Research And Practice

Genre: Fantasy
Summary: Mira tries a spell with her new mirror.
Notes: I tried to write it so it stands on its own, but it does follow First Dates With A Mirror.
Words: 633

Mira had a priceless library on magic: In addition to her own and acquired correspondence, three bound volumes on the topic. Usually, the diary of Sisay Eyasu was the most useful, and so it was with her latest project. She had acquired a mirror whose frame, bearing lifelike carvings of sparrows, made her think it was the best candidate she had ever seen to use for a transformation spell, and Sisay was the only one whose experience she had access to who had mastered this rare art.

He had recorded his experience with various paraphernalia. Indispensable was something of the species you wanted to turn into - sparrow feathers were quite easy to obtain - and fire or water or mercury, for change, but he had made further observations.

A greater effect than expected had the lighting. Filtering light through a screen of a material associated with metamorphosis, such as butterfly wings, frog skin, or amber, lowered my natural barriers to such a change. (Samrawit reports great success with a thin pane of water opal, which I unfortunately have no access to myself.)

The best results I had with lamp oil rendered from oil palm grubs; It may be a great help to the novice seeking to break the limit of their shape for the first time.

Mira had ordered oil palm grub oil - and made sure it was not misunderstood as “palm oil” - soon after having acquired the mirror, but since it was not usually imported, it would be months before it arrived. However, trying without it could not hurt.

She owned a a swallowtail preserved between two panes of glass. It tinted and darkened the light of a thick candle. Centering the butterfly’s shadow on the mirror glass left unfiltered light picking out the outlines of the carved sparrows.

With a small bundle of wingfeathers held in both hands, Mira sat in front of the mirror, and began.

“Tchatchet, I would ask your help in an endeavour.”

Having its attention, she contemplated sparrows. Remembering flocks of them swarming in the streets, then a glimpse of a particularly curious bird getting close. One snapping up chicken down for its nest, another, a bold one, hopping into the kitchen to steal crumbs.

Mira directed those memories at the mirror. It could see them, she was sure from the sense of interest she got from it.

Next, she contemplated change. The metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly, from tadpole to frog. Her mind wandered automatically to images of flowing water, ever changing as it was, and she forced it back toward birds, and herself, picturing her own body flowing like water and coming together again in the shape of a sparrow.

The mirror watched her thoughts. She had hoped for a clearer sign than the general interest she could feel, but went ahead, anyway. The sparrow feathers stank as they burned. Through that transformation of feathers to light and ashes, Mira pushed her intent into the mirror, calling it by its name.

Tchatchet reflected nothing back but her image.

With a sigh, Mira dusted off her hands. A first attempt with a new mirror working would have been unlikely, but she had dared hope.

Maybe she should try more basic spells to get Tchatchet used to the work in general. Right then, it was reflecting her disappointment, prompting her to stroke the polished wood of its frame gently. "Thank you for your time."

After snuffing out the candles, she opened the curtains to let in daylight. While she made notes in her own diary, she thought aloud as she wrote. Even if she had the impression Tchatchet did not understand words, it seemed like the polite thing to do. Getting caught up in plans for future experiments lifted her mood. The mirror did not overlook that change.


The sentient mirror is an interesting concept. I hadn't read the first story, so I'm sure that would add even more, but I liked this.