Arcana holds the distinction of being one of Tygan’s oldest arts, as well as the most difficult to master.
The art of Arcana refers to the ability to manipulate and drain elements around one’s self in order to wield them or manifest them in different ways. While many of Tygan’s people take the idea for granted now, there was a time none of the primate peoples wielded this power. It was a power bequeathed to them, unintentionally, by dragons.
Dragons are born with natural magic powers, their firebreathing just one of many examples. Scholars and enthusiasts conducted autopsies on dragons on hopes of finding a source for this power. In spite of several hypotheses suggesting that Arcana might simply be an untraceable phenomenon, it was soon discovered their blood was laced with a mysterious energy.
While the properties of this blood were well documented, they had little hope of tapping its power without being able to see it in action, until several scholars proposed a risky test. To drink the blood of a dragon. The scholars indeed did drink a dragon’s blood, altering themselves in the process so that they could manipulate elements as the dragons did. This event gave birth to the first wizards. It is through this ritual that wizards and other magic users were given the degrading label of ‘blood drinkers’ by dragons.
These first wizards began to meditate in order to perfect the ability of element tapping, which allows one to manifest and use energy and spells via the Arcane arts. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that they sought to wield fire and lightning in a way no one had done before, several of these first spellcasters died when their spells warped out of their control.
The first generation only had one success story, Aurias Silverstar, a female elf of noble blood who became fascinated by Arcana in her late twenties and broke off a budding ambassadorial career to study it. After two decades of study, Aurias became the first non-dragon to successfully master the new art, making her the first Arcane Master. Where they can be found, her teachings remain in use to this day.
There are two basic types of arcana, manipulation or manifestation.
Manipulation is the alteration of already existing elements to one’s will, and by far the easier of the two to learn. Manipulation includes skills such as levitating objects, increasing and decreasing temperatures and the more basic forms of enchantment. Manipulation encompasses the first skills taught to those seeking to master arcana, which unfortunately leads many beginners to neglect it once they’ve learned it well enough to move on to the second type of arcana. Aurias herself remarked that in her opinion Manipulation was the more broadly useful type.
Manifestation is the creation of elements or powers, such as lightning, fire, ice and so on. Both by its nature and because of the powers involved, it requires much greater focus. Aurias Silverstar initially used her hands to perform her incantations, but as her powers increased, destructive spells began to damage her body and neutral ones had some very odd side effects. Aurias ended up blowing off her own arm while generating a large fireball in the middle of a battle.
During her recovery she came upon the idea to use an object as a conduit to focus her powers, thus protecting her body from harm. Even if she completely botched a spell, the conduit would absorb its force rather than her flesh. Aurias enchanted a staff to strengthen it and used that as her conduit. Since staves double as versatile melee weapons, many other Arcane Masters took up the trend and a personalized staff quickly became a mark of distinction among casters.
Aurias also crafted what became known as the Declaration focus, a single word incantation that allows one greater mental focus, generating whatever power they name, velitous (levitate), derthanous (lightning), lacious (ice) and so forth. The Declaration draws its power both from the way the word itself is constructed and the fact that simply speaking the word helps the caster to remember every previous instance of the spell.
Aurias noticed changes in her physiology over the course of studies, which seemed to intensify along with her skill and power. She at first dismissed this as wishful thinking, but called on several of her colleagues and doctors from other fields to take observations when the changes became too pronounced to deny. Aurias came to need less sleep than other people, eventually considering five hours a night as ample rest. She also aged much slower than others, at a rate of slightly less than a third when compared to the general populace. And of course as her focus grew, so did her powers.
It was also observed that after performing numerous manipulations and manifestations, Aurias became ill and drained in spite of her skill. She was able to go a little further each time, but never completely defeated this phenomenon. It was a universal effect of Arcane use known as Arcana Fatigue. The body grows more resistant to it with repeated arcana use, similar to the immune system become stronger after successive infections. This allows for greater use of arcana over time and contributed almost as much to the power of the Arcane Masters as their skill and focus did. Some of the later Masters experimented with their resistance by deliberately fatiguing themselves. While this could work to increase resistance at a higher rate, it was easy to go too far and seriously injure or even kill oneself with such training.
Aurias’ life span was tripled by her powers, allowing her to take pupils to teach the art of Arcana to many others before she retired from teaching to spend her last decade studying in peace. The top students reached the status of Arcane Master, and carried on Aurias’ teachings from generation to generation.
There are many subclasses and unique forms of magic user. In Tygan three of these are the most common. Wizards make the most basic use of arcana, using the elements to manifest things, or manipulate them to read thoughts and move objects. Their class stems directly from the original Arcane Masters. The greater a wizard’s mental focus, the greater control they have to manifest and manipulate elements in their favor.
