Adult themes, etc. – language is hopefully sufficiently “bleeped” out – just be aware.
The speaker was Belle Starr. Her distinctive red hair, Texas Hill Country drawl, and red pickup truck were beloved features of the local supernatural community. She was also a practitioner of Nordic themed magic of some considerable skill; her specialty was home and hearth.
She was speaking to a man that she knew, but at the moment could hardly recognize. For almost twenty years, a handsome immigrant from western Ireland made his living as a pub musician for tips. ‘Starving artist’ was a term that completely applied to the charming guitar picker that she had first met in a Dallas area pub. He was also one of the Fae, which added tremendously to his supernatural appeal. Today he had traded his blue jeans, tweed cap, and work shirts for a battleship gray, athletic cut Christian Dior suit.
He nodded, his Connemara accent as thick as ever. "I’m certain Belle. Jamie‘s busy these days bein’ a Warden an’ all… an’ besides, as it’s a ward around hearth an’ home, it’s somethin’ I think you’re best for anyway. If it’s all right wit’ you I mean, and you have the time o’ course."
“I’d be happy to pay whatever price the House feels fair for your expertise, I’m not askin’ for charity after all.” He then flashed one of his crooked smiles.
They were speaking at The Purple House on Bell. It was a store that catered to the supernatural community by providing components for magic. It also served as a central meeting place for those who had some measure of true power. Belle was generally regarded by most to be one of two co-owners of the establishment.
These days, due to some recent social tension and politics in the area, the store wasn’t as well frequented by its magical patrons as it used to be. At least, not on days when Belle was behind the register. In fact, Conor had been the only person to come in the door all day. Belle, and her friend Pallas (a were-raven) were the only other ones present.
“Well, I think I can. Let me check with Pallas, he’s keeps my schedule these days.” She glanced over at Pallas, who had been typing away furiously on his laptop over in a side room. He motioned with an inclination of his head for Belle to come over to him.
“Excuse me, be just a minute. Can I get you something to drink?” She flashed a radiant smile as she asked the question.
Conor returned it, “No thanks. I’m grand.”
“Okay, be just a sec.” She then went to the side room.
Pallas just looked at her, then back at the man at the counter. He whispered as his good friend came over to his table, “What the %$*&… could he be any hotter right now?” Pallas was also very much a homosexual and proud of it; in point of fact, militantly proud of it.
Belle sat down, also whispering. “Oh Freyja help me, I’ve never seen him all gussied up like this before. It’s quite a sight, that’s for sure. So, am I free?”
Pallas pulled out his cell phone and touched the screen. “You’re free on that day.” He hadn’t actually looked at his phone, he was still blatantly admiring the view he had of the customer at the front counter.
Belle playfully smacked his arm, “Am I really?”
Pallas rolled his eyes and looked at his phone, “Yes. Really.”
She stood up to return to the front counter, when Pallas quipped up again – still whispering. “Take extra time in the bedroom, if you need any help just ask. I’d be happy to lend a hand or two.”
She flashed him a playfully shocked arch look, “Shhh! Oh my gosh you’re horrible.”
When she walked back to the counter, her customer was writing something on a piece of paper. Pallas also had gotten up and was leaning against the wall separating the front area from his side room.
“So? All set?” Conor put down the pen as she went back behind the register.
“Yep! We’re good. I’ve got to come by and get some sense of what all you need. When’s a good time to drop by?”
He shrugged, “Tonight or whenever is convenient for you. You just say when.”
“Great! Pallas and I will drop by after supper? Sound good?”
The new ‘client’ nodded and after pointing to the paper with an address now written upon it, turned to go. When he got to the front door she spoke up again.
"Conor, you know that my high magic isn’t really anything like Wicca, circle magic, or even remotely like what Matthew does… right?"
The Irishman turned with an expression she’d never seen before. It was unreadable. “The Summer Courts remember well the vikings of old. Thy magic will be as welcome as yourself.” He then walked out.
Belle and Pallas shared a look. Then she watched as he got into a lovely 1950s era car she’d never seen before and drive away. She muttered a single word, “Álfar…”
Pallas replied in German as he too watched Conor drive off. “ja… oder zumindest hat es den Anschein.”
* Álfar… = scandinavian word for ‘elf’ – like in the Norse legends
* ja… oder zumindest hat es den Anschein. = In German “yes… or so it seems.” (rough translation)
The previous bit was intro. Everything below this box is the actual Spell being prepared and cast.
“Sweety this is amazing!” Belle was looking into the long hallway.
Conor chuckled, “Aye, I j…”
Pallas interrupted, “Is this actually yours or are you just house sitting for somebody?”
Conor glanced over at Pallas, “Well it was my name on the checks an’ paperwork so…”
The owner of the house stood so that if they wanted to enter they could, but he said nothing further. The silence got a bit uncomfortable when Pallas finally walked across the threshold.
“Happy now?” He cocked his eyebrow at Conor.
The owner of the house nodded.
“Hun, I can’t really do what you’re asking me to do without my power.” She looked a little confused.
Conor nodded, “Aye, I know. Formal invitation can come after I make sure you’re actually the lovely lady I asked to come here.”
She smiled thinly, “Oh I see. Sure.” She then stepped across the threshold, wincing slightly as she did so.
The master of the house then closed the door, “I welcome ye both to my home, may I offer you refreshments?”
Belle took a deep breath, enjoying the feeling of her connection to her Power returning. “That would be great, I know I don’t even need to ask if you’ve got a beer.” She grinned impishly.
Pallas was still looking around the hallway and the front room, “Got any good Scotch?”
“Only Irish here.” Conor was smirking as he said it.
The Were-Raven looked back at him and made a deliberate point of checking him out head to toe. “I can see that. Irish is fine.”
Belle playfully smacked her gay friend’s arm as Conor went off to the kitchen chuckling, “Come on in, sit, or make yourselves comfortable. Let me get your drinks an’ I’ll give ye the nickel tour.”
When he caught up with his guests, they were in the grand main living area. He handed Belle a cold bottle of Shiner Bock.
She smiled, “I was sure I was going to get a Guinness. You know what I like!”
To Pallas he handed a cut-glass whiskey tumbler. He took a sip, “Jameson 18. Nice. It’s not Laphroaig but if it’s got to be Irish at least it’s the good stuff.”
“Of course it has to be Irish. So, shall I show off the place?”
He then led his guests through his new two-story home. When the ‘Nickel Tour’ was ended, they were on the rooftop patio area looking around at the other high dollar homes in the Highland Park area of Dallas.
Pallas asked, “Jeez, how much did you pay for this place?”
“I haggled the fella down to a million one. Barbara was the agent.” Conor almost seemed embarrassed as he said the words.
Belle and her friend exchanged a stunned look but said nothing.
“You needn’t worry about spell components or anythin’ like that, Belle. Within reason, just let me know what you need an’ I’ll buy it or have it built for you.”
