A note from Deaddogsstillbark

Warning: exposition dump ahead. I promise it will start to pick up the pace soon 

I appreciate any feed back on spelling or grammar 

The smoke was choking Payten as he kneeled on the floor drawing symbols in chalk.

Where I am, what am I doing?” He did not recognize his surroundings; all he knew was that he had to complete the ritual. He had never seen anything like the strange runes he scrawled on the floor, yet somehow he knew what to draw where. Screams and the sounds of battle emerged from below him. Payten started to scribble in a frenzy, all knew was he needed to finish before they reached him.


A hand shaking him caused Payten to jolt awake, almost headbutting his master in the process.


“Lad, the sun is rising it's time to go” Hark said deftly dodging Pate’s skull


As Payten helped pack up the camp he couldn't shake the strange dream from his mind. It had felt so real and unlike any other dream, he had ever had. “Lad” Hark’s deep voice startled Payten from his thoughts “today we set out for Leeside to get supplies, if we keep good pace we should arrive within a fortnight”


Leeside was the nearest town to Wheatblanket known for its copper mines and for the wild goblin tribes that surrounded it


“Where are we going after Leeside?” Payten asked inquisitively

“I have business to attend to Longdale, After that we will head to Eastport and sail away from Ornea. Let's get going, lad. We are burning daylight”



Despite his reservations about his master’s use of forbidden magic, Payten couldn't help but enjoy traveling through the woods with Hark. His Aunt and Uncle had little education and even less patience for Payten’s questions. His master however seemed unbothered by Payten’s endless stream of questions and even more impressively always seemed to have an answer.

Payten learned about the various flora and fauna they encountered. Several times when Hark had spotted a useful herb they had stopped and his master instructed him on its various uses and showed Payten how to properly harvest it.


He learned of the different planes that stood stacked alongside the world such as Forast the plane of fire or Bru’gei the realm of eternal war and of the millions of demi-planes that rested in between.


After a long day of hiking, Payten was ready to collapse from exhaustion. He never imagined being a necromancer’s apprentice would involve so much walking. Finally, Hark picked a campsite and started to set up camp. “Thank Yaza my feet feel like they are about to fall off,” thought Payten as he found a stump to sit on.


“Lad, can you read and write?” Hark asked as he dug a fire pit into the mossy ground


“No, I was never taught”


“Then that shall be our first lesson”


Hark stood up and brushed the brown forest earth from his knees before searching through his large pack. He pulled out two books and a wooden case.


“Here lad these are yours” Payten gingerly took the objects. One book was bound in black leather the other was brown. He ran his hand across the supple surface of the book, the books contained blank pages, the wondrous smell of the paper made Payten feel dizzy. He felt a sense of reverence as he looked at the books, they were by far the best gift Payten had ever received. He set the books on top of his bindle and inspected the case, it was a light brown wood he dragged his fingers across the rough surface before opening it. Inside were a collection of queer black sticks wrapped in a thick paper-like substance, when he touched one of the sticks black smudges appeared on his hand.


“Thank you, Master” Payten was shocked at his master’s generosity, leather-bound books were a luxury in Orera


“In one, you will write notes about what you learn and not just from me but any knowledge you encounter, the other will be your diary. I expect you to write in both frequently at least once a day. Being a diligent note-taker is the most important skill for any aspiring mage”


“Master, I understand the notebook, but why the diary?” Payten asked quizzically


“It is important to have a place to self reflect. I encourage you to write in as much detail as possible, So you have an accurate record to look back on.” said Hark as he cut two wedges of hard cheese and ripped loose two dried sausages, handing one of each to Payten.



As Hark schooled him, Payten felt something awaken in him. His innate curiosity had long since gone dormant, starved by the dullness of the life he had been forced to endure. but now under the tutelage of his master it had reawakened. His mind was like a void, hungrily devouring any scrap of knowledge it came across. He took to his lessons with fervor knowing that the knowledge he truly desired was hidden behind the gates of literacy.


