"I ORDER you to Break your neck right now!" His last few words were infused with a measure of power, a resonance that commanded and bound the listener.
"You want me to break your neck right now?"
If the man had been Irate, he was almost enraged now. He took some deep breaths.
"Just end your own life immediately!" It didn't have the same commanding resonance of the previous order, but Brian decided to strike before the man decided to abandon orders and attack him.
"No. I don't think I will." Brian's eyebrows shot together as he sent a pulse of debilitating force into the stranger; throwing him at the curving stone of the towers wall like a rag-doll.
Brian imagined his opponent being enclosed within a barrier that would.... he paused, contemplating how he might interrogate the tower's occupant without completely blinding and immobilizing him. Ah, that would do; a barrier that would completely cut him off from his ethereal powers.
He imagined it, without even closing his eyes. It was so clear!
And there it was, a sparkling sheet that burned like lightning to the touch and absorbed the magic drawn by its occupant to fuel the barrier. The sparking sheet was white tinted and spread to encircle the man as though draped over an invisible globe.
Brian felt a twinge, as though briefly, something had squeezed at his heart from within.
Ignoring the unsettling feeling, he walked up to his captive.
"Wake" he tried to speak with the same commanding tone as the tower man had tried on him. Unlike the man who'd demonstrated it, he got results. The barriers occupant spread his arms, got shocked and recoiled as the events of the last few minutes got back to him.
"What, who are you?" He asked, astonished at both the barrier and his sudden jerk back to reality.
"Tell me what you Know About This ...Place" Brian's voice echoed; he sounded like he was speaking in several octaves simultaneously, and all of them brooked no argument.
"I built the National Mythological Reserve to prevent further damage to livestock and property by unregulated magical beings...."
"And Why Are You Here Now?" Brian leaned in towards the barrier, eye's blazing.
What a feeling! Control! Power that pulsed and coursed through his veins!
He felt.... Alive, for the first time ever.
"Silphia... Met her a half millennium ago. That's the thing see; this place is really small compared to the world we're tethered to, so... I had to remove time. Otherwise it would collapse. And well, I cheated; we all live the same moment while we're here, just acted in different positions. One moment over and over, different each time. Time.... Time! No going back while I'm here you see! In my prime I am!..."He was sweating now, with a strained expression on his face and tensed muscles.
"How Do I Leave?" Brian put more force into the words.
"You... Don't" Brian could hear the man's teeth grinding together.
"How Do I Leave!" the tower seemed to vibrate with the resonating tones of the command.
"Top of the tower. The centre of the storm, take the side of the book I put up there and connect it to the one in the basement. 's like a sorta aether circuit. Keep them apart, keep this place going. Put them together and... and..." The magician slumped forward.
"Wake!" The man remained inert "Oh Never mind!" Brian coughed "Man that hurt's my throat. Could do with a lozenge." He looked up and snapped his fingers.
The ceiling began to collapse. Brian frowned and lifted up his foot as though to take a step in the air. Stones from the ceiling swirled around him like a whirlwind that had passed through a stonemason. Brian laughed and began to walk upwards, the stones shifting to form a spiral staircase which climbed in time with his steps.
He reached the top of his stair, only a few meter's from the next floors high ceiling.
Palms up arm's straight out, he connected his thumb and forefinger, as though framing an imaginary photograph.
Above him the stone shifted, ignoring mortar and gravity to recombine itself into a long vertical tunnel. He continued to laugh, even as he felt his sides begin to burn and cramp; like he'd run a marathon while standing still.
His laugh now echoed, shattering glass and rippling outwards to frighten rocks and stunt trees. He walked up the vertical tunnel, ignoring gravity.
He stood at the top. He couldn't remember actually getting there. His head ached and his breathing felt tight and constricted.
He coughed and the 'cough' appeared in stone letters above his head, which clattered to the ground. The tear warped around outside the tower-top. Lightning earthed itself into an invisible barrier which held back the tide from engulfing the entire structure.
Where he walked, stone began to melt. His breath formed clouds that darted away with frightened squeaks.
The tower top was tiered, with concentric circles descending then ascending in the centre with half of the book sitting atop the last and smallest ring.
He didn't teleport, he just walked, freezing the air beneath his feet and walking down on an icy staircase. It wasn't the sensible thing to do. But then again, it wasn't really Brian anymore. Power crackled through his slight frame, searching for an outlet.
Picking up the book he felt his chest tighten even more.
"Stop!" it was the man from earlier. Brian didn't need to use his eyes or ears. He could just see him standing several meters behind him.
Brian raised his arm and swept it sideways. The entire tiered structure spun round, leaving the two facing each-other. Brian's eyes quite literally blazed with light.
"It's the vent; you can't keep using power like that while you're so close to it! It only makes it worse!"