Belle set down her beer bottle, now empty. “Ok sweetie. Thanks. For big magic like this, I tend to like to build a Hörgr, um, an altar, of stones, to Freyja. If you’re wanting a powerful ward, it’ll need to be at least big enough for me to dress and cook a hog on it.” To those who didn’t know her, the contrast between the Scandinavian content of her words and her Hill Country Texas drawl might have been jarring.
"That will be fine. Build it wherever it’s convenient for you… Verdia, a moment of your time. These two are fine, they know about our kind." Conor had spoken the last bit seemingly to the open air. Then ‘Tinkerbell’ appeared.
You could have picked Belle and Pallas’s jaws up on the floor as Conor whispered something into the ear of the doll sized pixie. She looked as if she had escaped her box on the girl’s toy aisle at Wal-Mart and flew away. The pixie was looking at the guests as Conor was speaking to her, and it was easy to tell she enjoyed the attention.
“Yes Lord Dallas! I’ll go right now!” She then flew off. Apparently she spoke in exclamation mark.
The guests were still looking at each other in amazement when suddenly another individual appeared, only a foot or so tall. It was brown, like old wood, wearing a green tunic, floppy wool hat, and a leather brass studded apron. It had mossy hair and eyes that shined like molten amber with an inner light. “You sent for me, Lord Dallas?”
Lord Dallas nodded, “Aye Knobbycob. This lovely lady will be buildin’ an altar to Freyja on the grounds. You will assist her in makin’ sure it is acceptable to her goddess for the task.”
Knobbycob turned its glowing amber eyes to Belle, “It has been many long ages since I beheld a hörgr. Álfablót is a forgotten art to most mortals… I look forward to the work.” It then bowed slightly.
Belle was speechless for a moment, then she whispered. “… nibelung?”
The fae creature shook its head, “Nay, a cousin at best. Though I’ve always prefered niflungr myself. When you are ready to begin call me by name, I shall come.” It then vanished.
Pallas couldn’t be silent any longer, “Holy $%&^#@* $#!^, Conor… Lord Dallas? What the $%*# is happening?”
Conor looked around and then up into the sky. “Let us go back inside, then I’ll answer your question.”
When they had gone back down to the ground floor, Conor refreshed their drinks, they were in his den area.
"I’ve had a recent change in regards to my relationship to the Summer Court. Call it coming into my inheritance if you like."
“Wow hun. Thats…” Belle just took a sip of her second beer.
“$*%^” was Pallas’s eloquent reply.
“We can discuss more about this later. What else do you need, Belle?” Conor was sitting in one of his expensive recliners, one leg crossed over the other. The effect, more than ever before in their acquaintance, suggested a man of power and … authority.
“A phone? I’m gonna call some friends of mine. I got a friend that traps feral hogs for the county. Gonna try and get a big one for the blót. Maybe call a few guys and try and get some good stones for the altar too, not these awful garden center pavers.”
Conor then directed her to an antique brass phone with a rotary dial. It looked perfectly at home midst the decorations of the house, it was also not digital. After pulling out an address book, she dialed the numbers.
Pallas set down his now empty tumbler. “Are you really you? Or are you the other guy?”
The Irishman took a deep breath before answering, “I’m still Conor in every way that matters. However, I have come to an arrangement … perhaps call it ‘terms’ … wit’ the circumstances surroundin’ my ancestry. Fightin’ it has proven … wasteful. I’m trying a different approach.”
"How’s Marisa enjoying having a rich boyfriend?" The Were-raven was doing he signature head motions again, examining every facial expression and motion. He was ‘snooping’ for info – habit.
There was no reply for a long time, just the sound of Belle’s voice in the background talking with people.
"The changes are significant, aye. She’s decided to focus on her pack’s needs … they’re goin’ through somethin’ of a rough patch. So I don’t think "boyfriend" is an applicable term any longer… assumin’ it ever was. Rather not speak of it, if it’s all the same." Though his facial expression was serene, the eyes showed the faintest hint of emotion behind the words.
“Oh… k.” Pallas glanced over at Belle, she was looking over at them both, but still involved in her phone conversation. It was clear she had heard Conor’s reply.
“Hun, can you get started looking for the evergreen bough? You know the ones I prefer for these sorts of spells.” She had just hung up the phone.
Pallas got up, “Conor, is it okay if I get naked?”
The owner of the house couldn’t help but chuckle, motioning out towards the poolside. “Feel free to store your clothing wherever convenient Pallas. Both you an’ Belle may come an’ go freely as you need to prepare for this spell.”
Smirking, the Were-raven went to the back patio area. Within a few moments, a raven flew away leaving behind a folded pile of black clothing.
Over the next few days, there were a few deliveries and Belle had come over several times to oversee the placement of the things she would need for her magic. Various bits of nine different kinds of woods, stones carved with the runes spelling out “Thor Uiki” meaning ‘Thor Make Sacred,’ and other assorted things were arrayed precisely. Not to mention the actual construction of her altar. It actually looked a lot like a fancy stone BBQ pit. It also had several assorted hooks, pulleys, and attachments that made it look like it would also make place to hoist an engine block out of a car. Of course, the thick brass metalwork was all far more ornate than what Belle could have done herself, courtesy of one of the little folk.
Conor had been busy as well, sending out invitations to a small and tight knit circle of friends for his "housewarming party." Most of these invitations had been in delivered in-person of course. That’s what led him to The Purple House one day when both Barbara and Matthew were present.
“Of course we’d love to come! I was so glad to help you find it.” Barbara was smiling, nudging Matthew’s arm as she did so.
“Yeah, I’ve heard a lot about the place. We’d be happy to drop by for the party.”
Conor leaned over the counter conspiratorially, “Now, just so you know… after the refreshments an’ all I’m probably goin’ to ask folks to leave. The housewarmin’ is actually all part of one of Belle’s Wards, an’ she’ll be doin’ the delicate parts in the evening.”
He looked over at Matthew jokingly, “I’d invite ye to stay for that, but I’m thinkin’ it’ll be a bit more… pre-Christian… than what you’re used to!”
The preacher looked conflicted, "Well… actually I’d love to watch, but I guess if there’s going to be … uh… "
Matthew had completely missed the fact that when he said “watch,” Barbara had begun to grin.
Conor laughed, “The pagans aren’t goin’ to be fornicatin’ on the altar padre. There’ll be a slaughtered pig though, I’m thinkin’ if the vikings could cook BBQ like Belle does… those early Christian missionaries would have never had a shot.”
Matthew smirked, “I wouldn’t count on that, but… well yeah, if there’s not going to be,” he blushed a bit “… that… if it’s okay with you I think I really would like to stay for the whole thing.”
“You’re welcome to of course, both of you.” Conor looked distinctly amused, “well, there might be a bit of fornicatin’ … just full disclosure, but it’ll be away from view … in the rooms.”
