I did not fully comprehend what was happening in the Deadwood while we were in its clutches, and only in the eerie peace of Senida have I had time with which to reflect upon it. Are the myths of the Nantese true? Do their dead congregate in that wood? I cannot deny the power of the place, nor the ghosts that visited and even assailed us.
The questions I have remain unanswered, and perhaps there are none to be found. Why did it seem to actively seek Bolton? Is that where his soul somehow remains? Will ours travel there should we die too? I physically shudder at the thought of being trapped in that place forever, and if that is truly Bolton’s fate I pity him above all men.
Those questions, though most pressing in my mind, are not the most important. The mystery of the magic fueling the Deadwood is.
Hierarchies of Power, the second book of the ancient Loremaster, is the tool to understand the mysteries of not only the Deadwood, but the wraiths of the Akari Grassland as well. At least, what I remember of Hierarchies of Power – I wish I had a copy of it to read.
The Loremaster’s compartmentalization of the world’s powers into three tiers is generally accepted as true: the spiritual, metaphysical (what he called the Atmosphere), and physical. What I want to know, and what few agree upon, is what presence or power the spiritual actually has among us.
The metaphysical is obvious, the source of all “magic” and power obtained beyond man’s natural ability. Unfortunately most of the Loremaster’s writings on the subject are useless to us as he lived before the Long Rise, at the tail end of an age where beings existed who could exert nearly limitless power upon the Atmosphere with the simplest of mental suggestion.
They lived in an age of unparalleled creativity, something that those living today scarcely believe could have been possible. The Loremaster’s account of his own abilities sound godlike. But one ability that he had which we can identify with today was what he referred to as “enchantments.” Although different from the enchantments of today, they are similar to our magic in general and offer key insights into the nature of the Atmosphere.
In order to explain it to the uninitiated of his day, he likened it to teaching their machines complicated algorithms so that they would take in information and respond with a desired result. In the same way he could teach the atmosphere certain responses to physical interactions. Thus he could design doors which would not unlock without the proper stimuli, or traps that would spring as if from thin air.
The Atmosphere, he said, was moldable. Teachable. He could attach its power to certain objects and states, creating powerful reactions even in the absence of someone as strong as himself.
Our understanding and how we express magic is much like this. The Four Known Skills are all different ways we interact with the Atmosphere (hand motions, meditation, the spoken word, and alchemical binding), triggering premade reactions that align with any given expression. Pures, people who essentially have a natural gift for interacting with the Atmosphere, are able to teach the Atmosphere to react to them in consistent, predictable ways.
A formalized expression is born when those methods are detached from the Pure himself and passed on to people with no natural connection to the Atmosphere. Thus the Hydro waves his fingers in just the right way and causes water to freeze, while the Unbound forms a particular mental picture through meditation and loosens gravity’s hold upon him.
The metaphysical Atmosphere, according to the Loremaster, exerts greater influence on the physical than the physical can return upon it. The hierarchy of the three tiers of existence is immutable, the metaphysical affecting the physical and the spiritual having power over both. Power and influence flows down actively with only a passive return.
What bothers me about the Deadwood is that few people are powerful enough to create mighty enchantments that sustain themselves actively over time.
The enchantments on my armor, for example, were masterfully made but only enhance the physical qualities of the armor or myself by an objectively small amount. The effect is significant to the user, but if we were to apply mathematics it wouldn’t add to the armor or myself what would exceed a fifth of our innate qualities. I doubt there are many persistent enchantments in the world that are much more powerful than this (though considering the variety of enchantments in the world, a direct comparison is difficult in general to draw).
Thus the amount of magic in constant use within the Deadwood could hardly be due to enchantment, but was clearly Atmospheric in nature as the persistent white mists should have proved (as you should remember from your training, white mist is a natural byproduct of the transference of energy between the metaphysical and physical states – the more energy transferred, the more mist is created). But what can exert that much power consistently? Even Inifra, whose appearance at the ford from the water itself created a thick mist, did not and probably could not keep up that single manifestation of power for long, let alone forever.
My fear is that there is some rift in the third tier, some spiritual breach into our world in the center of the Deadwood. I fear this because there have only been a few rifts recorded in the history of our world, and only one ever produced any good. The manifestations within the Deadwood, whatever power sustained them, were not good. What opens a rift is a mystery in itself, and no one knows with any certainty how to close one once it has opened.
I need to discuss it with Balthandar tomorrow and see what insights he can offer. This mystery is not my purpose for being here, nor can I risk a return to the Deadwood for answers, but I must record all that I can about it in hopes that one day these words find their way to the outside world. For if there is a rift in the Nanten as powerful and persistent as the Deadwood, then perhaps a Daedric Prince is not the greatest threat the jungle has to offer after all.