In last week’s article, I explained the basics of how casting magic works in the world of The Star-Runner Chronicles. But, there’s more to magic than power levels, pathways, and casting methods. This week, we will be exploring the deeper facets of magic: Elemental magic, elemental alignments, and the three major spell types. So, dear reader, sit back, relax, take the red pill, and let’s see just how far this rabbit hole known as magic goes!
What’s Your Align?
There are eleven basic elements recognized by mages which are the basic building blocks of all magics. First of these are the Seven Elements of Origin—Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Electricity, Light, and Darkness—so named because they existed when the universe first got its start (See “As Above, So Below: Denizens of Heaven and Hell” for more on that subject). After these are the Four Elements of Life—Herb (which covers the plant world), Wild (which covers living creatures), Heart (which covers thought and emotion), and Spirit (which covers the souls of creatures both living and dead)—so named because they came to be after the gods and mortal organisms came into being. All living beings, no matter their race, have an elemental alignment with which their souls resonate. For some, that alignment is determined by race or tribe. For most races of beings, however, elemental alignment varies from person to person based on personality.
Earth: Those aligned with the element of Earth tend to be very easy-going and slow to anger. More often than not, they’re not very talkative—as they usually believe that actions speak louder than words—but when they do speak it’s best to listen, because they also tend to be rather wise as a result of thinking and listening more than talking. They can also be very generous with their friends and loved ones…when the mood strikes them, of course. Earth aligned people are perfectionists as well, and will work on crafting an item or learning a skill for hours on end until they feel that they have fully perfected it.
But, they are not without their flaws. Earth aligned people rarely get mad, but when they do finally snap, watch out, because they go off like super volcanoes when they finally reach the limits of their seemingly infinite patience. They can also be very stubborn, and generally have a materialistic streak which leads them to hoard those things which they value most. It usually takes a good friend to calm them down or remind them that there are more important things than being right or getting rich.
Air: Air aligned people tend to be free-wheeling, mischievous, talkative, charismatic, confident, and witty. Often, they are fond of practical jokes and won’t hesitate to prank someone if the mood is just right. They tend to make friends easily, though, because these free spirits are some of the most fun people to be around and never fail to be true to themselves…even when they’re lying or keeping secrets. Air aligned people are also innately adventurous, and simply do not do well living “peaceful, ordinary” lives.
However, that Air-type confidence can sometimes turn to arrogance if not kept in check, and cause the individual to write checks that they can’t cash. Also, they are very picky about what authorities they will and won’t acknowledge or respect, and have no qualms about breaking or ignoring rules and laws that they see as “pointless” or “stupid.” Air aligned people also have a tendency to take jokes too far at times, sometimes realizing too late that what they have said or done was either insensitive or reckless. Luckily, if the damage wasn’t too severe, their natural charisma makes them rather easy to forgive.
Fire: Those with the elemental alignment of fire tend to be passionate, quick-tempered, defiant, and dramatic. Their fiery determination and “never-say-die” mentality makes them formidable opponents in business, sport, combat, or any other competitive endeavor. Hot-blooded and passionate, they tend to come off as overly dramatic even when at their most subtle, and absolutely love to make a big entrance whenever appropriate. They also love to eat and cook, and if they’re not the type who will demolish any edible thing you put in front of them, they’re foodies.
Of course, their passionate personae do come with the drawback of a temper akin to a dynamite stick with a quarter-inch-long fuse. Even when they try to keep that temper in check, the slightest nudge toward the edge can send them tumbling right over it, then running right back up the cliff face dual-wielding chainsaws and ready to kill—and the longer they’ve been holding back, the bigger the chainsaws. They also have the same sorts of problems with authority as Air aligned people do, and their great love of food can sometimes lead them to gluttonous overindulgence if they aren’t careful.
Water: Water aligned people tend to be calm and soothing individuals, cool-headed and thoughtful, flexible and adaptable…but can sometimes also come off as rather cold and emotionless at first. They are often the voice of reason in any group, and their ability to look at a situation objectively and come up with an effective, logical solution makes them excellent leaders and advisers. The Water aligned are flexible without being total pushovers, capable of improvising and compromising at a moment’s notice, but will always stand firm on things which are strictly non-negotiable. Water aligned people generally come off as cold, calculating, and stoic at first, but that is only because behind those stern looks and pragmatic statements, they’re actually rather shy and really very sweet.
