Cosmology and Life
The Author is believed to be the Aratian philosopher Atan al-Rashish, written by his scribe Tiresh, 553 years before the founding of the Great Library of Norhault. Translated from the Arataic by Tolen Garanesh in the 57th year after the founding.
Cosmology & Life
The Beginnings of Magic
Before the beginning all was perfection and light. Then came chaos and in the midst of the chaos came our forebears and they looked upon the chaos and were dismayed.
And some knew that that they had fallen from grace while others believed the chaos had birthed them and they fought one with the other for dominance and those who loved the chaos, though they did not win each battle, so it was they won the wars.
Those who would know perfection were banished and in the midst of the chaos grew the land and the seas and creatures lived and moved within, on and above the both. And in the lands stood the peoples of the world, Elves and Men, Dwarves and Halflings, Orcs and Goblins and all manner more that were beyond reckoning.
And of the peoples of the world there were those who sought the perfection and those who sought chaos and always they were waning one with the other and even amongst themselves.
And always behind the world swam the sea of perfection; tom and shredded flowing back and forth entwined and twisted with the sea of chaos almost so that none could tell them apart. And this power moulded and formed the lands and the peoples.
And among the people were those who could draw upon the powers of perfection and chaos and mould it to their wills. Thus there was magic and thus there were mages.
And those who knew how to bend the magic to their will were powerful and they studied the ways of magic learning how to bind it and blend it, withhold it and give it freely, and in some places they were reviled while in others they were revered. And in some places they were strong and in others they were weak and in passing from one place to another they would find their strength would change.
Thus it was learned that magic was not constant throughout the world but that it waxed and waned, ebbed and flowed sometimes with the constancy of perfection, sometimes with the irrationality of chaos.
So it was in the beginning, so it is now and so shall it always be.
The Physical Universe
The breadth of the universe is without measure to mortal man, I have stretched out my mind with magic and tried to touch the edges, but there were none. I have walked the paths of light beyond the ken of all, strange lands that have stolen the breath from my mouth and burnt my skin as the hottest fire, yet no boundary have I found yet in my wanderings.
Yet this vastness is not the end of it, not the end of unendingness. There is more within the range of powers that add strangeness but not distance. I have walked a path to another place that was no distance from here. The same yet different. Another place wherein the magic was less altered.
I have come to understand that I am distinct from those that live around me. In body there is no variance beyond the natural. Yet unlike those about me, even those steeped in the understanding of the natural world, I am able to perceive the patterns of things merely by observing them. I do not know if there are others like me, but if there were I would know them as they would know me.
And it was as I lay abed an image came to me of another place, another room, another bed like to mine but unlike. I did not sleep in that bed. I awoke and on the morrow I travelled to the Eye of Power. With that other place to my mind I stood and exerted my strength, the patterns flowed and I was in the other place, like to mine but different.
In that other place I spoke a word and the sound was the same, I touched the stones of this other Circle and their cold was the cold I knew. Yet the pattern of the place was not the pattern of my own place.
Fearing I may not be free to return I conceived the pattern of my own place once more and changed from one to the other without moving. Comparing closely my memory of one place with the other I perceived differences, a stone moved, a blade of grass less grown, each change so slight a, to be insignificant. Yet there was meaning.
For many days I pondered this journey without moving, I studied the patterns in my mind, and slowly I came to understand how one differed from the other. I stood upon the stone fastness of the Eye of Power and, in my mind, I changed the pattern that made that place. And it became a different place.
Still I stood on the desert sands, yet the dunes were differently placed and wisps of clouds stood in the sky. I changed the pattern again and stood upon a savannah of grass, grazing beasts all about me, the sun still shone in the same place.
Once more I adjusted the pattern, and again, and again. Each place was the same, yet different. Always the sun stood in the sky, as it should. As my understanding of the pattern shifting grew I perceived that my position had in truth not changed, nor could it. This pattern did not govern location in space.
Nor did it control the patterns of energy nor even yet of time, isolation of that one pattern forever has eluded me. Yet I would fear its discovery.
Now I know this: There are other universes, ones other than our own boundless one. How this can be I know not, but such it is. Each of these universes is like our own, differing in few aspects if they are laid close together, if their patterns are not far dissimilar. But as one travels through these universes the differences grow.
