Ars Magica: Compulsion in its various modalities

From The Sultan’s Enchanter, my historical fantasy book, now in search of beta-readers.


Ars Magica:

Compulsion in its various modalities – what the uneducated call “magic” – is in fact mind-control through sensual pleasure.

While the subject enjoys a sensation, the artisan of that pleasure can implant suggestions into his or her mind. This compulsion, depending on its strength, may cause the subject to engage in any sort of act, limited only by the subject’s abilities, even in direct violation of his or her will.

The Five Modalities:

Over its long history of use and abuse, compulsion has been systematized and refined into schools based on sensory modality, ordered here from high to low.

Sight: Enscription. Very fast-acting and explicit, but requires eye-contact and loses efficacy when the subject is illiterate. Used in most civil compulsions.

Sound: Enchantment. Carries over distance, but compels all hearing people in area. Used in war and police action.

Taste: Engustation. Can be deployed sub-consciously, but short-lasting in effect. Used in medicine and esoteric ritual.

Smell: Enfumation. Effective over large areas, even subconsciously, but uncontrollable. Used legally in religious ritual. Used illegally by bandits, pirates, and mob bosses to create temporary minions or to rob and abuse the innocent.

Touch: Ensensation. Can act invisibly, but requires continuous physical contact. Used legally to counteract other charm by means of carved, molded, or woven protective artworks. In the hands of criminal artisans, ensensation allows assassination, seduction, and witchcraft.

There also exist sub-schools and cross-schools of art, such as Enpiction (the infidel and pagan charm of representations of physical form), Kinesthetics (the combination of sight, sound, and touch), and the new and fearsome art of Enprinting (the experimental technique in which pleasure compels itself to be remembered without the need for a physical artwork).

Further Important Considerations:

Compulsion is separate from the content of the source of charm. A picture of one man murdering another does not compel the viewer to murder someone, unless such was the compulsion added by the artist. While many folk practices require agreement between the content of compulsion and its artistic substrate, modern experiments have found no factual basis in this tradition.

Compulsion only maintains its strength as long as pleasure continues. Once the subject attention wanders from a work of art, its power fails. Enpiction is especially prone to being ignored, as the subject can simply close his or her eyes. Most artisans combat this tendency by adding a pay attention or remember this compulsion to their work. Ensensation, the lowest modality, is so greatly feared partly because of its permanence. A carved artwork may be worn against the skin, or a textural pattern woven into clothing, creating a long-term slave. Enprinting is similar, but vastly more dangerous in its permanence.

The strength of compulsion depends on how much one enjoys the art one is experiencing. Its effect is usually weaker in trained artisans (especially in the same sensory modality as the author’s preferred modality), but even people with little talent for art can desensitize themselves through repeated exposure or by cultivating a jaded sense of superiority.

Some aspects of art are universal across all peoples (especially the lower modalities). In many cases, however, art compells only within a specific context of shared custom and civilization. Music that enchants audiences in Istanbul, for example, may lose potency when its subjects are ignorant of high Ottoman culture. For this reason, it is imperative to expand this culture.

From “The Gift of Artisans and Warriors,” a training manual by Nasuh the Tall, Matrak-trainer, Chief Swordsman, and Master of Pages at the Enderun School, 1525.

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