In Which Vae Is A Monster, Redux, part 2 [27 Hivvem 4261]
Or, In Which I Am An Enchantment Rassimel
"Owie!" I said, mostly for her benefit. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if watching her do it hurt me more than doing it hurt her.
"Not owie! Look!" she said triumphantly, and smeared ointment on the cut. It healed, but not completely -- perhaps two-thirds of the way. I didn't bother with the Eye, which would have told me slightly otherwise, but it looked more or less like a regular Heal Once to me.
(Digression: Heal Once is the most common spell for healing wounds. It is Healoc Corpador, of course. It is only complexity 10, the second-easiest quantum. Not that anyone can cast it, but, well, any Rassimel can probably manage it, or anyone who has taken highschool classes in Healoc and Corpador. It's actually a hard spell to cast well. The more you know about medicine, the better you can use it. Also, the more power you cram into it, the better you can use it, even if you can't tell a clavicle from a clavichord. (Your typical device will have only the power, not the knowledge. Healing devices are often disapointingly incompetant.) So a Chrentothany, say, will do several times as much with it as our average highschool student. But the annoying thing about Heal Once is that it doesn't help much if you cast it twice in a day. You get the better of the two effects, not the sum. Which is nothing unusual -- lots of spells work that way -- but quite often with healing spells you'd like to get more healing than just one spell's worth. Heal Truly, which works the way you'd like, is complexity 35 -- far beyond most people. I couldn't manage it, even after pretending to adventure for months now.)
Me:"Nicer than Mutoc-based healing, Vae. I can see why you'd like it."
Vae:"The still nicer! Look closely at the enchantment."
So I did. Ordinarily, a spell or enchantment has a fairly consistent power. My pitcher makes about fourteen gallons of water. Sometimes thirteen, sometimes fifteen, once in a while as little as twelve. It's usually considered good to be so consistent. If my pitcher sometimes made one gallon and sometimes made thirty, what size bowl would I use to put the water in? Using it would be awkward, that's what.
The ointment pot -- oh, right. It wasn't magic ointment in a pot. It was ointment in a magic pot. The walls of the pot oozed ointment. The thing could cast twelve Heal Once spells in a day. That's not unusual: many enchantments can manage twelve uses a day, or even an unlimited amount. The pot took a minute to refill itself, and that is unusual -- bad unusual -- because most enchantments can be used every few seconds, not needing a minute to recharge.
But what I was going to write was, the ointment pot did not have a fairly consistent power. Its power had been deliberately made unstable and chaotic. Sometimes it would heal almost nothing; sometimes it would heal a great deal indeed.
Me:"It's rather wonky."
Vae:"Yes! The very clever!"
Me:"Well, I am an Enchantment student."
Vae:"Not you! The pot is clever!"
Me:"Evidently I am not clever. But why is the pot clever?"
And here's why. The enchanter was only so good. Any enchanter is only so good, of course, though in the case of my famous grandparent "only so good" is very good indeed. In my case it's not all that good.
So, by ordinary methods, the enchanter could make a device that healed ... I'm sure that healers have some measurement for injuries, but I don't know it. Let's use, oh, strokes of a standardized cane weilded by a standardized Cani at a standardized level of irritation on a standardized Rassimel prince through a standardized plum-colored waistcoat with the city seal of a standardized Daukrhame on it. A shame this is only an imaginary experiment. Suppose that the enchanter could ordinarily make a device that healed about ten strokes. Sometimes nine, sometimes eleven, usually about ten.
But, with the same skill, the enchanter could make a device with an unstable power. Sometimes it would heal only five strokes, and sometimes as much as fifteen. Ten strokes on average, just like the ordinary device. But non-average casts would be much more common, and much more extreme: some good, some bad.
One would ordinarily consider that an inferior item. If one has caned one's standard Rassimel prince ten strokes and wishes to heal him, one use of the device might (-1) fail to heal all of the injury; (0) heal all of the injury; or (+1) heal all of the injury and waste some power. An ordinary device would pretty much just (0) heal all of the injury, which is clearly much better.
But (and here's where it starts to get clever) the pot can be used several times. Consider a standard Rassimel prince who has suffered not ten but twenty strokes -- not sufficient punishment, perhaps, but sufficient for our thought-example. The ordinary device would heal about ten of those strokes, and further uses of the device would be approximately useless. If one were lucky, an eleventh stroke could be healed. The highly variable device, though, has many more chances to happen to heal a lot. One application might heal five, might heal ten, might heal fifteen. If it has done poorly, though, a second application can try again. It, too, might heal five, might heal ten, might heal fifteen. Eventually -- and the pot in question allows twelve tries a day -- it's probably going to heal fourteen or fifteen strokes.
Which will please our standardized Rassimel prince approximately 40% or 50% more than only healing ten strokes. He will probably give you a bottle of standardized expensive brandy that is 40% or 50% larger. This is approximately 40% or 50% better effect by an enchanter of the same skill. That's pretty impressive.
Of course, if you have twelve standardized Rassimel princes to heal, the ordinary device will heal each of them of about ten strokes, for a total of 120 strokes of healing. The highly variable one will generally take several tries to get the 40% or 50% improvement, so if the first standardized Rassimel princes force you to use the device to its fullest effect on them, the last few princes won't get healed at all. Iska could surely tell you how much healing you will wind up doing in total, and just how many princes will be just how angry with you. I'm sure it's much less. Actually, saving a few standardized strokes for Iska would probably be a good thing too.
I can, however, tell you how many Vaes there are: one. She gets all twelve tries for the ointment to happen to do its best. She's not much for sharing her treasures around, is Vae.
Me:"After some explanation, which I will surely summarize in my journal rather than try to remember a ninth-of-an-hour conversation, I see why you are so happy. You have a healing device (good in itself, for one with your powers and your preferences) which will serve you as well as one made by a considerably better enchanter than the one who actually made it."
Vae:"The I think that's good! The yes!"