I can express the concept no more than travelling, though it is without moving. One need take no steps yet still travel as if upon a road, things that are near are known but as you walk this road newer things are revealed and you may travel past them on to still further things.
The other universes lie so close to each other there is nothing between them, yet so far distant for ordinary man that they would never even conceive of their existence, their minds are not large enough to hold such concepts. I have explained the pattern to my apprentices, yet they cannot see it let alone make some change to it.
I have illustrated the point, to them I disappear, though on one instance I did not. The other me berated them for some misdeed of which they knew nothing, on this occasion I was willing to believe that I had not succeeded, for my apprentices still stood before me when I travelled just one step. Clearly another me had stood in that very spot.
I do not know what would happen if I travelled to a point that contained an object nor if I should travel to meet another me. It has never happened. I am unwilling to try.
I have attempted to carry another with me, but failed. I believe the mind of the traveller must he fully capable of comprehending the concept of the other place before it is willing to go there.
Travelling the Multiverse
The extent of the universes, the Multiverse as I have named it, is still unknown to me. I have spent many years in travelling yet have come to no ending but there are truths that have made themselves clear to me that I am able to reveal to you, if you have a mind willing to accept such strangeness’.
To speed my travelling I have exerted myself to alter the pattern more than one universe at a time, to ravel it faster, yet I find the effort increases more than by a simple step. To make two changes together needed more strength than to perform each step singly. The problem became progressively worse the bigger the jump.
In practice it seemed that a jump beyond seven universes was without sense. I have experimented with larger jumps, though always to home for safety. I did succeed in jumping by twelve, yet at the cost of two months of my life, I was ably tended by my apprentices during my recovery.
There is not sufficient difference between twelve steps of the Multiverse to justify such risk to life. If you are a Ritualist you may wonder why I did not utilise the Eye of Power and my Ritual Circle to aid me with strength. To change the pattern of the universe is easy, it requires little magical power, and it does not require the full power of a Circle to achieve it as you do when stepping from one place to another within the same universe.
But once the pattern has been altered, taking that step drains the strength of your body as surely as physical labour does. And it is that which limits the distance of the step.
Thus it is that all my explorations were undertaken in short jumps of just three steps; enough to make a difference, but not enough to exhaust. I undertook the preparation of my journeys with all the care of a journey across the desert. And it is because of the many months I have spent journeying to such alternate realms that I can express to you the nature of the Multiverse though whether you can comprehend it I know not.
The Pattern of the Multiverse
I believe the number of universes to be uncountable, to be beyond counting. I have travelled them by the thousand and stepped into realms of light and dark that are inconceivable save if you have perceived them with your own eye. Yet though they are without number they are not without order. There is difference in direction and there are two directions that may be travelled.
Conceive, if you can, the pattern of the universe, it has form and complexity, lines and curves, yet it is all composed of a single thread. To alter the pattern you may lengthen the thread and add a turn that is not there or shorten it to straighten a bend that exists. One direction of the Multiverse lies in the lengthening of the thread, the other in the shortening.
When first I began to travel I went only in the direction of lengthening, I feared to shorten the thread. Yet on returning I needs must shorten it hence I realised there should he no risk in shortening it from my home and this I eventually did.
As I lengthened the thread its convolutions became increasingly complex and the worlds through which I passed changed not only in their form but also in their very nature. Magic became weaker and weaker. Most certainly I did travel over one hundred universes before I began to notice, yet it did happen. As if I were travelling away from some centre.
The universes became strange though resembling our own world superficially. Ale words of our language make it hard to express, but put into words it seemed these universes became more solid. As if a stone from here would be but a sponge taken from the oceans in those outer places. Yet to the common senses there was no perceptible alteration.
Yet to my sense of pattern it was clear. Each pattern that is pail of every object was becoming more complex too, as if it were an echo of the pattern of the universe to which it belonged. It became harder and harder to work magic in these realms, comprehending the patterns became an effort as well as trying to draw upon the thinning Universal Amalgam.
In these realms magic is not used. It is not available to the denizens, even the most powerful of them. Yet there is a constant that seems to run through all the universes, the Ritual Circle. Whatever distance from my home I travelled, the Ritual Circle was always there.
