Crystals are a fascinating subject for me. Ever since college, I consumed books and articles on crystals. I also examined more esoteric material, the supposed energy properties of gemstones.
With geology as one of my side hobbies, I decided to incorporate it into Ethereal Seals.
Elemental crystals are used as storage containers for magic (Shifting) and technology. The ether can build up in crystals. This forms charged gemstones , which can operate machinery or perform Shifting spells.
The Uses of Crystal Technology
Atlasian culture makes heavy use of Elemental crystals. Everything from convenience tools to military weapons see use. Below, I’ll list the more predominant ones.
- Ration Crystals: conjure food and water that doesn’t last long
- Vi’lances: power lance-like weapons that shoot fireballs
- Etheric stabilizers: power large machinery like spaceships or buildings
- Crystalweave: forms clothing that repairs damage and removes smells
- Etheric translocators: teleports users to a designated location
- Crystal glass pads: thin, flexible slabs that can display digital information (much like phones)
- Vir’gols: advanced, sapient weapons or tools powered through denser crystals
The Costs of Crystal Technology
While Shifting and using magic draws lifeforce from the Shifter’s spine, crystals mitigate this. Instead, crystals take the brunt of the stress. Any Elemental spirits alive within the gemstone experience great pain.
Imagine being trapped in a prison your whole life, strapped to a generator like a battery?
This adds a moral dilemma to using crystal technology. The protagonist, Pepper Slyhart, realizes this, and her perspective of crystals changes through the story. Crystals are also more limited in their uses compared to Shifting.
The Elements in Ethereal Seals are based off the Aspects, gods that rule over the universe. Crystals usually take after a certain Aspect. These being:
- Fire: destruction and cleansing
- Water: healing and preservation
- Wind: movement and space
- Earth: growth and form
- Spirit: abstract and astral
- Light: radiation and healing
- Shadow: free will and concentration
A Shifter can insert crystals into a vir’gol via slots in the devices. Upon interfacing, the vir’gol can draw upon the crystal like a battery and funnel the Shifter’s spells. Much like a wand.
Most vir’gols have sapience, which allows them to speak freely. They can also do telepathy with their masters. Once a crystal is removed, drained of ether, or damaged beyond repair, the vir’gol loses its awareness. It dies.
The connection between Shifter and vir’gol is called a Pact. A Shifter makes a Pact by inserting the crystal and activating the device. An oath is spoken, binding the Shifter to the weapon (and therefore the crystal) until the oath is fulfilled.
Some Shifters form a Pact subconsciously, only to later realize and strengthen it. To break a Pact isn’t easy. It causes emotional upheaval in the Shifter, in addition to nausea, lightheadedness, and confusion. The vir’gol is also disrupted and its crystal damaged.
One exception to this in the story is Myrnight, a cursed vir’gol that feeds off its masters energy. In this case, the vir’gol forms a parasitic relationship with the Shifter. Cursed vir’gols are rare and quite powerful, often at the expense of one’s sanity.
Crystals in the world of Atlas are useful, widespread technology. While there are serious costs to using Elemental crystals, they are a powerful tool for Shifters.
The plot of Ethereal Seals plays heavily on the moral predicament behind crystals. It also influences the protagonist’s journey, creating scenes of tension and character growth.
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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White