Aetheric Magic

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Aetheric magic

Aetheric magic, also known as Artifice, is a magic of the mind. Insofar as it is understood, an Adept’s sufficiently and correctly focused thoughts can travel though the aether. This is believed to be a higher level of consciousness which links all living creatures.

Becoming an Aetheric Adept requires dedicated study rather than any innate ability. A good musical ear and a talent for accurate pitch and rhythm is a distinct advantage. Aetheric enchantments rely on lyrical recitation of Old High Tormalin phrases and fragments from even more ancient and lost languages to focus the Adept’s thoughts and intention. Understanding those languages is not a pre-requisite as someone without any such knowledge can still contrive an Aetheric enchantment if they can mimic the relevant words sufficiently accurately, and with the necessary concentration.

Where an excess of emotion can provoke perilously unrestrained wizardry, mental distress makes Aetheric magic impossible. Physical discomfort will similarly hamper an Adept trying attain the requisite concentration to work their Artifice. Confidence is another vital factor in wielding Aetheric enchantments. Self-doubt or loss of conviction in an enchantment’s efficacy can shatter Artifice beyond recall. It can prove very difficult for an Adept to successfully work a specific enchantment which they have failed with before.

Using the correct recitations, an Adept can connect another person: to speak with them mind to mind, to see through their eyes or hear through their ears. Such connections are more easily made if the Adept already shares a close friendship or other emotional tie with the person who they’re reaching for through the aether. That person’s willingness to co-operate also helps. Using these enchantments to find and contact a stranger who isn’t expecting any such thing requires a much higher level of practise, precision and concentration by an Adept.

An Adept must take care not to abuse such co-operation by looking too deeply into those thoughts, hopes or fears which the person yielding to their magic would prefer to keep secret. Without sufficient care, the Adept may also inadvertently reveal their own private feelings to whoever they are contacting.

More challenging enchantments enable more proficient adepts to force their way into someone else’s thoughts against their will, to search their memories and to uncover hidden truths or deceits. Such forced contact is a mentally and emotionally draining experience for both Adept and victim. It can also be dangerous for the Adept. If their victim has any knowledge of Aetheric enchantments, they may well be able to strike back using their own intellect and strength of will.

Some Adepts construct a mental image of the person whom they’re seeking in a place where they might meet, in their mind’s eye. This has both advantages and disadvantages. It can enable an Adept to focus their intent more clearly. However an unwilling victim with some knowledge of Artifice can seize the opportunity to distort or even take control of that imagined place, if their own intellect and Aetheric skills are sufficiently powerful.

Once a connection has been made, an advanced Adept can manipulate perceptions through Artifice; persuading the subject of their enchantment that they are seeing, hearing or sensing something that is not in fact real. In the case of someone suffering mental or physical anguish, Artifice can offer an imagined sanctuary where the sufferer will find much needed respite from physical pain or grief. An Adept can compel someone to go to sleep or inflict temporary or even permanent lack of memory. Naturally, such distortions of perception and compulsions can also be wielded with malicious intent.

With sufficient skill, an Adept can compel someone to tell the truth or indeed, to tell lies. Artifice can also instil courage in a coward or hope in the despairing. Related enchantments also protect an Adept against someone using such Aetheric magic against them.

More difficult enchantments to master take Aetheric magic to the level of mind over matter.
Adepts can affect someone else’s physical body as well as influencing their mind. Different enchantments can heal illness and injuries, even broken bonds long mended awry. Artifice can soothe pain and reduce the effects of poison. Contrasting and equally powerful enchantments can also inflict wounds. A victim can be left deaf or blind in reality, not merely persuaded that they’re unable to see or hear. Ultimately an Adept can kill without leaving a mark on their victim.

The ultimate invasion of another’s mind enables an Adept to take complete control of their subject’s voice and limbs, even to utilize practical skills and knowledge that their victim may have. However this is only possible as long as the victim remains alive, albeit a prisoner locked inside their own wits. Such an experience can leave a victim deeply traumatised and even permanently insane.

An Aetheric Adept can also keep their own physical body unaffected by heat, cold or other physical assault up to and including penetration by blades or arrows. A sufficiently capable Adept can even withstand elemental magic attack. The extent and duration of such resistance will obviously vary depending on the strength and expertise of the wizard involved as well as the Adept’s own proficiency.

The most challenging enchantments enable an Adept to influence the physical world around them, up to and including inanimate objects with no consciousness to provide a link through the aether. Thus an Adept can move a table or chair, repel an attacker or perform such feats as apparently walking on water or though thin air. If archaic stories are to be believed, the most highly skilled Adepts can travel from place to place by means of Artifice conveying their physical bodies through the Aetheric plane.

Artifice and Wizardry

Elemental mages have never been able to work Aetheric enchantments however diligently they study. One factor here may be the lack of magical talent so prevalent among wizards. They seem deaf to the finest nuances of tone and rhythm required for the most advanced enchantments. Alternatively, such mages may simply not be applying themselves, secretly sharing the widespread wizardly disdain for Artifice. After all, such things as shifting physical objects or moving oneself from place to place are considered elementary skills soon learned by apprentice mageborn yet are considered among the highest achievements of Artifice.

Some scholars seek to address such clearly imperfect understanding of Aetheric magic’s different strengths and true potential. Since wizards intent on working elemental magic have proved singularly vulnerable to Aetheric attack, they argue, such scorn is most ill-advised. Other Adepts leave these wizards to their misconceptions and concentrate on their own studies and improving their skills.

The History of Aetheric Magic (in brief)

The dominion of the Old Tormalin Empire was enabled and sustained by Aetheric magic. Enchantments enabled the Princes of the Tormalin noble Houses to communicate with each other and with their far-flung branches of their own families managing their interests in the successively annexed provinces of Lescar, Caladhria and Dalasor. The study of Artifice was an essential part of the education of younger members of such families being raised to play their part in sustaining and expanding their family’s wealth. Commitment and loyalty to their families gave such students a dedication which served to both to facilitate such learning and to enhance the resulting enchantments. Confidence in the Tormalin Emperor’s unassailable authority further strengthened the Artifice underpinning the Empire.

Enchantments supported the Emperor in his role as chief judge and lawgiver. Artifice also gave the Tormalin Imperial Legions unanswerable tactical and strategic advantages as the Empire expanded through force of arms, bringing the previously disunited fiefdoms of Lescar and Caladhria under Tormalin’s generally benign but implacable rule.

Healing Artifice was readily available to all who might need it at infirmaries attached to temples sacred to Ostrin, god of healing and hospitality. Other temples and priesthoods had their own Aetheric traditions and learning associated with their chosen deity, with such Artifice used for the common good by their priests and priestesses. The trust and faith of the common people seeking Artifice’s aid assuredly bolstered the confidence of the priestly Adepts and made their enchantments all the more effective.

The Tormalin considered Artifice far more useful than elemental magic. Its practise was not limited to those afflicted by the happenstance of magebirth while the study of Aetheric magic was thankfully free from the destructive accidents so common with elemental affinity’s manifestation.

However at the same time as the last emperor, Nemith the Reckless, was embarking on his ill-fated quest to conquer the wilds of Gidesta, a catastrophic shock struck through the aetheric plane. An attempt to establish a Tormalin colony in lands recently discovered on the far side of the Eastern Ocean had foundered. Under attack from unknown foes, the colonists had become trapped with no hope of escape. As a last, desperate resort, the Adepts among the colonists had sent everyone into an aetherically enchanted sleep, hidden in a remote cavern.

Thus a large number of people, including a disproportionate element trained in focusing the aether, were suddenly and permanently removed from the collective and communal loyalty to the Emperor and belief in Tormalin and its deities. This inadvertently unbalanced the aetheric plane underpinning all Artifice.

Across the Tormalin Empire, abruptly losing control of their enchantments without any apparent cause or explanation prompted a crisis of confidence among Aetheric Adepts of all degrees of proficiency. The failure of communication and other spells caused immediate and practical problems, which served to worsen the stresses afflicting those Adepts. At the same time, Nemith the Reckless’s debauched and divisive reign as Emperor was prompting increasing dissent and dissatisfaction among Tormalin’s noble Houses and the princes who led them. Military disasters followed in the Gidestan campaign, with the failure of Aetheric magic playing its part at several crucial junctures. This tipped the worsening political situation into a downward spiral. The Empire’s newly apparent vulnerability promptly encouraged uprisings among those Caladhrians and Dalasorians still resenting Tormalin suzerainty.

Within a decade, the Old Tormalin Empire fell into the generation of dissolution and strife later known as the Chaos. As the Tormalin great Houses abandoned their own increasingly ineffective Artifice, both knowledge and understanding of aetheric magic was lost. The rise of elemental wizardry under the leadership of Archmage Trydek further accelerated the relegation of Artifice to the realm of fable and superstition in the lowlands.

Artifice and Current Scholarship (in brief)

Mentors at the University of Vanam in Ensaimin became curious about Artifice when aetheric enchantments were discovered in trinkets and jewels originally brought back from the lost Tormalin colony across the eastern ocean. It was established that those personal belongings offered an aetheric link to those still sleeping under the enchantment enduring through so many generations.

With the assistance of Archmage Planir of Hadrumal, those Old Tormalin colonists were rescued. Information and guidance from those far more expert Adepts now awakened both accelerated and broadened the Vanam scholars’ studies. However lengthy study is still required before current Adepts can hope to achieve the advanced enchantments that they have now learned of.

The Tormalin Emperor, Tadriol the Provident, was naturally informed of the lost colony’s discovery and became interested in the history and potential of Artifice, as did the leading princes. The archives and records of noble Houses have been searched for scraps and hints of aetheric lore, from the currently most powerful to those families long fallen into genteel decline. The Emperor has declared his intention to found a new university by Imperial charter, to gather all such learning together.

Aetheric Magic beyond the Old Tormalin Empire

Archipelagan attitudes to Artifice are unknown. It’s generally assumed the warlords would be as hostile as they are to elemental magic.

The Forest Folk retain some low-level enchantments woven into their wide-ranging tradition of folk songs and fables. Their efficacy is haphazard and the Folk are only interested in those charms offering practical help with hunting or safe travel and other day-to-day challenges of life in the wildwood.

Aetheric Magic and the Sheltya

The Mountain race has retained considerable Aetheric expertise and knowledge which they have seen no need to share with the lowlanders. Artifice underpins all the work of the Mountain law-givers and priests, the Sheltya. They are set apart from the rest of the upland population who live in widely-separated settlements in the remote valleys. Sheltya travel, perhaps by Aetheric magic, perhaps by more mundane means, from settlement to settlement, usually arriving without advance warning and often precisely when their services are needed. They also spread news between the settlements and pass on appeals for alliance or offers to trade.

Both men and women serve as Sheltya, offering advice and making judgements in case of disagreements. They investigate crimes and impose sanctions and punishments on the guilty, up to and including removing those condemned who may never be seen again. Occasionally culprits return with no memory of who they were or what offences they had committed. A Sheltya decree of banishment will swiftly be declared throughout the Mountain settlements and an exile will find no shelter or welcome.

No one knows how many Sheltya there are. One solitary grey-cloaked traveller can be swiftly joined by ten or twenty to close a valley entirely to outsiders, in case of some pestilence or a grave crime such as murder or rape. Whispers tell of settlements left entirely deserted when the Sheltya have moved on.

No one knows where, or indeed if, the Sheltya have some hidden valley of their own where those chosen to join their ranks are trained. It is forbidden to ask about a Sheltya’s training and in any case, no questions are ever answered. Their acolytes are identified in childhood as fated to follow this path in life and the Sheltya request such boys and girls from their parents. Refusal is in theory possible, since those following the Sheltya path leave behind all ties of blood and birth and this can cause complications with regard to inheritance laws. In practise refusal is unheard of and even the most reluctant acolyte sent screaming defiance at parents and family reappears content with their new role.

Sheltya also conduct rites at each equinox and solstice and to mark births, marriages and deaths, in the names of Misaen and Maewelin, the only two deities whom the Mountain folk truly revere.

Aetheric Magic and Solura

Soluran Aetheric magic is preserved and taught in the Houses of Sanctuary dedicated to following the teachings of men and women considered notable for their wisdom and philosophical insight. Those wishing to become an aetheric Adept present themselves at the age of fourteen, considered to be an age of suitable discretion, and will be welcomed, whatever their parents might wish. On completing their training Adepts are granted the title of Brother or Sister. They are free to leave the House and renounce that title, to marry or live their life as they might choose, at any time.

These Houses offer healing Artifice and care for orphans and invalids as well as providing food and shelter for travellers. No payment is ever requested by a House or an Adept. However they are invariably sustained by the generous donations of the local populace and nobility.

House Adepts serve as local administrators of such things as debts and loans, and adjudicate minor disputes that need not concern the local nobles. They also offer independent witness and adjudication where a local noble is one of the parties in a dispute and thus a conflict of interest occurs. Artifice is used in performance of all these duties.

Houses are committed to defending the local population by force of arms if necessary. In border areas such defence can include the aggressive, even lethal, use of Aetheric magic. Against such foes as the Mandarkin, a House’s Brothers or Sisters will often wield their Artifice in co-operation with mages using elemental wizardry. In such conflicts Artifice is a vital defence against Mandarkin aetheric magic attacking Solura’s wizards.

Nothing is known of Mandarkin’s Aetheric tradition other than its focus on the most destructive, vicious Artifice so plainly seen at work in these border skirmishes.

Aetheric Magic and the Elietimm

The ill-fated Tormalin colony on the far side of the Eastern Ocean came under attack from a previously unknown race living in a harsh and barren group of islands in cold northern waters. These Ice Islanders or Elietimm as they call themselves are ruled by men and women who have considerable Aetheric skills at their disposal and use such magic without mercy to sustain their rule.

It has been established that these people are kin to the Mountain Men or Anyatimm as they call themselves. Mountain sagas previously unknown to lowland scholars tell of a schism between those uplanders who wished to see Aetheric magic used to safeguard the power and influence wielded by the strongest and wealthiest families holding the richest valleys, and those who believed that Adepts should remain set apart with their Artifice used to serve and to defend those of from highest status to lowest. Elietimm exile to the Ice Islands would indicate the Sheltya prevailed in that long-ago trial of strength.

Elietimm ambitions to expand beyond their unforgiving islands were abruptly curtailed following the successful concealment of the beleaguered colonists. Lowland scholars have yet to establish if their Adepts were affected by the widespread disruption to Artifice that struck the Tormalin Empire, or whether the humiliation of defeat prompted a lessening in the fear and dread so all-pervasive among the Ice Island’s populace which is believed to sustain their Aetheric magic in much the same way as Tormalin trust and confidence once sustained their empire.

The rediscovery of the lost Tormalin colony beyond the Eastern Ocean prompted renewed hostility from the Elietimm. This aggression was rebuffed by an alliance between Aetheric scholars from the University of Vanam, a select group of wizards from Hadrumal and chosen representatives from Tormalin’s most noble families, reporting to the Emperor himself. A state of truce rather than of peace was achieved after losses on both sides.

An Elietimm attempt to suborn disaffected Mountain Men to their cause and thus open a second front of attack on the mainland was comprehensively repelled by the Sheltya, though precisely how this was done remains unclear.

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