The Secrets of the Archmagi

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.

Summoning the Registrar
Focused on the Wrong Thing

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.

Posted in The Beginners Guide to Magical Site Licensing Tagged with: ,
27 comments on “The Secrets of the Archmagi
  1. Thaumaturgical_Support says:

    So, did that make sense? Magic, any magic: my made up system, someone else’s made up system, or magic that real people actually believe in is going to have a set of mundane physical properties. For the most part no one cares about them. However, if you’re of a particularly perverse mind set, you could leverage those properties to affect the world *without* actually casting a spell. It’s like using the One Ring as a high stress bearing or summoning, and then immediately banishing, a demon in the teacher’s break room so that the puff of foul sulfur scented air will stink the room up. You get a free stink bomb, AND you don’t have to sell your soul!

    Also, did I play fair? In “Why Magic is Hard” Kyle explains that all spells, “warps space so the rules of reality are different.” Later, in Something Salable he notes, “Technically a magical effect wasn’t a complete spell until it had a trigger.” Yet, of course, his “spell” doesn’t have either. It’s all built from “bindings.”

    From Fire!
    “Bindings weren’t really spells, they were just patterns of magic that modified magic directly without changing reality. One of them was a little used thing that split a line of magical current into different paths for every different effect it encountered, a second one represented a reservoir of power, and finally he added the binding he’d been working with to limit magical flow where there was no light tuned to sense IR.”

    So Kyle has never had a spell at all! 🙂 Instead he has a sort of magical simi-conductor (transmits power when there’s light, doesn’t when there isn’t) and he’s used that property of magic to invent actual spells automatically. That’s why the non-scalar law isn’t a problem.

    Only, um, he apparently wasn’t the first to think that up. Ooops!!

  2. Michael says:

    So… The archmagi have their little spell-making engines, which they can use to hold the market hostage if need be and otherwise sit on and use personally. Much of the magitechnical infrastructure is based around applications of the non-scalar law, and by controlling the rights to what spells they leak and/or are invented, they can maintain their monopoly and control of the industry.
    Basically, the culture is being held back from free-magic utopia by a bunch of corporations who find it extremely convenient to live in a world with sharp limits imposed by the non-scalar law?

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      To some extent that’s happening. Illusion, at least, should be more common. However, tekhnikos lux is a very blunt way of inventing spells, so I think it would have a hard time getting around the non-scalar law for many forms of magic. Also, the Registrar isn’t kidding about the danger involved. Kyle’s already invented something he didn’t want twice. He’s kind of lucky he hasn’t blown himself up.

  3. Malachi says:

    Interesting. Well, it’s unsurprising that the Archmagi have been suppressing knowledge, but the question is: do they know that Kyle has been using one of the Tekhnikos? Because it seems to me that they can’t know yet. I mean, so far all of the harassment and bribery and whatnot has been more in line with “get this guy to give up and sell us his spell”. But the Registrar just established that the Tekhnikos can’t be Registered, and that the Archmagi know about them already. Buying a spell to suppress it is one thing, but I suspect that if the Archmagi knew about the Tekhnikos, they’d have just killed him outright rather than risk him discovering another Tekhnikos later. I also suspect that once the Archmagi figure out what Kyle has, things will get considerably more lethal.

  4. Traiden says:

    It might be that the Archmagi who took the “You might one day destroy everything using this energy” seriously and put their combined efforts into making the public view magic as something with hard limits. At first. Then politics and money got involved and they lost their way a bit leading to what we see happening now.

    I found the registrar quite odd in a good way. I was expecting something strange and otherworldly, which that part was fulfilled just in a way that I did not expect. This is a being much like the elves and dwarves you already mentioned in the story, correct? A being who has a genetic structure that causes a spell to be cast to change the being. My expectations was for the being to be more rigid in its adherence to its purpose, but it is good as it is now. That it is willing to share information to our protagonist.

