Auguring

When first entering the mind of another, there are certain precautions one must take. First of all, this endeavour is near-impossible to undertake undetected when the subject is awake and is ill-advised for an unskilled practitioner. Even among experienced augurers, only the foolhardy attempt to enter a waking mind. Thus one must wait until the subject is in deep sleep, for in sleep, the mind is more pliable and accepting of intrusions.
— Mater Albertine
 

History

Origins

Auguring is a gift originally refined by Cirra, the human spouse of the god Mellus and namesake of the city of Cirranne. It is a gift that was first given to her by Vandra on the day of her wedding to Mellus. It is thought that through Vandra's blessing, the gift of auguring travelled up and down and through Cirra's family line, depositing a small portion of the gift to anyone open to receiving it - seemingly continuing to this day.   Like Cirra, all known augurers, past and present, have been women. Throughout her long and storied life, she was able to use this gift to see into both the future and into people's minds and dreams. This way, she could also send visions and messages to those receptible to them. In addition, she found that through meditation, her gift grew stronger, and with practice, she was able to affect the minds of those she reached out to during her meditations. She could sense their emotions and soothe them, she could smooth their scars and heal their emotional wounds. But she also found she could bend their opinions, forge new memories in their minds and make them forget important lessons and events. These talents also made her exceptionally sensitive to anyone with similar gifts. She recognised the risks such gifts could entail without honing or guidance, and so she set out to find and take as many augurers under her wing as she could.   Thus, wherever she went, whenever she met someone who had been given even a sliver of the power she had, she made sure to teach them or send them to one of her previous disciples to receive training. In this way, she built a following all over Vanelle; because of her good standing with its people, auguring was normalised. People would often seek the advice of one of Cirra's disciples before embarking on long journeys, making important decisions or if they were having troubling dreams. Auguring was also thought to give the augurer the ability to receive prophecies, although this very rarely happened.  

Use and Regulation in the Ancient Era

However, that was not all auguring entailed. A skilled augurer had the power to change people's minds, find out their secrets and implant new ideas, emotions and even horrors in them. Soon every noble, general and government minister had an augurer on staff, both to protect themselves from having their minds tampered with, but also to work as spies, information agents and saboteurs. On the battlefield, augurers were used to demoralise enemy troops from a distance and to siphon information from enemy commanders from behind enemy lines. One battle in the year 432 of the Ancient Era was won before is started when one of the Lord Protector's augurers managed to instil a sense of fear and panic so strong in the enemy commander that he ordered the retreat of his whole army.   The kind of power augurers held soon became a source of fear and tension within Vanelle. Many wanted to regulate the practice, leading to various laws as well as regulations for how auguring could be used acceptably. The use of auguring by private entities to extract or implant information in unknowing subjects was banned, and many other uses were only permitted for augurers licensed by the Protectorate. Enforcing these regulations was difficult, but the penalties for breaking them were harsh, and many augurers were content to provide simpler services such as fortune-telling and dream interpretation. Many were angered by what they perceived as an attack on their livelihood and very being. Some continued working in the shadows, allying with criminal organisations, or departing Vanelle to seek their fortune elsewhere.   This led to a decline in the breadth and depth of skill in most augurers over the next century, which was followed by the fall of Tighru and the Exodus of the Gods, leading to the decline in Vanelle, and presumably the rest of the world, of all magical powers and phenomena - including auguring. This is something which took a long time for the people of Vanelle to adapt to. Many conveniences and staples of their society had simply stopped working. Replacement technologies were now needed for basic things such as medicine and central heating, not to mention more advanced magical workings and technologies like propulsion, lighting and weaponry. In addition, the gods no longer made appearances in the land, they had left the people of Vanelle to stand on their own feet. Prayers were left unanswered and offerings rotted away on altars. The world had lost its sheen. The rapid decline in the number of augurers born each year, then, was a minor concern, even to other augurers.  

Current Era

In the year 332 CE, however, a girl was born in Cirranne with the ability to augur, the first in several centuries; long after the last Cinder Stones had cooled. Her birth did not coincide with other resurgences in magic, nor with any appearances by gods or deities. It was an anomaly. Nonetheless, her mother, who was a historian at The Grand Library of Cirranne made sure she knew as much as possible about her heritage and ability. This is the girl who grew up to become The First Augurer; the founder of The Order of Augurers and The House of Dreams.   Starting with The First Augurer, Vanelle saw a resurgence in the number of augurers born, and with the establishment of The House of Dreams in 400 CE, they were once more grew to become an accepted part of society in Vanelle. However, none of this second wave of augurers has ever grown to be as powerful or influential as the augurers of old.   It is only recently - in the last 100 years or so - with the resurgence in the worship of the lost god Tighru, that the people of Vanelle has once more grown to fear auguring and those who practice it. Arguably, the laws in place now (as of 1431 CE) are far harsher than those of the ancient era, especially considering that auguring in our time is proportionally a much more timid ability.   These laws permit the internment of anyone found to be practising auguring within the city of Cirranne, and to a lesser extent in the rest of Vanelle. The law is universal, but it is far more strictly enforced within the capital. Due to the wording of the law, it is not just intentional practice that is prohibited, unintentional practice is outlawed as well, which means young children or those unaware of their ability run the risk of imprisonment.  

