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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Hello everyone and thank you for your support!

So I watched episode 2 of Arcane last night. Still great! Will keep y'all informed!

Alright, onto the chapter!

One by one, members of the summoning class raised their hands to suggest rules for the seminar. It took a bit of encouragement for Professor Mangal to get someone to speak up at first, but once that first person did, others soon followed.

By the end, the long sheet of parchment was covered in glowing ink that laid out the so-called ‘rules of engagement’ for the class. Most were fairly simple: respect during discussions, avoiding disruptions, and that sort of thing.

They were similar—for the most part—to the rules from other classes, but the effect on the class because they’d been involved in crafting them, was interesting. The students who had spoken up looked more engaged than before, with a more relaxed air about them.

Alex observed their reactions and the arrangement of the circle.

‘It’s an illusion,’ he thought.

Except for a few individual preferences, the rules were much the same as in any other class. Despite professor Mangal’s statement that they were colleagues, she was actually the one with the power in the course: they couldn’t exactly pass or fail her, but she would be evaluating their performances and impacting their futures in many ways with either a pass or a fail.

Still, maybe there was value in that illusion. Alex thought about his own cabal. They had no leader, and that had worked pretty well for them. Would things have gone as well if Thundar was the leader and just dictated what they should and shouldn’t do? Shale’s workshop had a definite hierarchy, but the workers had the ability to choose how to go about their jobs. It was quite a different feeling to how McHarris managed the bakery and its staff in his heavy-handed and authoritarian way.

Alex wondered if he would’ve reacted differently if—instead of The Mark being thrust on him then him being left to fend for himself with only ‘duty’ as a guide—he’d been welcomed by Uldar’s priests and given a choice.

He thought of how Baelin treated everyone in his class, and how much they loved him. Meanwhile, professor Ram—who’d taught him force magic—was technically correct in the points he’d made about casting speed, but the way he’d dictated them, made it so that Alex didn’t like the man to this day.

He glanced at Claygon, crouched in a corner of the room.

If there was a mind brewing in there—and it wasn’t horrifyingly evil—then Alex would want to see it grow by nurturing it, not smothering it. Sure, he and Claygon were connected, but he could only see positives in having fathered an intelligent golem who followed him willingly.

He filed those thoughts away for later.

If it turned out that Claygon wasn’t sapient, then there likely wouldn’t be much opportunity for him to be leading things in the near future anyway.

“Our sheet of paper is now transformed,” Professor Mangal said, then spoke quietly to her little friends, who fluttered to the side of the room and placed the list in a place of prominence. “It was once a piece of parchment, now—by our agreement and wishes—it is a contract: a contract between us that we have made together. Now, I want you to watch me carefully and brace yourselves. This will sting a little.”

She raised her hands and fixed her eyes on the circle.

Her face seemed to be filled with steel.

And then she spoke a single word.

Alex winced and several of the other students yelped. Although the professor’s lips moved and he was sure she’d said something, he had no idea what she’d said. Whatever it was, it came out as only pain and metal grinding on metal in his ears.

A heartbeat later, the stone in the circle began to ripple violently. He felt more of the summoning magic reach out, then the presence within the circle solidified.

Crack.

Thunder snapped through the room and something rose from the stone. At first, it looked like the tile was warping and rising; something was pushing it up from beneath, like a hand pushing up against a blanket. Then it became clear that whatever it was, it was part of the stone itself…or had camouflaged itself to look like the stone. Like the shapeshifting the professor had talked about earlier.

The form rose until it would have towered well above Baelin or Thundar, but not to the height of Claygon or Grimloch. Stone warped, becoming more defined in shape; the rock took on a metallic sheen and began to change.

From somewhere far off, Alex thought he heard the sound of iron pounding on iron.

First, humanoid arms moulded out of the shape.

Then a pair of legs.

Long objects snapped out from the creature—filling the space within the circle—forming a pair of wings with feathers that glistened like steel. As the details of its shape formed—metallic musculature, flesh and hair—a ring of metal shimmered into being.

The halo of steel encircled its human-like head.

Schnk.

