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All right, so it occurs to me I should probably write some of this down. Magic is a form of energy in the Course Books, and like energy it cannot be created or destroyed, only rearranged.

Every living thing requires a tiny amount of magic: Your heart needs it to beat, your cells need it to divide. The energy attaches itself to molecules or flows freely in pools and rivers, itself affected by gravity. Lunar cycles affect it the same way they cause tides. Magic exists in varying levels of complexity, or levels of concentration.

Magical power begins deep underground as a very raw, simple form. This form can be used to cast spells but requires great physical strength. It is also nearly impossible to weave into complex spells; only to ball it up and fling it at targets. The raw magic is seldom used for this reason, and is only proficient at causing damage.

The raw power is carried to the surface through volcanic activity and deposited in the rock and soil. Plants growing in this soil then absorb and refine the raw power. This is why nature magic is so common and easy; it taps into the refined form found in plants.

Animals eating the plants further concentrate the energy. That discovery gave rise to the idea that carnivores refine the power even further, and that by eating them, people could gain greater power. This is actually untrue; though carnivores do have access to greater power, they actually store less in their meat, whereas a more plant-based diet produces higher concentrations. This does not mean that vegetarians are more powerful. Diet controls access to refined energy, and an all-meat diet does give access to the highest levels of refined energy.

Once inside the body, some of the energy gets converted into pure life-force, the most refined/concentrated form of magic. The rest is simply stored, and can be used to cast or weave spells.

Magical energy can also be ‘drawn’ from the environment around the mage. Certain spell-forms and ritual-sites convert raw magic into more refined versions. Otherwise, spells can siphon refined power from anywhere. If enough power is tapped, plants and animals in the area will die, robbed of their life-force.

Basic Rules

1. Power is Power, no matter the source.

2. A mind if still a mind. Be it human, dragon, or any of the others, no amount of magic can increase a mind's ability to absorb and process information.

3. A mind cannot be controlled. No amount of magic can let you control another mind, only influence it.


How magic is performed is difficult to describe. Not only are most mages extremely secretive, but the methods of execution tend to be extremely variable from person to person.

In simplest terms, magic is performed through imagination. The mage must picture in their head how a thing is to be done, and supply the power to do it. Boiling a glass of water involves imagining the molecules in the liquid vibrating until the water becomes hot. Lighting a candle might mean focusing heat on the wick. The more complex the spell, the greater the mental capacity.

Si Units

Magic is measured in two ways: an individual mage's potential, and the power level of the spell. The SI unit for potential is Stars, and the unit for spellpower is steps.


An individual's magical aptitude, or potential, is counted in a star-rating. This system dates back to the late Age of Darkness, in which magical artifacts existed which could measure a person's potential as a mage, without them having undergone any training. The earliest known example, from High Tower involved an enchanted stone slab (called a Star Slab) into which a circle had been carved, and a row of stars following the circle's edge. Anyone, even an infant, could be placed inside the circle, and their magical "potential" could be measured by the carved stars, which would glow.

Extant examples of the star-rating platforms typically have between 10 and 13 stars on the circle. It is not known how the artifacts were calibrated, but every tested example has yielded the same rating regardless of variations: someone who "lights three stars" on one panel will light three on any.

A non-mage has no effect on the circle, while someone with only very slight magical aptitude would cause the spell-form to glow, but not affect any of the stars. A typical mage would usually have a star rating of three, with fours and fives not uncommon. A few of the more powerful mages in history would tip the scales at nine or ten; there are no direct records of any higher star ratings, but anecdotally we can assume that some mages did rate considerably higher.

The highest ever recorded star rating belongs to Nathan Searlin, who was described as "being able to light the entire circle, three times around, until the stars glowed with the white-hot intensity of the sun".

Typical Levels

Regardless of the existence of higher-count star slabs, the magical potential scale is generally agreed to be between 0-10, with those rare individuals who's power cannot be measured being described as off-ladder or off-peek. Hunter Jusenkyou most notably described his own rating thusly: "On a scale of one to ten, I am an eleven." - a sentiment off-repeated by more powerful mages. If a mage is discovered who exceeds 10-star level, their power is described in Steps instead of Stars.

