Excerpt from the introduction to the textbook "Spell Casting and the Environment" by Nadège Constine.
As everyone knows, all life and by extension all pieces of magic we practise are influenced by the environment we live in and the magic currents that surround us. Yet, despite how basic this concept is, very few individuals go through the troubles of adapting their magic when moving to a new location. While most of the population will not move much beyond a few dozen kilometres-wide area in their whole life, any individual hoping to achieve an elevated position in society will have to do so, and they cannot afford to suffer a loss of their magical skills as a result. It is therefore essential that students receive adequate training to prepare.
In this chapter, we will reintroduce the concept of magical geography and emphasise to students the importance of taking this parameter into account during all of their practice.
Currents of magic
The whole world is covered by an ocean of magic that is continuously in movement. However, the magic particles do not move at the same speed and do not have the same properties everywhere on the planet. This results in the formation of more or less strong currents and dead zones. All of those are colloquially called with the same names as waterways, depending on their size and speed: rivers, creeks, streams, lakes, waterfalls, etc.
All over the world, currents crisscross each other constantly and in all directions, forming rapid rivers that run alongside each other before merging together or that even hit each other head-on. All of this creates spectacular displays that, while invisible to human's eyes, can still be felt through our sensory cells specialised in the detection of magic, the director cells.
The diameter of those currents can be as big as 10-20 km and as small as a few metres. The currents fill the atmosphere of the planet, but similarly to gas molecules, the concentration of magic particles decreases with higher altitude, making magic absorption extremely difficult beyond the troposphere, and with magic almost completely disappearing once the mesosphere is reached. Currents also run deep below the surface of the earth, where they adopt strange and dangerous properties, which makes mining or visiting underground caves dangerous.
Magic currents are indeed affected by the geography of the environment through which they travel, with minerals, wildlife, climate, weather, day/night cycle, season, and star positions all affecting the behaviour of the magic particles they come in contact with, and they in turn being affected by the currents.
Noéline winced as the carriage crossed into a new magic current that hit her violently from the side. Its flavour was absolutely repugnant. Where could it have possibly come from? The sewers? She struggled to repress a shiver and hide her discomfort. With all the travelling they did in their childhood, nobles were compatible with a wide range of currents. No way she would highlight even more the fact that she was an outsider.
Thankfully, the carriage soon emerged out of the current to plunge into a vast and calm river. Noéline discreetly took a deep breath. How bad was the magic at the university going to be if she could barely tolerate such weak currents?
Consequences for life
Magic currents give different properties to the magic particles they carry. When those particles are absorbed by living organisms, they have the potential to affect their health and their ability to use magic. Indeed, the properties of the particles alter the way they bind to proteins and can be handled by the body.
This can result in some currents giving a magical "boost" to compatible organisms, allowing them to detect and absorb magic more quickly, to have it travel through the channels of their body more easily, and to have more control of it when casting spells.
Conversely, an incompatible current can have the opposite effects, as well as causing magic particles to escape from their binding, leaving them free to wreak havoc on the organism. This is an extremely serious matter: differences in lifespans of up to 20 years have been measured in humans in correlation with their compatibility with the magic currents of the area where they live.
Compatibility is partly determined by genes, but it can also be encouraged by environmental factors and exposure. It is estimated that 90% of all babies will grow up to be fully compatible with the currents in their home area, provided that they stay there for their whole childhood. On the other hand, experiencing many different currents through childhood increase individuals' magic sensitivity and tolerance of a wide range of currents.
It is also important for the development of children's proprioception and vestibular sense that they experience different types of currents. Moving very quickly back and forth between currents is a classic game that gives children the same sensory stimulation as being thrown in the air or playing with swings. Because of this, it is considered good practice to build schools and parks at the border of different current zones.
The next time the carriage went through a current hostile to Noéline, she was not so fortunate. It ran alongside the road they were traveling on, and neither the current nor the road showed signs of turning away any time soon. Another lurch of the carriage almost sent her flying. She would have thought the university would have taken more care in transporting the precious offspring of the most important houses of the kingdom!
But no, for sure, this was another test... She repressed a frown and focused her mind on her bracelet. It was made of simple, flat steel, completely out of place next to the gaudy gold pieces everyone else in the carriage was wearing, but perfect for engraving runes and stabilising magic fields. Noéline felt for them inside the metal.
Its absorption of environmental magic had become terrible. So much for having made it omni-currents... Thankfully, with her high magic sensitivity, it was easy to use her own magic to gently push the fields in the bracelet to the side, rearrange a line here, and another there, and then... The magic output of the bracelet suddenly stabilised and resumed its job of softening the seat beneath Noéline and absorbing all lurches from the carriage. Perfect. The joy of being as talented as she was.
