Article: 261853 of talk.bizarre From: Greyr@leland.Stanford.Edu (Greyr@leland.Stanford.Edu) Date: 01 Dec 95 07:11:00 -0500 Newsgroups: talk.bizarre Subject: Laws Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> X-Mail-Agent: GIGO+ sn 164 at sunshine vsn 0.99 pl1 Organization: Sunshine's Mail Only Node Lines: 279 Status: O X-Status: AREA:TALK.BIZARRE From: greyr@leland.Stanford.EDU (Greg Rapawy) Date: 1 Dec 1995 04:11:02 -0800 Excuse me. May I interrupt the two of you? Perhaps you are saying something of sufficient import to shatter the spheres in the heavens, raise the dead, and interrupt my lecture? Certainly the rest of the class has a right to know of something so vital... Ah. I see. You weren't saying anything at all. Next time, say it more quietly. And the next student I catch falling asleep will wake up on a lily pad, am I clear? I don't understand you children. Are you bored with the secrets of the universe already? We aren't halfway through the Great Laws yet! If you don't remember these as practicing wizards (which the Administration assures me that more than half of you will become someday, though I have my doubts, believe me) I assure you that a week as a frog will come to look like a cozy vacation. So help me, if those eyes don't unglaze, I'll... Very well. I will tell you a little story about two of the principles we are studying this week. When I am done, those of you who wish may be excused from the remainder of this lecture. Does the bargain suit you? I see it does. My! First time I've had any of you lot on the edges of your seats, certainly. Two principles. First: Sympathy. Resemblance leads to identity. Two objects which appear alike may be treated, for mystical purposes, as one object; likenesses carry power. Second: Contagion. Union leads to identity -- even after the union ceases. Two objects which were once closely related may always, thereafter, be treated for mystical purposes as one object; associations carry power. Confusing those two principles, or forgetting one in favor of the other, can bring upon you a doom much, much worse than death. And therein lies my tale... * * * Once, long ago, there was a young wizard who served on the Council, which governs all who practice magic. He therefore knew a secret which is no secret, which is that most of the work done by the Council is purely administrative. Oh, every once in the while they call down justice on the head of a rogue, or banish a particularly powerful demon, or issue some millenial prophecy. But far more of their time is spent managing relations between rival societies, or convincing local lords to fund the establishment of new colleges of magic, or working to counter all the terrible things which this or that religious leader has to say about us, which is difficult when half of them are true. Hah. You don't believe a word of it, do you? All of you want to finish your training and rush off and Challenge for a Council seat. It's its own reward, I tell you, and if any of you are skilled enough to manage it, you'll find the truth out soon enough. Most firebrands decide in less than a decade that they don't need the prestige that badly after all, and step down. But this young fellow was a touch public-spirited, as it were. He didn't really like the work, but he knew someone had to do it, and he was better at it than most. So he decided to put in maybe half-a- century, if no one beat him in a Challenge, and do his bit for the Art. One day, though, someone did show up for a Challenge. Our hero, as it were, went by the name Coranis the Younger, in those days, principally because of Coranis the Elder, who was over in Alaria at the time, researching the social habits of the cockatrice. (Which is difficult, because a cockatrice is one of the most thoroughly anti-social creatures in existence, and they are born only when... but I digress. Suffice it to say that the elder Coranis was always a quirky old bastard, especially in his research habits, and he stayed that way until he got careless. He's been a statue for two centuries. Well preserved for granite, too...) Our Coranis was a little bit annoyed at the Challenge, of course. When you're on the Council, you get about one a month, and the vast majority of your opponents don't know a rune from a griffon's tailfeathers. But that little annoyance was nothing, compared to the chill that ran down his spine when he was told by his Second that his opponent had announced (through his own Second, of course) that he wanted to invoke the Old Rules. Do any of you even know what the Old Rules are? It requires a little knowledge of the history of the Art, I think. You see, a Challenge used to be a duel to the death, at the absolute least, and often beyond. This was back before my time, I assure you; they've been the Old Rules since before I was an apprentice, or born for that matter. Of course, today, a Challenge hardly means anything at all, and you can lose one on a minor point of honor