Even before the Cataclysm, magic existed in all places. A spark of insight when writing an assignment, heroic feats by soldiers protecting their comrades, fire almost retreating from brave firefighters. Unexplainable lights and triumphs of nature over machine. Subtle shifts away from the natural order in our day to day lives. Easy to miss.
But, things changed after the Vortex. While up for much debate, many mages and scholars argue that the Vortex in Siberia is actually a rift itself, and not just a conduit for rifts. But, while most rifts last only a few moments before closing, the Vortex maintains itself through a constant flood of magic from a realm made completely of magic. This realm, it is theorised, is the source of all magical energy, and is the central point of all creation. All realms hold a sense of innate magic from this place.
But what is magic?
It is an energy. Called wey by the Sintari Elves. The energy infuses living beings with vitality and power and can interact with words of power or the base will of powerful individuals to change the fabric of reality.
Magic users, called mages as shorthand, use magic in different ways to interact with the world around them or themselves. But, not with impunity. Magic does rejuvenate as it floods in from the Vortex and places of power but is semi-finite. It can run out for periods of time, forcing mages to ration it. Its use is also not easy. Magic places a heavy physical and mental strain on the user, causing pain and sickness if used too much.
There exist two primary classes of mages. Wizards, who use the magic of weylines to power their spells, and sorcerers, who have a well of magic existing within themselves. There are exceptions to this rule, with many fae having their own sense of magic powered by proximity to nature, or Seraphim who seem to be able to use purification magic at will. But, for humans, the general rule is that if you practice magic, you are either a wizard or a sorcerer.
Magic flows through the world. Even before the Cataclysm, and before the Vortex sparked massive flows of magical energy on Earth, there existed a sense of magic in all things. The flow of this magic, named after the Sintari word for magic (wey), became weylines.
Think of the Vortex like a waterfall of magical energy. Now imagine that waterfall snaking out, like rivers or tendrils throughout the world.
Weylines are crucial to understanding magic after the Cataclysm. They are the source of power for not only wizards, but also serve as energy for many creatures.
Wizards use them to incant spells, a process which shall be delved into later. But weylines aren’t all alike. They are all made up of three aspects, which define their nature. Power, flow and purity.
The power of the weyline measures how much magical energy exists within a geographical location. This power is determined by a few factors.
- Proximity to places of power (such as the Vortex, the Titan under the Mountain, and Mt Olympus).
- A history of use. Weylines can be strengthened by repeated use. Like exercising the environment.
- And, how recently the weyline has been used.
Weylines are renewable, but their power takes time to recharge. Think of places of power as the source of magical energy. On post-Cataclysmic Earth, most weylines originate from the Vortex in Siberia, but some also originate in other places of power that pre-date the Cataclysm, such as Table Mountain, due to the imprisoned Adamastor. Places of power can also be created through intense ritual and cosmic events which scholars still do not fully understand.
Places of power feed weylines their magic, and wizards who use the magic drain it through its use. Like a bucket of water being drunk from, while it is also being filled up again from a tap.
Wizards using a weyline also strengthen this bucket, however, by stretching its capacity and exercising its uses. So, places with many wizards tend to become stronger weylines in time.
To continue comparing magic to water: if weylines are the bucket or a lake, and places of power are the tap, then there needs to be a flow connecting them. This flow represents the distance and obstacles between a source of magic and the destination weyline. Weylines with many obstacles also reduce the capacity of a weyline.
Distance is easier to understand. The further from the Vortex you are, the harder it is to channel the magic of the Vortex. But, natural and manmade barriers also have a role in inhibiting and directing the flow of magic.
Natural flows, like rivers, can carry weyline energy. The Nile River, for instance, carries large quantities of magic to its adjacent weylines.
In urban centres, large buildings and slums can block weyline flow. This is why the slums surrounding Hope City tend to have weak weylines despite their proximity to the Titan.
In creating an environment where magic can flow freely and empower weylines, it is important to keep in mind natural barriers, natural transit points (like rivers) but also the principles of Feng Shui.
Feng Shui, and other arts of shaping our environments, help magical energy flow more easily, increasing the flow of magic within a weyline and out of it.