Spikes, like thorns on a vine, emerged on the steel surface.

The metallic, winged humanoid gazed at the surprised students with an unreadable look. Then it fixed its eyes on their professor.

Something about it…didn’t seem right.

Alex knew that it was physically present, but there was an aspect of it that just didn’t make sense to his mind. His brain couldn’t sort it out. It was like looking at his own room and realizing that something important was out of place, but having no idea what it could be.

With every sound it made, he seemed to hear the clash of metal on metal and screams like during the monster attack at the patrizia's ball. The scent of blood drifted into his nostrils. The creature’s every movement seemed to offer a threat of violence.

Despite this, its face looked relaxed.

In some ways, that made it worse.

The otherworldly spirit nodded to Professor Mangal with a look of respect and said something in a metallic, grinding language. She responded with the same words, and Alex found it hard to hear such sounds coming from a human throat.

A bow of respect passed between them, then the spirit rose to attention like a soldier. It paused, taking note of Claygon. Alex’s heartbeat quickened. The creature tensed for a moment.

Processing.

Assessing.

Then its face returned to its relaxed state.

Alex had to tear his eyes away when the professor spoke to them.

“Everyone, this is Then-Arus, a War-Spirit of Steel sworn to the Engeli of The Plane of Akero. At least that is his name in our Common tongue: in the pronunciation of his language, we hear it only as metal and pain,” she introduced the otherworldly entity as though she were introducing a friend at a tea party. “And I have summoned him many times for many reasons. Is he not magnificent? He has been fighting on battlefields across planes since before there was a single sapient mortal in Generasi, but you know what he does not like? Being summoned.”

She said something to the war-spirit in that grinding tongue. There was a twitch of one of its steel lips. Was that amusement? Or was it preparing to snarl and sink its teeth into her.

Alex raised his hand. “Uh, he looks pretty calm for someone who doesn’t like being summoned.”

“An important observation, Alex,” Profess Mangal said. “If most others would have summoned him, he would not be like this. He would be raging against their circle and looking for a way to kill them. But together, he and I have developed a working relationship, and so he is willing to donate some of his infinite time when I call him. This alliance came to be because we too established rules when I first summoned him. By following those, we developed respect for one another and can now work together quite nicely. To me, this is the pinnacle of the summoner’s art but, in fact, there are three major categories of summoning.”

She listed them off on her fingers. “Subjugation, the Binding Contract, and the Relational Contract. Subjugation is the simplest and what I shall teach you first. Oh, and I suggest writing this down.”

The students dragged their eyes away from Then-Arus and began taking notes.

“Subjugation lies in the simplest of summoning spells: in short, the spell’s mana circuit enwraps the summoned creature in a sort of temporary ‘cage’ as it drags the creature from whichever plane you choose. You simply say its name, or name the type of creature, then cast your spell, and it will be whisked to your side. Wizards who dabble in summoning, will only use this method. It is simple. It can make you feel strong, but if you remain tethered to this method, then you will never grow as a summoner.”

She glanced fondly at the fluttering little spirits around her, smiled and called them to her side. They quickly flew over with glee, and nuzzled against her. “Do you see this? Impossible with subjugation type summoning spells. Those work in a pinch, but they are temporary and limited. They also require a lot of mana, and so the wizard casting them can only summon creatures that are far less powerful than their technical capability will allow. You can summon many creatures in this way, but that method will lag in power compared to the rest of your magic. This can be circumvented through the use of certain rituals that place firm control on such creatures. But these rituals are long, require much preparation, and can only keep a creature on the plane and under your control for so long. Subjugation has its uses: sometimes you need to conjure something you have no desire to speak to—foul creatures—and so simply forcing them to do your will is effective.”