Brian shook his head and raised his arms high over his head, before swinging them down towards the roof top. The centre tiers disappeared.
The tower wizard stepped to the basement. The boy had emerged upside down from the roof and now stood over the second half of the book.
He was on the verge of connecting the two but locked in place. The wizard knew the feeling, it had happened before. People got close, and then holding both they always hesitated; tempted by the control over an entire world of magic the separated book offered and fighting the almost magnetic attraction the two halves had for each other.
They waited too long and the energy they'd become a conduit for burned them to a husk.
Somewhere in Brian's mind, his old personality saw the two warring impulses and reasserted itself.
"I Thus Refute Thee." He growled and brought the text together. The clap of paper being slammed together rocked the tiny dimension. He held his hands on the cover as it combined, broken spine fusing seamlessly. The world began to shake. The book snapped open and everything around the two humans collapsed inwards. The book rose up in the air and Brian now devoid of the buzz and crackle of power could only watch in amazement as the world was sucked towards the pages.
"Very. Now I can leave."
The wizard shook his head and put his hand on Brian's shoulder.
"You really don't know do you. You've pulled out the plug. I'll tell you what that means. This world, will become overlayed on what you might term the 'actual' or real earth. Instant forests, unexpected mountains, the whole caboodle; Congrats on causing the greatest natural disaster imaginable."
"You have a failsafe." Brian looked up "You're trying to make me feel guilty. I have no doubt that there is something missing from that description."
The wizard sighed and squatted down on his haunches. "You're perfectly right. Appearances will happen in order of magical potency. With an exponential decrease for creatures going from most to least poent, and exponential increase in flora and geology going from the least to most. See the problem now?" He was morose, despite being one of only two beings able to witness the unravelling of a dimension from the outside. Colour whirled as objects twisted into an opaque vortex of matter which splashed onto the pages of ever growing tome.
Brian thought and answered "You... mean... I, we will be inserted last?"
"Yes. We were just at the epicentre at the destruction of a world made entirely out of magical energy. Which you acted as a conduit for; if I'm not making things quite clear enough, it means that you just earthed practically every last dram of magic through your own body. Seeing as it didn't kill you, I think it's fair to say you are now very very VERY potent. Like a lightning rod. On a tower. In Transylvania. During a storm."
"What about you."
"Do I look like I've done this before? Either I pop out 256 or thirty two years from now. One or the other; or not at all. I haven't tried this before. With good reason."
Both sat down to watch the show of rivers and mountains twisted into a rope which splashed onto page after page of blank parchment to make truly realistic pictures.
"So... What now? We just sit here?"
"Pretty much. Tell me, do you know if magic is, was still around... you know, outside?"
"Not a spark. People claim to have it, but it's all just superstition." Brian watched as a volcano swirled past in the stream of objects.
"Well. This will be interesting. It would seem that fellow from a while back was right."
"He got as far as you did. But he couldn't bring himself to connect the two halves together.
It was an unintentional security measure. You get those thing's near each-other and you begin fighting to keep them apart, all because you can feel the power they offer.... offered.
Had a journal. That's how I knew that the corners I cut on the contract had left this place" He gestured to the landscapes swirling past.
"Siphoning off the magic from everywhere else." He gestured with the diary.
"How did you get the book you're holding in your hand?" Brian asked with a frown.
"I just pulled it from the library." "Which no longer exists." "Oh. Well, I'd forgotten."
The sorcerer seemed un-phased.
"Well. So?" "... I dunno. I can't really handle all this. How long will I be out of the world for? Will I be aged when I get back? How can I handle that? Just don't know." Brian lay back on the unyielding darkness that was below both of them. Above the world continued to pour onto the pages of the open book.
The wizard could see how crestfallen the boy was and for the first time realised that his new companion was just that. A boy.... Young, certainly intelligent, but not really ready for sixteen long lonely years in limbo; which was his best approximation how long he'd stick around after the world finished streaming.
He sighed. He had a nice personality. It killed him to admit it, because it made him feel like a sucker when he did things like what he was about to do. Namely, remove his one source of intelligent conversation for the next 32 or 256 years.
A set of numbers that firmly placed him in either the zone of mid life crisis or decaying cadaver by the time that he actually got synched onto the earth after experiencing those years in-step with actual time. If he didn't go crazy first.
"Lighten up. You'll be out of here before long." He was lying through his teeth and really hoped that his otherwise observant acquaintance would be too morose to notice.
"Really?" Brian lightened up "So, how much of my life will it take, just sitting here..."
The mage thought fast.
"Nearly none. Now that I have this..." He flourished the diary "I can, with your consent, bind your spirit to it."
