This is quite different.  Simply put, even the darkest nights and the places most devoid of heat are still visible to me.  And my hearing is more acute, to a staggering degree.  In stillness and silence I can hear people’s heartbeats if they are close.   It is startling.  For the owl this is matter-of-fact.

There is no reflection.  This is crucial to understanding the relationship and the mind of the owl.  I suspect this is true of all beasts.  Reflection, difficult questions of morality, the heart – all of these are not considerations.  There is only observation, and, when necessary, action.  There is no deciding because there is no equivocation.  Things are done, or they are not done.  This belabored weighing of merits and detriments does not exist.

All in all it is a fulfilling and revelatory experience.

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Unknown Date: Whisper

Whisper, my darling,

I didn’t have the time to say

Goodbye to you, flow into silence,

My mouth is full of blood,

And my mind is too.”

-Somebody Has to Pay

Susie Van Der Meer

“It’s been a long time,” he says and shovels the food into his mouth that I am paying for. I watch him and all around him. I see him fork his plate to his mouth, watch him swallow, watch the people enter, order drinks, gossip, touch their belts in ways that make me ready to do horror and then unwind my arm when I see it is only a purse being pulled for. Always a purse here. Not a pull of a weapon. I am too ready to act.

I hear her tell me my name, as she whispered it on my pillow for sixty years. We were married very young and no one thought it wise. She could not wait, neither could I, and neither could either of our parents. So we were wed and spent the fire mortals know for a few minutes for days and days and days.

I hear her call me by name, she says: “Melfalmaion,” and her whisper is hot in my ear you understand, “you must not kill an innocent. Be at some ease darling, your training will keep you sharp enough without your wittling at it.”

She touches my forehead, my temple. She kisses them too.

I feel it.

She is right of course. She has always seen me better than I see myself.

But I do wittle at it. I wittle at it everyday. I make myself a sharp point and then the next day think it too dull. So I sharpen and sharpen.

It is what is left to me.

I do not do anything. I sit and listen.

The forker says:

“It’s been six years you know.” He winks at me, and this wink, I understand, means that I will need to spend more. I nod. So does he. “You’re good for it, I know,

don’t even worry about it. But I have to tell you that what I know will dig pretty deep.” And he puts the fork down now. His little piggish eyes stare at mine and I try not to meet it but it is impossible not to as he is stubborn and stares until I do. So I do. He smiles a little, the fat in his cheeks dimpling with it.

I despise fat. My kind always has. Fat means indulgence, excess and sloth. There is no more of a loathsome lexicon I could give a name to.

He smiles his piggy smile, his snout sticking in the air now and his eyes gleam with gold.

“A hundred.” He says, very satisfied with himself. He found a nice even number, but big, and not too big that I could say anything. My Halfling teacher told me many times never to pay a copper more than the seller thinks it’s worth. “Too often”, he said, “the buyer pays based on what he thinks it’s worth. . .and that’s a good idea if that amount is less than the seller wants. But always remember that a negotiation is a duel. Someone is going to lose some blood. Think of gold like blood and you’ll stay alive.”

He pinched my chin, my Halfling teacher, with a hard wink. He was very satisfied with his wisdom.

I blew it with piggy. I made a great deal of noise to all the right people that I wanted to know what happened and who did it. I was willing to pay anything, I said. I was. I am.

Well, here he is.

He knows.

“Well?” I ask.

“Well?” He smiles and wipes his chin, and a good thing as it was sopped with gravy. He tosses the napkin on the table, crosses his arms, and leans back.

Humans think this impressive. I find it a boring drill. Each time they do it, they think it some great trick conjured out of the air.

I could show some tricks. Right out of the air. Through the air. Out of my mouth even, human.

I tell him this through my eyes and he sets his chair back down on its four legs.

Good. He’s no longer rearing at me.

Pig composes himself. He does this so quickly that I am impressed, he puts the feet of his chair down because he needs them now, and then starts a menace that is convincing.

