Chapter 178: Known LimitsAlexandraErin on August 29, 2013 in Volume 2 Book 5: Nasty Disturbing Uncomfortable Things, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
In Which Amaranth’s Experimental Side Comes Out
One thing in life that is really important is to know your limitations.
Of course, you can never have perfect knowledge of anything, including yourself. If you can’t have perfect knowledge of yourself then you can’t have perfect knowledge of your limitations… and that means, in effect, that you have limitations on how well you can know your limitations.
And obviously, it’s important to know what those are.
But obviously, there are limits to how well you can know the limitations on how well you know your limitations, and that makes everything having to do with the subject kind of fuzzy, and the closer you get to the edge of where your limitations are, the fuzzier they become… because if you tried to figure out what those limitations were, you’d be limited in how well you could do that because of the limitations on how much you can know about the limitations of how much you can know about your limitations…
If that hurt your head to read, then you’re probably about where I was a couple of hours into my brilliant “let’s make a new magic item!” plan.
I knew I could never fly by flapping my arms, not without some kind of serious external power or magical intervention. That sort of thing? Well within the limitations of me knowing my limitations. I could… more or less, mostly, most of the time… walk down an average street without a problem. That was also well within my limit-knowing limit.
But if I had to figure out in advance if I could, say, jump a gap between two buildings, and they weren’t a ridiculously long distance apart or so close that I could practically step across? All I could say until I tried would be that it’s something I might be able to do or not.
And that would be a simple, one-step operation… totally pass/fail.
This? This was multiple steps, most of which fell into the limitations-of-knowing-limitations range, and many of which had their own possibility entirely contingent on the possibility of a previous step. If I could clearly see that it was completely impossible, I’d be able to give it up, but the way things were going it looked like it was going to stay in the maybe category right up until the moment when it was suddenly completely doable or definitely not.
The beginning went really well. This was exactly the sort of thing I was interested in, so I had a pretty good idea what I was looking for and where I needed to look, in my book and on the weave. It was fun, even. For the first time in… ever… I was doing the kind of thing I’d imagined myself doing when I got to college. It had only taken me a year, but there I was delving through books… well, book… and weavesite, ready to try my hand at a bit of serious enchanting.
At first I consciously avoided just going out and looking for something labeled “How To Make An Enchanter’s Ring” because any spell formulations that were general-purpose enough would probably not work for much more than a hobbyist’s toy and any more general discussion of techniques would be assuming knowledge I didn’t have. I figured I’d skim through my textbook to pick up the general gist of what I’d need to know until I got to the part that actually covered crafting and binding enchantment spells for enchanting.
But then I got to that point, and despite having been nodding along at the stuff I’d glanced over thinking that it made sense, as soon as I tried reading the specifics I found myself lost.
So then I decided that it would be best to look for some decent how-tos to use as a guide for what I should be looking at in more detail in the early stuff… and that worked. Kind of. The pages that were useful were clearly written as insiders sharing tips and tricks with each other, and some of them used specialized jargon that didn’t look like the terminology you’d find in any textbook.
I supposed I’d have to learn that stuff sooner or later… it just would have been really helpful to have learned it sooner, or be able to learn it later.
Despite not just learning as I went but learning how to learn as I went, I was able to compile a basic list of what I’d need to do.
I could do most of the spells, at least ad hoc. Turning them into formal spells was probably… a strong probably, even… within my reach. It was binding them into the item as anything other than simple charges that was going to be tricky. The good news was that it wasn’t completely different from the linking that I’d done for Acantha’s class. The bad news was that it was way more complicated, and that was where we got into the infinitely nested limitations of limitations.
A knock on the door interrupted my research. I knew before I looked up that it was Amaranth, mostly because the door was opening at the same time the knock happened and she had the other key. She’d stopped back in early on, around the time that I would have gone to dinner, and if she hadn’t exactly approved of my plan with all of her heart, she’d given her support to my decision and offered to give me the space I needed until midnight.
“Hey, baby,” she said. “I just wanted to see how you were doing, and if there’s anything I can get for you?”
“Well, I probably should have given this more thought earlier,” I said, “but assuming I can get everything worked out, I’m still going to need something to enchant it into.”
“Didn’t you have plans to turn your belt into an enchanter’s thing?” she said.
“Yeah, but… not like this,” I said. “The belt’s got an interesting mesh backing that makes it good for retaining energy, but it would be more of a support item. There are reasons that enchanters like rings and wands or rods for hands-on things.”
