Chapter 327: Like A Light

on July 29, 2016 in Volume 2 Book 10: Lucky Thing, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Is Outgoing

It was still a terrible idea for me to mess around with any more magic in general and force manipulation in particular while I was laid up, half-exhausted and feeling generally frustrated, which is why I only did it a little bit, very cautiously, after reading as much of the things I could think of in my various textbooks that were halfway relevant to the subject.

I didn’t get very far, and I gave up right away rather than getting caught up in the spiral of “well, I’ve come this far so I might as well keep going,” but… well, it was hard to find a comfortable position to sit up and read in, and I had the idea that if the book could sort of float at eye level, it’d be easier.

I made a mental note of the general concept as a form of consumer enchantment to look into. Binding levitation spells into individual books was probably too much of a niche luxury market to be worth it.

But a generalized solution for convenient, hands-free reading that worked even when you were in bed? That could be a goldmine.

It was something to think about.

Instead of trying out spells, I tried to come up with the required parameters for such a project. You’d want some way to turn the pages, obviously… and to keep them in place, for that matter. Otherwise, if you were reading lying down, they’d all just hang down.

For true laziness and ease of use, it would have to follow your gaze instead of just hovering where you left it. In that case, there would ideally be some sort of safety feature that stopped it from running into walls, objects, or people when you turned around.

Maybe it would be best to start with a fixed version?

I tried to imagine the form an enchanted object would take. A magic bookmark? A magic cover? Something separate from the book entirely would work, but it would be harder to keep the spell going on an indefinite loop if it wasn’t attached or “worn” by the book, and I could imagine all kinds of problems with a limited-duration spell that could make a book hover directly over your face while you were in bed.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a better solution would be to use illusion or glamour to make pages appear at a suitable reading distance in front of you. I hated to concede that, even to myself, both because it meant changing horses from my original idea, and because I had a kind of irrational resentment for how important illusion was turning out to be in modern consumer enchantment.

It was such a weaksauce specialty, but it was hard to get away from it. Any other way to render information or create a usable interface was likely to be more cumbersome, more power-hungry, and less convenient. A spell that created an illusionary image of a page hovering in front of your face would be so much more lightweight than one that makes an entire book do so, and with fewer complications.

…on the other hand, though, it would need to be paired with a flexibly targeted divination spell that would capture an image of the page, and while that still would leave the advantage on the side of the illusion, wouldn’t it be even more efficient to leave the illusion out?

There would be no reason the floating page would need to be visible to anyone else, and it might even be disconcerting, or distracting. It could obstruct your view at a crucial moment.

There were all sorts of reasons that straight divination could be better for this project than divination paired with illusion, and the fact that I had some minor grounding in divination and none in illusion wasn’t even the biggest one.

Though, it did help.

I knew spells existed that would a mage basically siphon the information from a book, giving a broad understanding of what it was about and a transitory mastery of any techniques it described.

I expected that was basically what a basic unfiltered divinatory probe of a book’s contents would return. I wasn’t about to try it. Not only were my energy levels too low, but I had been knocked on my ass trying something similar with a building before. The information density in any book more complicated than a baby’s first board book had to be huge.

Besides, I wasn’t looking for a way around the reading experience, but a way to do it unfettered by the physical book. So, it would be less divination in the sense of receiving the informational properties and more like scrying the book, one page at a time.

I didn’t have any experience at all with unassisted scrying. I was pretty handy with a crystal ball or a mirror with an ethernet link, but the weave was set up to take you where you needed to go. My interest in informational enchantment meant that I did have a basic grasp on the theory behind it all, but I’d never worked with anything like it.


First thing my item would need to do is break a book down into discrete parts. That would be easy enough, since books already did consist of pages. I would then need a linkage that treated each of these pages like nodes on the weave, connecting each one forward and backwards.

Again, that sounded simple enough. I didn’t know exactly how to do it, but it sounded simple enough.

