Dawn Harshaw / Dream Magic: Awakenings / Chapter 17 - Telepathy
Mirroring is an advanced technique with a number of variations:
Mental mirroring simulates the flow of thought processes in order to root out miscommunications and establish a shared context.
Deep-empath mirroring assumes and reflects back emotions in order to establish a deeper link. Use selectively, since this process also reinforces those feelings.
Soulhacking is an aggressive variant which can be used to great success against hostile or stubborn targets: fears are mirrored, mapped out, overcome and the subsequent back-and-forth is done from a place of power.
- Flows of Identity, Dreamer's Handbook
"Sure, we can sit on the grass. The goblin bugs are gone," Ohlson said.
"Here?" Eric asked.
"Yes." Annie raised her voice to address the rest of the class. "Everyone, sit! Class will begin shortly."
Eric caught a falling leaf and inspected it. It was yellowish-brown; some of its similarly tinted cousins already rested on the ground, and many were still on the branches of the tree, yet to fall. Autumn has arrived. Whoever said there were no seasons here, lied.
The pupils who came for the telepathy class slowly gathered and sat down, forming an arc around Annie. The majestic corona of the tree was large enough to provide all with a pleasant shade. Since Annie wasn't too quick to begin the class, the idle chatter grew louder.
She's still talking to Ohlson. I bet she didn't prepare... Again.
"I'm sorry about the delay," Annie said while shuffling her notes around. "I'm afraid I should have prepared more for this class. You know how it is; you think you covered everything, only to realize there's ten times more of what you should have included."
Annie waited, hoping for a sign of understanding from her audience, but there was none. Blank faces stared back, waiting for her to continue.
Annie sighed. "Anyway, this is Ohlson, and he will assist me with today's class." She nudged Ohlson. "Introduce yourself."
"Okay. Hi, I'm Ohlson." He bowed slightly.
"Telepathy is a complex subject and there are many different kinds of telepathy," Annie said.
Ohlson strolled next to Eric and sat down. "Nice to see you guys again."
"Hi," Rose said.
"There's a distance between people, and not just people, but between everything else as well. If that distance becomes too big, we get the feeling of separation and loneliness. If it gets too small or negative, which might happen when using telepathy, we may lose our sense of selfhood."
Eric caught a blurry shimmer with the corner of his eye. His instinct told him that Kyle and Lyle were trying to sneak up on someone, again. He stared at that spot for a few seconds... but saw nothing other than open space, and his instinct abated. It's just leaves dancing in the wind.
"There are two ways to deal with this distance: communion and communication. Communion reduces the distance directly, while communication builds a bridge that connects through the distance. With ordinary communication, you say what you want to say hoping that the communion part too will take place. With telepathy, the emphasis is on communion first and communication second, but there are many ways to go about it."
"Empathy and understanding are two major aspects of telepathy: empathy is a meeting of feelings, while understanding is a meeting of thoughts. Use one to complement the other - everyone's base approach to telepathy is a little different."
There! Eric squinted, but he didn't see anything. Dammit.
"Do you see something there?" Eric asked Ohlson, whispering.
Ohlson stared for a while in the direction Eric was pointing. Slowly, his grumpy expression changed into a grin; he leaned close and whispered in Eric's ear. "It's the stealth spell of an old friend. You'll see her soon." Ohlson raised a finger to his nose as he leaned away, impressing on Eric that he should stay quiet.
"The particular form of telepathy we will train today is called 'mindspeak'. It can be used between entities who share a language or are at least humanoid enough to share common perceptions, values and motivations. The idea behind mindspeak is to minimize intrusion, that is, to preserve the inner distances of the listener and preferably place simple words rather than full-blown ideas in their consciousness."
Annie glanced at her notes. "One benefit of this approach is that it does not override free will. Plus, it requires minimal effort, since only the quickest and most efficient mental pathways in the topmost conscious layer are used. The drawbacks of mindspeak are the same as with ordinary communication: understanding is not guaranteed and precise formulation may require greater mental clarity and effort."
Eric saw the shimmery blur a few more times as it neared Annie's location.
