To the humes of Azaleon, magic is a new concept. Those humes capable of it are few, but it is common in ilim, enough that most ilim have a natural aptitude with it, and many weres will spontaneously develop it sooner or later. Humes innately fear sorcery and aura manipulation, as most with the ability to use it go mad at some point. For some, it happens quickly, while for others, it takes a long time, and where one falls along this spectrum is, as of now, seemingly random. Ilim and weres are not known to have this issue.
Sorcery is powered with aura, and the terms magic and sorcery are used interchangeably. Some also use sorcery and aura interchangeably, but there is a difference, as sorcery works different than raw aura manipulation. Magic in humes only began occurring some 50 years prior to Messiah's start. Roughly ten years later surfaced the prophecy of the Messiah.
While it is not understood in our world setting by those that live in Azaleon, aura is the natural energy of all living things. People, and animals and plants, naturally generate, release, and regenerate, small amounts of aura throughout their lives, in a constant cycle. Magi, thus, learn to consciously channel and control this aura, which allows them to affect the natural world in a variety of ways.
Aura is immaterial, inherently ethereal, and invisible to the untrained eye. It gathers and pools around and within living things, in some way or another; even the earth itself has notable amounts of aura within its make-up. In the world of Azaleon, aura is a very basic building block of life in general, akin perhaps to carbon or atoms. Aura is the science, and the science is aura, and the two must be kept in balance, or both will go out of control.
Aura is neither created, nor destroyed. There is a finite amount of aura in the universe, and one needs it present in order to fully harness the possibilities of sorcery. Many of those that have never seen it used for themselves before will deny aura even exists. Those who have seen it, but do not have the ability to manipulate it themselves, often fear it, not only for its unknown properties, but for its penchant for turning men into psychopaths. Even many of those that can manipulate it will fear using it, for they must be careful in doing so, and each usage of it pushes the countdown to their insanity ever lower. This is the foundation on which mage discrimination built itself, albeit it grips some regions tighter than others.
One can think of aura as a river. There is a river of aura that flows within, to, and from, every living thing, some large, rushing rivers, others small, trickling streams. All aura is only borrowed, and when the time comes, it must be given back.
Raw Aura Manipuation
Manipulating aura in its natural state, without transforming it into anything else, is ostensibly more powerful and useful than the usage and application of sorcery, and there are many different circles of belief in regard to this. Some magi view sorcery as more of a way of killing time, gaining a greater understanding of aura and how it interacts with the natural world, and a way of showing off. Sorcery, unlike manipulating unchanged aura, has innate limitations, and some view that as a severe drawback of learning sorcery itself.
All magi can, innately, manipulate aura well enough to cause simplistic effects, such as forming artificial lights, or sensing the aura of others. The latter has decent use in path-finding and tracking, if one becomes skilled enough in aura sensing that they can pin-point individual signatures, or even tell hume aura residue from the residue of a gazelle's aura. The principles and capabilities of raw aura use go beyond this. Missiles and bolts of energy are common sights in mage battles, as well as the formation of defensive barriers. A skilled aura manipulator can use raw aura to wreak as much havoc as he would with advanced sorcery.
Raw aura manipulation requires little knowledge of its interaction with natural forces, whereas sorcery must be fundamentally understood, on a scientific level, before it can be mastered to any sort of significant extent. However, raw aura cannot take the forms of elements or solid objects, and inherently, its use is somewhat limited in that if one has need of a fire whip, they'll need sorcery to get it. As such, aura manipulation versus sorcery is really a give-and-take. It depends almost entirely on what one needs, which one to use, and while sorcery is difficult to master, it is certainly more rewarding and versatile.
Everything in the world can be broken down into elements, primal forces present in varying degrees within any given thing. In the right combinations and formations, these forces comprise everything. Magi often possess an innate affinity for one given element, a natural connection to that type of sorcery, and an innate level of aptitude with it. While other elements can be learned to be controlled, it takes time, effort, practise, and rarely is it ever as strong as one's affinity at the end of it all.
Elements and sorcery cannot be created from nothing, as aura cannot, either. Magi have not learned yet to transmute one element into another, so the element they wish to manipulate must be present in their environment. The relevance of this limitation varies widely, as for some, their element is always, or almost always, present in some manner, while for others, their element is more rare. For instance, air magi rarely have trouble using their sorcery, but fire magi need at least a spark, and may have a hard time finding it.
