Astral Saga: Stars of Strife
The Nature of Primal Spirits
Primal Spirits are the living embodiment of elemental forces; all natural elements are made up of Primal Spirits. There are eight species of Primal Spirit: Air, Earth, Fire, Lightning, Radiance, Shadow, Water, Wild. Primal Spirits exist in a variety of sizes and forms. Some are incredibly small, like a single drop of water. Some are immense, like a mountain.
All Primal Spirits have some degree of intelligence, and are naturally inclined to act according to how people and cultures believe that they should. This is referred to as the spirit’s Ethos. The Ethos grows stronger through the attention and emotion of people and cultures. The Ethos shapes the nature and personality of the Primal Spirit, but also grants it more power.
By default, all Primal Spirits are in the simplest form possible, known as a Mote. A Mote is microscopic, so small an amount of one element that it is unable to influence the world around it in any way. Motes are everywhere; in any given space there exists countless Motes of all elements.
Despite their small size, all Motes have some degree of intelligence, and some inkling of a personality. Their Ethos exists, but is not very well developed. At this point, a Mote’s Ethos tells it to act according to the Grand Ethos. The Grand Ethos is a set of laws that were given to the Primal Spirits at the dawn of creation, and they closely resemble natural scientific laws. A Mote will act as natural science declares that it should.
When the conditions are right, according to the Grand Ethos, groups of Motes will begin the Convocation. When Motes Convoke, they are grouping together to fulfill their purpose. In many cases, this results in millions of Primal Motes coming together and taking on the forms that we are familiar with.
An example of this would the lighting of a fire. The Grand Ethos declares that, with the striking of flint and tinder, Fire Motes must Convoke, gathering together to form an actual flame, strong enough, now, to influence the natural world. In this case, it would influence the world through heat and light.
At this point, these Motes have become a Primal Spirit. While millions and millions of Motes have grouped together in the Convocation, the result is only a single Primal Spirit. A single one of those Motes has risen to the top, whichever Mote has the strongest Ethos. It becomes the Primal Spirit, and all the rest of them are slaves to it, grouped with a collective mind. This is the nature of all Primal Spirits, no matter the size.
At this point, the Ethos of the Primal Spirit is able to grow beyond the confines of the Grand Ethos. As Primal Spirits are capable of influencing the world around them, they are also capable of garnering more attention from the inhabitants of the world. This cultivates their Ethos, making them stronger and shaping their personality. For the most part, a Primal Spirit will still act according to how the Grand Ethos declares that it should, but it is now capable of acting differently as it develops its personal Ethos.
Continuing the example of the flame, perhaps the flame is in the form of a bonfire that sits in the middle of a village, and the people of that village believe that the bonfire keeps them safe from the dangers of the world around them. The Ethos of that Fire Spirit would develop into a protective personality. The people believe it will keep them safe, so the Fire Spirit believe that too. For the most part, it will still function as an ordinary bonfire, but on occasion it might behave differently. It may burn brighter and warmer when dangers are lurking nearby; it might inflict lighter burns on the villagers, and more severe burns on their enemies.
When the Ethos of a Primal Spirit becomes great enough, the Primal Spirit evolves, becoming a Primal Avatar. There are three ways in which Primal Avatars are different from Primal Spirits: complete freedom from the Grand Ethos, a fully realized Personality, and the Greater Convocation.
Primal Avatars have no more need of obeying the Grand Ethos. While they may, from time t time, still act like nature dictates that they should, they are capable of acting in an entirely contrary way. Were that guardian bonfire to evolve into a Primal Avatar, it might stand up and fight to protect the village. It might take on a different form, resembling those people that it protects. However, while no longer subject to the Grand Ethos, a Primal Avatar has a very strong and well-defined Ethos of its own, which it will be bound by. The bonfire, though it can stand up and move around, is still bound to protecting the village.
While earlier stages of a Primal Spirit are endowed with some degree of personality, it is not a fully realized personality until the Primal Spirit becomes a Primal Avatar. A Primal Avatar is capable of free thought, problem-solving, and emotions. So far as personality is concerned, a Primal Avatar is no different from a Human. It is because of this personality that many mortals consider them to be gods.
When a Primal Avatar is formed, it is similar to how a Primal Spirit is formed, but on a much larger scale. Rather than one Primal Mote gathering together other Motes to form a single Spirit, one Primal Spirits is gathering together other Spirits to form a single Primal Avatar. This is known as the Greater Convocation. The other Spirits are enslaved by the one that has become the Primal Avatar. They act as an extension of the Primal Avatars will.
While Motes and Spirits can be enslaved by others, a Primal Avatar cannot be enslaved, in that way. However, Primal Avatars will often form relationships of power among themselves. One Primal Avatar might set himself up as a ruler over other Avatars. They might serve him, but not as slaves. Their minds are still their own, but they choose to follow and respect the authority of the other Avatar. Sometimes. Politics can get messy, among the Primal Avatars.
While following the natural course, a Primal Spirit is always bound to an Ethos, be it the Grand Ethos or their personal Ethos. The practice of Primal Magic is a way around that. Primal Magic forces a Primal Spirit to bypass the Ethos. This is practiced in two ways: Evocation and Command.
Evocation is a shortcut around Convocation. While Convocation is the gathering of Primal Motes that are following the Grand Ethos, Evocation is forcing that gathering without regards to the Grand Ethos. Under the Grand Ethos, the Primal Motes should only Convoke when the right conditions are met. Through Primal Magic, the Primal Motes are forced to Convoke.
Evocation could be used in two ways. The first is to create a Primal Spirit out of thin air, and the second is to increase the size and strength of an existing Primal Spirit. In the former, a single Primal Mote is targeted, and forced to begin the Convocation. Other Motes are drawn to it, and it becomes a Primal Spirit. In the latter, an existing Primal Spirit is forced to draw in more Motes, thus increasing its size and power. In either case, the effects are temporary. The moment the Evocation ceases to be sustained, the Motes will act under the Grand Ethos, once again.
Command is used to move or shape a Primal Spirit. Through Command, stones could be hurled across great distances, or water could be sculpted into any form. Command is the most heavily used aspect of Primal Magic. However, it requires that the Primal Spirit already be formed. This could be that it is a Primal Spirit that formed naturally, or that it is one that was forced into existence through Evocation. As such, Command and Evoke are often used in tandem.
The strength of a Primal Spirit’s Ethos has a large effect on how easy it is to Command or Evoke it. A basic, natural Primal Spirit, acting only according to the Grand Ethos, is fairly easy to Command. However, a Primal Spirit with a strong personal Ethos, will still only want to act in the ways that its Ethos allows it to. This could be a boon or a burden to the one trying to Command the Spirit. If the desired Command is in line with the Ethos of the Primal Spirit, then the Command will be even easier, as the Spirit is willing to help. If the Command is contrary to the Ethos of the Primal Spirit, then the Command will be more difficult, as the Spirit shows resistance.
One way to increase power over the Primal Spirits is to build a rapport with them. In some ways, Primal Magic is a social act. If the Primal Spirits trust the user, then they will be more likely to obey, even if the Command isn’t in line with its Ethos.