The Sylvan Sta

I’m not going to share all my notes on what exactly all the Sylvan words and phrases in Book II are, but I will speak a bit about the Sylvan tongue, or sta/stan – speak/language.

Most of their language is comprised of brief roots, that in their script are typically one glyph.  Ta, te, ka, ki, ke, na, ha, un, ve, and so on are just a tiny sample.  Most if not all of these are words on their own.  There are a few modifiers like a, i, y, etc that can significantly change a word’s meaning.  Every key sound has an undertone of meaning ranging from quality, to gender, strength, and so on, but these are far from absolute.  They merely offer an extra level of emotional impact to the language for a learned speaker.

That all said, the language is a bit like english in that there has been a lot of degradation of the roots with time.  Most speakers have as such memorized words, and not roots.  Tepal (true-people) who re-root their speech are considered full of themselves, and too in their head.  That is except among the nobility, where it is common, and praised.  There is further massive use of idioms that have become as ingrained in their language as lol, or gun metaphors have infected english.

It is also what I (an amateur linguist at best) would call a half-tonal language.  Which is to say that tone, much like in english, mostly carries emotional import, or subtext.  The subtext however is almost more crucial in Testa (true-speech.)  It can change the meaning of words and phrases in ways that would be familiar to english speakers.  Question, or statement, doubt or certainty, command or request, and a number of hard to translate concepts.  Further, sarcasm is actually a built in feature of their language, and has at least three distinct forms ‘accusatory,’ ‘playful,’  and ‘leading.’

This obnoxiously introduces the idea of double-sarcasm, and is the point at which people learning Sylvan typically quit, or master it instantly.  This, in well used double-sarcastic form, would imply not judgement of either party, but props to the language.  In this case it would also mean about the same thing regardless of the form (tone), but there are nuanced untranslatable (most Sylvans even get a bit confused) meanings to each combination of tone in the double-sarcasm.  Very cheeky speakers may chain every other word in a differing sarcastic tone.  The effect of which is rather sing-song, and typically cheery sounding.  Just like in english, the speaker is probably making a total ass of themself for irritating effect.  A noble would never do this, at least not outside of very intimate company.


 

Side Notes:

Sylvan glyphs look similar (more rigid, and complex) to many runes used by mages, and there is some shared meaning with standard convention, but it is fragmentary at best.  Nonetheless being presented with Sylvan writing, rather than speech, Kiannae might have had a much easier time understanding some of it.

On pronunciation:

There is no direct z sound in Sylvan speech, but there is j, which is pronounced a bit like zj, and to be differentiated from g which is the strong gu.  I chose to use js over zs though for reasons, which the most astute amongst my readers might guess.  I also won’t cry over anyone juing instead of zjaing – its close enough.

Also when in doubt y is as in yet.


 

For kicks here is a translation of the first verse of Ivan’s song:

Vonjon vejon, jo os soer ven.
What-will-be will-be, [the] future not ours [to] see.

No, the rest does not translate into other parts of que sera sera.
It’s closer to “for every season turn turn,” but not quite.

For clarity: There is an idiomatic understanding of objectifying the future; which implies “will-be.”  A grossly literal and un-nuanced translation would read “what-future-being” “why-future-being.”   The objective n in Sylvan does a lot of complex things in various contexts, including changing vo (which) into von (what,) or ve (why,) into ven (see.)  The intent of vejon is a re-iteration of uncertain future, but again in an objective sense.  A more certain statement of “will be” would translate jo ji – but this is almost more like saying “[it] will be [done].”  A fairly proper answer to a superior, parent, elder, etc giving a command.

Now since I’ve given you ve (why,) then veve would best translate “why [ask] why?”


 

Feel free to speculate in the comments, I’d love to hear what you all think.  Keep in mind if you think it could be a spoiler please preface it for your fellow readers with [Book]:[Chapter]:Spoiler, or just “Speculative Spoiler:” if you think you have unraveled something far reaching. Thanks!