The rituals of becoming a wizard begin with drinking the mana of the Arcanus. Without that, the other powers cannot grow. They must learn mental focus to make the declarations effective, learning not so much to clear their minds as to center them entirely on the singular idea of the declaration they are casting. Wizards undergo four years of instruction to start one with arcana, followed by experience in the world to master it.
All who attend teachings develop basic arcana control. Only those with the greatest discipline master it upon leaving. There is no singular culture or mindset common among wizards. They come from all walks of life, all classes and all creeds, and have been known to be both kind and cruel. Malevolent wizards usually graduate to the status of lich, benevolent wizards amass power until they pass away of natural causes. Regardless which path they take, their prolonged lives grant them a greater perspective on history and change than others.
Both much rarer and infinitely more disturbing than wizards are liches. The first lich was created when one of the third generation Arcane Masters cast animate preservation enchantments on himself when he was mortally wounded. Though his flesh died, his mind remained conscious and alive and his soul stayed in his body. He enchanted his own body to prevent his flesh from wasting away, a spell which required regular upkeep for a moderate drain. Since the flesh is dead, it is able to contain the power of arcana much better than living flesh and so liches do not suffer from Arcana Fatigue or necessarily need a focus. The downside is that much greater power absorption is required to keep the body running.
This first lich created the declaration manitous or animate, a declaration that only a lich is powerful enough to use. It animated dead flesh and there are legends that the first lich was able to use it to recall the souls of the dead to their bodies. The first lich was benevolent and never abused his powers, but some of his further pupils eventually became malevolent for reasons ranging from power madness to simple boredom from centuries spent alone.
After several centuries the first lich decided he had lived long enough and took his own life. All of the arcana energy stored in his flesh was released when he died, generating a massive explosion. Fortunately he’d chosen to go to his rest many leagues from the nearest city, but the sound of the blast was still heard by many people and the crater remains to this day.
The only way to kill a lich is to destroy their conductor, an item of personal value that they use to anchor themselves and cast their magic. While myths involving liches often depict this as a vial of blood or some other morbid curiosity, in truth it can be just about anything that has meaning for the lich. Very few liches are stupid enough to make the conductor obvious, and depending on its nature it may not be vulnerable to normal attacks in any case. In order for the conductor to be destroyed once it is found, the inevitable enchantments defending it have to be removed, rendering it vulnerable.
Unlike a wizard, a lich continues to gather power until they are destroyed. This is due to the fact that in spite of needing a conduit to focus their magic, their arcane energy is slowly amassed in their flesh, and held in by the enchantments that keep them from falling apart. If liches fail to maintain their bodies these enchantments will break and the energy will be released, obliterating the lich and anyone unfortunate enough to be in the area. This offers a very slight chance of destroying a lich even if the conductor can’t be found simply by forcing the lich to fight long enough that their preserving enchantments collapse. This can take days or even weeks, however, and the death toll is always high.
Paladins are the other main class of exotic spellcaster, and they focus exclusively on the art of healing. Life carries a unique energy that cannot be regenerated using surrounding elements, so it must be drawn from another source of life. The paladins effectively use a form of reverse vampirism to give their own life energy to the people they heal. This is the most benevolent type of arcana, and also requires the greatest mental focus. Wizards have not been able to master the art of healing as the paladins have without sacrificing their other masteries, due to the focus it requires.
(Further history on the paladins’ methods can be found in their dedicated article)
The Arcane Masters crafted many secret potions and enchantments that only they knew how to make. They never wrote them down to prevent them being abused, holding them in memory so they could only be passed on to those who achieved Mastery in their own right. All the current Arcane Masters were killed in the fight against Assylyl, and a new set of Arcane Masters has yet to arise.
Several of the old Masters’ secrets still remain, including the Speak Mana, which allows the people of Tygan to talk to each other over great distances. Those who study Arcana often seek to unlock the secrets of these gifts the masters left behind, though success is rare. These secrets also included complex enchantments, some of which have been rediscovered since by those seeking to become the new Arcane Masters. One such spell that has been rediscovered is that of an indestructible object, crafted by the declaration kreaunbrous. The declaration strong enough to remove this enchantment has yet to be rediscovered, so use of kreaunbrous has been outlawed, and all objects with the enchantment are confiscated for study.
Wizards were heavily involved in the fight against Assylyl, as were several liches of the time. Their spells to manifest fire were not hot enough to burn away the Far One’s skin, rendering their attacks largely ineffective. As the war continued, spellcasters instead learned to direct their efforts against Assylyl’s Followers, whose mindless charges were particularly susceptible to sweeping spells. Still, only a handful of wizards survived the war, none of them being the current generation of Arcane Masters.
With the Arcane Masters dead, the art of Arcana has been set back millennia, leaving many arts of Arcana to be rediscovered by new students. Some of whom, many hope, will take up the mantle of the new Arcane Masters.