Extracts from the library of the late John Thistle. Esteemed Angleland Faie

On the rules of magik

Everything on Earth that exists is in a state of Being and is therefore aware of Itself and, most importantly, it is Biddable.

It follows, then, that all magik is essentially a conversation. Anything that is in a state of Being has to listen, that is the Lore. For example, if you wish’d to have the sky go black, you cannot simply make the sun disappear from the Heavens but you can cover it up with storm clouds, provided you know the correct form of address to ask a passing storm cloud for a favour.

So magik is all in the asking. However, beware, sometimes the price of a favour is high. The tale of Bek, a Scottish Wight who lived some 6,000 years ago, shows us why.

Bek, like many Wights (and Scottish Wights in particular), lived on his own in a dank little cave on one of those chaliceforsaken, rain-swept isles off the Western coast of what we now call Scotland. In those days it was even colder and more miserable up there, especially so in winter, and Bek took to eating cheese to cheer himself up. He started with wild goat’s cheese, which he liked at first, then began to find a bit crumbly for his taste. Then he had a go at cow’s cheese, which was also delicious and put him in a good mood after supper – but it gave him strange, frightening dreams at night, which is not good if you spend the majority of your life in a cave with plenty of unexpected corners and shadows.

After that, he tried sheep, osprey, rabbit, fox and even cheese made from rat’s milk. All were fine in their own way but eventually, one by one, he grew tired of them and so he went back to staring miserably out of his hovel at the driving rain and screeching, mad-eyed gulls – the island’s only other regular inhabitants.

Then one day an Irish peddler Wight visited him unexpectedly. After a few minutes’ seemingly idle conversation he learned of Bek’s love for cheese and insisted that you hadn’t lived unless you tried the cheese that came from the Moon. Bek was intrigued. ‘All you need to know,’ the peddler asserted as his coal-black eyes, flecked red, flicked around Bek’s cave, ‘is that the Moon was once, a very long time ago, part of the Earth. However, being made of cheese, it crumbled and broke away from the Earth eventually. Very rarely a small lump will come down to Earth but mostly it just hangs about up there, remote and utterly delicious!’

‘So what do I need to do?’

‘Well, first of all you need to remind the Moon where it came from and all the lovely things it might be missing down here. Then you need to point out how lonely it is all the way out there in space and what good company it is depriving itself of, not being down here with you,’ the peddler had the decency to look doubtful at this stage, ‘ahem…sharing some of its delectable flesh with such a hearty good friend as yourself.’ At this Bek leaned forward until his long, crooked nose was practically touching the other Wight’s long, crooked nose.

‘And just how do I do that?’

‘I have a spell written down,’ the peddler replied, not blinking once. ‘Just the right words that will charm the Moon out of the sky.’

‘How much, peddler?’ A long, thin finger shot out from inside the Irish Wight’s robe and pointed at something that glowed faintly in the corner, hidden by a rag.

‘That will do nicely.’ The bundles of rags he pointed at contained a ruby that had belonged to Bek’s mother and it was his most radiant possession. But Bek did not hesitate.

‘It’s yours,’ he said handing over the precious rock and snatching the spell from the peddler’s extended hand. From the bundle an awful wailing noise immediately echoed around the cave.

‘Oh, yes, I see… bartered like a cheap trinket, a bagatelle of no value…your poor mother would be spinning in her stony grave, thankless Wight!’ The ruby was not only large, it was magik and had this really appalling attitude towards life in general. ‘Handed over to a complete stranger…dishonest by the looks of him…who knows what will become of me…plucked from the bosom of my family…torn from all I love!’

For an instant the peddler’s eyes wavered, as if he had begun to suspect he hadn’t got such a good deal after all. It was a long crossing back to the mainland. But before he had a chance to change his mind, Bek wished the peddler good day – meaning good riddance – and shot off to find the woolly cap he always wore when doing really difficult magik.

Now, on first reading the words on the scrap of paper meant nothing to him but this didn’t bother Bek in the least: he knew enough of magik to have one or two ideas where to start. First of all he assumed that the spell, since it was written to please the Moon, must be written in Her language. The Her bit was important because Bek also knew that being female, the Moon would have close affinity with the Tides. The Sea had its own language, too. Bek was all too aware of this because he listened to it, uncomprehendingly, each night; soothed to sleep by the gentle tones, even if he understood not a word. But how could he learn the Language of the Tides? The Wight sat in his cave and thought hard for a whole week, not stirring once, even to eat or drink. Eventually the answer came to him.

Bek went fishing.

Once he had caught enough sprats, he went to see the King of the Gulls on the Island. Being a Wight, he knew the Language of Birds, and he guessed (rightly) that they would be able to teach him the Sea’s soft tongue. So he bribed the old gull with leather buckets filled to the brim with smelly fish and learned what he needed to know. It took him nearly three whole years, and a lot of cold, dreary fishing, but eventually he was able to read the spell in a way the Moon would understand. Amazingly (especially for those of you who suspected the Irish Wight had tricked Bek), the spell worked.

In actual fact the peddler, whose name was Tam, by the way, was just as surprised as anyone when slowly, over a period of a few days, the now thoroughly homesick Moon sunk towards Earth, back to where it came from. However, as you can imagine, the result was catastrophic: volcanoes boiled over, hurricanes scoured huge valleys in the crust of the Earth and eventually a terrible flood came to pass.

