When we hear the word ‘magic’ in our mundane world, we always imagine something pleasing, like a magic show, or our massage therapist’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 the best choice to deal with a problem. And she can’t shirk that responsibility, no matter how much she might want to.
Once, en route to visit her relatives, she came upon a burning village. Of course, her first action was to extinguish the fire with her magic. After that, she searched for the source of the fire and 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, sulky 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 fledging mage, to whisk him out of peril’s way. If she didn’t, the angry villages might’ve killed the kid in retaliation, even though his fire that had almost burned the village was unintentional. Eriale was the only one who could help the boy, so she did. She grumbled, of course, but she never hesitated.
Later in the novel, Eriale experienced her first love affair just before she discovered a corrupt mage abusing his magic apprentices. Again, because of her magic, she was the only one who could help them. She knew that confronting the evil and powerful mage was very dangerous but she couldn’t see any other option. Nobody but her could help those kids. She had to try, even though her sweetheart had enemies of his own and he could die without her help. Faced with such a devastating choice—him or the apprentices—she made the only possible decision, even though it tore her heart apart: she left to deal with the monstrous sorcerer and abandoned her beloved. He might find others to help him…or not, but the apprentices had no advocate except her. 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 a 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.