The Magic of Velgarth

(Revised 5/30/05)

As I work on making Danya a Herald-Mage in Queen's Own, I'm compiling details about how various forms of magic work on Misty's world of Velgarth, both inside and outside the borders of Valdemar. I'm actively rereading the entire Valdemar series at the moment, so expect this section to updated frequently.

(Note: While Misty wrote about Magick in her early works, she has since revised her ideas and has consciously worked at moving away from the concept of Magick as it is understood in the "real" world as well as disassociating herself and her work from "real life" religions whose members claim to practice Magick. The magic of Velgarth is entirely fictional, and Misty now prefers to spell the word without the "k".)

Types of Magic

These are the types of magic in Misty's Valdemar books:

The codes that follow the names tell which book mentions the pair. The codes are:

AFa Arrow's Fall Os Owlsight
AFl Arrow's Flight SB Storm Breaking
AQ Arrows of the Queen SI Sword of Ice: And Other Tales of Valdemar
BS By the Sword SR Storm Rising
MPa Magic's Pawn SW Storm Warning
MPri Magic's Price WC Winds of Change
MPro Magic's Promise WFa Winds of Fate
Obo The Oathbound WFu Winds of Fury
Obr Oathbreakers    

SS = "Stolen Silver" (a short story about Alberich)
* = Grove-Born Companion

Page numbers are approximate. They generally refer to the paperback edition, but I do have a few hard covers and even some review copies. But the numbers should be enough to get you into the general region of the text evidence that I cite. By the Sword, at a glance, contains magical items and the use of magic but no details about how the magic works, since the tale is told from Kerowyn's point of view, and she does not have Mage-Gift.

Mind Magic

Mind Magic is not true magic. It is essentially E.S.P. as practiced primarily by the Heralds of Valdemar. You can be born with or without the potential for mind magic. If you have potential, your "Gifts" might never manifest. If potential is going to manifest, it generally does so when a person hits puberty. The possible Gifts are:

*Note that someone may not possess both types of Mindspeech. It is perfectly possible for someone to be only able to project or only able to receive the telepathic communication.

Additionally, there is a nameless Gift that is said to make the Herald-Companion Bond possible (AQ, p. 273), which presumably means that someone can have numerous Mind Magic Gifts but, without this one, could never become a Herald.

All Heralds, regardless of whether they have Mindspeech, can hear their own Companion or share the Companion's thoughts if the Herald is "properly prepared" or in a deep trance (AQ, p. 274). This may be part of the Herald-Companion Bond, a Gift that is distinct from Mindspeech.

To use a Gift, a person must relax and concentrate (AQ, p. 273).

The Truth Spell

The Heralds also employ one type of spell that is supposedly "True Magic" (AFl, p. 28), but which may be a side-effect of Vanyel's spell that binds the vrondi to the protection of Valdemar. This is the Truth Spell. It has two levels and requires a Gift to use (the unnamed Gift that makes the Herald-Companion Bond possible [AQ, p. 273]). The first stage of the Truth Spell allows the caster and the audience to see whether or not the person upon whom the spell is cast is telling the truth. Any Herald can cast the first stage (MPro, p. 158). The second stage of the Truth Spell forces the person upon whom the spell is cast to tell the truth.

The technique for using the Truth Spell is described as (AQ, p. 278; MPro 158-160):

  1. Relax and concentrate
  2. Close eyes
  3. Recite a rhyme (cantrip) exactly nine times
  4. Open eyes and stare at target
  5. Imagine a fog appearing around the target

This causes a blue glow to appear around the person upon whom the spell is being cast. The glow disappears all at once if the person lies and reappears when the person tells the truth. This is the first stage of the Truth Spell, which most Heralds can invoke. The "fog" is a single vrondi that settles onto the head and shoulders of the target (MPro, p. 159).

Some Heralds can invoke the second stage of the Truth spell. This simply involves concentrating while staring at the person. No change in the level of the glow can be seen, but the person is compelled to tell the Truth (AQ, p. 279).

The spell is dismissed by:

  1. Picture the cloud leaving
  2. Picture the cloud closing its "eyes"
  3. Picture the cloud dissipating

The cloud then vanishes. (Vanyel uses a single word to dismiss the spell; MPro, p. 160.) A properly dismissed spell dissolves slowly, not instantly as when a lie is told.

