Aether - sometimes called the Ether, or the fifth element is an integral part of the world; it is an invisible and free-flowing current that permeates all that exists, whether living or otherwise. Just as how the very earth itself is the physical representation of the worlds body, Aether is the physical representation of the worlds spirit and its purest essence, this essence is usually out of reach for most races but with proper training it is possible to become aware of its existence, feel its presence and eventually becoming capable of channeling its energies in order to procure a plethora of supernatural affects and techniques reffered to by magic-users and Scholars as "spells". The process of reaching out to Aether however is very time-consuming and usually requires months of meditation and guidance in order to allow for the student to properly connect with Aether; and only once this is accomplished does he or she gain the ability to access their inner energy through which they can project magical spells.
All creatures in life are upon birth automatically infused with the spirit of Aether, granting them access to an inner, but somehow impersonal force labelled as Mana by modern Scholars.The precise amount of Mana available to any single individual differs greatly from individual to individual; some having larger resserves while others have much more modest ones. Scholars have long attempted to find methods with which to permanently augment a persons mana resserves, but all these attembs have been failures and it is now regarded as being pretty much incapable of being affected by outside forces and therefore set in stone.
Contrary to popular belief, Mana is not explicitly used by spellcasters; in fact - there are plenty of ways which also employ this natural resource, these ways being more numerous than mages; and almost always physical in nature. The amount of mana is also completely unrelated to magical potential; and its perfectly possible for a very powerful Sage to possess a much lower amount of mana than a common farmer. Proving that mana isn't an equal phenomenon.
It is only possible to temporarily enhance ones mana by wielding certain items, whose composition or material have the affect of manipulating or focusing the Aether through them; gemstones and certain pieces of wood are particularily effective for drawing upon Aether -- and as such these objects are very frequently made into staves, rods, amulets or even rings - whom serve to enhance the mages capabilities beyond what they could normally accomplish. As one would expect, these items are remarkably popular with mages whom have more restricted resserves. Items like these however are almost always very expensive and as such they're rarely seen. They're also very hard to make; and so far only Mysidia and the mage-city of Cinquleur have managed to do so and both groups adamantly refuse to teach the art to anyone else.
While one is inclined to believe that those whom possess a greater amount of Mana are generally better at everything, this is untrue - as while Mana may not be augmented, it is possible to perfect its useage so as to expend only a tiny bit of energy in order to employ ones most powerful technique with no power sacrificed, or energy wasted, though this feat is almost exclusively seen among Monks, the Monks of Fabul in particular.
The mysterious phenomena known as pyreflies is infact composed entirely of disembodied mana, which leaves the body of a sentient creature and rises up to reunite with the aether that composes the world; pyreflies are extremely important in numerous practises, including most forms of spellcasting - summoning Aeons and the appearance and creation of fiends. They're also closely connected to the use and creation of spheres, although these are secrets known to but a few select officials of Damcyan and Zanarkand.
Spellcaster is a generalized term used by commoners while reffering to a man or woman whom are capable of touching Aether; and thus invoke paranormal effects into being. They use this generalized description because very few members of the common man are capable of seeing the difference between them; the only exceptions to this rule being white mages and black mages; and even those they would be unlikely to recognize if they didn't don their trademark white and black robes
It is a proven fact that among all races and genders, anyone can become a mage if they're willing to go through the nessecary protocols and allow themselves to be properly instructed on how to reach for Aether; this particular step is usually the hardest one as to reach Aether its imperative that the student attembs to approach it with their aura, as opposed to their projected will or desire. This initial stage is known to take anywhere from a few months to even years for the student to accomplish .- during which time they'll be taught alot of magical theory to prepare for the day which they'll finally manage to connect with Aether.
While the vast majority of Spellcasters are forced to go through the effort of learning how to reach for Aether manually and through traditional excersise, there exists those whom are unfortunate or fortunate enough to naturally possess the ability to reach for Aether and these do not go through the process that other mages go through. As the moment they become self-aware they're capable of instinctively reaching for Aether, which allows them to (usually subconciously) spontaneously cast spells of a certain magical discipline if they're left with no other alternative. These are reffered to by other mages as Sorcerers or less commonly Naturalists. The condition of being capable of touching Aether so early and without training is generally seen as a disease, not because it makes them different but that without proper guidance and instructions, any such Sorcerers are likely to destroy themselves sooner or later, even if they somehow manage to supress their powers.
