WiP 7 (2018)

As the door closed behind the priest, Alaric found himself in a sort of waiting room or parlor.  He struggled to find a term that would bridge the gap between the room and his conception of a temple.  The walls were lined with floor to ceiling sets of shelves, themselves covered in myriad knick-knacks and bound tomes.  He assumed the former held some religious purpose, perhaps artifacts or relics.  The scale tiled floor was covered by a matched pair of rugs woven with abstract patterns.  When he stared too long, he felt a hint of vertigo and the harbingers of a headache.  A small host of upholstered chairs were arranged in groups of three or four around the room, mostly on the carpets.  They appeared as chairs everywhere at first glance, but there was something unsettlingly odd about them that Alaric couldn’t quite pin down.

He sat on the nearest chair that faced the door.

Alaric immediately shifted, trying to get comfortable.

After a few minutes of fidgeting, he gave up.

Instead, the sorcerer approached one of the sets of shelves.

He let his eyes roam over the artifacts as his mind wandered.

Jdal’s assertion that the wards and doors opened because they recognized dragon, or servitor, genes kept playing in his head.

The ancient man, he decided, had to be mistaken.  Back in the War era, they couldn’t have known about genetics.  Jdal had probably confused the word.  After all, he’d only been speaking English for maybe half an hour.  And he had been isolated from the world for millennia.

That had to be it.

Otherwise, he had implied that some, or all, humans, or sorcerers, were descended from the dragons or their servants.  That couldn’t be.  It flew in the face of all the histories recorded by mundanes, sorcerers, and non-humans.  Plus, if any genes came down from the humans who had directly served the dragons, they would have to be trace amounts after hundreds of generations.  Even if the families intermarried for a while . . . the genes would have to be too diluted.

Maybe.

He probably should have paid more attention as a novice.  Surely one of the healing masters had covered genetics at some point.  If they had said sorcerers were descended from dragons, he was certain it would have stood out.  That’s not the sort of thing a person forgot, especially with the history both species had.

These thoughts kept Alaric occupied such that he did not notice the door open or his host return until he heard the scrape of metal on wood.

Turning, he found Jdal standing near the open door, next to a gleaming tray.  A few plates and glasses, the former laden with unfamiliar foods and the latter empty, covered the tray.  A crystal bottle filled with a red-purple liquid sat on the table.

“Our stores are well preserved, but somewhat lacking in variety,” Jdal said, waving toward the table’s attendant chairs.  “But, we are happy to share what we have with our kin.”

The sight, and smell, of food reminded Alaric’s stomach that breakfast had been a long time ago.

He settled in the uncomfortable chair, noting that Jdal sank smoothly into its companion, and, at the other man’s nod, dug into the offering.  At first, the unusual scents were off-putting and Alaric thought about spoilage, but as Jdal ate too and seemed to suffer no ill effects, hunger born of exertion won out.

A short time later, with the initial pangs sated, both men leaned back in their chairs.

Alaric continued to shift slightly, trying to find a way to relax in comfort.  Jdal, he saw with a touch of jealousy, seemed perfectly comfortable and at ease.  For a second, he wondered if the chair was bespelled, to keep him off-balance and unsettled.  He dismissed the flashing thought, though.  Thus far, his host had seemed entirely courteous.

The younger man set down his glass and seemed to savor the flavor for a moment.

“You say the crescent region is divided today, Al?  It occurs to me to ask, when was it last united?”

Alaric thought for a few moments in silence.  Mundane history was not his forte.

“I guess, maybe, Alexander the Great . . . he died . . . maybe 2400 years ago.  Well after the War.  Before that . . . I don’t think it’s been unified in over 6000 years.  That’s the beginning of recorded human history.  The War had been over for a long time before then.  That, I do remember well.”

“So, at least six millennia have passed since the Great Ones went to sleep?  That their preservation and protection spells have held so long is a testament to their greatness,” Jdal mused.  “There is, I suppose, much that we must learn before waking them.”

