A level of advancement or rank, is a level of spiritual development that advances as the sacred artist improves their core and madra and fulfills the requirements of the next stage. Some ranks have special requirements or give special abilities. At each advancement stage, the quality of the madra is improved.
In Sacred Valley practitioners wear a badge of the corresponding material to indicate what their rank is.
- 1 Cradle Cultivation and Advancement
- 1.1 Foundation Realm
- 1.2 Gold Realm
- 1.3 Lord Realm
- 1.4 Beyond Lord
- 2 The Ascended
Cradle Cultivation and Advancement
Cradle's magic system is separated into realms of advancements, with clear ranks in each realm.
- All citizens of Cradle are born at the foundation stage. Cradle, as a planet, is quite large and greater gravity than normal. The existence of Madra in one's spirit and the circulation of that Madra throughout one's body is what allows otherwise standard humans to survive the intense gravity of their home. Outside of children the only people that remain at this stage are children and the spiritually crippled. At this stage, an individual can sense their own core and madra. Compared to all other sacred artists they are spiritually weak and have the bodies of normal humans. They are capable of activating weak scripts and can employ simple techniques, though doing so quickly exhausts them. Foundation stage artists can cycle but are not yet able to take in the Vital Aura of the world.
- Most sacred artists naturally advance to Copper as children. To do so, the first step is to build up a certain amount of pure madra. This can be done over time through simple or advanced cycling techniques. Alternatively, spirit fruit, elixirs, and constructs like parasite rings can be used to artificially increase the amount of madra one has. Once a critical mass is reached, one encapsulates their loose core in a barrier/sphere of their own madra. The individual then uses their madra to squeeze their core until it can be compressed no further. This process, while not painful, is uncomfortable as one feels a great pressure bearing down on their spirit. The individual may lose consciousness for a time while their soul advances. Condensing one's core from a loose collection of madra to a tight core gives one several benefits.
- Strengths and benefits of Copper:
- The primary ability gained is what sacred artists call Copper Sight. This sight allows one to see the Vital Aura in the world around them. Depending on the density of that Vital Aura, the variety of sights can vary from dull and limited to intensely bright and overwhelming. It is important to note that some varieties of Vital Aura are far harder to see than others and may take time and training to see them all (one such example being death aura).
- Conjoined with Copper sight is the capability to begin cycling and taking in Vital Aura. The 7 most common aspects of aura (fire, earth, wind, water, force, blood, and life) are named so not necessarily because of how easily they are to find, but because they are the easiest to cultivate. Over time, as one cycles the barest amount of aura through their core, their core will eventually take on these aspects and begin to produce that madra on its own.
- With the condensing of one's core comes a potency and quantity of madra that was previously unachievable. An individual can now use a more varied selection of techniques and power more potent scripts
- Achieving Iron is a sacred artist's first critical step. There are three distinct types of Iron bodies, and the type of Iron body an artist achieves will have a significant effect on their future advancement. To reach the beginning of Iron advancement, one must stretch their core to increase the amount of madra they can hold at once. Eventually, they will reach the point where their core will feel like it is about to overflow. To reach this point an artist may use varied cycling techniques as well as a variety of other methods, elixirs, fruits, and constructs to aid their growth. A simple and inexpensive way to do this is to have the artist forge their own scales, and then once their core is full again, they consume their scales to push the boundaries of their core and force it to stretch and grow. At this point, a sacred artist's next steps will determine the type of Iron body they will have.
- The three Iron bodies and the paths to achieve them.
- Yeah so that's a problem. I regret that terminology. What I should have done was call them 'Advanced Iron Bodies' or something; because I say perfect and that suggests that there are not any grades of quality (which of course there are). So I've created this implication that both Lindon's Iron Body and this other person's Iron body are both equally perfect when of course that is not so. So there are actually grades of Perfect Iron Body so of course they're not all perfect. The terminology I reget on that but I'm stuck with it now.
- In terms of Iron bodies, the "perfect" Iron bodies introduced in Soulsmith are specialized. So some of them would have tougher skin, others would have greater strength, others heal faster. In general, leaving aside the specialization, an Iron body is just the result of your spirit improving and to some degree perfecting your body. It's a general physical upgrade.
- Basic Iron Body. To achieve, once the artist's core feels like overflowing, they allow it to pour through their body as it reforges their body with madra. The artist will enter a trance during this process while their body is purged of impurities, and their body is remade. While this body grants great strength, speed, and durability, it will inhibit the artist's future advancement. If a prodigy, the artist may reach True Gold in their old age. But an imperfect Iron body would never be able to endure the soulfire transformation required to become an underlord/underlady.