and then go out and buy the victor a drink. But under the Old Rules, the defeated became the property -- the actual property, yes! Believe me, young man, I know what I'm talking about -- of the victor. Of course, Coranis wasn't bound to accept the Challenge under those Rules. As a Councillor, he was bound to accept it in some degree, to prove that he was worthy of his post, but he didn't have to agree to any terms beyond the standard, in which the Challenge ends at surrender or incapacity, and the defeated simply got up and walked away, or at least was carried away by his Second. But Coranis was proud, and he was very, very annoyed now. So he told his second to accept the terms, and they set a date. On the appointed day, Coranis the Younger, in the black robes of a Councillor, came to the place of Challenge. They'd set up a little spot in a forest clearing. Neither of the participants was much of a druidic practitioner at all, so it was decent neutral ground. His foe was wearing a brown cloak, and had his face covered completely. (If you ever get into a serious Challenge, by the way, brown is a bad thing for your opposite to be wearing. It means he's smart enough not to worry about flashy dressing.) The Seconds -- Coranis' was Vercel of Tiena, not that you'll have heard of him, I expect -- set up the circle. The Witnesses, two from the Council, Orend and Sinalia, read the formula of the Challenge. Orend had to read part of his section from notes; that's how rare the Old Rules were even back then. I can't recall who the Challenger's Second was. Not that it mattered much, since there were no irregularities. They stepped into the circle and it began. For the first hour or so, everything went normally, each of them trying to test out the other's defenses, no really dangerous spells thrown. Oh, some of those "tests" would have turned an unprotected man into a little pile of soot, true enough, but neither of those two were anything near unprotected. After that, Coranis started to press the attack a little bit, and his opponent let him. He began to notice something strange, too, when each attack seemed to cost him more and more energy, and diminish his foe's resources less and less. He pulled back, realizing that something was wrong. Then it came to him -- of course! The tricky demonspawn must have had a tap on Coranis' protection, and was somehow pulling energy from it to augment his own. Well, simple enough to deal with that; he found the tap, and tried to break it. But the harder he tried, the stronger it looked. Eventually, he realized that it must be stemming from some kind of hold the man in brown had on him, and from the sheer power of the tap, it would have to be one of the Great Laws, from which stem all other magic. Frantically, he started trying to figure it out. Maybe it was his true Name? No, that couldn't be it, unless he'd been betrayed somehow, and it didn't have the taste of Name magic. He ran down the list of possibilities, and just at the time that he figured out it had to be a Sympathetic identity, the man in brown pulled down his hood, and showed his face. Or, rather, he showed the mask he was wearing, which was an exact replica of Coranis' face. That answered that question -- he was using his own body as a focus for it, which explained the extraordinary power of the link. Coranis realized that he'd been badly outplayed, and it was perfectly legal, and under the Old Rules, he was in an awful lot of trouble. He started trying to establish his own link, since sympathetic magic can just as easily be directed one way as another, but it was an uphill battle. Just when he thought he might finally be making some progress, the man in brown struck a final blow, and it was far worse than Coranis had feared. He took a oiled cloth from beneath his cloak, and drew it across the eyes of the mask. The paints with which the mask had been made were oil-based, and the cloth blurred the painted eyes. The Sympathetic link was far too strong for Coranis to be able to resist that direct a stroke. Before he could do anything, he lost sight. But, even with his sight gone, he could feel the cloth being drawn across the mouth of the mask, because he lost speech, and taste. And then, the scent of oil filled his nostrils for just a moment, before he lost scent itself, too. The man in brown left him touch, and hearing, at least for the moment. It would have been too inconvenient to remove them. It didn't much matter. Coranis was no match for him, now, and soon he was frozen in place and the Witnesses sadly declared the winner. That was the first mistake in this tale -- when Coranis underestimated Sympathy. Fortunately for him, it wasn't the last. Coranis knew nothing, for a very long while, and I won't go into what his new owner did to him during a few short interludes of wakefulness. Suffice it to say that it's the sort of thing which would give wizards a bad name if word of it ever got out, and it's one of the reasons