Conversations With Esmé

Esme's Accident

Maleos: I warn my Mentor that I need to ask her a question which might sound a little alarming or disturbing at first, but for her to please not to panic and just be as honest and constructive as she can in her response to it. I am only trying to feel out the shape of things, nothing more. This is likely not the first time I have prefaced a question in this way. Usually it means I'm about to ask something that questions unspoken assumptions we all take for granted.

Esmé: *pauses and eyes you* "All right, yes, let's get on with it. Which law of nature would you like to discuss today?"

Maleos: "Ehhh…" handwaves "Economics? Cause-and-effect? Luck? Basically I want to know if you can think of any way in which your Automatic Cart-Puller might have posed a threat to the whole of Isle if it had been successful."

Esmé: "Heh. Hardly. They fixed it after I left. Nothin' real sinister, other that some idiot apprentice smith forgin' outside his talents. Really his master's fault, not doin' the work his own self. Laziness, that's what it was, pure laziness."

Maleos: Interesting. "So they're still using the items you crafted? Just, they're getting them from some other artificer?"

Esmé: "Ain't much for gettin' rid o' useful items up in the mines. Hard enough work as it is. They got a dang army o' magickers up there anyway always checkin' out the equipment. Can't afford not to."

Maleos: "Were you gaining money or influence too quickly? Were you… I don't know… proud or cruel or something? Was there any chance you'd corner the market on those other magickers if things had continued the way they were?"

Esmé: *snorts out a laugh* "Oh, heck no. There's too much work up in the mines for anyone to corner it. That's parta the problem, really. Got too many apprentices doin' too much work, and hard work at that."

Maleos: face falls "That's… completely backwards…" realizes that that statement makes no sense without context "I'm sorry. It just keeps sticking in the back of my mind that this feels like a parable. Only, the moral is missing. Or rather…" frowns "Any moral I can pull out of it is backwards. When there's too many apprentices, send the Master away. Don't trust other peoples' craftsmanship. If you want a job done right, do it yourself. Seek understanding of metallurgy if you plan to become an artificer. Do you see what I mean? They're all backwards. The story is broken."

Esmé: *snorts out another small laugh and smiles wryly to herself* "Maybe it just ain't done bein' written."

Meleos: looks around at objects in the room with a face like he has a bad taste in his mouth "All right, let's explore that possibility. Let's say this was all an elaborate first act for something really important. Because the Gods work in mysterious ways, right? What are the options for Act 3? We try and fix your arm, thereby discovering powerful new healing spells? You become an even better artificer here than you were in Golddale? I assume we're beyond Act 2, because things seem to be getting better for you, not worse. You're past the trials and tribulations. This is your resolution. What was the lesson of the story?"

Esmé: "You think them priests knew all them lessons right when the story happened? Sometimes you gotta study, you gotta think things through. Sometimes you need some time and distance to figure things out."

Maleos: nods "Okay. That implies that you've figured something out here in Vilotford, thanks to that time and distance, that you never would have if you'd stayed in Golddale. What was it?"

Esmé: "Oh, I learned all sorta things. You listen up a little bit, I might even be able ta teach a few of 'em to ya." *chuckles*

Maleos: head droops a little bit, eyes still locked on hers. If he were wearing glasses, he would be looking over the tops of them now. He does not look amused

Esmé: *widens her eyes and eyebrows, lowering her chin at you* "Whaddya expect from me, kid? I ain't no priest. I'm a miner's magician. Philosophizing ain't my thing. Building is. You wanna know 'bout the gods, you go talk to them priests. Me, I figure I got hurt in an accident just like hundreds o' others, and things didn't go my way for a little while. But I ain't no quitter. I found me a new job, and I'm gonna put my back into it."

Maleos: nods, finally satisfied that he's at least heard what she had to say on the subject. "Seems to be working out for you so far. I wonder if we can think of a plan that would make what you were doing any safer without making it drastically less convenient for the miners?"

Esmé: "Oh, I wager they done enough to that equipment I'd barely recognize it after all this time. They's always workin' on it, tryin' to make it safer, but they gotta make it stronger and more 'fficient, too. Gotta push forward. People gonna get hurt, but nobody wants that on their head, so they try to fix it when they do get hurt."

Maleos: nods "I'd imagine you saw efficiency improve continuously over the years you were there?"

