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Aethergy takes on specific resonances, granting various effects. This is the fundamental mechanism by which all magic works, as empowerments are bindings of precisely arranged chords of aetheric resonance. The following section gives an overview of the various powers associated with the aetheric resonances, as categorized into their common domains.
Astral resonance deals directly with the application and control of energy and the manipulation of aetheric energy to produce magical effects. These include empowerments that allow the mage to cast searing bolts of white-hot energy, raise barriers of energy capable of deflecting swords, arrows, and bullets, or surround themselves in an invisible armor of similar protective force. Mages can also use the power of evokery to create intricate magical locks, incapable of being broken by even the most skilled thief, or likewise to undo both magical and physical locks.
Such energy manipulation also allows mages to conjure telekinetic forces at a distance. Sometimes termed kinetic manipulation, mages can perform empowerments allowing them to move and levitate objects at a distance, inflict crushing attacks, project devastating blasts of kinetic force, or deflect incoming attacks with a shield of repulsive energy. A similar application of kinetic force can allow a mage falling from a great height to repulse himself from the ground, safely breaking his fall. Having mastered the application of kinetic force and inertia, mages may eventually master the empowerments of levitation and telekinetic flight.
Among the mage’s most potent powers of evokery are those that bend the very laws of physics and probability. Empowerments that distort or otherwise alter the seemingly random fluctuation of chance can be used to introduce a positive or negative effect on the general probability of events over a short period of time. Other empowerments can be used to accelerate the effects of entropy, causing metal to rust, machines to break down, and even matter itself to spontaneously disintegrate. Manipulating the forces of magnetism and gravity is also familiar to most experienced mages, allowing them to manipulate magnetic fields, or to similarly manipulate, strengthen, or even cancel out, the force of gravity over a small area.
Although similar to primal resonance in many respects, elemental resonance covers all empowerments used to invoke particular powers, qualities, or forces related to the nine elements of nature—earth, stone, water, air, fire, thunder, light, lightning, and aether. Elemental empowerments are most widely employed by elementors, shaman, and Eldrien, but most mages and sorcerers know a fair number of elemental empowerments to one degree or another.
Elemental resonance is generally grouped into material and energetic elements, the material elements being earth, stone, water, and air, while the energetic elements are fire, thunder, light, and lightning. Aether is generally excluded as an element when dealing purely with elemental resonance, being that aether is not so much an element in and of itself, but is simply the spatial medium of the aether. What is meant by aether as an element is actually aethergy, and aethergy is used to power all magical spells. In this sense, all magic employs the element of aether.
Most elementors also learn the art of summoning elemental spirits and creating elemental constructs. This topic is discussed in more detail under the subject of Summoning.
Illusions and Conjurations
Mages are perhaps best known for their skill at crafting elaborate illusions and conjuring fully materialized objects “out of thin air.” Illusions can be created by focusing magical energies in order to create tricks of light and sound by using immaterial aetheric forms projected into the physical world. Such illusions can be small, such as an illusion of a coin, or so astoundingly expansive as to create an entire illusory landscape that is complete with sounds and smells. How small, how great, and how detailed the illusion is all depend on the amount of energy applied and the skill of the mage who is conjuring the illusion.
The art of material conjuration can only be achieved after a full mastery of illusions. In simple terms, material conjury is the art of materializing illusions—but only small or simple illusions, as enormous quantities of aethergy are required to condense metaplasmic forms to the same density as matter. Even the best mages are limited to materializing small objects like balls, coins, bowls, and daggers, or, for the hopeless romantic, snapping the occasional flower (or something that looks like a flower) out of thin air. Despite these limitations, the creative mage can be quite ingenious, materializing needles, keys, chains, ropes, rods, and practically any kind of tool whenever needed. He can even create small weapons such as a dagger or stiletto, and perhaps even a sword or spear, or a shield to deflect an incoming attack.
Disruptive resonance, also known as dissonance, are those spells that block, interfere with, disrupt, or otherwise negate other empowerments and various forms of energy. The simplest of these are a class of empowerments simply concerned with concealing magic. Concealment spells are quite common, and are often used on empowered items, magical devices, and on mages themselves, to conceal an otherwise detectable magical aura. Used on an empowered item or device, that item will appear non-magical, and if used on a person, that person will not appear to possess any magical abilities. A more advanced form of conceal magic, generally known as an aetheric cloak, provides the same benefit as conceal magic and also shields against all forms of scrying and magical detection, including aetheric sight, detection and tracking empowerments, remote viewing, and other forms of delving and extra-sensory perception.
