If you’ve been following along with Blood Magic, then you probably know by now that one of my favorite ideas to explore in the series is the titular concept of Blood Magic, and how that power and associated religion interact with the world, and the world with it. Cracks In the Ice dives deeply into that interplay, with is probably why I enjoy the episode as much as I do. Going through my pre-revision re-read, I simply thoroughly enjoyed this episode. It combines interesting world-building with strong character development, and advances the overall plot of the series while still being episodic. I would go so far as to claim it is one of the strongest episodes in season one.
Despite that, it does have some weaknesses, namely that the framing story (we’ll be posting specifically about framing stories in a few weeks) is weak. Kiluron and Doil really don’t have a lot of role here, and I did a poor job in the original of establishing why Borivat’s story is even relevant. I tried to improve that in this revision without detracting from what I so enjoyed about the original form, and I hope I struck the right balance here.
Considering that I originally envisioned Borivat as the Merlin to Kiluron’s Arthur, this episode significantly builds his character in what I hope is a surprising direction. Where much of Blood Magic leans into fantasy tropes, and there is some of that here, this episode also breaks many of them. While Borivat will, of necessity, have less and less “screen-time” as the seasons continue, he remains one of my favorite characters in the series, which is why I didn’t quietly retire him at the end of the first season. This episode is part of why I chose not to do that.
By the time that I had finished crafting the first scene of Blood Magic‘s pilot episode into its current form, I knew that I wanted Blood Magic to truly pervade the world, and that it would not be the exclusive province of the Blood Priests. In the second episode, I hinted at a past between Borivat and both Blood Magic, and a particular Priest. Cracks in the Ice gave me a chance to explore and flesh out both of those concepts, and also explain something about the Blood Decrees. Modern readers most likely find the Blood Decrees intolerant and difficult to accept, so I wanted to take extra pains to show why they make sense for the world of Lufilna, and how they have evolved over time. Witch’s Heir plays more with these ideas, but this was the episode that first really dug into such concepts.
On a more technical note, I really like the diction in this episode. Since these stories are written in a third-person limited perspective, I try to make the diction match the character. When I’m writing from Borivat’s perspective, and especially since I was describing memories and wanted to make them distinct from the present day writing, I was able to play around with what you could call more elaborate visuals and complex descriptions. It gives a particular mood to the snippets from the past that I think works particularly well.
If it seems like I left some questions open at the end of this episode, that’s because I did. And no, they still haven’t been answered. You’ll have to wait until season three before you can hope for answers on these particular questions. For now, I really hope that you enjoy the newly revised version of Cracks in the Ice.
Smoke swirled insensately about the ceiling, sending vague, thin shadows playing across the walls and the felt-covered, circular table at which four hooded men sat in silent contemplation of the books laid out before them, before drifting idly out through the half-opened shutters that opened onto the little balcony, where innocent devices were fixed in unblinking regard of the stars in the night sky. A cool, humid breeze blew aside some of the thick, hot air in the little room above the house downstairs. One of the men looked up from the paper over which he had been bent, pen in hand.
“These philosophies are inadequate to explain the observations we’ve been making.” Jophon was cleanshaven, and his eyes were bright beneath his hood. All of the men wore their cloaks even inside on this hot night; one could never be too careful. “It is time to consider that the Temerin Model might be an invalid explanation.”
Borivat, who in that place was known as Novin, paged back through his own book of calculations and measurements and spoke without looking up from the writing there. “It could still be an unknown property of the lens-grinding technology. A distortion of some kind introduced by the processes we employed.”
Jophon jerked his chin towards a third figure at the table. “What about you, Prondus?”
Prondus’s voice was thin, almost reedy, which gave his words an odd, whistling quality. It was why he rarely spoke unless someone prompted him, but that meant he had more time to think than did even intellectuals like the others at the table. “I – I am inclined to agree with Jophon. The Temerin Model will at least need to be updated, if these measurements continue to hold consistently.”
