Chapter 5: Magic of Stones and Seals

on April 15, 2011 in Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
Timeline: , , ,

In Which Excitement Is Contained

The room where my spellbinding class was held was something like an odd hybrid of a lecture hall and a lab room. It was set up a bit like an amphitheater, with a semicircular series of tiered steps down towards the center. On each of the levels were several workstations with chairs facing the instructor’s area. I was glad to see there was only one chair per desk… I really preferred not having to share work space with a random person.

I took a seat near the center of the second row from the front and checked out the work facilities. In the far left corner of the desk there was a slightly concave stone plate inscribed with a pentacle, the lines of which were studded with big, rough chunks of salt crystals. The broad tabletop was covered with runes linked in patterns, some designed to encourage the flow of energy and others intended to bolster stability or help promulgate more specific effects. Each group of runes formed a different work space that could be used depending on the desired end.

As I was examining my work area, there came that odd combination of a hush and a commotion that happens when people who were talking fall silent and people who had been quiet suddenly made a noise. It usually means that you’re the last one in the room to notice something. I looked up and saw that an elven woman… of the surface kind, and likely full-blooded, or nearly so… had taken the stage and was now sitting on the edge of the instructor’s work table.

She was wearing a navy blue suit that was obviously tailored to suit what curves she had. Her hair was in a short pixie cut and colored black, almost certainly artificially… not just because it would be very unusual to see a surface elf with dark hair, but because it was the most flat and listless hair color I’d seen on any elf. Even Dee’s stark white hair was shiny.

The only other time I’d seen a surface elf with black hair, it had been a gladiator in the arena with a more than a little inappropriate vampirism fetish. This one didn’t look like a vampire wannabe, though. Her suit wasn’t even black.

An elven professor. That was… interesting. I had been expecting a Professor Patrice Leclerc. My impression had been that “Patrice” was a man’s name, and the last time a professor with a human-style name… i.e., first name and family name… had turned out to be an elf, it had been my history professor Ariadne Einhorn. She’d shown a strong dislike of me almost right off the bat, which had not very successfully masked a deep-seated hatred for half-demons.

“Hello,” the professor said. She paused as if gathering her thoughts. I had a moment of wondering if she expected a response from the class, but it turned out to be more like the calm before the storm.

“My name is Acantha,” she continued, her voice taking on a breathless staccato beat as words spilled forth in a torrent with no obvious target. “Just Acantha. No title. No other form of address. I’m sorry that Professor Leclerc isn’t here as you expected. He is taking a little sabbatical due to a family emergency, and as a result I’m taking over this section. To my current yet sadly incomplete knowledge, I am to be your instructor in this class for the whole semester. I will keep you posted if that appears likely to change at any point, and will do my best to ensure a smooth transition in the event that the professor is able to return. Before we begin the class… and bearing in mind that I have no ability to relate any of the circumstances regarding Professor Leclerc’s departure… are there any questions about this state of affairs in which we find ourselves?”

She didn’t make eye contact with anyone or even look around the room. It was like she had no idea how to talk to a group of people, and didn’t know any way to get the words out except to just get them out. There was something small and bright in her eyes and just the tiniest quaver in her voice. She was like an embodiment of the fear of public speaking and the determination to overcome it in exactly equal measure.

I kind of loved her, a little bit.

I heard a seat push back behind me, and glanced over my shoulder to see a young man getting to his feet with his hand in the air and a slightly supercilious grin.

If you’re not sure what the word “supercilious” really signifies even after seeing it defined somewhere, all I can say is that the most instructive thing in the world is to see someone grinning that way. Some people aren’t just smug, they are so smug that they need five syllables and a prefix like “super” to encompass their smugness. Once you’ve seen someone like this, you’ll never fail to grasp the word again.

“Yes?” Acantha said to him. She looked in his direction, but not quite at him. I recognized that trick because I’d done it so many times myself. I’m sure he noticed. I wondered who else did. “You have a question?”

“I registered for a class taught by a university professor with advanced degrees in spellbinding and enchantment,” he said. “What exactly are your qualifications, ‘Just Acantha’?”

“Ah, yes,” she said. She closed her eyes and lowered her head like she was thinking. “Qualifications. First, let me start by answering your question…”

“I should hope so,” he said. There were some giggles… more nervous than approving, I thought, or hoped… from scattered parts of the room.

Acantha’s head whipped up and her eyes snapped open.

“You have been called on and your question has been both stated and recognized so you should now in fact be sitting down,” she said.

She paused again, this time remaining absolutely statue-still the way only an elf can… not blinking, possibly not even breathing… until the asshole sat down.

“To answer your question,” she continued, her gaze growing steadier even as her voice became shakier, “I taught spellbinding to the woman who taught the human who was the dean of wizardry at the school where your university professor earned his advanced degrees. That is the first thing I wish to convey to you. The second is that when I tell you that I am Acantha, just Acantha, no other form of address, what I mean is that you are to address me as just open-quote-Acantha-close-quote. The only other thing you may choose to address me with should you do so is a modicum of respect.”