He starts to say something, he’s even pointing his big finger at me.

I grab that finger. I snatch it like a child wishes for a wish.

I say with a great growl that makes him squirm at least as much as me having him by the finger does: “A hundred is fine, but you tell me everything.”

I do not have a hundred gold, brother. But I do have some, and I have my bow.

I’ll sell it. And selling it is like selling a bone. How can you price it? How can you do without it?

There is the sword.

I know that is true, but it is not as safe, not as true in my hand.

There is the Word.

I smile a little inside. The Word’s way has unfolded so late in me that I do not see it easily. I can bend him, break him. I only have to say a thing and do a thing and he is at my will.

Thank you love. You made me learn.

He tells me what he knows. He does it quickly. No one seems to notice that I have him by the index finger and that I could snap it like a twig.

More likely, they do not care. I test it a little by shaking the finger a little this way or that.

Believe me brother, Piggy jumps, Piggy squeals.

No one seems to look our way.

He tells me.

It is very unsatisfying.

“Now let go. Let go!” He begs.

“That?” And it is all I can do, brother, to not break hard to the left or the right. “That?” I ask again.

“What?” He calls out, trying now to push my hands off his finger.

“I will do what you fear. I will make your finger into meal. I will do it. It will never heal. Then I will speak a word that will make you love me for it.” I am whispering across the table, face to face with pig face.

“What do you want?” He asks. He is crying.

I am not moved.

“I want something to lead me.” I am desperate and not bargaining. I am begging. I am begging him to not make me break this finger. I don’t want to do it but I will.

“I told you.” He lies. He is pathetic. He whimpers it like a child caught in some little child lie.

I twist. He screams. The bar is paying more attention now. I can feel the tension of the finger. If I give a little more pressure this way or that it will give and I want to do it but don’t.

“Tell me now or I do what every part of you knows I will. If you don’t tell me after that, believe me I will find another place to twist.”

He whimpers, he cries, he tells me what he does not want to.

It still is very unsatisfying.

In my trance I think. I reflect on my hate. I examine it. I do not know exactly who it is I hate. There is no face. I am willing now, I know, to broaden that face. No one must suffer what I have. I will put my hate on each face that is willing to cause the loss I have lost.

And this gives me peace. I sit in my trance now as I know I will for the rest of my days.

I breathe with a beauty. I find grace.

I will make the one pay that did this to me. But I will also do the same to anyone else who has done the same.

My vengeance will not be petty. It will be a purpose. A song.

A thing as lovely as you were sweet one.

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(Witness’d by one Malfalmaeon.  Outside yet of true blood he claims for sooth -)

The Abyss of Hell, by S Botticelli

The Abyss sings its’ sad song.

Do my comrades hear it? Would they think to listen? Rufus might, he has the blood. If he is listening I do not see it in him.

I glance at him as we hurtle down. No, I don’t think he is listening. He is pointing upwards, his eyes flit to me and stick needles at me.

His eyes say, “Wake up you fool.”

We fall past the damned and are going somewhere that even has the Celestian screaming.

What does he scream? I am not sure. I am trying to hear the song. I would keep listening too, but Rufus’ glance has me thinking.

Perhaps the song is wrong.

“You can trust them Melfalmaion,” Lethien said to me, and her eyes glowed warm, “they are worthy.”

She answered that many times to my many questions before I finally set out. I wish I could say I was fully convinced but I have no trust for those not of the blood and for good reason. I would need better ones to pivot that trust. Lethien’s assurance was, however, persuasive.

So then, trust Rufus. His eyes now are searching, screaming for life and we fall to death and less than death. Death is rest. We fall into sorrow, the lap of all doubts. We will walk wherever we finally fall to, and hear the sad song of the Abyss and never believe.

I know we are falling Brother. I knew it and know it. Until just now I wasn’t sure that it mattered.

Why try? Each place has its song. The meadow has one, so does a mountain, a brook, a seaside. Their songs speak to what they are, what they are underneath and what they make you into while you are there with them. So too, does this place.

