Extremely Technical Flirtation [5 Thory 4385, Eigrach]
The Social Amenities
Thenel's shop ("The Tree-Shaping of Thenel oa Iretario", if you're ever in Eigrach and need a good tree-mage for one purpose or another) is the bottom floor of a three-storey wicker cylinder of a building. A reasonably splendid cylinder, and obviously grown, so I had to ask, "Is that your craftwork, Thenel?"
"Yes, as it happens, it is. No better way to show that I trust my work to be safe than to live and work inside of it," he said with a grin. Wicker doesn't need to be painted, if you weave it from withes of many colors. Thenel had chosen an abstract spirally sort of pattern, deep greens and browns at the floor level, rising to a spire of light blue and light white. I inspected it with magic sense: Sustenoc Herbador rendered it stiff, and other Sustenoc spells protected it from fire and wind.
"Nice work, there. The main spell has very clean lines, and the other two sort of echo the structure of the main one, only smaller and softer," I said, because it was true and because Thenel obviously had been paying attention to the aesthetics of his spellcrafting. "I don't often see that sort of work."
Thenel wriggled happily. "I'm glad you noticed!" (I probably wouldn't have if he hadn't been peering at my spells earlier, of course.)
"I don't see that sort of construction very often," I said. "How did you manage to do it?"
"Well, those are the lasting three spells I cast the most, professionally," said Thenel, and waved a hand around at the city of wicker-crafted buildings all about. "A good friend invented them for me. I mean, they're standard spells, but the standard ones are all mripsis-flipsis when you look at them. These line up nicely."
"That doesn't sound very easy to arrange," I said.
"It's not ... one's two quanta more complex than it ought to be, and one's one," he said. and we neeped about spell invention and magic analysis and the pride of construction for at least a third of an hour, as he showed me around the bottom floor. A workshop full of wood and tools for working with wood, and three power chimes. A storeroom full of the raw materials for making wicker. A parlor set about with heavy drapes and tapestries with a substantial door, which is where we ended up -- with all talk about me getting any more dressed having been forgotten.
"Three power chimes. You are doing quite well for yourself, truly!" I said. In Ketheria, one power chime would be cheap at thirty thousand lozens.
"Ah -- passably, passably. The best native enchanter in Srineia has a recipe for power chimes, and makes them when business is slow otherwise," said Thenel. "I picked three of them up for fairly cheap when her son was about to go to school in a place that was not so cheap ... I believe you know Jyondre?"
"Of course! Jyondre inspired us to come here at all, and taught us all we know of the Srineian dialect, as well. Of course his education would have cost a great deal. Though he did not mention his maternal specialty to me," I said.
Thenel chuckled. "I hear there's a professional rivalry between those who perform recipe enchantments and those who perform great enchantments."
"Not a rivalry. Recipe enchanters serve a valuable purpose: to wit, they keep
people from importuning me with certain minor and tedious requests," I said,
which is the traditional answer of a true enchanter. "Also, if I were trying
to build a general-purpose spell power improver, it wouldn't be nearly as
cheap as three power chimes, and you couldn't smash it with a silver hammer if
you really needed lots of extra power, either." Which is friendlier to
recipe enchanters than
they deserve true enchanters generally
are; it is untraditional to admit that they have any value whatever. Though,
of course, they do.
Thenel smiled. "I've been tempted to do that once or twice, to cast some spell or other with twice or thrice my maximum force. It's never really been worth breaking a very valuable tool to do. If I'm on my deathbed and have no heirs (which seems likely at this point) I may do it, just for the glory of the thing."
Aha! Now, Thenel, I believe I understand you -- or something crucial about you! You are one of those mages who loves magical power. Not, I think, one of the power-hungry sorcerers who occasionally takes over a city and rules by dread mystical strength until the townspeople get annoyed and kill him. Such do not like magical power for its own sake. You, Thenel, love magical power on purely aesthetic grounds: the texture as it pours over your magerium, the radience of a strong cast spell. That is why you are so good at magic analysis: so that you can better see the power.
You also like precision. This is a good thing. Mages who simply work hard to get lots of power frequently wind up as candles visible from three branches away. A dramatic fate, to be sure ... but not, I suspect, your fate. Unless you're dying anyways, of course.
That is why you paid so much attention to my spells, and why my ring caught your interest so quickly and thoroughly.
Well, you're not the first such person I've ever met. People like you tend to show up around wizards, after all. I have two or three, but I left them at home. And I think I know better how to deal with you now.
And if you ever read this, I shall be so embarrassed, I shall appear as a candle visible from three branches away.
In the middle of a long discussion about spell power, Thenel said, "One doesn't want to add too many extra Nouns and Verbs to a spell, of course. Your power -- and whether you can cast it at all -- will be governed by your greatest weakness, not your greatest strength."
"Depends on who will be using the spell, and why. I've got a few spells that use all seven [Verbs] and twelve [Nouns]," I said.
"Oh, really? I've never seen one with all of them. What do they do?"
I grinned a whiskery Orren mouth. "The easiest one I know is a polyphasic defense spell. It's not a very good defense spell for its complexity -- which is fifty-five -- but I use it more often than any other spell."
