Robert spends two years getting to know a past incarnation of himself. (word count: 3386)
LESSONS OF THE WORLD AT LARGE
Year 1665 Month 06 Week 02 Day 01
My time in the library was an odd experience. Firstly, time did not flow of time was decidedly different; one day could be longer or shorter than the last with little to no rhyme or reason. Like a dream I never seemed to go anywhere, I simply arrived. Should I decide to leave one room then I would simply find myself in the next.
Inspection of the windows revealed that it was not in fact night time, there were no stars or a moon, yet there didn’t seem to be any sign of the clouds that could cover the bright delights. There were seven rooms in total. The first was the circular main study, the very room I found myself in; the second room was best described as a bedchamber. It was the only room without a single book or drawing. Upon the ceiling was the only real decoration, it was a painting, of golden clouds. Behind which was the sun, beaming with light that illuminated the room. In time the painting would change to that of a much dimmer night, it was the only method I had to tell the days apart.
The third room served as an observatory. There were a number of mirrors that Cosmo calls ‘looking glass’ supposedly they can be used to see the past, present and future. The fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rooms were all extensions of the main study each much larger than the first room, which could be compared to a typical living room. None of them had any windows naturally in them, their entrances were protected by barriers I didn’t see and hidden doors I found almost on impulse.
“These rooms aren’t very well hidden,” I commented after being introduced to the last room, it was dark by far the smallest. The books were in layers of code that would take I simply couldn’t understand. Each room was dedicated to a different range of subject matters, ordered in how dangerous they were. The seventh room held secrets I could not reach, books that wouldn’t open, treasure chests with keys unaccounted for. It was a room that even Cosmo’s reflection was not trusted in knowing.
All of this had little to do with my lessons. We began at the most pressing matter: magic.
“Magic can be divided into two clear types: gifts and spells. Gifts cannot be taught, one must be born with a gift to possess it at all. Spells require instruction and practice can improve one’s efficiency. All magic requires energy to power them and all magic requires an initiation,” Cosmo began his lecture in the main study, his use of the word initiation befuddled me but energy was a term that I was familiar with, yet it didn’t seem real to me, more like it belonged in a work of fiction. He gestured to a book at it flew onto the desk I sat before. Then it opened and sheets of paper slipped out it listed the observable differences of gifts and spells, which I made a mental note of. The list went as followed:
● Gifts are passive, Spells are active
● Initiation of gifts are built around how the world perceives you
● Initiation of spells are built around how you perceive the world
● Spells allow one to choose how to initiate the magic
● Spells require an incantation to be used
Cosmo watched me read them through and then proceeded to elaborate. “The words passive and active refer to how energy is supplied to the magical act.” he glanced at the book and its pages turned suddenly only to stop at the second chapter ‘energy application’ was its title. Simply put, the energy used for gifts are built up over time without conscious thought, in time it would build to the point where, if not used, it would cause the ‘gifted’ to overheat. This overheat would worsen the longer the gift was suppressed. The more powerful the gift the quicker the gifted individual would suffer from overheating and the more severe the drawbacks of doing so. These drawbacks ranged from a mere headache to a violent explosion.
Cosmo watched my eyes until I reached the end of the page and again it began speaking once I was done, “Not all gifted beings are intelligent enough to suppress their gifts,”
“Like the bear?” I interjected
“Like the bear,” it nodded, “the bear’s gift gave it strength, raw magical powers that its entire body is soaked in, its' roar acts as a mere extension of this gift.”
“Then the Troll girl?”
“Indeed she has a gift, her ability to enslave others; however she is a self-taught sorceress on top of that. More than likely she learned by imitating actual sorcerers. The result is that Me believes that her gift is a spell, hence why she speaks gibberish in order to activate it. She unconsciously suppresses her gift.” It continued, working through Me's' mental flaws and the importance of proper training in the magical arts, it ended with, “In truth, Me could enslave anyone with a click of her fingers, that is assuming the subject doesn’t have the magic to protect themselves”
“And she doesn’t even know it.” I was somewhat afraid of how powerful that little troll could be.
