The Faces of Power

Magic! That force that enthralls minds, divines secrets, sunders worlds, and puts them all back together again. This power lies buckled under a carefully-intoned word in an ancient tongue, a symbol so powerful that its mere tracery in the air lends power, and the will to release it. Those that wield it plumb great mysteries with their very breath. Some stand as a bridge between the overawing force of the gods themselves, others tapping a power left in the memory of a dream, their power as eternal as thought, their very conception a shadow's thickness away from the world around them.

The magic of Cobrin'Seil is what has shaped it in almost every way. Magic moved on its surface in the First Days, and its downfall signalled the dawning of the First Age. The works of gods, shaping magic and mankind alike, imperiled the world as it drew towards the end of the Second Age; and now, in the Third Age of Cobrin'Seil, Magic has to share territory with its long-dormant brother Psionics and their newest addition - Technology.

Arcane Magic

Arcane magic is a generally reliable, predictable force in Cobrin'Seil, with a wealth of scientific research being moved behind it. While as a force it defies measurement and quantification, there is no denying the fundamental workings of magic - that there are those who employ its workings in day-to-day life, and that there are those who cannot attain the most simple of cantrips.

Spells often come in two basic forms in Cobrin'Seil; there is the prepared spell of a wizard, a tightly-wound trap ready to be sprung, or the spontaneous magic employed by other, more innate casters. These workings are more primal and tend to be far less precise in their appearance - though generally, the effect is the same.

Thanks to arcane magic being generally reliable, rewarding those with patience and intellect, and having an immediate and direct impact on the world around it, the path of the arcane spellcaster in Cobrin'Seil is one which tends to organise itself along other intellectual pursuits - colleges and universities vie to educate talented apprentices and add a one-day archmage to their ranks, while many schoolteachers and educators have some, small magical talent of their own upon which they can call.

Arcane magic has a legacy as well; in the days before the First Age, there was a terrifying reign of tyrannical dictators, the Sorceror-Kings. While undefined in their powers and race - every retelling seems to ignore this detail, or provide conflicting reports - it is agreed that something about the flow of spontaneous magic became addictive, and these tyrants bled the continent of Arnea dry for its power. At the end of the First Age, it was the work of an Arcanist that held the world teetering on the brink of collapse. And though the seven Kobolds that slew Kurtulmak were mortal and lacking in magical artifice, their creation was achieved through using magic to best shape science; thus did Arcane magic end the Second Age as well.

This has helped to indicate to some doomsayers that Arcane Magic has pushed lifekind to the brink of its own destruction time and time again, and to dabble in its working is purest hubris. This, however, ignores that most central tenant of the common mage's mind - and that is curiosity. If Arcane magic drives history to periods of frenzied self-destruction, why does it do so? And to what end? Is arcane magic an inherently self-destructive force? And if it is, what does that say for the many races that wield it natively, or of the sorcerors whose magic flows from their very blood? These weighty questions hang in the mind of many a caster, even as they employ their magic as a carefully sculpted and refined toolbox.

Arcane magic is such a reliable force that there exist warriors who have incorporated it into their repertoire without diverting from their combative prowess. Wizards already know how to shape the rules of the world in such a way that air burns and lightning dances at their whims, but now this art is becoming known to those who have divided their attention equally between the Craft and the Sword.

Spellcasters

It's hard not to respect a skilled man in his element. While Divine magic is steered by an external influence, Arcane magic is commonly perceived as some natural resource, shaped and directed by those with talent. This means that many earthy craftsmen, people whose lives revolve around shaping something tend to regard spellcasters with a kind of respect. Rather than a high-falutin' spell-chucker, a wizard is a craftsman, an expert, and a master at the path he's chosen. Magic has become common enough in Cobrin'Seil's citizen's daily lives that they recognise the good use that even low-level magic can be put.

On the other hand, if the prepared caster is a craftsman, the spontaneous spellcaster is an artist. His art may not be appreciated, his style overbearing. He may well be regarded as incomplete or erratic in his work - but the majority can look upon his work and see how it calls out to the world around him.