Naturalists are virtually non-existant in the race of Humans, whom generally don't possess a strong enough pull towards any magical discipline in particular, the only exception to this rule being Human Evokers, whom become Naturalists the moment they bond with a Whytkin, due to the fact that a part of the Feymarch opens up within their spirit, working as a channel through which they channel energy from their own world. Al Abassi are known to produce Sorcerers through natural means, with some Al Abassi possessing the ability from birth, Al Abassi Naturalists are either attuned to White or Green Magic - though the latter is by far the most common.
Spells is the practise which Mages use to draw upon Aether; spells are a vast assortment of effects which come in many different shapes and are always associated with one, or in a few rare cases several disciplines of wizardry, spells differ from conventional techniques and styles in that as opposed to directing the flow of Aether inwards, towards their Mana; and use it to empower their physical bodies the way non-spellcasters do. Spellcasters channel their mana outwards - through their aura to claim dominance over the pure forces of Aether present in the atmosphere, guiding its force in order to produce a vast assortment of different effects and conditions.
Magic, while it may belong to several branches of magic - each of them are related to a distinct set of categories. Which explain how the spell function and how it accomplishes its task.
Conjuration is one of the most common categories of magic, which is easily recognized for the fact that it revolves around drawing upon the forces of Aether in order to will something into existence. This is most commonly attributed to elemental mages, such as Green Mages and Black Mages, with the latter in particular focusing on this particular aspect of spellcasting. Conjuration spells are noted to be almost exclusively offensive in nature, but it also includes most conventional spontaneous defense spells such as Protect, Shell and Barrier. In the case of elemental spells such as Fire, Water, Lightning or Blizzard - the spell itself is only the means of which the element is procured; the caster needs to guide the flow of energy of the spell in order to produce any actual results, til then it remains invisible to the eyes of untrained individuals, whereas to trained individuals its influence is visible by looking at their aura and note how it behaves and which form it assumes. Once a spell has been cast, it will stay "stored" within the aura of the caster until they call upon the spell, allowing them to summon its power instantly and without delay - although they can only keep one spell stored at a time and their mana won't renew itself as long as this is the case. While it has its drawbacks, Wizards are generally in favor of this approach to spellcasting, as it allows them to defend themselves even in extreme situations where they won't have the time to cast a spell through the traditional method.
Conjuration spells differ greatly from other categories of magic in that a single Conjuration spell procures a certain amount of the intended element or effect; which varies depending on the skill and experience on the caster as well as how much time they spent casting it. This enables for the unique possibility of using a single conjuration to procure several different effects, and different effects can continue being procured until the original spell is spent, at which point the caster loses the spell and must cast another one in order to resume this process anew.
Manipulation spells are the complete opposite of Conjuration spells, as they, rather than channeling Aether through the body to conjure something, instead focuses on manipulating that which is already present, these spells are mostly ones dealing with controlable currents of magic or personal spells, most healing spells and the traditional boosting magic are manipulation spells. Manipulation spells are curious in that they don't work to merely draw upon Aether to will something into existence, but instead function by pulling and pushing it along, guiding the flow of matter, energy or aether to act in the intended manner. Most healing spells for instance actually work by tugging and pulling on the spirit of the subjects body, thus starting a reverse process which slowly undoes the damage caused within a certain timeframe. This is because for a while after a wound has been inflicted or a limb removed, the essence of the victim has not yet registered the change, and its this spiritual memory that helps guide most rudimentary healing spells - most healing spells thus use the memory of the victim, both concious and subconcious as a blueprint through which they may heal the damage, an incomplete memory or a damaged spirit retards this progress; healing spells of higher ranks usually allow the caster to move further along this imaginary cord and thus heal more severe injuries. White Magi are among the most well-known of all practioners of manipulation-magic with almost all of their spells being manipulations. While offensive manipulation-spells are highly uncommon, they do exist primarily in the form of most offensive Green Magic spells, with the sole exception being air magic; which is conjuration magic.
But among all users of such magic, Time Mages reign supreme, as virtually all of their spells, barring one or two are noted to be manipulations of existing conditions, situations or spells. Whether it be pushing the abstract condition of movement in a person or object along to reach great speeds, or even pulling on those very same conditions in a person or moving object in order to make it slow down to almost a crawl: Time Magic has some of the most powerful manipulations available to mages. One of the most powerful manipulations by far is the notoriously difficult act of halting the passage of time for a single target, forcing them into a temporary stasis; a spell that is highly coveted but takes alot of practise to learn, much less master to the degree that it might be used proficiently.