"For starters, let's just try and open ourselves, and see what kinds of telepathic connections develop. After that, we'll start practicing mindspeak, and if things go well, we might tackle mirroring, which is a powerful technique for establishing common ground and..."
The next few seconds happened fast. The shimmering revealed the outline of a young woman, and then the woman herself. She held a dagger in each hand; the blades cycled through the colors of the rainbow, and settled on the color green. Her black hair moved in tandem with her shadow.
Just about when one of the young woman's emerald blades was going to connect with the back of Annie's shoulder, Annie jumped ahead and parried the next blow with a knife that materialized in her hand.
Annie was at a disadvantage; she deflected some of the young assailant's blows and dodged the others. After several stumbling steps, Annie lost her balance and the green blades almost reached their target.
In the last moment, the air between them exploded, slamming Annie into the ground and throwing her attacker into the air. After resultless waving of arms and legs, the young woman fell hard to the ground.
Bones crackled, and that was Eric's cue to close his mouth and wipe its corners to make sure he wasn't drooling.
Annie slowly stood up, and yelled: "Get over here!" Before the black-haired attacker could stand firmly on her feet, she was involuntarily blinked across the distance - and fell into Annie's embrace.
"I missed you," the young woman said.
"I missed you too," Annie said. "How have you been?"
"Well, you know me." She smiled. "And you?"
"I almost caused a realm-breaking accident," Annie stepped back and laughed. "Other than that, not bad."
"You'll tell me all about- Hey, that's a familiar face! Look at him, all grown up!"
Ohlson stood up to greet his friend. With a few graceful steps, she moved near him and pecked his cheek.
"Umm, so strong," she said jokingly while squeezing his arms.
She wasn't older than Annie, and her outfit looked like it belonged to a heroine in an action movie. Less revealing, to Eric's chagrin. Two dagger-scabbards rested on her back, and sharp shurikens adorned her belt. Her hair was silky, and Eric felt like her eyes bestowed divine grace. He started sweating.
"What's with all these kids? Are you having a picnic or something?"
"A telepathy class, we're about the start the exercises," Annie said. "Wanna join?"
"Oh, cool!" She turned around to address the students. "Hey guys, sorry for interrupting. I hope I didn't scare you. I'm Ashley, Annie's friend. Well, let's get on with it!"
* * *
Eric's mind was going through turbulence. Half-thoughts popped up in all directions, and before Eric could examine them, they vanished, only to be replaced by different ones.
Eric couldn't keep up, and his mind succumbed to confusion. As the pressure increased, his head throbbed with pain.
"Stop," Eric uttered less loudly than intended.
"Why?" Rose asked.
"Just stop!" He cried out.
The pressure eased up, but it took Eric a while to clear the confusion. I have to learn how to sever telepathic links as soon as possible.
"You really should have kept it simple, Rose. I had to distance myself from my thoughts to avoid the pain," Lucy said.
"At least you know how to do that." Eric frowned. "When you were the sender, at least you sent only a single word. And the faces, but that doesn't count."
"What faces?" Lucy asked. "I sent only my name."
"Well, I saw your name in huge letters, like ten times bigger than me, and I saw your face a hundred times, each face staring at one of the letters, some of them occasionally looking at me."
"That's strange. I saw nothing else, only the letter 'L'," Rose said.
"I assure you, I tried to send only the four letters," Lucy said. "You seeing my face - or faces - was entirely unintentional."
"It didn't bother me," Eric said. "All I'm saying is you did a much better job than Rose."
"Hmpf." Rose crossed her arms in front of her. "Let's see you do better, smartass."
"I didn't say I could do better, only that Lucy did."
"Shut up. It's your turn, so we'll see soon enough! You can't weasel out of this."
Eric took a deep breath. "All right. I'll try."
The other students were paired up or in small groups, and they kept mostly quiet. The occasional sigh or yell was noticeable, but not intrusive.
Eric closed his eyes and tried to relax. Hmm... what should I think of?
He let go of his thoughts, until only an empty space existed in his mind's eye. Breathing was easy here. He allowed the feeling of being close to his friends enter the space of his imagination, and that feeling enabled a visualization of Rose and Lucy's form.
