Etherwave Arcana Physical / Metaphysical Law in Hoist the Colors | World Anvil

Etherwave Arcana

Magic. The Etherwave Arcana. It isn’t simple mind tricks, but altering the rhythm of the universe with the force of a person’s willpower and determination.
- Professor Elistar Riley, Archbinder of the Royal Academy of Arcanum and Science
Across the world, natural forces are at work. Storms, oceans, wind, and more clash in unending struggles for power. A delicate, but devastating dance as old as time itself. But there is another natural force, one that flooded the world after Crossing’s Fall. A power as deep and ancient as the earth itself. Often called magic, scholars and those who study this power call it the Etherwave Arcana. An enigmatic force that binds the very air, sea, land, and perhaps reality itself.
Many believe that the Etherwave Arcana has always been present. A force in the background of the world that has been hard to reach until Crossing’s Fall. Pulsating, rhythmic energy that flows like water or air, but can only be reached once a person is attuned to those steady currents.
Metaphysical, Arcane

The Etherwave Arcana is a near invisible source of power. Only those trained to tap into it can feel it's presence, or see the flowing currents of energy. It becomes visible when a Wavebinder or a Navigator channels it into a specific working or 'spell'.
After the events of Crossing's Fall, the Etherwave Arcana covered the globe. But there are still areas where it is twisted, or misshapen. The infamous Bermuda Triangle is one. Channeling in that area often causes unpredictable or wild effects.

To Harness the Arcana

Practitioners who cast magic, or students of the Etherwave Arcana, are often called “Wavebinders” or “Navigators”. Skilled students who have learned to tap into this mysterious force. They use intricate hand gestures, resonating incantations, and more to shape their miraculous ‘spells’.
These ‘spells’ are often simple, such as lighting logs in a fireplace, or making something lift into the air and fly backwards. But a practitioner’s skill with the Etherwave Arcana can extend to the miraculous, such as arrows of lightning or glowing light-shields. Then there is the most dramatic of all, a Navigator opening an Arcane Gate using a ship’s portal platform. A mystical means to let a ship cover vast distances in the blink of an eye.
Wavebinders and Navigators don’t just “cast spells” on a whim like from a tall tale. Instead, it takes concentration, if not deep focus, to channel magic. Practitioners must attune themselves to the Etherwave Arcana’s ebb and flow. They must be able to feel the currents of power moving between themselves and the world around them. The sensation of an ever moving web of energy that flows between all things, from rocks and trees to clouds, water, and even people.
As they focus their mind, practitioners can channel the arcana and use their skill at manipulating its rhythm. This lets them blur the line between magic and laws of nature. Skilled Wavebinders have created many types of effects. Some are more physical, like generating blasts of lightning or fireballs. Others perfect their skills at magical stone shaping, or moving objects with the power of their minds. Then there are the Wavebinders who dabble in air and light-bending to create illusions, fog, or alter sounds.

Risk of the Reward

It’s all fun and games until you dissolve part of your arm.
- Professor Elistar Riley, Archbinder of the Royal Academy of Arcanum and Science
Manipulating the Etherwave Arcana is as much art as it is science. Wavebinders and Navigators tread carefully when channeling this power. Anyone that loses their concentration on its rhythm and pulse, risk being consumed by its currents.
If a Wavebinder or Navigator loses control this way, the result is always the same. The Arcana turns on them with a vengeance. Power floods uncontrolled through the practitioner, like lightning through a tree. If they’re lucky, the Wavebinder or Navigator might only suffer a purple, lightning bolt shaped scar or have a limb vaporize. In the worst case, the practitioner is swallowed whole by the Arcana and vanishes in a blast of hot, white light.
But that isn’t to say anytime a practitioner fails to channel the magic, it ends in a scar or even death. Far from it. Wavebinders and Navigators can fail to channel enough of the Arcana’s power to fuel a spell. When that happens, the spell simply fails with a fizzle and brief sparkle of light, leaving behind one frustrated practitioner.

