Skin Deep

tenaciousN asks:
This question is for anyone at Addergoole. How do Masks work? Is the magic a visual illusion, or does it physically change the wearer?

Laurel Valerian answers:

This is one of these “mostly A, some B, and a little bit of C” answers. Which is to say: the Mask is primarily an illusion, but not entirely.

To start at the beginning: Masks aren’t necessary around full-blooded humans at all; what’s called The Blindness of the Gods takes over, and humans see all Ellehemaei as normal human-like people, sometimes getting an “odd” or “out there” vibe from them, but nothing concretely strange, like a Mara’s wings or a Daeva’s horns and tail.

There are a few different theories as to where and why this Blindness came about. Obviously, the preeminent theory on “where from” is that the original Gods did it. But as to “why,” it’s hard to find agreement.

Some think that the gods were giving their children camouflage, so that they could move among humanity if they wished – since even the most powerful of the children of the gods was at least partially human. Some think that, the way that there are legends of The Voice of God, who speaks to humans to protect them from the mind-breaking experience of actually seeing their deity. Some think it just makes things go smoother for everyone, if humans don’t know that those who aren’t-quite-human live among them.

Whatever it is, what it does is ensure that a pure-blooded human will never, without serious Workings, look at an Ellehemaei and see them for what they are.

So why do the Masks exist at all? Well, not every human-like person you run into on the streets is actually human; a lot of people who look human, even to Ellehemaei eyes, are Faded. They might not have any idea what they are, but they are less clouded by the Blindness of the Gods, sometimes so barely affected that they can see all of someone’s Changes. This is where you get a lot of the stranger conspiracy theories, alien abductions, and what have you – people who have just enough blood of the Ellehemaei to see things they shouldn’t.

What’s more, sometimes you want to just hide from everyone, or at least from the rest of the Ellehemaei world. Maybe you know you’re a relatively small Shenera Endraae and don’t want to draw the attention of large, predatory Nedetakaei, or, I suppose, vice versa. Looking like just another human is a good way to do that. Or, in Addergoole, when we want to give the children a little time to acclimate before we show them how weird things can get, we hide behind the Masks so that they’re only dealing with a few strange things at a time. And some people just don’t like their Changes.

So Masks are another layer of protection, after the Blindness of the Gods. Masks are one magic we can all do, innate to every child of Elleheim. And the Mask is more than just a visual illusion, it’s a full-senses effect, more of a mind trick, really: someone like Anatoliy will not appear, when Masked, to be ducking through a seven-foot high doorway, even though he is. It just makes people’s brains wrap around the non-human and come up with human explanations.

Any and every Ellehemaei can do that much, with just a little training – the Mask generally defaults to how they appeared pre-Change. Learning to tweak it to show off the appearance you want – a different age, at a basic level, or an entirely different appearance, with a more advanced technique – is something that only a few bother to refine. In Addergoole, aside from myself, there are a few real masters of the Mask, Ty and Magnolia among them. Those girls even use their Mask in lieu of make-up.

It’s a lot quicker and easier than qorawiyay tlacatl, and you can do it with your mouth closed, too.


Copyright © 2009-2010 Lyn Thorne-Alder & Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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