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On the hilltop in the field near my house, there lives a coven of witches. Or, more accurately, there is a coven of witches living in a pocket of the Faerie Realm which has recently become attached to the hilltop by my house.

By the rules of the Faerie Court, their home must be hidden using both verbal and somatic charms. I already know the verbal charm. I won't write it here. The somatic charm works like this. Around the hilltop are 13 trees. See diagram.

enter image description here

To get to the witches' realm, you must walk the following path.

enter image description here

The important part is what side of the trees you pass. If you complete only some of the correct loops, you cannot meet the witches.

When standing left of the tree with the cross, you will see the normal hilltop. But once you pass the cross tree, provided you have made the correct loops beforehand, you will see a similar hilltop, except there is a big iron cauldron with three hags capering about. If you line yourself up correctly with the tree, you can see one half of the cauldron to the right of the trunk, but no cauldron to the left.

If, at any point during the charm walk, you stray too far from the hill, you will end up back in the mortal realm and have to start the charm walk again. This is where things get confusing.

Suppose friends stands south of the hill at the blue marker. Far enough away that they would have to restart their charm walk. Meanwhile I do the correct loops until I reach the pink marker.

enter image description here

Now I can see the witches to my north. Since walking south will return me to the mortal realm, I should be able to see my friends to the South. But since they have not completed the walk, they cannot see the witches to the north. So what happens if they start walking north towards me? Then we walk together to the hilltop. Do they meet the witches or not? Something's gotta give.

I have not tried this with another person yet. I have tried with my pet labrador. But unfortunately she will not sit still long enough to complete the experiment.

The witches are happy for me to know about their den, because I buy so many potions from them. But they will be upset if I tell anyone else. So I would like some opinions on what might happen before I take the risk of letting other people in on the secret. What do you expect to happen?

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    $\begingroup$ What's the point of having faerie magic if it's going to be logical and consistent? Faerie magic should be arbitrary and capricious, that's what makes it faerie magic. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Mar 13, 2023 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Cadence I would invite you to ask the witches yourself, but I do not know you well enough. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Mar 13, 2023 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ What happens afterwards? Is there another ritual involved, or do you simply leave that realm if you will it, or if there's sufficient distance between you and the witches ("walking South"), or when they desire it? $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Mar 13, 2023 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ How do you expect this question to have a singular specific answer? Please remember that we don't permit opinion based questions on this site. Someone with your experience should be familiar enough with site policy to not ask a question that is explicitly soliciting people's opinions about what could happen. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 13, 2023 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ Opinion based questions are traditionally accepted on worldbuilding, so long as the topic is focused, as it is here. If we actually questions answers that require opinions, we'd destroy probably 90% of the content, including most of what earned the close voters the rep they use to cast close votes. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Mar 14, 2023 at 4:56

14 Answers 14

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How to make internally consistent magic

Magic lets you do pretty much whatever you want, especially when talking about the kind of spells that completely side-step the known laws of nature... so defining internally consistent magic can be a bit difficult at times. But, there is a rule of thumb that generally works for these sorts of problems:

Identify what experiences/effects your existing magic is based off of, and create mechanics that reproduce those experiences/effects in other aspects of the spell.

Based on how you've described your portal, I would identify that your spell is following these rules:

  • Passing between trees is the somatic action that activates the magic.
  • Things are invisible until you pass an occluding tree, and then it is visible.
  • The worlds are mirror images of each other except for the witches.

So, the most internally consistent answer will use all of these facts as much as you possibly can, and any problem you run into that can't be solved with all 3 facts should be solved by minimally restating as few facts as possible. Your first course of action if you can't solve a spell by using the rules, is to try to add symmetry to your rules. If your setup shows a 1-way relationship, then solving a problem with a symmetrical relationship can actually make your rules feel even better defined and consistent. If that is not enough, next try minimal changes to rules. Small adjustments to the rules are better than completely ignoring them

Following this process, I came up with the following.

You disappear the first time you pass out of sight

While you do not see the witches until you pass the last tree, you have actually stepped into the magical realm upon crossing the first pair of trees. The outside observer will see you disappear as soon as you pass behind something crossing out of his sight, and he will likewise disappear for you. Because you must pass to the inside of some of the trees, it is impossible for the outside observer to walk around the hill in any way that you never pass from view once you are somewhere on the path.

This solves the problem of your friend being able to sit around waiting for you because they will never see you come out from behind the hill. This means you don't need to fight with all the paradoxical things of watching your friend interacting with things that don't exist from your perspective while staying 100% inside of the established rules.

