THE ART OF LIFE MAGIC ("BROWNIE MAGIC", "WOOD MAGIC")

PREVALENCE - CONCEPT - BASIC EFFECTS - TECHNIQUES OF THE LIFE MAGE - HISTORY

As the name suggests, the practice of Life Magic gives the wielder control over anything that lives: plants, animals, birds, fish, everything from the tiniest squiggle in the sea to an ancient elf. Where life is abundant and thriving it is extremely powerful, whereas in barren or desert areas where there is little to fuel it, it can be terribly draining on the mage. Also called “Brownie Magic” among other races in Sarvonia and “Wood Magic” by the Memnoor Brownies of Aeruillin, it is most famous and prevalent as a healing magic, but it can also be used to manitpulate and control the growth, looks and behaviour of any living being. Perhaps before going into the depths of the theory it would be helpful to share the definitions of a few common terms: (these are taken from the ever-popular student guide “rrah rraoooaooo” [lit: “Life Magic for Little-Brained People”]):

The lifemage can draw this “lifeforce” from other living things and channel it into another being, imbuing them with strength and vitality, or they can manipulate this lifeforce within a being, allowing them to change aspects of its personality or even its appearance.

The Birni Kingdom (15,000-10,000 b.S.) was a lost golden age for this magic. The mages of those times were able to grant life to something which was not living, or rip the life out of something which was, but these secrets were lost with the break-down of the Kingdom. This is not only because those records have lain buried in a forest infested with dark elves, deep in the ruins of an ancient empire. Most Brownies believe that the Birni abused the magic by giving life to things that shouldn’t have it, and that the Birni Kingdom’s rapid demise was a punishment for this from their spirit gods. Therefore the techniques that are believed to have caused this have been left “lost” and there has been no official attempt to reinvent them. Whilst Life Magic could be used to heal a dying being or to drain one until they did, they no longer have the power to directly cause death or bring life: that line cannot be crossed.

A Brownie Shaman
View picture in full size Image description. The Brownie Shamans, speakers for the spiritual world. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.

Prevalence. Among the Brownies. In the Santharian Kingdom at least, life magic is most often associated with Llaoihrr Brownie Vale in Southern Santharia. Their largest city-settlement is based inside a huge magically grown pine, riddled with Brownie-sized holes and passageways and kept alive with their Life Magic expertise. A little distance away from this tree the life mages have their own small settlement, where new Brownies can be trained without putting the rest of the population in danger. Simply looking at the area will give a few clues as to why - the Sikel Trees that surround it vary hugely in size, some towering over their neighbours whilst some are only as big as two or three Brownies. Branches and leaves form distorted shapes too, none quite the same shape or shade as another.

The magic is also practiced by the Memnoor Brownies living inside the Void in southernmost Aeruillin, where it is named “Wood Magic”. Although this barren desert means that there are less available sources of lifeforce, it can be just as impressive there as in the woodland. Under the hand of a Memnoor life mage a field of wasted crops can swell and flower, turning the dull sandy expanse into a sudden blanket of lush colour. It is used in a very similar way as by the Llaoihrr, predominantly for healing and manipulating the growth of plants.

Some of the Aohu’o groups who live scattered over the Sarvonian continent have also retained and improved certain basic spells, maybe a few healing abilities or certain ways of controlling animals. These abilities are seen to be a result of certain rituals rather than as a system of magic, but an experienced life mage can recognise them for what they are. As these groups vary immensely from one to the other, it would be impossible to describe the Life Magic skills of each one here.

Among other Races. It is rare to find a non-Brownie life mage, but not impossible, as any sentient being could learn it if they had the will and the teacher. It is felt by many people that the Brownies have some sort of natural affinity for this magic, that something in their make-up makes them particularly attuned to it. According to common mythology the Brownies were made from the bark of the Tree of Life, and this is thought to have made them naturally skilled with plants and Life Magic. Other races learning among the Llaoihrr do have more trouble learning than Brownies, but this could be caused by adjusting to the Brownie way of life rather than a lack of magical talent. They typically struggle with the language, the food, the structure of the day and the fact that all their new classmates are 15 nailsbreadths tall, among other things.