I mean, I’d done a little ethernet-weaving, once upon a time. I was pretty sure just thinking about it that I would be able to modify a mirror or other gazing device to work with another device to let me look at a book one page at a time.

But that wouldn’t be much of an improvement over just gazing the weave in the first place. There were already actual honest-to-goodness books out there in the ether… actually, that would give me a lot of models to choose from in how to map the book out.

What I wanted was something that would essentially scry the book for you, putting the image in front of you without the need to gaze into a reflective surface.

That would be trickier, but I was pretty sure it could be done. Trained diviners didn’t need a reflection to work with. And there were items, rings and amulets and circlets and such, that had scrying spells imbued in them, spells for seeing inside containers and around corners or spying on distant people and places. They were pretty old school, but they existed.

The more I thought about this, the more excited I got. What I was basically thinking about was taking some very old style magic items and some very new ones, and mashing them together to make something that suited a market demand… well, I was pretty sure it was a demand.

I might not have been as frustrated with the experience if I hadn’t been stuck in bed, but I didn’t think a hands-free reading item would be useful only for people with shattered kneecaps, real or otherwise.

When Amaranth came back, the first thing I asked her, before I even asked how the potion hunt had gone was, “Do you have any books on scrying? Arcane scrying, magic items?”

She always kept her student library card at maximum capacity, reading whatever struck her as interesting. Even though arcane magic was beyond her capabilities, she was still interested in the theory of it.

“Not at the moment,” she said. “Why?”

“I have an idea for an item,” I said. “Something to make it easier to read in bed.”

“I’d buy it,” she said. “But you’re supposed to be resting, not plotting total market domination.”

“Well, I can’t stay in school forever,” I said. “I’m not an elf.”

“No, but as long as we’re talking about it, there’s no reason either one of us really needs to be in a hurry to graduate,” she said. “I’m immortal and you’re close enough that a few decades of learning wouldn’t cost you much more than four years, relatively speaking.”

“The elves of Treehome are spending fractions of interest on ancient fortunes,” I said. “My scholarships come with some expectations about course load and time limits. Anyway, the state of the art and the marketplace for magic items is constantly changing. If I stayed here ten years, I’d have to start over as a freshman. I guarantee it. I have to strike while the iron is hot.”

“Well, you’re not striking anything for the next half hour, at least,” Amaranth said.

“Next half hour?”

“Courtesy of your favorite melee coach,” she said. She reached behind her back and produced a slim glass vial full of a pale blue liquid. “I give you one potion of power napping.”

“Power napping?”

“That’s what Steff said she called it,” Amaranth said. “It’s for people who don’t have time to sleep right now but need to be in peak physical condition. You’ll spend about five minutes falling asleep, then twenty minutes in a deep sleep, and then five minutes waking up. The best part is: it wipes out fatigue and pain completely.”

“So then I’ll be up all night?”

“Fatigue isn’t the same thing as sleepiness,” Amaranth said. “You’ll be functional, but still in need of sleep. I’ll let you decide when you wake up if you need to just crash because of the lack of it from last night, or if you want to press on and stay awake until a more reasonable hour.”

“That all sounds fine… but what about the twenty minutes?” I asked. “What if something happens then?”

“I’ll be here with you,” she said. “It doesn’t actually prevent you from being awakened, so if something happens I can make sure you wake up.”

“Okay, but what if something happens up here?” I asked, tapping my head. “‘Can be awakened’ isn’t the same as ‘can wake up’.”

“…I asked Steff about that, and she said Coach Callahan wasn’t sure herself,” Amaranth said. “It had never come up before. She didn’t know anybody who’d ever dreamed while taking it, and it’s just twenty minutes… that seems like a slim window for anyone to notice and take advantage of it.”

“I guess.”

“I’m not going to make you take it, but honestly, given your criteria, this seems like a really good deal,” Amaranth said. “You might even get the rest of your day back. I know it’s too late for classes, but do you want to lie here like a lump for the rest of the evening and then sit awake all night?”