A more focused application of disruptive magic is dispellments. Dispellments, as the name implies, are used to dispel the effects of other spells, disrupting their patterns with an injection of random aetheric disorder. Most empowerments can be dispelled in this manner, however, dispellments are generally considered to be quick, crude, and imprecise. True aetheric countermeasures are much more effective than dispellments and are exactingly precise in combating opposing empowerments. Whereas dispellments are like a sledgehammer, countermeasures are more akin to a surgeon’s scalpel. Like a surgeon with his scalpel, the disruptor mage must know exactly what empowerment he is countering and how to counter it. If successful, the counter-harmonic dissonance will cancel out the other empowerment, essentially switching it off with no appreciable effects. However, countermeasures are notoriously difficult to pull off—especially in the fire-blazing, lightning-cracking, thunder-blasting chaos of a battle between mages.
Telepathy covers those various techniques used for telepathic communication and information gathering. Although telepathy is largely outside the domain of magery, these techniques are commonly employed by psychurgists, and sometimes mystics and sorcerers, although for psychurgists they are not so much empowerments as they are mental techniques.
Telepathy is, of course, most closely associated with the telepathic transmission and reception of words, images, and thoughts. Telepathic messages can be focused and propagated through the aether to a specific individual (if that individual is well known to the sender), or to all nearby individuals.
The ability to read the minds of others is another well-known telepathic technique, although it can only be performed by skilled psychurgists. For mind reading to even be possible, the psychurgist must also be sufficiently competent with a range of telepathic techniques. The most basic form of mind reading is the ability to sense emotions and detect lies. A more advanced form is direct scanning. Direct scanning of another person’s mind is a more forceful search through a subject’s mind for specific thoughts, memory, or knowledge. Such intrusive mental scans can be felt and likewise resisted; empowerments and mental techniques can be used to erect powerful mental barriers that block such scans, and to shield one’s surface thoughts.
Delving includes all forms of magic and psychic powers that extend the senses or grant new senses beyond the normal range of human perception. The most common of these is the ability to sense impending danger, otherwise known as danger sense. While danger sense empowerments do exist, danger sense itself is perhaps the most common of all psychic abilities, often appearing in individuals who have no other psychic ability or potential. Other sensory abilities include the ability to sense properties and impressions at a distance, to detect the presence of sentient beings, to detect the shadow resonance of evil or the undead, or to track the position and movements of a given target over great distances.
Delving techniques also exist to extend the normal human senses. These include the ability to see heat, to see with night vision or even in near-total darkness, and to see the colors and patterns of the auras of living creatures. Most mages are trained with empowerments allowing them to see into the aether with aetheric sight, which like detect magic, often becomes second-nature. Aetheric sight enables a mage to see the aetheric pattern of empowerments as they are being cast, as well as aetheric entities such as ghosts, specters, and egregores, and incidentally, to see many other things that are normally invisible.
Clairvoyance is the ability to see what would normally be out of sight. Clairvoyance is nothing like normal sight, and works more like a dream or reconstructed memory, being somewhat murky and subject to error. Looking into a room, the clairvoyant may get a general sense of its layout and the objects inside, and can focus on individual objects to envision them in greater detail. Clairvoyance has a very limited range, but a technique known as scrying allows the sorcerer, mystic, or psychurgist to see over a much greater distance using a scrying ball or other aid. Mages prefer the empowerment known as “the all seeing eye,” which summons a simple egregore that can be dispatched and controlled by the mage and sends back images of everything it sees as it flies invisibly through the aether.
Theurges use spirit resonance to bestow a positive aetheric resonance on an individual or individuals, or throughout an area. This positive aetheric resonance is more commonly known as a blessing or consecration, and countless prayers and entreaties exist that bestow such positive effects. Some simply bring feelings of warmth and contentment, while others can be used to heal, or give inspiration, or instill great joy and exhilaration—even rapture and ecstasy. Other blessings can be used to grant various forms of protection and defense by warding from evil or shadow resonance, or even deflecting physical attacks. Still other blessings can be used to dispel shadow resonance, banish or ward against spirits and the undead, and counter the effects of curses.
