Alec Walker

Sit down, Shut up, and Stop Talking Telepathically.

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February 20, 2020

1:30 PM

 

Where Columbia had remained open even through the madness of the apocalypse, it had been ten years, and there was no longer even a fraction of a reason why the best and brightest of what remained of the nation could not attend a top school. Alec did, of course, miss his Alma Mater, but Chicago was a long way to go, just to see what probably was little more than a zombie breeding ground for any foolish enough to venture forth.

 

Nonetheless, here the mage... no, today, the scholar, the doctor, found himself, standing in front of a podium. [walker] Testing, one two three. [/walker] Alec spoke into the microphone. Nothing happened, and he fiddled with the device for a moment before just chucking it under the podium into the storage space there. It was a simple cantrip to amplify one's voice. 

 

[walker]Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If you would please take your seats, the lecture will begin shortly.[/walker]

 

Students continued speaking amongst themselves, making it obvious who the dedicated learners among them were, and who had simply attended for some social experience. Alec cleared his throat, still amplifying the sounds from his vocal cords, and then, when the class would not come to order, layering his voice with a light mezmer. Some students were still unaffected, but when they saw the rest of the class sitting down, they obliged as well. 

 

Alec dropped the layered speech and unfolded a few notes on the podium.

 

[walker]As I'm sure you all know, because you have come to hear me speak, I am Dr. Alec Walker, one of the world's few remaining experts on Scandinavian history and, in particular, the use of its Runic alphabet for the practice of magic.[/walker] Alec had long since given up on powerpoint, and instead opted for an overhead projector like the ones his own teachers had used in elementary school. 

 

[walker] Yes, this device here on stage with me looks like it belongs in the era of the dinosaurs, but as I trust you all know, having spent the last ten years in the same world as the rest of us, magic tends to render technology unusable, so I keep things simple.[/walker] The first transparency to be placed on the projector was simply the alphabet of Futhark, in its eldest form. 

 

[walker] You may recognize some of these letters, and you may wonder what some of them even are. The fact is that Futhark is the direct predecessor to the romanized alphabet. For a time, the rune "thorn," pronounced "th," was a part of the English language, until we replaced it with the letter Y in print. "Ye olde sweet shop" is actually "the olde sweet shop."[/walker] Alec chuckled, though no one else probably would.

 

[walker]But enough boring you all with etymology. You want to know about this. [/walker] The second transparency was an image of the Galdabrok, more specifically, the very copy Alec had touched on that first Resonated day.

 

[walker] Of course, you have all learned the history of our world, illuminated as it has been by those who were here before, and those who have since returned. In the days before the very first Resonance, Humanity knew how to harness and wield magic. In the days after that first schism, magic drained from the world, but the rituals that were used to try and harness it once more were preserved. Around the world, different languages and cultures developed their own rituals, hence the lack of any dedicated curriculum for spellcasting in the modern day.[/walker]

 

Alec switched transparencies once again. [walker]Here, for example, you see three different languages, each detailing a way to cast the exact same spell. [/walker] A small dummy was wheeled out onto the lecture stage, and Alec assumed a stance clearly. 

 

He first chanted the words in the Futhark dialect, sending a sphere of wind across the stage with an audible whoosh and a visible impact, knocking over the dummy.

 

It was propped back up, and Alec spoke the words next in Arabic, with the same, albeit weaker result. Finally, he spoke the words in Urdu, to an even weaker result. [walker] My magic stems from my connection to the runes, and as such, it is strongest in connection to other, similar languages. Now, each of these three incantations are typically paired with a set of rituals, usually involving spell circles, magical foci, and other accouterments. With practice, any magician can move beyond such ritualistic preparations and cast the spell, often without invocations. Like this. [/walker] 

 

Alec held out his palm once more, firing a ball of wind across the stage with the same intensity and ferocity as the first, to the same result.

 

The talk went on to discuss the roots of magic as rooted in linguistics, and the fact that where Freud believed totemism was an attempt to understand the world, it was, according to Alec's own theory, an attempt to restore the world to its former state. 

 

Eventually, the bearded mage stopped talking, and opened up the floor to questions.

