Chapter 179: BibliomancyAlexandraErin on September 4, 2013 in Volume 2 Book 5: Nasty Disturbing Uncomfortable Things, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
In Which Two Heads Are Better
Amaranth stared at me like she couldn’t believe what she was hearing, which made me about as confused as she looked… she had just offered to help, and she always liked to feel needed, especially for intellectual pursuits.
“You don’t have to,” I said.
“It’s not that I don’t want to help you,” she said. “But… you remember that I can’t do arcana, right?”
“Yeah, but you’ve got your own kind of magic and it’s exactly what I need,” I said. “You’re ten times the bibliomancer I am. I mean, I always thought of myself as the sort of kid who would read ahead in her textbook for fun… but you don’t just read ahead, you read… sideways. You can pick up even really technical things faster than I can, and you’re pretty good at explaining them.”
“So you do pay attention sometimes,” she said.
“Well… sometimes, you read things that I’m interested in,” I said. “I mean, that’s the other thing… you’re interested in everything.”
“Only because everything is interesting,” she said.
“So you should be able to breeze through this the way you breeze through… everything,” I said.
“Well, when you put it like that,” she said, taking the book from me, “I don’t know how I could say no. But you’ll need to tell me what I’m looking for if you don’t want me to literally take all night.”
“Spell-linkage for permanent, item-castable spells and also anything about basic enchanters’ tools,” I said.
“Those things are both in the index,” she said, flipping through the back matter of the book. “Well, they’re mentioned a lot in the index, but still, I’m surprised that you didn’t just jump to those pages.”
“The problem is, when I jump to those sections, I know I’m missing earlier stuff,” I said. “I just don’t know what… that’s what I meant about reading sideways. You have a much better feel for books. I’m guessing between that and being able to pick up things from text faster, you’ll be able to put it together much more easily than I can.”
“Yes, I think I probably… could… do… that,” she said, trailing off as she spoke, since she was already immersing herself in the book.
“Great!” I said. “I can spend the time that you’re doing that focusing on getting my spells blocked out so they’re ready for linking.”
This was by far and away the easiest part of the entire task, but one that would be absolutely useless if I couldn’t get the linkage right. So I’d felt a little bit guilty about focusing on it so much at the outset, and as a result I’d only kind of picked at it without finishing anything. Now that I had someone to share the load with, I could bear down on it with zero guilt and get it out of the way.
Which was good, because “easy” didn’t mean “fast”… this kind of thing required a lot of precision and some difficult decisions about how to best express and encode particular concepts. I’d been measuring magic “by hand” for years without ever having to think much about what I was doing… the techniques I’d learned for measuring other qualities in my basic enhancement class were a little more solid in my head, but I decided to start over from a fresh angle in order to put more of a divination spin on things, since at least at first my focus was going to be on gathering information rather than alteration.
I’d bought a new, up-to-date grammary over the summer, but I mainly used it as a secondary reference for newer techniques… the secondhand one I’d brought with me my freshman year was so much more familiar to me. If cracks in the spine and wrinkles in the pages counted as crafting, it was practically something I’d made by hand, which counted for a lot in enchantment. I had to use both of them to complete the spells I needed.
I did manage to master one entirely new technique that hadn’t been covered in class, though it would be eventually: gapping a spell. In order for an item to cast the spell, it would either have to have a fairly specific target or type of target woven into it, or space in the formula left where that information should go. There was no advantage to gapping a spell when it was the kind of simple charge that we’d been using so far in class because those spells would never be triggered without a conscious caster directing them, but any spell could be gapped.
I tested the spells as I went, using them to determine the properties of several objects around my desk. I bound them into a blank wand as charges, which might have seemed like pretty close to my ultimate goal but it was still me casting them when the charge was released… I was just storing the effort for later. I needed a way for the wand… or another item… to copy the pattern I made and repeat it on its own.
With the necessary base spells fleshed out and appropriately gapped, I turned my attention towards actually crafting the item. This left the question: ring or wand? I felt a slightly stronger affinity for wands, and also I felt that a wand would be easier to make than a ring. There were definite advantages to rings, though, especially when it came to creating a sustained pattern… rings, by definition, being endless. I decided to try the ring first.
I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit a wire wrap around one of my blank rings and then fit it on my finger, but I thought it might be useful to have one to use for a model, so I went and retrieved them from the memento box on top of my dresser. I didn’t need to use them to avoid pregnancy… I had an only medicinally necromantic potion that kept me joyously infertile… but the dangers of sexually generated infections rose with the number of partners. Amaranth was immune, but Steff wasn’t, Ian definitely wasn’t, and I wasn’t sure about myself.
“I’m glad those are turning out to be good for something,” Amaranth said. “I was so happy when you stopped with that competitive nonsense.”
“It was never competitive,” I said.
“As I recall, you only started keeping them after Jamie showed you his,” she said.
“Yeah, but I never showed him mine,” I said. “I just thought it was neat… to have a record, you know? At least once we found a brand of rings that didn’t quench my flame. If I was keeping score, it was only with myself. And anyway, I mainly just wanted this for a model… although…”
“Although now I’m thinking I might have been a little too narrow in my thinking,” I said. “I was thinking wand or ring, but there’s no reason I couldn’t incorporate rings into a wand.”
