magic lore

Q and A #60

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read Ride the Storm, you really want to stay away from this one until you have. Just sayin’.

Also, I have more questions that I didn’t get to include here, because it was getting long. So I’ll do another Q&A next week. If you want to ask anything, get it in by Sunday August 20th. Thanks!


1. What is the meaning of Mircea’s gift at the end of the book and why is Cassie furious at him?

He gave her a copy of La Morte D’Arthur. It’s a book all about Camelot. He also sent it to Pritkin’s room, to make it extra clear that he’s figured out who Pritkin is. He’s basically trading his silence for Cassie’s help with Elena.

2. How did Mircea figure out who Pritkin is?

That was actually on the page in the book. But it’s subtle. I’ll let you have the fun of figuring it out for yourself.

3. After reading RtS I’m very curious about wand lore in the Cassieverse. Like how do you make a wand? How do they work? Can anyone use them or just coven witches? I’d just love to hear more about how they work.

Anyone can make one, but they’re only useful if you happen to be a coven witch. They help to focus and direct free floating magical energy, the “wild magic,” of earth. It’s a system based on fey magic (which uses the elements in much the same way) and wouldn’t help a Circle mage at all.

How to make a wand: first, find a tree that originated in faerie, like the alder or the yew, because they’re better conductors. Then cut a piece down to the size and shape you want. Most people are going to want it long enough that, should the worst happen, you have a little buffer between the end of the wand and your hand. Not that that usually helps all that much . . . .

Anyway, once you have the wand, the witch (or wizard) projects some of their magic through the wood, to the tip, like bait on the end of a fishing line. Magic calls to magic, so it attracts the wild magic in the area, allowing them to piggyback a spell onto it. This allows them to cast very powerful spells without using up a lot of their own magic. It’s why the covens, despite being outnumbered, managed to hold off the Circle for so long. They use only a tiny amount of magic in comparison, because it’s just the seed for the wild magic to glom onto. They thus don’t get tired as easily as the Circle, and can throw a lot more magic into a fight than they themselves are capable of making.

Of course, there is a downside: wild magic is dangerous, and can get out of hand easily if you don’t know what you’re doing. The covens also never developed all the special potions and talismans the Circle uses (which also capture wild magic, but do so slowly and in controlled conditions) because they didn’t think they needed them. They seemed so slow, after all, compared to the thrill of using wild magic. And by the time they figured out that, hey, this stuff is kind of useful in battle, they were well behind the Circle in magical “tech”. They still are. But you really wouldn’t want to duel a coven witch! (Hint: if you ever do, try to kill her fast. She will outlast you).

Anyway, you can also add magic runes to your wand, to help you weave particular types of spells more easily, customizing them as you would put apps on a phone. Or just dress them up to look prettier. But you don’t need all that. A basic wand is just a lightning rod for magic, that’s it.

4) When the Pythias wiped Pritkin’s memory, did they wipe the whole of those few days when he met Cassie or just his memories of Cassie? And when he met her again, back in TtD, did he ever have a sense of déjà vu or feel like maybe he knew her?

He had a few moments of déjà vu, but that was because of what happened in Paris (see Embrace the Night) and Amsterdam (see Reap the Wind). He didn’t remember anything about Cassie in Wales because the pythias wiped everything. They also sent him on a quest for some old spells in Ynys Môn (Anglesea) to keep him occupied for a while. By the time he got back, past Rosier was waiting to take him to hell, so he never got a clear picture of what happened at Caerleon. Just that there was some kind of cataclysm involving the fey that shattered the city. And, by then, Arthur was off battling Saxons, the people were at war along with Arthur or scattered, and then Pritkin himself was gone.

5) At one stage, when Cassie goes back to Wales, she thinks that she wants a holiday on a beach with a hot guy and someone says ‘which one?’, which totally cracked me up, but I was wondering, who actually said that?

Rosier.

6) I noticed that a lot of chapters started with Cassie waking up. Is there any kind of symbolism to that, like maybe ‘waking up’ as a metaphor for having a realisation or an epiphany? Or am I just overthinking things horribly, lol.

By the time we get to Ride the Storm, Cassie is utterly exhausted. By the middle of the book, the Tears aren’t even working anymore to enhance her stamina, because she doesn’t have any stamina. She’s at the end of her rope, and her body is using any and every chance for a rest. Kind of like soldiers on a battlefield can sleep in almost any conditions, because they don’t know when they’ll get a chance again.

7) I keep thinking about the runes Pritkin “paints” on Cassie. If they are not protection runes what are they?

As stated in RTS, they are to help him maintain control. When the incubus magic begins to get out of hand, they put speedbumps or brakes on it. He didn’t want a repeat of what happened with his wife.