Limits of the Craft

Most would say that given enough time and skill, a Wavebinder could create any sort of magical miracle. Or a Navigator could open an Arcane Gate at any time for any ship to sail through. But this isn’t the case, as there are limits to using the Etherwave Arcana.
The power takes as much as it gives when channeled by a practitioner. Many call it a rule of equivalent exchange. When casting, the more complicated magic requires a greater cost from the Wavebinder. Simple effects, such as lighting a fire or even creating a fireball, are not that taxing. The practitioner may become tired or stressed by each casting, which will require them to rest.
But more complicated efforts, such as a glowing shield of light to protect a building. That wears down a Wavebinder, causing them strain which becomes purple lightning-shaped scars. A physical result from the Arcana draining away the same amount of the Wavebinder as they have channeled from the Arcana.
Some ‘spells’ are beyond the ability of any Wavebinder. Chief among those is the mythical teleport spell. Many Wavebinders have tried it, only to vanish and never appear again. As best as any know, those Wavebinders become lost inside the Etherwave Arcana itself, where they are slowly dissolved. The reason is that the Arcana’s price for transporting an entire object through time and space is the entire practitioner and all they own.
The closest to this method of transportation any practitioner has managed are Navigators. Their gate casting is exhausting work and is only possible because of the ship portal platforms they stand on. These large portal platforms maintain a consistent place always in harmony with the Etherwave Arcana while a Navigator casts. Once a gate is open, the Navigator must maintain it while the ship sails through. Navigators are always exhausted once done, needing to rest after such a feat.

Channeling at a Price

This cost to the practitioner has taken many a Wavebinder, and a few Navigators, down a dark path in the Arcana. The Etherwave Arcana demands energy given for power granted, simply because the magic follows the age-old rules of nature and balance. But some practitioners are unwilling to pay that price themselves. Instead, they find other means.
Some rely on special ancient relics, designed to act as fuel to feed the Arcana. These items are rare, and difficult to create. The process of making one requires a Wavebinder to connect relic to Arcana for an owner to use. To accomplish that, the Wavebinder or Navigator must be holding or touch the relic when creating it, but also the owner must hold it to use the enchantment.
When a relic’s owner uses the enchantment, the cost of the spell slowly consumes the item itself. Over time, the relic does decay or crumble, if not repaired. This is often a simple means to cast magic, but limited. As the enchantments are often simple, where a Wavebinder or Navigator’s castings can be far more powerful. For Wavebinders or Navigators, using relics is a common way to fuel their spells instead of allowing the Arcana to draw off the practitioner. Unfortunately, these relics are often quickly used up, where the practitioner has to rely on their own willpower and stamina.
But there is another way beyond rare relics to try to cheat the Arcana of its painful price.

To Walk a Dark Path

This last is a dark road for any Wavebinder or Navigator to follow. One that marks them by reputation, and at times by scars in the attempt. It’s a symbol, a warning, to anyone who might get too close to that practitioner.
Those Wavebinders or Navigators that choose this path prey upon the living. They connect to a living victim, or even just a fresh part, to fuel a spell. The results are powerful, dramatic, and always lethal for the victim as the process leaves behind a burnt husk. But, while the practitioner has cheated on how to pay the Arcana’s price, the method has downsides that cannot be avoided.
Using a living victim to fuel a spell is more difficult, even if it does result in a more powerful result. The reason is harmonics. While the Wavebinder or Navigator are in tune with the Etherwave Arcana, their victim is not. A living essence naturally resists the intrusion of being consumed by the Arcana.
Another drawback is that practitioners of this dark path are marked by the Arcane. Using a living victim to fuel a spell causes a special type of scar. One that cannot be erased called the Curse of the Dark Mark. The Mark is a soot-like, gray-black stain on the center of the practitioner’s palms and back of their hands. A round, jagged spot that can’t be removed by any means, even magical. If the practitioner continues, the mark spreads like corrupt vines along their arms and even around their eyes.
No one is sure what actually causes the Dark Mark. The subject is a highly debated topic. Most believe that it’s a magical burn caused by the connection of the Arcane while it consumes a victim. Others, however, believe these Wavebinders and Navigators are being marked by a dark, corrupt aspect of the Etherwave Arcana. An ancient, evil force that is doing so for dire reasons of its own.
This tradition for Wavebinders and Navigators us looked down on in most places. Often, it’s considered murder and against the local laws. It’s for this reason that anyone with a Dark Mark is viewed as suspicious and kept under close watch.