Cloistered Life

On a westward hill above the plains that span from Lycia to Eastern Palentine stands a cloister.  Not a place of that venerated order of men, who bare no want for this world.  Rather an ancestral home to that ancient sisterhood of women, who long forswore the fickle conceits of men, and found instead harbor with those of their own form, and temperament.

There is nothing harsh at all about that place – save the biting wind on a cold winter’s day.  The order some would label a Sisterhood is in all regards a reflection of their brothers who stood across the plains.  As the moon reflects the sun, they are tranquil – absent the fierce fire, the Clarion calling – without the burning vitriol of fervent dogma.  Yet all this passion not spent upon pious speeches, might find outlet in other ways.

Or so the tales would tell.  Nothing is quite so simple.

– The Lady of Red, Dorian Letner, 251 E.R.

 

Cloistered life in the kingdoms of Thaea may hold many expected qualities.  It is after all a lifestyle that lends itself to separating from the world, to meditative pursuits, and a mystique of obscurity, often hidden from prying eyes.  Yet to even discuss this life properly one must first separate two diametrically opposed religious philosophies that have adopted the same trappings.

The Lycian and Clarion orders differences, for all their textured history, and consequences do boil down somewhat succinctly to a vitriolic disagreement over the things of the world.  That is desire, war, philanthropy, materialism, agency, and sexuality.  Though it would be disingenuous to say either order is strictly speaking celibate, though one is heavily chaste.

The Clarion Cloister system is older (if not original,) though it seems to have adopted some patterns of older reclusive communes, the architecting of both the dwellings and way of life owes heavily to Clarion practice.  Lcyian’s, largely through the work of Sylvia Grey, adopted first an abandoned structure, and later many self exiled individuals who brought with them their way of life from the Clarion Cloisters.

Lycian Life:

In most regards Lycian cloistered life is the simpler, and easier system to explain.  The cloister complex is divided roughly into three sections.  Though they are rarely evenly distributed.  A Communal central area with workshops, kitchen, dining hall, and classrooms.  The Family area housing children and most often their parents.  The Devotional wing, which may further naturally subdivide by discipline, doctrinal adherence, and guest quarters.

The greatest complexity of describing Lycian life in detail comes from their limited doctrinal cannon.  They hold a few things sacrosanct on general principle, but the underlying faith of most residents tends to be spiritual, rather than based in a firm religious ideology.  They are largely pacifists, dedicated to healing, and not doing harm.  They are against war, but not above healing soldiers presented to them.

Red Sisters often dominate the Devotional wing of many cloisters.  These are the sub-sect of the order devoted to the teachings of Sylvia Grey, and by extension a life lived passionately, fully, with absolute love, and a commitment to all, never one.  Though a Red Sister will most often wear a crimson robe, there is nothing preventing any woman of age from taking up the robe, and nor does a Red Sister’s vows hold her to the robe.

There are three common robes within a Lycian cloister.  Each has either meaning, or function.  Brown robes are for work details, or rainy muddy days.  White or pale gray robes are common ware for activities that will not stain, for meditative free days, or for Red Sisters signal that they wish solitude.  Red Robes signify a desire for attention, particularly of a physical sort.  Most often these robes are relatively simple, though full Red Sisters sometimes seek out robes that are patterned, or trimmed elegantly.  For very heavy work there is often a mixture of more utilitarian clothing, particularly among those who specialize in disciplines of work for the upkeep of the buildings, or for climbing in orchards.

Lycian’s often maintain orchards, vineyards, and of course gardens for their own use, but also for sale of goods beyond their walls.  Scribes, canners, textiles, woodworking are all not uncommon.  Some cloisters even have extensive arcanist workshops for enchanted wares, though these tend to be rare in western lands that often have trouble keeping those with an inclination for magic from wandering, or seeking more lucrative lifestyles.  Further the most gifted healers – the primary export of any cloister – are often lured away by adventure, wealth, or other incentives.

