Centuries ago, magic was as important as steel, gold, political and religious power to monarchs throughout the nations currently comprising the Demerian Empire. Unmatched in the arcane arts, the elves of the kingdom of Amathea established their supremacy long before the humans were anything more than free-roaming barbarians.
Yet magic never lasts, and neither did the elven realms. Today, few remember the glory days of that lost civilization. Even fewer suspect the peaks of power that true mages were able to ascend to. Most of the ancient secrets of the arcane have been long lost to time. Whatever little knowledge remains is safely locked within libraries, to which only scholars are allowed access to.
The decline of the Art
While the reasons for the fall of the Amathean civilization are complicated and unclear, the elven kingdom had only been a shadow of itself during its last few centuries. Plighted by a lack of resources and skilled wizards, the elves no longer boasted powerful war mages amongst their armies’ ranks. When the tribal clans of humans descended upon them, the few mighty spell-casters amongst the elves, although individually powerful, were only able to delay the inevitable.
After the elven civilization fell, arcane magic was almost forgotten in just a few centuries. While the end of the age of elves was the most important reason for this, there were others. After the elves fell into decadence and eventually faded into insignificance, the humans dominated, but they lacked the long lifespan necessary for truly mastering all circles of magic. Moreover, the tribes that emerged victorious consisted of illiterate, superstitious barbarians, fearful of magic and mistrustful of casters. Having subdued the elves, they put all captured wizards to the sword and burned down their libraries. Thus, millennia of accumulated collective knowledge were lost.
Today, such superstitions still persist, but they are much less pronounced. Still, most human scholars are reluctant to pursue a career in magical research. “Magic never lasts” is a common saying amongst them, on the rare occasions that the subject is brought up. Another discouraging aspect to those privileged enough to obtain an education is that magic, while globally recognized to be more than an illusionist’s tricks, is not understood even by its practitioners. For these reasons, scholars of the Demerian Empire have turned to technology, often using it for the same purposes that elves used their magic for. In warfare, technology has displaced magic almost entirely, as the Demerian legions make heavy use of sophisticated siege weapons, capable of unleashing great destruction in a more reliable manner.
Arcane magic in the age of the Demerian empire
The magical energies that the elves of Amathea harvested to build their mighty empire still exist, waiting for a skilled practitioner to bend them to his will. Whatever little remains of the ancient knowledge is locked in Demerian libraries, tucked away amongst books on Amathean mythology, the two subjects often becoming confused with each other.
Magic is mentioned in passing in the historical texts, which are part of the basic education of every Demerial scholar. Yet few are interested in such relics of the past. The study of the occult is most attractive to the foolish, the overly ambitious and those fascinated with the history of the Amathean Empire. Additionally, those interested in the combat applications of magic sometimes dabble in magic. Needless to say, such pursuits are actively discouraged by the majority of scholars and intellectual leaders.
Due to a lack of resources and organizations devoted to the study of the arcane, progress in mastering the Art is slow and tedious. Skilled practitioners are too few, too far in between and typically reluctant to share their secrets. Those interested in this path often have to resort to self-learning by trial and error. As a result, even the most promising young students can only aspire to master the first circle of magic. Those that do so are often disappointed with the results, which pale in comparison to what the ancient texts speak of. With persistence and discipline, however, a few learned individuals can master the third cycle. These mages, while not nearly as powerful as those of the Amathean empire in its prime, are still capable of remarkable feats.
The nature of magic
Despite the small number of its practitioners, there are several theories that attempt to explain the origin and the inner workings of magic. Needless to say, all of these theories are flawed and incomplete. Magic seems to defy reason, but this does not discourage those that seek it. The majority of today’s wizards comes from an academic background. As a result, these fledgling mages have spawned no small amount of obscure volumes, all of them claiming to explain magic.
Some of these theories are presented below:
The Architects believe that the world was created by a divine entity, although the properties of this entity are hidden from the living. As such, this being, referred to as the Architect, is entirely different from the legendary heroes that everyday people worship. The Architect is entirely indifferent to its creation, does not advocate any kind of morality and does not require to be worshipped. The Architect simply is. Understanding the process of creation is what grants these mages their power.
The Etherialists believe that the universe is embedded in a mystical, invisible matter called ether. Ether is everywhere; it surrounds everything and is a part of everything. Only those who understand the behavior of ether can manipulate it, resulting in the manifestation of energies that the uneducated call magic.
The Mystic Mathematicians believe that everything in nature behaves in a manner that can be predicted by simple, elegant equations. As they are a part of nature, intelligent beings are not meant to understand these equations. When a mage knows and understands such an equation, the paradox manifests itself, and reality collapses around him. This is what the common folk perceive as a spell.
The Vitalists believe that all living beings are infused with a special kind of energy. Without it, all creatures die, becoming indistinguishable from matter. All living creatures can harness the powers of the body, but only the most intelligent can unlock the true potential of the mind. When the mind is honed, the caster can project his life energy and control that of others.