Conversion: Chapter 5, Part 2

Living Story Excerpts

His fire magic kept him warm in the cold mountains, but it seemed to Seryth that it was just a little bit hotter, just a little bit wilder than it normally was when he summoned it…

Setting Translations

There’s nothing in this short excerpt to translate, except perhaps a reminder that Sirith isn’t in the mountains yet.

Writing Process

I read through some of the other chapters in the un-converted Seryth’s Story to see if there was more material to do with the imp teaching Seryth magic which I could draw on for this part. There is a scene in Chapter 8 where the imp teaches him to summon a voidwalker, but this seems too early in the story for Conversion’s Sirith, as he still barely trusts his ympe. So, I decided to stick with this short excerpt and build more around it.

The Prose

They crossed several miles until Sirith found a nook where they could tuck out of sight on the flat grasslands. He perceived it from afar as bushes following a jagged line through the plains, until he got closer and saw it was trees growing out of a ditch.

The ram showed its worth as a mountain mount, as it picked its way down the sheer side of the bank with only a little slip when the soft dirt crumbled out from under its cloven hooves. It pushed through a dry and rustling shrub with a shrug of its horns, then hopped down to the bottom. The ditch was dry, though a bare track of dirt and stones showed the place frequently filled with water during wetter months. Sirith dismounted, loosening the ram’s girth and tying it to one of the elms.

“Alright, ympe. You promised to teach me magic. So teach me.” He glanced over the ram’s horns to its saddle, but saw no cat perched there.

The dry shrub gave another rustle, and the ympe stepped from it, flicking its twiggy tail. At a glance, Sirith hadn’t been able to distinguish its wood-like form from the shrub’s branches. It snapped one of the branches, sniffed it, then waved it like a conductor’s baton as it skipped to Sirith’s side.

“You already know a couple spells, yes?” it asked, tapping the baton on his toe.

“Yes,” said Sirith, taking a cross-legged seat and pushing away the stick.

“I want you to forget all you’ve ever known,” said the ympe. “What you’ve practiced so far is Formal Magic. Useless stuff, for our purposes.”

“What?” said Sirith, narrowing his eyes. “Why? What other kinds of magic even exist?”

“Quiet!” The ympe gave him a whack with the baton. “I do the talking now! Yes, useless, I say! Oh, I know there’s universities full of the stuff, but they would teach how to mix mud with a sugar cane if it got them any prestige. It’s like trying to categorize what makes meat tasty. Hmph. No. Your magic doesn’t work that way.”

“My magic?” said Sirith, rubbing his collarbone where the baton had hit him. “You mean, as an akor’mar?”

The ympe shrugged, and discarding its baton, hopped onto his knee. It poked him in the chest again, though the folds of Sirith’s shirt kept its claw from penetrating. “You have to feel it.”

Sirith shooed it away, then he sat for a moment, trying to feel the magic. Whenever he had cast spells using the hedge-wizard’s chants — Formal Magic, as the ympe disparagingly put it — he had felt only small sensations, and he quickly passed it off as being part of the spell itself; his fingertips would tingle just before he conjured a flame in them, or his running muscles would cramp just before he felt a burst of speed come on. He never felt anything before his chant began, however.

“It would help if you told me what I was feeling for,” said Sirith after a few more minutes had gone by, and he had felt nothing beyond the sun steadily heating up his back.

The ympe gave a hiss that Sirith couldn’t decipher as either annoyance or derision. It hopped to his shoulder. “Remember what I told you on the run here?”

Sirith pushed it off, but the ympe only ducked behind his head and transferred shoulders. “I try not to.”

“You’ve used magic of this sort in the past before,” explained the ympe. “Particularly during times you were angry–“

“So you’re saying I have to use my emotions to cast spells,” said Sirith, cutting it off. “You could have just said that to begin with.”

The ympe sighed, making a high note like a woodwind instrument. “It’s not really how it works, actually, so no, but it’s close enough to start on.”

“And… you’re trying to get me angry, to get my magic to work.” Sirith snapped his head to follow the ympe as it switched shoulders again. “Why are you so intent on my magic, anyway?”

“You already know the fire-making spell, from Formal Magic,” said the ympe, blithely ignoring him again. “Use that, when you attack these rukh-shami. Only feel it. Let it flow out of here.” This time it used its tail to tap his chest. “If you have to get angry to do it, so be it.”

“So in other words, just do what I always do, and expect something to change,” said Sirith with a huff. He stood up, and felt a little sadistic curl of pleasure as the ympe had to clench his shirt tight to hang on through the sudden movement. “Well,that was a useless les–“

“That’s it!” cried the ympe, and it fell to the ground between his shoes. Sirith scowled at it and kicked out as it scuttled into a bush. “Quick, quick, cast something! Now!”

Sirith scowled a moment longer, then put his hands and voice through the first spell that came to mind. It wasn’t one he used often, with his ‘mar night vision. A ball of light appeared on his palm, swirling into being as his chant died. He tried to feel the magic as the ympe had said, but he only distinguished the usual soft tingling in his palms, corresponding to the little light’s spiraling energy.

Sirith grit his teeth and made to ground the ball into darkness. There was a snap as he closed his fingers over it, felt more than seen, and Sirith felt the impact in his chest, throat, and deep behind his eyes. He sat down hard as the ball exploded into a wall as white as the sun, then just as quickly disappeared. It seemed to steal all his sight with it, and Sirith quailed at what he might have unleashed, until he realized that the light had merely been bright enough to blind him for a second or two.

He had done that once before when the hedge-wizard had taught him this spell. It had been at the end of a long day, and Sirith had run through the chant as fast as he could, just to get it over with. He had created quite the big ball, that had ended up exploding when he tried to catch it from midair.

The hedge-wizard had seemed afraid of it, and he had lectured Sirith for not being more careful around magic. Sloppy, he called it. Did Sirith know the dangers of being sloppy with magic? The hedge-wizard certainly thought not. Sirith had still been crying from the sting in his eyes and the fact his toy had turned on him, too upset to answer.

Sirith grimly rubbed the spots out of his eyes now and cast around for the ympe once his vision had cleared. He spotted its grin first, halfway up the bole of a tree, like a little flicker of yellow fire in its gray bark.

That is what you have to harness,” it said.

Sirith froze, still thinking of the hedge-wizard’s words. “That… mistake?”

“That power,” corrected the ympe. “There’s a moment before a spell forms, you see, and sometimes right after, where the magic can get away. Formal Magic chains it, forces it through paths of your chant’s choosing, but if you were to unleash that… You’ll learn to channel that better, but you have to not be afraid of it, first. Come on! Let’s go to the rukh-sham camp! Use your fire spells.”

Sirith got up. “Somehow I don’t think that’d be wise. If my fire spells explode, well, I’m not exactly fireproof.”

“That’s exactly the attitude you have to get rid of!” declared the ympe. “Don’t worry. I’ll protect you. I’ll do the channeling. You just have to supply the power… for now.”

Sirith hesitated, but he untied the ram and got up on its back. He glanced briefly at the sun’s position. “We have another hour or two if we’re going to get back to the town by sundown.”

“Then you’d better get it right the first time!” cried the ympe. It leapt onto the ram’s rump, not even bothering to turn back into a cat, and with a shudder and bellow, the ram took off again, only slowed by the climb it had to make up the side of the ditch.

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