In an earlier version of Kaendor, I was experimenting with an idea that fire is a demonic energy that rises up from the Underworld, and that all undead are monsters of fire and ash. It was one of those ideas that seemed really cool at the time, but couldn’t really get a firm foothold in my own mental image of the world. I was originally inspired by Dark Souls III, where supernatural fire and ash are at the center of the story and the whole cosmology. When I resumed playing Elden Ring this weekend and I was reminded again of the Frenzied Flame by an NPC dialog, I immediately knew I had to
pick that tread up rekindle that flame again.
Fire is of course dangerous with the potential to destroy and hurt. But it is also incredible useful and key to all human tools beyond sharp rock, pointy stick, and rope. Fire has rightfully been recognized by ancient myths as the basis of technology and civilization, despite its power to destroy everything people have and take their lives in the most gruesome way possible.
In the mythology of Kaendor, fire was brought to a world of darkness and water in the Era of the Primordials, when they angered the demons whose flames turned the world to ashes. After their rage has subsided and the demons left the world, one last glowing coal was found by the Moon, who breathed its fire back to life and created the Sun, to cast away the darkness of the Void. The other planets saw the new light that she had created and made the surviving primordials flee into the darkest depths of the sea. And they also gathered around the Sun to find protection in its light and warmth. The role of fire in the mythology of Kaendor is an ambiguous one. It was brought to the world by demons as a force of destruction, but it also is a necessity for all mortal life that followed. Unlike the Moon, the Sun is not a god. It simply is a vast fire that casts back the darkness and creates the space in which the natural world can exist.
Magic is a force that has the reality to alter the world in ways that go around the laws of nature. It can do and create things that are not naturally possible. But the natural laws are far too complex for any mortal mind to fully comprehend. And time magic is unleashed upon the world, its full effects are unpredictable. Even when the effects appear clear and not causing any immediate harm, magic can still cause countless of very minor and completely invisible changes to anything it touches. Ever so slightly, it can disrupt the internal complexities of any living things. And even if no effect is immediately noticeable, repeated and continuous exposure to magic will gnaw and tear at what makes a living thing function until it becomes sickly and twisted by magic’s corruption. The common spells taught by priests and shamans to their apprentices have been refined for many generations and are the product of centuries of careful work to reduce any unintentional side effects and make them safe and predictable. As such, they are an incredibly powerful tool to do good and make civilization possible. But many sorcerers, ambitious and always searching for greater power, experiment with new spells of their own creation and are reckless in their use without restrained or caution. They often allow magic to spread unnoticed beyond the intended effects of the spell, causing the spread of corruption.
In the world of demons, magic flows freely everywhere. It is part of the nature of the demonic realm. And as such, demons have no restrained in using magical powers and are unaffected by corruption.
Fire and Magic mirror each other in many ways. They have the power to transform and create miraculous things but also the ability to cause terrible devastation. They are very safe to use when used with caution and restrained, but will quickly escape control when wielded recklessly. And then they will continue to spread, consuming those who thought to control them and everything around them. They destroy life, ultimately leaving behind nothing but ash.
What really is the difference between fire and magic? Perhaps, fire is simply one of the most basic manifestations of magic? One that can be used by anyone?