Flopping down at the gates to Rolhelm after 5 exhausting days in the forest, Alynn felt a small sense of victory. She'd had to create new lives for herself before, so she could do it again here. Get the people to accept the girl with a strange accent who just arrived from an impenetrable forest, and everything was fine.
Of course, there was always the suspicious one. Already she knew who it would be here: in the side of her vision that wasn't occupied by dark dusty ground, a young man stood watching her with confusion and suspicion.

Thanks to your answers on my last question, Alynn survived the forest. She's made it through to Rolhelm, the village on the other side, and now has to set up her new life.

However, there's already a complication: someone is suspicious of her. Just after the incidents described above, she met the young man again coming round a corner, and startled, magically knocked him back. Now he wants to know more.

Alynn doesn't want anyone to know she's magical: that's what got her almost killed in her last village. Yet, given her self-defensive magical shield (which serves to deflect incoming attacks) and quick reactions (woe betide anyone startling her), it's often been quite hard.

So now, she once again needs your help. What non-invasive (unnoticeable) magical methods are there she could use to help prevent her detection?


  • She has 4MJ per day to work with, and every magical action will cost her the energy it would actually take to do.
  • She does not absorb energy from any outside source (excepting her food, which is the source of it).
  • Any action she takes cannot raise suspicion: no shoving people down mountains, telekinesis in plain view.
  • She can read thoughts - the energy requirements aren't immediately obvious for this, so I shall tell you: 5kJ per person per minute.

So: magically avoid detection of magic. I look forward to seeing these answers...

  • $\begingroup$ What do you consider invasive? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    May 10, 2015 at 14:59
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Isn't "reading thoughts" invading people's minds? That seems invasive to me. $\endgroup$
    – wposeyjr
    May 10, 2015 at 15:15
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Why do you want a magical solution, rather than the simple solution of not using magic? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    May 10, 2015 at 16:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What does Alynn want to do? Stay there to live? Or just pass unnoticed? $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    May 10, 2015 at 21:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 she's trying to set up a new life there $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    May 10, 2015 at 21:53

3 Answers 3


Like all good fictional scenarios, this one has a basis in reality. Operational Security (OPSEC) is the art of preventing an opponent from knowing what you have during times of war. For example, in WWII, the mere knowledge that we had cracked the Enigma was so valuable that we could not simply act on it explicitly. When a U-Boat conveyed its position, we would wait a period of time, then send out a scout plane that "just got lucky" before pounding it into oblivion. Men lost their lives because the leadership could not risk the enemy figuring out that we could read their thoughts.

This means that Alynn should seek to limit her magic use so situations where she just might have been able to survive if she was both good and lucky. The more magic she wants to use, the more hectic and confusing the situation needs to be before she does so.

Fortunately, society has many reasons to believe others are not out to get you. In fact, it's built around trying to support this feeling. As long as you feel that the path someone is taking benefits you or your goals, you tend to let them do it. She should use the power of society to help her blend in.

One of the most infuriatingly powerful ways to disarm her curious foes is to smile. A smile at a choice moment can disrupt the most skeptical of approaches. Of course, she can't just smile all the time. The act of smiling has to be done at the right moment. Fortunately for her, she can read minds. She may not be able to sink a U-Boat with the information she reads, but a smile is innocent enough.

If a smile is not enough, consider what it takes to make something into a performing art. In many arts, we explicitly give ourselves over to the artist for a moment so that they may work their art in peace, without skepticism. If we feel better about ourselves at the end of the piece, it matters not to us whether the mime's invisible wall is real, or whether the magician really pulled our card from the deck.

And finally, if at all possible, invoke things from people's memories. Random chance seems to be a lot more common when thinking of memories than it is with other things (think deja vu). If people can attach personally to what you are doing, there is far more room to allow magic to do its work.

(And, as always with these, I'm going to have some fun writing a scene based on the question. I really love messing with these characters. Its simply fun.)

Alynn knew she was still being watched. The young man thought he was subtle about it, always shadowing her on the other side of the street and peering around corners, but it wasn't hard to spot. Unfortunately, she had bigger problems to deal with. The bruiser in front of her was clearly offended that she had brushed off his advances and intended to correct her choices for her. It wasn't clear whether the knife he held in his hand was intended to cut her flesh, or merely her clothes, but she no intention of finding out.

But he was fast! How could an oaf as massive as that move so effortlessly. Every woman in the realm was taught a few tricks for escaping these situations, but they usually relied on cunning and speed outflanking intent and muscle. There were few mundane approaches to such situations which ended acceptably.

Her attacker reached out from an advantaged position to take control of her neck. Alynn could feel the impending constriction, veins bound against tendons and bone as his hand would begin to bend, flex, and close off her windpipe. Instinct began to take over as her defensive shield welled up, but she consciously held them back. There was no time to go find a new place to live, and the young man was still watching. A flaunting of magic would only hasten her departure amidst torches and pitchforks.

Turning her mind to what she had available, her necklace sprang to life as though of its own mind. The beautiful long, metallic, stalagmite like fringes decorating the centerpiece of the necklace woke up and spun around into the grasp of the oncoming hand. Almost as though it had happened by chance in the melee, all of the metal shards managed to be facing outwards as his hand closed down on them. Startled by the pain, he jerked back, ripping the necklace clean off her neck. "So much for leaving no trace," she thought, but she could tell that was not the worst of her worries. Even without reading his mind, she could tell all she had done is buy herself time.

But time is precious and not to be wasted. She began collecting herself, just as she had taught herself to do years before. Align the crown of the head upwards to heaven, let the feeling of that drip down her spine, aligning with her breath as it slowed its decent through the abdomen for a split second before continuing its journey to root her to the ground. "Magic is a performing art," she whispered to herself. Her awareness expanded outward, taking into account every detail she could possibly use to her advantage.

"What's that, little whore?" the bruiser spat, raising his hands aggressively, small dots of blood welling up on his hand where he had torn the necklace free.

"Have you ever fought against an artform, Charles?" He wasn't going to hear any of it, but for some reason every time his mind tried to shove the words aside, they feinted and kept marching towards his soul. The fact that he had never given her his real name never quite made it to conscious awareness. It sat there just underneath the the surface, like an itch that eludes the scratch. It mattered little anyhow. This was the easy part of the art, the calm before the storm. Charles wasn't even the focus of her attention anymore. He had already decided his fate; it was the young man that was at the center of the show.

Now the dance. She dodged his erratic swings and thrusts with the knife. They never got to flesh, she made sure of that, but it did tear into clothing from time to time. "All part of the show," she reminded herself. "I can buy new ones later." She read into Charles's mind to predict his moves, of course, but her focus was on the young man. Leading Charles, blow by blow, and sometimes with a little telekinetic assistance, she manipulated the fight, not in physical space but rather in the mind of the young man.

She did not know where in his mind she was going, of course. Mind reading to find what you want to learn is one thing, but finding something someone else wants to find is an entirely different matter. She used the circles and arcs of the combat to give him opportunities to guide her further. If he had had any inkling that she was manipulating him this way, he could have shut her down in a moment, but he was lost in the art of the parry and the strike. Watching her lithe body flit around and Charles's massive frame ripple with raw energy -- beauty was enough. He subconsciously led her down the branching hallways of his mind, strike after strike, block after block. Memory seemed so much more vivid while watching the melee.

The dance came to a close as she let Charles overextend with the knife and slapped it away from him with one fluid motion. She had hoped to take hold of the knife, of course. It's always better to have a knife than not. However, that wasn't the way it would work. She could now see how she was going to escape this predicament in the young man's mind. Sadly, that path did not let her take control of the knife, so instead she slapped it skittering across the ground. Charles, undaunted, assumed a street boxing stance and lunged into her.

The first two blows were the easy ones. A tired street boxer has very little control over their center of gravity. It was easy to yield backwards, barely touching each fist as it went by. The third blow was the tricky one. If she wanted to finish the spell she was working on the young man, the fight had to play out just the right way. Killing Charles would be easy at this point, but she needed to do it right. But she was tired, and while nobody else could tell from the outside, from her perspective she could see she was making mistakes. The precise movements she sought for her spell were fading away. With a burst of effort she gave him a magical nudge, begging him to attack the way he needed to.

Strike three, complete. He swung wide, but with such force and missing by such a hair's breadth that her dodge left her ribs exposed. She lost control of her center for a split second, making it hard to cover this weakness. This was not the spell she wanted to cast over the young man; there was no room for weakness in it. She could feel his mind slipping away from the memory she so desperately needed him to remember. There would have to be a strike four, and it would hurt. Bad.

Charles's hand plunged into her abdomen like a rock into a pond. Alynn's nerves lit up like wildfire. She would have loved to rebuff him with magic, but that was not the options she had left, not if the spell was to be completed. Instead her muscles shifted the other way, guiding him off the course he thought he was on, but deeper into her self. She could feel the deep pain as his fist dug deep into her uterus, all but tearing into it. A flash of desire to send him careening off with magic surged forward, but was suppressed. To do this right, she had to use muscle: muscles Charles had never fought against before, so could never see coming. The uterus is made primarily of muscular tissue; it fit the bill.

With these final muscles coming into play, she drew Charles's fist to its final resting spot: just against her center of gravity. Of course, with combat, the center of gravity moves constantly, but this was not a normal combat posture she had put herself in. A third party observer, immune to her magic, would see an astonishing thing unfold. For a split second, with his fist deep into her reproductive organs, she stood straight. Remarkably straight, as though he did not even exist.

This, of course, was a posture she had trained long before. Wielding magic with wild motions is easy, wielding it standing still without moving is far trickier. She had spent hours standing motionless in this position. It was her position. This was her home; he was on her home turf now.

And for a moment, Charles felt peace. Not the usual peace from ale, or even the post coitus relaxation flat on his back in bed. Deep down peace, that nothing could go wrong. There was calm in her center. Deep, utter calm.

And so he did not even notice as she smoothly slid forward, putting him far too unstable, backwards where his instincts would take over and bring him upright, but they did not. When his instincts finally awoke to what happened, his muscles tensed in a wave, launching him up, trying to regain balance. Perhaps he could have stopped it, but in the calm he felt no need to.

Even as his body rose off the floor and impaled itself on the sign post behind him. Blood welled in his throat, but he never even choked. His face remained calm, all the way up until the light faded from his eyes.

Alynn turned towards the young man, like an actress on stage facing the audience but respecting the fourth wall. Her clothes tattered, but somehow preserving decency, she stretched, using magic to cause a brilliant light to shine from her exposed skin. Internally, she winced at the pain, but she never let it show. This spell had been costly, and she wasn't about to let some mere pain prevent her from closing it.

Eventually, the light faded. Alynn bundled up the rags of her clothes to give her as much cover as possible, and ran off. The young man did not follow her, still enraptured by a scene that, as best as he can tell, was played out especially for him in his mind. After all, how could she possibly have picked the same courtyard from so long ago. He had replayed that horrid scene from his youth so many times that it had lost all its color, and yet the pain on the young woman's face as her clothes were torn from her was still oh so evident. She must have been 16, 17 at the most, but now all that she was was a memory tucked deep away, fading. He had tried to hold onto that memory as tight as he could, preserving something, but nobody would even admit to her name. She lived in his mind alone, a source of morality and justice for him. A source that had faded, and he had faded with it. He was of no gentlemanly stature, making a living by lurking. Lurking was what he was good at.

Now the image was different. Now the story had a different ending -- literally a miraculous ending. Color sprang back into the image, strengthened by the sight of Alynn in her dazzling glory. He knew not who Alynn truly was, or why she was. But he knew she'd given him something he thought he could never possibly have again: a purpose backed by morality and justice.

The next day, Alynn walked the streets like nothing happened. She walked past the sign post where a few men were trying to take Charles's body down, and gawked just like any other bystander. She didn't even seem to have a limp, unless you watched extremely closely. The young man stared at her - she didn't even look the same in daylight. There was something magical the night before, like what stage lighting does to expose a character's soul. Today, it was just daylight.

She turned towards him - perfectly towards him. She looked him in the eye for just a spit second, and the smiled. It was some mixture he had never seen before of dead weariness and complete carefreeness. It lasted just a split second, and then she was gone.

He went on about his day. Mind you it would be the same old questionable activities for now. It would be a while before he could find a job that did not call for lurking in the shadows, but he'd wait for his chance. This Alynn character was an interesting one. She clearly had something special, but what was it? Every time he looked back to the fight, he found it remarkably hard to see Alynn's face without seeing the face of the woman from long before as well. Memory had always been confusing, and something told him this one was never going to get any better. Far better to take the gift he had received and leave her be.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Damn. You, sir, are good. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    May 10, 2015 at 19:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode Thank you kindly. These characters are so much fun to play with! There's just enough definition to enforce creativity, and I never have to worry about silly things like plot to get in the way! $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    May 10, 2015 at 22:11

Keep your friends close and enemies closer.