But there is her face, my one, there are her words that only I carry now and every touch she ever gave will be lost for all time with me.

The Celestian screams. I hear it now. He is both begging and ordering.

He would like someone to do something.

Very well.

I tie the length of rope to the end of an arrow. The webbing all around us is falling far far away. Don’t rush it. Take the bow, make the pull, make the sight, let out your breath, shut out the song and the scream and the thoughts. There is nothing now but the shot.

I loose.

The arrow sinks deep and I grapple with the length or rope, making sure it pulls around my arm and not from around our waist. The shock of that could snap our backs.

I feel the rope go taught and I grin a little back at Rufus, he grins back relief and the hope breaks out for breath from under the ocean of his eyes.

Then the arrow comes loose and we are falling again.

What the Celestian screams, I find vulgar and cannot repeat Brother.

With a quick yank I have the arrow. I snort out and breathe in quickly as it comes back to my hand. Have to trust that it will be true still, there won’t be time to tie another one.

I let out my breath and pull.

Again the arrow sinks. Again we stop.

And again we fall, the arrow not getting its purchase.

The Abyss starts to chuckle a little, to chortle, to cajole.

You see?” It hisses, “there is no reason to try.” It has said this kind of thing since we came here. I don’t know that it is wrong. It says what is true, it speaks what it sings, and what it sings is what it is.

Despair. We hurtle through the throat of despair and nothing is stopping us.

Try again. Try again. Think of her. Try again.

I yank the arrow back, snort, breathe, then pull, let my breath out and loose again.

And again we fall.

And now I fear Brother. I fear.

The song sings sweetly. It tells me that it is not my fault, that it is not it’s fault. It is just the way of things. It is where we are. It is almost soothing, in it’s way.

All I trained for and meant to aim at does not matter now. It will not matter. It is over now.

The song is right.

Fortunately, as I listen, Rufus does not.

He does a thing that should not work, but does. Why did it work?

Perhaps because Rufus believed it would.

Perhaps because he has no time for sad songs.

But he takes the Halberd of our inert dwarf and ties the rope and swings it, loops it just so at the last moment. The rope goes tight and we do not fall again.

For want of a hook we were almost silenced.

I think of that as we climb and scold myself for my foolishness. A hook. So foolish.

“Yes, foolish, very foolish.” The Abyss says.

“Away.” I hiss back.

Dain is lifting me up, being just ahead of me on the rope, she pulls me up now.

“What?” She asks, curious. Her eyes, bright with purpose, eternally hopeful. She would sooner break her own back than her word.

“Not you.” I say. To Rufus I say “thank you.”

He looks at me strangely. “Don’t mention it.”

We follow where the Celestian points now and I see with every step that she was right.

And I start to list. I list all the things that might be needed. Some will be easily done, some not, but I will gather them and I will be ready.

My companions are worthy. Lethien was right.

I must be sure to be worthy of them.

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My Mother, the Baroness Lady Elaine of the House Valunan Landis, died in childbirth when I was 13 yrs old and my brother Tacitus was 10. She was survived by her only infant daughter, Eleanor, who herself, only survived a week, before joining mother in the grave. THis may seem to put rather puts a pall on the story of my childhood, but not so at all. My memory of my mother is firmly fixed and quite beloved. She was a graceful Lady in the most civilized sense. She and farming were the joint joys of my otherwise taciturn father’s life. Despite his loss, he saw her in all the work about him. Unknown to him I would often act as the spy when he worked in the fields in hope of hearing him discuss the soil and suchlike with her memory.