It also adds symmetry to rule #3. If our world does not have witches, then logically, the witch world should not have your friend.

enter image description here

You reappear when you wander back "somewhere out of sight".

The hard part is how coming back should work. Ideally, there should always be a tree to step out from behind if you want to follow all the rules you're already working with... but there are simply too many places your friend (or multiple friends) could be standing to make that not work. So, I will say this is a good time to slightly relax one of the rules.

At this point you could completely violate the "occluding tree" rule and have your person reappear with a flash or step out of a mist or just plain appear out of thin air or something, but these are completely new ways of transitioning between worlds; so, they will feel inconsistent with the "occluding tree" rule. A smaller violation might be to just slightly change the "occluding tree" rule to "any occlusion".

So, if your friend is waiting by the opening and you try to walk straight to them, you will not see them, you are trapped in Faerie until you cross out of mutual line of sight. So, you could walk past them, not seeing them, then turn around to find them standing behind you. Or you could pass behind a rock or bush what not... or if the hill and whole surrounding area is filled by people, you could might even need to walk all the way home, and not actually "be back" until you go inside and close yourself off in a secluded space.

The magic does not care how far you must wander, as long as there is a person to see you or be seen, you cannot return to the real world. Likewise, if the grove is surrounded by people such that you can not pass out of sight, you can not enter Faerie, even if you solve the puzzle.

So if a portal like this opened somewhere in the middle of Downtown New York, it would be almost impossible to pass into.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this. If there's a witch's realm and a not-witches realm, then there could be an in-between realm. Part of passing through the gate is passing out of sight of everyone not in the witch's realm. $\endgroup$ Mar 13, 2023 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ This addresses the "inbound" journey, but not the return. If you're looking at the witches, you should theoretically be able to turn around, walk directly toward where your friend would be, and be back in the mortal realm by the time you reach them. But there's no line of sight break in that process... so what happens? $\endgroup$
    – R.M.
    Mar 13, 2023 at 23:11
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    $\begingroup$ @RobertRapplean some experience in non-euclidean game development says that every time you pass between a relevant pair of trees you teleport to an identical copy of the world. If the game engine is really good, line-of-sight rays can also pass through these teleport points so your friend can see you. And just as you round the last tree you see the witches come into view around only one side of the tree. $\endgroup$ Mar 14, 2023 at 0:55
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    $\begingroup$ @R.M. If the OP's friend is nearby when the OP returns from the Faerie Realm, the two of them will probably just catch sight of each other at some point. They might be surprised they didn't notice each other before. If you ask the friend about it later, they might recall seeing the OP as they glanced across the hillside, or being so distracted that they barely saw the OP at first, even though they were staring right at them. If you don't ask, I doubt the friend will even remember such details. [continued...] $\endgroup$
    – Vectornaut
    Mar 14, 2023 at 4:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Neinstein The magic will ensure blue loses sight of purple. Something makes a cracking sound causing blue to turn around momentarily, perhaps dust gets blown in blue's eye, a leaf might fall in front of blue's vision, or maybe blue blinks. Even if blue holds purple's hand, they will find themselves holding a weirdly hand-shaped root, that happens to disappear after they throw/put it away and lose sight of it. Even if a third person (orange) watches them from blue's original spot, orange will lose sight of both when they start the path and see blue step around a tree when he leaves the path. $\endgroup$
    – vinzzz001
    Mar 14, 2023 at 10:43
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Brace yourself for a surprise, you won't see the witches. This is actually a built-in safety mechanism in the Charm Walk, if you are observed by someone not following the path along with you it won't let you in. It wouldn't be much of a secret entrance if anybody could easily figure out how to use it, right?

If you've ever wondered why pockets of the Faerie Realm tend to attach in fairly remote places, this is the reason. It's kind of difficult to visit your cauldron unobserved when the entrance is located on London Bridge.

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You're treating this as a topological problem, when in fact it's a very artificial Locking and Permission system instead.

Your friend never sees the cauldron, and cannot join you in the final walk up to the hill and get anywhere.

You perceive the cauldron, you walk towards it and your friend sees you simply vanish into thin air as you cross an invisible boundary between worlds.

If you were walking together, they proceed up to the empty hilltop. If you were holding their hand, you each perceive the other vanishing regardless.

Only someone who has completed the steps may traverse the portal or even perceive it. And only things they brought with them while traversing the forest can come with them.

If you left your backpack at the final tree before you started, and you picked it up at the last minute, it'd fall to the ground as you crossed the portal.

Once you've completed the steps, you'll see the witches and their cauldron whether you peek around the left or right side of the final tree. The trees no longer matter, you've unlocked the right to traverse realms for an unspecified amount of time or until you go too far from the hill and the whole thing resets.

