Focused on the Wrong Thing

Jessie was glad to get out of the Registrar’s office. She’d been fairly certain they were both going to die at a couple of points. She glanced at Kyle to see how he was taking it, and was surprised to see how bad he seemed. His face was pale, his eyes were wide, and at some point he’d managed to mess up his hair. Actually, he looked a little punch drunk. She reached out and used one hand to guide him to a bench by the water fountain in the hallway they now occupied. He moved and sat without speaking, which did nothing to dispel the impression he was physically traumatized. “Hey, are you alright?”

“Do you realize what happened in there?”

She thought about that. A lot had just happened, she wasn’t sure exactly how to prioritize the list. They’d found an even worse alternative to normal government bureaucracy. They hadn’t gotten what they came for. They’d almost been killed by a giant freaky flower. The giant freaky flower had delivered a cryptic warning. Jessie thought the warning thing was the most important detail, but if Kyle was paying attention to that they would have been running. She hazarded, “You didn’t get the patent?”

He waved a hand dismissively as though that was barely on the radar. “It told us there’s a whole other use for magic! Magic that’s not spells!”

“Oh, yeah, the ‘tekhnikos’? That sounds like technique.”

“It’s ancient Greek, I think, and it’s like that. If I’m remembering correctly it means ‘related to the craft or art.’ So, ‘the art of light’ and ‘the craft of sound,’ or maybe it’s speech. Except the Registrar clearly meant it to be a class of,” he paused for a long moment seeming to hunt for the right words, “non-spell magic.”

This is really hitting him, Jessie thought. She thought she understood the distinction between these “techniques” and “spells”, or at least she could see how a computer didn’t have to be an electrical device and she could sort of extend the metaphor, but there were clearly implications that weren’t apparent to her. She was certain they didn’t have time to discuss it. The cryptic warning was fresh in her mind even if Kyle had missed it. She opened her mouth to remind him, then closed it again remembering she wasn’t really on his side. Then she thought, screw it, and decided to remind him anyway. After meeting the Registrar she was even less eager to get caught in the middle of a magical fight, and if whoever she was working for wanted her to back up their plans they could share those plans. “The super creepy flower also said people knew we were here. I assume it meant unfriendly people.”

Kyle slumped and ran both hands through his hair further disordering it. Then he actually grabbed a couple of handfuls and tugged making a loud groaning sound.

“If we move quickly we might beat them. Maybe no one is here yet.”

“Thomas the Illusionist is an Archmage!”

OK, Jessie thought, that’s kind of a non sequitur.

“He probably knows all about this tekhnikos lux. I bet the instant he heard about my spell, my technique, he realized exactly what it was. That’s why he came down on me so hard, he knew exactly what I had. Oh hell! That’s why he’s got a monopoly on illusion. He’s got the same thing. He’s always going to be the cheapest provider of illusions, whenever he needs a new light spell he just invents one on the spot. How does he do it? The light-sensitive binding is new. Or is it not? Was it suppressed? I didn’t read anything about it after that first article and I never could look it up online. Or are there other bindings? I don’t know what this all means…” He trailed off his expression working like he was still talking to someone.

He hadn’t heard a word she’d said. That was a problem. They needed to go. She briefly considered slapping him, but that felt a bit too much like a scene from a movie. Kyle was already babbling like a shocked extra, so she thought she should keep it together. Instead she ran some water from the drinking fountain into her cupped hand and tossed it into his face.

The water was commendably cold and the shock was enough to make Kyle look up. Jessie spoke, “Giant flower say, ‘People coming!’ Go now? Yes?” She gave an exaggerated nod in answer to her own question.

Water dripped down Kyle’s face, his eyes were still a little wide but now they were focused. “I guess so, I think I saw a back exit on the way up.”

The Secrets of the Archmagi
More Fleeing

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 “Focused on the Wrong Thing
  1. kgy121 says:

    Aaaaand caught up.

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      Hopefully, reading the story in it’s serialized format will work as well as reading it all in one go. 🙂 I don’t know which mode works better for what I’ve written. You saw the posts where I listed the various tracking options, right? RSS feed, e-mail and app based tracking via wattpad, or just come back Tuesdays and Thursdays at Midnight GMT -5.

  2. AvidFan says:

    A critic warning? Was he warning them about us criticising the story? O_O The poor fourth wall…
    (So you mean cryptic?)

  3. Mostly Harmless says:

    This is going to end with Kyle inventing a Turing-complete spell, isn’t it?

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      I definitely intended to suggest that was possible. I don’t think I’ve introduced enough facts to determine the capabilities of such a construct. At the moment, Kyle would have to trace the “circuitry” of the spell by hand. That would leave him operating at about the scale of early vacuum tube computers. I think that would be useful for when a spell’s control system has to be entirely incorporeal. However, it’s not really revolutionary unless he can accomplish both a lot of miniaturization and automation in the creation of such a system.

      Just to manage expectations, I’ll also point out that Kyle is dealing with some issues that will seriously cut into his lab-time in the near future. 😉

      • Mostly Harmless says:

        I’m not sure what the theoretical speed limits on a purely magical construct would be, but wouldn’t a barebones magical processor be able to then invoke a more complex one using a physical medium as input?

        For example, design and invoke a magic-based Turing machine which then examines a stack of paper, decodes binary-encoded data on it, and launches that as a new spell which just happens to be a more complex magical computer.

        I’m totally guessing as to some of the magic system’s capabilities here, but self-invoking spells seems possible based on the existence of an autocaster and Kyle’s metaspell and input from physical data also seems fairly reasonable given that bindings seem to be able to read various physical properties.

        • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

          Apologies if my reply is somewhat rambling. Also, none of this is cannon. 😉

          The magical semiconductor* at the heart of the metaspell is a pattern of magical energy. We’ve never seen magical energy directly manipulating the shape of *other* magical energy. I’m inclined to say it would be like using an electromagnetic field to manipulate an electromagnetic field: you’d need a physical component.

          Now the metaspell and the theoretical magical computer aren’t spells in so far as they don’t modify the setting physics. When you mention a spell, I’m not sure if mean something that would modify physics, but such a modification to physics would certainly make an entirely non-corporial magical processor possible. Unfortunately, it would also encounter non-scalar law problems. Kyle could use the spell, but he’d need to limit access to it, and if someone else already knows it…

          Such a circuit printing spell would also be hard to develop. I don’t think the science on field propagation is sufficient to directly modify it in a way that would be useful for the above goals. That means Kyle is using the old fumble till you find it approach.

          Assuming that’s all in place, I don’t know if it’s possible for one spell to trigger another. I think it probably is. Triggers are a description of what the spell should do in some linguistic system. It should be possible to get a magical computer to write out such a trigger, but the particulars are beyond me at the moment.

          * If I need another title I may have just come up with a bunch of great ones:

  4. irrevenant says:

    Typo: “She thought understood the distinction”. She thought *she* understood […]

    I think it’s just about time for Kyle to invest in the classic “email everybody about everything if anything happens to me” spell.

    Pretty sure Thomas doesn’t want this technikos getting out…

  5. Kazorh says:

    “The Registrar said my technique was more effective than the existing one”
    Uh, no, it didn’t? It also never called it “tekhnickos lux”, it just said it was one of the tekhnickos.

    • Kazorh says:

      Speaking of continuity: the “spell” is called Kyle’s Illusion Matrix in “The Secrets of the Archamgi” but Light Generation Matrix in “You’re Going to Have to Sign a Waiver”.

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