A battle over the “correct” way to cast spells is brewing in the magic practitioner community. Theoretical mathematician Marcus Forscher has created an equation, a formula to bring the science of casting into the twenty-first century.
Botanist Gloriana Morgan, however, maintains spell casting is an art, as individual as each caster, and warns against throwing out old casting methods and forcing use of the new—especially on young practitioners.
The two—reluctantly—face off in a series of debates across the country, where, thanks to each side’s advocates, reasonable and calm discussion disintegrates as tempers heat and casting methods are ridiculed.
Enter the soulmate phenomenon, an ancient compulsion that brings practitioners together and has persuasive techniques and powers—the soulmate imperative—to convince the selected couple they belong together.
Marcus and Gloriana, the prospective soulmates, however, want nothing to do with each other. Gloriana can’t accept that someone so different from her as Marcus could possibly be her mate, who, by definition, always has the same interests, preferences, tastes and affections. Marcus, for reasons of his own, doesn’t want a soulmate, period. Ever.
The two decide to oppose the imperative, but it has resources to use against them. This second battle is joined, but the outcome may be devastating. Soulmates who reject each other will never, ever be happy and will never, ever find another. Something or someone’s got to give here.
"The third magical Macela romantic fantasy (see THE OLDEST KIND OF MAGIC and DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?) is a terrific tale of two total opposites arguing over theory, teaming up to prevent a killer from murdering them, and falling in love. The story line is fast-paced even when Marcus presents mathematical equations in support of his magic premise. Their argument somewhat parallels faith in intelligent design and scientific evidence supporting natural selection (Darwinism). Fans will relish this fine entry that in many ways goes to the dogs; hers is Delilah and his is Samson."
"Macela has given us one of the best tales I’ve ever read about witches and their powers. Add to that the fact that she seems to know a lot about family dynamics and brings the family members to life in such a great way. If that isn’t enough she adds the mystery of who’s attacking the debaters in hateful emails or posters at the sites and seems to be escalating the threats as the debates continue. One would think adding math might be a spoiler for some but not math the way Ms. Macela does it!
All of the threads of the story, all of the characters and subplots are well done, especially the romance between Gloriana and Marcus which ties it all together. They do seem to be opposites in all facets of their lives but Ms. Macela slowly builds them through the stages of attraction with mistrust into a willingness to at least look at their feelings and the possibility they may be soulmates. Their first glimmer of insight seems to be that they both have the same breed of dog. Gloriana’s dog is named Delilah, Marcus’ dog is named Samson. The pups love to steal the show periodically from their masters.
The author takes her time with each part of the story, building strong foundations and working through them with her own unique style that make reading it smooth and easy. This is easily one of my favorite books of the year."
Overall rating: Five Hearts
"Third in the series featuring the magical Morgan siblings, this is a delightful romance, especially for readers who enjoy the idea of a predestined soul mate. The discussion of how magic works is fascinating, and the characters are likable. Though entertaining on its own, it helps to have read the previous stories."
"YOUR MAGIC OR MINE? is the third volume in a charming series that combines romance, adventure, and sparkling debate over a theory of magic practice. Marcus and Glori have more in common than their scholarly careers; they both long for a soulmate and, at the same time, fear the idea of an outside magical force binding them to another for life. The dangerous turn the debates take gives them the opportunity to know each other better and to learn what they can about the Imperative. Ms. Macela introduces us to a world that is more magical than ever. She introduces some whimsical, adorable new characters, as well as returning ones from THE OLDEST KIND OF MAGIC and DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?, the previous books in the series. This is our world with an extra twist. YOUR MAGIC OR MINE? provides an entertaining way to examine Ms. Macela’s very real theory of what magic is and how we use it."
"I give this book 5 tombstones. I had a hard time putting it down. I found myself reading instead of doing chores or whatever else to find out what happened next. The formula debate was fascinating to read and the action was non stop. There were even some unexpected twists in the end. Gloriana and Marcus were wonderful characters and I enjoyed reading about them fighting the imperative rather than give in to it right away. I think that this book far exceeds the first two books and has a lot of potential and a very interesting plot. I think Ann Macela’s characters found the essence of the SMI in this, the third book, of her series. I hope that this is not the end of the series and that a few more books are planned because I have enjoyed the first three books I have read so far. If you haven’t picked up this series to read yet, then I recommend that you head over to amazon and order this great series. I promise you will not be disappointed."
Rating: Five Tombstones
"This book is for the paranormal reader who wants to see new worlds through intellectual debates and not bloody battles in dark alleys. It’s a refreshing twist to see how worlds could be created without fancy outfits, signature moves or large scale fight scenes. There is danger but it takes a back seat to the couple resisting the clear fact that they are soul mates. Readers will find Marcus and Gloriana endearing, intelligent and passionate about their conflicting views on magic."