As she was almost yelling at him by the end of that, I almost felt sorry for the guy… almost. My sympathetic embarrassment reflex was kicking in on behalf of the student being chewed out, but I couldn’t imagine he actually felt embarrassed himself. Probably more like seething resentment. On a rational level, I knew Acantha probably deserved my sympathy more. She had done nothing more to earn the guy’s scorn than show up for work.

Whether it was because he’d been expecting a man, or a human, or because he saw an opportunity to try to establish some kind of power dynamic with someone who wasn’t a “real” professor didn’t really matter… she probably caught more than her share of shit for any and all of those things, and he was piling more on.

“With no disrespect intended to the worthy Professor Leclerc, those of you who are willing to accept my tutelage will receive a rare opportunity,” Acantha continued. “I do not often give instruction like this. Obviously in the course of a single semester we will cover only a tiny fraction of what I know of the subject of spellbinding, and it will of course be largely bounded by the scope of this single class. But I do not doubt that if you are apt pupils, you shall find in me an able teacher.

“Elves invented the art of spellcraft as humanity knows it, some time in the dim and twilight ages after the fall of Athanasia. Humans, being a race of innovators much less bound by the disapproval of their ancestors and often less fearful of the consequences of bold experimentation, were able to greatly improve on our arts. I have spent almost two hundred years teaching individual apprentices… mostly human… the secrets of weaving and binding spells, and in doing so I learned much from them. Lest you fear that my skills are antiquated, I will tell you that I earn my gold these days primarily as a consultant to major corporations whose names you would recognize if I could share them. My knowledge is current because it is my currency.”

This was interesting. Acantha could have all kinds of useful contacts in corporate Magisteria, and knowledge of the inner workings of the industry. I had absolutely no idea how to go about cultivating her acquaintance in order to take advantage of those things, but it kind of seemed like a no-brainer to not deliberately piss her off by making fun of her name or questioning her credentials.

“We will now go over the required tools for the course,” she said. “Today will not be very fun or very interesting, I am afraid, but an inventory of tools and procedures is a necessary first step. You must have in your possession a wand of wood, metal, or stone, in its natural and empty, i.e., unenchanted and uncharged state. You may opt to use more than one such wand for your coursework if you do not desire to discharge it between projects. To put it simply and plainly, never come to class without an empty wand unless told otherwise.”

I had several wands ready, having spent some of my free time over the summer gathering suitable branches, stripping them of bark, and sanding them down until they were smooth. Pre-made wand forms were available in the bookstore, but given how easy they were to prepare and the added benefit of personal affinity from something even slightly hand-crafted, it just made sense to gather my own.

“You must have a crystal, stone, mirror, or other object of a reasonably clear or reflective character, reasonably free of defects, to serve you as a powerstone,” she said. “The last qualifier is important because we will be imbuing these objects with a substantial amount of energy and any significant defect greatly increases the risk of catastrophic failure, which is to say a rather energetic explosion. I strongly recommend that you consider purchasing a crystal that has been professionally graded for this purpose rather than relying on some stone you found lying in a field.”

I was covered there, too. While I’d kept my eye out for a hunk of quartz or something else that could serve cheaply, I’d ended up buying a great big roundish hunk of silvery hematite. The direness of her warnings notwithstanding, a powerstone made out of a semiprecious stone and charged up to its breaking point by a rank novice wouldn’t do much damage when it blew… but the magic-infused shards would be able to penetrate my skin as if it were nothing but ordinary mortal human flesh, and I wasn’t looking forward to any more trips to the healing center.

“Thirdly, you must have two notebooks or other devices for the storing of words, to serve as a workbook and a grimoire,” Acantha said. “Any spells you are working on will go in your workbook. Only spells that are finished will be inscribed in your grimoire. I recommend a pencil or erasable ink for the workbook, for reasons of convenience, but the use of a permanent medium in your grimoire will lend strength to your bindings.”

I had those, too. My workbook was just a composition book. My grimoire was not terribly impressive looking, just a blank book with a plain brown cover… but it was big and thick and had metal-reinforced corners that made it look pretty serious.

“Finally, you must have an eyeshield, helm, or safety mask that protects the eyes. Today, we are going to be focusing on several basic procedures that you will be using throughout the semester,” Acantha said. “This may be the most boring session of the semester, but it is important as everything we do in the future because it lays the groundwork for it.

“The first is powerstone handling. Professor Leclerc has laid out a series of safe handling procedures that I can find no fault in, so we shall be following them verbatim. Here is the first and most important rule regarding powerstones: unless you are actively engaged in the act of charging the stone, always pick it up with your receptive hand. Not your projective hand. For most of you, that means your left hand. Is anyone here left-handed?”

I heard some movement behind me, but I didn’t turn around to see. I wasn’t that curious about who in my class used what hand.

“You people in particular will want to be wary of making assumptions regarding your personal polarity,” she said. “Most two-armed practitioners naturally project with their right hands and receive with their left hands. For left-handed persons, this may be reversed. For folks who have a naturally passive or receptive personality, this may be reversed. For the truly ambidextrous individual or the rare naturally-gifted wizard who does not involve his or her hands in his or her workings as an automatic matter of course, neither hand may be particularly predisposed in either direction. If you do not know your polarity, you will discover it in the course of the next few exercises.

