Occulted: Initiation

She was artificially beautiful.  Modifying a photograph to remove the flaws of the subject was a practice as old as photography itself, but did ‘artificial’ mean ‘fake?’  Art itself is the creation of human hands, and it is, in many ways, the process by which civilization comes to define beauty.  But there was no work of beautiful work of art that ignored its medium.  And if her face could be considered part of the picture’s medium, would the image manipulation be ignoring it?

Regardless, Kayleigh had spent far too long staring at the poster.  Her friends had wandered off somewhere, probably because they had gotten bored of her staring.  Sweeping a short lock of brown hair over her ear, Kayleigh turned to find them, and was nearly knocked over.

Stumbling backward, Kayleigh looked at the other person.  The girl was pale, making her long black hair and dark red lips all the more striking.  She took her shades off her sweeping nose, revealing eyes nearly the same color as her mouth.

“Sorry about that,” the girl said, “I just bought new sunglasses, and I guess I was a bit to eager to try them out.  I’m Jessica, by the way.”

“Ah, Kayleigh.”  The short-haired girl offered her hand.  As they shook, Kayleigh looked over Jessica’s clothes.  The light blue blouse and midnight skirt was something Kayleigh had seen around town.  “You’re from Darkwood?”

“Ah, yeah,” said Jessica.  “I was to lazy to actually change after class, but at least I ditched the tie and jacket.”

“Oh, no worries,” Kayleigh said, waving it off.  “I get it, I get it.  It’s just that you people usually keep to yourselves.  I mean, I’ve lived here my entire life and this is the first I’ve ever talked to one of you.”

“Well,” said Jessica, coming in close to whisper into Kayleigh’s ear, “The truth is, we don’t talk to each other that much, either.  The hallways between class almost sound like a library.”

“Really?” said Kayleigh.  “That sounds really creepy.  And lonely.”  This is awkward, I need to get moving.  “Well, I should be looking for my friends, but if you want someone to talk to, I guess we could walk together.”

“Really?  Thank you.”  With that, the girls wandered out into the crowd.  They walked through the mall, reaching the area just behind the food court, seeing the fountain in the middle of it,with a large triangular rock in the middle of the basin.  As people, teenagers and families, swirled about them, Jessica turned to Kayleigh and asked, “You’re a student at the public school, then?”

“Yeah, what about it?.”

“Tell me about it.”  Jessica dodged around a passing knot of people.  “I’ve already told you something weird about my school.”

“It’s a school,” said Kayleigh.  “There isn’t anything weird or interesting about it.  You ever been to a public school?”  True, the girls family was obviously loaded, what with the private school tuition and all, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

“Up until last year, actually,” said the pale girl, “but that was middle school, so that’s an entirely different world, yeah?”

“Oh, so you’re a freshman, too.  There’s something we have in common.”  Kayleigh paused for a moment.  “Why’d you’re parents send you to boarding school, anyway?”

Jessica glanced away.  “Public school, just, wasn’t working out for me.  I don’t really want to talk about it, but it’s not like it wasn’t my choice.”

“And all the more fool of you for it.”  These words came from somewhere to the side.  A girl manning one of the food court’s counters, with strange, color-shifting eyes and short blonde hair under her hat spoke them.  She was drawing something in a notebook in front of her, black and red sleeves covering her arms.

“Uh, what?” said Jessica.

“Oh, nothing much, Surfacer,” said the blonde, “just that you made a horrible decision to come to a dumping ground like ours.”

Jessica’s eyes tightened, and she said with a polite smile, “I thank you for your advice, but I think I can judge my decisions for myself.”

The blonde leaned back and admired her work.  “If you get to close to a picture, you can’t see all of the details, you know?” she said.  For the first time she actually looked at Jessica, with eyes that were enjoying her suffering.  “You might want to ask someone farther away.  Your roommate, perhaps?”

Jessica’s eyes widened, and she turned and left.  Kayleigh ran after her.  “Hey, hey!  Who was that girl, and what was that about your roommate?”