Advertisements

WiP 6 (2018)

“I am Jdal, caretaker of this refuge.  No, ‘temple’, I think,” the young man finally said.  “Apologies.  I needed some words to process your language.  I am told we are quick, but we are not as good as the great ones with language.”

He paused, then smiled serenely.

“Welcome, Al, to a temple of the Techall.  Dragons,” he added the last at Alaric’s apparent confusion.

Alaric noted, suddenly once the initial shock was over, that Jdal had a mix of blue and silver auras.  So, he was the source of the place magic, and the strange new one.

“Thanks,” he said.  “What did you mean ‘refuge’?”

“A mistranslation, I think.  Your pardon, I am still acclimating to your language.”

“Sure.  Sure.”

After all, you’ve only been speaking it for a few minutes.

“Forgive my impatience, but since you are here and passed through the wards, I assume the War is over?  And it is safe for the great ones to return?”

“Hmm.  About that . . . Yes to the first.  To the second, well, it’s complicated.  But, how’d I get through the wards?  I just touched the door.”

“No one told you how to pass through the wards and open the door?” Jdal’s brow furrowed, “Has the knowledge been forgotten?  The doors and wards open when they recognize a great one or a servitor of the great ones, with the correct family line and heritage.”

“You mean genetics?”

Jdal’s head tilted slightly to the left as he considered.

“I believe so, yes.”

Hells.

“Ok, I’m gonna need a few minutes.”

It seemed, Alaric thought amidst the tornado in his mind, that they both had quite a bit to talk about.  Assuming the guy could be trusted to be honest.

“Of course.  I suspect there is more that I need to learn than I, or the Great Ones, had anticipated.  If you will follow me, there are side rooms upstairs with, reasonably comfortable, seats.”

In something of a daze, Alaric nodded and followed his guide up the sweeping stair to the left.  They ascended to about a third the height of the room, he absently noted, before the steps stopped at the next floor.

There he found both sets ended at a wide corridor, easily broad enough for nine or ten people to comfortably walk side by side.  His eyes and mind, seeking something to focus on, settled on the frescos and murals painted on the walls.  Brilliant colors, amazingly strong after uncounted centuries, depicted what he assumed were supposed to be great or important moments in dragon history.

Alaric only managed to see a few before a door, that had looked like part of the wall, silently swung open.  Jdal stood beside it, patiently waiting for him.

The robed man bowed his head briefly.

“There is much I wish, need, to ask, Al.  But, I understand you have traveled far,” Alaric caught the other man’s eyes sweeping over his sweat and dust encrusted clothes, “and are tired, perhaps even surprised.  Please, be comfortable in this room.  We have some store of provisions.  I will endeavor to assemble suitable refreshment.  But, I must ask, first, how much time has passed since the War ended?”

“Honestly?  No one is entirely sure.  Sorry.”

“Ah.  Then, perhaps . . . who is king of the crescent lands?”

Crescent lands?

Oh.

“There are,” Alaric tried to do a quick count in his head, “several nations in that area now.  Only a couple have kings.  I think.”

“I see,” Jdal bowed his head, in thought.  “I will have to consider further, and find another touchstone.  In the meantime, please, be comfortable.”

WiP 5 (2018)

Continuing, still largely unedited and, as always, comments and feedback are very welcome


Tentatively, as if approaching a rabid dog, Alaric stretched out a hand toward the nearer door.  He closed his eyes tight the instant before making contact, screwing them up, anticipating something awful, painful, and unpleasant.

First one eye, then the other, peeked open.

Nothing had happened.

In fact, the corroded metal felt oddly warm to the touch.

Not hot, but not the cold he expected either.

It was significantly warmer than the air in the small cave.

Alaric almost yanked his hand back as he felt a sensation not unlike a troop of ants walking across his bare hand.  He forced himself to remain still, as he felt no threat.

Looking down, he saw the blue and silver auras of the door extending, enveloping his hand.  They stopped at his wrist, but where they touched him, the ant feet tingle continued.

