Aware heroes serve their beliefs. They’re as true to themselves as they can be, but the magic never completely on their side. A mundane human goes from flipping burgers to someone marked by destiny in the span of an evening. Magic is capricious. Some people don’t discover that they’re marked for greatness until long into their lives, but they still bear that mark. It doesn’t matter how hard anyone works or who their parents are; something in the ebb and flow of magical energy causes Manifestation. Scholars claim that magic itself is sentient, perhaps omniscient. Whatever the truth, some people – whether they’re Aware or not – come face to face with their magical heritage.
These people are Legends. They don’t start out as heroes, but destiny grips their lives, forcing them to act. A Legend lives her life immersed in the magic around her: power that drives her to one of the archetypal Spheres. Each Sphere is a core role that channels her magical power. Through that role, she becomes great.
I want to go on a lager frenzy. No magic swords. No gems of occult significance. No rune-crusted wedding rings. Just a shitload of beer and a sore head in the morning.
Okay, maybe one gem.
– Grant Cassidy, Unquiet Retirement
A Legend can stick with one Sphere from Manifestation to death. She’s as true to herself as she can be; her Sphere externalises her underlying beliefs. Other Legends walk the Spheres, discovering how each archetype shapes what they believe about themselves. Some Sphere-walkers talk of haunting dreams featuring a Dark Lord who pursues them through their nightmares, of glimpses of impossible knowledge and forbidden thoughts. It seems that nobody can attain one of the three highest Spheres without these phenomena, but none who’ve strode so far discuss their experiences through anything more than metaphors and puzzles. These rarest Spheres are a trinity, headed by the mystical Crown: a living bridge to the Source.
Legends are adventurers – period. It’s just the way things are. A circle of Legends can’t go to a coffee shop without someone begging them to go on a quest. Spend a night in a bar, and a wizard might ask one to find a chalice last seen somewhere in the Clockwork Palace. If he wants to clean up part of his town, there’s going to be a conspiracy or a magical threat to bind. No Legend can deny his destiny. Once magic gets its hooks into your soul, you can’t ignore its call.
Manifestation is a deeply personal experience. No Legend goes through exactly the same ordeal when they find that magic has chosen them. Some Manifestations are sudden infusions of power, often out of the new Legend’s control. Other Legends walk a slow path towards the realisation of their personal potential. All Manifestations resonate with the Legend’s personal beliefs and show him a part of himself that he may not have known about before.
There’s no obvious trigger for Manifestation. A gang of orcs attack an Unaware guy on his way home from work. In the middle of the fight, something reminds the victim of all he holds dear, all he has to protect. There’s a blinding flash; he lashes out with renewed vigour. A mother praying at the bedside of her dying son finds herself working through her own thoughts. After confronting her demons, she lapses into a trance. She wakes up two days later next to her fully healed son. An Aware waitress who knows everyone in her part of the city has a fleeting encounter with a strange elf who seems more real than anyone else. She wanders through a hallucinatory labyrinth formed from the city streets. When she understands the pattern and escapes she unlocks her own magical potential.
Although some Manifestations are a rush of power that later subsides, the knowledge and perceptions of the world remain. While some draw parallels between sudden Manifestation and the Buddhist concept of Kensho, the ongoing effects are much closer to satori – not the first faltering steps on the path of enlightenment, but real walking. Kensho, being only a starting point, is closer to Awareness.
The journey of a Legend follows the routes magic carved throughout the Spheres, and the paths that lead between the Spheres. Each trail reveals a new facet of self-awareness; a Legend discovers other aspects of her personality. She has to be careful; there aren’t any guardrails, and she might not notice when veers off the edge. Only internal changes reveal what’s happening. If she is careful and true – and helped by other Legends – she can reverse her fall towards the Dark.
Spheres of the Light are deep and broad: the totality of a concept and all of its creative fruits. The Sphere of Strength puts force in service to a higher goal. The Sphere of Victory unleashes emotions that conquer all other sentiments. Nonhuman Legends of the Light transform into the Bright form of their Clade, no matter what they were before Manifestation. These Legends have to be careful – the path of the Light is both hard and individual. Nobody’s giving out any easy answers.
While the Light runs deep, the Dark is shallow. Instead of following his deepest beliefs, a Legend of the Dark gives in to immediate gratification. The Shells of the Dark are arranged like the Light’s Spheres, but differ in their execution. The Shell of Strength is the path of bullies and hot-heads, where might makes right. Dark Beauty squeezes toxic applications out of cheap junk. The Shells channel magic by denying the meaning of the Spheres. This enslaves a Dark Legend to a Shell, so that the hero gives up his ideals to it instead of harnessing it to serve them.