Magic and Religion
Magic and Religion
I admit, being neither a mage nor a particularly pious man myself, these are subjects upon which I am probably not the best authority you could consult. However, given that I am attempting to give a decent primer to prospect sky sailors, that they might reference as need arises, I will endeavor to do my best to at least provide the very basics, my observations as it were, in the hopes of being at least somewhat helpful.
Magic in the Skies is a particularly powerful and ever present force, involved in many ways in everyone’s day to day life. Skystone for instance, the very substance that even makes our world possible, is a magically active mineral found within the very rock of the islands upon which we all live, and provides the lifting force that keeps our homes aloft in the sky and has allowed for the creation of Sky Ships by way of it’s unique, inherent properties. Similarly, Mechanika, such as it is, has become more and more commonplace as time goes on, it’s likely that the devices of Arcane Mechaniks play some role in your life every single day, be it the ’jacks that perhaps labor on your island or the weapon you might employ or even simple quality of life devices that you or those you might know own.
Still, as ubiquitous as magic is in the world, it’s not to say that things are purely cut and dry. There are still certain… concerns, shall we say, that ought to be addressed and unique particulars about the practice of magic as I understand that I will do my best to explain.
As I said, magic is present and undeniable as a fundamental force nature in the lives of all the people of The Skies, but by the same token, the practice of magic and the means by which control is exerted over that power is still not entirely understood. Some, such as sorcerers, are capable of intuitively using the power, while others like arcanists and arcane mechaniks are forced to turn to other methods of tapping into it, like formulae or rune plates. And even still, beyond that, there are other, far darker methods of attaining magical power… and those methods are both dangerous and rightly shunned, generally illegal in The Skies… but we’ll get to that shortly.
Regardless, every race and culture of the sky has it’s own relationship with the forces of magic, and each tends to look at it through it’s own lens, incorporating what aspects they need or want into their culture while shunning others. Many races for example, including the Drakin, Elves, Rhulfolk, and Trollkin are perfectly comfortable with arcane practice and study and in fact encourage it, especially the Drakin, believing that their sorcerers and arcanists are simply working with gifts given to them by the gods, while humans take a slightly… different approach.
Throughout much of recorded history, the human race actually had no inborn talent for magic. The closest we ever approached to it were the miracles worked by Clerics of the various deities, but most folk would take offense with me calling such things magic. Even if to me it all looks relatively the same. Anyway, at some point in the past—and we are talking about well over a thousand years ago here—a pair of twins managed to ascend to godhood, as crazy as that sounds, and in that moment, humanity was blessed with the gift of the arcane. Though I will explain more about Morrow and Thamar later, the point here is that even though the gift of magic came courtesy of one of humanity’s new patron deities, it came from Thamar. The darker sibling. The one who did business in the infernal and may well have traded souls for power. With the gift of magic, priests of the existing gods claimed, humans had stolen fire from the gods. It was wrong to use it, no matter what the source, and for many, many years, those with the talent were persecuted. Even killed.
Still, humanity is an adaptable lot. We eventually got over it. Sort of. You see, for humans in particular, the gains of having magic, and it putting us on an equal footing to the other arcanely active races like the Trollkin and the Rhulfolk ultimately proved too great a boon for the study and use of the power to remain taboo forever. It’s just… as in all things we humans have a need to control things. Label them. Put them into neat little groups. Schooled magic, like Arcanists and Arcane Mechaniks are generally held in higher regard, because it’s certain that their schooling must have taught them control. Sorcerers, meanwhile, are often looked upon with suspicion, even disdain, and in some of the most remote regions of The Skies, islands with little frequent contact to the world beyond their edges, such folk are still likely at risk of being harmed… That said though, in the major cities, you probably have nothing to worry about. Probably.
Sorcery vs Schooling
So, now that we’ve got the most basic of points from my entirely uninitiated, human perspective out of the way, lets move on. The differences between the two paths to power are, hilariously enough, academic. Where sorcerers are simply born with the gift for magic and access to an inner font of elemental power that they probably aren’t even aware of until something particularly dangerous or stressful literally frightens it to the surface, arcanists are forced to turn to study and formulae. Still though, there is some argument to be made that even the schooled casters had some latent gift for magic as well, else they wouldn’t be able to train and coax it into something greater—it just simply wasn’t born in them at the same level as with the intuitive spell casters—and there are many groups throughout The Skies like the Fraternal Order of Wizardry and Gerylords Covenant are quite willing to train those with the talent and mold them into capable casters, their libraries replete with jealously guarded arcane lore, held for use by their numbers.
Necromancy and Infernalism
Of course, not everything is all puppies and rainbows where magic is concerned and there are two particularly taboo areas of study for all races of The Skies, though for humans especially.
Necromancy at it’s most basic, is the use of magic to interfere with the dead. Through this power one can raise zombies or skeletal warriors, conjure ghosts, or as some believe, even capture the souls of the living, though it is also always said that such power comes with the cost of the practitioner’s own soul being forever consigned to damnation. I, of course, know nothing about the specifics of all that, but what I can say that is that I find it entirely unnatural and further find it an entirely disgusting practice so it’s not a wonder that people go to great lengths to protect the Under Isles, where the dead are usually interred to serve as fertilizer for the fungus farms, both to prevent any sort of interference with the food supply and to prevent some enterprising necromancer easy access to an as of yet unrisen army.
