Cinnamon Bun

Chapter Four Hundred and Ninety-Three - Effigy
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Chapter Four Hundred and Ninety-Three - Effigy

Chapter Four Hundred and Ninety-Three - Effigy

"Can you lift me up?" I asked as I gestured to Calamity.

One of his eyebrows perked up. "Are you just asking me because I'm the only man around?" he asked.

I blinked, then shrugged a little. "You're also the tallest?"

"Alright, I'm okay with that," he said before making a stirrup with his hands together, fingers woven. I put my foot in it, and then stood up. There was a bit of a wobble as Calamity raised me. "Careful with the hair. And the ears."

"Yup!" I said as I tried to stay balanced on one leg. I placed a hand on Calamity's cowboy hat and then reached my other arm way way up into the tree. It took a bit of effort, but I was able to carefully pluck the effigy down. Then I just hopped back and out of Calamity's hold, landing before him with a bend of the knees. "Thanks!"

"No problem. So, what's it look like from up close?"

From the moment our group had stumbled onto the effigies we'd been divided about what to do. Awen wanted to inspect one, and so did Amaryllis. I was kind of curious myself, and so was Calamity. The only one that felt otherwise was Desiree. She was completely creeped out by them.

"Hold it up a little," Amaryllis instructed as she came closer. I did just that, holding the effigy up to the light coming in through the canopy above.

The thing was kind of like a doll? It wasn't made of body-parts, at least, otherwise I would have been creeped out too. Instead it was... some sort of roughly woven cloth? It didn't feel like wool or linen or anything. This was a lot coarser, more rough and uneven, like really poorly made sackcloth.

The doll had the proportions of a human, more or less. "Is it meant to be a man? Like, a human man?" I asked.

"No ears, no tails, no wings," Calamity said. "It's not a grenoil, either, they're shorter, and they're usually represented with wide mouths and large feet. At the very least, there'd be a big wide mouth painted on the doll's face, even one this basic."

"Not a doll," Amaryllis said. "An effigy."

"What even is an effigy?" Calamity asked. "Y'all are throwing that word around as if I've read books."

"Ah, I know this one," Awen said. I looked at her, waiting for her to continue while I held onto the doll-thing. "An effigy is anything shaped like a person that's meant to represent that person. Or... people in general? Usually though, when people call something like that doll an effigy there's a magical connotation to it. Ah, I think Amaryllis might know more about that."

"I really don't," Amaryllis said. And then she proceeded to prove herself wrong. "I'm a wizard, not a ritualist or shaman. Even puppetry uses a different sort of magical effect than these. Effigies are sometimes used as the spellcasting focus for more complex spellwork."

"A spellcasting focus?" I asked. "I don't use one of those."

"You don't," she agreed. "But your spellwork is also... basic. And when it isn't, it relies on skills to make up for your lack of knowledge. A proper spellcaster, be they wizard or ritualist, should have access to all kinds of magic. They'd be able to copy your Cleaning magic, for example, by breaking down the spells you use into the formula and components then casting that as a single spell. It's complex, but it's also generally very flexible."

"Okay, I think I get it," I said.

"Do you?" she asked.

I blinked, then thought really hard about it. "Is it like multiplication tables?" I asked.

"Pardon?"

"So, I know that seven times eight is fifty-six, because my mom helped me memorise that one as a little song. Five-six is seven-eight," I sing-songed. "But that's just a neat trick to memorise that one, uh, bit of math."

"Go on," Amaryllis said with a slow, uncertain nod.

"Alright, so if someone uses a skill to cast magic, that's similar to me hearing a song that tells me the answer to seven times eight ... then when a wizard casts magic, that's like they figured out the same calculation by drawing seven rows of eight dots and counting them all up, I think?"

Amaryllis hummed. "That's rather astute, and not entirely incorrect."

