The exact nature of Spirits is obscure. All Spirits appear something like ghostly fire, but are larger and tinged with a color corresponding to their energy. Some Spirits also take appropriate shapes, including animals associated with their element; these Spirits do not seem to differ from common ones in any other way.
Spirits are important because they can be embodied by a mage, containing them temporarily within the mage’s mind and body, and then released to produce a magical effect. Mages must take care, however, because embodying too many Spirits or too many different types of Spirit can have dangerous side-effects.
Light and Darkness oppose one another, and embodying them both produces immediate negative effects. A mage suffering from the resulting catastrophic personality distortion can only be saved by forcing the Spirits out of her body with Darkness magic — something possible only because of the raging conflict within her. Under normal circumstances only the embodying mage may release her Spirits, either willingly to cast spells or automatically at the point of death.
The appropriateness of a haunt is not always obvious; the logic of Spirits can be twisted, if they even have any.
- Light Spirits (sky blue) are usually found in places that receive strong daylight or have plentiful animal and insect life. Jungle and forest clearings are common, as are mountaintops. Oddly, areas where great risks are taken on a regular basis can also become Light Spirit haunts.
- Darkness Spirits (deep violet) tend to be found in deep places that have never seen sunlight, and seem to prefer areas with little or no life. These are among the most difficult Spirits to locate, as many of their haunts are sealed chambers deep underground.
- Earth Spirits (yellow) prefer haunts where the soil or stone is varied and entirely unworked. Mountains, flat prairies, and untouched caverns frequently attract Earth Spirits.
- Water Spirits (black) are common in places with clear, pristine water, either fresh or salt. Many of their haunts are underwater, but those on lake bottoms, at the bottoms of waterfalls, and on the surface of the sea out of sight of land can be harvested without extreme effort.
- Fire Spirits (red) are one of two kinds that can be easily deliberately attracted to new, temporary haunts. A huge fire kept burning for several days will attract Fire Spirits, as will flowing lava and sun-baked deserts.
- Metal Spirits (white) can also be deliberately summoned to a temporary haunt, as they are attracted to large concentrations of worked metal or unworked veins. Sufficiently metal-rich junkyards attract them, as do mines still containing ore.
- Wood Spirits (green), understandably, are attracted to places in the deep forest and jungle. One piece of evidence possibly that Spirits are sentient is the odd tendency of Wood Spirits to choose haunts containing rare and endangered plants, as though to protect or study them.
If a single location is appropriate for more than one type of Spirit either or both can be found there. Spirits will frequently return to such places, and some mages hoard these secret locations or build defenses around them. This can be a good idea so long as the methods used don’t negate the very qualities that make a place suitable for a haunt.
It’s difficult to tell how Spirits react to being embodied. They do not seem to offer any resistance to the process, nor do they stop coming to haunts that are frequently “harvested.” Except for Wood Spirits, as noted, Spirits do not seem to display sapience or even sentience, showing no reaction to any outside stimulae.
There is no known way to damage, destroy, or even hurt a Spirit. Physical attacks pass through them, magic has no effect on them, and as apparently immortal they are immune to psionics. They cannot even be contained except within the body of a magic-using creature, and they escape immediately upon the mage’s death.
Some mages speculate (correctly) that a process exists by which Spirits may become fully sapient. This may be something natural, a consequence of the same Spirit being embodied too many times, or caused by some Ancient artifact running amok. The end result of such a process is called a Youkai.