Duties, particularly the less pleasant ones, within the cloister are fairly evenly shared, with a slight exception that those with aptitude, and skill in rarer capacities can undertake less desirable tasks less.  This encourages the young to specialize, and focus on being good at useful things.  A failure to dedicate oneself, or simply a lack of natural ability can be limiting, but there is no shame in this, just inconvenience.

Not all residents of a Lycian cloister are gifted, or born to the life.  Outcasts, visitors who have made donations to the order, and women renouncing their former life, and sometimes their share of wealth are all welcome.  The visitors who take up temporary residence lend to one of the slurs that is hurled at Lycian’s.  Given an entire order of women within their cloister walls are devotees of passion, who often take it upon themselves to ‘heal the weary heart, and soul.’

In spite of the epithet Sisterhood, male Lycian adherents make up nearly a third of the order.  Though less than a quarter of the adults within a cloister are likely to be men.  There are a number of likely contributing factors to this.  First the order rarely accepts men not born to the life.  On the other side countless outcast women have taken up shelter within cloister walls.  Many of the men within the order choose to live off cloister grounds, as they often have an easier time of it – perhaps because false incitements of harlotry do not stick as well to them.  A common cause for this choice is often that men have less authority within Lycian cloisters than women.  The head of a cloister is always a Matron, and men are offered leading roles within disciplines only if they are clearly the best candidate at the time of choosing.  Red Sisters notably are exclusively women, though this has rarely been a cause for a man to leave.

Clarion Life:

Structurally most of the general principles of Lycian life align with those of Clarion Cloisters, but there are very key differences that appear immediately.  First men and women do not reside in the same Clarion Cloister.  Children younger than seven are housed in their own wing of a women’s cloister, after which the boys leave either for a men’s cloister, or to live with their father, or an adoptive family.

Cloistered residents live in near celibacy, with a key exception.  Women of strong gift are expected to bare a child every four to seven years from the age of sixteen till their fertility wains (often around sixty.)  This is a duty, and a prerequisite for their continued residence.  The fathers are assigned from within the rolls of the order, again men of gift, preferably of near the woman’s age. Women of little or no gift will have no children, and this goes doubly for men.  Cloistered clarion men are far more likely to be entirely celibate.

Clarion women are trained more fervently in healing techniques – both for practical capacity, and because it is believed to increase the gift of their children.  Men are also trained thoroughly as healers, but receive a broad, and deep education as preachers.  Men are most readily sent out, and available for hire in their capacity in both regards.

This pattern of life has turned a relatively small number of initial devoted adherents into one of the largest blocks of gifted practitioners in the post imperial age.  Having maintained this from the time of the mid empire Clarion’s have installed themselves in almost every nation (only Lycia, Osyrae, and Napir are openly hostile to their presence.)  They have wedged themselves into the politics, and the identity of the populace, and made life difficult for Lycian’s beyond their cloisters.  This has further allowed Clarions to nearly monopolize the role of healer in many villages, and towns, but they struggle to maintain exclusive hold on major cities.

Clarions also take up varied professions within their cloisters to facilitate the wealth of the order.  Arcanists are more common among them on average because the role is assigned, and not a choice to pursue.  Clarion cloisters offer in general very little agency, if one shows any capacity for a skill of value it becomes the centerpiece of their life, and a part of their duty to the order.  To refuse is to risk being cast out, becoming apostate, and being persecuted until such time as one can gain acceptance, or seek refuge from non-adherent outsiders.

Not all young men are trained to be priests, or healers.  Some are offered to the order of Paladin’s for training.  These are often young men who are larger, more temperamental, and viewed as in need of deeper discipline, while putting their more energetic, or violent tendencies to use.  It varies greatly whether this path can be viewed as an honor for steadfast, and capable young men, or a punishment and last chance for troublemakers of strong physical constitution.

The life of a Paladin is very similar to any other Clarion cloister, but with a singular focus on martial training, and even deeper regimentation of daily life.  Their structures are often taller, and more fortress like, their courtyards filled with training pits, practice dummies, and smithies rather than meditative gardens.  Paladins wake early, train constantly, and often brutally.  Their gifts make them push young trainees, and even senior members to frequent, and sometimes serious injury, knowing that it can be healed.  Paladins learn not to fear pain as a result, to defy it, and rise above it.

The Paladin order produces all of its own weapons, armor, and equipment.  It is of singular quality, distinctive in appearance and material.  Forged by Paladins, enchanted by Paladins who take up magic as well as martial, and healing training.  Only those who master all three areas are considered Grand Masters, and there are rarely more than five Grand Masters alive at any time.  They hold an honorary rank slightly above Commanders who are granted their position by the order, and assigned to the service of Palentian and Ascension King’s and Lords, and occasionally to surrounding lands viewed as swayable to the Clarion faith.

Disambiguation:

Lycian is a very overloaded word.  Originally Lycia is the name of a nation of the far east, bordering the eastern Sylvan territory.  This name dates back to a wolf god.  They have long been an independent, proud people who favor their autonomy – though they were the first members of the Empire due to the very nature of how the Empire came to be.  Lycia has long held a tendency to matriarchy, which was only reinforced by the genocide committed against their men in the years before the Empire’s founding.

Lycia’s Queen Regent – even as the Empire permitted the expansion of the Clarions – refused to allow the Clarion faith within her borders.  This made Lycia a safe haven for gifted spiritually inclined individuals long before the rise to prominence of Sylvia Grey.  Even longer before that the patriarchal surrounding word turned Lycian into a slur with a textured range of meanings from weak and bowed when applied to a man, to sexually lose when applied to a woman, to possibly that she preferred women.  It is not at all unlikely that the connection of wolf to dog was lost on no-one.

Sylvia Grey, a infamous lover of women, a polyamorous intellectual, and one of the most renowned artists of her age made it one of her life goals to reclaim every defamed meaning of Lycian.  This coupled with the already growing group of apostates in Lycia set the Lycian Order in stone as her following grew to near cult like proportions, and spread.

All this has made the word incredibly complicated to use clearly.  It would have been so much easier if it was just the name of a minor island, and not a large, sprawling, prominent main land nation.  If only further an epitaph for a sexuality, and not also for a faith.  Sylvia’s own name was of little use, as this would only muddy the waters further by drawing the Sylvan people erroneously into the conversation.

Lycian in post imperial times only a slur in the eyes of Clarion adherents, and they just lump everything they hate in it together without much care for meaning.

Something to Swear By

A topic onto itself – beyond Audience Appropriateness, and my persnicketiness about other aspects of language – are the expletives, and I suppose to a lesser extent the pejoratives and accolades of the world of Thaea.  Much as there will be no “railroading” or other culturally inappropriate terminology, certain mythological constructs are not there, and others are.

Lets start with the big G, God:

While there are gods (lower case) in the form of mythology (mostly faded,) and while some might ascribe to a favored idea, the very notion of gods is a bit different for the people of Thaea.  Gifted were once far more common than they are now, a great age of reason swept the world, and while God may be a scientifically untestable principle to us mortals of Earth, for the gifted beings of Thaea it approaches testable.

Approaches I say because while they can be little more certain of the existence of a God or gods, they can be much more certain of the nature of these beings.  When one with any significant gift mediates, when they reach outward, rather than inward, there are forces out there, things with will, but not clearly thought as we understand it.  Certainly not on scales we understand it.  For Thaeans the split would not really be between God and gods, but between Gods and gods.

The elements, the forces of nature, and nature itself feel to the gifted more like Gods.  They are real, tangible things.  They exist, express will, and can be channeled, these are testable things, repeatable, though persnickety.  It is not prayer for they will not understand their words, nor answer their questions.  It is meditation, and attunement, a negotiation between the inclination of the forces around oneself, and the way in which one would like to shape those forces.