Matthew wasn’t sure if Conor was joking and baiting him with that last bit or being candid. He decided to err on the side of caution. “Well if it’s in the rooms, that’s … fine… I can live with that.”
“Grand, I’ll see ya then.” So with a handshake and a hug, Conor left the store.
Barbara, as she watched Conor leave, commented, “Belle’s a pretty lady, don’t you think so?”
“Uh… yes?” Matthew looked confused. “Not as pretty as you but… what does…”
She laughed and interrupted him, “I’m glad you think so. Because she does her high magic naked. You’re going to see a lot more of Belle than you ever have before mi amore.”
Matthew was turning a bright shade of red as Barbara covered her mouth with her hand to laugh.
It was the day before the party itself. Everything was ready for the final steps.
Belle was dressed in blue jeans and a work shirt, she’d been working on the hórgr all day in preparation for the commencement of her blót. A fire was well on the way to dying down to hot coals in the main area of the three sided altar that she had constructed. One third was for her prayers and runescribing. One third was for the cooking. One third was for preparing the animal. Technically she had combined what was traditionally a simple altar with an area to prepare and conduct the animal sacrifice, but she knew that Freyja approved so she didn’t care about what others thought. The blaze itself had been carefully constructed with the wood of nine different types of trees – nine being sacred in the numerology of her religion. Though the types of wood chosen might not have meshed completely with the ones used long, long ago in Scandinavia… her blend sure did make for better BBQ.
On top of the altar portion was a small wooden box from Conor that contained three brass keys, and a small stone inscribed with hand cut runes. The stone she had created herself.
In a cage nearby, the feral hog grunted. It was a pretty good sized one, well over a hundred pounds. It also stank as only a feral hog can. They’d hosed him down with a garden hose when he first arrived earlier in the day, but water can only do so much. “Don’t you worry buster. You’re gonna taste real good when this is all over.”
She went inside the house and found the master upstairs in his game room playing the guitar. Though she didn’t recognize the tune, it was so lovely she didn’t interrupt until he finished. Fae or not, Conor was still one of a couple of the finest musicians she had ever heard play.
When the last note strummed, she asked “Well, everything’s ready for tomorrow. May I use your bathroom to get ready?”
“When I’m done, I’ll need you downstairs by the hórgr. I’m going to invoke Freyja’s blessing and begin and get started on the hog. Since you’re the master of the house and a warrior, seemed appropriate for you to do the honors.”
He set aside his guitar, “I understand. I’d be glad to.”
She reached to a sheath on her belt, “Do you have a sacred blade of your own?”
He shook his head in the negative.
Belle then unhooked the catch and drew forth a simple, clearly hand-made blade. The plain wooden handle was oak. The metalwork was likewise plain. The only distinctive trait was the shape. A 30-degree angle went in a perfectly straight line from the edge to the back. The longer surface was the cutting one, not the backside as one might expect. “This is Freyjavinga, an old friend of mine. You’re welcome to use this.”
Conor stood up and nodded, “Then I shall.”
She sheathed the blade and turned to go, “Wear something you won’t mind getting bloody… really bloody.”
Later, Belle, Pallas, and Conor were at the hórgr.
Belle was dressed simply, in a long knee length under-dress of sky blue. Over the dress was a dark brown leather apron that seemed to have some bead-work and leather tooling. It was held in place by straps that went up behind her neck as well as a three-inch wide tooled leather belt worn high, more like a girdle. She had on shoes that looked more or less, like plain moccasins. She wore her ever present necklace, her blade in its sheath on the girdle, and a golden ring. Her hair had been braided back into a thick single strand that went down her back. Pallas had put on a black t-shirt, black jeans, and a pair of beat up running shoes. The shoes had once been an unknown color, now all the fabric was definitely a dark brown. Stained, no doubt, by blood. His longish hair was bound up under a black “do-rag.” Conor had, for the first time in many days, put on his old faded blue jeans, a button-up brown and red flannel (sleeves rolled up), and his trusty Redwing boots. He’d left behind is trademark flat cap.
Belle reached down and picked up a large ornate metal bowl sitting on top of some folded burlap, next to a fresh cut evergreen bough. The bowl was heavily decorated with rudimentary knot-work, runes, and iconography that Conor couldn’t exactly place, though it was undoubtedly Scandinavian. Pallas moved over near her, arranging some hooks, rope, and other assorted hardware clearly intended to hoist and hold the hog once it was dead.
She then held the bowl up over her head, very straight, and said something… Conor couldn’t recognize the language. In fact, the only word he recognized was “Freyja” said three times. She then drew her blade, with one had while holding the bowl in the other and motioned Conor in the direction of the hog cage.
Conor walked over to the cage and opened it, however it became clear that 100 plus pounds of angry bacon wasn’t going to go quietly to slaughter. Lack the strength needed in his normal form, Conor reluctantly allowed Nuada a bit more control. Suddenly a half naked white haired Celtic Lord of the Fae with a silver hand was standing there, knot-work tattoos blazing. Though he couldn’t see it, Belle and Pallas were quite stunned at the change (but were learning to be less surprised by Fae things in this particular household).
The Fae Lord reached in with his Silverhand and… snapped the hog’s spine at the neck like uncooked spaghetti. He then picked the hog up and over his shoulders with no more difficulty than if it had been a soccer scarf. He carried it over to the bar and pulleys, and helped hoist up the dead animal. After placing the bowl directly under the hoisted animal, Belle handed him her blade. With a single smooth motion, Conor slit the hog’s throat to the bone. The blood flowed into the bowl.
When the flow of blood had slowed to a trickle, she stood up. Holding the bowl high, she again started speaking in a language Conor didn’t understand – though again he caught “Freyja” several times. She then cradled the bowl in the crook of her left arm, and picked up the evergreen bough. After saying a few more things, she dipped the bough in the blood and sprinkled blood everywhere.
No really, everywhere.
Flecks of warm blood went all over Conor, Pallas, herself, the altar, and then all around the immediate area of the spell. She then walked most of the grounds, sprinkling more blood as she went. As she walked along she’d say more words, again “Freyja” being the only word Conor could make out, and then finally she ended up back at the altar. She lifted the bowl again over her head, said a few more words, and then concluded with English “… a gift, for a gift.”
She then poured the rest of the blood over the main part of the altar, drenching the rune inscribed stone (and most of the wooden box) – draining the bowl. By this time Conor had returned to his “normal” visage.
Belle then proceeded to skin and dress the hog. He was impressed at how fast she was. At several points, she would pause, say a few words, and then toss bits and pieces of the hog into the blaze. The entire backyard smelled like cooking pork and the greasy smoke now rising from the flames was heavy with the smell.
At last standing up straight, she grinned – a fairly gruesome sight actually considering the blood everywhere. “Well, now I get to prepare the hog my way from here out. The Gods have gotten their share, the rest is for us.”
