Atlantean Magic

History

As far as is known, the Atlanteans were the first civilization on Earth to develop magic, more than 14,000 years ago. The line between sorcerer and scientist was blurred in that age, as the sorcerers developed magic in an attempt to understand the workings of the world around them and master its secrets. Later, a group of sorcerer-scientists realised that they could seize power by exploiting the common man's fear and superstition, and began to align their magical powers to the worship of gods (which it appears they invented) and call themselves priests rather than sorcerers.

The Colleges of Magic

As different types of magic became completely associated with the rituals built up around different gods, the priests of that god specialised in that one type of magic and were literally unable to even learn the spells associated with another god. It is not clearly understood why this should have happened, as sorcerers of later eras had no such restrictions. But as magic is entirely reliant on the caster's willpower to bring about a visualised result, anything that caused an element of doubt in the caster's mind would make him unable to see the spell through to its conclusion. A priest of Poseidon could not cast a fireball spell because he knew that only Hephaestus allowed his followers to use fire magic. To the priest, therefore, this psychological limitation was all too real and unbreakable. In all the history of Atlantis, there is only one known instance of a sorcerer who was able to overcome that restriction, but that was the result of a singularly exceptional mind being put in an extraordinary situation.

There were eleven distinct branches, or "colleges" of magic, each with a different domain or sphere of influence. Each was associated with one particular god. And because each of the major cities of Atlantis had one particular patron deity, the centre for learning for each branch was the temple in that deity's city. The only city without its own college devoted to training the priests of its patron deity was Kingsmount, the twelfth (or, in some reckoning, the first) city.

The eleven colleges
CollegeDomainPatronCity
Enchantments Charming and enchanting people and objects.
The Mind Manipulating the mind. Psychopolis
Illusions Deceiving the senses.
Naming Incantations Understanding of the words and names of power that underlie all other magic. Athena Athenaeum
Air Magics Shaping and controlling the element of air. Zeus
Water Magics Shaping and controlling the element of water. Poseidon Poseidonopolis
Fire Magics Shaping and controlling the element of fire. Hephaestus
Earth Magics Shaping and controlling the element of Earth. Gaea Herculeum
Celestial Magics Shadows, the night, and the stars. Uranus
Necromancy The processes of life, death, decay and purification. Hades Necropolis
Black Magic Curses, blights, and the destruction of life. Hecate

Using Magic

Although learning specific spells takes considerable study, most spells, once studied and understood, take very little time and preparation to actually use, and involve simply speaking memorised words and/or making appropriate gestures, accompanied by an effort of willpower (thought of by the Atlantean sorcerers as a "prayer" for the spell to work). The more adept the sorcerer becomes at using the spell, the greater the effect he can produce and the more reliable his spell casting becomes. There is no guarantee even for an experienced sorcerer, though, that a spell will work reliably every time, and to improve his chances of success the spell caster will usually prefer to spend extensive preparation time, typically involving ritual meditation and prayers of devotion to his god. The spell caster will also try to surround himself with things he believes will make his god look more favourably on his efforts. For example, a priest of Zeus will prefer to stand on the top of a mountain, and will absolutely avoid casting spells in enclosed spaces where he cannot see the sky. Because magic's success depends so critically on the belief of the user, all these factors work psychologically increase his chances of success.

Iron

In addition to these psychological restrictions on magic use, there was one important physical limitation: the presence of iron would prevent magic from working. As Atlantean weapons and armour were typically made of iron, and priests were often trained as warriors, this presented some practical problems. One solution was to use weapons of bronze, but these were softer and more prone to breaking than iron. So the Atlanteans developed a process of alloying iron with silver, producing a weapon that was not only stronger than regular iron but also could be held by a priest without blocking his use of magic. The process was difficult and costly, so "silvered iron" (in later ages called simply "Atlantean steel") weapons were extremely rare and valuable. Even more rare were weapons made of a black stone, a form of obsidian, which was almost unbreakable and had no blocking effect on magic. (In more recent ages, the secret of producing Atlantean steel or obsidian has been lost, though a very small number of examples have survived from Atlantean times—miraculously unaffected by the passage of time.)

Anyone who wanted to prevent a sorcerer from using magic could wrap him in an iron chain, or even simply fasten an iron bracelet to his wrist, and spell casting would then be impossible.

It was impossible to place any kind of permanent or temporary enchantment on an item made of iron. To produce an enchanted item a sorcerer would choose either a precious metal (such as a gold ring) or perhaps a gem stone, or wood or ivory (for a "magic wand"). Enchanted weapons would be of silvered steel or, very rarely, obsidian. Bronze weapons could be enchanted, but it was generally not considered worthwhile.

The reason for this property of iron was a complete mystery to the Atlanteans. To understand it properly, and to understand why the restriction did not apply to magic after the Atlantean Age, we need to look at the physics of extra-dimensional entities, which is beyond the scope of this essay.