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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Magic in Laeryk's Proving: Part Two

Last time I spoke generally about magic and some of the societies supporting it and/or practicing it in Laeryk's Proving. For this entry I want to hone in on the one of the magical Gifts specifically, and talk about what that Gift allows people to do.

First, I'd like to explain a linguistic note regarding the book. The names of the three magical Gifts are part of the "First Tongue," the original language spoken by humanity. You can make parallels to The Wheel of Time's "Old Tongue" if you like; they'll provide excellent context for the First Tongue. One of those conventions is that female-gendered words in the First Tongue have a different suffix than male-gendered words. Male-gendered words and gender-neutral words do not include a specific suffix, while female-gendered words end with an -iin. So when referring individuals with the Saritar Gift (the Gift we'll discuss today), a man would be called a Saritar and a woman would be called a Saritariin. The use of the word Saritar when referring to the Gift itself is neutral. This same convention exists for the other two Gifts.

The Saritar Gift

Each of the three magical Gifts found in humanity focus in some form on the concept of transmutation. In the case of the Saritar Gift, this transmutation involves energy. Saritar and Saritariin are capable of taking an existing form of energy in their vicinity and transmuting it into another form of energy, and then directing that energy. This tends to create a visual effect, making it the flashiest of the three Gifts, often creating the misconception that it is the most powerful of the Gifts. Indeed, many Saritar and Saritariin are guilty of a certain hubris which leaves them believing that their powers are greater than the other Gifted, though this is not measurably true. On the other hand, explaining that to someone who can spontaneously transmute the kinetic and potential energies about them into heat energy, causing a large ball of fire to explode where you are standing, does not often work.

The Saritar Gift is capable of seemingly impossible feats. Effects like throwing fireballs, or bolts of lightning are certainly possible, but these are the crudest forms of using the Saritar power. The Gift's true strength is in its versatility. Saritar and Saritariin can combine multiple types of energy together to create multiple effects at once. A wall of fire with a component of physical force to prevent a trapped foe from escaping. A dome of air which not only stop arrows from striking the Saritar but also redirects the arrows back at the archers. Chains made of lightning which harm the bound victim, but also absorbs the victim's own kinetic energy to intensify the physical force of the chains, making the victim bound more tightly the more they struggle. Those with the Saritar Gift are able to seemingly create energy from nothing (which is untrue, but that is what the common man perceives it as), and require no outside aid or source for their power (unlike the other two Gifts, which require either an elixir or a spirit). This contributes to the mistaken sense of superiority those with the Saritar Gift often feel toward their fellow Gifted. The ultimate expression of the Saritar Gift is the ability to instantaneously travel from one place to another, but this teleportation is used sparingly due to the sheer difficulty in manifesting it (see below).

Weakness of the Saritar Gift

While the Saritar Gift is powerful, and has considerable advantages over the other two magical Gifts practiced by the Triumvirate, it is not without its faults. The most significant problems with this Gift are the emotional problems associated with its users, and the extreme fatigue it places on its Gifted.

Emotional Problems

Each Saritar and Saritariin is said to be "aspected" toward an element. Often, a Saritar will find an affinity for creating and manipulating energy aligned to that aspect. A fire-aspected Saritar might find it easier to transmute energy into heat and light, while an earth-aspected Saritariin may find that using kinetic force to move solids is easier for them. These aspects show no prevalence for gender; there are as many fire-aspected Saritar as there are fire-aspected Saritariin.

In addition to an affinity for manipulating energy related to their elemental aspect, Saritar and Saritariin also demonstrate common emotional traits linked to their aspects. As an example, Those with the Saritar Gift who are aspected toward fire tend to have fierce tempers, and are often angry at something. These emotional extremes are often severe, and often represent a danger to humanity. An angry, ill-tempered Saritar with an affinity for creating fire is generally not a positive thing for their community. One area of focus for Saritar and Saritariin undergoing training with the Triumvirate is gaining control over their aspect's emotional influence. This can never completely banish the effect - fire-aspected Saritar and Saritariin will always have short tempers and generally angry dispositions - but can help to minimize the effect or at least allow the Gifted to recognize the influence of their aspect on their emotions and hopefully allow them to look past it. Still, even other Gifted dislike having to bring bad news to a fire-aspect for fear of the reaction it may provoke.