She fetched a mason jar full of spices and some aluminum foil. Both had been bundled with the burlap. She then proceeded to rub down the entire hog with the spices. She next filled the body cavity with fruit (mostly apples, onions, garlic, and a couple of jalapenos). Then, after wrapping it up in foil and burlap she got Conor and Pallas’s assistance in lowering the tightly wrapped bundle, on its back, into the coals. Conor then got to see the benefits of having a craftsman of the fae assist with the building of the altar. There was a lid nearby, and once they all leveraged it back in place, no smoke escaped. It looked very much like a bloody stone tomb for a single pig.
“Well boys, that’s it for today.” Standing there covered in blood with a scramaseax knife at her hip; the jarring contrast between the general barbarism of everything and her southern drawl was pronounced. “The rest we take care of after the party.”
Pallas excused himself, heading inside to one of the spare bathrooms to get cleaned up. Belle spoke to Conor, “I know things are messy, but could you make sure none of your friends clean up anything actually on the hórgr itself until after tomorrow?”
“I’m sure they heard you.” Conor looked around, seeing none of his low Fae allies at the moment, however he was fairly confident they heard the request loud and clear.
Belle also looked around, “Also, just as with the Álfablót of old… the energy and power in the blood I’ve scattered around everywhere else is theirs to take… gift for a gift.”
There was a rustle across the grounds, like dozens of whispers trying to mask as the wind blowing in the leaves. Conor was now certain she had been heard without any difficulty.
She then paused for a moment before taking a few steps closer to Conor, their bodies nearly touching. “Conor… has this house yet been consecrated?” She looked up into his eyes, her meaning clear even without the obvious heat in her voice.
He looked into her blue eyes, and felt the beginning of a Soulgaze.
He saw a flame haired woman standing before a Norse longhall. Scattered around her were the implements of her spellcasting and she held off a faceless horde of gibbering creatures of darkness. She stood between them and those she cared about, enjoying themselves at the party going on within the long hall. Scattered about the scene of battle were other trinkets, prominent among them were several child’s toys still wrapped and waiting to be given. Also, Conor could sense the presence of a benevolent feminine force watching over the scene, and high overhead ravens flying. Then the image vanished as Belle closed her eyes.
When she opened them again, she did not look him directly in the eyes, but near enough. "So many contrasts… yet a lord of the summer you are, Conor of Ireland. A year ago, we spoke of sheep and wolves, and you told me you are on the side of the mortals. Do you remember?"
“I see now that you fight for us. You risk your immortal existence for us.”
Conor said nothing, there was no way for him to know what she had seen in her Soulgaze.
“I saw that at Ragnarök you will answer the Gjallarhorn when Heimdall calls. You stand with us against the Hordes of Muspell.”
He seemed slightly confused, “I only know a handful of the words you say, Belle, but yes I stand wit’ mortals against the dark if that’s what you mean.”
After a pause, “So, did you and Marisa consecrate this house? In the old way.” She reached out and grabbed his fingers in hers; sticky from the congealed blood.
Conor looked at their entwined hands, “No.”
She pressed her body up against his, “Álfar hero, I put myself in your power until the rising of the sun…. a gift for a gift.”
There was nothing of platonic friendship in the kiss that followed.
The next afternoon, folks started to arrive for the house warming party.
An hour or so before that, the pig had been brought out of the coals and pulled/picked all apart. It was now, boneless, lying on a platter bed of leaf lettuce surrounded by the fruits used to season it from the inside. Around this central display of meat was lots of fresh bread, cole slaw, potato salad (cold mustard based like Texans like, not hot like Germans prefer). Dozens of bottles of ice cold beer and Dr. Pepper completed the spread.
Belle had then cleaned out the coals and rebuilt the fires using the nine types of wood, the blaze was now merrily kicking along outside. The hórgr itself was made of mostly reddish stone, but it only took a close inspection to see that the dark substance on it was also once red. However, only the most curious even bothered to look closely. For the most part, it was simply observed as ‘Oh neat a fire outside’ and then ignored.
For the next hour or so Conor was kept busy greeting guests and giving the ‘nickel tour.’ ‘Oohs’ and ‘Ahs’ were frequent from most of those there, along with ‘How did you afford all this?’ and ‘So how much did it cost?’
Though it was only for two hours, various guests and split off and were chatting among themselves as they enjoyed the BBQ and the refreshments.
One such cluster was Belle, Barbara, and Matthew. Matthew had been asking various questions about the circumstances about the hórgr outside, and the blood, and the nature of the BBQ and where it came from, and so forth.
“So how did they do it in the old days?” He picked up another forkful of pulled pork and stabbed a chunk of apple to go with it.
“Based on my research? Boiled in cauldrons of hot water… with spices of some kind I hope.”
From around a mouthful of food, “Well this is way better than boiled pork.”
“Thanks hun, I’m glad you like it. Eat up, there’s plenty.” Belle smiled as she took another drink of her Shiner Bock.
“So Conor will have leftovers for sure, there’s a lot of meat left.”
“Well…” Belle was clearly thinking over her next words. “Not really. After this is all over, what’s left will be burned. It’s kinda rude to keep leftovers of a sacred meal instead of sending it along to… wherever… to be shared by all in the feast hall.” She made a vague motion with her hand skyward.
“Feast hall?” Matthew paused mid-chew.
Grinning now, “Sessrúmnir… Valhalla… whichever.”
“Oh right. Gotcha. So, no reason not to go back for thirds.”
Matthew chewed a bit as Barbara excused herself to ‘mingle.’ Belle however closed her eyes, it seemed as though she were either tired, deep in thought or both.
“I can go if you’re tired, I don’t want to distract you.” He motioned vaguely in the direction of the food table.
“Oh no hun, you’re fine. Just gathering my thoughts for later, staying focused. You understand.”
Pallas about that time wandered by, he was walking with another attractive gentleman dressed in slacks, a fitted polo, very well kept hair, goatee, and a pair of small hoop earrings.
“Well she’s a little tired Cap, she didn’t get to sleep until dawn.” He was smirking as he said it. The other gentleman on his arm was clearly in on the joke as he grinned as well.
“Gotcha. Working on the ritual?” Matthew had missed the fact that Belle had cracked open one of her eyes and was giving her friend a ‘you drop dead’ look.
Pallas was clearly trying not to laugh, “Yep. That’s pretty much exactly right.”
Matthew stood up, “Hi! I’m Matthew Consprite.” He held out his hand to Pallas’s friend.
The friend firmly took the proffered hand, “Damian. Damian Marrs. I’ve heard a lot about you, Matthew.” Damian had a very white smile.
“You know, since this is a viking thing, I kinda expected there to be a lot more beer and drinking horns.” Matthew was clearly trying to bring a little humor himself rather than be the target of apparently an inside joke among the three.
Damian quipped up, “Oh that’ll be later Matthew, don’t worry. Drinking horn, mead, the whole thing.”
“Neat. So you’ve been to some of these things before?”
“Yep, Pallas and I are part of Belle’s Kindred.” Damian smiled over at Belle, which was warmly returned.
