In this part of the world, it’s bonfire time. This requires a roaring blaze, the pervasive scent of woodsmoke, autumnal chill upon one’s cold-flushed cheeks, and maybe some marshmallows precariously blobbing off a long stick. The fire, however, is the critical element of a good campfire, well before sugary treats and camaraderie. And some weeks, a story needs a spark to get started.
|Fiona Grey||A choreographed dance of magical dust motes||AC Young|
|AC Young||The siblings’ familial nicknames were “littl’un” and “littler’un”. There was one slight complication – these days littler’un was taller than littl’un.||Fiona Grey|
|Padre||“The storm rolled over the house, rain and lightning hammering down on them from on high.”||Cedar Sanderson|
|Becky Jones||The morning coffee klatch lasted until well after midnight.||Padre|
|Leigh Kimmel||A faint whiff of skunk||nother Mike|
|nother Mike||There was a rock in his pocket…||Leigh Kimmel|
|Cedar Sanderson||they were late, quick, and dirty||Becky Jones|
Forgot to send a prompt into email@example.com this week? We’ve got your story embers right here with the spares.
|Spare||“Ketchup,” she squealed with a giggle, and sprinted toward the finish line of the French Fry Race.|
|Spare||In autumn the leaves of the Indigo Oak turn a deep purple.|
|Spare||The group comprised the most artistic of known aliens, but it was disconcerting to find out the Odds of the human world were, in fact, part of a greater, likeminded whole.|
|Spare||Of frogs and men|
|Spare||Under the boardwalk…|
|Spare||“And I am ethereal girl”|
And if that story that started with just a glowing coal turns into a towering blaze of an inferno? In that case, we’d love to read it!
Header image by Fiona Grey, Stone Bridge, Hocking Hills
A prompt exchange for me this week, with Fiona Grey supplying: A choreographed dance of magical dust motes
A magical scenario, so a trip back to Farandimium seemed called for.
Ligramion walked into the exam room with two piles of parchment in his arms. This was the Advanced Magical Theory Practical Exam.
He had been preparing for this for most of his final year at the Farandimium Academy of the Magical Arts. There had been times when he had been half-convinced that he had set himself a task that was beyond his abilities, but he’d succeeded in the end.
The exam required him to produce a single spell. He would be marked on its complexity, replicability, and power requirements.
On the complexity measure, the more complex the spell the better. However, only necessary complexity would generate the marks. If the examiners believed that a certain complication was not necessary, no marks would be awarded – and if they believed that he was able to find a simpler solution to that particular element of the spell, he would be docked marks.
For the replicability element of the exam, one of the examiners (who hadn’t seen Ligramion cast the spell) would cast it as well, and how close the effects of the two spells were would determine how many marks he received.
Finally, the exam was only intended as a test of the student’s abilities to construct complicated spellwork, not a test of their magical power. So if the spell required too much magical energy to cast, Ligramion would be penalised.
Ligramion made his way to the desk, and handed over the piles of parchment to the examiners. Then he made his way to the back of the hall to wait with the rest of the examinees.
The first stage of the exam was boring. The examiners confirmed that the two copies of each student’s spell were identical. Then for each student, they randomly selected one of the copies, and an examiner. The selected examiner took the selected copy of the spell and headed out to an office to prepare it.
Six students were taking the exam, so six examiners left the room.
Then the students were required to demonstrate their spell. Ligramion was first. He stood in front of the remaining examiners and spoke the incantation. It had taken a lot of work to reduce the spell to a single sentence. Many of the words were otherwise-nonsense words, to which Ligramion had assigned extremely detailed and specific meanings through the preparatory spellwork in preparation for today.
The spell worked very well, and the other students all clapped. The remaining examiners looked impressed.
Ligramion sat back down and the other students performed their spells. Ligramion clapped each one since that was the done thing.
Then the examiners started to review the spells. Ligramion had provided them with the incantation, all the preparatory spells needed to impart the necessary meanings to the non-standard words used, and the instructions on the order in which the preparatory spells needed to be cast. For each spell he’d carefully noted the language in which the spell was written.