The lower case gods are the myths, the things that existed long ago that might seem more like a greek pantheon.  They are stories, and ideas that have lingered in the culture.  That scholars argue about the existence of.  Clearly these things are gone now, or never were, or are not quite as the stories say.  They are again often things tied with the forces of nature.  The moon (Laune) the sun (Rhan), something ancestral or animalistic such as Yaune (the first mortal) the lynx god (Fela) or the wolf god (Lycus).

On to the Fates:

Out of all this faded (defunct) mythology cursing God isn’t really a thing.  But an outlier stands up to be a pain in everyone’s collective backsides (asses is such an awkward plural, a 3:2 s ration, so hissy) the Fates.  The Fates occupy a very odd place in Thaean culture.  A defunct, almost lost mysticism, but some knowledge of these beings is still maintained by dedicated seers, and within the popular nomenclature cursing the Fates, swearing by them, or blaming them for misfortune remains quite popular.  More so even than simply “curse my lucky.”

Thaeans as a people tend to personify luck (abstractly) more that even we do.  Prophecy is real, but also painfully misleading.  Precognitive glimpses are common, and dangerous because you cannot (or at least few can reliably) tell the difference between spiraling towards an event, or away from it.

Now on the other side the Devil:

The word Hell does not exist in the world of O&E, and for that matter neither does the devil as a personified being. Demons and angels go out with the bathwater.  As much as struggling with ones demons may be a thing, and angel is a delightful diminutive the words have no place in O&E, they do not belong.  If you ever see either word in cannon smack me please.

That said there is an analogue to the devil AND hell in O&E but they are not separate concepts.  The Abyss is more a place than a being, but it is a force of nature within their mysticism believed to exist “bellow” the nether.  It gets some of the personification of a deity like many forces of nature, but it is not really considered to think, feel, emote, just devour.  The notion of the Abyss is very analogous to a blackhole, though more singular and all consuming as the ultimate doom of all things.  It is often even associated with the concept of Entropy, but there is argument over this.

Of course everything has an opposite, and where there is darkness there is Light:

Much as the Abyss is a vague analogue to the devil and hell, the Light is an equally vague (if not more so) analogue for a God or heaven, but also incredibly muddled.  The Light is often two things conflated – the Aether and living (particularly human) energy.  There are only fine distinctions between human energies and the energies of Thaea (yes the world, but also the living world, and a God capital g) but they exist.  Human life (generally) feels warmer, more delicate, and also often shallow.  It’s the same thing almost in the way that crude oil and gasoline are, but that analogy might miss.

I imagine, and will probably canonize some time in Book 2 (now that I think of it) that there is an almost mathematical quality to it as a factor of: life span, current age, consciousness, and scale.  A mouse then might feel like a vaguely warm raindrop, and a tree like a deep cold river.  That however starts to touch on the synesthesia gifted experience that I want to touch on at some point, but not here.

Not really something to swear about, but as long as we’ve hit G and D, lets hit E:

Evolution is taken somewhat for granted in Thaean culture.  The idea is very old, to the point no origin can be identified.  To ask a native who thought it up might seem as obtuse as to ask us who thought up the idea of gods. The mechanism however is more in debate.

Most Thaeans consider evolution as much a guided process as a random one.  Whether this is attributed to nature, gods, or intrinsic gift however is fuzzier.  Thaeans do have to contend with after all the origin of dragons, mutating nature of dire beasts, and other things shaped (literally) by magic.  They have a somewhat mixed knowledge of genetics, inheritance, and how it all works, but they come at it a bit more from the side of “patterns” than “chemistry.”  Skilled Shapers can observe the genetic behaviors of an organism, alter them, but not necessarily understand the chemistry of the underlying genetics.  I would liken it to not being able to see the trees for the forest.

What is more to say that magic is in the blood, or even accurately genes, is a bit short.  I will suffice to say it runs almost deeper than that.  Still rather than getting too technical/technobabble on how I imagine certain aspects of the gift work that might border on spoilers, I’ll leave you to wonder.