"Wha?" Brian was sceptical but the mage continued on apparently oblivious
"You made the connection, so you can still tap into it although the nature of the unravelling and reality overlay process means you will have limited, no, practically no capacity to interact with the earth during early synchronisation. And because we have another book here, smell that..." He put it under the boy's nose, causing Brian to sniff cautiously.
"See? Treated parchment, top quality spirit retention in the paper."
He saw the expression on the young man's face and it clicked in his mind.
He's a pessimist. He simply cannot accept that it might be genuine because he cannot believe it's that easy. I need to think up something that will seem difficult or rather just really unpleasant to him but he won't actually be able to test....... Ah, of course!
Brian watched as the man's expression became sheepish. "There is ah... somewhat of a catch." "I totally knew it!" The man looked annoyed "Yes, yes you're very smart now shut up. The catch in question will only be applicable... well, let me put it this way-"
He explained. Brian's expression went through a range of emotions from relief, to surprise and then something resembling mild horror.
"That is total.... Minator excrement!"
" 'fraid not. The terms of a bind are clear, although admittedly I'm probably the only person left who would be able to perform this specific ritual that's the way it works.
Of course, you don't need rituals, but it's ten heck's of a lot easier to just visualise a symbol and it's recorded effect than hold a whole bunch of terms and conditions in your mind at once." He shrugged with feigned nonchalance.
"How long do I have to mull this over?" "Two minutes. The Synch is almost done. You are running out of world."
"Why will this work?" "Do you want me to explain decades of learning to you in one hundred seconds?"
"Fine. Do it!" The magician jumped up, grabbed brains arm and said "This may feel a little strange. Just remember what I told you a moment ago and you'll be fine."
"Right." Brian nodded and put his palm on a blank page in the diary.
Immediately his body crumpled and folded up as though it was a bizarre form of origami.
The mage snapped the book shut and bound it with an eldritch pattered ribbon.
"Atarakala Friend." The mage muttered, drawing back his arm and throwing the text into the stream of colour that filled the last page before the now gargantuan tome shuddered.
He was drawn to it. He was the last real thing in this entire reality; the book existed on both sides, like a door in its frame... but he was all that was left here. One he passed through this place would be gone forever.
He shook himself and walked straight towards the now nearly life sized landscape the book was showing. The pages flickered and blurred until he was presented with his own tower.
At least he'd spend his exile in familiar settings.
He stepped into the page. The book snapped shut and after a moment, collapsed until it was but a single point and in a blink, that too was gone.
The empty space continued. Not as empty as anyone thought. Still pretty dang empty, barring a few bacterium and maybe fifty grams of mixed matter. However, like many thing's small, it is a start.
The world had a rather different problem. It wasn't that things happened too fast. It was that they happened and kept on happing. Many people were unsettled by this. Especially the ones pointing large thermonuclear devices at one another; especially because not only were their demands almost identical, generally being along the lines of "Stop causing trees to appear in my city" and "Would someone please tell me where all these giant birds came from."
It wasn't just the reforestation, the infill as strip-mines were passed over like a paragraph inserted in a merged document in MS word, the brief and almost simultaneous loss of consciousness experienced by everyone in the world, the unexpected re-icing of the polar icecaps and the fact that no one had the foggiest idea of what was happening... Or perhaps it was, the point is that these changes were staggered over a period of several months and in the case of spontaneous acquisition of alpine topography, miles.
Before we get to this global state of panic and to understand the source of the eventual solution, we must meet Sashia.
Rather than make the sweeping generalisation of classifying her as either ordinary or exceptional, it is better to judge her life for yourself.
I woke up to the sound of my second alarm. It always works this way. First one wakes me, second one makes me get up to turn it off, before someone else get's woken up.
All systems go. I'm all fired up and ready to face the day.... I wish. She swung off the bunk and landed lightly on her feet before slumping into her chair.
Leesse' pills... pills . ah. She picked up the glass of water and gulped down the powdery short acting tablets.
Hate taking that stuff. Makes me phobic about addictions. She glanced at the clock. Short acting Ritalin, being only ten milligrams, would kick in around half an hour from now.
... 4:40 AM. She sighed. It wasn't chilly; her room was too small to get cold.
To call it a room was stretching it a little. It was more of a cubby or a den; but it was hers.
Like she so often did, she lapsed off into her own mind; trying to think of how to explain it to someone she might one day meet and take back there... or perhaps Shade. How would shade ask? Well if shade told her that her room was cold in the winter, she could use that opportunity as a springboard. "My room doesn't get cold, because it's small"
"Really, is it hard to fit stuff in there?" would be the likely reply; how should she respond?
Perhaps "Not really, one wall is a bookshelf, really sturdy. I have a bunk that slots nicely into a sort of rectangular indent in the back of the room, with a desk below the bed...."
How would she do it so that she wouldn't seem self centred or somehow boring?
ah perhaps end with "... But there are disadvantages to that, no ladder and all."
