Ch2: Apprentice Illusionist pt3

Kyle turned starting to head for the house to do just that when Charles stopped him, “Wait! Have you been studying your Greek? You’ve got a test in that next week.”

Kyle winced. Greek, and not just Greek; Old Ionic Greek spoken from 1000 to 600 BC. The language of most spells from the elder Greek tradition of magic, which was based around religion or more specifically the cult of Hecate. Once he’d mastered that, Kyle would be allowed to move on to the super-duper modern Attica which was apparently good for learning the spells of the Younger (relatively speaking) magical tradition based off of their proto-science and philosophy. “You know I got a bachelors of science in magical engineering because I am good at math, right? I avoided the bachelors of art in practical magical history because I am terrible at languages.”

“Why yes, actually, I grade your tests so I was aware. My Greek was better when I was ten! But buck up. Once you know Greek and Latin you can learn half of the Romance languages like that,” he snapped his fingers. “Then you knock over to Asia and pick up some of the major roots in the Sino-Tibetan family…” Charles looked up and grinned.

Kyle blinked a couple of times, “I’m going to be learning Sino-Tibetan as well?”

“No! That’s a language family. You’ll learn Old Chinese. Don’t give me that look. There are several extraordinary magical traditions that require it.”

Kyle nodded. Pretty much every culture that had ever walked the earth had put together a few spells, but Charles focused on the ones with significant magical traditions. That made sense. If you learned how a people thought magic worked then it was easier to pick up and understand their spells. It made learning new spells faster and remembering them easier, and apparently the Archmage thought it was a good idea for Kyle to pack hundreds or even thousands of spells into his head. The older man had been born before Google. A couple of centuries before Google.

Or, at least, Kyle figured there was an 80% chance that was what it was about. He’d left the other 20% free, mentally for a little theory that had occurred to him while looking at the ways spells from various traditions tended to inter-relate.

Modern magic worked by taking some known quantity of physics and changing it. For example, if you wanted a faster computer you could magically tweak the equations for the propagation of electrical signals through conductors and semiconductors such that they went two times as fast. Once that was done, everything on the chip would happen twice as fast effectively doubling the number of operations it could achieve in a given time period. Such spells were done all the time for high-end computing, though that had driven their cost way up.

The modern approach made it easy to discover a useful spell, the magical cost of the spells was low, and their results were predictable. Older spells could achieve some far out things that modern spells couldn’t, but otherwise the modern approach was entirely superior. However, all spells worked by lowering the energy level of an alternate quantum vacua until it briefly became the rule set for the real world. Or, in layman’s terms, they imposed some alternate sort of physics on reality.

Kyle had realized that for some far out possible set of physics Plato’s theory of forms might be hard science. In another possible reality, the precepts of Hecate might be every bit as valid as the theory of relativity. If so a full understanding of that theory would allow a mage to rapidly invent a whole set of interrelated spells with very predictable results just like the modern system.

If that was the case, then the ancient Greeks of the Platonic magical tradition hadn’t invented a whole heap of magical transformation spells because they were kind of obsessed with forms as was taught in all the best colleges; they’d done it because it was easy. Moreover, a modern person could leverage the knowledge to rapidly invent entirely new spells. That would be a very powerful magical technique.

The Archmagi were quite dedicated to controlling the spread and use of very powerful magical techniques.

Charles snapped Kyle out of his contemplation by speaking, “My young apprentice you’re just standing there blocking my sunlight. Did you have a question?”

For a second Kyle considered just asking about his theory, but he decided against it. Charles would only give him the bits of knowledge he was “ready for.” As such, the older man would probably just shrug. Instead he asked another question that had been bugging him ever since he’d started to learn Greek, “A minor one. Tekhnikos Lux: tekhnikos is Greek, lux is Latin. Does that mean the tekhnikos as a set are much older than tekhnikos lux?”

Charles scowled. “No, it means you’re not the first mage to suck at languages and whoever named it had a less conscientious master. Let that motivate you. Shirking your studies now could lead you to make an error that will last for centuries!”