Jessica ran through a beam of sunlight, and winced.  “I don’t know who she is,” the girl said, turning back toward Kayleigh.  “I’ve seen her around school, but this is the first time I’ve ever talked to her.”

“So she’s shitting on you for no reason?  I guess your school’s more normal than it seems.”

“Guess so.  But, my roommate?  I don’t like how that girl talked about her.”

“And?”

“And I want to find her- huh?”  A beam of light was shining is Jessica’s eyes.  Both Jessica and Kayleigh turned to look at the source, and they saw the blonde girl holding up her notebook, showing a picture.  And then the world disappeared.

It was replaced by an empty version of the mall, save for Kayleigh, Jessica, and the blonde girl.  “Ah, so I got the normal girl, too?  Oh well,” said the blonde.

Kayleigh stepped forward, and shouted, “Hey, who the hell are you, and where did everybody go?”

“Ah, how rude of me.”  The blonde made this awful, condescending bow.  “Angelica, at your service.  And everybody else is should be right were they were, considering that I didn’t invite them into my domain, like I did you.”

“Okay, so Angelica,” said Jessica, jumping out in front of her companion, “You’ve, ah, you’ve got me over the barrel here, so to speak.  I’m not sure what you’ve got in mind, now, but maybe you could start with what happened to Emily?”

“You mean your roommate?” Angelica asked.  “Well, she should be around here somewhere, and for what I want you to do, oh, give it a few minutes here.”

“Don’t fuck with me!” screamed Jessica, lunging the blonde.  Angelica moved out of the way, seemingly unconcerned with the damage she had taken.  “Ah, ah, ah,” Angelica said.  “If you hurt me to much, you might not be able to leave, you know?”

Kayleigh stared.  Angelica noticed, and said, “What’s gotten into you- ah, crap.”  Angelica had followed Kayleigh’s gaze, and finally noticed that her arm was no longer attached to her body.  Looking around, she found the arm some distance away from her, and she calmly walked over and shoved it back onto her bloodless stump.

“Why are you doing this?” asked Jessica.

“I guess you just caught me in a bad mood,” said Angelica, “something cutting off my arm didn’t help with.”

Jessica scowled.  “You think your in a bad mood now?  Well, it’s going to get worse now that I know to avoid your limbs.”

Kayleigh wasn’t sure what happened next.  She felt like Angelica had reached out to grab her from ten feet away, and then she was flying through the air and crashing into a store window.  She didn’t feel pain, she didn’t feel much of anything.  She was looking at her shoulder, and saw that shards of glass was poking through it.  Red blood was going to stain her jacket, and she realized that her concussion was messing with her mind, and Jessica had come over to her, and there was the taste of blood in her mouth…

Suddenly, feeling returned to Kayleigh’s body.  Starting at the base of her head and and running through out her body, it was accompanied by the world exploding into a riot of color, blacks and reds and yellows, with a magenta haze surrounding Jessica.

Then, the pain stopped.  And the colors stopped, and Jessica checked Kayleigh’s eyes.  “Are you alright?  You’re not going to flip out and attack anyone, are you?  No craving for more blood?”

Kayleigh was entranced by the sparkles in Jessica’s pupils.  “You’re…really pretty.”

“Oh, um, thank you,” said Jessica.  “Do you feel good enough to try moving around?  I honestly have no idea what effect my blood will have on you.”

Kayleigh tried to sit up, and then to stand up.  That done, she tried to do some stretches, only slightly bothered by the damage on her jacket’s shoulder.  “So, uh, that was your blood I tasted?”

“Uh, yeah, blood’s potent stuff, especially my blood, of course yours smells absolutely delicious…”

Both stopped as they realized what Jessica had just said.  “Are, are you a vampire?” asked Kayleigh.

Jessica smiled, showing of unusually long eyeteeth that she didn’t have a minute ago.  “I’m…Occulted.  That what we usually call ourselves, anyway.  Look, all you really need to know is that magic exists, and the people that can use it tend to resemble monsters from pop culture and folklore.”

