Magic in the World of The Curse of Troius
Get your Nerd Waders out. This one is gonna be geeky. Like a 7th level Spiritwrack spell geeky. Thou hast been warned.
During a recent author interview (see what I did there!? Didn’t that make me sound all authoritative and cool? Like I’m a big time dude that magnanimously allowed the guy with the white card that says PRESS tucked into his fedora onto my yacht and allowed him to savor the aroma of my pipe and swirled brandy. It was almost exactly like that.)
Anyway, during a recent author interview, I was asked about the nature of magic in the world of The Curse of Troius. It was an interesting question, or at least it was interesting to me, since I never expected it. Magic plays a very subtle background role in Curse, with few “on-screen” demonstrations of spells and wizardly goodness. The zombie plague at the heart of the story is caused by magic, of course, but little of it is described in detail as a process – mostly because I didn’t want to turn it into a story about My Magic System. It was enough for me to show that magic was behind it, then move on the the important stuff like gnashing teeth and spilled innards.
But in actuality, there is a structure behind all of the magical forces at play in the Nameless World (probably need to work on that at some point) that houses the stories of Curse and Storm. There are a lot of ways to go about creating “magic” in that world. I’m going to explain the different base types or Schools of magical manipulation, and if anyone at all is interested beyond me, I might go into more detail of the various types in later posts. Unless I suddenly start kicking my own ass and giving myself wedgies.
Waders on? Goggles? Neoprene gloves? Good. I think we’re ready.
Magic encompasses the ability to manipulate and change what would normally happen naturally by the force of one’s own will, devotion to an outside spirit of power, or rapport with the forces of nature themselves. From the bolt of fire writ large against the sky, to the holy knight healing a crippled beggar with a touch, to a dance to bring the rains, all of these are caused by the use of the forces known simply as Magic. There are different types, using different means and causing different effects, but all involve the changing from what is natural to what is desired. In many cases, the different types of manipulation may be used in conjunction with one another, such as a Ritual using Devotion Magic to hearten the members of a church. The main different types of magical manipulation are as follows:
Arcane Magic is the use of different components, arcane words and gestures, and the caster’s will to complete the desired effect. By combining these things according to formulae called Spells, the caster manipulates the energy or essence of the universe. Nearly always, these effects require a gemstone to act as a focus for the release of power, and the stone needed may vary according to the effect desired (a garnet would be more appropriate for a fire-based spell, or a diamond or crystal for divination). For the most part, these spells are short in casting time, short of duration, and limited in strength. To be sure, great power can be channeled for a brief period of time by an arcane caster, but generally its effects are less powerful than that of a Ritual. Many traditional wizardly deeds fall under the auspices of the Arcane: bolts of lightning, blinding with a flash of light, or levitating an object.
Bardic Magic channels the power of song into magical effects. A bard is able to manipulate emotions of listeners, provide restful, healing sleep, and other mystical effects through the power of his song and music. These effects can be slight and subtle, or powerful enough to cause walls to tumble down.
Devotion Magic uses the power of an outside spirit, such as a god or demon, channeled through a person devoted to exercising the entity’s will. The applications of devotion magic are many and varied, according the type of spirit being worshipped. A god of peace and plenty may provide his devout followers with curative and blessing spells, while a demon may grant her devotees spells of fire and destruction. Devotion spells are broken down into Spheres, and each individual spirit would have different Spheres that the spirit provides and can influence.
Dream Magic involves the power of the dreamer to enter and manipulate their own dreams, or even the dreams of others. Powerful Dreamers can even enter the Dreamworld, a world that reflects the normal world that a dream may occasionally touch upon. Dreamers use their power to learn information, glimpse the future, or torment sleepers with horrible nightmares.
Harmonic Magic uses the caster’s rapport and familiarity with the forces of nature to influence the natural world, especially plants, animals, weather, and the like. Instead of Devotion to a particular spirit, a person in Harmony with nature itself can influence how the natural world behaves, changing how fast plants grow, bringing rain to needy crops, or calming and healing an animal. Traditionally Druidic casters would fall under the area of Harmonic Magic.
Ritual Magic involves specific ritualized movements, chants, and objects to create its magical effects. Often, these rituals can take a long time to cast (hours, or even days), but have far-reaching or long-lasting effects. Rituals are generally useless in combat or other dangerous settings; a ritualist may have a ritual that would only take 3 minutes to perform, this is generally a long time to perform a delicate operation while being threatened with bodily harm. Ritual magic is often crossed with other magical forms as well, such as a ritual for a Dreamer to bring others into the Dreamworld, or for a Harmonic to entreat the spirits of the forest to allow safe passage.
Rune Magic uses the power of certain mystical runes and sigils to cause a desired effect. Oftentimes, the spell cast when the rune is inscribed lasts as long as the rune does, which could be centuries or millennia. Runes can also be used in conjunction with one another to form mystical sentences to perform specific tasks. For instance, the Rune for Purify and the Rune for Water may be inscribed on the ground by a polluted well, and the power of the caster focused through the Runes could perform the desired effect. However, this use of Runes can be dangerous, as a Rune inscribed incorrectly could change the entire effect of the caster’s intentions, with unpredictable results. If the caster erroneously inscribed the Rune for Decay instead of Purify, then all of the water in the well could be turned to dust instead.
Totem Magic is the focusing of magical effects based on the Totem Spirit of the caster. According to Totemics, all beings have an animal spirit, and that through the use of the internal ties to this spirit, effects linked to that spirit can manifest in the caster. Thus, a Totemic bound to the Bear Spirit could grow to large size, perform feats of extraordinary strength, or even turn into a bear completely. The abilities provided by the spirit will vary according to the type of spirit being invoked.
In Curse, there are practitioners or possible users of several of the schools. Oldem Deeg, Merrus, and Troius are characters that all use Arcane Magic, Mirwyn has some levels of Harmonic ability, and Comrick may or may not utilize Bardic magic (ain’t tellin’). Devotees of Ban do not use outward displays that could be called “magic”, being an instrument of magic’s supression, but they might have certain low-key and subtle effects they draw upon. There is even a pair of Totemics introduced in Storm, but the reader won’t know of any unusual abilities until later in the series. Since magic is feared so much among the everyday residents of the human-settled lands where Curse and Storm take place, great care is taken to conceal its use. Some characters, like Mirwyn, attribute no magical root at all to their talents at woodcraft and other skills. Thus, in the series, these aspects are not played up much at all.
Well, that about wraps up today’s foray into Supreme Geekery. I feel like a tour guide who looks around, and finally notices that the little tram they’ve been driving is empty. Everyone else must’ve dived out at some point, trying to escape the droning voice over the intercom. Heh.