Untrained, unknowing, or irresponsible magic users who do not care, or have the ability to develop the incredible sharpness of mind required to weave Qhaysh from the Winds of Magic, may choose a more direct, immediate, and dangerous path for their spellcraft.
Such spellcasters may channel all available magic around them into their spells, regardless of the different parts in the surrounding environment, and focus it into a far less specific spell. Such spellcraft is less spell construction and more abrupt acts of absolute will.
Those who wield magic in this way do not carefully sculpt and tweak the Winds of Magic so much as simply grab the Winds and force them into the effect required through harsh and bloody-minded determination. This form of magic is called Dhar, or Dark Magic.[1a]
Dark Magic is a complex thing. On the one hand, it is used to describe the techniques of those not formally schooled as a Magister with the techniques taught by the Imperial Colleges of Magic. Yet, the magic of the Wood Elves, High Elves, and even the Runemagic of the Dwarfs certainly don’t follow the teachings of the Human Orders of Magic, but, they are not Dark Magic either. In this sense, Dark Magic implies the reckless use of magic employed by Witches and Warlocks, those individuals who are self-taught in their arts.[6a]
But Dark Magic is far more than simple Hedge Wizardry. It also encompasses that which is employed by the Necromancers, the process of using the Winds of Magic to create and control the spirits of the dead. It is also the foul magic used by the Chaos Dwarfs to construct their mechanical abominations, and it is especially refers to the magic used by practitioners of Chaos Magic who serve the Ruinous Powers. It is also the magic practised by the Dark Elves of Naggaroth.[6a]
Dark Magic cannot be all these things at the same time. However, it is true that they are united by one overriding facet -- all of these spellcasters rely on the use of Dhar, that which is often referred to as the most corrupt form of magic. Some have said that Qhaysh, High Magic, is the harmony of all eight colours working in unison, so Dhar must be the colours working in discordance.[6a]
Dark Magic is similar to High Magic in that it blends the various aspects of many different Winds, but it differs in that it is corrupted, polluted even. Where Colour Magic and True Magic are controlled, Dark Magic is wild and unpredictable, crudely drawing on a number of Winds, often pulling too much, resulting in terrible and unexpected side effects.[1b]
Spells of Dark Magic are potent because they use all available magical energy in an area. But this also releases a lot more unguided and partially activated magical residue into the material world.
This undirected magical residue can manifest itself in all sorts of unwanted ways and with often unintended side effects. The side effects can manifest as summoning of Aethyric entities, physical mutations, or psychological alterations.[1c]
Using Dark Magic
Whereas a Magister draws upon a single refined Wind, shapes it, and forms it to produce a spell, a practitioner of Dark Magic psychically grasps whatever energies are present, forcing them to conform to his wishes. They channel any available magic, bending the sorcerous energies to create the desired effect. Since the individual Winds of Magic each serve a well-defined purpose, the Dark Magic user's technique actually corrupts the energy rather than tapping into some other pool of latent magic.
Each time a spell is cast in this way, it damages the fabric of the world; hence, spells created using Dark Magic are violent, disgusting, and corrupting, reflecting the most dangerous qualities of the agents of Chaos. Frequent use of Dark Magic not only damages reality, but it also presents an incredible risk to the caster himself, resulting in a myriad of unexpected side-effects, not to mention the increased risk of triggering Tzeentch's Curse.[6a][6b]
Risks aside, the true appeal of using Dark Magic is the power it offers. Instead of being confined to a single Wind of Magic, the caster can use as many or as few Winds as there are available at the time of the casting. This always results in loosing strands of unchecked energy that manifests itself in strange ways, for the spell itself (or the ritual for that matter) is magic in its most raw, unruly form.
It is because of this that the Colleges of Magic and the Witch Hunters are so keen to track down and execute users of Dark Magic -- and not for some ethical reason, despite protestations to the contrary. The loosed strands of energy do not dissipate on their own; once conjured and rendered into their twisted form, they remain, changing the natural environment in subtle ways at first, until the corruption becomes so great that it warps the very landscape, as has happened in the Chaos Wastes and in pockets throughout the Old World.