“Seriously?  That’s awesome.  I’m going to…”  Kayleigh’s eyes widened as she realized something very important.  “I’m not going to tell anyone about this.  Why am I not going to tell anyone about this?”

Jessica shrugged.  “That’s just the way magic is.  It’s a secret, and even people that don’t know about it are keeping it.”

Jessica turned back to the middle of the empty mall.  “Anyways, we need to– OW!”  Jessica stumbled backward, into Kayleigh.  An angry red stripe, like a sunburn, crossed her face.  “Sunnava bitch.  That felt like the sun.”

Kayleigh looked around Jessica, and saw nothing of note.  “What was it?”

Jessica looked over her shoulder.  “It was that giant bird.  Can’t you see it?”

“No, all I see is the fountain.  Maybe it’s some magic thing that normal people can’t see?”

Jessica drew her eyebrows together.  “Well, maybe?  I mean, the only thing I know of that works like that is aura, but I guess that there could be other things…”

“Uh, Jessie?” said Kayleigh, “aren’t you supposed to be the one that knows about these things?”

The black haired girl grimaced.  “So I’m still learning.  But, if somebody actually caused this, that should mean that they understand the rules behind it.  All we have to do is figure them out.”

“So, how do we do that?”

“My roommates probably near the core of all of this.  Look for something that’s out of place, or at least different from the real world.”

“You mean like how that rock in the middle of the fountain is smooth now?”

Jessica stopped to look at the rock.  Apparently, the difference wasn’t as obvious to someone that had seen that rock for years.

“Yeah, that probably important.  We should probably go over there and– OH SHIT!”

Jessica was picked up and carried off by an invisible force.  Kayleigh watched as she was picked up and thrown to another part of the mall.  Realizing that there wasn’t much she could do for the vampire, Kayleigh ran to the fountain with the smooth rock.  As she waded into the knee deep water, she looked down, and saw someone chained their.

That person had black hair and patchy, multicolored skin.  There were tubes going up her nose, and needles stuck in her arms.  She grabbed a hold of Kayleigh, and barely pulling herself above the surface of the water, uttered, “Break…the…center.”

Before anything else could be said, Kayleigh felt herself being pulled away by something.  That thing didn’t hold her for long, letting her go and dropping her to the floor.  She managed to roll, avoiding most of the pain, and only righted herself to see Jessica brandishing a counter like a weapon.

It seemed to be helping.  She seemed to be knocking away whatever it was that was attacking her, but when Kayleigh tried to go to her, she felt herself being pushed back by an invisible something.  She felt like it was something that needed to chase her to grab her, somehow.  It was a long shot, but that jacket was ruined anyway, so she took it off, revealing her bare shoulders, and threw it into the whatever’s range.  It worked, Kayleigh got much farther this time, close enough that she could try to calling out to Jessica.

“THE STONE! BREAK THAT SMOOTH STONE!”

Jessica heard her.  The counter sailed through the air, crashing into the rock and breaking it to pieces.  Suddenly, Kayleigh was surrounded by people.  The world had returned to normal, and it was like Kayleigh hadn’t just been sucked into a parallel where she had almost died.

“Yo, Kay!” cried Milly.  She and Ziggy were running up to her, while Linda looked over at something, worried.  “Where’d you go?”

“Ah,” said Kayleigh, “just lost in my own thoughts.”  Kayleigh would be amazed if they bought it.  But she was more concerned with that magic existing, and the fact that she wasn’t going to tell anyone about it.


Barely finished this one in time.  It already needs to be rewritten, but that’s what happens when I deal with character’s that haven’t fermented in my brain for years.  I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do for next week, but I think I’m going to need a lot of thought for this.

Advertisements

Poetry: A Year or a Turn

My mind should be a jewel
But it belongs to a fool
Relegated to being just a tool

This equipment is poorly designed
A life to which my coworkers are resigned
Everything here of my failure, remind

But if there is something here I can learn
I suppose I can stay for a year or a turn
Although it delays the life for which I yearn.