After a few seconds, the sensation withdrew.

The halo retreated.

And the doors swung silently open, as if they hung on freshly greased hinges.

They revealed a broad room of ivory white, thousands of candles in sconces and chandeliers lighting themselves in rapid succession.  The ceiling rose far above his head, supported by carven, barrel pillars.  The floor looked like marble set in a pattern that evoked reptilian scales.  At the far end, just starting to come into sight as Alaric paused on the threshold, were twin sweeping stairs that rose like wings out of the floor, curving outward then back in.

He crossed the doorway with his eyes roaming feverishly around the cavernous room.

The aged off-white, lit by a whole city of candle flames, was overwhelming.

He found, as he stepped nearer, that the flames highlighted details. The columns bore arm’s length images of draconic figures interspersed with half-dressed and wholly naked human-like beings.  What they stood for, who they might have been, if anyone, was beyond him.  As he turned a circle, Alaric guessed that the entry room alone could give the historians and artists of the Island decades of material to study, at the very least.

Alaric drifted deeper into the room, his eyes wandering everywhere in wonder.  He wanted to take in everything he possibly could.

At the thought, he dug into a pocket for his camera.

It was while he was furiously filling the device’s memory card that he realized he was no longer alone.

Slowly, the camera came down as he found himself stopped a few yards from a person.

The young man, barely out of his teens, stood barefoot between the two staircases.  His loose robes, that mimicked the ivory walls, made it difficult to focus on more than his face and raven black hair.  The shoulder length locks framed a pale face that Alaric assumed had never seen sunlight, or at least hadn’t in millennia.  The newcomer was in front of a, maybe ankle height, rise in the floor that formed a rim around the space between the stairs.  And he seemed healthy enough, despite their environment, Alaric decided as he took a closer look, his camera dangling forgotten by its wrist strap.

They stood for several minutes, simply staring at each other.

Alaric’s mind raced.  He shouldn’t have, he thought, come running straight down the stairs.  He should have brought some supplies, at least something to defend himself with.  In his eagerness and excitement, he’d completely forgotten the possibility, his theory, that there might be living, unconfined, dragons in the world.  And they might have guardians and servants.  Of course, they would.  They wouldn’t want just anyone stumbling upon them and finding a way to capture or kill them in their sleep.

For his part, the stranger, Alaric had to admit, looked calm.  Almost serene, even.  Maybe a touch quizzical and curious.

The silence and mutual inspection stretched into the uncomfortable stage.

“Um . . . sorry for intruding?” Alaric finally felt compelled to say.

“Intru . . . ding?”

“Yes, uh . . .”

What did one say when one broke into an ancient, lost, temple and found it was still occupied?

“Um, I am Al . . .” Better to stop there and not give his full, real, name.  Some stories said the dragons had access to name magic.  “I’m a, well, I guess I’m an explorer, a historian of sorts, I suppose.”

“I . . . historian . . . explorer.”

“Yes.  I come from . . . far away,” he continued.  Better not to mention exactly where he was from, especially given that sorcerers hunted dragons after the war.  “I was looking for this place.”

The silence descended once more.

Alaric had run out of things he felt safe to say.  The other seemed to be processing, even repeating random words.  Probably didn’t understand English, and why would he?  That was another oversight to add to the list.

WiP 4 (2018)

Continuing.   This is, currently, unedited and, as always, feedback is welcome.


Logically, it shouldn’t be too much, because they wouldn’t want their followers killing themselves.  Probably.  Plus, that would get into death sorcery, and I’m not going there.  So, the trigger should only take a little, not enough to cause lasting harm.

Of course, they’d probably assume that anyone who came to wake them would know what they were doing.

Which he emphatically did not.

Still running options through his head, Alaric unfolded the saw and used the teeth to slice his finger.  He carefully re-folded the saw and set it down out of the way.  He squeezed the finger to get the blood flowing faster.  As the crimson bead grew, and the finger throbbed, he watched and waited.