He ran. As fast as he could, through the tangled jungle, through the pouring rain. Chains of writhing vines reached for him as he sped by—or was the supple branch that brushed his arm a snake looking for its dinner? So loud they shook the ground under his feet, booms of thunder rolled down from the treetops. He almost stumbled on a fallen limb, but kept his balance by sheer force of will.
He halted his headlong dash and took shelter for a moment under a giant leaf. Thick bushes, huge, vine-covered tree branches, strange spiky or large-leafed plants pressed in on all sides. Green saturated the very air. The warm humidity, the earthy smell, the confining plant growths all increased his sense of claustrophobia and alienation. He definitely did not belong here. He chose another direction and ran again.
He had to get away, get out. But, where was he? And which direction was out? He’d been running forever, he knew that much. The jungle had no end. Or, was he running in a circle?
With a final bone-deep crash of thunder, the rain stopped, and so did he. Only dripping water and his own fast breathing broke the silence. He was alone—just as he preferred.
Why then was he so forlorn?
She turned in a slow circle on the flat, sterile plain. Not a bit of vegetation, green or otherwise, in sight. Just brownish-gray earth and rocks. A true wasteland.
Wait. What was that? A rainbow, like light through a prism, sparkled on the horizon. She ran straight at it.
A tall building rose before her. A glass structure. A greenhouse! With lush, growing plants stretching up, toward the light. Exactly what she wanted, needed. Inside, she’d be safe, in her natural habitat.
She circled the building. No door. No operable windows. How was she supposed to get inside?
She beat her hands on the glass, but it didn’t move. She threw rocks. They didn’t even scratch the shiny surface.
Was there anybody around to help her? She cupped her hands around her eyes, leaned on the glass, shifted to see around this fern and that tree. No one. She revolved in a circle again, searching the dusty plain.
She was totally alone—exactly as she did not want to be. And as, she knew in her bones, she was not supposed to be. A wave of loneliness almost brought her to her knees.
He walked now. What else could he do but keep going? He stumbled upon a gravel path, followed it through the shrubbery. In a few spots, the canopy of trees left little light to see by, but the crunch of his feet on the small stones kept him on the trail.
The path existed, so someone—or something—had to have made it. Surely it led somewhere. To another person, to civilization.
He shook his head. The isolation was getting to him. He felt . . . almost lonely.
Ridiculous. He’d never been lonely in his life. Had he? No. Was he sure? Yes. Then why this niggling sense of doubt, this vague sense of needing someone?
What was that noise? It came from around the next bend. It sounded like . . . no, it couldn’t be in this jungle . . . but it did sound like breaking glass.
She was beyond frustration. She’d tried every method she could think of, but she still couldn’t get into the stupid greenhouse. She was thirsty too, made even more so by the sight of water running down the glass inside.
Think. What hadn’t she tried? She moved to a place where the plants didn’t press against the windows and looked inside again. Still nothing but foliage. No evidence of human or animal life. She could almost cry. With a sigh of despair, she leaned against the glass wall . . .
And fell in.
He came around a bend in the trail into a clearing, and there she was, picking herself up off the ground. A woman. A naked woman. A naked, gorgeous woman with long, dark, curling hair.
She glanced around curiously, but didn’t seem to be afraid or uncomfortable in these surroundings. In fact, she was smiling as she reached out to stroke a large elephant-ear leaf. When he walked forward, she turned to face him.
It wasn’t easy, but he managed to pull his gaze from her curves to her eyes—the greenest he’d ever seen. He was immediately ensnared, enthralled, enchanted.
No. His mind reasserted itself. He had to get out of here. He didn’t want or need anyone. He had no time for a woman—even this one.
His body, however, had an opposite opinion and tightened. Hardened. Heated. Swelled.
Oh, thank heavens, there was somebody in here. She wasn’t alone. She had someone to talk with, to share the wonders to be found in the jungle.
He stopped about three feet away. A cloud blotted out the sun, the darkness under the trees increased, and she couldn’t see his eyes. She cast a lightball and brought its power and light up through blue to indigo with violet streaks, her highest level.
How unusual. His eyes were light blue with a charcoal rim around the iris. As she watched, his irises expanded until only a thin line of blue remained. She’d thought light blue eyes were cold, icy, off-putting, but his were more than warm, and her body reacted to their heat. She tingled all over, and her center hummed.
She glanced down at herself. She didn’t have any clothes on, but she wasn’t bothered by her nudity. It felt natural somehow. She looked into his eyes again. He was staring at her as if he’d never seen a woman before. She asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I’m trying to get out,” he replied.
“Why? This is a perfect place to be.”
“I hate it. Do you know how to get out?”
He hated it? Her Eden? Better he leave then. “You just have to . . .” She was about to tell him how when she realized that she didn’t know. She wasn’t even sure how she had gotten in.
“I’ve been following the path,” he said.
