Dawn Harshaw / Dream Magic: Awakenings / Chapter 10 - Earth Attunement
Fire, air, water, earth. Another way of looking at it is: will, space, identity, form.
Form is perhaps the most notable attribute of the earth element, however, resistance is that which allows structure, and therefore form to exist. Can limitation offer stability, and paradoxically, greater choice?
- Earth, Dreamer's Handbook
"Do you have time? I'd like to ask you about something," Lucy said.
"Shoot!" Annie said.
"How can I attune to the earth element? I browsed the Earth section of the Dreamer's Handbook, but there's nothing about attunement in there."
"What? Why? Do I look fat?"
Eric chuckled, and sat down next to Rose on the edge of the cliff. It was the same cliff where they learned to fly.
Rose was letting her legs swing.
"No, not at all!" Annie laughed. "It's a funny story. I had a student who tried to bring more of the earth element into the dream realm by overeating before sleep. What's worse, he shared his 'insight' with friends, and there they were, full-bellied, grunting and groaning through my class..." Annie shook her head. "Anyway, you look lovely!"
"Ah, thanks... Gross story... So, how do I attune to earth?"
"Well, there is a realm where the elemental balance is dominated by the earth element, and we're all intimately familiar with it - called 'real life'. You are already attuned to earth; you don't have to do anything."
Eric was listening to the conversation going on behind him, but not with full attention, as he was also looking at Rose creating the cutest little pulses of gust, kind of reminding him of rings of cigarette smoke. By association, the disgusting memory-smell of cigarette surfaced within him, and he pushed it back into his subconscious. "Wahh," he grimaced while exhaling.
"Mastering earth in the dream realm requires not attunement, but balance. Living life in the earth-based realm and then jumping into a dream in an air-based realm creates a gap in perception between the two realms, and this lack of balance affects the experience of reality in both realms. Most people find it quite difficult to remember their dreams in real life - or their real life in dreams - because of this disparity."
"The secret is simply to be clear and healthy. If your physical body is balanced and cared for in your earthly life, you will find it easier to think, feel, and imagine. It works the other way around too: by having clear thoughts and loving feelings, your reality won't be weighed down and distorted. There's an old Latin saying for this... what was it... 'mens sana' something..." Annie massaged her head with her fingertips, ruffling her hair a little. "Eh, I can't recall."
To match Rose's pulsing gusts, Eric made tiny fireballs in quick succession. They formed, flew and burst out not more than an arm's length away. Their short, flaming life was a relaxing contrast with the sunny greenery and vast open space below. It is a nice view, Eric acknowledged.
"I'm not very good with earth magic, but I can show you some simple spells if you want," Annie offered.
"That would be great!"
Eric turned around to sneak a peek of what Annie was doing.
She grabbed a big handful of earth from the ground and threw it up. The bigger, grassier chunks fell down quickly, but a dusty cloud of dirt remained. Annie created a magic sphere amidst the descending cloud, and the tiny particles of dust got drawn into its motion.
"This is the classic dustball."
All the dirt from the cloud got packed into the sphere, where it shifted around in quicksand-like motion.
"Doing pure earth magic in an air realm is quite difficult. This kind of spell is a compromise - a cheat if you will. Instead of creating form from scratch, we use forms that are abundant in the realm and just add on a spell layer that gets the job done. Using bigger pieces is progressively more difficult. A dustball is not very useful by itself, but you can use the same principle with earth-based shield spells or offensive shard projectiles."
"Can I try?"
Lucy knelt down, dug her fingers into the soil and tore out a big piece of the ground. She stood up and threw it above her head. Immediately after, she made a magic sphere which sucked in some of the dust, but not all. The rest of the cloud fell slowly to the ground.
What she was left holding looked like a very dirty magic sphere, not resembling Annie's dustball at all.
"Don't worry, it takes practice to notice and grab the tiny particles with your mind, and sweep them up in the motion you want. It's a good start."
Lucy let the sphere dissipate, and rubbed her hands to get rid of the dirt. "Is that all?"
"Well, I can show you a proper earth sphere too, but it's difficult even for me. It might take a while."
"I don't mind, I'd like to see."
Eric, who followed the demonstration only intermittently, felt a foot slamming into his side.
"Pay attention, this should be interesting," Lucy said.
Eric stood up reluctantly and stepped away from the edge. Rose did the same, and she was rubbing the side of her back too.
Annie made a large magic sphere, with its circles and rotations clearly visible to Eric. It shrunk, expanded again, and repeated the process each time slightly faster than before. It looked like there were two spheres, one expanding and one contracting, and then they would switch directions. They were moving quite fast. Three spheres... no, four... five... all changing into one another. Eric lost track and stared at the strange, self-moving shape without trying to understand it.
"The goal is to pack the motions into a form that is stable. If it is stable, that means the earth mage doesn't have to concentrate on maintaining form with awareness and imagination alone. That's a plus. The stability of form is often measured and tested by its resistance to change: if it is too resistant, the mage has to invest energy into changing it again for her own purposes. That's a minus."
The sphere condensed into some kind of metallic fluid; waving, making perturbations and spiky protrusions. With a final wave, the metallic ball 'clicked' into motionlessness, and fell into Annie's palm.
"This thing's heavy, catch."
Eric caught the ball with one hand, and it immediately pulled him down. It felt like metal, looked like metal, smelled like metal. He used both hands for support and lobbed the thing to Lucy.
Lucy passed it to Rose, who passed it to Annie again.
"Neat, huh? Also not very useful, unless you have great hand strength or a cannon to go along with it. Practical earth magic is about creating forms that are stable in some directions and unstable in others, so the mage may control through the path of least resistance. The earth element is well suited as a component in complex spells, but the spells of other elements can be easier to use and more directly appliable in simpler situations. Especially in air-based realms."
"Can you make it heavier?" Eric asked.
"I can compound more mass, yes."
"How heavy can you make it?"
"I dunno, let's see."
Annie tossed the ball up and it remained floating above her hand. Its surface turned liquid and began pulsating once more.
Giant, barely perceptible magic spheres faded in from seemingly everywhere; the rotating edges came from the sky and the horizon, passed through Eric and the others, and now strong, sunk beneath the surface of the metallic liquid. One after the other, the whole world seemed to be pulsing only to shrink and bombard the space above Annie's hand.
"I'm approaching my limit. The awareness differential between this form and its background is diminishing - I can't push it much further."
There was a sound too: a hissing, high-pitched sound. Eric couldn't see the ball anymore; there was only the world shining light into Annie's hand and the darkness which swallowed it. That spherical darkness somehow broke space around it, grew, and began twirling into itself.
"Oh shit oh shit," Annie's mouth was moving fast, but the sound took a long time to reach Eric's ears.
Eric felt nauseous. He looked at his hands: they were elongated and putty-like, waving and being drawn spirally towards the black hole. His head ached like someone dropped a brick on it.
"I lost control... Get back! Run!" Annie yelled.
Dawn Harshaw / Dream Magic: Awakenings / Chapter 10 - Earth Attunement