    As for if this plot point is fair for the readers to find out, I would say so. The logic checks out and it was indeed fairly hinted at throughout the story. The archmagi have plenty of reasons to go after our protagonist with more than just money on the line if he spills the secret they have worked hard to hide.

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      > “You might one day destroy everything using this energy”

      The fun thing about that part of the story is *it’s real*

      > This is a being much like the elves and dwarves you already
      > mentioned in the story, correct?

      Is it unfair to say “I haven’t decided”? When I first wrote it I felt it was a being with spells written into it’s DNA. Then I realized if you have a magical semiconductor you can have a magical computer, and I thought maybe the Registrar was an ancient magical AI.

      > The archmagi have plenty of reasons to go after our protagonist

      I’m glad that’s how that feels to you. I felt, before this update, Thomas was being a little irrational in his pursuit of Kyle. It was kind of like McDonalds going after the local burger joint with spies and legal action just because they got some positive reviews. My intent was that this would explain a lot of that.

  5. Drake says:

    Hm, i like this story realy much. Also saying you arent good is to humble. I mean as long as you dont make a complete rule book, it always will be kinda hard to explain the magical laws your following. So imho what youve done till know with the explaining is good enough. 🙂

    Feedback for this? Hm, first, if i can use this for light, shoudnt this “tekhnikos” not work for all kind of EM waves? Or does it only with photons itselfe? If not, he kinda could replace his little stun spell with… well that Starwars like lightning attack from the emperor. ^^

    But from the explanation of the registrar, it sounds like the other Archmagi havnt thought about that too. So it could become somthing like his secret weapong as older people often dont follow all the scientific discoveries who happend. Well i think most people dont after they left school. 😉

    Second, im still not quite sure why the Archmages can have so much magic that they can become imortal. But if Kyle follows this way i hope he find some way for Jessi too. (A life of hundred of years can become lonly if your partner just ages and dies ^^). Something like the Knight and the Mage kind of setting. ^^

    Third, what does the Registrar mean with “your not my apprentice”? He talks like he is a Archmage himselfe (or something like that at least Oo). Also are there still other Masters who arent Archmages or is there some kind of Rule who says: “If someone finds a tekhnikos by himselfe one of us needs to take him under his wing as an apprentice!”?

    I thought at least Jessi would have jumped to that kind of sentence and asked instantly if they cant become his apprentice (as he was much nicer than all the descriptens of him beforehand ^^).

    Are there still other Master Mages who arent known as Archmages? How many other apprentices are out there? Could there be a secret war between those all who no one exactly knows of?

    I think ill stop with my crude english blabbering but as you see, i pretty much enjoy your story and are looking forward to read more. So pls, dont wait to long for the next update. ;D

    Best regards,


    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      > Hm, i like this story realy much.

      Thank you, it’s great for me to see people reading it.

      > shoudnt this “tekhnikos” not work for all kind of EM waves? Or does
      > it only with photons itselfe?

      The basic bindings only work with photons. However, he should be able to tune it to any form of energy because he’d just use a muti-step process where he first casts a spell that makes say electrical fields radiate as light of a specific frequency then he uses tekhnikos lux to look for that frequency of light.

      Weaponization of his spell will definitely be discussed.

      > im still not quite sure why the Archmages can have so much magic
      > that they can become imortal.

      The archmagi manage through luck and practice. But there are definitely other path’s to magically extended life. 😉

      > Third, what does the Registrar mean with “your not my apprentice”?

      At a minimum he feels it’s not appropriate for him to share knowledge about the tekhnikos, but he could be hinting at something else.

  6. Drake says:

    Uh and come to think of it, maybe Dwennon dosnt work for Thomas as it looked in the beginning. Perhaps there is a 3 partie included who thought of Kyle and his magic as a way to weaken thomas… haa, its some time already that i was that eager to know how a story develops. xD

  7. AvidFan says:

    Ok, pondering complete.
    What I’m most interested in is the fact that he should now be able to find a master, and what he plans to do now, considering he doesn’t have a registered spell.
    (I KNEW his spell wasn’t going to be original! >:D I just couldn’t see something like that not being discovered my people who have lived hundreds of years.)

