A Warded Phone

Karen had managed to crawl back to the shade and was resting on the dirt, back against the concrete picnic table’s bench, with her injured leg extended. She may have been pissed that Malachi left her stranded along highway 56 between Clayton and Springer, but she was angry at herself for allowing it to happen.

The other problem was that she understood why—and agreed. Which paradoxically cooled the first anger, but simmered the second. She wasn’t an easy girlfriend for a man like Malachi to have, she thought. He was serving his first tour in Vietnam the year she was born. [fact|logic check that] She supposed her youth made her exuberant about being with him while it just made him embarassed, and he was trying to protect her the only way he could because she wasn’t doing enough to protect herself.

Karen shuffled her phone out of her front pocket and was glad to see a single bar of coverage. “Hi, Margaret. It’s Karen. I need a text-hop…and I need your help with something else…I’ll tell you when I get there.”

Karen hung up the phone and texted Margaret a single character: ‘K’. When nothing happened she checked her coverage—still a bar. The trill of an incomming text startled her. It read: He warded your phone.


217 words on day 796

Like A Can of Tuna

Work and weekends have taken a toll on my production in the last small measure of days. I’m up early this Monday—though not terribly—hoping I’ll not sacrifice the writing today.

I dug out rocks again yesterday and again drifted into some thoughts on worldbuilding and mundane magic. Saturday I asked what the consequences would be if magic were used to sweep a floor or do dishes on a regular basis not just when your fairie godmother swings into town for the prince’s ball. I compared mundant magic to electricity, but didn’t explicitly make the connection to the way we ignore electricity everyday.

I think that mundane magic would experience the same troubles. People would no longer find it interesting. They’d find it useful and ubiquitous. When it ran out they’d still be flipping switches in the dark while their brains stared blankly like cats at a can of tuna.

I don’t exactly know how I got from there to this next stop. And I’m not sure how it becomes useful in a story world I ain’t writ yet. But I wonder if we real people like the idea of magic because of it’s newness, because it holds the possibility of giving our adult brains the chance to learn something new. Truly new. That maybe there is a feeling we get as toddlers and children as we experience everything for the first or fifth time and not for the five-millionth. The feeling of growing a brain. Of wet virgin neurons painting our lives on blank sheets. A feeling we crave without knowing. One the seems like it could be satisfied if only we could learn to levitate cars or transform lead into gold or become invisible or fly a broom.

Ok. So now stuff that into a plot and see what squeezes out the other end.

304 words on day 736

Magic in Terminus

I should have noted yesterday that the 700 mark cruised past 1000 Days somewhere in the Texas Panhandle between San Jon, NM and Amarillo, TX. The 70s era Chevy still mounted the original engine but donned a new paint job. And, while it took a bit to get up to speed, it eventually out paced us and shrunk over a hill-assisted horizon. Yes, West Texas has hills.

I haven’t given much thought to the magic of Terminus—nor the size. I think it’s time to get serious about that oversight.

What I know: magic helped to swap the indigenous people with folks from Earth [I need a story suitable reference for that], that there are still some magicians remaining in Terminus, and that the way the boats hover and fly may be some branch of that magic if not directly that magic. I feel as though magic should be diminished in this place. Maybe the only way to get big magic is to have lots of people gathered and focus their energies, or maybe the skip event used up loads of magic that can’t be gotten back or need to be refreshed over a long time.

Minimal Magic Requiring Groups – gives some built in restrictions on magic use so that you can’t just run out and conjure a unicorn if you need a ride to town. I like that collective magic imposes a need for charismatic leaders or despots able to gather folks into a crowd, or that a crowd needs to have it’s own collective purpose. This supports my thinking that Terminus needs to have factions and cultures and societies all at each other throats. Assuming I keep the practitioners at a low headcount or that I keep the full headcount in seperate factions conflict will arise in many forms. SOme groups will try to recruit members, some will try to enslave them, some will try to eradicate their foes, other will try to convert them. If any one group attempts to do magic more substantial than it’s numbers allow they’ll be punished with wearriness and become vulnerable.