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  • $\begingroup$ Enjoy your bends. $\endgroup$
    – Joshua
    Mar 15, 2023 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Joshua Are you thinking in terms that the person attempting to cross the portal will have been breathing in and out throughout the walk and will inevitably have all the air (including any dissolved in their blood) left behind when they cross the portal? The easy solution is to accept that things inside a person count as part of them for the purposes of the portal. This is medieval magic, not science. That the air in your lungs comes with you is sort of taken as read. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Mar 16, 2023 at 8:37
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You are projecting an avatar into the witches' realm. (Very similar: good old AD&D astral projection).

Your friend sees you complete the ritual and simply stop there. You're just standing there gazing into space, breathing normally, and not moving.

In the witches' realm, you are now an avatar of yourself: a physical projection that is, basically, you, but is really more like a temporary body double. You can fully interact, buy things, sell things, etc, but when you leave, regardless of how you leave, you find yourself standing back where you completed the ritual, having returned to your body, plus or minus any changes made while projecting. Your friend watching you might suddenly see you jolt, inexplicably carrying potions, even though you clearly did not have them a second ago. (Another option: time is different. You actually had a 20 minute conversation and bartering session but from your friend's perspective you froze for a half second and then somehow had potions pop into your hands. Time dilation helps resolve a lot of "what if" scenarios.)

If you forgo the time dilation, then most likely any interaction with your real self (on Earth), breaks the projection and calls you back instantly. One minute you're chatting with the witches and suddenly you're staring at your friend who is looking concerned and poking you with a stick.

Either way, you probably shouldn't see your friend while in the witches' domain. If you look south, you see whatever is to their south, in their own realm. (Unless, I suppose, the hilltop is the full extent of their realm. Then maybe you see a bit of a hazy atmospheric wave and outside of that is the rest of your world. But for sure the world cannot see your avatar, for the same reason they can't see the witches.)

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This is what's known as a MITM attack, or a Mage In The Middle attack. Their magical set up relies on giving you a token once you complete a series of actions which gives you access to a magical portal into their realm.

If they just chase after you and you run into the portal, you'll vanish from their vision. Knowing exactly where you vanished can allow skilled mages to force open the portal again. This is one example I have seen when some sort of golem man hybrid attempted to enter a forest sanctuary.

enter image description here

If you hold their hand just as you cross, there's a variety of things that can happen. They might be pulled through. Your clothes and items you sell can go through, why not other people? Or, if they have appropriate security, your companion might be tossed out or exploded. You would have to ask the witches what security they put on. A skilled mage might transform themselves into something unobtrusive and avoid any security scans.

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    $\begingroup$ Does it make a difference if I bring another person and we are in looove? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Mar 13, 2023 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ You will be more unhappy if they get exploded, I guess. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Mar 13, 2023 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ Upvote for talking about Magic and using a picture of the Black Templars (the most opposed to the use of Psykers in all of 40K lore) - plus I know which animation that's from - hehe $\endgroup$ Mar 13, 2023 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ So W40K and Sonic, can you provide the source of the image please? $\endgroup$
    – jnovacho
    Mar 14, 2023 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ Sonic gets cucked. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Mar 16, 2023 at 16:32
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This is Schrödinger's Gate. When you complete the path, you will be both through the portal and not through the portal. If someone follows you, or even holds you hand, they will become distracted at the point of transition. Once they are no longer observing you, you will cease to exist for them.

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I would say that there is a distinct possibility that while you will be able to see the witches, having completed the required path, you and a second person would both be able to see the hill but only you can see the other reality super-imposed on the hill.

They are effectively an intangible ghost to that place and vice-versa... where as you have made yourself tangible to both planes through the complicated ritual walk. If you move too far away from the node where you have made that attunement, then the other you snaps back into your reality, requiring you to start the ritual again.

As a side possibility to this answer... It wouldn't surprise me if the hill is neither actual plane and is a kind island of overlap between the two full places of existence. The witches themselves have an identical hill in their plane which requires a similar (but probably not identical) path required to end up in the overlapping island which is manifesting as a hill.

If you are worried about what would happen in this case when your friend (probably standing half way through a witch or a cauldron or both!) watches you walk down the hill and weave through trees in the completion of the second "planar attunement", you would not reappear around the first obstacle and your friend would disappear, even though you could still see the hill and the witches... in a mirror of seeing the witches the first time on the hill.

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This problem would appear to be four dimensional, not merely three-dimensional.

There is a fourth, magical dimension. It can't be seen, but it exists nevertheless. The path through the trees is the path that you must follow to climb a ramp from the fourth dimension's ground level to the fourth dimension's magical hilltop level.