Some greedy wizards don’t want to share, of course, and it is a valid strategy to block off access to places of power through intentionally violating the principles of Feng Shui. The Three Point Line in the State of Good Hope intentionally blocks weyline flow into the neighbouring Zulu Empire. This is a matter of contention between the states.
Finally, a weyline has its own nature. It can be dark, light or in between. The nature and purity of a weyline determines what type of magic is effectively cast there. Light magic struggles to be cast in dark weylines, and dark magic struggle to be cast in light weylines. The purity of a weyline also has a tangible effect on the environment. Magical smog, the smell of burnt rubber and an invisible sense of menace hangs over dark weylines, while light weylines encourage the growth of nature and boost its residents’ immune systems.
The psyche of people is also affected by their weyline. Dark weylines breed discontent and abuse. Light weylines encourage goodliness.
The purity of a weyline is initially affected by what type of magic is cast there. Dark magic darkens weylines. Light magic lightens weylines. But, other things also affect purity.
Repeated acts of violence, poverty, suffering and abuse can darken a weyline. Even pollution, such as manmade smog and sewage, can darken a weyline.
On the other hand, nature, plant-life and the presence of good fae like pixies clean up weylines of darkness and bring them towards a neutral or even light level of purity. Fae have become an important part of the magical ecosystem on Earth for this service but are hated by practitioners of dark magic as a result.
Sensing the nature of a weyline is a skill taught to all young mages. In fact, many schools teach it at a primary school level. Depending on the level of darkness in a weyline, almost anyone can detect its nature.
Now that we have a firm grasp of weylines and the magic flow throughout our world, we can discuss the art of channelling this magic into spells. Those who channel weyline energy with the use of spell-words are called wizards. Wizards seldom have magic of their own and rely on weylines to power their spells.
Spells are made up of spell-words. Words of power from ancient, alien and eldritch languages from beyond the In Between. These words are often primordial, and power resonates with every syllable. Stringing together these words into coherent sentences can result in successful spells.
Many of these spell-words come from languages familiar to us. Hebrew is a spell-language, and its words can be used to channel certain types of spells. Other languages are more ancient, sounding like the elements themselves. Others are from alien realms, like Sintari, being taught to us by otherworlders stranded by the rifts.
Languages tend to have certain affinities. Graffscripp is a language dedicated to necromancy, while Hebrew tends to work best with purification and warding spells.
The power of the words isn’t locked in intent or will. They are inherently powerful, containing the essence of the power they control. The side-effect of this power is that memorisation and uttering of the spell itself involves literal storing of the magical power within one’s mind. This can be a huge physical strain, as the memorisation for a primordial spell-word that creates fire can feel like fire in one’s mind.
It takes a lot of willpower, mental strength and perseverance for a wizard to memorise many spells. Most wizards have mastered the ability of quick memorisation from spell-books and then purposefully forgetting them once they are no longer needed.
Wizards who have over-memorised spells have been known to show physical changes, like bulging veins on their heads, whitened eyes, and even the element of the spell they memorised being cast unconsciously around them. For instance, a wizard who has memorised a spell for a fireball may experience flames shooting out of his or her eyes.
As memorisation and casting of spell-words puts a physical strain on the user, wizards are constantly finding ways to lighten the load, shortening phrases and finding what words put the least strain on the user. Many wizards guard their discoveries closely, as all spells must be hand-written. Only highly expensive printers have been able to replicate some spell-languages, and only with using ink infused with expensive materials. But, if written by hand, a spell-word can be transcribed with a simple pen.
Spell-words must be uttered from memory. If a word is uttered using a physical reference, the spell will be cast, but the physical reference will burn up in a mostly harmless golden or dark fire. These once-off spell references are called scrolls and are a common commodity for non-wizards wanting to use a spell once. The only material found to be able to retain a spell-word without burning up is scarified living skin. But, only if used by the owner of said skin. But, be warned about engraving spell-words onto oneself, as its properties may transmit onto the user.
The process of casting a spell as a wizard is as follows:
- Channelling: The wizard will reach out their senses towards the local weyline, signalling their intent to use its power. Depending on the nature of the spell, the purity of the weyline will affect how easy this phase is.
