Time mages don’t use blood, spirit or mana to power their spells. They burn time. In exchange for casting all manner of spells time pauses at a location. With preparation a mage can recite a spell that specifies the location. Without preparation, time is paused around the casting mage. Time mages cannot manipulate time directly as the focus of a spell; the temporal results are the payment not the effect. The power of a spell fuelled by time is limited by the mage’s ability to channel the used energy.
When time pauses at a location, it’s not completely stopped but is slowed to a billionth it’s normal rate. Any living thing trapped inside perceives no change as their viewpoint is within the paused space. A location cannot be used more than once as what is almost stopped can’t be further slowed. The volume paused and the length of the pause are proportional to the power of the spell cast. The edge of the paused zone is utterly impregnable. Objects bounce of it and fluids flow around it. Even light can’t penetrate and the reflections cause the boundary to slowly blur and become opaque. A curious and unexplained effect is that a volume can’t be paused if a living being is across the boundary. Instead, the location will shift slightly to prevent partial pausing.
To focus the time pause on a location away from themselves, a mage must know the name of the location and that location must be named. This is to the consternation of many, who would prefer to pause some nameless section of rock deep beneath the ground. Instead, mages have to use known geography. Spell power is reduced the further away the location is from the casting mage, but this can be compensated for by causing a larger or longer pause. The great deserts and oceans are covered in pockets of frozen time sent there as spell payment by time mages from all across the known world.
Time to Learn
Academies for mages wishing to learn time magic are often located far from large settlements as people have little interest in their city being paused by an errant spell. Large rocky outcrops are preferred as they’re perfect for digging large underground networks. These vaults are filled with tiny named rooms, designed for students to use as practice locations and targets. A few of these rooms will contain paused students, victims of a mistaken casting. Errors are also the reason that mage academies and the lands around them are littered with small pockets of paused time. The libraries are filled not just with spell books but with detailed maps for more advanced practitioners to use. It’s common for an academy to keep a team of chornographers on staff to record the locations of pauses and to map new territories for use.
The frequent time manipulation at the academies has long term effects on the chronographic landscape. The more noticeable effect is that it becomes increasingly difficult to use locations for spells. Larger and longer pauses are required to generate the same effects. The passage of time in the academy also starts to gently slow. A watchman at an academy is literally a man who watches a watch, moving about the academy and beyond to measure any distortions. Should time magic still be practised on distorted sites, the pauses will become increasingly chaotic in shape and size and the limitation of partial pausing will fail. This has only happened once in recorded history and academies often move to let the timescape recover before this happens.
Time for Side Effects
The battle between two of the most powerful time mages has yet to finish. Both mages resorted to casting impromptu spells and the clashing spells created a pause that even 400 years later has yet to end. Not wanting to become trapped like this results in battles between time mages ending when one has exhausted all of their prepared spells. Some time mages have learnt to specialise their skills on the creation of pauses. As nothing can enter or leave a pause, they can be used to delay advancing armies, protect city walls during sieges, secure prisons or preserve precious items.
- In a desperate attempt to prevent themselves from falling to death from the high tower of their academy, the time mage Eades cast a spell to deliberately pause their fall. Unfortunately, in their panic they made the pause so large there’s no space underneath them to arrange a safe landing. If the player characters can find away to save Eades when the pause ends in two days, they might be able to identify the attempted murderer.
- The Soul Diamond is kept in the deepest basement of the Time Academy of Stergaard. Once every one hundred years the pause that keeps it and the power within it secure has to be recast. This time however, most of the continent is at war and the academy abandoned. The player characters will find themselves at odds with a dozen competitors all trying to reach the vault for their own ends.
- In a valley not far from the city of Tihn Wehn sits a small pause, not much larger than a carriage. It sits amongst a ruin of what is estimated to have been a mighty fortress There’s no record of when the pause began or what might be within it. The pause is so old that the exterior has gone completely white, obscuring totally what’s within. A chronographer recording some nearby caves brought back a fractured carved tablet with two things written on it: an ancient word for fear and a date, 1 week from now.
Image Credit – Time by Moyan Brenn – CC-BY-2.0