The geography of magic Geographic Location in Challenges of Magical University Life | World Anvil

The geography of magic

Welcome to Challenges of Magical University Life! Noéline has average power levels, but she's clever and skilled and managed to trick her way into the premier university of the country. It's a struggle to keep up with the spoilt nobles, but she's determined to graduate top of her year no matter who she has to crush to do so! Come read about her studies and misadventures!
Introduction to the story | Noéline Rihour | Biology of magic | Novel upcoming

Table of Contents

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.
Magic currents running alongside each other by Ruvim Noga on Unsplash
Magic currents hitting each other heads on by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash
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.
Castle built in the middle of a magic river by Steije Hillewaert on Unsplash

Magic waterfalls of Claret by Raphael Koh on Unsplash
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...
Related articles
The University of Claret
Students Noéline Rihour
Classes The geography of magic · Biology of magic use and magical exhaustion
Locations Articles upcoming

Cover image: Magic current by proskurinsergey222 on DepostPhotos


Please Login in order to comment!
May 3, 2022 21:15 by Time Bender

Interesting! This seems like a cool world. I always love a good magical university/school! I imagine the drama will be intense for the main character, Noeline since she's not a noble-blooded person...

May 12, 2022 21:34 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Thanks :D I don't want the drama to be so much around Noéline's commoner status, as she will attempts to keep her head down and actually focus on her studies. It's her new friends that are going to be the source of drama with the petty quarrels between nobles. Although Noéline's status does make an outsider and will influence how much and how she can interfere.

May 3, 2022 22:03 by Lilliana Casper

This system of magic is so interesting! I love the idea! The way Noeline's narrative is divided along with the information is very well done. Great work! I can't wait to read more!

Lilliana Casper   I don't comment much, but I love reading your articles! Please check out my worlds, Jerde and Tread of Darkness.
May 12, 2022 21:36 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Thanks :D The next article I'm working on is further developing the magic system. I'm really having fun with all those technical details XD

May 4, 2022 12:27 by K.S. Bishoff

This is very interesting. You do mention Claret and the capital but could you perhaps focus on the history of a specific river ... like the one where the castle was built ... who built it ... why ... I would think there would be those who would perhaps have contested for that placement. Does having a castle in a magic river give the owner more status and influence socially, politically, etc? Why is there only a castle there and not some great university or another great city?

Come vist my worlds
May 12, 2022 21:56 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Thanks for your comment and suggestions! I don't know if I'll be able to answer anything about the specific history of a river in this article, as I'm only started to create this world and I don't have much of the history figured out yet, but those are interesting points for me to consider.   For a general answer regarding the choice of river position, it's going to be pretty similar to how city locations were decided in our world. Not all of them are ideally located, but some have managed to make a perfect use of their environment for their defence and industry and have become famous as a result.

May 4, 2022 15:58 by Stormbril

This is so cooooooooooooooooooooool! Ever present varied rivers and "flows" of magic all across the world is awesome. I love that they get weirder as they go underground, and I *really* love that they have a "flavour" associated with them. I had been thinking about how one might structure a city or build key buildings with regards to these rivers, and then you went and covered that section and it was great! I wonder, extrapolating from that, what would a city look like built around a few different rivers intersecting? What buildings would be placed in the intersections of rivers, or in rivers by themselves? I feel like an aerial view of that city would be really interesting to see the flowing and weaving patterns that'd naturally form.   Really really great article, Amé!

May 12, 2022 21:41 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Those are great questions! I wanted to develop more how buildings were positioned, but then I got lazy XD Exact building locations is indeed essential, with townhalls, palaces, nobles houses, and garrison taking all the prime spots, then it get decided by wealth and the needs of people's occupations (like tanners needed real river, some craftsmen need special magical currents). But also, the orientation of the houses and the locations of the rooms inside the buildings are important.   And you're right about aerial views/maps; they would need to show magical currents... I should probably make one at some point, at least of the university. But that won't be anytime soon, as I need to worldbuild it some more before that.   Thanks for you comment :D

May 4, 2022 20:15 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Really interesting worldbuilding and magic system. I love the snippets of prose too - especially the one with the stinky river current. I don't know why but that one tickled me. :)

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
May 12, 2022 21:42 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Thanks :D I really like the idea of magic currents having smells, it's going to be fun to play with!

May 5, 2022 03:04 by RandoScorpio

I don't think it can be said enough, what a cool concept. Magic as waterways and rivers. What an absolutely neat take on the whole challenge, and so detailed and well expressed!

May 12, 2022 21:46 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Thank you :D Magic as water is always something I play with, but I don't normally make it as physical as I have here. It really creates a lot of possibilities and limitations, and I'll have fun playing with that!

May 5, 2022 13:05

What a nice twist to the river/waterway challenge! This sounds like a very interesting magic system and I especially like how all settlements are actually placed according to the currents. It must perhaps be hard from time to time to find a good place for magic rivers and normal rivers at the same location :p   Also intersting is how magic users have to change the way they go about their magic depending on the magical current they are in. I wonder if there is perhaps also magic that is only possible to cast in certain currents?   As always great work!

Feel free to check my new world Terra Occidentalis if you want to see what I am up to!
May 12, 2022 21:50 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Thanks :D Yes good point regarding the water rivers and magic rivers have to both be taken into account when founding a city. That means that not all cities are placed in ideal locations and that people make do with what they can, but some cities are very famous for having managed to do so.   And yes too for some magic only being possible in certain types of currents. Although it is more about general characteristics, such as a ritual requiring a very stable current or a very agitated one. And some magics can be facilitated if they are performed in a current with compatible properties or otherwise made a lot more difficult and dangerous.

May 9, 2022 22:23 by Michael Chandra

Fingers crossed that Noéline manages to make it through and teaches them all a lesson.   Hm... I can imagine having a clashing spot would be a nice spot for a castle, have a bad magic area just outside your walls so that you can easily fence off invaders.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
May 12, 2022 21:45 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

That's a good point. I haven't yet decided on all the details regarding that. My thought for now was that the border areas between magic currents create some instability (because of the different direction, speed and properties of the currents) that would make sending a magical attack through more difficult. But having something like whirlpools right outside the city could also be interesting...   Thanks for your comment :D

May 28, 2022 12:23 by Olarae & Astaroth Arcaine

Amélie, what can I say other than this is another absolutely fantastic entry! I always love the coupling of magic and water, I don't know why but this kind of theme always wins me over. Magic system just sounds really interesting and I really can't wait to see and read more!

_______________________________________________________________   Please check out our project Chronicles of Evalaw or come chat with us on our Discord Server!
Jun 2, 2022 12:10 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Thank you <3 Magic being visualise as water is also one of my favourite, and I always end up coming back to it no matter how many different worlds and magic systems I create XD

Jun 3, 2022 11:32 by Olarae & Astaroth Arcaine

Absolutely get that, it's a habit I fall into with making water deity. Somehow... they always end up related to water and magic in one way or another. xD

_______________________________________________________________   Please check out our project Chronicles of Evalaw or come chat with us on our Discord Server!
Jun 1, 2022 13:40 by Tara Fae Belle

This is really neat! And even having different currents as sensory stimulation used as games for children :) I like the story segments too!

My current passion is Shroom People. I still don't know much about them yet. But as I do, it will be updated here:
Shroom People
Species | Apr 17, 2024
~ Happy wording!
Jun 2, 2022 12:09 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Thank you :D I'm very happy with the idea of sensory stimulation, as I got it while reading a random tumblr post just when I was writing this article XD

Powered by World Anvil