Smoke, Magic, and Books in the World of Pillar

Smoke and Magic:

In Warrington and the other countries that make up Pillar, Smoke when capitalized and spoken of in reverent tones should not be confused with a common substance coming from a common camping fire. When referred to most often on Pillar, Smoke is referring to a substance that is present in nearly all permeable things in the world. However, depending on what the thing is, Smoke reacts differently with that thing. Even within larger subsets of things, like biological life, Smoke appears to function differently within each of them. As an example, within Enlightened beings, such as Humans, Brown Dogs, Flemi, and other Enlightened Races; it is understood that Smoke causes those beings to combust and self-cremate fifteen seconds after their death. However, in non-Enlightened biological creatures, while it is believed they contain Smoke, just like Enlightened beings, they do not combust upon death. Smoke is present in plants and even within microorganisms within soil. However, so far as can be understood, Smoke has no effect on these things. Smoke does not appear to be in inorganic objects like rocks, metals, or actual soil. However, since smoke can travel in the air, it does appear to be in a small concentration in air and water. Smoke should not be confused with normal smoke as when a person burns wood or paper or other things. The Smoke within a person is different from naturally occurring burning smoke. Not only do they smell different, but they appear different as well.

Smoke from a fire can have an acrid smell depending on what is burning and chokes a person who breathes it in. However, Smoke from within a biological thing is not acrid smelling at all. It is hard to distinguish between the two Smokes when, for example, a plant is burned since both types are produced, but when a human is combusted, there is no smell at all. In fact, scientists have done experiments with this Smoke and it is possible for a person to breathe this Smoke normally as if it were normal air. Religious communities condemned this scientific experiment when it was conducted, however, given that most religions believe that a person’s Smoke is akin to their soul. So, it is believed that breathing in a person’s soul was sacrilege in some way. As such, few other experiments were done on the subject. However, what is without contest is that normal burning smoke and Soul Smoke are two different things, both by smell and by how they behave.

To speak to differences in behavior, Smoke is often seen as aware in some sense. Because of its apparent ability to understand when an Enlightened being has died and then it is believed that the Smoke itself is what causes combustion within enlightened beings, to some degree, the Smoke appears to understand when this happens and then to also react with combustion upon realizing this. It also appears that while Smoke does inhabit plants and none-enlightened creatures, it does understand to not combust those. As such, Smoke has some form of awareness.

While it is not widely understood or common knowledge in any sense, Smoke is also able to power certain devices and allow certain devices and/or persons to achieve certain outcomes depending on the circumstance. More on this topic in the Section below on Magic Books and the connection to the Smoke and the section entitled The Beasts and Smoke.


Upon the death of an enlightened being, fifteen seconds after death to be precise said being’s flesh will be consumed in fire. However, the fire is never large enough or frenzied enough to catch on to other things or people around them. Often, even the person’s clothing is largely unburned. It is recommended that if a person combusts while another person is touching them, they withdraw to several feet away, just for general safety, but honestly, physicians usually regard this as unneeded since the fire is very inward directing and largely safe. There has never been a report to the local fire authorities about a structure catching fire due to combustion. As far as is known, only enlightened biological creatures combust.

Magic Books and the connection to Smoke:

While there are traditional books within the World of Pillar there are other books that do not function like normal books. These are known as the Opus and Opuscula books, and while there are many Opuscula known to exist, the full scale of how many there are is not known. Specifically, the Opus and Opuscula books use Smoke to achieve something. The pages of these books are known to change. The words often scroll across the pages or change outright. There are limited pages in the books, but the knowledge contained in the books is not limited to what is currently on any one or all the pages. The books often rewrite the pages within them, depending on the needs of the user.

Many of these books are locked. Often, metal brackets and locks keep these books closed until a key is used to open them. This can be a physical key or some other form of device or word that can unlock the pages within. Until the book is opened, only limited options are available for the user. Verbal commands are often used by the books themselves to interact with the users. This is not to imply that the books are sentient, merely that interacting with these texts can take place in a verbal manner. The user is required to speak, but the books themselves can speak directly into the minds of the users if that user should so desire. Asking for information or for specific text to be displayed on a page is just some of the reasons verbal commands may be needed.

Opus Books use Smoke to achieve whatever they do. The initial interaction with a book, specifically when a book is closed, will utilize the user’s personal Smoke to create additional Smoke to create an effect. Even something as simple as awakening the book, bringing up knowledge on the pages, or having an Ash Fairy verbally presenting knowledge will draw power from the user’s body. The Smoke of the person will then the book will utilize personal nutrients to accomplish its functions. When the person has used all their personal nutrients in their body, the book will prompt the person to transfer use of the book to another person so that their nutrients may be used. If the answer is yes, the book will begin using any nutrients within that user to create new Smoke for utilization.

If the person goes further in using the book to accomplish tasks and the user’s nutrients are used up, the book will then warn the user that these stores have been used up. If the user attempts to continue, the book will warn them that continuing could result in physical harm, and then ask if the person wants to utilize vital biological stores. If the answer is yes, then the book will begin to utilize the person’s fat within their body to be converted to Smoke to continue accomplishing tasks. If the user continues beyond this, the book will again warn the user and upon obtaining permission, the book will begin using the user’s musculature and internal physical structures to create Smoke to accomplish the tasks asked of it, even to the point of the death of the user.

Depending on the task presented to the book, the book may or may not be able to accomplish the task asked of it, depending on if the data is available to it within one of its chapters. As an example: Nicodemus’ obtains an Opus underneath Riggleman Manor and it is an Opus of Conception, but specifically only contains chapters on Cooking. Since the book is locked, and only has access to minor cooking spells, he can accomplish only a couple of things;

  • Create a jet of steam, reaching a maximum of 6 ft.
  • Set a small fire, like striking a match.
  • Create a small jet of fire, reaching a maximum of 6 ft.
  • Conjure a chef knife, as hard as a diamond and much stronger than a steel knife of similar make. 
  • Conjure a stream of water, as if from a garden hose.
  • Heat something, like how a stove might heat a pot.
  • The book can also dictate numerous recipes.