As I walked the universes far away from here I would still find a ring of stones and still be able to draw on the power that lay there. It was even possible, as far out as four thousand universes, to travel from one Ritual Circle to another within that realm, though it was most taxing.
The Direction of Simplicity
Now I will reveal what lies in the direction of simplicity.
I ask you to consider this: If there is a thread with a beginning and an end it is possible to increase the length of the thread forever, yet the length is always measurable. But what of shortening? It is possible to reduce the length to zero and when it has reached that there is no further it may reduce. Nothing may become less than zero.
I have asked you to consider the pattern of the Multiverse as a thread and thus it is. To travel one can make it longer or shorter, but though a length may be imagined to extend forever there is a limit to how short it may become. It may only become nothing.
I have shortened the thread of the Multiverse and walked through lands that differ little from those around us. But in lands where the thread is half the length it is here, all things seem the same, those that seem solid may be touched and are indeed solid. Yet their patterns are simpler, echoes of the Pattern of the Universe they occupy. The magic in these lands is so powerful that it can almost be touched, felt with the skin. I have bathed in such power.
I stepped onwards through the Multiverse, shortening and shortening the thread. There came a time when all things began to seem similar, their patterns were simplifying such that they were failing to be differentiated, all stone became one stone, all liquid became one liquid.
I believe I came close the centre, the heart of the Multiverse, the thread was very short, I swam in the Universal Amalgam, all physical things were simply the elements, one form of Earth, one of Air, one of Fire and one of Water, there were no others. In this place I stopped, I dared not travel another step for fear of losing myself, even then I did not know if I would be able to return. How would the thread of my body know how to reconstruct itself into the correct form? And in that place I felt the risk of my identity being absorbed by the Universal Amalgam.
If I took another step what would happen to the very Elements? Would they continue into the next universe, or combine, perhaps Air and Fire, Earth and Water then another step making just one base element from which all others stem. And then that ultimate step into nothing. I wished to see, but I also wished to return with the understanding I had gained.
I remained in that place a while and watched as creatures moved around me, all constructed from the single, simple form of Earth standing on that unvarying surface. The single form of Air blowing about us. I reached down and picked up a stone determined to carry it with rm.
I lengthened the thread and stepped back towards home. As I proceeded diversity returned, things became more and more separated and separable. I watched the stone I had taken and found that though I was reconstructed it was not. Though its pattern lengthened it did not grow complex, it remained pure Earth.
I have determined that it is the pattern within the Universal Amalgam that moulds the physical form thus my form was recreated but the pure Earth stone was not altered.
I have travelled to the heart of the Multiverse and returned, I have travelled to realms beyond magic yet I have desired to travel real distance, leagues upon leagues here in the realm of my home but I have not been able.
With the help of the Ritual Circles I have gone long distances in jumps, yet not seen what’s between. I have forged links between Ritual Circles to go to places others have not. But the nature of the Heavens has not been easy to divine.
I have looked into the sun that rises above us each day and have determined that not only does it provide light and heat for the common man to grow his crops, it is a source of intense magical power. Like a Ritual Circle of such strength as to dwarf the Eye of Power into insignificance.
Once I did essay to open a channel to it such that I could walk to it. I perceived great distances and had I not been wary the great power that came flooding down the path from it, I would have been consumed and, I believe, so would much of this land.
Of the stars I have been able to discern almost nothing beyond what can be seen with the eye. Save that their distance from us is very great, much greater than the distance to the sun, which is itself a journey beyond our ken. The firmament is not a ceiling on the world like a room in a house.
The wandering stars are closer, and not only do they wander about the heavens they also wander in their distance from us, sometimes closer, sometimes further. They are not mere points in the sky they are of great size having land like ours yet separated by distance. I have opened paths to these places, to the ones that pass nearest. The death of one of my Ritual Circle on one attempt we assayed, persuaded me against any further travels of this type. ‘Re wanderers are not welcome lands.
The Universal Amalgam
All things, both living and un-living are a combination of matter and magical force. It is the patterns of the magical force that holds matter together. The magical force in its pure form is known as the Universal Amalgam.
The amount of Universal Amalgam that exists in the Universe is constant but differs in its density from place to place. When living things die and decompose the Universal Amalgam that composed their pattern re-cycles to be absorbed by the great Circles of Power which distribute Universal Amalgam outwards again.