She told him what seemed plausible and felt right. “You’ll never get out doing that. You have to make the extra effort.”
Extra effort? What did she think he’d been doing, going out for a stroll? He managed to jerk his eyes away from her and look around. Oh, great. Now the path had disappeared.
A distant rumble of thunder and a gust of wind caused him to shiver. The breeze brought with it a subtle menace. A dangerous evil was coming, he was certain. “We have to leave.”
“Nonsense. We’re safe here.”
Crazy woman. No, they weren’t. He couldn’t abandon her, however, He had to protect her, no matter what her opinion.
He walked around the little circle of open space they were standing in. He couldn’t see even a vestige of a trail leading away. Were they trapped?
A way out had to exist. She had come in, hadn’t she?
He searched again. He was smart. He’d use mathematics to determine her route.
He cast whole equations he remembered from physics and calculating trajectories. He cast computare limes to calculate the path. He cast comperire to find it.
Nothing worked. He tried being physical instead of cerebral and pulled on leaves and vines in several likely spots. Everywhere he went, plants blocked him, seemed to be growing faster than he could pull them aside, almost seemed to be reaching for him.
More thunder rolled, reverberated around them, and the feeling of menace grew stronger.
His attempts were doing no good, but his anxiety was increasing. He stopped before her in the middle of the circle. She appeared unperturbed—so much so that he wanted to grab her and shake her. Didn’t she realize the evil approaching?
“We really must go,” he said. “It’s dangerous here.”
She was definitely disgusted, but she gave in. “Oh, all right. Come with me.” She took his hand and led him toward the largest tree.
Right in front of them, the leaves parted to reveal the path.
“Thank God.” He was so relieved to see it, he pulled her to him in a hug.
Only when they touched along their bodies did he discover that he was naked too.
He had pulled her into his arms, and she realized he was as naked as she was. Oh, how good to be there, to feel her skin against his, her soft breasts against his hard chest. She put her arms around him. A hug had never felt so exciting, so right, so blissful.
Then he ran his hand down her back, pulled her closer, and lowered his mouth to hers . . .
As her alarm clock sounded, Gloriana came awake with a jolt, clutching her pillow and almost shaking with arousal. She was practically panting, and her heart beat as if she’d run a marathon.
“Wow, what a dream,” she muttered as she hit the button on her clock and flopped over on her back. Maybe she could fall back asleep and recapture the dream. She shut her eyes and concentrated on its last moments.
Just as she thought she’d succeeded, Delilah jumped on the bed and pulled the sheet from her.
“Damn, Delilah,” Gloriana said to the hound, but the dog only tugged at her big sleep shirt and whined.
“Oh, all right, let’s go for a run.” Muttering about dogs who were too damn cheery in the morning, she headed for the bathroom.
The exercise restored her equilibrium, and she put the crazy dream out of her head. All she remembered was a heated look from pale blue eyes, and even that memory faded by the next day.
When he pulled her closer, she moaned, lowered her lids over her green eyes, lifted her rosy lips to his . . .
Mesmerized by the feel of her, he lowered his head to add taste to the mix. Her scent swirled in his nostrils . . .
And all he could smell was . . . dog breath.
He fisted his hand in her hair, but all he felt was . . . dog fur.
Then a wet tongue licked his chin.
He opened his eyes to stare straight into Samson’s red and white face. He was on the edge of his bed clutching the dog’s ruff.
When Samson whined, Marcus let go and levered himself up from the bed. His muscles were tensely knotted, and the power that mysterious woman had in the dream still revealed itself in his throbbing erection. He’d have to stretch carefully before his morning run.
Yeah, run. Just what he’d been doing all night.
He went through his day with a vague sense of unease hovering about him, but it had dissipated by evening. By bedtime, he couldn’t have told anyone what caused it.
No, no, no! The words banged their way out of her head and into her throat, and Gloriana Morgan clenched her teeth with a snap to stop her thoughts from tumbling out of her mouth.
Her shocked brain persisted in thinking them, however, and added even more behind the dam of her teeth.
No! This man could not be Marcus Forscher.
For her opponent in their debate of the issues surrounding the working of magic, she’d expected a practitioner so divorced from ordinary spell-casting he couldn’t possibly acknowledge the methods of ordinary mortals. A man with his head so high in the mathematical clouds he couldn’t speak in less than equations, as demonstrated by his articles on the subject. She’d also envisioned either a total math geek—scrawny, thick glasses, disheveled in jeans and a wrinkled button-down shirt, nerdy to the extreme—or an aged professor of the same variety with even thicker glasses and one of those jackets with leather elbows.
Instead, what did she have shaking her hand?
A six-foot, very blond, tanned hunk with a square jaw, an aloof, down-his-perfect-nose gaze, and a slight cool smile. And those eyes—a chilly light blue with a charcoal rim around the irises—he used to inspect her from top to bottom and back before locking his gaze with hers.
