Accursed

by Pierce Nahigyan

There is a little magic left in the world. It is not polite to talk about it at parties, but that does not make it any less burdensome to those who know. The Wizard of State lives in Washington, D.C. in a rickety shack on the end of Embassy Row. Its placement on the tail of Massachusetts Avenue was a delicate matter of formality but Rablautigan Cantankerwaul has long been a man of black humor as well as craft. When he was appointed to his secretariat he renamed his familiars Salem and Crispy (Salem is a large yellow parakeet; the other is an as yet unidentified critter).

The wizards stay out of the national news for the most part and do not attend United Nations conferences as a rule. The official explanation for this absence is that they tire of fellow ambassadors asking them to magick up solutions to existential issues. Magic in the twenty-first century has trended towards non-existential matters, bogies and hexes, the care of endangered dragons, most of whom have developed rashes of intense invisibility and cannot find one another to mate. (Mythological matings do occur for the invisible fauna but can deliver absurd results. 2005 saw, or rather did not see, an entire school of Krakenotaurs wash up on the Isle of Crete and die off in toto when they could not agree whether they should graze or sink dinghies.)

The informal heart of their abstention is that magicians view politics as an accurst branch of their art. A necessary evil, doubtless the means to civil ends for the majority, yet with its roots in an unsavory blemish on history not recorded in any mundane codex. Amateur practitioners of pyromancy explode a dove from time to time, necromancers sometimes revive creatures dead too long and learn the hard way that a servant is only as practical as its remaining brains allow, mages can bungle love potions and hierophants do not always predict this particular dimension’s future; mistakes are the accidence of education. Yet sociomancy came to this Earth from a deep and primitive plane. Such an abyss and its like are troublesome places. Their magics are viral, adaptable, unwilling to die and incapable of absorbing science, logic, or reason.

And magic, for all its fancy, is a science. Its rules and regulations exist to cheat physical law, this is true, but raw chaos is not the magician’s tool. Politics, on the other hand, consists of that changeable stuff. Its filibuster spells and gerrymandering prestidigitation spit in the face of equivalent exchange. Sacrifices on its altar can be accepted and then denied in subsequent decades. But the covens on the whole accept it as the concentration of a select sort of magician, no more or less harmful than the witches and sorcerers of legend.

It is all, after all, hocus pocus.

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