The Midlands Histories
Magic and Other Realms
Note: The following is written from an in-world perspective.
The Other Wolrds
No decent discussion of magic can occur without first understanding where it all comes from. The current understanding of the middle world is that it exists between two layers, each of which is itself another complete world. The layers are thin, like fine gossamer, and you can sometimes reach through one layer to touch one of those other worlds.
The first world exists “under” the middle world; it is the bottom layer. Now, it is not under us in a literal sense, so you can’t (necessarily) reach it by digging a deep enough hole. We say that it is below because we call it the Foundation, and it is the basis from which everything around you springs. In reality, the Foundation is all around you. You may reach parts of it by entering a cave and following the right path into the ground, but you could also reach it by climbing a high mountain, or swimming in a river, or by leaping into a roaring fire. At least, this is what I hear. I’ve never personally been successful in any such endeavor.
The Foundation is the realm of the gods and goddesses whose hands guide our existence. It is from there that they cast their will upon us all. That world is also the source of every elemental being you’ll ever encounter. The elementals are the seeds of the world given an animating, driving force. The gods also have other creatures at their beck and call; the foremost of these are the angels. An angel to a god is like a knight to a king. They are elite servants, born of divine power and ready to do their master’s bidding.
We belive the Foundation appears just like this world, only it seems much more real. From the grass underfoot to the clouds in the sky, everything seems to flow with energy and power. The gods reside as do our kings and queens, having claimed some portion of the Foundation as their domain, and everything in that domain is subject to their whims. We don’t know this for sure, but there are some folk who claim to have been there and come back.
The “top” layer rests gently on top of our own, like a veil over a maiden’s face on her day of wedding. At some point, though, the veil was ripped, and now it is easier to see (and move) through it. That’s how the fae got here, anyway. The Foundation is more real than this world, but Faerie is all dream stuff; shadow and light. Make no mistake, though, it’s still as real as anything. Just ask one of those eladrin, if you’re ever lucky enough to meet one. Despite living in that realm, their connection to the Foundation is stronger than anyone I’ve ever met. Maybe theirs is actually the middle layer, and the rip goes clean through? Who knows?
Faerie isn’t all pretty elves, and not all fae are so noble. It’s also the realm of nightmares and shadow. And it’s even more complicated than that. For the most part, the eladrin and the fae who follow their lead – the seelie court – seem fair enough to deal with, if you know how to go about it. But don’t be fooled; they can be as untrustworthy as any dark fae. They just hide it better.
The others, though, the unseelie court, are the other side of the coin. Remember “nightmare and shadow”? Yeah, that. Sure, some of them may be honest about their intentions, but that doesn’t make them any less troublesome. They’re just more like to bite your face than politely stab you in the back.
The Foundation is the well from which most arcane magic springs. Whether you learn how to tap that well during years of study at one of the academies, or if there’s some spark of it alive in you at birth, when you summon lightening or pluck daggers out of the very ground at your feet, you are acting as the gods did untold years ago and shaping the raw material of the Foundation with your desires. You are taking that which binds the world together, unbinding it, and tying it back together in a form of your making.
I say most, because some of those fae in Faerie are not content to keep their larks to themselves. Sometimes, they will lend out their power. Faerie has its own sort of innate energy, and some fae will share it with a willing (or foolish) person here in this world. In a similar fashion, there are also creatures that dwell in the Foundation that can be persuaded to share their power.
This is probably at once the simplest and the least understood type of magic. Not just every honest petitioner is granted the ability to channel the energy of a divine being. And who knows how the gods decide who is and who isn’t worthy? Not I; that’s certain.
But when they do, it’s like making a wish. There’s no complex ritual to memorize, no willpower necessary. A quick prayer for your god’s intervention, and it happens. Or doesn’t. Sometimes, even an agent of the gods makes mistakes. Maybe your god disagrees with your choice of action, or maybe you misspoke a prayer. Anyway, it’s not perfect.
But at least you have the reassurance of having a god on your side. Better than selling yourself to some strange, lesser power of Faerie or the Foundation. That’s what I think.
Not all magic comes from one of the other realms. There are energies right here in this world that you can use. That was one of the first things that the elves tried to teach us, though we didn’t really listen too closely. Some of those fae spirits I mentioned before came through into this world and learned how to harness the latent power here. Away from the strangeness that is Faerie, I think they calmed down a bit and settled in.
If you’re willing to show the world the respect they feel for it, they might just share a bit of that connection they have with it and if you’re good enough, they’ll show you how to forge that kind of connection, too.