The warm clasp of his hand caused even more of a jolt as little zings of energy traveled up her arm and tightened the hold she had on him—or was it the hold he had on her?
“How do you do, Dr. Morgan?” she heard him say in a low deep voice. The hairs on the back of her neck quivered.
Finally one of the zings reached her brain and shocked her mind back to the matter at hand. She unlocked her jaw and managed to force a polite answer past her lips. “Pleased to meet you, Dr. Forscher.”
She carefully pulled her hand from his and let it drop to her side. Her palm still tingled and she fought against rubbing it on her skirt. Oh, God, her skirt. Her usual dark-green longish flared skirt that went with her usual light-green blouse and usual dark-brown suede jacket. Usual for lectures in front of fellow botanists. She probably looked shabby—even nerdy—next to his impeccable navy suit and crisp white shirt. She paid little attention to fashion in general, much less the male variety, but his clothes all looked expensive with a capital E. At least he wore one vestige of geek-dom—his red tie, replete with mathematical symbols.
She paused to take a calming breath before she turned to the man standing as the third point of their triangle.
Short, pudgy, balding, rumpled, fifty-ish, and tweedy, Ed Hearst looked like what she had imagined for the editor of W2, The Witches and Warlocks Journal, the publication of record for the magic practitioner community. Part newshound, part scholar, Ed was a man she should not underestimate. His shrewd brown eyes took in an enormous amount of information, his ears caught every nuance in conversations, and his powers of persuasion were responsible for her presence at this event.
Pushing his smudged rimless glasses up his nose, Ed beamed at them like a rabbit eyeing two particularly plump heads of lettuce. “I can’t believe you two have never met in person. This debate has been going on for over a year and a half, and your offices are so close on campus.”
“The mathematics and plant biology departments don’t mix much,” Forscher replied, “and I taught at Cal Tech as a visiting professor for the last calendar year.”
“And I’ve spent a great deal of time in the greenhouses lately,” Gloriana put in. She’d never felt the need to look him up in person. What good would it do? Neither would change their stands on the matter, so why get into a pointless argument? She had better uses for her time.
“I appreciate your cooperation in putting together this event so quickly,” Ed said. “We were fortunate you didn’t have travel plans and the HeatherRidge ballroom here in Austin was available in the middle of March. We certainly couldn’t have this discussion in a place that wasn’t owned and staffed by practitioners. I realize two weeks’ notice was short, but once I get an idea, I run with it, and holding the debate now will allow us to cover it in the next issue.”
Gloriana kept her attention ostensibly on Ed, but she snuck a peek at the mathematician from the corner of her eye. Was something wrong with the man? He was still scrutinizing her with the most intense gaze—as if she were a type of plant he’d never seen before.
“So,” Ed said, rubbing his hands together, “who wants to go first in the debate?”
“Let Dr. Forscher speak first,” Gloriana said quickly. She needed the time to settle herself down. “His article was the catalyst to the letters.”
“Is that okay with you?” Ed asked him.
Gloriana held in a sigh of relief as Forscher turned that laser-beam gaze to Ed.
“Fine,” her opponent said with a quick nod.
“Then let’s go.” Ed ushered them up onto the raised platform where a table stood with chairs, microphones, and filled water glasses.
Gloriana took the right-hand seat and arranged her notes as Ed sat in the middle and Forscher settled on the other end. She adjusted the microphone in front of her and scanned the ballroom. On this Saturday evening, the large ornate room with crystal chandeliers was filled almost to capacity with a mix of all ages and both genders. She could see her family seated off the middle aisle—her parents, her brother and his wife, and her sister and her husband—and she gave them a smile. Her father grinned and gave her a “go get’em” gesture with his fist.
Ed waited until his photographer had snapped a couple of pictures and the audience had settled, then said, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to our discussion on ‘Spell-Casting: Past, Present and Future.’ I’m Ed Hearst, editor of W2. To my right is Dr. Gloriana Morgan, associate professor of Botany, twelfth-level practitioner, and to my left is Dr. Marcus Forscher, professor of Mathematics, eleventh-level practitioner. Both teach here at the University of Texas. Their curricula vitae are in the handout you received at the door.
“Last year, W2 published Dr. Forscher’s article entitled ‘A Mathematical Basis for Spell-casting,’ in which he discussed the creation and use of mathematical equations and proof methods for working magic. Thinking in and applying math terms would, he suggested, standardize casting and result in a more efficient and effective process for all.”
A number of people in the audience shifted in their seats, but Gloriana couldn’t tell if they were moving in agreement or opposition to the idea—or simply getting comfortable.
Ed kept talking over the slight disturbance. “That article drew more letters to the editor—both pro and con—than any in our history. When we printed a selection, along with Dr. Forscher’s replies, we received double the first response. The tenor, the enthusiasm, and, yes, the intensity of the correspondents quickly convinced us we had an issue of substance and worth for the entire community. One of the most articulate proponents for maintaining a more traditional view of casting caught everyone’s eye. At our request, Dr. Morgan wrote two articles on the subject which we ran side by side with Dr. Forscher’s.”
