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Forgotten Resonance

Rolan' de Kipp pen Han

Some memories are crystalline. If they were a painting of a sober, slightly neglected tower on a wooded hill across a river from a small town, you would be able to look where you would and see the smallest details clear and fine. Others are soft-focused, The tower bright and clear, but the trees behind it more vague and bland. The town across the river a mere suggestion of crowded, peaked roofs and narrow, winding streets. This memory was of the second sort, from before he remembered everything in crystal clarity. From before he died the first time. All the detail was in the tower.

He didn't remember this one very often. Two hundred centuries buried it, hid it under whole strata of different moods, different viewpoints, different thought-paths. Worse, memories from his mortal life actually faded, lost detail. He had once cataloged more than twenty years, scattered here and there throughout five decades, where he didn't recall a single thing.

She had changed all that when She took him, killed him, re-cast him in her eternal crystalline memories. Nothing faded. Nothing became vague. Things just piled up, layer on layer. How many times had he haggled for this apple? Hundreds. Thousands. Sometimes it had a worm in it, or perhaps a brown spot. Sometimes he was desperately hungry. Sometimes he was pompous, or humorous. How many curves had his knowing fingers, his scholar's fingers followed, finding with subtle pressures the nerves learned by a hundred, a thousand lover's lifetimes.

Slowly, after an age, he learned to sort them like scrolls and tomes; to move through his past like a wizened scholar shuffling from room to room, tome to scroll. But all that came later, during the Twin Empire. This memory was old. He came across it like finding a scrap of parchment tucked into a favorite, but seldom read, book.


The Great and Powerful Arch-wizard Rolo Kipp absently wiped his nose on his sleeve and nearly smeared three hours of meticulously drawn arcs, lines and symbols. Sighing, he put his quill down and pinched the bridge of his nose, squeezing his eyes against the dull throb of stuffed sinuses and strained eyes.

Rolo was grumpy. The greatest wizard of his age and he couldn't even cure a cold. Nimble fingers touched a pouch at his waist and flicked another pinch of wintergreen on the brazier beside him. He could call down lightning, raise up elementals and create wonders, but when it came to this blasted cold he was reduced to hedge-witch herbs and wiping his beaked nose on his sodden sleeve.

The room, walled with shelves alternating with windows, was stuffy and stale. Between the last of summer, the sealed windows and the large brass brazier, the room was hot and redolent with herbs, incense and the astringency of alchemy. Yet Rolo was chilled even in his heavy working robe. He wiped his nose and stared out the window toward the small town of Wayside.

He could hear his older apprentice chatting up the tower maid on the floor below. Lyob Yap was supposed to be trying to salvage one of the Magnilletti scrolls. Rolo just couldn't seem to summon up the energy to berate him.

The diamond shaped panes of imperfect, bubbled glass drew his thoughts. He thought ruefully of the great ruins of towering buildings sheathed in perfect glass and mirrors still to be found in odd places of the world. For all their folly, men had produced wonders in the Age of Tek-nolgi.

Mucus gathered at the tip of his nose. He sighed again and wiped it. Bending over his angled work desk, he dipped the crow's quill in the tiny bottle of arcane ink. He was just finishing the third canto of the most complex spell he'd ever created. He had to concentrate, focus nearly as hard on this draft as on a real, powered spell. There was something wrong with the third canto, the simplest, most elegant part of the spell; a feedback loop that was supposed to regulate the first canto via the second. Until he tracked down and countered or eliminated that destructive resonance in the third, he dared not try the spell with power. Yet the third, whether he charted it with Pyrellian logic symbols, tabulated it in a Mordon matrix or drew it in his own secret symbology, it always worked out clean and elegant.