“The second rule for handling powerstones: always put on a protective eyeshield when handling a powerstone. In my class, you will receive a substantial penalty to your grade if I see you pick up a powerstone without your eyeshield. Outside of class, I can do nothing but hope you will wear them. I have watched young humans grow cockier as the state of the art of healing grows by leaps and bounds, but there are three things to remember.

“First, eyes are expensive to generate, and just because you get your healing for free don’t make the mistake of thinking no one has to pay for them. Second, losing an eye is a traumatic and disorienting experience and you will be blind or partially blind for the period of time it takes a replacement or replacements to be grown. There’s no reason to go through that if it can be avoided. Third, when a powerstone explodes, portions of it are vaporized into a very fine powder and propelled with a considerable amount of impetus. If they can get into your eyes, they can get into your brain… an organ I am told that most races require to live. Whether you believe it or not there are limits to what sort of healing your student ID will get you.

“So, what you will all do now is to put on your eyeshields, take out or pick up your powerstone-to-be with what you believe is most likely to be your receptive hand, and put it on the grounding plate in the corner of your desk. If you are right-receptive, you may move the plate to the right corner before you perform this operation. This is the third rule for handling powerstones. Any time your powerstone is charged and unsealed, it is either in your hand or it is on the grounding plate. When you take the stone off the grounding plate at the end of the session, you will either seal it or drain it completely before putting it back in your bag or… I shudder to imagine… your pocket.”

In more time than it takes to tell it, she guided us through the process of picking up our powerstones, transferring them to our projective hands, very gingerly pushing a very small amount of energy into them, and then forming a “seal” on that energy to keep it from dissipating.

The seal was the most complex part, and the fact that it took us most of half an hour to get through it couldn’t be chalked up entirely to Acantha’s somewhat drawn-out and circuitous instructions. It wasn’t a literal seal… it was a sort of layered enhancement effect where we enhanced the stone’s tendency to retain energy put into it as high as we could, and then set that effect to be powered by the energy that went into the stone. Even that wouldn’t necessarily last, Acantha told us, because maintaining the enhancement would drain the energy from the stone.

“The key is that the stones we are using are naturally mana-porous,” Acantha said. “When you enhance that trait, they take in more background energy from the world. If you are efficient enough in forming that enhancement and crafting your seal enchantment, then your stone will take in slightly more energy than it uses, meaning that while the seal is in place it will slowly recharge itself. Few of you will manage this feat before the end of the semester, but all that is really necessary is for you to make a stone that loses the energy you put into it very slowly. The point of this exercise, of course, is that this class will involve repeated casting of spells. If you had to rely on your own natural reserves of energy to see you through your exercises here, you would be out of luck. And out of power.”

It was tricky to get right, but it was easy to tell when I did because the hematite chunk wouldn’t hold power for long without it. I could feel the power flowing right back out of it without the seal, and I could feel the energy within it ebbing as my first clumsy attempts to make the seal self-sustaining drained its meager charge.

“Put only a very small amount of power into your stone,” Acantha counseled the class while making a circuit of the room, checking students’ work, and offering additional advice to people who were having difficulties. It was hard to tell, as elves’ voices didn’t travel farther than they wanted them to, but she seemed to be more confident and personable when dealing with students one-on-one. “You may have to repeat this exercise multiple times before you can form an effective seal. Once you have a sealed stone, you can add more power to the stone at any point, but you should stop the moment you feel any resistance… any ‘push-back’… from your stone. At that point it is at approximately half of its theoretical maximum energy capacity, but safely charging it beyond that point requires considerably more care, experience, and familiarity with the particular stone and its quirks than you are likely to have any time soon.

“If you have high energy reserves, a natural talent for energy channeling, or are menstruating, you will need to exercise particular caution as you approach your stone’s threshold as you may be projecting more power than you expect.”

That was good to know. My potion regimen took care of the menstruation bit, fortunately, but my demon blood did give me an above-average energy reserve. I hadn’t considered that there might be some practical drawbacks to that. I decided not to push the limits of my ability to charge up the hematite right that moment… I wouldn’t need to draw stored energy out of a stone as often as most of my classmates in the first place, and we were just going over procedures, anyway. I left the seal spell in place and set the stone down on the grounding plate.

I was really kind of oddly excited about the seal. It was my first self-sustaining spell… not quite the same thing as a truly permanent enchantment, but in theory the powerstone could go untouched for hundreds of years and the spell would remain intact. If I could incorporate a small power reservoir into my blank staff or my winter coat, I could make the enhancements I put on them self-sustaining.

“Next, we’re going to be dealing with procedures for spells,” Acantha said. “As this is a spellbinding class, you will in the ordinary course of things be constructing or at least perfecting your own spells. For the purposes of our first exercise, we will be using a very simple stock spell that you will begin by copying into your workbook. We will be working with a more complex and comprehensive form of this spell in our next session, but for the purposes of learning standard procedures we will use a standard spell.”

