Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: Magic, Theory and Practice

Wondering what the hell is going on with these blog posts? Well, head on over to this here post to get a general feeling for the Valley Kingdoms. If you'd like to read the other Valley Kingdoms pages, you can click the button up top or just follow this link to the index.

Theory and Practice
"A black stone, I saw, and it set my skin crawling. Vast, it was, endless vast, against the sky. It was wrong, somehow, and it shook me to my very heart. I felt each beat, stirring against my chest. 'You will be but an apprentice, when this is done,' said Arcath, 'but you will be changed. You will be marked by the stone. Viflusos. Marked, forever.' I knew I shouldn't approach. I knew it was wrong. Bile surged in my throat, tasted sour against my tongue. But o! to disappoint the High Masters of the Library? To be shamed before the others? No, better to go on. When my hand touched the Stone... Well, no one who has not can comprehend it. I was Marked. I was Changed."
Magic in the Valley descends from ancient Thingatha custom. Though there are other sources of magical tradition, none of these ever took root in the Valley and, as such, they are regarded as alien and fundamentally different. In ancient Thingatha, sorcery was known as the Gift of the Black Stone; sorcerers traveled to that empire's mighty capital and bowed before the throne of its God-Emperors before proceeding to the site of their pilgrimage: the Black Stone, a monolithic slab of jet that climbs, little by little, to the sky, a disturbingly organic looking thing, that sends the senses haywire: ears buzzing, eyes unfocused, fingers tingling. There are old rituals passed down from the first Valley wizards of Othan Kingdom who came from Thingatha that have been spoken and enacted by those seeking sorcerous powers since time immemorial.

Communing with the Black Stone has several effects. First, the priests of Ya warn that the immense hubris of wielding the Living Fire cuts the wizard off from the grace of Yasivan. Second, they have often intimated it opens the way for Yibrum to creep into the soul. More tangibly, it bestows upon each wizard who comes into contact with the Black Stone something called the Mark. This is a warping effect on the very person of the wizard, and is different from each to each. There are several broad classes of Mark, but its manifestation is always unique in some way. Most frequently, the Mark appears as a severe allergy to some natural feature of the world: silver, for example, or running water. More dangerously, the Mark can manifest as some severe disturbance of the mind or derangement of the soul which lurk latent in the wizard, only to manifest later when they have access to great magics. For this reason, apprentices who emerge from the process with no visible Mark are watched closely indeed.

Receiving the Mark is not the only step on the road to sorcery, however. Marked apprentices are still incapable of even the most basic feats of magic. In ancient days, magic was shared from one to another, as a craftsman to an apprentice, but since the foundation of the Library of Medenleb, wizardry in the Valley has always been a social skill, learned in an environment of extreme erudition. "The wizard who learns alone, dies alone," warns the great wizard Arusim in his Tractate on the Mysteries. He also cautions, that "without guidance, the wizard is consumed by madness." And indeed, there are many and varied ways in which magic itself appears to be connected inextricably to madness.

What, then, is magic? It is the Living Flame, the Will of Ya, the conversion of That Which Is Not into That Which Is. It is the potential to realize purely ideal forms into the material world. Some creatures perform magic by instinct: these are the so-called Mystic races. For mankind, however, magic requires the union of two distinct characteristics—the Gift of the Black Stone, and long and brutal training. While there are tales of wizards manifesting wild and uncontrolled bursts of magic, these are generally confined to legend and rumor.

Wizards refer to the manifestation of magic using a very specialized vocabulary. There is the rig, that is the physical alteration of the world that results from the use of spellcraft, as well as the yi, which is the power drawn upon to cause the alteration to come into effect. There is also the ikru, which refers to the mental construct of the spell, and the ingof, or the spoken words and movement that accompany it.

It is well known that wizards must mouth ancient formulae in order to bring their magic into existence. There are few spells that do not require this element, though the more powerful a wizard is, the minimum amount of fuss required to manifest the rig. Very mighty sorcerers, counter to what some believe, can bring about great change with very little outward signs at all. Wizards must maintain two contrary beliefs when they are enacting the ingof; that is, the ikru of a spell is composed of both the Way the World Operates and the Way the Wizard Chooses it to Operate. To hold both of these notions at the same time is extremely taxing. More stressful still is the channeling of the yi, the raw power required to fuel the magic.

Where does the yi come from? The religious, particularly Yasivan theologians, often point out the etymological similarity of the yi with the name of Yibrum, the darkness. However, this explanation has never sat well with wizards. Obviously, for who would wish to believe the Mark designates an eternity of nonexistence, or torment? Rather, wizards have, since the Thingatha Empire, hypothesized different sources for the yi. The earliest believed it came from the Black Stone itself. Arusim wrote in the Tractate that, "The force which brings each spell into existence is merely the force of language itself. This is why we speak in the Old Tongue, the Tongue of the Black Stone; the speech of the first wizards and the demons that walked the earth in those days is somehow separate from and different to our own. It is a speech of shadows and nightmares, with no referents. Where our languages all refer to things in the real world, the Old Tongue does not refer. It creates."

The ingof, then, are often thought of by Arusians as being merely mental aids; they assist the wizard in structuring his thought. The same, Arusim says, is essentially true of even the Old Tongue. "For a language resides not in the mouth of the speaker, but in his mind."

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