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Friday, March 18, 2011

#FridayFlash: Accidental Sorcerers 3

Around 15 years ago, I wrote the story that would become the heart of this episode on a Tandy 600 laptop. It might be on a floppy somewhere out in Studio FAR, and I might have a computer out there that could read that floppy, but the story was memorable enough for me that I was able to rewrite it without that particular crutch. (Mrs. Fetched would take this as evidence that my memory faults are selective — if true, it’s not me doing the selecting!) I didn’t set out to write Accidental Sorcerers with this part in mind, but realized it not only fit but belonged here.

Moving right along… and if you're just joining Mik and Sura, start with Part 1!

Accidental Sorcerers #3
Sura’s Story

Mik, not used to being served, insisted on feeding the fire while Sura poured tea. She moved another bench next to Mik’s, close to the fire, and sipped her tea while he poked the wood into place. The food tray bridged the gap between their benches.

“You said you had your own story,” he said at last, taking up his teacup.

She nodded. “It was near the end of summer,” she said, staring into the fire. “I really made a mess of things…”
“Will you please sit down?” Bailar sounded amused and exasperated at once. “You’re making me nervous.”

Sura sat, watching the sorcerer eat. Hunger finally overcame nerves, and she took a roll and nibbled.

“Good,” he said. “Now that you’re still, why don’t you tell me what happened?”

She sighed. “I was about worn out carrying those buckets up from the river, and the vat was only half full. You left your staff there, and I remembered that story in the holy book about how the prophet struck the stone and water came out. So I struck the wall with your staff, and it worked! I was overjoyed at first.

“Then the vat filled up, but I didn’t know how to stop the water. I should have called for help before there was six inches of water in the basement, I know.”

Bailar nodded. “Indeed, but that was your final mistake. What was your first?”

Sura laughed. “That’s easy. I shouldn’t have done it in the first place!”

“Exactly! That’s known as the Principle of Necessity. Magic calls on powers greater than ourselves, and those powers are not to be used lightly. That’s why we have apprentices, to do the work not worthy of magic.” He grinned. “So you struck the wall and got water. Why do you think it worked?”

“Your staff. I used your staff.”

The sorcerer shook his head. “It’s only a stick. It helps me keep my balance. It worked because you have a talent for magic, like others have a talent for music or weapons.”


“Of course. That’s the Principle of Power, or some call it the Principle of Intent. Most people wouldn’t have drawn water. You wouldn’t have either, if you just struck the wall without that intent. I knew the talent was there — I saw it in you the day I found an infant girl on my doorstep. But like any other talent, you can spend a lifetime developing it. If you want, you can learn to be a sorcerer. I’ll teach you all I can.”

“But — of course — what else would I do?”

“Many things. Any sensible innkeeper would put you in charge of his kitchen. You know the old saw: A sorcerer or king may be thrown aside / but a good scribe or cook may always abide. You could be either one.”
Mik looked at the tray. “You made all this? It’s wonderful! Do you use magic to make it taste that good?”

“No, no magic. But the mentor says he’s eaten in the best houses of Exidy, and even the palace at the capital, and never dined better than any evening here at home.” Sura smiled at the floor.

“Maybe there’s other kinds of magic.”

She blushed. “Maybe. I’d like the recipe for that cake you brought though, it’s better than mine. But magic is a lot like cooking: you start by following recipes, then you learn to create your own.”

Mik laughed. “Well, I’ve eaten most of this tray. But if what matters is talent, why all the chanting? Why the robes and wands and things?”

“People expect it. And it can help you focus. The chants are good for remembering spells, too. How the spell for awakening an ice dragon became a children’s rhyme, though…” Sura tore open a roll, stuffed meat and cheese inside it, then took a bite. “But there’s one more thing…”
Bailar put down his roll. “But let’s pretend for a moment that it was necessary for you to perform that spell. What else should you have known?”

Sura thought a minute. “Um… how to make it stop?”

“Indeed. A spell begun must be ended. That we call the Principle of Closure.”

