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Background

I'm writing a story set in a version of the modern world, but with a hidden magic user society. Mages all come from one of seven "Houses", each with particular expertise in one kind of magic. The Sixth House, House Lyril, is the mages skilled in manipulating minds, and the current leader is Lady Lyric Lyrilie (which means Lyrildaughter or Lyrilchild in their language), who seems to be secretly working against the magical governing body she sits on, the Coven, and enthralling/charming other mages and even mortals to obey her.

In this world, there are two types of mind control, direct and indirect. Very few non-Lyril mages can protect their minds from either kind, but most Lyril can protect from both. However, it is nigh impossible to discover Lyril magic in a mind if the magic isn't active (so good Lyril make good therapists, but bad ones are terrifying). Importantly, any time the thrall is acting on an order or similar, actively or passively, their eyes glow one of the 2 colors of the controller's magic, which can be used to identify the controller (each mage has two unique, "pure" colors of magic that mix based on emotional state; mind control magic almost always manifests as the positive magic color).

Direct control is called thralling, and it requires active magic from the controller. When enthralled, the thrall's actions can be directly controlled and influenced, subtly or not, and they cannot disobey. The controller can verbally give commands and directives that are retained after direct control is gone, along with granting pleasure or pain to the thrall. Generally, thralls call the controller Mistress or Master So-and-So, and are very subservient.

Indirect control is called charming, and it is passive but requires previous thralling. It mostly just stops them from disobeying, makes them think only positively about the controller, makes them follow orders given under active thrall, and if asked about something related to an order, they have a moment of head pain and then forget the question and the last few seconds. However, mostly the thrall seems normal.

Actual question

How could a mage, knowing this information, positively identify a current instance of charm/indirect mind control when they haven't seen the direct enthralling happen? Good answers will be relatively specific to the magic system (so not simply "they should just not have any friends") and easy to put into place in the modern world with minimal cost (so not "pay people to watch your friends all hours of the day).

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    $\begingroup$ Unless I understood incorrectly, I believe that the instance of head pain and forgetting upon being asked a question related to order is already helping a lot. $\endgroup$ – Ambu Jun 17 '20 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ This is not necessarily something that has to be changed in answers, but I would just like to say for the record that the majority of mages in the world do not use he/him pronouns. Most (~65%) use she/her, a handful (~15%) use neo- or gender neutral pronouns, and only about 20% use he/him, because of the way magic is inherited (it requires two X chromosomes with the gene, so the vast majority of mages are AFAB, no matter what gender they identify as [and before I get comments, trans mages are accepted by most). Again, you don’t have to change this in answers, it’s just a fact about the world. $\endgroup$ – Bardic Wizard Jun 17 '20 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ Is this some preestablished world that you only write in, i.e. are you searching for loopholes in preestablished rules, or are you looking for a nice storytelling solution, i.e. introduce one or more further rules that allow for a nice reveal? $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Jun 18 '20 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @bukwyrm: A nice storytelling solution would be fine, I suppose, but the world is used both for a story and a RPG so storytelling solutions aren’t really preferable. $\endgroup$ – Bardic Wizard Jun 18 '20 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ What i meant was, if this is your world, and you can add stuff at will, then an answer could be 'use the Orb of Seeing, that's exactly what that does - glows at the brightness of one candle per thaum magic energy invested, and at the complementary color to the wielder, flickering for charming influences' - while in the 'find a loophole' scenario we'd need to quiz you on the specifics of the existing rules to find a solution within the preexisting framework. $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Jun 18 '20 at 14:26
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Dispel magic

Malaria is a horrible thing. In countries ridden by it, people take a certain medicine to both prevent and treat it (not mentioning it here because some people think it's a cure all for other diseases). It kinda helps.

In a world where some witches and wizards can control your mind without a trace, you should treat that threat the same way. A remedy potion a day keeps the witch doctor away. Generally I don't know if you were being mind controlled or not, but if I see you drinking that potion or being hit by Dispel Magic I know you are not being mind controlled now. Both treatments are very cheap so there is no reason to now abuse them (except for the risk of developing a resistance to magic, but that's a problem for another post).

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  • $\begingroup$ That’s actually a really good idea! There are probably preventive anti-thrall/anti-charm measures for mages to use, but what about non-mages? $\endgroup$ – Bardic Wizard Jun 17 '20 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ @BardicWizard Just like in tabletop RPG's: even if you can't cast, you can still make use of potions, some scrolls and magic items. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Jun 17 '20 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ There was no excuse not to give a +1, as this answer doesn't fit the question by 100% but is definetly the best solution for the problem we will find here. ^^ $\endgroup$ – Charisturcear Jun 17 '20 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan: non-mages don’t generally know about magic, and the few that do are limited because most of the worthwhile magic items are being used by mages. I did upvote all the answers because they all work, in a sense (the magic system is complicated and involves a horrible oppression of “newmages” or “unknownchildren” that’s why mind control is a problem). I didn’t know I had to say that I upvoted, sorry. $\endgroup$ – Bardic Wizard Jun 17 '20 at 14:41
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    $\begingroup$ @BardicWizard then it's just like medicines in the real world, trust me ;) most people don't know 1% of all the ones that exist, and misunderstand their effects and how they work. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Jun 17 '20 at 14:49
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There are two requirements you gave in your question that make a solution of your problem impossible.

