E101: Introduction to Energies — How to Not Blow Yourself Up
Section 1: Tools and Traditions
Item 2: The Boots
Well, now that we’ve had some time to practice with our robes, it’s time to discuss the rest of the ensemble. I know that I said you could technically do your spellcasting naked, but as this is a civilized school under Imperial law, we will be working with our clothes on. That includes boots, gloves and various channeling accessories.
First, today, we shall discuss the boots. As you can see, I’ve brought a variety of examples, which I’ll have you pass around, as well as noted some design properties here on the board. Particular boots serve particular purposes, so depending on your stream and your intentions, you may end up with quite a collection.
Some of you might want such collections just to coordinate with your outfits. I have to point out that prioritizing fashion over safety is a bad idea, so if you find yourself choosing between color and function, please. Choose function. Charcoal in nice shoes is still charcoal.
Now, the importance of the boot is that it can either attach you to the earth or separate you from it. There are situations where you want to be grounded and situations where you want to be as detached as possible from sources that might rob you of your gathered energy, and the wrong boots in the wrong situation can get you killed. Sounds drastic for inappropriate footwear, yes? But what we have to understand at all times is that, as combat mages, we will be predominantly fighting other mages: people who understand how our magic works and can use it against us if we do not protect ourselves as thoroughly and as subtly as possible.
Your standard grounding boots create a direct current connection between the surface of your skin and the earth. Pass this pair around, please. As you see in the diagram I’ve drawn here, grounding boots are similar to hobnailed boots in that the soles are pierced with metal in various places. Unlike hobnailed boots, the metal goes all the way through the sole to connect with a woven wire insole–usually padded, never fear. The wires continue up the insides of the boot to the ankle, where they are integrated into interior laces. It is essential when wearing them that you tie the interior laces around your bare leg or attach them to a metal anklet so that they can properly conduct their current. If you just put the boot on and lace it up without using the internal laces, it becomes useless.
Grounding boots are most commonly used by Energies mages and Warders, and their purpose is very specific: to let you bleed off as much channeled energy as possible, straight into the earth, so you don’t kill yourself. They are necessary any time you try to draw from an active power source larger than you can personally handle. Back in the Citadel at Darakus, the flight-controllers used grounding boots when they had to siphon power from the flight-cores back into the regulatory system; just touching the flight-cores’ power could have burnt them out if they had been insulated from the system.
Mind you, non-mages would have been fried either way; flight-cores and other objects of intense arcane power can not be touched by someone who does not actively have their channels open to divert the current. The only reason we can touch major arcane workings is because we know how to keep the energy from overwhelming our own personal core.
In combat, grounding boots are worn by Evokers and Warders assigned to drain the enemy. Fighting fellow mages is never about overwhelming them with power. I know you young Evokers will take a long time to understand this, so I will state it again: If you are trying to overpower your enemy, you’re doing it wrong. While neophytes will try to stand strong against blasts of power, any experienced mage will know how to do just what these boots are for: accept your strike and divert the energy harmlessly into the earth. The more you batter at them with your magic, the more they will deflect it into the earth–which, by the way, takes only active channeling. You will tire yourself, risking catastrophic burnout with each new lightning bolt, until finally you’ve wasted your energy, allowing them to pick you off easily.
Grounders and sappers, as we call them, do this in combat either through grounding wards they cast over themselves or others–which divert the energies to them, and which they then send into the earth–or by actively sapping the enemy through an ionization strand. Ionization strands are small arcane charges you send at the enemy to create a connection with either their wards or their personal core field; once you’ve made the connection, you can drag at their ambient energy the same way you draw energy normally, then channel it into the ground. This is difficult to resist, and is the best way to undermine a foe while your allies pound at them with aggressive spells.
We’ll go into techniques for sapping later, but understand that if you plan to work that way, or are assigned to sapping duty, you want to wear grounding boots. You may think you can handle the energy you siphon off someone, but you never know if they’ll try to break away from your strand or if they’ll decide to send you a surge through it instead. Sappers are extremely vulnerable to vindictive surges, since they are already directly connected to their victim, and this extra passive grounding is essential to their survival.
Now, as for material, copper and silver are the best metals for grounding boots. For durability, most Artificers will encase the ends of the wires in a steel ‘hobnail’ so that only a nib–or nothing–of the wire comes in contact with the ground; this keeps it from scraping away on every hard surface you encounter. If you want grounding boots to wear as a just-in-case precaution, get those steel-nailed ones. If you want a pair to wear when you know you’re going to be actively grounding, get a full-copper or full-silver pair, as they can conduct a much larger charge, much more smoothly.