why I sometimes agree with the religious folk who say all magic comes from the Dark Powers. Some of us certainly act that way sometimes. Coranis, though, still did have a few friends on the Council. That's one of the benefits of being willing to do the administrative work, I suppose. After a time, a few of them, working with Vercel (I didn't give you the impression he was a Councillor then, did I?) discerned exactly what had happened. They came up with a plan. The man in brown -- whose name was Urvax -- was of course wearing black by then, and that meant that he had to accept Challenge from any non-Councillor wizard, and Vercel got stuck with the job, because he was the only one of the lot who had, till then, been smart enough to stay off the Council. (Sinalia was in on the plot, I might add. Coranis had been, ah, friends with her from a while back. Hah. Youth...) Now, any attempt to free Coranis outside of Challenge would have been all against the law. Every wizard takes an oath to obey those laws, and Councillors take one to enforce them. These folk took those oaths seriously, even if it weren't for the horrific penalties. No, it had to be a Challenge. But, now that Urvax had what he wanted, he was hardly likely to accept another Challenge under the Old Rules. Nor did they have any way of forcing him to wager Coranis on the outcome. But Sinalia was Vercel's Second during negotiations, and that woman could talk the legs off a spiderdragon if she had a reason, and borrow its hoard at reasonable interest besides. The terms of the new Challenge were simply thus: the combatants were restricted to the circle, as always, but they were free to call on powers outside. In exchange for that, Sinalia conceded a few other things which really turned out to be a lot less relevant than Urvax's Second thought they were. Those are the sort of terms which wizards who use otherwordly magic insist on. If Urvax had known Vercel a little bit better, he would have pegged him as solidly grounded in the magics of this world, and suspected treachery, but as things stood, he had no reason to do so. So, the day arrived. As I said, Sinalia was Second for Vercel, and Urvax kept the same Second -- some lackey of his, I suppose. This time, the neutral ground was one of the dueling-rooms below the College of Orsh -- Vercel, as I mentioned, being from Tiena, and Urvax from somewhere off East. I forget who the Witnesses were, that time -- both Councillors again, of course, since this was technically a Challenge for a seat. The initial testing passed easily enough, again, and this time it seemed as if neither wizard had much up his sleeve. Another hour went by, and still neither had advantage -- and then Urvax began to creep ahead slightly. Vercel was never a top-ranked duellist, and besides, he was doing something tricky. Vercel, you see, did happen to know Coranis' true Name, and that gave him enough power to latch on to him (though he was many leagues away, in a stronghold of Urvax's) and penetrate the shields that his captor had laid. This would have been highly illegal, except that Vercel had the right to summon any power external to the circle that he wished. He couldn't have brought in another wizard, of course -- that would defeat the purpose of the Challenge -- but, under the law, Coranis was Urvax's property, rather than being an independent wizard, or even a human, for that matter. And Vercel was fully within his rights to try to use any object of Urvax's property against him -- that sort of thing always happens in Challenges, say for example seizing a wand your opponent is using and turning its power back upon the wielder. So now Vercel had Coranis. Unfortunately, Coranis was effectively a magical cripple -- Urvax had made sure of that. With all of the prisoner's remaining power added to Vercel's, they were barely a match for the new Councillor. It looked touch and go for quite some time. Another problem was that, at the conclusion of the Challenge, Coranis would retain his status as Urvax's chattel. What Vercel had to do was figure out some means of destroying Urvax, or stripping him of his powers, not merely defeating him. That's possible in a non-lethal duel, but it certainly isn't easy, and the way things were tending, he might not be able to win at all. The plan took that into account, though. It was impossible to create a true Sympathetic link to Urvax -- he had been very careful about keeping his actual face hidden at all times, and you'll note that any wizard who makes enemies has adopted that habit throughout the last few centuries. That trick that was used against Coranis became quite famous. Likewise, they had no way of finding his true Name -- not that they didn't try, but he'd been careful. But they knew of at least one object with a strong Contagious -- |Fidonet: Greyr@leland.Stanford.Edu 1:135/292.1 |Internet: Greyr@leland.Stanford.Edu | | Standard disclaimer: The views of this user are strictly his/her own.