One of the most important writing elements for me when creating the Echoes of Ashes universe was having a unique system of magic, with its own set of rules and its own unique elements. I worked for a long time—doing research, reading books, and talking to friends of mine—until I finally came up with quite a few elements that I was satisfied with (and excited about!) that I could incorporate into my universe.
In the future, I may make a separate post about the other systems of magic that I created, and how I went about it, but I wanted to focus today on my favorite: alamorphs. An alamorph is a sentient being of any race (usually human) that forms a soul-bond with an animal or mythical creature. Normally, alamorphs are drawn to all different species animals throughout their lives, until one day, they encounter their soul partner, and in one of the truest expressions of magic, their minds and souls become connected.
Artwork by Melissa Krauss
When this happens, the alamorph gains the ability to speak telepathically with their soul partner, and more experienced alamorphs are even able to see through their partner's eyes. The alamorphic—or soul-bound—animal acquires a few important traits as well, the most important being sentience. Animals that normally have only a basic form of cognitive thinking all of a sudden become self aware, and this can be daunting. This emotional crisis is something that their human partner is duty-bound to help them deal with, and that process only serves to strengthen their bond.
There are certain exceptions to these rules, and these arise when the alamorphic animal is a magical or mythical creature, such as a griffin, kitsune, or unicorn. These animals already have a certain sense of sentience, and while their sentience may strengthen once the bond is formed, they do not normally have the same mental crisis that, say, a hawk or a cat might have. Forming bonds with these creatures is exceptionally rare, but they are some of the strongest that can be made.
The greatest exception to the rule is when an alamorphic bond is formed with a dragon. Dragons are fully sentient creatures, having their own gods, laws, etc. When this bond is formed, the alamorph themselves is effected more than the dragon. They take on draconic personality traits due to the extremely powerful presence of the dragon's mind. They gain physical aspects of a dragon, including dragon wings and scaly tails. The mental aspects they take on can be either positive or negative. While some take on the wisdom and regal mindset of a dragon, others (quite often) take on a dragon's greed and lust for power. This, sadly, has given drake alamorphs a very negative connotation in the minds of normal people.
I based the alamorph concept on the animal companion ability found in Dungeons and Dragons. This is an ability gained by druids or rangers, where they are able to select an animal partner that obeys their commands and acts as an extension of themselves. I wanted this concept in Echoes of Ashes, but I wanted it to go deeper than just partnership. I wanted a magical connection between the two. That's where the telepathy and soul-binding elements came from.
When developing unique magic in a fantasy story, it is important—if not necessary—to read other books, and do your own research, until you find one or a few concepts that you like. Then, think about how you can make them your own. You can combine, subtract, or alter elements of different existing magic systems in other books to create something totally unique. This is, by far, the easiest way to make sure your magic systems stand out, yet are familiar and easy to understand.
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