Esmé: "Well, little bit here 'n there. Things don't always work like ya think they will, but you try it out, and you work it out. Speakin' o' workin' it out, why don't you get back ta workin' on that telekinetic spell? You ain't got it quite right yet there at the end. small pause Put yer back into it and get to figurin' it out." small smile

Maleos: smirks "Terrible metaphor for spellcasting." closes eyes and visualizes the web…

Magical Theory I

Maleos has been practicing Silent Image, trying to recreate (in as much detail as he can handle) a miniature scene of a mountain village. He's been practicing for years, off and on, just trying to perfect this illusion. He finally notices after a while that Esme seems to pay attention to the spell out of the corner of her eye, noting it appraisingly and with approval. When he notices, he pauses and says, "Maybe I'm ready…."

Esme: "Suppose that depends on what'cher thinkin' yer ready for."

Instead of a tiny village, an illusion of a web now floats in the center of the room. The center of the web dimly glows. One branch of the web has a bunch of structures branching off of it. That branch is bright blue, the rest of the web is white or grey.

Esme looks at the new illusion impassively.

Maleos: "This is a map of the spell I am currently maintaining. Any pointers?"

Esme: "Your analogy makes sense to you, but you'd have to describe it to me."

Maleos: "Of course. I suppose I'd hoped that since I was using your theories, some of it was universal enough… never mind. Magical Power flows from the Source. The web branches to the Schools of Magic. This one's Illusion." As I describe these parts, they glow yellow until I am done talking about them: "Raw magical power from the Source pools here, and I contain it following the Egg Metaphor. These strands were added while checking the eggs for cracks, and are different every time. The long strand is to ensure a Fizzle if I need it. The Mind's Eye isn't part of this map, but this is the Box where I put the contents of the Mind's Eye. Then elements from the box are sorted through these strands into… they're like scripts, I suppose? Like for actors? I actually had to weave all of this just to make sure the logs fell when I wasn't paying attention to them anymore. There's probably a simpler way to do that, if I could figure it out. And there's a few simple exercises folded into all of these paths… Beseeching The Source. Remember it For Me. Do it Again…" I make the reused components each their own color so they're recognizable. "Aaaaand once the structure is complete and I have my mental image in the box, I Invoke and Release in the usual manner." A glow flows from the center of the web, down the tendrils, there's an image of a really blurry tree in the Box for a moment, and then the source stops emitting and the magic pooled in the Egg gradually ticks down in an exaggerated fashion.

Esme: "Hmm. The structure's sound, if I follow. There's no problem with the spell, just with your mind." She softens for a rare moment. "All right, no, that came out wrong. Not wrong with your mind, exactly, just… untrained. There's no shortcut I can give you. You just have to work and practice."

Maleos: "I don't imagine for a second that visualizing our spells in this way makes things easier. It is merely a tool for sharing knowledge. I actually want you to show me yours, knowing full well that it means I will need to learn two sets of symbols instead of one. But it seems more elegant to me than using words to convey the same ideas. If I'm making a mistake, you'll be able to see it instantly, once we're both speaking roughly the same language."

Esme: "Well, let me think…." She ponders for a moment, then casts a similar illusion spell showing a 3-dimensional spinning set of ropes, pulleys, ramps, and other mining-type tools all meshing together. She then walks you through what they mean to her. Her visualization translates to yours, and you can see how, but the visual metaphor is different. Over the next few days, you go over both in detail. You can eventually see that the basic differences between her spells and yours are ones of scale and control. She can push and control more power with more delicacy than you can handle at this point.

Dale: Yes. If there's any minor efficiencies or corrections I can borrow off of her, I'll do that. Anything involving more power or control than I think I can handle, I'll just remember the structure but not try and force it just yet. Sort of mentally pencil it in off to one side of my existing model, as if for it to grow into one day.

GM: It's all very clearly stuff you can grow into. You can see how it just requires more practice so you can move your "sliders of control" more delicately. Like, so you can adjust the width and length of your web-threads with more levels of detail.

On Progress

Maleos: "True or false? Magic can affect the body?"

Esme: "Absolutely."

Maleos: "True or false? Magic can affect the mind."

Esme: "Yup."

Maleos: "Magic can affect the will?"

Esme: "How is the will distinct from the mind?"

Maleos: "It's a little like saying 'Magic can affect the body, but it cannot affect the feet.' I want to confirm or deny that the will is a part of the mind that is affectable by magic."

Esme: "Yes."

Maleos: "What, other than the mind, body, and will, does a spellcaster use to cast a spell?"

Esme: "Magic."