Post-Skip Diminished Magic – would set a slow pace to the rise of powerful magicians in Terminus. It would help focus efforts on more mechanical endeavors because people wouldn’t be able to rely on their handy poof-unicorns to get them around. GAH, I JUST GOT SCREWED BY MY KEYBOARD LOCKING UP AND REPEATING A BACKSPACE KEY STRIKE. But I’ll press on instead of trying to recreate those thoughts. An entirely different tack might be that use of magic is highly sanctioned so that they might bring it back to full power, thus only a few special people in power are able to weild it and all others are punished. Somethign like this might take generations and by the time there was enough magic, the use of it would have changed significantly.

Conversion of Magic into Other Resources – I left the title vague, but I specifically am thinking magic might end up in these flight rods I’ve not put much thought into. Before the skip magic was more ethereal and available to all who desired it’s use; after the skip magic has been concentrated in the form of a mineral-like substance that can be forged into these flight rods. In a very tangible physical form, magic would be easy to fight over and hard to obtain without a foe knowing. Plus it would be easy to regulate and might even be easy to forget it was formerly magic. Depending on the circumstances of the conversion ‘miners’ might not even be aware the substance was converted magic—they might just think it was some artifact of the skip.

615 words on day 702

A Sorceress and A Witch


Rhoda conjured another daemon like a juggler practicing his knives. Her coalesce became a dancer in flame. The unused vapor swirled for a moment like a silk scarf then tore away in gust. Her black and gray-lavendar hair threatened the same.

The edge of the Viyi alter was too high to sit on comfortably, but she did so anyway. Her unsheathed dagger completed the sacrilige.

“You look like Viy’s Cunt sitting there, girl. Get up,” Wendel said.

Rhoda raised her chin and tightened her grip on the dagger but nothing else.

The Black Kite on Wendel’s shoulder spread it’s wings and arrowed it’s beak at Rhoda.

117 words on day 583

Into the Bowels of Crainstock Ltd


Kera had never imbued an [engine ring] before.

“How many is your most?” the hurried MPM asked. She swung open the next door and held it for Kera while encouraging her to walk faster with the clipboard her other hand.

“Nine of us blessed a sword with accuracy and ever-sharp in school,” Kera said.

“OK. This’ll be three times that.” The door shut behind Kera like a prison gate.

Kera frowned to the MPM despite her excitement.

“It’s a much bigger ring than our usual.”

“Oh,” Kera said. “Dana, right?”

“Donna.” Anything else the Magical Project Manager might have said was lost in her attention to the contents of the folder attached to her clipboard.

“Donna, what happened?” Kera didn’t need the late night rush down unfamiliar hallways to tell her something had gone wrong if she were being snagged off her own project to imbue a ring with twenty-six—twenty-six!—other other mages. If she’d applied for one of the infrequent junior mage roles, did two layers of interviews, waited 90 days, and then was accepted to imbue a standard [engine ring] she’d have been astonished.

“That son-of-a-bitch Ajit…sorry, Mr. Balasubramanyan…threw up all over my…the, the [engine ring] during tuning. I guess he’d gotten the flu or something but didn’t want to recuse himself.” Donna stopped short. “You’re not sick are you?”

Kera considered the question, even pushing her thoughts out to her extremities like a mental MRI feeling for everything from sniffles to cancer. All she found was excitement.

“Maybe I ought to be?” Kera joked.

The MPM whispered as if she gripped Kera by the collar and jerked her face to face. “Don’t fuck with me. Is there any reason—any at all—you can’t do this?”

“None.” Kera swallowed as silently as possible. “Did you say during the tuning?”

“Kera, do I seem like the kind of person who enjoys walking fast?”

“Why didn’t you mention that earlier?” Kera skipped to a backward jog further down the corridor expecting Donna to match pace at least some. The MPM pushed her face to a flat grin, pointed at the featureless wall with her clipboard, and stepped into it’s surface.

367 words on day 579

The Beach House at Haast

Karen had only used jumping gates to get from [her home town] to here [the sitting room].  She’d always been escorted never alone.  Unless you knew where you were going on your on, touching your escort was only way to get to the same place at the same time.

Karen paused at the gate-door Malachi had just traveled inhaling as much of his recently exhaled smoke as she could and stepped through the gate-door with no specific intentions but traveling.  “Karen, wait,” Margaret called out.

