I’m never quite sure how best to describe magic. It’s one area in which I’m deeply under-practiced as a fantasy author.
The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 34
Sif knew Lilja much better. ‘Timid’ seemed to her too mean a word, but it wasn’t wrong, if she was honest. Lilja was nearer the bottom of the class than the top, Sif would admit, but that didn’t justify how little trust she had in her own talent.
She approached the poles, looking them up and down. She bent her knees, jumped, and caught herself with a powerful updraft which left her directly above the lowest platform. Knees still bent, she took the impact cleanly. She straightened up, arms out and moving minutely to keep her balance.
Sif wanted to cheer, but it didn’t seem like anyone else was. She settled for catching Lilja’s eye and clapping silently. A smile flashed across Lilja’s face, and grew bigger when Leifsson said, “Well done. Can you make it to the next one?”
The answer turned out to be no, although it was close. Leifsson again touched the weave, catching Lilja before she hit the ground, and dipped his head as she passed to rejoin the other students. Sif clapped her on the shoulder and grinned.
Nine of Sif’s fellow aspirants took a crack at the poles, one by one. None of them matched Einar’s success; most didn’t even do as well as Lilja. Sif found herself shifting from foot to foot. She wasn’t sure if she was impatient or nervous.
Finally, she was the last one left. “Sif Hrothgarsdottir,” said Leifsson. “Why do you think you are the last to go?”
His tone set off warning bells in Sif’s head. The elder luftsenmagiker were always going on about philosophy. Each school of magiker had its own strengths and weaknesses, its own way of approaching problems. She couldn’t argue with that. She did, on the other hand, find it annoying that they tried to turn their ways of approaching problems into ways of thinking about everything.
On top of that, the luftsenmagiker had a particularly maddening way of thinking. Don’t stand against the gales in life. Go where the wind takes you. You’ll often find it’s where you were supposed to be all along.
Nonsense, Sif thought. Sitting around and waiting for things to happen to you was no way to live. Still, it paid to stick to the script. “Did it just happen that way?” she wondered aloud.
Leifsson showed a smile. “A good guess,” he said, “but I do have a reason.”
Commentary, The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 34
In one of those serial author moments wherein ongoing story sheds light on past events and I totally didn’t mean it, Sif’s arrival at the Akademi der Luftsenmagiker is exactly the kind of moment the luftsenmagiker would point to as an example and Sif would laugh off.
The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 33
Half a lap later, on the north side of the courtyard, he faced his first- and second-year students. Baltasar Rasmussen had already corralled the others.
The students left with him stood in the shadow of the poles: an array of two dozen posts driven deep into the ground, each three yards from its neighbor. They ranged in height from four yards to just shy of fifteen, and each was crowned with a circular platform barely wide enough to get two feet on.
“As luftsenmagiker, you are shielded by your agility,” Leifsson said. “You must learn control and precision. Einar Goransson, would you demonstrate?”
Einar turned to face the poles, wound up for a jump, and leaped into the air, raising his hands as he did. A blast of wind caught him as he did, carrying him up to one of the lowest poles. From there, he jumped from pole to pole, guiding himself with precisely-timed gusts, barely even putting a foot down before springing toward his next stop. He came to a halt on the tallest pole, bowed theatrically, and jumped down. The wind caught him as he neared the ground.
“Very good,” Leifsson said. Motion caught his eye: Sif nudged Lilja with her elbow and whispered something out of the corner of her mouth. “First-year aspirants, step forward.”
“Pretty good, isn’t he?” Sif whispered. Lilja blushed. It was too easy sometimes, Sif thought.
“… step forward,” said Leifsson.
The two young luftsenmagiker joined their ten compatriots.
“Today, you will learn to move as Einar Goransson did: calling on the weave to jump higher and further and land more precisely than you could hope to do without it. I will not push you very far today. Soon, there will be complications. Gyr Didriksson. Approach the poles.”
Sif watched with obvious interest. She didn’t know Gyr very well as a person, but she had faced off against him frequently enough to develop a sense for his ability working with the weave. He was good at it, though maybe not as good as she was. He was more rigid in his style, less creative but probably better at using what he knew in difficult situations.
He sized up the shortest pole, took a running start, and sprang into the air. A sudden wind kicked up dust, and Gyr flew five yards up. He got his feet on the platform at the top of the pole, but lost his balance, arms windmilling as he toppled forward. Leifsson cushioned his fall with a miniature whirlwind.
