Rune Magic of the Teltaha
Utilized fully only by dragons, rune-magic can be extremely powerful. While individual sigils may be used independently, their true strength lies with the complete assembly of nearly 300. True rune-magic may be acquired through a gruelling ritual carried out beneath a tiny island in the middle of nowhere. The location is inherently known to all Teltaha, and all who share the black-blooded ancestry of dragon mages, though individuals must be powerful in their own right to use the full potential of the marks.
The island itself is a desolate rock with a single gaping cave at its base, but to even begin the ritual any dragon will be tested by the Four Marks; the lingering essence of the first most powerful Teltaha mages. The Teltahan bloodline has since been diluted by Synacra, who executed all the reigning mages of his day. Most Teltaha now lack the necessary magic ability; descendents of Akravater, Arcanys and the line of black-bloods may have an easier time of it, but are also liable to fail.
Passing the rites does not necessarily mean a dragon will successfully obtain all or any of the marks. If an individual is accepted, the rune-marks will be engraved in their flesh in sequence, until their power wanes or they cannot stand another. Once stopped, the ritual cannot be restarted, nor any further marks be inscribed. Rune-marks can only be used in balanced pairs, and if one’s final mark is an odd number, they will not be able to use it.
Wherever one stops however, their injuries will be healed, and the marks will fade into thin blue lines that only glow when their magic is used.
Rune-marks are all drawn within the confines of an evenly sized hexagon shape (though the hexagon may not be drawn in its entirety), and can be used in any combination of pairs (using one of any pair will often introduce its opposite into the casting).
The strength of rune-magic lies both in the strength of the wielder, and the medium in which the marks are placed: you could write them on water for a short-lived spell, or engrave them in stone, which is how the early Teltaha history was recorded. Ambient magic – derived from the ‘life’ in the vicinity – varies with the environment, and can also affect rune-magic. It is generally easier to cast rune-marks in a forest than a desert; unless there’s a powerful magical artifact in the desert, and so on.
Stones are a common vehicle for rune-magic, enchanted to make light, heat, or to store information in the form of images and sound. Battle-stones project the physical forms of warriors passed, and are used to train against.
While the appearance and placement of each mark remains very similar, if not identical between individuals, the lines interconnecting them can change to reflect the style or accent of a particular rune-mage. Rune-markings may be either right- or left-handed, appearing mostly on the body, but with the insight and thought marks on the same temple or brow.
Rune-Marks by Number:
Translating the nature of each mark is moderately futile, as they each represent multiple abstract concepts; which are thankfully understood quite instinctively once one becomes a rune-mage. The most well known marks and functions are listed below.
0 – the mark of oblivion, an empty hexagon with the top point not quite connected (counts as an even rune)
1 – the mark of beginning, officially the first rune, and used in every casting. The mark is balanced by the mark of finishing, which is necessary to make a rune construct reusable
4 – the ‘light’ or magic/energy going outwards mark, used in light-stones and any construct intended to do something to something besides the medium its written in
6 – the mark of insight which grants a rune-mage an instinctive awareness of the proximity and potency of magic beyond their own
151, 152 – the ‘shield’ and ‘sword’ marks are a consecutive balanced pair that together grant a powerful physical and magical defence. When a dragon bearing both these marks is threatened, their magic may automatically activate, making arrows and similar ineffective. This can be dangerous however, if the marks are triggered by an ally’s enchantment as the retribution is quite vicious.
The last five master marks:
1! Finishing – used to make spells permanent*, among other things
2! Endings – used to stop other spells, illusions, prophecies from coming true, if it’s used carefully
3! Death – used to make anything living, not-living
4! Oblivion – in its complete form, as one of the final five, the oblivion mark becomes a complete (but still empty) hexagon. It is used to banish things from existence
5! Eternity – can banish things from all existence, past and future; from all memories and records. Can make things eternal and indestructible (but as applies to living beings, both the body and mind would have to be preserved, otherwise you could end up as a pile of indestructible, immortal bones).