The secret to mastery was not so much in the blood, as most laymen, and even some adepts, thought. It was in the mind-paths, in the way a wizard thought. Where most adepts worked with established formulas and painstakingly learned rituals, Rolo had always conceived of magic as the known examples of an unknown set of rules. Even as an apprentice he had sought to derive the rules behind the procedures instead of mastering the formulas. His own mastery came when he suddenly began to think his spell-weaves in three dimensions. As if he'd been admitted into a secret club, many obscure texts and the references of other masters suddenly became clear.

This time he was trying a modification of his own symbology. He had developed an extension to his symbology that should allow him to develop his third canto in a fourth dimension; time. The problem was that it didn't seem to help. That and it gave him a headache.

Even drawn out in four dimensions, the resonance appeared full-blown in his practice trances. It did not start and end. It did not fade in and fade away. It just was; an inherent flaw in the spell-web.

Blotting a final temporal precedence note on a forward energy hook, Rolo leaned back and examined his latest draft. The arcs, circles, polygons, coordinate axii and arcane symbols would be insane scratches to an illiterate. Even an adept would have been unable to see more than that there was purpose behind the chart. Only Rolo and, to a limited extent, his older apprentice could interpret the substance and weave of the spell-web. The chart was complete and accurate. He was almost ready for another practice trance. But first, he needed some tea; piping hot and over-sweetened.

Rolo capped his ink and cleaned his quill. His knees creaked when he stood and he straightened his back with a groan. At fifty-four he did not think himself old, but he could not deny his body was slowing down. It seemed odd contrast to the way his mind seemed to be speeding up; leaping through proofs and calculations that once took plodding hours or days.

He paused to pass a hand, draw a glyph and think a pattern over the glowing symbols set into the stone floor. They faded and a subtle sense of power-in-waiting eased from the room. With a sniff that had more to do with self-pity and a runny nose than hubris, he headed down to Lyob's study.

The sound of his footsteps interrupted a giggle and there was a faint rustle of clothing and movement. When the wizard came around the turn of the stair he found Lyob studiously bent over some scrolls and the maid Trifl industriously dusting a leaning stack of tomes across the room. Rolo was neither fooled nor amused.

“Well, boy? What have you got out of that trash?” Neither the apprentice nor the maid caught the double entendre, which was probably just as well.

Lyob tried to sound enthusiastic; “It's pretty interesting stuff really, Master. Apparently the Magnilletti considered half the Pyrellian patterns to be 'destructively flawed'.” Rolo's eyebrows rose a bit. The boy, man really, had actually done some work on the ancient scroll fragments that were all that remained of an obscure school of magic. Still, the contempt the Magnilletti felt toward the Pyrellians, and vice versa, was not exactly secret knowledge.

“And have you deciphered how they thought the patterns were flawed?” Rolo pushed.

“Not all of them, but one dissection of the Pyrellian energy toroid claimed the formulas behind the pattern were valid only over a limited range of values. Power outside that range could introduce instabilities that would collapse the toroid.”

“Nonsense! “ Rolo snapped. “The Pyrellian energy work is the foundation of modern magic. Their patterns, with little improvement, power the strongest spells ever cast! No wonder the Pyrellians took exception to those idiots. What else?”

Lyob began to look a little unsure of himself, finally picking up on his master's sour mood. The maid scrunched her face behind Rolo's back and blew the apprentice a kiss before slipping out of the study. It looked like the handsome young man was going to be sweating a few hours under the old man's tongue.

“Well, ah, there is an octant of a Mordon matrix demonstrating an alternate energy storage weave that they claim is valid for much greater power levels. It's not complete, but what is there  looks right...”

“Bull...oney!” Rolo didn't like to swear in front of his students. “The Mordon philosophy didn't exist until the Plague of Demons! Show me what you've mistaken as a Mordon matrix.” he demanded. Then he sniffed loudly, wishing he had ignored the boy's flirting and just made himself a cup of tea.

Apprentice Yap had been sure of that matrix, proud of it in fact. Only now did he remember that the Mordon monks came into existence battling the demons loosed by Tek-nolgi during the Fall of Man, well after the Pyrellians obliterated the Magnilletti. He dug despondently through his notes for the right parchment and turned it for his master to read.