*Maleos clucks his tongue for a bit before continuing.*

Maleos: "Can magic affect previously cast magic?"

Esme: "Yuuup."

Maleos: "Can magic affect subsequently cast magic?"

Esme: "In a way."

Maleos: "And we know it can affect concurrently cast magic… Wait, in a way? In what ways can't it?"

Esme: "Well, 's hard to predict what someone's gonna cast in the future, ain't it? So it's hard to put together a spell that'll affect a later spell in a meaningful way without makin' it generic enough to affect a lotta spells and dumpin' a lotta power into it."

Maleos: "Oh! Yes, of course." *steeples fingertips* "I don't want you to take what I'm about to ask as a symptom of laziness. I feel like that would be unfair. But can you think of anything that rules out the possibility of designing a spell that makes you better at designing spells?"

Esme: "What do I think about it? I got one. You just ain't learned it yet. Gonna take you a little while to get the control you need fer it. But you'll get there, sometime, I'll wager that.
(Good god, that almost sounded like a compliment!)

(Various types of grins compete for space on Maleos's face.)

Maleos: "Bearing in mind that I still have no intention of burning to cinders attempting to cast a spell that's beyond my current abilities, can I ask how it works? Just the broad strokes"

(Esme tries to roughly explain it to Maleos. It's broader but not as deep, actually - 'cause she's talking about Fox's Cunning)

Maleos: "Amazing. We have a spell that just… makes you smarter. That's certainly the simplest way to go about it. I never even considered that route."

Esme: "Well, don't go tryin' it now. You won't work so good with a hole burned in that head-meat."

Maleos: "Hey, same deal as usual. You tell me when I'm ready. I ask you when I'm confused. Can it be cast on other people?"

GM: (Whatever it says in the spell description - I think yes) ("The transmuted creature becomes smarter.")

Maleos: "Do you remember things you've learned while it was in effect?"

Esme: "Yup. You just kinda think quicker when you're on it."

Maleos: "Is it dangerous or addictive in any way?"
(Spell desc says nothing of the sort)

Esme: "All magic's both."

Maleos: *nods* "Fair enough. Do you suppose it would be counter-productive to use it during our lessons?"

Esme smirks. "Who says I ain't?"

Maleos: *smirk* "Oh, come on. Surely with a head as hard as mine, you'd need to spend minutes casting the…" *blinks, casts Detect Magic, starts looking around the room for anything glowy*

Esme: "Naw, all right, that ain't fair. I usually ain't. Gets hard to get the components, see, so I ain't got 'em all that much."

GM: There's totally glowy shit in the room.

Maleos: "Okay. True. But… you're an artificer." *squints suspiciously at a hat, but no, he already knows what that one does* "If you plan on making your life's work the creation of new mages, would it not make sense to craft a reusable item that requires no further components?"

Esme: "Sure does. If I ever get the time and the materials together to do it,I damn sure will.

Maleos: *chews lip* "What kinda components are we talking about?"
(for the item, not the spell components, sorry, pretend he said materials)

GM: (I'd have to figure it up. To make it continuous-effect or permanent, though, I believe those items are pretty damned expensive. So you're looking at 50% of that cost, plus XP, so maybe like 15,000 gp worth of stuff. That's probably the amount of money someone would earn in a lifetime or two.)

Maleos: "Right, but even a rechargable item, or a focus or fetish that can be used instead of the fox hairs and dung, would work for the purposes of overcoming the rarity of material components. Or you could. Y'know. Get a pet fox."

GM: (Yes, she could, if she can catch and tame one (which is considerably cheaper). But the effect is much shorter, and you're still talking materials plus XP for a charge-based item.)

Maleos: (True. Maybe just not 15000 worth.)

GM: (Not initially. Over time, it might be. Depends on how often she'd use it. Having a pet fox, that's cheaper, but then she can maybe cast this spell… max 4 or 5 times a day, I think. So you're talking about fairly limited timeframe.)

Maleos: (Can we have had that echange in character? About the one or two lifetimes, and the possibility of keeping a fox?)

GM: (It'd go about the same. :) )

Maleos: *mental image of shiny golden coins flitting back and forth through darkness* *eyes suddenly go wide* "How many lifetimes would a well-crafted permenent item last?"

Esme: "Not rightly sure. More'n one. We've got stuff in the mines centuries old, but it needs repair from time to time.
Gets used a lot, though."

