Some Enemies Just Seem Insurmountable, No Matter How Much Progress You Make
The Klaus-detecting spell that Giles had given Isaac was wiggly and hard to follow, the spell diagram way more complicated than anything he’d ever done before. Isaac was slowly figuring it out, but it was hard.
Actually, though, he was finding it easier than he’d thought he would when he’d first seen it. At first he’d thought it was impossible, especially after Yancy and Lee had realized that it used more than just the Pillars, which meant that only Isaac would be able to cast it alone—though Lee thought it would be possible for multiple people to do it if they worked together. But the more Isaac looked at the different sections of the spell and worked on it, the more he realized that he’d seen things like it before.
“This looks like a recursive fold here,” Oliver said, hand on Isaac’s back as they worked. “Assuming that thread works the same way as the Pillars, you’ll want to take it and…”
“Do this, yeah,” Isaac said, nodding as he did it with a bit of difficulty. The duplication spell Giles had given him was a much simpler spell, but it had the same trick in it.
“Who in the world taught you about recursive folds?” Oliver asked. “You shouldn’t be learning about them until next semester.”
“Giles did, I think,” said Isaac, following the line of the spell with his finger. “And then I loop this around Dark like this.” Which was exactly the same move that was in the body-swapping spell.
“What do you mean by that?” Oliver asked, mostly watching Isaac.
“He gave me this spellbook that had a bunch of stuff in it. I thought it was pretty cool of him, but the more I look at this the more I think he was giving me a magic lesson disguised as a sex manual.” Honestly, Isaac couldn’t get one boner without it being turned into a teachable moment in this school.
Oliver snorted. “The best teachers tailor their material to their students’ interests.”
“Yeah,” Isaac agreed. He had to do a research paper for Lee’s class, and she was letting him write it on the time Lucien Lightmark had accidentally cast a mind control spell on a city and turned everyone into sex zombies for three days.
“Is it weird?” Oliver asked. “To be getting advice from him?”
“A bit, I guess,” said Isaac. “But I’m dating a homunculus and a thief and genius, and I’m friends with a ghost and a wizard who can collapse the sun and a witch who can crack the world in half, my roommate’s brother is an evil sorcerer who I had to teach how to kiss, and there are a million centipedes that all want to eat me, so.” He shrugged. “Lots of things are weird.”
Oliver laughed at that. “Yeah, I guess they would be. Taking sexy magic lessons from a dead king probably doesn’t even register.”
Isaac blinked. “Giles was a king?”
“Yeah. He was the king. Giles ven Sancte, King Gerard’s father.”
“Oh.” Isaac felt a little unbalanced at that, having to snatch Light back before it floated away. He’d been assuming Giles was just some nice man, but he’d been the king? Wait, that meant… “So Yancy dated the king? That’s so cool! If they’d been able to stay together Yancy could have been the king. Or the queen, I guess.”
“King-consort,” Oliver corrected. “You really should pay more attention in history class.”
“No. Wait, this is so unfair. I came to the capital and wanted to have sex with the prince, and neither of them would sleep with me when I tried. Even Yancy managed to pull it off. Which, good for him, but it’s definitely my turn now, right?”
“I’m not sure that’s how it works, but you’re the expert, not me.”
Isaac looked up at Oliver. “Do you have anyone that you’re seeing?” It hadn’t occurred to ask about Oliver’s dating life in a while, but he must have one.
“Not at the moment, no,” said Oliver. “I dated Irene for a bit, but it didn’t work out. I’m so busy that I don’t really have time to leave the academy and date people outside it.”
“Oh,’ Isaac said. He supposed that made sense, but he didn’t want to be an apprentice if it meant not having time to see people. “I hope you’re taking care of yourself, then.”
“I’m fine, I have a lot of friends, and I have you and Yancy.”
“Yeah, but you’re not having sex with me or Yancy,” Isaac said. At least he hoped Oliver wasn’t having sex with Yancy. Though maybe that was unfair. If they both wanted to have sex there was nothing wrong with it even if it wasn’t one of Isaac’s personal fantasies. “Not that sex is all that matters, but being all pent up is bad for you. You’re at least jerking off, right?”
“Yes,” Oliver said with a laugh. “I am. And when I feel like it on my days off I go out and hire prostitutes.”
“Oh, good.” Isaac smiled. “I’ve never done that before, is it fun?”
“Yeah, it is, I think you’d like it.”
“You think I’d like having sex?” Isaac asked, looking up. “Why?”
“Oh, shut up and finish the spell. You should be almost done. Unless I’m totally off, it looks like you’re making an aura for a metre or so around yourself which will make you able to perceive things outside the aura that you wouldn’t be able to normally.”
“Like magic fuelled by a giant spider demon,” Isaac said, nodding. “Okay. I just need to hook this in here, and turn it over like this, and…I think that’s it?”
