Chapter 26: A spell of levity

"This is our plan, then, Arovid." Avdyra is pacing the chamber of scrolls. "I shall teach you some more Stonelore; Vandyra will show you more of the Healthlore, the Blue Magic. Marisfar will aid you in learning the Woodlore. We shall then commence our trek. We have decided to detour to Asi in the hope that we shall there still find a teacher of the Bonelore."

Arvid looks at her, slightly puzzled. "I got the impression that this Blue Cache consists of some giant blue jewel and a scroll of some unimaginably powerful spell. Why would I need all other types of Lore?" "According to legend, the Cache is hidden in such a way that it can only be reached by a true genius, someone who is versed in all the diverse manner of the Lore. Therefore, you needs must gain some understanding of them all. Ignorance might cost you your life, and us our only hope of salvation." "Oh. Thank you so much."

Arvid is still embarassed over the misunderstandings from the day before - or the night before, in reality - but Avdyra seems to think nothing of it. She is back to the monomanic focus on saving the world, or so it would seem. Right now she is reaching for some scroll in one of the upper shelves. Or rather, one of the upper row of holes, in the honeycomb-like wall. "I have given this matter some thought, and decided to show you a spell that you already know exists, that can be useful during our trek, and that shows the use of Black magic. You should be aware that the black jet stone that we have is a rare gift. Most Darkstones are impure, banded with some gray. While this does hardly matter in terms of simple spells, the purity of the jet lends added Power to the higher incantations."

Reverently, Avdyra places the black stone in his hand. It is indeed jet black, darker than coal, dark as soot but more shiny. It is also very regular and smooth. Apart from that, it seems to him quite an ordinary stone. His hand does not tingle or anything, and there is certainly no sign of magic on or around it that he can see. He hands it back, trying to look equally impressed but almost certainly failing.

"Now with Lightstones, we normally see a change in the stones themselves, at least with the first three incantations. With Darkstones, the opposite is true: We want to protect something else, or negate some magic. Therefore, the Shieldstone needs a direction. This could be the Spellsinger, or someone else, or a thing, or even a magic effect. We needs must fasten our mind on this object, or the magic will go awry. There are countless stories - whether true or not, I know not - about those who have sung a spell of protection from harm while facing a dangerous enemy, man or beast. But because their mind has been on the adversary, that is who became protected, while they themselves were rendered the more vulnerable."

Avdyra unrolls the scroll on the table. "This is the spell I told you about, that lightens the weight of anything it is cast upon. Again there are three incantations, one stronger than the other. With the first, you will lose one part in seven of your weight. It may not be much, but it will make marching much easier in the long run; and the change is still so small that you can walk normally. It will feel as if you are leaner or stronger. We are likely to use this before any long march." "Sounds like a great idea." "Here we have it, then. Now stand up and perceive your own body while I sing."

Avdyra lifts the black stone and sings. And while Arvid tries to focus on feeling his weight, he cannot avoid seeing a glimpse of something incredible: For a moment, the jet black crystal seems to darken, to the point where it is surrounded by a pale shadow. It disappears at once, though, and suddenly Arvid feels lighter. He jumps into the air, and while he don't get all that much higher than usual, it certainly feels easier. "It seems to work" he tells her. She smiles.

"The second incantation takes half your weight away. But it also makes it harder to move normally." As she sings again, he can clearly see the nebulous shadow forming around the stone, partly blotting out her hand. In the next moment, he feels wobbly. He tries to walk, and manages to do so, but it is a very strange feeling. As if he is constantly sinking or something. Very disturbing. But he can jump to the ceiling. "The third incantation removes all your weight." And she sings again.

Suddenly Arvid feels very strange. It is as if the floor falls down under him. Instinctively he flails his arms, and the sudden movements make him lose his balance. In the next moment, he has lost all touch with the ground, and is starting to roll backwards. He tries to straigthen himself up, but the more he tries, the more unnatural and inconvenient his position. Soon one of the honeycomb walls seems to be the floor and another seems to be the ceiling. Avdyra stands out from one wall like some strange horizontal statue, grinning. She comes toward him, grabs his shoulder lightly, and drags him with her. He is utterly confused and dizzy as the room seems to turn randomly around him.