Her friend would ask "How do you get up?" and then she'd just say "I climb" and maybe then she could mention her hobby of free-running and pakour... no that was maybe for another time... time, timey wimey.. Time! 4:55 AM.
That was the trouble with lapses, they would take hold of your attention and leave you helpless until you shattered the illusion with the right thought or external stimulus.
Dressing in her uniform, she walked to the kitchen.
It was like having two personalities sometime s, she mused, pouring out cereal and milk into a bowl in the darkness of the kitchen. She brought the dish that would break her fast*and feasted on carbohydrates and sugar dusted with vitamins to make them conform to nutritional standards. "Man is the only species other than rat which eats cellulose" Where was that from? Never-mind. She had more important things to do.
Five ten and the short acting tablets had begun to kick in. The change wasn't exactly conscious, but to any observer it was visible. Minutes ago her eye's had been drooping and she hadn't been able to think much beyond the basics. Now she almost pedantically straightened her room, made her own lunch, emptied the dishwasher under the kitchen sink and loaded her breakfast plates into it.
She knew, although she didn't recall it at the time, that it was a symptom of both Attention deficient and hyperactive disorders. A compulsion to avoid strenuous thought or 'work', more than an ordinary person might.
* (She had an unconscious habit of splitting words into their components, Night-fall, Day-bake, bath-room, tele-vision. She never mentioned this, as she was afraid that someone would profoundly embarrass her by pointing out what it would do to the word toilet.)
In many cases this manifests in the person doing something in preference to what they are meant to. In her case schoolwork. That was hard. It required effort. Whereas tidying the kitchen, making her own lunch and making her bed were all preferential as they were simple tasks which didn't require what she'd classify as complex or effort inducing thoughts.
It was at least better than some of the less productive activities used by people who are arguably 'suffering' from such compulsions.**
** (Authors Note: One of which is this story and in actual fact practically all my narratives.
Writing is my way of procrastination in the face of life's problems, like homework assignments..... Which is what I really should be doing now :P. Anyway, this book is about other people's problems, not mine. I will shut up.)
Eventually at about five forty, she had to face the fact that there was nothing else she could do other than accept her fate and get on with her backlog of assignments.
It didn't really help that she was less than three feet from a book-case and that her desk was home to a PC. The latter beckoned to her, silently. She could almost hear it. "Come on, work can wait. You haven't visited those forums in ages. You should go back. You can do work while you type... You haven't checked out your web-comic archives, remember? Dial-A-Wish updated yesterday. "
She realised she'd been staring at the screen idly for five minutes.
After deciding against a verbal reprimand for her PC she returned to the maths.
Once in the swing of it, the time passed easily.
That was how it worked for her. As long as she didn't think she couldn't lose concentration and that meant she could totally focus on getting things done.
Sighing, she realised that she was thinking about how she was thinking about not thinking about anything. A sadly common state of affairs.
Leaning back, she stretched her arms.
Time? 5:55 AM.
She'd gotten at least some work done. She'd get more done, but it just took so long.
Sometimes she had to wonder what normality was like; she was always planning on working, yet had no time to spare as what she had to do expanded to fill the period of time left to do it in. Would work be like turning on a switch? Just sit down, do maths, no drama?
People in her class always talk talk talk , noise noise noise. Yet they seemed to get about the same amount done as she did, head down, industriously scribbling.
It seemed like a treadmill, but the worst part. The part that kept her getting up early and going to bed late was the fear that maybe it was only working this hard that kept her marks from getting any worse.
She looked at the clock and closed the book in disgust. If she was going to waste her own time, she might as well waste it in a way that she'd actually enjoy.
She left for the bus at 7:02 by her watch. Which in reality was 6: 59. Leaving her a goodly eight minutes to arrive in time to catch the bus scheduled for 7:10 but which always ran early.
Twelve stops later and she was at her school. Well. Close....
It was a distinction she'd never thought to make before, the difference between say, the fence at the outside of the oval which was on the highway edge of the school grounds and the overpass above the road that was next to the school.
It's the difference from being in a situation where you can avoid someone who you don't want to talk to with little effort and obvious evasive manoeuvres, to being on an overpass with the only alternative's (i.e jumping off, walking down and crossing the road.) are either time consuming or fatal.
In the absence of a choice between the lesser of two evils, Sashia merely erected a facade of stony indifference as she approached her foe.
"Sashia! Good morning, I didn't expect to see you here." A darkly tanned and partially freckled boy leaned over the side of the overpass. His hair was lightly stiff with salt, while the rest of his features contained their customarily mischievous grin.
"Gordon Welborough; please get out of my face."
He slung off his bag and hopped atop the overpass railing , balancing as nimbly as if he wasn't less than an inch from falling into heavy traffic.
