[4.5 Spoilers] Bedtime Reading

Forged Hearts, Tess Hager

PSBN: 7340927009515
On Loan to BHI by:
L. Graubard
Level: Intermediate
Schools:
Enchantment, Sympathetic Practices

Chapter One, Introduction

I was raised by crafty people, in every sense of the word.  Craftsmanship, cunning, and the ‘craft’ of witchcraft.  My mother was traded to a Gnarling as a slave to make things for sale, in a wayside realm where Others hid, somewhere between the Faerie and Earth.  She created toys and trinkets, enchanting them, and the Other would curse them, before selling them to the unwitting.  The curses would do their work, upending lives and casting people to long torments, collect the misery, and make their way back to the Gnarling’s hands.

My father was a teenage practitioner, nothing too fancy, and would travel to and fro, buying and selling on each trip.  He came across my mother, whittling and painting, and offered her help, to reduce her workload and give her time enough to talk with him.  She accepted, and thus they met through the making of things.

There is more to that tale.  She accepted his help, but he wasn’t nearly so practiced as her, when she’d done that work all her life.  It would be another ten years before she told him that her Gnarling ‘mother’ had thrashed her violently with holly branches after every one of his visits, for wasting the resources and doing work so poor it wouldn’t hold a curse.  A fair price, as she saw it, for the company of this boy she was so besotted with.  But she did escape, trading a curse to a neighbor in exchange for a giant’s yawn, and trading the giant’s yawn for a welcome.  She spun the welcome into an Awakening, doing it as my father had explained, made a promise to all Others, and then aimed Gnarling’s curses at her, secretly, one by one, over the course of a sleepless night. And that Faerie-cousin of a thing, already little more than a walking curse, was done and undone three times over by each curse in turn, until she was unmade.

My mother walked the path my father had said he took to reach that place between Faerie and Earth, arrived in America without money, identification, or the ability to read.  She crossed half a continent to find my father, they embraced, and then they were married within the week.

My father’s side of the story is shorter.  When he was seven, his older brother drew a diagram to show him the summoning of an elemental.  A part of the diagram was not closed, and the uncle I would never know had his very being pulled into the open part of the diagram.  Elemental practitioners will be able to guess the end result; his being was folded into the natural, and as my father tells the story, for an acre around, wood became bone, grass became tattered flesh and hair, dirt became ground meat, and the wind became a scream punctuated by frantic cries.  I’ve since looked into this, to see if such a thing could be weaponized, and I’m suspicious a seven year old’s interpretation of events painted it as larger in scale than it was. Within and immediately around the circle?  Absolutely.  But an acre?  The power wasn’t there.

Nonetheless, I cannot debate the point with him, because it sits heavily with him five decades later.  It crushed my grandfather, and when my father was awakened at a much older age, he was taught a great deal less.  He led a quiet life, sedate, but he says it wasn’t until he met my mother that he felt at peace.

All of this is a lead-in to some thoughts on my own education, and how my parents approached that.  I was awakened at thirteen, but my parents had not collected a lot of books or practices.  My mother knew what enchanting she had learned from watching the Other who kept her as a slave, and my father had learned just enough elemental practice to know what to watch out for, how to protect himself.  I was sent off to a circle that taught young practitioners, because events at the time had us all wary of the state of the world, and they thought I should be prepared to handle anything that came.

I was so talented with what little they were able to teach me, but when I went to the circle and the tutors that waited for me there, I failed.  I was held back a year, criticized, and it was suggested that the practice wasn’t for me.  An instructor even suggested I was lying when I said I’d made some of the things I’d brought.  My spirits were so low that I started to believe it myself.

It took me four more years before I deciphered the riddle.

Practice, my dears, is about repetition, rhythm, and presentation.  We take some form of power, often something Others have to offer, or a bit of our Self, and we use our inviolable word to push that power into the ruts that the past has carved into existence.  Those ruts are the circuits in the computer of reality, the currents in the aether of unreality.

What, then, of Enchantment?  Not to be confused with enchanters and enchantresses, but the use of practice to make something with its own special workings?

How does one create a pattern when they aim to create something wholly new?  We can inscribe the pattern directly into the thing, that is certainly a way, but then the object is little more than a diagram wrapped around an urn, or sword, or doll.  We could do as my mother once did, and create the same things over and over again.  Surely a rut would form that way.  Perhaps not in one lifetime, but it would form.  Or we could take power or an Other and bind it into the weapon… a process that typically ends with the aforementioned inscribing of a pattern.

