Tales from the Fallen Gate
Magic is something humans were not meant to wield. For all their learning, humans are creatures of the natural world, and magic in any form is essentially unnatural. Mastering magic requires more than simple study or a natural knack. Those who seek to use magic must first find a suitable source of magic and harness it. Thule’s scholars speak of five distinct origins or sources of magical power, and many wonder about several more that have not been confirmed to exist.
From the earliest days of humankind, wise men and women saw the world as a place alive with spirits and forces, and sought the favor of these natural spirits through the practice of Animism. Civilized Thuleans can barely perceive these spirits, and some openly scoff at “barbaric superstitions”—but shamans, druids, totem warriors, and others who draw magical power from the spirits of nature know better.
To their most faithful followers, the gods taught the secret art of Invocation, or divine magic. Some believe that clerics beseech the gods for miracles that the gods in turn grant, but in truth the gods do not channel this power to their followers—the prayers and forms of cleric spells are designed to unlock the same supernal power the gods themselves employ, although clerics are initiated into only a small portion of this divine secret.
The secrets of arcane magic originated among older races. Arcana is the science of the occult, the logical study of supernatural principles and effects. It is the wizard’s learning and study, an endlessly complex and abstruse science in which the most fundamental secrets of the universe are waiting to be discovered. Humans first studied arcana from stolen scrolls of serpentman mages or under the tutelage of the elves, who hoped to fill the ranks of their armies with servants powerful in magic. The wizards of Atlantis elevated the arcane arts to terrible and dangerous heights, and paid the price—but the Atlantean lore and its elven origins are still studied today.
Sorcery represents a different approach to power; instead of changing the world with arcane knowledge, the sorcerer uses arcane knowledge to change himself or herself into a being whose nature is now in part magical. Sorcerers begin their careers by finding some rite or ritual and making a sacrifice, giving up some part of their humanity to gain power. In a world where magic use of any kind is seen as dangerous, sorcery is especially feared. It is said that the art of sorcery was the secret of innately magical races such as rakshasas or genies, who bartered their secrets to human seekers, usually at terrible cost.
There is one last route to power, a road that is dark and dangerous indeed—one can always bargain for the gift from an entity with the powers one seeks. Theurgy is the path of the warlock or the witch. By making a pact with some supernatural patron, the warlock gains the ability to use magic for his or her own purposes. The best of these patrons are fickle and inhuman powers from different realities—sly, mocking devils or bewitching fey. The worst are Great Old Ones, blind and hungry, responding to rituals far older than mankind. Theurgy descended to humankind from beings far more alien than elves or serpentmen, and warlocks are objects of suspicion and terror in all but the most callous of cities.