The Age of Myths:

Here is just a brief example of one version of an ancestral Thaean creation myth, which most modern Thaeans wouldn’t know to piece together half of, but the scholars have:

In the beginning there was not but the frozen sea, and the burning heavens.  From the fires of creation came Rhan the sun, and from him was split a twin.  Where Rhan possessed great radiant power, endless light, and thought, the other was filled with darkness, and mindless hunger.  Rhan was young, and could not understand this other as his opposite, only a brother, and tried to save him as he sank into the endless depths of the frozen sea, which melted, and churned in Rahn’s futile struggle.

Rhan was left alone in his burning heavens.  He looked upon the deep ocean, and the lands which had risen in his flailing.   He watched as the Abyss tried to consume the world born of his struggles, saw finally that it was hunger without meaning.

He made a new one from the sea, and the stone.  She was his mate, and soul companion, though they could meet only at the edges of creation.  While Rhan watched the day, Laeune guarded the night from his brother’s seething hunger beneath the waves.

Many tales go on to speak of other figures, children of these two primordial gods.  Vael the Light Barer, who became his weary father’s keeper.  Rhaea his daughter, and her fiery end.  The Lynx, the Wolf, and the Moon, which also tells vaguely of the coming of the first man, or woman, Yaune.  And why man reigns in all the livable world.

(Edit 2019) Estae was always intended, as she is referenced in the months, but she is a very complex character, as those who read far enough in will come to learn. There is also conflation between Rhan and Vael which is intentional.

Then there are the fates, numbered as three, of whom Yaune is one, though others call her Elise.  The fate of Stars, that which is fixed, which beyond mortal influence shall carry on undeterred.  The fate of Mortals (Elise/Yaune,) that of temporal permanence, shapable with great will for a time, but bound inevitably to change.  The fate of Elements, ever shifting, easily shaped for an instant, but so volatile as to be unsustainable.

And now on to Vulgarities:

Language is art, and art is a mater of aesthetics.  I won’t deny cultural norms of our world do play a role at times in influencing my choice, but far more it is a question of using an “ugly” word when “ugly” is the point.  It is not a mater of pulling punches, but landing the ones that mater.  Further the word needs to make sense for the speaker, and the context.  The characters we are dealing with now are (with the exception of children) all quite refined, living in regal context.  They do not throw around crass lowborn swears lightly.

Further sometimes I won’t use a word just because it doesn’t sound right.  Ass is really quite light, but as I said above asses is such a hissy word, really assholes is much better, but then you are going farther into the vulgar.  If someone is knocked on their ass, it has a very different feel more angry and expletive, than if they are knocked on their rear.  Context maters, and there might come a point where that context feels more on target.

I also like to play with language, and how we use it.  Not a part of O&E, but in another story world I have a standing scene where a crass pilot is swearing up a storm at a young prodigy and says, “No fucking way.”  The child’s intentionally dense response is, “What does copulation have to do with it.”

More appropriately in “The Red Book” (working title) which is a part of O&E there is a journal entry in which cunt, cunny, and a father’s favorite pejorative for those who displease him are discussed with some fuming ire.  Goodness I love writing in the voice of Sylvia Grey, she is so delightfully subversive, angry, and yet kind and playful.

Lastly lets talk about the gay:

The euphemism gay never happened in the world of Thaea, and I debate if even the older context of happy will appear, but I think not.  I then never became a pejorative, and with none of this history it was never then reclaimed.  Further there is no Greece, there are consequently no Greek islands, and there is no island of Lesvos.  Consequently there are no lesbians, as that word was also never appropriated or re-appropriated.

Now as already established (by as early as Chapter 2) there are women who love, or otherwise dally with other women.  There are also bisexuals.  Further though not clearly established in that chapter, of course there are men who lie with men.  I choose those words quite intentionally to bring along all the associated frightful cultural connotations that come when living in a world that is largely (painfully) sexually conservative.  It is going to be a problem.

