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Magic Markers

In a place not far from here lives a people with extraordinarily abilities. These abilities are so transformative, they have been, in one way or another, integrated into every aspect of the society.

This is a culture that presses bleached wood pulp into sheets and sells it as a commodity. It’s everywhere. Every person you meet will almost certainly be carrying some and use it in some way throughout the day.

Not all of the bleached wood pulp is sold as a commodity. Some of it is sold at a premium because of the intricate markings on the surface. For those with the proper skill, these marking can induce vivid and engrossing hallucinations. Through these transferred hallucinations people experience living in far away lands, at times long ago, or even in fantastic worlds that do not exist outside of these constructions.

Deciphering and interpreting these markings was once the exclusive domain of a class of high priests or shamans. As the wealth of the culture increased, more and more of the people could study the art. As of today, the overwhelming majority of adults can craft and consume these marking at at least a basic level. Children painstakingly practice and drill these skills with professional instructors, generally for over ten years. And even before then parents will make special effort to begin their training them on these markings before the children can walk or even talk.

The greatest artisans are praised for the vividness and enjoyability of the hallucinations their marking induce. For the artisans at the highest levels, the ones whose marking are duplicated and sold throughout the land, the craft of arranging these markings can grant them great wealth and prestige. For this reason, there are many who aspire to this level, often spending more than thirty years in training and individual practice. Even after that, there are no guarantees and many aspirants toil in obscurity and poverty.

The markings themselves follow some simple rules. There are only a few score fundamental marks although they each have multiple forms and enormous variety in their exact construction. These fundamental marks are separated into ordered groups of as few as one and occasionally as many as ten or more.

There are tens of thousands of these grouping that are considered valid, but great artisans have been known to create entirely new ones that later become adopted by craftsmen that follow. These groups of markings are arranged in a larger series creating the structures that generate different hallucinations.

The details of these arrangements could be studied for lifetimes — in fact there are those who do spend their life studying a single one. I prefer to marvel more generally at the wood pulp and the markings and awe at the power wielded so casually by so many. Truly, these are a great people.