WITCH SPELLS OF THE WARBLE COVEN:
EAR STORM (LEVEL II: SPELL CRAFTING)

SPELL EFFECT - CRAFTING PROCEDURE - MATERIALS - CRAFTING TIME - CRAFTING TIME
RANGE AND POWER - COUNTERSPELLS, DEFENCES AND IMMUNITIES

If a warble witch hexes a storm into your ears, you must have done grave wrong to her, for it is a most incapacitating bewitchment. The spell causes the victim to hear a roaring noise, similar to the raging of a gale. A strong Ear Storm makes it very difficult to hear what other people say; and since the victim usually assumes that the storm is blasting the ears of everyone , he is liable to disgracing himself. Not only will he admonish his partners in conversation, however clear and sonorous their voices, to speak up; he will also hurt their ears by trying to outdo the storm and shouting out his own words at the top of his voice. Depending on the skill of the witch, an Ear Storm may last between a few minutes and several days – long enough, in most cases, to give the victim ample opportunity to ruin his reputation.

Spell Effect. The bewitched hears a roaring, deafening noise, as if a gale was blowing right around his ears. If the spell is powerful, the Ear Storm drowns all other sounds. Yet even an ordinary spell singer can conjure up a din that is loud enough to render conversation all but impossible. Usually, the victim is not aware that he is the target of a spell, and assumes that everyone around him hears the same raging storm. That victims persist in this perception despite not feeling the storm's force on their faces or in their clothes, and despite being afforded a clear view of trees, whose leaves remain untroubled by even the gentlest of breezes, says much about the human mind.

As may be easily imagined, the Ear Storm interferes with the victim's powers of concentration. Any task that requires the mind to focus becomes difficult, if not impossible. The mood is often much depressed by the adversity, and many who have been thus bewitched turn jittery or sullen, or both. Nonetheless, it is common for the victims to try and show their fortitude by getting on with life as best they can. Assuming that everyone else's day is made as tedious by this terrible storm as their own, the victims tend to shout out anything they want to say at the top of their voice, so as to make it easier for others to understand them above the din. They will also remark upon the unusual force of the gale, and upon the suddenness of its coming, and will be incredulous if they perceive that others do not find the weather of the day to be anything out of the common.

Of course, if anyone attempts to speak to the victim, the latter is unlikely to understand a word, and will therefore keep asking his interlocutor to repeat what they just said, and entreat them to raise their voice. In most cases, this leads to mutual exasperation, as the bewitched feels that no-one but themselves makes an effort to deal with the adverse conditions, while everyone else becomes increasingly indignant at the bewitched, who persists in shouting at them for no apparent reason. Depending on the temperament of both parties, fist fights and even the crossing of swords may be the result. We do not exaggerate if we say that the numbers of friendships, courtships, and marriages that have been damaged or broken by an Ear Storm are beyond human reckoning. Return to the top

Crafting Procedure. The warble witch sings the Song of the Storm, which consists of a curious sort of voiced breathing interspersed with hoarsely hummed, disharmonious notes. The song's irregular yet organic rhythm is reminiscent of the flight of a storm-tossed insect. No words are sung save the name of the intended victim, which rises out of the drone like a whale from the sea: it appears without warning, hangs around near the surface for a few blinks, and then disappears into unknown depths – until, after an unpredictable interval and in an unpredictable place, it returns to repeat its ritual. Return to the top

Materials. The warble witch must know the victim's name and weave it into her song. The spell works best if the witch has the name that the bewitched most identifies with, which may be a childhood nickname only revealed to friends, for example. If the witch knows but a pseudonym, the spell may be weaker, or not work at all, depending on the degree to which the victim has become attached to his false name, as well as on the skill of the witch.

On the other hand, if the witch not only knows the victim's name, but has heard his mother or his father or his lover pronounce it with emotion (whether it be tender or stern), then she will imitate this overheard voice during her song, and the Ear Storm will be the stronger for it. Return to the top

Crafting Time. A spell singer who has only just emerged from witchlinghood may need to sing for the best part of an hour to cause an Ear Storm lasting but a few minutes. A virtuoso dream singer, on the other hand, might cause her victim's ears to be deafened for a day and a night with just a few minutes of song. We have heard reports of Ear Storms lasting a week or more, but such could only be crafted by exceptionally powerful witches. In general, the spell begins to take effect while the witch sings. At this stage, the bewitched may hear a soft rustle in his ears, or may hear his name as if called from a distance. But it is upon completion of the song, and not earlier, that the full power of the storm is released and brought upon the victim. Return to the top

