Very little hard information is available on the position of Earth’s “Archmage” or what it entails – although it seems to predate reliable records. What information is available suggests that…
- Qualifying to be Archmage apparently involves being able to use a selection of magical artifacts that come with the position. This seems to require that a mage be an earth native and highly competent – but he or she need not possess particularly overwhelming power. It is possible that the position of “Archmage” amounts to “technician in charge of the planetary defense systems”. The most consistently noted artifact associated with the position is the “Lunar Dragon Pearl” or “Orb of the Archmage” – evidently a device of considerable power.
- Some of the sources indicate that individual Archmagi have remained in office for almost a thousand years – a period far beyond the effective limit (160.2 years as of the last record-holder) of ethical means of magical life-extension using the Illiriat Erdagone. It seems likely that many Archmagi have adopted their predecessors name along with the title or else that the change of officeholder was not always noted.
- By some reports Ugyen Satera – the prior Archmage – had “moved beyond invocation magic”, possibly by making personal bargains with the various entities empowering such effects to allow him to call on their power with few restrictions. If true, this would probably account for the widespread belief that an “Archmage” necessarily possesses vast personal power. Of course, these are the same sources which give his age at the conclusion of his career at more than one thousand years. We suspect an element of exaggeration.
- From what accounts are available, the Archmage usually selects and trains his or her own successor (In our judgement this offers substantial support to the “technician” theory). If this master-to-apprentice chain is interrupted the position may be vacant for some time until someone else qualifies. During the last transition the elder Archmage apparently lost his intended successor in some magical conflict and was unable to train a new candidate before his death – so he organized an informal competition among possible successors and remained as a spirit to supervise it until a new Archmage was chosen.
The competition overlapped with the “Darkstorm War”, and apparently involved many of Earth’s more notable master mages. Several powerful candidates were apparently regarded as unsuitable by other mages, and some mages participated only in order to sabotage unwanted participants.
According to one report, a mage known as “Shiruba-suto-mu” won relatively early on through the use of a spell that imprisoned the essence of other magically-empowered humans in power-talismans to enhance his own abilities. Another mage named “Chi’an” then supposedly opted to cast a global spell powered by his personal energies which conferred a retroactive immunity to that effect starting about two hundred years ago, thus changing history – and leaving only a few individuals with powerful mystical defenses aware of the change. To say the least, this seems unlikely. Even if such a spell was possible, powering a global effect with personal energy would call for an impossible level of vitality – and the notion of a mage both capable of casting such a spell and reckless enough to do so is horrifying in itself.
In any case, with the competition continuing, there was a concerted effort to stop the efforts of a mad necromancer who attempted to drain the life energies of approximately twenty-five million people, the final conflicts of the Darkstorm War – once again involving a variety of global spells – and the choice eventually settled on “Belramos” – one of the individuals who had only been competing to block unsuitable cantidates (in his case an individual known as Red Jack). From what little information is available, it appears that Belramos is both less powerful and less subtle than the prior Archmage.
Earth’s prior defenses against dimensional intrusions seem to have involved several factors.
- The Rho-Field itself greatly reduced greatly reduced the effectiveness of invocations and the level of ambient magic, thus limiting the ability to make contact with the “Hundred Realms” or greater powers to get invocation magic in the first place. Apparently only the most powerful nexi – whether natural or artificial – retained enough power in the Rho-Field to reach other dimensions in the first place – and creatures of magic require a good deal of ambient magic or support from personal magic to survive. Without the support of a massive cult, magical-creature incursions were limited at best.
- The “Darkmage” had sealed a large number of power nexi; thus further limiting the number of possible summonings and further restricting the use of Invocation Magic. With his recent death, those nexi are unsealed – and outside of the Rho-Field they are returning to their full power while even relatively normal levels of ambient magic are now capable of supporting summonings.
- The creatures of the Imaginal Realms were further hindered by the limited number of people who were familiar with any one belief system. While the power available to any one group of Imaginal entities is still limited, the ability of belief to focus both ambient and personal magic, the greatly increase population base, and the spread of once-confined belief systems thanks to technological communications has vastly increased it.
- Information on using Ambient Magic and Invocations was relatively rare, and often restricted to specific groups. It had, after all, been of little general use for thousands of years.
- The Prior Archmage had erected some global or near-global wards – relatively weak effects, but sufficient to make access to the Earth quite difficult. Since the Archmage’s death, those wards have begun to fail – and his successor appears to be unable to manipulate power on such a scale.
Up until now breakthroughs have mostly been dealt with by individual “superhero” groups or small coalitions of groups. While an effective stopgap measure this is unlikely to be effective in the long run; at least one major invasion has already occurred and we know that additional attacks are underway.