The Fourth Cause
Specialties: Alternate Timelines, Divination, Temporal Manipulation, Travel
Time, as the philosophers say, is the magic that all men know. The relentless tick of the clock leads down a road to an uncertain future, immutable, undeniable, equally profound to all humanity. Although time may vary with the observer — long moments of passion and profundity, stark seconds of terror or loss, relativity and the spin of quantum mechanics — it’s an undeniable part of existence. For mages who delve into the mystical study of Time, of course, matters aren’t so cut and dried. Science and magic both agree that the flow of time varies with the observer, that time itself is hardly the constant that it initially seems. Indeed, some students of esoterica question whether time’s linear flow is not simply another artifact of consensus, a happenstance result of random creation that’s no more constant than a changeable wind. Even those who accept Time’s forward march (more or less) still discover that the eddies, currents and branching paths of time are far more manifold and mutable than most people would ever guess.
Mages studying Time magic agree that the world is full of unexpected whorls and vortices of temporal disturbance. Time contracts around some places and dilates at others, though the regimentation of scientific time means that such phenomena are not as common as they once were. In unusual circumstances, time may loop back on itself, make jumps and rifts to past or future, or diverge in multiple streams. A trained mage can sense all such variations, although these phenomena are hardly predictable or safe.
Time mages often start with a basic sensitivity to the flow of time and move to comprehend their own subjective sense of it. From there, the mage learns to manipulate her personal perceptions of time, and later to extend that manipulation to others. Truly skilled mages can even warp, halt or accelerate time and step into past or future.
Obviously, a strong understanding of metaphysical ? ime is useful in conjunctional Effects, much like Correspondence. While control of space grants a greater range and sensitivity to Effects, Time magic allows the mage to “hang” Effects until some future time, dilate their duration or change their rates of manifestation.
Curiously, once a mage manipulates time in a subjective fashion, it’s progressively harder to rework the manipulation. If a mage stretches out a particular few seconds, for instance, she may gain time to perform responsive actions at her convenience, but further time-manipulating magic must contend with the fact that she’s already warped her perception of that time. Thus, once a mage has twisted a particular bit of time, she must overcome the momentum other own Effects to change it further. More importantly, once the mage is working with distorted time, her magical energies are already tied up in the feat. (Therefore, the mage can’t take six actions in one turn and use all of them for magic.) Masters of Time most often carry a strong sense of deja vu with them. People around the mage find time itself “fuzzed put,” as if the past, present and future blend to a single point. The mage may well manifest sudden, unconscious shifts in time, causing a flower to bloom or a book to
• Time Sense
As might be expected, a mage’s first initiation into the mysteries of Time is an awareness of time’s flow. The mage learns to discern subjective time, to keep an accurate track of her own temporal position, to notice anomalies and alterations in time and to track Effects through their temporal “wake,” the disturbance that all things leave in the flow of time.
Most Time magic leaves some sort of disturbance that’s noticeable to a mage who knows what to look for. Although an Initiate can’t really do anything about it, the mage can at least tell when Time magic are at work, and may well get the heck out of there! Natural phenomena sometimes cause odd Time distortions, too, and these are apparent to a trained mage. Actually messing around with time instabilities is a dangerous process, and more than one mage has been catapulted into far-distant times, alternate histories or bizarre temporal loops. The Initiate can easily feel such dangers and keep away spot, and he may even be able to determine how the phenomenon in question works. Although it’s impractical to always have a concrete sense of Time, an Initiate can often tell when someone’s scrying on her through time, and she can develop a powerfully accurate count of time’s passage.
Combined with the other Spheres, the basics of Time magic let the mage determine whether a particular Pattern has been affected unnaturally by Time and how it has been changed as a result. Furthermore, they give the mage better accuracy in using pre-existing time distortions in conjunction with other magic.
• • Time Sight
Although both past and future are hypothetically nothing but possibilities, it’s possible to scry through time itself to look at the probabilities that tie most closely to the direction of the magician’s own timeline. The mage can cast her perceptions into past or future and gather information from other times. The process is not always accurate; the future is mutable and some say that the past, too, changes as people’s memories and beliefs of it change. The clo ser the mage looks to her current present time, the more accurate the vision. Distant times and places may be inaccurate, fuzzy arid difficult to comprehend. Some places and times are even protected against such scrying by powerful wards or by natural phenomena that bend the course of time itself.
Simple pre- and retro-cognitive Effects just allow the mage to look into the past or future at her current location. The mage can watch time as if viewing it directly, pausing to skip to different points or glossing over some areas to speed on to others. She can extend her Time senses to such vistas and tell whether there are other temporal distortions at the times that she watches.
Mages can build walls of warding with this power, creating a great deal of “temporal static” to blow out Time senses in the same way that In conjunction with other Spheres, Time senses let the mage examine Patterns of the past and future, determine the course of fate and even read the thoughts of people in different eras.
• • • Time Manipulation
By extending personalized perceptions over an area of time, the mage can alter the apparent flow of time at a site. Theories vary over whether this is a true manipulation of the time-stream or just an extension of subjective time properties, but the fact is that such manipulations can create some very unusual — and powerful — Effects.
