Friday, July 4, 2014

Anatomy of a Magic Spell

"Now," said the queen, "if that's all the interruptions...."  She paused dramatically, but no new threat appeared.  "Very well.  Shall we begin?"
She retrieved a gilded box from nearby and removed from it a dagger.  The blade was black and inscribed with runes that glowed faintly red.  The hilt and pommel were polished bone.
She raised this high overhead and shouted, "Chun Mink in the East!  Kinwei in the West!  Lagdun Qi in the South!  King Illi in the North!  I call upon the guardian spirits of this land and bind them to my purpose!"
Princess Amethyst screamed and struggled against her bonds.  Grandpa Anarchy threw himself against the ice dome.  "Dang it!  We didn't come this far to see that princess die!" he yelled.  Unpossible Man slammed into the ice walls with his massive bulk, but there was no sign of even a crack forming.
"Lorelei, Queen of the Fairies and Amethystos, Goddess of these lands," the queen called out, "heed my and do my bidding!"
BOOM!  BOOM!  BOOM!  The sound came from far off.  At first it sounded like a drum beat, but it grew steadily louder.  The ground began to shake with each crashing thud.
"By the black blood of the earth that flows beneath the mountains," exclaimed the queen, "I summon the Children of Obsius to this place!  Awaken from your eons of slumber!"
BOOM!  BOOM!  BOOM!  The trees shook.  The sound was deafening.
"Hear me, Obsidian Spirits!  I am not drunk!   This sacrifice I make to seal our pact and to bring you forth upon the lands of Amethyst once again!"

So for the climatic scene of my story Return to Amethyst 3:  Spirits of Stone,  Queen Annatanzanite has apparently defeated all of the heroes and is about to sacrifice Princess Amethyst in order to awaken the Obsidian Spirits, a fearsome army of Obsidian Trolls that nearly conquered all of the lands of Amethyst in the distant past.

When I reached this point I thought, okay, I can just type, "The queen began to chant in a strange tongue" which is how I sometimes deal with magic spells.  That works fine for simple spells in the heat of battle -- you don't really want to stop the flow of a fight in order to explain what words Black Dahlia uses to summon her fireball.  When the queen first appears in the story, she does little more than gesture:

A tall, pale woman in a flowing black dress with an elaborate headdress came forward.  "So, the Necromancer King sends an army against me...."
"We're more a band of adventurers that got a little large," said Unpossible Man.
"Does the Great and Terrible Hawkins think me a fool?  Did he not know that I would be aware of your coming?  Does he think I'm unprepared?"  She gestured with one hand.  Black ice flew forth, encasing the giant Andre.  A second gesture froze Grandpa, Unpossible Man, Dahlia and the catgirl in ice.

But this is the big one, the grand finale.  You want to draw it out, you want details.  And a grand sacrificial spell to summon dark powers must be more complicated and involved than a simple ice attack, right?  After all, the heroes need time to try and stop her.  So it's far more dramatic if I actually have a spell for the queen to speak, isn't it?

Based on what I've done previously (spells for Dark Dr. Dark and Black Dahlia), I knew that a spell that called on various ancient gods, either to the left and right and above and below, or to the four corners of the compass, was a great way to begin a spell of this sort.  Guardian spirits, summoning the power of the gods to aid you, that sort of thing.  But this is the Land of Amethyst, an Oz-like fairyland.  The queen won't be calling upon any known earthly gods, will she?

After due consideration I hit upon the first part of the spell:  Chun Mink in the East!  Kinwei in the West!  Lagdun Qi in the South!  King Illi in the North!  These sound like made up names (which they pretty much are) and they sound vaguely Chinese or Asian, but in fact these are anagrams of the four lands of Oz:  Munchkin Country (East, in the book, though sometimes shown as west on maps),  Winkie Country in the west, Quadling Country in the south, and Gillikin Country in the north.

I don't know if anyone would figure that out on their own or not, but possibly if they were Oz fans.

Lorelei, Queen of the Fairies and Amethystos, Goddess of these lands heed my and do my bidding!

Aside from summoning protection on all sides from the guardian gods/spirits of the east, west, north and south, I have the queen call upon the powers of those who rule this land.

In the mythology of Oz there are no gods, but there is Lurline, Queen of the Fairies.  Her name is a variant of Lorelay, the nymph of the Rhine.  Lorelei is another spelling.  I work with someone named Lorelei, so I've looked this up before.  There are several songs by that name, including the one by the Scorpions which is about the nymph rather than just any woman with that name.  (The Styx song Lorelei is simply about a girl named Lorelei....)

In Oz mythos, first mentioned in The Tin Woodman of Oz, Lurline transformed the Land of Oz from an ordinary land into a magical fairlyland, and gave it to King Pastoria (and his daughter, Ozma) to rule.  So in a way she's the creator of the land, a goddess equivalent.  But I also read up on amethyst, the stone, and there are some mythologies about the origin of the stone (which were made up by a French poet in the 1500's, so it's not a true ancient myth).  In various versions, a beautiful maiden named Amethyste or Amethystos is pursued by the god Bacchus or Dionysus, and is transformed into a quartz statue when she begs for help from the goddess Diana or Artemis.  The heartbroken god either pours wine over her or cries tears of wine, staining the quartz purple.  Never ask for help from the gods is the moral, I think.

So a goddess named Amethystos seemed like a good idea to throw in as well.  Lorelei, Queen of the Fairies, and Amethystos, Goddess of the Lands of Amethyst.

By the black blood of the earth that flows beneath the mountains, I summon the Children of Obsius to this place!  Awaken from your eons of slumber!

Apparently Obsius was the guy who discovered obsidian in Ethiopia, according to Pliny of Rome in his Natural History.  I'm not sure we know anything else about the guy, but Children of Obsius makes a nice name for my obsidian spirits.  Black blood of the earth comes from Egg Shen in Big Trouble In Little China, of course.

Hear me, Obsidian Spirits!  I am not drunk!

This line might seem weirdly out of context or just goofy, but in point of fact the word amethyst is Greek for "not intoxicated".  The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that amethyst stone protected you from becoming intoxicated, and would wear charms of amethyst or craft wine goblets out of amethyst.

Anyway, put all of that together and you get a half-assed summoning spell that sounds like it might actually mean something!  Or at least, reads like a spell, and not just words like "hocus pocus!"  :D

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