This topic of language is also a specific thing will come up again in another aside (some day.)  I will drop a quote however (that belongs to Emperor Corinth,) and which while it may not seem related, I assure you, it very much is:

It was the women that gave the command to stand down, and yet still the Imperator did not understand.  It was not just wrong, it was not just an order I could not follow or abide, it would not work.  It was a crime – something worse than a crime – all for nothing.  If I hesitated at all to do what was right – however wrong even that was – it forced my hand that innocent blood would be spilled in ignorance, for nothing.  I try to believe those that died by my hand, at least died for something.  It is not always so easy to believe.”

In short, I’ve said before this world isn’t G rated, but here is some more perspective on what to expect in terms of language.

Edit: Made a small correction to properly state the history of euphemism -> pejorative -> reclaimed.  A minor thing, but I care about such details.

Magic and Maji

I tend to be fairly particular about language (it’s something of an obsession) but I bit off a bit of a whopper with writing fantasy containing Maji->Magic->Mages, and having entirely other supernatural practices beyond the scope of this nomenclature.

Magic within O&E is a rather particular thing; it is the spell craft of Mages, who took the title from the same root as Maji, who were the original practitioners from ancient Osyrae that spread the practice through the world.  For confounding fun the Maji were not originally mages, or even necessarily the inventors of magic as  a group.

Magic won – and that is a rather important point.  Mages tend to be the most highly educated people of their world (on average,) and tend to be particular about the term.  However the cost of their near complete dominance in the field of gifted practice is that to the commoner, all gifted practices are magic.  First world problems, as it were.

So it is that a stable boy might call something magic, that is really druidic, channeling, the healing arts, or something more exotic still.  Just like literally is used by some to mean figuratively, and like as a short hand for hyperbole.  That will give you some context how miffed Laurel might be at Sasha’s use of the word magic in Chapter 2.  I say this with some humor, but less to dog on the habits of modern speakers, as to point out that language is a fluid thing.

Lycians refer to the living magic, as something of an offshoot of their origin.  Their order was founded by a mage after all.  Though they practice little, or no magic.  She was even a rather particular bookish woman, but none the less the term stuck.

Druids (we’ll meet some, some day) would likely border on offended to refer to most of their practices as magic.  Since Druids tend to feel Mages subvert the natural order too much.

I try to maintain a fairly clear meaning to words around the supernatural practices encountered through the pages of O&E.  Channeling (using the leverage of existing forces,) conjuring (brute force,) and magic (spell craft, or a branch of it at least) all mean different things, but the lines can be blurred.  These are ultimately techniques for manifesting super-physical effects, rather than truly discrete.

I tend to favor ‘rational’ powers as a write.  That is that they follow some type of internal logic, and do an end run around physics, rather than completely subverting it.  There are few or no shape-shifters in the world.  Physical transformation is possible, but difficult, possibly extreme, and tends to be one directional.  (A particular example shows up (subtly) in chapter 4 as a historical story.)

The energy for all of this has to come from somewhere.  The ‘aether’ is a limitless power source, but comes at a cost.  Taking from theoretical physics energy can be borrowed (virtual particles) but must be paid back – entropy takes its due – and while an increase in ‘useful energy’ in one area occurs (order) the energetic state of the surroundings is lowered.  Certain enchanted objects actually degrade nearby materials over time in this exchange.

This all being said one can get clever.  Rather than taking all of the energy for the aether, one type of energy in the environment can be traded for another.  Heat converted to visible light for instance.  (What the common light orbs through out the story do.)  Carrying this further heat can be converted into kinetic energy, condensing and crystalizing air into a razor sharp projectile – or easier still like can be traded for like, shedding ones own momentum into the air around them to stop a fall.

Any way, at some point I’ll post a longer treatise on magic, spell craft, and gift (possibly in character as an excerpt from a fictional book,) but I thought I’d share this glimpse for the curious.