Some believe this extra energy can be harnessed, used to fuel terrible spells and forge blasphemous items of Chaos. Others claim this stuff eventually coalesces to become Warpstone. Others still say it is what some Magisters see with their Witchsight, the manifestations of magic gone awry. No one knows for certain what happens to this energy except to note casting spells in areas rich with True Dhar, as some call it, have spectacular effects.[6b]
High Magic and Dhar
In the Old World, High Magic is not a thing in its own right, like any of the separate eight Winds of Magic. It is instead the process of using the Winds of Magic in a balanced, focussed, and safe way.[1b]
In a similar manner Dark Magic -- or Dhar -- is usually the result of careless, instinctive, and grasping use of multiple Winds of Magic. It is manifested through most hedge wizards and witches (who don't really have a clear understanding of the energies they use) as an unbalanced, unfocussed, and dangerous mash of elements from all the Winds of Magic in a particular area. It is turned into a rudimentary (though often quite powerful) spell through the self-belief and psychic force of will of the caster.[1b]
To be this clear-cut, however, is not in keeping with the nature of magic, thus there are reversals to this law of logic. Of these, True Dhar, or true Dark Magic or Black Magic, is the most terrifying and dangerous. This vile force is a thing in its own right -- it is Dhar that has come into existence by itself.
It is elements of all the Winds of Magic crushed together and stagnated. This perverted magic can be deliberately drawn upon by powerful and often megalomaniacal beings to charge immensely powerful and dangerous spells.[1b]
The spells forged from Dhar are like a club wielded by a Norscan raider, crude, terrifying, and apt to strike down anyone and anything in an indiscriminate manner. By way of contrast, the spells of High Magic are like the arrows of the High Elves -- precise and awesomely effective.
The foul magic created through the use of True Dhar are quite unlike either of these two forces. To use Dark Magic to accomplish your aims is akin to throwing down all conventional arms and summoning a Daemon of Chaos to slaughter your enemies.[1b]
But Dark Magic can form of its own volition through human spellcraft. Collecting in bleak places, near lodes of warpstone or corrupted lands, it is this form that many of the Colleges of Magic refer to as True Dhar. Dhar that forms by itself is the most terrifying and dangerous of all Aethyric energy manifest upon the mortal plane.[1c]
Like the eight individual Winds of Magic, True Dhar is separate and exists outside of mortal interference. Dhar is a careless mix of all the colours of magic in an area, used for maximum and swiftest effect. True Dhar, however, is not just the process of using the pure colours of magic in an unbalanced way; instead, it's an independently extant stagnant pool of all the Winds of Magic.
True Dhar, then, is perhaps best described as the result of all the colours of magic in a particular area swirling and merging together under the pressure of physical reality, coagulating and stagnating in a metaphysical sense. Within True Dhar, none of the eight colours of magic retain any independent identity.[1c]
Theories on Formation
Although those who study this heinous form of magic regard it as a kind of corruption of settled and undisturbed magic, they are not absolutely certain as to how it forms, even if they feel certain as to the why. The most popular theory, presented by the combined works of the Light and Gold Colleges, is that just as there are areas of the mortal world where the Winds of Magic are particularly dynamic, and there are also areas where the Winds of Magic cease to blow regularly but where the Great Vortex of Ulthuan doesn't touch strongly enough.
In these areas of isolation, the colours of magic slowly combine into immaterial pools. It is in these areas where True Dhar is thought to begin forming by a process that could be described as Aethyric stagnation.[1c][1d]
This darkest magic could be described as magical energy that has become trapped within particular parts of the mortal world where it cannot leak out or be stirred up by either the Great Vortex or the Aethyric Winds and has lost its creative vitality.
True Dhar could be seen as Aethyric energy that smothers physical things, breaking them down into their component parts, only to crush them into a new form. Once this true Dark Magic has formed, no amount of agitation or use can ever purify it again — it remains perpetually soured, dark, and destructive.[1d]
The Substance of Destruction
While a Magister might argue that mortal-engineered Dark Magic is no more evil than High Magic is good, True Dhar, on the other hand, could be seen as something that is almost entirely bent towards deconstructing, suppressing, and dominating physical things. However, by mixing Dark Magic with the other Winds of Magic, various darker methods of magic are produced, such as what results when Shyish and other Winds are blended to create necromancy.[1d]
True Dhar is said to be drawn to those beings who seek ill towards other beings or the world at large. True Dhar promotes an absolute vision of destruction and dominance where other magic promotes cycles of extreme adaptation and creation.