Ligramion had written the first layer of preparatory spells in Kalantarian. The second he’d written in Old Lantar, and the third in Tarlag. Two more old, nearly forgotten, languages were used for the fourth and fifth layers. Ligramion had worked hard on his ancient languages this last year, and had enjoyed applying his new knowledge.
Then the first of the examiners came back in. The examiner cast one of the other student’s spells. The result wasn’t quite the same as when the student had cast it earlier, but it was pretty close. Ligramion was impressed. The casting examiner was asked his opinion on the complexity of the spell – all was necessary was his opinion.
Four more examiners came back in and tested spell replicability. But the examiner with Ligramion’s work had still to return.
Then he did. The examiner repeated Ligramion’s incantation. Dust flew into the air, and arranged itself into the outlines of two figures, one male and one female, both in evening dress. The dust changed colour, to match the scene before everyone.
The figures then came together, and started to dance. It was a formal waltz-like dance. They spun clockwise around each other, and travelled anti-clockwise around the floor. One circuit of the floor, and the figures halted, before they came apart, the dust – back in its normal grey – flying into the nearest bin.
Ligramion smiled. He couldn’t help himself. The examiner’s spell had produced exactly the same effect as his own. Perfect replicability demonstrated.
“Do you have any observations on the spell’s complexity?” asked one of the bank of examiners of the one that had just cast the spell.
“I could simplify the spell a great deal. So could anyone else who knows what a turn and counter-turn should look like. But the goal is universal replicability, and someone who doesn’t know how to dance the Zwotat needs the full detail in order to cast the spell as intended.”
All spells had now been cast and replicated (to varying degrees of replication). The students were now released, while the examiners continued to study the spells.
Ligramion was confident of getting a really good mark in this exam.
LikeLiked by 3 people
I wanted to mention that I really like the way this builds. There’s a progression in what we, the reader, find out, that culminates in having the dusty figures dance, which is very nicely done! From the exam, and explaining the requirements’ to the stages of the exam, with comparing copies, then doing the spell (without telling us what it does!) and then slowly coming up to the replication… very nice! Keeps us wondering!
Leigh Kimmel incited with…
A faint whiff of skunk
[Which reminds me of the time that my roommate came back to our room one afternoon from wherever he was supposed to have classes. He had made the mistake of going in, and found out that someone, in a fit of unbridled protest, had dumped a bottle of chemicals in the foyer. When he walked into our room, I took one sniff and said, “Go get in the shower now! And I will bring you tomato juice as soon as I can find some.” See, our clever students had dumped pure skunk essence, and just walking in and back out was more than enough to leave him stinking. Oddly enough, several other students also got caught, and most of them didn’t know you should wash with tomato juice to help cut the stink. (Which a quick google tells me is not really effective, but y’a know, I’ve washed a lot of dogs with tomato juice, and that day we washed several students, and it seemed to help?). Anyway, that’s one of the memories that skunk smell brings back to me…]
[now, I should think about putting that phrase into a story…]
LikeLiked by 1 person
Theoretician: There is NO WAY that could possibly work!
Empiricist: And yet it DOES!
LikeLiked by 1 person
[okay, how about a glimpse of a hunting trip gone very wrong…]
Harvey glared through the trees, looking for the deer he had come to hunt. He kept his rifle raised, knowing that he might only get one shot when he found a deer. He felt so frustrated, having spent the morning tramping through the woods, without finding anything.
That’s when he noticed the first faint whiff of skunk. He sniffed, and blinked his eyes. Yes, that was definitely skunk.
Then he looked down. Just in time to see the black and white stripes, and the bushy tail lifting far too near his leg.
The spray left no doubt as to who had caught whom today.
He ran, and choked, and slowly limped back into his camp. Where the other hunters wrinkled their noses and chased him back out to the nearby stream, telling him to soak and wash until the stink was gone.
He knew this day of hunting would be laughed about for weeks to come.