Services

The arcane service industry is a developed and precedented creature. It was common practice in the second age for wizards and sorcerors to call upon others to pay for their services, and this, by extension, has helped fill in many niche markets.

Divine Magic

Classically, the lands of Bidestra are very religious. Most communities have a number of clerics whose repertoire of magical influence and skills lets them serve as makeshift sheriffs, doctors, and even as enforcers of military might. Adherents draw power from the gods and faith itself and shape the world around them and themselves, casting themselves in the images of the gods around them. And the druids of the wilds commune with powers that transcend good and evil, and touch the primal chord of life itself.

With such an infrastructure surrounding it, one might be compelled to think little of those divine spellcasters. The wizard shapes his spells from stuff beyond reckoning, the sorceror carves art in the fabric of reality - but the divine caster merely prays, letting his god, or the force of nature's will, do the work for him. This, it is interepreted by the ignorant, is easy - and these clerics will rarely provide a dispassionate view of their magics either.

The truth of the matter is, when a cleric casts a spell, he momentarily experiences power unimaginable, as he becomes a vessel for the strength of a god, the hands that could shape nations briefly being his own. When a druid calls upon magic to ward against the unnatural, every natural life within miles pulses as one, life's own heartbeat flowing into her in one awesome moment of recognition.

Divine magic is not 'easy'.

However, Divine magic has found its place in Cobrin'Seil. While Divine Magic lacks the same level of raw efficiency, the intellect that lies behind it has made it more useful in societal interactions. The Divine mages of Cobrin'Seil have often been those whose efforts staved back the Arcane collapse that looms at the end of every Age. Sometimes, they have even given their lives to keep the world from degenerating into an arcane apocalypse. At the same time, Divine magic has occasionally been seen without its normal, sensible controls; and those days have been as terrifying as any impending disaster the Arcanists have been able to muster.

Spellcasters

Most people don't know a skilled wizard, and even fewer personally know a sorceror. However, almost everyone knows a person with the capacity to channel divine magic. Depending on one's religious bent, a divine caster could command quite a bit of respect, or further, fear and loathing.

Psionics

Psionics is an age-old art in Cobrin'Seil. Its first widespread occurrence was in the day that dawned the First Age; the Sorceror-Kings were overthrown by one massive, phrenic backlash, as years of oppression from the maniacal Sorceror-Kings were cast back in their face a thousandfold by their slave races. The humans who were involved in this great awakening fled the burning ruins of the Sorceror-Kings' Empire, and claimed the broad, brown land of Nbyana as their own.

Since that time, Nbyana has been regarded as the only place one could travel to learn more about the art of the mind. The University of Horandi did not concern itself overtly with the work of the psion's craft, and the mainland of Bidestra lacked for any common center of psionics, or so it seemed.

When the nation of Amenti was founded, it was realised by those students of the unusual that the nation was awash with psionically active individuals, and that its wildlands and mountains were populated by nests of the awakened race, the Felbraug. Psionics was also found to be unaffected by the strange mists of Kryphaneos, which has led to an increased research into their capabilities and limitations.

A cleric petitions a god for power; the mage must craft a resource that stands outside of himself. However, the psion reaches within, and, through force of will alone, reaches out and makes the universe his own. There is little beyond the reach of a psion. However, while a psion's power is vast, his scope is limited; no matter what amazing capacities a psion has to manipulate his own form, it is rare, if not impossible to find a psion who can shape the body of another in any but the most rudimentary fashion.

Manifesters

Psionics are most common in the land of Amenti, to the east of Corrindale and north of Kyngdom. In these lands, the most common manifesters are the renowned Fists of Zuoken, individuals with psionic talent and martial dedication blended together into an impressive whole.

However, the more widespread approach to a manifester is less impressive. Many in lands beyond Amenti's borders accord a manifester's works as being another, more well-known kind of magic. Others disbelieve in their existance, attempting to explain them away with coincidence.