"You wound me, but as you wish, I am happy to have seen you one last time." He spoke in an almost musical fashion and bowed low.
I just put my hand on one hip and shifted my weight. He was too fond of himself to jump if he thought he couldn't make it.
"Well. Are you going to leave, or shall I just keep walking?" I did try to keep the worry from my voice, but it's hard when someone looks like they are about to jump onto a freeway; Especially if you've known that someone since childhood.
Why does he irritate me so much? She wondered as Gordon shrugged effortlessly, executing a perfect forward flip to land back on the overpass, scoop up his bag and come after me in one smooth motion.
"So, have you decided to admit that you can't stand to see me leave yet? Or will you leave me in a world of pain and anxiety?"
"Pain for you.... and solitude for me. How can I resist?" Sweeping off I considered it to be a pretty good closing statement. I got the last word in and as long as I win then that means I don't need to manipulate other people's emotions to get my jollies.
Walking up towards the school, for the first time i noticed how much they looked as though they were huddling together for warmth. Each principle added something; the architecture was as bizarre as only an unintentional century-long building program can create.
Gordon caught up with me, walking in step. To our right the empty oval, to our left the courts where the basketball teams were practicing before school.
He hadn't ceased to annoy me; he'd opened up the back of my pack while I wasn't looking.
"Wow, this look's old and... really important; I guess you won't be wanting it back then."
He waved and dashed off towards the school.
I zipped up my bag behind my back. It had looked like a book that he had. On principle, I needed it back.
Running is invigorating. After years hauling heavy packs to and from school, mine feels like air; even If it's loaded with fifteen kilos of paperwork.
Gordon hit the stairs at a sprint; hanging a right and running along the raised path that skirted the oval. Simple; The garden bed's alongside the staircase are only about seventy five centimetres high.
So I took a shortcut, vaulting up the three raised beds, running parallel to Gordon.
He swung between the art and maths departments. Grabbing hold of the handrail above the last garden bed, swinging and skidding brought me up far enough to see him hang a right, going around the art department. Rather than go off in hot pursuit, I ran up the art department staircase. Panting lightly, I reached the third floor and looked for where my quarry might have gone to ground. As it happened he was right below me on the eastern side of the art department.
The side without a staircase or ramp; there was another way down, which I'd done before but was more than a little unorthodox.
Each handrail has two points where you can grab it. Taking off my bag, I swung over to the outside of the third floor railing, slid down, and grabbed the bottom rung. Not as dangerous as it sounds... well maybe a little. No time for that now. Just swing back and then with forward momentum jump onto the second floor, where you can vault over the railing, land on the roof of the roller for the cricket-pitch and then jump down and grab the book while he's still stunned.
I clipped him a little, so instead of landing in a crouch, I went into a shakey skill roll instead; It took the edge off my fall at least.
He tried to see if I was alright; and I was fine. I'd only received a shallow scrape where my cheekbone grazed the ground.
"Gordon. This isn't mine." I brandished the book at him.
He shrugged. "Don't ask me about it. I took it out of your bag... Sorry, just wanted to get a reaction out of you. And it was kind'a fun doncha' think? Just like old times?"
I raised an eyebrow critically. "Last time you chased me, didn't you break your leg trying to keep up?"
He grinned and shrugged. "I admit, I really shouldn't have tried to follow you after you wall-ran over those trolley's. I still don't know how you do that."
I shrugged, glad to keep my mind on something other than the fact I'd just jumped off the third floor to retrieve a book that wasn't even mine. We walked together now, with an unspoken pax which would hold until I retrieved my bag.
"It's just practice. It extends the length and time of a jump, it's not going to keep you from falling entirely. You always kick off the wall; in reality you need to just grip the wall without exerting force on it."
"Too complicated for me; remind me again why you quit gymnastics?"
"It was boring. There isn't any point in just doing something for the sake of doing it."
There it was. One bag, owner, yours truly.
Picking up one strap I swung it over my shoulder; more difficult than it sounds for a bulky 15-17 kilo piece of baggage.
We broke off then. Gordon headed to his locker and me to mine. I stowed the bag and then slipped off to the library. The foyer there is always opened and air conditioned. Mostly empty in the mornings.
Looking over the book was somewhat curious.
It was nearly all blank; what was there was a preface apparently to a set of diaries by a self proclaimed wizard.
I was interested.... Who wouldn't be?
The pages were yellowed and the ink appeared to have been hand-mixed, it grew thicker and thinner on the page and it's smell mixed with the dry odour of the parchment to produce a strange scent which seemed to exude knowledge with each breath.
It seemed to be a combination of a memoir and an instructive pamphlet on the sourcerous art's.
The most interesting part of what little was there was the second page:
I decided to jot down what I read in a more easily deciphered scripture than the spelling of some several century old manuscript, with a writer who attempted calligraphy without knowing how to write normally.
