Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Windmill

Dragoneyes spent around half an hour correcting my horse-riding stance. I had no idea there were so many wrong ways to sit on a horse. Cassinder, apparently, got it right the first time.
As we walked, I argued with Dragoneyes about the ideal route. "Passing through the Forest of Irium is a fool's errand," I insisted. "We should just go around it."
"That would slow us down."
"More than the rugged terrain of a forest so dense that only the edges are inhabited?"
"Probably, yes. Besides, trees won't be much of an obstacle for me."
Of course. "This is about the True Name of wood, isn't it. You want to see if the trees will part before you."
"I do. And I strongly suspect that they will. Which means that going through the forest would actually be faster."
"What will we do for food," I asked.
"All the biscuits you packed will be exhausted by then... Hunting wouldn't be that much of a pain. I'll need to put together some spells to track down the things we can eat."
"And once you've tracked them..."
"I know the True Name of stone. I can send a pebble through a deer's brain with a thought."
"Where will we sleep?"
"Probably on the ground."
I had never slept on the ground. "What if we encounter trouble?"
"If the two of us can't handle a solitary giant or biteworm then we are going to lose anyway."
"It might slow us down even more."
"It might."
"So, it will be inconvenient, and the only benefit is that is might possibly not slow us down."
"There are other benefits," Dragoneyes said. "Tlon lives in the forest."
"Tlon? The shapeshifter? Older than the human race? That Tlon?"
"What other Tlon would I be talking about?"
"You think we can persuade the shapeshifter to take our side."
"I do. He is ancient. He was personally made by Shapers of the World. He is older than the first men. He would remember Ochekol'kan. He would fear her even more than we do."

We reached Warifnif-town. "What a terrible name for a town," Dragoneyes laughed.
"It was named after one of my great uncles."
"I stand by my statement."
"I actually come to this town every couple of months, to fix up their mine. It is always flooding."
"Couldn't you just enchant it to keep the water away?"
"You know how hard water-enchantments are. We didn't learn to make our cloaks water proof until our third year at the University. Making a mine waterproof would be almost unfeasible."
I went straight to bed. I was awoken several times by the clang of metal striking metal. Apparently, one of the other guests went into Dragoneyes' room to see what the noise  was about, and saw him operating a full-sized forge, with pile of swords lying in the corner. The mage was holding a red-hot sword in his bare hands. He flashed his yellow eyes. "Scram."
I woke up. I got dressed in my white tunic, and checked the status of my personal protection spells as I shaved and washed. Unsurprisingly, nobody in this village had magically attacked me in the night.
Then, I set out to awaken my two companions.
Dragoneyes woke up to the sound of a sorcerer knocking on his door (which is pretty similar to the sound of a normal person knocking on a door). He considered invoking the True Name of wood, and making the door fall silent. But he decided to go with the more difficult option, and get out of bed.
He dressed himself. All of his clothing was on loan from the White Tower, which meant that it was too small for him, and also that it was a bland white. Which was a terrible color for travelling, even if it was fixed with dirt-repelling enchantments.
"What do you want," Dragoneyes asked as he opened the door.
"We should get going. Cassinder and I already ate." I looked at the pile of swords. "Is that what I heard all night?"
"Yes." He spoke a string of syllables that made me think of iron, and they disappeared. "And it wasn't all night. I got several hours of sleep. Let's get going."
As soon as we were out the door, someone went up to Dragoneyes. "Are you Amniel, of the White Tower?"
"No, why do you ask?"
"Mayor said Amniel was in town, staying at the inn, wearing white."
"That would be him."
"What do you want," I asked.
"Mayor wanted to talk. He's getting here, told me to go on ahead. Says he's worried about what we'll do if you leave."
"Sorry," Dragoneyes said. "Pressing business to attend to. We'll be back soon enough."
"No," I said. "My father was a vassal of the King of Irin. I am lord of these lands, and I have a responsibility to protect them."
"From the gigantic monstrosity living under the Green Tower."
"And also from whatever the mayor wants to talk about."
Cassinder wandered around, never venturing too far. Dragoneyes and I squabbled until the mayor showed up. He bowed to Dragoneyes. "Amniel of the White Tower, it is an honor that you pass through our town."
"Actually, I'm Amniel," I said. "We've met four or five times." I'm not going to lie, I was a little hurt.
"It's been happening to me all week," Dragoneyes said. "People see my mysterious physique, radiating power and authority, and just naturally assume that I am their liege."
The mayor flushed. He sputtered something about how he was bowing to both of us, and of course he knew who Amniel was.
"Are you leaving the White Tower," he queried.
"Yes. I have an important message to deliver to my allies at the University."
"We wish you the best of luck. May I request when you will return?"
I hadn't really thought about it. "It could be some time. The journey and battle will likely take months. But I may choose to stay and resume my studies at the University afterwards." If I survive.
"We wish you the best of luck. But would that mean that there will be no sorcerer in the White Tower?"
"No sorcerer of any significant power." 
"Are you worried about what will happen in your absence?"
"No. If I had lived a few hundred years earlier, I may have been worried about some other sorcerer trying to steal my tower in my absence. But now, there are no real bands of roving sorcerers. No single sorcerer or small cabal has the will and power challenge Amniel, with his clear legal entitlement and the sorcerous ability and allies to enforce it."
"Your lands might languish. This town, for instance, will suffer without you to clear our well."
"Is that what this whole conversation was for" Dragoneyes asked. "You could have gotten to the point a little faster."
"Apologies. Yes, I am worried. The mine floods twice a year, and we need you to help clear it out."
"Well," I said, "this journey is pretty important."
"I can't think of any sorcery strong enough to handle this," Dragoneyes said. He turned to me. "I thought about it after we talked yesterday. You're right, it's a challenging problem."
"You are mages," Cassinder said. Then, she wandered off again.
"That's no help," Dragoneyes called after her. "There is no way to invoke a True Name without being there and holding it in your head."
"Well, no," I said. "That's not entirely true. I have been working on sorcerous spells which can hold a True Name. It's the principle behind my Aeronautic shaft." I was actually pretty proud of this. I was one of the first people to blend the powers of sorcerer and mage.
"Would it work with the True Name of water?"
"Yes, but you need to have the same person handling the sorcerer end of things and the mage end of things. So either I pick up the True Name of water, or you learn about all of the sorcerous techniques I've come up with over the years."
"The first is impossible, the second unpalatable. Maybe I could use the True Name of stone, make the rocks more permeable to water. No, the water would have to go somewhere, I'd need to make a whole underground river."
"I have an idea. I read about an Etoran invention called a windmill. They use it to process grain, but some scholars speculate it could power pumps." In order to increase my knowledge of the True Name of air, I read up on all air-related discoveries.
"Sounds like a pain."
"You stayed up all night making swords that nobody will ever use. Consider this a more practical exercise for your power." I started fishing a pen out of my many pockets. (Another benefit of sorcery: keeping a pen and inkpot in you white robes). "I'll draw up some plans. While you make the mill, I'll throw together some enchantments so the wind will keep blowing the right way.