She flipped around the markerboard behind her desk to reveal what was a very simple formula that would impel a small puff of air forward a short distance, extracting a bit of thunder and lightning from it to make a pop and flash.

Stock spells would rarely have much more effect than that… they were written according to methods that would work for just about anyone with any magical talent and power, but everyone responded best to different methods and it was a rare person who would be able to command actual bolts of lightning and balls of fire using spells written by someone else. This was one reason why wizards had been so rare in ages past: only one apprentice candidate out of thousands would be able to produce real results following a given master’s spell, so it had seemed like wizardry was an exceptionally rare talent.

This spell in particular wouldn’t do more than a loud bang even if someone in the class had a personal style that aligned closely to it. I’d seen really similar spells called “sparks”, “snaps”, or other things before. It was the sort of thing that the companies that had advertised in the back of old comic books would teach you if you sent in their form to “learn how to throw real lightning bolts™!”

There were a few crackles and pops from around the room, and one surprised yelp of pain.

“If you must test the spell, direct it towards a circle of containment, please,” Acantha said. “And well away from your powerstone. Has everyone copied the spell? Spellbinding is a meticulous practice, and serious enchantment requires great efficiency. Never try to put a spell into a wand or other item extemporaneously. You should always be working from a written copy. To ensure that everyone is working from his or her workbook, I will erase the board before we proceed, so make certain you have the spell copied down.”

She waited a few seconds while a few people hastily scrawled the formula out, then she wiped the board clean.

“Now for the matter of charged wands,” Acantha said. “Again, you will pick up, hold, and inspect a wand only with your receptive hand. Only when you are charging or imbuing a wand with a spell, or using its charge, will you hold it in your projective hand. Unless otherwise specifically directed, you will discharge all spells from the wand directly into the center of one of the three circles of containment inscribed on your table. If your powerstone is out, use the circle that is farthest from it. If you for any reason believe the spell will be too powerful for the circle, seal your powerstone, put it away, and place the grounding plate in the middle of the circle. We will now go through the procedure for preparing a wand, charging it with a spell, and discharging that spell, using the spell you have copied into your workbook.”

Even though it was an entirely different sort of “charging”… attaching a use of a spell to the wand rather than pumping it full of energy… this proved to be remarkably similar to the process of charging up a powerstone. We started by enhancing the receptivity of the wand to hold spells. Technically any object could have a spell stored in it, but as a natural wizard’s implement the wands gave us more to work with. A little bit of energy was put in. A light seal made that energy self-sustaining, and then the form of the spell was layered around that seal in such a way that it would use the sealed-in energy when discharged.

Making bursts and pops wasn’t that interesting to me, but I had to admit it was fun to be able to see and hear a spark shooting from the end of the wand. Knowing that I had made the wand and put the spell there was part of the fun, but seriously, just pointing it and making it pop was a bigger part. I probably did it a few more times than was strictly necessary in order to ensure mastery of the technique. I’d been doing serious magic for almost a year, and minor bits of exploratory divination longer than that, but somehow none of it had been as exciting as pointing a wand and zapping the middle of a containment circle.

“To trigger a spell stored in this fashion, it is only necessary to give a slight nudge to the seal,” Acantha said. “More complex workings can, of course, give a wand’s stored spells other triggers, but the focus of this class is on the act of spellbinding rather than advanced wandmaking techniques. Still, in the course of this class, you can expect to learn a bit about such things as how to attach multiple spells to a wand as a serial or parallel sequence, and how to layer spells independently of the energy seal so that they may all draw from a common pool of charges and even remain inert when all the energy has been discharged.”

She made sure that everyone could successfully attach the spark spell to their wand and discharge it. We were a few minutes past the end of class by that point, but before dismissing us she directed everyone to try discharging their wands into the protective rune circles once more and to check the seal on our stones before putting them away.

“For Wednesday, read the first twelve pages of section one and familiarize yourself with the techniques,” she said. “You’re going to be using them to construct your own version of this spell. Grading will be as follows: a C will be awarded for adequately recreating it in a form you can stably affix to the wand. A B will be awarded for noticeably improving it or otherwise personalizing in at least one area. An A for improving it in two areas or more. Class is dismissed.”


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87 Responses to “Chapter 5: Magic of Stones and Seals”

  1. Durragh says:

    OOOK! ha!

    Current score: 1
  2. Angnor says:

    I love the class-related chapters. 🙂

    And this…
    “If you’re not sure what the word “supercilious” really signifies even after seeing it defined somewhere, all I can say is that the most instructive thing in the world is to see someone grinning that way. Some people aren’t just smug, they are so smug that they need five syllables and a prefix like “super” to encompass their smugness. Once you’ve seen someone like this, you’ll never fail to grasp the word again”

    Was great. Does need a period at the end, though…

    Current score: 3
  3. Angnor says:

    Possible Error: The missing professor’s name seems to change from Leclerc to Stein when Acantha is introducing herself.

    Current score: 0
  4. TheTurnipKing says:

    salt chunks of salt crystals?

    Are there any other kinds?

    Current score: 0
    • Whoops! That was another last minute change. Should have given myself another half hour to wake up.