Ch2: Apprentice Illusionist pt2
Ch2: Apprentice Illusionist pt4

For some reason I cannot adequately explain, even to myself, I'm trying to write and to write better. So if you like my story let me know. All feedback is appreciated.

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11 comments on “Ch2: Apprentice Illusionist pt3
  1. Thaumaturgical_Support says:

    A magical error that could LAST FOR CENTURIES! Who says I do not pack the action? Wait, you mean that’s *not* the sort of magical mistake most people read for? Well, blast….

    In other news, sorry for being lame about responding to comments lately. My new job has been keeping me distracted. Ironically, it’s not that we’re super busy it’s that we *aren’t* busy and I do poorly when I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be accomplishing.

  2. Kazorh says:

    Huh. So you could… set something on fire by manipulating phlogiston? Except it’s going to be less mana-efficient, because making reality confirm to phlogiston theory and manipulating that is harder than just manipulating the real laws of physics.

    • Kazorh says:

      Doesn’t that mean that you can basically invent any spell by inventing some sort of internally consistent model of how that spell works?

      • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

        Yes and no. First, it’s just a theory! 😉

        More importantly, your internally consistent model would need to duplicate some higher energy quantum vacuum state for it to be useful. There are a lot of those (10^512th according to at least one version of string theory, but no one in the real world or the story really knows), but perfectly duplicating one would still be basically impossible without the chance to study it. We don’t, after all, know all the rules of the one we actually have.

        As I imagine Kyle imagining it: you can get close, by accident. Then *some* of what you think should represent a spell will. However, some won’t, so you haven’t cut out all the fumbling of the classic system.

        It would be a good trick, but it wouldn’t let you do just anything.

        • Kazorh says:

          Ah, makes sense, thanks.

        • Kazorh says:

          Then again, that number really is rather absurdly large.

          There are about 10^50 atoms in the planet Earth. I think we can agree that there are more atoms in the Earth than there have been spells invented in the history of Humanity. Go up tens of orders of magnitude, and you get the _whole of the observable universe_ (we’re talking billions of galaxies). That’s already much larger than we can really comprehend with our puny human minds. But that’s only in the vicinity of 10^80 atoms. The jump from there to 10^500 is… completely mind-boggling.

          • Kazorh says:

            Just because it’s funny trying to conceptualize enormous numbers: a “mole” is a unit of measurement. It’s the number of atoms there are in 12 grams of carbon-12: 6.022×10^23. Now, 10^23 is minuscule compared to what I was talking in my other post. But it’s still a big enough number that you only use it to measure atoms and molecules and such in chemistry.

            If you tried to measure something else in moles… Well, xkcd determined that a mole (the unit) of moles (the burrowing mammal) would be about the size of the moon.

            • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

              The mole of moles what if, that was a good one. Although I’m surprised it was only #4.

              The author of one of the books I read about gravity (I forget which one) complained that “string theory” isn’t a theory at all because it is a) several theories lumped together under the same name and b) not a theory at all because it totally lacks predictive power given the preposterous range of possibilities it opens up.

              • Kazorh says:

                The mole of moles is cool, but I have to admit I start grinning every time he accelerates something to relativistic speed.

  3. kunama says:

    “Kyle had realized that for some far out possible set of physics Plato’s theory of forms, or the precepts of Hecate, might be hard science every bit as valid as the theory of relativity.”

    I’m having a really hard time understanding that sentence. The last bit in particular needs rewording/is missing a key word, but you may need some more punctuation in there too.

    “Shirking you studies now could lead you to make an error that will last for centuries”
    you studies, should be your studies

    Feel free to just not approve these comments if you don’t want them showing up. You provide a free story, so I typo spot in hopes of giving back in some way.

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      Thanks for the corrections! I’ve corrected my typo and broken that confusing line up a bit. I think it should work better as I have it now.

      Feel free to just not approve these comments if you don’t want them showing up.

      I tried that once. The spam filter decided maybe everything by that commentator, for the remainder of all time, should go to moderation. What a pain! It’s much better to leave the comment out here for all to see my errors in their original glory. 🙂

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