Keynote and Welcome to the First Cadre of Rune Lore Studies at the Seiðrhol
The students sat in the auditorium, the buzz of their conversations quiet and excited. It was the first day of classes for this, the inaugural group of Runic Magic Studies, and the competition to enter the program had been fierce. Few, if any, of the students knew what to expect, but, regardless, the day was here. As if to punctuate that fact, the lights dimmed overhead, leaving only the stage below illuminated and bringing an end to the clandestine whispers.
“You have come here to study the Runes of Asgard and their use,” a voice echoed into the room from off the stage. Seconds later, the speaker walked onto the lit floor, striding to the center before turning to face them. Dressed in an archaic collection of blue and gray tunic and robes over gray trousers tucked into black boots, the man fit in with the eclectic dress of the Seiðrhol’s instructors. His features, however, were immediately recognizable from the painting in the entry hall.
“You desire to learn a thing that I have spent a lifetime pursuing, so I thought it fitting to introduce you to this Art. Who better to do so than one who has been through what you will go through and who has learned the things that you wish to learn?”
Silence echoed through the hall as he paused, his pale eyes moving over the assembled students.
“Listen, then, and learn. You know nothing, and if you approach this Art with arrogance, you never will. Be silent. Abide. Hear.”
Magnus began to move across the stage, pacing from one side to the other, his boot heels clicking against the wooden floor.
“To most people, runes are simply scrawled lines. They are the same as the characters or ideograms seen in other alphabets. They have meanings and are associated with sounds. They are used to write messages, record commerce, and document history. However … this is Asgard. Here, the runes are more. They are the characters given form and power by the Great Rune itself. This, I assume, is why you are here. You wish to learn to wield that power and perform magicks using them.”
He gestured offstage, causing three assistants bring out display tiles, each inscribed with a character – the runes Algiz, Dagaz, and Kenaz. Magnus watched as the placards bearing the symbols were positioned toward the rear of the stage and nodded to the men as they departed.
“Runes. Three of them, and generally thought to be three of the most benevolent. I do not doubt that most of you can name them and offer some limited interpretations. Algiz the Protector, Dagaz the Dawn, and Kenaz the Torch. Let us consider these.”
“First,” he stated, holding up one finger, “these figures have sounds. ‘Z’, ‘D’, and ‘K’ if one wishes to use Thari as the base. No vowels. Hard consonants, one and all. Spell with them. Write. Record your knowledge for the ages. Go ahead, write them down.” He let a wry smile tug at the corner of his mouth as he made a writing gesture to one of the students in the front row.
“Next, however, we move beyond the common into who these runes are. What they are. Why. How to call them so that they answer you.” Magnus turned and walked toward the edge of the stage, his eyes moving across the students there. Finally stopping, he pointed at one young woman, causing her to pale as the others turned to look at her. “You there. Pick one. Call its name.”
The girl seemed to shrink in on herself, only too aware of the attention and expectations that had been heaped upon her, but, after a moment, she stood straighter and clearly pronounced the word – “Kenaz.”
Magnus tilted his head as if listening and let his eyes close. Seconds ticked by as a hush fell across the crowd awaiting some response. He opened his eyes and considered the woman … and then shook his head. “That was akin to a dog barking in the darkness. You made noise that we all heard, it is true, but it has no meaning. No context. Not the slightest ripple of recognition.” A low sigh of disappointment swept through the room as the girl bowed her head, cheeks reddening with her embarrassment.
Magnus turned on his heel and walked back to the center of the stage. His hand swept out, taking in all of the placards. “Truth be told, I doubt any of you would have done any better. You see the lines. You know the sounds. But this…this is Kenaz. You do not know the *fire* that is Kenaz. When you say the words, you do not feel the majesty of the thing. The revelations and knowledge. The flame and rebirth. Strength and passion.” He turned to look at the crowd. “You see Kenaz, but you do not know Kenaz.” The word, no different from what the girl said, echoed through the room, a deep vibration of power that caused a collective intake of breath. Raising his hands, Magnus traced a shape into the air, leaving a flaming line behind forming the runic shape.