There are patterns within the Universal Amalgam that move and flow. Yet other regions of the Universal Amalgam may show stable repetitive patterns or even become completely stationary, but even these may be disrupted by other moving patterns of sufficient power.
Mages can absorb and store the Universal Amalgam within the pattern of their own being. The structure of the pattern of their lives determines how much and how long they can hold the Universal Amalgam. Once stored they may release it and manipulate its patterns. The nature of the Universal Amalgam is such that Mage may become more powerful in areas of higher concentrations.
It is written that many years ago a great drought of magic swept across the land. Its progress was charted easily as its inexorable progress was not swift. The border of the area of no magic was very clearly defined and definable. The City of Karwandsward reported that at one time it’s South Eastern quarter was entirely drained of magic while in the North-Western part magic could still he performed with ease.
During this disaster the Eye of Power was only slightly diminished.
Low Magic is the manipulation of very simple patterns and has been regularised to the point where people with quite limited ability can perform the spells. High Magic or Rituals, require a very high level of ability and involve the handling of multitudes of complex patterns simultaneously, which is why Ritual Groups are required to perform the High Magic as opposed to individuals.
Specific patterns in the Universal Amalgam may he bound through Rituals, into objects to create magical items. It is not possible for a Ritual Group or single individual to create a stable pattern and hence all magical items give up their power in the end, the pattern breaks down and the power becomes re-absorbed into the surrounding area. It is clear that the more effective the pattern creation within the Ritual itself the longer the pattern will survive although the ability of the Ritualist is an important consideration.
Although low magic gives the apparency of identical spells being cast, since the results have the appearance of similarity but this is not the case. No two patterns are ever the same even in Low Magic. Study of patterns shows that they are always different, each pattern derives from different individuals at different times, the originating patterns alter hence do the resultant ones.
Examining the patterns of life I have determined that Life is not a single pattern. Instead it is a group of very complex patterns within the Universal Amalgam that interact with and are integrated into a physical body; each supports and enhances the other.
Some forms of Life are so complex that they become self-aware and intelligent. All these forms have fundamental similarities and there are patterns within these forms that are common to all, though each has its own variations. However they are of such complexity that divining which parts relate to which parts of life has proved impossible to me.
Just as complex forms of life have complex patterns it is easy to see that very simple forms of life have the simplest patterns, though even these may he considered quite complex in themselves.
Span of life is a subject that affects many, most consider they have too little time in this frame to do the deeds they wish. The long-life of elves has oft been a reason that race use to indicate their superiority of human kind and others. If one studies the patterns of life as I have it is clear that it is the stability of the pattern that controls the life span of the living thing. It is not the complexity.
It is a certainty that highly complex single patterns do not survive for long. I have found it impossible to create a complex pattern that is self-sustaining. However as I have implied the complex life forms are not formed from a single pattern. They are comprised many patterns interlinked and inter-active one with another.
They are all inherently unstable but maintain themselves by supporting each other, and when that balance is finally upset the creature dies.
In consideration of the remaining sections of this treatise it is important that I define my terms with some degree of accuracy. Thus it is that we will define a living thing is a naturally occurring, self-perpetuating/duplicating thing, the physical part of which is structured and maintained partially by the pattern in the Universal Amalgam.
The Universal Amalgam patterns are free roaming things that are attracted to and bound to the physical part at a point in the physical development of the child form
From the living, which are difficult to comprehend we shall consider the various forms of Unlife, which are, for the most part, simpler.
It is possible for a dead body to be invested with a new, artificially created animating patterns of lesser complexity through the use of Ritual Magic. The state of the body is not the most important factor although it is usually easier for a Ritualist to imbue a body with a pattern if he can imagine its unliving state clearly. Hence fleshed bodies are easier to comprehend as walking about than skeletal figures; thus it is easier to imagine the patterns needed to drive it.
Dues to the complexity of patterns involved most of these creatures lack intelligence and are easily controlled by the Ritualist that creates them. Rituals can be performed to allow others control of the Unliving or to withdraw the pattern from them (thus destroying them).
As with anything else created in a Ritual Circle, The Unliving eventually lose their patterns and break down into simple matter. There are occasions when an Unliving creature, created by a particularly well-formed Ritual, becomes self-aware and has intelligence.
