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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 19: Hastings 50
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Merlin's approach to teaching magic was not what Lauren had expected–not that she had expected anything very specific, but that she had not imagined this. He did not teach tricks or spells or techniques, but instead spoke at length about the nature of reality.
"It's very difficult for most people to grasp this," he said. "The temptation is to think that the reality, that is, that which you have always thought of as reality, is somehow less real. If anything, it is more real, more existent, than you ever knew or even imagined. But you need to understand that there are other realities which are not less but more real than that. There is an inner reality, the perceptions and relationships we have with the world around us. The real world still exists as it is, and yet it is only known to us as we perceive it. By our force of will, we can change that perception, and force that perception on others and on reality itself. But greater yet is the outer reality, a realm of spirits and powers usually unseen by mortals, but exercising tremendous influence over our lives and our reality. You have already learned to appeal to one of those spirits to act on your behalf–and have recognized a critical element of that, that such beings act for you to the degree that your interests and their interests correspond–but there is also energy in that world, free detached power, like sunlight radiating from the inhabitants, and you should learn to draw and direct that power also."
"Are you suggesting that I need to be able to draw on that power when I want to do something that God opposes?" Lauren asked.
"Ah, I see what you mean," Merlin countered. "But tell me, does your God do everything for you, or does He expect you to do some things for yourself?"
"Oh, that does make sense," Lauren said. "He answers my prayers, often with great power, but He doesn't usually cook dinner for me."
"Exactly right. He gives you the powers of your body, to walk and to push and pull and move things. He gives you the powers of your mind, at the very least to think, and in our case to change reality by thought. He gives you the power of machines, the lever, the wheel, and the wedge. Why should He not give you the power of His realm, and expect you to use it wisely without His direct involvement?"
And so she began to think differently about that world, and about the multiverse generally. She had always accepted that there was a supernatural realm, a world of angels and devils; now, though, it became a greater place in her mind, a place where things happened, where conflicts raged and beings of great power were caught in the ultimate struggle. It was a living place. Time was perhaps different there, but there was something like time in eternity, some way that eternals understood words like before and after. And the events of that realm were moving toward a climax, an ultimate conclusion, of which the entire multiverse, all the physical worlds visited, reported, or even dreamed, was just a small part. Her God was greater than she knew, greater than she imagined, and the realm He had created for Himself was also far greater than she had considered.
Having seen that greater reality, she began to be able to draw its power directly, in small ways at first, but increasingly.
One thing Merlin insisted on was that she learn the secrets to slowing her own aging. This was not something she needed to know for herself. She remembered, though, that Bethany would one day be her pupil, sometime in the middle of the next millennium, and would still be very much a young girl in her eyes early in the millennium after that. She studied that magic with an eye to teaching it rather than using it. But for herself, she knew that the decades would roll past and she would not age, or at least not appear to age, over all that time. That was the experience she was told to expect from others in the verse, and it was certainly the experience Bob and Joe had reported.
Gradually it became her experience. She grew in knowledge and power working with the wizened wizard, and enjoyed being his apprentice. This world wasn't exactly peaceful, but there was little she could do about the petty battles between warlords and tribal chieftains who fancied themselves kings and conquerors. She was here to learn, and could stay in the background learning, if necessary, for centuries. She was dimly aware of Merlin being involved in bringing Uther Pendragon to the throne, and that the days of Camelot were looming before them, but it was of little concern to her and she seldom ventured from the home they shared.
One evening Merlin insisted she accompany him. Things were changing, he said; a new king would soon arise in England, a young squire appointed perhaps by the gods, perhaps by Someone Greater. She should come to the village with him, as he wished to have her support lest someone attempt to block this by magic. Lauren could hardly imagine that anyone could oppose Merlin with magic and succeed, but she certainly understood the need to have someone watch your back. She went along.
They settled in a crowded tavern in a busy town, and ordered mead. There would be no sweet sparkling white wines in this world for a while, Lauren realized, none of the spumanti preferred by her palate. Mead would at least quench thirst. She sat sipping hers slowly.
Suddenly she stopped. There was a man in the room she recognized, a face she could not mistake no matter how many years had passed. Instinctively she hid behind her mug before she realized that it would not matter, that he could not know her. She knew him without doubt.
It was the ancient vampire mage she had killed in October of two thousand five. It was Horta.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #82: Novel Developments. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: