My mind was jolted awake during the middle of the night and for a second, I was unsure where I was, or even who I was. It took me a second to get my bearings and to realise that the jolt I had felt, had been caused by the ward I had placed around the four of us. Stretching my mind into the shadows around us, I felt three intruders sneaking towards us, the three stooges I had sent off earlier. Well, if they were sneaking up on us, in the middle of the night, I had no need to ascertain their intentions, I would treat them as they begged to be treated and make good on my promise.
The open dorm that had once been an attic was almost completely dark, only a small candle at the stairs shed some light and the amount that made it to our corner was miniscule at best, so I had plenty shadow and darkness to work with. I was quite interested what would happen if I used mind magic on other travellers and I was hoping that they would post about their experiences on the forum. I would have to keep an eye open.
A stealthy observe told me that the three stooges were all under level twenty, making a nightly sneak-attack the only way they had a chance to take us out. Well, the only way with a success-rate higher than the survival-rate of a snowball in hell. I carefully fed magic into the darkness around us, making it deeper and more corporeal, letting me manipulate it with ease and impunity.
My attack against the stooges was, to me, the epitome of mind magic, not flashy, without making huge waves, just a soft, insidious creeping in. To the stooges, it must have been as if the candle simply went out, making the darkness around them all encompassing. And in that darkness, they could feel something, a presence, all around them. I felt their fear-response and it allowed me to get into their core, without even touching them, and I was able to witness the strange interplay between mind, body and soul that I had seen before, when I had used mind magic to keep the guards under, during our attack on the Jonari village. Well, I saw mind and body, and Lenore allowed me to gain an impression of the soul-part, which I could not directly sense.
Together, Lenore and I, managed to bring all three under our influence and while I kept their body from responding to anything their mind commanded, Lenore gleefully went to work, picking at the interplay between mind and soul she was observing. We had theorised that feelings stemmed from a mind-soul interplay that acted on the body, so the fear that the three of them were feeling should emerge in her observation and I was blocking the effects fear had on the body. Normally, when one was afraid, the body would go into overdrive, trying to give the best results in the fight-or-flight response, something I was not interested in. It might be useful as a short-time buff for my allies, the physical response without the mental drawbacks, but that would have to be researched another time.
But as the three stooges were definitely afraid, Lenore had a prime seat to witness the interplay in action and after a few minutes of watching, she started to introduce her own responses into the mix, observing how it changed things.
At that point, it was hard to distinguish where Lenore’s mind ended and mine begun, we had linked up so tight that thoughts were flowing from one to the other without effort, giving both of us a better perspective. Lenore now knew what her interference triggered as physical sensation and I saw the gossamer thin web wrapped around the connections between mind and body, tiny strands that kept the mind tethered to the body, but were also interwoven with both, mind and body, in strange ways, allowing the sapient to function.
We were happily poking and prodding at one of the three, trying to establish a stimulus-response pattern, when the connection-points between all three aspects suddenly started to break and the whole complex construct unravelled due to those broken connections. Trying to stop it was impossible, the best we could do was leave the realm we had intruded into, so we would not be harmed by the collapse.
It freed up enough of our faculties to let us see that we had just killed the first of our volunteer-subjects but luckily, we still had two more. For the second, Lenore focused on giving a stimulus and I watched just what it did to his body, while blunting the effect it had. It was giving us some ideas what the stimuli we were using were based on. After a few tries, it turned out they were mostly based on sight, which was not a big surprise, Lenore was stimulating parts she had watched being stimulated as we had captured them and the idea that their sight was still telling them something, as they were trapped in the dark, was no surprise. In addition, the blunted responses I allowed were giving me information how their bodies responded, even the blunted responses caused tremendous effects on the body.
With some effort, I managed to stretch the sense I normally used for healing towards our current test-subject and felt his body that way, comparing the responses between the governing part, which I suspected was based in his brain and spine, and the responses in the individual body-parts. I was not experienced enough to understand the changes in most organs, but the rapid beating of his heart, I was able to perceive. Lenore and I kept prodding, interested in the changes the heart was experiencing as we did, until the rapid, but steady beat started to turn into wild arrhythmic flailing. We mentally stepped back, but the damage was already done and I was not willing to heal him, to prolong our experiments.
It was a bridge too far, I was willing to experiment on them, even torture them, they had tried sneaking up on us with obvious ill intent after all, but I was not willing to keep them alive to experience more pain and torture.
Shortly after we had stepped back, the body shut down and expired.
After a short, mental conversation with Lenore, we turned the experiment around with number three, I induced bodily stimuli while Lenore watched the effects of them, trying to understand just how they worked. Sadly, I was a little limited in the stimuli I could supply. cold and touch were easy to come up with and by increasing the intensity, pain would follow. I picked one sensation, cold, and started to make our test-subject feel it. The easiest way to supply the feeling of cold was by direct magic exposure, so I used ice-runes to induce cold directly without a physical medium. Part of me wanted to use Liquid Moonlight but that was the ultimate cold I could muster, so it would be the last thing used, not the first.
The responses were quite interesting and varied depending on the area the cold was applied, the limbs reacting vastly different from the core. But there was only so much we could do with cold, so Lenore asked me to try touch.
While I was not too keen on it, I started with simple things, soft touches and air-flow, followed by stronger touches and even strikes, so I started to get into the pain-response. To increase the breadth of that response, we needed other stimuli and I was not about to pinch the guy, so I pulled my athame and pricked him, giving Lenore more information to work with. Again, there were physical responses that bypassed the mind entirely, other went into the mind and were filtered within, with only a tiny amount passing on to the soul.
Questioning how the amount of pain would change the response, I tried to induce a different sort of pain by direct exposure to Liquid Moonlight, causing a small part of the skin to freeze. The result was interestingly similar, just higher by orders of magnitude. But I had one more arrow in my quiver, so to speak, one pain-sensation I wanted to try.
The pricks I had given him had let enough blood flow out for me to work with, so I placed my athame back into one of the pricked spots and channelled my Blood Magic through the blade, drawing his Astral Power out. Blood Magic had been the worst pain I had experienced in Mundus, by far worse than anything else I had felt and I was quite interested what Lenore would find out.
Even a slight draw made it almost impossible to hold onto his core, it jolted that violently, the body-part of the core eroding and draining away visibly, with the strands that represented the soul stretching before getting ripped apart. I tried to increase the pace at which I drew power and we got ejected from the core, as the test-subjects body jerked wildly, convulsing and falling over, dead.
At some point during my experimentation, the others had woken up, but seeing the three stooges standing there, they had simply watched. Now, they were looking at me for an explanation, why we had three bodies next to our sleeping space.
“I promised them downstairs, I would teach them the meaning of pain and fear. They desperately wanted that lesson, it seems.”