“…I really don’t.”

“And I know you have real worries about leaving yourself unprotected, but I think if you’re honest with yourself, the risks inherent in a twenty-minute snooze are pretty minimal.”

“You’re right,” I said. “And you will be here.”

“Of course, baby,” she said.

I reached for the vial. She handed it to me.

“Five minute onset?” I asked, popping the cork out.

“It starts almost immediately,” Amaranth said. “But it takes five minutes to fall all the way asleep.”

“Bottoms up, I guess,” I said, tipping it back.

“That’s the idea,” she said, giggling.

“What?” I said.

“Getting you up,” she said. “And you’re a bottom? It was funny to me, sorry.”

“I’m just not in a very… funny…” I yawned and stretched. “Mood. Sorry.”

“Lie back, baby, that’s what the gentle descent period is for,” Amaranth said. “Remember to thank Coach Callahan. This was apparently the only one she had left.”

“She’ll probably get more.”

“Not really. Steff said it was from her personal stash,” Amaranth said. “It’s the kind of thing soldiers need, not student athletes… well, not the athlete part. I could actually see the demand for it among students, generally. But it’s not your typical athletic supply. It makes sense, if you think about it. No one’s going to take a half hour nap in the middle of a skirmish match or between gladiator bouts. If someone needs to, that’s kind of on them.”

“I guess,” I agreed. My eyelids were getting very heavy. “Well, good thing she had it.”

“Yeah,” Amaranth said. “Though, I mean, I thought of it, so it’s also lucky that I did?”

“Very smart,” I slurred, knowing that was the kind of recognition she was looking for. “Good idea. You had.”

“I mean, it might or might not actually work out the way we’re hoping, but if it does, you’ll be up and about,” she said.

“Yeah,” I agreed… up and about, after a day stuck in bed. That sounded nice.

“First we should do is go find Shiel, and see if she has the good grace and manners to apologize,” Amaranth said. “I know it can’t have been fun to lose, but that was just so out of character for her. I can’t imagine what possessed her, you know?”

Possessed… not possessed. Cursed. Out of character. Lucky.

These words swirled sluggishly around in my head, like a toilet flushing in slow motion. The world outside was slowly getting very dim. The one inside was quickly getting even dimmer. I opened my mouth. I’m not sure if anything came out.

My eyelids slid down.

I was asleep.

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9 Responses to “Chapter 327: Like A Light”

  1. Anthony says:

    …and of course she puts it all together right in time to doze off, and most likely forget all about it by the time she wakes up.

    Current score: 5
  2. Nocker says:

    I wonder who sells those. They sound like the kind of thing that’s simultaneously extremely risky but in high demand as a general concept. I know when I was in my senior year I’d have KILLED to stop fatigue in half an hour.

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      Yeah, I can think of a few times something like that would really have saved me.

      Current score: 3
    • Guitardrumr says:

      The market is proven, else we wouldn’t have so many different ‘energy’ drinks on the market (which sell for ridiculous prices,as well).

      Current score: 1
  3. Alex says:

    I suggest changing
    “I knew spells existed that would a mage basically siphon the information from a book”
    “I knew spells existed that would have a mage basically siphon the information from a book”

    Current score: 0
    • Amy Amethyst says:

      Or maybe “that would allow a mage to basically”.

      Current score: 0
  4. Kriss says:

    Sounds to me like Mack wants to create a hands free magic version of a kindle/e-reader.
    What would you call it, a M-reader? An Auto-scroll? any one else think of a suggestion?

    Current score: 2
  5. Zathras IX says:

    “I’ve come this far so
    I might as well keep going”
    Works if you have come

    Current score: 4
  6. HollowGolem says:

    Did she just invent the concept of the e-reader (a-reader?) in the MUniverse?

    Kind of surprised they wouldn’t have something like that already.

    Current score: 1