lifes_sake: (tranquil)
[personal profile] lifes_sake
Cam's in the library, waiting for Renée. "Waiting" here means "browsing until a quarter hour after ostensible meeting time". Renée is supposed to meet him here - on the way home for both of them, him from high school and her from elementary where she teaches kindergarten - but she is rarely punctual. Her co-workers or stray parents or the principal keep her after and Cam does notebooking, does homework, looks at the contents of shelves. It's a fine arrangement.

Today the contents of shelves don't seem so pleased with the setup, and one attacks him when he stumbles into a stack. Specifically, it tumbles onto his head. That's gonna hurt for a while. He picks it up to tuck it away again.

It says, So You Want To Be A Wizard.

Heh. Mis-shelved. This is a nonfiction row. Or maybe it's about stage magic or something? Cam's not going to find any use in that either, he can just about eat dinner without impaling himself on a fork and certainly shouldn't be handling delicate props, but it could be diverting while he waits for Renée and he wasn't finding anything else. He flips it open.

It's more interesting still than that; it's presenting itself like an actual guide to wizardry. This'll kill a whole afternoon with pleasant escapism. Cam checks it out, then turns around and spots Renée coming down the sidewalk. He bags the book and goes out to meet her.

At home, he takes it out of his backpack. The plastic film on it - it did have some, right? Just like every other library book? - is gone. Maybe it didn't have any. He didn't write it down; he's not sure. It doesn't look like a library book now. But it still says So You Want To Be A Wizard and he still wants to pretend to be a wizard for a bit, kill some time, put off U.S. History homework. He flips it open. He reads.
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Date: 2013-03-23 09:52 pm (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
There is a brief foreword, introducing the book as a 'manual' with which the discerning reader (who wouldn't have found it in the first place without a certain natural aptitude) can, if they choose, learn the Art of wizardry. Capital A.

The first chapter, 'Preliminary Determinations', discusses signs that one may be suited to the Art. Language features heavily: natural wizards are frequently drawn to words and books and languages, reading, writing, speaking. Curiosity is another. An inquisitive, exploratory nature, the kind of mind that wants to understand the world around it.

'Words,' apparently, 'are the wizard's most basic tools. With them a wizard can stop a tidal wave, talk a tree out of growing, or into it—freeze fire, burn rain—even slow down the death of the universe. That last, of course, is the reason there are wizards. See the next chapter.'

Date: 2013-03-23 10:28 pm (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
It goes on in that vein for a while, providing tantalizing hints of the effects a wizard can accomplish paired with tempting descriptions of the qualities that imply talent.

The promised next chapter switches to a new topic: 'History, Philosophy, and the Wizards' Oath'.

The chapter opens with a creation myth, delivered in a straightforward, matter-of-fact style that casually drops phrases like 'when life brought itself about'. Apparently, around the time of this event, life also brought about some gods - 'Powers' - to help it invent practical things like light and gravity. None of these beings are named specifically in the myth save one, the 'Lone Power' or 'Lone One', whose contribution to the exercise was unique and unwelcome: death.

The business of wizards, it seems, is to mitigate the effects of that inclusion as much as possible. To slow down entropy by conserving, preserving, and serving all the forms of life.

The manual goes on to finally reveal the mechanism of wizardry: a language called 'the Speech', apparently magical, which can be used to communicate with any living or nonliving entity and can describe reality with such precision that the description changes the thing described.

It's rather baldly pessimistic in its outlook: death cannot be conquered, entropy cannot be reversed. But these things can be fought. That is a wizard's job.

'No one should take the Wizards' Oath who is not committed to making wizardry a lifelong pursuit,' it cautions, although it goes on to add that there is no penalty for abandoning it later and that, since 'magic cannot live in the unwilling heart', those who find the Art too heavy a burden will have no trouble setting it down.

A final warning: 'Should you decide to go ahead and take the Oath,' it says, 'an ordeal of sorts will follow, a test of aptitude. If you pass, wizardry will ensue...'

