Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Nature of Magic Blogfest

Being a fantasy writer, I couldn't help signing up for the Nature of Magic Blogfest hosted by Tessa Conte and Laura B. Diamond.Here's the premise:

Write or share something you've already written that, to you, shows the nature of magic. It can be an excerpt from your WIP, something you've written especially, poetry, whatever strikes your fancy. It just needs to show the nature of magic as it exists for you or for those you write about.

I've elected to share something written about how magic works in the fantasy world of my current WIP. I often find that the best way for me to figure things out is to write short scenes of dialogue between two characters where they discuss the subject in question. For this project, the two characters are a priest and his would-be student based on the anecdotes found in Plato about the Greek statesman Solon and his journey to Egypt to seek knowledge from the priests there. Thus the student is called Sollon and the priest I have named Menes after the legendary first pharaoh who united Upper and Lower Egypt. None of the scenes I write with them will end up in the WIP, they are mostly for my benefit. Though at some point I may post all the material I write about them for free through my blog. On the other hand, sometimes I feel that there may be a sequel to be gotten out of them. We'll see.

Anyway, here are Sollon and Menes discussing power and magic as it is understood in Akhet, the Light Land.

    Sollon sat at feet of Menes in the House of Life. The ancient priest was gnawing on a chunk of bread. Sollon folded his hands around his knees and took a deep breath to maintain patience. Something in the old man’s eyes told him this was just another test. At last Menes swallowed and grinned at his student.
    “45 days ago you asked me about the source of a priest’s power.”
    “Indeed, venerable one,” answered Sollon in surprise. “You said I was not ready for the answer.”
    Menes grunted. “You are not now so full of ignorant presumption as you were then.”
    Sollon did not know whether to feel insulted or praised. He settled for bowing his head in deference. “Thank you, venerable one.”
    “The source of our power is a great secret fit for only those who follow the way of the gods,” said Menes.
    Sollon held his breath, wondering if his frequent sacrifices had been enough to pass this particular hurdle. “The gods of Akhet are great,” he said.
    Menes nodded, his hawk like features fixed on his student. “The gods of Akhet are great,” he repeated. “So you must know that if you use the knowledge I am about to give you for unscrupulous ends you will be made to suffer for it.” The priest peered into Sollon’s face, looking for any insincerity. At last he seemed satisfied. “I have told you much of the gods. I have given you some knowledge of Re’s travels through the heavens and the Duat comprising the 24 hours that we count in the journey of the sun, 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. Know then that these realms of the gods’ abode, the heavens and the Duat, have properties which enable the gods to perform their duties and which extend even into the world of mortals.”
    Sollon frowned. “What kind of properties?”
    “It is a thing we do not fully understand even now,” Menes confessed. “Yet there is a... material sphere that we can neither see nor measure nor detect in anyway. Slowly it revolves around our mortal world and within it the stars are embedded. It is the realm of the gods.”
    “You mean... it is a place? Out there... in the sky?” Sollon questioned. He looked out the nearby window.
    “It is much more than a place,” Menes said. “It is a sphere of existence. Those of us who follow the way of the gods can reach into it. It is our ba that does this. When one’s ba is united to the will of the gods it gains strength, it is able to extend beyond you into the realm of the gods.”
    Sollon shook his head. “I still do not understand the ba.”
    “My ba is within me and it is without me. It is a part of me and it is more than me. I will become it when I die and I will also join it when I die,” said Menes.
    “Venerable one, you speak in riddles,” Sollon cried. “I cannot understand this thing.”
    Menes pointed to the table beside him on which was set a cup of beer. “Then watch.”
    Menes did not take his eyes off of Sollon, but Sollon watched the cup. There was... something... like an illusion in the air. He could only just see it and only because he was looking. It appeared like Menes and yet not like Menes. It grasped the cup and put it into Menes’ hand. Menes calmly drank of it.
    Sollon reeled. “I have never seen such a thing!”
    “It is not something that we show to outsiders,” said Menes with a tight lipped smile. “It is not something we do for the sake of doing. We obey always the will of the gods and use this power only in their service.”
    “Can you teach me to do as you have done?”

    “You must first know your ba and your ba must be united with the will of the gods,” Menes answered. “Then you may learn these things.”
    Sollon kept his gloating inward. After all these months! Being told he was an outsider and not worthy! Tested again and again but never being given anything but hedge knowledge!  Now he was finally going to learn of the true magic of Akhet.
    “I show you this thing because it has come to me from the wisdom of Dihauti, he of the Ibis, that you, Sollon, will be important to us soon,” Menes explained. “The Thrice-Great One sees darkness in the future of Akhet and you, Sollon, will be the light to guide us through it.”
    Sollon did not heed the old priest’s prophecy. It did not matter. He was going to be given the power he sought.


  1. Nice!

    I'm not far enough in my fantasy tale to share for a Blog fest. Fun idea, though.

  2. Loved this! When can I read the book? Lx

  3. Very intersting. I liked the explanation of 'ba'.

  4. very nice, and a great way to help yourself grasp the truths of your own book. i've never thought of writing scenes that won't end up in my book, but so many of the ones i intend to use don't end up there anyway, i might as well try it. thanks.

  5. Thanks!

    A lot of people probably work these things out just through notes or outlines. But I've found that putting my thoughts into characters' mouths is more productive to me. Dialogue is always my favorite thing to write.

  6. I like this approach to Egyptian concepts of the soul, and the basis of your fantasy magic in an appropriate culture.

  7. The mysterious appearance/nonappearance of the ba is very enticing! Especially since you describe so little of it.

  8. Is this ba the aether you talked about before? See, I pay attention!
    This excerpt is great for sorting things out, including your heroes character, right? I can tell he's a bit overzealous.. That's always fun!

  9. I've seen a few of these entries popping up on various blogs, and I'm really enjoying them. (Especially yours!)


  10. " an illusion in the air."
    "It is a sphere of existence."

    I really like those lines.

  11. Not quite, Laura. The ba is the part of the person that is capable of touching and affecting the aether, which is under normal circumstances untouchable and unalterable. I'll explain it a bit more in April when B is for Ba. :)

  12. I do that! Write scenes I know will not be in the story in the end, just to figure out how things work or to do some background illustration or something similar. It really helps me whenever I have plot issues.

    I also like your idea of magic, here, and the way you named your characters. I don't know much about egyptian mythology, but what I do know resonates with your story, which is cool.

    Thank you for sharing!


    ps. please pop in on March 30th to see the list of finalists and vote on your favourite!

  13. Fun! I agree that dialogue is often the best/easiest/most fun way to discover information for ourselves and share it with our readers - especially when that dialogue has a little zip of conflict.

  14. Nice twist at the end! A great excerpt--thanks for participating!

  15. I really like this one - I know a tiny bit about the Egytpian pantheon and the ba and ka, and this brought it right back to mind. Thank you for posting and I look forward to more!


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