Magical Translation

Patches held up a black swatch of silk before me.  Her mouth folded into a mischievous smile.  “Okay, time for your next lesson.  Turn this piece of cloth blue.”

“What?”

“You heard me, turn it blue.”

Color swap is a fairly simple spell, but I had no idea how to cast it.  I had no patches or sigils for that.  And as far as I knew, Tailor’s Touch was only good for needlework.  “How the hells am I supposed to do that?”

“Recite your tenets.”

Live simply.  Live purely.  Trust yourself.  Trust your patches.  Live selflessly.  Was I missing something?

“What’s wrong?  Just turn it blue already.”

“I can’t.  I don’t know how.”

“Well, that’s two tenets violated.  I wonder how long before the patches start getting angry.”

Live simply.  Live purely.  Trust yourself.  Trust your patches.  Live selflessly.

Trust myself, for my magic is strengthened by my heart.  Trust my patches, for their power is limitless.

I can do this.

The patches on my chest and arm started glowing in reds and pinks.  A shimmering glow enshrouded the piece of cloth.  As it faded, the now bright blue hue of the swatch became more apparent.  Patches’ mouth folded into a softer, more gentle smile.

“There you go.  Now you’ve learned the greatest part about being a patch mage, magical translation.  I think you might be ready for another patch.”

Calling All Music Enthusiasts!

I’m starting to work out the details of a new series I’m starting, and I need ideas.

The series will be called “The Lost, the Broken, and the Beats.”  It’s based around a group of social outcasts that form common emotional bonds over music appreciation.  Each installment will follow a different member of the group and be based on a different song.

Now, I have a pretty deep music library to glean from already, but I want more.  So go ahead and suggest some!  Leave a comment to this post with a link to a youtube video of it or something, I’ll listen to it, and if I get inspired, it might just become a post!

Patch Three

I sat down at the workbench and placed the patch over my right forearm, now shaking visibly out of nerves.  “Are you sure I’m ready?”  Patches returned a soft smile and nodded.

The third patch signifies a mage’s mastery of the art of tailoring and needlecraft.  The mage crafts it over the course of several weeks while learning to apply his previous learning to the use of tailor’s touch.  It’s often the most elaborate patch, a testament to the patch mage’s skill.

This patch was made from bright red hand-spun lava worm silk.  It was warm to the touch, even in the coldest of conditions, and gave off a faint glow in darkness.  An intricate embroidery of a flaming orb adorned the center, stitched in with an ebony satin silk.  It was imbued with fireball, my first offensive patch.

A deep, concerned sigh escaped from my lungs.  “Okay, then.  I guess it’s time to get to work.”

I closed my eyes and focused on my tailor’s touch patch, as I had done several times over the past few weeks.  The inside of my eyelids began to glow brightly with the colors emanating from the patch.  I reopened my eyes and the brilliant white needle trailing with rainbow thread was perched before my face.  It then floated down and positioned itself at the new patch’s top corner, ready to make its first stitch.

I braced myself for the pain coming soon, and went to work.

The Tenets of Patch Mage

After receiving the Tailor’s Touch patch, an apprentice’s first task is memorizing the Tenets of Patch Mage.  These rules were set by the very first patch mage and are ingrained in the very threads of each patch.  Violating any of the tenets can result in dire consequences, anything from personal bodily harm to misfired spells to complete rejection of a patch.  A significant enough violation can even cause the Tailor’s Touch patch to reject you, causing you to lose your powers as a patch mage completely.

The first tenet is to live simply.  A patch mage must always be humbler than his patches, even the lowliest one,  for the patches are what give him strength.  To outshine your patches is to defy their power.

The second tenet is to live purely.  The finest of tailors have no need for impure threads and dyes, for introducing impurities needlessly introduces weakness, and patches must be strong to endure the burden of their spells.

The third tenet is to trust yourself.  Unlike other varieties of magic, that of the patch mage is strengthened by your will and heart.  To not trust yourself is to not trust your strength, which introduces impurities to your work.

The fourth tenet is to trust the patches.  Because their power is strengthened by your heart, their true potential is limitless, something that few other magics can boast.  If you trust in your patches and trust in yourself, no trial or tribulation is impossible.

The fifth and prime tenet of patch mage is to live selflessly.  Vanity and narcissism are the two most terrible of impurities to introduce in your work.  As a craftsman first and a mage second, your duty is to your patrons, not yourself.  The magic of the patches were given to you as a gift, it is your duty to spread that gift to all who deserve it.

Thus are the tenets of the patch mage, the pillars that guide his every action, his very being.  To transgress is sacrilegious, a slight to both yourself and your patches.  And that slight will have consequences, and they will be dire.