There is no mention of what happens if you fail. After the ellipsis, the page is blank, and centred alone and undecorated on the facing page is the text of the Wizards' Oath itself.
In Life's name, and for Life's sake, I say that I will use the Art for nothing but the service of that Life. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, is threatened or threatens another. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so—till Universe's end.
Edited Date: 2013-03-23 10:40 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-03-23 10:51 pm (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
The small noises of his environment fade slowly with each word of the Oath, until end drops into a complete absence of sound that persists for one more silent heartbeat.

Then it all comes back at once, like somebody took their finger off the mute button.

Date: 2013-03-23 11:03 pm (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
The next page is a listing of wizards in his geographical area. It's pretty short; apparently there aren't that many wizards in Phoenix.

Close to the beginning of the list, there is an entry for Campbell Mark Swan (novice, pre-rating), with an address and phone number.

Date: 2013-03-23 11:20 pm (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
Apart from Campbell, there is one 'Senior' wizard listed in the area and two more with no rank marked, but power ratings given on an unexplained scale. The Senior wizard comes with an address but no phone number, and their name is apparently Salix.

After the directory, the manual dives straight into the Speech: vocabulary, alphabet (all 418 common symbols), pronunciation (with a note that dialects vary widely between species and this version is human-specific), and grammar. This section only covers the basics, and very few words in the vocabulary list are explicitly defined; for anything that expresses a concept already found in English, even for some things that are only pretty close, the meaning is unobtrusively and naturally obvious.

Date: 2013-03-23 11:27 pm (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
The Speech is magically understandable, but it's not magically writable; the symbols take an ordinary amount of practice and memorization. On the other hand, if he writes out a word correctly and looks back at it later, it's just as transparent to his mind as the version in the book.

Date: 2013-03-23 11:40 pm (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
After the initial vocabulary lessons, there are further sections dealing with the language - subheadings like 'Descriptive Naming' and 'Measurements'. Before it dives into these, the manual notes that specific technical vocabulary not covered in this introduction will be provided with the spells that require it, and 'this reference will adjust to usage'.

Date: 2013-03-24 12:11 am (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
Descriptive Naming, according to the manual, is a tricky subject. To really get at the essence of something, you can't just use names like 'this chair' or 'John Smith' such as you would use in ordinary conversation. This is especially true of people. You have to be able to describe a person uniquely, in terms of their own qualities and nature, in order to include them in a spell.

There is a worksheet provided for the naming of humans, in case he wants to try it on himself.

Date: 2013-03-24 12:22 am (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
The questions range from the obvious (date of birth, height and weight) to the bizarre (favourite colour, favourite weather conditions). The list is extensive, but the formulas are set out plainly; writing out a serviceable descriptive name for himself is tedious but not particularly difficult.

A cautionary note, set off from the rest of the page in a thinly outlined rectangle, warns that writing and pronouncing his name correctly is of the utmost importance. There is significant leeway for ambiguous or missing answers in the formulas themselves - it's possible to create a sufficiently accurate name on incomplete information - but a typo, mispronunciation, or wrong answer can lead to unforeseen and usually unwanted changes when the incorrect name is used in spellwork.

Date: 2013-03-24 12:36 am (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
As it happens, there is a section on Practical Spelling a little later on. But before that comes Preliminary Exercises.

The first of these reads:
To change something, you must first describe it. To describe something, you must first see it. Hold still in one place for as long as it takes to see something.

Date: 2013-03-24 12:43 am (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
Nothing particularly interesting happens, for a few minutes.

Date: 2013-03-24 12:53 am (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
There is a chorus of "Cam!" "Hi, Cam!" "Hi!"

The voices aren't really voices; they aren't made of sound, that's just his brain's interpretation of information he is getting from somewhere other than his ears. There is a papery sort of texture to them, and they glide like the stroke of a pen.

Date: 2013-03-24 01:05 am (UTC)
pythbox: A book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] pythbox
The not-voice of the manual is a little older, more androgynous - less Cam.

"Spells for enchanting books," it says. "Practical Spelling, subheading five. Page three hundred and twelve."

And it starts reading out the appropriate page.
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