E101: Introduction to Energies — How to Not Blow Yourself Up
Section 1: Tools and Traditions
Tradition 3: The Energy Relay
Today’s lesson will be the last introductory practicum for the course. Don’t groan. Just because I say ‘last’ and ‘practicum’ in the same sentence does not mean we will not be exercising these techniques constantly throughout the term, or that we will do no more than practice these simple maneuvers. As I said, this will complete our introduction to this form of magic, at which point we will progress to the intermediate styles and techniques.
That being said, you will have quite some time to practice this in its most simplistic manner, for it is just as dangerous as anything that has come before. In fact, it is dangerous not only to you but to your partners—for we will be pairing and trio-ing up today.
Learning to relay energy from oneself to another, and to accept energy being relayed from another, is essential to your careers in organized magic. We are not meant to be solitary practitioners, no matter the image you might have constructed from all the tales you’ve heard. A solo mage is a dead mage, not only because of the danger of magic itself but because your enemies will never approach you one-by-one. This is no longer the age of honorable single combat; it is the era of ambushes, of overwhelming force, of strike-and-move operations. Working solo exposes you to the threats we all face, but without someone to watch your back, to ward you when you’re downed, to guard your sleep and balance your weaknesses. Without a partner or partners, you will lack critics, rivals, defenders, compatriots—all things you will need to fulfill your potential. Take it from a mage who grew in the art without allies: it is not pleasant to be alone.
I have taken the liberty of splitting you into teams of three myself, so as not to create any mutual-appreciation societies. Support and approval is valuable, but not at the expense of constructive criticism; too much and you will use the others’ approval as proof that what you’ve done is ‘good enough’, rather than pushing forward. We are not here to give ego boosts, we are here to become fantastic evokers and push the boundaries of Energies magic even further.
Here is the list. Please assemble at one member’s circle as I name you off.
Now, are their any objections to your new partnerships? Yes?
Well, suck it up. This is reality. You can’t always work with people you like, so you have to learn to tolerate what you’re dealt.
Now, arrange yourselves in a triangle outside the iron circle, positioned that you can all still see me. Today we will be operating without the protection of the circle, obviously, so if you overload yourself, you’re likely to injure several people and force me to pitch you out a window. I mean expel you from class. As we have had quite a few sessions of practice to get comfortable with external and internal energy handling, as well as your home practice, I do hope you all have your power sufficiently under control that no defenestration will be necessary.
As a precaution though, please step into the circle one at a time to shed any excess energy. Who knows what you’ve picked up from your other classes.
Done? Good. Now, I want you all to gather energy into an external attenuation loop, as we have practiced. Don’t overload it; we just need a nice low flow. By now you should be able to keep it circulating without having to hold your hands close together, so once you have the flow steady, I want you to reach out toward your rightward partner. Don’t touch them, just reach.
You should all feel the tingle of your leftward partner’s energy encroaching upon your aura. While holding onto your own loop, I need you to focus on that encroaching energy—not as you would focus on an incoming assault, but as if it is someone with a pitcher coming to refill your glass of water. Their intent is a non-threatening offering, and you are a vessel that needs filling—but not so much that the water will overflow.
Now, I want the first one who joined each group—the one at whose circle you are gathered—to shift most of your attention to your rightward partner. Feel that connection between the two of you, your pitcher to their glass. Partner, be prepared to accept. When you are both ready, there should be a tangible reaction—an ionization stream between the two of you, the prequel to an energy transfer.
Carefully, slowly but not so much as to break the stream, the pitcher pours into the glass. The glass gathers and then merges the new flow with their preexisting attenuation loop.
Good…good. Not too much, pitchers. Remember, you do not want the glass to overflow. When you have lent about a quarter of your power, halt, but do not retract. It is your job as the pitcher to keep the ionization stream active between the two of you.
Now, those who operated as the glass will become the pitcher toward their rightward partner. Again, make the connection then pour slowly, about a quarter of your gathered power, then halt.