Becoming a Better Reader

“To become a better writer, you must become a better reader.”  That’s some writing advice I’ve heard, meaning that part of being a good writer is being able to break down and analyze what works in a story and what doesn’t.  The specific context I read them in was figuring out what you like in a fight scene, but I don’t see why it can’t apply to other parts of a story as well.

As an example of what the first context means, I’m going to go into Brandon Sanderson’s fight scenes.  What strikes me about them is how visual they are.  The focus is not on the tactics and specific movements of the combatants, although these do play a part, but on the people flying around, getting thrown into walls, and avoiding the rocks being thrown from the ground by the two massive storms their flying over.  I don’t quite know what I don’t like about the fights, because I seem to have forgotten it.  But honestly, the worst thing a fight scene can be is forgettable.

For my own work, I must strive to make every fight memorable in it’s own way.  The first might simply be a showcase of a character’s powers, another might simply be the point where somebody reaches a significant point in their development, and yet another could be take place in such unusual circumstances, like falling down a waterfall, that the setting is what the audience remembers.  But all of these would be remembered, and that’s what matters.

For the things I don’t like, I should probably concentrate on traps that I am particularly prone to falling into.  The most obvious thing, to me, that could cause problems is that I’m publishing my stories as I write them.  One of the problems I could run into with this is that I can easily be buried underneath my own retcons.  Analyzing how that could go wrong is probably an essay unto itself.

If nothing else, the advice I started with is an excuse for me to talk about things I’ve read.

Occulted: Prologue

Elizabeth Albright heard something hitting a wall. Her daughter, Jessica, had taken to bouncing a rubber ball around the room when she was bored, seeing what she could make it do. It would be one thing if she was doing this on a school night, after she had finished with her homework, but it was another to do it during the afternoon, a time when a young teenager should have been out with friends.

“Hey. Are you getting hungry?”

Jessica caught the ball, and let it drop to her side. “Maybe, I guess.”

There was a brief pause. “You…you’re still having trouble talking to the other children at school?”

Jessica let out a long sigh. “It’s not like I don’t want to. It’s just…It’s just like there’s this wall there. I can’t exactly talk about how delicious their blood would be, you know?”

“It’s not like you have to talk about those things-”

“It’s been a year and a half, mom, and I’m still the girl that once licked another kid’s face. You’d think that people moving in and away from school would be more interesting, but somehow it still keeps coming up.”

Elizabeth fell into the couch next to her daughter. She knew that her family had needs that other people didn’t. Those needs also came with benefits most people could never have, though, so it wasn’t like they were going to complain. Most people had the good sense to not mention things people pointedly didn’t talk about, but middle schools were full of dumb kids, that wouldn’t understand how pointless their cruelty was, if they even knew it was there.

Elizabeth sighed deeply. “So you can’t escape from your past, then.  I have half a mind to send you off to boarding school at this point.”

Jessica sat up straight. “Is that an option?”

“Well,” said Elizabeth, “I suppose it is. It’s not like we would have problems paying for tuition. Why?”

Jessica looked at her hand. “Sorry. It’s just…It feels like I’ve been going through this past year on autopilot. Like the only reason I’m moving forward at all is because I’m already moving forward. I’m kind of afraid of what will happen when I get out of school and I still don’t know what to do with myself.” Jessica looked up.  “But, if I can get out of where I am, and actually have to think about what I’m doing, well…”

It was the happiest Elizabeth had seen her daughter in months. “Well, we can start looking into options. Your grades are pretty good, and we’ll probably want you to stay here until the end of the school year, so we probably have until fall to make a choice.”

“What about an Occulted school?”

Elizabeth stopped in surprise.

“Well, I know you and dad don’t like to talk about the Underground,” said Jessica, “but we’re still a part of the hidden world, aren’t we?  So I should be making connections to other Occs and learning about them, right?”

