Spells & Magic

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Spells & Magic

From "The Grand Arcana of Estelore: An Outsider's Perspective" by Jarlessa Thyri Astrid Gunvaldsen.

The first recorded practitioners of what we would call magic were tribal shamans, who passed their little-understood hedgecraft down through a well developed oral tradition. With each successive generation, the chaotic magics of these shamans was explored ever more deeply, slowly refined through trial and error and experimentation across uncounted centuries. I can only imagine how many shamans were lost to wild, consumptive magic escaping their control as they fumbled in the dark for a greater understanding of that deadly ancestral arts.

When the great dragons of Aerimarne taught their dragonclaw script to the early Belharans, it is said that High King Ramius's first command was that his shamans and oracles use the new script to impress the syllables that made up their words of power into clay, so that their knowledge could be distributed across his kingdom. Thus, the first spellbooks were created — or spell tablets, more accurately, but the point stands: from then on, magic became standardized, the knowledge spread in a web of magical mastery across the early empire. Soon, any scholar capable of reading the dragonmarks was allowed to learn spellcraft, rather than an art only taught between shamanic master and apprentices.

My contemporaries in the grand academy of Estelore attribute this royal decree with beginning Belhar's rise to power, and there is likely some grain of truth to that belief; certainly, Belhar has the largest and most well-developed cadre of magisters the world has ever seen at its command, from the Spellblades of Maidenbridge to the Mage-Priests of Nareva to the Arch-magisters of Estelore. The patronage of Belhar's emperors has allowed magic to evolve from hedgecraft and superstition to a topic of research as accessible as history or economics. Even the distant priest-kings of Kitsuhon cannot match the empire for its peerless mastery of the arcane.

But, my dear reader, what is it that these vaunted magisters study today?

The college of Estelore defines a spell, the archetypal example of magic used in the world, thusly: "Any conscious, controlled invocation of aetheric energy channeled into a repeatable, predictable shape." Spellcraft is at the heart of anyone's understanding of magic, as it is how we interact with magic.

To craft a spell, a would-be magister needs three things: the first is knowledge. Spells are memorized, ritual invocations that make use of specific words of power, ancient draconic syllables chanted in specific orders that prime the ambient aetheric energy around the caster. These words must be spoken forcefully and clearly, as a single misspoken phrase can change the nature of the spell, twisting it out of the caster's control. This is why a catalyst of some kind is necessary to safely cast a spell: should a spell go wild and awry, it is possible to focus the backlash into a treated arcane object and away from the caster. Without a catalyst, the discharged wild magic will have nowhere to go but the caster. Lastly, a mage needs force of will. The aether is inherently entropic, and left to its own devices does nothing; through the words of power, a mage can shape magic to her will, but it requires a great force of will to discharge the spell. This execution is also commensurately draining; more powerful spells require greater experience and will to cast, and sap more strength from the mage in the casting.

I have more than once now mentioned wild magic. Perhaps it is time to address that most dangerous mammoth in the barn. A misspoken word of power, or a lack of sufficient will to execute a spell, can cause magic to slip out of the caster's control. Aetheric energy inherently wishes to be discharged — keeping a spell going for more than a momentary invocation demands a great deal of focused concentration, and artifacts that constantly channel magic are rare wonders indeed. Without a proper outlet (ie., a spell), the magical energy will discharge itself in what thus far scholars have conceded appears to be entirely random ways. The unfortunate caster often ends up acting as a lightning rod, attracting the power of the foiled spell back into herself, with predictably disastrous consequences — brain hemorrhage, uncontrolled mutation, or even spontaneous combustions are among the effects I have myself witnessed befall other mages. This is, again, why we carry catalysts, as a treated arcane crystal apparently acts as a more tempting target for wild magic to discharge into; and believe me, you would rather have an expensive wand shatter in your hand than have your brain liquify out of your nose.

When controlled properly, however, magic is generally fairly predictable. When you invoke the spell Fireball, every time you cast the spell a ball of fire will lance out from your palm and detonate at a point you aimed at, arcing much like a loosed arrow, and washing over a radius of some twenty feet. You may not always get the results you want — just because you throw a Fireball at someone doesn't mean you'll hit them — but so long as you execute the spell correctly, it will produce reliable and repeatable effects.

The college of Estelore today divides its catalog of spells into four broad categories, based on related properties. Each category, or school, has a devoted following of magisters who specialize in it, delving ever deeper into its mysteries and crafting new spells to further their specialty's prestige within the college. Their studies are downright competitive, though alas it is always the school of conjuration that is destined to win — if only because they have the monopoly on Fireballs.

