Magic is both the lifeblood of Alturas and a dying art form. It can take the shape of magical abilities or be focused into powerful charms through the use of runes. Iron and silver are dangerous if not deadly to most Alturians. Gold and copper, however, are excellent magical conductors and can strengthen charms and make people’s abilities more efficient.

This page is split into several sections:

Runes and Charms

This is the magic that powers most of Alturas. Runes are precise geometric designs that rely heavily on mathematics to channel magic into a specific purpose. However, a single rune usually won’t have enough power nor specified purpose in order to achieve the desired effect. Instead, a chain of runes is created called a charm, which create specific instructions for magic to take a certain form, such as prevent an object from catching on fire or creating an invisible ward that protects a room from fleas. Charms are capable of replicating many magical abilities in a precise and autonomous way, if the proper runes are known. Runes are a universal language, consistent no matter where one is on Alturas.

The size of the rune does not typically matter. However, the scale of the rune compared to the other runes it is combined with is vitally important. If the wrong ratios are used, charms can leak magic or even explode. Destruction of nearby objects, injury, and even death can follow when a charm breaks.

Charms can be carved into gemstones and minerals, burned or carved into wood, sewn into fabrics, painted, or stamped. However, charms usually require certain materials in order to work correctly and not have unintended consequences. For instance, many warding charms are usually carved carefully into rubies, which resonates with the needed runes and creates a much stronger and longer lasting ward than if the runes had been painted on hide, which would make a weak, flickering ward. Sometimes, multiple materials are needed to create the most complex charms. Illusion charms are created by placing a cat’s eye gemstone in the middle of diamond-shaped piece of cedar, with the runes carved into the piece of wood carefully, pushing magic through the cat’s eye.

Charms are charged through an individual or a group “pushing” their magic into the runes. In Themble, the Charmchargers Guild closely protects exactly how this is done. Eventually, all charms will run out of magic and need to be recharged. It is unknown how the Obelisks in the Feylands are powered, since they are not charged by anyone yet have not run out of magic in nearly eight hundred years.

Complex charms can be very difficult to read, as runes can change the meaning of those around them. Charmcasting is delicate work, and usually multiple educated creatures are needed to create complex charms, each specializing in a different key element. Knowledge of the correct materials is useless without the steady hand to paint, carve, or sew the runes. A steady hand is weakened if the wrong angles, diameters, and dimensions are used. Geometry becomes pretty designs if the runes are in the wrong order, placed incorrectly, or the wrong runes are used. And without magic pushed into the charms, they become no more than intricate decorations. If anything in the process is incorrect, unintended consequences can occur, including rogue magic explosions from volatile charms, causing all sorts of bizarre happenings and even death.

In the eight centuries since the Feylands were built, hundreds of runes, and therefore thousands of charms, have been forgotten outside of the Feylands as the knowledge is lost. Occasionally, they are rediscovered through charmcasters or are traded for objects by the Fey.

Magical Abilities

Magical creatures are born with magical abilities that vary in number and type. Typically, outside of the Feylands, a creature may only have one to three different abilities, and most often these take form in telekinesis or telepathy. Fey usually have more abilities. Greater Fey can have upwards of twenty or more. Abilities can take many different forms, from being able to cast illusions, change the color of one’s hair, or be able to know names, like Ireen. Mundane animals have been recorded to have different magical abilities than what are seen in civilized creatures or Fey.

When exactly magical abilities appear depends on the species. Generally, magical abilities begin appearing between the equivalent of 5-10 human years. The child will be unable to control his or her magic, and therefore the ability will activate according to their emotions. Constantly using magic without control will make them exhausted, irritable, and often hungry. Children will eventually learn by themselves how to control their magic, although how long this takes varies. Teaching children self control and breathing exercises often decreases the time it takes a child to control their magic.

The strength of one’s abilities varies greatly depending on the individual’s magical strength, which can change one from being able to pick up a single five pound object telekinetically, to a five hundred pound object. Powers don’t necessarily pass down from parent to child, although sometimes an ability is passed down slightly different. Ireen’s father Sejon, for instance, does not know true names magically like Ireen, but does know the number of syllables (“beats” as he calls them) in a person’s name. Therefore, both of them have the nominascire ability. Magical strength is not inherited, but depends on instead how much magic the unborn fetus and later young child is exposed to. More magic the fetus and then infant is around, more abilities they may have, and more magical strength they may possess. 

Many scholars have proposed that magic is slowly dying out in Alturas, as every generation seems to have weaker abilities or none at all. Only in the Feylands are the number abilities remaining consistent over the centuries. Those who do not have magical powers are called null.

New abilities cannot be learned, although innovative folks sometimes find novel and exciting ways to use their abilities.

A list of magical abilities creatures can have can be found here.