The reflection adjusted itself and then continued, “The effects of a gift are usually permit or at least long lasting, all without the need of applying more magic.”
It adjusted one last time, “Spells are the opposite, while an incantation is spoken, a sorcerer must intentionally build up the energy to power it. The weaker a sorcerer is the longer it takes to build the energy. The more energy one can build the more options one has.”
“The pastor used a spell on me didn’t he?”
“Yes, as did the Troll.” it remarked.
“I thought that the Troll had a gift and it's that gift that Me used,” the thought made me mad but I continued, “To enslave.”
“Yes, but do not forget that this Troll is also a self-taught sorcerer, while limited there seems to be a number of spells she has at her disposal.” it asserted, then it continued, “Spells are strenuous to maintain, as a spell will require a constant source of magic.”
With that it left me. Alone with the book, to mill over what I had learned. I returned to my resting place.
Year 1665 Month 06 Week 02 Day 02
The reflection called me from my resting place, having gone over everything from the previous day it studied me before saying a word. I sat at the desk, “Where were we?” it asked, this was clearly a test.
“You finished explaining the difference between passive gifts and active spells. I believe initiation is next.” my voice was surprisingly crusty and frail, I had almost forgotten the old body I still inhabited; it all seemed so natural that it was barely worth noting.
“Very well,” it pressed on, “As you have never properly used magic you would be unaware, but performing magic traditionally requires a subject.” it gestured towards the book shelves, the same book as yesterday approached my desk and opened, this time it was accompanied by a second thicker book. The pair opened the first book on half way through chapter three, where a section of a page backed up what the reflection had said. The new book opened up at its first chapter.
‘Magic and Perception’ was its title and it outlined the link between the two. Once it had seen me turn the page, once then twice and saw that my eyes had reached the bottom of the third page, it spoke again,
“The five main senses are important in establishing a subject. In a spell...” it paused and looked as if I was meant to finish its sentence.
“You- as the sorcerer- have to perceive your subject. You can’t cast a spell on something you don’t know is there.”
“Correct, and should I wish to use a gift would I need to perceive my subject for that?” It asked, I had to flick back a page to check,
“No, but the subject would need to perceive you.” I paraphrased a sentence of the book and the reflection nodded at my answer. Then it asked yet another question:
“The five main senses used to establish a subject, list them in terms of difficulty?” Again its' question wasn’t particularly hard, so I flicked through the book again and read out the answer.
“Taste, touch, sight, smell and hearing.” I said, and then glancing at the next page, “Young sorcerers practise new spells using touch and then moving on to sight with practise. Meanwhile, using taste is practically impossible and smell, while harder to do, is actually less effective than sight in most scenarios. Oh, and hearing is apparently next to impossible.” I was rather pleased with myself at this point but the reflection showed no sign of recognising my efforts, effectively killing my inflated ego.
After it was sure I was finished talking it followed up the previous line of questioning, “You mentioned spells but what is the order of difficulty for the initiation of gifts?”
“There isn’t one.” I answered after flicking through the pages ahead to make sure,
“Why would that be?” relentlessly,
“Because gifts are passive, there is no level of difficulty to initiating a gift it just happens, right?” I checked.
“Correct.” It said in a monotone.
The reflection closed the book with a gesture and asked me to recite the information we had just gone over, it was an odd exercise but once I had completed it the reflection adjusted itself and began a to lecture me:
“A huge benefit of using a spell is that you can choose how to initiate it, as using sight is common practice amongst magic users, experienced opponents tend to rely on avoiding our line of sight or attempt to blind us.” It paused, it was clear that I was expected to make note of that tactic, “those relying on gifts do not have the option of choice, their gift can only be triggered a particular way,”
I threw in, “Like Me, her gift can only be triggered through sound.”