8) So, while Cassie was trying to rescue Pritkin’s soul, his body was just hanging around in the present. Was his body in some kind of stasis? I mean, did he need to be fed and stuff?

His body worked as normal, there was just nobody home. The beard he grew while Cassie was running around was testament to that. Think of it like being in a coma, only if Cassie wasn’t successful, he would never have woken up and eventually died.

9) Pritkin said he remembered everything. Will he remember his mother?

Pritkin already knew Morgaine (as an acquaintance, not that she was his mother). Most people didn’t know that, with the exception of a close knit group around Nimue. Pritkin just knew her as the king’s sister with frighteningly powerful magic. Now, he’ll know she was more than that, because the witches told him. But he doesn’t have any memories of being with her as her son to recall (he was too young when she gave him to Rosier).

10) How much time does it take for a book to get to our hands after you’ve started writing?

That depends on my publishers. Sometimes six months, sometimes a year. It just depends on when they have an opening in their schedule.

What other books/novellas can readers look forward to in the near future?

Shadow’s Bane, the fourth Dory novel, is being turned in this month (yay!) As soon as I have a firm pub date, I’ll let you know. The ninth Cassie is up next. I also have part of a Lia novel done, if I ever get a chance to finish it. And then, of course, there’s the Dory novella “Dragon’s Claw” already announced, that I’ll be wedging in there somewhere.

Q and A #57

Major spoilers for Reap the Wind below. You have been warned!

1) Rosier all but told Cassie that his son’s mother had a fair share of fey blood. Will we learn more about her parentage and maybe even meet some of Pritkin’s extended relations?

I don’t do spoilers normally, but I don’t think it really is one in this case since it was hinted at broadly enough in RTW. Yes, you find out about Pritkin’s mother in RTS.

2) Rhea is Agnes’ daughter, does that mean Agnes had her when she was about 60? I guess since mages get much older than normal humans they probably also stay fertile for longer. Did she only get to look so much older and more frail in recent years because of the poisoning then?

Mages normally live more than double the average human lifespan (roughly 200 years) so sixty to them would not be sixty to us, more like late twenties. And Agnes is never described in the books as looking elderly. She looked middle age because the Pythian office is tough on people. And of course, yes, by the time Cassie meets her she doesn’t look well because she is dying.

3) Little hairy nuggets with big noses… I’m picturing an entire village of Captain Cavemans. Did you make them up or are you describing a known mythical creature?

Forest trolls. They’re a thing. 🙂

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4) What enables Cassie to shift a null? Tami caused problems for her power once, is there a way to dampen that effect?

Nulls exert a passive dampening effect naturally, although they can rein it in somewhat. But the majority of the time, their power is like any other witch’s, except that it works in the reverse. In other words, they have to make an effort to counter major magic, which is what Cassie’s is. But, of course, Cassie had to learn that, which she hadn’t done by Embrace the Night (which is what I’m assuming you’re referring to).

5) We have not seen modern day Pritkin pull any major glamors (1790s was the last I recall). If he could rely on his incubus side again or more, would large scale glamors be back on the table or are they simply not useful in his modern fight repertoire?

They would be very useful. But without his incubus side, they are too expensive magically. What you saw him do in Wales is NOT in the repertoire of the average mage, or even above average ones.

6) Once upon a time there was a question in the Q&A about what Mircea’s thoughts were regarding Pritkin. The answer was something like a nuisance that did the job he was given. Now in RTW Cassie had quite vivid dreams about who she thought was Pritkin, even calling his name once, which I think Mircea couldn’t help but notice. If he knows that another man (who is working closely with her) is starring in her dreams does that change his view of the mage? Would he feel threatened by that or take it in stride. I imagine the answer might be slightly different now than she was then…

I think Mircea made it clear in RTW that he isn’t happy about Pritkin being in Cassie’s service. But, at the moment, Pritkin isn’t there to be a problem. He’s lost, and the vampires would all probably prefer him to stay that way.

Mircea, however, views Pritkin as less of an issue than the consul. She is suspicious of his growing power base, and that includes Cassie. So, as I said recently in another Q&A, that puts Mircea in a difficult position. On the one hand, he’s expected to keep Cassie under control for the senate,
and willing to oblige them as needed. But, on the other, he’s being kept from spending much time with her, and thereby deepening their relationship, both because of legitimate senate needs (like filling their empty seats) and because of the consul’s active opposition. She wants Cassie under control, but under her control, not Mircea’s. And she has reason to know first-hand just how charming he can be if he gets the chance.

