Be sure you hit the comments today even if you normally skip them. I want your opinions on this part!
The Registrar was a lily. A massive, 10 foot tall, floating lily. It drifted about a foot above the floor in the center of the room. Its voice was androgynous, bell-like, and entirely inappropriate to its form. Kyle exerted an effort of will and shut his mouth. This was unexpected, though now that he thought of it no one had ever described the Registrar. Perhaps there was some reason they couldn’t. He’d have to look that up later, at the moment he had business to finish.
Kyle steeled himself and took a step forward, “I wish to register a spell into the knowledge and protection of the Magical Compact.”
The lily rotated slightly. It had no eyes nor anything like a face but Kyle thought it was looking at Jessie. “And you have come to witness this.”
“I have,” she answered. Her voice was commendably level.
The lily rotated back toward Kyle, “Your name.”
“The name of your spell.”
“Light Generation Matrix.”
“Work the spell.”
A thread of power extended to Kyle. He accepted the energy assuming he was to cast his spell with it. The power felt odd, not tainted, exactly but imprinted as though its source had left some mark upon it. He had no idea how that could work, it would be like dyeing electrons, but it was probably the result of some sort of spell. He assumed that by influencing the power the Registrar could better understand his spell.
He cast. The spell went slowly and he almost fumbled in a couple of places from sheer nervousness. But, at the base of it, the spell was fairly simple and with a few minutes he laid the last spark of raw magic into it and cast an illusion from memory. The light thrown from the image of a small spinning globe was added to that already occupying the walls.
The Registrar was silent for a long time. When it did speak its voice had deepened, “What part of that do you wish to register? The final light emitting effects?”
Kyle tried to swallow but suddenly found his throat too dry. “No the system for finding the light emitting effects.”
In a blink, in less time than that the lily changed into a rose. This too was on same massive scale. Its petals were blood red and its long stem was studded with thorns. When the flower spoke the voice it used had again grown deeper and louder. “This is not a spell!”
Kyle had to force himself not to shrink back, “What do you mean? Of course it’s a spell! My spell looks for effects that are emitting light and selects the one that does what is needed with the least amount of energy.”
The rose jutted forward. A thorn stabbed painfully close to Kyle’s face. Now he did shrink back. At first he’d assumed the flower was some sort of illusory projection. Now he was equally certain that the protrusion in front of him could easily be deadly. “You seek to register one of the ancient tekhnikos this is a misuse of the compact. Why shouldn’t I destroy you for this affront to the laws of magic?”
“I’m sorry, I take it back! I don’t even know what the tekhnikos are. What have I done wrong?”
The rose sprang back and started to spin. It moved so rapidly its flowers and points blurred. For a moment it looked like a stack of colored disks. When it slowed it was a yellow flowered tulip. Its voice was much closer to its original tone, “You speak the truth.” A note of anger entered its voice again, “Modern magi are not properly educated, and the Archmagi are a pack of fools for allowing it.” Its rotation stopped and Kyle got that ‘being watched’ feeling again. “Tell me, what is a spell?”
Kyle’s voice was a little shaky but he managed to recite the definition his Introduction to Magic professor had drilled into him freshman year of college, “A change or changes to ordinary physics, powered by magic, begun and controlled via an idea expressed through some system of symbols capable of storing, communicating, and manipulating information.”
“And how does your ‘spell’ change physics?”
Kyle opened his mouth to answer and then shut it again a moment later when he realized he couldn’t answer. What he’d been calling a spell didn’t change physics. Certainly the light emitting effects were changes to physics, but his “spell” was nothing of the sort. That’s why it wasn’t affected by the non-scalar law. The size of the revelation made him feel slightly dizzy. At length he answered, “It doesn’t?”
“But it makes light!”
The tulip started to rotate faster, there was a hint of red at its top as though it had been dipped in paint or perhaps watered dye. The color was rose-like and made Kyle nervous. “The part you wish to register finds a way to make light. It is tekhnikos lux, an ancient trick that is not a spell. What it finds is a spell, and you may register that, but it will do you little good as anyone who knows the tekhnikos can find a new way of making light just as easily as you.”
Kyle closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead trying to wrap his mind around the idea. “So you can use magic to change the world without doing magic?”
“Consider this, is a computer an electrical effect?”
“No,” he said hesitantly making it more of a question than an answer.
“Correct. Computations can be performed by gears and springs, the chemicals in the human mind, or painted wooden beads sliding on wires. The physical properties of electrons make them useful for the construction of a computer, however they are not the only way to build a computer. Likewise there are a few ways the physical properties of magic may be used to achieve work in the real world without casting a spell. These are known as the tekhnikos. You used one of them to summon me.”
Kyle shook his head, though the gesture was less one of negation than it was the sort of thing he might have done to shoo away an annoying fly. “What summoned you looked very much like a spell.”
“When you cast the spell that opened a gateway to my home you increased the power requirements of a similar gateway I carry about on my person. It collapsed, and that signaled to me that someone had opened the main gateway. The spell merely provided me with a convenient means of travel. Leveraging the non-scalar law communicated to me that I should travel. That was tekhnikos phonein and magi once routinely communicated in this matter. Modern digital communications have largely obviated the need, but the possibility remains.”
The Registrar paused, and floated silently for a moment. Perhaps it was considering something, though its form rendered it perfectly inscrutable. At length it continued, “You know none of this and I over-reacted when you attempted to register one of the tekhnickos as a spell. You do not know about it for a number of reasons, first all the energy that goes into modern magical research goes into using magic as magic. That is, of course, the most useful thing to do with magic. Second, the Archmagi are well accustomed to keeping secrets. They are older than the compact and once had to guard all of their magic on their own. Finally, the tekhnickos can be dangerous. There is a theory that the one you use, in particular, perhaps it will one day discover a spell that takes no power at all and all the world will fill with light. In physics terms this would mean that our reality is only one of the false vacua predicted by string theory and it had collapsed.”
“What! Are you saying I could destroy the world?”
The flower bobbed up and down communicating a shrug. “All of reality, actually, but it’s only a theory. Some people thought the Large Hadron Collider could destroy the world as well. In both cases, if it could have happened it almost certainly would have by now. Still, you use the technique carefully, correct?”
Kyle reflected that maybe getting out of bed that morning had been an overly hasty and ill advised decision. “I thought so,” he mumbled. “So are you saying all of the Archmagi know the, um, tekhnickos I’m using?”
“Yes. Still, this information is not mine to share. You are not my apprentice; though you should now be able to find a master. Do you have anything to register?”
“I guess not.”
“Very well, I will depart.” The lily floated a little higher off the ground and began to glow more brightly. “You do not have sole rights to the tekhnickos. However you may use it, and you are still fully protected by the magical compact. I will also warn you that I believe your presence in this building has been reported. Fare you well.”
With a flash of light the lily vanished and they were left alone in the room.