The Truth Spell was discovered at the time of Herald-Mage Vanyel Ashkevron (AQ, p. 277), just before he died. Given the description of the "fog" and given the timing for the appearance of the spell, the Truth Spell is probably a side-effect of the spell of protection that Vanyel cast on Valdemar, binding the vrondi to report the use of any true magic within the borders of Valdemar to the nearest Herald-Mage. Since there were no Herald-Mages after Vanyel until the time of Queen Selenay, the vrondi, though still bound by the spell, could not make their report. But they could still show up to investigate the use of true magic.

The vrondi themselves are air elementals who cannot stand the emotional reaction caused by telling a lie (MPro, p. 159).

Companion Magic

The magic of the Companions is something of a combination of magic from the Sun Lord/Vkandis/whatever, the male deity of the Divine Pair that rules over most of Velgarth, True Magic (Heraldic-type) and Heraldic Mind Magic.

The Companions are white because they use node magic and the power bleaches them. Node magic is used to travel at gaits impossible for a normal horse (AQ) and to boost Gifts, such as Mindspeech, over extreme distances. They can also cause the Heralds to "forget" certain things (AFl, p. 28). Some Companions can use Mind-Magic to alter their appearance, to create an illusion that they are an ordinary horse (SS).

Contact with a Companion usually triggers a newly-Chosen Herald's Gifts, if the Gifts were not already in evidence (AQ, p. 273). This seems to be a function of the magic bond that forms between the Herald and the Companion at the time of Choosing. (The ability to Choose seems to be something of a combination of Mind Magic and Divine Magic.)

Groveborn Companions arrive in the Grove courtesy of a deity, who is most likely the Sun Lord, given the Star-Eyed's conversation with Tarma and Kethry about Companions (Obr).

True Magic (non-Herald; White Winds-type, etc.)

This type of magic is what people generally mean when they refer to "true magic" on Velgarth. Working this sort of spell generally involves spell components, hand gestures, and spoken phrases ("cantrips").

There are five levels of mage (a person who can use true magic):

  1. Apprentice
  2. Hedgewizard
  3. Journeyman
  4. Master
  5. Adept

A mage's level determines the type and amount of magic he can use as well as the number and effectiveness of spells he can cast. Certain spells are only usable by mages of a certain level. Most mages must have Mage-Gift in order to work spells. (Blood-Path mages have a nasty way to get around this restriction.)

There are two types of true magic on Velgarth (OBr, p. 70):

  1. Low Magic (Can perform Healing spells; includes earth-witchery [OBr, p. 59].)
  2. High Magic (Cannot perform Healing spells; especially vulnerable to earth magic [OBr, p. 187].)

The one exception to the rule about High Magic and Healing is the Tayledras Healer-Adept. But these characters are very, very rare.

An important word of caution: Mages are particularly susceptable to physical attack against defenses constructed from magic (OBR, p. 197).

Magical energy on Velgarth comes from three sources (OBo, pp. 25-27, OBr p. 70):

  1. Power within (Requires Talent to use; example, Heraldic Mind-Magic)
  2. Power created by living things simply by the fact that the things are alive (Requires Talent to sense; does not require Talent to use since it can be released by death, cf. blood-path magic)
  3. Power from creatures that live in planes in conjunction with the plane on which Velgarth exists.*

*The planes mentioned in the books are (OBo, p. 27):

Name of Plane Known Denizens Notes for Mages
Elemental Plane of Air The vrondi Can build credit with promises.
Elemental Plane of Earth   Can build credit with promises.
Elemental Plane of Fire   Can build credit with promises.
Elemental Plane of Water   Can build credit with promises.
Ethereal Varirr Can be coerced; mage can enter into a bond debt with these creatures.
Abyssal Demons Feed on pain or death energy.
Empyreal Gods; residents of the Havens Cannot be coerced; offer aid or manifest only when they so desire.

Mages use their will to convince energy to be something else (OBo, p. 24). A spell causes magical energy to manifest in a physical form (OBo, p. 24). The magical energy to work spells comes partially from the mage, partially from somewhere else (OBo, p. 24). When working a spell, the mage reshapes his own and the additional energy into the desired physical form (OBo, p. 24).

There is a limit to the amount of power that may be employed by a Mage (OBr, p. 70). Adepts, however, never need to exhaust their own strength to cast a spell unless they so choose (OBr, p. 193).

