Practical Exercise

“Her.  I said gnothdiar,” Dairen mumbled.

“I’m Adara, Adara of House Triskittenion,” I announced.  “I’m pleased to meet you, Elder Master, and all the rest of you, too.”  I set down my tray.  Spaced around the table were a series of coat racks, solid vertical posts with heavy brass hooks.  I released the throat clasp on my cape,  hung the cape on the neighboring rack, and followed with my gnothdiar.  Mom had taught me how to hang a long cape so that the family seal showed.  In our case it was three kittens sleeping, wrapped around each other in a trefoil.  The gnothdiar scabbard was translucent white spider silk, through which shone the light from a few of the embedded spells.  The fellow at the head of the table stared.

Master Courtenay rattled through the names of the other people at the table.  He had a superb memory, or these people had been eating together for a long time.  “You’ll eventually hear from each of us,” he concluded, speaking directly to me, “how we each became interested in the study of magic itself, not its boring applied uses.  But the custom, Dairen has already followed, is that we invite newcomers to say how they became interested in General Magic.  Some were inspired by a junior faculty member here.  Many were inspired by a traveling tutor.  And you?  You don’t have to answer.”

“I was seven,” I answered.  “I heard of General Magic, a bit, and knew it was what I wanted to study.”

“That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” a tall girl near the head of the table snapped.   Winterhold, I remembered, her name is Janice Winterhold. “How can you possibly say that?”  she asked. There were nods of agreement from around the table.  “Seven? I studied dance magic as lead student of a Serene Master.  He was positive there were better ways to find new dance spells, and asked me to find them.”

“Because it’s true?” I countered. I was met with frowns.

“My grandfather,” the boy sitting next to Janice said, “was an expert in gesture magic.  He trained a team that captured three hrordrin.  He spent hours tutoring me, but not as many hours as I finally wanted.  So well after I became a young adult, I made an adult decision about a vocation.  I decided to be here.”  If I remembered correctly, he was Antoine Troisrose.

“What happened when you were seven?” Serene Master Courtenay asked.

“I heard about Ettore’s Paradox,” I said.  “Not very clearly.  Just enough that it sounded fascinating, and decided that was what I wanted to make the center of my life.  Much later I learned it was called ‘General Magic’.”

“You think you’re going to solve that Paradox?” Janice asked.  “When people have been trying to solve it for thousands of years?”  There was agreement around the table. 

About George Phillies

science fiction author -- researcher in polymer dynamics -- collector of board wargames -- President, National Fantasy Fan Federation
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