102: Matters of Intent

on November 21, 2007 in 04: The Body Politick

In Which A Questionable Etymology Is Employed.

I’d originally picked my schedule without any consideration for things like breakfast, which meant a late start… my first class wasn’t until 10:15. That gave me enough time to double back to Harlowe and check out a theory by myself.

Creating fire of any sort in the dorm rooms was against the rules. I knew Two wouldn’t have gone against that, but the school had thoughtfully provided Harlowe Hall students with appropriate facilities for things like summoning and spells. If Two had felt she had some reason to go messing around with demons, she wouldn’t have hesitated to use the rooms set aside for that purpose.

As she had said about tables and eating, “That’s what they’re for.”

There was one way I could possibly confirm my theory: each of the special purpose rooms had a sign-up sheet on the door to reserve it for a specific time. I had to imagine that hardly anybody would bother reserving a room, especially this early in the semester. Two would have, though. “You can sign up to reserve a room at a specific time if you want to” wasn’t anything like a direct order, but the sign-up sheet was orderly. When doing something of her own initiative, she’d greatly prefer having a procedure to follow over just sort of wandering in whenever she felt like it.

Just as I’d predicted, most of the sheets on the clipboards hanging outside the summoning rooms and spell labs were empty, except for one summoning room which had a single entry: Two had used it, at two in the morning. Why then? If it had been anybody else, I’d say they were trying to hide what they were doing… but of course, anybody else wouldn’t have scheduled their clandestine activities in advance.

I went inside. An odd feeling of foreboding filled me even as I crossed the threshold. Was I afraid of what I’d find? Doubtful… the room appeared to be completely empty. It was more like a feeling of latent, simmering hostility. If there was any trace left of what I suspected had been summoned, that might be easily explained.. except why would it be hostile towards me?

The floor was inlaid with small tiles, with a professional-strength summoning circle partially inscribed well away from the edges of a large, powerful circle of protection. There were blank spaces left in the inner circle, large smooth white pieces of tile where you could fill in the details for the summoning you wanted to perform. I could “feel” other spells woven throughout the room, other protective enchantments. I turned my mind towards them, probing and feeling them out.

I found banishing spells, set up long ago and waiting to be triggered… triggered by anything that broke the protection circle… as well as spells that targeted specific types of powerful and dangerous supernatural entities, ready to strike out with debilitating dweomers at the first aggressive act.

Well, that explained my unease. The room was hostile to me. I’d have to be careful not to make any sudden moves.

The runes which had last filled in the summoning circle were still partially visible, having only been hastily and imperfectly smudged out. Proof positive that Two had been injured… there’s no way she wouldn’t have cleaned up after herself otherwise.

I tried to get a closer look… and ended up smacking my foot into the edge of the summoning circle. I’ve kicked at rocks and other solid impediments in frustration before and felt like I broke something, but this barrier had one tiny difference: it was magical. Shit. There was no way for me to see what was left of Two’s summoning runes, and now I’d quite possibly broken every bone in my foot.

Well, probably not. I mean, it still took my weight, but the three biggest toes hurt like a motherfucker, my arch and ankle also hurt, but a bit less… maybe like a mother-coveter… and the impact of every step was jarring. Well, the pain had gone away quickly enough when I’d kicked the rock. I limped out of the room and headed slowly and painfully to my thaumatology class.

I did my best to block out both the pain and further questions about Two’s extracurricular activities so I could focus on Professor Goldman’s lecture, which was always interesting.

We were getting into the nuts and bolts of intentionalism now, which I found interesting. Goldman began the unit by explaining that he personally saw serious flaws in intentionalism as a model for magic use, but that it was worth studying anyway because intent could not always be ignored.

I privately agreed. I knew there was a school of thought… mostly popular among amateurs, “weekend wizards”, and those who pandered to them… which suggested that since anything which was not objective must be subjective, then the caster’s preconceptions and perceptions were the defining factor in any spellwork. That kind of thinking was only slightly better than purely scientific objectivity, though… any reasonable person realized that while the laws of the universe–of magic–were entirely subjective, they sure as hell weren’t subject to us.

Caster’s intent did indeed shape any use of magic, but only to a certain extent, and that extent varied from case to case and could not accurately be measured or predicted. The items which intentionalism called “creator’s intent” and “formal intent” were simply an attempt to fit inherent properties and kinds of things into the intentionalist school.

