Genii Locorum


When a place such as a building, landmark, or monument has high emotional or symbolic significance to a large number of people, or when people believe that such a place is already sentient or haunted, the magic they generate can coalesce there to form a sapient entity often referred to as a genius loci, or "spirit of the place." For example, a house believed to be haunted might develop a genius loci that bangs the doors and shutters, a monument to a local philanthropist might develop a genius loci with a compassionate temperament, and a tree believed to house a protective spirit might eventually develop one. Genii locorum can also arise when the magical essence left over from a deceased person bonds with a place, forming a sort of location-bound ghostlike entity.

The majority of genii locorum don't do much more than quietly and peacefully inhabit their places of residence, but there are exceptions. One that haunts a house, for example, will often try to put on a good show for visitors by rattling the doors and creating ghostly apparitions because it understands that it's what it's supposed to do. One with a protective temperament may show itself in a ghostly form to frighten away someone trying to hurt an innocent person. And the belief that there is a malevolent being lurking in the woods might very well create one.

Very rarely, a genius loci will reach out to someone and offer to lend that person magical power from its own energy reserves. This is not done for the benefit of the recipient, however. The genius loci always has an agenda. This agenda might be fairly benign or even beneficial (for example, protecting the inhabitants of an area), or it might be malevolent (for example, seeking retribution on a party whom it feels wronged or insulted by), or it might be a simple matter of self-preservation (for example, protecting itself against vandals). It might even be solely for accruing magical power (for example, getting more people to pay attention to it so it will continue to be fed). And it's possible for a genius loci's motives to be any mix of the above.

The genius loci will grant powers to someone whom it believes is a suitable recipient per its own sensibilities and temperament. For example, a genius loci who values compassion and kindness will likely choose someone who does the same, and one that seeks bloody retribution is not going to waste its time with a pacifist who has never lifted a weapon, let alone a fist. A genius loci that has chosen a human thus is often known as a patron.

Once the pact has been made, the recipient receives a magical jumpstart gains access to the genius loci's own power reserves. This essentially boost's the person's own basic magical ability by a few points, and gives the person the ability to use particular magical abilities granted by the genius loci, or at this point, patron. These abilities will always relate to the patron's own nature. In addition, the individual gains the ability to summon a magical guise, which again, takes after the patron's nature.

Those who have accepted a patron are known by a variety of names. Sometimes they are referred to as "ley witches" out of a belief that genii locorum are only found where ley lines cross (though there's no evidence that this is the case). The US government refers to such people in its employ as "spirit contractors." They are also very commonly referred to as "proctors."

There is also one known instance of a genius loci taking on multiple simultaneous proctors. In 1988, three teenagers from Humboldt, Georgia were chosen by the genius loci of a large and extremely old oak fondly known as "Old Man Oaktree" when it was threatened by an insect invasion. One of the teenagers was given the ability to freeze things, another was given the ability to manipulate air currents, and the third was given the ability to create shields. The three of them were able to repel the invasion well enough to protect the tree and the surrounding area.

In 1994, a thirteen-year-old student from San Jose named Nalini Khatri was selected by the genius loci of a small neighborhood park that suffered frequent vandalism. The vandalism was driving away visitors, who provided the energy the genius loci needed to sustain itself. Khatri's magical abilities included conjuring and manipulating illusions of popular characters (perhaps stemming from the imaginations of the children who played there), camouflaging herself, and sensing whether others had troublesome intentions. Her magical guise looked like street wear in the vivid colors of the playground equipment. Khatri would patrol and wait for the vandals, and use her powers to scare them off. Eventually they were scared off for good, and people began to come back to the park. Because the park no longer needed Khatri's services, it withdrew its power from her.

Genii Locorum will often retract their power from their proctors once they believe their services are no longer required, or when they believe that they have crossed severe lines somewhere and/or are unsuited for the jobs they're supposed to be doing. But far from being left completely powerless, ex-proctors have the benefit of having had a magical jumpstart and some experience wielding magic, enabling them to become self-sufficient mages should they put forth the effort. Such was the case with Nalini Khatri, whose patron was kind enough to inform her that she could one day create her own magic if she worked at it.

Proctors can also break the bond themselves; all they need to do is consciously and intentionally reject it. Once that happens, their power cannot be regained unless their genii locorum choose to give it again, which may or may not happen depending on how they feel about the proctor at this point. A genius loci that is of a forgiving temperament and who understands that the bond was broken in a time of great stress may choose to reforge the bond; a less forgiving one who feels personally offended will likely not.

And of course, willfully breaking the bond may be very necessary for some proctors, as not all patrons and proctors are good matches for each other, and not all patrons are worth assisting. (And once the bond is broken, the former patron can no longer punish the former proctor.)

It's very difficult to measure, let alone estimate how many genii locorum there are. Many of them rarely, if ever reveal themselves to people. Proctors are often very secretive simply for the fact that someone trying to depower them by destroying their patrons is sometimes very possible. The best guess is that the number of proctors in the US is no higher than a few hundred.