“The fire that is Kenaz.” An aura of flame, tinged with cobalt, sprang up around Magnus’ extended hand. “The hope that a light in the darkness brings … Kenaz.“ A sense of wonder, accompanied by a feeling of hope fulfilled, swept outward, lifting the students’ spirits and causing them to step forward, seeking the source of the magic. “The soaring of the spirit that makes all things possible … Kenaz.” Each of the pupils suddenly felt the fires of Magnus’ invocation burning in their breasts, energy and desire mingling into a desperate need to do … something. The emotions built, drawing each young body forward, a crushing press that moved toward the burning rune hanging in the air.
Magnus watched them, letting the crowd surge closer to the stage, the fire of the emotions he had released showing clearly upon their upraised faces and finding form in the spontaneous cheers that ripped free. He nodded. “This is Kenaz. The Torch. The light of knowledge and hope. Now you feel it, but you do not understand it, still. What a thing is cannot be the whole of what it means. It can also be defined by what it is not.” His right hand rose, fingers rippling in an almost arthritic gesture that combined the three strokes of the first sigil into a single motion, revealing the same rune, reversed.
Again, the power of the word moved across the students, but this time, unlike before, it seemed to seep around them, a darkness that clouded their eyes and ripped away the emotions that had so recently surged within each of them, leaving behind only a desperate hunger. A need that could not be met and swallowed all hopes that it would ever end. The cheers turned to cries of sorrow, many of the pupils turning to each other in fear and depression.
Magnus paused, letting the tumult of emotions have its way with the crowd, staring out over them with a haughtiness that matched the callous spite of the magicks that threatened to drown each of them.
“Names.” With that word, the spell was broken, the darkness fading away. Lights that never dimmed seemed brighter, and a sense of weariness and lethargy filled each soul. “The runes are things. They live and breathe, just like you. They contain power and growth. To a rune mage, these names are more than sounds. Unwilling to be that dog barking in the darkness, we enter into an understanding…a relationship as deep as the greatest of loves … with each of the sigils, and in doing so, we know them for who they are. That knowledge … that naming … does not allow us to use their power but rather give it a voice to come into our world.” He gestured again, his finger pointing back toward the placards. “Nothing I have done here today was magic. Nothing. I simply allowed the rune to show you what it is, and in doing so, you now … now … know Kenaz. It is a weak knowledge, akin to a fledgling bird knowing how to fly simply because it watched its mother do so, but you felt that which is the Torch. Now, you can seek it, because Kenaz … the light of knowledge … has shown you.”
“One, of twenty-four, runes has raised you high and then brought you to the depths of despair, and I tell you that I did not even cast a spell. Do you see? The majesty of the All Father’s runes? They are more than scribbles in stone. They are greater than the sounds that they make. They surpass the meanings that we give them, because they were those meanings before we ever made the attribution. Kenaz. Dagaz. Algiz. Knowledge, protection, and the coming of day. With them, I can shield myself from the powers of darkness or crush my foes with sheets of flame that shatter all barriers raised before them. I can encourage and heal the spirits of the fallen or settle a violent malaise upon you that would cause you to take up weapons and kill even those that you love the most. Forgetful peace or insidious loss that leaves nothing behind.”
“You must know each of the symbols and understand it. Only then can you weave the power into these magicks. Only then can you ward from danger or bring forth the fires of Muspelheim upon your foes. Wield the crushing cold of Isa through the hopelessness of Kenaz-who-has-turned-away. Bind spirits in chains of will that are harder than the greatest of steel and throw queries to the Norns that cannot be ignored.”
Magnus nodded again and hooked his thumbs beneath the silver belt around his waist.
“Put away dreams of magic. Cast aside childish desires for power or glory. Turn your minds to the names and natures of the sigils. Seek knowledge for its own sake, and, through them, learn to touch reality around you. Serve the runes and give them voice in this, our world. Seek only these things, and one day you shall realize that you have become one with them. They will be your armor and spear. You will see the world through their eyes, and their natures will answer to your will even as the snow is carried upon the winds that whip through the peaks.”
“This is your task, and your instructors stand ready to offer their wisdom. You go forward from here this day to become wise, either in success or failure. The forces of creation and destruction were here before you, and they shall outlast us all. But…you can touch them and share in their glories.”
Raising his hand again, Magnus traced another shape, the bordered “X” of Dagaz.
“This is your future. When you learn it, all shall be made clear.”