Transmutation magic is based upon employing Aether to change the world around the caster, usually in minor ways although the most powerful of mages are sometimes capable of inducing change in greater ways; because the constant flux of aether in the world and its atmosphere, such changes are very rarely permanent - with their exact duration depending entirely on the skill of the caster, the change they induce is thus limited to a certain timeframe before the flow of Aether turns the state of things back to their original state of being, while this is especially true for transmutation spells, its also very evident in manipulations - whose effects are rectified over a longer period of time. Conjuration spells differ in this regard, because they're conjured entirely by the caster and are thus maintained by them, but most conjurations disipate once the spell is fully tapped anyway, so this is rarely an issue. Transmutation spells are very rare, and most of them are also of a significantly high level, and spellcasters capable of using such spells are noted to be rather rare. The prime difference between Transmutation and Manipulation is that the latter focuses entirely on manipulating more obvious qualities, improving upon certain aspects or decreasing them, and its commonly associated by directing movement and guiding an aspect. Transmutations work by using the flow of aether to redirect phenomena and temporarily switch them with something else, by means of forcibly enacting change - and thus they cannot perform the finer more minute tasks that manipulations can: among all known magical disciplines, Elder Magic, and the Arcanists that wield it possess the greatest array of transmutation spells and effects.
Common transmutations include the elder magic spell, Umbra - which works by converting light and aether into a pall of magical darkness which obscures a designated area; noted to be among the easiest transmutations in existence. One of the most infamous transmutation spells in existence, and noteably one of the absolute hardest is the green magic spell, Break - which transforms flesh, bone and tissue into solid stone; at which point a strike of sufficient force can cause them to shatter into a thousand pieces.
Casting a SpellEdit
Unknown to most save for actual spellcasters and loremasters, what most people refer to as being a spell is infact not a spell at all, and that magical formulas are neither instanteous nor automatically effective; this is a fact mages jealously guard, because the knowledge of this would render many of them vulnerable; and because it removes quite abit of the natural mystery that sorrounds magic for common folk. For what most people wrongfully believe to be a spell is in fact merely a result of the spell itself, a conclusion of the spell itself.
The true spell does infact do merely nothing but establish a foundation for these wonders that mages invoke into being. These are referred to by simple, easy-to-remember names such as Fire, Thunder, Blizzard and Water; the name of the spell is in most cases identical to that of the element or aspect it attembs to invoke, manipulate or transmute. In the case of Conjuration and Manipulation spells - the spell itself does nothing except for fulfilling the purpose of providing the foundation of the particular effect the mage wants to invoke. In the case of Transmutation spells, the spell itself usually covers the entire process, with little to no personalization allowed, as the spell merely completes its specified objective and otherwise permits little creativity.
There are several main components involved in successfully casting a spell, which also help determine the spells potency, the amount of the element produced, the extent of control in regards to manipulations and the effectiveness and difficulty of resistance in regards to transmutations.
Pyreflies: The most essential element of any form of spellcasting is the phenomena of pyreflies, disembodied spiritual energy composed entirely of mana whom serve as manifestations of aether itself; and the effect it has on the lives of all sentient beings living in Spira. The ability to perform magic is an external process, for when its said that a person knows how to touch aether - what they're really doing is to guide pyreflies to coalesce to make their wonders come alive. Thus, whenever a mage casts a spell, pyreflies will materialize from the air around them in an inert state and at the behest of the caster take the shape of the desired element they wish to use in battle. But this is not nearly enough for beyond their ability to make real the imagination of the caster, the pyreflies themselves remain but aspects of nature and are thus incapable of doing anything without the guidance of the spellcaster.
For once pyreflies have successfully managed to adopt the shape of the desired element, the element itself, while visually indestinquishable from what it seems to be, is only complete in appearance; and otherwise remains insubstantial and harmless - merely being a shadow of what it actually represents. The actions taken up til this point is the actual spell among mages, for what comes afterwards is nothing but mere applications of that spell. It is these applications which common people have misinterpreted as being the actual spell, as while these applications might sometimes have names of their own and are in certain cases unique to that particular spellcasters, they're nonetheless but applications of the foundation that the original spell provides, without the spell. All of these feats would be impossible to accomplish, even for mages.
The subject of magical applications carry with it numerous different aspects, and its when the caster wishes to make use of the spell in the form of creating effects that things become complicated. For as the components making up the conjured element or effect are based almost entirely on the powers of aether and pyreflies, aligned with the casters will, their potency varies based upon the casters discipline and willpower; the stronger his conviction and discipline, and the more focused he is at accomplishing the task the more potent and effective the applications will be; with these parts playing primarily into how real the spell is, in essence how well it represents the element its based off of. This is largely why many black and green mages choose to specialize in using a single element - because in addition to make their spells of that element more potent overall, it also allows them to more easily employ more powerful spells - provided the element is the same as their specialization.