- Incantation: The wizard will start incanting the spell-words memorised or written on a scroll. Every intonation and minor pronunciation is crucial for successful delivery and even small mistakes can result in a failed spell.
- Ritual: Some spells require a degree of ritual. Ritual circles, presence of ingredients, appropriate circumstances and even sacrifice. This is performed during the incantation at the right moments.
- Casting: The casting is released at the crescendo of the incantation, as the channelled magic is refined by the incantation and ritual and released as a completed spell.
Verbal incantation is not just speaking. Often, it can sound like singing, hitting the right notes to perform the spell properly. But spells don’t even need to be verbal. Movement is its own form of language and some wizards have found spells that work with dance, channelling certain routines into powerful shield spells and illusions.
Spells can also be locked into objects, granting them magical properties. This is called enchanting. Preparing scrolls for use is technically a form of enchanting as it involves a wilful creation of an object bearing magical properties. But, for people wanting something a bit more permanent, enchanters use hidden spell-words or unspeakable runes to imbue objects with magic.
Popular enchantments are hardening spells, which prevent materials from snapping or bending. Hunters are big fans of blades that can never go blunt or bear an aura of purification that damages evil spirits. For warding off evil spirits, a simple enchantment is the engraving of purification script onto vellum, sealed with special wax.
Enchantment can also happen without the intervention of an enchanter, as objects under certain circumstances have been known to gain magical properties, such as swords soaked in the blood of a thousand foes becoming sentient, or a broom used to clean up magical residue becoming able to fly. These naturally enchanted objects are unpredictable, however, and should only be used with caution.
Technology and Magic
Technology and magic don’t necessarily clash but, for most types of magic, there is a natural barrier between the arcane and the technological. Most printers can’t replicate spell-words, for instance, and emailed spell-words tend to cause crashes or just come up blank.
While some magical materials, like crystals brought through the In Between, have been able to interface with our technology, most magic is incompatible with our tech.
Except for lawmancy. Lawmancy is a human-created school of magic combining Latin, legal mumbo-jumbo and just a bit of Sintari to create magical contracts that are magically compelling. As Lawmancy is a human-created school, it can interface with technology. Lawmancy contracts are printed and can even be stored digitally.
Wizards are the scholars, researchers and hard-won magic users of the Cataclysm. But, there exist a privileged few for whom magic comes naturally. Sorcerers have a natural well of magic within themselves, activated or gained through the Vortex. This magic is called spark.
Every sorcerer has a spark with varying natures and capacities. Some are small, only being able to use a few spells before needing to rest, while others contain sparks able to challenge some weylines.
More than not needing to rely on weylines, sorcerers don’t even need spell-words. While spell-words and wizardry are more refined and capable of producing far more complex results, sorcerers all contain affinities for certain types of spells. This affinity reveals the nature of their spark.
Sorcerers can simply expel their spark as the element of their affinity. Pyromancers can create fire, purifiers can release vitality into their targets, and dark sorcerers can release energy that simply damages a target from within.
While sorcerers can use their spark as a substitute for a weyline and act like a wizard, it is far easier for them to instinctively cast spells using their affinities, typically using movements or simple spell-words to refine the casting.
The affinity of a spark may also have a profound effect on the nature of the user. Elementalist sorcerers have been known to have personalities reflecting their element. Pyromancers are aggressive, arrogant and have to constantly balance a desire to just consume with the need to sustain themselves. Purifiers, however, tend to be inherently good, if a bit obsessed with cleanliness and altruism.
While the challenge for wizards is resisting the power of spell-words, the challenge for a sorcerer is intense negotiation between their affinity and self. This is a constant battle of personalities and will, with sorcerers either conquering or winning over their affinity, or being conquered by it.
It is only when the will of the self is in tandem with the affinity that a sorcerer can become truly great.
I hope this guide helps you understand a bit more about the magic of the Cataclysm. This is a hefty topic with many aspects. And, for every rule, there are exceptions. But, with this handy guide, you should be one step closer to becoming an Archmage, and thriving in life after the Cataclysm.