Echoes of Invasion: Great Performances | Scene 18

Damal selects a booth, and the elves slide in together on one bench. He lights the candles within and releases the sash that indicates the booth is occupied, then closes the long drapes as he takes his position opposite his clients. He begins detaching vials from his vest, opening them to reveal inks and setting them out on the table. Alongside these, he lays various implements drawn from the pockets on the left side of his vest. His quills have exceedingly fine points, as do a set of metal needles he places next to them. Next, he sets up a frame and unfurls a very long thin strip of paper, which he feeds into the device. Finally, he takes out a small leather tube and sets it against his eye, scrunching up his cheek muscles to hold it in place.

Hepalonia’s eyes dart from item to item. There are so many interesting new things here that she is at a loss where to start. She looks up at the human and settles on that as her starting place. “What is the device on your eye? Is that part of this? Oh! I’m sorry, is it medical?” Damal hands her the eyepiece to examine. There is a piece of glass on each end. Heppa looks through it and concludes that it must be a magical device of some kind. The items on the table in front of her seem enormous when viewed through it. “Oh!” She turns to look at a candle flame at the end of the table, and it is as if it were right in front of her face. This must be how Damal is able to write so small. “Fascinating!” The closest thing she can think of to this is how clear water distorts objects. “I have never heard of such a thing. Is this a magical artifact?”

“Most certainly not!” Damal replies sharply.

“So what is the mechanism?”

“No, this is not magic,” he reiterates grumpily. “It works through the glass. But I am no Luminary, so the details of it are beyond one such as me.” Heppa politely thanks him for letting her try it. She holds it out to him, and he snatches it back. Damal tries to settle the piece back on his eye, but he is too agitated to do so. He takes out a metal frame and secures the tube in that, then hooks its two hinged branches around his ears. The frame holds the magnifier in place against his eye for him.

The mood of the table has shifted abruptly. “You’ll have to forgive my cousin and me,” Tric says in a conciliatory tone. “We’re just from the forest. We don’t have tools quite like these.” Heppa makes another tipsy comment about magic, and Tric takes off his headband as he continues, “I grew in the forest, not quite all elf, as you can see.” He gestures at the milder point to his ears. “I didn’t get a chance to grow up in Hisanham. I only know the elvish part of my heritage. Can you explain to me what I’m missing? I don’t understand this distinction between magic and mechanics.”

Damal takes off his eyegear and sets it on the table with a clatter. So that is how this is, then. The elves who harried Hisanham wish to use his services. Well, he is a professional. He will fulfill his obligation to scribe their message, and he will maintain the secrecy of its contents. But that does not necessitate that he like his clients, or even that he be gracious toward them. That is how his half-Wesnoth nephew chooses to conduct business, but Damal has standards, and he will hold to them. 

“The difference!?” Damal spits out. “What is the difference between magic and mechanics? It is the difference between night and day! Mechanics are real and natural and can be constructed with the hand and the eye. Magics are dark and nefarious and destroy the world.”

“Oh! I think I understand the confusion,” Tric says, relieved. “Human magics tend to destroy the world, like Mal-Ravanal. This doesn’t happen with elvish magic. Trust me, my Uncle Thran has assured me that cannot happen. And elvish magic is also very natural.”

“Yes,” Heppa agrees. “And you do it with your hands.” She waves hers about a little, swaying with them.

“And you can make things with it,” Tric points out, “like by using vines—”

“You are making up distinctions! All magic is foul and unnatural,” Damal argues.

“Well, what about the House of Light,” Tric counters. “They use magic to heal people, don’t they? Is that wrong?”

Damal scoffs at that. “They use their unnatural powers to corrupt the natural way of things. And they do this over matters you do not even need that for,” he says, with a sweeping gesture that encompasses the pouches down his right side. “Anyone who has bothered to spend time to study the right plants and potions is capable of treating the injuries and illnesses they encounter. And those that cannot be healed through natural means, those are people who are ready to pass on from this world. Keeping them in it is not different from raising corpses.”

“But what if you’re not dying, you’re just losing a hand, say?” Tric puts forth, thinking of Damal’s nephew.

“What is wrong with losing a hand?” Damal demands.

“I think many people, given the choice, would choose to have that hand restored,” Tric Manu says. Hepalonia has taken basic shaman classes and knows that such a great work of healing would be way beyond her skill. Perhaps shydes could work such wonders, but she is not even sure if a druid like Fenowin would be capable of it. In her tipsy state, it occurs to Heppa that the easy version of this does sound a bit like necromancy. Lost someone? Raise their corpse!

“If you have suffered the loss of a hand, then you do not have it anymore, and there is no choice.” The half-Manu looks confused by this declaration, so Damal clarifies, “To reattach a hand that you have lost is to raise a body from the dead. It is unnatural.”

“Lizards regrow limbs…”

“Are we lizards?”

“Saurians are.” The older man shakes his head at that, dismissing the argument. Tric tries again. “So what makes magic different from other tools?”

“That it goes contrary to all of nature,” Damal replies, speaking more slowly now, as if explaining something to a child.

“What if the magic comes from nature?”

“There is no such thing.”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve experienced natural magic.”

“No. You have experienced magic. By definition, it is not natural.”

Tric stops fighting at this point. This is a cultural view, that magic is an aberration, and he is not going to argue the older Manu into changing his mind, not just sitting here at a table. Tric wonders how much this perspective contributed to the tensions between the elves and humans around Hisanham. It seems that Alric, at least, did not inherit this view.