Caian Elemental Magic

You will learn to channel the ravaging infernos and the shimmering heat of fire; to tame the rushing flood of water; to dance with the playful breezes and devastating storms of air; to master the sharp edges and glistening cold of ice; and to command the twisting thorns and cracking rock of earth.
— An arcan to his students
  Caian elemental magic is the channeling of what are considered the five main elements in Caia: air, earth, fire, ice, and water. Whilst other continents have their own versions of elemental magic, this version is unique to central Caia. The generic term for users of this magic is 'casters'.  

Basic Information

 

Geographic Distribution

Though this type of magic is known as Caian elemental magic, it is actually not prevalent across all of Caia. It is confined mainly to the centre of the continent, in areas directly around the mountain range of the Teeth. In general, elemental magic is spread out across the countries of Kaien and Serukis. Outside of these two countries, elemental magic is rare.  

Acquisition

Elemental magic is genetic, so the only way to acquire it is through circumstance of birth.   However, not all children born to magic wielders will have the potential for magic, and occasionally magical children will be born to parents with no known history of elemental magic. There is currently no way to influence whether a child will be born with power or not, though not for lack of research or trying.
Children begin to show signs of power between the ages of two and three. These displays of accidental magic are usually harmless, though there have been several notable occasions when a flood or house fire has been caused by a toddler throwing a tantrum.  

Limits

The power of the elemental magic depends entirely on the caster, and is tied to their energy. For some people, even simple magic such as lighting a candle can leave them tired, whilst others can maintain a powerful spell for several hours before feeling any long lasting effects. On rare occasions, people have died from expending more energy on their magic than their body can handle.   Through training, people can extend their limits, though there is a cap to how effective this is that varies from person to person. Unlimited power is unachievable, though this has not stopped several people from trying. As mentioned, this often results in death.  

The Elements

 

Air

Whilst air magic is not the most popular or flashy of the elemental magics, it has a variety of different uses.   At a basic level, casters can push air around, creating gusts of wind and creating whirlwinds. This is often useful whilst sailing; casters can fill the sails with their magic, allowing ships to sail against the natural wind.   Stronger casters can turn a still day to a mild gale, sending wind whipping through their location for hours. There have also been several cases of tornadoes that have caused devastation to surrounding areas.   In 2946 EA, a mage from Kaien used the power of air to summon a hurricane, laying waste to the fleet from Bazuur who were laying siege to the coast.
Air magic also gives some dominion over storms and lightning. Weaker casters can give others mild shocks, whilst stronger casters can call down catastrophic lightning strikes. Sometimes, when a particularly powerful caster is angry, the clouds will boil and turn grey, threatening a ruinous storm. A more peaceful example of this magic is cloud writing, where the caster arranges the clouds in the sky into words and pictures.   Arcan from the arcanums in Kaien have also worked out how to harness the power of the sonic boom - that is, magic breaking the sound barrier to send a shockwave through the air. Though this is still in a rather experimental phase, it is expected to be utilised in future to devastating effect.

Earth

Earth magic falls into two distinct types: magic relating to plants, trees, and fungi, and magic relating to rocks, and crystals.   Plant-based earth magic is generally favoured in Serukis over rock-based magic, especially by members of the nobility. This magic can be used in a variety of horticultural pursuits, as it can revive dying or dead plants, or speed up growth or the blooming of flowers. Casters can also grow a myriad of flowers and plants out of their skin. Members of the Seruic royal family especially enjoy growing roses - their emblem - in their hands. Other, more violent uses, for this magic include binding enemies with vines or thorns or, in one notable case, sprouting a tree from an enemy's still-beating heart.   On the more rock-based side of earth magic, power has been utilised to sense veins of ore deep underground, or to test if a cave is structurally sound. Some casters use the magic to grow crystals on their skin to accentuate their beauty or to satisfy some strange aesthetic.   More powerful casters can shake the very ground beneath their feet, or conjure walls of stone to protect themselves. Some even have split the ground in two, leaving great scars on the landscape.   There have been tales of accidental, emotionally-charged earth magic turning people around the caster to stone. All attempts to consciously and intentionally replicate this have failed. The closest anyone has come to it is when an arcan called Cassian Keene managed to turn his own thumb to rock.  

