E101: Introduction to Energies — How to Not Blow Yourself Up
Section 1: Tools and Traditions
Tradition 1: The External Energy Cycle
Now we get to that part in the class where I start teaching you about actual Energies magic. I think I’ve already said enough that the fainter of heart have reconsidered their primary discipline, but as this is a required course for anyone who intends to handle energy–whether as an Evoker, a Warder, an Artificer or a Scryer–I daresay few of you can escape me.
You will have noted that I do not list Psychers or Summoners as energy-handlers. While Summoners do work with energy to craft the traps and bonds that hold their spirit-servitors in thrall, their work is small and specific enough that they do not need to channel. In addition, you remember my edict against hand and wrist jewelry, yes? Summoners rely on rings, bracelets and armbands as proxy-shackles for their servants, and thus can not do the kind of channeling I plan to teach you without seriously endangering themselves.
As for Psychers, of course, the magic is all in their minds.
Back to business. The most basic of the Energies traditions is that of the Energy Cycle. I call it a tradition because there are other ways to handle energy, but this is the one that we have standardized within the Silent Circle, and thus for us, it is traditional.
The Energy Cycle is the system through which energy moves when manipulated by a mage. I have already touched upon three fundamentals–draw, channel and release–but were our job so simple as that, I would not have needed to spend decades of my life in study and even more time coaching the likes of you. The simple reliance on the draw-channel-release technique is rough magic, battlefield-expedient but by no means elegant. It is uncontrolled, imprecise and wasteful.
But you are young, most of you. Prone to uncontrolled, imprecise, wasteful behavior. Get up, out of your seats. Step to the side of your desks, into the iron circles I’ve prepared for each of you.
Feel that tingle? That is the iron circle shedding the ambient magic from your robes and flesh, blocking you off from the others in the room. We are going to do some careful practice, and within these circles you are so limited that it is not possible for you to harm yourselves. The only power you can draw upon is yourselves and the small amount of air encapsulated in the circle with you.
Do not step out of your circles while we are practicing.
Yes, I realize I am not standing in a circle. How do you suppose I would monitor you were I locked to one location, insensible to everything outside the ward?
Now quiet your chatter. No, your boots don’t matter today–and take off your gloves, all of you. I know I warned you about going barehanded, but we are at low-energy here. If there is a barrier between you and the power, you will never grasp it.
All ready? Good.
The first thing we will attempt is the Simple External Arc Conduit. A large name for an easy task. All of you, extend your weaker hand before you and concentrate on the feel of the air around it. The temperature, the current, the sensation when you move. Air is not emptiness but a nearly imperceptible fluid, and we swim through it like fish, every motion causing ripples and eddies that effect everything around us.
Focus on your fingertips. The air touches you everywhere, but you want it at those five points. Envision it like water sliding over you, gathering down your arm to bead at your fingertips, but do not let those droplets go.
Let them build until they become tangible. Tiny hot spots flickering just above your flesh. Keep building them. The currents never end; they flow along your arm to your fingers and leave their energy, and more always follows. Build them until you can see them as faint, steady sparks.
Good. Now extend your dominant hand.
You are one body of flesh, your own personal Energy Cycle. All within you is one. Envision your dominant hand touching your weak hand–but don’t do it. Do not physically move. See within your mind’s eye each fingertip pressed to its opposite partner, sharing the energy of the spark.
When your dominant hand feels the same tingle as your weak hand, envision yourself parting your hands. Envision the sparks moving with your dominant hand, not your weaker.
Ah, already the delightful scent of burnt hair. Young lady, step out of your circle and go dunk your hands in the trough. It’s full of cold water for a reason.
What the rest of you should have experienced is the jump of gathered energy from your weak hand to your dominant hand. This is the Simple External Arc, and the method you used to cause the arc was a personal conduit. As I told you to envision, your body is all one energy-flow. You have what some call an ‘aura’ that extends around you to a certain distance, and within that aura it is easy to make conduits between body parts just by thought. They are…you could say they are arranging all the haze of your aura into strands between the two points, through which an energy current will cleanly pass.
Practice passing that small amount of energy back and forth between your hands for a few moments. Young lady, when you feel recovered, please return to your circle and try again, a bit less forcefully this time.
Remember, envision touching your fingers together then parting them, but do not move your hands. Touch then part, touch then part, trading the power back and forth. Close your eyes if you must, but remember, you’ll need to learn to do this with your eyes open eventually.
Very good. Now trade it back to your dominant hand.
Shake your weak hand out. Vigorously. Vigorously! Now curl it into a fist and tuck it behind your back. We will not be using it for this next task.
Hold your dominant hand out ahead of you. fingers loose, pointed down. Concentrate on the feeling of your toes on that side. Wiggle them around a bit–there they are. People forget about their feet so easily when they’re wearing shoes, like we’re all hobbling around on senseless wooden pegs…
You’re all aware of your toes now? Who snickered? This is not a joke.
Think about touching your toes. Don’t do it, just envision it; I’m sure you’ve all done it before. One finger per toe. There is now a direct line between each finger and each toe. See it, feel it. The energy exists in the space where the two digits merge.
Now, holding that thought, think further. Your feet feel the ground beneath them. Your fingers touch your toes touch the ground, creating single co-located points of energy. The power drips from your fingers to your toes to the ground, slow and smooth, without splash, for it has no distance to fall. It leaves you and is gone.