  • no spark - someone with no magic
  • 0 - has the spark, probably unable to do more than heal.
  • 1 - typical level for Healers
  • 2-4 - average range for Mages
  • 5-8 - range for exceptional Mages
  • 9 - fewer than one Mage per generation
  • 10 - fewer than once an Age
  • 11, A.K.A. Off-Peek - less than 20 recorded in all of history

Mages who register as "off-peek" on the star slab are not simply "one level higher" than a lvl 10. Being off-peek means their power level cannot be measured by whatever scale forms the basis of the slabs. These mages are instead measured by Steps and Towers (see below), but this is a subjective scale and does not relate directly. A mage who is "5 stars" is not automatically "half a step".

Interestingly, both Hunter and his youngest daughter Naomi were off-peek; marking the only-known occurrence of two such individuals existing at the same time.

Steps and Towers

The Si units for magical spells are rated in Steps and Towers (with the latter only having been formally used by Hunter Jusenkyou). The unit comes from the Mage Tower, where each wizard would occupy a "step" along the inside of the tower, adding his strength to a spell during a chain-attack. While mages had widely varying individual power-levels, the rough "potential" of a tower could pretty easily be gauged by the total number of mages available.

Hence, tower-cast spells were often described by the number of occupied 'steps'. While not in common use during the Mage Wars, the concept of describing spell-power by unit prefixes in multiples was popularized during the Golden Age, even though Tower Magic had not existed for some time by then. Thus, a thousand steps became a kilo-step, a thousand kilo-steps became a mega-step, and so on. Hunter Jusenkyou would later extend the same concept to towers, producing kilo-towers and so on.

Potential Ratings

If the individual potential-ratings of all of the Mages in a tower were known, some historians would gage the power of a spell by adding up all of the star-ratings. This would later cause considerably confusion, as these star-powers were sometimes erroneously copied down as step-powers.

Types of Magic


Endo ('from within') magic is based on the user's personal stockpile of magical energy and power drawn from within.


Exo (external, 'from without')-magic is power drawn from the world around the caster; usually refined magic from the landscape but sometimes from other sources. Exo-Magic is based largely on the four cardinal elements: Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water.


The four anti-elements used in dark magic are: Emptiness, Cold, Stillness, and Dust. These ritual elements are only invoked in the lowest, darkest of all castings.


Since magic is based on intents, the path has more to do with the person following it. His or her individual motivations, experiences, and needs shape the magic. That said, certain types are certainly stronger and more capable.

Lesser Path

The lesser path is about anger and lack of control. Most exo-magics are considered lesser-path. Those that go to the lesser path and stay there are often considered sub-par mages and shunned by the general magic community. In some areas and at some times, it was considered illegal to practice "lesser-path magics"; even into the modern Ages, wizards did not often divulge that they had practiced or did practice lesser-path.

The key failing of lesser-path magic is that it tends to be self-limiting. The early rewards are stronger, but ultimately to advance they must either turn to dark magic or focus exclusively on a few niche techniques.

Greater Path

The greater path is considered the moral high-road, the intellectually superior and the challenging forms of magic. Most wizards practice greater-path magic exclusively. Endo-Magic is greater-path (excepting those that are dark), and the greater-path leads to much greater power and versatility.


A substance used by the Eladamri during the Roads War, but called 'Magic' in their surviving literature. Its uses are unexplored in the Course Books proper, but may entail nearly-all those of Endo-Magic, Exo-Magic, and Raw-Form Casting. After the Fall of Roads, only one known sample remains anywhere; and this is consumed by Hunter and Jason, destroying Machello.

Exotic Subtypes

Blood-Letter is an early dark Magic technique that involves using one's own blood both to cast spells and as a weapon. The caster is required to open a vein any time they wish to use the power, so it is often considered a technique of last resort. However, since the power is connected directly to one's own life force, it allows an otherwise fairly weak mage to wield considerable power. Though blood-letters are strong, the practice is still considered to be on the Lesser Path.