Once it looked like his entire finger was covered in red to the first joint, Alaric wiped the thickening liquid on the standing stone.  It seemed logical to start with that one, as the pedestal stones could be any of a couple dozen or a combination.

He stepped back, waiting for something to happen.

When a low grinding as of two boulders rubbing together became audible, he passed a hand over his minor cut.  The skin knitted together, leaving only a red stain on his skin to indicate that it had ever existed.

Alaric watched as the pedestal stones crept downward into the ground.

After a few minutes, they formed a staircase so narrow that he had to turn sideways to keep from scraping the walls.

He created a ball of yellow-white light and sent it floating a few feet ahead.  The walls were rough hewn blocks, each about the height of his leg and equally wide.  He ran a hand along a couple and decided they had been formed rough, not become that way through age.  The stairs were shallow and narrow, causing him to inch along, carefully checking each step.  After a few feet, he lowered the light ball to knee height so he could see the stair better.

As the downward spiral continued, Alaric thanked whatever gods might exist that he wasn’t claustrophobic.  He had to crouch as much as the narrow space allowed to keep from bouncing his head off the ceiling.  His knees ached, both from being bent and from being barked on the walls, after a handful of turns.

Hours seemed to pass with his muscles complaining and shaking at every shuffling step.

Finally, Alaric reached the bottom and found he could stretch somewhat.  The base of the steps was a chamber, maybe a couple paces on either side.  It wasn’t a tall room, but compared to the stairs it was a cathedral.

The ball of light revealed a single arch of rough basalt.

He sent the light ahead and ducked to look through the dark portal.

It opened to a shoulder height tunnel that looked like the excavators did a half-assed job cutting through the rock.

At least it’s more roomy than the stairs.

Alaric shrugged to himself.  He’d come pretty far, but the Towers would need harder proof than he had.  Squat or crawl?  That was the question.  Whether ‘tis better to have aching back or bruised knees . . .  Uncertain of what was ahead, he didn’t want to spend any magic on minor healing of aches and pains.

Crawl, he decided, given an unknown distance.

With a quick detection spell that said he was roughly seventy feet beneath the surface, Alaric knelt and crawled through the arch after his light.

He sighed with relief when the tunnel opened up several body lengths later.

Alaric unfolded his body, knees cracking, in what appeared to be an entry cavern of some sort.  He created and threw a couple more light spheres to better illuminate the space.  The chamber was maybe thrice his own height, about ten times that in width.  And, perhaps forty feet, in front of him was an ornate, heavily worked lintel and doorway.

The frame contained a corroded double door about twice his height, the once shining metal buried under scales of orange-green verdigris.  Closer, he could see a few dulled patches of the original bronze peeking through.  Each door had three plain, beveled panels of the metal with what looked like gold inlays along the edges.  Two handles, each as tall as a man, formed parallel lines in the middle, both carved or cast to depict dragons in flight.  The triangular pediment showed several dragons standing in attentive or threatening postures.

He started looking for signs of a lock or other means of keeping the doors closed.

His heart thudded against his chest as his eyes slid over the gates.

As back at the campsite, Alaric let his vision shift just slightly.

The fading golden nimbus that indicated dragon magic emanating from the doors confirmed his theory.

But, it was joined by a stronger aura of . . . blue.

Place magic?

Old, but not unheard of among modern sorcerers and wizards.  Still, odd to find down here.

And there was a hint of the grey of wizardry . . . no, it was shinier than grey.  It was . . . silver?

What magic gave a silver aura?

Nothing came to his mind.  Over the years he’d spent learning wizardry, then advancing to sorcery, no one had ever, to the best of his memory, mentioned what magic had a silver aura.  Eight aura colors.  That’s all there were, according to the sorcerers in the Green Tower.  Including one that hadn’t been seen in millennia—the gold he was looking at—and one that was illegal anywhere sorcerers gathered—the black aura of death sorcery.