    Please release another page quickly, I’m dying to read more. 🙁

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      > I KNEW his spell wasn’t going to be original! >:D I just couldn’t see
      > something like that not being discovered my people who have lived
      > hundreds of years.

      Heh, in a way that may be my biggest cheat. It might be possible to suppress tekhnikos lux, but tekhnikos phonein? No way! If anyone asks I’m going to say it’s a little like the stirrup, it only seems obvious in retrospect, and the Archmagi have actually worked pretty hard on keeping that application of magic out of the public eye.

  8. I hate to say it, but… called it. I like that the registrar basically also just said that having discovered one of the technikos himself, he should now be able to find himself a master (one of the archmagi) to apprentice to. I wonder how existing archmages and apprentices feel about that, since the scalar law probably applies to a lot of what they do as well.

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      You were definitely right that Kyle’s “spell” was not getting legal protection. Did you see the “it’s not a spell” thing coming as well?

      >I wonder how existing archmages and apprentices feel about that,
      >since the scalar law probably applies to a lot of what they do as

      As I see it, the technikos are the class of non-spell magical techniques which aren’t affected by the non-scalar law, so a master could teach someone any of those without impacting their own abilities.

      That being said, the major responsibility of a master of any craft is going to be deciding what their apprentice can learn when, so I expect the student doesn’t get their master’s good grimoire until they prove that they won’t be stepping on their master’s toes.

      • Absolutely, i was mentally likening it more to a compiler, or discovering how to right machine code while playing around with c.

        and not the technikos, but the mention of the extended life from large amounts of magical energy, and that kind of thing. I wonder if the more arch magi there are doing that, the more energy it takes them all to stay young.

        • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

          and not the technikos, but the mention of the extended life from large amounts of magical energy, and that kind of thing. I wonder if the more arch magi there are doing that, the more energy it takes them all to stay young.

          I think there are enough factors in play that the process would be non-obvious. Specifically, magi who’s are barely focusing enough magic to get extra life-span would be affected first, but they wouldn’t notice because they’re only losing a month or two. Then, of course, they’d die of old age and the number of “extra life spell” users would drop and along with it the energy requirements would fall. Over time, in a stable population, that would tend to drive a discontinuity into the graph of “ability to focus magic” in the human population. Transitions across the border of extra life spell availability would fall.

          However, the human population has exploded with the green revolution so there are a lot more outliers strong enough to get extra life because there are a lot more people. The immortal segment of the population would also be having a disproportionate number of children, so if there’s a genetic component to how much magic you can focus that’s going to increase turnover among the life-extended population.

          In story, this has resulted in a recognizable, but only simi-stable, group of magic users who get extra life: the archmagi. The existing archmagi would probably recognize all of these factors, but they wouldn’t have much control over them. I think if an archmage starts seeing more gray hair they probably research spells like the one Dwennon’s people have. Presumably, those clubs also have barriers to entry.

          Now that the current story is all written, and my buffer of scheduled posts is fat, I’ve been thinking I need to do another vote incentive. I’d been tentatively thinking about writing the story of someone who uses classic magic and giving that character a roommate who’s trying to invent an immortality spell using the old-school fumble until you find it approach. I could explore some parts of the setting Kyle’s story just doesn’t intersect with.

  9. DeNarr says:

    So when I said early on that his “spell” seemed more like a meta-spell, that was pretty close?

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      Yup! 🙂

      Did you speculated it was making other spells more powerful? I’m just working from memory here but I know someone said that and I kind of think it was you. At any rate, It’s not quite doing that, but it’s absolutely a meta effect as it’s manipulating other magic.

