Mana Arts is the catchall term used to describe the entire range of effects possible through the use of mana. Covered below will be a series of definitions and brief overviews of the various disciplines. If further information on a subject exists, there will be a link at the header of the section; click it to go to the individual page. Please note that this page is written from the perspective of the drow, and represents their pool of knowledge on the matter.
While, presumably, mana arts work the same for other races, their understanding and cultural view might be different than the logical, orderly approach to magical arts.
This section will cover some common terms associated with mana usage.
Mana is the basic building block of magic in the world, and can be used by those who are trained to manipulate it for a wide variety of effects. Mana itself is a form of energy which, in its raw form, does not have a physical representation. While it can be sensed by those with auras, and seen by those with training, it remains on the ethereal plane until it is being used to fuel an effect, and even then, unless it is pure mana manipulation being used, the mana used is not seen. A common motif in drow fashion and architecture is the mana symbol, and when worn denotes that an individual usually has more than a passing familiarity with their magical abilities.
Mana, in and of itself, is present in all matter to varying degrees and certain materials, such as gems, are able to focus or store this energy. When a population of aura-bearing creatures gathers in any one area for a significant period of time, the mana that 'bleeds' off of their auras gathers in a sort of 'pool' which settles in the area. The drow have noticed that, while living in these areas, aging stops at about sixty years, and as long as the 'pool' is not left for a significant period of time, aging stops completely (and, theoretically, forever).
An aura, commonly called a 'soul', is a stable gathering of mana within a living creature. The Drow, like all the other Fae races, possess an aura, but they are not the only races, or creatures, to do so. Any aura-possessing individual may use mana, and most can do simply things like making a light, dispelling an enchantment (although the more complex the enchantment, the more difficult it is to dispel), making a simple projectile or very basic shield.
An aura is like a vessel, or container, which is the recepticle for the mana. With training, practice and experience, an individual's aura is capable of growth, allowing that individual to use more mana, maintain spells for longer, or power more complicated effects. Additionally, that individual gains more control over their aura, making them more efficient in their use of their abilities.
Actively using mana to power magical effects drains the aura and, if it is ever fully depleted, that individual would die. Because using all of one's mana is very taxing, often the individual will collapse of exhaustion before that happens - a sort of biological failsafe - but those with discipline, fortitude, and experience can (and have) pushed themselves to their limits and paid the ultimate price for it.
The entire world is made up of elements, with Sorceries and High Arts focusing upon manipulating these elements for effect. There exists no comprehensive list as there are many sorts of elements, some are complex, some simple, and many can be considered related. Interesting to note is the fact that elemental affinities seem to be connected to environment, although whether this is because of some unrecorded phenomenon - or simply because some affinities provide advantages in certain terrain, causing those with such an affinity to thrive - is unknown. These are among the known elements possible:
Blood, Light, Darkness, Pressure, Sound, Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Wood, Metal
Mana Science is not so much an art itself, but an application of existing arts, and it concerns finding new applications to old and well-known techinques; new solutions for new situations. The driders were a result of research into mana science, using mana to fuse the body of a wounded drow with that of a special breed of spider. The Val'Jaal'darya use mana science for their projects in life sorcery, but there is no special process which unifies the researchers of this science - every mana scientist researches something of their own interest, in their own pace, with no common guideline. What unites the field of mana science is simply the process of using trial, error and observation to gain insight into the subject of study; most "mana scientists" are already accomplished sorcerers or high artists that have chosen to turn their intellects towards these pursuits.
Manatech is the term used to describe technology that utilizes mana to create, duplicate, power or perform equivalent effects that other races utilize natural principles to work. Items which have tiny golem-mechanisms that rely on the user's aura (or a crystal charged as a type of battery to provide the mana) to power them; such as prosthetic limbs, golem mounts, mana clocks, and door locks.
This section will cover some of the different forms, or "disciplines" of mana usage.
