With hair of paper white and eyes
as bright as cobalt wrought with light
the Angels fly with magic's might
and woe to those who ask the price
Spellblight has been known to the Angel Saxons since before the Reshaping of the World when they were still known as the Albenmannen. Ever the creators of beautiful and wondrous magical items, they hammer pieces of their own souls into iron, casting them into new forms using the runes and patterns handed down by their forefathers, a strange art called Angelscript by the Middlanders. In doing so however, they deplete themselves and suffer from what is known as spellblight. This affliction manifests itself by a whitening of the hair and a blueing of the eyes, which begin to glow slightly, even becoming visible in the dark during the final stage of spellblight.
When an Angel Saxon smith forges a piece of magic arms or armor, a strand of their hair turns white as they carve a tiny piece of their soul into their creation. Among their kind, this is a form most beautiful, as it is associated with the most masterful smiths, which are held in the highest regard among Angel kind.
When an Angel smith's hair has turned completely white and his or her eyes cobalt blue, they receive their master title, which represents the number of works they were capable of finishing before the spellblight took over. The most famous Angel smith was Bearin of One Hundred Hammer Strokes, who had forged one hundred powerful magic weapons and armor pieces before becoming a master smith.
Once this stage is reached it need not mean the end of the smith in question, for spellblight incurred this way is rarely deadly. Still, if they continue to create more items with magical power, each piece will significantly shorten their lifespan, and if their soul is too damaged before they die, they lose their magic.
Spellblight in the Middle Lands
Mages in the Middle Lands have many opportunities to make a good living for themselves if they are properly trained. Farmers often pay good coin or offer shares of land to traveling mages that can bend hard land into a more pliable form suited for tilling or water fields for higher yields or during droughts. Academy mages are regularly hired as consultants and tutors by wealthy families and can even earn titles for themselves if they work for the right people. The best money, however, is usually in the five capital cities of the Middle Lands, Aquaris, Lumina Aka, Fulgrath, Arda, and Aerialis. The magic in the Middle Lands is extremely sophisticated and affords many benefits and a living standard to its people that would usually require a much higher level of technology. Maintaining this living standard and the magic behind it is a full-time job or better put a vast number of full-time jobs.
By use of spell ink, magic engines can be fueled by the soul power of common people who possess no magical training, and there is good money in creating them. Mages however have a decisive advantage here because their minds have been disciplined and their soul power augmented for using magic, meaning they can earn well and avoid the perils of working magic engines in the city.
The depletion of soul power that goes with the use of all ordinary types of magic, specifically the common elemental magic, is the lead cause of spellblight outside the Realm of the Angel Saxons, and common folk are the most affected because they lack the rigorous training and discipline of academy mages, who are taught to avoid spellblight at all costs.
There is a strong belief among Middlanders that those afflicted by final stage spellblight have damaged souls or none at all, and they are often derogatorily called 'blighters'. They are common among ragamuffins and the lowest tier of society since spell work generally pays well, and they often feel they have nothing to offer but their souls. Blighters who somehow manage to come into some money usually attempt to hide their affliction by dyeing their hair, often going so far as bandaging their eyes, claiming to be blind, as life as an effective blind man or woman is still less of a stigma than being a blighter.
A beggar on the streets of Aerialis, hiding her spellblight behind a cowl.
A blighter of Lumina Aka who has dyed her hair and hidden her eyes, sitting in the Seer Pools below Mount Tarkaal, now a member of the Seers of Tarkaal, a secret refugee society for blighters.
In Higher Circles
Academics of the Middle Lands generally do not approve of the whole 'blighter' thing and are well educated enough to know that the afflicted did not actually lose their souls but have only become vulnerable to overuse of magic. There have been attempts made by the mages of the Middle Lands to cure nullsickness, but none have ever been met with success.
Spellblight in the Yamato Kingdom
The Yamato equivalent to blighters is far rarer and called by a different name: "Yasha". The yasha are feared by the Yamato people, and many frightning fairy tales have been spun around these in principle harmless folk. Shunned by society they often flee into the Yamato Mountain Range to live the rest of their lives as hermits, always afraid of being killed by bold Yamato people that think they are slaying a dangerous creature.
While magic is not as sophisticated in Yamato society as in Middlish society, there are still orders of spell casters that are active in the city of Yamaseki. Contrary to Middlish opinion, the magic of Yamato mages is not esoteric but totemic in nature, though esoteric elements have been built around this principle. Totemic magic is a type of psychological trick that stimulates the release of the soul by believing a mundane object has some form of power. This power then actually comes from the person believing this. Yamato mages usually do this by writing dairihô maki (sometimes called "substitute law scrolls", scrolls with poetic calligraphy in it that is sometimes arranged in patterns, depending on clan and tradition). When practicing this magic, they sometimes overextend themselves, suffering from spellblight, as they do not possess the level of discipline and education that comes with the systematic and refined teachings of Middlish mage academies.
An Ukiyo-e (woodblock print) of the famous yasha Yoshitsune no Yôko from the fairy tale Mitsuyasha Monogatari
Additionally, the Black Market of the Uramachi of Yamaseki deals in dangerous magical artifacts and smuggled spell ink from the Middle Lands, sometimes employing outlawed spell engines for monetary gain or darker purposes. These criminal dealings often consume the lives of the lowest ilk involved, regularly producing yasha that then have to flee Yamaseki in the dead of night or live out a miserable existence in the so called Yashamura, a small, cramped district in the Uramachi unknown to the officials of Yamaseki as well as most of its citizenry. Here only yasha live, and their existence is meager and pitiful.
The TechnocratsEarly experiments with technamagix lead to several severe cases of spellblight and nullsickness, especially during the first major experiment called the Angel Project. There were multiple petitions and setbacks during the early stages of research due to this unforeseen consequence and its regular occurrence, but in the end the field of study was refined to a point where spellblight is no longer a concern for researchers of experimental technamagix.
The NullNull magic makes practitioners just as vulnerable to spellblight as regular mages, but Null are generally under higher performance pressure when they have to use their special magic, meaning that there have been several instances of Null mages killing themselves with spellblight, a possibility when pushing past ones soul power capacity with extreme speed and recklessly continuing to use their magic even after being afflicted by the final stage. Because they have been most prone to nullsickness and the effects of it are comparable to someone being under the influence of Null magic, this last part of the disease's progression was named after them.
Keeper MagicKeeper magic as a very unusual case since it does not follow most of the laws and principles of all regular types of magic. In fact most scholars do not consider it magic at all but instead a proxy power directly regulated by the great clockwork. For this reason, spellblight is almost never associated with the Five Keepers. Still, it is believed that there is a certain relation between their powers and soul power, so it is possible that spellblight might be a risk for them. Additionally, as living beings with type 1 souls, they are able to learn magic just as any other human being. The only exception is that they cannot manipulate elements outside their own, meaning most Keepers that do learn magic take to some form of clockwork magic or in extremely rare cases Null magic.
Stages and Symptoms
- First Stage: Strands of hair begin to go perfectly white.
- Second Stage: The eyes turn a bright, cobalt blue.
- Final Stage: The hair is completely white, eyes are bright, cobalt blue, and slightly glow. Expending the smallest amount of soul power beyond one's capacity will begin to shorten the lifespan of the afflicted by years at a time. It is believed because of this that the soul is connected to the longevity of some people.
- Nullsickness: Afflicted in the final stage of spellblight run the risk of damaging their soul in a process called 'gate cracking'. This results in an inability to use magic ever again.