Inside Idasia: The Magic of Lecura

Magic, as they say, is often the difference between a wild sci-fi adventure, and a fantasy one.

The world of Lecura, in true fantasy form, has its share of the magical, though it’s somewhat different from what you might call “traditional” fare. Of course that’s something of a misnomer, as nearly all the great fantasies have their own unique marks on the magical realm, their own guiding principles and laws that truly lend that awe-striking element to the show (as seen on io9’s fantastic chart).

So what I mean to say is that for The Hollow March and its sequels, magic is not a “normal” affair. For the people and the world of these books, it is not commonplace or widespread knowledge. It is rare, it is scorned, it is terribly self-destructive, and it is bound by one of the most concrete principles of our own world’s precious science.

It is, however, an art learned (in most instances)–not an inherited trait. So let’s learn, shall we?

To begin, the magic of Lecura is based upon the concept of transfer, much as we often credit to alchemy today. Powerful as the stuff may be, matter can neither be created nor destroyed therein—merely manipulated, merely affected.

Take Usuri’s interaction with the overly-affectionate soldier in the opening chapter of The Hollow March. Therein, she puts her lips to the man and twists dark magic upon his very innards.

How?

Well first of all, she had a connection to the man. Skin met skin. Saliva met saliva. From there, it was merely a matter of manipulating that bond. He was the catalyst, and she took the man’s saliva—the very water of him—and simply edited its state, freezing it solid and killing him utterly.

Warning: not party friendly.

See, that whole water into wine thing? Much safer. Also tastier. (Image: Fire campfire by Titus Tscharntke)

In the same vein, I could hurl dirt to the wind and set its bits ablaze. I could take the same dirt in hand, rub its weight upon my skin, and let it color me dark as the mud beneath my feet. In theory, I could even pull a Jesus, and step upon the waves.

So long as I have a connection, I can work change upon it.

But could I kill outright? Could I touch a man and order him to death? The disturbing fact to consider is that yes, yes I could—but to kill outright is somewhat different from mere manipulation. It is a force of will—the forcing of things into their antithetical position: to render being unto death. All the ingredients are there, of course, but it is not so simple a manipulation as others. You cannot take without giving, and as this is rather distinctly a taking, it requires an equal trade to see it done.

Yes, I could kill a man, true, but I would have to sacrifice myself in the process. A life for a death.

See what I meant about alchemy?

That’s why the round-abouts are so important. Take the dirt I set afire. I could cast it on a man and he would die, writhing in flame, without any sacrifice of my own required. Why, you ask? Because it was the fire that killed him. Not me. I did not will him unto death. I set the dirt aflame and the flames burned him down.

Big or small, though, the change requires some fuel for the flame. Though all magic drains the body, the most potent of these works drains the soul as well. As I posited before—to kill a man outright, with touch and breath, would take the same sacrifice of the self. Yet to spark a flame on dirt would also take sacrifice—though at a much lesser extent. A spark for a spark as it were—a few moments’ pain, or a week’s. It all depends upon the size of the action worked.

Once upon a time, the magical of the world would track precisely how many years of their own lives they had shaved off their own lives using themselves as catalyst and ingredient.

Terrifying, and more than a little masochistic, to be sure.

emo/scene

Okay, okay, so sorcerers can probably get a little emo at times. ("emo/scene", Image by Wikipedia)

What makes the art truly terrifying, however, is that one can work it from afar. So long as I possess a piece of a person, or a place, I can work my will upon it, though we could be miles apart.

Perhaps the best way to lend the concept visual in the mind’s eyes would be to compare it to the overly simple western (mis-)interpretation of Voodoo, dolls and all. Say I held a doll. Say I wished to hurt a man with the doll, a hundred miles from my door. Well, the doll in and of itself bears no connection to the man, even if it is a rather fetching likeness. It lacks a ground. Now suppose I had a clutch of the man’s hair. Then, I have a ground, but no focus—unless I wish to ruffle the man’s hair.

In joining the doll and the hair, however, focus meets ground, and the doll becomes a focus for the man. Say I lit the doll aflame then, and focused my will upon that distant soul. He would light up like a Christmas tree.

Yet this process is, of course, also more taxing. As we lack the whole, physical connection, greater bits of the self are often sacrificed to lend weight to the bond, lest it prove too tenuous. Though all magic drains the body, the most potent of these works drains the soul as well.

Once upon a time, the magical of the world would track precisely how many years of their own lives they had shaved off their own lives using themselves as catalyst and ingredient.

This is also why, above all else, caution is key for any sorcerer.

And it’s a trickier lesson to learn than you might think—since most the teachers have long since gone to their good earth.

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2 thoughts on “Inside Idasia: The Magic of Lecura

  1. I’m keen to check out The Hollow March; the attention given to a “staple” ingredient of fantasy such as magic, as evidenced here, is commendable. Limitations are crucial to believable creations; if magic could do anything, there would be no story left to tell. Stravinsky said this beautifully: “My freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.”

    • Thank you! It’s always inspiring to hear the effort appreciated. I quite agree with you that limitations are key to “good” magic. Fantasy tales without just lack that certain something…in fact, it’s one of the long rants I’ve long since sought to put to writing, but so many others have already put such eloquent essays on the matter to print, I feel I’d just be beating a bit of a dead horse there. For that matter, I think it’s part of the reason the introduction of actual physical gods into fantasy tales always makes me a bit skeptical going in–too many make them exactly that: GODS, without any limitations, and really, how does that make for an interesting tale?

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