“Correct, however there are some spells and gifts that do not require an initiation, this only happens when the magic user themself is the subject.” I guess Me’s strength enhancing spell fell under that category, it’s going to be a nightmare to face that again, “With that we have finished the topic,” The reflection sent the books back into their respective places with a gesture, “Now for-”
I interjected again, “Now that's out of the way I can learn some incantation, right?” the thought of using magic possessed my from the very first day.
“No, as I said you have no real talent for magic,” my smile dropped, it continued “at least outside your gifts-”
“Wait I have gifts, plural?”, and then my smile sprang back into place, “What are my gifts?”
“Firstly there's your gift ‘Rebirth’. And our second gift is ‘From Ashes’ coined by Cosmo’s’ it allows us to retain the memories of our previous lives, however you don’t need me to tell you that not everything is immediately available. The memories come sporadically and randomly.”
“What about,” recalling the power of the bear, “the ability to channel my previous lives?”
“That is an extension of ‘From ashes’ that Cosmo called, ‘The Flame’.” The reflection confirmed.
“Wait -why ‘The Flame’ and ‘From Ashes’?” it seemed like such a random names.
“The first life Cosmo recalled was that of a witch named Alice, as Cosmo you remembered Alice’s life the same way you remember James’ now.” I see, as I am now the first memories that came to me was of James’ life and the world I lived in at the time (your world); As Cosmo I was the same except I recalled Alice’s life instead, the reflection continued, “As a witch, Alice -or rather you- were adept in magic, this had largely cut your learning curve as Cosmo. As we grew older we remember more details of Alice and our life as her, including how she died.”
“She -I was burned to death.” I guessed.
The reflection continued, “As Cosmo you also learned to master the magical gifts you were born with and even temporarily channel the gifts you possessed as Alice. The ability to burn whatever you touched was the first of these. This very gift backfired on us,” it confirmed, “leading to our death as Alice.”
With that it had concluded our session and I was dismissed again. I pondered my life as Alice, I couldn’t remember it but the thought scared me; having a powerful gift that killed anyone that touched me, I must have had a lonely life as Alice.
I wouldn’t be surprised if I had killed myself.
Year 1665 Month 06 Week 02 Day 03
Today Cosmo directed me to the second study, it was a large room that was further broken down into various subsection section. I found a table positioned in the centre of the room. The table had odd stains on it and a mass of metal tools. Glass vials held by metal stands placed alongside pots and pans and stacks of random pieces of paper. Studying the papers revealed instructions. The original list had been crossed out and corrected, the corrections in turn being crossed out and corrected. Between that and the code it was written in made reading the ingredients a painful task.
Cosmos’ reflection directed me to a seat and willed several books to the table before me.
It allowed me to adjust for the moment and then began its lecture, “Today you will be exploring the various disciplines of magic.”
“Why, if I can’t learn magic what's the point.” I rebutted, annoyed at yesterday's realisation.
“The easiest way to overcome an opponent,” it looked at me, “is by understanding them first. The most powerful opposition you will face in this world employs magic of some kind, magic that is either caused by or the result of one of these disciplines.”
Knowing this, I resigned my opposition and allowed the lesson to continue.
One of several books opened and I began reading it through as Cosmo spoke. “There are three basic magical disciplines: Transmutation, the art of changing one subject into something else; Conjuration, the art of creating something from nothing and enchanting, the art of affecting the aspects and properties of a subject.” Once done, the book shut another opened. Another book opened. This was focused almost entirely on transmutation.
The book went on in detail on the two types of changes possible with transmutation: changes in shape, states or forms.
“Changes in shape were simple enough.” it checked that I was following along.
So I added, “As long as you had the required amount of material you could make tonnes of coins into a suit of armour. Supposedly this is the easiest and less taxing version of transmutation.”
