Paths to Power
by Keeper Bodo
As long as Humanity and their precursors have walked this Urth, they have sought means of controlling the world around them without recourse to tools, to ingenuity or to honest work. Many and diverse are the methods by which Men, Elves, Dwarves or Orcs may gain some measure of supernatural power. All have their individual benefits, and all have their downfalls. Ultimately, Magic, Spiritualism, Mathmagic, Geomancy, Illusionism, and Demon-worship all have at their heart an ignoring of physical reality and an emphasis of the selfish desires of the user over the betterment of all men (or Dwarves, or Elves, etc). No Empowered individual can survive contact with an angry mob, and nothing built on such borrowed power ever lasts forever.
But then, I am an old man who devoted himself to the Spiritual Arts, only to have his God destroyed in the twilight of his years. So I would say that, wouldn't I?
The best-understood means of achieving supernatural power, Magic use has spread from it's earliest proponents among Dragons and Elves until Mages can be found of almost every race. It the easiest form of power to achieve, requiring proportionally few years of study. The Elemental Lords are also more "distant" masters than Gods or Demons, and a Mage can easily be forgiven for thinking that they are not the slaves to an alien intelligence from beyond the Veil. As any Mage who tries casting without a proper Focus or - in these modern times - trespasses in the Elemental Planes, or tries to develop Paraelemental casting, knows, though, this is not the case. Mages exist only at the sufferance of the Elemental Lords, and their power is easily taken away.
The Beginning Mage makes a ritual entreaty to the Elemental Lords (note that this ritual is, in essence, the only limiting factor on how many Mages exist in the world - there aren't enough Ley Nexii in the world to mass-train Elementalists) to empower a "Focus" - a material object linked to the Mage's pattern and the Six Elemental Planes. Very brave individuals sometimes try to modify the empowerment ritual, to produce Paraelemental Focii or Focii that lack one or more Elements, but these individuals never seem to live very long. Do not trifle with Elemental Lords. Technically any material object that is capable of remaining in contact with the Mage's skin can be empowered as the Focus, though in the wake of a spread of illegal magic-use in Greater Albion and the Palatinate of Durholme, both King Edward and the Durholme Margrave have issued decrees ordering "standardised" Focii in the form of representative necklaces. Fortunately for the Mage who wishes to be left out of internecine warfare between Outer Powers, Mages are not expected to make war on their opposition element, even when a Mage favours one type of spell above all others. That's what the Elemental Lords have Elves for, after all.
The Mage then acquires - either through personal research or by being taught by a more experienced Mage - a "Matrix". A Matrix can be described as a mental construct, a "shape" that the Mage devotes their concentration on during casting. Matrixes always contain some verbal component - usually a "By my power over the element of..." which serves to focus the mind. The number of Matrixes a Mage knows is limited only by the time and effort spent learning them, and it is Matrixes that make up the content of the stereotypical Mage's "Spell-Book", transformed into written diagrams for ease of study and teaching, and usually encoded. Matrixes vary in complexity - the Durholme Magic Guilds use a system of "Circles" to denote increasing difficulties.
One a Mage has a Focus and has memorised a Matrix suited to his or her experience, they concentrate on the "shape" of the Matrix while performing any movements or verbal components the Matrix prescribes. A tiny (usually about half an inch in diameter) portal to the Elemental Plane being called upon opens over the Mage's Focus, and the Energy flowing from the plane into the world is shaped by the Matrix into a Spell - interacting with the world until it's energy dissipates.
For reasons that escape most mages, contact with metal prevents spells from being cast - the energy "grounds" itself through the metal and vanishes into the world. The sages of the Ancient Empire suggest that metal is a seventh Element, of which this is the Elemental Plane. Detailed experiments by Galantran mages two centuries ago indicate that different metals do indeed "conduct" Elemental energy to different amounts, but the variation is so small as to be not worth considering. The exceptions are Cold Iron - which actively draws Elemental energy out of a spell, leading to a Mage losing control and suffering an Implosion (see later) - and Runemetal, which does not conduct Elemental energy at all. No-one knows why.
Casting is a strenuous process, and takes great reserves of mental fortitude. The Mage must hold the Gate open for the required amount of time, yet prevent any Prime Material matter (such as the Mage themselves) from being pulled through to the Elemental Plane. Mages usually find they can cast more and more spells between resting as they become more experienced, but pity the Mage who overextends their limits. An Implosion usually results. Mages commonly refer to this inner reserve of strength as "Mana", originally an Elven term first coined to describe the transmigration of elemental energy into newborn Elven souls.
In an Implosion, the Mage cannot, for whatever reason, keep control over the Gate while casting. Everything in the immediate vicinity (including the Mage) is sucked towards the gate and compressed as it goes until the Mage dies of having his or her body crushed by the forces involved. With the death of the Mage, the gate disappears and everything compressed so far explodes out again in a shower of dust and blood. Some lucky Mages manage to cancel a spell before dying of the Implosion, but the effect is fatal in nineteen out of twenty cases.
The only multi-Elemental form of Magic that the Elemental Lords will allow a Mage to learn willingly is "Grey" magic - the practice of opening the Gate to all six Elements at once. Invented by Human magii working for the Dwarven Roma Emperors in the great Imperial Age, Grey Magic is specialised towards interacting with other active spells - either reinforcing the elemental energies and thereby extending spell durations, or snuffing them out in a "dispel".
A popular form of spell that bears it's own discussion is the process of summoning the denizens of the Elemental Planes to this world. Elementals, as discussed in the forthcoming treatise on the many Outer Planes being prepared by my learned colleague Keeper DeCand, vary in size from the smallest Elemental sprite, through the Elemental types usually summoned by Mages, up through the ranks of Elemental Titans and Collossii (both, thankfully, a rare sight in these modern times) and reaching their apex at the Elemental Lords themselves. The Elemental creatures summoned by Mages tend towards the human to ogre size ranges, and reportedly deeply resent being summoned to this plane, where the presence of their opposition element is always felt. It was once common practice for a Mage to summon an Elemental, Magically immunize their own bodies from that Element and command the Elemental to take them into the Elemental Plane. This rather fool-hardy form of fast transportation, called "Gating" as the Mage effectively vanished into their own spell-Gate, has now expended the Elemental Lord's notoriously thin supplies of tolerance - Mages attempting it are set upon by Elemental Titans and devoured, or (some say) taken to the Elemental Lords themselves to answer for their trespass.
Since the end of the Age of High Magic, hundreds of Spell Matrixes have been lost when their creators died, towers fell and learning vanished from the world. Rumours of undiscovered Spells transcribed in lost tomes or other, stranger recording methods are a favourite topic of Magely conversation - particularly the Matrix for "Permanency" - the very high-Circle Grey spell that bound another spell into an item or creature forever, allowing the construction of "Magic Items", creatures such as Golems and Permanent enchantments upon oneself. Perhaps it is best that it remains lost.
Seen as the socially-acceptable alternative to Magic, Spiritualism relies on making a pact with a powerful being of the Spiritual Planes - also called a "God" - to serve that being's interests on Urth in exchange for which the Priest gains some measure of command over the servitor spirits of that deity, being able to order them to perform tasks. The degree of authority a Priest has may increase with their standing in the eyes of their deity.
Spirits are all around us. Rather than being confined to the Planes of the Gods, as many suppose, the Urth teems with Spirits - all invisible and immaterial, but moving around us all the time, performing their functions and furthering the agendas of their patron deities. The only thing capable of interacting with these spirits are the souls of living beings - themselves a form of spirit rooted into a particular person or animal.
To cast a "Miracle", a priest mentally focuses in on their own soul, seeking out with it for a spirit devoted to the God the priest worships. Once one is found - and there will usually be at least several of each God's brood in any given room - the priest commands it aloud to perform it's task, and the spirit (if the Priest has the correct authority in the celestial hierarchy) will hurry to do so. Each Priest has a limit on how many of these favours they are allowed to call in a day, and must petition their Deity at Dawn (for priests of the Mace Gods) or Dusk (for priests of the Sword Gods) to have this "allowance" replenished. It is possible for a Miracle to transfer extra allowances of Spiritual Authority from priest to priest - these "Power Melds" are usually used by priests of members of the same pantheon.
