Magic hovers somewhere between a biological source and an expression of will. The core of magic revolves around transmutation of laws. A single law of nature is rewritten in an area, leading to a variety of results. An adept mage, capable of following through on the ramifications of subtle changes, can create a significant effect. The less capable tend to result in explosions or meltdowns as the changes cascade together until they are covered over by the larger tendencies of the universe. In some cases, however, such areas become uninhabitable or unusable for vast periods of time.
Responsible magi take themselves to the borders of the Wildlands and conduct research there. While the research can be challenging – as each mage has to contend with the mistakes and leftovers of previous experiments – it keeps the largest portion away from civilization. Further, some of the more skilled and daring consider it their duty to venture into the Wildlands and to deconstruct the magical remnants left behind.
The Wildlands cover slightly more than twelve hundred square miles, but have been expanding for several hundred years. Many groups of researchers, however, have noted that the expansion is increasing in rate. Prominent theories are that the interactions of the various spells left throughout the area are beginning to work upon each other in more powerful ways, rebounding and affecting the world more and more strongly. A group of dedicated magi are redoubling efforts to dismantle the borders and attempt to slow the spread.
The Tulanne Expedition (347)
Dame Molly Comfort Tulanne funded and led the journey into the heart of the Wildlands, laboring under the belief that the key to the spread of the Wasteland borders lay not along the more recent spells, but among the older aegis within the heart of the Wildlands. Among the volunteers was a hedge mage, Aiden Wishheart. Unlike many of his colleagues, Wishheart did not come from an established family, instead working his way up from the streets of Bran Tessen, making his reputation purely on his own merit. As a result, Wishheart was held in high regard by the already established magi. Further notables on the expedition included Isham Junius Gunn, of the well-known Gunn family who had founded the Gunn College of Research and Mystical Studies; and Sir Abner Westley, representing the interests of the Crown in the matter.
Upon venturing into the Wildlands, the Stone of Communication that Dame Tulanne carried ceased to function almost immediately. Despite this, the group pressed on into the heart of the Wildlands.
When, six months later, they returned, they came bearing notes on the various interactions of the spells laid within, although their usefulness was mired in the hopeless cross-contamination of years of experimentation. Further, Elvira Styles, Instructor at Gunn College, had perished within the Wildlands. According to the notes carried out, she had been melded into the earth some twenty-three miles in, and though she remained conscious, she was unable to be extricated.
More urgently, the other members had undergone a marked transformation. While they had entered looking like any other of their species, they emerged with drastically changed proportions. Their bodies had elongated, and likewise their limbs, albeit to a disproportionate degree. Their faces had been stripped of much of their identifying features, leaving them with an alien look about them. Their skin had the tone drained away, leaving behind only a vague impression that once, this one had been fair and that one dark, without a strong assurance on whether the paler had been truly pale or merely lighter-skinned than his brother. Most profoundly, none of those so transformed required the foci usually demanded for the workings of a mage; the primary expense and difficulty of magical workings had been removed for them, without explanation. Each identified themselves and each other as members of the expedition.
The only one that had not undergone the transformation was Wishheart himself. Indeed, coming back compared to the others he seemed grimmer and shorter than before, and he ever after kept the impressive beard that he had grown while in the Wildlands. Shortly thereafter, he became a recluse, rarely seen except for the most occasional speeches that his colleagues and students could wring out of him. While these speeches were at first well-attended, the public enthusiasm dropped when it became evident that much of his razor’s edge mind had been lost in the harrowing venture, and his speeches were more rambling than enlightening.
The original source of Vapor is thought to be a plant within the wildlands, or possibly some geological matter altered by the magical effects within. It’s original source is unknown, though it is believed that a mage by the nom de guerre of Lady Araminta Latimar, who returned from a three week journey to experiment in the Wildlands with the first raw source of Vapor. While under the greatly diluted effects of the unrefined product, she began the process of distilling a more potent form of the drug, eventually creating Vapor in its modern form. At any rate, the refined product vastly increases potential of a practitioner. Whether it be by increasing willpower, mental acuity, or merely the energy of the user, the end result is the same: a mage under the influence of Vapor is in a manic state, channeling magical energies in sporadic bursts as it swells to overflowing.
Those under the effects of Vapor display boundless energy, often stretching across multiple days of manic behavior. While they occasionally direct these efforts in a productive fashion, most typically there is a flurry of invention to no end, leading to an abundance of half-baked and questionably useful devices and spells that, when the fever releases its victims, prove to be difficult to use and impractical when they stay even remotely functional.