Saturday, May 10, 2008

Magic: Soul-linking (familiars)

Soul-linking is a magical technique that is similar to a divine caster's ability to create soulbonded artifacts. The difference is that instead of the caster binding himself or a target to an inanimate object, soul-linking involves binding together two or more souls. Both wizards and divine casters can soul-link, and none of the targets for the linking need to have any kind of magical aptitude, though the creatures being linked together must be willing subjects. Once linked, the souls involved are bonded together in a semi-permanent gestalt of a mind. All participants retain their individual identities and personalities, but they all share their pain, their experiences, their knowledge and their skills. There is no range to the shared abilities in a soul-link; it does not matter if one member of the link is in Habruk and the other is Rensvaja; the link is still as strong as if the partners were standing directly next to one another. Magical ability is also shared in the following ways:

Channeling: All soul linked partners can use any channeling ability that any member of the group has access to. If the partners are also channelers, the amount of magic the group can channel increases. One member can effectively have double her normal amount of power by siphoning away her soul-linked partner's power reserves. Of course while doing this, the partner cannot use his magic, because his power reserve is currently in use by his soul-linked companion. If two channelers with different elemental affinities are linked together, any effect available to the group can be combined with any element, though a single effect cannot be given the attributes of multiple elements at once. The channelers must decide which elements to tie to which magical effects at the time of using the effects.

Divine Magic: Like channeling, all divine magic abilities and spells are shared amongst all soul-linked partners. The power reserve is also pooled and then shared. Characters in the link who do not have divine ability also add an additional small amount of power to the reserve, as if that person had only just begun to learn divine magic casting.

Wizardry: Wizards who are soul-linked together can use any spell prepared by any partner. The wizard who possesses the spell catalysts must still prepare the spells requiring those catalysts himself, however. A soul-link does not allow one wizard to prepare spells using materials in his partner's possession, though he can use his partners' spell books if the partners are literally looking at the required material in the book at that particular moment in time. Like divine casting, a non-wizard who is in such a link can cast spells already prepared and slightly increases the capacity for the group to store spells. If two wizards and a normal person soul-linked, the group would collectively be able to store more spells than the two wizards would be able to separately.

Soul-linking does not need to be done only with godtouched races. In fact, in many areas, soul-links between fellow godtouched is illegal due to the large amount of magical power that can be pooled and then unleashed by a single individual. Soul-links can be made with animals or even plants; any living creature large enough to be the target of the spell can be included in the link, although the animal or plant must be a companion or pet of at least one of the members in the link in order for the non-sentient creature to consent to the spell. When a non-sentient or semi-sentient creature joins a soul-link, that creature gains full sentience, any magical ability available to the godtouched member in the link, and all experiences and memories are shared. The godtouched also gains any heightened senses that might belong to the non-sentient creature. When wizards or divine casters link themselves to animals, they gain a small boost in the number of spells they can store or the reserve of power available to him, as if linking with a normal person. The animals can also cast any spells available to the wizard or divine caster, and while they cannot vocalize themselves, they can be understood as fully sentient creatures by anyone who shares the link. Usually, soul-linked non-sentients are called familiars, and their use is quite common.

A downside of soul-linking is that if one member of the group dies, all members in the link share excrutiating pain as the bond is forcefully broken as the dead creature goes to the afterlife. This pain can even be fatal to infirm or unhealthy members of the link, creating a chain reaction that risks killing all members. Any skills or abilities "owned" by the dead members of the link are permanently lost by all other members of the link. The recovery time from this pain can be decreased with magic or a particularly strong willpower or vitality, but often the unprepared severing of a soul-link can leave permanent damage.

Soul-linking with a spirit animal or unicorn does not have this problem, as neither of those creatures ever go to the afterlife. Granted, it is extremely hard to convince a spirit animal or unicorn to agree to a soul-link, because those creatures will still feel the pain of other members of the group dying, unless all members of the group are spirit animals or unicorns. If the soul-link is broken by a method destined to turn the dead or dying member into a spirit or ghost ghost, the pain also does not happen. But with ghosts, all members in the soul link might go insane alongside the ghostly member of the group. There are methods to safely break a soul link without such trauma, though the process usually takes several weeks of fasting, meditation and magical aid.

In Cerenbaun, soul-linking with anything other than a plant or animal is illegal, as is soul-links that have more than two members. In Igakari, anyone can soul link, including two godtouched, though similar to Cerenbaun, soul-links with more than two members are illegal. In the Rensvaja kingdoms, soul-links of thirty members or more are not uncommon. The channeler-kings of that realm will often pay divine casters and wizards to soul-link them together in order to more easily make consensus decisions, and also to solidify their channeling power and dominance over their kingdoms.

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