The only place on the Sarvonian continent where one can gain a full and thorough course of study is at the Council Tree settlement in the Vale of Brownies. Here, the training to become even a moderately competent life mage takes the same as any other apprenticeship: 15 years. That is a long time to live in a city where you are too big to even fit through the gates and require ten times as much food as anyone else. Permission from the Brownies to stay that long in their city is also be extremely hard to come by, probably only given if the person or their family has good connections with the Llaoihrr already and if the training will actually benefit the tribe. If the applicant is only going to leave and never have anything more to do with the clan after their apprenticeship, then there is very little incentive for the Llaoihrr to accept them, especially as many Brownies are very wary of Bigfolk, even in this modern age.

The Memnoor are far more accepting of new mages, and anyone of any race is welcome to join their school, as long as they pull their weight in the settlement throughout their training. The only issue is their location. Deep in the southernmost reaches of Aeruillin, they live on and around the edge of the Void itself, a series of isolated settlements that rely on magic to survive. The long slog through inhospitable, sand-covered country is a real test of dedication for potential students.

In reality most Santharian non-Brownie life magi are humans of the Helcrani tribe, or other inhabitants of Milkengrad, where the ever-inquisitive Milken Brownies have lived for generations. Other Brownies have a much easier time being accepted to study at the Council Tree, as they require only a “normal” amount of food, can be housed relatively easily and just aren’t so scarily big. As the Milken live alongside (or underneath) the Helcrani, some of them have passed on a little of their knowledge. These Milken will never be the same as a Llaoihrr teacher who has studied Life Magic for thirty or forty years, but you can find Helcrani with a good knowledge of basic healing techniques and some skill with plants. Return to the top

Concept. The Brownies say that every living thing possesses something called “lifeforce”, a source of energy which they need to move, think, grow, heal or repair themselves and make more things: all the activities that distinguish them as living things. Although it is invisible to the naked eye, a life mage can learn to sense it. When explaining it to a non-life mage they usually describe it as moving waves or lines that circle and entwine the being’s physical body. The lines move through the body as if it wasn’t there at all, but always clearly belong to it, making an ever-moving, ever-changing pattern around it.

Although many actions deplete being’s store of lifeforce, nature gradually but constantly replenishes it, so it doesn’t vary too much in day to day life unless the being is tired or drained from lack of food or water. A life mage can take lifeforce from another being into their own body’s store, artificially replenishing themselves. They could also take lifeforce from their own store and give it to another being. Notice that the lifeforce always has to be travelling between their body and another being’s; they cannot transfer it between two separate beings. Nor can they take lifeforce from one being whilst giving it to another at the same time – the two actions each require their full concentration.

Lifeforce is homogeneous: the energy itself doesn’t change from being to being. A tree’s lifeforce is the same as a human’s, or a shir’s, or any other living thing. The two things that do distinguish one being from another are the amount of lifeforce they have and the way it moves around their body. These are summed up nicely in the definitions from “Lifemagic for Little-Brained People”:

The normal amount of lifeforce that a being stores is the easier of the two to manipulate, and is the first thing a life mage learns to sense. Generally, larger beings with a longer life span will produce and store more of it than smaller, shorter-lived beings. So a huge tree that could live for hundreds of years would have far more than a tiny jeshanna lily. Strangely, sentient beings do not follow this rule: all have far larger Life Magic stores than would be expected for their size. Still, larger races do naturally have more lifeforce than Brownies. The few non-Brownies who do become life mages find they can work more on their own than their Brownie counterparts, as they have larger resources within their own bodies.