Types of Casting

In general there are four major ways to case spells: mental, ritual, somatic, and verbal. Most spells use some combination of all four. Among the larger arcane community, using only one is considered either showing off or copping out.

With the exception of some simple ritual spells, all magic includes a mental component. There is much argument over what constitutes somatic casting, if the hand signals are used merely to direct and focus the magic or if the exact forms themselves are a part of the spell. Verbal casting is considered the most powerful. The words double as a Kiai and allow the caster to impart more power on the spell as needed. Ritual-magic is the easies to do, can be done without a mental, somatic, or verbal component, and in the right hands can be extremely powerful. However when blended with the other casting styles(and done by a fully-fledged mage) it is often considered secondary to other forms.

As with practically everything that comes in fours, elemental mages have assigned each type to one of the four cardinal elements:

  • Earth = Mental
  • Fire = Somatic
  • Wind = Verbal
  • Water = Ritual

This causes not a small amount of animosity among the other magic circles as they do not like the elementalists co-opting their terms, and resent the implication that specific types of elemental magic can only be performed in specific ways. Not that most actual earth-based spells are in fact somatic, not mental; a fact conveniently ignored by most elemental mages.

Stilling and Silencing

It is possible for a mage to temporarily loose the ability to perform magic. This is known as being "stilled", and the state can be inflicted purposefully. A stilled mage does not read as having any magical abilities. Typically the state will resolve itself in time, but may need the help of another mage or ritual magics to remove.

A mage can also be "silenced" or permanently rendered unable to perform magic.


Magic can be ‘amplified’ through a variety of means. Various ritual-sites and spell-forms can convert raw magic into more complex magic at the cost of a little complex magic, but these are not considered ‘true’ amplifiers.

Only certain metals actually amplify power. Silver is the simplest; ironically gold does not work at all. Iron doesn’t work either, though steel takes on some magical properties and iron can be enchanted. Silver is the best commonly-available magical amplifier, and is often shaped into trinkets and rings and then enchanted. Though there are many, metals like orichalcum, adamantium, and mithrill are among the most notable.

It is important to note that amplifiers do not actually create more magic; they take what is there and make it more powerful.

More magic can be created, however, with the aid of some technology. This is a sort of clever way to circumvent the laws of thermodynamics. The first (and only known) law of magic is this: Power is Power, whether created by magic or machine. This was commonly mistaken to mean that machinery (technology) could equal magic, that one was not superior to another. Magic-tech was essentially invented as an offshoot of this sort of thinking. However, the real meaning is that the two are interchangeable.

Magic can be converted into heat, mechanical motion, and most importantly: electricity. While converting heat or mechanical motion into magic is very inefficient and loses a great deal in the transfer, electricity creates an amazing loophole.

Essentially, a small amount of magical energy creates a large amount of electrical energy. While that electrical energy does produce an equivalent amount of magical energy to what was used to produce it, amplifiers are the key to making more. A small amount of magical energy, amplified, converted to electricity, then converted back to magical energy, will yield substantially more magical energy than used to create it.

Spell casting/weaving

Describing the actual use of magic is complicated, but it essentially comes down to ‘weaving’ or shaping the energy into more complex patterns. This is actually similar to the way a technological machine works by converting electrical energy into a function, as a lamp converts electricity into light.

The complexity of the spell is similar to the complexity of a machine: the harder something is to do, the more complex a spell you need. A variety of magical ‘languages’ were eventually developed to record specific spells and teach them to new generations of mages. This is where the misconception of ‘magic words’ arose from, as mages would often recite the written form of the spell as they wove it to help focus. In reality, the spoken form is only a guide for the mental portion.

Spell Forms

A spell-form is essentially a spell ‘written’ into a shape, whereupon magic is added to the shape, and it forms the spell. Some spell-forms can be expressed two-dimensionally, and thus essentially written into books. This is different from a written version of a spell, in which the page has no inherent magic but contains a series of symbols which tell a mage how to create a spell. In a form, the mage needs to know nothing beyond how to activate the form by pushing magic into it.

The concept of a spell book, a volume inherently magic that allows the holder to cast spells, originates from many books of spell forms. Spell books should not be confused with books of magic, which instead contain written instructions for casting spells.