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Dika lowered his hand and stood as he began to speak.  [dika]"Yes, hello Dr. Walker, I did have a question-slash-wondering about your thoughts on something. Before the event, I travelled a lot and visited many shamans and spirit-workers around the world who would occasionally gift me with their blessings; mostly in the forms of tattoos. Since the event, some of them have become magical; with powers I may be able to access or tap into or what have you, while some do not. There doesn't seem to be any sort of rhyme or reason that I have figured out so far. I have a few Proto-Norse tattoos where some of them seem to be enchanted and some don't. Following your logic, it may seem like the best explanation would be personal connections. You earlier explained and then showed that what I assumed was the Futhark language worked best for you; followed by a weaker spell in Arabic, and then even weaker again in Hindi. Therefore, wouldn't it make the most sense that magic more closely tied to my Latino blood would be stronger and more accessible to me? It seems like personally, that isn't the case. I have another theory that is a bit simpler, but contradictory to what you have explained. I think it may have been that some of these shamans and spirit-workers were more closely connected to magic than others pre-event; and when the event happened the foundations they laid for the magic were stronger and more effective, and now could be actually useful. Either explanation could be argued, both are plausible; but I am curious as to your thoughts on that."[/dika]   Dika sat down again to listen to what Alec had to say.

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Some of the questions were vacuous, completely nonsensical, or otherwise gave evidence of a lack of attention paid.

 

Then there was a question from a man maybe a decade his junior. Obviously not a student, almost certainly not ARMA or OFL, or he would know the answer to his question. 

 

[walker]Thank you for your question, sir. Let me just make sure I am understanding exactly what you are asking. [/walker] Alec stepped away from the podium and retrieved an empty transparency to mark out key points. 

 

[walker]So, You're speaking of a series of tattoos bestowed by wise men and shamans in the... is it safe to assume five, ten years before the resonance? I am speaking very broadly about linguistic histories, which make the average human existence look like a period at the end of a sentence. It may very well be that some of these shamans were more spiritually attuned or magically inclined, but without more information I cannot really comment on your individual experience with such graven images.[/walker]

 

The time frame was jotted down.

 

[walker]I should clarify, The languages were, in order: Elder Futhark, Safaitic Arabic, and Urdu--as there is no real name for the variant of Hindustani language from which that spell is drawn. [/walker] Alec made a note of those clarifications in a corner of the transparency, then returned to the question.

 

[walker] If there is one thing that would earn a Nobel Prize in the modern climate, it is a unified theory of magic. We do not know the root of magic, or its triggers for every individual. There are documented cases of immensely powerful, yet illiterate mages, mages who cannot speak or write. [/walker] Alec paused, listing out a few truly ancient languages on the transparency to be projected onto the screen behind him. [walker] What I presented to you all today was a working theory about pure linguistics.It is my belief that at least one branch of modern magic is strengthened by its ability to trace origins back to the languages spoken and used to channel magic before the first resonance. That said, the scientific authenticity of my demonstration here on stage was marred by the fact that I practice the Futhark variant of that same spell on a regular basis, and have minimal experience with the Hindustani variant. [/walker]

 

[walker] We have no way of scientifically measuring one's aptitude for magic before it is awakened, and we had no idea magic existed before the resonance, so it would be difficult indeed for us to prove either of our theories here, but I absolutely appreciate the comment, and would be glad to speak with you about this more after this Q&A session is over. [/walker]

 

Alec stopped to take a sip of water and left the notes he'd scratched down on the transparency in case anyone had a follow up question, or in case there were other questions to be discussed.

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Dika nodded sternly while listening intently. He understood almost all of what the man was saying but reminded himself to get a recording from one of the assistants so he could sit down later with a reference book and make sure.  [dika]"Thank you."[/dika]

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He was at the back of the rustling hall… jotting down a few steps within the crowd of chatters to find somewhere in the back to sit. Seems the subject was a popular one by the amount that had turned out. Hands were unusually relaxed in his loose black coat pockets, gray hood to the zip-up hoodie he used to line underneath the coat pulled up from being outside in winter hell. Worn leather messenger bag slung over one shoulder was grad school scholarly… well-loved Levis… his glasses. A day or two worth of scruff. The volatile magus was virtually unrecognizable, save for the premature peppering of gray in his temples. Hood never would get pulled down anyway. Students had a habit of that, which he was fine with, actually helping him not stick out as an oddity.