These are conventional ways.  I would guess a majority of typical enchanting tutors would teach these methods.  Even when borrowing other methods, I’ve noticed the habit of sealing things with a firm inscription.

Yet there are items that we call ‘enchanted’ that have no inscription, and no preceding pattern of manufacture.  The things created by the Gnarling that enslaved my mother had no mark, and if they had, the gig, as they say, would have swiftly been up.  What good is a cursed item with a large magical diagram on it, or an inscription that is hidden inside the construction, when a child often takes anything and everything apart?

Having a mark creates a weak point, and someone wishing to deal with the object can deal with either the object or the diagram that binds it.  Because of the inherent ‘stickiness’ of any measure one might take, the removal of the binding that seals it can undo the working, ruining the item.  The workings may be intricate when diagrams are involved, and they can be strong, but they may well be only as strong as the material of the object that bears that intricacy.

This was my difficulty, because I was raised with what I would term craft, rather than by practice.  The word ‘practice’ implies rote repetition, with aim of perfection.  Craft, on the other hand, is skill.  Something that comes from the honing of the self.  If it is to be used by people other than oneself, then it requires a skill in conveying something to the audience, or in inviting the audience in.

This tome addresses the manners and ways in which one can develop the skill.

In Chapter Two we discuss the Others for whom craftsmanship is tied to their being.  The Dwarves of Deep Midgard, Artisan Fae of the Spring court, Master Craftsman Animuses, and some Peddlers (a broad category encapsulating your ‘magic shop’ Other, including those similar to the aforementioned Gnarling).  We’ll discuss ways to shape the self and put yourself into your craftsmanship, including titles, signatures, and immersive crafting.

Chapter Three will cover Others who create the material from nothing, sometimes with its own properties.  Greater powers such as gods may create something from nothing to bestow a gift on a chosen champion, some Animuses for whom giving powerful gifts is a common practice (swordbearers), some goblins I hesitate to attempt to label (the labels intentionally change), and those Others with access to a strong means of translating power between states.  Practical lessons that pull on similar concepts detail the creation of an item out of raw power, with lessons ranging from beginner (mundane items) to intermediate (items with power and traits).  There are also some notes on advanced rituals for those with a Demesne, who wish to create a focal point within their place of power to empower an item over time.

Chapter Four covers related topics to chapter two, but in the case of ‘accidental’ crafting, the Other or the Other-associated leaves functionally enchanted objects in their wake.  Others borne of the morass of original void, revenants with their death-tokens, echoes and objects that are receptive but not hallowed, goblins (as in so many things, unfortunately), and things both material and immaterial that reside in another realm for long enough to absorb qualities can all produce these items.  Crafts detailed here include making objects receptive vs. making them hallowed, the means of identifying enchanted detritus, ‘gardenings’ that place an object in a strange realm such as the Abyss, Ruins, or Faerie to be recovered later and ‘architecture’ that prepares a space in one of those strange realms so that an item comes into being or finds its way to the desired point, with the desired qualities.

Chapter Five, the last one in this book, details those Others who are enchanted objects, including items with personality, once-human objects, hallowed items that have housed an Other so long they are inexorably tied, and those Others, such as goblins, who can become objects upon being bound.  We discuss the why, the how, and the advantages.  While many of these cases don’t lend themselves to an easy allegory in craft or crafting (aside from the obvious), they do comfortably provide a way of returning to some of the ideas discussed in this introduction, such as practice, binding, diagrams, and how things might map to those different schools of practice and craft.  Some advanced rituals combine concepts and crafts from earlier chapters, or use practice to help further shape and design the item we wish to have as an end result.

We’ll finish with a basic practice:

A Simple Tempering

A craft to prepare an item and distill its purpose.  A learning exercise.  I’ve prepared and encouraged this exercise with my own children, having them use the personal objects they brought to their awakening rituals for the demonstration.  The clearer connection to those objects helps to see the end result.

You’ll require a space to work, and an item of some meaning or quality.  Keep in mind that, with some of the sub-exercises, you may be keeping this item with you for some time.  You’ll also require some material to draw a diagram with, measuring tools if you want optimal results, and, optional but recommended, a supply of power.

Draw the following diagram on your workspace.  This can be any size, but the object should be able to lie across the Eighth Son cross at the center of the diagram:

Potency circle with Cross of the Eighth Son at center.

The diagram is a strengthening circle, and our aim here is to strengthen the object while blasting power through it.

If you have a source of power, prepare it appropriately, connecting it to the diagram or tapping directly into the ritual.  Failing that, kneeling, slicing one’s hand and allowing eight drops of blood to drip down, and making a declaration of power will serve for most demonstrations, though this will exhaust and diminish the individual until they can recover.