However, it is nigh impossible to discover Lyril magic in a mind if the magic isn't active (…)

and

(…) when they haven't seen the direct enthralling happen (…)

The combination of these two allows for a mage to identify a mind-controlled person just if they are actively following a command at that moment (because of the glowing eyes). He can get a hunch if the controled one did things which are not typical for him (so beeing empathic helps a lot), but he will not be able to prove it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Oh. I didn’t realize that. What constraints should be added/removed to be able to have a possible solution? $\endgroup$ – Bardic Wizard Jun 17 '20 at 13:44
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A magical Notification !!

So, What I understand from the question is, If I am sitting with a group of people and I have a doubt that there might be a master-slave pair in here, I need to get the exact instance when the master charmed the slave and who exactly they are.

If that's the case, It's not that difficult, All you need to have is technical details about how this magic works.

Whenever a master tries a charm, he actually sends a specific kind of Magic based EM signal to the slave. For that, I have a special crystal sitting inside my digital watch that constantly looks for these signals, and when it detects such an EM interference in the vicinity, it vibrates. (Nobody actually notices a vibrating watch these days) Its detection capabilities cannot be jammed, neither can it jam the charm, so it's quite harmless.

Once I get this vibration, I instantly recite a spell that activates the Eagle vision in my glasses, that color code the master-slave pair, based on the direction of the moving signal. Even if I miss that part, I can start looking for the abnormal behavior in the group, like anyone having a headache, or someone concentrating in the wrong direction.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a very good idea. In practice, magic gives off very few EM waves, but there are some (though getting it down to none takes years of practice even for levitation, the simplest application). Additionally, how would this work if only the charmed was present? $\endgroup$ – Bardic Wizard Jun 17 '20 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ @BardicWizard Every person has a particular EM signature of his brain, like the one that you may get during MRI, this EM signature is quite stable, but in case of a charmed person, his EM signature has a momentary disturbance within it. A powerful enough crystal can detect such disturbances. $\endgroup$ – V.Aggarwal Jun 18 '20 at 3:54
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/Generally, thralls call the controller Mistress or Master So-and-So,/

There is your tell. If you have magic in your head, you are either a thrall or have previously been a thrall. If one of the hallmarks of being a thrall is referring to your Svengali as Mistress or Master, get the person in question talking in an unguarded manner and see if they use those terms.

If you have never gotten magic head there is no way you would call those folks Mistress or Master; any of them. If you use those terms in reference to the hypnotizers, that likely means prior mind control.

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  • $\begingroup$ That would probably work! It does pose a problem if the controller’s identity is unknown, but detecting by magic color is an already-used way to identify a mage from a spell. $\endgroup$ – Bardic Wizard Jun 17 '20 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ I just reread this, and I missed something before: what is a Svengali? From context, it’s probably something similar to what I called a controller, but I’ve never heard that term before. $\endgroup$ – Bardic Wizard Jun 19 '20 at 4:57
  • $\begingroup$ @BardicWizard - ah, the days when people asked for clarification. But now we have en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svengali $\endgroup$ – Willk Jun 19 '20 at 12:50
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Mind control them yourself

You haven't addressed what happens if someone is controlled by two different people. Make it simple: Most recent caster wins. Then you can simply ask a few questions that you know will be answered honestly and it will be pretty simple.

Of course, if you yourself can't cast the mind control magic, you have to have someone else do it. You haven't said how commands are given; do they have to be verbal, and the subject may mis-execute vague or poorly worded instructions? Or does the subject simply know what the controller has in mind because the magic doesn't so much make the subject generically obedient as directly impose the caster's will that the subject do X?

I may have to worry that if I ask some other mind control mage to test for the existence of mind control magic in this way - that they could force the subject to lie, without appearing to do so.

If that is the case, something similar to a court functionary / notary might exist: an Attestor. Someone licensed by the state, similar to a judge or investigator, who swears people in for important functions, by establishing control, then ordering said person to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

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  • $\begingroup$ This might be plausible. In this world, it’s actually possible to have two or more mind control spells (or other spell types like augmentation) affecting a person at once. Oldest spell wins with regards to overlapping effects, but if the newer caster is skilled (perhaps 5% of the population have this power level) they can make the newer spell completely “mask” all elements of the older one. $\endgroup$ – Bardic Wizard Jun 18 '20 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ Also, the magical government is not good at best and downright terrible at worst (it’s 6 hereditary mages from the first six houses plus a reasonably skilled mage elected from the seventh), so if they had a magical notary, they’re probably someone highly corrupted and under at least eight powerful people’s thumbs. $\endgroup$ – Bardic Wizard Jun 18 '20 at 14:37

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