An Individual’s Magical Strength

Each individual has a certain amount of magical strength (also called power) that they are born with. For a visual, it is like every person has a different sized pool of water. Some, like the Black King, have a lake of magical power, others, like Ireen, have little more than a puddle. Every time a person uses magic, their available magic decreases. The lake or puddle is drained just a bit. Magic is regained over time through the available magic in the atmosphere. Magical creatures naturally give off magic, which can create “auras” that can be felt or even seen if an individual is powerful. Some can learn how to hide these auras and prevent magic from escaping for a short period of time, but this can cause a person to be overwhelmed if done too long. Others prefer to pulse magic to create more powerful auras, although this can only be done for short periods of time.

If someone prevents magic from getting released, then their magical “pond” can overflow, causing a person to uncontrollably release magic until the “pond” has reached safe levels again, an equilibrium between full and empty. This can take an incredible physical and mental toll on a person, and can cause brain failure and death. However, a body will continue to release magic until an equilibrium is reached, even if that person has already died from the process. It is horrifying to watch.

If a creature overuses their magic and begins to run low, they will first begin to feel warm, like they were standing in the sun too long. Their skin will become dry and itchy. If continued, painful blisters and rashes before burns begin to cover the body. This can create scarring if pushed to a severe level. When a magic user casts too much magic and drains themselves too far, they risk entering a high fever that can kill them. Eating vitamin- and protein-rich food and getting plenty of rest helps the body recuperate magic faster, such like battling the flu.

Some learn how to stretch what magical strength they have by becoming more effective with how they expend it. This allows a person to use their magic for a longer period of time or be able to use their magic to a stronger degree for a short period of time (such as releasing their magic in a burst to telekinetically lift an object they normally wouldn’t be able to raise). This takes a lot of skill and training, and not many are able to use these techniques well enough to make any notable difference. The wealthy often use gold to amplify their magical strength rather than putting in the time to increase their efficiency. 

Wards

Wards are magical force fields, either cast by someone with the ability to do so, or through the use of a charm. Wards can vary greatly in strength, and therefore in size. Wards are designed to either keep things out (such as insects or arrows) or keep things in (such as heat or cold). Mostly they take benign, boring uses, designed to protect grain stores from mold, roofs from leaks, and alert storeowners to thieves. However, specialized, expensive, and powerful charmed wards are used in military warfare and defense, meant to keep the enemy’s arrows, cannon balls, bullets, and, most importantly, dragon fire, away from the troops. Most wards leave a faint disturbance in the air. Wards cast by an individual will tax them of their magical strength until the caster is forced to take it down, and charms will need to be recharged.

Silver and Iron

Silver and iron are two metals that cause havoc to both magic and magic users. Iron is less of a worry. For most, it will cause mild pain over time that will eventually become acute, much like holding an ice cube with a bare hand for too long. Higher the magical power one has, quicker iron will become painful. If iron is left in contact with a person too long, it will create red rashes with painful blisters or cause feathers, fur, and scales to blacken and disintegrate, leaving the rashes and blisters on the skin underneath. These can be treated medically, but if the “burns”, as they are called, are too severe, they will scar. Most Alturians use iron carefully and responsibly to prevent injury. For most Fey, iron instantly is painful and can leave immediate iron burns. There are charm-enhanced balms and salves that can reduce the pain of iron burns and help them heal faster.

Magic is often disturbed around iron. This means that all charms, wards, and abilities become weakened over a long period of time through iron’s touch, if not prevented from working entirely.

Silver is very rare in Alturas, tends to be ridiculously expensive, and is usually incredibly illegal. Silver is deadly to anyone with magic. Contact with skin, feathers, fur, or scales lead to instant pain, which is increasingly excruciating depending on one’s magical strength. Silver causes feathers, fur, scales, and skin to instantly turn white and die. Feathers, fur, and scales with crumble and disintegrate, while prolonged exposure (more than about ten seconds) to skin causes the skin to form white blisters, then peel off. Continued exposure will continue to disintegrate the skin until muscles are reached. The muscles then suffer from instant myopathy, and become white and dead.

Amputation is all that can be done once muscles are exposed, for even if the silver is taken away, the damage will continue to spread along the body. However, with the correct, immediate, and specialized medical attention, then the continued spread of damage can possibly be halted before it travels past the skin and farther along into the body. If silver is ingested, injected, or begins to kill the organs, death is certain, and the injured person will most likely be dead in only an hour or less.

Silver is illegal and a death sentence in both Themblise monarchies. However, there are the quietest of whispers that both Maithas and Croon have a secret store of it, and use it to torture their victims. 

Gold and Copper

Unlike silver and iron, gold and copper do not harm Alturians. Gold is an excellent magical conductor and is highly sought after in all provinces, and especially in the Feylands. This extremely rare metal makes magic more efficient, so that less magic is needed to create the same results. This allows charms to last longer without needing to be recharged, and also allows a person to use their abilities without draining their magic supply as quickly. Many more complex charms need gold strategically placed to conduct magic to all needed runes. Copper works the same as gold but to a less extreme degree. Those with magic find gold pleasantly hot to the touch, while copper is warm. In order for copper or gold to be used to augment one’s personal magic, the metals must touch the body at all times, making copper and gold jewelry a common fashion statement in many provinces. In Themble, gold is the socially preferred material for marriage bracelets, although copper is more commonly used due to the economic situation of most Themblise.