Vector Pox

Terrifying. Don't get it. Not that we actually know how to get it.

As seen in
Vector pox can affect magical practitioner regardless of magical prowess, race, or health. Of the symptoms, the most frightening is the inability to channel energy through mana vectors properly, which progresses over years to encompass every vector across the body. Other symptoms are manageable, but 'poxed' wizards barely care about the secondary manifestations. The disease likely permanently ends the career of a wizard and carries a social stigma, casting them out of the community.  

Prognosis

Vector pox begins in one of the extremities. Scholars suspect heavy usage of a specific vector increases the likelihood of developing the pox, hence the dominant hand is the most common starting point. The pox spreads out, continuing to influence additional mana vectors until the wizard is rendered unable to cast any magic.   The deterioration takes years, with stricken wizards maintaining their profession for a decade or more from the time the pox first appeared. Even within the progression, vectors retain a modest effectiveness for months before becoming fully blocked. However, forcing mana through ineffective vectors contributes to faster degradation (in addition to the danger of poorly cast spells going awry).   Strictly speaking, mana vectors are not necessary for spellcasting, but the complete loss of them as a tool makes casting inordinately difficult. Poxed wizards are left with the ability to radiate mana, but little more. Some pox-affected experiment with basic spells after a full affliction and achieve minimal results (sometimes at cost to mental and physical well-being).  

Symptoms

The primary symptom of vector pox is the blockage of mana vectors. Early warning signs include difficulty casting everyday cantrips, identifiable due to the frequency of their use and the small amount of mana needed to invoke them. Spells with either finer mana control or small amounts of mana input are more obviously altered than loose, mana-heavy spells.   Medical scholars adopt the analogy of a dam to describe the pox. It is less like a open hole shrinking and instead similar to a dam rising higher where the minimum amount of mana required for an effect increases. Wizards with the pox cast fewer cantrips and revert to non-magical means to accomplish day-to-day tasks. Those continuing to employ magic casually become fatigued easily and deprive themselves of mana quickly.   Secondary symptoms include fatigue (often after spellcasting), prickling sensations, sleeping longer, and a loss of appetite. Skin tone may shift slightly in the extremities to a shade nearer blue, but those using aether sight see a swirling of magical energy beneath the skin upon close examination (rather than an orderly set of branching paths).  

Treatment

There is no cure for vector pox, only management of symptoms and methods to slow its advance. Healers advise the afflicted to cease wielding blocked vectors in spellcasting (except in emergencies), which would exacerbate symptoms. Because the pox typically develops in the dominant hand, this is a considerable barrier and casters must spend a non-trivial extent of time learning to use a single-, off-handed casting technique.   Second, if the patient is not a Rundic (or does not observe the daily rites), they are advised to begin performing the Ritual of the Spirit (that is, observance of Ayhlun). Already a practice for many spellcasters, and notably those of the Aemark Kingdom, the meditative custom prepares the wizard's mana pool and hones the ability to utilize mana vectors. The poxed are encouraged to engage in the ritual thrice daily (or more) instead of just at dawn and dusk.   Lastly, there are several medicines claiming to help slow the progress of vector pox, but none has demonstrated consistent results. Some healing institutions have been accused of selling these treatments purely for profit, knowing they do not work well (or at all). In general, Academy healers eschew these solutions whereas mercantile healers tend to prescribe them as a matter of course.   One recent discovery shows promise in alleviating symptoms of the pox and providing the wizard with freedom channel through partially obstructed vectors.  

Cultural Stigma

Technically, vector pox is not a pox. The name is a holdover from a previous time when it was thought a transmissible disease and the pox were ostracized from magical communities. Unfortunately, having become a cultural norm, ostracization remains common. The pox's rarity generates a minimal level of awareness among commoners who view all 'poxes' as terrifying and virulent. Even in education, most do not encounter it personally unless a professor themselves is poxed, but Aemark Academies ensure students have a basic understanding of vector pox (and other magical ailments).   Fortunately, there are no obvious external signs of the pox. Though the well-being of a wizard losing their spellcasting is at question (due to the upheaval of a fundamental component of their identity), most eventually lead normal lives. In many cases, these wizards transition to a profession selling magical devices by leveraging their knowledge to great effect. They often partner with younger transmutation specialists who craft the items, but need guidance on technique and lack business experience.  

Affected Groups

Vector pox can affect any wizard regardless of physical sex, race, or magical attunement. Age is only known variable contributing to the likelihood of sickness, with older wizards becoming increasingly prone to the pox. However, it is not a direct correlation of numeric age. scholars find it relates to effective age as the infirm or otherwise hobbled are especially susceptible. As such, the long-lived elves rarely develop vector pox until their third century whereas Al'Orphics may succumb as early as their third decade.
Type
Magical

Affected Species
Human, Elf, Al'Orphic

Rarity
Less than 0.1%
 

Pox Specialists, AeM

No longer able to cast magic properly? We can help! The only place to go to manage vector pox symptoms!   Well, I suppose you can manage some symptoms, but you still won't be able to do much about losing your casting.


Cover image: by Mia Stendal (Shutterstock)

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