Alaric looked more closely at the auras, letting most of his light globes wink out.  While looking at the auras, he had no need for other light.

Moving closer to the doors, he sought patterns in the halos.

When his stomach grumbled a while later, Alaric was certain that the gold was merely residual.  Just an aura left behind from regular contact with the magic, probably a lot of dragons passed through the doors over many centuries.  The blue seemed to be protective in nature.  The patterns were unfamiliar, but had a hint of the modern protection spells he’d studied and used.  The silver, despite its oddity, held some vaguely recognizable shapes.  He decided they were probably detection and alarm spells, as those seemed the closest fits he knew.

The question was whether he could dispel the protections and alarms, and whether he even needed to.  The beings who had put them in place were long since dead, unless they had some sort of self-sustaining city inside.

Or were comatose, hibernating.

If that were the case, they could be waking even as he stood on their doorstep poking around.

WiP 3 (2018)

Continuing.  I have about 7-ish more pages (after this installment) typed, then I switched to hand writing.  This is, currently, unedited and, as always, feedback is welcome


The central stone was roughly phallic in shape, like it had once been precise but was misshapen by weather and time.  It may, he thought, be representative of sex sorcery.  The concentric rings of stones . . . possibly earth sorcery.  Two of three, or four if currently illegal and immoral magics were included.

He got up and looked around the stone more closely, seeking symbols of sacrifices or death.  Maybe a worn stain, possibly scratches in a recognizable pattern.

After an hour, he had to conclude that either his theory was wrong, the signs were not there, they were too slight to see in a cursory search, or any trace of evidence had been obliterated by time.

Really, he thought, there should be a team working on this.  But, no one at the Island’s three Towers would believe his theory, without physical evidence.  Actually, who knew about the Red and White Towers?  They claimed they shared information with every tower of sorcery, but he knew his own Tower, the Green Tower, kept its own secrets.  Partially because the blood and sex sorcerers followed immoral paths and used others to get power, not like his own earth path.

It could, Alaric finally admitted to himself, take weeks to even begin to unlock the secrets of the site.  Assuming there really were any secrets to find.  The treefolk and eldren could just be reacting to the fact that the stones were shaped and placed by humans.  To them, sometimes, that alone seemed to equal “cursed and dangerous”.

Alaric spent a couple more hours bent over the pedestal stones, looking intently for any scratches or other signs of marking that seemed artificial.  He concluded that all of the pieces of native stone, he’d used an elemental spell to determine that all the stones were granite or basalt, were simply worn by time, weather, and lichens.  In fact, the last covered more than half of each stone.

With a faint sigh, he rose and stretched, his back muscles complaining as they were forced upright.  He kneaded his lower back as he surveyed the site.  Since it’s gonna be a while, may as well make it comfortable, he thought.  Water was near enough.  Shelter, he had.  Cleanliness, some basic wizardry, although not as satisfying as a bath, would handle that.  Food, he’d brought enough for a good week still, unsure of how long it would take to find the site.  Light was no problem for even a first year student.  Bugs, though . . .

Alaric walked a circle a few feet beyond the ring’s outer stones.  He left a small trail of energy, each circuit added another layer of protections.  First, a ward against insects to make the place more comfortable.  Then something to keep mundanes away, even though the site was remote.  Random hikers were always a possibility.  A third, fourth, and fifth circuit added a few other minor levels of protection and alarms against detection spells and intruders.  They wouldn’t stop a determined problem, but should deflect casual looks and give him some alerts if necessary.

The next couple days passed with no further progress or insights.  Alaric learned a lot about rocks and ancient chisel patterns.  He created and dismissed dozens of theories about the site’s layout, composition, structure, and form.  He cast scores of spells, both simple wizardry and complex sorcery, in an attempt to divine some sort of information.  Consequently, he also spent a fair bit of time half-dressed, recharging his sorcerous batteries, both internal and his ring.  A veteran of library research, he’d expected fieldwork to be more exciting, somehow, maybe even faster.  Logic said otherwise, but there was still that hope.

