Monday, March 31, 2014

Hound Hunting - Chapter 17.

I’d never been in the habit of having very many visitors inside my humble home let along trying to fit much more than myself inside at any one time. But strangely enough Glitch didn’t seem to make it any shorter on space than if it was just me alone. The obvious explanation was that since he was somewhat smaller than me it wasn’t comparable to me having to share the living space with anyone larger. Yet, I also couldn’t discount the fact that he had been used to calling an even smaller pile of scrap home might have something to do with it. My place must seem like a palace in comparison.

He had even patched up a few things like my chairs that I had only been able to piece back together into a makeshift manner. As I glanced around I caught sight of the differences, all the little things that stood out to me from how I had left them. Things like my chairs for example, some of my books had been respectfully returned to their rightful places and there was something new mounted to my wall as well.

It looked harmless enough, like an unassuming slender plaque that I couldn’t identify the material that had been used to make it. For all I could tell it might have been shaped from some exotic wood, but I wasn’t certain. The only thing that I was sure of was that until Glitch held his hand up to it, I couldn’t detect any magic moving through it. Once he had however, pulsing power scattered its way to weave a web of worked spells all over my home. Leaving a gossamer glow of sigils and glyphs that marked its presence as easily as moonlight marks the night.

“Glitch, where did that thing come from,” I asked immediately. “Oh, I found it,” he told me flatly. “Some people throw the strangest things out for the junk pile. It is very handy for someone with some skill to scavenge them so they don’t go to waste.”

“What does it,” I started to ask, only to be cut off. Glitch gave me a stare that made me feel like some foolish young student. “It keeps things inside in and things outside out,” he eventually explained. I had already guessed as much and had been expecting something more along the lines of how it accomplished it. Or, perhaps to at least be told some degree of detail about it. After waiting for a few more moments no further information came, forcing me to accept I had all the answers I was going to get from a gremlin.

Deciding it was a better idea to redirect the conversation I debated about asking anything more on Glitch’s family or to mention the mysterious piece of amber. I wasn’t sure which would be the more appropriate subject, seeing as how his family seemed to be a sensitive one. Was it polite to probe a gremlin about personal matters I wondered? It wasn’t like there was a wealth of common knowledge available about what was rude to them, at least not that I was aware of.

The one thing I could count on was that they all shared a natural curiosity. It was within reason that a fresh puzzle might help him distract his thoughts long enough before we broached that issue. Besides I was rather interested in it myself, which reminded me of another thing; Glitch’s gadget had also eluded my senses until it activated. Could the two different creations share a similar characteristic that gave them such a capability?

“Glitch, why is it that I couldn’t tell that this toy of yours was here until now?” My inquiry sparked another surge of satisfaction from the small scrap-smith. “See, now you can tell it is more treasure than trash too,” he cheered. “Even a SpellHound can be blind to see such things from time to time.

There is more to magic than just what even you can see. There is so much more that isn’t easily experienced, it takes time to understand. Can you see the life that flows through the forest? Do you smell the fish deepest down in the dark water? No, not even a SpellHound can pierce beyond the surface of the oldest primal powers.

The spells shaped to craft that prize is far older than Emberhelm and make use of such potent forces.” I was still processing what he had said when my impromptu instructor fell silent. He had hit the nail on the head alright I suppose; SpellHound’s had been born with the ability to perceive magic in all its forms. We could see it, smell it, even taste and hear it. And as uncomfortable as it could be there were times we had to touch it.

Now, don’t misunderstand me because you walk around in a world where magic is everywhere. You can’t avoid coming in contact with it. But for a SpellHound there are times when you have to make use of your senses to discern how dangerous some things are that others aren’t aware of. And if that means you have malicious magic being slung at you, and then you needed to be able to feel what it could do in order to defend yourself. It isn’t exactly pleasant but it can be quite vital.

I couldn’t deny that there weren’t things that I had considered over the years that might exist that were hidden from me. There was just so much that I could sense that I had learned to ignore such ideas as being born of my imagination. Until recently I hadn’t ran across too much that made me question such concerns. Now I had to review those thoughts anew.

“Okay,” I granted that I couldn’t argue with his point. “So if I can see this thing while we are inside and it is active then why is it that it is invisible to me from outside?” This time my question elicited a contemplative rub of his chin before he formed a response. I couldn’t resist the realization that there might be an untold amount of knowledge that Glitch in particular could share with others if anyone bothered to listen. There was even the possibility that the gremlins as a whole might have much to teach as well. Who knew how much that their unique connection to things might have unlocked overtime.