Effects and Side-Effects

Dream- and Mind-Reading

When an augurer travels into the mind of a sleeping person, she enters a meditative state which is difficult for any outside influence to break. Normally, the process ends when the augurer leaves the mind of her subject, at which point she may experience dizziness, fatigue and confusion to varying degrees. Generally, longer and more taxing sessions cause more severe side effects. It is also possible for a subject to expel the augurer from their mind, however, this requires them to be both aware and unwelcoming of the intrusion; this is seldom the case with paying clients. That's not to say it's unheard of, although it more commonly happens when an augurer enters or attempts to enter a waking mind.   As mentioned, the reason for performing either mind-reading or dream-reading is usually to gather information; whether to interpret a dream, extract information or re-discover lost memories.   While traversing the mindscape or dreams of another person, it is most imperative for the augurer not to lose focus. These environments can be confusing, threatening, even alluring, and straying too far from one's task within the mind of another can have lasting consequences. For example, the augurer could lose track of time and suffer the effects of dehydration, or she might lose part of herself, forget her objective or even some of her own memories. The most severe such case ever recorded was an augurer who, once she finally left the mind of her subject, was unable to remember who she was, let alone how to control her ability, thus unintentionally and frequently entering the dreams of those in close proximity to her - without their permission or, often, knowledge. She was able to control her abilities once more after some years, but not without complete re-education.   This, of course, speaks to the importance of proper training of young girls who exhibit signs of the ability. Training should prevent most of the issues described above, as well as instil a sense of etiquette in the practitioner, discouraging them from practising auguring in a way which would be considered immoral, intrusive or even illegal. Thus it is important for training to start as soon as possible, partly to prevent unintentional auguring, but also to prevent the augurer and their subjects from coming to harm by the augurer's actions.   The subject of a dream- or mind-reading may not notice anything out of the ordinary, especially if the augurer is well practised and avoids triggers which may alert the subject to their presence. Those who are able to detect such intrusions have most likely trained themselves to do so, are augurers themselves or do so because of mistakes made by the augurer. Detection is, of course, rather an easier task for a subject who is awake.  

Telepathy and Projection

If an augurer simply wants to send a message, rather than extract or interpret information or dreams, she doesn't need to enter the mind of the intended recipient. Using focus and a clear message or image, she can communicate to a receptive partner. If that partner also happens to be an augurer, they have the ability to respond. Such communication is risky, however, as the message is easily muddled if the augurer is confused, unclear or interrupted during the transmission of the message.   This is often how new augurers are discovered; the people around them, usually their parents or close family, start noticing thoughts and images in their minds which aren't their own. For someone unaware of what is happening, this is profoundly confusing but not dangerous. In the past, such incidents would be dealt with by an augurer or representative from The Order of Augurers. The newly discovered augurer would be offered training and work at The House of Dreams, after which they would be able to control their auguring well enough to rejoin society. In recent times, as mentioned, even new augurers run the risk of imprisonment if their ability was to be revealed to the wrong person. This persecution of augurers has also led to the decline of The Order of Augurers' presence in all of Vanelle, and in Cirranne in particular, thus making the location and education of new augurers both difficult and risky.   Another form of one-sided auguring, which requires a bit more skill and focus than the transmission of a message through telepathy, is projection. A projecting augurer forces an emotion, energy or lack thereof upon a target. During the great battles of the ancient era, for example, this technique was used both to bolster soldiers heading into the fray and to demoralise enemy troops. Today it may be used to provide someone with extra energy and focus ahead of a trying task or calm them after a traumatic event. Again, it cannot be stressed enough that the auguring of today is vastly different, both in potency and use, to the auguring of the ancient era.   This technique requires a meditative state almost as focused and deep as that of a dream- or mind reading. Without precise focus, a projection runs the risk of dissipating entirely or, much worse, affecting anyone in the vicinity of the augurer rather than just the intended target or targets. This might not seem all that bad, but consider a whole hunting party affected by a calming projection intended for a nervous horse or the audience of a whole theatre emboldened by a projection of energy meant for a hung-over actor. In a situation where lives are at risk, this could be disastrous.   As an extension of these techniques, it is said that some augurers are able to use a willing subject as their eyes and ears in a location different from their own. This requires great trust on behalf of the subject; letting an augurer into their head, if only just to observe the outside world, can be a jarring experience. One can see how this would be useful in a number of situations, however. As this is not a service normally offered by augurers in present times, it is difficult to determine whether this is a skill that is still taught, and to what extent. Presumably, if it is possible to be a passenger in a willing subject's mind in this way, it should be possible for a skilled augurer to perform the same technique on an unaware subject, which would, in turn, open up numerous interesting possibilities pertaining to espionage, military strategy and security, not to mention criminal operation.   However, it must be stressed that the above paragraph is this author's speculations, hinging entirely on whether or not the technique described is practised by today's augurers.  