On his fourth day on-site, Alaric decided to simply sit in front of his tent.

It was the first completely dry day since he’d arrived.  He had not seen the treefolk or eldren since their first meeting.  In fact, he’d seen no one in over a week.

Since actively searching the site had yet to yield any answers, Alaric simply sat and stared into his campfire.  He hoped the flickering, crackling, twisting red-orange flames would trigger some unconscious connection that his mind was working on behind the scenes.

Alaric came back to full consciousness with a start.

Something had been forming in his head.

Really, it made sense and seemed simple.  One of the blood sorcerers would probably have tried it straightaway.

He unfolded himself and crawled in the tent for a few moments.

When he emerged, Alaric had the folding saw he’d used to cut firewood.  He tucked it under his arm before approaching the central monolith again.  The question was, he thought, which to choose.  Was it the base, or the standing stone?  And was there a ritual involved or would one spot work?  The questions were too far beyond his meager knowledge, his understanding was only of the most basic theory.  But, it seemed like all three sorceries would be keys.  The standing stone covered two, in shape and nature.  The third would have to be provided by someone seeking entry.

The theory seemed sound.

The details, though, were where the trouble started.

Having a team on this would have been nice.

But, he didn’t have one.  So, experimenting we will go.

Fantasy and Historical Realism

Oddly enough, the question of historical realism seems to crop up with a degree of regularity in the fantasy genre.  I’m not entirely certain why (as I’ll explain below), but suspect it has to do with the Eurocentric medieval roots of the genre.  That said, the entire genre has a sliding scale from utterly non-realistic to hyper-realistic that cover the classics (Tolkien, Moorcock, Leiber, Howard, Moore, Bradley) to more modern names (G.R.R. Martin, Rothfuss, Jemisin).  But, even the medieval roots—ex. Chrétien’s Yvain and Lancelot, Gawain & the Green Knight, Beroul’s Tristan, William of Palerne, Marie de France’s “Yonec” and “Bisclavret”—weren’t exactly realistic beyond a certain point.

More often than not, it seems that claims or cries of “historical accuracy” are used to justify rampant sexism or racism in a work.  This appears to be more of a fan thing than an author thing in most cases, though there are exceptions (as shown by some of the so-called Sad/Rabid Puppies).  But, most of these appeals to “historical accuracy” are based on outdated or outright false history.

All said, I’m not entirely certain that “historical accuracy” has a place in the fantasy genre as a whole, at least in most sub-genres.  It is certainly important in historical fantasy (although differences in history can be explained away as the influence of magic), some urban fantasy, and, of course, alternate histories.  But, in epic fantasy, sword & sorcery, and other secondary world fantasies . . . no, Earth’s history has no bearing on the secondary world.  “Historical accuracy” in the case of a secondary world fantasy should never refer to Earth’s history (even if the world is based, however loosely, on Earth), but rather to the secondary world’s history, much of which the reader does not know (exception: Middle-Earth, thanks to the posthumously published Silmarillion, but even that is not a complete history).

Although speaking of the RPG industry in general and D&D in particular, I think Forgotten Realms guru Ed Greenwood put this best for the entire fantasy genre: “But D&D has half-orc, and half-dragons, and half-elves, and has magic items that specifically change gender, right there in the rules.  Surely if you can handle the basic notion of cross-SPECIES sex, having a full variety of gender roles should be something that doesn’t blow your mind” (Facebook post, 5 April 2016).

Codex: Appendices D & E (2017)

(Last Codex post)

Appendix D—Witch Aspects

As with all things witch related, despite “improved relations”, Kemp’s information is rather minimal and not especially helpful.  The Apostates Sawyer and Webster, who have spent decades closely associating with witches, are much more helpful here.