We're here. Eric wasn't sure if one of them said that, or if it was just his own mind conveying a feeling of readiness. He projected his own human form, too.
The Eric within Eric's mind went through the motions of casting a fireball. After the fireball flew away, he cast another and another, at a steady pace. He briefly considered aiming one at Rose, as a form of revenge for before, but decided against it. Too bad, it would have been an interesting telepathic experiment. Relaxed, he kept casting fireballs.
"Fire?" Lucy asked out loud.
Eric opened his eyes, and his mind's space vanished to whence it came from.
"I think he was casting a fireball... right?" Rose asked.
"Yes, I was making fireballs," Eric said.
"I guess I'm still woozy from before. It's your fault!" Lucy nudged Rose gently.
Rose frowned. "Look, I'm sorry, okay? I didn't know it would be so awful for you."
"Take it easy, I'm just messing with you," Lucy acquiesced. "But I wouldn't mind some time off to get myself together."
"Yeah, let's just rest," Eric said.
The tree above was solemnly shedding its leaves.
Ashley was seated next to Annie, who was giving instructions to a pair of students. Eric would occasionally look at Ashley, feeling warm and fluffy inside, hoping that she would look at him, and hoping she won't look at him so he can keep looking at her.
Almost on the other side of the tree, Eric noticed a group being louder than the others. It was Kyle and Lyle, with Duke sniffing around.
"When did they get here?" Eric asked.
"Beats me," Rose said.
"It's almost strange we didn't notice them," Lucy chuckled.
The twins were with a young girl. Gemma! Looks like she's bossing them around. The boys were trying to impress her, but she just kept saying 'no' to everything. Eric turned away, glancing at Ashley again. He sighed.
"Listen!" Annie stood up. "I brought some items. Since most of you aren't doing too well, we might as well put them to use."
The students stopped their exercises and turned towards Annie, who grabbed several items from her bag and lifted one.
"These are enchanted tuning forks." Annie flicked the fork with her finger - it vibrated, giving off a faint, but clear sound. "Specific frequencies of sound can be used as focus items." She flicked it again, harder this time.
The sound vibrated within Eric's head.
"Pass these on," Annie offered several tuning forks to the student next to her. "Ping them softly, and they'll help you open up and control telepathic channels in your mind."
"I thought we were doing well," Eric said.
"I thought so too. The others must have been doing worse," Rose said.
"Tap them gently, and make sure everyone in your group uses it before passing it on," Annie instructed.
She kept handing out magic forks, and the class slowly became a cacophony. Eric found the whole experience interesting; listening to these quiet, seemingly random sounds turn into music. The forks he used sounded off a relaxing feeling, opening up new places in his mind to be aware of.
The mental music ceased abruptly when Lyle got his hands on two forks at the same time. He banged them together as hard as he could.
The result felt like a sharp stab to Eric - everyone started screaming, both inside and out. His ears were in pain, but the collective telepathic shrieking was worse, tearing at his sense of self.
Without thinking, he covered his ears and screamed at the top of his lungs.
When the hostile reverberation stopped, Eric saw Lyle lying still on the ground and Kyle twitching his mouth like a rabid animal. Lucy and Rose were stunned; most others were in shock.
Eric grabbed Rose's hand, who in turn grabbed Lucy's. Except for some ringing in his ears, Eric's head cleared out.
"You guys okay?"
Annie acted quickly: she cast some kind of spell that made herself double. Illusion magic? One Annie scooped up Lyle and Kyle, and teleported away. The other Annie ran around and inspected everyone else.
"Bilocation? Neat," Ashley complimented calmly.
"I know, right? Well, I practiced."
"I suppose there'll be no more exercises today. Where'd ya take the twins?"
"To Maeve, just in case." Annie snapped her fingers in front of an absent-minded student. "Mild shock. It'll pass."
"Remember when we used to do stuff like that?"
"You mean, how you used to drag me along to your 'adventures'?" Annie made the quotation-marks gesture.
"Come on, it wasn't hard to persuade you," Ashley said.
Annie sighed. "True."