“That makes sense.”

“Of course it does. And now you have had your first lesson in sorcery. Spells can go awry, even strictly following the Principles, but when they are ignored something nearly always goes wrong.” He began to laugh. “For example, your mentor can find you ankle-deep in water, shrieking like a banshee, desperately trying to hold back a torrent — pouring — from a wall…” He put his face on the table and shook with laughter.
Mik stifled most of his own laughter. “I can see it! I’ll bet that was a mess to clean up!”

“Oh, it was. I learned a lot that day. Kind of like you.”

“So, being a sorcerer… it’s something you were born with?”

“And you as well.” Bailar appeared in the doorway. “I rather hoped Sura would tell you her story — perhaps now you understand your own predicament a little better.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then perhaps you can tell me how the Three Principles apply to you?”

Mik thought a moment. “I think it was necessary to awaken the ice dragon. The invaders had driven our army out of the Two Rivers district, and they were nearing our town. I wasn’t aware that I had talent, I thought anyone could have done it. As for the last, I thought — no, I didn’t think at all. I suppose I thought the dragon would go away on its own once its work was done. It would be poor thanks to let it die, so I came to you.”

“Your good heart has protected you from the wrath of the ice dragon, so far. Whether it can protect you from the world at large, I know not. I believe I know what you must do, though.”



  1. Ha! I love that the staff is actually just a walking stick. I don't think I've ever seen that twist used, yet it makes so much sense. Can't believe nobody's done it before, which is a mark of you being extremely clever.

  2. I am enjoying this serial.
    I'm intrigued how a story you wrote a while ago ended up fitting here.

    Isnt' it nice when you can laugh at past mistakes? Now, get that dragon back to where it belongs.

  3. Hey all!

    Thanks, John, it does seem strange that those wizardry props have never been just props… but hey, why not?

    Peggy, you might as well laugh at mistakes, right? We'll see what happens next week!

  4. Good rules to wizard by. Especially when there's a dragon to save.

  5. I love the nod to the Sorceror's Apprentice. Really enjoying this series!

  6. Good evening!

    Raven, as I said in the comments of an earlier episode, why shouldn't magic be governed by rules, especially since everything else in the universe is?

    Icy, good to hear you're enjoying it. Of course, when you have a sorcerer's apprentice, you have to have a flooded basement in there, right?

  7. This is a great series. The magic has purpose and reason and seamlessly fits into the world you have created. Wonderful story telling.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  8. This is fleshing out into a really interesting world. =)

    Good job with the three principles too, they feel practical and real. I can imagine less-principled wizards in the world paying them less attention though... a bad guy perhaps...? ;)

  9. Morning!

    Adam, thanks much.

    John, imagine if someone had a way to ignore the principles without worrying about any blowback…

  10. This is certainly developing very nicely and you are giving the story real depth and interest. The lessons on sorcery are a good detail which make it all the more readable.

  11. Thanks much, Scribbler — I find it a fun challenge to pack lots of concept into a short story! ;-)

  12. I also loved the twist that the staff was just a walking stick. Intriguing world here with a good set of characters so far.

    I liked how you switched to a serif font to mark off her story.

  13. Another good episode. I'm with John, I love that the stick is just a stick. That made me smile.

  14. Thanks, all…

    Aiden, I used the blockquote tag to set her story. It probably works differently with different templates, but I also like the effect so left it as it was.

    Danielle, it seems a lot of sorcery involves what we would call theatrical props. If I continue this beyond the conclusion (next week), it will lead off thus: "To Mik's surprise, many aspects of sorcery involved little or no magic at all." Which makes sense given the Principle of Necessity: over time, sorcerers (or the world at large) find non-magical ways to achieve a particular result.

  15. I'm a sucker for an interesting magic system and you're certainly unveiling one with this gem of series. Catch you next week, Master FAR, sir.

  16. Playing catch up. I liked Sura's story. All I could think about were mops and brooms carrying buckets of water! LOL :)


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