The Umbral Stand is an interesting geographical feature of the woodlands outside the village. For a quick, and obvious explanation, it follows its name well.
Umbral, related to the word umbra, meaning shade or shadow. Stand, a forestry term, is a basic unit of forest mapping where a group of trees are similar in terms of species, density, size, and occasionally habitat. So for general information, all you really need to know is that the Umbral Stand is shadowy and all of the trees within are similar. Please do note that the Umbral Stand occurs inside the rest of the surrounding forest, and is not the forest in its entirety.
For further information, you might like to know that the name is actually a shortening of its previous, official title; that being, the Umbrella Stand. Throughout the years, since it is a rather dark place because of the tree type, the locals began referring to it as just the Umbral Stand, which eventually stuck.
These new details give a lot of insight as to what is there instead of how it is when you’re there, though. The Umbral Stand consists almost entirely of umbrella trees, which are mostly how you would imagine them. Tall trees with thick trunks growing to about 50 feet tall and then branching out at the top with long, thin branches thickly covered in leaves. This gives the tree, when isolated, the appearance of a large umbrella. When grouped together, the canopy these trees form blocks out most of the light from above and leaves only scattered patches of sunlight for the ground. Because of the umbrella-type formation happening only at the top of the tree, when inside a stand of them it’s more like walking through a dark field of pillars as opposed to what one might regularly imaging when walking through a forest.
The Umbral Stand is approximately ten acres by ten acres, with the Archaic’s workshop situated somewhere around the middle. An acre, for reference, is approximately 9/10ths of a football field, disregarding the endzones(so one goal line to the opposite 10 yard line, and everything in the middle). The average person can walk a mile in around 15 minutes, so to reach the Archaic’s workshop from the outskirts of the Umbral Stand it should take approximately 7 or 8 minutes. As an added note, the village is not directly next to the Umbral Stand, but about 30 minutes away(enough to feel isolated, but not enough to be completely hermitic).
Sphereshifting is the magic in this world. It’s as simple(and as complicated), as that. Magic can be a lot of things in a lot of places, but as with any other formal setting for it this magic has rules.
The first and foremost is that sphereshifting is a rather literal term. Every element of magic is separated into spheres of influence. Heard that term before? It’s pretty common. Do a Google image search and you’ll find a ton of great images and explanations of what this is exactly, so carrying on I’ll assume this concept makes sense to you.
And if you’re still a little confused? Here’s a picture! (I made it myself, so good).
My picture is empty, because sphereshifting is far too expansive to put in definitive terms. Think of every one of those spheres as its own type of magic, though. The main spheres are easy to understand. You’ve got the basics like fire, water, earth, and air. Nothing too extraordinary there; most every game, show, or the like has some variation of that. Then for some more advanced types, you’ve got metal, light, and shadow. These are pretty popular, too.
One important thing to note is that water and earth are simple spheres. There’s nothing more to them. Fire and air are advanced, meaning that fire has heat and air has cold. Metal, light, and shadow are complex and follow separate rules than the others.
And that’s it. The basics are very simple. Everyone in my world usually has a basic understanding of all seven of those, though some specialize more than others.
But there’s more! Spheres of influence, remember?
All seven of these spheres intersect in various ways, and depending on the user they can combine into more and more. Let’s start with water, since that’s what Rei prefers.
Water mixed with earth makes mud; not so exciting in its simple form. Water and fire creates steam. Water and air forms ice. Now we’re getting somewhere! Shifting through spheres gives us additional options.
So let’s say we want to create a storm. First, we’ll go with tropical. We need more water than anything, since we’ve got to have the rain. Clouds will come with fire, which will be secondary since we’ve got to have rain instead of snow. Next, we’ll need air since we’ve got to give the clouds a place to exist and we need to cool down the steam enough so that it rains. Water > Fire > Air : Primary, Secondary, Tertiary.
Want a snowstorm instead? Add a little more air than fire to cool things down and we’re in business. We’ve got a simple storm.
Wait! What about some thunder and lightning? Let’s add that in, though it’s more complicated. Air and light, when mixed properly, will add thunder(the sounds, mainly). If we add in a conductor, shifting through a combination of metal and earth, we can shift through everything and bring about lightning. This is a ton of work for a storm, which is why Rei won’t be doing this any time too soon(though who knows? She’s pretty smart).
Want something even more advanced than that?
Her older brother, Kanin, has mastery over cross sphereshifting. By shifting between light and shadow, he is able to attribute an essence of good or evil to a set of things and then use that to “Judge” them. Think of it like a trial, where each side produces evidence against someone. Enough evidence and Kanin can “prosecute” the evil side. I’ll leave that part up to the imagination. Light and shadow are two of the most difficult spheres to control, so shifting through both at the same time is quite the feat, and with possibly amazing results.
So that’s about it. There’s an infinite number of possible spheres to shift through. Given time and inclination, a person would be able to master increasingly difficult sphereshifts. There’s a complex balancing act to it, though. Not enough(or too much) of any given sphere and the entire shifting system comes crashing down.
Practice makes perfect.