The story’s version of magic is regarded in a few different ways, based on cultural and religious context. Most see it as a law of physics, when they think about it at all: living things and natural materials have an energy field, and with training, people can connect their own to that of another person or object and use that connection to accomplish various things. Nothing unusual about that. Following some religious traditions, such as the Church of the Four and especially the Tufarian and Eytran churches, some see it as evidence of divine power in people and the natural world. And in the Church of the Divine Balance, it is associated with the “connectedness of all things” that is central to the church’s beliefs: all things have energy, all things are part of the Divine Balance.
Since magic is known to everyone, though not practiced by everyone, it is never called magic. Generally speaking, the manipulation of energy is known as energy-working, though it is more frequently referred to in the specific: energy healing, earthbreaking, or watermoving.
As currently covered in the story, there are two ideological approaches to magical healing. Healers exist in other traditions and learn the art in different ways, but energy healing is difficult, failure can cause grievous harm, and it requires a deep understanding of the body. Most healers study either with the Church of the Divine Balance or the Church of Tufar. The results are the same, though pointing this out is highly aggravating to both schools of thought.
In either case, energy healers connect their own energy field to that of their patient, then use this added energy to sense the internal workings of the patient’s body and guide the body to heal or change. Energy healers are capable of quickly accomplishing what the body would take weeks or months to accomplish on its own. They are limited by their own reserves of energy — they tire easily, and need to know their own limits. In addition, different healers develop their own sense of “seeing” within the body, some more fine-grained than others; a healer is also limited by what they can “see” to fix. None can operate at a microscopic level of detail. Healers also cannot cure infectious diseases, though they can ameliorate some symptoms.
They are also limited by their own understanding of anatomy and physiology. Currently in the story, no one has yet discovered or fully explained microorganisms or the functions of hormones. Most medical understanding is refracted through their understanding of energy: diseases are thought to be caused by bad/tainted energy, some of which can flow from person to person. And so on.
In some cases, especially when it comes to treating people with herbal or compounded medicine, trial and error has led to effective outcomes without fully understanding the underlying mechanism. People tend to believe that medicines adjust the energies that are out of balance. But they still work.
The followers of Tufar, the god of knowledge and human arts, also teach and practice energy healing as a sacred rite. There are some formalized schools in large cities, but most healing priests take on their study as apprentices/acolytes under more experienced healers. This takes the same form as most non-healing religious apprenticeships, starting at about age twelve; the acolytes learn Tufarian scripture as well as anatomy, and then energy manipulation. After they are deemed ready by their senior priests, they are ordained as full priests. Most then offer healing services out of their home church, though a few work as itinerant healers.
In Furon, where this branch of healing was developed, healers train in much the same way as Tufarians do: as apprentices under elder healers. The majority of Balance healers otherwise are trained at the Academy of the Divine Balance in Nessiny. This has the side effect of concentrating more healers in northern Nessiny (where the Academy is located) and in more wealthy families (who can afford to send their children to the Academy).
(See the Academy of the Divine Balance for more about this training.)
Based on the same principles that govern healing magic, earthbreaking is the art of connecting one’s own energy to that of the earth and the materials in it. Like healing magic, earthbreaking began independently in several cultures at different times. In Yanwei, its practice and teaching is restricted by law to the Eytran priesthood. Elsewhere, including not far away in Kavera, earthbreakers are taught through secular schools or apprenticeships.
Earthbreaking is crucial to most construction and engineering projects in some capacity, and its existence has, in what may seem like a paradox, advanced the technological capabilities of the cultures that use it. Earthbreakers can find metals and other minerals underground, and the most skilled can work them without the use of smelters.
However, the influence of the Eytran church — even in areas where they do not fully control earthbreaking — has slowed what might otherwise lead to runaway extraction of valued materials.
Only mentioned briefly in the story so far, watermovers, similar to earthbreakers, connect their energy to masses of water. Furon led the development of this art in antiquity, and used it to help power their trading and exploration ships. In the timeframe of the story, watermovers are still employed to speed sailing ships.
Other energy work
As its name suggests, the Achusan University of Applied Energy was founded to discover new ways of manipulating energy. The ensuing decades of research have given Achusa an uneasy reputation among its neighbors, as rumors persist that the goal is to find new military applications of energy work. So far, nothing has been publicly revealed.