However, never get on their bad side. A Water-aligned person who has been angered—either through personal slight or an assault against those they hold dear—can be as violent and unforgiving as a raging sea. Throwing the rock and hiding the hand does no good either, as they always eventually find their target…always. They are also prone to jealousy in terms of social relationships, worldly success, and material wealth, and can sometimes end up worrying over the greenness of the other guy’s grass so much that they totally overlook the beauty of their own flowerbeds.
Electricity: Individuals aligned with the element of Electricity tend to be energetic, rash, impulsive, and dynamic. Generally, they tend not to do well with formal schooling, as any subject that they find tedious, boring, or superfluous, they will usually only kind of pay attention to. They’re the ones who are most likely to be falling asleep in class or playing the role of class clown in these instances. However, when it’s a subject that they are interested in or believe to be personally useful, the teacher will have their undivided attention. They also tend to dream impossibly big and live by the Rule of Cool as much as physically possible.
Unfortunately, Electricity aligned people don’t always think their big plans through in detail and often will jump head first into a huge endeavor without any planning or forethought at all! Their tendency to live by the Rule of Cool also often causes them to be quite the hotdogs and overkill artists (Why pick the lock when you could use a pound and a half of plastic explosives?). They have very little patience with other people as well, and often have to be reminded that not everyone can keep up with their usual pace. To top it all off, they also tend to be on the perverted side. Sometimes they are able to charm and seduce potential lovers quite easily…but just as often they are the bold but unsuccessful suitor whose pick-up lines and flirtations fall flat every time.
Light: Light aligned people are naturally cheerful, straightforward, outgoing and friendly. They’re the type of people who light up a room without even trying and brighten up even the darkest days with their infectious smiles and warm words of encouragement. Light aligned people hate to see others suffering or in pain, which often leads them to become doctors, therapists, or police officers so that they can heal the hurting and protect people from being hurt. Because they are so sociable and sincere, they generally gain the trust of others with little to no effort, making the task of helping a person in need easier to accomplish when it comes to more sensitive and private matters.
But, there are limits to the natural cheer and goodwill of the Light aligned individual. If their kindness and offers of friendship are repeatedly rejected, if they are constantly beaten down and mistreated for no legitimate reason at all, Light aligned people tend to withdraw into themselves and become moody, sulky, and temperamental. They take most of this angst out on themselves, but will sometimes lash out with harsh words at others as well…whether they deserve it or not. They can also be lazy at times and give up on themselves and their own goals too easily if a force that they perceive to be powerful enough tells them “You can’t” or “You’re not good enough” enough times. When that happens, it takes a life changing experience and/or the support of many good friends to renew their self-confidence.
Darkness: Darkness aligned people at first seem to be very cool, calm, collected, and even a touch mysterious, but under that veneer of untouchable refinement lies a seething cauldron of well-hidden emotions. Yes, like a dark cave hides the vibrant ecosystem living within it, so too does the Dark-aligned person’s public persona hide their true feelings from the world. This is because they fear the consequences of feeling anything too strongly…or of their enemies discovering who or what they feel most strongly about. Even their acts of kindness and mercy are often masked with calculating coldness, self-interest, and several layers of snark.
Dark aligned people can often be haughty and self-absorbed, however, especially when they’re feeling insecure. They are also particularly vengeful people, and rarely let even a small slight go unpunished. Their rage more often than not takes the form of calm fury—the type that leads a man to snap his enemy’s neck with a completely straight face—however, they also delight in public humiliation and psychological torture as well. It all really depends on what the situation calls for. If they ever are visibly angry, though…well, it’s best to just stay out of their way for a while.
Herb: Shy, quiet, gentle, and peace loving, Herb aligned people tend to spend more time with their gardens than with others. They have a natural talent for gardening, farming, and anything else having to do with caring for and nurturing plants. They are sharp, intelligent, and observant, but—just like plants—move slowly and speak softly…often to the irritation of others. They are also very good at keeping secrets…although, they don’t always have the good sense to understand when a secret should be kept and when it should be reported for the person’s own good and safety.
Of course, when they are pressured to move too quickly or do too much at once, they easily become stressed out and depressed. Herb aligned people also have a difficult time speaking up for themselves and can come off as push-overs and doormats because of their accommodating and gentle natures. Complete pacifists, they will never physically fight back, even if their lives or the lives of others are in danger. However, they will fight back with words sharper than rose thorns and use themselves as living shields if necessary to protect others from harm.