She felt her leading edge stretch to aching until her trailing edge passed the threshold and caught up with the rest of her body.  The traveling place was always described as black or dark or empty, but to her senses it simply lacked light, not held dark.  Immediately she sensed her mistake as the time she spent traveling held a [what happens next vibe].  She concentrated on the smoke in her lungs and Malachi but didn’t give any thought to where he might have gone.

She was rewarded with sensation of being squashed as her body came to a halt in a darkened room that smelled like salt.  Sunlight glowing at the edges of the draped windows helping her eyes adjust.  The drapes sucked to the cracked window suddenly and Karen’s heart tripped at the sound.  Oh, God let’s end that little scene…Karen turned the knob and stepped outside into the Pacific sun.

A high railing blocked her fall into the ocean below her feet.  Noonday sun warmed her traveling chilled bare arms.  She grabbed the warm rail.  Let us change the voice up a bit so I can move forward some.

From her position her on the rail she only sees the Pacific ocean until she notices Malachi leaned on the same rail smoking and waiting.  He greets her with a good deal more pleasantness than when they departed the Library just a few moments ago.

He asks her how she found him.  Was it the tidal chart he referenced in the Library

I followed the smoke.

He’s impressed and quite astounded since he’d never considered that someone might gate-travel using someone else breath as a guide.  He doesn’t want to let on too much how proud he is of her.  Mostly because that not his way but also because he still needs to be angry she’s followed him at all.  It’s a little like a parent with a child.  Their relationship is complicated with a lot of the parent-kid stuff but in as little a creepy way as possible since he’s sleeping with her.

So he turns off the pride and lays into her.  Stuff that hurts for no other reason than to separate her from him.  He needs to do this alone because he doesn’t know how to do it with someone.  Because he’s afraid of what she might find out about his past that he’s not already revealed.  And that she’ll get too involved in his unexpected quest.

She gives it back pretty good till he hits some soft spot that neither of them expected he’d go to and she breaks down.  She probably forces herself not to cry—much.  He leaves her stranded on the porch of this beach house.

She’s not all that stranded, just has to swim-wade into the shore in her clothes.  But the result is that she’s fucking pissed once she gets to shore and he’s long gone.

She has no idea where she is.  There is a spread out fishing town to the south and a two-lane coastal road laid out in front of her.  After she decides what to do to find out where she is, but before she does find out where she is, she runs across a sign that reads, “Caution Penguins next 5 km”.


In an effort to reduce the bitching around here, I’ll be writing in the same voice I punted to this morning.

Malachi leaving her alone makes no sense at this point.  He knows where they are and how far from home she is.  He knows she knows nothing of how to get to where he’s going.  Which means that whatever fight they are going to have has to have happened back int he sitting room.  In front of everyone.  Which means that somewhere before that she needs to have become sympathetic to the reader and for sure she hasn’t—since she’s just sat around in a room.

Now they are in Haast, but he doesn’t tell her where they are.  I suspect that’s as annoying as we need to be.  Also turns out the place I had in mind is Jackson Bay southwest of Haast be maybe an hour.  Either way I can work out the details.  Ultimately the goal here is to find Steven Tattersall somewhere in a tree house nearby.  Lake Ellery sounds good.  Far enough off to put some conversation into Karen and Malachi.  Maybe even a hike if it feels good.

They finally get to Steven’s home/tree house and we find Steven isn’t there or some other form of conflicty inconvenience.  Eventually they find him/wait him out/whatever.  Steven is a little bit of a letch on the far side of charming.  Probably because he doesn’t get out much.  In any case he rubs Karen entirely the wrong way and is pissing tolerant Malachi off by the end too.

Unfortunately Steven tells the two that the brasswork spider is just that.  Nothing more nothing less.  In fact, if he hadn’t had the information Malachi gave him about it’s appearance he’d have deduced the thing was created quite recently.  Malachi is suspicious Steven is lying since he knows more about the spider than he lets on.  So he presses Steven for more extreme measures to extract the ‘truth’ form the spider.

I should note at this point I’m starting to wonder what the spider thinks about all this.  Is it a toaster or a robot with a soul?  Maybe the initial reading isn’t invasive while the next level is/can be destructive.  Maybe Karen intervenes or the spider self protects.

