Robert asprin "another fine myth"
Another Fine Myth
"There are things on heaven and earth, Horatio, Man was not meant to know."
ONE of the few redeeming facets of instructors, I thought, is that occasionally they can be fooled. It was true when my mother taught me to read, it was true when my father tried to teach me to be a farmer, and it's true now when I'm learning magik.
"You haven't been practicing!" Garkin's harsh admonishment interrupted my musings.
"I have too!" I protested. "It's just a difficult exercise."
As if in response, the feather I was levitating began to tremble and wobble in midair.
"You aren't concentrating!" he accused.
"It's the wind," I argued. I wanted to add "from your loud mouth," but didn't dare. Early in our lessons Garkin had demonstrated his lack of appreciation for cheeky apprentices.
"The wind," he sneered, mimicking my voice. "Like this, dolt!"
My mental contact with the object of my concentration was interrupted as the feather darted suddenly toward the ceiling. It jarred to a halt as if it had become imbedded in something, though it was still a foot from the wooden beams, then slowly rotated to a horizontal plane. Just as slowly it rotated on its axis, then swapped ends and began to glide around an invisible circle like a leaf caught in an eddy.
I risked a glance at Garkin. He was draped over his chair, feet dangling, his entire attention apparently devoted to devouring a leg of roast lizard-bird, a bird I had snared I might add. Concentration indeed!
He looked up suddenly and our eyes met. It was too late to look away so I simply looked back at him.
"Hungry?" His grease-flecked salt and pepper beard was suddenly framing a wolfish grin. "Then show me how much you've been practicing."
It took me a heartbeat to realize what he meant; then I looked up desperately. The feather was tumbling floorward, a bare shoulder-height from landing. Forcing the sudden tension from my body, I reached out with my mind… gently… form a pillow… don't knock it away….
The feather halted a scant two hand-spans from the floor.
I heard Garkin's low chuckle, but didn't allow it to break my concentration. I hadn't let the feather touch the floor for three years, and it wasn't going to touch now.
Slowly I raised it until it floated at eye level. Wrapping my mind around it, I rotated it on its axis, then enticed it to swap ends. As I led it through the exercise, its movement was not as smooth or sure as when Garkin set his mind to the task, but it did move unerringly in its assigned course.
Although I had not been practicing with the feather, I had been practicing. When Garkin was not about or preoccupied with his own studies, I devoted most of my time to levitating pieces of metal-keys, to be specific. Each type of levitation had its own inherent problems. Metal was hard to work with because it was an inert material. The feather, having once been part of a living thing, was more responsive… too responsive. To lift metal took effort, to maneuver a feather required subtlety. Of the two, I preferred to work with metal. I could see a more direct application of that skill in my chosen profession.
"Good enough, lad. Now put it back in the book."
I smiled to myself. This part I had practiced, not because of its potential applications, but because it was fun.
The book was lying open on the end of the workbench.