I spent a good week trying to learn the fundamentals of elemental magic, and I guess I did a halfway decent job. Lucile had only given me books about Wind, Fire, Earth, and Water, corresponding to Sky, Red, Amber, and Sea Essence. Over the course of the week, I managed to learn how to feed energy into my Magic Sparks for these elements, and gained a very basic ability to control the sparks themselves.
From what I had read, Spark Manipulation was a very basic form of magic to start with, but it was a step towards something greater, and had its uses even at this level. "Manipulating a Spark" meant that a point of essence would appear in the world, under your mental control, and you had to figure out how to do something with it. There were many problems with it; you had to fill the spark first, and you had to learn how to control it, but after that, you still had to understand what the essence did, and what restrictions were placed on you while using it.
In a way, Red Essence was the simplest. If I focused a point of Red Essence at my fingertip, I could set what I touched on fire, which believe me, was a lot easier way to get the oven or a candle going than anything else I had access to (except maybe the Claw Gift, which was pretty much the same ability, but I didn't like it. It felt weird, and violent.). Although one of my godly Eyes might have started a fire if I focused with it, they were equally likely to melt things or turn them to dust. This was... much more controlled.
I quickly learned that my Red Spark didn't have to touch things. Once I summoned it, I could "cast" red essence from it like a heat laser. That was inefficient, and got weaker very quickly over distance, but I could see it being a potent weapon even in this very raw form. From what I saw in the books, magic got much more powerful later on, but also had a lot more rules and complications.
Speak of rules and complications, Sky Essence was probably the second simplest, and by no means was it actually simple. The introduction of the book had told me that it was intuitive but had strange restrictions, and that definitely seemed to be the case. Once I summoned the spark, I could move part of it around the room at my will; I could sense a tenuous connection from me to the spark, but it eroded quickly. As it did, I sensed that I was actually gaining control of the air in the vicinity of the spark, but only temporarily; my connection to that air eroded even faster, giving me a slightly wider but weaker area of control, on and on until I had no ability to influence the air. Somehow, my power seemed to diffuse out from the spark as though it was heat from a candle or an odor, and when it was too weak, it was of no use to me anymore.
In short, it was not simple. I quickly learned I could extend the Wind Spark, touch it to a window, and listen to the sounds outside as though I had pressed my ear to the glass, although even that took a lot of focus. The air that was within my control I could also manipulate freely, but it was slippery; whenever air I controlled brushed up against air I didn't, I gained new air that I also needed to control, and my control over the air I did have was weaker. If I set the air I did control into motion, I quickly lost control over it, and instead had to grab the new air that had moved next to my spark when it left. The book suggested something about forming patterns, and that was an interesting mental exercise, but every attempt left my head pounding, and I felt no closer to success when I ran out of essence than I was when I started playing with it.
Amber (Earth) essence wasn't complicated to use, but I didn't have a good use for it. You had to send Amber essence into something solid, and you could reinforce or weaken the thing you controlled, or put pressure on it in various ways, but that was about it. I wasn't strong enough to cut things with just Amber Essence alone, and I couldn't reshape things, but I could make a strand of hair as stiff as steel--as long as I concentrated on it. In short, not terribly interesting right now. But, if I ever wanted to make things, that would probably be a big part of the process. And, I suppose, it would be useful if I needed to make a weak piece of armor stronger? Hard to know how practical that would be until I tried it.
The fourth book described Sea Essence, and I could tell that it was the most complicated of the books. It was, first of all, twice as thick as the others, and secondly, twice as heady, and believe me, they are all very, irritatingly heady books. I thought I was well read on Earth, but I mostly read "lighter" books--fiction, mostly, with a healthy smattering of technical documents relating to my job, and some legal papers. These were bad attempts by a scholar somewhere to put feelings into words using a number of terms I might never understand. The worst tended to be the nonsensical descriptions of "magical domain", which was apparently a set of rules that kept magicians from being able to influence things--or maybe the opposite, describing how you overcame the world's resistance to magic. But the book on Water magic and Sea Essence dedicated the opening ten pages to domain rules, and then a short section on spark magic, before finally finishing things off with the last three quarters of the book: fundamentals of enchantment.
As interesting as that sounded, they needed to work on their definition of both "fundamentals" and "enchantment" because neither of those words mean what they think it means.
By the end of the week, having skimmed the book a good four times, I finally understood that their operating definition of enchantment applied only to the water spark itself. That is to say, you could place a "rule" on the spark, and the energy of the spark would obey it--but only so long as you maintained it. This breakthrough only came when they started talking about how Sea Essence and Water Magic "made manifest" a spiritual concept--in other words, the essence itself could be an enchantment given semi-physical form. Where other elements only used the spark to influence what you could and could not interact with, the Water Spark had its own properties.
In principle (and this was an exercise in the books, if poorly explained) you could use your Spark to put, say, a cup or bucket of water into your Water Domain, and the rule you applied to the spark would be applied to the water. So for example, if you had muddy, silty, undrinkable water, you could easily come up with a rule so that everything except clean, drinkable water immediately sank to the bottom. Still, that was an active use of magic, not an enchantment. If it stopped the moment you stopped focusing on it, it didn't count.
I let the massive nerd inside of me rage about that for a bit, but ultimately kept reading. It was all interesting stuff.
Finally, though, the day came when my replacement showed up at my house, announcing himself as "Mintreuse de Olissandra", and immediately demanded I hand over Manne's house ("Manneuelle de Olissandra"? So Manne was also related to Mel? I guess they both are... poor Mel) for his own personal use. I had a panicked moment after which I decided to just shift my Deific Body to the cliff, then let the man inside. He puttered around, looking askance at every choice I had made and everything Manne had done before me, before sniffing indignantly and declaring that it would do.