I was thinking about how I would attach a crystal spire to the end of the wand… just wrapping a ton of wire around the two of them seemed a little haphazard. What I was picturing now was a wand with a ring held out in front of it with a sort of tripod structure, and the crystal at the end in the middle of the ring.
The ring would hold the spell patterns, the crystal would be a focusing element, and the wand itself would be a conduit between the user and the ring.
I could attach one of my powerstones to the wand for a little extra oomph, but that wouldn’t be necessary to begin with.
“Well, don’t take so long figuring it out that you end up not doing it,” Amaranth said. “I think I about have this linkage thing figured out, if not well enough that I could do it myself… if I could do it myself… then at least well enough that I could distill it down to someone who does have a basic understanding of the principles involved.”
“That’s great,” I said. “There isn’t going to be any way to test it without having the actual physical device made, but let’s go over it anyway. There’s not a lot of point in proceeding if I can’t even make it work on paper.”
“Okay, let me just see your rune-book thingy so I can try to put this in the right terms,” she said.
“It’s called a grammary,” I said, handing her the new one. “The symbols are, you know, runic but they’re not true runes. It’s more like… arcane shorthand.”
“Okay,” she said, flipping through the pages faster than even she could read but not so fast that she couldn’t get a feel for where she was, apparently, because she stopped on a page about a third of the way in. “So, these are your basic linking symbols, and it seems to me like what you really need is to… they talk about twining, I’m guessing you probably know what that means… but twine this one and this one, and then you just encircle the whole spell with that and that packages the spell for an item.”
“That’s it?” I said.
“Not quite!” she said. “That just creates a stable pattern, but it’s completely stable… so, inert. It talks about attachment points for the triggers, which you do like… well, like this.”
She took a piece of paper and scrawled out some kind of sketchy but recognizable copies of the necessary symbols.
“And that’s it?” I asked.
“Seems like it,” she said. “I got the impression that the encircling is the hard part.”
“Yeah, it’s going to be really tricky, it’s hard to hold onto a mental thread like that when you’re weaving the spell, but I just expected it to be more complicated in terms of steps,” I said. “That’s something… it’s something I could fail at, but not because it’s actually beyond me, just because it’s not the sort of thing that’s easy to do on the first try.”
“Is there any reason you couldn’t try it more than once?” she asked.
“No, as long as I watch my energy,” I said. “I’m going to try to make the actual thing now… if you can find out how to make item-cast spells relay results, that would be great. I don’t need or want any kind of non-caster interface thing, and I don’t have time to weave separate spells to trigger for every possible result, so if there’s just a…”
“Relay spells,” Amaranth said, taking up the textbook again. “I definitely saw something about that.”
“Thank you,” I said.
I had such a clear idea in my head of what I wanted to do with the wand, but I also had no experience working with copper. The wire wasn’t nearly as malleable as it needed to be for me to be able to wrap it around one of my shaved twigs the way I wanted to, but I found that a little heat and semi-demonic strength could go a long way. I managed to turn some of the wire into something more like a flat strip of really soft copper foil, which I pressed around the thicker end of the wand. I’d wanted to use that end as the handle, but it would make a good anchor for the legs that would hold the ring in place.
I’d envisioned a tripod, but that wasn’t nearly stable or strong enough to support the ring with even the smallest of the quartz crystals, so I went with five.
Using a more moderate application of heat, I managed to wrap some wire around the thin end to build up a grip, and then connected that to the foiled-over part both to bridge the gap between them and to make it more stable. A spot application of heat was enough to make the joins permanent.
In the end, it was definitely a wand… also definitely a first effort, and definitely something a “practical enchanter”, as Professor Stone called us, would come up with. But it had that in common with his ring, so I didn’t think he could fault me for the aesthetics of the things.
It occurred to me that when he’d said that he’d known student enchanters like me, he might not have been speaking only of students he’d taught.
“What do you think?” I asked Amaranth, holding it up for her inspection… then I noticed her scowling at the book. “Problem?”
“No… I just… I’m not sure I care for the tone this book takes on… oh,” she said, her disapproving frown disappearing beneath a look that was harder to place.
“We’ve both been terribly short-sighted,” she said. “Well, I mean, metaphorically, I’m always literally short-sighted… but I mean, I’m really not the person you need for this, Mack.”
“I promise you, you are,” I said. “I mean, yeah, okay, it would be better if I had someone with more direct experience that I could ask, but I don’t really know anyone. I mean, I guess I could have asked Professor Stone… I don’t think he’d even think any less of me for asking… but I didn’t think of that at the time. And Acantha is… well, I don’t want to owe her anything. Maybe I should have made the effort to get to know more of the students in the enchantment program, but I don’t make friends easily if they don’t approach me first.”
“You wouldn’t have to approach anyone new, though,” she said. “Listen to this sidebar: ‘While enchanters often make use of rings, wands, or rods carrying commonly-used spells…’”
“I know, that’s what I’m trying to make,” I said.
“Don’t interrupt, baby,” she said. “…and powerstones or other auxiliary energy sources, a living golem can combine the functions of both, acting as both power source and spellcasting tool while also providing another set of eyes and hands when necessary.”
“If it’s taking me this long to make a simple wand, I really don’t think you’d want me to try for a… oh,” I said, as my brain caught up with hers. It was an embarrassingly short leap, especially in hindsight. “Two.”