The problem with grounding boots, from an Energies perspective, is that any time you draw power from the air while wearing them, you’ll send a near-equal amount of power into the ground. Obviously this is counterproductive when you’re trying to mount an offensive strike. Some people can draw from the earth through grounding boots and project that energy outward, but it’s difficult–almost impossible unless you’re standing on a surface which is itself charged or energetic. Like lava.
I hope I don’t need to tell you how bad an idea that is.
The solution for someone who chooses to take the offensive is insulating boots. These are strict opposites of grounding boots, and though I hope you can extrapolate what that means for you, I will explain it in case anyone is feeling slow or hungover today.
Insulating boots exist to keep your energies from being leached away by the ground. The most important parts of insulating boots are the insole and the lining, where there can be no metal involved. Both insole and lining are woven glass fiber or ceramic fiber–or in the case of the insole, sometimes solid shaped glass or ceramic. Uncomfortable and inflexible, yes, so you won’t see many of those anymore.
Technically you could wear woven-glass or woven-ceramic socks with any old boots, but when the socks start wearing out…. It’s not comfortable. I know some of the faculty wear soft leather bootlets in addition to their insulating boots.
Anyway, as mentioned, the goal of the insulating boots is to make sure that none of your gathered energy escapes through your feet. Obviously they are not what you want to wear when you intend to be grounding or sapping your enemies. Most commonly they’re worn by Artificers when they need to spend an extended amount of time on a piece of work, such as a golem; losing energy to the earth means tiring more easily, weakening the overall integrity of the project and forcing you to draw more frequently from the outside.
Obviously Artificers aren’t the only ones who have to conserve their power for the long haul. Scryers opening portals need to have tight control over the in- and outflow of their energies. You might have noticed that all our portal rooms have discharge circles in them–those concentric rings of gold, silver and copper that draw off ambient energy and wards. Same as the punishment circles, which some of you have probably already experienced. These are to make sure that nothing interferes with the opening and closing of the portals but the scryers themselves. Warders setting permanent wards also use insulating boots for the same reason.
Basically, it comes down to whether you need to cycle energy quickly and are not in danger of running out, or if you need to ration it to the last spark.
In between these two extremes, you will find a vast array of useful but nonessential footwear. Pure grounding and pure insulating boots are important to have in any mage’s collection, just in case, but there are a variety of mixed-use boots I can recommend. At the most basic is a mundane boot with enchantments added through embroidery, studs and other add-ons–though remember, if a metal stud pierces through the sole of the boot to come in direct contact with your skin, it will act as a grounding boot. If you have a proper insole or a good sock in between, you won’t have that problem.
As an example, I’m sure you all have a pair of special slippers or boot-straps for traversing the Valent walkways. We’re up quite high, and our paths are narrow and scary, am I right? But they are all infused with the same energy, and that signature has been stitched into those walking slippers so that even when it rains here, even when it gets icy, your slippers and straps won’t let you slide on the walkways. They can’t help you if you decide to jump off the edge, but the magic on them gives perfect traction, which is why you can walk uphill so easily.
They won’t work on other surfaces than Valent’s stone, mind you, so don’t get too cocky.
If you can think of anything you’d want your feet to be able to do, the Artificers can likely fashion over-slippers or boot-straps for that. Or full boots, but I always recommend having one general-use pair of boots then adding straps for convenience. As you can see here, I’m wearing the walkway straps over a pair of hard-soled leather boots, with flight-control runes embedded in the toe and heel and passive protective embroidery on the outside. Inside, I have a woven-glass insole and lining, making these insulated boots, but I also have seams running down the back that are stitched with silver wire. They hook just slightly over the heel here, and if you look at the top, there’s a small flap with leather on one side and the ends of the wires on the other. If I want these to serve as partially grounded boots, I tuck the flap in so that the wires touch my skin. If I want these to be fully insulated, I leave the flap out.
These are obviously very personalized boots, and I encourage you all to question the Artificers about what they can produce for you. But for now, you need one pair of grounding boots, one pair of insulating boots, and one pair of neutral footwear–leather, cork, wood, cloth, whatever works for you.
And yes, young lady, I know what you want to ask. When I say ‘boots’, I mean ‘any footwear’, though I recommend boots just for durability and the fact that you can step on sharp pointy things without injuring yourself. If you like, you can wear dainty little grounding shoes, or insulating shoes; you don’t need large clunky boots.
But then, you can’t put a steel toe-cap on dainty little shoes.