Pallia, Mantles, and Marks
Pallium (pl. pallia) is a Latin word for "cloak." Here, it is the name for a partial ka that endows the wearer with a package of skills, powers, knowledge (often instinctive, latent, or unconscious), and geases.
"Pallium" is the formal term; "mark" is used as an informal term. A pallium that confers authority, either by social recognition or by magical gift of command, is called a "mantle." The pallium that confers vampirism and creates an undead vampire is called a "pall" (related to "pallium"; "pall" is a name for a cloth covering a coffin).
Transmission of pallia:
Some pallia you are simply stuck with, for good or ill, barring further magic. You have no ability to transmit it.
Some pallia include the power to pass the pallium on to a successor. Example: some forms of magical kingship. This form of pallium is harder to invent.
Some pallia include the power to copy the pallium onto the enpalliated. Example: vampires raising other vampires in undead lineages. This form of pallium is hardest to invent.
Vampires: Lineages and Vulnerabilities
Classic middle-European vampires raise other vampires by casting their pall on a victim with the killing bite. If they can, they also cast their geas of personal domination at the same time, to acquire a slave. They cast a pall judiciously, because it is exhausting to do so, besides creating a potential competitor. It is a condition of their pall that they cannot cast a pall except on the killing bite.
It takes very great and rare magical talent to create or modify a pallium, so the vast majority of vampires can only pass on what they received themselves. But it is comparatively easy to damage a pall or other pallium. Over the ages, great vampire hunters with magical power have laid curses on foes they could not kill, so that the foes and their descendants by enpallment have acquired more and more vulnerabilities over the ages.
Different vampire lineages have been attacked by different hunters in different parts of the world, which is why vampires in different places have different vulnerabilities.
Just as there are lineages of vampires, there are lineages of vampire hunters and other monster hunters. Some claim to go back to Nimrod. These pallia, called "Hunters' marks," are not as spectacular as vampires' palls, but neither are they so easy to damage. A typical list of gifts involved in a Hunter's mark is:
Recognize others with Hunters' marks, especially of your own lineage.
Pass on the Hunter's mark—cast a copy of the pallium onto another—but only when you sincerely believe they have the right stuff, or when you sincerely believe the situation is desperate and no one else is available. Some bit of ceremony may be called for, to make the marking more certain.
Recognize your quarry on sight.
By luck and latent knowledge, find, recognize, and track spoor of your quarry.
Some amount of patchy luck for survival when on the hunt.
An aptitude for the requisite skills (but just aptitude; you still have to practice).
Resistance to magical attack by your quarry, including attempts to tamper with the pallium.
Royal and Heroic Mantles
The following novels involve characters acquiring powers and roles. Not all the novels explicitly use the idea of a mantle, a royal or heroic pallium, but the acquired packages of powers and roles fit the description.
In The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, the protagonist, an eleven-year-old boy named Will, learns that he was born the last of the Old Ones of the Light. But he won't come into anything like his full power unless he goes through a symbol-loaded adventure taking one short novel for the reader, or three or four days for Will. Once he's done, though, he instantly knows all of the whole magical side of his setting and his powers and how to use them. No one mentioned anything like a pallium, but this will work fine as the description of being invested with a major one.
In The Chronicles of the Deryni by Katherine Kurtz, young orphaned Prince Kelson becomes King Kelson by a generally similar set of events, a kind of action-adventure initiation ritual. As soon as he's done, he too can use his new magical powers with perfect fluency and uses them to defeat and destroy a full-grown Deryni sorceress in battle arcane. A lot of key paraphernalia came from his recently assassinated father, too, making this even more like the passage of a royal mantle, though no mantle is mentioned.
For an anti-heroic example that is more explicitly "pallioid," in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susannah Clarke, the minor villains Lascelles and Drawlight wind up on a fairy road, somewhere on the fringes between our world and Faerie. Lascelles kills Drawlight by sword, then encounters the Castle of the Plucked Eye and Heart, where he is challenged by its champion, a man with a sword. Lascelles fights and kills him, too, and then finds he has become the new champion, able to do nothing but wait for and challenge the next person to come down the faerie road.
In Tim Powers' Fault Lines series, something very like the pallium mechanic is at work, though of course not using that term. The protagonist of one of the novels, Scott Crane, can only save himself from his murderous father by seizing the ka or pallium or avatarship of Dionysius, which the father uses as his source of magic power. The father, in turn, got it from the gangster Bugsy Siegel, who got it from a long line leading back through John ("Johnny Appleseed") Chapman, who certainly wasn't the first.
In Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, the roles and powers of Queen, Lady, and Knight of the Summer and Winter Courts of Faerie are explicitly mantles, called that. They have a strong tendency to overwrite the personality of the wearer.
In all these instances, the candidate has to be made ready to receive the mantle, or maybe receives it in chunks, getting some powers and knowledge with each installment. But there is no growth and learning in the normal human sense. It's a lot more like a software installation.
In the Inkliverse, almost all pagan gods who are more than fictions are djinn, elves, ghosts, or very occasionally humans, who have managed to acquire an angelic ka. The fourteen Powers often work in the world by casting very fragmentary and tightly edited ka'u to accomplish some mission. Once exhausted or damaged, these ka'u sometimes get snapped up. To the Powers, they are hardly more than dandruff, but they are as much as the recipient can handle, and said recipients usually find their personalities overwritten or reduced to a coloring in the ka.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2015