The were-raven answered, “You’re probably more familiar with the term Coven… similar idea… less PMS.”
Belle finally opened both eyes, “Pallas, be nice.”
“Sure, sure. Listen Cap, lemme and Damian go get some food and when I get back I’ll act as translator for everything going on. Right?”
Pallas and Damian walked away to the buffet table, laughing together.
When Matthew sat back down, Belle spoke up, “For some reason I thought you’d be more uncomfortable around Pallas and Damian together. You’re a very open minded sort of Christian, Matthew. One of the rare ones in this part of the state.”
He looked back over at Pallas and Damian as they piled food up on their plates, Conor had come over to the buffet table as well and was shaking both their hands, chatting. “It’s not a lifestyle that I agree with, but I’m not crazy about Conor’s either – it’s not really my place to judge.”
Belle said nothing for long moments, “I think this will be the first blót witnessed by a missionary of the Christ in centuries.”
Matthew had nothing to say to that, so he shoveled more delicious BBQ.
Long after most of the guests had been thanked for coming and invited to leave, a much smaller group was still present at Conor’s new residence.
They were all seated around Conor’s front dining room table, waiting. Belle had gone upstairs with Pallas to do a few final preparatory things prior to beginning the last step of the blót. Sitting next to Conor on the floor was a big stoppered glass jug with some kind of amber-ish liquid in it. Behind him up against the wall on a stand was his trusty guitar.
When she rejoined them, she had changed her clothing to a feather-trimmed robe of sky blue cloth. The feathers were black. The robe was closed with a belt of braided horsehair. Around her neck was her ever-present necklace and around one finger, her golden ring. Her feet and legs however appeared bare. She had clearly bathed as her hair was still wet in its long single braid. She also smelled of some kind of herbal perfume. In her hands was a brass clad drinking horn. The metal was inscribed with runes and knot-work.
Pallas walked behind her holding another box. He was again wearing all black, except his outfit was also trimmed in raven feathers. It consisted of a simple tunic, black leather belt, black breeches, and … his feet were wrapped in black fur and leather crossed-laces. Around his neck was a leather cord with an upside down “Thor” hammer pendant. The effect was quite savage actually. After setting the box down next to Belle, he came over and sat in the empty chair between Matthew and Damian.
He leaned over and whispered to Matthew, “This is the fun part… drinking, toasts, telling $%^&@#$& stories, that sort of thing.”
When everyone was settled, Belle stood up, horn in hand. “Welcome my friends, the master of this house has asked that I conduct this sumbel on the occasion of the dedication of this house and the erection of protective magics to make it a safe haven. Conor, would you be so kind as to fill the horn?”
The master of the house then hoisted up the glass jug, unstoppered it, and poured the amber liquid into the horn.
She continued, “Please, all stand, by tradition the first toast is for the Gods. We welcome the Gods among us as teachers, mentors, fathers, mothers, and friends. Usually the names we intone are Norse, but tonight as we all have different faiths, I’m sure none would take offense if nobody repeated the names we each call forth and used far fewer names.” She then lifted the drinking horn high into the air above her head, intoning “Freyja.” Then she took a drink and passed the horn clockwise to the next person around the table.
Pallas again leaned in an whispered to Matthew, “This is the closest we get to that magic circle crap. If you drink, you’re part of the sumbel and you’re here until it’s done. She’ll be channeling enough power to splatter her brains all over Highland Park so if you’re not going to stay until the spell is cast, don’t drink, just kiss the side of the horn or pass it on or something. Nobody will take offense.”
Conor hoisted the horn and toasted the Celtic God Lugh, Barbara the Aztec Goddess Chantico, Matthew drank to The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost, Pallas to Odin, and Damian to Thor. Indeed, it was an eclectic circle of faiths. The liquid in the horn had turned out to be a sweet and spicy honey mead.
When the horn was back at the beginning, Pallas again leaned in grinning. “Nice going getting a hat-trick in there, Cap.” He laughed, “Even still, I’m gonna have to call yellow card on the one Christian calling out three Gods, but the three Vikings only doing one each.” Then with a wink, he returned to paying attention to Belle.
Conor again filled the horn.
“Now, we drink to those who brought us to where we are now; to heroes and ancestors long gone.” Belle again hoisted the cup and drank to Heinrich Schubert, 3rd Regiment, Texas Cavalry, Confederate States of America.
Most everyone toasted grandparents, mostly World War 2 veterans; except Conor that toasted Cú Chulainn, the Hound of Ulster and Matthew that toasted the biblical Moses.
The third and final round of drinking took a lot longer. Belle invited everyone to tell stories, sing songs, make oaths, or in whatever other way entertain those gathered. The horn was refilled several times during this last “round.” However, without a doubt, Conor told the best stories – even if they were about Irish heroes. He was asked to tell the last story, and during the run of it, he brought all his skills as storyteller and Fae glamour to the fore. The walls of the room danced with images of Ireland long ago, as well as the smells and sounds of the stories he told.
When he finished, the horn went back to Belle and she had him refill it again. She then invited everyone to adjourn outside to the hórgr. As she stood near the altar she again raised the horn to the sky. “Gift for a gift.”
She then poured out the contents of the horn at nine different points around a “circle” that went clockwise from where she had started. At each location she poured out the libation, there was a small pile of sticks. She did not, however, pour the libation out over the sticks.
When she finished, she said “Thank you all for your tales and friendship. Hail.” To which Pallas, Barbara, and Damian replied, “Hail” followed by Conor and Matthew a split second behind.
Pallas then came back over to Matthew, “The next part you’re welcome to watch but just so long as you don’t leave the grounds until she’s done, feel free to enjoy yourself as you see fit.”
Pallas went back to stand behind Belle, who had taken what appeared to be a piece of old wood out of the box from earlier, and her knife. Her face appeared completely focused. She muttered something Matthew couldn’t hear to Conor, who went back inside and returned with his guitar. He then sat down near to Belle asking, “So anything slow in three four time?”
Belle nodded, and Conor began to play a melody that seemed rather familiar (and clearly Celtic), it was something a bit like a Waltz. She swayed for a few moments listening to the tune and then closed her eyes, beginning to mutter words in an unfamiliar language in something of a sing-song manner that was fairly recognizable as magical chant to anyone familiar with Thaumaturgy at all.
After lighting the nine smaller piles of sticks, Pallas returned to help her remove the robe. Once it was done, she reached over with her blade and seemed to do something to her forearm. Droplets of blood, black in the firelight, dribbled onto the altar. Then she began a sort of dance around the hórgr in time to the music. At each small fire she stomped her foot, and in between each blaze did a twirl. The entire time, she was chanting and singing. Whenever she returned to the “top” where the altar was located she would stop, and raise her arms to the sky, stick in one hand, blade in the other, and spend a few moments speaking. Then she would return to the strangely hypnotic dance.
