Letters from Armorica: Nodes and Nods (17 June 37 AF)

First Letter

The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria

15 April 1015

My dearest cousin Armand,

I begin to think that the most import aspects of wizardry simply aren't written down. Perhaps they cannot be—perhaps they can only be taught through experience. But it is my belief that Cumbrian wizards simply do not want idle folk like myself engaging in wizardly experiments. Thus, they write down the tricky mathematical and theoretical bits, and leave the practical bits ensconced in their wizardly heads.

Somehow, it is clear, one produces a flow of power, which is then managed to some end. How one produces this flow is never stated. Where does the magical power come from? From the wizard? Or from some other source? If from the wizard, how does the wizard produce it? By force of will? By exertion of physical strength? By reading back issues of Martle's Peerage and concentrating on the really long entries?

Yes, dear Armand, of course that's absurd.

Then, once one has the power in hand, if that's the proper term, one directs it through a series of nodes. I have finally determined precisely what a node is. A node, I am given to understand, is something through which magic can flow. A sublime and satisfying thought! Something through which magic can flow! How could I have missed that?

And one's choice of node is of immense importance, so says Carmichael, for one must choose nodes suitable to one's end, considering their capacity, and luminance, and translucence, and sublimity, and esoteric weight, and a baker's dozen of other qualities, none of which are explained in detail except in terms of how they affect the calculations.

And then, one must arrange the nodes in pattern most conducive to one's end…which end is described in similarly helpful terms.

However, there is no list of commonly used nodes—or ends, either—in any of the books father has brought me.

But all is not gloom and despair. I have learned one useful thing about the symmetry of the nodes, which is that it has more to do with the relationships between the nodes rather than how they are positioned in space. One of the more introductory books spoke of beads and strings: what matters is which beads are connected to which other beads, and how long the strings are that connect them. The beads represent the nodes, and the strings represent the flows from node to node; and the length of the strings might be the distance in space—I think—but might also be in terms of other qualities. In some arrangements, all of the distances are measured in terms of the same quality; in other more powerful arrangements, the qualities may differ. And I think it depends very much on which kinds of node one chooses, though how you connect them remains a mystery.

So as you can see, dearest Armand, I have learned a great deal and gotten nowhere. But perhaps I am boring you, so I will dismount from my hobby horse and pass the news.

I invited Miss Willoughby to tea this past Monday, tête-à-tête, and naturally Edward joined us for a time. He said little, and stayed just long enough to consume a cup of tea and two rock cakes; but he greeted my dear Jane most politely and hung on her every word. It was most unlike him, and I do believe that he has taken to heart Papa's injunction that he must listen if he is to learn.

For I may say, Cousin Armand, that he is quite different from the agricultural enthusiast of whom I wrote several weeks ago. Blightwell tells me that Edward is really beginning to come to grips with the complexities of running a large and established estate—that there are no simple changes, for anything one does must necessarily affect half-a-dozen other things. And I do believe the work suits him.

Once he had left, Jane turned to me and asked plainly, "Did my mother put you up to this?" She had greeted me quite warmly on arrival, but now her tones were decidedly frosty.

"I presume you are speaking of my brother's presence?"

"I am."

"He does live here," I said. "One could hardly expect him not to pay his respects."

But she was not mollified, and selected a cake with a cold dignity.

"Very well, yes," I said, "your mother had a word with me. But if you think I put Edward up to anything, you are gravely mistaken. It is not as if he pays any attention to what I say." That took her aback, for she could not but admit the justice of what I said. I pressed on. "And more, Edward has been after me to invite you to tea for many weeks. I should have done so before now had the weather permitted."

The cake snapped in her fingers, leaving her all in crumbs. "He has?"

I nodded. "I know you haven't so much as glanced at him, but it is clear as day to everyone else that he's smitten."

"He is?"

"Certainly. And why shouldn't he be? Mind you, he has no idea how to go about it, poor dear. And he's off his stride at the moment, for he's being pursued by the younger Grimsbys."

She pursed her lips, clearly deciding what to think about that. "I did notice that you sat him with them at dinner. I assumed it was his preference, and I confess I thought poorly of him for it."

"No, no, I am afraid I was working off a grudge. Against him, not against them, you understand. But he's far too good for them, and he has steadied a great deal in the past weeks. Were you aware that Blightwell is teaching him how to manage our estate here?"

"Mother did say something, I believe, but she is always saying things, you know. One can't always be listening."

I agreed that one couldn't, and we passed onto other matters. But I have planted a seed; now it is up to them as to how they go on!

Your scheming cousin,


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photo credit: fishhawk Ready to pick via photopin (license)

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