The tempering process is not overly complex and is meant to be an opening action that leads into several other practices in this book.  Conducting every exercise in this text may involve twenty to fifty temperings depending.  The object should be examined thoroughly with the sight; typically, the item will change slightly in appearance, mirroring the type of power used (matching the user if their own personal power was tapped), but to the Sight it may appear hollow, decorated, or ‘open’, depending on one’s particular means of Seeing.

Tempering can serve to create a hallow, as the use of power will remove pollutants, impurities, and loose matter from the item, making it easier for spirits or suitable immaterial Others to move in.  The item can be prepared, decorated, or placed in an area appropriate to the desired type of spirit, echo, or other formless Other that the user wishes to bring into the item.

Tempering serves some other benefits.  If the item is tempered, becomes a hallow for, as an example, water spirits, and tempered again, the water spirits will be pushed into the body of the item, while the core remains hallowed.  Tempering also strengthens objects on a fundamental level, both against physical harm, wear and tear, and keeping them primed for their function.  Blades will stay sharper for longer, for example.

The drawback, however, is that a hallowed item is vulnerable to impurities and unwanted Others.  This renders it weaker or sensitive to immaterial attacks, emotional damage, or ‘picking up’ incidental spirits.  One would not want to temper something they were eating with until they had placed something in the hallow or secured it.  Using a knife that had been tempered to cut meat would bring qualities of the meat into the knife, and it could ‘go bad’, causing food poisoning.  Small physical features may continue to change as things move into the hallow.

Sub exercises:
*  Temper an item important to you (such as what you awoke with) and wear it close to your heart (or your person, if the heart is too difficult) for at least a week.  In this case, we are treating the hallowed object by surrounding it with motifs and qualities.  These motifs and qualities will attract spirits and echoes that are drawn to those motifs and qualities.  Often these will be things that match, but they can be things that consume those qualities.  The motifs and qualities are ourselves and the clothes we wear, and our daily activities, and the spirits and forces attracted should closely align with ourselves.  Examine the item again after.

* Temper an item of some quality that isn’t important to you (for reasons that will soon become apparent).  Leave it be for a time, then return to it.  Study what came to dwell in the hallow, apply fundamental negative principles for that typology of Other, and try to destroy the item.  Use the Sight at every step along the way; familiarity with this process can lead to some ways to destroy other objects.

* Repeat step two, but instead of destroying it, temper it again, specifically targeting whatever resides within it.  Observe the changes in quality.

Once done, we have some foundational knowledge we can use as we move on to chapter one…



Quasi, Unnamed

PSBN: 1139697998664
Added permanently to the BHI library by: Mrs. Durocher
Level: Intermediate
Schools:
Halflight (Heartless var., Visceral)

The moon was behind me, as I walked my lonely path.
Whispers follow’d me, brimm’d of wroth and wrath.
No shadow that I could see, but I could feel his breath.
I turned and staggr’d, then fled from promised death.
Breath fogg’d, heels dogg’d, he wouldn’t let me be.
The monster that threatn’d I, was none other than me.

A man dons an animal skin and stalks a forest trail.  Another drinks an alchemical admixture, and becomes a beast of another sort.

A feral thing wears his victim’s skin and goes to the man’s home to eat a dinner, his family unnerved but unable to say exactly why.  A gossamer wisp of a creature dresses itself up as a babe using clay by the riverbed and the flesh from a dug-up corpse.  Then it wails, and a woman finds it.  The corpse it dug up was that of her baby, recently lost, and she is stunned to long silence by how it resembles her child.  She brings it into her home.

Walls separate man and monster.  Artfully addressed, halflight practices aim to capture the best of both at once.  Once we begin the journey, however, the way back to normalcy is hard, if not impossible.

Quasi is divided into four sections, to be read in any order, as needs demand.

In Harsh Moonlight we look at the means of storing and restoring humanity.  Those who have been set on this path by another may find the techniques therein a good way to stave off transformations or progression of a condition, such as becoming a ghoul or securing a fading Self.  Beginners of Halflight practices are advised to read that section next, and take steps to prepare and stock up on measures to control or recover from what follows.  When a situation gets out of control, the stock of old fingernail clippings or stored blood may prove invaluable for a quick infusion of one’s prior self.

