The spell known as “Faithful Coat” (also: "Faithful Hat", "Shoe", "Breeches", and so forth) is a mischievous bewitchment of a piece of clothing. The garment in question, once put on by its owner, refuses to be taken off again, thus causing discomfort and embarrassment. The spell is also called "Sign of the Aelirel", after the pattern that the needle witch stitches into the garment.

Spell Effect. The needle witch creates a piece of clothing that is bound to its owner by a strong attachment. This has two effects: First, people other than the owner feel a strong inhibition to wear or even to touch the garment, should they for some reason feel the desire to do so. This inhibition can be overcome by willpower, but not easily so. The garment will tend to seem unattractive and uninteresting to anyone but its owner, albeit in an inconspicuous way, so that few would suspect the power of a spell behind this effect. If nonetheless a person came to feel a strong interest in the garment (say, for example, for the sake of a purse known to be concealed in it), and was considering to touch or wear it, this person would feel a violent and apparently inexplicable revulsion towards the garment, akin to the feeling evoked by the idea of grabbing a bunch of maggots off a dead body with your bare hand. All but the most strong-willed people will find it hard to bring themselves to even prod the garment with a stick. The only person, apart from the garment’s owner, who is immune to this effect, is the witch that sewed the spell. Even she will feel a faint shudder at the thought of touching the bewitched garment, but the aversion is weak and easily overcome.

The second effect of the spell, and the one usually intended, is that the owner of the Faithful Coat, once he has put it on, will find himself unable to take it off again.[1] It is not that the garment physically clings to him any more forcefully than any piece of clothing does, bewitched or no. Rather, the owner feels a disinclination to take it off. How exactly this is perceived by the victim himself depends on his temperament: a superstitious man may believe that wearing the garment will avert bad luck, a vain man may think that it hides an infelicitous aspect of his physique, and so forth. Some wearers of Faithful Coats have even been known to be fully conscious of the foolishness of their disinclination to take it off, and at the same time to be quite unable to do anything about it, rather as if they had forgotten how to undress. In any case, whatever his ideation, the victim will insist on wearing the garment even despite great discomfort or disadvantage: he will sweat in the summer heat rather than take off his beloved winter coat; he will insist on soiling his host’s carpets with his muddy boots rather than have them taken off and cleaned. Yes, he will even resort to physically defending himself against attempts by others to remove his Faithful Coat by force. (Naturally, such others would also be hampered in their aspiration by the revulsion that constitutes the first part of the spell effect.)

It is not an effect of the spell, by the way, that the garment, as long as it remains unworn, somehow ‘draws’ its owner towards it, or compels him to put it on. For the garment to attach itself to its owner, he must don it of his own free will. Return to the top

Crafting Procedure. There are two ways of making a Faithful Coat: either the witch sews the spell into a garment already owned by the intended victim, or she makes a new garment from scratch. The first method is easier to accomplish, since in this case garment and owner already have an attachment to one another, whereas the second method demands that the witch fashion the attachment entirely by her own art. In either case, the Faithful Coat is always made for one specific person, and for that person only.

The witch must have a piece of nest material from an aelirel bird as well as something intimately connected to the victim: for example, a string of his hair (see also below under “Materials”). From these materials, she fashions a spell thread, usually by twirling them around one another and gluing them together with her spit or her blood. She then works the spell thread into the garment, sewing a pattern called the Sign of the Aelirel, which is a stylized representation of a beak opened in song. Witches believe the aelirel bird to be a potent symbol for this spell because it chooses a mate for life and thereby embodies the quality of faithfulness. While sewing the spell, the needle witch twitters and imitates the aelirel’s famous beautiful mating song. The Sign of the Aelirel is often placed inconspicuously within a mended piece of fabric, or even hidden away on the inside of the garment. The sign does not need to be visible to be effective. Return to the top

Material. Obviously, the needle witch needs a coat or other piece of garment into which she sews her spell. She may take a piece of clothing the victim already owns (for example, under the pretence of mending it), or make a new one. She then needs two ingredients from which she fashions the so-called spell thread. The first is a piece of building material from the nest of an aelirel bird. Aelirel birds choose their mate for life, and cooperate to build their nests, which thus embodies the strength of their fidelity. Also, the nests of wild aelirels are usually hidden in the forest foliage, a quality that witches believe to help make the sewn spell sign less conspicuous. The piece of nest material may be a feather or a blade of grass or hay, or even a piece of twine the birds have picked up. Nests of wild aelirels provide better quality materials for spell-sewing than those of captive pet birds.

The second piece of material the witch needs is something that belongs, or used to belong, to the victim. For the latter, a tuft taken from his hair works well, as does a twine thread that was soaked in his blood. Witches that have reached the level of spell seamstress may be able to accomplish the spell with weaker materials, such as threads taken from other garments belonging to the victim, or a down feather from his favourite pillow. Dream seamstresses may even be able to do without the piece of aelirel nest material. Return to the top

Crafting Time. Crafting the Faithful Coat spell takes as long as making or mending the garment in question. This can be anything from a pipe-smoke long to several days. Return to the top

Duration. The spell, once sewn into the garment, can remain dormant for a long time, while the Faithful Coat patiently waits for its rightful owner to put it on, meanwhile deflecting the attention of others through the first aspect of the spell effect. How long the coat, once donned by the victim, remains faithful depends on many things. Of general importance is the strength of the attachment that the victim has to his garment aside from the spell. If the bewitched garment is the victim’s long-loved favourite, or if the victim is a person given to meticulous attention to his attire, the spell will last longer than if the victim doesn’t care a fig about either the specific garment or his wardrobe in general. Similarly, a newly fashioned garment will lose its attachment sooner than a mended one previously owned and cherished by the victim.