  10. Elaborate says:

    Oh darn, reached the end of the archives already :/

    >Patent snafu
    It made sense to me; I wondered as I was reading whether the process as described could really be patented.

    >Seemingly irrational archmagi
    I’ve been wondering the opposite for a while now, really – if Archmages are really ultra-rich people with little or few morals and very jealous of their secrets, who consider themselves above the law and in fact pretty much ARE… why haven’t they ALREADY gotten a black ops team to kidnap Kyle in his sleep and torture his secrets out of him?

    At least our hero has the right skills for disseminating this suppressed tekhnikos to the public, should he choose – he can just print it in the sky over the city with 20 meter high letters of fire accompanied by a giant powerpoint presentation…

    Oh, a typo: “well use to” -> “well used to”.
    I noticed you wrote “use” instead of “used” one or two times in earlier chapters, too.

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      > why haven’t they ALREADY gotten a black ops team to kidnap Kyle in
      > his sleep and torture his secrets out of him?

      One thing I planned poorly when writing this was giving myself a villain who’s 100% “off screen”. It’s hard to make his motivation clear. Right now, all we know is that the Archmagi are not a unified group and they keep a very clean public image. Time will tell if there’s more than that keeping Thomas from getting even more aggressive.

      > Oh, a typo: “well use to” -> “well used to”.

      Thanks. I think that’s one I must say wrong IRL.

      • Traiden says:

        Telling the author about his own story mode. It is more like a game of proxies in the way that the Archmagi are handling this. The proxies themselves only have limited resources and can’t just kidnap people. Or at least that is how it feels to me what is happening. But the price of using proxies is less traceable handling of situations like this as everyone would be watching what the Archmagi are doing.

        • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

          Heh – sure, but Thomas could have hired better (or at least vastly more violent and secretive) proxies.

          I’ll be honest, we’re discussing a bit of a story glitch here. I’ve thought, all along, that Thomas was *under motivated*. Before this installment, his going after Kyle was like McDonalds going after some local burger cart, and not a successful one either. Thomas started to mess with Kyle before he ever made his first sale!

          Thomas is also the villain of the story, so he’s going to attack the hero. I may have over-estimated how much motivation he needs in reader’s minds. Now, to some people, he seems too motivated so they’re wondering why he didn’t hire an assassin day one.

          That’s a valid question. (Slight spoiler!!) Kyle will be under more physical threat next week and at various points thereafter, so Thomas is willing to go there. Why did he wait?

          I’ll explain that, but it’ll take a while and I’ll have to be careful not to open up plot holes.

  11. AvidFan says:

    There are more comments than there is content this time. Not sure if that means you did something incredibly right or incredibly wrong.

    • AvidFan says:

      Oh, just noticed the sentence in bold xD.
      Comment on this chapter: I had an idea of where this story was going. Now it’s as if someone in the multiverse flipped a 60 sided coin that would decide the next world leader, where each candidate has greatly differing world views. Touché good sir. Touché.

      • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

        Yeah I had to ask about this section. It’s very hard to guess how other people are going to read things, and this was my big twist, so I thought I’d solicit a little feedback.

        I’m glad to see it hit you as a twist! 🙂 Hopefully, you’ll enjoy where the story goes from here.

  12. irrevenant says:

    Typo: “This to was on same massive scale.” too.

    Yes, you played fair. Kudos,that was very well done.

  13. Owen says:

    This chapter:

    > Now it seemed vain to have included his own name in the name of the spell, but he supposed it was best to stick with the same thing, **“Kyle’s Illusion Matrix.”**

    But [earlier](

    > Kyle was caught off guard, he hadn’t thought about actually naming the spell. Worse yet, he wasn’t that great with names. Oh well, he thought, the copyright name of the spell doesn’t have to be the same as the trade name. **“Light Generation Matrix.”**

    The narrative implies that the earlier name should’ve been the same as the one in this chapter?

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