Let’s talk a little about the most ancient of mages.
Druids, Shamans, Harbingers:
The three ancient arts of magic, some say they are the origin of all magic today, some that they are antiquated, obsolete faced with arcane and divine magic. Yet they are still part of the world today, and their influence is more than equal to that of modern mages.
The legends say this art is older than time itself, that druidism was passed down to mortals directly from the primordial spirts of nature and that it was the very first form of magic a mortal could wield.
Druidism dates back to the first primitive ork tribes, then was adopted by wild elves and the first human tribes. It is an art focused on the forces of nature in all its forms, it is a chaotic by nature, bound to the whims of the elements, raw and powerful, one of the most feared form of magic throughout history. Druids harness the forces of elements, of energy and matter alike, but also of animals and plants, and of the spirits of nature.
Druids have spread all around the world, into the deepest forests, to the highest mountains, the hottest deserts and the most tumultuous seas. Some serve great spirits or are bound to a natural sanctum, some preserve harmony wherever they go as they travel the world. Today druids are very misunderstood, seen as primitives, foolish hermits who reject progress but there are many sects, many ideologies among the druids.
To most druids, “civilization” is not separate from nature, it only foolishly thinks itself so. They see in towns the same forests they travel, the same predators and prey, the same forces that clash against each other or work in harmony. Though they embrace nature in its pure form, they do not uniformly shun progress in all its forms.
In term of abilities, druids are known for two things, their savage fighting style and their wild magic. Druids are strong fighters, their bodies are forged by trial after trial in the wilds, they are fast, strong and know their environment better than any other. In combat they prefer organic weapons, usually made from wood and bone, clubs, staves, hammers, axes and spears made through magic from living material. They are dangerous opponents even to the most heavily armed of knights and guildsmen.
Their magic stems from three sources, elements, spirits and living beings. Many specialize in one though they are all capable of learning from the three.
An elementalist druid can be compared to a sorcerer, but their connection to the elements is less personal and they are always able to use all elements from their surroundings. They are about flow, both in body and magic, they will move constantly, using their movements to cast magic while making elements interact with each other to produce greater effects.
A spiritual druid will call on all manner of natural spirits to do their bidding. They will summon great animal spirits to fight at their side or grant them supernatural prowess, or call onto elemental spirits to shift the world around them, spirits can disrupt other forms of magic or cast spells of their own. They have the deepest connection to the great spirits and are usually blessed by one or more of them, being granted great power in exchange for their service.
An animalist druid will form bonds with beasts of the forest of all kind, predators and preys. Flocks of birds, packs of wolves, mighty monsters of all kind. They call upon their allies, they can see through their eyes, hear what they hear, they can learn from them and even change their shape to one of them. They also bond to the vegetation, to the point they can make trees rise from the soil to crush their enemies.
Shamanism was also developed first in orkish tribes, as a way to communicate with the spirits of the wilds and their own ancestors. The practice slowly developed into a first form of priesthood, not dedicated to the gods, but rather to the spirits themselves. Their faith and rituals let them communicate to the spirit world and harness several powers from the planes and the spirits themselves.
Shamanistic tradition depends heavily on their culture, and so do their powers and the spirits they can call upon. Shamans can summon spirits to the material world, communicate with the souls of the dead, call on the spirits of their ancestors for advice or strength, they also conduct most rituals in their society, rites in many forms, rituals to appease the spirits or ask for boons.
There are aspect warriors, who carry the tales of heroism of their ancestors and the history of their tribe. Temporarily calling on them to possess the shaman and grant them part of their powers. They can bolster the morale of their allies and grant unnatural strength and power. They can summon einherjars into battle or use the wisdom of their ancestors to learn secret knowledge.
There are also the spirit seers, they posses a powerful connection with the spiritual planes, they can freely see through the veil, sometimes even travel through the planes or between them. Their powers grant them great foresight and the spirits constantly whisper to them. The spirits may also aid them in exchange for offerings, those who answer are mostly the fey or other natural spirits, ancestors, sometimes the spirit of the dead but also spirits their tribe has bound and even minor gods.
The songkeepers are historians but also bards, they register the history of their tribe through song and recount them to the next generations, but also the stories they gather when travelling the world or that they learn from the “weave”. Songkeepers have a deep connection to the “history” of places and people, they can learn from the world around them as if reading the story of the world from every stone, every tree, every person they meet. And these songs they gathered are also a source of strength, they inspire the people around them to greatness, they manipulate the very world with their words, they can speak in songs to the universe and it may answer to various effects. They have many powers, but they are mysterious even to them.
They were those who peered into the abyss, perhaps the first in ages. The influence of the old ones changed them, they learnt forbidden secrets, old magic. Harbingers were many in forms, drawing from powers beyond, from the void. Some of them became the servants of the old ones, harnessing their powers in exchange of doing their bidding. Their will was nebulous, unknowable yet the harbingers would work to further their interests, if interest there even was. Some harbingers would wonder whether this was a bad joke at their expense, a way for the old ones to amuse themselves, twisting the limbs of their puppets, seeing how far they go… before they break. But they had nothing left to lose.
The old ones always preyed on the lost, on the desperate, the rejects and the pariahs. Inevitably they would be drawn to them, they could hear the call and then it would only be a matter of time. The harbingers have always been feared, their very lives are dedicated to the intricate will of their abyssal masters.
Their powers are many, in all forms of black magic. Some became the first necromancers, others helped the lesser spawn of the old ones to cross into this world. They forged the greatest cults of the abyss, sacrifices, rites, plans to tear the veil apart for the advent of the old ones their influence spread like an infection. Until they were stopped by the old tribes, the first unions of different species and tribes to fight the common threat.
No one truly understood the harbingers and their powers, much less their masters. Not then, not now. And their successors still roam the world, they were never truly defeated, they merely… changed form.
Here it is, I felt like talking about them, since some of what I’m writing now is relevant to it. I’m going to link this post into the first so that you can find it again if you want to.
Edit: Because this was way too much of a wall of text