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.
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.
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.
Think of an aura 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.
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. These are among the known elements possible:
Blood, Light, Darkness, Pressure, Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Wood, Metal
As suggested by the name, this is more of a science than an art, and it concerns finding new applications to old and well-known arts, 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.
Mana tech 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 users aura (or a crystal charged as a '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 faern 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:
- Mana Shield
- 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 represents an innate connection to an element. Any element is possible, but the connection is only with one element. These elements are also possible to learn with the High Arts, and indeed the two arts resemble eachother, but the sorcerers have the benefit of being able to call upon their element with little or no 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. One person generally has only one sorcery, if any. Having two sorceries is extremely rare and mastering both of them would take an extremely long period of time.
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.
Anyone can learn the High Arts. Most commonly it is learned by males who are to become faerns, 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 faerns 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. The High Arts require movement, speech and the presence of an element, it cannot create a water spell in the desert for example.
Elendlari summoning is the art of taking a fae soul out of its body (thus killing the body) and storing it in a special gem, a soulmir, then calling upon this soul to manifest to fight for the summoner. The soul may be manifested in a present element, stone is a favorite. 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 summoners 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.
Demonic summoning is an ancient, once forgotten, recently renewed art. Drawing incorporeal beings from the Abyss - other dimensions - into 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 a failure. 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 obsoletes the old forms of summoning. Anyone who goes to the Orthorbbae to learn summoning is ritually tainted, a "vaccination" against possession. There are only a few untainted demonic summoners around, Sillice being one. 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.
Empathy is a blessing or a curse, depending on the afflicted person's access to competent teachers and calm environments. Untaught empaths may go insane with the stress of not being able to block out other people's emotions. 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 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 rumoured 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.
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. 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.
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 of these require a 'handler' - a person moving the golem by commanding it - as the process of sculpting the complex system needed for the golem to act on its own is both time-consuming and very difficult. One 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 quirks from the person who used to inhabit the body they were made from.