"Arcane Magic" refers to the otherworldly power that can only be used by creatures who possess the Gift - the rare ability to tap into the power of other realms. Arcane magic cannot influence the natural world - magi cannot cause the waters of the sea to rise or conjure storms in the sky. Instead, they can summon their power from other worlds, no matter where they are.
Arcane Magic can only be used by creatures with the Gift - the extremely rare innate ability to tap into otherworldly power in times of need. Very, very few beings are born with the Gift, and the exact nature of the Gift is a complete mystery. There are tales that speak of the Gift being granted to children born during an eclipse, or to the seventh son of a seventh son, but most magi are seemingly born under normal circumstances, entirely at random. The Gift is not hereditary; there is no guarantee that a mage's children will also be magi.
Tales also say that the Gift is signaled by an outward physical sign. A child born with each eye a different color, or with a strange birthmark, might be suspected of being a witch or wizard. However, not all bear such a sign. The first true sign of the Gift comes at adolescence, when a child might stumble upon his or her powers in a time of extreme emotional stress. It could be as subtle as a single object moving nearby for no apparent reason, or as extreme as a crack of lightning snapping from their fingertips to shock the source of their anguish.
Some cultures - notably the Alfar - accept the Gifted and nurture them, teaching them to cherish their gifts. But most human cultures, who are less experienced with magic and fear its extremely dangerous power, shun and ostracize them. The Achaean Empire created the Inquisition for the purpose of hunting down the Gifted and removing them from normal society, lest they harm others.
The Nature and Use of Magic
Arcane power, unlike that of some other types of magic, is summoned directly from another realm. The mage cannot influence the natural world that exists around them, causing the seas to rise or a storm to fill the sky. That is the province of shamans. They instead conjur these elements from thin air through sheer force of will, or through the use of spells.
There are two ways that a mage can learn to use his Gift. The first is through practice and experimentation. This experience-based learning is difficult, but it forces the mage to become deeply in-tune with his or her elemental affinity. These magi are called Natural Magi or Sorcerers, and their spells are more limited in variety (they do not know as many arcane spells and have difficulty casting outside their elemental affinity) but are often much more potent.
The other way to learn magic is through training. A mage who learns spells by studying the ancient tomes of previous magi, possibly as a pupil to a master mage, can learn a much wider spell variety, and much more complex spells, but may not tap as deeply into his own element, resulting in less powerful elemental spells. These spellcasters are called Instructed Magi or Wizards.
It would be a mistake to say that either Natural or Instructed Magi are superior; one has range, the other has potency. A clever mage could make superb use of either advantage. And some magi, such as those who began their training late in their magical development, are a mixture of both.
Spells and Enchantment
While natural magi may only know how to summon magic using the power of their mind, instructed magi may call upon magic in a much wider variety of ways, by using Power of Words. A spell is simply a word, phrase, or sentence spoken in either an ancient tongue or the language of an otherworldly realm, such the language of Muspelheim, the Realm of Fire. If the person speaking has the Gift to tap into magic, their words will grant them some of the power of that realm. Thus, words can truly be weapons to the Gifted.
Casting a spell or calling upon magic of any kind takes great concentration and draws from the power of the individual, sapping his energy, with the most powerful spells leaving the caster feeling drained for a period of time. If a spell is interrupted during the casting, it can have mild to severe side-effects such as temporary loss of vision or searing pain… or even the complete reversal of the spell’s effects upon the caster himself.
Spells can be either spoken or written. Written magic is the more difficult to master, but is in many ways more powerful. A mage can silently call upon a spell by writing a rune in the air with a wave of his hand, or he may write it on an object to enchant it. Most enchantments of this type degrade the object upon which they are used, however, unless they are written in the eternal Language of Creation. This is called Runic Magic, which is not truly a type of arcane magic and is actually more difficult to master.
Elemental vs. Pure Arcane Magic
Among the most potent magic is that based on some combination of the four elements. They are summoned from the elemental realms: Muspelheim, the Realm of Fire; Niflheim, the Realm of Ice; Oceanus, the Realm of Water; and Aether, the Realm of Air. Although Frost, Magma, Lightning, and Clay spells are considered 'quasielemental,' as seen on the Wheel, they are summoned using Water, Fire, Air, and Earth spells (and the langauge of their associated realms), respectively. Fire spells conjure flames and explosions, Water spells can flood rooms and freeze enemies, Air spells conjure strong winds and lightning, and Earth spells can conjure stones and crystals. Light and Shadow are considered elements and can be summoned by some mages, but magi with these affinities are extremely rare. A mage who specializes in elemental magic is called an Elementalist. However, not all spells are Elemental in nature. By far the most mysterious form of magic - barring Runic - is Pure Arcane magic. It allows the caster to perform many amazing feats, such as teleporting between locations, conjuring illusions, creating invisible protective shields, or moving objects from a distance without touching them. Unlike most other types of magic, even the very wise do not know from whence Pure Arcane magic originates. Some suspect it is the same mysterious source as the Language of Creation (Runic Magic).
Because most arcane spells were discovered through magical experimentation by past mages and recorded in ancient tomes, instructed magi are far more adept at this type of magic than natural whose only learn their magic by experience. It is believed that Arcane magic might be summoned using any language for a spell's verbal component, but due to the age of most magical tomes, the most common languages used are High Imperial and High Alfar.
A mage who specializes in Pure Arcane magic is called an Arcanist, and one who concentrates on its subset of illusion magic is an Illusionist.