Okay, so, it was interesting to me, anyway.

Of course, the lecture was interrupted by the obligatory question from the ditz that Imperial law required be stationed in the front row and who didn’t know the difference between caster’s will and caster’s intent… caster’s will basically being what effect you actually wanted to produce, and intent being more about your reasons or ultimate goal for that effect to accomplish.

While the pain in my extremity subsided over the course of the hour, my mind kept drifting back to Two. I had a pretty good idea what had happened, if not why. She’d gone downstairs and for some reason summoned up a demon. Where she’d found out how to do this, I didn’t know. The demonology book she’d got from the library wouldn’t have told her, and most ethernet pages which claimed to have demon-summoning instructions were simply full of shit.

I remembered how she’d spoken of her former life, as a subservient golem… she’d once refered to “other equipment,” “other” in this case meaning as opposed to herself. Maybe she’d been a lab assistant of some kind. That would explain why she’d been given the wizard mark and the power to do magic. If that were the case, she might have seen and assisted in magical rituals far beyond the scope of what a first year university student might be expected to perform.

It was all supposition… but it all made a kind of sense, if I ignored the question of “why?”

Two summons a demon… and either her summoning circle is imperfect, she makes a mistake in dealing with it, or the protection circle is insufficient to contain it. Actually, it would probably have been a combination of those factors. In any event, it got out, the room responded by dumping it back where it had come from… but not before Two got burned.

Not too badly, obviously… a serious injury that demanded immediate attention would have sent her to the healing center. A minor but painful burn, on the other hand, would have set up the conflict Amaranth described. “Rules” that read like “avoid going out of doors after sunset unless absolutely necessary” didn’t do Two any favors.

Goldman ended the class with a funny story–probably apocryphal, he admitted, though he claimed that word was from the old elvish “apos”, meaning “totally”, and “cryphalis”, meaning “not made up”–about a wizard who had tried to make a chart of how and when his spells were affected by his intentions. I’d heard different variations on the same tale before, but never this one, which ended with the scientifically-minded sorceror transforming himself into a chicken with a spell intended to provide food, and summarily dispatched and prepared as a meal by his housekeeper.

“The moral of the story,” Goldman concluded, “is that the only time your intention is guaranteed to affect the result is when your intention is to poke your nose in the universe’s business. And even then,” he added, waggling his eyebrows, “it probably won’t happen if, for some reason, you’re counting on it.”

The lecture over, I looked around and realized something I’d completely missed before, focused as I was on Two’s troubles, my foot, and the class itself: despite the auditorium being nearly packed to capacity, nobody was sitting within three seats of me.

Was that new? Had that happened before? I knew it hadn’t been like that on the first day of class, when the professor had made us put our names on a chart to show where we’d be sitting for the rest of the year.

It would have been hard to miss if I was being shunned like that in my smaller classes… but then, some of them had assigned seating, and there weren’t many empty chairs to choose from in the others. I remembered how on the first day of class, it had felt like everybody was staring at me and whispering about me… I could concede that this might have been my imagination, but Ian had confirmed that it was at least true now.

I got another rude shock when I stood up… though my foot had almost completely stopped hurting, the instant I put weight on it the pain inside it flared back to life. I really hadn’t been expecting that. The pain that lingered behind from my usual, everyday “non-injuries” lasted only as long as it lasted, and once it faded, there was nothing left to be aggravated.

Apparently things didn’t work out quite that way with actual injuries.


And here I’d been worried that I wouldn’t learn anything new in my classes.

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3 Responses to “102: Matters of Intent”

  1. ElectricHarpsichord says:

    “ready to strike out with debilitating dweomers at the first aggressive act.”

    Is dweomers a real word or a typo?

    Current score: 0
  2. RinnRaven says:

    It’s actually a real word of Old English origin [dweomercraeft] which was originally re-etymologized for Dungeons & Dragons by Gary Gygax.

    It’s been used rather extensively over the years in fantasy works inspired by D&D, and generally refers to a specific set/sort of spell or arcane work, rather than a generalized reference to sorcery, overall.

    By the way, just found this book, A.E…. and I believe it has eaten my soul ^_^

    Thank you. I love it!

    Current score: 4
  3. zeel says:

    …hurt like a motherfucker, my arch and ankle also hurt, but a bit less… maybe like a mother-coveter…

    I just love this kind of humor.

    Current score: 0