Three-dimensional spell forms are also used. These are often shaped with magic-amplifying materials to form magical trinkets or talismans. During the Mage Wars, spell forms were often carved into weapons to create powerful attacks. The Order of Wizard Breakers even developed a type of spell-form that fit in a socket on a weapon or piece of armor.

Ritual Sites

A ritual site is similar to a spell-form, but much larger. Ritual sites can range from a few square feet to hundreds of miles. Typically, a ritual site will be laid out to aid in the casting of a specific spell. Some ritual sites are simply used to draw more magic, others for casting multiple spells.

The term derives from the way a site incorporates various ritualistic elements and is usually activated through some form of a ceremony. Most multi-caster spells require some sort of ritual site to cast.

A ritual site can be as simple as a few lines drawn in the dirt, or even just ritual elements laid out in a specific pattern.

Permenant Ritual Site

A permanent ritual site is exactly what the name implies: a more permanent setting. Stone shapes or even special buildings can comprise a ritual site. The city of Arindell is in fact a massive ritual site built over a spell-form of carved tunnels underground.

A permenant site will be used over and over again. A Mage Tower is an example of a permenant ritual site. Typically, these sites will not include any hard-set spell-forms, but can be easily re-configured to allow any uses.

Standard Ritual Site

A standard site temporary in nature. It will usually have a spell-form drawn or painted or otherwise rendered. A standard site may be used for some time, and could be considered a permanent site, the differentiating factor being the utility of the site.


In simplest terms, an enchantment is a thing spelled. A permanent or temporary spell, woven over an object, place, or even a person. Most enchantments are invisible, though some produce a faint aura or other visible light. Some enchantments are done with a particular magical language that is designed for this purpose, and the letters and words form runes either magically inscribed or directly etched. Tattoos can be used to place enchantments on people, with the back being a popular canvas. These enchantments, however, can be disrupted by simple changes in the wearer’s body. Weight gain or loss can change the dimensions of the tattoo, thus disrupting the enchantment.

Enchantments differ from spell forms in one very key way: they do not require ‘activation’. A spell form must be activated by a mage, but an enchantment can be activated by anyone, or is constantly active. Making enchantments is done in one of two ways. The first is a type of enchantment that draws in power to run itself. These can be problematic for long-term use as they can be shut down simply by starving them of power.

The second is to actually add all the power the enchantment will ever need directly into it while making it. This sort of enchantment is much more popular for the ‘always working’ ability, though making them can be extremely difficult. The Tower H. culture, a legendary group of enchanters from the early First Chaotic Period of the Mage Wars, were pioneers in this type of enchanting, and made it much easier with a system of staged enchanting. Essentially, they would enchant items for making other enchanted items. A system of combining smaller enchantments to build larger ones allowed relatively weak mages to produce extremely powerful enchanted items.

A hybrid form of the two types of enchantments exists, though this cannot really be considered a separate technique since it really consists of combining different types of enchantments.

Zero-point magic

In the last installment of the Course Books, Hunter Jusenkyou is using what he calls ‘Zero-Point Magic’, described as incredibly powerful. What he has done is tap into the ‘sea of energy’ the same way a Zero-Point generator does. Essentially tapping in to the zero-point energy of a quantum mechanical physical system, he gained access to a vast reservoir of power.

This was not accomplished by converting zero-point energy into magical energy, but accessing true zero-point magical energy. Though more raw and unrefined than the magic that comes from stone, zero-point magic is even easier to weave, allowing extremely complex, extremely powerful spells.

Though The ByWay to Freedom is the first time he’s seen using this power, it is implied he may have used it to create a few permanent enchantments on the Saratoga.

Closing Points

Though some rules of magic can be easily interpreted through logic, the most important thing is to understand that the driving force behind it is need. You cannot simply shout a few magic words and wave a wand; the power is called by need.

The secret, then, is to learn to create the need, or take what need you have and direct it into weaving a spell. This is why magic is so seldom used for simple, mundane purposes, and why the hardest part of training is learning to produce the necessary need.

See Also