“It sleeps until awakened,” he declared decisively. He seemed quite sure with his assessment, enough that he added a nod to punctuate his opinion. “When you are inside and ask it to wake up you can see the life return to it. But it keeps itself calm as if still slumbering to anything outside, that way it can spring to life catch things off guard.”

That did make sense in a strange bizarre sort of way I figured. Well, if you thought of such a thing as some kind of living breathing thing. This, for me, was a pretty big stretch to believe. It was reasonable that it was the best way Glitch could explain it though and at least it was a way to look at it that provided some insight.

“And what would make something block out all sign of magic entirely,” I had to ask, doing my own imitation of a scholar’s expression of examination. “Let’s say, for example, that you found an object that was around others of magical origin. Furthermore let’s say that all these things are possessions of someone known to have spellcrafting talent. What could not only resist retaining any residual trace of that touch, but also reduce the remaining evidence of everything around it?”

Glitch had to really consider that one for awhile. I actually decided to quit counting my minutes after mentally realizing I was near to running out of fingers. Could it be that I had just stumped my smart small little associate? I was honestly beginning to believe that there might be nothing about magic used in manufacturing such objects that he didn’t know. A bead of sweat began to trickle down my forehead as I started to face the concept that I might have over-estimated his wonderful wit.

“It wouldn’t be shaped of stone or steel,” Glitch mused aloud. His voice held an almost alien quality as he spoke – it was like listening to some out of place entity as it struggled to form a clear view of things. But instead of its analysis being one formed internally it was being birthed along with breath. The whole atmosphere around us was a peculiar mix of still air and strange silence.

“Such materials are strong, resilient; capable of holding a respectable repository of power for sustained use,” he continued his unconscious commentary. “But, not all energy can be contained thusly. Some forces need to flow as they naturally do; they need a living thing to tie them to a core of their creation. Very few living people have the memories of how such magic used to be molded to make such a vessel. And even less might have the mastery to recognize it rightly.”

Eyes the color of swimming salmon stared of into nothing as I studied Glitch’s face. Slowly they started to clear from whatever mental maze had gripped the gremlin. I couldn’t really mark what exactly it might mean, but I kept my attention firmly trained on the tiny tinkerer. There was more he had left to say, I could feel it.

“What you’re describing,” he offered as his voice returned to its more familiar sound. “The thing you speak of is a primal and quite potent natural method of magic. It would be bound to a substance that held a living life at some point. Stone may have held the energy of the earth passing through it, but what you seek would have had to been something that grew. For example a long lived limb of wood could be worked to provide its primal essence to some arcane energy if properly shaped. It isn’t easily done; it takes time and instinct to fuse everything intuitively in a way that can prevent becoming rejected. Things are done differently now; cruder some would say but progress is proof that elegance isn’t necessary if function is a foundation.”

At some point while Glitch had been sharing his speculations with me I had withdrew the amber amulet from my pocket. It still didn’t feel any different than any other commonly found chunk of solidified sap but it still seemed wrong to me. My fingertips felt their way over its exterior finding nothing out of the ordinary. My mind was still working to incorporate what Glitch had explained, trying to tie anything together it could.

Looking down at the yellowed brown substance resting in my hand seemed to draw Glitch’s eye. When I looked back up I could see the unspoken question behind his eyes. I didn’t have to tell him anything more than I already had. But it was in my nature to be straight with people.

“I found this at a lady’s house, among her things,” I admitted. “She was involved in a crime that took advantage of her ability to use magic. Problem is that someone has done something to her that has shattered her mind and left little clue as to what was going on. People have tried to kill me, her place was invaded – they killed her mother and nearly did the same to her father. There was a kid in the house who will probably never forget what happened and I have no idea if anything else was taken to cover their tracks.

Something very dangerous is in the works, Glitch, and I have been asked to get to the bottom of it. For fate’s favor I would have done so if for no other reason than people needed help. I have the ability to make a difference and there are people paying a price they don’t deserve.”

I had to take a second to compose myself before I continued. Once I had I made a conscious effort to try to get my focus back on track to where it needed to be. “So, is there any way you could figure out where this thing came from or how it works? Right now it is just about all I have to go on.”

An excited glee fell over Glitch that he couldn’t hide at all, not that it seemed like he even bothered to try. He grinned so big that his teeth even began to show; it was the fiendish look of fun that can make you hesitate. “Well, let’s take a little look-see, shall we,” he exclaimed.

Before I could make any move to say a word a thing of amber was already in his hand and being scrutinized. From the devilish drive that now motivated his every move I began to question if the trinket would still be in one piece by the time any answers came. But I suppose you just have to trust people sometimes.