Ed paused to take a sip of water, then continued, “From that debate in print came the idea of bringing the two of them together with other practitioners to discuss the theory and practice of magic. Their respective specialties make them excellent choices for such a discussion since Dr. Forscher’s leads him into mathematic and magical theoretical research and Dr. Morgan’s grounds her literally and figuratively in spells ancient in their origin and practical in their nature.
“We’ll give each of our speakers a chance to express their ideas before opening the session to questions and comments. We’re taping the session, so let’s keep this informal but in order, shall we? Dr. Forscher will go first.”
Gloriana picked up her pen to be ready to jot down any points she might want to address. Although she had agreed to it, she wasn’t sure she liked the setup at the table, but it had seemed a better choice than having to stand at a formal podium like two candidates running for office. Now, sitting in a row as they were, she couldn’t see her opponent without leaning way back and even then she couldn’t see his face.
On the other hand, maybe that was a good thing; she didn’t need eye contact on top of the effect of that deep compelling voice. A shiver ran down her spine while Forscher thanked Ed for providing the forum. She made herself sit up straight, take a quiet breath, and ignore the itch in the middle of her chest. Concentrate on his words, Glori.
“My ideas and recommendations started, as many scientific investigations do, with questions,” Forscher began. “What is at the heart of that which makes us practitioners in the first place? Many would answer, it is the ability to use magic in our everyday work. Given that, how could we as practitioners cast better, more effective spells? Refine and understand the process and methods for casting? What factors, elements go into a spell in the first place? How can we understand a spell mathematically?
“I drew on ancient and present masters for hard data and inspiration. What I learned led me to postulate a basic equation, one that would encompass the casting of every spell. The equation, which some call a formula, is on the back page of your handout.”
Paper rustled as audience members flipped pages. Gloriana did the same. She had not looked at the pamphlet, thinking she already knew what was in it. Another assumption gone bad.
There on the last page was the infamous formula. How sneaky of him to supply it. What was the matter with her? Why hadn’t she thought of printing handouts of her major points for the audience as she would for a class? But she couldn’t worry about that now. He was still talking.
“I realize,” Forscher said in a self-deprecating tone, “developing the process for the use of this formula moves me from my purely theoretical base into the realm of what some call ‘applied mathematics,’ or mathematics that everyone can use. So be it. As my thinking led me to speculate on the nature of magic reality and from there to create the equation, it became clear that I had a foundation on which to build and from which everyone could benefit. Let’s look at the formula now.”
Gloriana looked down at the page. It displayed the equation,
(sT + Ls + Lp) * Ep * R * I = S
She drew little stems, leaves, and petals to make the last S into a flower.
“A cast spell contains six elements,” Forscher continued. “The last two may not be required, but the first four always are. You begin with the spell, small s, you are going to cast. The exact spell depends on the particular, specific talent, sub T, of the practitioner. Capital L sub small s is the level of the spell being cast. Capital L sub small p is the level of the practitioner. In casting, these three ‘ingredients’ are multiplied by the amount of magical power or energy, capital E, the practitioner, sub small p, puts into the spell.
“For example, when casting the light spell lux, a small amount of energy would create a dim light and more would create a brighter one. R refers to any ritual, gestures and so forth the spell requires, and I to any item or items used or required. The ritual and/or item provide energy themselves and act as multipliers on the casting to increase the potency or longevity or some other aspect of the spell. I used the asterisk instead of the normal mathematics symbol to show multiplication because there seems to be something else going on besides a straight multiplying effect. I haven’t identified the ‘something’ yet. The result is the spell as cast, capital S. Does everyone follow me so far?”
Gloriana had felt her eyes almost crossing during Forscher’s explanation, but she kept her expression neutral as she looked out over the audience when he paused. Several people nodded, but a few shook their heads and others frowned. She couldn’t tell if they didn’t understand or if they were disgusted at the idea. No one, however, said a word.
“As I said, this equation is a foundation. We need to do more work with the spell elements, defining and calibrating them. I maintain that eventually, by applying this formula, arranging the elements of the spell precisely in his mind and with his actions, a practitioner will be able to cast more efficiently, make better use of his energy, and generate more powerful spells. We will all understand the process completely. Spell-casting will become more coherent, more regularized, less haphazard, less risky.”
He paused again, and when Ed leaned back, Gloriana managed to see her opponent’s face in profile. He had a small smile on those perfect lips—a smile that sent a shiver of anticipation down her back. Would he repeat the words that had set off a firestorm?