Patch Two

“This patch won’t be nearly as bad as the first one, but you’ll have to stay coherent while I put it on.  And pay close attention, you’ll be putting the next one on yourself.”  I grimaced and nodded.  She smiled back, took my tattooed hand in her felt-tipped one, and placed the patch across the back.

The second patch is always the same.  White, hand-spun cotton fabric embellished with a rainbow-thread embroidery of a needle and thread.  Always imbued with the same spell, a specialized version of mage hand known as tailor’s touch, used for needlework and cloth making.  Whereas the first patch is a test of will, the second is a test of commitment, one meant to signify a patch mage’s heritage and dedication.  It generally covers the hand, the tailor’s greatest resource.

I had spent the last three weeks carefully crafting this patch myself, learning the arts of tailoring and embroidery along the way.  I spun the threads, wove the cloth, stitched the embroidery, as numerous patch mages had before me.  It took twelve tries to craft one up to Patches’ standards, but in the end it was worth it.

“Are you ready?  Hold still, and watch.”  She placed her hand over the patch, closed her eyes, and breathed deep.   Pinks, blues, and greens began emanating from the patches over her body.  A faint pink glow crept into her hair.  The rainbow thread on her own patch emanated with especially bright hues.

The needle on her patch began to slowly move, dancing about the spool of thread.  The spool unraveled and threaded the needle with ease.  I looked back at mine, and its needle and thread were dancing alike, moving fluidly to the same rhythm as Patches’.

The needles began to glow brighter and brighter until they were almost blinding.  Then, with the grace of a master seamstress’s hands, the needles floated out of the patches, their points coming to rest at the top corner of mine.  The old woman opened her eyes, now shimmering sequins in the flashes of colors.

Patches went to work putting in a perfect double stitch.  The pain was excruciating, but I held my gaze.  I felt the power of the swatch begin to flow through me as the needles pierced my skin, the rainbow thread sliding through after them.  In time, she threaded the last stitch and tied it off.  The needles floated back into their patches and dimmed.  She let out a tattered sigh, smiled, and leaned back.

“There.  You’re now officially a patch mage.  The real training begins tomorrow.”

Lesson One

The protective bubble surrounding Patches gave off a faint reddish glow.  A soft smile pleated across her face.  “No, that’s another sigil ward.  Try again.”

Sigils are pretty easy to activate.  Beginners learn to use them by touch, which is why your first tattoo is usually on the arm somewhere.  More adept rune wardens can learn to forgo the tactile activation by using various stances and maneuvers.  The best are capable of still-casting their sigils, a feat that requires great effort and concentration.

Patches are activated using something entirely different, the heart.

Another bubble, this time faintly glowing blue.  “That’s a pretty frost ward, but still no.”

I had been at it for hours.  I focused, concentrated, and willed the patch to activate, just as she said.  Again, like every time before, another patch of skin glowed, and another faintly colored bubble would surround her.  I was getting nowhere.

“Ooh, holy ward.  I haven’t seen one of those in a long time.  Nice try, though.  Again.”

The sigils on my neck lit up, and the hovel shook with the force of my fists slamming into the table.  “Augh!  I’ve had it!  What in the hells am I doing wrong!?”

Creak.  I looked up.  A precariously perched box in the rafters was beginning to tip over.  Suddenly, a hail of knitting needles was cascading down, directly above Patches.  Oh no.

A soft, comforting warmth began emanating from my chest.  The room filled with brilliant rainbow colors, a heavy emphasis on pinks and reds.  The needles came to a dull thud around Patches’s feet.  Her eyes shown like satin.

That’s what I’m looking for.  Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

The Aftermath

I bolted upright in the bed, a cold sweat drenching my body, a dull throbbing in my head, a soft warmth emanating from my chest.  Wait, how did I end up here?  I was just in the workshop.

“Ah, you’re finally awake.  You know, two weeks is a long time to be out, especially considering how rough the stitching went.  Not too much longer and I would’ve had to throw you out.”

Patches hobbled up to the bed and handed me a steaming cup of tea.  “You made quite a mess for this old woman to clean up.  Took a lot of strength to suppress your sigils for three days.”

Apparently my sigils tried to fight off the patch and started activating randomly.  All the while I was raving, completely overcome by the magic now embroidered in me.  I guess eventually the sigils gave up fighting, and I passed out.

“Okay, now that you’ve got something in you, let’s check that patch.  See how it’s coming along.”  She spread open my shirt, removed the gauze protecting the stitches, and slid her fingers along the hemlines.  The thread glimmered a bright crimson as she touched it.  “Hmm, looks like the patch has accepted you.  There’s a little scarring from unsteady fingers, and it looks like the sigils around it might be a tad worse for wear, but nothing time and a little extra ink won’t fix.  And besides, the magic is definitely still there, though I wouldn’t test it for another week or so.”

A smile folded across the old woman’s face.  “Congratulations, master rune warden.  You’ve completed the first step to becoming a patch mage.  Are you ready to begin your first lesson?”