Origin Theories

  There are several different theories regarding the origin of Caian elemental magic.   The most widespread theory is that elemental magic is a gift from the Five Lords, as each Lord holds dominion over one of the five elements. As this is the predominant religion in both Kaien and Serukis, where elemental magic is common, it is unsurprising that the two have become linked in the minds of the people.   Another theory is that elemental magic is merely draconic magic that comes from human-dragon relations in the past. Again, in Caia, there are dragons of each of the five elements, so this link is perhaps expected. However, each dragon has control over only one element, whereas elemental magic gifts control over all five. Detractors of this theory cite this in their arguments against it.   The third theory is the least substantial and least popular. As elemental magic seems to be focused around the Teeth, some scholars have suggested that something in the power of the mountains has leaked magic to the surrounding lands. No explanation of how this has occurred, or even the source of this power, has been put forward.

Cultural Differences

 

Kaien

In Kaien, practitioners of elemental magic learn to wield all five elements. They see this as the best way to worship the Five Lords. However, priests tend to focus on just one element, depending which Lord they worship.   There are several universities of magic, known as arcanum, where people who are born with elemental power go to study (if they can afford it, or if they are sponsored to). Graduates of the university are known as mages. Academics who work there full time are known as arcan. There is a strong focus on research, where arcan try to find new ways to utilise elemental magic.  

Serukis

In Serukis, practitioners of elemental magic tend to focus on just one element, depending on which of the Five Lords they have taken for their patron. This is especially true amongst the nobility, who are much more likely to have a patron Lord than the common people.   Magic in the nobility tends to be stronger, as marriages are often arranged with magic in mind. The High Lords in particular do their best to cultivate a strong line of power, as their right to rule is determined by their patron Lord.   Priests of the Five Lords in Serukis also tend to focus on one element, depending on the Lord they serve.  

The Rest of Caia

Elemental magic is rare in the majority of Caia, and is often viewed with a mixture of suspicion, fear, and awe. Often, those born with this power in these countries will travel to Kaien to learn the art of magic.   In Bazuur, magic is seen as a crime against the gods and is punishable by death.

Fire

Elemental fire magic is seen as rather simplistic, but it has perhaps the wildest of extremes. It can be used to light a candle or heat a pot of water, but can also be used to rain down a cataclysmic firestorm upon one's foes.   On the more peaceful end of the scale, fire magic is used for both light and heat. In the Glass Gardens in the capital of Serukis, fire magic is used to keep areas of the gardens hot and humid. Fire dancers of Kaien use fire magic to allow flames to flutter harmlessly across their skin whilst they perform for crowds. In the frigid months of winter, heat magic melts away snow from around doors and windows.   However, fire magic has a great potential for harm. Powerful casters can call up towering walls of fire to cut themselves off from their enemies, or send a swirling vortex of flame towards an opposing army. Some can boil the blood inside of a person, or set them aflame with a mere thought.   Unsurprisingly, accidental occurances of fire magic have the highest fatality rate of the five.

Ice

Where fire magic is the mastery of heat and flame, ice magic is the mastery of cold and snow. From creating small flurries of snow to violent hailstorms, shares similar extremes to its fiery counterpart.   Ice magic is often used in the preservation of food, especially during the height of summer. Soft snowfall is used to entertain children, whilst magnificent ice sculptures are crafted to decorate the banquet halls of nobles. An experienced caster of ice magic can walk on water by freezing it under each step.
  On the other side of the spectrum, hail- and snowstorms can be called forth on a calm day. Jagged shards of ice can pierce metal armour, or a village's well could be frozen solid.   Ice, for no clear reason, tends to be the element that most students of magic struggle the most with. In the arcanum, ice is the only magic not studied in the first year of academia.  