 

Dressing down was not something he liked to do, but it was tolerated for the sake of information gained by moving through the world unnoticed. Libraries, even “tailing” leads. It was in fact a library where he had seen the posting for this. Not here for the posting, though definitely that could be questioned. The unbreakable rock seethed lately with cracks, one moment the calm priest he’d always been… the next a viciously antagonizing force. He was trying to do the right thing, but even in that voices whispered at him in the dead quiet of his thoughts to set the world on fire. Some uncontrollable need to inflict pain. On who? No idea. It ended up then being what. If there was no who, it wanted to destroy everything else. It. He didn’t know what the “it” was.

 

Eyes blinked slowly, the obsessive whisper pushed away again.

 

Not the stalker type, he didn’t do those jobs anymore… he was here for the crowd.

 

Ashen gray eyes watched the podium as it began, settling back into his seat, ankle over his knee. Thumb rubbed absently at the scruff of his jaw. Lip curled upward slightly at “ye old sweet shop”. He didn’t know much about the magus, but he was clearly an educated one like himself.

 

He blinked at the first image, then immediately scanned the audience from his vantage point. He was a master at this, at being visibly invisible. In that… he could be incredibly useful here. Admittedly, attention moved back to the stage at the demonstration, a crease in his brow.

 

Had he ever used a language? Latin. He’d learned in Latin. Latin was not his native language. Why then… thought lost as his eyes drew back to the audience and murmur of questions. Magic was an everyday word on people’s lips, but to see it in action, with explanation had definitely perked interest amongst the hall.

 

Eyes narrowed slightly at a first man’s questions.

 

Interesting.

 

Equally interested in the answer.

 

Pictographs and the like were also languages… only older, closer to the original beginning of the sentence so to speak. Lips pursed and he tapped the knuckle of his pointer on them, settling further into his seat to discourage his educated brain to engage. He wasn’t here to engage, he was here to watch those that were engaged.

 

Speak or write.

 

Hm.

 

What if the language wasn’t the key… what if it was the impulse of understanding that triggered the “brain spark” to initiate a spell. Less understanding meant less “spark”. What if magic itself was the tapping into that spark, a section of the brain that truly wasn’t being used unless engaged by higher intelligences?

 

Could then… magic be learned by “mortals” without the aid of occult practice or capturing a mage’s “spark”? Energy was only transferable, it could not be destroyed.

 

Holy shit.

 

That mortal occult crap could merely be only to jimmie that spark from a magus like a crowbar.

 

Lower lip was rolled through his teeth to keep him focused. Watch. He was here to watch.

 

….then why the hell had he been taught in Latin? He no longer needed to verbalize any of his power if he didn’t want to. Was Latin really his first language? How could that be? What would happen if he tried it in Italian? Why had he never thought of that?

 

[santo]What if the root of magic can be traced by the languages that produce the greatest effect for each magus? Practice brings familiarity, what if a magic family tree so to speak could be built by examining the strength of each mage's primary language? Could it possibly trace back to endangered and root languages, then perhaps pictographs like the questions about the tattoos that guy mentioned? The very act of understanding and self realization?[/santo] he said under his breath, pretending to think out loud to himself.

 

The girl in front of him leaned back slightly, turning her head.

 

*npc* That's a really good idea. You should ask that.

 

The charming smile quirked at her from beneath the hood.

 

[santo]Nah, not good at this stuff. You go ahead.[/santo]

 

..and she did, standing up in front of him and clearly articulating his question almost verbatim, leaving the magus with his thumb under chin and tapping his top lip thoughtfully as his human shield between him and the podium asked the question for him. It was a legitimate question, one that might help the cause... albeit a bit selfish in nature personally.

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A few scattered questions peppered the audience.  

 

[walker] Joseph Browning's work is probably a good place to start if you want to know about the origins of chanted spells. Your very own Professor Moynihan wrote an excellent survey of linguistic magic about two years ago, and I'm sure the references cited in that particular text will illuminate the subject further. I hope that answers your question. [/walker] 

 

The girl who'd asked the question sat down, apparently satisfied with the answer, and Alec waited for the students to finish scribbling down the information he'd disseminated before taking another question, this time from a girl sitting in the back.

 

[walker]That's a great question. For anyone who couldn't hear it, the question was about whether the strength of magic ties to a mage's native language and their level of understanding. [/walker] Alec paused.

 

[walker] I wish I could give you a concrete answer, but I think the best way to explain it is a little roundabout. My current working theory is that there are primary languages that are closest to "pure" or "true" magic. These are the languages that became others--Latin, Aramaic, the so-called Babylonian Chaldean language. [/walker]

 

Another beat as Alec quickly jotted down these languages on an empty transparency, leaving plenty of room between them. 

