Article: 261338 of talk.bizarre
From: greyr@leland.Stanford.EDU (Greg Rapawy)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: Laws
Date: 1 Dec 1995 04:11:02 -0800
Organization: Stanford University
Lines: 327
Message-ID: <49mrcm$m87@amy6.Stanford.EDU>
Status: O

	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 
link to him -- the mask that had been used against Coranis.  Channeling 
that much mystic power through something is enough to forge a connection 
not easily broken!  And it so happened that the mask itself also had both 
Sympathetic and Contagious links to someone else who was present -- 
Coranis, of course.  So Vercel diverted enough power to those pathways to 
transport the mask within the circle.

	Once Urvax saw that, he redoubled his assault, and it looked grim 
for a few minutes, but Coranis managed to pull out a few reserves of 
power and hold him off while Vercel constructed the new spell they needed.

	Of course, anything which they did to the mask would rebound on 
Coranis with at least twice the force with which it struck Urvax, because 
two Great Laws bound it to him, and only one bound it to Urvax.  But that 
wasn't what Vercel had in mind.  Instead, he worked the link entirely 
backwards... and then struck Coranis as hard as he could in the face, 
backing it with all the energy both of them had together.

	Coranis fell, unconscious.

	The force of that stroke hit the mask from two sources -- the two 
links, and of course as you are aware the nature of such a link is to 
amplify the effects of action on the one end by the amount of magic 
applied.  The mask shattered.

	The force of that shattering then rushed down the Contagious link 
to Urvax, amplified still more, and what became of him I once again 
refuse to go into.  Suffice it to say that, had it not been for what he 
had done to Coranis, there would have been some feelings of pity for him 
among those present.  Of course, the Witnesses would have saved him, 
since the Challenge was not to the death -- but the blow was so 
unexpected that neither of them moved until it was far too late.  The 
circle of the Challenge did, however, prevent any of the blood from 
spattering outside, for which I suspect Sinalia was greatly thankful.

	And that was the second mistake, when Urvax underestimated Contagion.

	Vercel later tried to cede his seat to Coranis, who eventually 
recovered from his ordeal.  Hah.  Coranis had learned his lesson, believe 
me, and wanted no more of it.  Vercel wound up serving twenty-four years 
before he talked his friend into taking it back...

                               * * *

	Now.  All still awake?  Good.  You do seem to be paying a bit 
more attention at the moment.  Could it be I've actually impressed some 
knowledge of how vital these Laws are into your thick skulls?

	We'll have to see.  If you want to leave now, you may.  
Otherwise, I'm going to keep you another hour and start explaining some 
of the specifics.

	No departures?  What a pleasant surprise.  (No, I won't tell 
you whether I was Coranis.  Hah.  For all you know, I was Vercel, or 
Orden, or Sinalia, in the good prophetic tradition.  I definitely wasn't 
Urvax, though.)  Now, let us begin again with Sympathy...

Greg Rapawy, greyr@leland.Stanford.EDU; virtual wanderer