He spent his nights learning the curved letters of Irani, the most commonly spoken language in the world. By day two Payten could write and read simple letters, by day three he could read and construct sentences, at day four Hark would dictate sentences that Payten would hurriedly scribble down. Finally at day five Hark studied the markings for a moment before nodding “You read slow and have poor penmanship but we are pressed for time so it's acceptable for now, tomorrow you began your true lessons.


Payten spent the day in anticipation of his lesson he would finally start to uncover the secrets of mana, all of his suffering would finally be rewarded. After a hard day of hiking through the Orerain forest, Hark finally called to stop and set up camp. Despite his exhaustion, Payten could not sit still his curiosity burned through his body.


“Lad, sit down” Payten sat giving Hark his rapt attention as he pulled out his notebook ready to write down any nugget of wisdom


“All things are made up of mana, the earth below our feet, the birds that soar through the sky. What gives everything different properties is the aspected mana that resides within. Mana can take many forms from the intangible like love or time, to the tangible like fire or steel. The aspects of mana start broad and narrow down through sub-types until they are hyper-specific. Mana begins as potentia: the raw infinitely mutable energy from which everything is derived, potentia is unstable and naturally aspects into more specific forms, this process continues creating many sub-types along the way. For example, terum: earth aspected mana, encompasses a large field, within it lies numerous sub-types such as stone or dirt which can be even further aspected into, say granite or loam. There is no end to the complexities of aspects, as they are all intertwined and interact with each other in unique ways. For example fire and earth could combine and create magma aspected mana. Some are naturally opposed such as water and fire will cancel out, some enhance each other creating a boosting effect, even if we do not understand why, umbray: darkness aspected mana and nercris boost one another, despite having no obvious connections. Yet these rules are not bound in iron, fire and water can also create steam, The cold embrace of umbray can snuff out nercris. Many mages grow arrogant overestimating their understanding thinking that mana will follow the rules they force upon it, that they decide what it can and can not do. Lad, mana is strange, unpredictable and dangerous, with it anything is possible. Never assume you know everything and never let anyone tell you what is possible.”


Payten’s hand cramped as he struggled to write down everything Hark said, he seems were bursting with questions yet he dared not interrupt his master's lessons


“Now that the basis of theory has been laid let us move to the application. The manipulation and utilization of mana is called magic, which can be generalized into two types: sorcery and thaumaturgy. Sorcery is the direct manipulation of mana in order to create various effects whereas thaumaturgy is using an external force to manipulate mana. The two most common examples of thaumaturgy are spiritcallers; who summon the spirits of the planes to do their bidding and priests who borrow power from their patrons. You will master both forms of manipulation in time but for now and for the foreseeable future we will focus on sorcery ”


Payten couldn’t hold it anymore he had to ask before the pressure killed him “Do you have to have an affinity with an aspect in order to use it?”


“Lad, if you want to ask a question raise your hand. But to answer your question, no. Your ability to manipulate an aspect is called your attunement. It is an abstract way to measure your understanding of the totality of an aspect. An affinity is no more than a headstart. There is a great deal more about attunement but we run low on time and there is a lot I must cover this night, still this should help answer your questions.” Hark reached into his bag and removed a red book about as thick as Payten’s hand and passed it to him


Payten studied the cover A beginners guide to mana and magic by Maxine Drosto


“Keep that book hidden around others, lad” Hark ordered


“Yes, master” Payten looked in awe at the book in his hands, his brain growing hungry at the sight


“Now we start the difficult part, lad. Watch the Vitus that runs through your body, study it, probe its mysteries, tell me if you notice a change.”


Payten nodded and followed his master’s instructions examining the Vitus that flowed through his hand. He wasn't sure what Hark meant by probe its inner mysteries, so he just stared vigilant for any changes. He studied the way it flew tracing his veins, he noticed that the Vitus started bright but dispersed its energy along his body, fading once it reached its final destination.

Suddenly everything but the Vitus started to blur and lose color. The mana grew brighter; it no longer mirrored his veins, but crawled through every inch of his body, outlining him in a whitish-green, he felt the flow of energy pulsing through his body. He was snapped from examination by a pebble hitting his chest.