Dream- and Mind-Manipulation

In contrast to dream-and mind-reading, manipulation entails the insertion or even erasure of information to or from a subject's mind or dreams. Manipulation requires immense care and skill not to risk damaging the mind of the subject beyond repair. Even for experienced augurers, it is a delicate operation which requires deep concentration. If successful, the results can be dramatic, however.   There are, of course, various degrees to which an augurer can manipulate the mind of their subject, beginning with the insertion of an idea or notion into a dream and ending with the complete erasure and reconstruction of the subject's memories. As with dream- and mind-reading, it takes great skill and focus for the augurer to move through a subject's mind undetected, even more so when making alterations. The slightest misstep is amplified in the subject's mind and can be extremely uncomfortable, if not painful, even when no lasting damage occurs. Likewise, if the subject is upset or panics during the procedure, the augurer risks suffering shock and severe headaches as well as entering a state of confusion which can last for several days.   The simplest form of manipulation is dream manipulation, which is when an augurer alters elements or the entirety of a dream the subject is having. In recurring dreams, this effect is persistent, although the dream may revert to its original form with enough repetitions. This can be helpful for someone who is having recurring nightmares and needs relief. It is also used for frivolous purposes by some augurers and this is frequently requested by wealthy clients. No sensible person with limited income would spend their money thusly. Nonetheless, an augurer has the ability to completely change dreams and can do so to the specification of the client, even if there is no actual need for it. The client may want to live out a fantasy, be a hero, exact revenge, and dream manipulation would allow them to do all of these things in the comfort of their own mind. Some augurers refuse to use their skills in this way, while others have made it their livelihood. Skilled dream weavers, as they have come to be known, can charge handsomely for their services - even more so since auguring was outlawed in Vanelle.   On the other end of the spectrum is mind manipulation. While dreams are indeed part of the mind, the techniques used in mind manipulation work directly on a person's psyche and memories rather than through the veil of a dream. In a dream, that veil can be painted or re-woven, even torn, but it acts as a protective layer between the workings of the augurer and their subject (do keep in mind that mistakes made in dreams can still have consequences). When working directly with the mind, neither the augurer nor the subject is protected in this way. Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough that mind manipulation is a skill best left to experienced augurers and willing, prepared subjects. This way, the risk of the augurer being forcefully expelled from the subject's mind is substantially reduced and if the subject does become aware of the augurer in their mind, they have been instructed in techniques they can use to reconcile themselves with the intrusion.  
Mind manipulation without the consent or knowledge of the subject is extremely risky and ill-advised even in the most justified of cases.
  Nowadays, mind manipulation techniques are only taught to experienced Sisters of The Order of Augurers, and even then, only after they have been put through rigorous testing and evaluation by their elders. Younger and more inexperienced augurers found to be experimenting with these techniques run the risk of severe punishment and of being held back in their education. This may seem unfair to the young augurers affected by such punishment, but the damage they run the risk of inflicting cannot be overstated. There are examples of subjects having whole portions of their memories and even personalities rearranged or entirely erased, sometimes being left in a vegetative state for months afterwards due to the shock. This type of damage often can't be undone, even by the most senior augurers. So while it may seem harmless to erase an argument or change another person's perception or opinion of an event or person, if the practitioner isn't completely focused or of their technique is lacking, the consequences can be severe.   That said, these techniques can be used very favourably to lessen past trauma, dampen phobias and change unfavourable thought patterns, and many come to The Order of Augurers for this very reason. The change to a person's ability to live a full and normal life after going through mind manipulation treatment is often drastic and very positive for the subject. The Order of Augurers take a practical approach to issues and ailments pertaining to the mind, thoughts and dreams of a person, believing that such matters can and should be treated to enable the subject to live a full life.   The temptation, of course, is to use manipulation techniques for selfish reasons; to gain social or political advantages, to eliminate competitors or enemies or erase or change the memories and opinions of a lover, rival or gatekeeper. Finding an augurer willing to help in these endeavours is another matter. Since the stricter laws came into place and enforcement of those laws was properly implemented by Lord Protector Reginald III, augurers willing and able to take such risks are few and far in between, not to mention extraordinarily expensive.  

Prophecies

It is only tentatively that this author has included the subject of prophecies in this article. Not much is known about augurers' ability to receive prophecies or predict future events to any extent, but history does none the less tell us that this was something augurers of old were able to do. Because of the very limited evidence in its favour, it is impossible to say with any certainty how prophecies were received, how precise they were and whether they were absolute or not.   The most recent record of a prophecy received by an augurer is contained within the legend of the The First Augurer, which is over a thousand years old at the time of writing. As there are no official records of any such event, a reliable conclusion cannot be drawn from it. It is, of course, possible that The Order of Augurers has some form of documentation pertaining to such a prophecy. If they do, they have not made it public. In any case, this prophecy supposedly predicted the return of the gods to the world, with violent consequences. It is admittedly not much to go on, and as is common with such things, it is impossible to verify until after the fact.   This author invites anyone possessing additional information or any documentation at all on the subject to come forward.
Type
Metaphysical, Psychic
Associated Techniques
Mindscapes


Cover image: by https://pixabay.com

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