Wild: Wild aligned individuals are playful, upbeat, active, and determined. When they set their minds to something, they not only put all of their hearts into it, but they also work hard to plan ahead to the best of their ability to make sure that their missions succeed. Though not particularly charismatic or charming, Wild aligned people tend to attract plenty of friends due to their indomitable spirits and quirky personalities. They are also eerily competent when it comes to tracking and hiding, making them excellent hunters, spies, detectives…and, yes, ninjas.
But, Wild aligned people also have a strong survival instinct. This means that they rarely commit suicide…but this survival instinct can also be turned against them as a means to break their will. A broken Wild-type loses that playful spunk that once was and eventually loses the will to even struggle against the chains that have been placed on their psyche. They are also more irritable than usual and will strike out violently at anyone or anything that they perceive—consciously or subconsciously—to be the reason for their captivity. Even a well-balanced Wild aligned person can be dangerous when angered or cornered, however, and require a gentle hand to calm them back down again…or a blanket over their head while you tend their wounds. Whichever works.
Heart: Heart aligned people are romantic, sensitive, passionate, and emotional…but they are the types who wear their hearts on their sleeves. They can’t keep a secret. They can’t hide their true feelings. Their entire emotional landscape is an open atlas with a clear and concise map key and not a single trail or town missing from its pages. Their dramatic speeches make Fire aligned people look like school kids who’ve forgotten their lines in the class play. When they cry, you halfway expect cartoon waterfalls to spout from their eyes. When they’re happy, their smiles are so bright that they can be mistaken for the sun. When they’re in love, they’ll follow the object of their affections to the ends of the Earth (whether they want it or not). When they’re mad, there’s not a single piece of scenery that escapes without bite marks. In short, subtlety isn’t their strong suit.
Heart aligned people are loyal and true friends, and treasure the people that they care about more than life itself. As enemies, however, Heart aligned people are that guy you don’t want to meet in a dark alley at two in the morning. Unless you’re lucky enough to earn their respect as an opponent or a person, don’t expect any “love thy enemy” stuff from them. Their inability to hide their emotions makes them prime targets for those who enjoy playing mind games, and they also have big mouths and often get themselves in a lot of trouble when they let their lips run too far ahead of their brains.
Spirit: Spirit aligned people tend to be centered and focused, with keen intuition. They can often sense the presence of ghosts or the undead more easily than other people and are prone to eerily accurate premonitions. Spirit aligned people are also excellent judges of character, and can usually tell within the first few minutes of talking to someone whether they’re a genuinely nice person or a total and complete jerk. Like Electric, Heart, and Wild aligned people, they generally go with their gut…however, they are much more subtle about it and less likely to be distracted by minor whims or ruin their brilliant plans by opening their big yapps along the way.
However, spirit aligned people can also be naggy, pushy, and self-righteous, and are prone to doling out big, fat, juicy “I-told-you-so’s” to those who fail to heed their warnings or advice. When they do start to nag excessively, this can cause others to begin to tune them out just to muffle the sound of their voices…which can cause even more trouble when those words happen to be vital instructions or a legitimate warning about immanent doom. They are also given to making cryptic statements concerning important facts, which generally drives their friends and enemies alike totally bonkers.
Of course, the eleven elements are more than just a list of personality quiz results. They are also the building blocks of all magic spells. The beginning mage starts out learning only spells which deal with a single element at a time—Minor Gust, Fireball, Stun Bolt, and so on. While the effects of a spell are always the same, the look of a spell when cast varies slightly from mage to mage, like a fingerprint. A person generally has the easiest time learning spells of their elemental alignment, and usually struggles with spells of opposing alignments (ie. Fire aligned people having trouble with water spells, Herb aligned people having trouble with fire spells, etc.). Though, a mage must learn to handle an element’s opposite competently if they ever hope to master the higher spells of that element. Only after getting the hang of casting single-elemental magic are they ready to tackle multi-elemental magic.
Several whole branches of magic are built around spells which combine two or more different elements. For instance, necromancy/vivimancy requires the use of wild, spirit, and non-elemental healing magic. By combining two or more elements in a single spell, one can weave magic that is capable of things that would be impossible with single-elemental casting—like, say, whipping up a fearsome thunder storm or conjuring up a whole turkey dinner with all the trimmings with a single incantation.