“I think. Yancy, Isaac is ready to cast the spell.”
“Ah, most glad news,” said Yancy. He’d just come into the study and was hanging up his coat, and the matching scarf and hat he’d had on with them. “Let’s see it, then.”
Isaac nodded, and he put everything he’d constructed into place, rotated it a little, and put his power into it. Oliver had been right, the spell made a little circle around him, and everything outside that circle was tinged with blue. There were motes of light floating around, and the odd line that went nowhere. There were a few strange gelatinous things with tendrils floating around, but they seemed harmless. Cute, even. “What’s all that?” Isaac asked.
“All what?” Oliver asked, hand still on Isaac’s back. “I’m not seeing anything.”
“Oh, okay.” That made sense, Isaac figured. He was the one who’d cast the spell. “There’s just stuff floating around and I don’t know what it is, that’s all.”
“Spirits, perhaps,” Yancy suggested. “This spell allows you to see the world in a way normally impossible for humans, for that plane is where Klaus’s magic seems to hide. The world is full of spirits, most of which are harmless, or at the very least uninterested in us.”
“Right,” said Isaac, watching one float through Yancy’s bookshelf and disappear. “Well, I don’t see any black threads. Uh, I guess I won’t know if the spell worked until it actually…works.”
“Yes,” agreed Yancy. “You must cast it again in your dormitory later, preferably near Nicholas, whom you know to be ensnared. If the spell reveals the threads on him, then you will know it to work as intended.”
“Yeah,” said Isaac. He sighed, broke the spell, and the world went back to normal. “Man, that took me so long to put together.”
“It’ll get easier the more you do it,” Oliver assured him. “And not just because you’ll get better at it. The more often you cast a spell, the more the Pillars start to respond to you. They remember forms that you’ve asked them to take in the past.”
The Web remembered everything, Isaac thought. “Okay. Thanks,” he said, hugging Oliver. “For all your help. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Sure you could have. I just made sure you didn’t get distracted.”
“What, you think I’m distractible?”
“What was that thing Leo did that you liked so much? Oh, right, everything.”
“Shut up,” Isaac said, refusing to be embarrassed that he’d talked about Leo for a few minutes at the start of all this. He’d been nervous. “Did you find what you needed in the library, Yancy?”
“I did,” Yancy confirmed with a nod. “I’ve put together all my notes on Nicholas and done what research I can given the limited information that exists about homunculi. The news is not particularly surprising in many regards. Nicholas appears human in every respect, such that I doubt anyone examining him would ever assume he wasn’t unless they were looking for evidence of such. There are a few minor irregularities in his growth hormones that might be attributed to adolescence, but I suspect are due to his non-human nature. As well, his brain seems to contain pathways that human brains do not, which I suspect is to make it easier for Klaus to enter him. I am, however, not an expert on the human brain and would like for Lee to examine him as well.”
“Okay,” said Isaac. He hated this. “He’s been seeing Twila about his headaches, and I don’t think it would be hard to convince her to let Lee do an examination too, especially if I convince Nicholas it’s a good idea.” Twila wouldn’t say no to Nicholas if she thought it was something that would help him, and she wouldn’t let her pride get in the way of asking for help from someone who could give it to her.
“Good.” Yancy sighed. “There is one bit of bad news, I’m afraid. As I understand them, homunculi are typically unable to function without a guiding principle. This is something that powers them and allows them to live, for otherwise they lack the will to do so.”
Oh. Isaac looked down at the table, at the fist he’d balled up without realizing it. “Nicholas’s guiding principle is Klaus,” he said quietly.
“I cannot be certain, of course,” Yancy said softly. “But yes, I suspect this is the case. We will do everything in our power to find a way to replace that with something else or to make Nicholas independent of it, but at present, I fear that even if we knew how to sever Klaus’s threads, to do so would kill Nicholas.”
4 thoughts on “Chosen One, 90”
Do all spirits look like jellyfish, or just the ones that hang around mage academies?
Spirits don’t often look like anything; corporeal forms that people see are just their interpretations of something harder to express. That said, those interpretations take very different forms, so no, not all spirits look like jellyfish. 😀 Thanks!
Oh, wow. Fuck you, Klaus.
Someone ought to tie your life to a “guiding purpose” that isn’t your own. And/or make you dependent on regular mind control, complete with blackouts and debilitating headaches. See how you like it.
(And by “someone” I mean Nicholas, turning Klaus’s own magic back on him through sheer willpower. The sheer poetic justice alone gives me hope that that’s actually possible. That, and the fact that Klaus has clearly tied Nicholas to him very closely, metaphysically speaking, and that kind of bond isn’t usually one-way…)
Yeah, fuck Klaus indeed. We should see how he likes it being in Nicholas’s position for a while. He deserves it. It would be super compelling if it were Nicholas who were able to do that. I could definitely see him turning the tables on Klaus, which would be apropos, I think.