The mayor instructed a mason and a carpenter to tag along with Dragoneyes, in case he needed their expertise.  "You know," the mason said, "I don't remember you being so tall."
"Or so dark-skinned," the carpenter added. You don't look like you're from Irin at all."
"Do you know who I am," Dragoneyes asked.
"The mayor said we would be working for Amniel of the White Tower."
"Why is it that everyone mistakes me for Amniel?"
They reached the outskirts of the mine.
"You aren't going to want to use the stones we find here," the mason began.
"Do not lecture me about stone. If you knew as much as me, you'd be a mage."
Dragoneyes stared at the great piles of rock. Silently, he let the True Name of stone percolate his thoughts. The rocks reformed themselves, changing from gypsum to granite at the mage's command. They fused into great blocks, which combined, with much grunting and muttering on Dragoneyes' part, into a towering structure.
"Amazing," the carpenter said.
"I know. I hope you were paying close attention, that was probably the most interesting thing you will ever see in your life. But keep your cries of amazement to a minimum for now, that pile of rocks has the structural integrity of a tree after a forest fire. Strike that, a tree during a forest fire. I'm holding it up through shear strength of will." The mage closed his eyes. When he opened them, they glowed a deep red. He scanned the building, seeing how lines of stress would run down the walls. Cracks made themselves apparent, and potential weak spots became obvious. Dragoneyes worked the stone, making a building strong enough to last a century.
He saw some trees with which to make the blades of his new mill. No, he could do better. He thought of the True Name of wood. It was difficult to summon, but he held it in his mind. A beam of wood shot forth from his hand. He uttered arcane syllables, and more beams formed. He arranged them. using the True Name of iron to form nails and braces. Within an hour, he had completed his windmill.
"Now, I don't care whether Amniel has done his part or not. I'm getting back on the road. A world needs saving."

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