“Tell me what you saw, lad” Hark command


Payten relayed what had happened to Hark


“Good, you have begun to enhance your perception of mana. Now do it again but once you start to perceive the Vitus close your eyes and visualize it”


“Visualize it?”


“Yes, conjure it into your head and view with your mind’s eye. Visualization is an important tool in manipulating mana. Best to get a hold of it now, lad.”


Payten returned the mana in his arm, it took him five minutes to replicate the focus he had before, But when he closed his eyes the image flashed in his mind for a moment before slipping away. “Damn, what if I can’t do it” Payten gritted his teeth and tried again. It took him seven minutes before the Vitus truly came into sight. He closed his eyes and managed to hold the pulsing flow of Vitus in his mind for ten seconds.



It had taken him two hours before he was able to truly visualize the Mana. He no longer saw only the Vitus just under the skin. Now he could follow it as it whipped through his body like the tendrils of a great beast, wrapping around his organs, squeezing around the heart forcing it to pump blood and Vitus throughout his body. The image in his mind zoomed out, revealing that the Vitus did not just flow through his veins but through all of his body. He saw the glowing outline of everything. The energy rushed through his capillaries, filled every bone, all of his nerves vibrated with the mana. “Wait a minute” his mind focused on a bundle of nerves “they're not vibrating” his nerves were throbbing with Vitus so rapidly it made them appear to shake violently. The image returned to an overview of the body, Payten twitched his finger, the mana shot through his body like a bolt before activating the nerves in his finger. “Interesting” he did it again this time placing his awareness in the path of the energy. It passed over him, filling him with the feeling of life. The birth, the growth, the death, the decay, the rebirth. The cycle filled his mind, overwhelming Payten with its vastness. Sudden sharp pain in his head snapped Payten from his trance, as soon as it was there it was gone. He blinked taking in the sights. He was surrounded by the forest, life raged like a bonfire, the trees glowed like watchtowers, the earth itself was crawling with life just under the surface. There was nowhere Payten could look to escape the blinding light that surrounded him. Panic boiled into his mind, there was no escaping the certainty of life.


“Lad, block it out, picture the energy being stopped.” Hark barked


Payten pictured a wall of darkness that the light could not penetrate, the clearer the wall became in his mind the dimmer the light became. He continued until his vision returned to normal. He breathed a deep sigh of relief his panic dissipating


“Are you okay, lad?” Hark asked calmly


“Yes, it just became too much and I panicked,” Payten said sheepishly


“ You lost control and instead of regaining it you panicked. I understand that it can be terrifying but to be a mage needs a strong mind. I say this not to be cruel but because if I don't you will die, you must kill your panic and never let it seize your mind”


“Yes, master” he looked at the ground embarrassed, His cousins had always called him a coward, he was determined to prove them wrong. “


Interestingly as he looked at the ground he found he could see the mana of the plants more clearly than before.


“Lad, steel yourself after supper you will find the source of your mana.”



Payten sat cross-legged, after about two hours of practice he could now begin to visualize his mana within two minutes, yet his source still eluded him. He tried to shove down his rising frustration, remembering Hark’s words about needing an iron mind, it helped that he found the exploration of his body’s Vitus fascinating, finding knowledge in his failures. Once again he tried, shutting his eyes and focusing on the flow of energy that raged throughout his body. He began to follow the flow of energy towards its origin point. “Can't get distracted, must find the source” On his previous attempts, Payten would get sidetracked making a new observation learning more about Vitus but in the process losing his way, forcing him to start again. This time he was determined to make progress. As he wormed his mind’s eye towards the source, pulses of mana would wash over him, filling his mind with the sensation of life itself, threatening to swallow his perception in its vastness. “I have to make it” Payten gritted his teeth and did his best to block out the Vitus as he continued to crawl towards his source. As he grew closer the strength of the mana increased and so to did its effects, He was so close all he had to do was push just a bit more and he would make it. With a burst of mental exertion forced his way through, then it came into his mind


His source located deep within him was a raging inferno of multi-colored mana, it appeared to be contained by an invisible cage, which it slammed against like the waves of a stormy sea battering the hull of a ship. Cracks were spiderwebbed across the barrier, mana leaked from cracks like vapor. Payten reached out and touched the barrier.