The way that the lifeforce moves around the being’s body is often called the being’s “flow” of lifeforce. According the Llaoihrr Brownies this flow around the body is the being’s spirit, the part which gives it its identity and produces more lifeforce. Beings that move and think little, like trees, have the simplest flow, and the more intelligent the being the more complicated this becomes. Although in terms of physical structure plants are just as complicated as sentient beings, the speed of the lifeforce flow is affected by the speed and complexity of their reactions. A plant would change the direction of its growth to take advantage of sunlight or water, but it does this very slowly and fulfils very basic needs. A creature that can learn to avoid a certain place because a predator lives there, or learn to associate a certain smell with large claws is reacting on a higher level. A sentient being who constantly makes decisions based on wants, fears, potential reactions of others, and long-term benefits or problems is reacting with the highest intelligence and would have the most complex flow of lifeforce.

Some life mages say that sensing a being’s lifeforce flow is like watching their thoughts whizz around them, although in truth it is even more complex, as the overall pattern also determines their permanent attributes, like appearance and personality. The lifeforce of trees and plants much easier to manipulate than anything else’s, because the lifeforce moves in far more predictable ways: slower and smoother, with few spontaneous changes of direction. It’s hard to siphon off lifeforce when it is wiggling around as much as a Brownie’s or human’s, changing direction and density with every new thought that pops into their head. Manipulating the speed and direction of this flow is something only experienced lifemages are able to achieve.

Ximax mages would call a beings lifeforce flow its cár’áll, and say that the Brownies were somehow able to encourage it to warp itself into different formations. Although the key to life remains a mystery, they do notice that living things tend to have a fairly even balance of the four types of ounia and there is some speculation that this balance is what allows the Brownies to manipulate it. By temporarily tipping the balance, the Brownies can cause one type of ounia to momentarily rule over the others, and if they can do this in a precise enough spot, they can have minute control over the being. For example, if they could locate the part of an animal’s brain that deals with fighting and protecting its territory, they could tip the balance of spiritual ounia so that fire ruled for a moment, and cause the animal to lash out in anger. This model doesn’t really explain how a life mage infuses their patients with lifeforce from other beings around them, although some Ximaxians speculate that this transference is caused by the life mages are creating xeuá links between themselves and another cár’áll.

Other mages argue that there is some unknown aspect of living things which simply doesn’t come into the Ximaxian magic, some extra factor that makes living things aware of their surroundings and of themselves. Ximaxian magi have explained a similar phenomenon in their writings on the Sentences of Will for example, considering the possibility of a transcendent “Willpower” that goes beyond the cár’áll. This would be in keeping with the living “spirit” which most Llaoihrr Brownies believe in, but there is little solid evidence to support this theory. It could be this self aware part that the Brownies are communicating with – they can somehow “speak” to the part of a being that dictates appearance or behaviour, and convince it to do something different instead.

Another common argument made by some Ximaxian magi, based on the ability of a life mage to permanently change a being’s appearance to a significant degree, is that that Life Magic is a form of raw magic, and is therefore subject to far fewer restrictions than other forms of magic.

Basic Effects. (For specific spell examples please see “Life Magic Spells from the Llaoihrr”) If the lifeforce is being used up quicker than it can be replenished then the being becomes tired and weak and could eventually collapse. This might happen naturally if they were ill, or couldn’t find enough food or water over a number of days. If there is surplus lifeforce, on the other hand, the being can become restless, fidgety and unpredictable, eventually turning aggressive or insane. These effects are not permanent; they only last until the body has time to get its lifeforce store back to normal levels, which could take anything from a few hours to several days. A life mage can take lifeforce from one being and give it to another to do this quicker than would normally happen naturally. This could give a sick patient the strength to fight off the disease, or could calm down a bull driven mad by separation from his herd. Equally, an aggressive mage could cause a debilitating exhaustion or a mad rage. Some experimental and suitably determined students have even discovered that certain plants and fungi can be made to spontaneously combust if given enough lifeforce in a short enough space of time. They need to be dry enough to catch fire first though, or have sap prone to catching fire, like some pine trees.