“…Well, I suppose your right to be curious about those kinds of things. And it would make explaining why you need a fridge full of blood in your room easier. But…”

“But what?”

“Well, learning about these kinds of things is something you’ll have to do eventually.  I’m just worried that you won’t like what you find.  Try to keep an open mind.  About everything.”
Next>>


And now the rewrite begins.  This prologue didn’t need that much to be changed, just a couple of awkward paragraphs removed.  I’ll leave the original version up on my site, accessible through the Occulted page, for anyone who’s curious.  If you want to know why I think a rewrite is necessary, go read the Post-Mortem.

Next time, I’m going to be writing a completely new chapter.

Tags and Doing Things Out of Order

I’ve gotten a couple of new readers out of the last few weeks.  I’m using tags now, but I suppose writing about a fictional magic system you came up with outside of a story has a pretty small audience.  I also posted a poem on Friday, instead of Monday.  I have to admit, this is solely because I wanted to do something with that prompt.  Unfortunately, dealing with my car troubles is likely to leave me unable to capitalize on this.

Writing Occulted: Ritual Magic, Part 2

In the time since I wrote my last essay, I’ve realized that I mentioned giving a lock the attribute of “Sealing.”  I did not describe what this actually meant, and I only vaguely touched upon aura attributes in general.  I must meditate on this.

When I referred to the attribute of “Sealing,” I was thinking of the bracelet Alima gave to Jessica to prevent her mind control powers from activating accidentally.  This would come with the drawback of Jessica being unable to use her aura for mind control at all, and have the side-effect of preventing Izcacus from taking over her body.  In effect, the bracelet would block off mind-effecting aura in both directions.

How would this be possible?  The bracelet’s aura would have to somehow surround Jessica’s, being permeable to some kinds of aura and not others.  It would somehow be able to distinguish between mind-affecting energy and aura used simply to push things around.  It would also have to be able to stop aura from moving across it.  This reveals the fourth power of aura, a power so obvious that I never bothered to state it: the power to affect other aura.

This is, of course, the power that allows ritual magic to even exist.  The ritualist uses aura to push on another aura, and create a change in the world.  There are various kinds of aura, which can interact with each other in different ways.  For example, sun-type auras can push against vampire-type auras, preventing a vampire from using her abilities while in sunlight.  Aura types can be divided into many subdivisions (“direct sunlight” and “indirect sunlight,” for example) and each individual aura can have multiple types (like a tree with flowers on it producing an aura with the qualities of “flower,” “tree,” “wood,” and “plant”).  Perhaps it would be better to say that each aura is it’s own thing, unique to the individual person or object, and that they can simply behave in a similar manner to each other.

Rituals can alter an object’s aura, but strangely, these auras can act in ways that normal auras can’t.  I am referring to the lock bracelet’s ability to expand far beyond it’s normal range, and to stay there as long as the bracelet is around Jessica’s wrist.  I suppose it is possible for aura to be pounded into an unnatural shape, so to speak, with simple conditions to check for if the shape would be useful.  But how would somebody discover how an aura that doesn’t exist could exist?   Endless experimentation.  But would an Occ tell others about these shapes, even if they were Occs?

Perhaps I should explain something about the secrecy of the Occulted.  The idea I have in my mind is that the aura of certain information can force a person to think certain things.  Because thoughts and beliefs can be inserted into someone’s head, even by accident, there is great danger in learning, even as this learning is also the basis of power.  These thoughts and beliefs can be especially dangerous to those that tightly hold contradictory beliefs, as they can be forced into believing two different things.  If these things are believed long enough, the mind would inevitably crack, or in the best case, the person would reserve judgement about which was true.

But wait, did I just say that information can have an aura?  It seems that abstract ideas can have auras, too.  This implies that auras would somehow be able to think in abstract terms.  This means that spirits are now an integral part of my magic system, not something I slapped in there because of a particular theme I wanted to work with.  Whether an aura is a non-sentient force or a fully sentient spirit is something I wish to leave delightfully vague in many cases.

