There are several types of magic in the Empire. Many people debate as to whether they are actually distinct forms or just different philosophies describing the same phenomena, but in the end the debate is moot because either answer amounts to the same thing; many others hold up examples of “new, original magics” which are merely the old, familiar ones in new clothing. All magic in the Empire falls into one of the categories described below. While some people display a greater natural aptitude for a certain magic, most anyone can learn any of these styles.
The simplest, most common form of magic is really just a science so refined and popular that people no longer recognize it as such; it is the magic of plants and animals. Midwifes who heal seemingly mortal wounds or even bring people back from the dead achieve their aims through careful use of tea and a good meal sometimes, while woodsmen can track people or objects lost for years by noticing clues others cannot even imagine are there. This is not one of the “true” magics; there is no mystical force behind it, other than, perhaps, a deep understanding of nature’s connection to all things.
Typically gained through long years of practice, meditation, and study of a certain discipline, this is the magic of the body. Masters of a craft who achieve feats their fellows would swear to be impossible. But this is not just honing a craft until it appears magical; this is honing a craft while at the same time reshaping the body and mind using ambient mana in the Empire.
This is the one most people think of when they hear “magic”; this is people tossing fireballs, creating matter out of nothingness, teleporting great distances instantly, and so forth. Its mechanism is really quite simple, too. This is not the only plane of existence; others exist where the fundamental form of energy or matter is quite different; imagine a world just like ours where all matter was made up of fire, for example, or another where the very air was made of shadows. Gate mages simply open small portals to these other planes and allow some of that energy to flow through; the size of the gate determines the amount of energy, while the shape determines its effect. These gates are one way only; by opening a portal from the plane of fire, a mage might light his pipe. By opening another gate to the same plane, he could freeze a lake instantly.
Truthfully just another form of gate magic, this art focuses on bringing beings from these other realms back through the portals, rather than just gusts of energy. These beings are very powerful in our real by their very nature, but are also extremely dangerous if control is lost even for a second.
The deities are real, they are watching us, and they reward those who please them. This is the least cohesive yet easiest to explain form of magic; a deity can grant a follower any magical effect desired; but typically will only grant those that match its domain. The g-d of love may grant absolutely any miracle at all to ensure a romantic dinner goes through without a hitch, but will be of little use in a fight unless said fight is keeping you from a hot date.
To those who have the ability, light can be manipulated as if it were nothing more than wool on the loom. They can twist a campfire until it looks like a giant, or spin the starlight in the fields to switch the ocean and the beach. Their only limit is they cannot change the nature of things; merely the appearance.