“A good first attempt,” Leifsson allowed. “Control will come with practice. Lilja Orrisdottir. You are next.”
Commentary, The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 33
Sorry about the missed update. It’s been a busy week, and my electronic hydrometer project has been taking up a lot of my time. Guess I’m down to 7 off days for the rest of 2018 now.
I think I’ve said before, but latecomers like Sif and company get abbreviated training in the theory and structure of weave-working. They’re usually better at practical application by dint of practice, but aren’t as good at pre-planned magic as the lifers, those who came to the Akademier early on.
The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 32
Ansgar Leifsson circled the Akademi’s courtyard, walking in the shadow of its outer wall. The fog had nearly gone. Off to the south, he could see Yngvar’s, perched atop its distinctive tower.
His students were beginning to gather for the afternoon lesson. He had a special challenge in mind for the beginners, one he ordinarily held back for a few months more. The war weighed heavily on the Norrmannrike’s elite, though. The latest news was that the ontr had pushed past the Syderskogflod and were on the march across the southern Plains. The Thanes’ Moot had sent word north from the capital that perhaps the Akademier should, in view of mounting losses, prepare their students for battle a little more quickly.
Leifsson knew that to be a fool’s errand. Too many magiker in one place led to wild, unpredictable magic, and after that, to other, more terrible consequences. If the few dozen already in the far south hadn’t stemmed the tide, another few hundred would make no difference. The war would be won with steel or not at all, Leifsson thought.
Still, the Thanes held great sway in the Norrmannrike, and Leifsson could hardly say they weren’t pulling their weight. Their armies were, after all, bearing most of the fighting. And so he honored their request, and pushed his students along faster than he would have liked.
He came to the Akademi’s south gate, where he paused. From outside the wall came a snippet of conversation.
“… does listening mean, though?”
“We just pay attention. You don’t have to go looking for trouble.”
“I think that’s what Falthejn—”
Three of Leifsson’s students caught sight of him as they came through the gate. Hrothgarsdottir and Orrisdottir, and Goransson behind them. They failed miserably at looking innocent, each offering a meek, “Herre Leifsson,” as they passed.
He nodded an acknowledgement and resumed his walk. It was good that Sif Hrothgarsdottir had settled in. Her friendship with Lilja Orrisdottir was good for both of them. Lilja needed some of Sif’s readiness to turn to her talent with the weave to solve problems, and Sif needed some of Lilja’s restraint. They could both learn from Einar Goransson, who had a year of training over them and was near the top of his class besides. Leifsson would have been hard-pressed to pick a winner if Einar and Sif got into a fight with free access to their skills, but Einar was a more efficient weave-worker and a quicker thinker. In a real scrap, he would be the odds-on favorite.
Commentary, The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 32
Scheduling posts for mid-June already? Where has the year gone? Then again, May 15 feels like about a year ago already, so I guess it’s not so bad.
Magiska Akademier: the schools of magic, sometimes the Guilds. Most terms of interest to magiker in the Norrmannrike come in two versions: a Norrmanssprak term used officially and more formally, and an ælfish term used casually by magiker. The magical community is already effectively bilingual, since ælfish is much more suited to technical discussions of magic; this is just one more example. A luftsmagiker is the same as an aeromancer, weave-working is the same as magic.
Some exceptions include magiker, which is borrowed from the ælfish magic, and compounds with native Norrmanssprak affixes like luft- and so on (to form, for instance, luftsmagiker, a practitioner of luftsmagik). The official, native Norrmanssprak alternatives to magik and magiker are vridning and vridnare, twisting and twister, in reference to the action taken upon the weave. A luftsvridnare is an air-twister, which is a fun word, but difficult to use in the flow of the story without a lot of explanation. Which you get here.
The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 31
She placed the quill into Tyrssen’s outstretched hand with bad grace, and stared at Falthejn’s letter. One moment, there was nothing. The next, there were two new postscripts. A moment after that, there had always been three postscripts.
P.P.S. In general, no. You may trust your friends. (Hello. I look forward to meeting you.)
P.P.P.S. Sorry about the letter to Tyrssen, but this is hard enough without you turning it into a conversation.
She stared at them, willing herself to remember that she had watched them appear a mere few heartbeats ago. It made her head hurt.