[sorry, just a little snippet]
LikeLiked by 2 people
A story to laugh about years (and years) later when the smell has *finally* dissipated!
LikeLiked by 1 person
[…] This week’s MOTE prompt was a trade with AC Young – Little’un and Littler’un trading in size, and magical dust mores. Check out his detailed response – and more! – out here. […]
LikeLiked by 2 people
[…] Padre with: the morning coffee klatch lasted until well after midnight. Make your way on over to More Odds Than Ends to see what everybody came up with. If you feel so inclined, pick up a spare for yourself and join […]
Got mine up.
And now mine is up on my LiveJournal at https://starshipcat.livejournal.com/1228850.html. Not the story I’d wanted to write, just a pale shadow of it, flat like an open can of pop left in the fridge too long — because I didn’t start writing as soon as I sketched it out, when I was still excited about it. But at the time it seemed like the other projects were more urgent.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Give it a chance! I mean, if he’s managed to hold onto that stone for so long, it’s got memories attached to it. I could see him half-way stroking and almost hiding it, and then sharing it with her. And feeling relieved when she gives it back. I think this may well turn into a little character piece, which may indeed thread through other pieces as he juggles that stone and thinks about what it means to him.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes, what Mike said. This is the sort of interplay and backstory I love. It makes the world feel real.
Becky Jones prompted me with “The morning coffee klatch until well after midnight.” I was originally going to run with another Father Michael or Dave Peterson episode, but I’m not feeling a mystery today. So I started wondering what a coffee klatch would look like in fantasy or sword and sorcery. While Drak would be fun, this type of scene is much more Vinal’s world, as much as he hates it.
Vinal kept the smile plastered to his face as he looked around the daintily, tastefully decorated salon. He hated these soirees. The pretty people of the city were gathered here to see and be seen, with the occasional side deal worked in for good measure. Your reputation in these functions was worth more than your wealth. Everyone here was wealthy, whether obscenely or merely moneyed at some level. He was here, of course, for the deals and gossip.
This gathering had been going since midmorning. Men and women swanned in, spent time with others of their kind, and left for different pastures. They nibbled on the dainties their hostess provided and sipped on the bitter drink that was all the rage in these parts.
Caffe they called it. As near as Vinal could tell, it was the bean of a plant that grew in lands far to the south, in wetter and hotter regions than even this seacoast town. The beans were harvested, brought to Farthin, where they were sold to the caffe roasters who processed the beans and prepared them for market. The rich then purchased them, ground them, and served them in a variety of ways.
Vinal had realized early on that there was an entire culture around the drink in this city. Despite its bitter taste, caffe had underlying earthy notes and a wide variety of subtle flavors each of which had various supporters among the nobility. And it had a surprisingly energizing effect on the drinker. He wondered if he could cut a deal with the merchants to bring it back to the empire. It would be a popular hit with the nobles there, men and women who constantly sought the next great thing to one-up their fellows. He hated all of them, but was willing to take their money.
He snagged another delicate porcelain cup of it and sipped daintily. The heat burned a little at first, but then the smooth, earthy richness cooled in his mouth and he sighed and swallowed, enjoying the way it flowed down his throat. Maybe there was something to this after all. It was well after midnight, but he felt like he didn’t need to sleep yet. He’d probably pay for this in the morning, but every one of these gossip sessions he went to increased his reputation and his access in the city.
“So, Vinal. Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Very much so,” he replied.
His hostess waved him to a chair cattycorner to her divan, and he sat as delicately as a man of his girth could. “So. What are you trawling for in these waters?” she asked.
“Trawling for? I’m merely enjoying the company of the fine people of this city,” He replied. “The nobility of Farthin have a fascinating reputation.”
“Fascinating?” She sniffed and rolled her eyes. “That’s one way to put it. There is isn’t half a brain between any three of them, they only care about being pretty or getting into someone else’s bed, and would faint dead over if that barbarian friend of yours so much as glared at them.”
Vinal smiled, while his brain raced behind his eyes. Here, at last, he thought, is someone worth talking to.
LikeLiked by 2 people