The Sound of Steam
The Aether defines all forms of energy and natural law. Mass, magnetism, inertia—all are the outward symptoms of the interaction between the Aether and matter — without Aether, the universe would at best be simply collections of inert material, and at worst, non-existence. The Aether is possessed of an inertia, no less real for its immaterial nature. To do anything beyond the most minor manipulations of Aether requires an iron will. More importantly, the inertia of the Aether makes it almost impossible to transform infinite amounts of material, change the laws of the universe on anything but a local level or other such miracles. It is that inertia which sets things back to “neutral” after a period of time. You may heat a pot with Athermancy, but that pot will cool. You may work a Matrix to keep the pot hot…but eventually, in days, weeks or years, the inertia of the larger universe will reassert itself, and that pot will cool. Still, within that limit, there is much that can be done.
Aetheromancy is the process of channeling Aetheric energy into a set pattern around a specific subject to enact a specific effect. It requires a great understanding of reasoning similar to mathematics, but also a strong imagination, because the patterns are completely invisible even when it is enacted. Also, a live pattern is easier to correct and mold than a set one, so a static effect while entirely possible, requires ten times as much calculation to avoid serious problems when the pattern is invoked. A static effect also requires an energy loop or other power source, and thus is not something novices often attempt. Matrices are the basic building blocks of Aetheromancy. Matrices fit together to form circuits, and circuits link together to form patterns. A completed pattern is sometimes referred to as a spell, but more properly as an effect.
Novices master the individual matrices of their primary college of study in their first two years of schooling. A novice can be expected to recall from memory any matrix and to group them together in the most tried and true patterns by rote. An analogy would be someone who can play music from a sheet, and memorize a melody, but not explain anything about the piece’s construction.
More advanced students, often referred to as adepts, master the various circuits that can be constructed from the matrices they previously mastered. An adept can be expected to recall circuits from memory and put them together to form patterns quickly, without necessarily having tried that combination before. An analogy would be someone who can write music, but may not have the finer points of anything outside their own experiences.
The most advanced students, often referred to as scholars, master the relationships between circuits and matrices. A scholar can be expected to craft working patterns on the spot without much reference, or preparation. A scholar studies all matrices and circuits, not just those within his primary college of study. An analogy would be someone who understands the intricacies of music so well that complex pieces can be dictated fully formed from their mind to paper.
The most advanced of aethermancers are no longer considered students, and are referred to as masters. A master works to understand at an innate level the construction of matrices and why they cause the effects they do. A master can be expected to craft the most intricate and efficient effects in their primary college of study with only periodic reference. It goes without saying that their command of circuits and matrices is generally without peer in the lesser classifications. An analogy would be someone who at the mere mention of a particular composer and a single melodic line, could fairly accurately construct the rest of the complex piece for the portion covered by the melody.
Because of this, it takes novices time to construct new patterns, and to reference existing ones. It takes adepts time to double-check their figures, but not to construct patterns on the fly. It takes scholars and masters time to create or refine patterns, but workable patterns can be created almost at will.