Like an exquisitely orchestrated symphony, empowerments are composed by weaving chords of aetheric resonance into a single harmonious pattern, producing a desired effect. Knowledge of how these chords interact with each other, and their specific resonances, harmonies, and countless nuances, is of paramount importance to every aetheric practitioner. A harmonious empowerment may be more powerful or require less aethergy, while a poorly crafted one may be less effective or may not even work at all.
The Essence of Quintessence
All aetheric practitioners possess an innate aetheric attunement called quintessence, which allows them to sense aetheric energy and tap into the forces of nature, the elements, and the aether, enabling them create empowerments. Everyone is born with some degree of quintessence (it is now understood to be an inherent property of life itself), but only those with sufficient quintessence can perform empowerments.
Often viewed as quantitative property, quintessence is the “5th essence” after matter, life, energy, and thought. Most practitioners can strengthen, exercise, and fine-tune their quintessence with practice, but it is practically impossible for someone born with an average (low) level of quintessence to ever gain magical abilities, simply because they have so little that they cannot exercise their ability at all. Some empowerments and alchemical elixirs can bolster or diminish quintessence in an individual, but these effects are temporary.
Of course, simply possessing sufficient quintessence is not enough, and many people go through their entire lives without the slightest notion that they have an inborn talent for the magical arts. For those fortunate enough to realize their potential, it can take years of dedicated training, rigorous study, and an iron-willed discipline before any measurable degree of success can be attained.
Being native denizens of the material world, we tend to perceive the aether as a “higher plane of existence” beyond the physical realm we know. In truth, the aether is simply a medium occupying all points in sensible space, permeating all material bodies, and extended into the higher spaces beyond the dimensions we can perceive. It is, in many respects, the fundamental framework of the universe, constituting its very fabric, foundation, and structure. The aether is also responsible for propagating energy such as light, magnetism, electricity, gravity, and, of course, aethergy. Patterns and waves resonating through the aether can be perceived by those possessing quintessence using what mages term “aetheric sight.” This allows practitioners to see empowerments, aetheric constructs, spirits, and even the auras of living thing.
The aether is a purely abstract dimension of forces, probabilities, and mathematical laws, defining the structure and the properties of the physical world. However, nothing that exists in the aether is physical or “realized” (as it is termed by philosophers, physicists, and mages alike). For something to be “realized” it must exist in the physical, material world, which is also an explanation (albeit a circular explanation) for the existence of the universe itself. That is to say, nothing can exist without being realized in material form, the physical universe included.
Likewise, spirits, wraiths, phantoms, and indeed, all aetheric entities, are nothing more than abstractions of ideas and forms—static and unchanging until “realized” in the material world. This is also true of elemental spirits, who are abstract forms of elements; beast spirits, who are the spirits of animals; and beast lords, who are higher astral embodiment of the ideal form of an animal. Some have even hazarded to speculate that this fact is true of the Archons as well, although the Archidoxy would quickly declare any such hypothesis as heresy. In all cases, the spirit or entity does not exist except as a dream-like impulse in the aether—or, in the case of spirits, the impression of memories and unchanging consciousness.
Aethergy can be defined as “a fluid-like luminous waveform, carrying a measurable charge, that flows like a current through the fundamental medium of the aether.” Aethergy can be envisioned as ever-shifting chords and harmonies of an infinitely complex song, flowing silently and invisibly through the eddies and currents of the astral light between the stars and planets. These harmonic patterns of aethergy center around heavenly bodies, like ripples of water around a stone, changing continuously as the planets move in their courses, forming new resonances, magnitudes, and tones. These resonating currents of aethergy can be harnessed by aetheric practitioners to perform their empowerments. Aetheronic devices may also be used to generate waves and patterns in the aether, which, although notably artificial, can nonetheless be harnessed by practitioners, as well as other aetheronic devices. In fact, artificial aethergy powered nearly all the advanced technology of ancient Marada.
One of the first things that aetheric practitioners are taught is not how to harness more aethergy, but how to control the tiny fraction of power they are capable of harnessing safely. Those who conduct too much aethergy can be burned, injured, or killed—some have even been reduced to piles of smoldering black ash. It is believed by some scholars that enough aethergy flows around the world that if it were all to be harnessed at once, the world would be annihilated in a flash of immense light and heat of unimaginable intensity.