However, there are limits to the amount of lifeforce that can be given or taken away from a being, and limited affects as well. Life cannot be granted to the dead by this method, nor taken from the living. The common analogy given to new students is to think of the lifeforce as a series of very springy strings that always try to spring back into their original position. The more you pull or warp them, the more they resist you. They are also extremely strong – too strong for a life mage to break. If too much stress is put on them the body simply shuts itself down, falling into a sleep from which it cannot be woken until the body has repaired the lifeforce. In practical terms this means that a life mage cannot kill outright, although if they repeatedly attacked a being they could keep them in this sleep until they died from lack of water or food.

For some unknown reason, Redbark Brownies do not suffer the same side effects from low or high levels of lifeforce as everyone else. The normal effects are muted, hardly noticeable to someone who wasn’t looking for them. The Redbark might feel slightly tired where another would already be too drained to concentrate, or experience an irrational wave of anger where another would almost be foaming at the mouth. However, they cannot escape the two breaking points at which their body cannot function: they will eventually collapse from exhaustion if they run out of lifeforce, or from shock at over activity if they have too much. This increased flexibility with their lifeforce is an innate ability in Redbarks, but it can be attained by anyone else through daily practice over a number of years. In the past this was thought to mean that Redbarks were destined to be life mages, and it is still the reason they are considered naturally talented in this area.

Manipulating the flow of lifeforce can have far more varied and strange effects. According to Brownie Spirtism this flow makes up the being’s “spirit”: the part which departs the body after death and is reborn into another one, taking with it all the knowledge on how to grow and act and all the instincts which animals are born with. Whatever you believe, the fact remains that if this flow is altered in certain ways, the being itself will change too, either in appearance or in behaviour. If you know the right way to manipulate it you can change the colour of a bird’s plumage, make a tree’s branches grow into a heart shape, direct a person’s body to fight the source of a disease, or convince a vicious dog that it’s a calm playful puppy. Of course, this requires prodigious skill and practice, as well as days or weeks of repetitive work to make any changes permanent.

Techniques of the Life Mage. In order to be able to take advantage of the effects that can be caused by lifeforce, the life mages have developed three specific techniques for manipulating it.

Manipulation between Two Separate Beings (or “Transferring Lifeforce”). The first thing that any new mage learns is how to sense the lifeforce that flows around and within the bodies of various beings. They study the lifeforce of various different beings in preparation for learning to manipulate them later on, learning how it flows and which parts will respond most easily to manipulation. They also practise breathing and meditating techniques which slow down the flow of their own lifeforce, which will make it a lot easier to deal with later on.

They are taught to find a suitable point on another being’s flow in order to divert another being’s lifefore into their own store, and how to judge how much they can safely add or remove from their own store without suffering dangerous side effects. As they practice they learn to control the side effects of an imbalance of lifeforce and their bodies become conditioned to them, so that they gradually suffer less and less. A committed life mage, or student of the magic, should, after a few years of practice, only feel when their life force store is really low or really high, as a Redbark Brownie naturally would without practice. Around this time, and with considerable care, they begin to learn how to siphon off the lifeforce in their own stores into another being.

At this point they are working only with their own lifeforce and that of plants, and it is common to see a group of young apprentices traipsing out to sit beside the rushing waterfall, each carrying an acorn cup of soil which contains a small and extremely mutated little plant. As mentioned before, plants have a slower, steadier flow of lifeforce and therefore it is easier to manipulate, but this doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes, sometimes replicating very advanced techniques completely by accident. This is why they are kept away from the rest of the Brownie population, and always fairly close to some very advanced mages who spring into action whenever anything goes wrong.

Although the mage’s own lifeforce flows quicker than the plants’ they are able to slow it down somewhat through meditation, making it much easier for them to manipulate The lifeforce flow is always changing and moving, so maintaining the right point on a being’s lifeforce flow and channelling it into or out of one’s own body requires full concentration. Any distractions can cause a mage to loose sight of the point on the other being’s flow, so it is fairly impossible to simultaneously channel lifeforce into your body and out at the same time. The mage must take lifeforce from one being into themselves, stop, and then channel it out into the target being. The amount of lifeforce the mage can manipulate at one time is therefore limited by the size of their own store as well as the amount of time they have to repeat the process. Working together as a group is the one way you can get over this issue, as then the mages can combine their lifeforce stores to create one common, larger, store.