Rather meditative, isn’t it?
The third partner now makes the connection with the first partner, pitcher to glass, thus completing the relay. Yet again, make the connection, pour slowly.
At this point, you should all be connected and at energy equilibrium. And not physically touching. Physically touching is bad; even being inside each other’s aura is less than ideal because of the disruption a relay surge can cause, but as we are working at low power today, I am allowing it.
Through the connection you should be able to sense your partners’ attenuation loops, faintly. You are as much the energy flowing through the channel as you are the channel itself; when you launch a bolt at someone, you may feel a fleeting ghost of impact, but when you are still attached to your energy, it may come to feel like a kind of phantom limb. Do not cringe from that sensation. The power is an extension of yourself and can be manipulated for as long as it is attached to you, and the more you learn to harness that ‘limb’, the more control you will have over your power when it is distanced from your body.
Now, consider the pitcher and glass becoming a pipe—a single lengthy conduit that the energy can flow through from partner to partner. At first, allow it to simply shift as it will. There should be a natural outflow through your dominant hand and an inflow through your gathering hand.
Lefties, you will note that I placed you among right-handers. As you are less common, you are likely to operate with righties throughout your career and must learn to reverse your natural flow to compensate. This means more work, but you will be stronger for it. Concentrate on that now—and right-handers, be mindful of your left-handed partners.
Keep letting the energy circulate naturally for a little while as I walk around to check.
No, give it a little push. You’re backing up the current. As I said, lefties have to actually work at this, not just let it flow. You’re pushing at his incoming energy and pulling from her outgoing, and it will all back up inside you, so you’re the most endangered. That’s a little better, yes– There you go. Practice some reversed loops at home, and come to my office hours if you need more help.
Good, that looks good.
No, your connection isn’t complete. You’re draining energy through it like a sieve—look at the iron circle spark! Do you two have some kind of personal issue? Ah, exes. Fantastic, this should be an important learning experience for both of you. Now fix it!
Better. I don’t care about your feelings and neither does the energy. It will escape you in any way it can. The only way you can be in control of it is to be in control of yourself, no matter the circumstances.
All right, everyone. Circulation looks good, so now give it a bit of current. A push, if you will. Calmly, slowly, no shoving, just ease the energy outward to your partner’s loop.
As we progress through the course, we will be handling higher and higher currents, but we will remain at this level for now. Bring your current to a stop again, and distribute any excess energy if someone has taken on more than the others. You all have a different capacity for energy storage but should be able to feel each others’ current load, and as you should all be well under maximum, try to keep it even.
Now we will start with source-and-vessel work.
Technically we were already doing so, with that little pitcher and glass analogy. Pitcher being the source, glass being the vessel. This time, though, it is more than just forging a connection: it is supplying your partner with the energy required to craft another working, whether a ward or a massive lightning bolt. In the heat of battle, it is not always possible to gather your own energy; often all your concentration is taken up by maintaining wards or trying to electrocute the enemy before he does the same to you. One of the many reasons for partnerships is to provide both an energy-gatherer and a spell-worker, acting in concert to make sure that they have no downtime. In many partnerships, this is done with an Evoker and a Warder, where the Warder is the active partner while defending and the Evoker supplies power, switching to the Evoker active and the Warder supplying when attack is needed.
Source-and-vessel is also necessary when one is partnered with a superior Evoker or anyone handling a high-powered working. A superior Evoker, constantly supplied with energy, can harm your enemy far more than a lesser Evoker fighting alongside the greater while the greater draws his own energy. Likewise, a single mage weaving a high-powered working while backed by several sources is more efficient than a mob of mages contributing to the working but drawing their own energy.
There are a few exceptions—mostly in instances of gestalt work, which we will get to if we have time. But in general, source-and-vessel is how we operate in order to keep us safe and efficient.