      Current score: 0
  5. readaholic says:

    “I probably did it a few more times than was strictly necessary in order to ensure mastery of the technique. I’d been doing serious magic for almost a year, and minor bits of exploratory divination longer than that, but somehow none of it had been as exciting as pointing a wand and zapping the middle of a containment circle.”

    eta: Sorry, managed to like my own comment.

    lol. And so true. The true power of lightning bolt spells. 🙂

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      That bit made me laugh out loud! I can really imagine the glee that would come with being able to point a wand and have it go “Zap!”

      Current score: 0
  6. Labman says:

    As an engineer myself, particularly a computer scientist, I really enjoy seeing the parallels between my craft and Mackenzie’s. ^_^ Big fan of these class chapters as a result.

    Also liked the description of supercilious. I figured “Eh, why not just read Mack’s version first instead of looking it up immediately?” and was glad I did, hah!

    Current score: 2
    • Durragh says:

      i’m a cad drafter and programmer, never thought of the similarity to Mack’s career path before, but now that you say it, yeah, it is kind of cool. may also explain why i’m a big fan of the classroom oriented chapters. but then i’m a history freak also, so even the history of a fictional world interests me 🙂

      Current score: 0
      • The Dark Master says:

        I noticed the parrallel to to my electronics stuff too, the endless safety protocols and the warning of the point of smoke and flames. Its fun to apply this stuff to fictional universes.

        Current score: 0
        • Rethic says:

          Yea, and I’m a biochemistry major so I saw the parallels to the endless protocols of the lab, hehe. I usually don’t enjoy the classes about history, but this one was pretty awesome to me.

          Current score: 0
        • Ducky says:

          I’m a theater major, with a technical focus, and my lighting TA likes to call electrons “claustrophobic arsonists,” in that they try to escape, and if they do, they’ll set everything on fire.

          I wouldn’t want to see a powerstone explode. Fire is lovely, but that much fire is just scary.

          Current score: 0
  7. cnic says:

    I love the academic chapters! I’m sure it bores someone but I love world building. Is it sad I thought up how Mack might get an A? [snip my idea] I’d rather not jinx it being the same thing AE has Mack do.

    Current score: 0
    • Angnor says:

      Same here. I’m really curious how she’ll personalize the spell. Seems like there are a lot of obvious options, but Mack’s been creative in the past.

      Can’t wait!

      Current score: 0
  8. The room where my spellbinding class was held was something like an odd hybrid of a lecture hall and a lab room. It was set up something like an amphitheater, with a semicircular series of tiered steps down towards the center.

    Though ‘something like an amphitheater’ is conversationally right, the repetition of ‘something’ makes my fingers twitch. It feels like “somewhat” would work better in the second sentence.

    I do enjoy the classes Mack enjoys. (The ones she doesn’t, on the other hand, are classes I’d normally hate anyway.) It seems like spellbinding will be something at which she’ll naturally excel, what with the repetition and precision and very clear logic and all; her energy reserves and enthusiasm for class, however, might make for some interesting explosions.

    Current score: 0
    • You’re right, that is off. Ugh, just like the previous correction, that was something I edited between waking up and posting I think I need to start giving myself something like a sobriety test in the morning, just to make sure I’m out of the melatonin-fog before I start pushing words around.

      Current score: 0
      • Ha! I think we should all do that

        … then again, if I had to wait ’til I really woke up to do things, I’d probably still be preparing for the first day of kindergarten.

        Current score: 0
  9. Burnsidhe says:

    Given the emphasis on safety, much like a chemistry or electronics lab, I wonder how many open labs there might be for Mack to use for practical homework like this.

    Current score: 0
  10. Jennifer says:

    My first thought upon reading about the shock wand: “Wait, Mackenzie’s making a wand of Magic Missile?”

    Not QUITE the same, I realize, but…

    Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      close enough for giggle-ment work. *grin* I thought the same thing, though I had the thought of ‘snap crackle magic-missile’ wand. (Yes I’m craving rice crispies while reading this.)

      Current score: 0
  11. fatefox says:

    I absolutely *adore* your definition of “supercilious”. May I share it if I credit you and Tales of MU?

    Current score: 0
  12. Dwight says:

    I have to agree with the general sentiment here; I really love the geeky “how does magic work” parts of the story. Beyond just being interesting, it emotionally appeals to the part of me that wishes I lived in a universe where magic worked and elves roamed. Learning how the craft works feels like that part of me is there in the class and makes me want to try it out!

    Current score: 0
  13. Wysteria says:

    I shall just ditto everyone else: Whee, magic class!

    Current score: 0
  14. Shanri says:

    “Form the purposes of our first exercise, we will be using a very simple stock spell that you will begin by copying into your workbook.”

    Isn’t the wording at the start supposed to be along the lines of “For the purpose of our…”?

    Current score: 0
  15. Azirahael says:

    Typo?

    “Form the purposes of our first exercise”

    should it be “For” ?

    Current score: 0
  16. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    “You have a question?”.

    There’s no real need for the period following the closing quotes since a question mark precedes them.

