0005 – Gareth: Captivity, Part 3

Gareth had been pacing for some time. The cottage was not very large, which had served to limit the scope of said pacing. The carpet in the living room and hallway was littered with numerous indentations of his bare feet.

His mind was racing. If the Names were divined by Sermomancers, and not assigned by them, then it stood to reason that these Names existed in absolute terms. That somewhere out there was a language which, for whatever reason, was being used in the Craft, borrowed by those who practiced it. He hadn’t recognised the language, but this did not surprise him. Karl had known an awful lot of secrets, which implied that there were a lot of secrets – of a magical nature – to know in the world. A completely unknown civilization, and its corresponding language, would be entirely within the realms of expectation.

Without realising it, Gareth had begun cooking himself a meal. He had never been one for idle hands, and, often to his own chagrin (as it rather compromised the image of a somber, robed mage) found himself restless and irritable if domestic tasks were not seen to. Plus, he had been hungry even before writing Escape. Now that he was finally listening to his body, it was telling him that it was ravenous.

Bacon sizzled in the pan. If the Names were divined from an existing language, this would mean that there was only one name for each concept. Well, not counting synonyms, but not every language had them. Was this why his first attempt at the Craft had proved unsuccessful? Because some Sermomancer centuries, or even millennia ago, had already written a story with the Name “Escape”?

This would make sense. He broke the egg into the pan, expertly shepherding the rapidly hardening egg white with a wooden spatula to prevent it from touching the bacon. He cursed himself. He’d started automatically, and forgotten to cook sausages. They’d take ages. He’d think of something.

If this was the case, Gareth thought, then any attempt to coin a Name would be a lottery. He’d be more likely to achieve success if he went for obscure or highly qualified Names. He scowled at the memory of Karl’s “A house with no exit.” As much as the memory boiled his blood, it did prove that Names could be complex, comprised of multiple words. Perhaps that was why Karl had picked that one. A simple Name such as “Prison” was probably taken eons ago, just like “Escape.”

Slices of thick, seeded bread hit the chopping board. Gareth realised something. He had endured Karl’s company in the hopes of learning the Craft for himself, but Karl had repeatedly proved himself to be petty, sadistic, and frankly megalomaniacal. If he had built a prison just for Gareth, why had he made it so pleasant? He couldn’t leave, but it was a comfortable little cottage in what seemed to be a rural idyll. The food supplies restocked themselves when he wasn’t looking. He’d even furnished Gareth with a cosy study.

A frown crossed his face as he buttered the slices, pausing in his activity when he remembered to flip the bacon one last time. Karl must have left him an awful surprise somewhere. He’d have to be on his guard.

The smell filling the kitchen was absolutely mouthwatering. Another minute and his hastily prepared sandwich would be ready. It wasn’t the sort of thing Gareth usually ate, as evidenced by his slender – perhaps even slightly gangly – physique, but sometimes everyone needed a little comfort food.

What would work, then? “A door that opens on command?” It would be worth a go, but surely some Sermomancer who fancied himself a puissant mage a hundred years ago would have thought to give himself the ability to open any door. This would all be an awful lot easier if he knew the rules.

The still-crackling bacon slid onto the base of the sandwich, its heat melting the butter, luxuriously, into the bread. A neat row of bacon rashers, topped with a fried egg, the yolk still runny. Gareth put the finishing touch on his creation, lifted it up, and bit into it right then and there, standing at the kitchen counter. Molten butter and runny egg filled his mouth. Flavours exploded on his tongue. It was heaven.

He stooped forward a little, to avoid dripping egg yolk on his stylish grey mage robe. The robe he had no right to wear, really, since he’d never successfully done any magic. Well, he’d be changing that.

A sudden realisation hit Gareth like the heart attack he was currently inviting. His eyes stared straight ahead at point just left of a quaint little painting of some ducks crossing a stream, hung on the kitchen wall. His mouth slowed its chewing, and then stopped altogether. What if – what if – he simply addressed the Name to himself? “A door that opens for Gareth?”

He resumed chewing. As he’d thought the words, something inside had told him they wouldn’t work. He was back to needing to know the rules in order to make any real progress.

He swallowed a delicious chunk of mashed bread, butter, bacon and egg. What if he wrote a book that would tell him the rules somehow? He probably couldn’t change the contents once he’d written it. Could he?

He cursed inwardly as he swallowed again. His eating had sped up considerably. He’d had a brilliant idea, and now all he wanted was to be in a position to put it into practice. Even washing his hands after finishing his messy, beautiful meal felt like an arbitrary hurdle to his continued experimentation.

Gareth dried his hands as quickly as he could, and took the stairs up to the little study two at a time. He knew exactly what he was going to try next. And if he was very lucky, he might even be the first Sermomancer – could he call himself that, yet? – to have thought of it.

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