Without Further ado Here is The Formula, Devised by the wisest of all wizardry, for the calculation and manipulation of one's own magical potential.
Formula for magic:
Will X (Imagination+intellegence)^*Confidence/Self assurance/Ideological strength*
Fatigue X physical weakness +( -1 X Clarity/ mental focus)^Cowardice/fear
Thus, while at first a person who has formerly been dominant over another due to superiority in terms of physical strength they may be bested if a mentally strong victim is able to regain sufficient self confidence to face them.
In other words, a creative and intelligent open minded individual, may find himself on par with a close minded and otherwise rather average person with extreme ideological certainty and willpower.
Similarly, a child of diminished stature may have imagination and confidence in abundance, but will power intelligence and physical weakness counterbalance it.
Although magic is only at one point influenced by physical stature or strength; subconsciously it would take a while for an overly developed musculature to no longer be considered something to be intimidated by.
Sub equation :
While overall magical strength is determined by the general formula above, SMS (Specific magical Strength) is ascertained by applying the following two formulas to the result of the general formula.
Magical strength X (Mental aptitude+ Familiarity )
Action magnitude+ Action's compatibility with Casters personality.
Mental aptitude signifies the casters ability to visualise and understand the genera and effects of the spell being cast .
Action's compatibility signifies how in-tune they are with that choice in that context;
A person may understand how to create an illusion to protect him or herself from physical harm, however they may dislike the idea of cowardice in all it's forms and thus find it difficult to maintain the glamour as it goes against their own nature.
Familiarity infers that a person who has thrown up wards against projectiles since their childhood, innately understands the feeling of creating that effect more than a person who has learned the
can-trip but a week ago.
On the use of wands and other such devices for the amplification and creation of magical workings.
Anyone can do magic. However their strength is usually somewhere in between the regions of being able to stunt the growth of a single weed or cause oxygen to ignite of it's own accord.
Wand's, scrying crystals, stave's, bones, the nine cursed typefaces of the Helvetica font, books and tombs, gauntlets, robe's, amulets, rings, animated prostheses, Kittens from the litter of Lexip the mad's inverted cat, Big-eyed no Eyed spiders, hairy frog clippings, mountain hearts, desert lungs, tundra mind's, field lifeblood, forest skins, ocean tears, sky eyes, dragons in general and their body parts specifically and practically all herbs more difficult to find than mint have some degree of value when assisting the layman to shape reality on a whim. However the vast majority of them are vanity items; Their assistance lying almost solely in giving one's self a boost of confidence.
Few can deny holding an ensorcelled sword etched with the eight circles of runic ascension and imbued with the heat of an eternal flame is no small comfort when you attempt to do battle with some hellish monstrosity spawned through the idiocy of a colleague. However, I found out the hard way that my opponent (A fourty eight foot beast, with a thankfully awkward turning circle) Did not give a danm about what my sword was. Fortunately I only paid for that lesson with two of my fingers; I dealt with the creature by taking a bucket of ordinary boiling pitch and using the contents to block up it's airways from a distance. Inelegant but as I am still alive and it's head is now a stuffed ornament on my mantle peace, I maintain that elegance can go suck a piece of brimstone.
Though some such as a set of the nine cursed typefaces of Helvetica, a set of eight to sixteen point size movable type with a single set of italic's (twelve point) are of genuine potency.
Useful? Debatable; The typefaces as an example, are reputed to have been produced by a particularly strong and vindictive sorcerer. Created when he was asked to enchant a newly bought printing press to give an edge over a publishers competition, anything printed with them is unforgettable once read. Of the original nineteen that would have been part of the press, only nine remain; Having been salvaged by a curiosity hunter from the wreckage at the publishers after the lynch mob broke down the doors of the house and smashed the press. This was difficult as the two ton press attempted to escape, only to be caught in a blind alley (I believe this kindled the invention of the phrase "Stop the press!")
I finished writing and exhaled. I almost wished it could be true... Lately, the flavour had left life.
I knew it could happen, but all the same I was a little disbelieving when I found that anything only just beyond the ordinary didn't interest me anymore.
It wasn't just the pull of intrigue and the exotic; it was that everything close to normal had been done. To find something new, something untapped or unexplored required you to go farther afield.
But every time you find something new, it just get's filled up. Street-running, animae and conventional cartoons, rock-climbing, drawing, fencing, shooting, riding, dice-stacking, pyrotechnics, synthesizing, four forms of martial arts, self hypnotism... The only thing that hadn't really been exhausted for me was fiction.
When you read, you get an entirely new world, universe, reality; one that only you can see, explore, create and mould.
How had this journal found me? Or rather why had gorden given it to me... He lacked the imagination to think of the gift himself, yet at the same time he'd seemed pretty honest when he said it had come from my bag.
