Several years ago, there lived a very great magician known as Amilcar. In those times, it was thought that the best manner of casting was as fast as possible, with very little thought to anything other than the desired outcome. Amilcar, being a wise and measured woman, found it more expedient to clear her mind entirely before considering the effects she wished to bring about. She would then consider them fully and completely. She was known to say that she would only know the spell was ready once she could all but see and hear the effects. It is good to follow Amilcar's example, for it was she who first gave a spell an Inflection.
—Excerpt from 'A Meditation on Inflections and the Proper Casting of Magic.' The Hashar author has been lost to time.
Magic allows you to make slight but significant changes to the world. It is impossible to magically alter the fundamental nature of something or introduce new elements to it. However, you can dampen or heighten attributes, speed up or slow down processes, and encourage subtle changes. For example, you would not be able to make an apple taste like a pear. You would be able to make it particularly delicious or cause it to rot faster.
It is well-known that while casting magic on inorganic matter is possible, it is likely to be less successful than if it was cast on organic material.
Everybody has the raw ability to use magic. However, it functions much like physical exercise. It taxes your energy but the more you practice, the more you will be able to do without tiring yourself out. An experienced athlete will be capable of more extravagant or unusual feats than your average person. There will always be limits to what the human body can achieve, and it is possible to die of overexertion.
This is accomplished by exerting your will. While some magicians use components like wands, lengths of string, or straw dolls to help them focus, none of these are required for successful casting. It has been well established that they do not alter the power of a spell beyond providing a placebo effect.
Casting a spell takes a significant amount of time - although how much exactly depends on the scale of what the magician is trying to achieve. Sessions are not long enough for you to cast a spell.1) Besides which, the palace guards would not look favourably on you doing so.
All humans are capable of magic. It has never been otherwise in living memory. History suggests it has not been otherwise since people first started to develop the ability around 700 years ago. Magic is a completely normal part of life, and is rarely marvelled at or remarked upon. There are no recorded instances of animals using magic.
The vast majority of Esharia’s magical knowledge comes from ancient Hashar texts - passed down, preserved, and collated into educational manuals by present-day scholars. General opinion is that these are the greatest feats of magic that have ever been, and as such they have received very little alteration.
Magic is part of any good grammar school curriculum - all citizens of lower-middle class or higher have a basic knowledge. This covers the basic constituents of magic, how to cast small, simple spells, and how to recognise magic when it is cast. As such, casting magic without being detected is highly difficult. A more comprehensive magical knowledge is usually gained at one of Esharia's universities.
A spell is made up of three components: Purpose, Inflection, and Target.
The Purpose is what you're trying to achieve with the spell - your overall goal. The bulk of the magical power goes here. Anyone with a basic education will be able to detect what this is.
The Inflection represents a subtler, more fine-tuned manipulation of the spell. It will typically have a more lingering effect on the Target than the Purpose. It is the most difficult component to detect.
The Target is what you're casting the spell on. It can be an inanimate object. It can be yourself. It can be a group of people or things, provided the group is cohesive and/or connected enough to fall under one category. The larger the group, however, the more danger to the caster. Affecting a crowded city square is the upper limit for most spellcasters - although this can be increased with practice. It takes a moderate amount of skill to be able to detect it.
This is the way all spells are cast in polite society. Anything that doesn't follow these conventions is at best quaint and at worst highly improper.
Note that there is no inherent difference between the Purpose and Inflection. Any of these examples could have these components swapped and still be viable spells. If unsure, consider which part of the spell you want to be more dominant, and which part you might not want people to know about.
You may attempt to use magic to change somebody’s opinion. However, per the basic rules of magic, you cannot introduce emotions that they were not already feeling, only heighten or dampen pre-existing ones. Additionally, the effects will always be slight - and there is a significant risk they will know that such a spell has been cast.
Alchemy is magic in a bottle. For centuries, Legitimacy Rituals were the only type of alchemy in existence - although it was never referred to as such. Many magicians attempted to ‘bottle’ magical effects but had no success because nobody had yet made the connection between magic and the blood.
About a decade ago, however, it was discovered (or perhaps rediscovered) that Legitimacy Rituals are, in fact, a previously unrecognised form of magic. Once magicians realised this, they quickly incorporated human blood into previous attempts at alchemy, and - with a little experimentation - succeeded.
For the first time, people can carry prepared spells around with them. There are limitations: alchemically-cast spells can only target the person who drinks the potion, and cannot be given an Inflection. However, alchemists and magicians alike are looking to surpass those limits.
Alchemy is a fast-growing industry in consistently high demand. Because of this - and because nobody has yet been trained to detect the precise magical register that distilling a spell into a potion gives off - a large proportion of ‘alchemists’ are cheats, frauds, and quack doctors.