#20 – Rhumen’s Rules For Scrying

Hello, young mage! If you are reading this, please accept my congratulations on the purchase of a new scrying-glass. The acquisition of a scrying-glass is always a momentous day in the training of any budding sorcerer, and while I am certain that your instructor or instructors have provided you with ample information about how to use said scrying-glass, it is incumbent upon me, Arch-Magus Rhumen, to dive deeper into the potential pits and follies of this device.

What are you waiting for? Have you never wished for sight to extend beyond what your own eyes can offer? Read on, intrepid explorer! Learn about the mysteries and marvels of your new instrument!

Rule #1 – Do not leave the scry-glass unattended!

As I write these rules, I do so with the assumption that your teacher has taught you the fundamentals of operating the scrying-glass. The mechanism, of course, is quite simple; you simply pour a phial of scry-water atop the surface of the bowl, then channel your magick into the contents until they reveal whatever it is you wish to see.

There is, however, one piece of education that is often forgotten, especially among amateur instructors; the scrying-glass is a powerful magical instrument and, as such, should not be left unattended. To scry is to see, yes, but one fundamental part of learning to scry is understanding that there is far more to seeing than sight. Best not learn this the wrong way.

Rule #2 – Clear your mind.

When one pours the scry-water into the bowl, they may find their minds occupied by any number of things. This is especially common for new students, who are seeking to learn a whole host of spells, hexes, and other incantations – not to mention any other trivialities of the human experience that may wander in. While the jumbled contents of the mind are certainly understandable under these circumstances, it is imperative that they do not override your own common sense; Remember, the contents of the scrying-glass are shaped by your mind. Should you fail to clear your mind before using the glass, the consequences may be dire. Do not forget: the glass is capable of falsehoods. It is on you, the mage, to harness it and bend it towards reality.

Rule #3 – Never use the glass with a partner.

This rule follows the principle laid out in the second rule; the scrying-glass is a device meant to be operated by one individual at one time. Should two mages attempt to channel magick into the glass simultaneously, the potential for distortions or other corruptions escalates significantly, as it is nigh impossible for two individuals to picture the same image at the same time.

An example: envision a single red flower. Perhaps it is in a meadow. I am picturing it, too. Write down a description of the flower, or draw it if you will. What are the shape of the petals? Does it have the appearance of a bulb, or are the petals flat and opened to the sun? What about the stem? How many leaves adorn it? Are there any thorns? If so, are they straight like a rose’s, or hooked like a hawk’s talon? What about the colour of the flower itself? When I ask you to picture a red flower, are you picturing a bloody crimson, or a vivacious scarlet? Or, perhaps, is it closer to what I might call orange? Please hurry. At some point, we should get on to describing the meadow in which this flower lies.

Do you now grasp my point? It would be fruitless for me to even attempt to describe my image of this flower, for there is virtually no possibility that our two minds are aligned. Indeed, even twins, so common among sorcerers, cannot use the glass together, for the scrying-glass is perception made manifest, and one’s perception is unique to them alone.

Rule #4 – Ensure the scrying-glass is supplied with a constant stream of mana.

While the experienced user of magical instruments may find the above rule to be almost comically straightforward, these devices are not as intuitive as one might think. Think of when one places a kettle by a fire or removes a garment from a dye-bath. The process followed therein ceases from the moment the article or instrument is removed from the reagent.

Such is not the case with a scrying-glass. With these devices, the stream of mana must be continuously channeled, even as one seeks to end their scry-session. To properly finish using the device, the sorcerer must slowly diminish the speed and volume of the mana they channel to the glass. Failing to do so greatly increases the risk of a catastrophe – one that may pose a threat to your life, your school, or even your world itself!

If it helps, please consider the following mnemonic: “Channel the same so there’s no-one to blame.”

Rule #5 – Never attempt to scry yourself.

We begin now to venture into the rules beyond basic maintenance and operation of the device. While some of the remaining rules may seem odd or outlandish, it is important that we remember that it is the nature of sorcerers and mages to push the boundaries of known experience. What might seem like the height of delusion for one wizard may be an untapped vein of knowledge for another!

Consider the looking-glass. Instead of scrying-water from a phial, it is constructed by artisans in dusty workshops, labouring to ensure the sheen is perfect. They are then carefully hung, or placed in wooden or metal frames, then passed on to their beholders. And yet, despite all of the care and labour that goes into their construction, they are the products of the physical world. When one glances in a mirror, they shall always see themselves looking back. Such is the case from the poorest serf gazing drunkenly into a dusty tavern-glass, to the highest lord, looking down their nose at the figure within the gilded frame. While the circumstances may change, the fundamental operation does not.

Such is not the case with the scrying-glass. As we have covered in previous entries, the success or failure of the glass’s operator depends wholly on the skill and care they take during use. It also depends, however, on one’s understanding of physical reality. Though much of this has likely been covered in your courses on the universe’s firmament and structure, I shall, at the risk of repetition, highlight a few common instances.