Here is a list of the common elemental-aspects and their emotional effects displayed by Saritar and Saritariin:
  • Fire: Fire-aspects are short tempered and angry individuals. They often snap at others or lose control of themselves in tense situations and feel that their Gift is stronger when used in anger. They often describe their Gift as a ball of fiery rage within themselves.
  • Lightning: While not a "classic" element, Saritar and Saritariin with an affinity toward electrical effects are common enough to label this as an element. Just as lightning strikes in the flash of an eye, lightning-aspects are constantly in motion and are often impatient. They tend to grow frustrated that others cannot keep up with them. Their words sometimes run together because they are in such a hurry to get them out. Their Gift is often described as a tingling sensation running through their entire body, forcing them to keep moving.
  • Earth: Earth-aspects tend to be stubborn and resolute. Once their mind is made up it is nearly impossible to change it. This makes them loyal friends and resolute enemies. Unfortunately, just as breaking through a stone wall often leaves the wall in ruin, events which cause earth-aspects to reevaluate their position on things often leave them nearly powerless with doubt. Their Gift is often described as resolute conviction.
  • Water: Water-aspects often seem to be calm and at peace. They are in no hurry; everything will get taken care of in its own time and place. This is a dangerous misperception. Water-aspects are an example of extremes. When at peace they are calm as still water. When they are riled, they become as turbulent and fierce as a storm at sea. Many water-aspects try to emphasize serenity in their lives to avoid the chaotic maelstrom which can result when they are upset. Water-aspects also run the risk of crippling melancholy and depression. They describe their Gift as a vessel filled with liquid.
  • Air: At one time, air-aspects and lightning-aspects were confused for one another. Air aspects like to keep themselves busy, to always be doing something. They aren't necessarily in a hurry to complete their task, they simply don't like having idle time on their hands, leading them to maintain a large number of projects at once so that they will always have something to work on. They also tend to dislike silence, filling it with words, leading many to believe that air-aspects babble. In truth, most are content if the air around them is filled with the sound of their work, but not all are so easily placated. This has caused some air-aspects to suggest that their is a "Sound-Aspect" emerging, but no serious credence has been given to this theory. Yet. Air-aspects describe their Gift as a sense of lightness and the constant feeling of a cool breeze at their backs.

Each of the Gifts require a source of energy to power their transmutations. For the Saritar and Saritariin, this energy comes from within themselves, investing a small measure of their own lifeforce into their powers. Normally those with the Saritar Gift are careful about how much energy they channel through their Gift, allowing them plenty of time to recuperate from its use but in times of duress, such as battle, they can drain their own lifeforces to dangerous levels. This drain is the largest limitation on the abilities of the Saritar and Saritariin; they are capable of amazing effects, but may lack the personal ability to sustain them, or even enough energy to safely create the effect in the first place. For example, theoretically it is possible for any Saritar or Saritariin to fly, but in reality it is such a complicated and taxing procedure that many would be unable to even lift themselves off the ground, and those who could would quickly lose the ability to sustain their flight. Conversely, creating discs of force to use as steps is a much easier effect, allowing a Saritar to ascend when needed, but requiring them to use regular human locomotion to actually move. Similarly, creating a bolt of lightning to strike a single foe is simple; creating a storm of lightning to strike at an entire army is simply too much for any Saritar or Saritariin to handle.

To combat this disadvantage inherent in their Gifts, the Triumvirate has developed a technique for creating a physical vessel to store energy from one or more Gifts. These vessels can then be used to cause an effect specific to the vessel. The common name for these vessels are "spellspheres." While they are difficult to create, the Triumvirate still produces a steady amount of spellspheres, specifically to allow members of the Triumvirate to quickly return to its halls each year so that they can prove they have adhered to the Triumvirate's laws while away. Anyone with even a slight Saritar Gift may use a spellsphere, but they must be trained in the spellsphere's use; misusing a spellsphere will result in the energy being catastrophically released, unleashing destruction to a wide area. Spellspheres used for instantaneous transportation contain enough energy to annihilate a city. Obviously, the Triumvirate tightly regulates the possession and use of spellspheres to prevent any accidents from happening; thus far, they have been successful.

Weak Saritar Gifted

The Triumvirate sends out its members to test children for signs of Gifts on a regular basis, particularly in Fardan, where such tests are held multiple times a year. One of their main justifications for this is that even if a child possesses a Saritar Gift considered too weak for the Triumvirate to train (in other words, even minor transmutations would nearly kill the Gifted), these children still possess the aspects and associated emotional issues that stronger Gifted share. Parents of such children are offered a choice by the Triumvirate; they may send the child to Fardan to receive training on controlling these emotional problems, or the Triumvirate representatives will attempt to teach the parents some techniques which might help their children cope with their aspect's influence.

Children sent to Fardan are often offered a further choice. They can choose to simply learn what they need to and return home, or they can stay and join the Triumvirate's Legionnaires, which is made up entirely of men and women whose Saritar Gift was too weak for training. Each Legionnaire is tattooed with special sigils designed to store and enhance the energy naturally channeled through their Saritar Gift. While the Legionnaires still lack the ability to transmute energy in the way "full" Saritar and Saritariin can, the energy from these sigils can be fed back into the Legionnaire's body, giving them bursts of enhanced strength, speed, reflexes, and perception. This ability, combined with extensive combat training, makes the Legionnaire's some of the deadliest infantry in the world. The Triumvirate uses the Legionnaires to help defend both itself and Fardan, and also to hunt for servants of the Surok'tarn. Being offered the opportunity to become a Legionnaire is considered a great honor for both the parents and the child in Fardan, though children from other lands often don't see it that way. Almost every child from Fardan agrees to join; recruitment from other nations is small.