But mercifully, the experience ends quickly. He finds himself lying on the table as Avdyra sings the simple spell of dissolution, which seems to work as well on this magic as it did on lights and heat spells. "Strong stuff, is it not?" she grins as he gradually sinks back in the clutches of gravity. He sits up, shaking his head to clear it. "You think not?" "Oh, it is strong enough for sure" he explains. "I just got dizzy." "Of course you did. This was how I was introduced to the spell, nigh on twenty years ago. Convincing, think you not?" "Quite convincing."

"Now it is your turn." Avdyra points to the scroll. "You should study this while I ..." "Not necessary." Looking straight at the black stone, Arvid starts to sing from memory. He has seen and heard enough of these spells now to have a rough idea on how they chain words together, and the melody helps him remember too.

Eni, kea laua tia na
Eri, kea leni tia ma...

While he sings, he tries to focus on the stone and on the effect he desires. But even so, he can't avoid noticing something ... a tension building inside him. It is more than just expectation; it is almost physical, building with each word. And then, as the first invocation comes to an end, it happens again. The skies open, and the nameless emptiness outside seems to suck his spirit right out of his body. Like a silver cord between heaven and earth, his very spine seems to throb with power beyond mortal imagination. And he wills it all to flow towards his goal.

There is a sense of closure, of accomplishment. But rather than giving in to it, to drown in the emotional aftershocks of power, he starts singing again. Avdyra stares at him, dumbfounded. He can see every line in her face clearly, as if she and everything around him was closer, clearer, sharper than life. Each color, each shade more vivid and brilliant. But also his memories are crisper, clearer, surer. He sings the second verse, and the air fills with liquid light and shimmering music; his body seems too small for his spirit. The pulse of the universe strikes in his ears like a collossal silver gong. He takes it all in, too large for words, lets it flow through his fingers, toward her.

As Arvid opens his mouth again, Avdyra jumps. Sailing through the air like a large cat pouncing, she grasps him and holds his mouth shut. "Do NOT! Do! That! Again!" she hisses in his ear.

The reverbations of the cosmic drum slowly fades to echoes and then to nothingness. The glow that suffused all things slowly starts to vane. The power that seemed ready to burst him slowly drains from his body. The ecstacy of emotion slowly gives way to thought, to words, to reason. He feels so small, so weak, so vulnerable, so normal.

"Arvid, do not ever scare me like that again. How could you possibly do that thing you did?" "Elementary, my dear Avdyra. You just sung those three verses a few minutes ago. They were not all that strange. I could easily remember them - and even if I forgot, no harm would come of it. You told me so yourself." "It is rare indeed that someone can hear a spell once and then sing it. Never in my life have I heard of it before. But that is not all." "Huh?" "How did you use the stone while I held it?"

Arvid shrugs. "I just did. It was right there in plain sight. So I just reached out to it, sort of." "Never have I heard about any man or woman, now alive or long passed away, who could wield a stone or staff while it was in the hands of another wizard." "Why not? You used to have those crystals on the stone cube in the middle of the stone circle. You did not need to touch them to use them. Why should I?" "That is different. The stone cube is just a receptacle. It has no soul of its own. You called on the power of the stone while I held it in my very hands!" "So you did not know that was possible, while I did not know it was impossible. Live and learn. Perhaps best we don't tell anybody. Then we have a secret weapon."

Avdyra glares at him. "Do you hold our plight so in contempt? You know next to nothing of the Lore. Easily could you kill yourself in your playful experiments! What then would we do when we are to confront the Shadow?" "Sorry, I did not know that there was this taboo against using stones while others hold them. But obviously that was just superstition." "Mayhap not. What if I had resisted your use of the stone?" "Then you would have to sing a song, right? You've told me that Stonelore does not consist of just wishing things. You have to know the spellsongs. I knew them." "It is not always that easy. You are but a babe in the Craft. Do not presume to tell us that the Ancients were wrong."

Arvid shrugs. "Fine by me. Fine by me. Just don't make any progress, if you prefer to stick to the same old same old." "When you've learned all of the Lore, when you've mastered all of the Craft, when you know by heart and understand all the thoughts of the Ancients - then you may try to go beyond them. But now you play like a babe at a nest of wasps, unknowing and unheeding." She breathes deeply, visibly steadying herself. "Arovid, do not ever scare me like that again."

He wants to speak up, to say that he is sorry. But he is not able to move. Already her voice seems to be coming from some distance, and moving further and further away. He knows why. The reaction is setting in again, faster this time. He feels his knees buckle as the fog of sleep washes over him, and everything fades.


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