Basic Mana Manipulation
This is the ability to use mana in its basic form. Creating a ball of light by consuming a ball of mana, creating a burning mana missile to send at a hostile target, or hardening mana to make a shield, this is something any drow can learn with a little bit of effort. The capacity and power of these abilities, however, are directly related to the amount of mana a person possesses. This is partially determined by birth, but also by training and experience. A person without training could create a small ball of light, but a master could create a torrent of light. One only has a certain amount of mana, however, and depleting it can be dangerous for one's health.
If one has the funds, one may attend Orthorbbae - or purchase the services of a private tutor - for further education in the more complex principles of the Arts, which is why most nobles are skilled in use of Mana, while most commoners have very little capacity.
Common Mana Manipulation Effects:
- Basic Mana bolt - this bolt of burning mana can damage both fae and non-fae alike.
- Mana Shield - capable of stopping bullets from a cannon as well as bolts of mana.
- Aura Vision (sometimes called mana vision) is the ability to 'see' fae auras, and requires training. Many nobles get rudimentary training in this, but to progress beyond 'seeing' auras and being able to identify the species to which the aura belongs, requires a large amount of training and usually people don't make the effort. Being able to identify auras one is very familiar with, is possible without the extra training.
Sorcery is a catchall term that represents a innate connection (affinity) to an element that has been practiced to a controllable level. Any element is possible, but the connection is almost always with only one element; while individuals with two affinities have been recorded, they are extremely rare and the affinity is much weaker for both while, additionally, the two affinities are always related. These elements are also possible to learn with the High Arts, and indeed the two arts resemble each other, but the sorcerers have the benefit of being able to call upon their element with little effort. Sorcery is often passed on from parent to child, and a bloodline may have one particular element associated with it. Most often these are noble bloodlines, but even a commoner bloodline may have a sorcery affinity associated with it (though whether or not the affinity is ever discovered is an entirely different matter). In order for the sorcery to be utilized, however, the element in question must be present; you cannot create something out of nothing.
High Sorcery is a special form of sorcery: More complex, more advanced, and no two High Sorceries are the same. The affinity for High Sorcery is very uncommon, and is usually present only in children of a mating between two different types of fae. High Sorcery infuses all the cells in the person's body to produce a complex effect, one example being shapeshifting.
Anyone can learn the High Arts. Most commonly it is learned by males, but it is learned by many nobles of both genders. The High Arts focus on the elements, one can learn as much as two elements without too much problem, although it is always recommended to focus on one. The High Arts are much like their Sorcery counterparts, but the high artists lack the innate connection to their chosen elements that the sorcerers have. The High Arts focus on combining an element with mana, for example combining the fire element with mana to produce a fire missile instead of a simple mana missile, or combining earth with mana to make an earth shield instead of a basic mana shield. Mixing two elements with mana can strengthen, weaken or make the spell hazardous to both the user and those around her. Wind, fire and mana can produce a powerful fire cyclone. The combination water, fire and mana, on the other hand, only depletes the user's mana, producing no tangible effect. Using High Arts requires the presence of an element (it cannot create a water spell in the desert, for example) and often use somatic and verbal components as a focus to help the user's concentration; this has resulted in the existence of 'spells' which are generally used as a training guide. Advancing beyond the basics of mana arts, a practitioner creates their own effects.
Elendlar (the ancient word for summoning; a summoner is called an Elendlari) is the art of taking a fae soul out of its body (thus killing the body) and storing it in a special gem called a soulmir (plural, soulmiri), then calling upon this soul to manifest to fight for the summoner. The soul is referred to as a faeyorn once captured, and may be manifested in a present element (stone being a favorite because of its availability). Any creature with an aura may be harvested for such a use, but the number of creatures with auras have decreased with the increased popularity of this art. The Vel'Sharen had the most powerful summoners before the Nidraa'chal war proved that Elendlari summoning was no match for demonic summoning. Elendlari summons have auras, which the demons were able to take, possessing the summoned creature. There are still Elendlari around, but they are becoming fewer for each year, as more and more give up and move on to demonic summoning, where the real power lies. One way to keep use of their soulmired creatures is to have them tainted, basically turning them into demons yet keeping some resemblance to their past forms and abilities. Before the advent of Demonic summoning, this was the most powerful of the arts.