Banishing, warding, and defending against evil spirits and undead is considered one of the chief aspects of spirit resonance, second only to prayers and blessings. The ability to sense spirits and detect undead, as well to feel the presence of mystical energies or influences, is almost universal to all adepts of spirit resonance—and is almost second nature, like a sixth sense.
Theurges and sorcerers alike can create powerful wards of mystical energy that are charged with positive aetheric resonance to deter the entry of spirits and the undead. They can also create mystic circles to cage or contain spirits or the undead. A vast repertoire of prayers and incantations also exist for banishing spirits and inflicting damage upon the undead. These empowerments are all fairly specific, as an incantation to banish a ghost or specter is entirely different from a ritual to banish a wraith, which is entirely different than an empowerment used to damage or destroy an undead thrall.
There is no question that the greatest benefit of spirit magic comes in the form of healing, renewing, and curing. The vitalic resonance is one of life and spiritual focus, and it generally falls under the wider domain of spirit magic. However, only those who dedicate themselves to the arts of life and spiritual magic can master the great art of healing, curing, soothing, and mending. Mages, elementors, and sorcerers have almost no proficiency in the healing arts as compared to theurges and shamans.
It must always be remembered that magic is not the end-all, cure-all of every pain, malady, or injury. There are many things that magic can do, but there are just as many things that magic cannot do. Although there are innumerable spells and herbal recipes for curing different diseases or poisons, there is no cure-all empowerment for every disease and malady. Magic can also be used to mend broken bones and severe physical trauma, but such empowerments are difficult and can only be cast by the most skilled healers. While stories abound of spells that can regenerate lost limbs, such spells are now lost, if they ever really existed to begin with. Certain restoration spells can cure blindness, but magic can do nothing if the eyes themselves are destroyed. Nor can healing spells remove bullets, arrowheads, or shrapnel from the body. Healing is impossible to perform until the bullet or other foreign material is removed from the wound. As a result, surgery may be needed before healing can be applied, and such surgery may kill a subject if performed improperly. As powerful as magic may be, field medicine, surgery, and natural recovery are just as important—if not more so.
Primal resonance, which may also be called natural magic or shamanic magic, encompasses those spells and rituals concerned with plants and animals, growing things, sensing weather and the environment, and bringing oneself into closer kinship with the natural world. These empowerments also include the ability to summon and control animals, and even to communicate with animals (at least to a limited degree). Fundamentally, primal resonance is a subset of magery, which also covers all forms of elemental resonance.
Shamans and others who practice the arts of primal and natural magic can also exert some degree of control over animals both great and small, including beasts that are normally considered monstrous. Although the ability to call and control animals is a quintessential ability of all shamans and Eldrien, the techniques are actually quite difficult to master and can take years of training and dedicated practice. The shaman must learn how to extend his will upon the ever-flowing resonance of nature, what mages would call the currents of the aether, exerting his mental control over beasts. While it is impossible to control intelligent creatures in this way, shamans can invoke spells both to call and control wolves, bears, wildcats, and even such things as dire wolves, dire boars, and sabertooths. It is also possible for shamans to call and control monstrous beasts such as trugs, tarsks, basilisks, bulgores, and grimclaws. Of course, should the shaman’s control over these monstrous creatures ever waver, he would find himself in grave peril.
On the darker side of spirit resonance lies the realm of death, darkness, and chaos. Nothing better exemplifies the dichotomy between light and darkness, between life and death, between good and evil, than spirit resonance. While theurges, shamans, and even spiritors are generally regarded as practitioners of positive resonance, karcists manipulate negative “shadow” resonance, with sorcerers falling somewhere in-between. The simple truth is that spirit resonance is neither good nor evil, and neither light nor dark, and a theurge can bind empowerments to raise the undead or lay horrific curses just as easily as a karcist could heal the sick or bestow blessings of inspiration and courage.
Karcistry, by definition, is the perversion of magic for the purposes of evil and malevolent intention. Karcists channel and manipulate shadow resonance to suffuse the dead with necrolic energy, and reanimate abominable mortifants and undead thralls. They summon aggressive and tormented spirit such as wraiths and revenants, or corrupt specters and lesser spirits with hatred and malice, twisting them to serve their wicked ends. They commune with Bornless Ones, Darkweavers, and corrupt astral entities, and may even dabble in demonolatry to contact the demonic lords of Atracus to forge subversive pacts of power.