Rolo snorted and bent to squint at the boy's penmanship. Truthfully, his runes were far more elegant than Rolo's, if not so natural. Skipping the translations he looked over a grid of symbols and modifiers, automatically tallying them in eight directions. He muttered “Hmm. They do pass tally, what there is of them.”

In a slightly mollified tone he said “If your translation is accurate, I'll grant it looks Mordon. Let me see the original.”

Feeling half-vindicated, Lyob hastily fished the stiff, spell-preserved fragment of snow-white almost-parchment from the heap of other scraps. Twelve hundred years old and the ink was still pitch black, where the fragment hadn't been burned away.

As Rolo began to look puzzled, Lyob's spirit rose. It was beginning to look like he had discovered something after all. He hesitated a moment and asked “Was I right? Is it Mordon?”

Rolo glanced up with a queer smile. “Hmm? No, not quite. Pre-Mordon, I am sure. But definitely an ancestor.” He turned back to the fragment and added “Good job.” Lyob felt elated. The old man was stingy with compliments.

Rolo held out a hand without looking “Translation, please.” Lyob handed it to him and watched the arch-wizard looking back and forth, that strange smile growing unconsciously. The job had seemed like make-work a few days ago; one of hundreds of translation and copying jobs the old man made him do. Now it seemed like his make-work was of some importance.

Rolo slid the sheets together. “Look through the other fragments, See if you can find any of the other seven octants to this.” He frowned, “And leave the girl be, you hear? Have fun away from my tower, on your own time.”

“Yes, Master.” Lyob tried to sound meek but was feeling too exhilarated.

Rolo didn't notice; he was already headed up the stairs. He had quite forgotten his tea. Although he did a good job of hiding it, he was practically crowing in triumph. Not only had the clever student found what could be one of the greatest secrets of the last age – That the Mordon monks, who almost single-handedly preserved mankind against the demon plague, were Magnilletti - he had shown Rolo the flaw in the master work he had been struggling with for the last decade. The flaw wasn't in Rolo's elegant third canto. It was in the the Pyrellian energy toroid in the first canto; a spell-weave familiar to twenty generations of wizards. A pattern so practiced and polished that no improvement was thought possible. No wonder the First Age of Man had ended with the loosing of the Plague of Demons!

“Ha!” Rolo did a little skip at the top of the stairs. The pattern was flawed! And no one knew but him. He grinned wickedly. His great spell, a spell to match the legends from the Age of Wonder, would work. He would have to work out a new first canto, perhaps with the Magnilletti pendulum...

His headache and runny nose were completely forgotten. Without conscious thought, he brought the wards back to life, their blue glow pulsing with his heartbeat. Eschewing the painstakingly drawn third canto on his desk, so well known it was burned into his memory, he sat at a nexus of soothing power and entered a weaving trance.

Hours passed. Dark fell with the crescent of the Mother already at quarter-sky. Lyob quietly left a second matrix octant on the desk. Later he left a plate of cold meats and cheeses with bread and rich, fresh butter. The bright spark of the Child rose, raced across his Mother's crescent and set five hours later.

Rolo opened his eyes and smiled. He saw the food and grinned. Such a good boy. He spotted the second octant and laughed out loud. Wrapping a generous wedge of cheese with some turkey breast in the coarse, dark bread, he scanned the octant and tallied it in his head. He nodded, truly happy. He had the other six octants worked out.

A pendulum. The toroid became unstable at great concentrations of power. It wasn't the amount of power, it was the density. A pendulum would work regardless of power. Its own swing, in four dimensions, formed a stabilizing feed-back resonance. The greater the power, the more stable the pendulum. With a stable sink for power, his masterwork would contain itself. Elegant.

He felt so good!

