Gates in the Familiars World

Gate magic. Love it or hate it, it exists. Some people use it, some abuse it, others just try to avoid it and wish it would go away. Thus far, most of Lelia’s experience with gates has been of the “send things back where they belong, or at least away from here.” Her few experiences of using a gate herself to go from one plane to another have been . . . less than fun.

In theory, if you the magic user are in the right (or exactly wrong) place, you can use raw power to force a hole between planes. My readers can spot two problems instantly. First, the sheer amount of magic needed is more than even Lelia or someone like Meister Gruenewald can command. Two, the magic user doesn’t know what’s on the other side of the hole. It might be a nice to neutral area, like Shoshana visits on occasion (or comes to visit her). It might be one of those places that make abyssal entities run screaming in terror, whimpering for their mommies. There are no road maps, in part because of how “slippery” magic is.

Gate spells are generally considered a form of ritual magic. The spell caster does this, this, and this, applies power here and here, and the gate opens to the place it did the last time that the spell caster did those exact same things. Exactly why it works like that no one in our plane is exactly certain. Mages, being more of the “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” school, tend not to worry so much about repeating the experiment. Especially shadow mages, since 99.9% of the time they are focused on making a gate that fits the “flavor” of whatever it is they need to send home – or at least away.

Do not get Morgana, André, Dr. Melanchton, and a few others arguing about when humans first encountered gates and how they developed. At a certain point, advanced magic is indistinguishable from calculus and theoretical mathematics. Most people agree that gates have been around from looong before the Spell Eruption Event. Some believe that the great mysteries of the past can be attributed to gates (Bermuda Triangle, Lost Tribes of Israel, Loch Ness monster, Shangri La, disappearance of the officiants from Higha Sophia during the last battle for Constantinople . . .) Everyone also agrees that things from Out There can use gates to come to here, although then the question arises about “do they need help on this side?” Beyond that, the discussions get so esoteric and mind-numbing that the non-specialists usually manage to clean the good stuff out of the bar before the others realize that they are now alone in the corner.

Most sensitives can sense unshielded gate magic, at least in the sense of “woah, big spell in use.” Some, like André have become even more aware, if not on a conscious level. He’s got good reasons to be twitchy about gate magic, and although it hasn’t come up yet, he’s developing a block, sort of like Krimhilde and blood magic. He can force around the block, but that’s a problem.

Can you gate from here to there on this plane? No. At best, in theory, you can go from here to a different plane, and then to a separate location in this plane. Assuming you have the energy, assuming that nothing finds you tasty in between, assuming that there are no surprises on the way, assuming . . . That’s not the sort of thing smart people experiment with, or even consider trying aside from “OK, assume the end of the world and Last Battle. What if . . .” You know, like a role-playing game.

What about Shoshana? She doesn’t use magic, does she? Er, ah, not the way most people think of magic. It’s not something she does deliberately, and frequently, she can’t tell the difference between magic and capturing a hallucination so it won’t get underfoot. Often, the beings on the other side of one of her “special” paintings close the breach themselves and go about their business. Very rarely do things happen like her “happy place” watercolor, or the garden scene. However, word does spread, and over the years she’s collected a few patrons who commission work. Some visit her, and on occasion she visits them. Like “Mr. Smith the art buyer.”

17 thoughts on “Gates in the Familiars World

  1. You use it well as a plot element or contributing feature or problem. The fatigue and energy cost imposed keeps it at limited use by good folks, and underscores, bolds, and highlights why evil people or entities use it that way.

    A related thought just clicked in place. In several books and short stories, we hear about drug- or other- related deaths of young or inexperienced magic users. Major works and gates take a lot of power. What better way (for evil) than harvesting and draining all these batteries? Don’t bother with recharge, because you’ve drained power, life, and soul.

  2. “one of those places that make abyssal entities run screaming in terror, whimpering for their mommies.”

    Wow, talk about your nightmare fuel…

    (If humans scare each other by telling monster stories, how do monsters scare each other? Do they tell shadow-mage stories?)

    Shoshana gets stranger with every story. Not nasty strange, mind you. More like Godel’s Theorem strange. Mobius-strip strange. I like it.

  3. Shoshana doesn’t use magic. She _is_ magic. Or at least, magic is fully integrated into her life and art, without conscious control being exerted. The wheeeeeee! school.

    However, there are a lot of arts where conscious control is not a thing, or where it exists on some levels and not on others. Singing and all other vocalization is not a fully conscious human process. It involves voluntary muscle use, but the primary work is being done by involuntary muscles and other body equipment, and amplification is provided by things like bones and resonance cavities deep within the body. So it’s ridiculously complex and nobody really understands how to do it; and yet, babies do it effortlessly, and more easily at concert volume for longer periods than adults do. Animals do it too.

    And you can handwave it, and say that it’s just instinct. But what is instinct? How do we get instinct, or the animals? It’s a complex behavior in all the controls involved, so it’s not something that one can easily explain by evolution or chemical signals. My best guess? The Creator is either telling us how to do it, or there’s a really complex process that constitutes the Creator telling us how to do it.

      • Using a different story from Our Hostess, is it possible that Mr. Smith’s bathroom has a lot of sand in it? (Texas Tales FTW!)

      • Tay has implied that Mr. Smith is similar to Arthur and his clan: maybe not exactly 21st-century-normal human, but close enough.

        • In Intensely Familiar, Tay said “His kind . . . have not associated with humans for a very long time.”

          That IMO implies that his kind aren’t humans.

          Arthur’s people are human “changed” by their hunts against Dark Beings.

          Mind you, Carl (Mr. Smith’s associate) appears to be related to Mr. Smith and served as a US Marine.

      • He’s nae a true scotsman!
        (Now off to research the officiants at Hagia Sophia. I don’t think I’ve heard that one before.)

        • It’s possible that a mystery concerning the last officiants at Hagia Sophia is something that happened in the Familiar World not our world.

  4. Shoshona acts more like a keystone that allows patterns to coalesce. The patterns aren’t limited to this plane, it seems, but go hyperdimensional. If she hands another character a few card-sized pictures with a giggle of “you might need these,” look out. Like Dworkin, part of his house, and some Chaos Lords (see Zelazny’s “Amber” series), she can draw a reality and a way to it.

    How she powers those special paintings is another puzzle. My guess is literally drawing in zero-point energy through Hilbert matrices, with the underlay sketching. Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from quantum chromodynamics, and all the math implications.

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