Lady Elaine and Lord Byron met whilst they were both at University, she studying the horticultural arts. Their courtship was built upon the shared a dream of growing a small principality into a model of modern land reform. The Landis family was not entirely sanguine the young couple. Her father Peter Landis was a minor official in the bishopric but he was noble and had aspirations for all seven children. But there were four girls and Elaine the third. That she would become a Baroness of a territory however obscure seemed respectable enough. All had to admit that the couple were remarkable well suited to one another. And of course the indomitable bearing of the Mother Baroness Hildebrande was ubiquitously persuasive once she learned of the courtship. And Lord Baron’s military mien added a certain luster to the promise of the son’s noble stock. Upon graduation Byron and Elaine returned to the Farthold as a married couple. Once at hthe familial Keep they were fully invested in a ceremony that celebrated both their wedding vows and their Baronial accession.

One would think that Lady Elaine Landis of Valuna would distain the roughness of the Farthold, especially in consideration of its previous milieu as a sort of maurader’s bachelor pad, but this was not the case. She saw the old Keep as a project which she tackled with the serenity and endurance of the devout Roaon that she was. She was a highborn by both blood and temperment. She never looked more regal than when she held court in her garden with a trowel amongst the verdant work of her own hand. Of course she maintained Grandmum’s labyrinth. Mother would often recall the story to me of Lady Hildebrande showing her the secrets the Lady Baroness’ private retreat the day before her accession. This was the moment she knew the Farthold to be her home.

She was a full partner to the Baron in the expansion of the Farthold into our small farming outpost in the forest dales of the Wild Coast. As a child of Roa, with direct relatives in the Valunan Episcopal elite, it was she who brought the worship of Roa to the land. Her dowry was tied to the construction of both the hamlet’s kirk and the Keep’s private chapel. She patiently raised both her sons in the rites of Roaon mysteries and the Word of Incarum, with evident poor effect. In my case indifference and the call of the forest was ever distractful. In my brother’s case, despite being a fervent devoteé as a child, he grew into apostasy after her death and since has usurped both of the Farthold’s shelters of Roa with the heresy of his accursed St. Mungo.

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As far as I can have heard, my Grandmother the Mother Baroness, was never happy at the Farthold. Lady Hildebrande was a woman of a certain age when she married Cyrus. I never learned the full details of the marriage, but I am reasonably certain it was under duress from both the Viscount and the Velysisn family. As a mature lady of Verbobonc, Hildebrande Velysisn was a sharp-tongued, domineering woman destined to old maidenhood. She was amply capable of holding her own against the Lord Father. But when she was first married, child in tow, surrounded by a troupe of veteran soldiers, she turned inward and found companionship in her son, and nature became her solace. Once, when I was a boy, my father told me that life in the forest changed his mother. In my childishness I thought he meant for the worse, as I was always swayed by glittering visions of the great, distant city. But when I stood last in her garden, about to embark reluctantly upon my own journey, I realized he meant quite the opposite. Lady Farthammer took to gardening and had a small secret glade in the woods that she cultivated, quite out of the view of the Baron, who took little interest. Under her energies, she crafted a private retreat, surrounded by a hedgerow labyrinth with a pavilion and all manner of flowers at the center. There is a certain idyllic mystery about place even today, and I should be most surprised if she was not herself an elffriend, for I have always suspected an elvish majick about her labrynth. In fact it was she who, to both the pride and consternation of the Baron, was the primary negotiator with all delegates from Celene.

The only son of the first generation of the Barony was Lord Byron the Landsman He was as unlike my grandfather as any man could be, yet they did share a similar at-core unshakeability in their beliefs: the Lord Father in the strength of his arms and comrades, my father the Lord baron, in the power of the earth to grow and multiply. It was many years before I grew to a full appreciation of my father, Lord Byron. I think perhaps I still have lessons to learn from him, though he is now in the grave.

My father, Lord Byron, assisted his reclusive mother in the garden and it was from a young age that he developed his green thumb. He received the same weapons training as I, under the Lord Father’s rough tutelage, but it never came naturally to him. Like grandfather he was of indomitable will, and great physical strength, but his will was the quiet patience of the seasons and the yeoman’s wiry endurance. In his 15th year, CY 563, Byron Cyrusson traveled to Verbobonc for the first time and began his formal schooling. The Baroness accompanied him and she took up residence in the old Velysisn mansion, only to make two grudging returns to the Farthold, the first for Father’s investiture and the second for mine own.