The life of a Bidestran manifester is generally a lonely one, exploring one's abilities while finding little in the way of companionship and understanding from those around oneself. The mental landscape of many a country has dark, hidden patches, places of dark resonance that echo of evil deeds in the mind of the Psion. And there are threats of entities from other realms, with powers beyond imagining, that threaten to attack and overwhelm a psion's mind as he sleeps.

Services

Because magic is reliable and available, the majority of businesses have access to renewable magic items. A majority of the spellcasters in Bidestra subsidise their studies with the income gleaned from the creation and sales of magic. Some of the churches manufacture and sell magical items to help pay for church expenses. Also, many people with low-level spellcasting ability, or an intuitive knack for the manipulation of magical items have employed wands and scrolls in their businesses to improve their efficiency.

Communication

In Kyngdom, adventurers frequently take Stones of Seeing with them to record their deeds for the Adventurer's Guild. Such stones are free of charge to take (with a deposit to guarantee their safe return), but have the added benefit of allowing adventurers to communicate with a centralised office at long distances. This sort of benefit is common amongst adventurers, but only recently is coming to fruition in a more widespread use. Some libraries across Bidestra keep similar stones, for sending long-distance messages more efficiently than the postal services can manage, but the use of such devices is expensive, making it an emergency concern.

The clerics of churches of Cobrin'Seil represent a well-established postal service. Particularly amongst clerics of the Seafather, most of these individuals do some travelling, or know a fellow member of their church that do. Such communication is slow - taking upwards of three months to travel within the country, longer outside of national borders, - but it is nonetheless a common solution for communication that involves a scant handful of copper coinage.

Psionics has begun to develop their own form of long-distance communication. Using crystal resonators, located within central cities, those with an element of psionic potential can access a centralised font of information. This information is made available by the users, so the total information on these networks is the sum of the knowledge of its users. Small missives can be distributed to those that can identify specific individuals.

Hospitality

The nature of magic-wielding adventurers has made the hospitality industry a potential goldmine and hazard for those who live in the path of common adventurous directions. Arcane magic has taken to the forefront of developing this field, and in some places, adventurers incur a particularly high fee for their time spent. Most barroom areas in Kyngdom, for example, have invested in damping fields that inhibit magic and grant those within the bar a boost to saving throws against such forces. This mild inhibition is usually enough to remind adventurers that these places are 'safe' zones, and not to be used to pursue personal vendettas.

Clerical magic has been finding use in hospitality, particularly in the less-well traded parts of Bidestra. Create food and water spells have been used to subsidise a small group's food costs. Food so generated tends to be unremarkable but filling, which is good enough for most in the outlying regions.

Psionics in hospitality tends to a different trend - that of protecting the staff. The psionic nations rarely have to concern themselves with thieves or people who skip on their payments, and the staff with that power can repair or recraft a destroyed utensil or piece of furniture with ease.

Transportation

Long-distance transport in Bidestra is usually handled by the King's Highway, but the magically adept can traverse its borders in other ways. The most significant mode of travel is the Skyway, a network of interconnected elven settlements that ranges from Corrindale down to the coast of Kyngdom. Staffed by awakened giant hawks and bold skyship pilots, the Skyway affords easy overland travel for small groups at a generally increased speed - but at a distinct cost.

The Halfling Hulks also represent a strong magical influence. The Hulks are crafted from magically treated wood that can sustain far more pressure, and buoy up more than their normal share in weight. Manned usually by crews featuring a number of rangers and druids, the Hulks are also protected and defended by many seafaring creatures, the animal companions of the Hulk's crew.

Another subtle way that magical influence has found its way into transportation is the way the Amenti store and transport food. Using psionics to manipulate an object's place in time is an established trick, and one they use to mature their wines and alcohols faster. In order to keep this quickly-produced stock fresh for as long as possible, the people of Amenti also have been known to use small quantities of quintessence to prolong the freshness of the matter they're transporting.

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