Sorcery follows some very strict patterns and rules for its use. One does not simply create a tornado, set it on fire, and cut it loose. Such a haphazard creation would almost immediately fall apart. One must understand every aspect of how the wind of the tornado moves, how varying environmental factors will affect it, how it interacts with the flames, and so on.
Creation of advanced sorcery effects requires a solid understanding of the elements, how they interact with each other and the natural world, and the physics behind howthey work. As such, only nobility really begin to get a solid, notable grasp of sorcery itself, as it requires a lot of learning, practise, and research, to understand how to pull off advanced effects. However, the things one can do with sorcery is not as limited as that which one can manage with raw aura, as sorcery innately takes on natural elements, and causes effects in-line with those elements' effects. Ergo, fire sorcery often can burn, and these function somewhat like free firepower without the work to get it.
Known affinities are: air; earth; fire; water; lightning; ice; light; and shadow. All affinities, if used right, can heal, and all can be used destructively.
Spearheaded by the Free Cities of Haradi and Saqqara, and the ilim of Galace, auratech is a new technological movement, still somewhat foreign to much of Azaleon, in which the effects of aura manipulation are combined with man-made machinery. Often, auratech is more stable than technology by itself, and the use of it doesn't have the same effects on humes as direct aura manipulation and sorcery. It is unknown if it ever will, and top auratech engineers admit it may be delayed.
Agricultural and textile efforts are often now aided by auratech, in regions it is used in. Thermal engines have been created by generating an aura cycle of hot and cold. Varying household items can also be imbued with aura, and in some cases, auratech works instead like what the modern real-world knows as a program, essentially an infinitely looped effect. Lights and electrical power is possible, powered by aura, in large cities, and tall crystal pillars and chandeliers have been created which burn off loose aura in the atmosphere. Aura lights naturally dim at night, and particularly large, aura-powered machinery, which require large amounts of aura, will stop working at night, and not work at all in sparsely populated areas. In the Free Cities, aura-powered airships, cannons, and firearms, are becoming more common, and Saqqara and Haradi both now boast aura-powered sentry towers.
The Galacese have gone a slightly different route, developing weapons and armour items that channel aura into specially-crafted designs, to produce specific effects. The aura bow, and the aura shield, will generate the seemingly missing pieces of themselves, and the bow fires aura bolts. Some weaponry, such as swords and gauntlets, may perform unique tricks, such as releasing extra features, claws on a set of gauntlets, when the aura lines are tripped, or pooling loose aura into offensive, low level aura bolts.
Each country, and its leaders, have differing ideas about how inherently dangerous, and thereby how legal, auratech usage should be. Different kinds of auratech also have differing levels of legality, thereby how common, and how advanced, the auratech in a specific region is, varies wildly. Dalmasca, for instance, are fine with aura lights, but anything more complicated is technically illegal, whereas Galace, and several of the Free Cities, use auratech in nearly any application they can find an excuse to.
Bonus Info: What is mage insanity, and why does it happen?
Note: nobody but the Galacese know this in-character.
Hume magi have never been connected to the natural world the way they become so when they gain ability with aura. This reconnection allows humes to sense the cycle of life and death, the constant shifts and changes in the balance of aura flow, and this sudden awareness can become very overwhelming and quite rapidly, especially without proper guidance. Hume magi also do not know how to block themselves off from outside aura corruption, and while much of the dark aura has remained within the confines of Galace, it is spreading southward, and perhaps at a more rapid pace than many believe. The insanity itself is often the result of dark aura poisoning, or what the Galacese call corruption. It can be overcome; but it takes a lot of time, and a lot of self-discipline, self-awareness, and willpower to do so. Most humes do not have all three in a notable amount.
As the corruption is spreading southward, probably hastened by the southeastern hume nations' actions, humes need their magi, for only they have a sparkle of hope of purifying the dark aura. One can't just sop it all up like water spilled on the floor, it must be purified that it may return to the cycle. Unfortunately, as humes collectively have never seen fit to try to understand it, and merely cut off the head of the snake, they have very few magi remaining, even less capable of withstanding dark aura, and so does Galace. Azaleon may be quite bluntly screwed.