    In more time than it takes to tell it, she guided us through the process of picking up our powerstone, transferring them to our projective hands, very gingerly pushing a very small amount of energy into it, and then forming a “seal” on that energy to keep it from dissipating.

    This is one of those tricky cases where it isn’t exactly clear whether the singular or plural form of a word should be used and you wind up wavering between the two. You start with the singular in the first segment, switch to plural in the second, then switch back to singular in the third. Probably the best fix is to change that middle one to “transferring it to our projective hand”.

    Form the purposes of our first exercise, we will be using a very simple stock spell that you will begin by copying into your workbook.

    The “Form” at the start of the sentence should be “For”.

    A bit of energy light seal made that self-sustaining,

    I can’t tell if this is a typo or not because I can’t seem to grasp what Mackenzie is trying to say here. What is “A bit of energy light seal”?

    One more thing: There’s no Livejournal entry for this chapter yet so it didn’t show up in my RSS feed. I had to check manually by going to the previous chapter to see if today’s chapter was up yet.

    Current score: 0
  17. Bov says:

    lol,

    “If you’re not sure what the word “supercilious” really signifies even after seeing it defined somewhere, all I can say is that the most instructive thing in the world is to see someone grinning that way…”

    waxes of Clive Staples… Sorry, it struck me that way and gave me a chuckle.

    Current score: 0
  18. Saru-Sama says:

    Just caught back up and loving the new stuff. I’ve been in an internship for the past six months and not had time to breathe much less read. Great Chapter as always. Thanks for a great read AE. 🙂

    Current score: 0
  19. Daez says:

    “Even though it was an entirely different sort of “charging”… attaching a use of a spell to the wand rather than pumping it full of energy… this proved to be remarkable similar to the process of charging up a powerstone.”

    Seems like it should read “remarkably similar” as opposed to remarkable similar. =)

    Lovely chapter though, I LOVE reading about her classes!

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  20. Frelance says:

    the second row from the front and checked out the work faciliites

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  21. Ky says:

    🙂 wow there are so many updates lately, and they’re really good! And all this chapter was so much fun to learn about 🙂 If I ever manage to get a job again you’ll have some donation money coming your way!

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  22. The Dark Master says:

    It seems everyone is mainly geeking on the actual class, but I have to say that I’m liking the new prof so far. I can definitly think of real people when I read her, and I can’t help but have a smile on my face.

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    • Zukira Phaera says:

      Ditto that. Could sense the initial dread that it would be a rinse and repeat of the previous elf professor, and the relief that thus far that isn’t the case. I rather like this professor too. I do hope we’ll have more chapters of class, and with her, perhaps even outside of class, even if perhaps its only an after class/before class scenario.

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    • Oni says:

      Yeah, the substitute teacher is quite interesting. I liked the class (I was thinking back to various wizards I’ve used in games, and how their formative years must have really sucked), but the teacher was equally as interesting. Especially since it seems to imply that she might be old enough to predate all but elven history.

      On a related note: How the heck much pull does this school have? There’s a greater dragon (or higher) running the place (one which seems to have most of the region in it’s territory, the combat instructor has killed a god, and a *substitute* teacher appears to have a lifespan in the thousands.

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      • Wysteria says:

        Oni, here’s a quote from Chapter 34 of Book One: “I’d just applied to every school I thought I could afford, and taken the best one that had accepted me. Well, the best one period… the best public magic university in the entire Imperial Republic had accepted me.”

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  23. The Dark Master says:

    EDIT: Accidental second post, maybe a delete comment part in the edit comment option would be nice?

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  24. Dean says:

    Thank you for making doing the base amount of work a “C.” I am so tired of folks thinking they deserve an A for the minimum stated work.

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  25. Dave says:

    Possible typo: “She’d shown a strong dislike to me” – should that be “She’d taken a strong dislike to me” or “She’d shown a strong dislike of me”?

    Very little in MU echoes my own experience at University, (no magic and very little sex, just for a start:-) ), but this class did seem familiar, in a way. It reminded me how, when doing my Engineering degree, I much preferred the lab sessions and the practical work (electronics and computing in my case) to the lectures. Making things work was a bigger buzz for me than learning the theory behind it; looks like Mackenzie is enjoying that too.

    Thank you for imagining the practice of a complete magic system. And it seems right you make your own wands when you need them, you don’t buy your one wand from an arcane shop. Oh, and did we just see Mackenzie getting herself organised?

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    • Burnsidhe says:

      Mackenzie has never struck me as being a fundamentally disorganized person. When it comes to something she cares about, she is pretty meticulous. She’s also very intelligent and picks things up fast, which apparently accounts for her early disorganization in the first semester and a certain degree of her own intellectual laziness.

      But like AE said, “It’s complicated.”

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    • The Dark Master says:

      I’m taking the same sorts of classes and labs. You made me remember the process of trying to test something. You usually go through few “Ah crap, where’s the problem?” before finally reaching the “Yes! It works!” That is such a wonderful feeling.

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      • Kevin says:

        One thing I wish they had in classes like that is being taught not to say things like “Ah crap”, “Oops” or my personal favorite “Well that’s not right” in front of customers when doing something like fixing a computer (or in this case an enchanted item) in front of them. There is nothing worse than having someone freak out because you said something that you probably shouldn’t have said.