Many non-magical and magical creatures perished – including the Unicorn – and those that survived only did so by sheer luck. A Human named Noah somehow got wind of the impending tragedy and built a vast boat which he filled up with all sorts of creatures, quite a few of whom took to eating one another to pass the time on board.

As for Bek, it is supposed that he died in the flood; but perhaps not. There are those that say he had charmed the Moon so effectively that She rescued him from the floods and the storms. It is certainly very true that if you look at the Moon when full, Bek’s face seems to stare out at you.

On the simple stuff

Clearly, then, a lot of the ambitious magik is not such a fabulous idea.

Far better, perhaps, to concentrate on enchantments closer to home.

In fact, magik carried out in one’s own home or on land that belongs to the practitioner is always the most effective. Indeed, it is the mark of a truly gifted Faie, Vampire or Wight that can conjure even a spark of fire far away from his home on a dark night in a howling gale.

John Trott of Kente was one such Faie. Many years ago he was travelling through the kingdom of Mercia late in autumn on his way to visit a sick, yet very rich aunt. Whether it was her sickness or his poorness that prompted his concern for his aged relative is lost to us in the mists of time (see Chapter 12, On…unravelling the past) but what we do know is that John Trott found himself struggling hatless (and coatless) through a sudden squall that forced him to take shelter in some nearby caves.

Luck was not on his side, for no sooner had he entered the cave, shaken the rain out of his locks and caught his breath, than the ceiling fell in and he found himself trapped and alone in the dark. Undeterred at first, he struck out deep into the cave in search of another way out, but soon found himself completely and utterly lost. Cold, wet, and by now most probably regretting that he even had an aunt – rich or poor – he sat down where he was and tried to conjure a small fire to cheer himself up.

However, he was altogether out of sorts by now and every spell he tried fizzled to nothing. His usual method of taking some suitably enchanted powder (namely a pinch of salt that had been struck by the lightening of a summer storm) and adding water from a clear pool in the cave just gave him a sludgy mess. However, like all Faies he also knew that fire retains the memory of itself and that rubbing the ash of a burnt oak on stone would cause flames to gut from chalk, lime or granite. Unfortunately he had no such potash. Faie eyes are not as good in the dark as Vampires but he saw enough in the pitch dark around him to know that he was very far underground and quite alone. John felt like crying. And he probably would have burst into tears there and then were it not for him noticing some crystals that ran along the rim of a hollow near to where he crouched – a hollow made by the ancient volcano that had spat flame and formed the cave, its terrible heat leaving the white crystals behind. Fire retains a memory of itself, he thought again, and I do also have red granite. In fact the cave was made up of practically nothing else. He had the ingredients – the spell itself was easy – but more than this he had hope.

Magik thrives on self-confidence and before long John had his fire and felt much better.

This story has a further happy ending too. His aunt, Mistress Trott, knowing very well her nephew’s propensity for mishap, sent two of her clever Wight servants out to look for him. By now the storm had passed but the servants noticed smoke drifting up through a pothole in some local caves. They investigated by another entrance further up the hill and soon found John sleeping soundly by his fire. Escorting him back to his aunt’s bedside, Trott – who may have exaggerated the story of being lost and alone in a cave somewhat – delighted his aunt with the tale of his adventure, as well as delighting many of her elderly friends with similar stories. In fact he made himself so agreeable to several old ladies that he not only inherited his aunt’s estates but several more besides, and became a very rich and respected Faie indeed who could chuse to leave home with a dozen different hats if he so desired.

On old magik

This comes from the Lore, passed down by the wandering Kings and rarely practised by Faies though it is still used by our cousins, the Vampires.

Lore is the old ways – and it makes up the blueprints for understanding this world we live in.

To understand Lore is to talk the slow language of the Earth as it navigates us, its children, through cold space over millions of years. This is a very different language to that of the other Beings on Earth. It is more like music – a slow steady beat, with many long pauses. The Vampire mastery of Lore marks them as the most sophisticated practitioners of old magik in the Hidden Kingdom – although some might well remark that that’s just showing-off. Seeing the future is one of the skills mastered by Lore.

In fact the Vampire Clan of Sgi gave up the sword over a dozen millennia ago, the better to concentrate on this particular skill. The last in their line, which is lost now, was a Vampire known to his friends as Perroquet and he was perhaps the greatest Se’er of the Clan. So honed were his skills, he could read the future accurately in almost any object – the trajectory of a snowflake, the path taken by a spider as it stalked through a meadow at dawn, the flight of swallows…

Late in life, when he was well past a thousand years old, he liked to explain that the trick to peering into the future was to appreciate that all events in life are linked. Once you had satisfied yourself that this was so, the only thing you needed to do was open your heart (and mind) to the thousands connections all around you. It literally meant letting the speech and the rhythms of the Earth into your mind; letting the movement of its creatures, the flow of the rivers, the ebb of tides and all the continuous dialogues wash over you. At first this is a confusing and disagreeable sensation but, bit by bit, with a couple of hundred years of practice, the Vampire mind, in particular, is strong enough to withstand the millions of strands of information.

Unfortunately, reading the future can be depressing, so Perroquet spent another couple of hundred years unlearning his art and died (quite unexpectedly) a happy Vampire.

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