This means that Dhar and True Dhar are the most destructive of all Aethyric forces, used knowingly by only the most power hungry or insane spellcasters -- like the Dark Elves or perhaps the greatest practitioners of necromancy.[1d]
The price of tapping into True Dhar is high indeed, for not only is it just as hard to use and focus into a spell as is True Magic, but it is also far more likely to consume the one who uses it. To those with witchsight unfortunate enough to have witnessed it, True Dhar is said to flow like sluggish tar, and any being it is drawn to will have their minds and souls slowly drown in its black and sticky depths.
Where High Magic is the combined magical energy of several Winds used with a total tranquillity of mind, an acute sensitivity of will, and focus of intention, and where mortal-created Dhar is multiple Winds of Magic used without subtlety, determination, and often blind self-belief, True Dhar is very different indeed.[1d]
True Dhar must be actively wrestled into shape, requiring supreme strength of mind, a megalomaniacal self-confidence, and an absolutism of will and purpose that only Humans of true or borderline insanity could ever hope to possess. Even the most sane and balanced person exposed long enough to the malign energy of True Dhar will become psychotic, absolutely self-obsessed, and completely uncaring of other living creatures.[1d]
Dark Elves and Dark Magic
Dark Elves choose to use True Dhar because it requires more will and absolutism to wield than High Magic, which requires tranquillity, focus, and patience. At the bidding of the insane Witch King himself, the Dark Elves have bent all their arcane knowledge to creating throughout Naggaroth an environment where True Dhar can form more easily than almost anywhere else in the world.
If there is little or no True Dhar in their vicinity, then Dark Elf sorcerers like Malekith and Morathi are able to channel and crush together all the Winds of Magic, focussing them perfectly to create an entirely intentional manifestation of Dhar that they can utilise as they please.[1b]
Famous Practitioners of Dark Magic
- Malekith, the Witch King of Naggaroth - Second son of Aenarion, fallen prince of Nagarythe.
- Morathi, the Hag Sorceress - Mother of Malekith, mistress of Ghrond.
- Nagash, the Great Necromancer - Creator of the Black Pyramid of Nagash, Necromancy, and Vampirism, the Lord of Nagashizzar, one-time King of Khemri.
- Ariel, the Mage Queen of Athel Loren
- Arnzipal's Black Horror - The caster tears down the walls between realities, and a black cloud of roiling energy sweeps across the battlefield. As the darkness travels, slimy tentacles lash out from its depths, dragging unfortunate victims screaming to an unknown fate.[2a][3a]
- Arnizipal's Dimensional Door - Scattering a vial of innocent blood upon the churned ground, the sorceress opens a doorway to the realm beyond. Drawn to the mortal plane, unspeakable creatures reach forth their tendrils to claim what victims they can before the gateway collapses.[4a]
- Dark Hand of Destruction - Talons of dark energy sprout from the fingertips of one of the caster's hands, and can be used as a weapon in hand-to-hand combat. When the caster hits an opponent with the Dark Hand, it ignores non-magical armour. Once damage has been caused once, the spell is dispelled.[5a]
- Death Spasm - A bolt of darkness flies from the caster's fingertips to hit one individual. The spasms are so violent that they injure other around the target at half the target's strength.[5b]
- Oblivion - To a Dark Elf sorceress, an Arcane Fulcrum is more than a conduit of power; it is unparalleled destruction, just waiting to be unleashed and annihilate any near it.[4a]
- Power of Darkness - The caster draws unstable power from the Realm of Chaos to empower their spells as well as their minions.[2a][3a]
- Shroud of Despair - At the caster's command, light is driven from the battlefield and numbing darkness rushes to fill the void.[2a][3a]
- Soul Drain - The caster calls down a thunderstorm from a clear sky to engulf one group within 48 yards. The caster gains in their own health the more people in that group are injured. Normal armour offers no protection.[5b]
- Soul Stealer - Tendrils of pure, solidified darkness writhe out from the wizard's outstretched hands, draining the life force from their hapless enemies to renew their own vigour.[2a][3a]
- Witch Flight - A howling wind picks up the caster and carries them into the sky. They are carried rapidly across the land, coming back to earth at a spot they select within 100 yards of where they started. They cannot change their chosen destination once the spell is cast. This spell cannot be used indoors.[5a]
- Word of Pain - As the caster utters a forbidden name, the enemy find their limbs wracked with crippling pain.[2a][3a]