Excerpts from “Maiden In Light” (continued)

One of the wizard’s apprentices shows Laurel how to cast a spell:

“Olyr, will you show me a spell?”

“Very well.” Olyr felt at his pockets for a bit of charcoal, then knelt on the chalk-scarred wooden floor, which was regularly used by the apprentices for such exercises.

Laurel watched as he drew a great circle about himself. “Is that a pentacle or pentagram?” She had discovered both in her readings, but had not yet learned to distinguish between them.

“Pentacle,” he answered, proud to display his education. “A pentacle is a star within a circle. A pentagram is a pentagon. Either can be used to fix the elements of a spell. The five-pointed star represents the history of Mankind. God creates the earth.” He drew a
line down from the top of the circle to the bottom. “We rise from the dust to our mortal state.” An upward stroke, to a point midway on the circle’s rim. “We live our mortal lives.” A third line crossed the circle. “We die and descend to dust.” The next line went down. “But
we are redeemed and the immortal soul rises again into Heaven.” A final stroke joined the starting point at the top.

“I thought that the pentacle was diabolical.”

The apprentice laughed. “Laurel, I know no such crafts! My Lord says that necromancy is the corruption of a right magician and `tis a danger to study such evil. The black arts destroy and pervert. A sorcerer of such arts would draw his star upside-down, pointing
hellward. `Tis all the difference in the world! As we are God’s creation, we are protected within this sign. No evil may pass.” He pulled Laurel into the circle with him, wrote about the rim and placed a gyre—“to set motion”—at the top. In tones which rang loud in Laurel’s ears, he pronounced the words he had written.

For a moment, the air hung heavy about them as the spell began to gel. Something was about to happen—Laurel could feel it—then, as suddenly, the spellcraft shattered, ricocheting from its carefully ordered formation. Sparks flashed before her and she leapt back against Olyr with a cry.

“That isn’t what should happen,” the boy said in bafflement. “Some erratic catalyst upset the balance–” He looked up. “Laurel, are you hurt?”

“N-no,” she answered. With the explosion, she felt something like the tingle that always accompanied a burst of fire, like the electric thrill of enchantment which had engulfed her in the golden spire. And more. A strange, powerful sensation began to spread within her, from her pounding heart to her dizzied head to the burning ends of her fingers, urging her… No, she did not know what she was meant to do, only that she must do it, and soon before she was overtaken.

“Olyr, show me more. Show me a spell I might do.”

“It didn’t work.”

“Yes, it did! Only not as you thought it would.”

The apprentice frowned thoughtfully. “Perhaps. It was a spell for the material medium.”

“A spell for… What?”

“You see, my magic best commands material,” Olyr explained. “That is, I may direct solid objects at my will. Other magicians command other media—water, wind, and light. My Lord Redmantyl is a fabulous wizard of light.”

“Lightmaster,” said Laurel.

“You may be a magician of light as well. If you are, a spell for the material would react against your nature and go awry.”

“How shall I perform a spell of light?”

“I don’t know. My Lord Redmantyl only blinks when he wishes to perform some marvel. He has a trick–” He made the gesture, spreading his fingers and rotating his wrist slightly, but no bright orb appeared.

“I’ve seen that. `Tis done so–” She lifted a hand.

“No, left hand, always. My Lord will tell you that spells must be performed with the left hand, nearest the heart.” He took her arm, gently, and bent it at the elbow so that her hand stood a few inches from her face. “Now, cup your hand as if you hold a small globe upon the fingertips, and turn your wrist. Focus your attention upon the center and–”

Laurel yelped, for a tiny, bright spot appeared above her palm.

“Don’t drop it!”

“I won’t. Oh, look!” The spot grew brighter and took on a bluish glitter as it whirled out to meet her fingers. This brightness was part of her, like the involuntary flares, but stronger, deeper, more completely formed. All the blazing energies which had coursed through her had been brought to this one brilliant orb. All her magic was focused there. If she moved her hand, the spell would vanish. Blue darkened to purple and darker, black as a solid ball of onyx. “What do I do with it?”

“Nothing more. `Tis simply a pretty toy.”

“Oh.” Laurel tried to repeat her uncle’s more spectacular trick and threw the orb into the air, but it dissolved as it left her fingers. “But I can do it.”

“Yes,” Olyr beamed. “`Tis marvelous.” And he kissed her.