Personalities and temperaments

Genii locorum are as complex and varied as people. They have a wide variety of attitudes when it comes to their proctors and what they think they ought to be doing. Some are extremely strict about what people use their powers for; if they use them for anything but their missions, the genii locorum might inflict some magical punishment upon their persons. (One unfortunate teen was inflicted with a horrible acne outbreak just before her date.) Others are more lax and don't mind the occasional frivolous use. Some are extremely demanding, sometimes even pushing people to work beyond the point of what they should be reasonably expected to do given their other obligations; others are more considerate and fair.

Many less-than-kind genii locorum will lie to and manipulate others however they can. They might tell them that saving the world is their destiny, or they might promise to make them powerful leaders. They might pretend to be ancient gods or demons. They might even threaten to harm them (whether here or in the afterlife) if they refuse their offers. They might guilt and shame them for having hesitations or for not trusting them fully. They might present themselves as beings of white light and flood prospects with feelings of love and euphoria to make them let their guard down. They might insist that their way is the only way. Once they've acquired their targets, they might guilt and shame them into veritable slavery. They might try to make it seem as if their awful punishments are simply the normal consequence of disobeying your patron and that they're selfish and presumptuous for ever thinking otherwise. They might try to convince them that they absolutely need them and won't make it on their own, or they might even tell them that one of them or the other will die if they break the bond.

Something important to remember is that genii locorum are not human, and as such they may have agendas and values counterintuitive to human thought and reasoning. Most people would find it questionable to go and steal some extra equipment needed for a job, but a genius loci with a poor grasp on human morality might not think twice about suggesting that a proctor simply take something without paying or asking for it. A patron connected to the woods might ask a proctor to destroy a library that was built on former forest land without any regard to the fact that libraries are overall very good things - arguably even for the patron, as the knowledge in the books can help people understand why preserving forests is important and help them realize that cutting down more might not be a good idea. In short, all genii locorum are limited by what they know and understand, and because of this the things they ask their proctors to do for them may not always be wise choices. Unfortunately, all too many proctors assume that because their patrons are powerful supernatural beings, they must be all-knowing, must have superior reasoning that they themselves cannot comprehend, or that they must simply be obeyed without question. (And these faulty assumptions combined with a dishonest and manipulative patron can lead to disaster.)

In 2007, a 15-year-old named Ryan Smith became the proctor of a genius loci associated with an old arcade. A local urban legend inspired by a spooky (yet fictional) story published in a school newspaper had it that a brutal murder had occurred there in the early 1980's, committed by an employee of the arcade who had either been brainwashed by a sinister game or possessed by a demon that had been drawn there by a symbol used in the art of one of the game machine's cases. In the mid-2000s, business was extremely poor for the arcade, and the owner decided to sell the place and move on. This would have meant substantially less energy for the genius loci to feed upon, so it approached Ryan Smith and offered him power in exchange for obeying its commands. Ryan was instructed to commit acts of vandalism and leave his symbol behind and was promised that once he had done this enough, he would become a commander among Hell's armies. Ryan was granted magic to create and manipulate fire, make himself appear as a shadow, and to telekinetically move objects; His guise had a "demonic" appearance with red eyes, pointed ears, horns, and an outfit that seemed to be made of black leather.

Ultimately, one attempt at arson backfired when Ryan was nearly trapped by the very fire he'd set. Despite his ability to manipulate fire, it had become far too immense for him to control and the sudden drop in oxygen combined with the smoke nearly made him lose consciousness. He did get away, though he was severely injured. He was rescued and taken to a hospital. It didn't take much to link him to the other acts of vandalism that had been going on. At first, Ryan Smith was reluctant to tell anyone anything, but a mage on the police force who had realized that this case had magical elements gradually got the truth out of him. Ryan eventually disclosed how he had made a bond with his patron and the promises his patron had made him. He also stated that he'd been afraid to tell the truth at first because his patron had told him that he'd be locked up in a mental asylum forever if he did, and that his patron alternately claimed to be the spirit of the employee, the demon associated with the symbol, or a fusion of both. At this point, his patron withdrew its power.

Ryan Smith stood trial for his crimes, was convicted, and was subsequently sent to a juvenile detention center. The arcade was given a cleansing ritual and sold to new owners who started a carpet store. No one has heard from the genius loci since.


Destroying a genius loci

There are several ways to destroy a genius loci. One is to completely destroy the object or area that it's bound to. For example, if a genius loci bound to a library, it will be severely weakened if the library is destroyed. (And it will be in no state to lend anyone powers at this point.) If another building is built in its place - particularly one that's very much not a library - the genius loci will almost certainly be destroyed for good. (However, exceptions can occur if the location itself has such a strong reputation that it will always be remembered for what it used to be no matter what's placed on it.)

Mages can also take on a genius loci and magically disperse its essence, especially if it's already weakened. It might take several strong mages to disperse one at full strength, but one reasonably strong one can usually dispatch a severely weakened one. That said, mages are not often eager to just kill genii locorum; the way many of them see it, they are sapient beings and ought to be left alone as long as they aren't harming anyone.

A genius loci will eventually fade away if it's no longer sustained by people's magical energies. This can happen if they stop believing in it, or if they move away. They can hang on in weakened form for years, even centuries, but eventually they will fade away entirely if they don't receive more energy.


Related SoulMettle content:

Magic: An Overview
Elves

Other pages of interest:

Hazards & Liabilities In Hair, Costume, & Wardrobe
Tips To Create Better-Looking Superhero & Supervillain Costumes



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