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Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Sanctuary: Mages High

The Sanctuary: Schools of Magic
Jennifer gripped Doug's arm too tightly, too keyed up with excitement. Small drops of blood appeared around her fingernails. Doug seemed not to notice. Something else gripped Doug as well.
"Damn!" Marcy cursed, as several cars turned into the parking lot behind the bleachers where she was helping prepare for today's game.
Doug and Jenny turned to peer through the bleachers, frowning together at the inevitable arrival of their antagonists in today's football match.
The cars parking at the far end of the lot were draped with bunting and appropriately painted in rousing slogans supporting their school team. Christian emblems and bumper stickers that said "Christ, What a deal!" adorned the Calvin High supporters’ cars.
"They make me sick!" was spoken in tandem by members of both sides; you could practically hear the echo. The literal truth was manifest as the members of both sides retched and coughed, caught up in absorbing and ventilating the hostile spells involved.
Christians and Wiccans routinely made each other sick with spite. Their conflict was visceral; their loyalties to their modes of magic ran that deep.
Nat was a little kid. The bigger kids all called them Littles. Nat was hiding under the bleachers. Nat could see other Littles sneaking onto the field.
This would be a rough game. Competition for the best hiding places was fierce. Nat wanted to avoid that today. It would be hard to interfere with the game effectively if he must also fight off malicious attacks by his peers and rivals. He wished he could be invisible. A clever glamour might work almost as well.
Heaps of Littles bodies were growing around the playing field. Littles too inexperienced to protect themselves from the vigilant security squads of the teams were quickly stunned to keep them from interfering for the duration of the game. During the half time members of the security squads would take turns arranging the stunned Littles in tableaus that would mock and embarrass them.
Nat worked a careful glamour that made him appear to be a pile of trash swept under the bleachers; an animated illusion of large plastic trash bags billowed back and forth fitfully in the slight wind. The added illusion of movement by the plastic bags would help conceal Nat’s own movements as he prepared to create mayhem on the playing field.
Nat’s friend Mikey was already on the field. Nat could see him in a glamour that disguised him as a referee. That was bold! The real referee was stunned and had been made to stand with his arms spread out in the Christian’s end zone. The Christian’s real cross was gone. Mikey must have hidden it. It was hilarious to see the Christian Mages praying to the referee. Without their enchanted cross the Christians’ magic would be far less potent. Good one Mikey!
Nat wanted to blow Mikey's cover for upstaging him so well, but it wouldn't be good to let the big kids know how deep into the game the Littles had infiltrated. Nat decided to try to even the score by meddling with the Wiccans’ power circle.
The Wiccans would stand in a circle that allowed them to reinforce each other’s powers. Nat placed a warping glamour on their circle so that it formed a square. The Wiccans would still see their circle but when they stepped into their places in the circle they would be standing in a square formation. This would be truly bad juju for the Wiccans who relied heavily on circular themes for their magic.
Infiltrating the football game was a game in its self. The game of infiltration represented a personal contest for the Littles. Littles preferred to work alone and they had many rivalries with one another. Eventually the Littles took sides and drifted together into groups. Nat knew there were groups already forming among his peers, but most of the Littles were still struggling to remain independent.
Joining a group was the first step to becoming a Norman. The Littles vowed never to be Normal, but the change from independence to group dependency seemed to lead inevitably to becoming a Normal Norman.
The Norms were everywhere, they made groups all the time, and their groups could make any of the Littles become a Norman with all of their Normal adult nonsense.
Layers of glamours were developing across the field and bleachers. The referees were now asleep on their feet, running about with their eyes wide open, dreaming. This was Normal for an adult, but during games the referees’ dreams were being manipulated by the Littles from the bleachers.
In the end zones the Christian and Wiccan powers were aligning themselves. Loyalties were mixed and often unclear. Witches and warlocks were powerful in both schools, but Calvin High had become dominated by the Christians. Glenwood's smaller group of alienated Christians would probably align themselves with their rival school, while the Calvin witches and wizards would be splintered, unsure what outcome of today's game might best gratify their personal interests.