The dam broke


Power rushed into Payten’s body. His muscles began to contract randomly causing him to spasm on the ground widely, blood leaked from his eyes sending red streaks down his face. The grass around his left hand grew wildly and started to whip around in a frenzy, around his right hand the plants withered and died. The mana burned through his body. Payten screamed, Blood poured from his ears and nose, the grass on his left side wrapped around his hand, crushing it with unnatural strength, on his left side the corpse of a beetle sprang to life, animated by the mana that poured from Payten, it ran towards the plants that bound his hand and used its mandibles to rip chunks from the attacking grass. Payten could not take it anymore, unconsciousness took him.


Payten awoke to the night sky, “where am I, what happened?”. He tried to stand but his muscles screamed out in agony forcing him to remain supine on the forest floor.


“Congratulations are in order lad, you have tapped into your source, ahead of schedule as well, you should be proud.” Hark’s voice made the early event flood back into his head


“What do you mean tapped into my source?” Payten rasped, his tongue was dry and swollen


“Your source is where your mana is naturally produced and stored. The basis of sorcery is converting the potentia you naturally produce into other types of mana then manipulating said converted mana. By discovering and freeing your source you can now tap into it and use it to its full potential.”


Payten was at an impasse, he wanted to learn more the secrets of the arcane called to him with a siren’s call, yet his body and mind called for the oblivion of rest.


“Tell me more” was all Payten could muster, the rest of his focus was on staying awake


“in regards to your source, the production of potentia and the storage of mana is like a muscle, the more you use them the stronger they will get. However, the conversion to and storage of aspected mana is a skill that can only be improved through study and practice.”


“Why is storing aspected mana different from potentia?” The difficulty of forming such a complex question almost knocked Payten out.


“ Aspected mana is reactive, if it is improperly stored it can react inside your source, which could lead to disastrous results. Lad, it's late and we have a long day tomorrow you need to rest”


Payten needed no other prompting submitting to his body's desires



Attunement is a shorthand that in the realm of practicality refers to one's ability to manipulate a particular form of mana. However, in the abstract, it refers to one's understanding of the totality of an aspect. It is measured on various scales depending on one’s location and preference, the one most widely in use is the Torkian scale which goes as follows :

Initiate, Novice, Journeyman, Adept, Disciple, Master, Archmaster, Ascendant.

This scale is exponential, meaning a Disciple is significantly more powerful than a Journeyman. Like most attempts to generalize the esoteric art of magic, it misses much of the nuance and has many exceptions and unclear cases, Yet it is useful enough to roughly represent one’s power, thus the concept has been widely adopted by mages.


There are many ways to increase one’s attunement but typically it happens in one of three ways :

  1. Study, This one is the most obvious, by increasing one’s understanding of the aspect through observing the mana and its effects, they increase their knowledge of its totality, thus increasing their attunement. However, study has diminishing returns, often requiring the use of another method to raise above Journeyman.
  2. Revelation, this one is the rarest and most difficult, through certain events one can trigger a revelation in which they rapidly gain knowledge of an aspect. For example, a colleague of mine once wished to increase their understanding of terum, so they buried themselves alive and waited. After four months in the dirt, he had a revelation greatly increasing his power over terum. This method is unreliable as what works for one may not work for another. Which leaves us with the third method
  3. Increasing other attunements, this is the most consistent method for increasing attunement at higher levels. By raising one’s attunement in sub-types and related manas it is possible to apply your understanding to a separate aspect, thus gaining progress towards a higher level of attunement. This among other factors contributes to the danger posed by high-level practitioners, as not only do they have their high-level attunements but numerous lesser attunements making their spell set vast and powerful.