Riddle of the Relics

Channeling the Arcana is the bread and butter of Wavebinders, but relics are often their lasting legacy. Devices and items imbued with a portion of the Arcana to fuel a persistent magical effect, such as a Ghost Blade or Truthseeker Amulet.
These devices are finely crafted with careful attention to detail. A Wavebinder takes hours to days to imbue them with the magic. Binding the power of the Arcane into the item to perform a certain task or effect. This is also a taxing process, draining the enchanter who spends a portion of who they are to bind power to the device. Which is all the more reason such items are both expensive and uncommon.
But this strong tie to the Etherwave Arcana comes with a cost. When a relic and its imbued spell is used, the cost is taken from the device itself. The cost to power each spell effect is wear and tear upon the item. Metal dulls and tarnishes. Fabric frays and holes appear at the seams. Stone or wood crack as if weathered.
Over time, the item will break and become useless unless repaired. More than one Wavebinder has taken work to repairing enchanted items for a price. These enchanters are highly prized and sought after, since not any student of the Etherwave Arcana can enchant or repair an item. Those that can often demand a high price for the materials, and their skill, in doing the work.

Path of the Practitioner

Practitioners spend months, if not years, honing their minds and bodies to resonate with the Etherwave Arcana. Many find a teacher, such as an Archbinder, who will take them on as a Tuyasha. An ancient term from thayan cultures that means ‘one who learns’.
These students are often recognized by medallions, rune-covered gloves, pocket watches, or even cryptic tattoos as a part of their studies. Items, such as the pocket watchers, or tattoos, serve as a meditation focus when they form a bond with the ever present power of the Etherwave Arcana. If lost, it doesn’t mean the Wavebinder or Navigator is powerless. Far from it. Those items only serve as an aid when focusing. Without them, a Wavebinder and Navigator can still channel the Arcana, it only becomes a little more difficult.
The world is ruled by gunpowder and steel. But, in that world, the power of the Etherwave Arcana is a wild card. A strong reminder that there are still mysteries beyond the reach of current understanding… and possibly even control.
- Professor Elistar Riley, Archbinder of the Royal Academy of Arcanum and Science

Cover image: Midnight Oil by CB Ash using Krita and MidJourney


Please Login in order to comment!
Dec 4, 2023 17:23

A nice detailed article, I like that you also explained the dark negative sides of using it.

Stay imaginative and discover Blue´s Worlds, Elaqitan and Naharin.
Dec 6, 2023 01:44 by C. B. Ash

Thanks! I felt something like this needed to show both its dark and light side.

Jan 2, 2024 00:20 by Melissa

What a unique take on spellcasting! I love that the platforms are needed so that casters can remain in a stable location while creating a gate. It's interesting that some navigators use relics or living victims to fuel their spells instead of exhausting themselves. I bet this makes for some interesting villains!  

I'm a Comment Caroler! Click to learn more

Jan 2, 2024 00:50 by C. B. Ash

Thank you! I really liked how the "equivalent exchange" principle for magic here turned out. As for villains? Oh yes. This gives it a sliding scale with the question "how desperate is the character?" moral question that can lead to some really unpleasant villains. Some who believe they are working for the greater good with the ends justifying the means!

Jan 3, 2024 22:11

Interesting take on concentration. Usually concentration is simply broken, but you've expanded on it with a more negative aspect to breaking concentration and the potential consequences.

Jan 3, 2024 23:24 by C. B. Ash

Thank you! :D Yes. I honestly felt that given what a person is doing... trying to reshape reality even if it's just using magic to light a candle... that's like plugging your finger into the light socket of the universe. There should be side effects to just breaking that connection. Sort of a sliding scale into the negative aspect. Which, could actually lead to some interesting villains who wish to exploit that.