Was magic real? Probably.... not. But then again, I didn't know anything. I'd never tried it, nor had i ever heard anyone verify with a reasoned argument why it shouldn't exist. I folded my notepad inside the book and put the book on my lap.
According to what was inside, you didn't actually need anything beyond mental strength and fortitude to force magic to do your bidding.
What should I do? The libraries locked door beckoned.
placing the flat of my palm on the keyhole, I tried to imagine the tumbler's responding to an invisible force, a pressure that would push them down as surely as if I had inserted a key in the lock.
Nothing. I tried harder. If there was magic, it should work.
Nothing still. I gave up. No click or anything to indicate the door had unlocked.
After another ten minutes, one of the staff came and made to unlock the door.
I only looked up when the woman said "Oh, Fancy. It was already unlocked.".
Had it been me? Or had that been why I failed?
I wasn't sure. But I was sure that if magic did exist, I sure as hell wasn't going to let someone else steal my niche.
A whole new world. Just for me.
The day went by. I continued trying to find an opportunity to test out wether magic existed or not, but there were too many people around and I couldn't think of something both unobtrusive and conclusively supernatural.
That evening there was a newsflash; around the world, Pits, open cut and strip mines had been found filled in with dirt and loam. Environmentalists were suspected.
Three new species of mammal and two birds had been found at similar times, just wandering around in the cities of the world, looking confused. They all strongly resembled mythical and folkloric descriptions of supernatural creatures. Jackalopes, pookas, real fire-finches and goldfinches.
It made me remember the book I had tucked away.
Opening it up, I found that the diary had begun to appear as well, twenty pages now filled with badly written calligraphy.
Before I could get round to deciphering it, the power went out.
Rather than spend the rest of the night huddling under the blankets with a torch, I decided to read the rest tomorrow.
Without an alarm to wake me, I was late. Arriving at school with only thirty minutes to spare before the bell for class. It was a little more crowded than usual; I guess because after a night of outage there wasn't must to do at home beyond mope.
There was a ruckus at the staircase. The usual; big guy wants cash. Little guy has cash. Big guy attacks little guy until he can wrest the money from his almost broken fingers.
The larger partner was having trouble though, the bantamweight he was going up against stubbornly refused to let up, instead landing ineffectual blows before being repeatedly forced back onto the concrete.
After the third time, the smaller boy was on his hands and knees facing away from his opponent.
But as the larger boy approached, he let loose with a straight kick upwards, catching him in the groin. A number of the boys around me winced.
The large boy recovered while the other guy got up unsteadily. Vengeance in his eyes he seemed to have decided enough was enough, he'd brake the pipsqueaks arm if he resisted any-more.
Against my better judgement, I stepped in. A black-jack is essentially a leather tube with a lead weight at one end and sand in the rest of it. It can be used to both break bones and incapacitate people temporarily. It takes skill to deliver a blow while aiming for only short term unconsciousness. I advise practicing before trying to do it in the field.
He crumpled up as I struck him from behind. It's the best way to get things done. Just make sure to conceal your weapon once you're done. He'd be out for half an hour and no one seemed inclined to comment.
Still the way that everyone was looking at me left me feeling a comment was in order.
"next-time don't block the stairs."
He couldn't hear me of course, but with an excellent sense of timing he chose that moment to groan; I decided to walk on before a teacher came along handing out D's.
How would I explain this to someone like shade? Perhaps I'd say:
To be perfectly honest, I've looked at just sitting back and looking pretty and decided that I don't want any. It's not that I consider myself a tomboy or something like that, but there is more to life than sitting with friends, and giggling. I have a list of miscellaneous skills as long as my arm and that's a long story.
"What kind of story?"
"Well, I take new year's resolutions seriously. So one time I resolved to learn one new thing a day. This was when I was ten. Internet tutorials help a lot... Really it's a matter of just being able to pick up new skills; With excellent pattern memory, you can do a lot.
One hour a day to learn one new thing equates over six years to three hundred and sixty five multiplied by six. To all the knuckleheads who can't do that mentally, it works out two thousand one hundred and ninety hours. Or about ninety one days... Ninety one and a quarter if you're going to be pedantic. Anyways, It means that by the grace of online self help I have enough party-tricks to write a book. Some are more practical, like being able to condition yourself to a more responsive mental state when cramming or attempting to remember your own dreams and such.
It's rare that they are useful on a daily basis, but every so often they help out... And it's really something that you can enjoy and relish after a while; the feeling of knowing, being able to do where others stand dumfounded.
My introspection and the conversation explanation of my imagination flew out of my head.
If I had a point for every airborne though that left me I'd have enough frequent flyer miles to move me more than halfway round the world.