Consequences for cities and buildings
It is obvious that the choice of geographic location for building a city is extremely important. The local magic currents will impact everything, from the health of its inhabitants, the fertility of the agriculture, the industry it will allow to flourish, to its military defences.
The most common choice of location is the middle of extremely big and fast-flowing currents—rivers. The advantage of being in the middle of big currents is the stability of their magic. This increases both the reliability of all magics practiced there and the proportion of everyone, natives and visitors alike, to be somewhat compatible with it. In addition, fast flowing currents increase the responsiveness of the environmental magic used during rituals and of the replenishment of the magic reserves of our bodies.
Another favoured location is the intersection of several currents, as this allows for a wider diversity in the properties of magic particles and so of the industry that can flourish there. However, this also increases the proportion of the population that is not fully compatible with the local magic. Visitors will also have much more difficulties in quickly attuning to the magic.
The capital of our kingdom combines those two characteristics, as it is located right in the middle of the vast Misty river at a point where it is intersected by three smaller currents, the Saule stream, the Roside stream and the White river.
Interestingly, a few locations defy all predictions by being extremely advantageous. The most famous is, of course, the Claret university that was built in the middle of a waterfall and a spring hitting each other head-on. This makes the local magic extremely violent and unstable, but those who can work with it will obtain spectacular results.
Considering this place to be the perfect training for the future leaders of our nation is still very shocking. The reasoning is that if the students manage to acclimate to the magic and control it with enough precision that they are able to pass highly demanding exams, they are ready to face anything in life.
The exact spot where buildings are put is also essential. Indeed, local variations in the magic current where the city is built will make those spots better adapted to perform specific types of magic, or just a better place where to live. The most important buildings such as palaces, garrisons, town halls, and noble houses get all the prime locations. After this, it all depends on the wealth of the inhabitants, although certain spots are reserved for specific occupations.
The orientation of the houses and the location of the rooms inside the building are also important, and a mixture of science and superstition surrounds those. For example, sleeping perpendicular to the current is preferred as it allows a better absorption of magic, although it is more brutal and uncomfortable than sleeping in the same direction than the current. For newborns, however, it is very dangerous not to constantly place them parallel to the current, with their feet being hit by the magic first to protect their head from being hit heads on. In addition, it is thought that placing newborns in a current favourable to a specific magic will help the baby develop that talent.
When the carriage finally stopped and Noéline stepped outside, her breath was cut by what was in front of her.
The magic was absolutely breathtaking! The mightiest waterfall she had ever seen was rushing down the atmosphere and crashing onto the earth exactly where a just as powerful spring was jumping out of the ground. Both currents were crashing against each other in a spectacular show.
Even after a few minute of contemplation, Noéline kept catching herself straining to hear the noise of the water despite knowing perfectly well that magic did not behave that way.
The group of students among which she was standing was gathered by a guide and shepherd towards the currents. The silence surrounding them was deafening. Breaking it would have insulted the solemnity of the moment. Only when they were standing right in front of the currents was Noéline able to vaguely perceive buildings inside of them. Claret. This was the first time her vision had been so affected by the intensity of the magic surrounding her—and indeed, both senses were supposed to be completely different!
One by one, the new students started to move inside the current. When her turn came, Noéline took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and stepped forwards.
Consequences for the use of magic
The properties given by currents to magic particles determine whether they are more or less adapted to different applications. While we manipulate those properties when casting spells or carrying out a ritual, it is much easier to work with our environment than against it.
Nevertheless, regardless of whether we do so, all magic we practise has to be slightly adapted to the currents. It is obvious with rituals and wards, as they are deeply reliant on environmental magic, but this also influences elements such as the stirring direction in chemistry and alchemy or the direction of the movements used when casting spells.
Unfortunately, few individuals go through the trouble of doing more adaptations than this in their regular magic practice. In the rest of this book, we will see what more can be done to alter regular spell casting to adapt to environmental changes, as well as suggest efficient strategies to quickly synchronise your casting to new locations.
Noéline struggled to keep her balance, to not fall to her knees, to keep breathing even! The magic was so intense—so violent! What she had felt before was nothing to how all her senses were completely offset now. And there was nothing she could do except fight for each new breath and hope her body acclimated quickly enough.
It took her an eternity before she was able to perceive images and sounds again, and still they stayed muffled and indistinct. Even if classes would not start before a few days, using magic in that kind of environment was going to be fun. And it was not as if she had already cheated her way through the magical strength admission test and would be at a disadvantage compared to everyone else...
As soon as the visit of the university was finished, she was going to spend a few hours recalibrating all of her rune works. Contrary to her fellow students, she may not have the money to pay for top masters to equip her, but there was no way she was going to show up with inferior work when her skills were so much superior to them! Her lack of magical strength and noble blood would not be allowed to get in the way of her success...