The flow of lifeforce doesn’t only differ between species, it is also different for each individual thing depending on personality and appearance. A bluebark will have a different flow to a greenbark and a male ferret will be different to a female one. However, the flow is similar enough between creatures of the same species that if a life mage is used to working with giant rats, for example, they are not going to have much problem with mice, kuatu or any other rodents. If the same mage tried to siphon off lifeforce of a horse, however, it would take them a bit longer to locate the correct point to manipulate. This means that even a fully qualified Llaoihrr mage who has completed the 15 year apprenticeship still won’t be really speedy with all beings. Most mages choose an area of specialism to limit the number of different types of being they need to be familiar with.

Manipulation en Masse. The Brownies have also developed a meditation technique that allows them to temporarily combine their stores of lifeforce for a short period of time in order to be able to deal with much larger amounts of it. If one lone mage tried to deal with large amounts, they could suffer serious side effects, so sharing the burden is far safer and allows them to deal with far greater amounts of lifeforce than they could alone. If four or five mages work together then they can each leave one at a time to replenish their lifeforce from whatever beings are nearby, or a couple could channel lifeforce into the shared “store”, whilst the others were directing it out. In this way there can always be a constant flow of lifeforce into the target being, speeding up the process.

This is extremely difficult to do, as it requires all the mages’ minds to be completely in tune with each other, concentrating on combining their lifeforces whilst still sensing the point of manipulation in the other being’s lifeforce too. Practice is the key, and young mages are not expected to have much success until they’ve been studying for at least five years. Llaoihrr students who wish to pass their apprenticeship must show they are able to use this technique among a medium-sized group of about twenty mages taken from their classmates, who they know quite well and are used to working with. Generally the longer a group has worked together the easier the process is, as they can develop a routine and rhythm to their work which everyone gets used to.

When a group of mages are successfully combining their lifeforces, they appear to a life mage’s senses as if they are one creature with several bodies: the different strands of lifeforce flow around and within the whole group as if it was one body. It may be possible to pick out which strands belong to which mage if you knew them well but by noticing the characteristic pace with which the strands of lifeforce moved and changed direction.

Manipulation of the Lifeforce “Flow”. Manipulating the flow of Lifeforce is something not taught until a mage is competent with the first two techniques, because it is an extremely delicate operation which takes a lot of experience and knowledge of how the lifeforce works. Not even Llaoihrr apprentices have to be able to do this to pass their exams, although all will know the theory. The mage must be experienced enough to be able to clearly sense every movement of the lifeforce even before they begin to learn how to recognise which sections affect which parts of the body. This is what makes it such a time-consuming venture – the mage needs to locate the precise area they want to manipulate before they attempt it. Remember that this section would probably be moving as they tried to locate it, possibly quite fast if the animal was alert and fighting in battle, as the speed of the lifeforce flow will increase as its reactions become more rapid.

Most simply a being’s lifeforce flow can be gradually slowed down to allow for easier manipulation of the lifeforce. This will also often slow down an animal, as its body won’t react quite as fast as it normally would. It can be quite confusing or disorientating. Equally, quickening the flow might make something more agile and more aware of its surroundings, or a mind more focussed on its task.

Once a mage can do this, they begin to learn which parts of the flow control what, and can manipulate a being even more specifically. Using this knowledge to compliment the basic technique they already know, they can influence or control the reactions of specific parts of the body. They could slow the flow to a predator’s eyes for example and cause their vision to blur, or slow it to the legs so that they can’t react quite in time to prevent the creature from stumbling. However, because the lifeforce flow is so complex this takes time. Even if the mage is extremely competent with manipulating the species they wish to influence and has practiced this particular spell many times, they will still need several uninterrupted minutes where the being is close by and moving in a way they can predict. A fully qualified Llaoihrr mage after 15 years of apprenticeship would probably take between a quarter and a half-turn of the hourglass to do the same task.