The first, of course, is never to scry yourself. Consider the following question: do you know what the back of your own head looks like? Likely not. To attempt to see it is to seek out a physical impossibility. To scry upon a foreign land or nearby market is merely to simulate human experience, albeit from afar; in theory, one could attend these places, feel the breeze upon their cheeks, or perhaps hear the bustle of the bazaar up-close. There is no such situation where one can do the same and look at the back of their own head. While attempts have been reported, they have been thankfully slim; students wishing to check the length of their beard or to pop an errant boil are encouraged to use true glass rather than a magical one. To attempt otherwise is to risk ego death or worse.

Consider: what would you do if your other self looked back?

Rule #6 – Never attempt to scry the unknown.

“But,” you ask, “Arch-Magus Rhumen, why can we not seek out the unknown? Is this not the purpose of the scrying-glass or, indeed, of all magicks?”

This question, while very astute, is also a common one. Please first consider that I have accounted for such things before elucidating these rules into a book. To wit: yes, the purpose of the scrying-glass is to seek out the distant and unknown. But there is, however, a difference between the unknown and the unknown. We know that the land of Traymorel exists beyond the sunrise because sailors and merchants have travelled across the bounds of the sea to discover it. They’ve told stories of savannahs covered with strange grasses taller than a man on horseback. They’ve passed on word of its people, with their odd customs and quick speech. They’ve brought back foreign and exotic fruits, meats, and wines. In short: everything about this land can be perceived, so long as the seeker has the will and drive to explore.

Such is not the case with the truly unknown. Have you ever considered what the inside of our sun might look like? What about the distant stars in the sky? Or, perhaps, more abstract – what if you tried to scry out a thought? There are some things beyond sight in this cosmos. To attempt to witness them is to seek out madness.

Rule #7 – Never attempt to scry the past.

The inverse of this, of course, is never to attempt to scry the future. But the vast majority of mages, even the unwashed novices, carry in them this grain of sense. Perceiving the future is impossible and invariably results in the glass revealing our innermost desires for the future; if we picture ourselves in a tower, attended upon by a coterie of maidens, it will reveal such to us. And why not? When the future is constantly in flux, it makes sense that the glass would turn us towards our desires. While this might be a frustrating limitation of the instrument, it is ultimately harmless.

Such is not the case for attempts to scry the past. The past exists only in memory. The mind does not perceive it the same way, for it knows that it once existed and now cannot again. In memory, the light might seem brighter, or a past lover free of imperfections. The mind allows you picture a world without the dull and omnipresent veneer of hunger, anxiety, or boredom. To perceive the future, no matter how ridiculous it might seem, is a fundamentally optimistic point of view. To scry the past is to risk becoming consumed by nostalgia; we know, at the fundamental cores of our being, that there is no returning to what has been lost.

The astute scholar may ask why, precisely, these two acts differ so greatly. To that I answer: at the heart of both visions is desire, but desire for a bygone past is far different than desire for a better future.

Rule #8 – Do not speak to the glass.

Do not even attempt it. 

Rule #9 – Do not attempt to touch the glass.

Another rule that sounds simpler in the confines of this manual than it is in practice. One common side-effect of scrying is an effect of mental transportation. When a sorcerer stands next to the scrying-glass, brow sweating with the effort of channeling, it is easy for them to become lost in a trance. I do not know a single sorcerer who can claim anything to the contrary; indeed, this is one of the joys of scrying. I’ve stood atop the peaks of Virak and gazed at the cerulean lagoons of Nisobee; with the scrying-glass, the boundless and unimpeachable beauty of our world is but moments away.

Despite this, the sorcerer must remain aware that it is but a glimpse, a porthole into another part of our world. Touching it, as some have attempted to do, risks transportation, among other things.

“Arch-Magus Rhumen,” you ask, voice wheedling in my ear. “Why is that so bad?” Let me begin by instructing you that you should not be attempting to pick apart these rules, no matter how illogical some might seem. Understand that there is always a reason for them.

To answer your question, there is no guarantee of success at transportation. The Translocation Guild have been studying these matters for generations; the Black Towers in the Uroa Mountains are but testaments to their arrogance. Attempting to transport oneself through a scrying-glass will, at best, result in the loss of a limb, severed as the mind’s connection to the glass splinters. At worst, it represents a much greater risk. If you still don’t believe me, look up the Tale of Joolim, who fell into his scrying-glass and scattered gore across a busy market. That should serve as an instructive lesson. Sometimes the most direct consequences are the most educational.

Rule #10 – Do not linger.

This is the final rule, and perhaps the most important. All of the previous rules, in some capacity, have concerned matters of operation, and understandably so; the power of the scrying-glass are immense, but so to are the possibilities for calamity.

I warn here thus of a different, and much more common, potential for failure. The power of the scrying-glass is addicting, and many more powerful than you have tried to resist it. You must be made of sterner stuff than them. While all of the preceding rules have the potential to end in death or madness, many shirk this final rule, for the consequences do not seem so dire.

Do not become lost. Do not stare away into the glass, seeking the distant or the impossible. There are spells to study, books to read, and a world beyond to explore. Too many wizards have been found emaciated or dead beside their scrying-glasses. Do not join them.

You have been given a powerful tool, young mage. If you follow the rules laid out here, I have the utmost confidence you will achieve marvelous things.

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