The Prof Searches for Magic Books – Cont

The professor drapes the red cloth over her outstretched hands covering both like a stage magician might drape a sheet over a levitating assistant.  Karen’s been around mages enough to know he’s preparing a spell and not just about to clean her hands.

“Malachi probably calls this getting the stink off,” the Professor says.

“He’s not taught me this.”

“No?  Well, he should have and it’s time.”

Bleh don’t like that last exchange at all.  …not just about to clean her hands.  He grasps her hands in his and begins to scrub through the cloth with his thumbs.  He starts at her fingers doing the group in a few swathes then focuses on individual fingers.  The cleansing isn’t symbolic or ritual it’s rough and abrasive.

“Turn them over, but stay under the cloth,” he repeats the method of scrubbing on the back of her hands.  He’s careful to not touch her hands with his or expose her to the reverse of the cloth.  He pulls his hands away, but leaves the cloth draped.  He catches her attention with his eye and demonstrates his hands coming together flat fingers horizontal and fingertips pointing to her chest.  He nods tosses a nod to her indicating she should do the same.  She does.  The Professor matches the corners to straighten out the fold then pinches the centerline of the bight and folds it the rest of the way into squares.  He tucks it away in his pocket.

“Tingly?” he asks.

“Raw.”  His chuckle is a mixture of apology and amusement.  “Aaaa, you’ll be fine.  This is delicate work.  Can’t have your touch clouded by the mundane.”

The Professor does something plausible to cast a spell over the books.  Maybe the glow, maybe they gleam a bit.  Maybe they shudder, I don’t know but in any case the result is something Karen can sense or see or hear.

“I’ve been perfecting this spell for many years.  It’s like a net or a filter.  Trace your fingers over the books and tell me what you find.”

Touching the first book, Karen’s eye’s widen.  She pulls her hand back brushing her thumb across her finger tips like she has cookie crumbs on them.  She looks at the Professor.  He smiles back.

“I’ve never read this book yet it feels as though I have.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s the story of…the main character has this…it takes place in…” Karen’s joy sours.

“You haven’t read it.  There’s no substitute to actual reading.  I’ve tried to find one, believe me.  No magic”

“I’m sure I could have told you all about it if only you hadn’t asked me to tell you.”

“Exactly the same for me.  And for all of the few others I’ve shown this to.  It still works for what we need it to work for.”  He sweeps his hand down the table and gestures to the remainder of the stall.  “Try the rest.”

Karen drags hand along the contour of the books,  Testing and tasting each in turn.  Each time her touch strikes a new book she feels the joy of adventure, or learning and enjoying something new.  In the brief moment after as her touch separates from the book she feels the disappointment there isn’t more to read and the story is over.  The sensation is of a complete reading but no memory of the content.  Equal parts satisfying and false.  She tastes one table of books right handed then heads down the next row with her left hand.

She’s headed down the penultimate rack of books when one zings her and she snatches her hand back.  “Shit.”

“Point to it for me.”  Karen indicates the book that stung like a bad key on a piano backing away while she does.  “No need to worry, Karen.  There’s nothing wrong with the book.  I’m getting old and I like the spell definitive to the touch.  Let’s see here.  Ah yes, there we go.”

“What is it?” she asks.

“Nothing really.  I embedded a copy of [Hornswaggle’s Guide to Unicorns] into this Netter Anatomy book.  Both are quite good actually.”

“This was a test?”

“Think on it more as training or just think on it as experience.  I wanted to share.”  She still looks a little hurt.  A little duped.  “I’m an old teacher.  I like my lesson plans to work.  Believe me this would not have been as useful if you’d found nothing at all.”

Blah blah blah.

She decides to finish up the stacks anyway and it turns out she finds a second book.  She assumes it’s been planted like the first.  Instead of calling it out to him she pockets it or ignores it to see what he’ll say.  Later after they’ve left and he’s said nothing she goes back to retrieve it and it’s gone or evil or taken by some other mage the seller can’t easily identify.  Either way it’s suddenly a plot point I hadn’t expected to write.  And may not actually need.  Gives me something to consider at least.