The Theme of Magic
Where does magic come from?
Gaia is an unusual planet. Or perhaps it isn't. In either event, it is different than our own. Gaia is richly infused with magic. It makes up her blood(Lifestream), and from that blood has arisen all that makes up her populace, living and not.
This overabundance of energy has given rise to several prominent characteristics that make Gaia what it is. The echoing vibration of the lifestream has brought a sub-reality, normally inconsequential and filled only with screaming chaos, to vibrant life. This world, known as the Spirit World is the resting place of beings that go by the same name.
Life's evolution is a murky subject at best. During the more advanced periods of sentient life, it has been theorized that life on Gaia is more likely seeded than spawned there. A passing intelligence may have contaminated the previously lifeless planet and given rise to its ever changing biosphere. The intense amount of potential energy made Gaia very imprintable in her bare state. Now occupied, it seems very unlikely that this could happen again.
'Magic', to be defined by most, is the actual employment of this Gaia-energy to do what muscles could not, or without them being used. While the most commonly referred to magic employs 'spells', which include incantations, hand gesture and ceremony, most denizens of Gaia employ magic day to day in ways that they do not consciously realise.
The quiet of the ninja, the caring hand of the farmer, the incredible precision of an archer, and the charismatic force of personality in a general are all in part thanks to this Gaia-energy. Magic is at work, though their users would be hard pressed to prove, or even acknowledge it. Having developed in such an energy rich environment, living bodies of Gaia are as used to its presence as any Earth person would be to air, and it's quite difficult for an air person to directly visualize the air they breath becoming the force behind a swung punch or somehow contributing directly to the healing ability of a doctor.
Despite this subtlety, it should not be mistaken to think that Gaians can exist without magic. Removed from the magi-sphere that Gaia eminates, a Gaian will rapidly wither and die from symptoms that appear identical to outstandingly rapid cancer. The fragile life bodies of Gaians has not changed from inception, remaining delicate imprinted patterns on the energy mass of the planet. Removed from its influence, it loses focus and form and falls rapidly into chaos, destroying itself from within.
The ebb and flow of magic
Magic comes and magic goes. Gaia has been through many cycles of strong and low points of her personal energy and its expression into the world. The seventh age was notable for its tragically minimal levels of energy, preventing most from employing even unconscious feats of magic without clutching to solidified chunks of magic(Materia).
The current, eigth, age started with a violent release and renewal of magic, Holy. After Holy, the magic slowly settled over the next millenia, only to be reinvigorated by interaction with The Dungeon. Magic is currently strengthing at a slow rate, and is powerful enough to allow mountain destroying magics to be put to use, provided enough training and skill.
How does magic interact with society?
Commoners and magic
Access to formal magic by a common man can be quite limited. Even basic magic trinkets can be quite expensive, but some are so useful that even rural farmers save up to have them. Basic lighting fixtures are often passed down families, remaining in the same home, securely locked in place.
It is often the sign of complete poverty to be utterly without even such a simple amenity. The criminal element, however, has no qualms with seperating a hard working man with his magical furnishings. Outside of furnishings, commoners often enjoy communal projects that involve magic. City water systems often employ magic to assist in purification. Larger cities light their popular streetways, though this often proves problematic, as the fixtures are target for vandalism and theft.
The actual learning of formal magic is at most a dream to most common folk, who lack the resources to pay exorbitant guild training, nor the funds afterwards to fuel research into the arcane. Of the various schools of magic, most commoners find their way as summoners, with red and time mages being the least common of commoner mages.
Magic and politics
Magic use in formal legal and political settings is extremely restricted. Only those mages who are considered 'on hire' at the specific location are allowed to use any magic at all without immediate fallout. Most courts of either variety will hire a handful of mages to monitor for the usage of magic, and to counter any that fall outside the permissable.
The mages that do operate legally within court are quite valuable, however. Unearthing evidence, revealing truths, and allowing eyes to go where the body cannot are all talents that magic can bring to the court. It is important to note that magic and faith based truth detection is not considered proof positive in any imperial court, though it is highly suggestive, and can and is used to help steer investigative or interrogational efforts.
Monstrous magics used to be quite popular within high politics. It was not rare for a noble to have a shapeshifting creature or two in their employ to help unearth, or create, reputation tarnishing evidence against their enemies. With the proliferation of true seeing gems, this tactic has dwindled in popularity, though some more careful, or wreckless, politicians continue to plie the old arts.
Magic and war
Magic is well at home in war. Of the various branches, black and white mages find themselves most easily at home in any armed forces. Sadly, as well as magic is welcome, the users of this force can often prove difficult to keep in line. This is the primary reason that military summoners are extremely rare, with blue mages taking second place.
Mages that are accepted into the imperial forces are often taken young in their training. Neophytes are often easier to discipline and bring into the military way of thinking than veterans who have their own idea of how things should be done. Exceptions are made, however, when the mage in question has reputable talent that is required, but such hirings are often temporary for a specific task.
Of course, informal subconscious magics are used at all levels of the army. Dragoons do not sail through the air under power of their innate muscles alone, after all. Such 'special abilities' are accepted and encouraged, so long as they are known. New abilities are looked on with some distrust until their applications, and control, are thoroughly mapped.
Some innate magics inherently lend themselves to leadership. The generals of the army are well renown for their strong forces of personality even in the chaos of pitched battle. Orders seem to pierce through the miasma of war despite troop morale and unstable combat conditions. Those who have impressive personal abilities, such as dragoons, who also display leadership abilities are often propelled through rank quickly.
It is important to note that, as the leader of the empire and its army, the Emperor is not immune to its requirements. No successful emperor has avoided displaying his or her combat prowess at one point or another to secure popular opinion and military leadership. The last Cid Highwind was quite well known for combat ability that approached god like levels. Elliot Highwind's civil war was caused in no small part due to the perceived physical weakness of the new leader, though the murmurs have died signifcantly now that Elliot has employed magitechnology to secure ability of his own.
Magic and religion
It is utterly impossible for a being's beleifs to not be affected in part by the abilities he or she may possess. In a world where magic is very much a practical part of life, it must be incorporated into any faith that arises within it.
Priests are often trained in various magics, from blessings to faith based healing. Unlike Earth counterparts, these incantations have immediate and visible effect. This is not to say that 'faith' has been removed from faith magic, however. A great portion of a priest's work involves the raising of spirits and the guiding of lost ways.
It takes a certain amount of faith in greater forces for most to muster the will to rise in the morning. The church-given beleif in various forces looking benignly upon the efforts of humanity give hope and reason to the common man's existance. Useful as a mental brace, emotional comfort, and social enforcer, the church helps gel society together.
In more practical ways, the church encourages its members to practice and master white magics over black. Necromantic magic was banned long ago throughout the empire, for ethical and religious reasons. Necromancy is not a globally banned art.
In the barbarian lands, Necromancy is regarded highly. Necromancers are the voices of the dead, as callers are the voices of the spirit world. Many warriors agree to protect their community even after death, swearing eternal allegiance to their people. Such willing vessels are more easily raised from the dead, and do not exhibit many of the symptoms of undeath, including extensive visible decay, slow movement, or lack of social grace, though they are usually pretty quiet sorts.
Schools of Magic
The schools of magic were slowly developed over entire ages of civilizations. The first three to appear are considered the most quintessential. Black, White, Red. In the beginning, some of the talents later to be moved or attributed to other schools were included. As knowledge of magic increased, humanity began to more specifically narrow their fields of study.
The art of restoration.
It is hotly debated whether or not White or Black was the first magic to be known to primitive peoples. Some insist that the first miracles performed were simply done out of seemingly impotent desire to see an injured tribe mate well again. It is theorized that the fevered praying of the community was the first white magics cast, causing the injured and sick to become well again.
Though such community magics have largely fallen out of practice, individually enacted white magics have become much more potent and skilled. White mages, often priests or otherwise involved in religious going ons, are capable of curing almost all of the world's trauma, provided the patient's vital soul remains available and present.
It is important to note that no white magic is avaiable to force a reincarnated spirit to return to its previous life. There are a rare few and dangerous rites that can draw a spirit that has departed but not yet reincarnated, though these always leave the individual with memory loss and possible personality shift. Most say that those whose spirit has gone should be left in peace, and to do otherwise is to come far too close to the art of Necromancy for comfort.
White magics is not entirely about restoring what once was. It is equally concerned with protecting what is already there. Protective shields, magic shells against offensive incantations, and blessings all fall under the umbrella of white magic. It is not difficult to understand why this school of magic is so commonly practiced amongst the religious for whom this corresponds primally with their basic function.
The art of destruction.
One of the core schools of magic, aside white and red. It is said that Black magic was first learned of humanity during the hunt. As early man chased after elusive prey, failing, desperation sent their aura out ahead of their slower physical bodies to subdue their target.
Early Black Magic was much akin to a staring match. A focus of intent and will that crushed the desired being's will to live. It is doubted that early such workings actually dealt much in the way of physical damage. Animals and beasts that escaped such treatment would often recover fully within a day or two.
Black magic has refined over the years, extending control over many elements for its destructive impulses. Its ability to deal raw mental damage has actually decreased, as it is much more efficient to bend the more easily available elemental energies of the universe. It is rumored that some Valente magic schools still practice the old ways of mental assault, though it has never again regained popularity.
The art of adapation through absorption, the Blue mage takes his/her inspiration from the monsters and beasts that populate Gaia, learning their special and unique magics. Blue Mages are by far the world's most knowledgable experts on monsters. The Northerner version of these are known as Feralis.
The art of space and moment; control over the very quantuum nature of the universe, dancing with paradox on a daily basis. They use their magic to alter the fundamental laws of nature around them.
The art of Gaia, her fury and her bounty. Geomancers specialize in working with and against the planet's anger and generosity.
The art of the ephemeral.
The result of the echo of gaia-energy, the spirit realm teems with life that defy even Gaia's loose rules of how things aught to work. Charged with the raw power of ideas, elements, places, or people, these spirits dwell in pockets of stability known as 'Domains'.
Spirits, as a rule, don't travel to Gaia without a reason, though some do live there(known as terrestial spirits). Summoners(or spirit mages) are those who deal with these spirits. Negotiating, binding, calling, and dismissing spirits are all tasks that such a mage must undertake.
This relationship can take many forms:
- Some take the form of owner/pet, with spirits like Carbuncle, where the summoner is the owner, to spirits like Hades, where the summoner is often the pet.
- Others take the form of husband/wife, wherein the summoner 'marries' the spirit in question, and is expected to act with affection and love towards their spirit charge, and expect it in kind.
- Rarely, it takes the form of master/slave, often when a summoner decides to bind a spirit completely to their will, allowing little to no free will. Spirits usually begrudge such relationships, however, and the summoner is well advised to practice caution.
- Quite often, the relationship is much like a business partnership. A deal is written, and as long as both sides keep their end of it, friendly relations are had. Services are rendered efficiently and cooly, then parties continue in their own direction.
- Some summoners seek to befriend the spirits, creating networks of allies and contacts that they can share meal with. Such summoners often find themselves devoting a great deal of time upkeeping these relationships, and taking care that they don't ally themselves with opposing entities, lest they become a conflicted interest.
The Nature of Spirit Magic
It is important to remember that spirit magic is inherently different from most magic, in that its effect is not actually created by the mage. The mage is but a conduit for another being's power. When the hellfire of Ifrit is conjured forth, Ifrit is the one wielding the might, using the summoner as the point of access to Gaia.
Because of this, summoner magic washes over allies without harm, seeking out enemies alone. Of course, if a summoner is on especially sour terms with his or her spirit ally, this could always reverse at the spirit's whim. Summon magic is also capable of much more complicated and grandiose effects, because the spirit is handling the actual effect, freeing the mage to act more as a battery for the effect than anything else.
The art of the art.
With any art, there are those that study it. For every man who scultps and paints, there is one man who studies the techniques used in either. This is the Red Mage. Practical, generalist, scholar, and jack of all trades. Red magic is not so much a magic of its own as it is an all encompassing study of all magic and how it works with the physical world.
Most red mages pride themselves on their martial ability in addition to their formal magic knowledge. The combination of two is said to be an almost sacred art that red mages practice almost alone, with minor exceptions given to the martial magics of geomancy and blue magic. "Specialization is for antlions" is a popular red mage saying. They defy odds by having an impressively dynamic selection of spells at hand.
Red mages are very valuable in most circles for thier ability to fill in where a more specialized mage is not available, or a lesser number of mages would be better suited.
In magical colleges and institutions, Red mages are most commonly taking the position of leadership. Their balanced view of the workings of magic make them easy choices in the highly competetive world of academic arcane studies and application.
The forbidden art.
See above in Magic and Religion. Imperial colleges do not offer training in any aspect of necromancy, but do take the time to counsel aspiring magi away from such a dark path. The working of souls is considered blasphemous in the eyes of the church, and the guild has shown no interest in breaking the faithful rules thus far.
On a more practical level, necromancers are a health and spiritual hazzard. Souls are, usually, pretty difficult to harm objects. While metal, muscle, and magic can reduce the physical body to ruin, the spirit is usually persisting, surviving to flee to the lifestream, to recombine and renew itself. Necromancers know the dark art of interfering with this process, absorbing souls, changing their flow, and otherwise defying the general flow of a process that has otherwise gone uninterrupted for eons.
While a person can survive without a soul, it is a lackluster existance at best. Lifeless eyes stare out from an empty vessel. The body will react to commands given to it in languages known, but will rarely do much else.
One of the more rare forms of users is the Death Knight.
The Elements of Magic
Magical energies, in the main, can be broken down into nine discrete Elements, eight of which form a balance of opposites. Fire opposes Ice, Earth opposes Air, Water opposes Lightning, and White opposes Black. The Elements of White and Black are, generally, the more primal of the Elements, usually bent toward a specific path (healing magics for White, status magics for Black) but can, with effort, be focused into their pure, destructive forms. Poison is the odd Element out in this circle, as it has no opposite force, and affects all the others in equal measure. Sometimes, rarely, an attack spell has no Element; in this case, the magic used is nothing more or less than raw, unfiltered Mana, and is covered in the system as Other. An in-theme explanation of the relationships between Elements can be found here, an excerpt from a typical first-year Mage Guild apprentice's primer.
The System of Magic
Back to Main Page