Most of my fantasy writings are set in what I call the World of Atria. Atria happens to be the country in which my earliest (1978) creations (characters, stories) resided. Those who have read my Tower books will know it as the Atosian Empire from 2300 years ago.
Magic in that
world is repeatable, observable and consistant; therefore it is
analyzable and open to scientific understanding. Also, it is consistant
with standard forms of science like physics, chemistry, thermodynamics,
etc. It does, however, require generalizations and extensions to what we
think of as conventional laws of science. Magic consists of a number
of fields and forces that link to everything, including abstract
thoughts and emotions. Consequently, unlike in some universes, it
never runs out, never vanishes and has no moral good-bad connotations.
and most forms of life, are hybred creatures having both a biochemical
body (like us) and a magical body. Some living creatures have only a
weak magical structure while, others have very little, or no,
biochemical component. Consequently, while there can be magical
medicine, there also are magical diseases. Most witches, wizards, mages,
warlocks, etc (henceforward: witches) are humans that have a magical
side that can directly perceive and manipulate magical fields. There
have been others who cannot perceive but can manipulate magic in some
way, so they tend to have unconcious abilities. The "Shadow", Grisivren, Allison
Davies and Mary Allbright are among those; so are half the characters in Thinking Outside the Tower. Some can gain such abilities through events, diseases, companions, etc, such as Arni in Dragon Awakening.
Many cultures learn, often by observation or trial-and-error, to take
advantage of the patterns in the magical fields that occur in nature.
Others use "spirits" from the world around them, or of the dead, to
create magical effects. (None of those appear in the Tower books. See,
for example, Double Vision and other stories still (Jan 2015) in
development.) Yet others seem to be gifted with abilities by virtue of
their religious devotions, such as Heacen. (Yes, that can include humanists, agnostics
Usually, about one in a thousand humans has the
potential to be a witch. After the Day of Fire, that number dropped to
about one in two-thousand, at least in the area around the Tower of the
Ancients. The magical ``genetic'' markers had been vanishing from the
population because of the persecution. However, the genetic "rules"
are much more complex than for, say, eye-colour, (and aren't DNA) so it
is very difficult to eliminate the magical inheritance from a
population. No one understands this, but mutations and recessive
components mean that children can be a witches even if there has never
been a witch among their ancestors.
When cooking, a chef is much
faster than a novice following a recipe. Likewise, in the cultures
before the Day of Fire, most witches learned to cast memorized "spells",
but could also cast spells from books, albeit slowly. Unlike in some
systems, there was no need to "re-memorize" a spell. So long as the
witch had energy left, spells could be re-cast. However, running out of
energy was much like running out of conventional stamina. It usually has
unfortunate consequences including fatigue, nausia, weakness, ...
witches in the local Empire's governments were taught a particular set
of spells, many other spells were ignored or were lost during and after
the Day of Fire. Moreover, because of personal limitations, no witch can
cast all spells. There are literally tens, and possibly hundreds, of
thousands of spells, many of which have duplicate effects. Only by
trying can a witch discover whether she or he can cast any particular
spell. Some witches can only cast spells of one type or more: water,
plants, mental, energy, transformations, etc.
Moreover, there is
also great variety in the power that a witch can put into a spell, and
even in the energy reserves a witch may have. Everyone (almost) has
magical reserves, whether or not they can access them. Just like in
"mundane" phenomena, more powerful effects will swamp weak ones, and a
well placed tool can defeat even massive castle walls. However, using
magic has consequences. If someone casts a spell to freeze water while a
fish is in that water, that fish will likely die. Magically unfreezing
the water won't restore the fish. Trying to fly during a wind-storm
using a spell that has a maximum speeed of 15 miles an hour is a very
bad idea. That witch is likely to be thrown around by the wind. Trying
to save yourself from an unexpected fall by casting a flight spell is
also problematic. Few witches can cast a spell in less than 5 seconds,
and even that isn't common. That means they need 400 ft of fall just to
cast the spell. Then they need to decelerate, so easily need another 40
ft if they intend on living through the experience. Similarly, medical
magic is just as dangerous as medical drugs and modern surgery. A bad
combination or botched application will likely injure or even kill the
patient. Creating a magical rainstorm could cause a drought somewere else. Magic is not a replacement for knowing what you are doing.
have intrinsic magical senses, but they do need energy to maintain
those, so most witches will turn them off (shut their eyes, so to speak)
when they aren't needed. Moreover, many witches also have spells that
enhance those senses.
There is one a source of confusion that
needs to be addressed: invisibility comes in many forms. Some magic
makes a person (or thing) invisible to normal light. Some spells will
make a person invisibile to magical senses. Yet other spells can mask a
person from telepathic magic. There are extrodinarily few spells that do
more than one of those. Consequently magical invisibility is not
invisibility caused by magic, but invisibility to magic.
being invisible to light often blinds the person involved, and few
forms of invisibility are very effective if the person is moving. (BTW,
there have been spells that make a person invisible to the whole
electro-magnetic spectrum, but those spells tended to be lethal to the
target, since chemical bonds depend on electro-magnetic fields. Unless
other magic is used to prevent it, the targets either disintegrated or froze to death.)
is among us, and even among some of the inhabitants of Atria, much
confusion about seeing through things. Consider light. Anyone who has
eyes that see light (most humans) can see through glass walls. None of
us can see through a stone wall. However, if magic allows light to pass
through that stone wall, then everyone can see through it, just like a
glass wall. Some (not all) magical fields pass through stone.
Therefore almost all witches can see through stone. However, they don't
see light through stone. Most importantly, the colours that normal
humans see are properties of light, not magic. Therefore, you can't
ever see the green-ness of grass through a wall that is opaque to
light. That is not to say that magic can't create an illusion that an
object is transparent, but that is different and has consequences
different from actually being transparent. For one thing, many
illusions aren't perfect. For another, that means there must be some
sort of detector (magical) on the other side of the apparently
Superman (if there aver were one in that
universe) can't see a woman's pink underwear. If he used powers to see
through her dress, then he'd see through her underwear, and probably
even through her. And if he did have a power that saw through a
synthetic fabric dress to see her cotton underwear, they wouldn't be
pink, because pinkness is a property of light, and not a property of
whatever emmited radiation (x-rays, gamma rays, infrared, magic) that he
is seeing. On the other hand he might infer a colour from what he is seeing, or call them pink because of the limitations of his humanoid
brain and/or light-centric language. But he could just as easily "see"
a different colour (green, brown, yellow, blue, or even black) from
what they actually were when seen with light.
Now, magic isn't
actually a single characteristic. Even "normal" magic uses multiple
fields and senses. However, what is called elemental magic by some
(others call it Deep Magic, God's Magic, structural magic or key-magic)
is an even deeper level of magic. Most witches can't even percieve that,
and even those that can, usually can't manipulate it. Without a
symbiotic relationship with another magical entity, no mere mortal has
ever had any but the most trivial abilities with it.
deepest levels, elemental magic has the power to fundimentally change
the reality of the universe (or at least a local part of it). Very
little of this is well understood by humans, although cutting-edge
research in the years before the Day of Fire was beginning to create
theories about some of this. Practical scientific study of elemental
magic was difficult since at the time there were no living elementalists
known to the global civilization.