She gave them the sternest look Alex had seen on her face since class began. “But, if you attempt to subjugate something too powerful, it will either ignore your call—or worse—come to you and break free from your control. Which, obviously will have the most dire of consequences. For more powerful creatures and for those you wish to speak to: there is a better way. The Fae Wizard—Morgan—famously studied faerie and devil magic and adapted it to the art of summoning. Both creatures value pacts and someone’s unbreakable word, and she managed to craft spells that infused this sort of magic into summoning. When one casts a spell from the Binding Contract type of summoning, one is enacting her work. This sort of magic does not subjugate a creature, but keeps it sealed within a circle of power until it agrees to a bargain. You must offer something, and it must receive something: once it accepts, then it is under the power of the contract until such time that its service is complete.”

She spread her hands. “I cannot stress how superior of a method this is. It requires more time, so it cannot be used in the heat of battle, but a contract that a spirit has agreed to—under that magic—is far stronger than spells that simply subjugate."

Alex thought back to when professor Jules summoned the shoggoth. It was trapped in the cauldron until it agreed to her terms. Perhaps that was the sort of magic she used to summon it.

Ragnar raised his hand. “How old is this magic?”

Old,” Professor Mangal said. “Morgan was ancient. Summoning is believed to be one of the first forms of wizardry: perhaps the very first going back to when a wizard noticed shamans conjuring servants of gods they worshipped, and somehow managed to do something similar by drawing on other powers.”

Alex imagined that, then thought about The Traveller. Did she conjure servants of Uldar? She already had that unique magic, so maybe she had.

“Of course, the downside of this form of magic—again—is that it requires much ritual, chanting, concentration and the spells are relatively crude and mana-hungry by today’s standards. Also, a clever creature might attempt to circumvent the contract through wit or twist its terms to your ruin. After all, it is under duress—even if you do offer it proper compensation. If you do not? Then remember that the creatures we summon are far older than we are, with far more time to gather allies. Even if it cannot find its way back to you on its own, perhaps it will ask the next wizard that summons it to kill you as its price.”

‘Note to self,’ Alex wrote. ‘Do not try to rip-off any horrifying creatures from beyond the material world.’

“This is why the final method is—in my opinion—the best, though it is the most time consuming and often least reliable.” She held out her hand and let one of her tiny friends perch on her palm. “So, what if you did not merely summon temporary slaves or those who’ve bargained with you under duress. What if you summoned allies? Remember our contract from the beginning of class? No one forced you to sign it. No one forced you to make up rules. We sat down, as adults, and we agreed to terms, and so there is some of all of us in our contract. Therefore, we do not harbour bad feelings about it, and we want to follow it because it is ours.”

Alex blinked.

So that’s what that had been about.

Then he had a thought: he always tried to remember and use people’s names because it made them more likely to be friendly. It showed that you paid attention and cared…

He raised his hand.

“Ah, yes Alex?”

“So the name thing…is that just for the spell…or is it also about respect? It’s on my mind because my prof was talking about that in magical botany. You need to respect your summoned ally, since…” he paused, searching for the right words. “…because not even knowing its name or mispronouncing it is a bad way to start a relationship.”

“Perfectly said!” she clapped. “And that is another reason why names are so important. To give your name is to allow yourself to be called, and to say a name properly is to show respect. This is of course why sometimes refusing to give a name is protective, and in some ways, even hostile.”

Alex blinked.

His mind went back to The Traveller.

The Traveller.

That was the only name she was ever called in any reference he’d ever seen. The only ‘name’ she was known by: one that was little more than a generic title.

For the first time, he found himself considering that and wondering what her name actually was. And if perhaps its absence from history meant anything.

‘Refusing to give a name is protective,’ Mangal had said. ‘And in some ways hostile.’

That was true in many ways. Refusing to give your name could be seen as rude. Using a fake name was often done to protect yourself from some sort of consequence, or from being identified.

Maybe he was reading too much into it, but The Traveller was a woman that had carved a temple in the earth—a beloved Saint of the realm and a Hero—and yet, there was no readily available record of her name as far as he knew. She; a Saint of Uldar, had also built a hidden temple containing statues of goddesses that Alex had never seen, or heard of before.

She definitely had secrets.

And if she hadn’t left her name behind.

What was she being protective of?

Who was she being hostile to?

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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

I really like summoning, guys hahaha. This mixes a few methods of summoning that answer how it's often done in different forms of fiction.


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