Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NaNoWriMo Excerpt: Magic Explained

I don't have a whole chapter I want to post right now but here's a section which explains the use of magic in my novel.

There were three doors on the opposite side of the room. The doors to the left and right were wooden and the center door was a massive door made of iron.
       The large wooden door to the left was inscribed with more of the Tirinic runes. These ones had been carved into the door and then filled with a metal of some kind.
            Fiorra squinted at the runes for a moment. “Mage’s Entrance”
Cazard looked smug, “Guess you’ll all have to stay behind.”
            He pushed the door and it started to open. It groaned and the hinges made a popping sound. Cazard recoiled as the door snapped off the hinges and fell down, disappearing into darkness.
It was at this point they noticed that the hallway beyond did not have a floor. Several seconds later they heard the door reach the bottom of the hole. The hallway extended nearly thirty feet until it ended abruptly in a wall with a carving of a gruesome face with its mouth open wide.
Padavae swept the torch out over the pit. “I thought you said mages couldn’t fly.”
            “We can’t. This is a test. You see that carving down the other end of the hallway? It has a web around it, a very strong web that’s been attuned to be weak to fireballs. If we could break the web, the floor will extend from the walls.” He pointed to a slab of stone that was a slightly different color than the walls that ran the length of the hall. “We’ll have to find another way around.”
Padavae frowned. “What’s the issue? Just send a fireball.”
“I can’t throw fireballs.” Cazard looked offended. “I’m an ice mage.”
Just an ice mage?”
“Of course not. I’m quite handy with the air rune. But that doesn’t help much in a fight and it isn’t useful now.”
Orvar frowned slightly. “Why can’t you use fire?”
“It’s not an easy feat to master all four elements. I’m no good with Earth either. Besides, I don’t like fire. It’s messy. It gives no control and leaves too much evidence; Charring, ashes, odors, and more. Ice is orderly, quiet, deadly, and…”
“You sound like a serial killer.” Fiorra took a step back.
Cazard glanced at her. “…Leaves no trace.”
Orvar wasn’t convinced. “But you’ve made fire before, just make it bigger.”
Cazard looked exasperated. “And I’m sure you can hammer a nail into a piece of wood. Doesn’t mean you can build a house. Do I really need to instruct you all in basic rune mechanics?”
            “Just tell us why you can’t make a fireball.”
            “Even if I was learned in the fire rune I likely wouldn’t be able to make one of sufficient magnitude to break the web on that statue. Without a focus object it is very difficult to do much more than very simple rune manipulation.”
            “A focus?”
            Cazard slumped. “In the interest of not having to stop every few moments to answer your questions why don’t I just start at the beginning.”
            “I studied at the mage academy in Amaranth, northeast of the border of the Empire on the edge of the Endless Tundra.” Cazard waited for this to sink in. “Amaranth” They stared blankly at him.
            “I’ve heard of it.” Orvar offered meekly.
            Cazard sighed. “Amaranth is the seat of magical research in the Realms. It is the site of the discovery of three of the nine Great Runes. It is where Jharbane Tenbolt, Vothus the Arcane, and even Zhandhul studied and taught the art of magic.”
Cazard drew a grid of nine squares in a sandy patch of floor.
            “There are nine basic runes in the standard table. They are ordered in such a way as to ensure balance.”
            “Therefore, the center of the table is the rune for balance. It has no opposite.” Cazard looked up at the others. “Most mages can only access a small portion of the potential of this rune without a focus.” In the center of the grid he drew a skinny hexagon with a central dot.
            “The four corners represent the four basic elements. Fire, Ice, Air, and Earth.” He drew the accompanying symbols clockwise around the grid. “They are countered by their opposing element. Fire with Ice and Earth with Air.”
            “The remaining runes are modifiers. They give direction to the raw forces of nature. In the left square is the rune for spirit, known as Spiritus. It lets a mage manipulate the immaterial aspects of the elements and cast lingering ‘webs’ of magic. Webs cast with spirit are more easily broken by spells using Corpus, the physical rune.” He drew a trident shape in the right square. This balances the spirit with the physical world. It gives strength to spells that modify the world, especially Earth and Fire spells.”
        “The final runes, in the top and bottom spots on the table are life.” He drew a hexagon with two prongs shooting downwards. “and death.” He slowly poked three dots in the sand. They formed an upside-down triangle.
        Padavae put her hands on her hips. “You said that webs made with the spirit rune can be broken by spells with the Corpus rune. So why can’t you just combine the ice rune with the corporal rune and shoot a big icicle at the web or something?”
            “Ah, a good question. As I mentioned, the rune table is all about balance. The various types of runes cancel out runes of a similar type. Elemental fire cancels elemental ice. Life counters death. Spirit counters Corporal. You cannot combine those runes effectively. However, it is also difficult to combine elemental runes with modifiers directly adjacent to them on the table. Fire does not mix well with life for example. The runes for ice and corporal are adjacent to each other, there is no balance between them. Therefore it is very difficult to cast a physical ice spell. So, a large icicle is out of the question. If I had a focus object I could manage it. But rags and rocks won’t do. I need something that will give balance to the runes.”
            Orvar shook his head. “I still don’t see why you can’t just use the fire rune. Magic is far too complicated.”
            “That’s why it’s known as arcane you oaf.”
            Padavae raised her brow. “I have to disagree. This isn’t too difficult. You’ve really devoted your entire life to this? I’ve got nimble fingers. I’m sure I can wiggle them in the shape of a few runes and make a flame.”
            Cazard stared at her for a moment, then threw back his head and laughed. The sound echoed down into the hallway.
Something stirred.
“I’m sorry, did I give the impression that this was easy? It takes years of practice to achieve the state of mind necessary to actually connect the runes to the elements they represent. The runes are a conduit. It is fine for me to draw air runes in the empty air because the conduit is in its natural element. Other runes are not as effective when drawn in the air; that is another reason why a fireball would be difficult. They are shapes that have proven over time to be the most effective at channeling the power of their respective forces. To actually have the rune do anything one must be attuned to the force it represents.”
            “And how does one become ‘attuned’?” Padavae asked haughtily.
            “By not being so obnoxious.” Cazard shot back.
“So if you had a focus you could break the web?” Fiorra interjected.
            Cazard looked away from Padavae. “I’d have a much better chance than without, but there’s no guarantee. I suggest that we find another way around. Perhaps there is an entrance for people with no brains.”

            Padavae glowered at him. Before she could reply Orvar made a strangled cry and fell to the ground. A dark, snake-like tentacle had silently slipped out of the pit and wrapped around his leg, it had then yanked him to the ground. It began to drag him towards the pit.

Literal cliffhanger FTW.

Here's an image of what the rune table would look like.

FIRE          LIFE            ICE


  EARTH    DEATH           AIR