And while I’m cleaning up the loose ends from my previous essay, I might as well pound out how the chanting and circles of a spell affect the caster’s aura.  On one level, I want them to be a form of communication, speaking with the spirits using the language of ritual actions.  But on another, I want the communication to be done by aura alone, with the changes in shape and color causing changes in the other auras, some times directly, and sometimes only by creating a vacuum that the aura’s must fill.

Maybe there’s a way to combine the two approaches.  I’ve already decided that the aura field has qualities of sentient and non-sentient entities.  Maybe the changes in the caster’s aura can be “perceived” by the auras, with the alterations in it’s qualities becoming a language of the spirits, but also being the means by which the aura field is changed.  But what would the ritual actions do, in this case?  They would be a method by which the caster forces their aura to change, using a type of self-hypnosis to trick their mind into bending their aura in a way that it would never normally bend.  So long as the caster knows what they want their aura to become, and the message they want to convey to the spirits, the ritual would only serve as a trick for their brain, the actions would only need to make sense to themselves, and perhaps the ritual could performed entirely within their mind.

But let us suppose that someone, having spent their entire magical career in the paradigm of aura changes being the language, suddenly encounters a spirit that will only respond to particular ritual actions, regardless of what meaning they have to the ritualist.  Is this a matter of the spirit using a different aura “language” than the caster, or is the spirit suddenly perceiving the ritual itself, instead of the changes in the caster’s aura?  More vagueness.  Excellent.

And there is one more concept that I need to hammer into shape: pocket dimensions and other Occulted Spaces.  In concept, these are the places normal humans can’t go: hidden worlds, Fairyland.  They’re places the characters can fight and use their powers without me having to explain why nobody notices that they are.  Some of them are small, about a room wide or so, and some of them are very large, being an entire world unto themselves.

It’s possible to interact with these spaces by means of ritual magic.  This is necessary for the climax of Ixxqura.  It’s also been implied that it’s possible to create an Occulted Space, mostly from the book in the second chapter.  Presumably, creating the Space and sticking it in the book was done by ritual magic.  How?

The easiest explanation is that there is a spirit or spirits that can affect space-time.  If I wanted to pin down how these spirits do this, I would go with them Solidifying aura into exotic matter, and then using that matter to reshape space to create pocket-dimensions and other such phenomena.  That’s not something most of my main characters would ever deal with directly, so I would be better served by thinking about how the Occulted and the spirits interact.

The first thing that comes to mind is what kind of deal the ritualist and a spirit would make.  It’s easy to understand what a ritualist would want, what would a body made of subtle matter, drifting through the Earth’s magical field, want?  Would such a being even need to eat?

I think it would need something to restore itself against the grinding of entropy, if only to make my story work.  A ritualist can feed their aura, or the aura of certain substances, to the spirits.  This energy would be lost to the ritualist, of course.  I can easily conceive of aura having a flavor, so different kinds of flavors might appeal to different kinds of spirits.

But food might not be the only thing a spirit desires.  A spirit could also desire to see an irritation removed.  This, I think, is what I want the space that seals Ixxqura to be for.  A spirit would willingly help remove Ixxqura from its presence, for it’s own sake.  And then there are other things a spirit could want, like entertainment or information.

One last thing I want to talk about is the Higher Planes.  While I was writing Ixxqura, I postulated some kind of Occulted Space that overlapped the surface world.  I wanted this to explain how Ixxqura could move about and have the amalgamations attack only the Occulted.  I could expand on that, to having multiple overlapping worlds, each with its own theme and covering the whole world.  I think I would have these Spaces be naturally existing, or at least, not the responsibility of anybody that showed up in the story.

This essay was a lot more meandering than I expected.  Questions and comments are always welcome.