"Hey" Said the interruption. Male, one hundred and twenty five centimetres with blonde hair, braces and glasses. To sum up, more metalwork than a scaffolded building.
"Thanks for that, back there."
I was a tad surprised. "You were the one being roughed around?"
"Well , yeah. Kind of took off my glasses first. I'm Torc. It's a silly name but it's the only one I've got."
"Sashia." I fervently hoped he wouldn't be a limpet to stick to the first source of kindness that came his way. Still, curiosity made me risk an extra query. "Why didn't you give up?"
"Simple, Textbook psychology. He remembers me being a lot of trouble. In future, he won't want to bother me. Not worth it."
"Oh. I see. Well, see you." I admit I expected him to tag after me, but no, he kept walking.
Probably not a limpet; more like a fixture.
"So what's a fixture." "Well, Myrrh; I decided a while ago to come up with groupings which I could divide up my schools population into:
Limpets cling to the people who show them kindness, compassion and attention unconditionally; the difficulty there is if you are a nice girl who does not like people... or at least people near you, you have to either damage them by outright pushing them away, which is like kicking a puppy or alternatively tolerate them and get used to having people look for you and eagerly inquire as to what you're doing. Limpets are the people who are in other circumstances, oppressed as they are always too eager, trying too hard to fit in, make the right friends, make the right jokes. They still think that they can gain acceptance by just being friendly, when more often than not it just end's with their good nature being recognised and used as a tool to exploit and bully.
Fixtures are different. They are people that you know but you don't. The ones which are always on the edge of what's happening with a witty comment or a shrewd observation; people who haunt habitats hewn out of sheer personality in a school space otherwise bereft of individuality.
Sheep are people who follow and only rarely distinguish themselves from anyone else while in a group. They are the background, the girls who just suppress or are unable to manifest any real individual character, not even a facade. They just sit and look on in class.
Leaders are the Rams, the people who lord over their own little group of sheep by being what they would aspire to be. But like sheep, they rarely actually have any flare or spark of personality. They are just Sheep with a chip on their shoulder.
Lone wolves are the girls who don't try to make friends; that do well in their subjects and rarely have a word. They occasionally show up with other groups but otherwise just keep to themselves, because after observing the system from the outside you cannot un-see it and attempt to become a sheep in blissful ignorance. You always resist damping the spark of rebellion and anger at the unthinking acceptance of others to the fate picked out for them by parents teachers advisors and every other controlling force.
Paragons are the perfectionists; they don't need to try to get friends, people want to just be with them. Always ready with the right answer the smart response, the kind word, a helping hand, clever observation, correct answer. They give as good as they get, but at the same time are still ready to help without being arrogant about it. Often this academic performance is combined with an excellence in athletic performance.
There seems to be a catch, as very often the girls and guys in this group are some of the loneliest or the ones with the most screwed up family lives. Everyone wants to be them, yet sometimes they don't want to be themselves.
The last and rarest of all the groups are the Characters:
The true individuals, the unofficial spokespersons, the ones ready to pose the most problematic questions in presentations, the ones who will not bend or conform to the system instead forcing the environment around them to work for them by sheer force of personality. They refuse to follow the established formula if they think they can come up with a better way, eschewing traditional standards of success and failure.
Their answers always make sense when you hear them, yet you cannot explain why.
They are not outside of the system, they are perpendicular to it. They see what everyone else does and rather than react, they just smile and move on.
They do not have the grades of the lone wolves or the paragons, but because of the way they act; unafraid of being wrong, always ready to volunteer or shed light on an issue making their answer with a near perfect grasp of the language... Everyone looks up to them and thinks of them as true geniuses.
The flip side, the one that no one ever considers is the effect this has on them.
They know that everyone thinks they are incredibly intelligent and they usually know that they are quite smart; but the pressure of maintaining a facade of apparent nonchalance in the face of the pressure of perfection takes a lot of effort.
They are expected to top everyone in the tests, yet they don't and it chips away at their own confidence in a veil of superiority that they feel overestimates their own capacity for learning.
Characters either end up as loner Individualists, personable, likeable, intensely memorable and always able. Or they slowly fall silent and more reserved, their justifiably confidence is the source of their nearly magnetic charisma and without it they are just another fixture.
These are broad categories. Why did I make them? Well, everyone now, myself included, does their damndest best not to be classified as a member of a preset grouping like 'geek' or whatever popular culture has spewed forth as it's whipping boy at the time.
You can't escape these ones. They apply to everyone within the confines of the school.
While thinking my body had gone on autopilot to my locker, deposited my bag, withdrawn books and entered tute.
The room was ablaze with gossip about the new creatures that had turned up, along with the sudden appearance of the infill... although for something that was in fact very nearly physically improbable, the conversation about a half-rabbit cat creature seemed to be getting more attention in the talk-talk. Only to be expected really.