The moon witches are those who associate their powers with, obviously, the moon.  Like the moon, they can change themselves in various ways, using spirit and evocation spells probably.  They are also the most skilled healers amongst witches.  Of all the aspects of witch society, moon witches are the closest to the Changers, usually having excellent relations with the beast-men.  They bring a certain adaptability to a coven.

The nature witches associate their powers with the energy of the natural world.  They are the ones most likely to invoke the spirits of animals and the gods of nature, such as Pan, Freyr, or Demeter.  They are also the most likely to master nature witchcraft, to control beasts and weatherworking.  It is said that they ground a coven and help bring it in line with the desires and power of the world.

Seers are often the leaders of witch society and covens.  They are the oracles, diviners, and lorekeepers of the witches.  Most seers appear to specialize in invocation and evocation to fuel their drive for knowledge, and the future.  Some, though, Webster says, devote themselves to charms to better get people to volunteer information and the lead by control.

Spirit witches balance nature witches in a coven, connecting the group to the realms beyond Earth.  They specialize in invocation ad spirit witchcraft.  Thus, they serve as mediums, contacting the beyond and tying a coven to the spirit realm.  Because of their control of spirits, these witches also appear to be excellent trackers and hunters.  They, Sawyer claims, often trace offenders and enemies of the witches, providing locations to the sun witches, who are then unleashed.

The sun witches are those who associate their powers with, obviously, the sun.  They are the guardians and warriors of the witches, much like many of the most ancient sun gods.  They train in mundane means of combat enhanced with charms and invocations, spirits bound to weapons and other such tools to improve their abilities and skills.  Sawyer mentions that some even say the sun witches allow powerful spirits to temporarily possess them, to enhance their physical attributes and skills.  Sun witches add a balance of protection and aggression to a coven.

 

 

Appendix E—Witchcraft Classes

Kemp is correct when he briefly defines the five classes of witchcraft.  However, as with all things beyond sorcery, his information is incomplete, through ignorance.  Thus, it is not entirely helpful.  Sawyer and Webster, Apostates, are more useful here.

As Kemp notes, charms affect the mind.  Witches use charms to sense and manipulate the emotions of others.  But, the spells can also be used to influence the mind of a subject, to suggest a course of action or even allow complete control of the subject.  Charms can result in a form of illusion, invisibility after a fashion, and even alter the memories of a subject.  In all, it is a much more powerful branch of magic than the Arcanum Council would like to admit to its rank and file.

Evocation is, indeed, the direct control of magical energy.  But, what does that mean?  For a witch, that means the ability to create wards and other protections.  It also means blessings and curses, healing, and limited harming.  It can involve fertility, and barrenness.  Most of its offensive capability, unlike sorcery, is indirect or requires touching the subject, thus limiting its combat potential significantly.

Conversely, invocations involve calling upon spirit entities to handle the magical energy.  These spells  involve the witch calling and negotiating with a spirit, or a god, to acquire the desired effect.  The spirit, thus, acts upon the witch’s behalf.  Most such spells appear to involve altering the luck of the subject, protecting or hiding the witch, tracking people, guarding places, or discovering information.  Rarely, if ever, do they have an appreciable direct physical effect, due to the difficulty of spirits manifesting or directly affecting our realm of existence.

The study of natural forces allows the witch to control and affect beasts of all sorts.  This appears to serve as a specialized sort of charm.  These witches can also alter and control plants.  They can enhance or retard growth, cause plants and trees to move and walk, even heal plants and speak with them to gain information and insights.  With sufficient skill, a witch can move through the densest forest without leaving a trace.  This class of witchcraft also allows the witch to alter the weather within a given radius from his or her position.

Spirit witchcraft is entirely focused on affecting and controlling spirits directly.  Its most basic elements involve being able to see and speak to spirits.  The art graduated to calling, summoning spirits, harming them and healing them, forcing their compliance, even allowing them to possess a living vessel.  Witches say they can even bind a spirit to an object or place for a set length of time or for eternity.  These last two appear to be done solely to contain powerful, evil, spirits.