Zealots of both sides were out in force seeking conversions. The Christians and Wiccans typically knew where their best interests lay; each group was violently opposed to the other.
Violence in today’s game was inevitable. Both teams in would be massacred on the playing field many times over today. The skill with which the rival teams’ supporters cast their glamours upon the Normans was vital to the safety and welfare of their teams. A mass of Normans who witnessed an injury or death on the playing field might make that event a part of their Norm. If news of a death or serious injury spread among the Normans that player could be crippled or dead for a long time. It was arduous work to change the beliefs of Normans.
Glamours were easy, they only altered appearances, but magic that could change someone’s mind was serious work; changing the minds of a group of people was even harder still.
The Littles were looking forward to plenty of death and maiming on the football field today. The Littles were dangerous. They frequently interrupted the glamours of the game for both sides, causing endless havoc by letting Normans see glimpses of the bloody carnage.
Of course, a few glimpses of carnage by a bunch of Normans weren't terribly dangerous. Each Norman’s mind was typically deceitful and incongruous, as Normans were caught in conflicts within themselves, struggling to remain part of their groups while at an unconscious level they sought to regain their independence from their group’s consensus reality.
The excitement and focused concentration aroused by a game could break through all manner of Norman self deceits, glamours, and inhibitions, letting a glimpse of another reality beyond their Norman group’s consensus reality to become momentarily apparent.
The dominant glamours of the game would eventually create an outcome that would be accepted and supported by the Normans as having been the events of the game. Since Normans were typically self programmed to deny the existence of violence, they could often be counted upon to edit any incidents of game where death or injury from their memories of the game.
All glamours aside, the carnage was real, and too much interference with the glamours of the game could reveal injuries beyond the abilities of the athletes’ powers of recovery and resurrection.
If the death or maiming of an athlete were clearly witnessed by many Normans at once the athlete might not recover their from their wounds or be able resurrect themselves for many months; they must track down and alter each witness’s memory until the consensus reality of the witnesses no longer regarded them as maimed or dead.
If a dead athlete could not restore himself by changing the minds of the Normans who witnessed his death the athlete might never be able to return to life. For a while the athlete’s spirit might haunt people or places they were most familiar with, but without help they would gradually fade away. No one knew what became of those who were unable to assert the reality of their existence upon the perception of their death in the Normans consensus reality.
Beyond the end zones various glamours concealed the altars of the rival magicians from the Norman’s in the audience. The Normans would miss most of the real action in today's game. Hiding amongst the Normans upon and below the bleachers, concealed with their craftiest glamours, the Littles watched the preparations for the game, already doing their best to interfere.
"Stop looking so worried," Alan cautioned, anxious to quell the wave of anxiety drifting through the air.
Jennifer looked up from their altar with real concern, confused between the danger of reinforcing her fear and the danger of ignoring her fear.
"You're scared too," she replied.
"We have to work together in this; you know how important the unity is."
"I know how unlikely it is you mean."
"We can still work together if we try sincerely."
After the last game Jenny thought their group had been badly demoralized. It had been a pretty depressing defeat. She had come up with the idea of a summoning as a way to bring their group back together. The theory was good.
When Mark proposed the group try a summoning Alan supported it immediately, and then Jennifer suddenly found herself opposed to her own idea. That is, it was her idea, wasn't it?
But now she wasn't sure.
Eventually the group pulled together around the idea and became really inspired.
One or two others claimed to have thought of the summoning first. Perhaps there were others in their group like her who were now having suspicious second thoughts.
Alan reasoned that so many of them coming up with the idea of a summoning at the same time was proof of how united the group was, and how likely they were to succeed.
But there were arguments.
Jennifer recognized her jealousy that Mark had been able to introduce the idea she had regarded as her own. It was clear to her now that many of the others had argued against it at first only because they also felt cheated of an opportunity to introduce this wonderful idea.
But was it really so wonderful after all?
So many people possessed by the same idea at once made that idea particularly suspicious.
"You’re right Alan, we can work together," Jennifer found herself suddenly supporting Alan and Mark. "Go tell the others we're ready to begin the summoning”.
Jennifer felt sure she hadn’t intended to support the summoning so vocally. What was going on here?
