Excerpts from The Marches
Messengers of Hope
The man on the bus was deep in thought. It's no use. Dad will never understand who I really am. There's just no point in talking to him about it. Next to him, a fellow passenger sat and read the paper, apparently taking no notice of the sad, silent man to his left.
I never thought I would lose Dad this way – to just have him leave my life. But I know better than to talk sense to him. It's no use. The man sighed. The passenger next to him turned a page of his newspaper. The rustling sound it made suddenly made the man think of birds . . . of a day when he – then just a boy – and his father unexpectedly saw a sleek falcon land on a nearby rock. It was a pleasant memory.
Maybe, the man thought, maybe he loves me enough to listen just one more time.
Still waters run deep. The Menunim are the most subtle and silent of all the Host, and yet their faith, optimism and open-mindedness are renowned. They avoid speaking to humans when they can, since they wish to avoid even the slightest disturbance in the Symphony. The Menunim trust humans to do the right thing – they just think that sometimes mortals need a little push to get them going.
Basic, primitive sorcery is an intuitive, inherently selfish act of raw, ecstatic energy. The first sorcerers probably had no idea that their tremendous hunger for power would actually bear fruit in the form of their darkest nightmares. Everything outside of the Will, willing spirits to appear and be commanded, is a result of knowledge learned over years of sorcerous experimentation and ritual codification. It's relatively easy to call things up, not so easy to get them to be useful to you, speak their language or keep them from killing you once they're here – and definitely not so easy to send them home again. Finally, one's Essence (or the Essence of others, given freely or not) is valuable in providing the energy to perform all this manipulation.
A sorcerer's Will is remarkable in that it has this inherent selfishness . . . possibly derived from memories as an infant when the entire world was you and you were the entire world. Even a "good" sorcerer has a strong core of Self.
For this reason, most sorcerers don't even believe in the War, the existence of God, or that demons and angels, as such, exist. As far as a sorcerer is concerned, celestials and ethereal spirits might be creatures who are playthings for their enjoyment, or nightmares to be feared, but not part of some kind of moralistic psycho-social war fought behind the scenes. Most sorcerers are surprised upon their deaths to discover how wrong they really were. There are exceptions – some sorcerers know they are calling up things they shouldn't, and some rationalize that even an evil spirit can be used for good purposes. A few know exactly what they're doing, and are too insane or hateful to care.
The knowledge required to be a relatively successful sorcerer (i.e., the kind that isn't instantly eaten by what they call) is a bar to most of the real incompetents who want to follow the path of sorcery. The amount of time required to decipher coded books in ancient, mostly forgotten languages and translate them into something that is useful today means "no social life." Plus, having to explain the fresh bloodstains on your bedspread usually doesn't win points with your girlfriend – nor does having to share her with your demon.
For this reason, sorcerers tend to be solitary, bookish sorts unless they somehow intuit all their sorcerous knowledge without having to read it – or have a sorcerous tutor. Even then, hanging out with a sorcerer doesn't win anyone "cool" points – they frequently smell bad, have poor manners and have a habit of taking the last beer from the fridge. Selfishness again . . .
Finally, the fact that most sorcerous activities require Essence means that either you're always tired and out of luck – or your friends, compatriots, family, flock or co-workers are. Or you've left a string of black cats sacrificed across the city, or you're starting to drive past child-care facilities to stare at the little bundles of energy playing there.
In other words, you're becoming a sociopath.
The area of the Marches that stretches between Blandine and Beleth's twin towers is known as the Vale of Dreams or simply, the Vale. It is the region of the Marches that runs "between" the celestial realms of Heaven and Hell before opening up into the vastness of the Far Marches. This makes little sense in any physical manner, but the celestial and ethereal realms do not follow corporeal rules, and the perceptions of a corporeal visitor reflect his own nature rather than the true nature of what he sees.
Blandine and Beleth's domains encompass all of the dreamworlds that exist between them. A dreamer in the Vale is either in Blandine's Domain or Beleth's. There is no middle-ground, although the exact placement of the border is often vague.
The Vale contains the dreamscapes of sleeping mortals. To outsiders like the celestials, they appear in an infinite variety of forms, often in some kind of reflective or crystalline form: a mirror, crystal, pool of water or floating iridescent bubble of some kind suspended in the mists of the Vale. Anyone near the dreamscape can look into it and see images of the dream going on within. Many of the dreamscapes belong to mortals who are awake. These dreamscapes are like shadowy versions of the dreamworlds of sleeping humans. They are "off limits" to anyone, due to the influence of the mortal's conscious mind. Occasionally the dreamscape of an awake human will show flickers of thoughts and daydreams. It is believed that Beleth and Blandine can access the dreams of conscious humans, but no other celestial or spirit has such power.
The individual dreamscapes within the Vale are infinite in nature. Those closer to Beleth's side of the Vale are nightmares, growing more and more twisted as they near the Princess of Nightmares' tower. Those on Blandine's side are peaceful, restful and inspirational, becoming stronger the nearer they are to the tower of the Archangel of Dreams. It is along the border between the two domains that the celestial servants of the Superiors become the most active, working to nudge the mortal dreamscapes toward the domain of their own mistress. It is hard to locate individual dreamscapes in the Vale. The difficulty of the search is based on the abilities of the celestial and how they enter the Marches. Making contact with a human on the corporeal plane through touch, attunements or the use of Songs such as Charm allows a celestial to enter the Marches through the dreamscape of the human while they are asleep. They can then work to influence the mortal dreamer, or exit the dreamscape into the Vale and make their way elsewhere in the Marches.
Celestials who enter the Marches on their own appear at the base of the tower they are aligned with. To find a specific dreamscape in the Vale requires the celestial to search for it. Attunements and Songs that will locate a subject in the corporeal realm will also locate his dreamscape. If the celestial's corporeal vessel is sleeping near a sleeping human (up to twice the celestial's Celestial Forces in yards), then he may make a Perception roll to locate that human's dreamscape in the Marches. Otherwise, locating an individual human dreamscape among the billions in the Marches is impossible without Intervention.
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