Of course, only an extremely powerful mage with at least twenty-five years of experience can conjure up that turkey dinner. The intermediate level mage is more likely to cast much less complex combination spells, such as merging fire and water magic to create a burst of hot steam, or air and herb magic to summon a whirlwind laced with razor-sharp leaves. Only after getting good at combining two elements at a time can the student then move up to three or more.
At around the same time as the student mage begins to learn to combine elements, they also begin to learn to cast non-elemental magic. Non-elemental magic is the result of casting a spell which uses one’s magical energy without willing it to command or call upon the power of any particular element. Non-elemental magic varies even more in appearance from person to person than elemental magic because of its direct nature, and the types of non-elemental spells that one can cast the most easily are influenced by their individual personalities and talents: People who are fun-loving and playful are most adept at space magic, people who are well-organized and excellent planners generally have the knack for time magic, people who are strong physical fighters are generally talented in the attack and defense branches of chi magic, and people who are gentle and caring are often best with the healing branch of chi magic. In addition, there are also non-elemental attack and defensive spells unique to the caster which serve purposes similar to the elemental equivalent, only without the elemental weaknesses. If these hidden spells can be learned and mastered, they can easily become a mage’s most powerful skills.
Only Three Flavors?
Of course, despite there being eleven different elements, plus non-elemental magic, plus a multitude of different branches of magic, all magic spells ultimately fall into one of three categories. They are Lawfuls (spells which work with the laws of nature), Flexis (spells which bend the laws of nature), and Chaotics (spells which break the laws of nature). Entire branches of magic are built upon one or another of these spell types. For instance, alchemy is a branch of magic which works with the laws of nature in order to change substances into other like substances and transform matter from one form (solid, liquid, or gas) to another by using magical power to accelerate or decelerate molecular movement. Meanwhile, time magic takes a freaking hammer to the laws of quantum physics in order to allow the caster to stop, rewind, slow, or fast-forward time itself without the need to move at the speed of light or hang out near the event horizon of a black hole (although, no one has been able to rewind or fast-forward time more than half a day yet, so going back in time to fix something you screwed up a week ago is still but a pipedream).
However, there are also branches of magic which are built around either Lawful and Flexi or Chaotic and Flexi type spells, and there are spells of all three types under all eleven elements. Many of necromancy’s most potent healing spells require one to both work with the laws of nature by manipulating living cells and biological processes to accelerate healing and bend those laws by forcing life energy from living cells into dead or damaged ones in order to revive them at the exact same time. Breaking and bending the laws at the same time is similarly complex and, needless to say, is not for beginners or mages with little natural power or talent.
So, how can you tell if a spell is a Flexi, Lawful, or Chaotic type? Chaotic type spells more often than not produce results that are just down-right impossible by any stretch of the scientific imagination—such as conjuring matter or energy out of thin air or summoning wind that literally slices flesh like a steel knife. Lawful type spells produce results from totally natural processes—such as gathering sunlight to use in a light spell or directly manipulating molecular movement through magic to melt a block of steel. Flexi spells produce results which seem plausible enough, but will probably make any sane scientist go “Dude, that is not how science is supposed to work!”—such as stealing life energy from bacteria and viruses and transferring it to immune cells to speed recovery from disease (energy can’t be created or destroyed, but it can be transferred) or generating a five-foot-long, three-inch-thick spear of ice from a single droplet of water vapor (because, you know, water expands when it freezes).
With the many choices offered to a mage when it comes to single elemental casting alone (not even factoring in multi-elemental spells and branches of magic), it is no wonder it is said that if you can think of a spell, then someone out there has likely either created it, is working on it, or has tried it and failed.
Well, that’s it for this week, folks. Join us next week for an article ripped right from the IWHA’s own official newspaper, The Silver Bulletin, concerning the controversy surrounding Ren Ascot (Wolfsbane Bendis’ former team leader) and the Hanaga job! Until then, you can find The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner and Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire right now on Amazon.com (and all international incarnations thereof, print and ebook editions available) and Createspace.com (print edition only). You can also check me out on Twitter at @DanielleVFreman and learn about me at a glance on my Pintrest page. And, as always, if you like my blog or my books (or know someone who might) don’t hesitate to tell your friends! ;D