“I suppose from a certain point of view it would be a little awkward if you went around a building thrusting your pelvis at it,” she said. “Though… if the goal is to improve your bond with her…”
“That’s what we would call a limited-use application,” I said. “And since whatever I rig up only really has to work for this one thing… though I’d love if I end up with something stable… that wouldn’t normally be a deal breaker. Well, I mean, something that requires me to thrust my pelvis would be, but something that only works for this one time wouldn’t be. But that’s not actually the reason I was thinking of… high-end enchantment is kind of more prone to blow up in your face than a lot of lower-energy magic is. Your face, or whatever part of your body the thing channeling the magic happens to be nearest to.”
“Oh?” she said, then she got it. “Oh… baby, are you sure this is something you should be trying on the spur of the moment?”
“I’m not going to be doing anything high-end, though,” I said. “It’s just, you know, a general safety principle. I’m not sure it would be possible to blow something up doing what I’m going to be doing… in fact, my preliminary test with Gilcrease Tower indicates it’s extremely unlikely.”
“Oh, well, that’s reassuring, I guess,” she said. Since the goal was to reassure her, I didn’t mention that this certainty came from the fact that if it was possible, my head probably would have exploded. “What are you going to do instead?”
“I have stuff I could enchant the necessary spells into… including a bunch of now-blank magic rings,” I said. I’d stopped saving the used rings of protection that were souvenirs of my times with Ian once I reached the point that having a sex life was no longer a novelty, but I still had a bunch of them strung on a chain. “But it’ll work better if it’s something I made myself. My wands would work, but plain wood doesn’t really have the right properties. Professor Stone’s ring is made of twisted metal wire, mostly copper, and I think that’s what would be best. I could twist it around a spent ring, or wrap it around a wand… but first I’d have to have some. Do you know any armoury majors? Or anyone who makes jewelry, really.”
Amaranth silently stuck out her arm and dropped a tangle of bright copper wire of varying thicknesses and lengths on my desk. Some of it looked like it had rubber melted onto it.
I couldn’t imagine why she would be carrying it, but then, being a nymph meant that she didn’t need to actually carry things… and being a nymph the way Amaranth did it meant that there was no end to the things she could find an unexpected use for.
This was… well, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, but I couldn’t imagine. Some kind of bondage? An attempt at manufacturing fetishwear that went wrong?
“…do I want to know?” I asked.
“Um… you honestly probably don’t,” she said. The fact that she actually sounded a little embarrassed about it meant that I really probably didn’t. “Just… don’t even mention it.”
“Do I need to clean this before use?” I asked, though I didn’t see anything more suspicious than a bit of wire, some of it with rubber stuck to it.
“Oh, no, it’s all been sanitized.”
“Are you probably going to need any of this back?”
“In all honesty, probably not,” she said. “I’m more into, you know, other things these days.”
“Right,” I said. “You have saved my ass.”
“I’m glad,” she said. “I’ve put a lot of work into that ass… I guess I’ll leave you alone, unless there’s anything else you need?”
“Probably not,” I said. “I’ll probably end up giving up one of my powerstones for this… I mean, you probably aren’t carrying any crystals.”
Unusually red-faced, she stuck out her hand and opened it. There were a couple of small quartz spires on her palm. They were small, but jagged. I couldn’t not think about why she had them fast enough. Ouch
“Wow,” I said, accepting them. “That’s… really handy. Thank you. If I can’t pull this off, it won’t be because I didn’t have the right materials to work with. Do you know if… um… I don’t need any details, but do you know if these have ever been enchanted before, or used in any kind of magical working?”
“No,” she squeaked. “Definitely… definitely no magic.”
That didn’t sound very certain at all, but since I could verify for myself whether they carried any residual charges, there was no reason to push it, so I didn’t. There were two very solid reasons it should have been impossible for a nymph to die of embarrassment, but Amaranth was clearly on the verge of doing that anyway. It was probably best to give her an out to leave before that actually happened.
“Thanks,” I said. “You’ve been a lot of help, but that’s really all I need. At this point, I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly help more than you already have.” I put a hand on the textbook, which closed at the moment. “I mean, unless you know someone who could…”
…who could speed her way through several chapters of a highly technical book and then tell me the important stuff… someone who could remember exactly where she’d seen something when it comes up again… someone who could pull together the information from a bunch of different places in her head and spit it out…
“What, baby?” Amaranth asked. “Who could what?”
“Actually… would you mind staying and helping me?” I asked.