I bet Alynn would know what to do. She's a woman. And, like every woman, she knows (or better - feels) how to attract men. On the other hand, history of human relations gives ruthless evidence of how people contradict, harm, control, or just influence other people, just because. Fear can be an ally here, but simple biology - that slowness in time when a hunter notices his prey - also counts here.
Alynn knew that she must not worry about simple folk minding their own jobs - all these women looking after something to fill their husband's stomachs, kids carelessly running over and over again, tired men walking down that less or more visible paths - all of them are harmless, as soon as their curiosity is sated.
She knows that she needs to act normal. She has to be normal. Like an air, like a neighbor, like everyday's bread. Alynn decides that best way to achieve this camouflage is to undertake an activity that would not be extraordinary - say, berry gatherer, or herbalist. She also decided that she has to act on this single little man that follows her with his gaze every time she passes or in his sight. She knew well, that her camouflage would poof like a dream if these simple folks discover her abilities. What she decided was to get along with this man to confront him with his thoughts and to have time to read his intentions. She knows that he will not be able to harm her only if he will emotionally engage with her - be it love or just simple attraction. She felt confident with this plan. Just in a moment, a spark with a plan...


This is a work in progress. There may be some internal inconsistencies until I'm done.

I need some more assumptions about the workings of her magic.

  • I'm going to assume she can exert force at will, just using her mind. She can't violate impulse conservation, so she'll mostly have to create symmetric opposing forces.
  • She can also create stuff from nothing, paying the energy which the created stuff has (so E=mc^2 for matter and E=hf for photons).
  • To exert force she needs to know precisely where and in which direction, but she can exert force on everything in an area
  • She can also get very precise knowledge about the world around her by concentrating on it. I'm assuming this is what she does when reading minds. So to analyze a head-sized volume of matter very, very thoroughly she needs 5kJ/60s~=85W. A head contains around 10^11 neurons and 10^14 synapses which she needs to tell apart from other stuff and analyze. I think she needs to be aware of state changes after around 10ms at most to keep up with the brain. I'll assume mind reading is more or less instant because she has so much practice doing it (and I'm assuming it's a really difficult skill which took her at least 15 years of practice) and it's similar structures again and again, but for new things she needs some time. Using those things I need to make up basic assumptions about her perceiving and analyzing capabilities which are easy to work with
    • she perceives energy. So when she finds out where matter is, she detects the energy of that matter. When she "sees" light, she detects the energy of the photons
    • her magical attention can be thought of like ghostly tentacles, she throws such a tentacle out where she wants to sense something and she can only sense stuff inside that tentacle
    • she can change the form of those tentacles, for example to form a head-like form at the end of a tentacle which she uses to mind-read, so she can examine the head of someone
    • the more attention she puts into those tentacles, the more (metaphorical) mass they gain
    • the tentacles (consisting of the same amount of attention-matter) can become large and thin, almost like fog, if she wants to perceive a large area, but then she can only sense average energy values over larger areas. Or they can become very concentrated over a small area so that she can sense the energy of individual atoms/photons/etc. For the sake of simplicity there is no distance penalty (other than the next point) or anything.
    • she can move those tentacles with the speed of light and information travels along them with the speed of light (she could probably do funny stuff in theory if information was passed along instantly. I'm already deep enough into physics with this girl's magic, I'm going to avoid that)
    • a head is 3l (don't know if this is true)(with a thread-like fine tentacle leading to it) and she needs to sense some 10^14 things inside that volume, so lets say she can sense 10^15 energy values with her 85W mind-reading power (if she needs only 10 times more energy readings than there are things which she needs to discern then she is pretty good, in my opinion).

Using this some general principles of her magic:

  • Free levitation

    Energy = Force x Length = Mass x Acceleration x Length

    This means as long as she keeps Length to zero (this is the length over which she applies the force) it costs her nothing. Meaning she can keep any object floating for as long as she wants and it costs her nothing.

  • Keeping something stationary: But if floating isn't enough and she wants something to not only stay at the same altitude but also at the some point over Earth, then it will cost her energy to fight against the wind and she'll need to pay attention to impulse conservation. On the side of the object which she wants to keep stationary which is turned toward the wind, she will need to exert forces perpendicular to the wind, going away from the object. This will reduce pressure one this side of the object by moving away air. Without her interference the pressure would be higher on the side where the wind comes from, this way she can lower it to the same pressure as on the other side and the object won't move. I think this is the most efficient way to accomplish this goal, but I'm not sure how I would go about calculating the energy needed for this. I'll try to come up with rough estimations later.