With the pattern fresh in his mind, he began to weave. The warp and woof of the spell, three separate but interlocked layers, was incredibly complex. The power invoked was immense. Around the tower an aura grew and the air smelled of a coming storm. Above grew a black mountain of clouds and the wind swung lost about the compass.

In town, across the river, Lyob Yap awoke with some unknown urgency whimpering through  his dreams. Looking across the sheet-covered curves of his girlfriend he saw the glow about the tower and shivered.

Rolo completed the first canto. He had constructed the metaphor of a great lake whose waves rebounded between six shores like a metronome. He began the second canto which tapped into the power at the heart of the world. He began to smolder. There was no turning back.


Amethyst dreamed. Her great world-thoughts had never evolved for such simple uses as communication. She dreamed big. Then a simple thought, a linear thought that was not Her own entered Her dreaming. She was, so far as a world could be, startled.


Even as he laid the lines and set the paths of power, he burned. Time was of the essence. His bones showed glowing through his flesh. The Greater Fire, the fire of suns and gods, was too much for mortal to hold. Until now. Without haste, but with masterful speed, he invoked the brief, elegant third canto.


Amethyst felt! A mite, a midge, a tiny creature of infinitesimal life-span bit Her, drank a barely noticeable dollop of Her essence. By that essence it was preserved. By that essence it was joined. For the first time in Her awareness Amethyst had found a new viewpoint, a new thought-flow. She opened its eyes upon a melting tower and wondered with its tiny mind. Its mind was too small; She stretched it a bit.


Rolo screamed, overfull with alien sensation, mentation. He was burning alive, but that very fire etching his bones, glowing through his flesh, sustained him, kept him alive. The study burned around him, the stones beginning to soften and sag.

A presence in his mind was crushing him toward madness. She was squeezing his mind, looking through his eyes. She showed him infinity in a world-thought that was ecstasy and torture combined. She shared a rather simple gestalt that combined Her self-concept, curiosity about micro-life, determination to know him and jealous ownership of his thought-flow.

Rolo groaned a groan that immolated his younger apprentice and cook. His tower vanished in a ball of light and the river began to steam. Lyob Yap, standing naked at the window, stared with horror as the actinic light from the tower stretched upwards into a mushroom shape not seen since the demons ripped their way into the world.

Desperate to preserve his life, his identity, his humanity, Rolo threw open his mind before She could tear it open. He gave Her everything he was.


Amethyst integrated the mite's gestalt with ancient memories She had stored in living gems long ago. She had touched micro-life before. They were fragile. They always terminated before She could become them. It was odd, this “death”.


Rolo shouted with his mind, screamed at Her, warned Her death was coming, he was dying. He pushed Her with his tiny will “Getoutgetout Get OUT!


Surprised - at “death”, at “urgency”, at a will separate from Her, but joined to Her – She withdrew, still joined by his weaving, his power-tap. She thought. Deep below the surface a hundred trillion crystals, predominately amethyst, glowed with light. Thousands of semi-conducting substrates re-arranged themselves. Within the world's core superconducting filaments miles long writhed on the molten, radioactive surface of Amethyst's heart. She memorized Rolo – his physical structure, his thought-flow, his energy-weave.


The Arch-wizard Rolo Kipp became the first mortal to tap the Greater Fire and live. It took him only another hour of agony to develop a fourth canto that would let him die. With eagerness, relief, he breached the reservoir of power and released the waves. In a period too short to feel, he became ash and left a glassy crater where the town of Wayside once stood.

The screaming shock of body-memory made him jerk like a landed-fish. He was very surprised to awaken. He sat up and began to shake. He was nude, sitting in a cavern high on the side of a sheer mountain overlooking a warm green sea.

A world-thought squeezed him briefly. It was smug and possessive. He could die as often as he wished, She would always bring him back. He was Her Eye, Her micro-life mind-path.

A mile up the mountain Needlespire, the Eye of Amethyst began to weep.



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