He looked about as pompous as he sounded, although not nearly as rich as you might think. He had spectacles and quality clothing, with enough useless pieces of decoration to easily pass as a nobleman, but the cloth looked fairly cheap and it seemed like that was all he'd ever worn. He turned his nose up at the pile of books I had, but then, he turned his nose up at pretty much everything. He also turned his nose up at the inexplicable sand in the attic; I wanted desperately to tell him that was what happened to those who displeased me, but I just couldn't. I did laugh, though, which made him look at me funny.
In the end, he threw me out of the house with what few belongings I had. I didn't complain, because I had known it was coming, but I was very grumpy. I took a moment to confirm that my Deific Body was okay (he was; the cliff looked the same, and nobody was there but some thorn-goats) and went to find Bard.
Who was... with Mel, who was apparently arguing with a retinue that Mintreuse had brought along with him, who were every bit the stuffy pricks that Mintreuse was. They were demanding their own homes, and they seemed to think that Mel was just going to hand them over for no charge.
I guess they didn't know her very well.
"Yes, I understand that the elders chose Cousin Minne"--really, Mel? Do you have a cousin Micky, too?--"but the invitation does not extend to you, and if it did, you would still be expected to pay rent. Especially now, with a conscription notice being placed on the town, our resources are going to those who pay--not to those who don't."
"For the good of the Clan--"
"If anything, dear Uncle, the good of the Clan is better served by you pulling your own damn weight." Mel wasn't having any of this; she was in her Uncle's face and not backing down. "No Trader clan can afford to carry dead weight--and you, Uncle, are exactly that."
"I have a fortune ten times your--"
"And no assets, no contacts. You make your money by lending it, and rarely at that, not by doing anything." Mel snarled at him. "I grew up looking at your books, Uncle Clar. Every gold you made, someone else lost. That's the last thing a struggling town needs."
"The loans that I make--"
"Would be of great use if we were mining or making anything. Nothing we could build here would invite more trade. Anyone with a map knows that. Uncle, you aren't useful here and you aren't welcome. You know this, or you wouldn't have followed--of all the people in our family--cousin Minne here!" Mel wasn't doing her voice amplification trick, but she was plenty loud, and I had to wonder if Mintreuse could hear her. "The elders sent him here because nobody else wants him! I half expect him to do worse than our temporary man, and he was unconscious for five days!"
"Thanks, Mel," I said quietly, but nobody noticed me.
"Melnora, you are in no position to decide--"
"I am in a position," she snarled, and I could swear I heard a feral tiger in her voice, "to decide whether or not you live here rent free. You came here begging favors. You deserve none and you should be ashamed of yourself for asking."
As entertaining as it all was, I backed away and decided to wait for Bard by the guards' barracks. There were a bunch of refugees sitting and standing around there already, and the look they gave me when I showed up with a small bag of belongings was a mix of confusion and subdued pity. They all knew the feeling, I supposed, even if they thought I was in a much better place in life than I, in fact, was.
Fortunately, Bard came back within an hour, and no sooner had he announced his presence than the recruits leaped into an orderly line and stood at attention. As much as I didn't want to jump up and join then, I figured I ought to at least stand at attention rather than sitting on the bench, since I might easily be training alongside them.
Bard caught sight of me immediately, but sent the others on a jog around the town before he dealt with me. Once they were gone, he sized me up and down. "Got kicked out?" he asked.
I nodded. "Mel's... what did she say, Cousin Minne? He insisted, and I didn't force the issue."
"You should have. She has half a mind to throw the lot of them out." He sighed. "You want a job?"
"Pretty sure I need one, sir." I gave him a resigned look and tried to mimic what I assumed was the salute I had seen the others give. "If you'll have me."
"Don't give me that crap. The company needs a good logistics officer, and that's either you, or I have to put up with one of Mel's relatives." Bard made a face like someone had fed him ale mixed with llama vomit.
"Not that uncle, I hope." I offered a grin that I didn't really feel.
"The only consolation prize of bringing him along would be finding a cliff to throw him off of. No, I'll take you any day of the week. Can't offer you much for terms. Food, shelter, few coppers a day, and nothing more. As an auxilliary, you need enough stamina to keep up with the company, but you don't need to learn to fight. That said, I'd recommend it. Wars aren't fair."
"No, sir," I offered glumly, "they're not."
He seemed genuinely surprised that I was at all world-wise, but shook it off. "This barracks is for first and second squads. Look for the one with the 'A' on it. That'll be for the auxilliary squad, which for now is you and the cook. He's a veteran, so talk to him about supplies; you'll need to know not just what we need, but what he prefers when he can get it. You'll recognize most of it--fruit preserves, dried meats, that sort of stuff--but some of it you won't think of. You'll find plenty of paper, so take as many notes as you need..."
I nodded, accepting bit by bit the new life I was being thrown into.
Support "God of Eyes"
- Pseudonymous bastard
A lost soul looking for a path through life. My history has not provided a stable foundation quite yet, so who knows when it will all collapse. Hopefully not soon!
I have been writing stories since I was a child but I wasn't really encouraged or taught. I have developed bad habits and gotten lost inside myself, but still intend to keep fighting and trying to get myself set upright. Fortunately and not, I am not quite alone, but it's always hard to have the wrong kind of help, isn't it?
Best of luck to anyone silly enough to find this page. Work hard and don't end up like me. It has its upsides, but it's really not worth it...