- Perfect Iron Body. To achieve this Iron body, a sacred artist must first reach the same threshold as required by the basic Iron body. However, before the artist allows their core to overflow, they must first use a cycling technique to infuse every inch of their body with madra. If they allow their core to overflow and begin the transformation before the process of infusion begins, they will be limited to a basic Iron body and will never reach the heights that a Perfect Iron body may allow them to achieve. On top of having a strong foundation for future advancement, a perfect Iron body is physically superior to a basic Iron body.
- Advanced Perfect Iron Body. The highest and greatest Iron bodies give advantages and abilities beyond that of a perfect Iron body. To achieve an advanced perfect Iron body a sacred artist follows the same process required for a perfect Iron body, with an extra step added between infusing ones body and allowing their core's madra to wash through them. There is a great variety of advanced perfect Iron bodies, with each having its own requirements and granting certain benefits and abilities. Most of these abilities even develop and increase as one advances in the sacred arts. Methods of achieving an advanced Perfect Iron body vary depending on the specific outcome one is trying to achieve. However, different methods include repeatedly breaking every bone in one's body, repeatedly burning all the flesh one has, being bitten by a sand viper while simultaneously drinking its blood, and being wrapped in cloud-like silk while being suspended in the air for days on end. Examples of bodies and their respective abilities include: The Bloodforged Iron Body, which increases resistance against poison, and grants increased self-regeneration. The Raindrop Iron body, which increases one's reflexes and reaction speed. The Puppeteers Iron body, which grants perfect control of one's own body. The Steel Forged Iron body, which gives the user increasingly overwhelming strength the further they advance in the sacred arts. In the text, it is not clear if this type of body allows a sacred artist to reach advancement beyond that which a Perfect Iron body already allows, but it is certain that each grants unique gifts on top of those of a perfect Iron body.
- Advancing to Iron grants two or three main benefits:
- Achieving Iron grants a sacred artist a core that has an increased capacity to hold madra, and a strength of madra beyond that of Copper.
- A body that has been remade by madra and purged of impurities. The body of an Iron artist is without a doubt superhuman. They are faster, stronger, and more durable by far than any normal human being. It is said that it takes 10 coppers to challenge an Iron, and 10 Irons to challenge a Jade and so forth. This has not been shown to be strictly true, but the saying serves as a rough guide and helps to illustrate the strength that is granted by an Iron body. (The inaccuracy of the statement is mostly due to the fact that the beginning and the peak of any giving stage can have vast differences in power. This becomes more and more true the hight the rank.)
- The last benefit is the varied abilities an advanced Perfect Iron body can give.
- Just as Iron renews and reforges the body, Jade has a similar effect on the Spirit. The base steps of reaching Jade is twofold. The first, like advancing to Iron, is to reach beyond the capacity of one's core. This is done slowly and over time. While at any one time there is only so much a core can hold, each ranks core is also able to grow until it reaches a certain threshold at which point it beings to near the limit of its nature. The second critical step is to create a spiral in one's core through a cycling technique. Once the artists madra reaches a certain threshold of concentration and power while holding the Spiral pattern, they reach Jade.
- As in Iron, the path one takes to reach Jade has a significant impact on the quality of one's Jade soul and the likelihood of future advancement. The key factor in the Jade advancement process is the cycling technique one uses. If one does not have a strong enough jade cycling technique, their spiritual foundation will get shakier and shakier with each advancement until their spirit is no longer strong enough to advance. Techniques that grant firm spiritual foundations are rare, powerful, and highly valued. Such techniques have long and complicated histories. The Heaven and Earth Purification Wheel used by Eithan and Lindon is a powerful example of these special techniques. Every path has its own Jade cycling technique that focuses on a different field. Some focus on processing aura efficiently, others help you recover your madra in a minute, and the HaEPW focuses on deepening one's core.
- The strength of Jade:
- The spiraling motion of a Jade core condenses the quality of one's madra, increase receptivity to spiritual forces, speeds up madra recovery, and increases control over one's madra.
- The greatest benefit of Jade is the gaining of a spiritual sense that allows an artist to sense madra and the madra of others. This sense can greatly increase with practice, skill and cultivation rank.
- The spiral pattern of jade is what allows for the containment of enough power to reach Gold. Eventually, the suction force of one's spiraling core will be strong enough to contain a remnant.
While the Foundation Realm is dedicated to setting a strong physical and spiritual foundation for advancement, the Gold Realm revolves around the accumulation and refinement of power.
- The advancement rank of Low Gold can be obtained in one of three ways. Regardless of the path a sacred artist takes, the primary difference between Jade and Low Gold is a mountain of power.
