First posted on Worlds of the Imagination.
When we hear the word ‘magic’ in our mundane world, we always imagine something pleasing, like a magic show, or our masseur’s magic hands, or a fantasy book we have read recently. But in Fantasyland, magic has a different connotation. In fantasy stories, magic is a gift and a responsibility.
In my novel Almost Adept, the protagonist, young magician Eriale often encounters situations where her magic is necessary to deal with a problem. And she can’t shirk that responsibility, no matter how much she might want to.
Once, she came upon a burning village. Of course, she extinguished the fire first and then searched for its source. She found it too—a five-year-old boy, gifted with fire magic but untrained. She didn’t want to play a babysitter to a grubby urchin, didn’t want to leave the village in a hurry, without rest or food, but she did both. She considered it her responsibility to take care of the fledgling mage, to whisk him out of peril. If she didn’t, the angry villages might’ve killed the kid. Eriale was the only one who could help him, so she did. She grumbled, of course, but she never hesitated.
Later in the novel, Eriale faced a much more devastating dilemma: help her sweetheart to fight his enemies or risk losing him but help magic apprentices, abused by their evil master mage. She knew that while he might find others to assist him…or not, the apprentices had no advocate but her. Again, her magical abilities dictated her actions.
Unlike Eriale in her imaginary, quasi-medieval world, Darya, the protagonist of my short story collection Squirrel of Magic lives in modern Canada. Darya is a good witch, and like Eriale, she feels it her responsibility to help people in trouble. Some of those she helps are her friends. Others are strangers. It makes no difference. If her magic can help them, she must get involved, no matter her personal cost. Even if that cost includes the good opinion of her boyfriend or the risk of getting arrested.
Neither of my magical heroines can ignore her magic. It rules their lives, brings unique joys and unique sorrows. Like any power, their magic implies responsibilities: to the people around them as well as to themselves.