Quite simply, by walking the required path, you're climbing the magical dimension's ramp. If you stray off the path, you fall back down to the magical ground level, and even if you return to where you were in three dimensions, you're beneath the fourth-dimensional ramp, and must start again.

The fourth dimension is small, and a person is not very big in the fourth dimension anyway, so if you were to fall off the ramp in the fourth dimension, you wouldn't notice any impact beyond that usually felt when walking.

To an outside observer, you would appear to go around the trees, but you would also appear to get smaller, appearing to be more distant, until you disappeared as you passed behind the hill.

As for the other parts of the ritual, they allow you to interact with the ramp. A person who followed you without doing the other parts of the ritual would see you get smaller and disappear even though they were otherwise right beside you in three dimensions, since the distance between you has been increasing in the fourth dimension.

As for how you can leave, you could retrace your steps, thus going back down the ramp, which would let you return to the magical hilltop by simply going back the way you came. Alternatively, you could just walk off the hilltop, and fall off the fourth dimensional platform/ramp, meaning that you would need to go back to the beginning to get back onto the ramp.

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You shouldn't be able to see the witches until you have past the last two trees one to the left and one to the right. Once that has occurred you should be able to see them and your friend should not.

So either If you both walk to the hilltop together you will still be able to see them but he will not.

OR

When you pass the last trees you disappear from your friends view (and he from yours) at the same time that the witches appear.

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Ask the witches

Option 1 - You are allowed to invite others

If you are allowed to have friends with you then you can grab your friend and bring them with you. They will not be able to perceive what they are going through so it will be boring or scary for them.

Option 2 - You are not allowed to extend the invitation

You will be able to grab your friend and drag them to the gate. They may not pass, so you need to take precautions not to break their hand.

Option 3 - You can bring them in but not by design

It could be that the charm is resolved by your password and dance, but if your friend does not do the dance they are rude. If witches hate one thing it's pyres rudeness.

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I cannot add much to Nosajimiki's excellent answer, however, it seems clear to me that as you go around the hill, you are out of sight from those who are on the opposite side of the hill. And, once you have started the somatic journey, you no longer re-appear to those when you would expect to come back into sight.

Therefore, while you may (or may not) see your friends to the South, they cannot see you, unless you walk away from the hill and lose the somatic journey - but even then, maybe you remain on the portal road until you can appear from behind a bush or tree. The hidden/revealed aspect of your journey might just require temporary occlusion (as well as correct attention to somatic and verbal actions).

If your friends start walking north towards you, they cannot see you. It's quite possible that you cannot see them - because you are no longer on un-magical ground. The common mechanic is a mist - but it could be that you only see what is found in both realms - and indeed it is the conjunction of similarities which open the gateway.

Far more dangerous would be if your friends chopped down one of trees that you had already past. You would either find yourself trapped between worlds, or trapped in faerie until another portal was revealed to you.

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Your Friends Will See You But Not The Witches

Let's make this even more interesting.

Say one of your friends brought a camcorder with them, and as you and another friend walked past the last tree, they record what happens. You've completed the full chain, and the other friend has not.

Their camera will see both of you on the other side of the tree, doing whatever you choose to do - but will not see any witches, or any other unusual activity.

Neither will your friend - in fact, if you make any mention of the witches or the cauldron, they will think you very strange and possibly insane.

This is because the realm that the witches occupy is actually the exact same space - but unless you chant the incantation and follow the exact path, their realm essentially does not exist for you. Your friend could very well pass right through them and wouldn't even be aware.

As soon as you walk far enough away from that hilltop, you too will become unaware of the Witches and their activities.

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  • $\begingroup$ This was my first thought too, but since you can take things in and out of the faerie world, you need to also address what your friend sees when you go up with a wheelbarrow full of potatoes and come back with a box of potions. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Mar 16, 2023 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki That depends on whether or not objects from the Faerie World need a similar incantation to be pulled out of their parallel dimension - if they do, then as soon as you are far enough away they would disappear from your hand. If they don't, they would appear to those outside the circle as soon as you are far enough away. $\endgroup$
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 16, 2023 at 14:49
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Suggestion: the magic creates a wormholelike tunnel that collapses if someone interferes with it. They may be able to see a glimpse what lies on the other side of the portal but if they approach it, it collapses just the same way if you made a mistake following the path.

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Space Dilation

No matter how long or how quickly your friend walks towards you, he never reaches you, as the ground between you seems to eat up his steps without getting any smaller. You can cover the distance easily, but that breaks the "don't go too far away" escape clause.

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