In Long Shadows we list and explore some of the most common creatures that wear human guises and join human society.  These include those creatures both pitiable and nefarious that are human sometimes and lunge into becoming monster, deceivers who wear human guises for long periods of time, dopplegangers, some Faerie, those Offspring who have inbred to the point of edging out of humanity, and we briefly touch on possessors, but our primary intent there is to list better resources.  Material from other sections can be reversed to target weaknesses, compel the human form for a time, or force the monstrous change where nothing can be hidden, to unravel their doings.

In Eclipsed Self we list some of the ways that a human might take steps to become Other, and why.  Some practices are listed, and are somewhat scattershot in approach, providing only some waypoints for further research.  The expert should already know where they wish to be, the beginner will want to start at chapter one and then turn to this chapter to get direction on where to go.

In Fullest Dark we explore the ramifications of Other involvement in human affairs.  What becomes of a family or bloodline?  A marriage?  It is possible for an Other to step into humanity and assume nearly everything about a human life, including the ability to practice, or to take up the life as a role, where they then assume responsibility for deals and contracts.  Conversely, a life may be entirely abandoned, shirking off name, responsibilities, or consequences.  What, truly, is the end result?  Does an individual remember?  Contains some transcripts.

Eclipsed Self, part III

Four basic rituals are listed, in order, as per the Viscera (Otherness stemming from within),  Mien (Otherness starting at the outside), Calendar (Otherness at set intervals), and Unfettered (Otherness from detachment) categories.

The Sixberry admixture is the basic ritual for the Viscera approach, and paves the way for future progression.  A simple and flexible herbal concoction, softening those parts of the Self that are firm, and scouring away that which is disposable.  Taken as a triple dose, one might soften their own bones and features enough to mold them, but should expect up to a month of aches and pains after the admixture’s effect wears off, as the body fights to return to normal.

The Citation practice is the basic ritual for the Mien approach.  A paper is prepared and laid into the skin to meet the Self, then removed.  Color may be pulled from a lock of hair, pupils from eyes, or scars from flesh.  This will weaken the practitioner in many ways, some not immediately obvious or intuitive.  The practitioner should then shore themselves up with power, with the awareness that the type and amount of power will affect just how the body fills in the blanks.  Each ‘surgery’ in this manner may strengthen or alter them in the longer term.  Advanced use of this practice can cite away more abstract elements, but this should be done with extreme care, on a sturdy foundation of healed physical changes done with this or other Mien practices.  Other advanced approaches allow citing away the qualities of another individual or Other, to be taken into oneself, forcing one’s own exaggerated, unwanted qualities into others, and treating one’s wounds by using the Citation to remove the damage.  Removed scraps will take on physical form as papers, mementos and/or things with small power to them, useful in various Visceral practices.  Note that restoration of what was sacrificed is difficult to impossible.

The ‘Bloody Sundays’ Calendar practice is rather more open ended, setting a strict timeframe for changes (not necessarily the namesake Sundays), with a list of possible contracts and Others.  Some of the possibilities include transformation into a vengeance curse, shift into one of the seven Ideal Selves covered in Eclipsed Self Part II (the Brute, the Grace, etc), and tapping into a realm for a set time.  This should be considered a moderate-tier ritual and be conducted with close assistance and due precaution.  Once begun, the contracted timeframe must be ridden out.

Finally, the most accessible Unfettered practice is the Shadow of Oneself.  The Self is opened up and astral projected into, sometimes while the practitioner is asleep.  Individual issues, memories, and facets of the Self can be explored and confronted as physical things and places, growing more meaningful as one gets deeper, and may be slain with physical means or altered with practice.  At seven points along the periphery of the Self where it meets the rest of the universe, often past key barriers (core memories, Karmic barriers, inner demons), one can address or attempt to slay things such as specific connections, specific marks of karma, mortality (and other incarnation-related aspects), and any attached curses or abstract qualities.  Once sufficiently threatened (and it will be threatened even if the practitioner is ‘healing’ it, such as by removing a curse), the Self can be expected to attack the practitioner, in hopes of destroying the part of them that seeks to change so drastically.  A moderate ritual for which assistance is strongly recommended, primarily used for strategic targeting of key problems by those who cannot wait as long as Citation requires.

The practices are listed below…

16 thoughts on “[4.5 Spoilers] Bedtime Reading

  1. “Each ‘surgery’ in this manner may strengthen or alter them in the longer germ.”

    This is probably an errata, but wouldn’t it be cool if it wasn’t? Verona’s enthusiasm for practice is infectious, she has all the markings of a great germ, an exceedingly long one at that. Something like Helen in Twig, at least.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Welp… that last “shadow of oneself” section sounds EXACTLY like what Verona would go for… and also fairly “forest Ribbon Traily”.

