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This is actually piece four - three is still in the works. Thanks to Artell for the prompt "Incredible Shrinking Dinosaur," though the piece obviously did not go where I intended it to.

Kaja grinned down at the little glass prism. "I am impressed. Not very functional though, is it?"

Theo rolled his eyes. "Well, not yet. I'm sure there's some purpose for it, somewhere. But that wasn't really the point, dear Kaja. What have you done? Picked a specialty yet?"

"I've done a few things," she replied, shrugging. "I haven't picked a specialty. It's more fun to just poke at what's already there - there's so much to learn, we don't even know what some of these disciplines were, I'd hate to be premature."

Her old friend laughed and covered the prism with a black cloth again. "Well, yeah. It's too bad you can never, ever change your mind once made, huh?" She stuck her tongue out at him and turned back to his diagram, next to the pedestal. "Yeah, that's most of the plan - not all yet, I think I might keep the energy variable a trade secret."

She frowned, glancing over her shoulder at him. Theo had left the village where they both were born when he was fifteen, taking not much more than his father's bow, an old and sturdy axe, and a bedroll. He'd started sending letters back, three years later - he'd found himself in a monastery, and begun to study with the monks. He'd sort of Found Religion, but his mother suspected he had Found his brain, finally; Theo had always been a pious sort, but never quite had the discipline to keep his temper in check. But he seemed happy, and every so often he sent a pressed flower or a charcoal sketch along with his letters; his mother had the one he'd done of his father on her wall.

With the return of magic - apparently, Theo had had some sort of a hand in it, she supposed she'd have to find a bard to tell her the full story, one of these days - he had, with two others of his order, traveled to the capital to bring what knowledge the monks had safeguarded about the ancient magics. It was quite a lot, apparently - unlike the rest of the world, they never really threw anything away. He was housed in one of the rooms nearby hers, along with his brothers. It had been a shock seeing him again, up to his full height, healthy, and with his hair shaved, and his beard tied carefully in those knots his order specialized in. He was still the same person, though, largely, and his eyes were twinkling as he looked over her shoulder at his notes.

"I don't know," she said finally, "Aren't we trying to share information about this stuff, as much as possible?"

He shrugged, a bit uncomfortably. "To some extent. But I found this - I'd like to see what I can do on my own, before I open it up to everyone else's use."

Kaja bit her lip. There was something off, but she couldn't put her finger on it - better not to get caught up in these debates unprepared, though. Theo could probably wipe the floor with her, schooled as he'd been in rhetoric. "Alright," she told him, picking up her own notes. "I've got three theses on the use of Circles, so far, and a couple pages on the geometry involved; it's really quite intricate."

Raising an eyebrow, he followed her to the doorway. "Circles? Not what I would've predicted for you, Kaja. How are you working on them?"

She grinned again, turning down towards the staircase. "Trade secret, dear Theo. I wouldn't want to give you an unfair edge."

He made a mock noise of outrage, and she laughed outright. "There's a dead room, in the basement of the North Tower - apparently, that used to be the quarters of Demetrius IX, and nobody ever went back to change it, since it was still usable. Now, the queen has had a team go over and it make it safe, based on the old styles outlined. I've been working on the theory there, since there's no danger, but the actual power can be done in the old library room, since there's enough insulation to make sure no power gets out. If you double-check everything, it's perfectly safe."

The taller monk whistled. "That's incredible, Kaj'. No wonder you've been able to get so much farther on this stuff! You're not working on pure theory anymore!"

"Sorta. Though I do have enough pride to take a little offense there, dear Theo - my theory was pretty tight before I started working on the practical application, fortunately."

"Yes, well - my point stands. I'd be interested to see some of your work in action, if you've the time. What are you finding it most useful for?"

She shrugged, hefting the satchel on her back. "Scrying is the simplest matter - with the charms I've seen some of the others using, it's a lot of specificity and extra work. Circles take a lot of the brunt, though some are obviously better than others." They turned out into the garden, running into a cadre of fellow scholars, including one of Theo's brothers, Raoul, who joined them. A huge bear of a man, Raoul stood about a head and a half over Theo, and was probably half again Kaja's height - and he had the bulk to match. He smiled brightly at them over his wild blond beard, and Theo nodded in greeting. Kaja continued, "I've found they're surprisingly helpful with enchanting work, too, though."

Raoul frowned as they reached the trellises. "What's the topic?"

Theo grinned ruefully, and sat down on one of the benches. "Work with circles. Are you familiar with what Kaja has done so far?"

The big monk nodded enthusiastically, grinning at Kaja as he took a seat on the ornamental dinosaur next to the bench. "I am! It's been quite good so far; I've been meaning to ask you about the geometrics you were discussing in that last paper, do you have any backup for the octogonal nature of the Infinite Shrinking Crystal in Smythe's pattern? Your theory seems sound, but I didn't see any proofs there, and Derek and I couldn't finish all the pieces to work one out."

"Fortunately, proofs on paper are no longer required," Theo put in, dryly. Raoul looked questioningly at him, then at Kaja.

She fought the urge to glare back at Theo. "Of course proofs on paper are required," she replied, sitting down across the path. "But I've been working on circles in the North Tower - there's a dead room to practice the mundane aspects, and the library farther up has a place safe to put it into power, so I've been doing some work there."

"Ah," Raoul nodded. "That does make sense. I was working out of the peak of the North Tower for a little while - it's a great place for scrying, perfect for the purpose. But you said something about enchantments?"

"Oh, yes; surprisingly, there's a lot of ways to use Circles for the same things we've been using straight runes on. I started with just simple scrying enchantments, but the theory we get out of Lobshik's early work has some applications, and I found a volume from the last century of magic use that seems revolutionary - not all of it is easy to understand, but there's some things that link the older theories, concerning the degrees relative to power source versus the inner angles and the specific dimensional facets?" Raoul nodded, intent, and she continued, "The book seemed to link those, the building blocks for Fine's work with weather, to Rossette's ideas on runic - what did he call it? Runic Dynamics?"

"Runic Harmonics," Theo corrected absently, twisting a blade of grass in one hand.

"Yeah. The piece he cites is something of a dinosaur, but useful enough, when you wrap your head around the language. So the theory's all there - I've copied most of the book out, if your lot wants a look at it - and I just combined it, and found a lot of really interesting results. I was planning on publishing something for Her Majesty's collection, once I had the theory worked out."

"We'll take you up on that book," Raoul said, leaning back a bit. "That's very interesting - we've mostly been going back to the older forms of magic theory, starting with the basics. I guess Derek is right, and we should be looking at the later stuff, as well. I wonder, if the curse hadn't set in for another few decades, if all of this would be common knowledge?" He shook his head. "It's a damned shame. Do you have anything planned in the near future?"

Kaja hesitated a moment. "Well - the written half for the test is done, but I haven't done the final trial for the practical application yet. Are you - either of you - interested in coming along? I'd planned to finish after lunch."

"Of course!" Theo looked up with a bright smile, and Raoul nodded.

She grinned and stood. "Alright, then. One condition," she added, looking seriously at Raoul. "You have to show me how you got that far with DeLaine's thesis on the cosmos - I haven't been able to make any headway at all on it, so I was just working from Lobshik's critiques. It's not been easy, with half the context missing; their little disputes are so frustrating to read through."

The big monk laughed, and extended a hand. "It's a deal. May our generation never leave six pages of personal guttersniping for every two of honest academic work."
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May 2013


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