* * *
"Quiet down! You'll all have a chance to ask questions." Annie waited for the clamoring to subside, and turned to Ashley. "We're all anxious to hear from you. Can you tell us about what's life like at the Outpost?"
"Well... it's scary and challenging, but fun. You should also ask Maeve or Smith, since they have more direct knowledge of what's going on. Smith's always tackling some collective nightmares; it's an uphill battle, but I help out when I can. Maeve is involved in politics and most of our enemies fear her. Allies too - when she's in a foul mood, run fast and pray to the most powerful deity you can imagine for escape." Ashley chuckled. "Say, is it true she has taken up gardening? It's a bit difficult to envision her handling fertilizer."
"It's true," Annie said.
"In fact, we have nature magic class scheduled with her next," Lucy said.
Ashley nodded, laughing. "Imagine that! Maeve tending a garden..."
"How can they be both here and at the Outpost? Do they travel a lot?" Eric asked.
Annie winked. "Multi-location. Doing it across realms is no small feat."
"All right, what do you want to know?" Ashley asked the kids around her.
"Are there pirates? Harrr!" A boy asked.
"No, not that kind of pirates, mostly just mercenaries."
"How about vampires?" A girl asked.
"Yes, there are vampires."
The girl and her friends began to giggle, with hopeful expressions on their faces.
Ashley frowned. "Not the sparkly, sexy kind of vampires." She sighed. "I wish. These vampires are just old men who are powerful and too scared to die. They are undead; they keep dying but don't actually drop dead." She coughed politely and tugged at one of her phase blades. "Not without some help."
"Too bad," Rose whispered. Lucy shrugged.
"Zombies?" Another boy asked.
"Way too many for it to be fun. Their dreams are dead."
The boy smiled contently. "And ninjas?"
"Well, I'm kind of a half-ninja; I'm nimble and I can use stealth magic. Though, my combat skills could always be better."
"All right, that's enough. You're just messing with me, aren't you?"
The boy shook his head, but didn't say a word.
"How scary is it?" Another pupil asked.
"Well, it can be very scary. Almost everyone carries their personal nightmares with them. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to tell you more, because it might frighten you." She looked to Annie, questioning.
"One story only, and no profanities," Annie said.
"Okay. This is a true story with a sort of happy ending." Ashley cracked her knuckles. "So there I was, away from the Pulse, in the middle of a zombie onslaught. I thought I could push through, but I overestimated my power and found myself alone. After mindlessly hacking apart zombies for what felt like days, I was pushed to the ground, exhausted. That putrid odor was so overwhelming. I really thought I was done for. And then..."
Ashley paused. All eyes were on her, and few were even holding back their breaths. "In a flash of light, nearby zombies got blasted off. An elven warrior charged in on a horse, swinging his sword. He had a robust, shiny armor which emanated light."
"The elves were supposedly wiped out when their realms collapsed in the Elven Cataclysm," Lucy whispered.
"He most likely wore plain clothes befitting a nature-loving elf," Annie muttered.
"Shh, I'm telling the story here!"
"So there was this elven warrior in shiny armor, which made the sun shine in the sky, rescuing me. He reached down from his beautiful horse, offered his hand, and pulled me up. He had the most gorgeous eyes. He asked me with a deep, singing voice: 'Are you all right?'"
"Yeah. Speechless, I nodded. By the time I dusted off my clothes, he was gone, galloping into the sunset," Ashley gestured into the distance.
"I wasn't bothered by zombies after that, but when I got back, nobody believed me! I was told that the few elves who survived the obliteration of their realms were only shells of their former selves. But he wasn't! And nobody believed me."
"I believe you," Annie put her arm around Ashley. "Mostly."
"Will you tell another story?" A student asked.
Ashley shook her head. "I'll go back to the Outpost soon, and I have stuff to take care of before I do."
"Oh, not yet you don't," Annie said. "Come, tell me more about this elven prince of yours in private. Class dismissed!"
Elfs, zwölfs... Eric frowned. Despite never having seen an elf, he was now sure he didn't like them. Especially the ones in shiny armor.
Dawn Harshaw / Dream Magic: Awakenings / Chapter 17 - Telepathy