Age of Ascension
Magic and Arcanistry
The days when magic was a part of daily life are long gone. For many an age, institutions of wizards held influence over kingdoms, and the works of high magic helped build cities and ease lives… or ruin them. In modern times, arcane magic carries many risks and responsibilities.
It is known that there are places in the world where the barrier that separates the planes is thin, and a loose thread in the weave of magic can give way to entities or influence from beyond. It’s an undeniable fact that this occurrence is becoming more and more common, as well as more profound in its consequences. The greatest danger comes from the attention of demons who are drawn to these tears, seeping their energies or even themselves into our existence. In the kingdom of Avencia, and especially surrounding the great ancient city of Valcora, the phenomenon has reached epidemic proportions.
Though it has always instilled a degree of wonder and suspicion from the mundane population, the association of arcanistry with demonic incursions, hauntings, possessions, and more, have lead to genuine fear and abhorrence. Casting a spell in the city is now met with similar attitudes as an act of terrorism.
The arcane institutions and the vast majority of personal holdings of known wizard have been dissolved, and practitioners of the arcane forced into anonymity. The formation of the Enclave, an inquisitorial branch of the Avencian government, marked the true abolishment of magery. Though the Enclave’s purpose is exclusively defined as the detection and diffusion of demonic influence, their authority now encompasses all things arcane.
There remain few mages in the world who are not forced to hide themselves. The Enclave itself employs powerful wizards, and powerful governing bodies or very influential groups, such as the Merchant’s Accord, may still employ mages sanctioned by the Enclave. Even these need fear the wrath of an angry mob, if they should be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Mages in Valcora
The attitudes of mages have changed as a result of their situation; Secret societies, secluded masterminds and scheming court wizards are not uncommon in practice. The opinions of the Avencian people are rapidly shifting due to the escalating number of magical crimes and disasters that result from desperate magic-users. The situation is spiraling out of control.
The Enclave has devised many means to identify and control hidden magic users. The most infamous of these are the Hounds; in the dead of night, tucked away in your bed, you might feel a cold shiver down your spine as the energy seems to drain from your body. The sensations has become well known in Valcora. It means that a pack of otherworldly beasts, called on the Hounds, are passing through the streets. Resembling large wolves, but with an alien appearance, they wear dread like a cloak. Possessing an uncanny ability to find, confront, and subdue renegade mages, many unlawful magic users have fled the city for fear of confronting them.
Since the decrees that outlawed spellcasting, people caught practicing magic have been harshly penalized for transgressions. Depending on the severity of the infraction, a captured mage might find himself sent to Fort Verge, Valcora’s Prison. Else, he might be dispatched to serve his sentence in one of the other forts throughout the Empire. In most minor cases, a mage might be sentenced to spend several years in rehabilitations within the high walls of the Candle of Hope sanitarium, in the Cliff Ward. When deemed necessary, they may be summarily executed.
Magical items & Persistent Spells
The vast majority of magical items have brought no particular catastrophe or misfortune to their owners. Still, the new law has turned anything magical into a rare and rapidly vanishing resource. A great deal of those objects owned privately have been bought by collectors or confiscated by the Enclave. Many more are still in circulation; decades of disdain for arcane lore have left most owners ignorant of what they possess.
A great many objects of power have been lost, forgotten, or left behind in the wilderness. Whether they were carried on the back of an unfortunate mule, dropped in a terrified flight from danger, or clutched in the hand of the restless dead, they remain out there for the taking. Scavenging for such items has become an occupation in itself, as the objects still fetch as generous a price as ever, whatever the buyer’s intentions may be. In a few publicized cases, travelers have been accosted in the wilderness for their magical possessions.
Residual magical energy, or spells that operate continuously, are particularly susceptible to demonic influence. They often become twisted, or decay, as their existence forms a small wedge against the closure of planar boundaries. Though the knowledge of the Elves is now mostly lost, their magic seems as yet unaffected by whatever strange forces seep into our world. Aside from that exception, the older an enchantment is, the more likely it has become a doorway for sinister forces. The Enclave, as well as most adventurers with any concern for others, often endeavor to dispel any potential dangers they find.
Although history claims that powerful mages during the Age of Heroes could travel over great distances or predict the future by wandering the planes, little record remains concerning how this was actually done. Understandably, in a land where thin borders between planes can allow the entry of demonic influence, magic that opens true doors into another plan is considered a mortal sin. Nevertheless, with enough study, one can learn of the basic structure of all things past and present.
At its most basic, the structure of the planes can be explained as a sphere, the center of which is the prime material plane; where all planes converge in the material world and the actions or beliefs of mortal beings. Surrounding the material plane are the Astral and Ethereal planes, referred to as transitive because they overlap with other planes and can therefore be used to travel freely between them.
Continuing with the sphere analogy; when you place a sphere on a table in your home, one side will be lit, and one will be dark. This dichotomy illustrates the position of two further transitive planes, light and shadow, which overlap the material and other transitive planes, except for their opposite. Surrounding these, the outer planes form another layer, stacked upon each other and embodying a single aspect of reality. The most famous of these, the elemental planes, are the first layer outward from the transitive planes. Beyond this, the exact configuration of the infinite outer planes is beyond fathoming and, according to some, constantly changing.
At present, it seems logical that the planar sphere has shrunk, condensing planar borders into close proximity. Theorists in Valcora, though crippled by very limited access to arcane means of exploration under the Enclave’s supervision, continue to investigate why the planes have moved closer together.