Authors: Terry Mancour
Book Seven Of The Spellmonger Series
By Terry Mancour
Copyright © June 2015
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“The mind of the Enchanter is his most vital and valuable tool; for the aspiration to imbue ordinary objects with extraordinary power requires vision, will, discipline, desire, refinement and perseverance, all of which are dependent upon the Imagination and mental acuity of the Enchanter. Remember, too, that the soul and the seat of feeling can propel the mind like a tempest at sea. It is absolutely essential, therefore, that the Enchanter clear away old business from his mind, sweep away the useless and the trivial, and prepare his imagination for the great work to which he aspires.
The Gramary Of Finical of Pavonia
I stood and watched the four-foot wide crystalline snowflake as it constantly and continuously changed form. It always had six sides, six points, and a center; apart from that it evolved from one perfectly pristine form to another. The whole thing glowed with an arcane light, casting beams of magical illumination that were reflected endlessly by the crystals encrusting the vesicle in which it had been created.
The effect created a twinkle of light that made the entire chamber seem to be alive. Like sunlight on water or a breeze through autumn leaves. It pulsated with the flow of magical energy rushing into this most magical of places. There was a kind of throbbing in the natural chamber, called a
(which made this chamber, within a small circle,
Denehole) a combined hum and hiss that waxed and waned with the beautiful object’s constant transformation, a hum that you felt in your bones and deeper, as it saturated the magosphere around you. The Snowflake of Sevendor had become the focal point for the arcane energies in my domain since the moment it had sprung into existence.
From my mind
. While I was in the depths of a magical coma a few months ago, due to an overindulgence in magical travel and pride, my brain was swollen and inflamed. I’d nearly died. Nine days of unconsciousness and a hellride of nightmarish dreams had eventually necessitated the use of divine intervention to revive me, as well as a titanic effort by the wisest magi in my domain. This sparkling, crystalline manifestation of my resolve to return to consciousness and my deep desire for a point of stability had sprung into existence here as a result. The Karshak stonemasons discovered it in a recently-opened shaft that had penetrated this sealed vesicle the day I awakened.
These deep pockets within the basalt mountain the locals called Rundeval had existed for eons. The Karshak stonesinger Guri had explained to me that, like the fissures and cracks in bread, the cooling and settling of the rocks in dark ages past opened such vesicles. Frequently they were naught but empty caves, but in some the alchemy of the stone, combined with heat, pressure, and great age, allowed all manner of crystals to naturally form.
They had been there waiting for ages when an impromptu magical spell associated with the birth of my oldest son accidently transformed every bit of silica in a two-mile radius (plus little bits here and there, in the zone just beyond it, as we had discovered) into a bright white substance the sages classified as
and we wizards called snowstone. Snowstone, as it turns out, alters the magical resistance of the surrounding area. It was unique and uniquely valuable. And I had a monopoly on the entire world’s supply.
The mineral crystals growing within that area had been likewise transformed. Most of them incorporated a lot of silica in their alchemical makeup, and they had transformed into a wide array of exotic variants. Each new cache of them the Karshak encountered seemed to reveal brilliant new stones and crystals with all manner of unique thaumaturgical properties. The Karshak had harvested hundreds of them, so far. I had a growing collection of them safely stored in a hidden cavern in another part of the mountain where I could take them out one at a time for study. It was a slow process, but it had been fruitful.
Among the amazing artifacts had been stones that allowed transport over long distances (thus leading to my medical condition) stones that allowed me to create “pockets” out of phase with the rest of our reality, stones that allowed the sharing of memories, stones that ensured the permanency of thaumaturgic enneagrams, stones that let you see long distances – the breadth and scope of the collection was growing with each new study of the crystals. And every new vesicle revealed a new trove of magical wonder.
But the Snowflake of Sevendor was the most wondrous of all. Built, apparently, by select elements pulled from the unmined vesicle’s walls and floor, and designed entirely by my subconscious’ tortured whim, the beautiful artifact was not, strictly speaking, mere gemwork. It wasn’t even, strictly speaking, an artefact. I’d been instrumental in its creation, but it was not designed by me in any conscious manner. In fact, it had come from my fevered subconscious.
Which apparently is very pretty.
In truth I had no idea what manner of magical mineral had found its way into its construction, how they were arranged, or by what force. The process of creation, thanks to the helping hands of a couple of handy gods, had transformed the mysterious object into something that transcended mere matter and energy. It wasn’t just a staggeringly-beautiful ever-changing gem. The Snowflake had many of the characteristics of a
are holes in the magosphere, fixed areas of instability in reality itself. There were all sorts of documented
, and while many of them did different things, they had some thaumaturgical commonalities. The Snowflake shared several of these.
But one hallmark of a
is its essential static nature. They might fade into or out of existence, but they never physically changed or moved. The Snowflake was ever-changing. It was always moving.
When you gazed on it with magesight, it really got spectacular. It was a focal point for energy and the symbolic representations my mind supplied to inform my senses were one convulsive burst of magic after another. There were tendrils and arcs of power that stretched from the core or a particular point out to the crystals on the wall of the denehole, for no reason that I could fathom.
I had taken to making the long trip down the deep shaft the Karshak had carved out of the living rock of the mountain to the vesicle several times since I’d returned to Sevendor, now, and every visit seemed to give me more insight into the Snowflake.
But, truth be known, I still had no real idea what it did. Or why, exactly, I had created it. But here it was, deep within the heart of the mountain, churning the magosphere around us like butter. Something I’d made, but did not understand.
