At the edge of the cloud I paused, watching as a truck drove in. In seconds, it had disappeared into the mist. I took a deep breath and followed it.
Breath it in, breath it out, that’s what the Guild taught. It offered a natural, if subtle, motion to whatever you were doing, a rhythm that guided and focused the mind.
When you walked into the Aether though, it was the other way around. You felt it breathe you in, inhaling you into its being. It was different for each. Some were hungrier than others, some practically tried to devour you. Two things made me immune to that. First, I’d been here before. Each time you entered a cloud for the first time, it worked you over, feeding off you, changing you. If you didn’t have a partition, well, all kinds of things could happen. Second, it just wasn’t aggressive enough. We hadn’t even bothered to partition most of the people going in.
The mist folded around me and I kept walking, ignoring the feeling of blindness. Within a few moments it began to fade, revealing a long sloping plain of tall grass bordered by woods. A large blue sun hung in the sky, perfectly mirroring the position of our own. It was cooler, and I felt a bit heavier, but otherwise there was little difference.
In the world of Virgil McDane, the Aether permeates everything. It is the residue of magic, the gathered runoff that coalesces in great clouds of mist. In his world, professional mages mine these clouds, using their own minds to shuttle materials from the Aether and give it permanence outside its cloud. The Wizard’s Guild is the dominant player in this industry.
Each cloud is an isolated universe with its own rules. Some are inhabited by vast civilizations older than man, others are barren and simple. One world might have a smaller sun, while another has no sun at all. The laws of physics hold no sway on these worlds. This type of environment, where anything can go, is what makes them so valuable.
In the first chapter you see Virgil breathe out Foucier ore from Terre d’échanges, a french Canadian world controlled by a powerful Guild House. This ore is basically cured lightning, as in the world of Terre d’échanges lightning actually solidifies once it begins to slow. Wizards use massive rods to gather the lightning, then chip it off in great shards of metal. This ore is then Inhaled into a Wizard’s mind and brought to the buyer. Foucier retains its qualities once in our world, defying the laws of physics, and making the very best conductor possible for wiring.
It is the very same reason the Guild holds so much power. In most the countries of the world, they delegate the rights to the Aether. This has given rise to a black market, to Sorcerers who sneak their way into Guild controlled clouds and smuggle out goods.
The Aether is a double-edged sword though. A mage must partition his mind to protect himself against its presence, to keep his mind free of contamination. Beyond that, since each world has its own rules, newly discovered clouds are particularly dangerous. There is one tale of a cloud where time flows differently than our own. The first Wizard sent in did not return. Years later they sent a second, thinking they had prepared better. They did this twice more, preparing themselves differently each time until all four Wizards stepped out from the cloud. They hadn’t aged, though a hundred years had passed since the first went in.
If you want to see the many worlds of Virgil McDane, or any of the other magics that permeate it, buy Sorcerer Rising now.