An odd hybrid of the three families, sound mages don’t fit neatly into any of the standard categories. They have some of the physical spells of elementalists and some of the more subtle abilities of universalists, yet personality-wise the mages they have most in common with are living ones.
The most basic spell of sound magic is sound generation. Even novices can put on an impressive ventriloquism act, and sound mages of journeyman rank and higher can easily replicate any voice, noise, or sound effect they’ve ever heard. Giving the sound a convincing ‘feel’ does require a certain level of skill, but it’s a skill sound mages are generally both motivated and naturally inclined to learn. As a side effect of this they tend to be talented musicians and verbal performers outside of their magic, too, although it’s probably more accurate to say that both their magical and nonmagical abilities feed into each other.
In addition to producing sound, mages of this type are very good at detecting it. Even before they develop their magic, one of the telltale signs of a latent sound mage is exceptionally good hearing. Once they start training in earnest, it goes from ‘exceptional’ to ‘supernatural’ – a sound mage can usually figure out your sex, age, nationality, and rough height and weight through a closed door. More skilled sound mages develop this into outright echolocation, allowing them to aurally map an area without even opening their eyes.
Sound magic is also useful for analysing speech. By picking up on tonal changes and voice stress, a sound mage can easily read a speaker’s emotional state, and can usually make a pretty good guess as to whether said person is being honest. Sound mages make effective interrogators, with the additional benefit that they don’t even need to be the ones asking the questions; as long as they can hear the answers, that’s all they need.
Despite its name, sound magic doesn’t require audible sound to function: vibration through almost any medium is enough.
Sound and Fury
Sound magic can also be used as a weapon. At a high enough volume, sound spells can inflict pain or deafen; against inanimate objects, if tuned to the right frequency, they can set up vibrations that crack or shatter. More subtly, sound spells delivered at a very high or very low pitch can be hard to detect, yet still have a variety of unpleasant effects upon living creatures.
However, sound mages are generally not considered battle-mages, for several good reasons. Firstly, while sound magic attacks might be spectacular, they aren’t all that efficient. The nature of sound makes it difficult to focus, meaning that while sound attacks might have a lot of energy, most of that energy usually doesn’t go where it’s wanted. Secondly, while sound spells make for versatile weapons, they don’t necessarily make for effective ones. A sound mage might be able to incapacitate a target in a dozen ways, but none would be guaranteed to work and all would take time. A fire mage, on the other hand, only really has one way of dealing with a problem, namely burning it – but not only can they do that a lot faster than a sound mage, it’s much easier to defend yourself against a subtle ultrasonic attack than it is to deal with someone just dumping a ton of heat on top of where you’re standing.
Finally, while sound magic has a variety of offensive spells, it has almost no defensive ones. High-volume sound waves and sympathetic vibrations might mess up a person or a building, but they don’t do much to stop a fireball or a bullet. For these reasons, sound mages usually stay out of fights.
Singing in the Rain
Sound mages are emotional and sensitive. Both mages or normals tend to find them attractive, but while other people might want to be close to a sound mage, the sound mage isn’t necessarily going to reciprocate the feeling. The core of a sound mage’s personality is introverted rather than extroverted, and they usually have few close friends. Their talents make them popular, but they’re likely to be alone even in a crowd.
It’s rare for a sound mage to become involved in the political struggles of Light and Dark mages. Most have little interest in power, and are more likely to make lives for themselves as artists or performers. This is not without its dangers, however – while detachment from mage politics gives some limited protection against the power games of the magical world, it doesn’t prevent mages from taking an interest for other reasons. Attraction can easily become a desire to possess.