“It’s time,” Forscher stated, “to move forward, to put the cauldron-stirring, potion-making stereotypes and unorganized, disorganized, non-productive, energy-wasting methods of the past behind us. We must not look back, only forward, as we seek to understand our practice and wield it objectively, without emotion, scientifically, without messiness. Tradition—just because we’ve always done something a particular way since the tenth century—has no place in the twenty-first. We can remove ourselves from the limits our history and our laziness have imposed upon us. We will enhance our powers and live up to our full potential.”
Yep, there they were, the incendiary statements that galvanized so much response. A ripple of sound and movement flowed through the room. A few people clapped—mostly younger men and women, from what Gloriana could see. Had she heard a few growls among the paper rustling and chair shifting? She looked around but saw only poker faces. Nobody was giving away their opinions—yet.
Gloriana turned again to Forscher and found him looking back at her, the small smile still in place. Or was it a smirk? When her gaze met his and his expression turned fierce, however, she could almost feel the glove smacking her face. The duel was definitely on—and she had a surprise for him. She was going to take the debate to a new level.
“Your turn,” Forscher said, his voice low and husky.
Ed leaned forward again and blocked her view, breaking the contact. “Now we’ll hear from Dr. Morgan,” he announced.
Marcus Forscher made himself sit back in the chair and forced his eyes to the papers on the table. What in hell was the matter with him? One glance at Gloriana Morgan and he didn’t want to look anywhere except at her. A euphoria had engulfed him—like he’d discovered a new proof for one of mathematics’ oldest problems. He, who’d learned never to show emotion or any other weakness, wanted to shout with joy.
He’d regained control of himself to speak, and when he’s finished, he’d given her an encouraging smile to indicate his good will toward hearing from her side. But then, when she’d looked back? The impact of her dark green eyes had tightened his muscles almost to fight-or-flight level—and caused a definitely inappropriate reaction in his lower body. He’d barely managed to say two words.
Had she or someone cast a spell on him? To make it difficult for him to debate? No, not possible. He was very sensitive to spells; he’d know it immediately. He pressed his fingers over his magic center at the end of his breastbone. No, his center itched some but otherwise felt fine.
Why hadn’t he looked Morgan up on the university or the practitioner websites? Surely seeing her picture would have prepared him for the reality of that dark curly hair and those big green eyes. But then, when had he had the time, what with returning from California and being thrown into his teaching duties and his book deadline? No matter. Here he was now—and so was she.
He scooted his chair around the end of the table so he could see her without Ed in the way. She was pretty, with her hair falling to her shoulders, heart-shaped face, and clear complexion. Slim but curvy, probably five foot five or so. Dressed in a scholarly fashion, the greens and browns suggestive of her botanical bent.
Morgan flashed a suspicious glance at him while stacking her papers. He almost grinned. She was going to be a worthy opponent. Her arguments and observations about magic theory had been well thought out, intelligent, and penetrating. Expecting no less now, he was looking forward to the discussion, but he couldn’t see how she could refute his hypothesis. It all fit together with mathematic precision.
“And, here I am,” Morgan began with a big smile, “a certified potion-making, cauldron-stirring practitioner, who delights in the craft and the feel and the subtleties of practicing magic, who revels in the traditions of our art, and who believes in the innate ability of us all to live up to our magic potential.”
That drew a chuckle from many, and Marcus felt his lips twitch at her turn of his phrase. To gauge the effect of her words, he alternated his gaze between her and the audience.
“To me,” she continued, “one of the pleasures of practicing magic is learning how to manipulate the forces all those letters in Dr. Forscher’s equation stand for. To work magic in reality, not theory. Until a spell becomes an integral part of me and I don’t need to think of every single step. Making a spell my own, with my individual refinements. Practicing, practicing, practicing.”
Marcus noted many nods, especially among the older spectators. She had some supporters, and he had expected that.
“No matter how great or small our potential power or level, or how simple or complicated the spell, or how difficult or easy the demands of our specific talent, casting a spell is a matter of art as much as precision, individual experimentation as much as following a precise recipe, and warm emotion as much as cold science. And, let’s face it, as we all know from teaching children, making magic is often downright messy.”
The audience as a whole laughed. A few applauded. Marcus stopped himself from frowning, but damn. With only a few words, she had captured them. Practically the entire lot were hanging on her words. He’d never been able to accomplish that response unless he was with a group of mathematicians on his level.
“And I’ll admit,” she said, “some of the spells and techniques I use have their origins back beyond the tenth century and even farther, to ancient China and Egypt. Does that make them any less potent, efficacious? Does the age of a spell in the hands of an experienced practitioner make it any less efficient to cast?”
Several people—both young and old—shook their heads.
“Those ancient spells have been tested and refined by the greatest practitioners, and that knowledge has been passed down to us. As for emotion, who among us does not feel a thrill, a warm satisfaction when casting just the right spell, exactly to the requirements of the job? Who is not driven to create new spells for the sheer joy of manipulating magic to make our professions easier, more useful, and, yes, more efficient? The practice of magic is not, has never been, static.”
