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Kamai is Barashi's only native form of magic, although various practitioners ("kyma", singular "kama") vary widely in how they deploy it. It is based in the expenditure and manipulation of "lifeforce" (measured in a unit called a "tellyn"). Natural lifeforce reserves vary, between species and individuals, but they can be conditioned to a level significantly higher than the inborn one by a practiced kama. The ability to become a kama runs in families, rarely occurring in people who lack at least one parent with the ability (exception noted below).

There are five "aspects" of kamai, each of which uses different tools and techniques to achieve specialized (but overlapping) results:

  • Elemental magic involves manipulating earth (and stone), air, fire (and heat in general), and water. Elemental kyma learn all four elements and do not specialize in a specific one. The usual tools of the trade are stones of various sorts.
  • Image magic creates illusions, which are usually temporary, but may be tactile, audible, olfactory, and flavored as well as visible. The distinguishing feature of illusions is that they never have lasting direct effects on anything (e.g. eating one has no nutritional content), and that they dissipate instantly if doing otherwise would directly harm a living creature. Illusions can still do harm and have effects indirectly (e.g. if someone is standing on an illusory ladder and it is dismissed, the fall will hurt as normal). The usual tools of the trade are crystal and glass objects.
  • Wild magic involves working with living things (mostly plants and animals). These can be induced to grow faster than normal, caused to behave in unusual ways that react to the kama's will, or healed of injures and most illnesses (for which purpose wild kamai is best known). The usual tools of the trade are wooden objects, and sometimes things made of horn or ivory.
  • Mind magic involves working with the mental processes of sapient creatures (and some smart non-sapient animals). Applications include translation, psychological healing, silent/rapid/long-distance communication, and various offensive options. The usual tools of the trade are metal objects, especially highly conductive ones.
  • Death magic involves causing death, working with the dead, and certain sorts of divinations. Although it has a sinister reputation relative to the other aspects, many applications (apart from raising undead creatures, spreading disease, and outright killing people) are not forbidden or particularly harmful: death magic is more effective than wild magic at treating some infectious illnesses and most parasites, handling vermin infestations, contacting the souls of dead persons, and scrying. The usual tools of the trade are objects made of bone.

Kyma have "affinities", which are most often used in elemental kamai but also have wild kamai applications. These affinities correspond (loosely) to the elements and can be identified with the use of stones, or wood. Fire, water, air, and earth correspond respectively to igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic, and no specific type of rock; or to cherry, maple, rowan, and pine wood. These affinities affect which materials the kama is best suited to use as magical tools. (Earth-affinitied elemental kyma can use any stone with equally good effect.) Affinities are thought to correspond to personality traits, but not strictly.

In each aspect, there are also three classes of workings:

  • Evocative magics include the simplest and most common workings, such as handfire (pictured; elemental); they immediately bring about their effect without intermediary or nonmental actions required. (Some kyma recite words or make gestures as a way of focusing their attention on their magic, but with evocative magics it is not required.) Evocative magic also includes some of the more advanced workings like shapeshifting.
  • Proxic magics use a tool (made out of the above listed materials, generally, but sometimes other things or the kama him- or herself is the proxy) to represent another object, or a creature; the proxy then can provide information about what it represents, or be acted on as an intermediary for the effect on the subject. Some applications include healing and lie detection.
  • Ritual magics are the most complex, preferred for applications that require more power than the caster has to supply. They often involve diagrams drawn on the floor, multiple participating kyma, and specialized ingredients or foci, and they frequently produce results in the form of applying magical effects to objects or substances. Some evocative or proxic magics can be made to resemble ritual magics with the addition of unnecessary verse or gesturing or diagrams, as well as the commonplace practice of drawing extra lifeforce from volunteers, but the additions are not part of those workings themselves and the contributors of lifeforce do not perform any magic in non-ritual kamai.

The overwhelming majority of kyma are born with the ability to eventually learn kamai because one or both parents had it, and they can begin to learn to consciously deploy the capacity when they reach puberty (around twelve or thirteen for humans). Prior to that age, attempts at using kamai simply fail.

Less commonly, "spontaneous" kyma will appear in families without a history of producing them. These manifest their abilities later than normal kyma (about fourteen or fifteen in humans), and are initially uncontrolled, producing random bursts of magical effect when provoked, stressed, or subject to physical stimuli like sneezes. Reining in these effects takes considerable training by itself, sometimes requiring a year or more in extreme cases; thereafter spontaneous kyma can go on to learn the craft normally if desired. Spontaneous kyma begin with a higher reserve of lifeforce than normal kyma do. They tend to gravitate towards wild or elemental kamai.

Least common of all (only a single-digit number alive at any given time) are innate kyma, who come from kamai-using families unlike spontaneous kyma. These begin using magic at a younger age than others (seven or eight in humans). They have natural talents with magic that others can't match, often struggling not to use powers like mindreading when they are uncalled for. Innate kyma tend to gravitate towards mind or image kamai.

Thousands of years ago, kyma misused their powers in various horrifying ways, so incensing the nonmagical population as to inspire a mass slaughter of kyma - guilty and innocent alike. The death toll was enormous, as kyma were well-equipped to defend themselves against even large numbers of attackers, but a majority of the kyma in the world were killed and many records about their techniques destroyed. Some kyma (and some untrained persons with the ability to use magic in their families) survived the purge, but it was a devastating setback for the advancement of magical knowledge, and anti-kama sentiments still exist in many non-kyma. Trolls and dragons did not participate in the purge, leaving them with a higher percentage of potential kyma than other Barashin species.

In the wake of the kyma purge, surviving kama authorities labeled most of the offensive techniques forbidden, and the use of these magics (although not simply learning them) is punishable with the utmost severity if any kama attempts it. Forbidden magics do not include all destructive workings - for instance, it is not forbidden per se to set people on fire - only those that are particularly relevant to what provoked the purge and workable on a large scale, like performing a lifespan transfer.

Like most trades on Barashi, kamai is traditionally studied via a live-in apprenticeship with a Master. Apprenticeships last five to ten years and end when the Master deems the apprentice suited to independent practice, upon which the apprentice graduates to journeyman status. One may remain a journeyman for an arbitrary amount of time, or perform a Master working, which is a feat or invention of magic that impresses a group of several Masters to the point that they award the status. Only Masters may take apprentices.

Most kyma specialize in one aspect of magic. Those that know two or more often must study them in separate apprenticeships and may have different statuses in each, unless they happen to learn from a Master who has all of the specialities they wish to learn. There is no rigid curriculum of what magics are to be learned in what order. Some kyma make it to journeyman status with only evocative magics, never learning proxic or ritual varieties.