By and large, Spiritualism is a much smoother process than Magic use and Spirits are usually dedicated to their tasks. Things can go wrong, however - there exist forces that can divert or trap a Spirit that is engaged in performing a miracle, and there are places - usually very holy to another deity - where no Spirits of a particular god may enter. The downside of Spiritualism is that it requires devotion to a particular deity - the church of each God places restrictions on how it's priests live, eat, sleep, socialise and carry out their duties. In many ways, the powers granted by the Gods are no compensation for the life of service that the Priest willingly enters into.
One aspect of such service that many Priests fail to consider is that the Gods are organised into distinct societies - two groups of seven Gods each with the fifteenth God (The Circle of Balance) being a member of both groups - properly called Pantheons. Worse still, each God has an adversary in the form of a particular member of the opposite Pantheon, and priests are expected to further their own God's cause at the expense of the opposition - even being granted extra miracles for particularly successful mishaps thrown in the way of the enemy. As long as such fit with the interests of the God, of course. Also, each of the two pantheons has a "greater" God - one of the eight who is the acknowledged leader, and whose priests are granted authority to take the miracles of priests serving subordinate Gods. Truly, being the servant of divinity on Urth is a delicate process. The two Greater Gods are St John and Vivamort.
Where once there were many dozens of Gods, as we now exit the turbulent early years of this Age of Strife there are only fifteen. As such, it is possible to make a short list of deities, their areas of influence and their opposite numbers. For more information, contact a member of the relevant temple.
|GODS OF THE MACE||GODS OF THE SWORD|
|St John (God of Healing and Protection)||vs||Vivamort (God of Undeath)|
|Astalon-Ziorbina (Goddess of Law)||vs||Triplicity (Goddess of Bards)|
|Mallan (God of Rulership)||vs||Crofter (God of Agriculture)|
|Light (God of Restraint in Power)||vs||Luca (Goddess of Dreams and Nightmares)|
|Humact (God of Death)||vs||Azrael (God of Death)|
|Ishmund (God of Justice)||vs||Sordan (God of Suffering)|
|Morvana (Goddess of Warfare)||vs||Bast (Goddess of Cats and Wild Fury)|
|Circle of Balance (God of Neutrality)|
Side-note: "Elemental Priests."
The Elves, of course, have no Gods - instead worshipping the Elemental Lords. There exists in Elven communities the position of "Elemental Priest" - who has a similar relationship to the Elemental Lords to that shared between a normal Priest and their God. The similarity ends there, however - Elemental Priest's abilities are still Magic-based, and still involve the pouring of Elemental energies through a Gate. Unlike magic, however, the Elemental Lord itself does the job of focusing the Gate and shaping the spell energy, making Elemental Priests happily immune to the Implosion effect.
A Necromancer is one who has contact with the dead. Technically, ALL Priests are Necromancers (the Gods being ascended mortals from ages past), but tend to frown on that being pointed out. Necromancy as it is currently understood was invented by one of the Mathmagicians and originally used Mathmagics or Geomancy to bind the souls of the dead back into their bodies. As this perverse art grew in users, it was only a matter of time before some Necromancers died and became Gods - Hengist, god of Undeath, and Vivamort, god of Vampires being chief among them. Nowadays, "Necromancer" refers to an individual, usually a priest of Vivamort (now, thanks to his rival's destruction, the one God of Undeath) and often an accomplished Geomancer on the side, who raises undead to do his will.
Geomancy (a.k.a. 'Ritual Magic')
Geomancy - usually incorrectly called "Ritual Magic" - is the manipulation of Ley energy to produce changes to physical reality. Only able to be used on the Prime Material or Planes directly powered from it (such as the pocket worlds constructed in the Age of High Magic), Geomancy is capable of virtually any result, but concurrently is the most dangerous form of power still practiced today.
Ley lines crisscross the Prime Material plane, the energy that makes up the Plane flowing down them from unknown origin to equally unknown end. At places where ley lines cross - a ley "Nexus" - the energy wells up and may be used by those schooled in Geomancy, who may order it to produce localised changes in reality, alter the shape of the world around the Nexus, produce enchanted items, divert the ley line through the Veil to construct a pocket dimension or any other imaginable end.
The greatest practitioners of Geomancy in ages past were the Dwarves, who built their Empire along Geomantic lines and used it for vast landscaping projects in the Underdark. In the modern world, the sages of the Ancient Empire tend to the Empire's "Dragon Paths", and the Empire's monks Geomantically give themselves supernatural abilities.