Father studied the traditional trivium, and was a good enough student – I imagine him a serious young man, self-possessed, but somewhat out of place in the city. He stayed at the school in Verbobonc for a year until he learned that he could study Agricultural Sciences at the University Valuna without needing to bother passing up to the quadrivium. He was ever a man who knew what he wanted.

Byron Cyrusson returned to his ancestral home in 567, fresh from his studies with sweeping plans for land reform. On his arm was his young bride, my mother, Lady Elaine of the House Landis. The marriage was celebrated with the full baronial investment of the couple. The Lord Father retired from his titled duties and spent his time hunting and drinking prodigiously with his aging comrades in arms. He had little interest in the new Baron of the Farthold’s sudden program of forest clearing and agriculture. Byron had imported several classmates, including Sir Roger the Schrubber, who would serve as his seneschal for the next 30 odd years. He attracted many dozen landsmen to the new terrain he was making arable and soon had a respectable, if small farming community growing up in the forest around the protection of the Farthold. The land was platted, the mill was built, the kirk consecrated and the outer palisade wall was erected. In those years, the Farthold not only became self-sustaining, but produced surplus crops for trade.

Grandfather would have his occasional little rebellions, but for the most part he truly relinquished power to Lord Byron. Their last great argument in CY 569 when I was a babe-in-arms is famous for its vitriol. Grandfather tried to muster the new farm community to join the campaign against the Temple. As it was, only the grey maned Rough Riders mustered, and of those 30 intrepid, grizzled warriors only the Lord Father and Sir Bleoberis returned, Lord Cyrus leaving his left arm below the elbow on the Field at Emridy Meadows.

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Truth be told, my Grandfather was not particularly suited to ruling a barony. But when he first arrived, running the barony was not the task – the task was to build the barony, and at that he excelled. In those days, the Wild Coast was aptly named. It was on the coast of Wooly Bay and it was wild indeed. In fact the Lord of Verbobonc’s intention was that Baron Cyrus should build a stronghold in the area from which Verbobonc could extend its law and influence, establishing a protected trade route with Celene, to the east and minor independent baronies of Fax, Badwall and the like to the south. Though not a direct security concern to Verbobonc itself, the Orcish Kingdom of the Pomarj was ever a concern to trade, and a forward presence was thought wise. Additionally, better trade and military cooperation with Celene was also intentioned by the old Viscount in stationing his trusted comrade at this distant outpost. Cyrus the Veteran, a seasoned orcbane and a worldly man with contacts among elvenkind was the man for the job.

By the middle of the 550’s The Farthold was firmly rooted. The citadel was built, Baron Cyrus the Farthammer’s Reconstituted Rough Riders were firmly ensconced within, and the surrounding countryside without was by and large tamed. Several packs of gnolls were routed out, a coven of night hags rooted up, the odd ogre run off, the occasional werewolf hunted down. The troll’s head that was stuffed and mounted in the great hall was taken back in those early days. And grandfather even told the tale of sighting and chasing the Questing Beast deeper into the realm of Celene than any of his Rough Riders thought prudent. Soon all orcish raiders and brigands were forced off of the trading lanes and driven to resume their operations further south. Treaties with the minor baronies were accorded. Civil relations with Celene were established. Baron Cyrus’ return to the life of the gentleman adventurer suited him well.

But with Lord Viscount Blackburn’s death, there was little memory of the Farthold’s original mission. The great city and its politics moved on. Fealty was still observed, yet the history upon which it stood was little remembered. Old Baron Cyrus had little desire to return where he was unknown at best and unwelcome at worst. Once the country surrounding the Farthold was pacified, his barony became for him a place of retirement. As soon as my father, Lord Byron, was old enough for investiture, old Baron Cyrus was glad enough to be divested of the baronial signets and recline into the role of Lord Father.

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