Mages can detect the use of true magic, but they cannot detect the use of Heraldic Mind-Magic nor are they able to read a Herald's mind (AFa, p. 195).


Here are the spells that are mentioned in the books:

Spell Effect Cantrip Components Casting Dismissing Source
Daggers of Light Creates daggers of light that do damage as normal daggers, but they have to be hurled as normal daggers and have the same chance of striking.     Requires hand motion.   OBr, p. 202
Energy Blast Sends a blast of pure energy at the mage's opponent.     Requires hand motion.   OBr, p. 203
Fire Balls Smoking, flaming balls thrown from air in front of mage's hand. Damages as real fire on impact with target. Required; described as "guttural phrases."   Can be used by Hedgewizard and above.
  1. Say cantrip
  2. Make throwing motion with hand.
  OBr, p. 65
Firestarting Similar to the Heraldic Mind-Magic by the same name; "calls" a certain amount of fire, depending on the level and will of the mage.    
  1. Stare at target
  2. Target bursts into flames
  OBr, p. 66
Flame Elemental Creates a creature of fire with arms, etc.    
  1. Cast Wall of Flame
  2. Concentrate
  OBr, p. 202
Greater Wind of Air and Water A whirlwind circles the mage three times, then forms a shell of light and force. Required.   Must be a Master or greater to cast.
  1. Cast "Lesser Wind of Fire and Earth"
  2. Raise hand over head
  3. Whisper cantrip
  4. Take energy from "Lesser Wind of Fire and Earth" and form into shapes (Cup and Mill)
  5. Call wind from four directions
  OBr, p. 191
Hide Magic Makes magic undetectable and invisible even to Mage Sight.     Must be an Adept to cast.   OBr, p. 194
Illusion Creates an illusion.         OBr, p. 193
Lesser Wind of Fire and Earth           OBr, p. 191
Lightning Storm Creates ball-lightning that strikes where the mage wills.     Must be an Adept to cast.
  1. Concentrate.
  2. Make throwing motions with hands.
  OBr, p. 203
Mage-Shield Appears as a glow; blurs "the edges of vision around a mage and his mount"; does not deflect physical or magical missles; does make it hard to see (and, therefore, hard to hit) the mage.         OBr, p. 65
Reverse Aging The mage grows younger.         AFa, p. 192 (Hulda may have used this spell.)
Slow Aging Decreases the rate at which a mage ages.         AFa, p. 192 (Hulda may have used this spell.)
Slumber Causes the target to fall into an instant, deep sleep; can slow bleeding (probably because the heart slows).         OBr, p. 70
Spell of Adept Manifestation 1 White Wind appears; creates a manifestation in the aura colors of the mage, signaling that the mage is an Adept. Required; must have near-perfect control of tone, tempo and cadence   Must be an Adept to cast.
  1. Cast "Greater Wind of Air and Water"
  2. Call the White Wind (Wind of the Five Elements)
  3. Weave the power from the first two spells (Lesser Wind and Greater Wind) and own power using your own will
  4. Sing cantrip
  5. Empty mind of everything except what you wish to build
  OBr, p. 191
Spell of Adept Manifestation 2 Creates a man-sized manifestation that can battle another manifestation.     Must be an Adept to cast.
  1. Cast "Spell of Adept Manifestation"
  2. Concentrate on smaller version
  OBr, p. 201
Spheres of Light Sends spheres of blinding light at the mage's opponent.     Requires hand motion.   OBr, p. 203
Stop Aging The mage ceases to age.         AFa, p. 192 (Hulda may have used this spell.)
Summon Wind Calls a wind that is under the direction of the mage. Starts in front of the mage as a six-foot high, white tornado. Moves according to the mage's will and grows as it encounters and destroys spells of fire.         OBr, p. 202
Wall of Flame Creates a wall of flame; does damage as normal fire.         OBr, p. 202

White Winds School

Of the various schools of mages, Misty tells us the most about the White Winds mages.

To advance in rank, White Winds mages must prove that they can cast a series of spells. These spells will only work if the mage has the skill and ability to cast them.

Rank Spell Proves Command Over
Journeyman* Lesser Wind of Fire and Earth The Stable Elements
Master Greater Wind of Air and Water The Mutable Elements
Adept Spell of Adept Manifestation The White Wind (Wind of the Five Elements)

*There is no Hedgewizard rank in the White Winds School.