This subject is taught to female students at the Orthorbbae, but it is a skill slowly dying away as it has been proven worthless when compared to demonic summoning; in part due to the fact that traditional summons are susceptible to demons, and in part because it is much easier to acquire a demon than an untainted aura. Summoning is not taught to males at the Orthorbbae, because it has since ancient times been considered a sacred and ritual skill, meant for females, particularly high ranked females. A male may still acquire a summoning tutor outside of school, if he or his family can field the cost. With the appropriate resources available anyone may learn traditional summoning, but most will not be very successful with it, and those who are will still be inferior to the demonic summoners.
Velnar (the word for demonic summoning; a demonic summoner is called a Velnari) is an ancient, once forgotten, recently renewed art. Building upon the traditional summoning arts, what differentiates Velnar is the opening of gates to Abyss - other dimensions - and drawing incorporeal creatures into this reality, then commanding these beings to do your will.
Demonic summoning comes with a great risk - unless the summoner is tainted, she risks being tainted - or in the worst case, possessed - by the very being she has called forth. Before the Nidraa'chal War a summoner who lost against her summoning and became tainted was considered a failure for not having a strong enough mastery to avoid such a fate. Things have changed.
The Vel'Vloz'ress and the Vel'Sharen have the majority of the demonic summoners, although most summoners have been forced to change to this art, as it completely overshadows the old forms of summoning. Anyone who goes to the Orthorbbae to learn summoning is ritually tainted as a "vaccination" against possession, and as a result there are only a few untainted demonic summoners around: Sillice is one of these. In addition to being able to summon demons, a demonic summoner may use their tainted aura to infuse their spells with the ability to pass through matter, and to go over large distances. This kind of magic affects the target's aura instead of the body.
This subject is taught to female students at the Orthorbbae, and all girls who are to learn summoning at the school have to go through the tainting ritual first, to avoid any unfortunate accidents. Summoning is not taught to males at the Orthorbbae, because it has since ancient times been considered a sacred and ritual skill, meant for females and particularly high-ranked females.
Demonic summoning is no exception, regardless of its relatively recent inclusion in the subjects available at the school. A male may still acquire a summoning tutor outside of school, if he or his family can field the cost. With the appropriate resources available anyone may learn demonic summoning, but most will not be very successful with it, and those with a weak will soon succumb either to their taint or to their summonings. It is possible to learn and perform demonic summoning without having gone through the tainting ritual, but you always run the risk of being seeded or possessed by the creature you summon, and only summoners with exceptional strength of will can attempt this feat and succeed with any amount of regularity.
Empathy is a blessing or a curse, depending on the afflicted person's access to competent teachers and calm environments. Empathy is a primitive power; it enables the empath to feel what others feel, an empath may sense dreams, nightmares, basic thoughts, and strong feelings like panic, love or hate, although they may not literally read another's mind. Once refined, this power can lead to various skills, including brainwashing, locating people (and even demons and the tainted!) by their auras, and a highly skilled empath can even destroy another person's nerves or even their brain. Empaths are usually quite skilled in animal training, and healing, as they can sense what an animal truly wants, and where exactly it is a person's body has been hurt. Healer empaths are given special training in the dangerous and exhaustive process of healing. Healing empathy is extremely taxing on the empath, and draws energy from the person being healed as well. Many an empath has died trying to heal someone else, drawing upon all their mana and completely exhausting their personal mana supply, extinguishing their own aura and thus dying. This is one of the reasons for the creation of the first driders. It was easier to combine a mortally wounded body with that of a spider than to heal it.