Esaphatulenius, the final member of this nocturnal conclave, cleared his throat, and everyone else stopped to listen. No one knew where he had come from, or how he knew the things that he knew, but his results were no mystery. To those who knew of him, he was perhaps the greatest genius in history. “The Temerin Model was doomed from the moment of its inception. Temerin was grasping at straws to explain something he could not fully comprehend to meet political necessity. It was always expedient, not rigorous. The fact that it was accepted at all is only a testament to the stranglehold that Merolate has on the intellectual development of this continent.” Esaphatulenius looked from man to man around the table. “Tell me. What theory did Temerin replace?”
The three other men at the table exchanged wary glances. Jophon spoke. “Its formal name was Erov’s Model, but it was just the latest iteration of the Balance cult’s attempts to explain the World.”
“Surely you don’t mean to suggest that the Blood Priests’ explanation is more objective than that of a Merolate scholar?” Borivat looked around at his companions, shifting uncomfortably in his chair when none of them would meet his eyes.
“What did Erov’s model claim?” Esaphatulenius asked, his words slow and deliberate.
There was a long silence before Prondus spoke. “You’re all familiar with Temerin’s invocation of branching Worlds?” Nods all around. “Instead of invoking infinitely branching Worlds, Erov’s model uses inverses to internally equalize the universe in both Realms. Its mathematics require the existence of only a single alternate World.”
“A world that the Blood Priests claim is their oft-discussed afterlife.” Borivat looked around. “It’s obviously a religiously motivated theory.”
“What are you afraid of, Novin? Prime Avrix doesn’t arrest people just for discussing Blood Magic.” Jophon jerked his head at Esaphatulenius. “I say we hear what he’s suggesting.”
Esaphatulenius inclined his head. “I believe that all of us can agree that the concept of distinct spiritual and physical Realms is nothing but religious nonsense. These measurements we have taken, however, match up much more closely with the predictions of Erov’s model than they do Temerin’s.”
“That’s true,” Prondus affirmed, looking up briefly from his own figuring. “Temerin’s Model predicts a chaotic universe. These measurements show very clear patterns.”
Borivat frowned. “It could be us misinterpreting the data. Human philosophy suggests that our minds are wont to apply patterns where none actually exist. To invoke an ordered universe seems to be nothing but wishful thinking. Randomness does allow for the random appearance of patterns, too.”
Jophon shook his head, dismissing the argument, but Esaphatulenius nodded thoughtfully. “A sound argument,” he admitted. “One of the stronger scholarly arguments for Temerin’s Model, actually, since most otherwise fall to invoking unprovable negatives. Which, of course, is why Erov’s Model is technically superior – we may, with these devices we have constructed, establish actual proof of its veracity.”
“Either way, we’re going to need more data,” Prondus said, this time his input delayed as he finished inverting a matrix. “This is far too small of a sample to even perform valid, significant calculations, much less have them be statistically relevant.”
Having risen to look out at the sky from the balcony again, Jophon turned back towards the table. “Well, we’re not going to get any more measurements tonight. Clouds have rolled in.” He crossed his arms. “We might as well return to this next week.”
Esaphatulenius nodded. “I concur. Until next week.” He nodded at Prondus and Borivat, who each rose and, after checking their hoods, descended from the attic room and its balcony. In the foyer, Borivat paused. “You go ahead, Prondus. I forgot a notebook upstairs.”
“Very well. Good night, Novin.” Prondus walked out the door, and Borivat turned around, facing not towards the stairs but towards the home’s interior.
“They’ll be staying upstairs awhile?” Marie asked, stepping half out of the shadows that had concealed her.
“Yes,” Borivat answered, not looking in her direction. “Jophon just started a fresh pipe before we adjourned.” He turned now to look at Marie, and his pulse quickened. “We have time?”
Marie stepped forward. Clad only in her nightdress, she pressed herself against Borivat. “Yes,” she whispered. Running her hands down his back, she kissed him, and led him deeper into the house.
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