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"Think of the Cosmic Mesh as a messy office desk. Laying atop it are hundreds of pieces of paper. All different sizes, all different shapes. They're jumbled together, overlapped and underlain. Together, they form a big picture. That's reality. But pick up a stamp, say, and you see part of a playbill that was hidden beneath. Move the newspaper, and there's fragments of an old letter under there; broken, but still legible. That's what you're here to learn. To view this jumble that is the world."
- Ravas av-Haresh, an introductory lecture on the House of Eyes.
The earliest documented magical lenses were made from polished crystal, often quartz, and have been dated to as early as 1C-27. Some lenses fixed in ancient Horlean statues are much older than those mentioned, but there is some doubt as to whether or not they qualify as lenses. They are undoubtedly glass and served at least ornamental purposes; yet it is uncertain whether they were utilized for magic
At its core, the magic of the House of Eyes has always focused on altering one's perception. The alchemist Lucretius Kastellon, noted “things seen under a greater angle appear greater, and those under a lesser angle less, while those under equal angles appear equal.” In the thirty-six propositions that followed in 3C-456, he suggested that adding magic to this could force the lens' perception upon the world; utilizing the lens as a focal channel for the Cosmic Mesh.
What Kastellon did not know was that during the second Cycle “reading stones” had already been invented in Roreg Logh. Often used by monks to assist in illuminating manuscripts, these were primitive lenses initially made by cutting a glass sphere in half, and infusing it with glowstone. When infused with a trickle of magic; these stones would allow their holder to see object through the glass as being illuminated by light; while others would notice none. As the stones were experimented with, it eventually came to be that one could project the light as a visible beam from the lens, illuminating that which the lens saw with its own 'eye'. In 5C-61 when the Shol's Teeth trading route had firmly been established, it was the comparing of these notes and processes that truly developed Eyes magic as more than simply adjusting light convection.
As its name implies, magic of the House of Eyes relies heavily on specially crafted lenses. The best available glass for early lenses was concocted from a mixture of sand and sodium, with additional chemicals dependent on the mage's preferences and style. All of the materials were left to boil in gigantic melting pots until the various components fused into a unified liquid. The glassmaker would then begin the delicate and dangerous process of scooping the molten liquid onto marble slabs and rolled thin layers flat. The glass would be built up progressively, in layers, until just the right thickness had been achieved. Anything could go wrong in the process and it usually did. Bubbles, particulates, and fissures specked the glass. And even the most faultless piece of glass was never perfectly clear, causing many early magical results to distort and twist.
Although the methods of modern times have improved and reduced these faults, the process still remains relatively the same. All lenses start by melting and mixing glass at high temperature and pressure. Various reagents are added in with the sand and mix; carefully molding a lens to the specifications of what it must be able to see. A single wrong angle, incorrect composition measurement, or a degree too concave or convex can alter an intended spell – leading many to seek different paths to magic. Others instead choose to carve their lenses out of natural gemstones, yet such lenses are both costly and limited in their application.
Once a lens is completed, the mage attunes himself to the cosmic mesh, trickling a tiny portion of magic into the glass as he views it and allowing it to achieve the desired properties. Once the magic is infused into a lens, the mage must focus the lens to look beyond what the lens is made of, and to what it can see. He looks through it, inside it, and starts pushing and pulling. That's where the magic comes in. He filters through reality via his lens, either viewing or touching the world with it as his guide.
The mage of the House of Eyes must maintain a good supply of lenses in order to practice and perfect his craft. Much like an alchemist or metallurgist, of which he is both, the mage of Eyes should retain a working lab with the necessary equipment for glassblowing, chemical management, and gemology. As such, many make their way to residencies in larger cities or caravans; where such supplies are more readily available to them. The mage should always keep contact with his kindred, for they may be willing to trade services and recipes for his own, and often collectives of mages have formed agreements to trade and share lenses among each other, strengthening their kin as a whole.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a closely guarded glass recipe is to be coveted and prized, shared only as a strong bartering chip. Every lens is the representation of years of study and careful experiments. The publishing of one's own recipes is a method of sharing normally agreed upon by most magi; a means to earn steady profit from their discoveries. Others choose only to trade for new knowledge, or quite possibly the coveted recipe of another mage's lenses. They are intelligent, cunning, and driven to experiment, and are among the most skilled craftsmen of magic users; true innovators ready to face the technological era that is the seventh Cycle.
More than any other art of magic; the House of Eyes is as much a science as it is magic. Aspiring mages must not only be clever in their manipulations, but also versed in alchemy, metallurgy, and chemistry. A skilled set of hands, patience, and innovation are all qualities that the mage must exemplify in order to master his craft.
There are four primary talents within the House of Eyes. The first of these is Divination, which relies on utilizing a lens to see beyond the norms of the human eye. Seeing great distances, through objects, and even across planes. The master diviner learns to lip-read; gleaning the most information out of what he can see. He must learn to assess what he sees in the brief span of a lens' vision, and commit these details to memory.
Second of the talents is Illusion; in which the caster channels magic not to alter his own vision; but the visions of others. An illusionist must be clever; for the most believable illusions must blend in with the natural environment. One may not be easily fooled, for example, by a pulpyrtho suddenly leaping from ambush in the frozen tundras of Vrovona; but a sudden geyser of hot water bursting through cracking snowbanks may certainly prove the better distraction. Novices often only affect the sight of their victims; but more skilled illusionists learn to place their lens' vision within the deeper recesses of the mind, attempting to convey this trickery upon the other senses. Still others attempt to mesh abilities from the talent of Alteration, playing upon the natural shadows to form partially-real substance to their illusions.
The talent of Alteration involves crafting a vision within the lens, as with an Illusion. Rather than placing the veil over one's mind, they instead place this veil upon reality itself; creating temporary alterations to the substance of reality. The most common of these are shapeshifting spells, strengthening and weakening the visible muscles, hardening and softening substances, or transmuting one substance into another.
The last of the Talents is known as Contravening; which utilizes a crafted lens to reject an existing state of reality. Most barrier spells fall into this category. However, more specifically, Contravening utilizes a technique in which the Eyes mage chooses to view the piece of reality, pick things up, and place them elsewhere; the art of teleportation.
Rather than an existing or drawn source, a majority of the House of Eyes’ magic comes from a combination of fundamental understanding and reagents. As such, spells can rarely be cast at a moment’s notice, unless the mage already has a specifically prepared lens. As such, one can consider the spells of the House of Eyes among the lengthiest to cast due to the sheer preparation time it takes to craft a proper lens. However, there are no recorded instances of a spell cast from the House of Eyes burning out its caster, save for a singular case which combined aspects of other magical disciplines.
The inherent dangers to an Eyes mage lie in the very knowledge they seek. Those choosing to gaze beyond risk themselves to hazards that are directly in front of them. Recently, mages have begun to crop up that are attuned to the House of Eyes; naturally seeing beyond without the aid of a lens. While this can be remedied with specialized crystal spectacles to keep their vision focused in their present location, the exact extent of their altered vision has yet to be seen. Perhaps the most present hazard to the Eyes mage, and those he interacts with, is in the act of teleportation. When in transit "between" the pages of reality, it's easy to leave some of yourself behind. While this is usually limited to small memories, such as your niece’s birthday; sometimes the consequences are more severe. Losses of motor control, mental functions, and limbs have occurred, or even the loss of the caster entirely.
A subject of debate within the House of Eyes remains how far one should be allowed to maneuver, pick up, and tamper with the fabric of reality. Just because one can choose to pick up something broken and alter it to a repaired state; should they? The primary debate between mages remains whether they should be content to view the world, or if they should take an active stance in shaping it.