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        • Bannef says:

          I have never worked with computers, but I had a Public Policy professor who had rules like that in effect during class – for instance, you were never allowed to say “I’m sorry.” In academic life it’s something you say all the time – if you’re late, if you got something wrong, if you misunderstood someone… – but he said it was seen as a sign of weakness out in the “real world” and that puts people who had just left school at a disadvantage. I thought he had an interesting point…

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  26. Zathras IX says:

    Cunning Linguistics:
    The name Acantha means “thorn”
    In Greco-Elven

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  27. Sam says:

    Supercilious paragraph has me actually laughing out loud, absolutely hilarious

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  28. mathlady says:

    Typo: will receive a rare opportunity,” Acatha continued.

    The teacher’s name is misspelled here, it has an ‘n’ in it, yes?

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  29. Ariel says:

    Love it! Just started playing a WoD Mage game, my character’s path is Acanthus. So the profs name made me happy.

    “She was like an embodiment of the fear of public speaking and the determination to overcome it in exactly equal measure.

    I kind of loved her, a little bit.”

    This also made me really happy.

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    • Kevin says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard AE mention WoD so I doubt there is any true link, but this makes me want to figure out the etymology of Acantha.

      In other news: Love the magic class reminds me of my systems foundations course in college.

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      • Kaila says:

        I really do love this chapter. I also love the fact that I’m not the only one who likes to figure out the etymology of different MU things.

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  30. Rachel says:

    Loved Acantha as well… I’m really hoping Mack’s got another class with Hart, as I adored him.

    Oh, and I’m very excited to be caught up! Thanks for an excellent couple weeks of reading!

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  31. Alar the Stormbringer says:

    I also really enjoy these magic classes. Understanding how magic in this universe is quite fascinating, really. It also makes me wonder whether Mackenzie will eventually make some interesting discoveries (either about how she already uses magic, or how she’ll use it in the future).

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  32. Zukira Phaera says:

    Loving the chapter, the new elven professor and all. The subtle nod towards Jilly’s lost eye, without actually mentioning it, and why she had the patch in a recent chapter was smooth as well.

    As an aside, I have to note that coming home, sitting down and seeing an update today was the perfect end note on a very busy birthday. Thank you for doing what you do, and for doing it so very well.

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    • Sapphite says:

      I don’t remember learning anything extra about Callahan’s lost eye – when did this happen?

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      • Brenda says:

        I wondered as well – did you mean that the reference to Callahan’s eye was in a recent chapter, or that there was a reference in this chapter?

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  33. Shouri says:

    Typo report:

    “The only other time I’d seen a surface elf with black hair, it had been a gladiator in the arena with **a more than a little** inappropriate vampirism fetish.”

    double starred section is a bit awkward
    Either **more than a little** or **a little more than an** should go there.

    Other typo:
    **It was tricky to get right**, but it was easy to tell when I did because the hematite chunk wouldn’t hold power for long without it.

    **It was tricky to get IT right**

    Keep those chapters coming <3

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    • bramble says:

      I think the “vampirism fetish” line is grammatically correct, although I agree that it’s very awkward – “more than a little” modifies “inappropriate,” so if you take it out you get “a[n] inappropriate vampirism fetish.”

      But yeah, still, awkward phrasing that took me a moment to parse. I think that the best fix that doesn’t change the meaning might be to change it to “a vampirisim fetish that was more than a little inappropriate.”

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    • Rin says:

      I believe it is correct as it stands. The elf gladiator had a fetish, which was “more than a little”, inappropriate. Leaving out the “a” actually makes it grammatically incorrect, since it would essentially change the line to “had been a gladiator with fetish”, which simply isn’t right. Changing it to “a little more than an” changes the intended meaning and reads pretty awkward in and of itself.

      Bramble’s suggestion does work. It leaves the meaning intact and might be a little bit easier to parse. Another option might be to keep the order in tact but put “more than a little” between commas, to emphasize the modifier.

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      • Rin says:

        And then you notice the typos in your own post, like the comma that shouldn’t come after the “more than a little” or “in tact” which should be intact, just moments after the editing window closes. 🙁

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  34. Iason says:

    Great chapter. Always loved the university magic and it’s exciting to see Mac grow as a person as she learns her craft.
    …and an elf who is only ever so slightly a social catastrophe by human standards. I guess those 200 years of teaching must have had an impact.

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  35. Sable McCloud says:

    I have to add my voice to the rest and say that I really enjoy the magic classes.

    Keep up the good work!

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  36. Wysteria says:

    Does anyone recall if we have a list of what Mackenzie took during the spring and summer semesters? I’m curious what base this class is building on. I know her ‘measuring with magic’ class was mentioned, but I’m drawing a blank otherwise.

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    • Nope, I’m keeping it open for now.

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    • Kevin says:

      Given that the class is an introduction to spellbinding I would say that the class itself is a base level class. However, I would say that it uses a fair bit of information from her Enhancements lab from volume 1 but only in that it would make the enhancements last longer.