- The three paths of advancement:
- The slowest or most expensive path to Gold is the path of simply gathering power over time or through costly resources. It would take you hundreds of years and a ridiculous amount of unnecessary work, but you could do it.(Referring to just accumulating power, without aids.)The expenses come through the costly spirit fruits and elixirs that can be used to greatly increase one's power. It has been said that one can go from Low Gold to the peak of True Gold with two pills. The alternative is using one's cycling technique to accumulate power over time. This slow and/or expensive path is most likely the original path to Gold that was used by sacred artists before the paths of using a Remnant or Contract were discovered. In modern times it is likely only used by those of pure madra paths, and those who can not find a compatible remnant or sacred beast.
- The second and most common path is taking a compatible remnant into one's core. This remnant can come from either a human or a sacred beast and usually breaches the power gap between Jade and Low Gold. Taking in a remnant comes with an advantage and disadvantage in the form of a Gold sign. Goldsigns come in a variety of forms which can be broken down into two categories. The first is goldsigns that alter a physical characteristic. Examples include metal like hair, a mouth like a serpent, and limbs covered in slick shadow. The second category are those that add on to one's form. Such goldsigns include the addition of bladed limbs, pieces of armor, wings, a tail, a golden crown, and many more that can either be purely aesthetical or have a variety of uses. When one takes in a remnant, the path of advancement usually requires learning to control and absorb said remnant.
- The third and final path to reach Gold is to have the power gap be breached via a contract with a sacred beast. This is done via a spiritually binding contract where the sacred artist and sacred beast swear to share cores and power. Both contractual partners gain a bond through which they can share madra, sense the presence of each other, and know the general state of their partner's mood and spirit. Another advantage is the fact that in most duels and competitions, bonded partners are considered one and can participate together.
- Advantages of Low Gold:
- The first and major advantage of reaching gold is entering into the Gold realm of the sacred arts, of which the potency of their sacred arts far beyond that of any Foundation realm sacred artist.
- As one's madra is stronger, their Iron body is also reinforced and grows more potent.
- One's spiritual sense increases in potency
- To reach High Gold, there are different steps depending on which path a sacred artist took to reach Low Gold. The base requirement is for the artist to grow the quantity of Madra they can hold at one time until the madra in their core will naturally reach a point where the sheer amount of madra will cause the madra to rapidly be drawn into their core like a drain had opened in their core. Basically the great 'mass' of their madra causes it to condense and become far, far more dense and potent.
- The Paths:
- For those who accrue naturally and/or with the aid of a sacred beast, they must cycle, stretch and grow their core until they can hold the quantity/density of madra that causes the condensation and advancement to High Gold.
- For those that take in a remnant, the path includes the above and a few more steps. They may just do as above, but it is quicker and more productive for the artist to digest and master their remnant. An artist can not reach the peak of True Gold and advance beyond unless and until they master their remnant. To reach High Gold, an artist must learn to use more than the excess energy their remnants provide. This is normally done by breaking down the remnant and digesting its skills, abilities, and power.
- At this time only two things are known about the advancement to True Gold. First, like the other stages of the Gold realm, the artist must accrue more power. And second, sacred artists who have taken in a remnant must develop a certain mastery over the skills, abilities, and power they have received from their remnants.
For the vast majority of the people of Cradle, True Gold is considered the limit of what one can reasonably achieve. Of course, among the powerful families and Clans of Monarchs and Heralds, achieving the heights of Lord and Lady are far more common. Even still, it is only the strong, brilliant, and determined who may reach these heights. Unlike the Gold Realm where one may jump from Low Gold to True Gold in just two pills, there is no elixir or spirit fruit that can take one into the Lord Realm. To venture into the Lord Realm there are requirements beyond pure power, it is here that the foundation of one's body, soul, and character is truly tested and reborn.
Underlord & Underlady
- Before one may advance beyond gold and become an Underlady or Underlord, a sacred artist must first achieve the full potential of Gold. This state is often referred to as the 'Peak' of True Gold, and achieving it is to reach the very end of what a human body and soul may naturally achieve. To reach beyond these limits and to have one's body and soul remade in soulfire is the very essence of stepping into the Lord Realm. A sacred artist has achieved the Peak of True Gold when they have masterful control of their own spirit and Madra, to the very end of what a perfect Jade soul may allow.
- Having reached the peak of True Gold, the steps to Underlord and Underlady are three. One, mastering yourself. Two, mastering the world around you. And three, connecting oneself to the world.