The Val'Kyorl'solenurn specialize in teaching their particular brand of empaths, rushing them to school immediately once the talent is manifested. This talent is also prevalent among the Val'Sullisin'rune, their Ilharess is rumored to be a powerful empath able to kill with a single glance. Empathy exists in the other clans as well, but it is almost always an inherited trait, and the two above clans have the strongest lines of empathy. If you do not possess empathy you cannot learn it.
Untaught empaths may go insane with the stress of not being able to block out other peoples' emotions. However, part of this (and something that most non-empaths do not understand) is that an empath must have experienced what an emotion or other stimulus is in order to interpret it when it comes from others. So, if a young empath who has not experienced a full range of emotions is flooded by feelings that they can't possibly understand, they are subsequently overloaded in what is, to them, a mass of emotional static. Additionally, empaths are influenced by their own feelings and prejudices about certain emotions, so that if an empath is scared of a particular feeling, that same fear may be triggered if they encounter that emotion in others.
Many empaths have a fear of demons because they can sense their strange and foreign emotions, which are often very strong compared to the average individual. Faen, for example, now knows what seeds feel like because of contact with her now-tainted friend, Naal'suul, and is able to distinguish between the emotions of the host and the seed now; for her, who fears demons because of the events surrounding her friend's tainting, these emotions leave her feeling scared and vulnerable, whereas a demon-loving empath might not be so intimidated.
Spellsong is the mainstay of the Val'Illhar'dro clan, affinity for it runs strong in the clan's bloodlines and they have near perfected the arts thanks to their connections with other cities and races. Outside the Illhar'dro, this ability is extremely rare.
Spellsong is a very difficult art, relying on soundwaves to affect the mana around the singer, the resonance of the tones creating the desired effect. Spellsongs are known as 'soft magic' and is virtually impossible to dispell. While it is rarely harmful in nature, the fact that it affects anyone within hearing distance makes it quite powerful. An extremely complex song is sung or played, and every single note counts. The song affects the people's auras as well as gemstones specifically made for this purpose. For example, one songstress might charm or strengthen someone, while a choir could shatter a wall of stone, if they sang together. Spellsong is often used for support, or to activate special golems, but not to attack nor harm. Since spellsong affects the person's aura, it doesn't matter whether the person hears the song or not, which means the myth of being able to avoid spellsong effects by holding your hands over your ears isn't true.
The vast majority of spellsong effects are sustainable only so long as the singer can maintain the song, which is one of the key reasons the idea of a spellsong choir is so dangerous. Unless there are mechanisms or gems set in place and tuned for the sole purpose of maintaining a song after the singer has stopped singing, the duration of the song is usually the duration of the effect.
If you do not possess the ability for spellsong you may still be able to learn it with time and effort, and access to teachers who may or may not be willing to teach you this exotic skill. However, this does require some ability to singing, and those with talent for it, who also practice, will always be more effective.
The complex art of Golem-making is usually done only by very experienced people. The art is an endless process of trial and error, one can spend centuries trying to perfect this skill. Making a golem takes quite a while, and as such it is not done during combat. But this weakness is also its strong point. A golem, once created, lasts a very long time. A golem made out of stone, by an expert in golem-making, could last for a millennium.
Golem-making usually requires an energy source, in the form of a mana-powered gemstone. Different golems have different strengths and weaknesses. A stone golem may be strong, but it is extremely hard to program into doing more than taking orders. Most golems require a 'handler' - a person moving the golem by commanding it directly - as the process of sculpting the complex system needed for the golem to act on its own is both time-consuming and very difficult, as a single error would cause the whole thing to be scrapped. Flesh golems, on the other hand, already have the pathways in place, and require little modification by the golem-maker. Flesh golems come with their own set of problems, however, as they may inherit physical quirks from the body they were made from.
It should be noted that the conversion of drow to golem doll by Kharla'ggen Vel'Vloz'ress is a High Sorcery effect and not a part of the golemmaker's traditional art.