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Shadow Lily by Edward Vitasek
SUMMARY: Historic material for my WiP, "The Aimless One" (working title).
The single-gloved mage stepped onto the podium and, without introductions, began his speech.
"Sorcery," he said, "is forbidden. The use of magical ritual is mandatory. You must say formulae, paint pentagrams, mix ingredients – in the traditional manner. You all know this. But why is this so? Were these rituals nothing but facilitators to aid the novice with his magical task, couldn't they be discarded by the experienced mage?
"No doubt you have been told that the rituals keep you safe. Mostly, from yourself. The currents flow through all things, flow through everything they find. They cannot tell the difference between hopes and fears, between commands and restraint. They pour through your very soul and wash forth whatever they find. To stay in control, to channel the currents where you want them, you need to control yourself. If all the currents find within you are the well-known shapes, the formulae, the pictograms, then this is all they can bring forth.
"The mage's symbol is the river. With the aid of ritual, your mind becomes one with the riverbed, the flow – a thing shaped by every caster before you and, now, recreated by yourself.
"The sorcerer's symbol, on the other hand, is the shadow. A shadow is the result of light blocked by a physical shape. But the shadow's shape lacks detail. Who can know what an imaginative mind will see in it? Who can know what thoughts, what feelings a shadow triggers?
"Imagine, all those millennia ago, a fireplace in a cave. The flame flickers, the shadows move, and for a moment you think of predators. Now imagine that, as you have this stray thought, your mind is open to the currents."
Here, he paused to let the scene settle. He scanned his audience. A surprising number of students were paying attention. He looked down at his gloved hand. "I am told to be here, told to talk to you about the dangers of sorcery, because I have..." He flexed his gloved fingers, looked up. "...experience. I know the allure. I know it well. There is a story that – I think – shows both the allure and the danger of sorcery. How many of you know the story of the shadow lily? So few? Really? Then let me begin."
A sorcerer, they say, fears nothing so much as shadows, and the shadow he fears the most is his own. It is the outward sign of his hidden self, the vicious impulse or the conscience – whichever the sorcerer wishes to deny.
Long ago, when the Academy still held Eagle Rock and it was Voreland's royalty that persecuted sorcery rather than we ourselves, a sorcerer of considerable power and fading sanity was trying to cross from Voreland into Rhonia. There is speculation about his motives. Some say he sought asylum. Some say he sought help, the sealing of his power, safety, not from the King's men, but from his shadow. All this is speculation.
His fear of shadows was almost certainly a fact.
It is this fear that let the King's men find his trail. He would, they reasoned, avoid forests, a veritable web of light and shadows. He would, they further reasoned, head towards the sun, his shadow trailing behind.