*The spell will last for as long as the medium carrying the rune-marks survives – if the marks fade or are broken, the construct will eventually break.
Showing some of the most known rune-marks, from top to bottom, left to right:
Beginning (right-handed construction), Beginning (left handed construction), ‘Light’, Insight, ‘Sword’, ‘Shield’, Oblivion (incomplete), Finishing, Eternity, Oblivion (complete)
Fortesian governs the rite of Self – where one must look inward and decide if they are worthy or even capable of undertaking the ritual of rune-magic. His mark is Oblivion.
The Fifth Mark is Eternity, and one must accept the future; all that will come if they continue with this course of action.
A Basic Rune-Construct Explained
Requiring only the first four marks, the light-construct is one of the most basic uses of rune-magic. The image below shows three versions of a basic light-construct (or rune-light), with the essential core and then the optional additions of the Third and Fifth Marks (Finishing and Eternity). All three of these constructs would glow blue, the neutral form of ‘outgoing’ rune-magic, but you could modify the intensity and colour by adding additional sigils and/or interconnecting lines to create a more nuanced meaning.
In Construct I. the runes read: ‘beginning, magic going out, through oblivion.’ Note the Oblivion rune is used in its complete form here, but adds no meaning to the construct.
The light is instead channeled through the Oblivion mark shape, but any rune, or indeed any shape could have been used here. Simply by convention, an actual mark is preferred and the Oblivion mark is frequently used because it is symmetrical. Such ‘effector’ markings always go in the same line as the beginning mark. Even when appearing in more complex structures, chances are if you poke a blank hexagon, or any other mark appearing in the first line, something will happen, as they act almost as switches.
It is also possible to leave the fourth rune off completely, but this would result in the entire inscription lighting up as there would be no specified target.
In Construct II. in the previous image, the First Mark, Finishing, has been added, making the construct reusable. Construct I. would be created with a certain amount of magic or energy, and would provide light for as long as the initial energy lasted; at which point the marks would fade completely. The Finishing mark stipulates that the marks will simply go dormant when the energy expires, and light-stones made in this fashion merely need to be tapped again to give them enough energy to last for hours at a time.
Construct III. also contains the Eternity mark, meaning that the effect of light should be continued indefinitely. A light-stone made thus would probably glow until either the marks were damaged or scratched out, or the magic of the universe ran out; given how little magical energy is needed to create light, in practice it would simply last a very, very long time.
This image shows the way rune-constructs are read: the beginning mark appears at the far left (or right in left-handed construction) and then each single ‘effect’ of the spell is written as a diagonal row. The beginning rune in the opposite handedness to the user’s main magic has an important use as the ‘and’ rune, allowing for multiple functions to be added in the same line.
Finally, this image shows the same construct as in II, but in left-hand construction:
The rune-shield’s automatic function has limited potency, determined by the ‘resting’ level of magic possessed by an individual (though this does vary; an alert, stressed mage would have a stronger rune-shield than someone asleep). This set amount of energy is distributed evenly in blocking all elements of a perceived threat.
Regardless of what the enchantment actually is, a spelled arrow will inherently be more effective than the otherwise identical, mundane variety, as a proportion of the energy will go into countering the magic.
In a similar fashion, a rune-shield can be quickly saturated by repeated blows.
Whatever the means of activation of the ‘shield’ mark, the ‘sword’ mark will subsequently trigger and release a certain amount of magic into attempting to incinerate any offending object(s). This response may be divided over multiple targets, but is generally substantial enough to destroy or damage weapons, and/or the limbs attached to them.
This poses a problem for powerful rune-mages, when their colleagues inadvertently activate the marks. Marked Blackbloods such as Siena and Kore have to be particularly vigilant about this, for their own sakes as well because the ‘sword’ mark can backfire when met with equal resistance.