A collection of tootfic which was originally published on Mastodon. Volume I includes the Ti(tt)le series.
“The trick is not just in the ingredients and in the order they are stirred in.”
Toa had been teaching seminars on potion-brewing – first in her garage, then in empty classrooms, then auditoriums, and now in a garage again – since the world was a very different place.
There was always one. Usually one per twenty.
“Intent and your mood? Your desires?”
“Portioning.” Toa raised one eyebrow at the Mood and Desires student. “You must get everything in the right measurements, of course, the right times and the right methods of integration, but more than that, you must dose out these things in the proper form and quantity. With food or without? Morning or evening? One capful or three?”
“Sounds like science,” another student muttered. “I thought this was potions.”
“Scire. ‘To Know.'” Toa pinned each and every one of them with her gaze. “If you think potions does not require knowledge, then I ask you to leave now, before you eat the wrong leaf and poison yourself in the middle of my class.”
Not at all to her surprise, nobody left.
“It’s not just waving your hands about and muttering words.”
Once a month, Toa sat in on her friend Wel’s Basics of Spellcraft session. Like Toa, Wel had started a long time ago and a lot smaller, and sometimes she had to squint to see the Wel she’d known (beard and tie-die and bare feet) in this imposing-looking man, patched shirt notwithstanding.
“I know that a lot of the street magi you’ll have encountered make it look like that. But if you are here, I assume you are here to learn something, and what you should learn, first, is this:
“We begin with the Words, which have shape, form, and sound. We add to them the Gestures and the Diagrams, which have shape in three dimensions. And to those all, we add – not our will, this is important.
“This is important!” he repeated; a few of his students jumped. “If you are going to cast a spell, you merely lay down the circuits for it to flow through. The unwavering Will of the Universe provides the rest.”
“And that,” he added with a grim smile (A smile Toa couldn’t help but echo), “is where the Threefold Law has its roots. Heed well. And for homework, read the story of Jan Peck, pages 2-7 in your handout. Read it twice and write me two pages on the dangers of ill-considered spell usage. Dismissed.”
“Sometimes, all we can do is put up an umbrella and wait out the rain.”
Uma was, in theory, Wel’s student – but he had found over the last year of catastrophe and madness that he was learning more from her than she from him.
“Sometimes we can find where the floodwaters are breaking the dike and plug it.”
She was drawing chalk symbols on the road while Wel held her umbrella – mostly symbols he’d taught her, some he’d never seen before.
She pointed at a sideways-L-with-a-twist. “Personal runes. Don’t know how they work for most people, but they work for me. This one means ‘Shelter’.”
Wel could think of three other ways to do what Uma was doing – PARTS of what she was doing. But right now, he was learning from her and not she from him; he stayed quiet.
“There.” Standing, she moved both hands in increasing triangles while she chanted in Latin (and in gibberish). When she stepped back, the stench from the eastern city had faded.
“Not quite an umbrella.” She looked quite pleased with herself. “But it will help us endure the storm.”
And when the world was ending, Wel knew, enduring was priority one.
“The worst thing about personal ruins—” Uma grinned at her audience “–is that I can’t tell you how to use them or what to use.”
They were meeting in an old subway station that had been warded (with traditional runes) until people still residing above had forgotten there had ever been a stop here.
“If I say, ‘this is the rune for truth,’ that ruins it, because all you have attached to it is ‘Uma said it means truth.’ It might not even work for me anymore. Magic is, after all, finicky.”
“So how do we learn them?” Tim was the impatient sort. Uma didn’t stop smiling.
“You don’t. You discover them.” She gestured — calm down, calm down— and pulled their attention back to her. “So you diagram your spells like a sentence, and then if there’s something you want to do you don’t have a word for, say, move, hush, I know that’s , then you reach for a shape out of your own life. I suggest nothing too complicated, because you want to be able to draw it over and over again in a hurry, so no portraits of your favorite pet marmot or complex emoji.
“And then… then you take your sentence apart. You have a word for self and a word for air and a word for push, and you know how the subject, the object, the verb go in normal spells.”
In the ruin of their world, Uma still found herself smiling at her students. “In short, you put together a sentence and then you put in your own version of ‘thingababob’ for the word you’re missing.”
Before the Mess, before the Dust, Bo’d known nothing about bookbinding.
Then, Bo had been a dabbler in spells, knowing 3 new-age ones that got mostly psychosomatic results. Then, Bo’d been a decent programmer & a tolerable handball player & married.
Now, Bo gathered up newsprint used to wrap ceramics, cut leather from a coat that had too many bullet holes to be salvageable and too many memories to try, and carefully trimmed boards from the back of a ruined pressboard bookshelf.
Now, they snuck through checkpoints and slid under barriers, climbed over fences and were very good at the spell that could slow or stop bullets. Now they made ink from walnuts or from berries, once — only once — from blood and often eeked out of the backs of broken pens. They cut quills from old tin cans and cat-litter bins. And everywhere they went, they wrote.
Isah, they’d scribe in fading brown, for peace. Teru Isah bena, to calm someone.
They scribed runes carefully and copied each one as many times as they had paper, and then, when they had enough, they bound everything together.
luro, to seal, they wrote on both covers, Tela, to hide, and then they’d leave the completed grimoire with their current host and move on.
At night, copying over all the pages, every time they could find more paper, they whispered Alet, to love, and let their tears thin the ink.
“Magic isn’t just something you can scavenge, like tin cans hidden under a shelf—”
“I prefer salvage, like selvage, holding yourself together at the edges.”
“Whatever you call it, you can’t just FIND Magic, okay?
“We found that potions set-up.”
“Yeah, we did. You couldn’t do anything with it, could you? It’s not like science — you have to be the right person, you know.”
Magic existed; the End had told them that.
Magic was only for the right people; example had shown that.
Lis had read The Hobbit at 8 and Ogre, Ogre at 10; she didn’t need to be told about magic – and never believed it was only for SOME people.
She stroked a thin gold ring that was nobody’s Precious and climbed to the top of a building, to the edge of the roof, to the edge of herself.
She closed her eyes and, gold ring on her pointing finger, drew a rune she’d seen wizards use, whispered a word she’d heard them shout, followed it with one she’d only read once (salvaged, like a tin can).
It had to work, because they needed it. It had to work, because magic was real and she wanted it more than anything.
It had to work, because if magic had taken everything, it had to give her this.
It had to work — and, at the edge of herself, Lis spread new wings and took to the sky, brown feathers flapping against the air.
“What IS that?” Tao stared in horror at Yan’s bench.
“This? 99 Bananas, all the ginger powder left in the store, & safflower, turmeric, and curry powder.”
“Because all the vodka was gone, there isn’t any fresh ginger root to be had without a hothouse, and ditto saffron.”
“You’re making sweet piss water. WHY?”
Tao ought to know better; Tao did the spells for most of their group. But she had to admit the arrangement looked pretty awful.
“Because Cora’s heart is weak and Dan’s guts are rebelling & because our perimeter has been breached 4 times in the last month,” she retorted.
“That’s one hell of a potion.” Tao stared at the mess; she still couldn’t fault the urge
“Three potions,” she allowed. “But they share a base.”
And if her sweet piss water didn’t work, she was going to have to move on to the REALLY sketchy stuff.
“Carry on, then. But, if you need someone to test your base…. maybe ask someone else?”