It nodded and continued on, “Changes in states refers to the states of matter, allowing a sorcerer to transmute a solid object into a liquid or gas, this can be taken further, turning gases into plasma, the stuff stars and lightning is made from. The difficulty of changing matter depends on the initial state and the intended state. It’s easier to turn a liquid into a gas than a solid in gas. On top of that different materials require varying amounts of energy. Ice is easier to turn into a liquid than iron which in turn is easier than other heavier metals.” it didn’t say anything for a moment.
Was it expecting me to say something? It stayed quiet, like before, wait -before it had paused whenever something important came up.
So I went out on a limb, “People who transmute heavier metals are powerful, and should be avoided?” It didn’t say anything, so I tried again, “It takes longer to build enough energy to transmute heavier metals?”
“Correct.” It said, and then it continued with its lecture.
“Changes in form are the most difficult version of transmutation,” the word difficult implying that it would take talent as opposed to raw power, Cosmo elaborated, “this allows one to change copper to gold.” it left it at that and then the book closed and another opened.
“Wait,” I interjected, “Does that mean a sorcerer could turn a human in a frog?” the thought of stereotypical witches throwing threats to mortals came to mind.
“Technically correct but unlikely; for one to transmute a subject, one must know exactly what the subject is and have an idea of what they want to turn that thing into. For something like the human body, a sorcerer would require exact knowledge on the composition and arrangement of all the elements that make up said subject. solid blocks of metal or even metal alloys are rather simple, while an entire living organism nearly impossible.” based on that, it would seem that transmutation would not allow for the god-like power of making life or the creation of something that completely defied common knowledge.
“Nearly impossible so someone can do it,” I repeated, the wording intrigued me.
“Yes, we did, or rather you as Cosmo. It would take almost a day of preparation and full knowledge of the subjects' diet but it was possible to extrapolate from the ‘modern’ science found in James’s memories the exact composition of each cell in the human body, which in turn would make up every form of tissue found and then every organ. With enough data and hours of calculations you could map out the body in a way that allowed for the transmutation of living tissue. The detailed method how to do so is in this very room, I could recite it if you pleased, but it was our knowledge of the other world that allowed for such a feat, one that has not been recreated since.” Dumbfounded by that simplified explanation I retreated into my chair and allowed the lesson to continue. I -no, Cosmo, was a genius.
This book was based around conjuration. It was a much simpler discipline, “Conjuration allows one to create an object's.” Cosmo’s words being backed by the contents of the book, “objects made via conjuration are separated by the same subcategories as transmutation.” thus allowing sorcerers to create solid constructs, various liquids, gases and plasma.” I looked up from the book and tried to ask a question yet before I could the reflection spoke, “A common use of conjuration is a battle mages use of plasma, in the form of lightning. The strike is difficult to avoid and awfully potent, as it both electrocutes and burns.” It paused, but I already got the idea.
“Which is why it’s important to not let them use it?” I ascertained,
“Correct.” It paused again, as if it knew I had a question,
“I guess conjuration has the same problem with living creatures as transmutation does,” it nodded confirming my statement, so I continued, “How about something mechanical, like a clock,” the item was non-existent in this world but was a simple device in yours, “could a sorcerer who understood what a clock was, and how it worked conjure a whole, working clock?” it wasn’t much,
“With enough energy yes a sorcerer could.” It said waiting to see where I would take this,
“How much energy?” I asked.
“That would depend on the size of the clock in question is. This is one of the main differences between conjuration and transmutation, conjuration being more costly depending on the mass of the object in question,” it continued on the tangent, it was probably his intentioned content anyway, “ at a small enough scale, conjuration is actually more energy efficient than transmutation, but this changes on a larger scale.” It paused again, intending for me to participate, I didn’t, and eventually it pressed on. “This means that conjuration spells take longer to build towards,” it surrendered the information to me reluctantly.
With that today’s session had been completed and I returned to my bed chamber.