Long time no update! I’ve been mulling over this post for a while because it’s so integral to Verse, but it also has all the trappings that make people roll their eyes when you mention “world-building.” I wanted to write a bit about the “magic” system in Verse, which in-world is just called “The Verse” (Magic is a whole other thing, look I even capitalize it!).
To back-track a little, the setting of Verse is what I describe, (unhelpfully) as post-post-magic. There was Magic at one time, and something cataclysmic happened. Then there was no Magic, and the world fell into disarray. Then a thing occurred (which if you read any of the blog posts titled The Song, you’ll see what I’m building up to), and Magic came back. But it returned in a weakened state, and had a new name, “The Verse.”
I wanted to create a world where your usual fantasy magic has real gravitas. If you can say a few incantations and all of a sudden have a great big fireball in your hand, imagine the industry that comes out of that? You don’t have to burn coal or wood, you created energy! Or if you can levitate huge structures, then you can build anything. Now imagine that ability disappears, factories would stop, towns built around them would die off, cities would crumble. It’s not so much an apocalypse, as it is a slow death.
So, back to The Verse. In the story, it’s what came after this catastrophic event. It’s magic, but not really. The Verse is like the worlds biggest word search, spanning thousands and thousands of pages. And if you haven’t been taught what to look for it’s incomprehensible. People in the story have learned how to decipher some of it. By writing it out and repeating it, they can tap into this latent “power.” To put it simply, you can’t summon up a big fireball, but you can warm up a small pot of soup in a pinch! Unfortunately, the monsters in the story (the Vel) don’t have this problem and can use as many fireballs as they want.
There’s also a significant religious element attached to The Verse, but that’s for another blog post.
Below are all instances in the first 100 pages where characters have used The Verse, or it’s we've seen it in the background. They’re divided up into categories. It’s like a little compendium!
**Practical Verses **
Found everywhere and invoked when needed, these Verses are known by most folks and passed down orally in rural areas where access to teaching and study of The Verse is limited.
Feel the warmth of the bricks. The fire will last a bit longer, though the wood has turned to ash.
Shield yourself from the gusting wind, the embers leap high!
The roar of the forge is hot enough to melt metal but radiates little heat.
The light seems to radiate far wider than any other lantern.
Wooden structures built on the bones of an old city. Walk by them and sing the Verses carved into the wood, it prevents the beams from rotting away.
Protection against the Vel. Community leaders and priests are usually the ones to have knowledge of what to use during burial rituals to ensure the dead don’t come back as something much worse. Wards are also used to block sources of Magic used by the Vel.
Bound and silenced they cannot use our voices against us.
A song for our loved one's final rest.
Used mostly by trained Ryvers in combat against the Vel, these Verses are for weaponry and banishment of Vel, to make sure they never return to this world.
(Fife has a dagger in the first chapter that’s engraved with the correct Verses but he doesn’t know how to invoke it.)
Highly specialized pieces of The Verse that have been deciphered by scholars and priests over decades. Phrases that most wouldn’t think to link together create these intricate Verses.
A very long complicated Verse that encircles the Wraiths camp, it creates the illusion of foliage. A thesis project that Magdalena worked on during her time at the College.
Branca’s summoning gate. Let's not dwell on this for too long.
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