On Defeating Vae [12 Hispis 4385]
The original plan for this part of the trip was to write another pastorale, about how the Main Trunk looks as Strayway slowly spirals around it. Maybe later.
I realized that something was wrong immediately upon waking up this morning. Skyboats shouldn't list. (Waterboats shouldn't list either.) Strayway's floor in my smaller and cozier bedroom (where I had been for a day and a half) was tilted, ten or fifteen degrees. And what had woken me up was Kantele and Arfaen having a dominance contest just outside my door.
Kantele:"Sythyry is the master of this ship! Zie has just worked a great and terrible enchantment!" (Technically, I worked a great and terrible consecration. I still have to do the actual enchantment. Which is to say, I don't have the actual spellbreaker yet, just a strip of god-petted cloth that will make a fearsome spellbreaker after I'm done with it.) "Zie needs zir rest!" (Which had been true when I went to sleep, certainly.)
Arfaen:"My son is magnified with doom and trouble! The situation is miserable and dangerous! Our supplies of food are running low!"
Kantele:"Sythyry will conjure greater doom and trouble upon you if you wake zir up! You only see the gentle lizard, but zie can be terrible with torments!"
Arfaen:"We have already had the terrible with torments!"
Which didn't sound particularly good.
Me:"Good morning. Or afternoon. Or evening. I actually have no idea what day it is, much less what time." My wizardries have certainly scrambled any sense of time for me.
Kantele: [instantly professional and secretarial.] "Mid-afternoon on the twelfth of Hispis."
Me:"Oh, that's not too bad. Why are we running low on food? Didn't you buy some in Oorah Thrassen?"
Arfaen:"I did, but for a normal crew, not such a one as we have now!"
Me:"What, did we pick up more people?" I am not always so clever after I've slept for a day and a half.
Arfaen:"No! The monster cursed Quendry!"
Me:"Vae did? Or are we dealing with some other monster?"
Arfaen:"Vae, yes, your pet nendrai."
So we went to have a look at Quendry.
Highly Magnified Cani
Quendry was a rather imposing eighty-some feet tall. Vae had helpfully wrapped some Locador spells around him, so that he could crouch in the corridor. But he still towered over everyone else. He stuck his tail between his legs when he saw his mother, and knocked Yerenthax over with it.
Quendry:"Please make me back to right, Aunt Sythyry!"
Me:"This would be much easier several weeks from now, but I will do what I can."
The Easy Approach
This rarely works, but once in a while it does, so it's worth trying. Vae was in her true shape -- a tallish and ill-favored lizard, with arms and legs and no exotic wings. That's never a good sign.
Me:"Vae, could you please make Quendry his usual size again?"
Vae:"Oh, there's a sorrow on me, Sythyry, but your earmuffs didn't tell me what you said. And shall I take them off?"
Me:"Yes, if you would be so kind." She did, and I asked her again.
Vae:"Not ever in the world would I take back that present, and sweet Quendry so dearly wishing to be big!"
Me:"Oh, he did, did he?"
Vae:"The truly! The big enough to beat his brother in a wrestling choof when he gets back home, is what he wants, and he is that big."
Me:"Well, he didn't mean that big. He just wanted to be an older boy. Which will work better if he does it the natural way."
Vae:"Hah! Sythyry, the I understand now! Upon you is the thought that I have helped someone to their sorrow again!"
Me:"Exactly. You have done."
Vae:"But no! The exact thing he needs is the spell I have put on him!"
Me:"Well, why's he wailing and whimpering then?"
Vae:"The surprise! The many of people are waily and whimpery when they first get their gifting! The desired it may be, but the achievement thereof comes with happy tears!"
Me:"Those aren't happy tears."
Vae:"Sythyry, Sythyry, Sythyry! The knowing is on me fully when I do a good and desired thing, or when I do a terrible and abhorred one."
Me:"Yes, and you're right about a twelfth of the time."
Vae:"And this is that twelfth!"
Me:"Besides, he's so heavy he's making the skyboat list."
Vae:"The skyboat needs its fixing from you, then! Not so Quendry!"
So we argued for another third of an hour about it, but Vae was unconvinceable. One of the flaws in her psyche is that she can rarely understand that one of her favors is actually a doom, at least, not before it's been taken care of.
Vae:"The rightness is mine this time, and never shall you persuade me otherwise."
Me:"Well, if I take the spell off, and Quendry wants it back, you can put it back."
Vae:"The day seven years ago with the escaped bishop it will be!"
Seven years ago, Vae teleported a bishop of the Vheshrame countryside off to Mrasteia. When I heard about it, I managed to bully Vae into popping us there and trying to retrieve him. It turned out that he was actually there on purpose, surprising his long-ago linguistics professor (and, I gather, lover) on the occasion of his hundreth birthday. Vae doesn't always cause terrible troubles; sometimes she does just precisely what is most needful and helpful. (I suspect that this is part of her creator's evil design. If Vae were always doomy, or enjoyed the doom, we'd treat her rather differently. As it is ... you can't decently kill a cooperative, compliant and (when she is capable) repentant nendrai for kindness, can you? (If you can kill her at all, which would be a challenge for, say, the full powers of Oorah Thrassen.))