And specific applications:

  • Invisibility: To be invisible she needs to avoid sending out electromagnetic radiation (still visible as a black shape) and avoid interfering with electromagnetic radiation at all (completely invisible). How much energy this takes depends on her method:

    • the first method coming to my mind is to redirect photons around her, making them follow the outlines of her body (more or less, doesn't need to be extremely close) and then letting them continue on the trajectory they had before they encountered her. To do this she needs to be aware of the photons coming at her, so she needs energy to perceive her surroundings. And she needs to somehow move the photons. Exerting force on photons seems wrong (would cost no energy and give no sensible results using the F=ma). I think the best she can do is to annihilate the photons coming at her by creating a second photon for each of them which interferes destructively with the original one. Then create a new photon with the impulse and frequency of the destroyed one on the other side of her body.

      Now I need to compare analyzing photons with analyzing human brains. Human brains aren't that fast, just massively parallel. So I think probably she shouldn't be able to keep up with the massive speed of light. 100W of light (which in daylight is probably a sensible value for the amount of light passing through the space a human occupies) is around 100W / (h * c/600nm) = 10^20 photons per second which is probably also too much for her. So... nope. No true invisibility for her.

    Generalized, she'll never be able to generate optical illusions like this unless it's really dark so she doesn't need to send many photons and even then it'll still cost her a lot.

    • per person invisibility: Manipulate just the photons going into a persons eye. That way there are many less photons to deal with
    • directly messing with people's minds: probably too hard. Science couldn't do it today. She could find out how brains work much easier than we can with her analyzing ability, but I still think it's unrealistic that she can do this. Maybe after studying the brain for a couple decades or learning from someone else who spent that much time
    • There are probably more methods for invisibility, but I'm continuing to something else
  • Other optical
    • She can obscure the sun or the moon to frighten villagers.
      • For a couple people at a time: obstruct their field of view with a single sand corn in the right distance and place in front of each eye. I would say around 20W of her magical perceiving ability per eye, less with practice, the full 85W per individual if she does this for the first time without preparation (i.e. first trying it on herself for 20W per eye and free mind reading because she just needs to check her own vision without magic). For lifting the sand corns and keeping them where they should be only negligible cost (so little mass, so little air resistance). Probably the easiest would be to put the counter-impulses she needs on air, but they are so small, she could also put them on the individual which she is scaring or even herself. At night they won't notice anything but the moon disappearing. For the sun they would see some black dot unless she added some sky-blue photons to the back of the sand corn. The photons would be almost free, don't need many so close to the eye, but I think that should double her concentration/perception cost because that's difficult to get just right, so they wouldn't see a blue still-not-sky dot instead of a black one.
      • For more people she could create a thin layer of sand/dirt above a whole village, invisible in the night and probably only visible as darkness in the day if it's high enough (say 50m). For a whole village that could fast approach a km^2, maybe 1mm thick again, at around 1.5kg/l=1.5kkg/m^3, would be E=dF=dm*g=50m * 1Mm^2 * 1mm * 1.5kkg/m^3 * 10m/s^2=750MJ. Ooops. So maybe not. She can only do this if there is a mountain or hill nearby, where she can get the material and move it laterally, or if she extracts and compresses particles already floating around at those heights. But the latter would need time and lots of magical input (she should probably get a distance penalty on this), probably too expensive.
    • Bright lights are cheap, to distract or blind people.
  • Sound
    • Voices and musical instruments are highly complex, so I doubt she could replicate them.
    • But she could let stuff fall down to create diversions. Almost free as long as it's just lateral movement and it doesn't need to be /too/ fast.
    • She can move two things against each other remotely to also produce sounds. Should take almost no energy. Reason: You can do something like this all day without tiring with your hands, and magic is more efficient. To do: Calculate Power for given Period (as a wave with acceleration proportional to distance from neutral point. Gives better noise than with constant acceleration I think). If she can't see them maybe 1/4 mind reading energy, so around 20W. Depending on how she does it she might need to also put impulse on air or Earth.
    • She can create vacuums around stuff she wants to silence. But rather expensive, will maybe do calculations later.
    • She could silence sound waves by dynamically applying counter pressures, but I think this is too fast unless she can somehow vibrate her force exerting will. I think I can activate/deactivate my arm muscles at around 15Hz tops, but on the other hand I never tried practicing something like this. Would need research to determine whether it could be possible in theory.

I had a rough focus on non-invasive (that's why it's almost all illusions and diversions), but it was only a rough focus, mainly I was just imagining stuff she could do in general. I could imagine myself continuing this later, but for now I have enough.


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