The First Patch is the Hardest

The first patch is always the hardest.

She’d told me that several times over the years I’ve known her.  The pain of stitching can’t be expected.  The feeling of power flowing through yourself can be maddening.  And when it’s all done and over, the patch can still refuse to accept you.  She’d told stories of apprentices who, time and again, never made it past this stage.  Yet here I was, ready for her to sew that first stitch into my chest.

The first patch is supposed to be something that reflects you deepest as a person.  Although it’s embroidered with a fairly simple spell, it’s usually larger than most patches and often much more elaborate, and it generally gets sewn over your heart.  I chose a bright crimson silk for mine with an elaborate embroidery of my family’s coat of arms.  The spell was a simple warding spell, reflective of the numerous warden sigils tattooed across my arms and chest.

And now that patch was resting upon my chest with Patches standing over me, her own bristling with magic.  The thread glowed white-hot as she prepared to pass some of that power on to me.  She let out a frayed and weary sigh, then went to work.

The first patch is always the hardest.  Never had I thought that would be so true.

Patches

A crooked smile folded its way across the tattered woman’s old face. The faded swatches of silk, satin, and cotton sewn into her skin glistened with runic embroideries. Her white hair shimmered with a glint of pink in the sunlight coming through the open door. I’ve always known her as Patches, her real name lost to time.

“Well, hello Walter! What brings you by my little place here? Looking to repair your cloak again?” She hobbled over to the doorway where I stood and took my sigil-embossed hand. Her felt-covered fingertips slid across my fingers and down my sleeve, searching for loose seams.

“No, no, that isn’t it. Your cloak appears to be fine. Maybe your shirt? Lost a button, have you?” Her hands ran down my chest, counting the buttons, checking the threads.

“No, this is a different problem altogether. Nothing my expertise as a tailor can fix. So what would bring a rune warden like you to come visit me at a time like this?” Her taffeta eyes traversed my face, searching for her answer. The sigils on my neck bristled and glowed at the feeling of her examination.

The crease on her face folded into a frown. “Ah, I see. You’ve run out of space to tattoo more sigils, and you’re looking for my help.” She sat back down at her loom, her patches now glimmering in blues, pinks, and greens.

“You know, becoming a patch mage is much harder than anything you’ve put yourself through as a rune warden. It takes time and practice, and involves lots of pain. Remember the last apprentice I had? Didn’t even make it through the second patch before she went insane.”

I nodded and smiled. “At least I came prepared.” The sigils on my fingers glowed bright red as bolts upon bolts of cloth entered through the door. Cotton, silk, wool, satin, cashmere, and in every color of the rainbow. The old woman’s eyes glowed brightly, and her mouth recreased into a smile.

“Well then, you did come prepared. Let’s get started, shall we?”

In Five Years

My mom posed a question for me yesterday that I didn’t really know the answer to at the time, but now that I’ve thought about it a bit, I think I can really give a solid response.

Where do I see myself in five years?

Well, the answer to that is I can’t really be sure.  A lot of things can change in five years, especially at my age and with all the things going on in my life.  I’d like to say that I’d at least be alive, but I can’t really be completely sure about even that.

I’m 24 years old.  Five years ago I had just finished my freshman year of college.  I was in a relationship with a girl that I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with.  I had just switched majors, had only ever coded for one class, and that was simple Matlab.  I hadn’t even formally joined my fraternity yet; I was still an associate member.  I had never failed a class, never gotten drunk, never outright questioned my gender, never done a huge number of things that have now shaped who I am.

Hell, at that point I had barely started playing World of Warcraft.  All of the people who are my closest friends now I had never known existed yet.  I didn’t join my first guild with Eevee and Roxzr until that fall.  Most of my closest friends and support I didn’t meet until my junior year.

I was a different person five years ago.  I was naive, simple, selfish, and proud.  I always wanted to be the center of attention, and I was always right.  I was annoying, I was immature, I was self-absorbed.  Those next few years really changed a lot of that.  Being dumped made me realize I was taking a lot of the stuff around me for granted.  Failing my first class really humbled me and showed that I’m fallible.  Leading my fraternity showed me how to make some tough decisions that I wouldn’t have made before.

So where do I see myself in five years?  Honestly, I can’t say.  The average worker spends 4.4 years at a job, and I’m already 1-1/2 years into this one, so it’s likely I’m working somewhere else.  Given that I want to transition, I’ll probably be presenting female at that point.  And that’s about all I can really say with any probability.  I don’t know what the future will hold for me because five years is a long time for someone my age.  I don’t even know if I’m going to be where I’m at in one.  The future just holds too much possibility for me to nail down anything exact, and why would I want to?  There’s no reason to lock off doors because I want certain other ones to be open.