The Supremacy of Balance states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Magic is simply the violation of this law.
Living souls radiate a unique type of energy called soul energy. This radiated energy forms an invisible aura around the soul that generated it. The aura’s natural density, volume, and rate of generation are determined by one’s genetics.
Soul energy is the power by which one may violate the Supremacy of Balance. Doing so drains the caster’s aura. If the aura is completely drained, magic becomes impossible. Living souls continually generate soul energy, but the rate of generation changes inversely with the amount of energy expended. Small expenditures are quickly replaced, but a completely drained aura can take hours to regenerate.
There are various methods of augmenting one’s aura, which fall into three main categories:
- Restoratives accelerate the soul’s rate of energy generation
- Batteries store soul energy for later use
- Training increases the aura’s density, volume, and rate of generation
The vast majority of beings have diffuse, shallow auras that regenerate slowly, effectively preventing them from using magic at all without extensive training or specialized equipment.
All forms of energy are sorted into classes. These energy forms can be created or destroyed to produce various effects. The only energy type that cannot be created or destroyed via magic is soul energy.
Vital and soul energy are very closely linked. It has been speculated that these two energies are the most basic elements of sentient beings.
Magic Versus Metaphysics
It should be noted that not everything that appears magical is actually magic. Magic deals strictly with manipulation of physics, particularly the violation of the Supremacy of Balance. Natural processes, such as freeze-thaw cycles, are not considered magic because they simply transfer or convert energy without violating natural laws. Likewise, intrusions into the physical world by metaphysical forces are not considered magical.
The simplest way to think of this is to imagine an inventor building a machine. The machine is designed to operate in a particular way. The inventor then wants, for whatever reason, the machine to do something it was not designed for. The inventor makes an adjustment, and the machine can now perform its new task. Nothing magical happened; no one would even call it supernatural. If one then substitutes the machine for the physical world, and the inventor for some extra-dimensional entity, the distinction between magic and metaphysics becomes clear.
This distinction is important. A pious devotee in prayer is not calling down some divine magic, even if a host of otherworldly beings materializes in response to his prayer. The devotee is simply asking the beings if they wouldn’t mind crossing the border, and the beings decide to honor his request.
Put another way, a phenomenon is only considered magical if:
- It violates a natural law
- The violation was committed by something within the natural universe
If the violation was committed by something outside the natural universe, the phenomenon is not magical.
Magic works the same for everyone, but not everyone who uses it fully understands it. Different cultures may have contradictory explanations for how magic works, and they might be wrong. One could become a powerful sorcerer without ever knowing of the Supremacy of Balance. Some cultures reject the existence of souls and attribute magic to other sources. Nevertheless, once cultural trappings and individual quirks are stripped away, the core process is identical.
The exact technique is limited only by the imaginations of the casters. Incantations, gestures, tools, and rituals are all simply aids that casters use, knowingly or not, to tap into the same underlying process. These tools and techniques may be codified into systems that are passed down for centuries until they become erroneously ingrained as the only way to use magic.
From a broad perspective, magic usage in all its incarnations can be ranked into four tiers of mastery:
- Rely on specialized equipment to channel soul energy for specific, limited tasks
- Use arcane rituals to aid in manipulating soul energy
- Use words or gestures to aid in manipulating soul energy
- Manipulate soul energy at will without aids
Different schools of magic may also specialize in certain energy forms or effects. One tradition may only teach manipulation of kinetic energy, while another only teaches destructive manipulation. Another yet may teach all forms of energy manipulation, but only use them to achieve certain effects.
This variety in technique, intention, and understanding causes different magical traditions to appear as completely different systems. Some may even postulate—erroneously, of course—that magic has several different sources, each of which must be harnessed in different fashions.
There is one case, however, in which real, non-superficial differences do exist. Different races or classes of beings have different souls, and different souls are more attuned to different types of energy or effects. In extreme cases, certain types of souls are incapable of manipulating entire classes of energy. Other extreme cases include souls that seem to manipulate unknown energy types.