Water

Water magic is often underestimated, though it is no less powerful than the other four elements.   The purification of water, making it safe to drink, is an important use of water magic, though power levels dictate the difference between purifying a cup or a lake. Alongside fire magic, water magic is also used to alter the conditions in the Glass Gardens in Serukis to allow plants to thrive, changing the humidity level in the air. Powerful casters can draw rain from clouds, directing a downpour to where it is needed most. In Kaien, creating water animals that appear to be running and leaping across the surface of the water is a popular form of entertainment.   On the other hand, water magic can also be used for destruction, especially in matters of naval combat. Large waves are often used to overwhelm opposing ships, or maelstroms created to drag them down into the depths.   Unlike the other elements, which seem to be able to be conjured from nowhere (though many scholars will argue that this is not actually the case), water magic requires a source of water to cast. On particularly humid days, this includes the water in the air. The creation of water from nothing is a priority amongst the research taking place at the arcanum. So far, none of their experiments have been successful.


Cover image: by Marc Szeglat

Comments

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8 Dec, 2020 03:21

Firstly. I have no idea what Caia is. Presumably, it is one of the foundational settings in which a unique magic system is specified. I didn't look through the whole category because... well. That's very overwhelming to look at. You should probably consider having an overview article for each of your foundations like Caia so you can link it easier. Also, you might want to look at the CSS for your world nav since the icon's a bit weird.   Is there a specific reason that ice becomes the fifth element? Ice feels like it'd usually be a part of water and there are other subelements that I'd, personally, say stand out more as if they should be separated from the quartet. For example, there are already pretty much two different ones you mention: weather and nature. However, after reading through the ice section, I can kind of see why you picked it. Though, I will say, I feel like weather is the most different from the sections of the original quartet used in standard alchemy and magic.   What the Lords? You kind of just call them the five lords and move on in this article. No idea if you already have an article about this, but I can't tell if they're literal people or gods.   Some of the elements of these remind me of Avatar, especially the limitation that water magic requires a pre-existing source to be properly used.   Pretty cool, though you're going to be fighting an uphill battle to make this a unique magic system. I am particularly intrigued by the more cultural aspect of it, especially in different nations. Great work!

Give me a visit at my current project(s): Aesontis
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
8 Dec, 2020 13:34

Yeah, I've got a whole lot of foundational articles to write: to answer your questions, Caia is a continent and the Five Lords are gods. I definitely need to fix the icon on the world nav; I just haven't had a good idea of how to change it yet.   Thank you so much for the detailed comment - I definitely have a lot I need to clarify here!

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
8 Dec, 2020 04:20

Nice article, with the excellent graphics and layout as well.

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
8 Dec, 2020 13:34

Thank you! <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
Journeyman Sloqush
Sloqush the Sloqush
8 Dec, 2020 07:39

This is such a pretty article, the presentation is absolutely stunning. I'm loving it :D   I also really like how you included various civil usages of the various elements, as it shows just how useful magical powers can be, even if one doesn't use them to lob fireballs at problems until they go away ^_^

Explore Sloqush's bleakdark sandox: Cenorad
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
8 Dec, 2020 13:35

Thanks! I had a lot of fun coming up with the different uses for each magic! :)

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
8 Dec, 2020 12:09

or, in one notable case, sprouting a tree from an enemy's still-beating heart.
  I have to say, this sent shivers down my spine. I hope the poor lad who saw a tree sprout out of his chest before he died was at least in a big enough shock he didn't feel the pain.   This is an interesting magical system! I like how you mentioned different theories about what the origins of magic might be, I'm especially a fan of the last one even if its seems to be the least popular.   I'm quite curious as to what made Ice be considered an element of its own by the Kaien and Serukis. You also mention that the Five Lords are only the predominant religion- so where do people with elemental magic who don't believe in the lords think their magic comes from?   Last kinda question, I'm quite curious about what place magic casters occupy in society. In Serukis they seem to be of high stature, with most Lords apparently being casters. Are they politicians? Warriors? Must all casters be priests or followers of a god?   Anyway I really like this article, I find your system really interesting! I'm curious to read more about it soon :)

sending good vibes <3 - Author of Interarcanum and Shakiraverse
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
8 Dec, 2020 13:57

People who don't believe in the Five Lords tend to believe that their powers are related to dragons.   There isn't really a definite 'place' for casters in society, though just by dint of them being useful they tend to end up in higher positions. Quite a lot of the commoners who have the power tend to become priests. I think I need to emphasise the fact that even though it is more common in Serukis/Kaien, it's still relatively uncommon for people to have magic.   Thank you so much for the comment!