Me:"If it is such a day, you shall have a fine apology from me."
Vae:"The apology I await eagerly!"
Me:"Don't be so eager. I haven't made the spellbreaker yet. It'll take me hours and hours."
Vae:"The hours are cheap; you can spare them!"
Me:"You won't do it yourself as a favor to me?"
Vae:"The fool's errand is the errand you can perform by yourself if you wish! Not a bit will I come along on it!"
Which is what usually happens, but I had to ask.
Spellbreaking the hard way
For my own amusement, as much as anything else, here's how I broke the growth spell. Note that it was over twelve hours work for a quite competent wizard to break a spell which took Vae two seconds to concieve and cast.
The Problem: Breaking spells is hard in general. The most straightforward way requires a counterspell of about four times the power of the spell being broken. The other straightforward way, which is somewhat harder, requires only three times. That's about it for straightforward ways. Vae's spells are typically have more power than mine. I have tricks that she does not, and can exceed her power somewhat if I must: by ten or twenty percent, which is not nearly enough. So I have to do more work.
The Initial Examination: I stared at Vae's magnification carefully. She hadn't been exerting herself, so it had her usual -- overwhelming -- power, but no extra.
The Preliminary Weakening: A while ago, I made myself a hammer of lead and hezarion which weakens spells: a variation on a theme of Gnaw the Whining Spell. I brought forth this hammer and started whomping on Vae's spell. The first blow chipped off a satisfying quarter-or-so of the magnification's power. The next few did nothing at all. That is typical: it is generally the case that casting a modification spell twice gives the greater of the two modifications, not their sum. The sixth blow dinged the magnification a touch more, and the eleventh a little further. After twenty I gave up. In principle, the hammer can do an unlimited amount of damage to a spell. I daresay I could hammer on this one for a thousand years and still not cut its power in half. Still, the quarter-or-so is worth my effort. It makes the later steps much easier.
The Loosening: The next step is a spellweave to render Vae's magnification less firm in its attachment to reality. Spellweaving is a technique for constructing very elaborate, very weak spells, precisely tuned to the needs of the situation at hand. It is also a fussy topic, requiring (in this instance):
- Drawing a circle around Quendry, which is harder than when he is right-sized. On a tippy skyboat, yet.
- Making a syntopic model of the spell out of ivory, and systematically causing its ivory limbs to be held together with screws, and then loosening those screws.
- Trying to keep Quendry still. Keeping a young child sitting in a magic circle for six hours as you do boring things is not so easy.
The Displacement: I have another magical implement, which looks somewhat like an egg beater and somewhat like a horse with far too many wings. When suitably applied, this implement can persuade a spell that it isn't quite cast as intended. (It works better the looser the spell is.) In this case, a vigorous whirling with its wings persuaded the spell that it was supposed to have been cast on a doll stuffed with Cani fur, rather than on an actual Cani, and that it was only placed on Quendry by mistake.
The Rededication: Another spellweave. This time, we persuaded the magnification that it only should work on dolls stuffed with Cani fur. We conveniently provided such a doll. Quendry had a great deal of fur, for use in the stuffing of it -- and Quendry's fur was particularly appropriate, since we could also intimate to the spell that it had been cast on Quendry by a quite natural mistake. Quendry was still under the magnification spell at the end of the second spellweave, but the magnification spell was looking quite mis-cast.
Getting Quendry to sit still for another six hours was not terribly easy. He was hungry; Strayway isn't set up for feeding such a large person. He was bored: his usual passtimes aren't suitable for someone of his current size. He was tired: we drew the circle big enough for him to sit in, barely, but not to lie down. (My workroom is only so big.) He was scared. He was ashamed.
The Transferrence: A fancy spell cast on a spell (such as the magnification) which is applied to the wrong [Corpador] target, for moving it to the right target. This phase I used to do as a third spellweave, but I actually bought a copy of the spell to do it straightaway seventy years ago, so this part is easy. When it works, which is about two-thirds of the time.
And that was that. Fifteen cley. A very long day's work for a quite skilled mage.
And one further problem: there is now a eighty-some foot tall doll stuffed with Quendry-fur in my workroom.
Quendry was suitably fed, bathed and put to bed well after his usual bedtime. Arfaen curled up with him.
Me:"Well, that was a pain and a half."
Vae:"Oh, no! And was I wrong, or was I right?"
Me:"I'm afraid Quendry is much happier being small."
Vae:"The so very sure was I I had the right of it this time!"
Me:"Not this time. But don't worry about it. It's good practice for me."
It is unfortunately very important to forgive Vae intensely at this point. If I try to make her feel guilty (e.g., trying to get her not to do it next time (which is beyond her powers)), she is likely to try to make amends. Which is usually worse than her first misdeed.
Vae: whimper whimper whine whine apologize apologize cry cry
Me: pet pet comfort comfort forgive forgive heal heal
Vae:"And when will you make the artifact to ruin my boons?"
Me:"Soon, I suppose. I don't know how long it will take." I have never enchanted a divine relic before; the situation is not fully or even adequately described in my coursework; I am rather intimidated.
Vae:"If I could, I'd keep you from needing it between now and then."
But we both know how unlikely that will be.