In the Shadow of the Sea
The Arcane Source
“All that is powerful is magical. The Arcane is the true Form; we are merely the reflection.”
-Azalus, the Sculptor
THE ARCANE SOURCE
Azalus the Sculptor is often worshipped by Mages and arcane inspired peoples across the world. The religious philosophy espoused by the ancient Elf speaks of the Arcane as a sentient, ancient force that is solely responsible for the existence of the universe. According to a follower of the Arcane Source, all matter and physical energies are reflections or shadows of the Arcane origin.
Followers of the Source believe in a deep respect for magic, and treat the casting of spells as a religious rite. The magical item or spell is to them essentially the direct image of a god, and the use of magic is regulated by religious doctrine.
Any practitioner of the Arcane Arts if likely to be a follower of the Source, though there are many of those professions who are not. Elves often have great respect for Azalus, and consider him somewhat of a tragic, though
Magic is an illusive thing. Throughout the course of history philosophers have grappled to understand its mechanism and causation, searching for why simple gestures or words can unleash such torrents of energy that can seemingly both destroy and create without limit. The ancient King Osphos is especially well known for his research and magical experiments, many of which showed little regard for ethics or rationality.
The prevailing argument during Osphos’ time claimed that the arcane was a result of a flawed world, where the energies of creation seeped in through gaps in the structure of the universe. The King, however, found such an explanation deeply unsatisfactory, and made it his life’s work to unravel the secrets of spellcraft.
During his studies and experiments, the King began to develop an idea of a natural arcane—a force that was part of the world as opposed to separate from it. He argued against scholars and clerics, claiming the magic of the world—and the energy it represented—was the elemental nature of being; that the physics of the world, the heat of the sun and even the supposed existence of the soul, were all arcane in nature.
Labeled a heretic, madman or worse, Osphos went about to prove his theory, developing the radical idea that a person could be given life by merely channeling a pure arcane essence into a form of flesh. “These are not divine miracles,” he wrote on the subject, “for what we label the divine is merely the unfathomable power of a greater entity—an entity which we may so falsely label a god—when the true power, which serves such greater purpose than a so-called god’s trickery, comes from existence itself. Not only are we bound to it, but it is part of us. And if I learn to harness it to its fullest—throwing out such ancient misconceptions as the idea of a spell as a means of its measurement—I could have an unfathomable, infinite, and endlessly malleable source of power over the universe. Power which I can use for good.”
The King eventually spent all of his Kingdom’s wealth on his undertaking, searching far and wide to find the perfect physical vessel for his arcane being. He finally settled on the body of one of his kingdom’s greatest sculptors, an Elven man named Azalus. The sculptor was a prodigy in his time, and had become reknown for his work at the young age of twenty-four. Osphos had the young artist killed, and his body washed and purified. It was in a small hut hidden deep in the forests—for numerous religious orders hunted Osphos for his heresy—that the King brought his creation to life.
Through the use of ancient and since lost arcane rituals Osphos had been able to distill the Arcane into what he considered a pure form, and once he had collected a sufficient amount of it, poured it into the lifeless body of Azalus. The Sculptor awoke, and much to Osphos’ surprise had all of his previous memories intact. Azalus possessed much more than his memories, however. Azalus found his mind filled with a great, aching presence, which Osphos in his journals described as the essence of the Arcane. The King wrote in his journal: “The sculptor is strong, and has not come to hate me for what I did to him. He is different, though. Different than any man I have met. Different than he ever was before. His eyes glow, and there is a radiance about him. ….He holds his head often, telling me it feels full, as if his skull cannot fully contain the mind that has been put in it. He tells me he sees images, and knows words no man has ever spoken. It is unfathomable. …He has begun to write. He has used up most all of my parchment with his scrambling. Sentences are rarely defined, and often lack any structure, but all is written in our common tongue. He writes of many lives and many hearts. He writes of years beyond anything we can count, and of nameless beings that once lived. He writes of mages, too, with great disdain. I have transcribed some of the ramblings. ‘We are living,’ he writes this most of all, ‘I am the limb and you are limb, the arm is held to flame and shadow is cast upon the wall. I am living.’ I cannot know what he means.” Within a month Azalus escaped the King, and Osphos eventual fate remains unknown.