The Grand School of Conjuration

Conjuration magic excites elemental energies into being, allowing mages to call forth terrible flames or bathe their foes in acid. Most conjurations are instantaneous evocations of energy: a snap freeze or blast of fire.

More advanced conjuration magic allows for the summoning of energy or even entire spirits from beyond the Ways: typically in the form of elementals which can be bound to serve their conjurer for the span of a few minutes. Maintaining a conjuration for more than a moment requires a substantial force of will and absolute concentration, lest the summoned energy — or worse, bound spirit — spiral wildly out of control. Once a conjurer ends a spell, any lingering energy quickly dissipates: creating anything lasting through magic is the domain of enchantment, and there are countless stories of conjurers forgetting this lesson to their (often terminal) detriment.

As Estelore's understanding of interplanar travel and the Ways Between expands, it has been the Grand School of Conjuration that has taken the lead in researching this exciting new branch of magical lore. It is the Grand Magister's hope that some day soon, it will be possible through a mere spell to carve a portal between planes, or travel directly to the Ways.

In the fifteenth year of Her Holy Majesty the Empress Julianna Harasii's reign, Grand Magister Caedwynn var Clare represents the Grand School of Conjuration at the College of Estelore.

The Grand School of Enchantment

Enchantment is the art of binding magical energies into stable, usable forms for extended durations — and also the undoing of such artifice. The most common form of enchantment is the art of soulforging: taking the bound spirits of slain monsters and binding them into arms and armor. Soulbound artifacts take on some properties of the beast from which they are made, such as a sword that perpetually coats itself in lindwurm venom.

There is no theoretical limit on how long an enchanted object can maintain its magic when properly treated with ley-crystal runes of binding, trapping the aetheric energy inside the item. Many magic weapons are generational heirlooms, passed down through noble houses or warrior orders. No doubt the most famous example of such a blade is the greatsword Maidenscythe, a weapon that fell from the sky like a meteor during the fiftieth year of Holy Emperor Claudio's reign and embedded itself in the wyld tree of Maidenbridge. The city's lords of House Errion took up the silvery sword, and over the years since it has accumulated countless spirits of the slain within its blade.

Enchantment also covers the art of unbinding magic. Breaking the hold of a spell on another person or erecting protective wards against an enemy wizard are both uses of enchantment magic — the rare instantaneous use of the school.

In the fifteenth year of Her Holy Majesty the Empress Julianna Harasii's reign, Arch-Magister Robrandt Blaque represents the Grand School of Enchantment at the College of Estelore.

The Grand School of Transmutation

In its most widely-used form, transmutation magic is used across the world by priests and hedge witches to mend cuts and scrapes, sooth burns and bruises, and accelerate the healing of cleanly broken bones. Healing magic cannot restore lost limbs or cure virulent diseases, but minor injuries and most poisons can be alleviated through simple spells.

Transmutation magic is also used by mage-smiths to quickly and efficiently shape metals into useful tools and weapons. With more training, such spells can be used to alter the alchemical properties of a substance, making it lighter or heavier or reimagining its shape without the heat of the forge.

In its most advanced form, transmutation can even reshape living creatures' bodies by the same principal as it can be used to heal wounds. This particular use of transmutation magic is widely considered the most difficult and dangerous form of magic to master, as even slight lapses in concentration while casting can twist the caster (or unfortunate subject) into a malformed abomination.

In the fifteenth year of Her Holy Majesty the Empress Julianna Harasii's reign, Arch-Magister Viona var Este represents the Grand School of Transmutation at the College of Estelore. -

The Grand School of Illusion

Illusion magic creatures unreal sensory effects, or alters the perception of other creatures. Common illusions allow for mages to change how they look to others, adopting different clothes or physical shapes, or create fantastical sensory tricks like showers of sparks and roiling fogs. More advanced illusionists can create duplicates of themselves, or cause their foes to believe themselves surrounded by flames or that the ground is swallowing them up.

Some illusionists even learn to twist a creature's thoughts around, confusing their allegiances or even implanting unbidden desires and guilts. It is possible to implant entire phantasmal worlds that consume the mind, trapping the poor victim in a world of the illusionist's creation. Other spells can modify or remove memories, or even change the victim's personality. Needless to say, this particular use of magic is considered taboo throughout the civilized world, and the college takes a dim view on mages that abuse these powers for their own amusement.

In the fifteenth year of Her Holy Majesty the Empress Julianna Harasii's reign, Arch-Magister Sigismund the Blind represents the Grand School of Illusion at the College of Estelore.