Mages, Magic, and The Tower

In Thedas, magic is a natural physical phenomenon such as gravity or magnetism. Some people are born with the ability to interact, control, and shape it. Magic originates from the Fade, the realm where spirits dwell and the world that humans and elves visit when they dream. Mana is a measurement of one’s ability to channel energy from the Fade, and this energy is expended in the practice of magic. The ability of a living being to expend mana is what defines a mage.

The act of drawing power from the Fade can draw the attention of the spiritual beings on the other side of the Veil, leading to an increased risk of demonic possession if the mages are not vigilant enough. A possessed mage becomes a distortion of his or her former self, a twisted monster known as an abomination that has enough power to wipe entire villages off the map.

With the proper training however, mages are capable of manipulating the basic elements, such as conjuring gouts of flame and small, localized ice and electrical storms. There are also spells that allow for the temporary reanimation of corpses and the draining of an opponent’s life-force. More altruistic Mages can use their powers to help and heal, or summon benevolent spirits in times of need. Though they are often ostracized to the point of persecution, mages are key for everyday life in Thedas. They serve as its healers, scholars, scientists, and weapons of war.

History

No one knows who first discovered magic but it has been a part of the world of Thedas for as long as people can remember. From the elves of Arlathan to the mages of Tevinter, both humans and elves have been known to wield magic. Before it became the Imperium, Tevinter was ruled by a dynasty of kings. And long before the Chantry there was a Circle of Magi: the society of mages in each city. The titles the modern Circles use—enchanter, senior enchanter, first enchanter—all originated here. But above the first enchanter, the Circles of Tevinter had another office: magister.

Elves had magic in the days of Arlathan, and it is possible that it was they who taught blood magic to the Tevinter magisters. Legend, however, holds that the first known blood mage, at least for the humans, was a Tevinter: Archon Thalsian. Thalsian was supposedly taught how to use blood magic by the Old God Dumat. This was the start of the Tevinter Imperium, which grew to include most of Thedas, and which worshipped the Old Gods.

The Imperium was not satisfied with control of Thedas, however, and in an incredible act of hubris, the magister lords attempted to enter the Golden City and supposedly usurp the Maker Himself. Their efforts failed, and to punish them, Chantry historians believe that the Maker transformed them into the first darkspawn. These darkspawn fled underground, and eventually found Dumat and transformed him into the first Archdemon. Thus began the First Blight, which would continue for two centuries and greatly weakened the Tevinter Imperium.

Modern Ferelden

Now, most mages in Thedas belong to the Circle of Magi. As such, they are taken from their families while still children, and highborn children who are able to use magic will lose all claims to their family’s estates and titles when they are taken to the Circle. This helps to create a bond stronger than social class or race, since everybody in the Circle is raised and taught the same way.

Upon joining a Circle, mages undergo a process as apprentices of having a few drops of their blood taken by the First Enchanter and placed in a phylactery. This ensures the mages’ compliance as well as the ability to track down any mage who decides to run away, since a templar can track anyone through their blood. As a further measure, mages who are feared to be incapable of controlling themselves, or who fear their power, are made Tranquil: their connection to the Fade is magically severed.

Though templars insist that the process is painless, the experience appears to be debatable and as unique as the individual who has been rendered Tranquil. The Tranquil are easily identified by their eerie monotone voices and emotional apathy, even during stressful circumstances. It is worth noting, however, that under normal circumstances there is a reason a mage is made Tranquil—he or she presents a very real danger of possession.

Some mages manage to escape the notice of the Chantry and the Circle, and grow up without the training that those who are taken from their families will have. Any mage not a part of the Circle is considered to be an apostate, and will be hunted by templars if discovered. Often apostates will wield magic unknown or forbidden to the Circle, and considered threatening by the Chantry.

Most humans are taught by the Chantry to fear magic and those who practice it. Mages are looked upon as people to be pitied at best, and hated at worst. The average citizen sincerely believes that the Circle exists only to protect mages and help them learn to control their abilities.

Lyrium

Lyrium is a valuable but dangerous mineral. Physical contact with the raw ore will cause serious injury and psychological problems for humans or elves and will kill mages outright. Processed lyrium is used by dwarves and the Tranquil to enchant items. When mixed into liquid and ingested, lyrium grants a mage far greater power than the mage normally wields. Mages can also be branded with lyrium to become Tranquils, forever severing their connection to the Fade.

While mages use lyrium in their arcane spells and rituals, templars ingest the primordial mineral to enhance their abilities to resist and dispel magic. Lyrium is used by the Chantry to control the templars: templars are given lyrium to “develop their talents” which also leaves them addicted and thus within the control of the Chantry who controls the lyrium trade.

In its processed form, lyrium may be handled by anyone, but long term exposure or a single mistake while working with it can lead to serious side effects. Prolonged use becomes addictive, the cravings unbearable. The effects of lyrium addiction for templars include paranoia, obsession, and dementia. Over time, templars grow disoriented, incapable of distinguishing memory from present, or dream from waking. They frequently become paranoid as their worst memories and nightmares haunt their waking hours. Mages have additionally been known to suffer physical mutation.

Mages, Magic, and The Tower

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