Because all physical objects consist of atoms and molecules, a skilled sorcerer can manipulate these basic building blocks to transmute one substance into another. Various energy types are created and destroyed to accomplish this manipulation. Some alchemists may appear to conjure matter out of thin air, but in reality they are simply gathering scattered molecules from around their immediate vicinity, binding them together until they build an object large enough to discern with the naked eye. Magic can only create and destroy energy, not matter.
Once the atoms and molecules have been rearranged, purely natural processes take over, making the transmutation permanent.
Alchemy requires a deep understanding of chemistry in general, and specifically the molecular makeup of the substances one wishes to transmute.
This is the most straightforward violation of the Supremacy of Balance. Conjuration is simply the creation or destruction of energy in an observable manner without any secondary effect. It is the spontaneous creation of fire, electrical arcs, light, or disembodied sounds that are so often associated with powerful sorcerers. Ironically, conjuration actually requires the least skill and knowledge to perform.
The soul energy in a being’s aura contains residual thoughts and emotions. Mediums, psychics, and telepaths have the ability to manifest these elements as aural energy. This conversion takes place within the telepath’s own mind, so the resulting sound is audible only to them.
While this skill can be learned, it is one of the more difficult applications of magic due to its unusual mechanics. Most known telepaths seem to have been born with a natural talent for reading the auras of others.
It is actually very simple to defend against a telepath’s probe, although simplicity doesn’t necessarily translate to ease. To hide a secret from a telepath, one need only avoid thinking about it. This can be done by shifting to other, more trivial thoughts, or by emptying one’s mind completely.
Any object or being made to behave in an abnormal manner via magic is said to be enchanted. Some forms of telekinesis (the manipulation of an object’s kinetic energy) fall under this designation. Spells that affect the energy in a being’s brain, such as sleep or confusion spells, are also enchantments.
It should be noted, however, that there exists no way to rob a being of free will through enchantment—or any application of magic for that matter. One may cast spells to deceive a being into thinking a certain course of action is best, but this is more akin to giving someone bad advice than overt mind control. A being’s kinetic energy may be manipulated to force them to perform certain actions, but they will still retain awareness, as well as the ability to fight back if they are skilled enough in sorcery.
Possession is the closest to true mind control that can exist, but this is a metaphysical phenomenon, not a magical one. And even in cases of possession, the host has not lost their free will; they’ve only lost control of their body and consciousness of their environment.
There are two forms of necromancy, one magical and the other unmagical. The unmagical form is akin to the prayer example given above; a soul or ghost is asked to perform a service, and the ghost may choose whether or not to comply. Magical necromancy, on the other hand, is the enslavement of a soul against its will.
Popular theory states that sentient beings consist of a body and a soul. These two elements are unified by vital energy, and death is simply the dissipation of that energy, allowing the soul to separate from the body. Magical necromancy, therefore, reverses that process by capturing a soul and creating new vital energy to rebind it. The soul may of course be bound to a dead body, but it may also be bound to any object the necromancer wishes. Dead bodies are often favored because they already contain all the mechanisms necessary to facilitate movement (bones, muscles, etc.), allowing the construct to perform any action a living being can perform. Inanimate objects, on the other hand, are chosen when the desired function of the construct does not require animation.
As it does in all mortal beings, the vital energy will naturally dissipate with time. Because necromancy is an artificial process, its effects are not as long-lasting as traditional life. The vital energy must be maintained by the necromancer, which puts a limit on how many souls one may enslave at once. However, this also comes with a benefit; because the energy is maintained by an outside source, the undead construct is not easily killed.
Vital energy is the most difficult type of energy to manipulate. Sorcerers who have achieved the fourth level of mastery in other energy types may still require specialized equipment or arcane rituals to perform necromancy. Some have speculated that this difficulty arises from vital energy’s close connection to soul energy, which cannot be manipulated at all. Another source of difficulty is that vital energy is the least understood of all the manipulable energy types.