In addition to working spells it is possible for mages to create constructs, known as krashaks (OBr, p. 187, 203, 205). These are essentially the "golems" of "real world" folklore. To dispel a construct,

  1. Mix salt, moley and Lady's Star
  2. Throw the mixture into the krashak's eyes.

The creature will fall apart.

Duel Arcane

The "duel arcane" is a battle between mages, using magic. These battles take place between Adepts. Any Adept must answer a challenge from another Adept, otherwise the challenged Adept loses his status (OBr, p. 197).

The duel arcane Kethry (the Challenger) fought (OBr, pp. 199-203) follows the pattern described below. During the battle, the mages must stay within a circle. Each mage puts up half of a domed shield, which protects bystanders and the surrounding area from the effects of the battle. Personal shields appear as smaller domes within the larger dome.

Round Challenger Defender
1: Issue and Acceptance of Challenge Display Adept Manifestation Display Adept Manifestation
2: Manifestation Combat Sends man-sized version of Adept Manifestation against opponent's manifestation. Combat of manifestations. Sends man-sized version of Adept Manifestation against opponent's manifestation. Combat of manifestations.
3: Levan Bolts Throws lightning at opponent. Throws lightning at opponent.
4: Light Daggers Throws daggers of light at opponent; weapons do damage as regular daggers. Throws daggers of light at opponent; weapons do damage as regular daggers.
5: Mage's Choice of Element Second this round; counters fire with wind. First this round; creates wall of fire/fire elemental; after Challenger's response, cheats by using krakash hidden on person
6: Mage's Choice of Light Weapon Throws blast of pure energy (at construct) Throws spheres of blinding ball lightning (at Tarma)

Tarma slew the defending mage at that point by rather conventional means (using the sword, Need). Jadrek (Kethry's mate) slew the construct with earth magic (as described in the Construct section on this page). Tarma then asked her goddess to restore Kethry to life.

True Magic (Herald-Mage)

The Herald-Mage combines elements of Heraldic Mind Magic with True Magic as practiced by the White Winds and other schools.

True Magic (Blood-Path)

This fictional form of magic is employed solely by enemies of the Heralds of Valdemar. It is considered to be sloppy, amateurish, and evil. It is also most definitely a fictional product of Misty's fertile imagination; it does not exist in the real world.

The blood-path mage is often an amateur when it comes to magic, but an amateur with a nuclear bomb can do a whole lot of damage. Blood-path mages rely on the power created by living things simply by the fact that the things are alive (OBo, pp. 25-27). This power requires Talent to sense, but the blood-path mage doesn't care about that since this power does not require Talent to use. The blood-path mage knows that this power can be released by death, so it is possible for a completely untalented individual to work magic at the moment of a death (OBo, pp. 25-27).

Blood-Path mages who persist in their theft of energies can advance in rank. Regular mages who develop a taste for using death energies can become Blood-Path mages at whatever their normal skill level would be. Thus, you have characters like Falconsbane, who was an Adept Blood-Path Mage.

Other Forms of Magic

There are several other magical phenomena in the books, some of which are a bit hard to categorize.


Healers are said to use "true magic" as well (AQ, p. 277). This is in addition to their Healing Gift (which is Mind Magic). Presumably the Healing Gift is what enables them to work the spells of healing.


Lifebonds are an uncommon magical link between two, or in some extremely rare cases three, souls. Their nature is unclear. They may be a result of extraordinarily similar life forces pulling together (Tylendel says that he and Van were forging the link between them by their proximity, which became their lifebond [MPa].). They seem to survive even death. The only lifebonds that Misty has described are between mates, complete with sexual attraction, though it is possible to abstain from sex (a circumstance that is very hard on the parties who share the lifebond).

An unacknowledged lifebond can cause deep emotional and psychic trouble for the linked parties. An acknowledged lifebond can have numerous disadvantages as well, most of which involve lack of choice or freedom. Most people do not have lifebonds; instead, the average person is capable of forming a lovebond with any number of individuals of his/her choice for any length of time that is agreeable to the parties involved.

Religious Magic Users

Priests and priestesses are also said to use "true magic" (AQ, p. 277). This is in addition to miracles that their deities work through them. Given that the Karsites searched for people with Gifts (Mind Magic) and forced them into religious orders, priests and priestesses likely have a Gift akin to Mage Gift, which allows them to make use of spells.

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