 

Poetry: Freedom

Three years in the darkness
Drowning in suffocation and shame
I could only drift, barely aware
Of the flow of time, and despair
Only ending with a tiny pinprick
Barest illumination of light
Desperation leaving me
Rushing toward that dim star

Cursing the shadows’ embrace
I seized the chance in haste
Trapped in a world of failure
My mind shaking on its cage
I hate myself for being here
My power can do greater things
Light still dim, so far away
I reach out, grasping, still
Waiting for the chance of freedom
Force the hole wider with my will

But it’s the darkness that lets me see
The bright light against the black
I lived my life without failing
This is what left me trapped
Now I can feel myself running
Not mere inertia, but true strength
I am free to seek my future
With the power, born of the self.

Writing Occulted: Ritual Magic

Previously, I wrote about how a magic system based around aura and a few basic powers.  Those powers were using aura to generate a force, using aura to affect the minds of the user or others, which might simply be an application of the first power, and Solidifying aura into physical matter.  From these three basic abilities, I managed to derive super-strength, super-reflexes, and regeneration.  I also figured out how they could be used to make plants grow out of someone body and allow a werewolf to transform.  Now, I want to do the same with the other branch of my magic system.

I finished off my last essay on the note that the difference between normal people and the Occulted — the hidden, magical people in my world — was that the Occulted had an “activated” aura, that is, an aura that could do stuff on it’s own.  What each individual Occutled could do with their aura varied, like they needed some kind of instinct to guide their aura into a particular shape.  This is what I meant when I said that using aura to affect minds could be an application of force-generation: A small, precisely applied force could be used to fire specific neurons and make people think in certain way.  I’m uncomfortable with giving relatively normal people the ability to move things in ways they shouldn’t even be able to perceive, so I’m going to say that they need some kind of Template to control their aura for them.

What does all of this have to do with justifying the chants and circles?  Well, we’ve established that there are things an Occ can’t do with their particular power set, and that aura magic has a limited range, and mostly can only act while the user is focusing on it.  But sometimes an Occ want to do something that they can’t do with their aura.  This strikes me as a justification for delving into other branches of magic.

Now that we have a reason for somebody to go into ritual magic, I must decide how it differs from aura magic.  The first and most obvious difference is that ritual magic takes time, while aura magic takes a few seconds, at most.  Another difference is that ritual magic can affect things from far away, and while the user isn’t paying attention to it.  How?

For affecting things far away, I immediately turn to Sympathy and Contagion.  These are concepts from real life anthropology, used in attempt to find a pattern in rituals the world over.  Sympathy means that similar things affect similar things, and Contagion means that a part of something that is removed from the rest remains in contact with the rest.

Here are some examples.  Sympathy is like a ritual where a small doll is used to represent someone absent from the proceedings, and Contagion is like a ritual where a piece of a person’s clothing is used to represent them.  This explains, on some level, how the spell can know what to affect, but it doesn’t explain how the spell affects the world at all.

I’ve already introduced the concept of using aura to affect the world.  I’ve also established that every person has an aura.  Why stop at people?  Why not let every thing, every substance, have an aura of its own, creating a vast, multicolored backdrop to the world to those that can perceive it.  And how does one perceive these energies?  Perhaps its merely a matter of knowing what to look for.

So, with these energies in place, we now have a medium through which rituals can work.  That is, by changing the balances and compositions of these energies, the ritualist can cause them to change the world.  How would one interact with the aura medium?

The most obvious answer is through aura itself.  However, I have already established that, while aura can do many things, an aura can only do a few things.  But what about the concept of Templates?  I introduce the concept to explain why a teenager, who may very well know nothing of nerves beyond that they exist, could use aura to speed up nerve impulses, or to Solidify aura into a plant.  Now, what if there was a way to use a template that was not known instinctively?

That’s where the chanting and circles come in.  They’re tools used to train one’s aura to behave in a particular way.  Research would be necessary to find a new Templates, but this could also mean that the ritualist could potentially give themselves new Templates permanently.

But should it really be that simple?  I feel as though Templates should be something deep within a person, in their bones, or perhaps their blood.  I don’t think gaining Templates should be particularly easy, done only after years of preparation, and fundamentally changing the person that gained it.  Furthermore, ritual spells would only change the aura in an effort to change the auras around the caster, so they shouldn’t be able to be as precise as manipulating ones own aura directly.