Mood and temperament change so often day to day and vary depending on season, weather, setting, time of day. These do not resist manipulation as the body is used to these changing and can therefore be altered relatively easily. Something more permanent, like appearance, or even the personality of an animal, needs a different technique. Whereas before the mage was simply enhancing or diminishing the creatures natural processes, this actually goes against nature, which would normally return the lifeforce back to its original state over time. It is often necessary for the mage to repeat the manipulation many times in order to make an effect permanent. Back in the time of the Birni Kingdom, mages would not expect to be able to achieve significant results until they were over a hundred years old, but then they had the secrets of immortality to play with. These days it is possible, if a mage concentrates their studies on one species: birds, canines or rodents for example, to learn to change things like fur colour or eye colour with a degree of accuracy. Plants are simpler, and life magi have been known to study obsessively to be able to increase the potency of a fruit or seed made by a particular tree, or to subtly change the structure of a plant to make it harder for pests to eat.

History. According to popular legend the Brownies came into being when the Tree of Life was hit by lightning. Pieces of the bark splintered from the trunk and became the first of the Brownie race, who were infused with its magic. They tamed this magic, learnt how to use it, and so became the first life mages. The Memnoor still call this magic “Wood Magic” because of the belief that it came from the Tree of Life.

The first solid records of this magic being practiced date from the Birni Kingdom; a Brownie community who lived in the Paelelon Forest from 15,000 b.S. to about 10,000 b.S. They did amazing things with the magic every day, even making wooden coins that would never decay by "tying off" their lifeforce, or reanimating the tail of an animal on a fur coat so that it moved when they walked. They were able to slow or completely halt the aging process, giving really talented mages an infinite time to improve their skills. It is due to their remarkable abilities that these magically preserved scrolls survived inside a hollow tree called the Everbark for thousands of years.

No one is really sure what happened to cause the Birni Kingdom to collapse the way it did, but many Brownies believe that it was a punishment from the spirits for meddling too much in the natural make up of the beings around them. The survivors of this great disaster were scattered and lost, either fighting for survival in small, hidden settlements, stealing like vermin or being kept as pets. During this period, aptly named the "Harsh Years", a great deal of their magical knowledge was lost. Magic was never banned as it was in a lot of other races, but without the close-knit community students were unable to spend hours studying and learning it and the secrets were gradually scattered and forgotten.

The documents describing Birni Life Magic were rediscovered inside the Everbark by the Brownie hero Keekoo the Deliverer around 4020 b.S. whilst he was searching for other free Brownie tribes. The Everbark is a magically preserved tree in the Paelelon Forest, a relic of the old Birni Empire and a goldmine of magically preserved documents dating from that time. He spent several years reading and looking through those scrolls, finally selecting those that would be most useful for the new Brownie civilisation he longed to build. The information he discovered there allowed the Brownies to learn how to use life magic once more. However, there are certain glaring holes in our knowledge of this era and particularly its magic. No modern life mages can give life to something that isn’t alive, or kill a being outright, although we know that this was possible in the Birni era. It has been suggested, and much denied by most Brownies, that Keekoo consciously decided to leave these records behind, perhaps to prevent the life magi from ever becoming so powerful again.

When the new community of free Brownies rose in the Auturian Forests they did so with life magic on their side once more. After a few years Keekoo sent off different colonising parties to all ends of the world, and these took the knowledge with them. Five and a half thousand years on, the situation has naturally changed. Whilst life magic has thrived in the Llaoihrr’s secluded Vale, the scattered Aohu’o seem to have forgotten most of it and the Memnoor have gone on to develop other complimentary streams of magic as well. The Milken Brownies of Milkengrad have not used it for generations, but the last hundred years have seen a revival of it, with Milken travelling to the Council Tree to learn under the elders there. Return to the top

 Date of last edit 15th Singing Bird 1670 a.S.

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