The sea wind blows a steady note on the vast flute-hole that is Alerock's well, calling up a tone, deep below human perception, that nonetheless seems to find accompaniment in the light of the fixed stars. Poised between sea and sky, surrounded by unheeded sound and light, stand Annaeus and Ishbel, wrapped in heavy wool to the point of near-immobility even this late into April.
Annaeus: ...is a good idea, yes, but you have become distracted in your pursuit of it. Think back. Start once more from the beginning. What is magic?
Annaeus: Yes, magic. You must have noticed it. It's a thing we do around here.
Ishbel takes the jibe in her stride, as she has learned to do these past eleven years.
Ishbel: Magic, right. Magic is one of the four supernatural realms.
Annaeus: Indeed. And what distinguishes it from the others?
Ishbel: Well... it has no effect on the soul, as the Divine does, and it does not corrupt by its nature, as the Infernal does. Nor does it take things of men as its symbols, as the faeries do.
Annaeus: And what do you surmise from this?
Ishbel: That magic is neither transcendent nor debased, and it does not rely on men to give it meaning and power.
Annaeus: And so?
Ishbel: That magic is the power of the nature of things, without virtue, vice or interpretation.
Annaeus nods slowly, and Ishbel waits for a reply. Both secretly wish they had brought some wine with them, but neither one is willing to admit it in front of the other. Finally, the giant magus lifts his voice above the wind once more.
Annaeus: You are correct, as far as it goes, and have achieved some insight into our art since we last had this discussion. But what would you say if I told you that you were also wrong?
Ishbel: I... suppose it would depend on which matter I have understood incorrectly.
Annaeus: Aye, as it should. I'll give you this - you were entirely right that the faeries take their symbols of power from mortal men, whereas the power of magic is from things eternal and unchanging. But never forget that change is at the heart of magic.
Ishbel: Creation, discovery, transformation, destruction and control...
Annaeus: Just so. For the same reason, magic is powerful when great changes occur in the nature of things.
Ishbel: Great changes?
Annaeus: Such as the end of one time and the beginning of another.
Ishbel: Aha - new years...
Annaeus: ...and the solstices and equinoxes, and so on. Also remember that not all symbols of men were created as such.
Ishbel is silent for a while, pondering this statement.
Ishbel: I'm not certain I understand...
Annaeus: All things given their meanings by men were first created by God, and He has ordained that some of them will have power over the natural - or magical! - world. So it is that the staff is for masculinity and authority, and projected power. And the cup is for femininity and protection and intuitive understanding.
Ishbel: I see...
Annaeus: Now, what are we to make of something more abstract? Take the chevron - what do you understand from this?
He takes a piece of chalk and draws the simple symbol on the stone.
Ishbel: It's for protection.
Annaeus: Aye, and it's been for protection since Adam and Eve left the Garden. Why would that be?
Ishbel: I... don't know.
Annaeus: Think. Forget what you think you understand about magic and examine the symbol.
He lets Ishbel puzzle the chalk lines for a moment.
Annaeus: You find your intellect better served by actually standing up and taking a better look at it.
Ishbel grumbles to herself as she sheds layer after layer of blankets, until she faces the wind in her winter cloak. She frowns at the chalk chevron.
Annaeus: Think clearly. What does it represent? What are you missing?
Ishbel: Right now, I'm missing...
Ishbel: A roof? It's a roof!
Annaeus: Aye, from back before men learned to build walls, no doubt. Do you see, now, how magical symbols, and thus magic, has levels deeper than what your fellow apprentices may understand? Its laws were set down by God, and thus it transcends this mortal world. It seduces, changes - and yes - corrupts as surely as the Infernum, and the meanings men ascribe to things of magic may represent a deeper understanding of the world than any of us know.
He stands up and starts to limp towards the stairs down into the shelter of Alerock.
Annaeus: God knows, Keythleen understands this all better than I do, and I doubt that even she really knows the ultimate cause of any of this. We'll continue this discussion back in the sanctum, I think.
He calls back over his shoulder as he starts to descend the stairs.
Annaeus: Also, I had expected you to have learned how to wrap yourself up without impeding your ability to stand, by now!
Annaeus spends the Spring teaching Magic Theory to Ishbel. The Source Quality is 23 (3 + learning bonus (5) + Com (2) + Teaching (2) + teacher bonus (5) + num. students (6)). Ishbel's Magic Theory score increases from 4 to 5.