A few practitioners clapped for her statement, but Marcus remained sure of his argument and disregarded them. It may feel good, but emotion had no place in the actual casting.
“I agree wholeheartedly with our ongoing spell research and development,” Morgan stated. “As we enter professions that didn’t exist even fifty years ago, we must have new enchantments for them. As our own older professions change to meet the demands of the modern world, we need new wizardry. If Dr. Forscher’s formula helps only one practitioner create only one spell to solve only one problem for only one profession, that’s great! If it helps more, that’s even better.”
At last, Marcus thought, she’s going to address what I’m really talking about—theory, not practice.
“Tonight I’d like to address a point about this issue that has bothered me from the beginning but which has not really been touched on by any of the participants in this debate. I’d like to look at the larger, more general, more practical picture before it gets lost in the intricacies of the formula. Theory is all well and good, but working magic is not easy or simple, as all of us can attest. Let us beware of thinking this formula, or others like it, will solve all our casting problems.
“Educational fads come and go. One method of teaching any subject, magic or not, can rise to the forefront and supersede all others—but not always to the benefit of the students. Such could be the case here. Urging, especially going so far as forcing, the use of this equation in all spell training and ignoring our tried-and-true systems could have unintended results,” she said, a grim look on her face.
“Let us consider two situations, the first involving our young practitioners in whom magic has recently manifested itself. These people are working hard to master the concepts and manipulate the powers within themselves. We all remember the difficulty in our own first spell attempts.”
Marcus felt himself begin to frown at his opponent. Forcing use of his equation? Did she think he was advocating exclusivity? Where was she going with this idea?
“Trying to use this formula may help some and hurt others,” she said. “For example, in the lowest level universal spells—where we all begin and where differing casting methods abound for each spell—a young practitioner learns to manipulate the energy within her and move that energy outward to cause something to happen. Five different people could, and probably do, have five different processes to accomplish the same result. Indeed, during training we stress the need to develop our own individual method.
“Will we let this ‘messy’ learning procedure continue, or will we try to impose a ‘regularized’ method? What if a young person cannot think in formula terms? Cannot at first separate the parts of a spell into discrete sections? Can’t deal with manipulating all the parts at one time? How will we handle the frustration and feelings of failure sure to follow?”
Marcus frowned harder. She wasn’t speaking to the point at all. She was a scientist herself, but she was appealing to emotions rather than the scientific worth of his equation. She hadn’t done this in her articles. There she’d dissected spell casting into its constituent parts with examples of different processes. And no mention of frustration or feelings. What was she up to?
His opponent took a sip of water and gazed out over the audience. Marcus tried to find the focus of her gaze—ah, there. An older woman with dark curly hair and a heart-shaped face. This had to be her mother. In fact, the younger woman next to her must be a sister. The older man and one of the younger men had the same coloring, the same nose. Her entire family must be here. A pang of . . . he didn’t know what . . . something seemed to strike him in the chest, but he ignored it. Now was not the time for him to succumb to any emotion.
Morgan was speaking to her second point, and he concentrated again on her words.
“The second situation,” she said, “involves casting at higher levels. I can speak with some experience here. My mother, a level ten, and I have the same basic talents. We use them differently in most cases, but many of our spells are the same. Enchanting is such a highly individualized art that even my mother and I, with similar talents and closely attuned to each other’s powers, do not cast our high-level spells exactly the same, even those requiring precise ritual. We achieve the same overall ends, but their details may differ.
“Could we cast our spells truly the same, with identical results? We have tried, even experimented with Dr. Forscher’s formula, but our enchantments remained slightly different in their amount of power, duration, results, and other aspects. The closest analogy I can think of comes from cooking. Two cooks make the same recipe, using identical ingredients, but . . . her meatballs taste better than mine.”
No, she has it wrong, she hadn’t, couldn’t have, cast precisely, Marcus thought, as another chuckle rippled across the room.
“In conclusion,” she said, “I applaud Dr. Forscher’s ingenuity, creativity, and effort in developing this equation. I’m sure some practitioners will benefit greatly from using it. I agree, we all need to cast our spells as efficiently and productively as possible. All I ask is for those who want to drag us into the future or impose a casting regimen, please, consider the reality of working magic. It’s a matter of art and mastery, a ‘feel’ for the forces within us, knowledge of and respect for our history, and above all, the combination of individual experimentation, experience, and emotions that result in great magic. Thank you.”
The audience broke out in applause—or rather about half of them did, Marcus noticed. Several people stood with their hands up, a couple waving wildly for attention. Ed called for order.
There had to be a fallacy in her statements. True, in typical mathematical theorizing, he himself had not experimented in the real world, had not practiced his formula beyond a bare minimum. But some of his colleagues had and reported good results. His theory remained valid. This business about “forcing a casting regimen,” however, was far off the mark.
