Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 89
"I understand why Magus' Hands was banned, but why are Eye of Appraisal and Fine Control forbidden? Those two should be harmless, right?"
"I don't know why Eye of Appraisal is forbidden, but we registered magi are only allowed to learn the simplified version -- Appraisal. It's one of our basic spells. We normally use it to check whether an ingredient has magical properties, and you already know it can be used to check for ripples.
"Apothecaries can also use it to check whether our concoctions are to standard. Occasionally we might check if food is poisoned or has gone bad. That's harder though, and it takes a lot of practice and experience.
"Eye of Appraisal is the more advanced, original version. I expect it's far more effective, and, though I don't know why, forbidden. I doubt it was banned without reason though."
Maria sipped her tea again.
"As for Fine Control, I've heard rumours that it's forbidden, but I don't know if it's true. The rumour says several thieves broke into the castle on Stellin VII's 50th birthday using Magus' Hands and Fine Control, and cleaned out the treasury. The king was so infuriated he vomited blood and fell ill. The heist caused a huge commotion, and the king had every registered magus apprehended and questioned. It took half the nobility's protest for him to give up and release them."
It felt like Claude was a kid again, sitting on his mother's lap while she told him fairy tales. While it made his life harder, he was satisfied to know there were at least a couple other intelligent people in this world.
"And Decomposition and Reconstruction? Those are purely alchemical spells. Why were they forbidden?"
Those were the weakest and most narrow-use spells he'd come across, they couldn't even be used without a proper array. Surely there was no reason to forbid their learning.
"They've been forbidden for as long as the kingdom's existed. The kingdom was founded in the middle of the dark ages. One of the independent dukes was smitten with alchemy. He dedicated his entire domain to studying its secrets and made his people slave away for decades to build a giant array which he used to do large-scale experiments. He eventually created a poisonous gas which he could release on his rivals and kill off their entire armies. He did just that to one of his neighbours who invaded him shortly after he first succeeded in creating the gas.
"He went on the offensive almost immediately thereafter and conquered a vast stretch of land. The gas, however, seeped into the soil since it was heavier than air and bound with the ground, killing off the plant life and making the soil barren.
"His lands, all exposed to the gas during his experiments, and his new land, exposed to it during his conquests, were barren, and famine soon overtook his domain. He turned to his new neighbours for aid, but no one trusted him and his evil magic weapon. They sealed their borders and let him and his people starve to death.
"The people call the gas Devil's Fart now--" Claude nearly spat out his tea. "--and the spells are banned all across the continent. A few kingdoms must have taken the risk and let their magi learn the spells to try and recreate the gas, but it's not made another appearance since, so I don't believe anyone's succeeded."
Goodness, Claude lamented, this world's people really had a penchant for banning things.
"I'll say it again, don't tell anyone you know these spells. Even I can't do anything to protect you if the organisation finds out," the baroness added with a final, warning tone.
"Milady, what's that department you mentioned called?"
"Its full name is Watchers in the Night, but everyone just calls it the Watch. It's does most of the kingdom's secret business, especially where magic is concerned."
"What other spells does the Watch ban?"
"Basically any combat capable spell is forbidden. The only exceptions are defensive spells incapable of doing any damage. Barrier is one."
The baroness chanted a few words and a white, vaguely egg-shaped halo enveloped her. It solidified somewhat, then morphed to match her silhouette.
Claude carefully poked at the halo. It felt very much like the inner skin of an egg, and his shoulders writhed.
"What kind of barrier is it?"
Maria waved her hand, and the bubble dissipated.
"It's called Air Barrier. It's the worst type of defensive spell. It does nothing beyond keeping the cold or heat outside. At best it'll keep you alive for a while in a blizzard or a fire, but it won't last long doing that either."
"It doesn't do anything against physical attacks at all?"
"Nothing whatsoever. It'll pop like a raw egg with the first hit. The Watch won't let magi learn anything closer to combat spells than this."
"If I may, what spells have you learnt?" Claude asked gingerly.
"I only know spells the Watch permits. You can get formation diagrams from them, but you have to pay ten crowns for each, and you have to be registered, of course."
Ten crowns for a harmless spell? That was really too expensive.
"You've seen Luminous Pearl and Air Barrier already, and I've told you about Appraisal as well. Chill is my fourth. It lets me cool things down rapidly, enough to freeze water."
Maria stabbed her finger into her tea, and it froze, ripples and all.
"Isn't this Freeze?" Claude asked.
Maria smiled at him bitterly.
"You think the Watch would let anyone learn that? We can only learn Chill. At best it can quickly free up to about a litre of water, Freeze can do much more, so it's forbidden."
Claude stared at her, his eyes twitching.
"Breath of Water is my fifth spell. I almost drowned when I was young -- I still have nightmares about that day from time to time -- so I jumped at the chance to learn this spell.
"My sixth is Hydrogenesis. It lets me make water out of thin air--" She stretched out her finger above her saucer, drew a few symbols in the air, and water poured out of thin air like rain out of a cloud to fill the saucer.
It lasted a few moments, then dissipated with a wave of the baroness' hand.
"It costs more mana than the other spells. I only have enough mana to fill a cup at a time, and I can use it at most seven times a day without completely drying up my mana pool and passing out. It's an essential spell for my experiments.
"Most of us believe it's a simplified version of Waterball or Rainstorm. Many have tried to deduce the formations for either of those two from it, but no one's been successful yet."
She picked up her cup again, holding the frozen tea in her hand.
"The water tastes great though," she said absentmindedly, indicating the saucer with her eyes, "Anyway, where was I? Oh right, my last spell--" She put down her cup and snapped her fingers. A small flame, about the size of a candle's, popped into existence above her index finger. "--It's called Kindle. It took the Watch a long time to decide whether it was okay to let registered magi learn it. Stellin V personally okayed it and ended the debate when he came to power. He said fires were easy to set, so keeping this spell from magi wouldn't make things any safer for anyone. Like Hydrogenesis, it's an essential spell for my experiments. They can't compare to yours, though," she lamented with a crooked, self-deprecating smile.