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
8 Dec, 2020 20:20

Great article! I like how you have a practical use for each type of elemental magic. It's fun to imagine how daily life would be like for a caster.

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
8 Dec, 2020 21:00

Thank you so much! <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
Master Brinsmead
Caitlin Phillips
8 Dec, 2020 21:04

This is such a brilliant article. The level of detail in this is just brilliant. The idea of a tree sprouting from someone's beating house gave me chills, and the idea of a flood being stormed by a toddler tantrum is brilliant. I love how you put your own, unique stamp on this magic.

Cait x
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
8 Dec, 2020 21:07

Aw thank you so much! <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
8 Dec, 2020 22:47

I love the opening quote here. It really sets up what were dealing.   So I think its fascinating how magic can be geographical. That's a reallllly cool concept, this idea that magic is different in some places instead if others. I do wanna know why, though. I havnt read it all at this point, but so far two things stand out. 1. There is no definition to what an element truely is, 2. How is this different compared to others, and 3. Why is it practiced in one place as opposed to others. Just gonna list those here in case they are not answered in the future as I read. If they aren't. I MUST KNOW! I LOVE IT!   Ohhhhh... well that makes sense. If its genetic it only gets as far as those who have it do.     I like how air magic kind of doubles as weather magic too. That's a nice little touch. I also love how earth is divided between botanical magic and geomancy. Very nice. I like how you diffrenciate water and ice, and how ice is used to preserve food. I really like the magic system here. Well done my friend.   I do think one point still stands. Why these 5 elements. You mention the lord's, but is there just not a lord of say gravity or electricity? Is there something about these 5 things that makes them elemental? Its not a bad thing. I'm eager to know!   Til next time!

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
9 Dec, 2020 13:26

Thank you so much! This was a really tough article to write.   I kind of wanted the elements to mirror the dragons and the Five Lords. I think any other elements kind of get categorised under those. Like, electrictiy would be put under air magic and gravity would be put under earth magic. They are very attached to their five element system because of their gods, so they would make everything fit. :D

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
9 Dec, 2020 17:59

Such a beautifully detailed article. I really like how you talk about the ways different cultures think about and practice the elemental magics. It gives an extra layer to the article, as well as sprinkling in some interesting tidbits about other places that I look forward to learning about.

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
9 Dec, 2020 18:14

Aw thank you so much! I'm glad you liked that detail. :D

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
Journeyman ShellShaded
Michelle Cachey
14 Dec, 2020 02:01

This was a lot of fun to read! I like all the unique examples you describe, like wind magic sonic booms and the aesthetic appeal of decorating one's body with crystals. I think you really make elemental magic your own by adding details like that.

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
14 Dec, 2020 12:24

Aw thank you so much! :D <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
15 Dec, 2020 11:27

Neat article explaining how elemental magic works in your world!   PS: There are mentions to "the Teeth" which I believe is an article you have written, but is not linked. You may wanna do that.

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
15 Dec, 2020 11:33

Thank you! Yeah, I really should, I've been super lazy about linking things during WE. I'll fix that.

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
15 Dec, 2020 12:34

No worries, there is no need to do it. Take my note as a reminder just in case it was accidental ;)

15 Dec, 2020 23:34

So much thought behind this article and the elemental magic system. The details of the individual elemental magic adds depth and again, so many avenues for gaming or story telling. Before I forget to write it... I love the mention of how some may get tired from simply lighting a candle - this alone evokes the sense of extremes in power and effects in a vivid way that sticks in the mind of the reader..... Elemental magic is a cool choice on its own, but I really like how you have limited it to certain locations. And, always loved The Teeth from the very start of reading Etrea, so love the inclusion of the third origin theory! :)

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
15 Dec, 2020 23:52

Aw, thank you so much. <3 I love putting details like that in, so I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
9 Jan, 2021 09:10

As always, I start reading what I think may turn out to be a pretty generic trope, but you seem to inevitably catch my interest and I can't help but realize I have already finished the article. An elemental magic system with mana AND geographically limited; I can't help but wonder about what the interactions between other magic users would be like. Great work as always!

-ZogMadDog

"I am become destroyer creator of worlds!"
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
9 Jan, 2021 13:14

Aww, thanks, Zog! :) That means a lot.

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
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