Maleos: "A couple of lifetimes worth of money for… *several* lifetimes worth of enhanced intelligence would…" *frowns* "No… it wouldn't be distributed evenly. Hmmm."
"Perhaps you could make one for each of the three… no. Each town has a different number of people making decisions. And if you gave more to one town than the others, that might look like favoritism. Hmmm. Give me a moment…"

Esme: "'S a thinker, that one, ain't it? And just 'cause someone's got more… capacity to think 'bout somethin' don't mean they're gonna use it right anyway."

Maleos: "Well, yes. But certainly if you cast a spell that makes me stupider, I'd get into trouble, right?"

Esme: "Maybe. But we got some simpleton's round the mines that do good work, don't never get into trouble, just can't do complicated work."

Maleos: "Well then… is there a spell that make you better at choosing how to use your intelligence more wisely?"

Esme: "Yup, but'cha run into the same types of problems. Diff'rent problems, mind, but the same types."

Maleos: *chews lip* "Spell makes ya nicer?"

Esme: "heh. Sorta. But how many spells you gonna layer on someone? Nicer, smarter, wiser, that solves some of the problems, but you gotta get more information to make good decisions, so now you gotta have a buncha divinations…"

Maleos: "I'm banking on there being some sort of large-scale, long-term solution that a bunch of smart, wise, nice people could come up with that regular people never would. Worst case scenario, they spend a month re-casting rituals and thinking about it, and conclude that 'nope, it would just make things worse.' "

Esme: "Mebbe. But maybe they do somethin' inadvertently makes everythin' a whole lot worse, too."

Maleos: "Well that's why you need to take small steps and do the thinking first, during and after."

Esme: "Aint that what we're already doin'?"

Maleos: *ponders*

"I'm not sure."

*looks up* "That's not impatience talking. I literally don't have enough information to answer the question."

Esme: "And do you think if you were a little bit smarter, you would?"

Maleos: *thinks, slow smile* "No. But I'll bet I can find somebody who does."

Esme: "Hmmmph."

Maleos: "Oh, don't be that way. You're the smartest, wisest, and most learned person I know. But you're away from home. And you said yourself that even if you went back home for a visit, you wouldn't recognize what they're doing now in the place you're best equipped to judge progress. So I just need to find someone else to ask. Maybe a few someones. Get a couple different points of view. Conflicting opinions."

Esme: "You think just a few would suffice?"

Maleos: "Nah. But how many people are old enough to have watched the world change around them and experienced enough to judge something as arbitrary as change for the better?"

Esme: "Mebbe ya ain't considered that the answer to that question could be 'no one.'"

"After all, sometimes actions have consequences that ain't clear 'til long after them that did 'em are long gone."

Maleos: "Okay. But then surely the best thing we could do for future generations would be to keep track of as much of the causes and effects as possible so our grandchildren can learn from our mistakes, right?"

Esme: "Sure. If ya can."

Maleos: *ponders*

*eyes flit back and forth*

*suddenly makes eye contact* "Are we?"

Esme: *thinks for a moment* "Probably, sometimes. Maybe not as much as we should, but probably more than we useta."

Maleos: "No, I mean… are we keeping track of it? Your Master's Master's Master's Master. How many spells did he know when he died? How long did he live? How many trees were felled and how much metal was mined and all the rest of it? Obviously you wouldn't know about some of those things, but I'll bet you at least know the first one. Right?"

Esme: "Nope. I know some of the spells he knew, but some of 'em got lost. Books ain't forever, and you gotta take care with 'em. Fires happen, floods happen. And paper ain't free."

Maleos: *face falls. this is as grave as Esme has ever seen the young man. If you told a miner a rockslide had just sealed off the exit, he might make this face.*

(Esme's face remains impassive)

Maleos: "That opens up the possibility that… we're getting worse… not better… with each passing generation…"

Esme: "Yup. So we put systems into place to fight that. Like apprenticeships, where you gotta copy my whole grimoire 'n understand it all afore you pass outta my care."

Maleos: *rubs face, lets out a huge sigh* "If we are getting worse… that won't help. Because your grimoire is printed on paper. Can I carve it into stone?"

Esme: "Sure. How long you got? And where you gonna find the stone to do it? Where you gonna keep it all? And stone ain't permanent, either. I should know, I cut through enough of it."

Maleos: *starts to open and close his mouth a couple of times, but he can't think of a way to take the conversation any further without making things worse*

Just in case anyone's reading his mind, his unspoken rebuttal was almost "What if we DID it in the past and then FORGOT about it!?"
*mental image of bridge, dream flashback feels*

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