[Spell complexities can be measured in two ways: the number of cley required to learn the spell, giving numbers like Sythyry's 55, or in quantum levels. The two are equivalent in a simple way: one quantum level equals five cley to learn. Ketherian academic magic -- and the World Tree sourcebook [which you can order from us if you want one] -- use the number of cley. Thenel speaks in terms of quantum levels, which is technically correct but sounds foreign to Sythyry. -bb]
"Eleventh quantum? I haven't grafted anything like that -- I couldn't cast it in my best combination," said a wide-eyed Thenel. If I were Cani, I would have sniffed surreptitiously to learn a bit more detail on what he was feeling; but he seemed nicely impressed, as I had intended.
"May I cast it for you -- on you, even -- by way of demonstration? I have work to do later, but I can spare a cley or two I imagine," I said. Being allowed to cast a spell on someone is not such a huge act of intimacy; any professional mage does that to customers regularly. (Well, maybe not Thenel so much as most, whose magic concerns trees and whose customers are not trees.) But it does open the possibility that other requests concerning each other's bodies may be made.
Thenel arched his tail up. "I should be delighted to see it!"
So I cast A Whole Raven and a Half on him. "I don't know about that," I said, inspecting the spell with magic sense. "It's not nearly as elegant as your spellwork: it's six spells all crammed together."
He looked too. "No, but it's quite strong. That's your regular casting strength, not hammer-cast or anything?"
"Hammer-casting A Whole Raven and a Half rather defeats the purpose. That's my basic casting," I said. He looked curious. "Oh, the purpose is to to cram all 7+12 into a single spell so you exercise them all at once on an adventure. It's a bouquet of basic defensive spells, which so you might get some value on an adventure ... I don't expect you'll need them though, unless nrex pour through the floor in the next few half-hour."
"You're an adventurer? I didn't think many wizards were," he said.
"Wizardry is my hobby. Nendrai wrangling is my actual profession," I said. "Adventures are plentiful, and usually desperate and miserable no matter how much magic I've got."
"I see ... I suppose I see. I try to stay in the city walls myself," he said.
"Very sensible of you. I'd do that if I could, but bringing my work into the city would rather defeat that purpose."
"Well ... may I ask a favor? Out of more of a personal than professional curiosity?" said Thenel, his ears a bit low.
("Oh, so it's one of those afternoons," I thought to myself. "Charm the wizard and then get some wizardry done, curse it. Oh, well. He's nice enough to get two cley's work out of me. No spellbinding though.")
"Ask away! I might say 'no' of course," I chirped.
"Might I look at your magerium?" he said a bit shyly.
[The magerium is a psychic organ of the prime body, connecting the mind to the spirit. It looks like a tree, with (for primes) 7+12 main branches which connect the primes to the gods. Pattern spells can be grafted on, as subsidiary branches. A glance at a magerium tells a great deal about one's magical stature -- and, incidentally, tells if one is prime or not. Looking at one involves a close stare with magic sense, and is somewhat more intimate than previous inspection of spells this episode. -bb]
("Oh, it's not one of those afternoons!", I thought to myself.)
"Well ... if you'll show me yours, too," I said. For the sake of the phrase, as much as anything else. "Remember I'm a Zi Ri, not an Orren, so don't expect a Kennoc god connection."
He leaned close, slipping an arm around my shoulder for balance, and peered. "Good gods, you're symmetrical!"
"I am, actually," I said. I glanced at Thenel, who looked like a reasonable Rassimel tree-mage: Healoc god-connection (as all Rassimel have), all Verbs of sensible professional strength, a good bit of Herbador, lesser expertise in Pyrador and Airador and Corpador, and more Magiador than strictly necessary. A few dozen grafted spells, mostly Herbador variants, with the strongest being complexity 30.
"Very much ... what, do you study all 7+12 equally? One course in each of them, in turn, or what?" he asked. "Do you try to maintain the symmetry of your magerium on purpose?"
"Not that. It's from mostly adventuring rather than studying that much. Spells like that A Whole Raven and a Half are quite useful for exercising everything evenly. Even if they're not so pretty."
The Pounce Direct
"You're pretty, though," he said.
I smiled a big bristly smile. And, since his arm was still around my shoulder, leaned a bit, nuzzled his whiskers up, and kissed the corner of his mouth.
"Um, I don't ... I mean ... never ... " he mumbled, and slipped his other hand to my hip and started caressing me: nervously and eagerly.
"May I say something that's pretty obvious and you probably already know?" I said. He just nodded, still rather nervous. "I have been married, in the most important of ways if not in law, to a Herethroy, though zie has been dead for decades. I am happy to enjoy the company -- and the body -- of a delightful and clever member of any prime species, save my own. Which is to say: if you do not move your hand this instant, I shall lay my hand upon you in the same sort of spirit."
He glanced at the windows (drapes drawn), the door to the parlor (open), the tapestries around the room (stable). "I'd heard rumors of that," he said, "I've never quite been able to resist a pretty and powerful Orren girl myself." He cast a spell to close and bar the door, presumably so he didn't need to let go of me.
Indeed, he did not let go of me for quite some while, nor I of him. And, since the door was closed and the curtains closed and all, I shan't be giving further details.
Orren are wonderful lovers because of their enthusiasm and energy and flexibility. I still think that they are the best on the World Tree.
But Rassimel are wonderful lovers because of their intensity and attention to details. At least, if you've caught their attention right, which I had.
It was a truly well-spent afternoon.