Before her magic comes to her, there is little that marks a Noble, even to herself, from the people around her. Nobles-to-be are, as a rule, selfless, generous and idealistic, prone to offer comfort to the suffering and to call their tormentors to account; but there are many people who share those traits without ever becoming Nobles. In these years after the Release, most Nobles-to-be have reincarnated and bear the memories of their prior lives, which come out in dreams or in stories told in child’s play; but all children dream, and many invent tales of magical adventure. The true significance of these childhood fancies is clear only after the crisis of Blossoming discloses what the Noble truly is and was always meant to be.
The majority of Blossomings occur in times of great stress and change in one’s life. The youngest age that it has been observed is the onset of puberty, but this is rare, and many consider this a mercy, because one so young is ill-equipped, mentally and physically, to deal with the stresses of the life of a Noble. Perhaps the Light is aware that its warriors require a certain maturity to handle the powers it grants, or perhaps one must have a clear enough conceptualization of one’s self to be able to transform. Alhambran tales claim that the girl who would become the Queen of Tears Blossomed at her birth, and the delay in Blossomings today is merely a sign of the corruption of the world; but most Radiant Nobles dismiss this as the self-aggrandizement of the followers of Tears, and choose to believe that it has always been this way.
Whatever the reason, there are several broad age bands in which Blossoming commonly occurs. The first of these is from the mid-to-late teens, as the individual establishes their own social identity and goes through the stresses of education. Such Princesses frequently (though, sadly, not always) have their parents as passive support, but must suffer problems with their task and how it interacts with their youth and the demands that society places upon them. Not too many people are pleased with their teenage children sneaking out, and are even less pleased when they find out that the child has been going down to the area of town where the drug dealers hang out, especially on a night when there are later reports of gang violence. At a slightly older age, there are the young adults, typically at university or just entering the workplace. In some ways, they are luckier, because they do not have to face the fact that they’re not legally adults; on the other hand, many a Princess has lost her job or been forced to drop out of university due to the stresses and demands of her calling, and unlike younger ones, they don’t have the same safety net of family, which means that the issue of rent and bills starts to come up. In recent years, though, there have started to crop up the first few cases of elder Blossoming. The causes of these Blossomings appear to be diverse indeed, and can be anywhere from moving to a new place, falling in love, a messy divorce, pregnancy or becoming a parent, and onsets of mental sickness. Such older individuals frequently have other responsibilities, and try hard to try to cling onto their old life.
And as for the traits that prompt a Blossoming? The Hopeful are even less sure. The individual must not be a creature of the Darkness - but, then again, a few spontaneous Blossomings have been noted among individuals who, of their own free will, managed to cast off the taint. Individuals with the Virtue of Hope, despite the name, do not Blossom in noticeably more numbers than individuals with other Virtues; nor do the Vices seem to have an overall effect. A common theme among Nobles interviewed has been this: when faced with adversity, they chose to respond in a way that reaffirmed their conscience, or faced down something which would have threatened either themselves or others. Many report a feeling that they could “never forgive themselves” if they had acted any other way, as if they would be very disappointed in themselves. In almost all cases, the Blossoming can be linked back to a single “stress point”, a single reaction which either immediately, or over the course of days or weeks, led to the Blossoming, although among some of the youngest of the Enlightened appear to lack such a critical event. Such a point is usually linked to their Calling; a Troubadour might inspire her friends to stand up to bullies and, over the next few weeks, start to have odd dreams; or he might be beaten up while trying to rally his fellow immigrant workers against oppressive employers, and in a flare of blinding light, suddenly straighten up in the garb of a knight of old.
The Pain of the WorldEdit
The first bloom of magic in a Noble is joyous, but soon she realizes the price she must pay for it. We all react to other people’s emotions, when someone is happy, or angry, or hurt we feel something in ourselves; but most people can shy away from suffering, suppress the natural response lest it overwhelm us. Not so for a Princess. To the Nobility emotion is magic. Innocent pleasure, joy and love partake of the Light and give her strength, but hatred, cruelty and pain resonate with the Darkness, and when a Princess encounters them her magic curdles in her heart. The Hopeful cannot close their eyes to suffering, and in a World of Darkness there is so very much of it.
As a Princess’ magic grows her Sensitivity can quite literally make life unbearable. Simply walking among people batters her with every cruelty, each and every one becomes her personal responsibility. If she is strong enough she can bear the weight, helping to undo the damage she feels makes it all bearable and perhaps one day she will find relief in a brighter future. And as for those who cannot bear the weight, their only choice is to run and hide. Stick to the quiet hours, find a nice walled palace or quiet village somewhere away from all the pain and cruelty.
Shadows are the painful product of Sensitivity, a cancerous train of thought that can grow and spread its tendrils through her mind. A Princess with Shadows upon her soul not only feels sympathy for the cruelties she witnesses, but internalizes them. She suffers flashbacks, at the worst moments she remembers the event that created shadows and feels her confidence fade. If she couldn’t help then, why should she expect to do better now? These thoughts become self fulfilling: Because she feels lesser, her magic becomes lesser. It can too easily become the beginning of a vicious cycle: the Princess believes she cannot help, therefore her magic weakens, therefore she has trouble helping people, therefore she believes she cannot help.
Fortunately, this cycle can be broken before it starts. At the moment a Noble sees someone suffer, and feels the Shadows creep into her heart, she can act to bring aid to the suffering soul, or at the very least requital for their suffering. And this is the first purpose for which the Nobility are given their power, after all. Normal humans are often helpless in the face of others’ pain; they turn away because there’s nothing they can really do. The Hopeful can’t turn away, but they are far from helpless.
Love is MagicEdit
The same Sensitivity that can make a Princess falter at suffering also opens her soul to the Light when it shines in others’ hearts. By connecting with what’s important - her friends and family, or her daily labor for the benefit of other people - a Princess stores power deep within herself. She remembers why life matters and what she fights for, and that feeling fills the gap in her soul. Her emotions return, pure, bright and beautiful. She’s ready to face the new day.
Moreover, the mere presence of a Noble scatters a bit of the Light into those she meets, or those she loves. This Echo will soften hearts, allowing an appeal to their better nature, when a Princess is only nearby. But that isn’t the whole of it - by performing a noble act, a Princess can inspire those around her with a spirit of emulation. (A great weight of Shadows, though, will twist a Noble’s Echo to corrupt, rather than uplift.)
Most of all, when she needs to unlock her true power, a Princess has the ability to Transform. With the simplest effort she pushes her dreams and aspirations outwards from her soul. They flow through her body, transforming her into the woman she always wanted to be. The Nobility often tell each other that Princesses don’t do magic, they are magical and Transformation is the proof. In her mundane identity a Princess is hardly recognizable as having any magic at all, but in her transformed identity. Ah, what a difference that is. Magic flows through her body, it is on the level of blood or bone. Her magic makes her stronger, more charismatic, or smarter.
Even her personality is different, but not by much. Part of it is the just the natural result of her magic: She is more confident because she is more capable, she makes more witty remarks because she can think of them faster. Other changes come from the Transformation itself, nothing important changes. Both of her two selves are fundamentally Her. The changes are little things, she uses different phrases and expressions to say the same concepts, her mannerisms are different. Like the changes to her physical body these changes are an expression of the person she wishes to be, drawn from her innermost hopes and made physical by her magic.
Charms and InvocationsEdit
When she is Transformed a Noble’s magic doesn’t just perfect her body and mind; it overflows into powers that are quite beyond mortal ken, magic in the most obvious sense. And yet, to the Noble herself these Charms are no more (and no less) magical than anything else she can do. One of the first things a Princess learns is that she does not do magic. She is magical. A Charm that lets her take on another’s appearance might feel like she’s an actress getting into character. A Charm that unlocks new ways of seeing doesn’t feel like she’s gotten a sixth or seventh sense, but that she’s started to notice things she never paid attention to before. Even blatant magical effects like learning to fly don’t feel that different from, say, learning to swim.
An observer might see a Princess jump to avoid a blade then throw a fireball, and conclude that the jump was mundane while the fireball was magical. Yet to the Princess they wouldn’t feel that different. She chose to jump and her body reacted, she chose to throw fire and her body reacted. No speaking in Enochian, no need to memorize arcane principles of correspondence or chant spells in her head. The observer might even be wrong; if the Princess put all her hopes and Belief into that jump it could be a more magical action than throwing fire.
So, if magic is not a skill what does it feel like to learn a new Charm? A new magical ability already exists within the Princess as raw potential, she only has to discover it. Practice it until it becomes second nature. Any of us has the potential to read a foreign language, if we practice then over time we no longer see meaningless symbols. We look at the page and see meaning. Even if that’s not actually supernatural it is amazing enough that it deserves to be called magical. Learning a Charm is much the same.
A Princess might have the ability to sense ghosts but not to see them, so she practices interpreting her senses until she no longer feels a ghost as a picking on the back of her neck. The symbols are now meaningful, she sees the ghost as clear as you or me. Charms often don’t come from a deliberate attempt to produce a specific effect either. A Princess comes across a new problem and tries to solve it, sometimes the solution she reaches is a new Charm: She cannot defeat a Darkspawn in combat so she returns to her Palace to practice her swordsmanship. As she experiments and tries new things she might realize that the deft twist of her wrist she just stumbled upon will slip under her opponents guard, or she might come upon a strike that sets her blade alight.
A Charm can feel like a mental trick she performs in her own head, an attitude she applies to a problem, a new physical ability that came with practice like learning to cross your middle fingers. It could feel like anything, the only constant is that there is always some emotion behind her Charm (though truth be told there’s nearly always an emotion behind anything a Princess does), it’s not always the same emotion behind the same Charm. Simply that, a Princess must Believe and Feel in her actions for the magic to flow. A Charm that will cause vines to burst forth and entwine her foes will only function if she wants to trap her foes on an emotional level. Which emotions she feels will flavor the Charm: the vines will be more vicious and visibly threatening against a foe she hates and wishes to entwine in battle than when she invokes the same Charm with the excitement of a tough but enjoyable practice match.
Invocations are a different matter. So long as a Queen exists, her philosophies resonate through the souls of everybody who shares her ideals. For those Princesses and Sworn with an innate connection to the Light this resonance allows her to draw upon a measure of the Queen’s magic. Through their shared values she feels the reassurance of knowing a trusted authority supports her actions, and through her shared values she channels the magical power of the Queen. Both emotionally and magically her Invocation forges a stronger Charm. The Invocations are a magnification of something we’ve all felt, of how our beliefs and conviction give us strength. When we fight to save someone we love our love gives us strength, and when a Princess versed in Fuoco fights to save someone she loves the Invocation focuses those same feelings into her magic making her strength all the greater.
Dreams of Better ThingsEdit
Within her dreams a Princess travels beyond her mind, and into the very soul of humanity. Within the Dreamlands the hopes and aspirations of mankind take life; they form vast cities, beautiful vistas with all the incomprehensible forms of a dream. The Dreamlands are more than just a metaphor, they are a true world. The inhabitants have lives and hopes, and dwell in functional societies. Many Princesses are surprised to discover something so ordinary amongst dreams and flights of fancy, but is it really so surprising than a Princess’ dreams would form after how she sees the world? For the Princess who cares so much about friendship and community when she is awake, what else would she dream about?
Travelling to the Dreamlands offers many practical advantages to a Princess; she can find friends and mentors among the population including the Radiant Queens. Objects of power, often created and traded by Dreamlanders can be formed into Bequests. However the Dreamlands is not just frolicking and sunshine, once it was used by the Darkness to construct a trap for the souls of the Kingdom. Though the trap is broken its creaky machinery and the remnant of the prison’s old Wardens still seek to imprison the Enlightened in a blissful dream.