Comments from my readers have been a great help in shaping my writing. Recently I received a few questions about the magic in this story. I developed the magic system while writing Uiyah's Paw, and had to revise that many times. Magic is one of those elements in a story that must be concrete, consistent, and cohesive. I laid out the rules for who can use it, how it is used, and even the evolution of it. Then I went back through my story and verified that the things I'd already written conformed to this.
Magic is a gift that a few can use. Heredity plays a big part, but like eye color, strengths can change over generations, and even skip a few. At the time of Stones of Magic, Those few that can touch the magic flux of the world can shape it with runes. Abilities focus along one of the five known elements (Yes five), though overlap happens. Without the runes to shape it, magic can be wild and unpredictable. By channeling the flux through combinations of runes, each with a specific quality, different results can be achieved.
The runes themselves date from so far back that records of the origins have been lost (But I know). They are crafted from a metal called Ultrium. It's very rare, and only able to be mined by Dwarves. Held within the aura of a living body it can be as hard as diamonds, but as seen in last part, when removed from that aura it can shatter.
As I said earlier, magic evolved. This book will touch upon a magic that was lost. (Thank you Brian for forcing a discovery writer to actually make an outline.) When this happens, don't send me screaming mails about breaking my own rules. I covered the entire evolution of magic, with rules that cover all of it. Everything will follow those rules. It's my world map that I have to get straight.
So, another part. (This is rough draft writing)
Seven of the nineteen Master Mages were waiting in the planning room when she walked in. Frastil, who was like an uncle to her, was the first to greet her. He was already striding across the room as she stepped through the door. Aeriona silently vowed that one of these days she’d figure out how he always knew someone was coming.
“Good going. First, the congratulatory pomp, minus the two. You didn’t expect them anyway, now did you? I’d say they sent their best wishes, but you’d rightfully call me a liar.”
One by one the other six clasped her shoulders, and patter her back, while mumbling what could pass for words of cheer. She found herself back facing Frastil. His weathered face looked far older than the seventy years he claimed. His right hand was stretched out, palm up, while he held the shimmering sprite bubble. The very one she’d sent flinging toward the door. With her test over, Aeriona could see that it held a certain beauty in the silvery-blue maelstrom still swirling inside it.
He waited patiently as she dropped the remaining runes into his hand. At the last moment she remembered the one stuffed in her cheek, and blushed as she pulled it out. Frastil chuckled lightly while Aeriona dried it on the hem of her dress. She took one long last look before letting it join the others in his hand.
Frastil turned away, with his fingers closing over the precious metallic shapes, and motioned Jardine over. He stepped forth from the shadowy edge of the room that he preferred. None of the student had ever seen him without the goggles perched on his head, and clinking tool bag in hand. The wildest speculations placed him as a Shadow Walker, coming out at the Master Mages’ wishes. Aeriona’s personal favorite was that he was a magical construct. Whatever the truth, he was only seen at one time; rune placement.
His goggles gave him an insect-like appearance as he slowly traced delicate instruments along her arms searching for the perfect spot to place the rune Frastil had handed to him. The first runes were easy. Elemental mastery went on the left cheek, followed by other simple ones down the sides of the neck. As the runes became more complicated with each progression in ability, their placement relied more upon the energy flows within the mages body to get the best results. Jardine was a master rune crafter, and could find the ideal spot by feel. He still relied on his tools though as nobody wanted to risk losing a limb due to bad placement.
The stair rune found a home near the inside of her left elbow. She clenched her teeth as Jardine pulled out the tools to engrave it into her arm. Engraving doesn’t really describe the process even though that was the name used for it. Jardine opened a scratch on her arm in the exact shape of the rune and then basically melted it into the scratch. When he was finished with it, the area felt just like any other part of her arm. The crisp lines of the rune were clearly visible as if the skin had turned the shimmery blue color. It looked and felt as if it had always been there.
She held her arm up to stare at the tiny shape that was about to cost her so much. A year. Everyone knew the cost. She’d be nearly twenty before they released her contract. It would be worth it though.
Before Jardine could drop his tools back into the ancient bag he carried, Frastil tapped his shoulder. He gave Aeriona a wink as he dropped another shape into Jardine’s gnarled hand.
“You’ve earned this one as well; though the stone mages are going to have to work hard repairing the damage from it. And the good news is that it’ll only cost you three months.”
“But I’ve got the plans. John is getting, Ouch!”
“Total, not an extra three. Hold still or he might slip and engrave that on something more sensitive.”
Aeriona did her best to hold still while Jardine finished engraving the rune just below her belly button. It was an unbelievable stroke of fortune. Three months of work for such powerful runes as these two was well worth it. Her thoughts were rolling along trying to plan for the change of schedule, and hoping that there’d be a way to contact John about it. When last they had talked, he was going to get them passage on the Eastern Clipper for a week after her year was up.
The three months would go by in a blink. With luck the passage could be changed, and they could sail sooner. Would it be likely that Scirririn was still there? Thoughts of seeing her friend had been squashed under the certainty that in the year since her visit, and the year of contract, the Elf would be gone. Now the plans had changed and things were not so certain.
Scirririn had been there when she found the cave. In the many months since she’d been there she’d learned a lot of things. The long hours in the library had revealed a pattern that seemed to have been overlooked by everyone. It would be absolutely grand to share that adventure with her. Oh, and that other one would probably have to come too. The black Virag’Ikyuu with the golden eyes, like twin candles in the darkness.