“Let’s settle down, please,” Ed boomed into the microphone once more. “Everyone will have a chance. Hold up your hands, and I’ll call on you. One of the ushers will put a mike in front of you, so wait until all of us can hear you before asking your question.”
While waiting for the ushers to get to their positions, Ed pushed his chair back and said, “Nice job, both of you. I’m going to let this go on until we start getting repetitions in the questions. Okay?”
Gloriana nodded and saw Forscher do the same. She wondered how he was taking her remarks. Before she could ask, however, Ed pulled forward and called on an elderly man in the front row.
The man stood and waited until the mike arrived. “I’ve been practicing magic, man and boy, for over seventy years, specializing in oil exploration. I’ve never heard of a general formula for all talents. If this formula is so great, why hasn’t anybody thought of it before?”
Ed turned to Forscher. “This one’s obviously yours.”
“I don’t really know, sir,” Forscher replied. “From my research, I can tell you that before the Industrial Revolution started in the seventeen hundreds, the number of existing spells was relatively small, and the differentiation among them was not great. As professions proliferated, so did the need for less general, more specific specialty spells, but everyone seemed to be wrapped up in their own talents and even those at the highest levels didn’t speak much with others outside their own circle. No ‘Renaissance man’ like Leonardo da Vinci came forward to survey or study a number of different talents or to attempt any consolidation.”
Ed called on a stylishly dressed woman in the third row on the middle aisle.
“I’m Loretta Horner,” she announced as though her name should mean something to the group—but Gloriana couldn’t place it. “Dr. Morgan, I can’t express greatly enough my pleasure in hearing you say what my husband and I have thought since we read Dr. Forscher’s articles. In our view, ‘regularizing’ spell-casting with a formula will take away all our individual processes and force us into a lock-step parade. Our traditional methods are best.”
A number of people applauded as she sat down. Gloriana nodded, but didn’t say anything because Mrs. Horner hadn’t asked a question.
Ed called on a younger man who looked more like what Gloriana expected a mathematics nerd to look like—thin, with round glasses, wearing jeans and a button-down blue shirt.
“I’d like to speak up for Forscher’s equation and theory,” he said. “I’m Bryan Pritchart, one of his colleagues, and I’ve played with the equation. It’s not perfect, and I can suggest a couple of improvements, but it’s a good beginning toward more efficient casting. We’ve been practicing magic the same way for too long. It’s time to try the new.” Some of the people sitting around the man clapped.
Gloriana snuck a glance at Forscher, who didn’t look very happy at the man’s statement—probably because he’d said the part about ‘a couple of improvements’ in a snide tone of voice.
“Thank you, Dr. Pritchart,” was all the mathematician said.
A large balding man in the middle back was next. The fellow rose and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m against this high-falutin’ folderol. The formula is too complicated, most people won’t be able to follow it, and why should we try to fix what’s not broke? I’m a level five, I raise cattle, and I don’t have the time to think up an ‘e-qua-shun’ while gelding a calf or inseminating a cow, I can tell you that. And nobody is going to force me to do it either!” He gave a sharp nod of his head and sat down to a couple of “You-tell-’ems” and “Amens.”
“Sir,” Forscher said, “nobody is trying to force anything on you or anyone else here. I’m offering a possible method for more efficient casting. It needs testing and refinement. You are free to try it or not, as you wish.”
A young woman in an orange UT sweatshirt took the mike. “I don’t understand you people who refuse to see Dr. Forscher for the genius he is. He’s helping us understand the building blocks of magic. We need to look to the future, not back to the past. Tradition and the so-called ‘tried and true’ ways are okay for you old practitioners, but us young ones need more and especially for the new professions we have to deal with.”
Gloriana heard “Harrumphs” coming from several “old” practitioners. When Forscher thanked the student for her support, she turned beet red. Looked like the professor had a groupie.
A woman who could be the photo on a “Soccer Mom” poster was next. “Look here. I’m at best what you might call ‘mathematically challenged.’ Are you now telling me I have to use math to prepare my children to become practitioners? When they have talents that have nothing to do with math?”
Gloriana watched Forscher frown. Like many theorists, he must have been so far into his equation that he didn’t think of the practical or of people who could not—or would not—welcome his formula.
“No, ma’am, I’m not saying that,” he replied. “This is a theory, an experiment at the moment. And you might be surprised how much math there is in everyday life.”
Gloriana stifled a smile. He probably should not have made the last statement or sounded so condescending when he said it.
Sure enough, the woman responded, “I’m not stupid or uneducated. I know there’s math in cooking and cleaning and making change and filling up the car. But that’s arithmetic. What you’re selling here looks like calculus to me. If you’re cooking up a spell, then how much is a cup of power, tell me that!”
Almost everyone laughed at this exchange. Even Forscher grinned before replying, “That’s what we need to study.”
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