"Perchance do you remember the story about Solush that we all had to learn during fifth year?"
"He was a necromancer, right? One of the ones we caught before they organized and took the Northern territories."
"That's part of it, but do you remember the what happened, the reason he had to be brought to justice?"
"Solush was the one who drowned a whole township over a few years' time, but ironically couldn't figure out how to re-animate any of them to defend himself. When our empire's troops finally arrived at the remote village, he was so unprotected that they had no problem taking him into custody. As I recall, his punishment was an eternal vacation sealed in his own personal fire-pit."
"Yeah, that's the guy. You have an excellent memory for history, I had to read up on him to know any of that. In fact, that's where I've been for the last year, virtually every territory in the Empire had a little piece of the puzzle."
"What puzzle? He was a sick fucking necromancer, and he killed a great deal of innocent people. Learning that without taking so much time off from your duties to the king would've been pretty easy.

You know, the dwarves have tried two uprisings while you have been gone, we've really needed your help here. Why do you care so much about this Solush anyway?"

"Well, before I ever left I learned that when the soldiers captured him, they could only find the second half of his books, which they turned over to the Council of Archmages. The Council, as they always do with materials of necromancy, locked them away in the tower at the tip of the Chan peninsula. It's the fact that he had written so much down which intrigued me. Most mages, including most necromancers, accumulate only two or three volumes of spells over their lifetime. You and I have barely started on our first. So I wondered what he could've possibly been writing in all two dozen heavy tomes."
"It's an intriguing question, I agree, but the clearance to enter Chan tower is higher than even the Archmage of this province has. No amount of scouring the countryside is going to change that."
"Truth. But in the desert I got a chance to see a copy of the first half of Solush's collection for myself, and ..."
"You've seen a copy? No offense, but you've really been had if you think so. The Empire isn't sure the books even exist, and the necromancers sure as hell aren't going to let you know about it if they do. All the desert sand must have gotten to you."
"Let me finish. There are still a few necromancers hiding in the middle of the desert. King Abraham knows that it hasn't rained there for centuries, so he never bothered to try and shake them out after the schism. He probably assumed they were all long dead. I came across one who had put his cave into stasis, and undid the spell. When he awoke he was so thirsty that he offered any of his possessions for a simple water spell."
"And you made the trade? You had dealings with a necromancer? You'll be lucky not to be carved when the Empire finds out. I should probably get away from you lest they think I'm interested in the art of death too. I'll see you in the prison, perhaps ..."
"Wait! Just wait a moment. That old fart in the desert laughed out loud when I said I wanted to see Solush's books. I knew why when I looked at them, too. Instead of being filled with unnameable spells and black rituals, they were just page after page of tables and numbers and descriptions. There were spells in them, but not anything useful, just repetitions of the same cauldron bubbling gas spell with a few changes to each one. Every iteration had a few tables which described what the effect breathing the spell's vapor had on the townspeople."
"Gassing a village seems a plausible way for a necromancer to work his evil. Granted, modifying the spell each time doesn't make much sense, but the fact that you read his meticulous notes about it still suggests more about you than him."
"Look at it this way. We were both taught that a poorly cast spell is more dangerous to the caster than most anything else. We learned to cast spells exactly as we learned them, or upon divine inspiration, exactly as the gods gave them to us. Solush was doubtlessly taught this rule too, but he figured out that it might be a limitation rather than a good practice. Instead of using his gas spell to simply kill the villagers, he was changing it little by little so they lived longer each time."
"Well, my cynical side says this only means he tortured them to death instead of killing them outright. But are you implying that he had a greater motive than accumulating bodies?"
"Yes, I believe he did. Solush was trying to create a spell all his own. Instead of being granted a divine inspiration or finding it in an unknown tome, he was modifying an existing spell until it suited his purposes. Unfortunately, since he was taught to be a necromancer from birth, he didn't think hundreds of casualties were any problem at all ..."
"... so when we found him, everything he'd done looked just like death wizardry, even though it was something else entirely. Interesting. I still don't understand why he was trying to modify the spell, though. Gases are useful enough as they are, and he wasn't even trying his versions in other spells."
"Indeed not, but I mentioned the victims generally lived longer during each trial. It took me a long time to piece it together, but I think he was trying to make a spell that released breathable air instead of a poison gas. Nobody in any tower I visited knew of such an incantation, and it would be very useful for breathing underwater or in deep caves. In the first dozen volumes the life expectancy of somebody breathing the gas had gone from one or two minutes to almost five hours. I'd bet that in the second half he got a result that worked for an entire day, or even a week, or longer."
"Amazing! Only the gods have ever created new spells, but Solush created one through trial and examination. Even though his methods were horrific, he was a genius. Have you told anybody else about this yet, sent word to the Council of Archmages?"
"No, not yet, I'm afraid of being found guilty of necromancy just for knowing so much about Solush. I only told you because I knew you'd understand, even if it did take a long time to hammer into your head. Instead of beginning by telling everybody about Solush, I think we should modify a spell ourselves to prove that the method is sound."
"I can think of some great places to begin. A bread spell turned into an instant turkey dinner. Our best teleportation ritual still only works within a mile or two as well. And the simple fire-snap we all learned as children, why, it could be made so large ..."

As a nodeshell challenge, I present How the scientists discovered magic. Fill it with something worthwhile and you'll get a ching, a mention on my homenode, my gratitude, etc. Thanks!

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