I beamed. 𝗳r𝐞𝐞w𝐞bn𝚘ve𝚕.co𝐦

"Using the same analogy, having a spell-focus is like giving a spellcaster an abacus. It allows you to work on larger, more complex spells without spending an eternity drawing fifty-six little circles on a page." She flicked her wrist, summoning her spell wand into her talons. "My wand here is attuned specifically to lightning mana, with some runework that makes holding an electrical charge easier. It doesn't do any of the work of casting a spell for me, but it can retain some mana that's already in the shape of a spell for a small while, charge itself up like a thundercloud, and generally help me aim and be more precise with my spells of a specific sort. It's a tool."

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"And the effigy is the same?" Awen asked.

"It's something like that. I can sense magic on it, a complex bit of spellwork." Amaryllis gestured towards the doll for a moment, then frowned. It took a moment that probably felt awkward for Awen (who was now holding the doll), but eventually a bunch of small lines appeared in the air around the doll.

"Oh, it's the spell," I said. I recognized the same sort of tangled web of magic that made something like a fireball possible. Only this was a whole heap more complicated. "That's harder to cast than fireball, I'll bet."

"A lot, yes, but also look at the organic curvature of these spell lines. This isn't something a properly educated mage would do. It's sloppy, and will lead to inconsistent results and mana expenditure." Amaryllis shook her head.

"What's it do?" Calamity asked.

Amaryllis shrugged. "Not the faintest clue."

Humming, Desiree leaned over and peered at the spell for a moment. "If I may be so bold, I believe I recognize some elements of this. Certainly, it is a complex working, as Lady Amaryllis said, but not altogether uncommon. Take note of the primary structure, in the centre? It bears a striking resemblance to a spell we frequently cast in my homeland."

"Oh?" I asked.

She nodded. "It is to ward away mosquitos. They are most annoying."

My gaze panned from the effigy to the others hanging from the trees. They were mostly the same, made of the same rough materials at least, though no two were identical. "Do you think they're meant to ward away people?"

"They're not working if that's the case," Calamity pointed out.

"They could be specifically targeted and we happen to be outside of the bounds of that targeting," Amaryllis said. "A spell to shoo away mosquitos might not work on gnats. Or so I suppose. Insects of that sort aren't an issue where I'm from, and so I never had to invest much time learning this type of spell's intricacies."

"Not even fruit flies?" I asked.

She sniffed. "I'm an Albatross, not some Flowerpecker or Toucan."

I giggled, but then remembered that I was supposed to be serious about this. "Well, the effigies aren't affecting us, Maybe they're aimed at the pixies? I don't think they made these." The doll was bigger than a pixie to begin with and they didn't seem like they'd care for this kind of thing. "It could be the pink creature the pixies warned us about?"

"So we keep on going?" Calamity asked. "We're not all that far from the base of the mountains again."

I nodded, and after asking for another boost to get up to the tree, I did my best to tie the effigy more or less where it had been before. Amaryllis said it wasn't necessary, but I disagreed. This was someone's thing and they'd put it here on purpose. It was all natural materials too, so it would probably decompose and couldn't be counted as litter. At least, I didn't think so?

With that done, we headed out again. It was approaching time for a snack, so we got out the last of our nuts and trail mix after giving most of it to the pixies and nibbled on that as we moved together as a group.

It didn't take long to find a trail.

Unlike the deer trails and open tracks we'd encountered so far, this one was pretty wide, and had clearly been built on purpose. There was a pretty stark difference between a space where branches had been picked up and one where they hadn't been.

Calamity took the lead, pressing through some low-hanging branches and urging us to be quiet. I didn't like the idea of being caught skulking through someone's forest, but I liked being caught even less, so I lowered myself down and tried not to step on any loose leaves and such on the ground as I kept up with Calamity.

We came to a small opening soon enough, a space where the forest gave way to a rocky clearing, one where a quaint little stone house sat, and one where a man was tied from his wrists to a pole sticking out of the ground in the backyard.

"That... looks a lot like Sir Aberrforth," Amaryllis noted.

***

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