Barbara’s voice cut into Matthew’s mesmerized gazing, “She calls it her gammeldans… beautiful, no?”
Matthew was glad for the night, he could feel his face turning scarlet. Of course, Belle was completely naked as she did her dance. Her pale white skin glowed as it reflecting the red fire light. Matthew had only partially noticed – studying what she was doing, seeing a ritual and a form of magic he’d never witnessed before. However, saying that would just sound like a pitiful excuse. He did notice after all… Belle was a very attractive woman and she was in excellent shape. He was chaste… not dead.
“It’s okay Matthew, you can watch. Belle is my dearest friend on earth next to you mi corazon, I am not jealous. Besides, I know who you’re going home with.” She winked at him with a smile.
Pallas and Damian had walked back over, “You can’t ask for more than that right Cap? Permission to stare at a smokin’ hot topless redheaded dancer, from your own girlfriend no less.”
Matthew was distinctly uncomfortable with this entire line of conversation so he tried to change the subject, “So uh, so which of the nine types of wood is that wand that she’s using?” He then turned to look at the house. He didn’t need to watch anymore, he got the idea.
Pallas turned around and looked at Belle, “The Völsi?” He chuckled. “Well Cap, dunno how to tell you this any other way. This ain’t Harry Potter… that’s not wood. That’s a dried and preserved horse phallus. Norse witches have been using those for thousands of years.”
Matthew was again speechless.
Pallas was still chuckling, Damian too. “Go inside Christian. Go get a drink, there’s lots of mead left. This won’t take too long – half hour tops. She’s just reciting selected passages of the Poetic Edda as she dances, to please the Gods with the old tales. When she gets to the top of the altar, she asks Freyja to empower the Ward and grant her magic. Basically she’s telling Freyja about Conor and why he wants it, and what kind of man he is… that kind of stuff.”
After a pause, he continued “It’s a fancy prayer and quoting scripture preacher, you should know all about that.”
Matthew nodded, “Yeah, I get that… yep I think a drink is a great idea.”
After half and hour or so of dancing, chanting, twirling, and Conor’s playing, Belle at last stopped at the head of the altar and stayed there. She chanted a few more words and then reached down into the box where the ‘wand’ had been stored and pulled forth a vial. She uncorked it, held it aloft as she had done all evening for the other toasts, and then downed it in a single gulp.
Then, after dropping the vial, her blade, and the völsi back into the box, she picked up the runestone covered in dried blood. She held it in between her hands held palm-to-palm, like a prayer rosary as she muttered a couple more things, again the word “Freyja” being the only one Conor understood.
Finally, she smiled and clearly said “thank you” to the sky. As she walked to Conor, stone in hand.
“Conor, would you be a dear and help me slip on my robe?” It was clear she was tired by her body language and the tone of her voice.
He helped her slip back into the blue feathered robe and tied her horsehair belt. She leaned against his body as he did so. When he was done she turned around and handed him the stone.
“When you shatter this rune, the energies of the spell will be released. It is finished.”
“Thank you Belle.”
She nodded tiredly. “Honey, you still need to be gracious host and thank everyone for coming and all that. Me… I’m going upstairs and going to sleep. You can join me if you like since I’m going to your bed… but in about five minutes I’m gonna be dead to the world.”
Conor smiled and nodded, understanding.
As Belle staggered off to the house, he paused and looked around his backyard.
He then spoke softly, seemingly to the air. “Clean up all the blood. In a few minutes I will bring the rest of the sacrifice. What you do not consume… burn… leave none.” Again, the surrounding bushes, leaves, and vegetation seemed to sigh with excited whispering voices.
He then went inside to bid all his guests farewell.
In the morning, Belle was dressed to go and carrying a duffel bag that contained all her things from the past few days. She and Conor were sitting down to pancakes in his comfortable breakfast nook. She had already noted with satisfaction that the hórgr outside was spotless.
“So what happens now between you and I?” Conor was looking at her curiously.
Belle smiled and picked at her pancakes, “What we shared was magical Conor, in just about every meaning of the word…”
“Magic eight ball says ‘But’,” He was also smiling seeing where this was going.
“But… it’s a new day. The spell has been cast. This Ward, this Álfablót, everything… these are some of the most powerful magics I have ever harnessed. You gave me a memory that I will truly cherish.” She looked up at him with an impish grin. “I mean that…”
Conor couldn’t help but return the smile, “Well it was certainly a pleasure to help.”
The redhead nodded with a laugh, “But… cute as you are, you’re still Fae… and Summer Court now to boot. That’s just too hot to handle for a simple girl like me.”
She took a sip of her juice. “Besides… you have my rune to break, and I have the memory… gift for a gift. Everything else you paid for as it was delivered so… I think we’re square.”
Conor nodded with understanding. “So that’s it then?”
Belle stood up, “Well, I’m going to finish this O.J.” … which she did. “… and yeah. Guess that’s it.”
Conor escorted her to his front door. She turned and held out her hand to shake. Conor picked up her hand in both of his and kissed her fingers.
She then winked at him as she turned to go. “See you around, Conor.”
He watched her drive away and then closed his heavy front door. This was becoming habit.
He then reached his hand into his pocket and pulled forth a ruddy stone inscribed with a single rune. With both hands he snapped it in twain and felt a powerful Ward go up all around his new home.
“Aye… see ya around, Belle.”
So prior to me deciding to have Conor’s girlfriend dump him (which was really fun to write by the way) this was more or less the scene I was working on. I did it because I wanted to wrap my head around how I was going to do “rune” magic in our campaign for all my goblins and other nasty spellcasters. So I needed to “Tell the tale of the spell” (to paraphrase a term from the rulebook) and fully understand how I was going to bring elements of Ásatrú symbology into Dresden Files RPG magic system.
ALSO – I needed a way to convey information to the reader, via an in-scene “expository character”… Matthew was perfect for that as both the overtly Christian character in the group and with his Aspect “Student of the Supernatural”… I am certain that every member of the group was invited to the housewarming party itself. Conor wasn’t trying to snub the other characters. This was all driven by the author’s need. =)
If anyone is actually a practitioner of Ásatrú that read this, apologies for various elements that I’m sure reeked of Wicca-trú in the above. Know that I’m not trying to show your religious system to any ill effect, I’m simply contrained by the game-rules in which we operate and still present Ásatrú in a way that’s satisfying for our story. No offense intended. I tried to keep it as “viking” as I could and still abide by my constraints.
I do feel I need to explain, probably the most overtly Wicca-trú scene – the dancing around the fire bit – I wanted the Belle character to do something more interesting than simply be in one place chanting and I absolutely did not want her to kneel during her magic – kneeling before the Gods and Ásatrú have never really meshed in my mind. So, I wanted her to perform some kind of Gammeldans/traditional dance and a solo form of the Springar kept coming to mind… so that’s kinda what’s going on here. The 9 smaller fires are the nine forms of wood (for the Virtues)… but yes, in the end, it’s a witch dancing around a fire, so sorry for that. But I did think about this element a long time before putting it in there.
