In the world of Mastaria, magic is all-pervasive. It is the cause of the majority of great calamities visited on the people under the holy city, and at the same time, a worrying portion of the society depend on magic to make their business run. The opinions regarding magic is diverse, to say the least and Mastaria has no official policy on it.
Magic and the world
To the best of Mastaria’s knowledge, magic is an absolute part of the world. When that is said, next to nothing is known concretely about the relationship between the two. Those sensitive to the ebbs of magic all state that it most often seeps out of ‘holes’ in the ground, or mingles with streams, rivers, trees or even materials. This would make it seem like magic somehow occupy a space beneath the earth, and seeps out physically, but it is nothing but guesswork.
Effects on the world
Magic has a myriad of effects, whether controlled or not. While it is perfectly possible for a great number of things, sentient or not, to gain increased, and even human intelligence from an influx of magic, it doesn’t seem to mean that magic itself is possessed of some greater intelligence, but this is a hotly discussed topic.
One of the most visible and immediately dangerous effect of magic is the spontaneous mutations known as infection, and the creations simply called monsters. The infection happens most often in plants and animals, but is also common in humans, where it is called being smitten.
The monsters are simply created spontaneously, for all everyone knows, and possess a widely ranging difference of intelligence. Most monsters are different from one another, but similar areas tend to see the same variations often. Once in the world, many of these monsters are able to procreate with other, who are sufficiently similar, and this sometimes creates an entire stable species. A number of frequently encountered monsters, such as trolls and crows, are believed to maintain their comparative uniformity in this way.
There are few concrete things to say about the monsters, since their levels of variation is so great, even their lifespans are unknown. Some monsters are rumored to exist for decades, or centuries, and occassionally new communities will spy a distinct monster in their vicinity who lived there before them, and seems to still be around when the community eventually moves on. It goes the other way, too, and others seem to exist only as long as the phenomenon responsible for them persist, like a magic storm or something of the like.
Theories of magic
There are a myriad of different ways in which magic has been explained. Most of these are local, but a few of them has spread across Mastaria’s lands, largely thanks to the influential organisations promoting them:
- The Eyes of the Old
The Eyes of the Old is the largest religious organisation in Mastaria, but far from the most powerful one. They maintain that magic is the product of the soul, and that when we die, the soul may be called back to serve the living. The other parts of the living, the mind and body, are not thus preserved, which is why the spiritual aides members of the Eyes use are seemingly mindless. They do show residual awareness of the living world, and is able to follow complex commands. The Eyes teach that we are in the world to improve it and that, when we die, we remain in the world until we have helped as much as we are supposed to. Following that, we are allowed to slumber a hundred years, only to be reborn into the world (supposedly now improved since the last time they were there). An important part of their teachings is that there are only so many minds out there, and no one new ever joins the generations. This means that, in many places, members of the Eyes follow venerated old souls, worshipping them like demigods.
- The Crafters
The Crafters are a peculiar sort, in that most people know of them, but almost no one knows the details of their teachings. The organisation agrees with the Eyes that magic and the soul is connected, but maintain that the soul is magic; or rather, a container of magic, for magic. When we die, the soul simply dissolves into the ground, and becomes free magic. This magic, being the biproduct of humanity, is also there to be used by humans, which is why most of The Crafter’s teachings revolve around the manipulation of various magic metals.
- Mastaria’s Chosen
A comparatively small organisation, Mastaria’s Chosen embody many of the classic knightly ideals. They venerate Mastaria as a goddess, and maintain that humanity is her messengers upon the earth. This is why they strive so for proper, ethical and moral conduct. They represent Mastaria, the goddess of humanity, and this carries responsibilities. They believe magic is both the gift and curse of Mastaria, much like humanity itself, and that Mastaria is the ultimate source of it.
- The Sunlit Empire
The Empire contains as many or more explanations for magic as Mastaria, but a few do stand out. The Imperial Cult worships a number of named deities, asking them for magic and favor in life in exchange for service in death, and their shrines tend to be in areas with a great deal of magic. The College, however, disputes them on almost all counts, calling magic the expression of will and perception. The two groups regularly fight over the Cult shrines. Finally, there seems to exist a local cult, which also finds its way to Mastarian lands, which worships the eath as one single being, calling magic the leaking essence of a dying god.
There are hundreds or thousands of different interpretations of the origins and purpose of magic. What makes it particularly difficult to find the truth, if there is such a thing, is that almost all of them can make magic act in a way which corresponds with their theories. Some argue that this is proof that magic is simply a tool, and not an object of worship, while others say it’s the other way around. Magic instead gives us interpretations that allow us to manipulate it. After all, it is said, magic works in many seemingly contradictory systems, but not in any system. This, they claim, is proof that there are rules which needs to be followed, and entire libraries have been written, proposing these universal rules. However, the bigger the picture, the more diffuse the facts, and forming a coherent picture of the workings of magic seems all but impossible.
When people take care with handling magic, infection is what they fear. Monsters and many deadly poisons are the product of magic, it is agreed, but both is much more tangible and easily understood. Monsters should be defeated or outrun, and poison should not be ingested. Infection, however, retains all the horror of an pandemic without the comfort of clear causes or counter-measures.
Some things are known, of course. The most obvious source of infection is exposure to magic. It’s why Moorhigh has a higher number of infections than any other organisation, and why they try their best to guess a recruits resistance to infection. Additionally, herbs taken to ease birth can cause infection in an infant, as can the blood of some monsters (generally those who has mutated to the point where they resemble nothing coherent anymore). However, those sensitive to the flows of magic all agree that humanity is up to its ears in varying levels of magic at all times, and that alone cannot be the cause.
In terms of counter-measures, Moorhigh has a number of solutions to prevent infection, all of which have atrocious, but elevated, levels of success. To everyone else, there is little to do but avoid magic as much as possible once one has been infected. This can be difficult, as magic pervades everything, but it’s hardly the worst part of it. Infected are subject to being ostracized from their communities, sometimes even lowered to the position of slaves. The reason for this is, first of all, fear of the infection spreading. Additionally, the often destructive and debilitating side effects of infection makes the infected largely inferior to healthy humans, but still quite unnerving.
The effects of infection vary, but is usually handicapping. The most common effects is feeblemindedness (insanity) and physical mutation. Decreased mental functions almost always follow. In addition, the mutations can render ones body useless, leaving one with little to contribute to a community. There is no number for the amount of suicides and infanticides made because of infection.
As a final note, it should be admitted that not all infected suffer from it. Some of them find their mental and physical capacity enhanced, or that they have gained some ability they did not possess before. These rare cases are why Carlton’s Riders allow infected to join their guild.