- These steps are beyond the simple accumulation of power and require insight into oneself and the world. It is for this reason that True Gold is often the last step on a Sacred Artist's path. Even among those who begin this journey, there are many who for one reason or another become stuck and never enter the Lord Realm. An interesting fact of this process is that with each completed step, a sacred artist's ability and power increase until they are reborn in soulfire as full underladies and underlords. A True Gold who has taken the second or even the first step along this path is far stronger than other True Golds. A truly powerful True Gold who has woven soulfire can even challenge new or weaker underlords and underladies, whereas even a peak True Gold who has taken none of these steps could not even give a lord or lady a headache if they attacked them in their sleep.
- The Path to Underlord & Underlady:
- Master yourself. Using the power of a True Gold and masterful control of one's spirit, a sacred artist must open space in the very center of one's spirit. Requiring supreme control of one's spirit, the Sacred Artist must find the center of their being. At that very point, they must flex their spirit, like expanding an invisible lung. There will be a strain, like pulling in a breath of mud, before the sacred artist will feel space open in their soul. This opening in a sacred artist's spirit is called a Soulspace and may be used to store a single item in one's very soul. When first opened this space is small, barely large enough to hold a bean. With time and effort, a sacred artist may expand this space until they are able to hold a much larger and more powerful object.
- Master the world around you. In this step, a sacred artist begins by learning to sense the unity of aura. All vital aura is connected, and power flows from one aspect to another. Once one can sense this unity, they can begin to weave soul fire from the vital aura. In order to train one's self in this, a specific mantra can be used to guide the process.
- "Follow the unity of Aura. Each aspect links to the next. Vital Aura has no beginning and no end, it is all one."
- Once the artist begins to feel the unity of aura flowing in the world around them, they can 'pull' on that aura, bringing it into themselves and distilling it into soul fire. This process is far easier when one weaves soul fire from powerful natural treasures but can be done from the loose vital aura of the world as well.
- Soulfire is the trademark power of the Lord Realm and is purified vital aura, with no impurities or imperfections. When created, it is stored in one's soul space and may be used by the sacred artist in a great variety of ways. By its very nature, soul fire does not consume, but rather burns away impurities as it refines physical vessels and empowers madra. Underladies and Underlords often use soul fire to imbue both items and techniques, vastly increasing their strength and power. As a sacred artist possessing soul fire has mastered the world around them, they may also use it to control the vital aura of the world. This process is generally not as powerful as ruler techniques and is thus not often used in battle. It is however very useful in daily life.
- Connect yourself to the world. Once a sacred artist has opened their soul space and filled it with soul fire, they connect themselves to the world around them by calling upon their soul fire and the vital aura of the world to reforge their body from soul fire.
- Igniting the transformation is quite difficult. Many Underladies and Underlords can not themselves say what it is that began their transformation. As mysterious as this step is, the truly wise have passed on their wisdom to their disciples. To begin the soul fire transformation, one must have a true and deep understanding of themselves and have a personal revelation that causes the soul fire withing to resonate with the vital aura around them, activating the advancement. Over time this revelation has specifically been discovered to be the true reason one pursues the sacred arts.
- The mantra from above continues "Follow the Unity of Aura. Soul Fire is Vital Aura distilled, it is the power of the world condensed. Feel how it resonates with everything around you, drawing you closer to nature. Now follow that sensation back to yourself, deep into your soul, into your mind. Now, why do you practice the sacred arts?"
- One strategy of finding this personal truth was shared by Akura Mercy, "follow your fear". Rather than asking what goal one travels to, what is it that drives one from behind.
- Once this revelation is achieved, the transformation will begin. When one finds the reason, a transformative resonance occurs. One's personal revelation connects them to their own spirit and then soul fire carries that resonance to the outside world. That then draws on the aura to fuel one's soul fire and burn away one's body and spirit, leaving one reborn as a Lord or Lady. The more soul fire one has, the easier it is to trigger the resonance. Some find their reason but don't have enough soul fire to trigger the resonance. The transformation through soul fire can take weeks or be completed in a breath, all depending on the concentration of vital aura around you.
- The whole process reforges one's whole body and soul, bringing one slightly towards their prime, weather that be older or younger. A body born of soul fire takes the seed that is a Perfect Iron Body and remakes it into a strong and powerful tree. Those with advanced abilities from their Iron bodies will find those abilities far greater than they were.
Overlord & Overlady
- In Sects and Kingdoms outside of a Monarch's direct family or clan, Overlords and Overladies are Kings and Empresses, the peak of their people's power. The fate of whole nations and peoples are decided by the life and actions of such a one. However, at this time nothing is known about advancing to this stage.
- Note: Actually, we have seen Yerin advance to Overlady. It involves looking inside one's self and determining who they are.