The processes behind each ritual are unique, and the ritualist must be careful to match his or her ritual to both the intended result and the nature of the Ley Nexus being used. Some rituals - such as the Empowerment ritual to create a magical focus - are almost routine, following a tried and tested formulae handed down through the centuries. Ultimately, it is in these unenlightened times almost impossible to tell how much of a recorded ritual script is showmanship, how much is simply there "just in case" and how much is actually necessary to the ritual. It is not advised for beginners, and experimentation with the forces that create and maintain the world in which we live is a delicate art indeed.
Usually (though by no means always), a Ritual calls upon some outer power, be it an Elemental Lord, Demon, God or Fey Noble, to lend it's support to the ritual. This can help focus the energies, is good manners if one is intending to affect the entity's focus of power and may - in disastrous circumstances - save the ritualist's life if the being called upon is lenient and the ritual goes horribly wrong.
It is a wide-spread practice to "Seal" a ritual circle, denoting some boundary at the start of a ritual to let the Ley Nexus know in some way who is part of the ritual and who is not. It should be noted, however, that Seals are symbolic things, not physical - and if one has clearly stated a boundary, having an interloper cross it can result in death for all concerned.
It is best to work from scripts passed down from the Age of High Magic, or to learn the Art by careful observation of other (successful) rituals. If you choose to tred this route, good luck. And may the Ley Lines be forgiving.
One last note - Ley nexii can only support so many rituals. Generally, one a month is the utter maximum limit. Ritualists exist who have pushed this, but they are rare.
And as I have implied, Geomancy is dangerous - a failed spell or miracle does nothing, but a failed ritual will tend to severely injure those involved. At best.
Lesser, or Lost, Arts
Usually incorrectly called Demonology (which is Hellenic for "The Study of Demons" - technically I am a Demonologist, but certainly not a Demonidolator - the equivalent word for "Worshipper of Demons"), Demon-Worship is a disgusting practice that we have the more barbaric elements of Humanity to thank for. The two races that are truly steeped in Demon-worship are the Orcs and the Vetch, and I pray that the reader will not take either of those peoples to be an ideal role-model.
Fundamentally, Demon-worship is a bastardised cross between Geomancy and Spiritualism. The prospective infernalist performs a ley-ritual to attract the attention of a Demon from the Abyss beyond the SpirituSpiritual Planes in which they dwell, and bargains with it for granted powers. As long as he upholds his side of the bargain (and the things asked for by the Demons are left to the reader's imagination), the Demonidolator is granted supernatural powers resembling either Elemental Magic, Spiritual Miracles (of the darker, more perverse sort) or both. This has given rise to numerous incorrect assumptions about both Vetch and Orcs - neither race, contrary to rumour, is capable of becoming both Priest and Mage in a single individual, but the borrowed abilities of their Demonic patrons make it appear so to uninformed adventurers.
The oft-misunderstood art of pattern-shaping, Illusionism is rightly illegal throughout Albion for it's potential use by evil-doers and malcontents. As such, I shall write only a little about it to prevent any potential shaper from finding this document and using it for evil.
The world is made up of "patterns" - ephemeral constructs that become real when fuelled with the energy from Ley Lines. Geomancy is the art of using the excess Ley Energy of the world to create changes to reality, while Illusionism is the related art of creating false patterns by means of a unique ritually-created focus - much like a Mage's but not linked to the Elemental Planes. The resulting "illusions" appear real, but are insubstantial and fade with time, and illusionists must learn each apparition as a distinct pattern, making it even more time-consuming an art to learn than Magic.
The King of Arts, Mathmagics is the lost art of Reality-weaving. Effectively a combination of Illusionism, Geomancy, Magic and Spiritualism, Mathmagic (the precise process of which is known only to Mathmagicians) allows the user to rewrite the patterns making up the world, or to create new ones in a means similar to Illusionism but which result in real, substantial creations. A Mathmagician can transmute items, age men to dust, render items "immune" to one another such that swords pass through armour, control Ley Nexii, create life and do anything else that they please. The complicated relationships between patterns, and the changes which need to be performed with each working, are usually expressed as complicated numerical calculations. Hence the name.