Karcists desecrate the virtues of life and spirit through baleful curses of hopelessness and despair, corruption and decay, as well as pitiless afflictions of monstrous disfigurement. Above all, karcists seek to become masters of death and chaos, thereby transforming themselves, both body and soul, into a deathless immortal—an undead lord known more commonly as a Lich. No shred of humanity remains within the corrupt resonance of the soulless creatures of darkness they become, with all that remains a bleak emptiness of malice, malignity, and madness.
Most elementors—and mages, to one extent or another—learn the art of summoning elemental spirits and creating elemental constructs. After having perfected the empowerments in a particular sphere of elemental magery, the elementor or mage may move on to mastering those spells used to summon the aetheric spirits that embody the elemental forces. These elementals, which may be tiny sprites or towering elemental giants, are capable of wielding a considerable number of empowerments, although these spells are limited to the elemental’s particular sphere. Elementors can also create elemental constructs. Although elementals constructs appear to be similar to elemental spirits, they are artificial elementals more similar to egregores than actual spirits. Elemental constructs are created out of pure elemental resonance and are usually assembled from nearby rubble, debris, or other materials.
Just as elementors can summon elemental spirits and shamans can summon beast spirits, adepts of spirit magic can summon spirits such as specters, phantoms, wraiths, and ancestral spirits. Apparitions and specters have little will of their own and can be easily subjugated by sorcerers to do their bidding. Phantoms, wraiths, revenants, and, to some degree, ancestral spirits are far more powerful and willful beings; only the most skilled sorcerers can control these spirits once they have been summoned.
Although mages can summon and control actual elemental spirits, they generally prefer to create their own artificial aetheric constructs, known more commonly as egregores, because such creations are far more predictable and easier to control than elementals and other kinds of spirits. Egregores can be likened to astral automatons; they are created through the focused intent and honed will of the mage according to precisely formulated conjurations and rituals.
A typical egregore can be used to monitor a door, chest, or safe. If it is opened, the egregore may then sound an audible alarm, telepathically alert the mage who created it, or cast a spell the mage has instilled it with. Such watcher egregore are used for many other purposes, as well, and can wait silently for days, weeks, or even months on end for a particular condition, event, intruder, or individual before carrying out its singular instruction. Other egregores are designed to travel through the aether, seeking a target or searching for a particular person, on a mission as benign as delivering a message or as nefarious as executing a brutal assassination. Guardian egregores can protect from egregore spies and assassins. Practically every king, duke, baron, or merchant prince is surrounded by a veritable swarm of guardian egregores conjured by his most trusted mages.
The great range of applications and possibilities opened by even the most basic egregores is almost impossible to illustrate in a few short paragraphs; entire volumes of text have been written on the methods and techniques of artificing egregores. In all uses, egregores should be considered nothing more than agents of command that are invested by the mage with the energy to sustain them for a period of time and one or more sets of instructions for them to carry out as prescribed. The possibilities for their use are truly endless, and the ability to create and control egregores is the greatest tool any mage will ever possess.
If empowerments could only be cast in elaborate rituals, they would be of little practical use beyond the sanctified walls of temples and the lofty towers of academia. Since long before the Age of Elinica, mages have known that spells can be infused within crystones, allowing them to be activated any time sufficient aethergy is apply, or even to generate a continuous effect. Although infusing empowerments is even more difficult and time consuming than simply casting the spell, the end result is infinitely more useful.
An empowered item is any item that has been endowed with one or more crystones, granting the effects, property, or abilities of the empowerments infused within those crystones. Some empowered items may have only one crystone, but most useful items have several crystones chained together in complex orichalium circuits.
Today, all manner of empowered items are readily found, the most common being luminaries, air coolers, and aetheric motors. Luminaries are frosted glass globes of various diameters, with a pair of small crystones inside. One is infused with the illumination empowerment, while the other is a channeling stone. Both are trivial empowerments (the channeling stone being a very low power one, as the illumination empowerment requires only a trickle of aethergy). Air coolers are less common, but often found in palaces, mansions, and large buildings, and generally look like large mesh ventilation grates. They have numerous crystones infused with empowerments that both cool and freshen the air, as well as several channeling stones. Aetheric motors are similar to any mechanical engine, turning a crank, wheel, axis, or rotor to do mechanical work, but are powered by an aetheric energy source, such as a channeling stone, aurium, or vita materium. Other kinds of empowered items include empowered armor, helmets, swords, and firearms as well as empowered rings, amulets, spectacles, tools, boots, locks, carriages, and just about anything else imaginable.