Magic in Allrianne

24 Dec

More from the Zero verse.  And spoilers …

Magic in Allrianne

It is important to understand that very few people on Allrianne understand the true nature of magic. Even the Thousand-Year Empire, which codified the first principles of magic, didn’t really understand what they were doing. Only a handful of people realised the truth and they never talked before the empire fell. (See The Zero Curse for details.) Much of magical knowledge, therefore, is based on flawed understanding.

Magic is believed to be a talent shared by the vast majority of the population. Everyone has magic, some people just have more of it than others. A person who ranks low on the magic scale – the Empire rated magicians on a scale of one to ten, with the average being three or four – can rise higher, simply by practicing and practicing until they develop their magical strength. A child who starts practicing magic at a very early age will be stronger than most adults by the time he or she enters school. (And also have an intimate understanding of both magical knowledge and older languages.) A child with a high magical rating can be born anywhere.

In reality, Allrianne is surrounded by a magic field that interfered with evolution. Beasts such as dragons and basilisks evolved to the point they could draw on the magic field, either to fly or power their deadly gaze. (A dragon could not hope to fly without magic.) Plants became infused with magic, allowing them to be used as potion ingredients. And humans evolved into living batteries of magic, instinctively absorbing and storing power from the magic field. Human intelligence allowed that magic to be shaped into spells and cast; sometimes, when the human was pushed too far, the magic would be released by accident, sometimes injuring or killing anyone unlucky enough to be nearby. The more humans practice with magic, the more magic they are able to store.

Channelling vast amounts of magic is immensely difficult. While a sorcerer can turn someone into a frog for a short space of time (the spell tends to wear off) greater and longer-lasting works require the use of tools, runes and considerable preparation. A sorcerer with time to prepare is a very dangerous enemy; a magician’s house tends to be spelled to protect him, giving him the advantage of the pre-prepared position. Runes and suchlike draw on the magic levels in the air, but need to be triggered by a sorcerer to work. Potions can be assembled from components with their own magic, yet – again – need a magician to start the process that turns them into magic.

(Many potions, rune drawings and suchlike can be prepared by a non-magician, but require a considerable dose of magic to get them to work.)

Most magical children are home-schooled from the moment their magic appears, where they are taught how to draw and develop their magic. Once they turn 12, most magical children go to a magical academy, where they are taught the basics of more complex magics – everything from potions brewing to geometrics (the art of drawing runes.) Children born to non-magic families tend to operate at a considerable disadvantage, as they are rarely taught control before they go to school. (They aren’t inferior, but they have to learn to draw on their magic before they can actually use it, which needs proper lessons.)

‘Theoretical Mages’ are magical theorists. Not all of them can perform magic to a high standard, but they tend to be very good at working out the interplay of runes, hand-movements and vocalisation to cast new spells. It’s perfectly possible to cast a spell without knowing what it does, but magicians tend to get better results when they do know what it does.

A tiny handful of people are born without any magic at all. (In reality, they have no connection to the magic field.) These people (Zeros) are often impossible to differentiate from Ones and Twos, unless they’re unlucky enough to be born into a family of strong magicians. Unlike Ones and Twos, no amount of magical training will get magic out of a Zero – they simply don’t have the ability to store magic, let alone cast spells. This leaves them terrifyingly vulnerable, but it does have some advantages. A Zero may be unable to resist anything from a simple compulsion or transfiguration to a long-term curse, yet none of these spells – even reinforced by a Device of Power – will linger. Very few spells will last longer than an hour if cast on a Zero. They are also immune to certain types of magic – the werewolf and vampire curses, for example, only work if the victim has magic – although this is rarely noticeable.

Much to the frustration of magicians, the secret behind producing Objects of Power was lost during the wars that swept the continent over a thousand years ago. Objects of Power are items that draw on the magic field itself (like runes, but to a far greater extent) and confer great gifts upon their owners. There are swords that cut through anything, shields that protect the wearer from anything, trinkets that confer a degree of magical immunity … such items are literally priceless, as no post-Empire sorcerer has managed to duplicate them. There are many sorcerers that produce shoddy imitations, Devices of Power, but such items rarely last long.

[The problem is that the magicians who attempt to forge such devices are imbuing them with their own power, which refuses to work in harmony with the natural magic. Even a very low power magician would have problems making an Object of Power work. The only people who can make them reliably are Zeros.]

Relatively few Objects of Power survived the fall of the empire, leaving behind legends, rumours and the very real prospect of someone discovering a long-lost Object and using it to found a new kingdom. The people who do possess Objects – all of which are literally priceless – use them to bolster their powers and secure their rule. Even a mere Family Sword – a weapon bonded to a specific bloodline – can have importance far beyond what it’s powers might suggest.

King Rufus is rumoured to possess a sword and scabbard that makes its wearer invincible in battle. The Kingsmen possess armour passed down from the Eternal City itself. Other notable Objects of Power include the Willing Wand, the Frog Maker, the Truth Stone and the Throne of Seder.

The original Devices of Power were forged in Shallot – according to legend – when sorcerers first realised that forging Objects of Power was harder than it looked. They took the original instruction books (which neglected to mention the need for a Zero) and tried to find a simpler way of crafting Objects. The Devices they made were more flexible than the Objects of Power, but they decayed rapidly (the magic they used to imbue the Devices reacted badly to the pure magic from the magic field.) A Device of Power can be overpowered or simply countered, unlike Objects of Power. However, they can also be repaired relatively easily; an Object of Power, if broken, is almost always impossible to fix.

Magic is omnipresent within Allrianne, with even the merest peasant using magic on a regular basis. (To light fires, for example.) It is rare for so much magic to be used that it actually drains the local magic field, but it does happen. Particularly intensive battles, for example, do tend to cause localised drains, often ending the fighting or turning it into a hand-to-hand engagement. (This is why soldiers carry swords as well as spellcasters.) It is generally believed that such engagements involve so many spells that they are interfering with each other, but that isn’t correct. In reality, the local magic field has been lowered to the point it cannot be used until it has time to regenerate.

It is important to remember that Tintagel and the other kingdoms do not use magic as extensively as the Thousand-Year Empire. There are no flying cities, no homes forged out of cloud-stuff, no flying machines, no gateways that allow a person to step across the empire in a heartbeat … indeed, it is possible that the Eternal City would have suffered a disaster in the next few hundred years even without Tristan and his followers. The magic does not go away, but it can be drained …

 

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