After Knots and the Beard leave for their own bedrolls, Tric rubs his ears. “Moss below, that fellow can throw a punch.”
“You’re not injured, are you?” Heppa asks.
Tric begs off any treatment, glad that the Beard was not trying to break any of his bones. I’m sure he could have, if he wanted to. “He got a good hit in,” Tric allows. “Although I stayed right in his zone, which is why he could do so.” Then he finds himself on the receiving end of Heppa’s curiosity, as his cousin inquires about the final punch he threw. “I just hit him a little harder than he thought I had,” Tric tells her.
“I think you did magic. Did you know a spell already?”
“What? No, no,” Tric says, his objections this time not a feigning demurral.
“Did you use any fae energy?” Heppa presses.
“No! I don’t do that. Today was the first day I ever even actually dowsed!”
“I think you did,” Heppa insists. “I think you did something magical. I wonder if it’s the human side or the elvish side… Maybe you could do either fae or arcane magic!”
“No,” Tric protests. “No, I don’t think… It can’t be magic.” But his cousin argues that his physical actions do not support the level of bruising she observed. “Sometimes people misread a situation,” he tells her. “It doesn’t feel like that bad of a hit, but it turns out to be a little worse than they thought. And sometimes,” he holds his hands up, looking through his loosely clenched fists, “you look through and you can see a pixie dragon.” He drops his hands, remembering how when he tried that, it did not work on the Beard. “But only sometimes.” Tric is not so much trying to mislead Heppa as trying to rationalize things to himself. It’s not really magic, is it?
“My working theory is that there was some sort of magic. I think it might be fae, but I don’t know for sure.”
Tric thinks through all the things he knows about elvish magic. It does not produce any recognizable shimmer, so arguing the absence of that will not work. He protests that the effect penetrated metal armor, which he is not sure their magic can do. Raising that point only encourages Heppa, who now starts outlining a series of experiments to test the conjecture. She admits that what Tric did does not match anything she already knows about, but she is not afraid to admit that there are a lot of things she does not know.
“There’s a lot of things I don’t know, too,” Tric mutters. When Heppa again posits that it could have been arcane, Tric objects, “Look, magic is what you and Tomos do. There’s things moving, there’s explosions of light…” Heppa brings up water dowsing, and Tric says, “I don’t know that water dowsing is magic… Then again, I don’t know that it’s not.”
Heppa continues thinking aloud. “You could have been tapping into the same energy, it’s just a different manifestation. When humans try to do magic, they have to really work at something that’s unnatural.”
“This was definitely not that,” Tric declares. Human magic is somewhat scary. It can do lots of seemingly arbitrary things, including undead stuff. Using magic one does not understand seems dangerous. And If what Glammur talked with me about is actually magic, why is it not more widely known? Tric wonders. Probably because you get burned at the stake for causing too much trouble. “I didn’t coerce any energy,” Tric tells Heppa. “Sometimes you just tell yourself a story; sometimes you tell someone else one. And sometimes, just sometimes, they believe it. And sometimes, that makes it happen.”
Heppa gasps. “The rocks!” she shouts.
Her exclamation breaks Tric’s hypnotic repetition. He stumbles gracelessly to a halt. “What?”
“The valuable rocks!”
“Oh, yes,” Tric agrees. “I don’t think Sleidr was really that big of an idiot. But he saw glittering gold. I don’t know, though… How can that be magic?”
“I think we’ll have to think on this more…” Heppa murmurs.
“Let me ask you a question, Heppa,” Tric says, turning things back on her. “What does doing magic feel like?”
“Do you mean primal? Or the runic magic?”
“Yes.” As his cousin gears up into a long explanation, Tric takes a big drink of water and then settles himself on his bedroll, prepared to be lulled to sleep. He is a bit of a fidget, though, and finds himself turning his knuckle dusters over in his fingers, twirling them around as Heppa talks.
Hepalonia goes through her theories regarding the different types of magic she has encountered: fae, runic, and arcane. They all create effects in the real world and people refer to them as magic, but it is entirely possible that their source and operation is completely independent. “So the real question is, does what you did follow the same principles? So, for example, would a staff help direct it? Like dowsing, where you have an implement that helps?” Primal magic and arcane magic both benefit from having such a focus.
“I don’t know if that—” Tric cuts himself off, looking down at the carved willow objects in his hands. “Well, maybe,” he allows. “Maybe?”
“And does it take energy to do? Is it taxing? Directing energy costs energy.” Heppa tries to think of all the things that the different so-called magics have in common. Alchemy may work on other principles, though, she realizes as she goes through the list.
“Well, it’s stressful,” Tric says. “If you’re lying to someone, they might catch on.” He sits up now, thoughts of drifting off to sleep gone. “I have talked with Glammur about this a little bit,” he admits. Heppa is immediately even more attentive. “They’re not a magical theorist like you are, but I think they would definitely agree that there are implements—they would say instruments—that assist one’s ability to make others believe things. But you would think someone would know about this, if this were a thing!”
“Well, Glammur knows about this,” Heppa points out.
“They could have just been making stuff up. They do that all the time. I do that all the time. They claim that’s all it actually is. You make stuff up, but then stuff is real. Glammur said there was power in their words…”
“Maybe we just haven’t heard of it yet,” Heppa says. She had not known anything about the runes until they found a crystal with one and she started experimenting. “Or they may teach it on Alduin, and we just haven’t met anybody who specializes in it.”
Tric amuses himself with the thought that the Society of Shadow might just be a bunch of bards telling stories. As for Alduin, well, the elves’ main source of information on human magic so far has been Kachen, and Tric never asked him any questions along these lines. “I don’t know. This is also something that can get you in trouble because it’s not obvious. And it’s often easy to misuse, I think.”
“Do you think it’s forbidden?” Heppa asks, her voice laced with excitement.
“I think swindling people is generally regarded as forbidden, yes,” Tric answers dryly.
“But telling a story—”
“Telling a story: all right. Telling a story to take all of someone’s money: not all right.”
“But you caught a thief with it,” Heppa points out.
“Yes, but it’s something you need to be cautious with. People start asking questions… And I think that because nobody understands it, maybe it makes people uncomfortable. And maybe it’s just stories, anyway! Maybe stories are just more powerful than we thought.” Tric, however, is not in favor of running any of Heppa’s suggested experiments. “It’s not the kind of thing you measure,” he insists. “That would require an instrument,” he finishes with a sly grin.
“Right, right, right… let me think on it…” Heppa murmurs, half-lost in her own thoughts again. She grabs her map and begins jotting down some notes.
Tric closes his eyes and goes to sleep.