7) I was a bit embarrassed when my Romanian colleague told me about her then-boyfriend ‘Mirsha’ and I suddenly saw his name written down (she was showing me something of her phone) and it read: Mircea. Until then I had always pronounced it Mir-tseh-ah/Mir-zee-ah or something like that in my head. So could you maybe write the pronunciation in the Q&A section?

I’ve already done that in a previous q&a. But for anyone who missed it, it’s pronounced Meercha.

8) Will Lia de Croissets ever meet any of the main characters from the books (in the books)? Or is that a spoiler?

That would be a spoiler. However, I can say that you may see Lia in some upcoming novellas.

9) What happened to Bezio after Masks? Will he be mentioned in the books again?

If I get a chance to do Bones, the follow up to Masks, then yes. Otherwise, probably not.

10) The vampire Senate distrusts the Circle and their mages (and there is a whole lot of prejudice and resentment on both sides) but I wonder, what do the vampires, especially Mircea and Marlowe (since he had personal experiences with the Coven back in Britain) think about Coven witches and their magic? I’m not talking about their (political) power, since the Circle doesn’t let them get any, but about the Coven members themselves? Circle mage = unreasonable, manipulating, power-hungry psychos, Coven witch?

Coven witch=irrelevant. The vampires don’t think of them much at all. There’s really no separating the power and the person for vamps. It’s how their whole system is organized. As Mircea told Cassie in RTW, the covens are broken into factions with no common leader like the Circle has, so their power is minimal. And little power to a vampire means you are irrelevant.

Hope that helps! 🙂

Q and A #53

Question #1: In TtD you wrote that Mircea put a ward on Cassie’s power. When did he do that? In the past when she was eleven years old? And why did Billy Joe get the “rush of his life” when he broke through it? Was Cassie’s power as a Pythia so powerful and he wasn’t used to it?

Cassie didn’t have any power to ward at eleven. She was just some seer. But when Agnes started dying, the power started passing, and by the time the senate picked her up, she had more than she knew. But it was mostly Mircea’s power that Billy got a rush from, when he broke through the ward Mircea had put on Cassie when Tomas brought her in, to keep her from accidentally (or on purpose if she figured it out) shifting away from them.

Question #2: And what about later in the books? EtN made it sound like Cassie + the Pythian power might be stronger than Mircea, so does Billy Joe get a “rush” more often, or can’t he access the Pythian power when he feeds from Cassie?

You’re confusing two types of magic.

Magic type #1: Magic occurring in the natural world. This is the kind of magic that, in mass, the ley lines are made from. It is the wild magic of the world that the witches capture to extend their power, or that the Circle gathers more slowly in regular old talismans. It is also manufactured in the bodies of magical humans (which act like talismans).

But here’s the thing: it is manufactured by magical human bodies as a byproduct. Like, for example, a cobra’s body manufactures venom. It is something it makes for a specific purpose that does not involve sustaining life. It might help with that, because venom might keep a cobra alive by defending it against an attacker. But a cobra in a nice, safe zoo could live without it perfectly well. It augments, it doesn’t sustain.

Anyway, that sort of magic is commonly used by magical humans the way we non-magical types use electricity—as a power source for things that make our lives easier. It is used to make wards and shields for defense, to cast spells for offense, to power charms, etc. It is not used to sustain life (see above), or if it is (as with some of the dark mages who use it to greatly augment their life spans) it seriously screws up the user, eventually deforming and/or driving them mad. That’s not what it was designed for.

That’s also, by the way, why Artemis couldn’t just feed from the ley lines to restore her power after she was almost drained fighting the gods. It would have been like a human trying to feed off an electrical circuit. Yes, you can get energy from there, but not the right sort of energy. You need food.

Magic type #2: Life energy. This is what every living thing needs to live, and that animates both magical and non-magical humans. It is also what animates ghosts, who are like the scavengers of the supernatural world, picking up the bits and pieces of life energy living people shed, especially when stressed. It’s why ghosts haunt graveyards—lots of stressed people–and because most ghosts never have the strength to move far from where they end up. Scavengers exist, they usually don’t thrive. The exceptions are those like Billy, who find themselves a special sort of talisman that soaks up life energy, or can get energy draws from someone like Cassie. Those are very rare, and Billy is very, very lucky.

Life energy also animates zombies and feeds demons and vampires. The latter types, because they live so long, may eventually accumulate enough of it to start using it for other things than just living. That’s especially true of master vampires, who get regular contributions of life energy from their extended families. This is why vamp magic tends to manifest differently from human magic. It is more about what they are (faster, stronger, better senses) than what they do (throwing spells, etc).

Even master powers, the special abilities only very high ranking first and second level masters get, usually affect what the vamp is (Mircea’s mental powers, the consul’s transformative abilities, Louis-Cesare’s Veil) rather than what they do, because their power stems, ironically enough, from life energy.