 

[walker] Societies developed and languages were formed, lost, and evolved. Latin splits into the Romance languages--Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian--and into Italic scripts, which eventually become Runic Scandinavian languages. Aramaic splits into Hebrew, Arabic, of which there are many forms, even bleeds into Sanskrit and German in the form of Yiddish. So on and so forth. [/walker] 

 

As he spoke, each language was drawn onto the family tree of its respective root. 

 

[walker] I'll use myself and our friend with the tattoos as examples, then. [/walker] Alec marked himself down on a distant branch of the Latin tree, highlighting the direct connection between Futhark and Latin, only two nodes apart. He then marked down the tattoo-ed individual on the same tree, showing the six levels of distinction between modern Castillian Spanish and its Latin roots. 

 

[walker] I have no definitive proof of my theory, as we can never prove anything in science--we can only disprove--but as I understand it, the closer a mage's first or native magical tongue is to the core languages of 'pure' magic, the stronger the effects. It would absolutely be worth exploring whether pictorial representations are subject to the same rules. [/walker]

 

Another pause as Alec looked out over the lecture hall. [walker] In fact, if any of you have magical aptitude and a high, by which I mean near-native, level of fluency in Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Naxi, or any one of the pre-colonial South American alphabets and languages, I would relish a chance to talk to you about investigating this theory. [/walker] 

 

He hadn't planned to recruit based on this event, or even to open himself up to communication from the audience members after he left the hall, but this was a new angle he had yet to consider, and it was worth examining.

 

[walker] Thank you for that question. I believe we have time for a few more questions. Does anyone have a follow-up?[/walker]

 

It was easy to fall back into old rhythms with students and lectures. Alec hadn't realized quite how much he missed this. Maybe there was a way for him to leverage this solid turnout into a more significant affiliation with the school.

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Didn’t make sense.

 

Didn’t make sense.

 

He listened carefully to her question from the safety of his hood, slouching back into the seat, finger tapping on his chin at the answer.  It totally made all the sense in the world, but when applied to him, it didn’t make anything even close.  Why teach him incantations in Latin?  Someone was talking to him.  Silver eyes looked up, the young woman had turned around to whisper to him.

 

*npc*  See, I told you to ask the question, it was a good one.

 

Charming smile pursed at her, you were so much more eloquent.

 

The blush from her was palpable as she turned around.

 

Gentle mask was immediately replaced with the stern expression of twisted somethings… anger?  Resentment? Confusion?  If it was true, which he’d concluded it could be or he wouldn’t have come, why in the hell had they used him as such a weapon without teaching him in his native language? He was Italian. He was born in Italy, grew up in Italy, spoke Italian.

 

He’d been trained in Latin.

 

The Order knew more than anyone ever could.  Arma was a break from their power, young in the eyes of a goliath; the secretive cult was a long reaching, far reaching, ancient conglomeration of power.  They knew things that would never come to light in this world, and it was doubtful any living magus except for those deep within the inner walls of the Vatican knew all the truths of it.    If he was to be this mechanized thing, this easily fed automaton capable of what he’d done- needing to be stronger, faster, lethal… why Latin?

 

What if he wasn’t Italian at all?

 

Then what the fuck was he?!

 

Who the hell spoke Latin as a primary language?

 

Middle fingers of both hands massaged the bridge of his nose between his eyes.  It was becoming more torturous than the panic attacks, the eruptions of rage, outbursts of magic when people irritated or threatened him… the ghosts, literal and metaphorical, were pressing in on him.

 

How long would the Order let him stew in his own questions?  Was this part of the big plan?

 

He was a fucking Trojan Horse.

 

Sigh was long as he heard the discussion and urge for more questions.  He had to get out of there before he exploded. Sliding the strap over his messenger bag criss-crossed over his should he got up, hands in his pockets to make his way out without disturbing anyone.  He’d come for answers, perhaps he’d gotten some, but was leaving with more…

 

*npc*  Hey... you want to go get some coffee later?

 

The whisper was a bit louder than it should have been, the young lady turned around again in her seat.  He blinked at her, truly speechless for a moment before the charming smile returned.  She'd rocked him out of his thought process, and a dark one at that.

 

Wish I could, thanks though, take care... he whispered back, softer than her own invitation.

 

He had to get the fuck out of there.

 

 

 

 

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