One could take that as a philosophical metaphor, if one was so inclined.
The Karshak had entered the vesicle at the north-east side; the vaguely-roundish tube stretched about five stories overhead, the interior of the white stone encrusted with all manner of colorful gems. In the other vesicles the Karshak found the floor littered with crystalline debris fallen from above, over the millennia. Mostly plain quartz, the debris was an intriguing element in the exploration of the vesicles.
But not in this one. Whatever else my subconscious had salvaged from the vesicle, a goodly portion of it was comprised of snowstone quartz. But there were plenty of other minerals involved, too, I could tell. The area under the Snowflake had been neatly excavated of all of its loose matter until it had left a smooth circular impression about six feet wide in the bottom of the vesicle.
The Karshak’s entry point had disturbed some crystals that had been carefully removed to my laboratory for cataloging and eventual study. They carefully expanded the doorway to keep from disturbing any further sites, creating an antechamber with steps leading down to the Snowflake’s chamber that almost looked like they were naturally formed. I’d had a chair brought down so I could sit and regard the creation, smoke a pipe and contemplate its utility.
But one can only stare into the mesmerizing recesses of crystal the thing presents for so long before the effort starts to wear on you. Merely being in the Snowflake’s presence took concentration. The forces at play were that potent.
Finally I sighed and stood. I’d been there for at least two hours, perhaps more. I’d intended on only spending a few moments with it. Once again my fascination had led to procrastination when I had important things to do.
But, damn it, it was just so bloody beautiful it was hard not to return as often as I could.
The long shaft the Karshak had cut into the mountain now stretched almost four hundred feet into the stone. Once they had delved the opening to their mine, and gotten their quarrying crews under way, work proceeded quickly.
With no need to worry about light or weather, Master Guri had four crews working the site, day and night. The Karshak teams were now excavating and removing six-ton blocks of white basalt every few hours with preternaturally coordinated effort. A stockpile of them was growing around the entrance to the shaft. They were massive, cottage-sized slabs of solid rock that Guri indicated would become the foundation stones of the huge gatehouse he wanted to build first.
That first shaft Guri had insisted be dug because it would act as a guide shaft for the continued excavation of my new castle. Yes, we were tunneling into the mountain and transforming it into the biggest, toughest fortress of the age. Eventually the interior would be expanded into a massive hall five stories high and two-hundred feet long. That was a lot of stone to remove.
But then the Karshak needed it, I reflected as I walked through the pale tunnel using magesight in the darkness. The Karshak workers disliked it when someone used magelights around them while they worked, and I tried to respect that. Master Guri’s master plan for the new keep included not only a new, improved curtain wall around the whole place, and an impressive new gatehouse to the castle, but also for two massive battle towers and a magnificent spire eventually towering over Rundeval’s peak.
But that was years away. For now, I had a mountain with a hole in it and a big pile of rocks to show for the truly spectacular amount of gold I had spent so far on the project. As I exited the tunnel and packed my pipe in the autumn sunshine, I felt a sense of calm and composure envelop me, just as it did every time I visited the artifact.
But there was also a distinct and unshakable part of me that wanted to turn around and plunge back into the mountain at once to return to the sublime presence of the Snowflake.
As much as a part of me wanted to heed that desire, my responsibilities beckoned. And I had a lot of them at the moment. That was probably one reason why I enjoyed the solitude I had with the Snowflake. When staring into the naked heart of magic it’s very hard to see such things as feudal politics and social position as at all important. But right now I had a full table of both, and as alluring as the idea of escape was to my mind, I knew that I would be abdicating my responsibilities to do so.
The Snowflake could wait, I knew. I was resigned to studying it later, after my duties had subsided. It wasn’t like it was going anywhere – one of the hallmarks of a
is its utter immovability.
But now it was time for me to plunge back into normal life in Sevendor. As normal as things can be the last few days before the fourth-annual Sevendor Magic Fair.
Right now the entirety of Sevendor Town was devoted to the event. The new Commons and the field beyond it across the stream had been steadily transformed in the last few weeks into the fairgrounds, with the Fair Market at one end and a stage and assembly area at the other. Between the two a whole village of tents, canopies, and wagons-turned-booths had been assembled. Magi and associated tradesmen from all over the kingdom of Castalshar had journeyed hundreds of miles for this. Every inn in town was packed, and private homes and hostels were overflowing.
My castle was pretty crowded at the moment. Even with the addition of two new halls in the bailey it seemed every room, every chamber and every square patch of space in the castle yard was being pressed into service. As I walked back to my workshop – the former lord’s refuge tower attached behind the main keep – I waved and bowed to hundreds who hurried around on their errands. I tried to appear as serene and calm as everyone else was frenetic. I had noticed that everyone did their jobs a lot more smoothly when I appeared serene and calm, rather than agitated, frustrated, or disinterested.
When I got back to the castle’s hall, Sir Festaran, the young assistant castellan, was awaiting me.
“Thank Briga you’ve returned, Sire!” the skinny young knight said, rising from his chair at the dais when he saw me enter.
“Why, are we under attack?” I grunted, good-naturedly. Festaran made a face.
“I wish!” he sighed. “I could do with striking a blow in earnest right now! No, Excellency, I just wished to inform you that Lady Pentandra arrived while you were . . . in contemplation.”
“Pentandra?” I asked, surprised. “I thought she’d be off on her honeymoon, by now.”
“She’s heading in that direction,” Festaran agreed, “but she wanted to stop by Sevendor and reclaim her witchstone from you,” he reminded me.