Currently Known Types of Opus Books:

Opus Quotidian: These are general texts with the purpose of providing limited knowledge. They function as a real book might, but the pages are non-permanent in the sense that the words can change. There are many of these known to exist, but many of them have also been lost. They range in size and scope of the content.

Opus of Fate: These books provide a generalized understanding of possible futures and how to obtain those futures. It does this based on probability models of known events and situations. As a user of this book journeys with it, it will gather data about the user and the world and circumstances around said user, and its predictions can become more accurate. However, outside forces and unknown circumstances can create unforeseeable outcomes or randomized outcomes. Use with a degree of caution. Nothing said by an Opus of Fate should be taken as complete truth.

Opus of Conception: These texts allow a person to connect to the Smoke in the world around them and through the book, they can manifest certain abilities and functions. Smoke is the substance that allows everything to function and enables the forms of manipulation of reality we see when people use an Opus of Conception to create spells. Opus of Conceptions only have certain “chapters” in them. While closed they only have limited access to those chapters. Like a guest account on a computer. Additional chapters can be added once a book is opened, and when placed in a Mammon Engine and the proper chapters are available within the memory of that Mammon Engine. Only certain chapters are available at each Mammon Engine.

Fixed Opus Books:

Some of these books are directly connected to machines within the world and cannot be removed from these machines. Normally one would see them either directly connected to the machine or near the machine affixed to a pedestal of some kind. They operate as a control for the machine.

Opus of the Eternal: The ultimate book. This book has a direct Smoke connection to the Eternal Information. As such, not only does it allow access to all known knowledge, but also access to all known power as well. However, knowing of power does not guarantee unlimited power, since the power is still limited by the abilities of Smoke itself.

The Beasts and Smoke:

The Beasts of Legend are synthetic biological creations. Originally, they were created to combat the threat of the Armatites; large ten-story creatures genetically engineered to combat humanity and to create Pillar. The Beasts are several tons in weight and including the length of their tail, are said to be around 100 feet in length. They have long necks and large heads. Their bodies are covered in a layer of soft down, interspersed with feathers. They have wings that are also covered in feathers and appear like the wings of large birds of prey. Their heads are often described as a dog’s and/or horse’s head combined. They have four legs and the feet of each leg are dexterous, like the hands of a human. Their tails make up the bulk of their length and are prehensile. Some have been seen to have horns or spikes around their necks that protrude backward toward their tails.

The Beasts are mentioned here because they also contain a different form of Smoke than what is normally observed. Beasts can manipulate Smoke to create effects much in the same way that an Opus of Conception does, but instead of drawing in Smoke or using their own Smoke to create effects, it appears as if the Beasts are able to change Smoke into a different form. As such, whenever it has been observed, the Smoke which Beasts use is white instead of black. It is hypothesized that this form of smoke has unique and yet unknown properties when compared to Smoke in other situations. There are rumors of other synthetic beings as well which possess similar abilities to those shown in the Beasts. These rumors however are largely exaggerated and most certainly untrue.

Known limits on Smoke Magic:

  1. Ordinary people can only use smoke magic if they have a proper channeling device; IE: an Opus.
  2. The smoke within a person is limited and in the cases of enlightened beings, required for life. As such, an enlightened person may not get rid of their smoke without causing death in said person. Additional smoke will be created within the person by use of nutrients first, body fat second, and finally the vital structures and organs of the body itself; even to the point of the death of the individual if said individual pushes the use of smoke to that limit.
  3. The use of an Opus is limited to what chapters are available within said Opus. An opus without a chapter on the creation and use of fire will be unable to produce said effect.
  4. Use of smoke by a book that has not been cleansed, will not pull smoke from the person, it will use the person’s personal smoke to consume their body in the creation of additional smoke.
  5. Use of smoke to the point of allowing the Smoke to cannibalize your physical body will result in several physical signs that it is destroying your body. Over time, the following physical symptoms will result; hair loss, slow wound healing, frequent sickness due to loss of immune functions, dry and/or rough skin, easy bruising, swollen gums, depression, muscle pain, night blindness, infertility, and blood clots under the fingernails. As such, continued use of Smoke in this fashion will result in permanent damage to the body or in extreme cases, death.

Ash Fairies and their Connection to the use of Smoke:

Ash Fairies are semi-intelligent entities that are somewhat common throughout Pillar. However, it is a well-known fact that a single white Ash Fairy will always be with a Beast. It is not always visible, but they are frequently seen alongside them. Also, users of Opus Books are also known to attract a singular Ash Fairy. However, their Fairies tend to be black or grey in color. Opus users have stated the Ash Fairy works as an intermediary between the book and the user, providing verbal and/or mind communication to the user. Synthetic humans like Christoph are followed by a white Fairy as well. Ash Fairies allow Christoph to access certain abilities he would be unable to use otherwise.

Ash Fairies and Summoning:

Ash Fairies are sometimes connected to an entity within Afterlife. These entities are dormant until called upon by a fairy to be used. In this case, the fairy then takes on the aspect of this entity and in essence, becomes this entity in the physical world. These entities often take the forms of elemental demi-gods, but can only remain in the physical world for a short period of time as their physical structure is made up of only Smoke.

Nicodemus Pandit, Head Librarian for Riggleman Manor Archives

Taken from On Smoke and Magic, by Nicodemus Pandit, Chapter 6, Section 3, Year: NL20317


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