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Ambient Magic is a form of magic known only in the Emelan Universe. It is not as well known as the traditional Academic Magic, and in fact is only one fourth times as common as academic magic. Ambient magic takes different forms depending on the mage and the craft he or she performs––common ones include stone, carpentry, healing, cooking, thread and needlework, pottery, fire, and weather. Ambient magic doesn't draw on the mage's self-created power like Academic Magic, but from the surroundings and craft items of the mage (e.g. a thread mage will get power from clothing and other woven things). Because of this, ambient mages have difficulty controlling a great deal of power constantly flowing into them, whereas academic mages struggle with building up their power.
Because their power is naturally tied into a craft or aspect of nature, the physical aspects of their craft, such as thread, stones, or even lightning, feel as if they are "alive" to the ambient mage. These physical components are attracted to the ambient mage, and from the descriptions in the books, seem to "talk" to the mage.
Perception from others
Ambient mages are constantly looked down upon by academic mages, who feel that they are more powerful. This leads to an advantage when a powerful ambient mage fights against an academic, as the latter is not expecting any sort of victory for the former. This is seen throughout the Circle of Magic books and later.
The best way an ambient mage learns is through the careful teaching of another, whether that person studied at university or not. As ambient magic has a tendency to break free of the user and cause havoc if not properly controlled, it is imperative that a student find a an accredited teacher. Ambient mages can be accredited through Winding Circle or the University of Lightsbridge. Although no other schools have been mentioned, it is likely that there are others as well. Ambient mages are more suited to Winding Circle, as opposed to the book learning of Lightsbridge, although both institutions accept both academic and ambient students.
Forms of magic
Ambient magic takes different forms depending on the mage and the craft he or she performs––common ones include stone, carpentry, healing, cooking, thread and needlework, pottery, fire, and weather. Ambient glass magic is described as "middling rare." Ambient stone magic is common, as stones make very good containers for power.
- Abilities - stopping or forcing weather (rain, wind, lightning, etc), limited manipulation of greater natural forces (the tides, earthquakes, hurricane force, the heat of lava/magma), hearing and (rarely) seeing current events on the wind
- Users - Trisana Chandler
- Kethlun Warder has lightning magic, but beyond his immunity to it and ability to manipulate it in his glass-making, his levels of skill in other facets of weather magic are unknown.
- Zhegorz Fiavrus is a wind-seer and hears voices on the wind, but it is unknown if he possess other weather magic, though it seems unlikely, as it would have caused noticeable disturbances long before.
- Abilities - uses related dance steps to create a desired effect (luring fish or thieves, invisibility, lifting and holding enemies in midair, etc.)
- Users - Pasco Acalon
- Abilities - stone-sensing, ability to communicate with it and move it (generally with the permission of the stone), communication with and temporary protection from volcano spirits, bringing light and heat to stones and crystals, identification of non-stone materials similar to stone (pearl, coral, etc.), increasing malleability of stone, self-petrification (a dangerous practice if done on the whole body)
- Users - Evumeimei Dingzai, Jebilu Stoneslicer
- Abilities - create unique glass objects with magical abilities (eg. scrying orbs or tracker/warning pellets), identification of glass works without sight through the piece's own knowledge of its form
- Users - Kethlun Warder
- Abilities - manipulation of fire, other unknown abilities
- Users - Pawel Godsforge
- Abilities - extending their magic into the bodies of others to fight infection or disease and repair injuries, immunity to disease as long as their power isn't completely expended on others
- Users - Dedicate Henna, Dedicate Superior Moonstream, Dedicate Grapewell, Dedicate Sealwort, Dedicate Willowwater
- Dedication - Water
- Abilities - aquakinesis, scrying and communication, relationship with aquatic creatures
- Users - Dedicate Myrrhtide
Combination with Academic Magic
A ambient mage can also use academic magic. However, undiscovered and uncontrolled ambient magic blocks academic magic. Despite this, a trained ambient mage is able to combine the two to a certain extent, though they are more inclined to ambient magic. Tris is one of these mages. The principles of academic magic also apply heavily to ambient magic. The magical properties of materials remain the same (ex: willow is for healing, regardless of whether it is being used in academic or ambient magic) and ambient magic is enhanced when placed in patterns as academic magic would be.
Development of Magic
There is some genetic predisposition to magic, as seen in Cold Fire.
"The type of magic is dependent on what the soul needs.
The magic went to the kids. I knew what I liked, what I hoped to work with, and I knew the classes and groups I wanted to deal with, but the magic chose. Magic doesn’t recognize class or social structure. It recognizes the soul that needs it, which is why Briar, Rosethorn, and Crane all three are plant mages, and Sandry and Lark are threadmages. Frostpine and Daja have more in common than the other teacher-student arrangements, but Tris has something in common with all of them, including Niko. And look at their students!
I think forcing the kids to have magic that would allow them to prosper in their original spots would have killed their idealism at best, their souls at worst. The way things fell out, they are free to find whatever they want. (Sandry may take a bit longer.)
I love magic. It goes where it will, and I can just type what happens."