Whether mage, shaman, theurgist, sorcerer, or spiritor, practitioners bind chords of aetheric resonance into harmonic patterns called empowerments.
To compose an empowerment, the practitioner must conduct sufficient aethergy into its formation in order for it to have any real effect. Using their talismans, mages may conduct aetheric energy directly from ambient aethergy around them. Elementors may draw aethergy from the elemental essences, theurgists can harness the aethergy of the empyrean fire, and sorcerers and spiritors can burn the aethergy of any spirits they have bound.
Practitioners can also burn aurium to release aethergy directly into their empowerments, but doing so will deplete the aurium ingot, reducing it to ash. For still more aethergy, the practitioner may create a conductor empowerment—an egregore for mages, and various elemental spirits, animal spirits, and phantasmal spirits for the others.
The Importance of Talismans
Whether a mage, sorcerer, shaman, or theurgist, the most powerful item any wielder of magic can possess is his talisman. A practitioner’s talisman is indispensable in composing empowerments, as the talisman has been crafted to “remember” the resonance patterns of all the empowerments the practitioner knows. This allows the practitioner to quickly compose the empowerment directly from its pattern, performing the empowerment in a matter of seconds, rather than the minutes or hours needed for an elaborate ritual. It is possible to perform empowerments without a talisman, but doing so takes longer, and with a talisman, the practitioner must rely on some other source of aethergy, such as aurium, an aetheric battery, or special alchemicals.
Artificing a talisman takes considerable time and skill, and apprentices do not obtain a talisman until they become experienced enough to craft one. A talisman is unique to its owner and must be entirely crafted by him from start to finish. The talisman may be anything, but the most popular items to use for talismans are wands, staffs, canes, bracelets, daggers, and elaborate hand jewelry. Regardless, the talisman must be something the practitioner can easily handle, brandish, and direct—such as something held in the hand.
Not all talismans are made equally. A novice mage may have a very simple talisman, while a more experienced mage will have a more capable talisman. As the practitioner progresses in his training, he will construct progressively more sophisticated talismans to handle the ever-widening scope of his magical knowledge. High adepts and archmages would be crippled if they were limited the same talisman they made when they were novices.
Many practitioners also have numerous empowered vizstones on their talismans, allowing them to perform ready-made empowerments in a matter of seconds. Vizstones infused with conductor empowerments are known as powerstones, and these offer a continuous supply of aethergy (however small) by drawing it from the surrounding aetheric currents.
If empowerments could only be cast in elaborate rituals, they would be of little practical use beyond the sanctified walls of temples and the lofty towers of academia. Since long before the Age of Elinica, mages have known that spells can be infused within vizstones, allowing them to be activated any time sufficient aethergy is apply, or even to generate a continuous effect. Although infusing empowerments is even more difficult and time consuming than simply casting the spell, the end result is infinitely more useful.
An empowered item is any item that has been endowed with one or more vizstones, granting the effects, property, or abilities of the empowerments infused within those vizstones. Some empowered items may have only one vizstone, but most useful items have several vizstones chained together in complex orichalium circuits.
Today, all manner of empowered items are readily found, the most common being luminaries, air coolers, and aetheric motors. Luminaries are frosted glass globes of various diameters, with a pair of small vizstones inside. One is infused with the illumination empowerment, while the other is a channeling stone. Both are trivial empowerments (the channeling stone being a very low power one, as the illumination empowerment requires only a trickle of aethergy). Air coolers are less common, but often found in palaces, mansions, and large buildings, and generally look like large mesh ventilation grates. They have numerous vizstones infused with empowerments that both cool and freshen the air, as well as several channeling stones. Aetheric motors are similar to any mechanical engine, turning a crank, wheel, axis, or rotor to do mechanical work, but are powered by an aetheric energy source, such as a channeling stone, aurium, or vita materium. Other kinds of empowered items include empowered armor, helmets, swords, and firearms as well as empowered rings, amulets, spectacles, tools, boots, locks, carriages, and just about anything else imaginable.