However, like most facts of life high-level attunements have difficulties and costs associated with them. The simple fact is most professional mages will never rise above Journeyman, finding the road to higher attunements too steep and long, and the price that has to be paid too costly. For every attunement etches itself upon your very soul, increasing the amount of ambient mana required to survive, as all beings take in ambient mana in order to keep their body functioning. This is the reason why master rank mages are a rare sight, as like magic beasts they must live in an area that supports their mana upkeep, meaning most move to mana rich lands or other planes. Of course, there are ways around this but most are costly and uncomfortable. So if one plans to raise their power they must be willing to pay the price.


-An excerpt from A beginners guide to mana and magic by Maxine Drosto :




Payten closed the book and stretched out the knots from his muscles. Despite his soreness Hark had made him hike citing that they were on a short schedule. Now they had set up camp and Payten was working his way through Drosto’s book. He moved through the pages at a glacial pace, often having to ask Hark about a word he didn't know or a concept he did not understand. Despite his difficulties with the text, Payten found himself enjoying the process, it made him feel as if he was uncovering great secrets. Still, his curiosity burned, urging him to interrogate Hark for answers to his questions

“What attunement am I?” Payten asked as Hark stirred the pot of soup hanging over the fire.


“You’ve just tapped into your source, lad. You're barely an Initiate”


That made sense, he certainly didn't feel any more magically powerful.


“What is a soul?” the book had mentioned attunement being marked into souls, and surely a necromancer would be an expert


“Good question, lad” Hark said looking up from the soup


“Most living things are made up of three components: mind, body and soul. The mind is the house of reason and personality, the body is the vessel which the mind and soul reside. The soul however is something unique woven together with divine energy. It contains your source and works as a sort of blueprint for your body, mind, and magic. Controlling how they operate and function.”


“Why would someone steal a soul?” Payten asked, he had the tales of soul-snatching necromancer and had always wondered why they wanted them so bad.


Payten could swear for a brief moment a strange glimmer of satisfaction came into Hark’s eyes.


“Lots of uses for a soul lad, mana batteries, powerful minions and enchantments, harvesting the divine energies, performing a true resurrection. A soul is the most versatile reagent for magic there is. But I’ll warn you lad, snatching the souls of the innocent is an abhorrent act and I will not tolerate it from my apprentice. Only from beasts or those who are little more .”


Payten felt a rush of relief at least Hark was not like one of the comically evil necromancers from Miss Marge’s stories. Still Payten wanted to learn more about his master.


“What level of attunement are you?” Payten asked fearing that the question may be rude or crossing a boundary


Hark remained silent.


Payten’s anxiety rose.


“I'll tell you lad, but you must promise to keep it a secret. For if this becomes common knowledge, I will be hunted by those looking to end my life or use me” said Hark breaking the silence


“Yes, master” Payten replied breathing a sigh of relief


“I am a Disciple and while that book lays a solid foundation, it does a poor job impressing what that means..”


“What does it mean?”


“It means I am among the most dangerous men who walk this plane”


Payten was shocked, he knew the necromancer was dangerous. But one of the most dangerous? He found that hard to believe.


“That book discusses terms and ideas, Yet it does not come close to describing the reality of the attunements. It speaks of the levels but it does not impress upon you what they mean. Journeymen can burn entire villages, raise stone towers that challenge the heavens, rend the sky with blades of wind, regrow limbs in the blink of an eye, Summon creatures most foul, and countless other feats. Magic is powerful and so are those who use it, lad. “


The way Hark spoke sent chills down Payten’s spine. His master was by nature a grim-looking man but now his eyes took on a haunted look that spoke of painful lessons in the power of mages.

“What does it mean to be a Disciple then?” Payten asked, hoping to learn more about the strange man who had become his teacher.


“It means I can kill a man with a flick of my wrist, bind the vilest of hellish spirits and elements, make strange and horrible abominations stronger than any knight, rip the blood from the veins of an army, I can perform rituals that change the very nature of the world. Lad, life and death are mine to command. This is what I offer you, the ability to carve your will onto the cosmos and rip its secrets from its fabrics. The ability to be bound by no law but your own. ”


“W..w..why” was all Payten could muster


A strange twinkle came into Hark’s eyes


“Because you have potential”


About the author


Bio: Just trying to spin a good yarn

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