The math and mechanics of the spell, for those that have wondered about a more fully realized magic example of Thaumaturgy.
Phase 1 – Determine Complexity
This element is done “off screen” – it’s where the player and the GM work together to determine what they spell needs to do. I include it here in my notes to “show the math.”
- This is a Ward (starts on page 276)
- Base Threshold is a 2 (default) – This adds nothing to the Ward Strength itself other than to tell me the Ward’s “boundaries” – a single “zone” that occupies the same area as the House’s Threshold. Threshold Strength and Ward Strength are different things and don’t stack. Obviously, with a Threshold Strength of 2, a Ward Strength of anything less than 2 is nearly a waste of time.
- Strength: 20
- Skills in FATE stop at Legendary 8, with a maximum Fudge dice roll, is a 12. So a “strong” Ward should always at least shoot for 12. This is way beyond that so hopefuly it’ll be sufficiently difficult to breach and anyone attempting to probe the ward. Plus any attempt to attack it causes a rebounded attack, and a 15 would “take out” just about anything except a major villain NPC. That said, any truly super nasty spellcaster can always figure out a way around a Ward so it’s dangerous to put too much faith in them.
- Duration = Default is “a day” so we want to add 12 Time Increments to bring it to “a mortal lifetime” (this allows it to not have to be recast all the time) = +12 Complexity
- Wardflame – A candelabra in the living area ignites with a reddish flame – +2 Complexity
- Landmines – none – specifically NOT adding landmine complexity so as to make it easier to boost up the Ward Strength.
- Symbolic Links
- Attuned to Conor – +2 Complexity
- Setup and Takedown Ritual – +2 Complexity (a la Harry Dresden in the books, many times he talks about setting up and taking down his Wards to let folks in and out… unfortunately in the novels a handful of other individuals also figure out how to do it, like Elaine… but whatever, makes it fun for the GM.)
- Passkeys (3 Brass keys) – +2 Complexity (a la Dresden novels again, trinkets Harry have to both Thomas and Murphy to allow them through his Wards – in this case, symbolically and literally keys)
Total Complexity: 40
- Also, be aware that most NPCs are not going to want to mess around with any magic over 16 Complexity as a general rule. If something goes wrong during the casting phase anything over 20 will cause Extreme Consequences and worse… generally, the 23 shifts of Power needed for Complexity 23+ will outright kill the spellcaster. A Player Character may risk this kind of nonsense, but it would take a tremendous amount of trust and confidence to willingly undertake the risk of death for somebody else.
- Now that above text is not entirely correct. I presented the above “death situation” first to drive home the gravity of the perception of playing with High Complexity Magic. In point of fact, a Thaumaturgist can always just “let the spell go” and release all the stored energy as Fallout into the environment.
- Think about the movie Ghostbusters when they shut off the containment grid and the station basically explodes…
- To put it in perspective, each 4 shifts of power is a “Sticky” Scene Aspect (continuing with our “Ghostbusters” example)
- “The Walls in the 53rd Precint Were Bleeding”
- “Pillar of Pink Light Reaching Into The Sky”
- “Powerful Winds Blowing Trash All Around”
- “Hallucinations – seeing ghosts”
- “Dogs and Cats Living Together, Mass Hysteria!”
- It would be perfectly within reason to take some number of those shifts and treat them as physical Zone attacks on the people around the spellcaster (like a grenade or bomb going off). At least any Complexity put into any Landmines should probably do this.
- To put it in perspective, each 4 shifts of power is a “Sticky” Scene Aspect (continuing with our “Ghostbusters” example)
- But anyway, for example purposes, and because I think Conor’s earned that kind of trust, I’m going to continue with this high Complexity example to really show how complicated powerful Thaumaturgy magic like this can be.
Phase 2 – Meeting Complexity Deficit
In the story above, this Phase begins from the moment Belle enters Conor’s new house to figure out what she needs and she starts gathering up the things she needs for her spell.
Belle’s No-Prep Thaumaturgy Lore when casting a Ward on a Home is 6 (Five for her Lore, plus one for a Focus Item). So 6 of 40 Complexity is met.
- 1 – Invoking Aspects – During game-play, Invoking Aspects makes perfect sense. However since any “Invoke” requires Fate Points, we tend to avoid those for these Postgame “web” writeups. So, just be aware, you can spend Fate Points at this stage and Invoke Aspects. But for this example, I’m skipping this.
- 2 – Make Declarations -
- Note 1: We have a “house rule of thumb” that we use for determining if a Spellcaster can easily get a particular Skill Declaration in play for meeting Spell Complexity. Since it requires (generally) 3 Shifts to create a Maneuver Aspect with Magic, if a Character has at least a Skill of Good (+3) then we assume it’s no difficulty whatsoever in bringing that Skill into play. Anything less requires a roll. Since we don’t do dice rolls in “web” writeups, those won’t really be coming into play.
- Note 2: For other-characters that are assisting the Spellcaster, the rule for “doing a maneuver for handoff” comes into play. Since one of the passive game-design goals of Dresden Files RPG is to get non-spellcasters involved in the spells as well… to contribute a skill possessed by another character requires 1-2 shifts less than the caster (remember a Maneuver performed for the specific purpose of handing it off to somebody else is 1-2 shifts easier to do – see Teamwork page 208)). Therefore, applicable Declarations from assistants only require 1-2 successful shifts (i.e. Average Skill +1 / Good +2 or better). The GM should really watch these though and make sure they stay thematically and stylistically relevant and not just stupid stuff being thrown in to get a +2.
- Declarations Used
- Conor – Resources Declaration for the Assist – “Money is nearly no object, buy what you need.” (8 of 40 met)
- Conor & Belle – Contacts to provide a taggable aspect “Fae Assistance” to Belle’s Craftsmanship Declaration “Custom Built Altar” (10 of 40 met)
- Conor – Rapport Declaration for the Assist – “Charming master of the house… keeping things on task and hosting the housewarming party!” (12 of 40 met)
- Belle – Contacts Declaration “Getting all the Right Stuff For the Ritual – hogs, wood, stone, etc.” (14 of 40 met)
- Pallas – Alertness Declaration on the assist “The perfect bough of evergreen.” (16 of 40 met)
- Belle – Lore Declaration “Thor Uiki – Properly Prepared and Arranged Sacred Place” (18 of 40 met)
- Belle – Discipline Declaration “Personal Grooming, Focus, and Ritual Cleansing for the Blót.” (20 of 40 met)
- Belle – Empathy Declaration “Spent Several Days Getting to know the Home and its Master” (22 of 40 met)
- Conor – Fists or Might Declaration “Killed the sacrificial pig with his bare hands!” (24 of 40 met)
- Belle – Rapport Declaration “Spell Consecrated by a Lord of the Álfar” (26 of 40 met) – See note below under “Taking or Inflicting Consequences” about this one.