Range and Power. The distance between witch and bewitched influences the volume of the Ear Storm: the closer the distance, the louder the storm. But the witch's power also plays a part: a dream singer may send a ear-splitting storm from as far away as a furlay (or thirty-six strals), while a spell singer may struggle to achieve the equivalent of a gentle breeze if she is further than half a league (or three strals) from her victim. Generally, a distance of a thousand peds constitutes a very close range for this spell, and permits even a beginner to send an Ear Storm that makes all conversation cumbersome for the victim.

All but the most accomplished dream singers are limited to affecting a single victim with a single song – although it is of course possible, if the witch's stamina permits, to sing several songs in quick succession, so that, since the spell effect outlasts the song, several victims of the same witch may hear their respective ear storms at the same time. However, if several witches combine their powers into a chorus, thus making a many-voiced song, they may send ear storms to a number of people equal to the number of witches multiplied by itself: two witches may affect up to four victims, three witches may affect nine, and so on. It is easy to see that a coven of but thirteen witches, if they be powerful enough, may thus contrive to deafen the ears of a whole village – provided, of course, that they know the name of every individual thus targeted. Return to the top


Counterspells, Defences and Immunities. Deaf people cannot hear Ear Storms. Wild animals, which do not have names, are not bewitchable either – although the more intelligent pets are, if they have learned to react to an individual name. Since pets tend to recognize their names by voice and sound, rather than by the meaning of syllables, the witch must contrive to make her intonation of a pet's name very close to that of its master, if she is to send a storm into its ears.

A witch may defend herself against an Ear Storm by singing the Song of the Storm back at her attacker – provided, of course, that she knows the other witch's identity and name. This defence will cause the spell to be tossed back and forth from witch to witch, until one out-sings the other. In general, the more powerful witch will prevail, so that an attacker who underestimates her opponent may well find her own ears deafened by the storm, rather than her intended victim's.

Strong-willed individuals, as well as those experienced in magic, may recognize the Ear Storm for the spell that it is. Elves, for example, usually do, as do gifted humans. Although such insight lessens neither the volume or duration of the storm, it does allow the victim to avoid the sort of behaviour so commonly observed in those under the influence of an Ear Storm, and so liable to causing offence to others. A sensible thing to do, for example, would be to retreat into a place of solitude and wait until the storm is over.
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Myth/Lore. Malleus Mallefiz, the infamous 9th-century witch hunter and arch-enemy of Hildula Hauntwell, traced his hatred of witches to an incident that had caused his father's fall from royal grace. At the time, the elder Mallefiz had been on the brink of a splendiferous promotion that would have elevated him into the circle of close advisers to the methar of Chrondra[1]. Yet on the occasion of a festive reception at the New-Santhalan court, he was ceased by an apparently unaccountable bout of madness, which culminated in his shouting at the Santhran's mother to stop mumbling already and open her mouth, if she wanted to make herself understood. Naturally, he was stripped of his offices with immediate effect, and banned from court and city for the rest of his life.

His son, but a boy at the time, was much affected by his father's humiliation. Malleus attributed the incident to the vengeful spell of a witch (who, some allege, had been the father's secret former lover, cast aside as a danger to his career at court). In consequence, Malleus made it his life's work to promote the denunciation, persecution and punishment of witches. Moreover, it is likely that Malleus's obsession with the so-called evil ear, a Manthrian folk belief, may be explained by his conviction that it was nothing other than an evil ear spell that caused his father's disgrace. Malleus Mallefiz's treatise “Of the Listeners, and of the Tribulations They Perpetrate, to the Warning of all Innocent and Twelve-Fearing Folk” (Marcogg, 835 a.S.), elevated what had hitherto been an obscure and even quaint superstition into a doctrine that was not only widely believed, but acted upon with violent consequence, causing injury and death to countless real and suspected witches. Such is history: from small causes spring consequences that resound throughout whole kingdoms; from the mortification of one spring the deaths of thousands; from the pain of a boy's heart springs a hatred that poisons the minds of generations. Oh Seyella!
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Footnotes.

[1] The methar of Chrondra was the principal cleric of the Sanctuary of the Twelve in Chrondra, and at this time (i.e., in the Clerical Age) one of the most powerful men in Santharia. [Back]

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