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The Alchemy of the Mind

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It was, Dazhis knew, a most improper thing to do to conduct an experiment on an unwitting subject, especially when the experiment involved creating considerable distress. But then, propriety forbade a lot of things, mostly for reasons Dazhis thought quite insubstantial. He was already forbidden family, or possessions- though he did not much mind the former, finding the lack of squalling children something of a relief. He received far more attention from his teachers than he ever had from his parents, and he was determined to impress them further. On the other hand, the enforced poverty rankled, but if he could not have wealth, he would at least have knowledge. And not just the old knowledge his teachers spooned out only when they thought him ready, but new knowledge, discoveries and wisdom to set him above and apart from the rest. Because with that knowledge came ability. And what was the point of magic if not to work one’s will on the world?

And the boy sleeping beside him would be the key. Not only in his own intelligence, in his enthusiasm and his eagerness to share what he knew, but in his willingness to trust. He was a more perfect subject than he knew. And if he learned? If he discovered what Dazhis was doing, and protested? It would not be a problem for long. A few tears, and Cala would forgive him anything. It was a sweet trait, in a way, and very useful.

He had learned that the mind was a complex and delicate thing. A thing many mazei shied away from studying, saying the mental realm was one for gods, not men. Dazhis rather thought that they were simply afraid to fail, or to admit how little they knew. For mind-magic was difficult in the extreme- a spell intending one effect might have an entirely different one altogether. But if one could get it right, one could wield the power to manipulate thoughts and emotions, and that would be a great power indeed. After much study and practice, Dazhis could cause confusion easily enough, and sleep with some effort, but he wished to do more. And having an open mind so close had given him an indispensable opportunity to study the secrets of trust, of arousal, of fear.

Fear was simple enough, he learned. A few manipulations in energy, in the substance of the brain, would induce a shivering anxiety that took hours to dissipate completely. An effective tool, though he knew better than to use it on everybody who displeased him, and in so doing make his abilities obvious. No, it was better to keep his skill a secret, away from this disapproval of those who would not understand. Doubt was a distraction. If he misstepped, if he did wrong… Cala would still love him tomorrow.

Arousal, now, that was trickier, complicated and different for each person he spelled. But he learned Cala quickly enough, despite an early mistake that had sent Cala stumbling away, shaking with painful tremors.

Practice had made the charm precise, subtle. Useful, for those times he felt his lover had stayed away too long.

Dazhis experimented with that one perhaps more than necessary, but it was in the pursuit of knowledge, and if it drove Cala into his arms time after time, there could be no harm in it.

Gaining Cala’s trust had required no magic at all. Only carefully placed words, kisses, promises. It had been almost too easy. Most of the others ignored him, or treated him with nearly-concealed suspicion, but Cala loved him and wanted him and would go out of his way to cheer him, or help him in his studies.

In that, he was more help than he knew.

He had knowledge, skill, the loyal affections of a fellow dachenmaza. The prestige he yet sought was certain to follow.

Dazhis ran his fingers through Cala’s tangled hair, and planned.