Again, we will start with the mage whose circle each group is at. I want that mage to concentrate on his or her attenuation loop while the other two mages focus their energy flow toward the first. Do not break the circular relay connection, just lessen it to inactivity between the two source mages. In this situation, all of you must keep an eye on the vessel’s energy levels, to ensure that he or she does not overflow capacity.
When you sense you’ve passed the halfway mark, ease off the flow. I will be coming around to check again.
Yes, looking good, all of you. I’m glad to finally have a class that can take direction instead of playing tug-of-war.
That is the Dual Source Single Vessel Relay. Now, the Dual Vessel Single Source Relay is, as you might expect, exactly the opposite. The gathering mage will now turn the energy back on those who offered it—gently—and move both to equilibrium, then slightly past it.
The problem to watch for here is giving too much. It is difficult to overload two sources from a single vessel, but it is very easy to completely tap yourself out by pouring it all away. While not as dangerous as an overload, a complete drain is still to be avoided, not least because it will leave you exhausted and potentially start tapping your core.
Again, everyone should watch their partners’ levels. If you see your partner behaving foolishly, it is up to you to resist their push or pull, or resupply them with energy if they’ve drained themselves by supplying another. This is why you never fully disconnect from any of your partners; there is always the possibility that you will need to compensate for them or soak up their overflow.
Very good. I’m surprised; I have nothing to complain about. I hardly know what to do with myself.
Keep it up for a little while longer…
Good. Now disconnect. Step into the circle one by one and ground yourselves if you have taken on excess energy, then return to your seats.
What I want you to do in the time between classes is meet up periodically to play source-and-vessel. In pairs or trios, it doesn’t matter to me, just practice the push and pull of energy relay. The more you practice, the more it will come naturally to you, and the easier it will be to learn to passively relay at the same time that you cast active spells. This is a skill we will be working on throughout the rest of the course, so you should also take the time to become comfortable with your partners. You do not have to be friends, you just have to be capable of not actively trying to kill each other.
As my last topic for the day, I will discuss gestalt relay and choreography. How many mentalists do we have in this course? Raise your hands. Ten? A decent number for a class this size, I suppose.
Gestalt work does not necessarily depend upon mentalists, but its capabilities are greatly enhanced by having one or more of them, and also more easily learned. Gestalt is, put simply, a large group of mages spellcasting in concert—not as individuals but with each an integral part of the whole. Without mentalists, gestalt work requires extensive practice in hand-signals, verbal cues and physical choreography, like a chorus being taught to keep tune while marching in the middle of combat.
Obviously having mentalists coordinating things makes gestalt easier, but a certain level of signaling and choreography still has to be learned—in case the mentalists are disabled, and also to make sure all the mages are in the proper physical shape to keep up with their fellows. A single mage flagging due to improper conditioning can bring down the gestalt, so it is necessary that everyone in the gestalt can manage the motions, the movements, the energy handling required for their part in the working.
And there are practical applications for choreography outside of gestalt work. Being able to dance is always important in a courtly setting, and in combat the grace and physical coordination that come with choreography can save your life. Additionally, it is possible to choreograph wards and even assaults using only your energy-channeling skills through your feet—a technique called Impression Grounding—which makes arcane subterfuge possible when bound, gagged and shackled as long as you can still walk.
Obviously we will not be getting into those techniques today, but we will be working on a class-wide gestalt once you are all sufficiently practiced in relays. As for choreography, we will have a few official sessions dedicated to that, but there are always drop-in classes running at the Wards tower, and E105 is all beginners’ gestalt work—thus mainly Energies-focused choreography. Anyone who intends to go into one of the Armies should take that course.
Once again, please practice outside of class. I expect to see all of you comfortable with the exercises we covered here today by the time we reconvene next week. And a reminder to the lefties to seek me out if you’re having trouble reversing your loop. My office hours can be irregular, but leave me a note and we’ll schedule something.
Any questions? If not, class is dismissed.