Infernalism meanwhile is the study and investigation of dark and terrible entities that exist beyond the scope of our own world. Demons and elder powers of pure darkness. It is a practice that is antithetical in every way to “good” gods of our world as it is these very forces that our gods most often find themselves doing battle with. Still, the lure of power through (relatively) easy means is a great one and it’s little wonder that some, desperate for any scrap of something greater, turn to this avenue in their hopes of gaining that power. After all, it is said that infernal pacts can actually grant the gift of wizardry to the magically inert… but it is also as often warned that once you’ve learned all you can and thus summoned the demon you call your teacher into this world… odds are it will have little use for you and your life will end shortly there after. And we’ll have a rogue demon on the loose to boot. Little wonder then why this practice is similarly reviled and likewise a crime for which the sentence is death, just the same as raising the undead.
The Other Disciplines
Beyond Sorcery and arcane schooling their are a few other means by which magical power is expressed in The Skies, and though these technically overlap in many ways with the discussion of Arcanists and their magical schooling, I still find all of them remarkable enough to be worth mentioning separately. Alchemy, Mechanika, and Gun magic have, after all, all become a very large part of our world as a whole, and in many ways they’ve each played a fundamental roll in the shaping of our world to boot.
Again, this is a subject to which I am woefully under qualified to speak, but regardless it’s impact is important and widely felt in The Skies. At it’s most basic, and I’m trusting the research of my editor here, alchemy is the study and application of synthesis between arcane formulae and the systematic study of naturally occurring elements, chemicals, and substances. Still with me after all that? No? Well, in layman’s terms what that essentially means is that by using a little bit of magic and a bunch of known and powerful chemicals, interesting new applications and results can be created. Potions and salves, acids and poisons, almost all the worthwhile chemical compounds you can name are likely the product of alchemy. Even the blasting powder used in guns and commercial explosives is the product of alchemy, and that says nothing of it’s use in the fields of metallurgy and the production of Mechanika, so obviously the field’s continued study and innovation is deemed absolutely essential for the march of progress. And even better? It’s actually a field in which no inherent magical talent is required. Even gobbers, who as a race demonstrate absolutely no skill in, nor history of magic are capable of it… and in fact, Gobbers are probably some of the best alchemists in the known skies.
Even though I know little about the science behind it, I could probably go on and on for days and days, probably repeating myself a hundred times, about the wonderful thing that is Mechanika, but then… as a sky sailor and thus one of the foremost beneficiaries of many of the arcane mechanik’s greatest innovations, that is probably to be expected.
To put it simply, I feel that Mechanika is for the common man not unlike what priests once insisted human sorcery was. A proverbial theft of fire from the gods. It is a means by which magical power can be placed into the hands of people with absolutely no talent for it, and in this way our lives can be made easier. Or at the very least fantastic results can be achieved.
The original brainchild of a man named Sebastien Kerwin hundreds of years ago, Mechanika is made possible by the creation of rune plates. These alchemically treated metal plates hold etchings of magical runes on their surface and, when supplied with a power source, these runes can be empowered with energy, thus causing them to release a magical effect according to the function of their runes. Thus swords that blaze with fire or guns that shoot icy cold are not only possible, but easily craftable. After all, it’s not as though mystical enchanted items didn’t exist before Kerwin created this new form of science… but the creation of such items, bearing permanent enchantments and powerful magics was incredibly rare and extremely dangerous… often coming at the cost of the life of the arcanist that attempted to create it.
As for all the applications of this science though? I’ll save that for a later chapter, in which I discuss the various devices that make our lives as sailors easier.
Finally we have gun magic, and this is a particular brand of magic for which I have a great deal of respect. It’s a relatively recent innovation, in the over all scheme of things, coming about since the creation of guns, but just like the technology behind guns themselves, this discipline—invented by humans but practiced by members of nearly every race with the ability for magic—has grown quite quickly.
While it could be said that this is technically a form of sorcery, I would contend that it’s likely more of a martial discipline. It still requires that the practitioner have innate magical talent, and quite a bit of it be sure, but in it’s own particular way it imposes certain limits on the practitioner as well. You see, their magic is conducted entirely by means of foci, both in the form of their magelock weapons—fire arms constructed of a particularly expensive metal called mage steel that is both highly heat resistant and durable, but also magically active—and in the form of their particular, rune inscribed bullets. It allows them a particularly brute force means by which to channel their power, often with highly destructive (though similarly highly controlled) results and it’s effectiveness really cannot be denied.
And lets not forget, either, that Gun mages have managed to earn themselves a certain mystique amongst the common people, either. Many see them a dashing figures, full of swagger. Talented duelists or impressive military officers who many look up to and want to be like, even within human cultures that often look down on the practice of magic… So hey… at least they’ve got that going for them.
Gods and Religion
The last topic I’ll address in this chapter is a fairly straight forward one, really. I’ve never met a single soul in all of the skies who doesn’t at least pay some amount of lip service to one god or another, if not a whole slew of them as some sort of personal pantheon and really… anyone that would even try to argue that the gods don’t exist is probably a (literal) god damned moron given that some gods, as you’ll find, have a rather obnoxious tendency towards very, very direct communication with mortals even above and beyond simply granting mystical powers to their priests.