Although the precise form of these creatures cannot be stated due to the vagaries of the Universal Amalgam, the nature of life itself forces them, generally, into the mould of the Vampire.
The inability of Ritualists to create true life is linked to one crucial pattern, which they find themselves unable to form, and it is this pattern that Vampires must maintain if they are to continue to exist. A Vampire instinctively knows that unless they regularly sustain the pattern that they are losing they will cease to exist.
Most Vampires do not have the ability to supply the crucial pattern and these cease to exist within a few hours. However some do and it is the nature of this life pattern that needs to be supplied that the lack of it in a creature forces it into the Vampire mould,
Thus, to continue to exist, a Vampire must support the defective pattern by absorbing it from a creature that is not defective. In doing so they create the defect in the victim, thus bringing about a new Vampire. Hence by absorbing the pattern the Vampire is able to propagate its own specie.
By puncturing the skin of a victim with its teeth and/or claws a Vampire is able to absorb the life pattern out which strengthens its own pattern and enhances its knowledge; it knows what its victim knows. If the Vampire is rushed it usually absorbs quickly, which disrupts the pattern completely and kills the victim.
If it takes time, however, the absorbed pattern is not disrupted, instead the attacking Vampires pattern modifies that of the victim creating a less powerful Vampire which will always be subservient to its creator. Scholars have suggested that by destroying the original Vampires (those created by Rituals) all their offspring will he released. Others believe that since the victims are dead that the whole line will immediately die. The theory most believe to be the case is that the destruction of Ritually created Vampires will not affect their progeny in any way. No clear evidence exists that any of these are true.
Many physical materials if constructed correctly can he invested with a series of patterns that will animate them. Creatures of this type are named Golems. No matter how complex the patterns that have been used in the creation of Golems there have been no recorded incidents of one becoming self-aware. In fact, Golems have no intelligence at all and can only perform the simplest of tasks. This encourages the belief that it is the combination of living tissue and Universal Amalgam patterns that is the true basis of life.
Golems have various attributes that depend on the material used in their construction:
Clay: The most agile of the Golems as they do not need joints included in their construction though most Ritualists who construct them find it easier to conceive of naturally-placed joints. Must he keep moist.
Stone: The slowest but strongest of the Golems. Difficult to construct as it is hard to craft movable joints in stone.
Wood: The most common type of Golem. Not as agile as Clay, and not as strong a Stone. Easiest to construct.
Metal: Versatile Golems. Their uses vary depending on the type of metal used and the skill of the construction of the joints.
Though Golems are usually cast in the mould of man there is no reason why one cannot be formed as a dog or horse.
There exist a range of creatures that have no physical body. Not a great deal is known of these and patterns usually require a physical body in which to manifest as a living thing. It is probable that these are not truly living, as we would define it.
A non-corporeal being is a complex patterned creature with a high intensity of the Universal Amalgam. The complexity of the patterns gives them their intelligence and stability while being supported by the Universal Amalgam that composes their “body”.
Such a creature is likely to be disrupted by another pattern if of sufficient strength, or possibly drained in areas of weak concentration of the Universal Amalgam. A Ritualist may bring about a disruption of the patterns of such a creature if he can get it to remain in one place for long enough.
The creation of such creatures is largely a mystery. The ghost is a form where the physical body of a creature dies while the pattern remains intact for some time afterwards; this is a rare event. Various names are attributed to non-corporeals, depending on their apparent attributes, abilities and intentions.
Some Ritual Circles can create non-corporeal beings because their repetitive patterns throw off the necessary patterns to bring about the creation. These highly complex Ritual Circles would not be very long-lived as their own delicate internal balance would he easily disrupted by the normal ebb and flow of the Universal Amalgam.
It is also suggested that non-corporeal beings may be visitors from elsewhere.
This final form of Unlife is derived from the base elements and is similar to the Golem. However where the Golem is a constructed thing that has life patterns added to it. The elemental pulls its physical form from the very elements that surround it when the patterns are created.
The power of the life patterns brings the physical form of the creature into existence themselves. The power of such a creature is directly related to the strength and detail of the patterns used in their creation, only the most powerful Ritualists are able to create Elementals.
There are, of course, four types of Elemental: Earth, Air, Fire and Water, although combinations of these are possible given Ritualists of even higher skills.