- Conor – Peformance Declaration “Telling the best stories during the Sumbel” (28 of 40 met)
- Conor – Deceit Declaration “Stories complete with Special FX – Glamour” (30 of 40 met)
- Belle – Conviction Declaration “Freyja was hot, so am I. Nekkid!” (32 of 40 met) – If Harry Dresden can get nekkid for magic, so can our NPCs.
- 3 – Taking or Inflicting Consequences – Consequences are interesting because, by RAW (Rules As Written), you can really up your Complexity at this stage. However, depending on how your GM and Table interpret “The Art of the Spell” page 248, you could make the compelling argument that Consequences can ALSO help out in the “Phase 3” Casting/Powering the spell phase. So in some ways, Consequences are your most versatile tool for telling the story of the spell since, depending on when you do them, they can either help you meet Complexity or Shifts of Power.
- I wouldn’t personally recommend accepting personal Consequences as the spellcaster at this stage… an evil GM might compel those Consequences during the “powering the spell” phase 3 to make your life more interesting. Just an observation. But anyway…
- Belle – Social/Composure Consequence – “Faestruck – Under the Sway of an Álfar” – Minor – (34 of 40 met)
- This is in combination with Belle’s Rapport Declaration. So for fear of being accused of writing this in only to do some kind of “wish fulfillment” or something with this one… a word of explanation. Evidence strongly suggests that old Norse Seidr magic had a sexual component – especially what was done by the female Vólva seeresses. Digs have unearthed cannabis seeds in burial sites of these female witches and it’s fairly certain that horse phalluses were involved with their rituals and rites, etc. etc. – so I feel justified in this Consequence and the nature of the scene. It’s also more stylistically interesting than having Belle merely smoke a joint and suffer a Mental/Social Minor composure Consequence that way. Woo illegal drugs… boring. Viking sex magic scene… way more interesting.
- Pig – We houserule that a pig is a large animal, worth a Minor and a Moderate Consequence. Since it was killed in the Meeting Complexity phase, it’s worth 6 Complexity (not six Power). Note – Conor got an assist Declaration from Fists/Might for the MANNER of its death. These 6 Complexity is the effect of the actual death. (40 of 40 met)
- now if your local game group/GM says an animal is only worth 2 shifts no matter what (because it’s really not significant to the story… which is true) then simply adjust my Complexity of this spell down from 40 to 35 (lower Strength by 5) and carry on with the example. Easy.
- 4 – Skipping Scenes – Now, during a actual game session, this is easy. The player goes off and grabs pizza or a drink run or whatever and you add up the missed scenes.
- For a “web” writeup like this or even in general for scenes done “off camera” (like what your PCs might wish to do during down-time) this is pretty easy to abuse for no gain in actual “story” significance. As GM I prefer to use the Time Increments table on page 315 as my guide. First, as GM, determine how long the basic spell will take to gather up all the Declarations, etc. – no extra shifts for this, this is just how long the spell is going to take – and then give 1 additional shift for adding Time Increments over and above that value as per the RAW for “Taking Extra Time” (page 316). Remember it’s only “1 per” this way, not the normal “2 per” for an Aspect.
Phase 3 – Powering (aka “Casting”) the Spell
In the write up, this phase started the moment Belle cut herself with her seax knife.
The House Rules we use to help us “tell the story of the spell” are better detailed here. These rules take into account some elements mentioned in the book but never really detailed.
If you would prefer something closer to RAW – treat each of the “Additional Sources of Power” (found on page 248) that are relevant to the spell as an Aspect and tag it for power (2 Shifts per Aspect). However I found this to be a little less detailed than I wanted. It was harder (though not impossible) to model things like the superiority in regards to available power of standing around an ancient structure like Chichen Itza rather than your local Ley Line. Thus was born the House Rules linked above. Your GM/Table’s mileage may vary.
- Belle has a Discipline of 4 and a Conviction of 4. So she can focus for Four Exchanges (per our House Rules) totaling 16 shifts of 40. Using the Time Increment table, Belle’s spell will take Half an Hour to power (four increments, starting at 1 minute).
- She’s also been working on this spell for many, many days. So to represent the fatigue, exhaustion, and dedication. We’re going to have her take 1 additional Mental Stress for each of 3 Exchanges (not the full 4 Exchanges as she only has four mental/composure Stress boxes). (19 of 40)
- She inflicted a Minor Physical Consequence on herself “Deep bleeding cut” for 2 more shifts (21 of 40)
- Additional Sources of Power
- Conor has a Conviction of 3 and as a Magical Creature (Fae) he qualifies to lend power, he has a Discipline of five so he can focus longer than she can. 3 Conviction is worth a tagged Aspect (2) “Lending you my power” for each of Belle’s four Exchanges, totaling 8 shifts (29 of 40). In the scene this is manifesting as him playing music for her as she dances to keep her in rhythm. Again, if your local table/GM says a tagged aspect each Exchange is too much, adjust it down to 1 power per exchange per assistant – and for this example adjust the Spell Complexity down to 35.
- So, the housewarming party plus sumbel could have been cheesy min/maxed by having every participant take a Minor Consequence “drunk” for 2 each, but that totally ruins the vibe of what I was going for with the ritual. Instead I want to model it as adding all the participants energy, good feelings, and well wishes to the ritual (in a much nicer way than Victor Sells did with his orgy). It’s a small group, so I say it’s only worth 1 per exchange (4 total, for 33 of 40).
- The spell itself was cast on May Day (May 1st) or the Celtic festival of Beltane. Since it’s not Samhain, I’m saying it’s only worth 1 ambient energy per Exchange, enough to denote it as a high holy day, but not too powerful (4 total, for 37 of 40).
- Items of Power
- The last thing Belle does in Exchange #4 is drink a “mana potion” – it’s six Strength which (in our house rules) translates to 3 shifts of power (for 40 of 40)
To GMs with “Big Number Shock”
Some GMs may look at these examples and have a minor fit because we’re throwing around 35-40 Complexity spells. First of all, calm down. We’ve found that 30 Complexity is fairly simple even in a pure and strict RAW reading of the rules. However, let’s look at a few things in this example.
- Refresh – These are beefy characters so big things should be do-able.
- 1 – Belle is a 10 Refresh NPC built to do Thaum (Lore 5).
- 2 – Conor is a 14 Refresh Fae noble.
- Invokes – For our Web writeups, we aren’t spending Fate Points … so in a lot of ways, your players and their characters could throw even bigger spells than this.
- Houserules – You may think Houserules are cheesy .. but actually the ones we put into play governing Time Increments and the “powering the spell” phase are nerfs… not boosts… to the RAW. They rein in the madcap abuse of the “I just cast it in downtime” element of the rules.
- No Landmines – The above Ward has NO landmines… that means it gave up any “offense” for pure defense. Most Wards in-game are going to lose 5-15 points of Strength to Landmines.