But how is this change in the aura field accomplished?  To find out, we must first consider the aura field itself.  It is made of the auras of every object, and presumably, these auras can be picked out and manipulated for their individual qualities.  These individual qualities would be based on what generated it.  For example, the aura of sunlight would be steady and pushing, while the aura of flowing water would whirl and change rapidly.

This, coincidentally, could also explain Jessica’s weakness to sunlight and flowing water.  Remember, I decided that her dependence on blood was the result of her having a “narrow opening” to her reservoir of magical power.  This narrow opening was also responsible for her unusually potent aura powers.  Now, suppose that the auras of sunlight and flowing water pushed on that opening.  Sunlight, being steady, would push down Jessica’s aura, leaving her weak and tired, while flowing water, with its rapid changes, could easily leave her motion sick.  As for why these to things, in particular, would affect vampires as they do, I must note that both of them are considered to have the power to protect against evil, and to purify.

So therefore, the auras of sunlight and flowing water both have an abstract quality, “Purifying”.  This is useful, because it means that ritual magic, which can change the auras of objects, can be used to give an aura an abstract quality, like giving a bracelet the attribute of “Sealing.”

But what keeps the bracelet’s aura from returning to normal?  I ask this, because although the Sealing attribute of the bracelet from my stories would eventually decay, it does not happen immediately.  Granted, the lock on the bracelet would already be predisposed to holding things back, but…I feel like it doesn’t make thematic sense for Alima to be able to do it on her own.

Allow me to explain.  One of the themes I’m trying to work with is humility.  Specifically, the humility to understand that there are things you don’t know, and that it will take work to learn them.  Coming from that, there’s also the good arrogance of believing you can learn it with enough work, and the bad arrogance of believing that you already understand how the world is.  From these themes comes the question of what to do when you need to learn or do something you can’t on your own.  The answer, of course, is that you ask somebody else.

So who is Alima asking with sorcery?  These people would have to perceive the world primarily as aura, because sorcery is nothing but making aura act in a way it shouldn’t, so anything that would have to be contacted with aura alone would have to see the auras of things first for that to make sense.  Perhaps these beings are made of aura, drifting through the field, invisible to normal people.  Let’s call these entities “spirits.”

So Alima can ask spirits for aid.  How powerful are these spirits?  Well, there’s no reason to consider the spirits as a block.  Each individual spirit can be considered by itself, with its own strengths, weaknesses, and desires.  Some are helping because they’re bored and want something to break up the monotony.  Others are acting to fulfill an ancient contract, or perhaps because their conscience demands it.  So a spirit’s power can range from “can keep a lock acting as seal for a few months” to “a nigh-omnipotent jackass that acts to keep the existence of magic hidden from the majority of people, just for shits and giggles.”

You may wonder where the line between a spirit and an Occ whose body is made of Solifiied aura is drawn.  I’m comfortable with letting the difference between the two be ambiguous.  Remember, one of the themes I want to work with is categories disappearing when looked at closely.  This means I am also comfortable with the line between normal person and an Occulted.

Let us consider a hypothetical normal person that stumbles across the existence of the Occulted world.  Their aura is inert, they have no Templates to work with, they can’t even notice when a bonfire of supernatural power passes them by.  In short, their perception of how the world works is suddenly ripped away by a chance encounter.  What happens when this person digs deeper?

Well, the first thing that happens is that they realize that their aura is inert.  The next thing that happens is that they realize that ritual magic, with its ability to force an aura to work in ways it shouldn’t, can help them activate it.  From there, they start learning rituals, and because they can’t use their aura well, they keep with it, if only to keep up with the people that were born into that world.

I have now figured out how ritual magic can allow an Occ to perform actions that they can’t do with aura alone.  I have also established the existence of spirits in my world, and how a normal human can come to use ritual magic, even though they can’t us aura directly.

I still have one more thing to think about, and then I’ll start writing again.