Legionnaires suffer from the same risk of expending too much of their lifeforce as other Saritar and Saritariin, though their sigils help minimize this risk by creating a reserve of energy for them to use. A Legionnaire who has exhausted the energy in their sigils can continue trying to empower themselves, but they will quickly exhaust their lifeforce since their Gifts cannot channel it effectively. Legionnaires who have exhausted their sigils also tend to find themselves less effective in combat, as their training has assumed they will possess the enhancements to their speed and strength. Experienced Legionnaires often focus more on their training to offset the risk of their sigils running out of power.

As a side note, there have been several experiments to see if the using similar sigils on "full" Saritar and Saritariin can create a reserve of power for the Gifted which would allow them expand their abilities. In all instances, these sigils curtailed the Saritar Gift almost entirely, and further study into this area has been stopped by the Triumvirate.

The Other Gifts

One of the things which has lead the Triumvirate to believe that the magical Gifts are related to one another is the possibility of Gifted possessing more than one Gift. This is not a common thing, but it is not unknown. In all cases but one, each Gifted has a Gift which acts as their primary Gift, leaving their secondary Gift considerably weaker. Only the Triumvirate's leader, the Arakon, possesses all three Gifts, each at equal strength, and the Arakon is aberration the Triumvirate cannot recreate.

Saritar and Saritariin who possess an additional Gift most commonly possess the Vordanitar Gift, the Gift of Compelling Spirits. In most cases, this Gift is only strong enough to allow the Gifted to see spirits, though a very rare few Saritar and Saritariin can Compel minor spirits. This is almost always regarded as a useless ability by those with the Saritar Gift, as its effectiveness is negligible when compared to the power of their Saritar Gift. There is no record of a Saritar ever possessing the Alkesarim Gift, though it is commonly accepted that such a Gift combination must have happened, perhaps before the formation of the Triumvirate. There are other theories which say that the Sharynwyn Marshes probably has Saritar and Saritariin with the Alkesarim Gift, but the lack of communication with the Sharynwyn people make this difficult to confirm.

Kickstarter Update: My kickstarter project for Laeryk's Proving is now live! To take a look at it, go to this link:

Next Time: Part 3 of our series on magic, focusing on the Alkesarim Gift!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Magic in Laeryk's Proving: Part One

Most fantasies have some form of magic, and Laeryk's Proving is no exception. In Laeryk's Proving, magic comes in a variety of forms. The most common magic in the world are the magical "Gifts" practiced by humanity. I'll be making separate posts for each of the various types of magic, but today's post will concern itself more with who is practicing magic.

The largest organization formally practicing magic is the Triumvirate, an association Gifted humans who police the world of Laeryk's Proving to make certain that the Gifts are not being abused, and to make certain that the servants of the entities known as the Surok'tarn are kept from returning their masters to the world. The Triumvirate is based in the nation of Fardan where it maintains its Academy. In several nations, including Fardan, Deldanare, Coribhal and Haddar, many children undergo testing at an early age to identify whether they possess any of the three Gifts. Children identified with sufficiently strong Gifts are often recruited to come to the Academy where they are trained to master their powers. In Fardan, where the Triumvirate wields extreme political power, even those children with weak Gifts are often sent to the Academy, where they are trained to become the Triumvirate's Legionnaires, the armed muscle of the Triumvirate.

The Triumvirate is ruled by a single Gifted, the Arakon. Each Arakon possesses all three of the Gifts (whereas few Gifted have more than even one Gift), and is tasked both with leading the Triumvirate and with maintaining a constant vigil to watch for signs the Surok'tarn are returning. Each Arakon lives until their successor has been found and trained to assume their duties, no matter how long this process takes. The current Arakon is a wizened old man named Alchamedus, and has lived for over three hundred years, far longer than any other Arakon before him. Alchamedus appears to have lost interest in directly leading the Triumvirate, concentrating all of his energies on his vigil, and leading the Council of Three to rule in his absence. The Council of Three is made up of the three leaders of each of the Gifts in the Triumvirate, and traditionally only act as advisers to the Arakon. The current Council of Three appear to find Alchamedus' absent quite to their liking, and some wonder if they would return power to the Arakon if he demanded it.

While the Triumvirate makes up the bulk of humanity's Gifted, it has found itself unable to infiltrate into the land known as the Sharynwyn Marshes. The Sharynwyn people are ruled by their so-called Witch Queen. Each Witch Queen is a powerful Gifted in her own right, and has always been adamant that the Triumvirate stay out of the affairs of the Sharynwyn Marshes. The Witch Queen's most loyal servants, warriors called the Hunters of the Slain, are a match for the Triumvirate's Legionnaires; the Triumvirate respects that the losses it would incur should it press the issue of the Sharynwyn Marsh's independence from its direction is far more than they consider reasonable. Meanwhile, no one, not even the Arakon, knows what goes on inside the borders of the Sharynwyn Marshes. Whispers in the halls of the Triumvirate say that the Sharynwyn had discovered Gifts no one else has ever dreamed of. If this is so, the Witch Queen keeps it hidden.

Next Time: Part Two will cover the first of the magical Gifts, the Saritar Gift.