“That was weird,” Lilja said.
Passing by on his way back from the storeroom, Tyrssen said, “He told me to tell you it serves you right, fiddling with time like that.”
Sif glared, but he had already moved on. She sighed.
“So, what do we do now?” said Einar. There was a determined set to his face.
Sif studied him, then Lilja. Both of them watched her, waiting for an answer. She didn’t think of herself as a leader. It wasn’t in her nature. Besides, although she didn’t like thinking of herself in such terms, she was getting used to being a child. She had been responsible for herself for all her life. She had hoped to enjoy it being someone else’s job for a few years.
But here were her friends, looking to her. She didn’t think of herself as a leader, but it wasn’t in her nature to let people down, either. It always seemed to happen this way. People expected her to take charge, and so she did. She tapped the letter. “I guess we do what Falthejn Arnarsson says. I trust him. I’ll talk to Herre Leifsson this evening. We should go visit Falthejn’s conjurer soon.”
Lilja and Einar nodded along.
“After that…” Sif looked past her friends. The sun was burning off the fog. She could see some of the city now. In the distance was the tower of the Akademi, the tallest building in the city by far, surrounded at its peak by swirling clouds. “After that, I don’t know. We keep our ears to the ground, and see what we hear about the Shining Hand. What do you think?”
Her friends exchanged a look. Einar cocked his head to the side and lifted his shoulder. Lilja said, “We agree.”
Commentary, The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 31
In the future, I’m not doing letters. Holy cow has it been annoying.
The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 30
Lilja and Einar crowded around, reading over her shoulder.
“How did he—” Lilja began.
Sif held up a finger. “I’m not done yet.” A few moments passed while she read through the last paragraph. “I guess he just looked into the future where I wrote him a letter, and wrote an answer then.”
“He comes in once every month or two to catch up on his letters,” Tyrssen put in. “Or get ahead on them.” He frowned.
Einar tapped the sheet of paper. “Do either of you know any conjurers?” Lilja shook her head.
“Well, there’s Herre Knutssen at the Arkiv,” said Sif. “He doesn’t do practical work anymore, though.” Silence descended for a few moments, then her face lit up. “I just had an idea. Does anyone have a pen? Something to write with?”
“Arnarsson keeps his writing things downstairs,” said Tyrssen. He disappeared again, and returned a moment later with an inkwell and a quill.
“Can I see my letter again?” said Sif.
Tyrssen shrugged and set it on the bar, then circled the stove to greet a newcomer.
Sif spun her letter around, dipped the pen in the ink. She looked toward the ceiling for a moment, then put her pen to the paper.
P.S. We don’t know any conjurers.
She finished the sentence with a flourish.
“Will that work?” Einar wondered.
Sif lifted a shoulder. “I don’t see why not.” A moment passed. Nothing seemed to happen. Looking less certain, she glanced at Falthejn’s letter. Her expression brightened immediately. “It worked!”
P.S. You make a good point. I have enclosed a letter of introduction to a trollersmagiker of my acquaintance. Who’s we?
Sif looked up. “Georg Tyrssen?”
The lodgekeeper poked his head around the stove.
“Is there more downstairs for me? Another letter?”
Tyrssen’s forehead wrinkled. “Has he been here since I looked last?”
“It says here there should be a letter of introduction, too.” Sif held up Falthejn’s letter and indicated the new postscript.
“Good thing for you it’s not busy yet,” the lodgekeeper grumbled, heading down to the storeroom once more. Returning, he set a second sealed letter in front of Sif.
She set it aside, then took up the quill again. Einar and Lilja crowded her elbows, watching her write.
She set the pen back in the inkwell and looked up at Tyrssen, who hadn’t moved. “Yes?” she said.
“Nothing yet,” Tyrssen replied, “only I’m supposed to take the pen away after you write your next postscript.”
Sif raised her eyebrows.
“I found this beneath the one for you.” Tyrssen showed her still another letter.
Please take the pen from Sif Hrothgarsdottir after she writes her next postscript.
Sif sniffed. “Well, someone’s enjoying himself. Was enjoying himself.” She shook her head. “You know what I mean.”
The corner of Tyrssen’s mouth quirked up. “I remember him writing you, come to think of it. ‘Too clever by half,’ he called you.”
Einar snickered. Sif pretended not to hear him. Beneath her first postscript, she wrote: