The Workings of Aether & Magic
The foundation of existence
"The weaving of the very fabric of reality, the manipulation of Aether - the primal energy that forms All - that is called Magic."
Aether is the formal term used to refer to the "primal energy", the source of magic and fuel to existence. It was used to give form to the universe as we know it, and from it, all things came to be. In low concentrations, it can do nothing but maintain the fabric reality, but in greater amounts it can be perceived and even manipulated, thus, forming magic. This energy is not only the origin of everything, but it is also present in all things because, without it, nothing can be. Even before The Calamity, when it was not possible to use Magic, there was still Aether in our world, but only very little.
Far from only energy, Aether is the manifestation of a concept. It is the Laws, limits, everything that forms existence. It means Balance, freedom and constraint, stillness and change. Balance is always true - an extreme never goes strong for long before its opposite comes crashing. Evil in excess attracts Good, and too much Good attracts Evil. Medicine protects the body but renders it weaker when left to fend for itself. A broken bone brings pain, but it will never break on the same spot again.
Aura and the Elements
"Being in tune with Aura means being in tune with All."
Aura is an interchangeable and the most popular name for Aether, but while both Aether and Aura ultimately mean the same thing, they are often used in different context. Whereas "Aether" is a more scholarly way to refer to it, the energy itself, "Aura" is more commonly used to refer to magic in its most raw and powerful form. There are nine branches that magic can be divided into, Aura being one of them when Aether stays at its base form, used to warp reality itself.
The other 8 schools of magic, or elements, are the manifestations of Aether from which existence is built upon. They are separated into two categories, the 4 elements of Order and the 4 elements of Chaos. Earth, Frost and Water are the 3 main elements of Order, while Light bridges the gap between Order and Chaos. Wind, Fire and Thunder are the 3 main elements of Chaos, with Dark bridging the gap between Chaos and Order. Each of them is the manifestation of a concept, which is the foundation to each of their magic styles and can only be mastered by fully comprehending the concept in question.
Practical useAs with all things, living beings also have Aether within themselves, forming what is called a Soul, the essence of the being. Humans (and their descendant races) have an exceptionally strong soul, which grants them the ability to interact with and manipulate other bodies of Aether through the power of their will. But to do this, one must make use of their personal reserve of Aether which, with extensive use, weakens their soul and tires their body. The strength of one's soul, that is, the amount of Aether within themselves, is what determines how much effort they can spend on magical effects.
Soul and magic
While every person indeed has a Soul, not all are able to use magic. How well you are able to manipulate the elements, or if you are able at all, depends on how well attuned you are to them - that is, how well you comprehend the elements' concepts. Study and practice with each element develop in the individual a better understanding of the mindset they need to have, and in turn, it also strengthens their soul and the bond between it and said element. Studying provides an understanding of the nature and philosophy of an element, and with it, a person grows stronger in the use of magic from that type. Practice, on the other hand, allows a person to make better use of the Aether they have, to be able to regenerate it faster and to increase its reserves, allowing them to weave magic more efficiently. If one can find a good balance between practice and theory, they can strive to become great and powerful magic users, also known as Wizards.
"Do you know the difference between our souls and magic? Well, there is none! Indeed, our essence is made of the same substance of the rest of the world, the very thing we use to manipulate and change our surroundings in what the call ''magic''. So it wouldn't be wrong to say that we are One, that our very existence is magic, and that the act of weaving Aether is the utmost expression of our being."
Elemental affinityWhile studying is certainly helpful, some people tend to have a natural skill towards a few elements as their concepts are very mundane and the basics could be unintentionally grasped by anyone simply by accumulating experience. This is often referred to as an "elemental affinity", what happens when a person is able to use the element more easily just by being who they already are. This is also often the element a student focuses on when studying the art of magic, as the effort of learning the concept is already halfway through.
There are others, though, who are unable to use magic. There could be several reasons, including traumas, lack of interest and proper study/practice, an untrained soul that lacks enough Aether, and/or a weak state of mind. But it is believed that, with enough dedication, anyone can use magic.
People from the elemental races rarely have this problem, though. Since their very existence is linked to an element, they are all naturally capable of bending it to their will, often better and/or with more ease than a human. It is a possibility, though a rather rare one, that there are exceptions to this rule.
Soul Barriers and other physical augmentationsWhile the understanding and manipulation of raw Aura are only acquired by a rare few, there is one trick most people are capable of performing: the Soul Barrier. The Barrier is like a protective coat made of Aether, formed to keep physical and magical harm away from the body, while also preventing blunt trauma from damaging its insides. It is a natural defense mechanism of the body, which is why any magic user can produce it, but it is not without its own limitations.
The Soul Barrier is not up all the time. It is an active effort to hold the Barrier, though the mental strain can be lessened through practice and familiarity. And while there is no cost for keeping it up as one is using their own Aether and not an external source, once the barrier is damaged, some of the user's Aether is lost and more must be spent to repair it. This means that while having the barrier is very useful, its use may limit the casting of magic, as one must decide whether to spend their resources on either offense or defense. Someone who stretches their use of magic too much might find themselves out of Aether to survive a deadly blow.
There are those who refrain from casting magic and rely more on their physical skills, saving their Aether to keep their Barrier up as long as possible. If a warrior like this is skilled enough to avoid getting their Barrier hit too often, they often use the excess Aether to augment their physical strength and speed, resulting in some of the most terrifying warriors out there.
Magical/Aetherial ResonanceAether is a highly interactive energy, that changes and resonates easily with its other forms. More trained and powerful users of Aether can use that to their advantage, developing an invaluable 6th sense. They can expand their Aether reserves to interact with other bodies in their surroundings, for an effect known as magical, or aetherial, resonance. This works similarly to echolocation, in the sense that the user depends on activating a signal and awaiting feedback. Once the person expands their soul and their Aether comes into contact with any other body of Aether, they react to each other in a way that resembles skin touching skin, a sensation through which the individual may know they touched something.
With due training, one can know how different each element feels and tell them apart, though it is nearly impossible to tell if that Earth-type aether is a rock, some leftover of magical essence, or someone powerful with said element, as they all share a very similar signature. Still, due to the fact that a person can be well versed in different elements at different levels, one can often tell apart a person since they will have a unique, mixed soul.
Since this technique requires putting two souls into contact with one another, one may learn about their target's presence, and the same will usually be true for that target as well, who may become aware of the caster's presence. So, while this is indeed a helpful technique to know, one must always use it with caution.
Aether is normally invisible to the eye, with no visible difference between a low-aether and high-aether atmosphere. There are rare instances, though, where it can be found in greater densities, such as in places where an intense magical event occurs. In those cases, Aether can be seen as a multicolored mist, as if a rainbow turned into gas.
When such a concentrated amount of Aether occurs, though, things are never as simple as just a colorful vista. Aether may carry semblances of consciousness, such as what happens with Ghosts, resulting in a dangerously unpredictable environment that watches those who are passing by and may even lash out against intruders.
As the foundation on which reality was built, Aether exists in all things, everywhere, therefore its laws also apply everywhere. Still, there can be a variation in the concentration of Aether in certain places, be it in more or less than normal. A greater concentration may happen due to large-scale magical events, transforming the area into an "aetherial pool", where magic can affect its surrounding much easier, both actively (someone is able to use magic more easily) and passively (the high density of Aether affects and may even mutate life-forms). On the other hand, a low-concentration of Aether may even stop any magical effect from occurring. A place such as this is unheard of in recent days, but such was the case in the entire Aequus back before the Calamity.
The VoidWhile not a part of magic per se, the Void is worth mentioning as it is a lack thereof. When elements grow weak, it is possible that they "go void", essentially ceasing to exist. Since the elements are important concepts to the existence or the world and of the beings themselves, the event of going void is never something desirable to anyone, as it brings an end to the cycle of balance.
Elements of MagicThe manifestations of Aether, known as elements, are the incarnation of one of the concepts that compose existence and are divided mainly into two categories: elements of Order and Chaos. The following shows which category each element belongs to and summarizes the main concept behind each of them.
ChaosIn general, the elements of Chaos are all about changing the status quo, either to improve or destroy what things were. They are:
Element that represents Action, movement, and freedom
Element of magic that represents Emotion, passion, and instinct
Element of magic that represents Defiance, will, and change
Element of magic that represents Death, conflict, fear, and truth. It is also the bridge between Chaos and Order
OrderIn contrast, the elements of Order revolve around preserving things as they are, so their destruction may be avoided. They are:
Element of magic that represents Reaction, tradition, and justice
Element of magic that represents Reason, study, and logic
Element of magic that represents Acceptance, tranquility, and flexibility
Element of magic that represents Life, peace, courage, and lies. It is also the bridge between Order and Chaos
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