Also, if the spell is sewn with the victim’s hair, it will last longer than if the witch had to use a thread from a different garment. And a strong-willed victim will manage to overcome the spell sooner than one of feeble spirits. Finally, the witch’s skill and experience also play a part: A needle witchling will rarely be able to make the spell endure for more than a few hours, whereas a spell seamstress’s Faithful Coat may last for days. Witch lore suggest that the most powerful dream seamstresses can make coats that remain faithful until after their owner’s death, insisting on being burned or buried with his body. Yet even if true, such a long-lasting effect no doubt constitutes a rare exception. Return to the top

Range and Power. Once the spell is sewn into the garment, its effect is independent of the witch. (Even if the witch should die after crafting, the spell would remain.) However, the victim must don the bewitched garment for the “faithful attachment” to take effect. The power of the spell is weak in the beginning. Some determined victims have been known to manage to take off the Faithful Coat a few blinks after putting it on. Yet as the owner continues to wear it, the garment’s attachment to him swiftly grows, and within a few minutes will be stronger than any human willpower. Eventually, the spell will gradually fade (see Duration). When the victim contrives to relieve himself of the garment, the spell’s power is broken.

A special case arises when an old garment used for the spell did not actually belong to the bewitched person; for example, because the victim borrowed or stole it from someone else, or because the spell seamstress simply made a mistake. In such situations, the “attachment” effect of the spell still affects the intended victim, if the Sign of the Aelirel is indeed sewn with his hair (or with his blood, his pillow’s down feather, and so forth) – but the spell may not last as long, because the attachment that the bewitched person had to the garment may have been weaker than if it had been his own.[2] However, it may happen that the “repulsion” effect does not act on the “real” owner of the garment with its full force. Indeed, we have heard of a case where a witch punished a thief by sewing the Sign of the Aelirel into the coat he had stolen, and then set the rightful owner on him, who caught the thief and demanded his coat back. Yet the thief, despite his best intentions, was now unable to return the coat, which earned him much scorn as well as a vicious beating from the indignant owner. Return to the top

Counterspells, Defences and Immunities. The spell can be broken by physically removing the sewn-in Sign of the Aelirel. This is difficult for three reasons: First, the sign is usually placed in an inconspicuous manner, and may even be completely concealed from sight by lining or patching. Second, the unfortunate owner will feel a strong urge to defend his Faithful Coat against the injury of having a piece cut out of it. Third, the aforementioned revulsion that all people except its owner feel at the very thought of touching the garment has to be overcome if the sign is to be removed.

Humans and hobbits are said to more susceptible to the Faithful Coat spell than other races, possibly because of their disposition to form strong attachments to their possessions. By contrast, the elves, whose spiritual temperaments tend towards detachment from base materialism, are said to display a certain resilience in the face of the Faithful Coat spell, which weakens the power that the spell may hold on them, although it does not make them immune to it. The witches hold that only one race can never be taken over by a Faithful Coat. These are the psyrpents, who have no inclination to attach other than functional importance to their clothing. They remain impervious to the Sign of the Aelirel, however skilfully a witch may sew it into their garments. Neither the “attachment” nor the “repulsion” effect has ever been observed to affect a psyrpent.
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Myth/Lore. In Marcogg, people still laugh about a story concerning a 13th century mayor of the town, the unpopular Skeijorn Herrhal Marmarsek, who was, among other things, known for the ridiculous hat that, in his later years, he seemed to be wearing day and night, rain or sunshine. This hat was of a bright red colour and in shape resembled nothing more closely than the comb of a taenish rooster. The reader will not be surprised that among the many unflattering nicknames bestowed upon Marmarsek, the title “Skeijorn Coxcomb” vexed him more than most. And yet we hear that he never left his house without his hat firmly on his head, and that even his wife never saw him without it, not even when he was asleep in their matrimonial bed, while she, for her own part, was unable to bring herself to even so much as touch the ugly thing, not to speak of taking it off her husband’s balding pate. While folklore ascribes the mayor’s preposterous attachment to his hat to his vanity, and particularly to his desire to cover up some gigantic wart or other disfigurement, witches know better. They perceive in this affair the hand of the mysterious Hildula Hauntwell, a witch of great power and an enemy of Skeijorn Marmarsek (who prosecuted her with much fervour, but little success). All witchlings are told the story of what Hildula said to the Skeijorn at their last meeting, when he had signed the edict that banned her from Marcogg. When she saw him move to feign a polite farewell, she cut him short by saying: “You can keep your hat on.” Soon after, the unfortunate mayor received an anonymous gift box, made the mistake to try on the ludicrous hat contained therein, and the rest is witch lore. Hildula’s reply has become something of an idiom among witches, and is commonly used as a brusque rebuke of insincere courtesy.

Another tale goes that Wendla Wolfwillow, a witch of Yorick, once punished a faithless lover, who was an infamous philanderer, by fashioning for him a pair of Faithful Breeches that he was unable to take off for half a moon, thus preventing him from having his way with women according to his wont, and causing him much discomfiture and humiliation besides.
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[1] When describing witch spells, it is customary to refer to the witch as female, and to a bewitched person as male. This is done for mere convenience of description, since both witch and bewitched may, of course, be of either sex. [Back]

[2] In the case of a stolen garment, the attachment may even be “nagged” by the thief’s feelings of guilt, or by his fear of being discovered; such interference may further diminish the spell duration, or weaken the spell’s power. [Back]

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