To his right, Nat could see a group of Buddhists chanting. The Buddhists were typically neutral, and focused their efforts solely on keeping the Normans from witnessing the coming carnage.
In the distant end zone the Christians were all praying to their saintly idols. In the nearer end zone the Wiccans of Calvin High were now forming up.
Nat peered at their formation closely; they appeared to stand in the square formation into which he had warped their circle of power. But there was something odd about the square; he could almost swear the square now had five sides. However, no matter how hard Nat tried to count the sides he could only come up with four.
As Nat watched, a second group appeared in the Wiccans end zone. Satanists!
The Wiccans clearly did not see these new arrivals; the Satanists formed a perfect circle around the Wiccans’ squared circle, a square that still seemed to have five sides to Nat.
The strains of the national anthem played across the field, as the Wiccans of Glenwood High worked their summoning. Their regular sorceries were all prepared in anticipation of the Christian powers that would oppose them today.
The football exploded viciously with the Wiccans’ kickoff. Glenwood’s Student Science Union, working from the far sideline ran the moment backwards in time and then the football kickoff was repeated, this time with no explosion. But, as the Calvin team scrambled for the ball, the ball burst overhead with a deadly hail of shrapnel.
Three players killed in the explosion were already regenerating; they continued to play as zombies while their bodies were being healed. A quick scan of the Norman spectators showed the Normans blissfully watching the game, unaware of the mayhem on the field.
At the end of the third quarter half of the players on either side had become zombies, and it appeared that many of the Calvin zombies were not regenerating properly. This could be serious bad news.
The Glenwood summoning had been completed without a hitch in the first quarter. An efreeti capered in the confinement of a pentagram carefully inscribed before the Wiccan altar.
Christians of both schools had joined together with little effect to attempt to exorcise the efreeti summoned by the Glenwood Wiccans.
The Satanists had quietly removed themselves as soon as the efreeti had appeared.
The Glenwood Wiccan strategy was sound. Christians were the dominate sect of Calvin High to the near exclusion of any rival sects. This gave them considerable power. While the Wiccans were the dominant sect of Glenwood high, they were far fewer in numbers than the Calvin Christians. Now nearly all the power of the Calvin Christians was channeled to combat the efreeti the Wiccans had summoned. The Wiccans were free to drive their team to victory.
The Calvin Christians withdrew in confusion. The Buddhists worked together to salvage the dead and dying team members before they came to the attention of the Normans.
The Glenwood Wiccans managed the rest of the game successfully, though they fought unseen powers throughout the final quarter that seemed bent on the malicious destruction of both teams. This action they incorrectly attributed entirely to the Littles.
At the end of the game the efreeti could not be banished properly but it agreed to leave until the next game. No one knew where it would go, but the Calvin Christians would soon be seeing it again.
There were far more casualties in today’s game than might ordinarily be expected. This pattern of heavy casualties would continue throughout the season, the efreeti returned to each game, and it grew stronger and more malicious as the season drew to a close.

This story is set in a Sanctuary Virtual Reality. The Littles are the youngest members of first generation born in the VR world. The Normal Normans were adults when they immigrated into their Sanctuary; they maintain their perceptions of reality in the VR world by a sort of mental momentum with the aid of the VR technology.
The new generation has not inherited their parents’ world views; world views have to be learned; but what the new generation is learning in the VR world is that reality is literally what you wish for, so long as you can negotiate it with the unconscious consensus reality of the Normals and the influences of your peers.
Group efforts to change the consensual reality of the Virtual Worlds are typically more successful than individual efforts, which is why the older kids learn to work together. But the younger children are by far the most powerful individuals when it comes to expressing their will in the VR worlds.
There is another presence in the VR world. It manifests as storms and strange dreams. The Normals dismiss it, explaining it away, rationalizing it, because it is their habit to treat anything unusual that way. The kids fear it. They sense it is something similar to them only far more powerful.

If anyone in the VR worlds could access my blogs they would begin to have a clue as to what was happening to them. As it is, only the scientists and technicians of Sanctuary Technologies Incorporated know what is going on, and they are scared.