By dilating or contracting time, the mage can alter the rate at which things happen in comparison to the “normal world.” A flow of water could be made to trickle like molasses, a bullet could be slowed to visible speeds or a running man could seem to whiz by with incredible velocity. The subjective time of the target isn’t changed: the running man feels himself moving as if at normal speed, while the world around him seems to be moving very slowly; the bullet appears to onlookers to move slowly, but it hits with as much force as ever. Most mages agree that such Effects simply wrap the subject in a bit of slow or fast time, although a few hardcases insist that it’s a matter of altering relative universal time-flows or something equally esoteric. In general, the specifics don’t matter, since the end results are quite fantastic.
A mage wrapped in dilated or contracted time can easily cocoon himself in a protective layer that insulates himself from the outside world, effectively freezing himself in time, or accelerate to the point of performing numerous physical tasks in a few seconds. Different mages all have different ways of approaching this undertaking, of course, but it’s still a potent power.
With a bit of finesse, a mage can rewind or loop time as well. Doing so is very difficult, however, and it tends to draw down a lot of Paradox. Once time is bent in this fashion, it gets exponentially more difficult to warp it further, and such distortions are easily noticed by other Time magicians (and sometimes by astute sleepers!) as well as causing all sorts of interference that makes time sensitivity in the area go haywire. In short, the mage might be able to rewind a few seconds of time and reconstruct an event differently, but Paradox and destiny tend to conspire to make such undertakings profoundly difficult. Such redirections often result in unforeseen problems later.
• • • • Time Determinism
Instead of stretching or compressing time, the Adept of Time magic can literally stop time in its tracks or drop something into a loop that only releases at a specified time. Magic can be made to wait in place, as can other Patterns, the mage can cast suspension over a target so that it is literally unaffected by the passage of time or build specially keyed Effects that hold off until certain events come to pass. The mage can even freeze a target outside the time-stream, leaving it trapped and unaffected by the outside world while it experiences nothing more than the blink of an eye. Such powerful magic are often vulgar, but they can generate very potent Effects in conjunction with other Spheres. A mage who is temporarily “paused” in time can’t be affected by anything else in the normal time-stream, while a dangerous subject or out-of-control experiment can be easily frozen until resources can be assembled to deal with it. Indeed, by joining control over time with a dash of Correspondence, a victim can be trapped completely outside the space-time continuum — warded into a pocket that dissipates only with the cessation of the magic or the intervention of powerful outside forces. Many creatures and entities too powerful for mages to confront directly are said to be trapped in such a fashion.
A time-halting Effect combined with a Pattern Sphere can generate a keyed pause: something that doesn’t happen until a specific person, creature or item comes into the right position. With Entropy, a bit of Time magic can create an Effect that does not happen until a certain crux of destiny or improbability comes to pass. A princess can be put to sleep until her predestined true love arrives or a dying subject can be placed into cryogenic suspension while doctors search for a cure for his condition. Entire family lines or places of power can have magical Effects granted that wait until they’re signaled for activation, though use and the rigors of Paradox slowly erode such Effects until they’re gone.
• • • • • Time Travel
The pages of history are open to the true Master, who can not only immunize places and people from the ravages of history, but who can thrust objects and even individuals through time and connect points through the time-stream. The mage’s reach is limited only by her perceptions and by the constraints of her own magic and its concomitant Paradox.
By immunizing herself to the effects of time, the mage can essentially evade the passage of time in the rest of the world. To her, the world is a frozen plateau, one in which she may move about freely without ever interacting with her surroundings. The mage would wander about and perhaps pull other objects or people into her pocket of immunity just long enough to use them, then continue on her way. To the outsider, such events would seem to happen instantaneously and without any apparent impetus as the mage accomplishes several things between seconds.
With an anchor point to the present, the mage can send herself or other people or things into the near future or past temporarily. Without an anchor, the mage can send someone into other parts of time permanently. Either type of travel is fraught with peril. The future is uncertain, and the mage risks becoming lost in the mists of possibility, while the past is protected by the weight of peoples’ memory and their belief in its set forms. Paradox lashes out against mages who push too hard against the walls of time, and it has a nasty habit of undoing the mage’s works or shunting her into an alternate timeline — or even outside the bounds of reality altogether.
Naturally, Masters of Time tread with great caution. Things wait in the time-stream, perhaps more incomprehensible than even the spirits that guard the distant reaches of the universe. Mages who meddle too much with Time have a disturbing tendency to disappear, sometimes replaced by beings that masquerade in their place, other times arriving with full knowledge of a horrific fate that awaits them in some unavoidable time. Travelers can be pulled out of the time-stream by other Master-level Time magic in eras where they did not plan to go. And there are barriers in Time itself, places where even mages can’t see or dive, where nobody knows what happens to the magician foolish enough to beat his fists against the universe’s laws.
In conjunction with other Effects, a Master of Time can fire a spell off into the past or future, although its results may not be immediately apparent or may well catapult the mage into an alternate time. The mage could even send another person or object into a different time and pull it back to his present anchor point later. The mage can also use his Time magic to immunize other Patterns, causing them to exist independent of the clock that ticks for the rest of the world.