Those of you who had your eyes open will have noticed the spark jump to your boot then dissipate into the floor. That is the Simple External Arc Ground. It is a two-step process because unless you have an intense personal relationship with the earth, the act of ‘dropping’ energy at it is likely to result in a backlash. The earth is always thirsty, but it is not a void; think of it like dumping a bucket of water on a paved road. The water will soak in eventually, but first it splashes over your legs.
The two-step arc ground is more like pouring it out at ground level. It spreads away from your feet without splashing all over you, and is sucked into the earth in the earth’s own time.
You might wonder how helpful that is when you have someone throwing power at you and are about to overload with it. In that situation, an External Ground is not a good idea, because as mentioned, the power will spread out around you to be absorbed more slowly. External workings, while safer for your physical body, can make your environment dangerous.
A proper high-energy ground involves the Internal cycle, which we will be learning soon. Internal cycles allow you to–first off–link yourself with the ground so that you become like a funnel into which the energy is poured, so that it can only splash out if there is so much of it that you simply can’t cope. Your link to the ground serves you like a pipe, putting the energy directly into the earth rather than spreading it on the surface to sink in whenever it feels like. This is better for the area around you but more dangerous for you, because, well, you’re not funneling water. You’re funneling the white-hot blood of reality, and it can burn through your flesh and soul if you aren’t strong enough to hold the channel.
Now I’d like you to take about a quarter mark to practice the draw with your weak hand, the channel to your dominant hand, then the channel to your foot and release to the ground. I’ll be walking around the room as you do this, so don’t be startled when I comment. I’m sure you want to keep your arm-hairs intact.
Young lady, I do believe I said ‘no earrings’ in the last lecture. Or are you already deaf?
No, don’t bend down. Think about it, don’t do it!
Those boots are very…purple. You wouldn’t happen to be– Yes, a Gejaran. Gernaaken accent, is that? I haven’t had many exchange students in my classes this year, very good to see you. Competent technique, were you apprenticed before? Well, hopefully you can provide an example to the others when we get to the group work.
Spread your hands a bit further. Everyone! Spread your hands a bit further on the Arc Conduit this time!
Yes, that’s the first part!
Oop, keep your hands up. No bending, no reaching down.
Good, good. But do use a hair-clip. It’s getting in the way.
Tie your sleeves up. Everyone else has their sleeves tied up, can’t you see that? Do I have to spell everything out?
All right. Overall, a good showing! One more trick.
As I said before, the standard ‘draw-channel-release’ technique is crude, so what you were doing right now is an example of that crudeness. Take energy, use it immediately.
One of the things we will be practicing extensively in this course is the Attenuation Loop. The other is the Storage Loop, but that requires more of an energy source and can have nasty complications, so we’ll get into that around mid-course.
The External Attenuation Loop is partially doable right now, though, so I’ll introduce it–though I caution you not to practice this at home. Consider it to be the way I weed out the students who don’t listen to me.
Extend your weak hand. Draw the energy to it. Now concentrate on touching your fingertips together, then running that joined touch up the back of your weak arm–over your robe–then up your shoulder, across your shoulderblades, down your dominant arm to your hand to your dominant fingertips.
Yes, I know that’s not physically possible. The point is that there is still a line from fingertips to fingertips, but it takes the long way around.
Remember, over your robes. Over your clothing. You are scribing a closed circle instead of a co-located point. Your fingers are always touching, even though their path moves. Your fingers are joined, your arms are joined, your shoulders are joined. When you part your fingers, the current moves from one hand to the other through the long curve you have made of your aura, up your arms and across your back.
Gather the sparks in your dominant hand. Good.
As you will notice, it takes longer for the energy to traverse from one hand to the other–though not much. The time is mostly spent in focusing your personal energy into this less-natural conduit. Technically this is just an External Attenuation Curve; a full loop involves drawing the energy into a circle down your back then up again over your other shoulder, but we’re not quite ready for that.
External Attenuation Loops–and all External workings–are important for when you are handling tainted energy. Not all ambient energy is benign, and the stray energy you can accrete from others’ attacks is often flavored with their own personal energy signature and intentions, which can be harmful to you if you draw it internally. The External Conduits and Grounds are ways to quickly handle or dispose of tainted energy, but an Attenuation Loop is what you put that energy into when you want to cleanse it before internalizing it for storage or signature use. By internalizing energy, you not only absorb the signature from it but place your signature on it, so that sending internalized energy at the enemy can harm then with your own essence, should it be antithesis to theirs.
For example, if you are fighting someone highly attuned to water and you are yourself highly attuned to fire, internalizing each other’s stray energy without cleansing it will harm both of you. Whereas if you fight a truly demented mage whose energy has practically curdled inside him, then you do not want to internalize his stray energy lest you be overwhelmed by the malice of his signature, whereas he likely has no problem internalizing yours.
I will teach you cleansing methods soon enough, but for right now I want you to practice with your Attenuation Curve until the end of the mark. As I said, do not practice this at home yet, even if you have an iron circle in your dormitory. These are all calibrated precisely for this lesson so that none of you can injure yourselves. I truly doubt your dorm circles are the same.
Now, try that again.