This is also why Mircea, who is technically dead, can heal people, and not just other vamps. He can heal humans, because he can give back life energy to them as well as take it. All vamps can do this to a small degree, but Mircea is especially good at it.

So, to sum up, the pythian power wouldn’t do Billy Joe any good. Just like all the magic in all those magic shops, or in the ley lines for that matter, wouldn’t help him. He needs life energy. But he normally wouldn’t have too much luck robbing a vamp for it, especially not a senior level one, who would easily fight off his attack. That’s why ghosts so rarely attack even regular old humans, because attacking someone uses up a great deal of energy, probably more than you would obtain from them.

But Mircea warded Cassie with a mass of exactly the kind of stuff Billy needs to live, and she wasn’t trying to fight Billy off. Neither was the ward designed to resist an external assault. If was supposed to restrain Cassie’s magic—which it did. Right until it was raided by a guy specifically designed to utilize its abundant power.

So, yeah. Billy got the “rush of his life”!

Q&A # 13: (First published to Facebook August 13, 2011)

QUESTION 1: Thank you very much for “A Family Affair.” I hope I do not sound pushy, but are you still planning on posting “Shadowland”? If so, do you know when?

Ha! If you saw some of the emails I get, you wouldn’t think of yours as pushy! But yes, to answer your (very nice) question, “Shadowland” is the other half of the story begun in “A Family Affair,” and it will be out eventually. When that will be depends on when I get the chance to work on it again.

I told myself when I pulled the story last year that it wasn’t going back up until I was happy with it. Writing “A Family Affair” was part of that process, as the problem all along was that I was writing two plotlines and trying to cram them into a single short story, along with a fair amount of world-building, and it wasn’t working. That’s why I don’t do short fiction all that often, because I always end up plotting as if for a novel and screw myself up. Anyway, I finally bit the bullet and realized that, to do the story justice, I was going to need a couple of novellas, not the short story originally promised. And novellas take a good deal more time to write. But yes, you will see a new and improved “Shadowland” sooner or later. I have spent far too much time on the darn thing now not to post it! 😀

QUESTION 2: In “A Family Affair,” mention is made of Rosier’s not forming a new body yet. Why does Rosier look like Pritkin when he forms a body? Does he always look like Pritkin or can he look however he wants when corporeal, assuming he is not inhabiting someone else’s body?

Yes, Rosier really looks like Pritkin. He can use a glamourie to look like virtually anybody, of course, but the form he takes naturally looks a very great deal like his son. Or, to be more precise, Pritkin ended up looking like daddy.

Life’s a bitch, isn’t it?

QUESTION 3: (Relaying a question from another forum) What do your long-lived characters (Pritkin and Mircea, specifically) think about the moon landings achieved by the Americans?

Something along the lines of “Oh, they finally realized that it isn’t made out of green cheese? Well, good for them.” The magical community has ley lines, which go a lot of places. And shields, which work to hold things in (like air) as well as to keep things out, if that’s how you design them. So they investigated the moon ages ago and found it completely lacking in interest. There are mysteries in the magical community—things they can’t do, places they can’t go, phenomena they don’t understand. But that wasn’t one of them.

Question 4: I’m confused about how long Pythias live. Agnes seemed to be a normal human, yet she apparently lived about 400 years. Also, since Cassie is a demigod, would she live longer because of that, or as her position as Pythia? Furthermore, would anyone be able to resurrect her like the sons of Ares?

I’m sorry, but where did you get the idea that Agnes lived for four hundred years? In fact, she lived a much shorter life than usual for a magical human (which would normally be about 200 years.) As Plutarch said, the Pythias’ lives were shortened because of their service to Apollo. Channeling power meant for a god when you aren’t one does bad things to your health. And, of course, Agnes had Myra helping her to shuffle off the mortal coil even faster than would already have been the case.

As far as the sons of Ares were concerned, resurrection was one of their special gifts (at least where each other were concerned). Cassie doesn’t possess it. If she came back from the dead, it would be as a zombie, and does anybody really want to see that?

Question 5: In HTM Cassie explains to Jonas that her visions don’t come ‘made to order’. If this is true then how come in CTD when she asked to see what would happen if she went back in time and stopped MAGIC from being destroyed, it worked? Or was that vision a one-off thing?

Cassie did not ask to see anything in Curse the Dawn. She had a vision, yes, but it was a spontaneous thing, not something she generated herself, or asked for, or particularly wanted. That’s how her visions always work. Otherwise, she’d have conjured up the winning lotto numbers years ago instead of working a couple of jobs while trying to avoid Tony (who she would also have been able to see coming.)