The Book of Magic

Cover Magic


Seeing the trend in recent years to publish comprehensive monographs on a single subject-the books of Dwarves, Elves, and even Men for instance-I have decided that it is only proper that I be the first to write a book on magic. The Wildspell called me foolish, but the Wildspell is gone and I am still here. I know as much of magic and the wilds as any other man, and I now share my knowledge with you. Read on, dear scholar, and find the true secrets of magic that other mages will try to hide from you, for is it not said that this is an arcane art, an occulted one? (This manuscript will never leave the College; Magic is an occulted art, and we don’t want to go sharing what we’ve learned with every mage in the land! -ED)

-Reynarius di Llun, Author and Sage of Renown

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The Soul of Magic

We must begin with the dragons, where so much of magical knowledge starts. In the ancient days of dragon-empires and wyrmish kingdoms they wrote volumes on magic. They believed that the earth (wyrmish, uruth, which means egg) contains a titanic dragon within it, sleeping forever in a dreamless slumber. It is the breath of the dragon from which is born magic, the tidal forces that mages draw upon. These are the same forces that move the continents and the seas, and the same forces that keep the moon in the heavens and the lamp of the sun journeying around the world.

The giants believe that all of existence is governed by secret words, a sort of grammar of creation. From what I have been able to gather, the ancient men of Zesh believed something very similar, as did the men of Aellonia (though the notoriously verbose Solon Everwind gave many lectures on the fact that magic began first in the mind and was then expressed through the breath).

Breath and grammar are both important in the workings of magic-and it does indeed appear to have tides (or at least places where magic is strong and places where it is weaker or absent; take, for example, the Tower of Morn where no magic flows at all!). Perhaps then, the truth can be found somewhere betwixt these tales, or perhaps it is something else entirely.

Suffice to say that there are three basic magical languages: First Kingdom Gigantine, Ancient Wyrmish, and Maïdic. The Trolls may have had a language of Power, but its records have been obliterated if they ever did. High Runic, while not magical in the same way, is also able to bend, trap, and concretize the ethereal powers that swirl about our world.

Yet for all this, magic is not a natural occurrence in the demi-human races or in men. While some may have more aptitude for it than others, there are no prodigals born who can, for instance, utilize the power of magic without teaching or learning. It is a measure of training and arcane knowledge, not some innate supply of magical energy (as some common folk persist in mis-believing), though it is true that working magic can drain one and make one tired; this is typically true of very mighty works, which may leave the wizard weak or woozy.

For my part, I believe the soul of magic is reliant on two principles. The first is willpower and the second is speech. It is inherently an act of will to manipulate the forces of magic, and one must possess sufficient intelligence and force of will to do so. However, it also requires a vessel (these being the ancient languages designed specifically to influence the breath of the dragon, or whatever one considers the magical tides to be) and it is in the conjunction of these two elements that one finds true magic.

Yet! Are they truly so separable as all that? Magic, when concretized, can develop willpower of its own. Yet a scroll will not read itself, though it has latent powers struggling to manifest. The question of the nature of magic may haunt theoreticians forever; yet its practice is not much simpler to describe. This is one of the reasons why it requires a decade and a half of training before anyone is prepared to enact even the simplest spells.

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When we practice magic, we do so with the use of a variety of tools. These are the implements, the somatic gestures, the arcane tongue, and the latent world. Working backwards we begin with the world. Conditions must be correct for the tides of magic to reach the wizard and for the wizard to draw upon the latent magical powers that infuse Arunë. The Arcane Tongue (one of the languages of power) is required to unleash the stored magics which are kept in the wizard’s mind. It represents the very structure of magic, the grammar by which it operates. Then, there are the somatic gestures which are a physical manifestation of that grammar. The release of power requires the breath AND the motion of the wizard. Lastly, sometimes magical incantations are not powerful enough to unleash their desired effects on their own; in these cases, the wizard must hold in their hands the elements that contain the necessary powers that must be released. For example, a mage unleashing a fireball will destroy bat guano in the process.

Of course this brief and clinical dissection of the nature of magic doesn’t do it justice. For those of us not trained at the College, we were taught this only through a long and torturous series of metaphors and obscured ciphers by our masters, every droplet of knowledge given grudgingly as though we were being initiated into some secret cult. Which brings us to the relationship of…

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Master and Apprentice

Throughout time, magic has been taught in the Master-Apprentice system. Its roots are obscured in the distant past, mysterious to us. It seems almost the natural order of the world. The Oronnos did it, and so did the Mileans. When a wizard begins to grow older in his years, and his sand starts to run low in the glass, he will often take on one or more apprentices to teach them the mysteries of magic-not only of spellcraft but indeed magic as he sees it. This includes all of the wizard’s own theorems, and many times may include custom spells known to none but himself that the mage crafted in his youth.

Apprenticeship is not universally cruel, but it may as well be. There are few young apprentices who are not put through the paces of washing clothing, cooking meals, and sweeping towers. Part of this is to build character; a mage with no stick-to-itiveness and no moral core is a dangerous creature indeed. But I suspect that more than part of it is also because that is how the master was treated when he was young. Most wizard’s believe in harsh lessons, perhaps because magic is so harsh a mistress.

It is most common for a master mage to have only one apprentice at any given time. That does not mean it is unheard of for one to have three, or even five apprentices concurrently. However, these situations are usually some manner of ploy to engineer strife and competition between the young apprentices, hopefully producing one who is exemplary; the rest are expendable. Apprentices may sometimes inherit the towers or libraries of their masters, but this is rare; most wizard’s are prideful enough that they do not want to “come into” magical holdings but build them up themselves. This leads many wizard’s towers to fall into ruin after the death of their owner.

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The Book of Magic

Abridged History of the 10th Age ALT_F4