Archlord & Archlady
- Even in the families of Monarch's, many view Archladies and Archlords as the peak of what can be achieved. But even they, steeped in great power, are not yet capable of Ascending beyond cradle.
- A Sage is usually an Archlord or Archlady who has managed to manifest an Icon. Though being an Archlord makes becoming a Sage easier due to the boost in power it provides, one only has to be an Underlord in order to do it. Advancing to Sage is not required to become a Herald. It is even rumored that it is more difficult to become a Sage than it is for one to advance to Herald. It is speculated that Sages are the lowest stage capable of touching/sensing The Way. This is commonly called Authority and allows the direct manipulation of the world around the Sage through an application of Will power. Though the aging process for Archlords is very slow, Sages and levels above do not age at all. All ranks Sages and above are capable of ascending beyond Cradle.
- Heralds have been known to raze cities and destroy vast forests. Their power is legendary and far beyond the vast majority of the billions who live on Cradle. Advancing to Herald requires a sacred artist of at least Underlord to manifest their remnant without being killed, then merge with it. Many Heralds never advance to Monarch, instead Ascending, leaving Cradle behind them.
- There are eight known Monarchs alive in Cradle. Vast continents full of people and sacred beasts bow to their will and power, their very steps shaping the history of the world. But as powerful and ageless as they are, they have peculiarly short lives. They do not age, but even so, Monarchs are known to die in combat on a regular basis (In the hundreds to thousands of years, but still). One can only advance to monarch when he or she has both obtained Herald, and Sage, immediately advancing to Monarch. This means one has to manifest at least 1 Icon and merge their Spirit with their Body, though this does not have to be done in any particular order. The Monarch has even greater Authority over reality than the Sages or Herald being able to override their commands with ease. Though their capabilities with certain aspects of Authority still vary from person to person.
- See Cradle characters for full list of current known Monarchs.
While it has never been explicitly stated, there is evidence of power beyond that of the Monarch's. The first and greatest example is that of the four Dread Gods. While the Dread Gods have and can be driven off, none have ever been killed. The Monarchs of the previous generation banded together in a unified attempt to slay one Dread God. In response to their sibling's distress, the other three awoke, and together they slew all but two of the Monarchs.
The remaining evidence is Ozriel. When Ozriel joined the Abidan he was already in possession of his vast strength, and his universe erasing scythe. Suriel believes that he alone is stronger than a majority of the Judges. In interviews, Will has stated that a Monarch could go toe to toe with some of the lesser Abidan if it was one on one. But in the same interview, he makes it clear that a Judge would crush them. So where did Ozriel gain his power? Did he obtain it before ascending or after? We don't know.
All we know is that it is heavily implied that both the Dread Gods and Ozriel are closely tied to the Labyrinth. So perhaps the key to greater power lies within, or perhaps it was made within. We simply don't know.
- Few details have been given about the process of ascension. We do know however that the process is different in every iteration and requires a certain amount of raw power. It is also known that the bodies of those who ascend are beyond that of mortals as they do not age. The process of ascension changes the body in accordance with personal will, the nature of one's power, and bonded relics and artifacts.
- The Court of Seven was created with the founding of the Eldari Pact. They are the strongest of the Abidan, with each possessing the power and authority to determine the fate of whole universes (or iterations). They oversee the workings of The Way, caring for the Iterations and ensuring their natural progression. The responsibilities of the Eldari Pact are divided between the seven, and their positions are named to reflect those duties.
- They are:
- Makiel, the Hound
- Gadrael, the Titan
- Darandiel, the Ghost
- Telariel, the Spider
- Razael, the Wolf
- Suriel, the Phoenix
- Zakariel, the Fox
- If one of the Seven ever reaches their end, either through a desire to retire or through death in combat, a replacement is selected. Such a replacement takes up the mantle and authority of that Judge, going by that name for the duration of their service as a Judge. An unknown amount of time ago, the structure of the Court of Seven changed with the addition of the Eighth Judge of the Abidan Court, Ozriel the Reaper. With the power of the Scythe, Ozriel was the only being in existence with the ability to completely erase an iteration, leaving behind no fragments.
The agents of the Abidan Court
- Each of the seven directs their own division, named after their position, which aide the Judge in pursuing their goals and fulfilling their responsibilities. There are many unknown ranks and positions within these divisions, and their powers and abilities are mostly unknown. The only known requirement for one to be invited to join the Abidan is the need for one to be Ascended.
In a brief interaction in Underlord, it is implied that the strength of the Vroshir is related to what generation they are. There are a minimum of 10 generations of Vroshir, likely more.