    Tess Hager seems nice, and notably, far saner/less ominous than the second author…. but also Hager’s casual disregard for others is kinda obvious (“Just get spirit in your item, look at it, and then annihilate said item. Whatevs”).
    Also the description of the Gnarling as “little more than a walking curse”…. sort of… delegitimizing its claim to personhood.
    Given the family history, Hager’s attitude makes sense… but I can’t help but think the underlying philosophical framework conflicts with our Trio’s.

    Also, can’t help but note that the book about removing pieces of oneself is written by “Anonymous”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m 90% sure that the spirits inside the destroyed item will be unharmed, as much as a concept like “harm” can be applied to beings as ephemeral and abstract as spirits.
      The Gnarling thing…I’d have to see one on-page before I could confidently say she was wrong, because there are magical things that are literally no more than a walking X, but…she’s probably wrong.

      And the anonymous note is apt.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Huh. Combining that Tempering ritual with some of those Heartless practices and you could totally turn yourself into a xianxia cultivator, couldn’t you?

    I think it’s probably more likely that they’ll use the Tempering ritual on their masks than their bodies, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was sent off to a circle that taught young practitioners, because events at the time had us all wary of the state of the world…

    Huh. So I guess Graubard’s childhood was some time in the…history.

    …some goblins I hesitate to attempt to label (the labels intentionally change)…

    People with unpalatable desires change their labels intentionally, as though trying to stop people from connecting them with their predecessors? Art mirrors reality indeed.
    Petty example I know, considering other stuff in this story (some of which I’ve pointed out). I just find the efficacy of this particular tactic frustrating.

    Schools: Halflight (Heartless var., Visceral)

    I wonder what the one named Sailor Moon has to say about Heartless…

    The moon was behi—

    Didn’t expect an actual moon connection so quickly…

    Walls separate man and monster. Artfully addressed, halflight practices aim to capture the best of both at once. Once we begin the journey, however, the way back to normalcy is hard, if not impossible.

    Verona’s waiting for you to explain the catch.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The thing I find weird with Verona?
    She doesn’t ACT like she wants to be an other. She acts like she wants to be a witch.

    As in, others are like…. poured into a particular mold. They’re fixed. Rigid. One particular thing, and in some sense PARAGONS of that thing.
    Its not like she aspires to be a healer so much she’ll be a healing spirit. It’s not like she’s so set on revenge she would bend her life to it.

    What she seems to desire is freedom and flexibility… and for that… er… “Practitioner” is actually a pretty good fit. You have lots of spells. There’s wheeling and dealing. You don’t get locked into being ONE THING (at least, not so much). Verona is actually really well suited to being a practitioner. Hell, if anything, Lucy is the one most suited to going all in on something and becoming some sort of paragon spirit thing… but also the one least keen on it.

    … not that this is a writting problem… is just kinda evidence that Verona is maybe a bit stupid. 😛

    Liked by 3 people

    • Also, with all the glamour Avery’s doing and the way she’s actively trying to become a better version of herself, I feel like she’s the member of the trio who’s the furthest down the path to actually becoming a bit Other.

      Liked by 4 people

    • I think she hasn’t thought this through all the way, and doesn’t know quite what she wants. Which, teenager. And teenager. And I know I was a bit stupid back at her age.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Typos here – get ’em while they’re hot!

    “examined thoroughly with the sight”
    sight -> Sight

    “The ‘Bloody Sundays’ Calendar practice is rather more open ended”
    open ended -> open-ended? (I feel like this is the way I usually see it, but might be a matter of preference.)

    Like

  7. I am absolutely loving these Thursday Errata chapters. This one, in particular, tells a lovely meta story about just who is flipping the pages, and where their interests lie. Plus, gives us plenty of tantalizing clues about the real nature of Others, items, practices, and.. Dare I say, how real and relatable the magic in this world feels, compared to other stories. It’s Complicated, but is built out of the way we think about the world, see and interact with the world… And in a way that reminds me a lot of the real practices of modern magical thinkers in our world, notwithstanding the sources of power. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Might be my favorite one of these Thursday sections to date. Hints at a lot of depth and interesting potential in the craft, and lays out some neat “beginner” level tricks that I’d be excited to see some of our trio try out.

    Like

  9. Ah, this was one of my favourite part of Pact, the book excerpts. Really helps build the world, hint at stuff we might not ever get to see in the scope of the story proper.

    I’m sure Verona will do all the diligent reading and take all the right precautions before leaping into this and making a mess. *)

    Like

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