So I had finally brought it up to Arkane, and he hit on the crux right away – an affinity for this bird, indeed.
She’d been watching us for days, at this point. If I weren’t certain of the consistency of the local mythos, I’d have suspected spying Sotek worshippers or Saurian resurgents. It is more than a little easy to become paranoid of the writhing greenery in this place. Instead I was having mad visions that some representative totemistic spirit-creature had chosen to haunt me for using Thonia as a touchstone in the Legion’s deception plan, or mayhap for no better reason than that I am relatively small and tasty-looking.
So long it has been since Alondo helped coax my ‘taste’ for magic from the soup of talents my mixed heritage gives me, that it took Kane’s echo of the term for an Artiste’s bond to his familiar to start me into awareness that such an affinity could grow between two from such dissimilar environs. I should have known that, far from accusing me of having barbarian delusions, the ranger would have already noted the eagle, perceived its interest in me, and recognized my unconscious acceptance of her presence, although my conscious mind fret her vigilance.
Perhaps there is something mutually myopic about the Recognition, since Kiya seemed no more certain about the source of her fascination than I. As we passed under her tree on the way out of camp to find a quieter clear spot, she flapped to a higher perch. Without the benefit of the training and advice I had received, she remained cautiously observant, still unaware of the change to be wrought.
Using a brighter section of jungle canopy as a bearing, Kane and I fought our way out of the underbrush into a near-perfect spot. A fallen tree had formed a clearing large enough for her to swoop down in, as well as an appropriate perch on which to alight. The old plant had drawn enough local energy to this spot to form a good focus. I kismetically reached out to stroke the pulsing lines, wondering anew at their odd taste.
Sorcerers each have a unique perception of magical energy. The closest words to describing the textures are borrowed from other senses, with the sensitive individual grasping gradations or combinations of sound, color, smell, taste, or sensation. Those who find they can manipulate the power learn to distill and craft it into spells, as a composer, painter, or chef works her ingredients. Wizards work with the same building blocks, but work with patterns refined over generations. While some Artistes liken the mage’s practice to painting by numbers or playing cover tunes, I recognize that the structured nature of the memorized spells allows for greater versatility. There are only just so many recipes a sorcerer can know by heart. In any case, this is the reason you will often see greater variation between form of spells cast by sorcery than those cast by wizardry, for the same general effect.
I was first alerted to the difference here when we started through the Hellstorm. I thought my brain was going to turn inside out, as my stomach most certainly did. Maybe additional training would have provided superior protection or coping mechanism, but as it was the bombardment of sensation made me wish I could rip the sensitivity from my very being. Upon reaching shore, things were better, but not normal. The raw magical material, nay the very fibers, tasted off. Like during that diplomatic training mission to the dwarven halls, when the first bite of boiled stirge eggs was indubitably nutritious but undeniably churning. I figured the Legion’s more accomplished mages must have fashioned a kismic shield, if by the simple evidence that they were still able to wield such power without going completely bugfuck. Ailea was nigh unapproachable, Moe always with his head in a book, but my friend Dmitri acknowledged that while the threads he draws from to form the patterns in his mind are texturally different from those back home, the act of formatting those threads into millennia-old mental templates serves to filter the differences. I found an improvisation of his memorization techniques helpful to order the taste into recognizable categories. This approach allowed me to cook up my same repertoire of spells, although the final flavor of Unseen Servant was so pungent I was forced to reshape that slot.
In order to complete the binding to take Kiya as a familiar, I had to access the local magics at a more visceral level. It took no more than the first rays of Kane’s Animal Friendship to evaporate our studied mistrust, letting her approach without fear. As I triggered the primal forces to allow our feelings to meld, the native spice rack emptied over me – magic of feather, sun, and stone; talon, scale, and blood magic. The flash of insight was gone almost as it appeared, and what was left was – nothing short of miraculous. The grip of claw in bark, the balance adjustment by angle of wing furl, the sharp sight of distant motion – all novel, all familiar. Only now do I truly understand the term.
It may have appeared completely unremarkable to an observer. A moment of still patience, a moment of fluttering activity, a readiness to return to camp. Then again, I won’t soon again underestimate the observational skills of Radamanthus Kane.