Sorcery And Exaltation

From the Lectures of Donovic Strauss, Professor Emeritus of the College of Light Magic in Altdorf

It is well known among scholars of the arcane that the power of mages comes from their manipulation of Aethyr winds. There exists, separate and yet inextricably linked to this world, a realm of limitless, roiling energy. This realm, consisting of molten thought and potential, is stirred and excited by the passage of the one concrete source of mortal input to it; soulfire. Very literally, this alternate space is made up of ‘prayer-energy” - whether thought, or dream, or departed consciousness. Some academics refer to this place as the Sea of Chaos. Given the unfortunate subtext, I prefer for my students to know it as the Empyrian, though scholars returning from Lustria claim that this term is more properly translated as “The Warp”. Whatever the case, this raw elemental power pours through the unique device left by the Old Ones – a prism known as “the Gate”. A dimwitted student of mine once referred to this a “plughole”, and though the terminology is crass, it does resonate. The Gate was seal upon the elemental sea, acting to keep the flow to a manageable trickle. With it the Old Ones and their servants the Slaan and the elves performed great acts of magic. I understand the Old Ones also used the machine as a mode of transport, but such things are scarcely within my expertise

Now, this is not a history class. But I’m sure you all know of the Cataclysm. By some unknowable catastrophe, the Gate partially collapsed and ceased to function. The Old Ones were consumed or fled, and the winds of magic were ‘fragmented’. Depending on whose racial legends you prefer, either the Elves, the Dwarves or the Gods of humanity saved all of civilisation from uncontrolled tide, but the salient point is this; the magic we now employ is derived from the spectrum of 8 “colours” of magic. The Gate, though damaged, remains in place in the north, filtering magic for our use. Here in the Colleges of Magic we practice our craft as it was taught by the Magelord Teclis. The mastery of a single wind is the safest path by which humans may master the power of the Aethyr. We refer to this as the Winds Principle.

Since the Storm of Chaos, the incidence of mage-birth has substantially risen. Even a century ago, a lecture like this could only have been attended by some hundred or so apprentices across the colleges. Nearly 2 thousands of you sit here now. Intrinsic to that rise is the rise of untrained casters. A magic user trained within these walls earns the title of Wizard. Those who do not are either Witches and beneath our contempt, or they are Sorcerers. Sorcerers do not filter and direct the winds of Magic as we do. Instead, by some quirk of their birth they are able to retain arcane power from their surroundings and burp it back into reality with very little difficulty. As you might imagine, this process is highly unstable, yet the Empire has legislated to legitimise it. Sorcerers have great utility to a military state. With very little tutelage, a Sorcerer might display the same kind of power as a much more experienced Wizard. Of course, the trained mage may rely on a far greater degree of control over his powers.

Students of wizardry will be aware that magic pervades everything. A sorceror will have no such understanding, as they are able to draw upon their own souls, or anima, to power their spells. They are quite literally walking magical refineries, utterly without a traditional relationship with the Aethyr winds. Just as a stray breath of Aethyr wind may congeal into a daemon, or warpstone, a spillage of raw magic proximate to a pregnant woman may settle upon the tiny soul and create a sorcerer. Wizards are known to experience a sensation akin to dehydration in the presence of sorcerors, due perhaps to the inherent Aethyric drainage they enact. Their animas refine the energy they store, enabling them to practice magic unconstrained by the Winds Principle. The few sorcerer-scholars insist that they are an evolutionary step in casting; more probably, they are freaks of birth caused by high concentrations of magic, and likely to die out within a generation or so. Unlike wizardry, it appears sorcery cannot be passed down by birth. The Emperor, in his wisdom, has allowed training permits to be issued for wandering masters to tutor latent talents outside of these walls. Clearly these volatile creatures could never be welcome within. For now, my children, these sorcerers are unwelcome cousins, trespassers upon the realm of Aethyr. We must tolerate them, though they are thankfully rare, yet always remember the danger of a caster who has never had to learn the virtue of patience.

The Exalted

It is of great interest that coincidental to the birth of sorcerers into this world, that the so-called “divinely exalted” should also begin to appear. In Aethyric terms, both the sorcerer and exalted are anomalies. Their souls act in much the same fashion as the Northern Gate; as prisms that refract, filter and store the energy of the Empyrian. As I’ve already discussed, normal spells are cast by the imposition of a magically attuned will upon the Aethyr that pervades all of reality. A Mage collects whatever energy may be available on the Wind, shapes it with his will, and releases it in the fashion he chooses. So too, ordinarily, does a priest – though their prayers are more properly considered short rituals. Spellcasting priests are still naturally attuned to the Aethyr, but the weight of their faith upon the raw Soulfire they wield presses it into conformity with their expectations. Where a mage would recognise a mistake in his casting, a priest who fails to cast a prayer will be adamant that the will of his God is in play. As the Magelord Teclis once directed our forebears, it is best to leave such ignorance unchallenged. A priest draws his power from faith, and the Empire would be much weakened without them.

Now I remind you all that what I’m about to say is only intended as an aid to your intellectual exercise. To share these words with those outside the Colleges may end with with you on a pyre. We are academics of a sensitive topic, and the word outside is not ready to accept our understandings. Bear this in mind as you listen.

The Gods from whom priests derive their power are more properly thought of as powerful concentrations of magic. When a weight of prayers, dreams and souls congeals on the other side of the Veil, it beings to solidify and develop a localised set of physical rules. This is known as the “imprint”. Just as a daemon will run rampant in the mortal realm spreading disorder and ruin, our souls impose a limited form of order on the infinite Chaos that is the Warp. For this reason, daemons manifested all over the world will bear small but superficial differences in appearance. The summoner will have his own expectations, but the weight of dreams and prayers that brought the creatures’ patron into being will be more influential still. The Gods are massive coagulations of Aethyr upon whom the imprint has become permanent.

Now, what ordinary folk think of as daemons are merely fragments of these vast and powerfully magical beings. Concentrations of magic bearing the imprint of the patron entity will bear, upon manifestation, many of the traits of it’s progenitor. I have conducted some study into the phenomenon of Exaltation and find it to be largely analogous to daemonic possession. In much the same way that a ruinous creature will take up residence within a mortal soul, fragments of the Gods of Order may also shaken loose by the Aethyr winds and settle upon a champion. The key difference is that this divine powershard will rarely retain a sentience. The possessed mortal may feel urges in accord with that God’s temperament, but will never loose their will completely. It has been speculated that this is because the Order Gods are not powerful enough to produce true daemons, with wills and material forms. I prefer to think that they are sufficiently aware of mortal willpower to give it some value. For this reason it is more accurate to refer to divinely empowered individuals as ‘Exalted’ rather than ‘Possessed’. Due to the fragment of divine power residing in their souls, they are able to call upon magic inherently, manifesting spells in accordance with the random bestowment of their patron. In this way, superficially, they are like sorcerers; they are able to draw upon their fragment as a powersource for any such power as they may at that time choose to manifest. In this way, Exalted have been known to display powers hitherto unknown to priests or clerics of the same patron. Contrary to the storm of theological debate inspired by the phenomenon, this indicates only that the Gods are vastly more powerful, flexible and unknowable creatures than their worshippers expect. We of the Colleges, being familiar with Daemons, have known so for centuries.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License