- PART II: THE RETURN OF AZALUS
It was almost a century later before the Sculptor returned. He came to Kalkrath in the night, followed by a legion of demons, warlocks and worse. Upon his arrival he warned the Guild Council of the coming siege, but his words fell on deaf ears. The attack was brutal, and more than half of the city was torn to ruin within the first hour. The guard rallied, however, lead by Azalus and the great Morris Dustskull, who was then nearly as unknown as the Sculptor. Eventually the attackers were fended off, but in the aftermath the streets were flooded knee-deep in blood.
The citizens of Kalkrath, distraught over their leaders’ incompetence, and seeking an explanation for the strange event, brought Azalus, as well as Dustskull and the Guild Leaders, before a citizen-led tribunal. Azalus explained his past, and the terrible experiments of Osphos, telling the court that he had wandered for centuries, falling through realities and timelines, until he finally found himself in the present day, and returned to his home world. For all that time, he recalled, he had lived in endless pain, with constant voices speaking in innumerable tongues coursing through his ears. When he finally returned home, he wandered deep beneath the earth, almost as if he were pulled by unknown forces, and uncovered a lost shrine inscribed with runes and writing in languages he had both seen and never seen before. The voice was clear to him now. It was calm and eloquent, speaking of time and earth as reflections of his own power. Magic, the voice had said to him, was no flaw. The Arcane power that possessed him was the source of all gods and all earths. It possessed its own sentience and existence was its reflection. The Magic of the world was the ancient echoes and dimming shadows of the very essence of creation. All things are Arcane, Azalus proclaimed to the Tribunal, for the Arcane was the beginning, and all forces that we experience—from natural laws and energies to the humble powers of our own psyche—are quiet remnants of an ancient and distant music. This idea, that the Arcane Magics are the beginning and end of all existence, was dubbed by the Sculptor as the Arcane Source.
Azalus began to realize the nature of his existence, as the pure expression of the magical in a human form. He told the court that he began to spread the message of the Arcane Source. He used his pure, unbrideled power to illustrate his argument, and began to grow a collection of both followers and enemies. As he travelled across the land, he and his disciples were often attacked in the night, with his followers disappearing for days only to be found broken shells of themselves, telling stories of their being torn nearly apart by torture. As more learned of the Sculptor, more wished him dead or looked for ways to steal his power away from him. Eventually all of his followers were missing or dead, and Azalus fled to Kalkrath, whose location and power he hoped would offer him refuge.
Though some of the Tribunal were moved or intrigued by the Sculptor’s words, most found his claims baseless, heretical and the vote for his execution was nearly unanimous. Azalus was thrown into the dungeons to await his fate. It was there that Dustskull, often visited him, pleading for the Sculptor to use his power to free himself. But Azalus, a stubborn man in his ways, looked to be made the martyr, hoping that the power unleashed upon his death would be proof to the people of the city—and the world—that what he claimed was true. Dustskull asked him to write his teachings down on paper, and snuck in parchments for the Sculptor to use. In two weeks before his death Azalus had written over three thousand pages, forming the basis of what would later become the Book of the Arcane Source, later considered the holy text of his followers.
When the Sculptor was finally put to death, a bright light engulfed the city for thirteen days, leading to the deaths of animals and the sinking of ships that came to dock in the city’s harbors. For the next seven years the children of the city had greater affinity for magic than any previous generation, leading to the eventual increase in mages throughout the region and the founding of numerous colleges of magic. These children, curious about the cause of their power, came to learn of and understand Azalus as an almost divine being, seeing his teachings as the word of a power greater than the gods. Azalus became the face of a religion, and though they were opposed by most non-magical folk of the world for decades following, the Mages who came to worship Azalus were eventually able to cement their faith as a respected religion in the world. The number of followers of the Arcane Source continue to grow up into the present day.