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  37. Speight says:

    Thanks for another great chapter AE. I do particularly like the world-building/mechanics of magic chapters.

    A couple minor possible typos:

    I recommend a pencil or erasable ink for the notebook, for reasons of convenience, but the use of a permanent medium in your grimoire will lend strength to your bindings.

    Should “notebook” be “workbook” here, as both were earlier described as notebooks? This is in dialogue, though, so she could have said one and meant the other.

    . . . but safely charging it beyond that point requires considerable more care, experience, and familiarity . . .

    The word “considerable” here should properly be “considerably”. Again it’s dialogue, but Acantha doesn’t strike me as the sort to make a grammatical mistake.

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  38. I love love love the academic parts of the story. Learning the paradigms of the setting along with the characters is even more fun than watching them all screw each other silly. Plus, whenever magic is being explained, it feels like Chekhov’s Wand is being hung carefully above the mantlepiece, just waiting to be taken down and fired.

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  39. spoonybrad says:

    just open-quote-Acantha-close-quote.

    I think thats a typo that was meant to read
    open-quote-just Acantha-close-quote.

    ?

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    • Calia says:

      No, it’s correct as-is. Acantha was responding to the the supercilious jerk who, as an insult, called her “Just Acantha” instead of just “Acantha”. If you look at it with the quotes in place it’s a little easier to parse, but she’s calling him out on being disrespectful.

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      • spoonybrad says:

        right…

        “Just Acantha” (what he called her) = open-quote-just Acantha-close-quote.

        just open-quote-Acantha-close-quote.(which is what the story has her saying right now) = just “Acantha”

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        • spoonybrad says:

          Ah

          nevermind.
          took a 2nd look at the context sentence:

          …ond is that when I tell you that I am Acantha, just Acantha, no other form of address, what I mean is that you are to address me as just open-quote-Acanth…

          she is saying just call me acantha. for some reason when I first read it I read it as her repeating what he called her.
          but its actually her correcting him

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  40. SarahTheEntwife says:

    Chapter 2 is starting off with a bang 🙂 I’m loving all the detail and frequent updates.

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    • Kevin says:

      You mean volume 2 as this is chapter 5 of volume 2.

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  41. Erm says:

    “To answer your question,” she continued, her gaze growing steadier even as her voice became shakier, “I taught spellbinding to the woman who taught the human who was the dean of wizardry at the school where your university professor earned his advanced degrees. That is the first thing I wish to convey to you. The second is that when I tell you that I am Acantha, just Acantha, no other form of address, what I mean is that you are to address me as just open-quote-Acantha-close-quote. The only other thing you may choose to address me with should you do so is a modicum of respect.”

    I love it when a character’s introduction coincides with a preliminary Crowning Moment Of Awesome.

    > “If they can get into your eyes, they can get into your brain… an organ I am told that most races require to live.”

    (“Excepting a few of those present” seems to be between the lines here…)

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  42. Erm says:

    “Technically any object could have a spell stored in it, but as a natural wizard’s implement the wands gave us more to work with.”

    That leads to an interesting question: If the wand is a natural wizard’s implement because it retains magic well, and it retains magic well because it is a natural wizard’s tool, then…

    (Maybe there is some kind of evolutionary process.)

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    • Burnsidhe says:

      No evolutionary process needed. A screwdriver is the shape it is because it’s the most efficient shape for driving screws into wood, metal, whatever.
      So it is with a wand. It’s the best “shape” for what it does.
      I’m sure a very very very long time ago, there were people experimenting with different methods for storing and releasing spells, and over time it became obvious that the wand was the most versatile implement.

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      • Erm says:

        Well, if the shape just happens to be ideal, that makes sense too, but it sounded as though it’s the purpose that defines the shape – ie. it’s not that wands are good for storing spells because of their shape, but that anything shaped like a wand is good for storing spells because that’s what wands are for.

        In the character Q&As, Mack explained that magic vehicles become harder to enchant the less they resemble ordinary, functional vehicles, so apparently the “meaning” of a shape matters.

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  43. Phyremuse says:

    I think Acantha is my new favorite. The delivery of her qualifications was very satisfying.

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  44. WsntHere says:

    When I was a kid back in the 60’s I ordered a few things from the back of comic books. Sometimes I’d get lucky and they wouldn’t send it.

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    • Ryzndmon says:

      Actually, now I am sort of wanting to see the MUniverse’s version of Sea Monkeys…

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  45. Mickey Phoenix says:

    My moment of delight came after the technical end of this update, when I saw that the character tags did not include Mr. Supercilious Asshat. I loved watching him get shot down–and I am delighted that he won’t be a recurring character. 🙂

    Also, after four years of teaching continuing education courses, I’m finally teaching my first-ever real college course (CSS 360 Software Engineering at UW Bothell). It’s not as much fun as teaching thaumatology or spellbinding would be, but I’m really enjoying how true-to-life your classes read, now that I have the instructor’s perspective to compare to the student’s perspective.

    Awesome job as always, AE. You are wonderful, and Volume 2 is just as much fun, and just as well-crafted, as Volume 1 was.

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