Hitchhiker's Guide to the Planes
Magical energies tend to burn off any unnecessary power in the distance between the caster and a distinct target, even at a range as small as touch, but when casting a spell upon themself, this safety net is vastly reduced. Without proper training, a mage may risk being injured if they target themself with a higher energy spell and overestimate what power is required. I caution you to be both careful and diligent in your studies. Try visiting the infirmary sometime, and ask the nurse about what happens to a victim of Transmuter’s Backlash, because although it can happen in any school of magic, as the name implies, it is most prevalent among Transmuters.
Because of this backlash effect, Levitate is an important spell in your progression as a Transmuter. Not all students initially have the patience to learn how to raise or lower things over a duration of time instead of instantaneously, but this steady control over flow of power teaches a person to carefully monitor the power they use, to make sure that they don’t tear their body apart when they cast a spell upon themself. Practice with this spell on objects or other people, or use some other similarly concentration-intensive spell, and you will save yourself from a physically and mentally painful lesson in the consequences of arrogance. -Professor Khendor Vanion, teaching Basic Transmutations and Alterations III.
Levitate is an old spell, though there are elves who have been practicing magic longer than it has been around. Traditionally this spell is thought to be a creation of dwarves, who would use it to ascend out of a sheer mineshaft, or to raise hauls of ore slightly off the ground to be pulled with minimal friction through the air.
Invoking the Power
Material Components: This spell requires either a small loop made out of a leather strip (any kind of knot) or a golden wire that has been bent into a cup shape (possibly with a long shank on one end). While both tokens are suitable for casting this spell, there are many unconfirmed claims that a leather loop allows for faster vertical movement, and similarly unverified claims that using a golden wire allows for greater precision of movement.
Somatic Components: The most frequent motion used to invoke this transmutation requires the caster to begin by choosing a hand and holding that hand out at chest level, fist closed holding the components and palm pointing downwards. The caster then smoothly turns their hand over while opening their fist until the palm is facing upwards, at this point the last three fingers are cupped slightly while the pointer finger is left straight. While maintaining this gesture for the duration of the spell is not required, it is worth noting that at this point the caster will begin controlling the height of the target by manipulating their thumb, curling the thumb into the palm of their hand to decrease altitude, stretching the thumb out away from the palm to increase altitude, and leaving it relaxed to leave altitude constant.
For creatures without thumbs, or mages schooled in non-traditional methods, the general gestures will be roughly the same, a limb outstretched then turned over, but the exact mechanic of control will vary from creature to creature and depend largely on the caster.
Verbal Components: There are two possible command words to call forth the power of Levitate. One is a Terran word: “Durdell”, which translates to “repel”, and the other is an Auran word: “Silaf”, which translates literally to “rise” or “raise”. While both words work, it is rare for a caster to have both words invoke the same amount of power.
Effects: This spell causes a creature or object under a certain weight threshold to rise directly up into the air, about twenty feet. The mage who has cast this spell may then raise or lower this creature at a rather slow rate. When comparing rates of descent, a target of this spell which is being lowered as quickly as possible moves at less than half, about roughly one-third, the speed of a creature who is falling after being affected by a Feather Fall Spell. As a caution, should a creature be lifted into the air by this spell, they may only achieve horizontal motion if force is exerted by an outside factor (such as a rope pulling them sideways) or if they are able to reach a solid object which they may use to pull themselves along. If the caster moves more than a few score feet away from the target of this spell they will cease to be able to affect the targets altitude until they move back into range. For safety, it is advised that the target of this spell be an object, or a willing creature, and that the mage does not stand directly underneath the target.
Unlike more powerful spells, Levitate is capable of lifting objects to a desired height and then allows them hover without interfering significantly with most other kinds of magical energies. The exception is that Levitate mainly interfere with other transmutations, so it is often considered as a non-interfering way for other schools of magic to use during their own experiments. For example: a wizard may decide to use this spell to create a safe distance around a target for an evocation so that the energies used in their spell aren’t impeded or augmented by the method of suspension, and so that any effects created have a predictable radius which won’t attempt to leap into other nearby objects which may be resting on or hidden inside the ground (such as arcane baubles, magnetized materials, stones with crystalline structures, or people).
More practical uses of this spell tend to involve lifting people or objects to height that would be otherwise impractical or treacherous. Outside of academic pursuits Levitate is most often involved in construction work. Examples would be: raising medium to large stones out of holes being dug for basements or cellars which will be dragged to the side by men with ropes, or lifting people to the roof of a building when the ground may be too dangerous for a ladder (possibly due to a large amount of mud).
Many apprentices have had Levitate fail on them as they make their first attempt to delve into slightly more powerful magics than when they start. An anonymous survey of mages of varying degrees of strength reveals that the most prevalently recalled cause of failure for this spell is the caster having looped the leather cord around a finger or thumb, or the wire cup being deformed by the mage’s closed fist before the hand is turned over. Slightly less frequently the spell will fail due to the mage casting the spell opening their fist to the point of all fingers being extended instead of just the pointer finger. Since the verbal portion of the spell is only a single word, it is rarely a point of collapse for this transmutation, with the most frequent lapses being stuttering or completely forgetting to speak.