Hitchhiker's Guide to the Planes
I would say that the dust settled after the battle, but that would not be exactly true. The truth is that there was no dust. Neither was their foliage, nor stray arrows, nor even the corpses of enemies. No. There was only that smell, the smell of fire left overnight, the smell of meat burnt black and cooked for another solid hour. Only that smell and a field of ashes, in the middle of which sat Silver Simon, cross legged, his face twisted into that smile he always had, when he knew we were too afraid to voice our opinions. – Anatar of The Swordman’s Shining Company
Scorching Ray is an effective and simple spell learned by both sorcerers and wizards. The casting of the spell brings forth three rays of elemental fire energy, each of which seeks out a target and is fully capable of creating a truly impressive level of destruction in the right hands. The following is an attempt to lay out both the boons and innate dangers of attempting to master such a spell.
Scorching Ray was first cast by the imminent fire sorcerer, Oman’d Sala. Being one of the first wild sorcerers to have walked the planes, Oman’d created the spell much by accident. On her first pilgrimage across the planes, she found herself in what is now known as Icewind Dale. There, she became fascinated by the endless snows, entranced in their beauty. Oman’d wandered the then unsettled Spine of the World for many years in solitude, until her clothes tattered and her boots tore and she walked naked through the drifts with nothing but a torch.
It was then, at her most vulnerable, that she first encountered what we now call yetis. Oman’d unarmed and unprepared waved her torch at the beasts, and took note of their fear of it. In a moment of mixed fear and curiosity she cupped the flame of the torch with her hand, willing it to grow until she could scarce control it. Despite their attempts to escape, Oman’d released a litany of fiery rays, which sought each yeti, striking and killing it. Thus, Scorching Ray was born.
Scorching Ray is likely one of the most dangerous spells to learn for a sorcerer or wizard. That is not to say that the spell itself is dangerous, but that the learning process is.
Consider, for a moment, the situation in which a practitioner of magic learns this spell. Being a spell of the Second Order, it is far above the capability of any complete novice. So too is it below the notice of truly powerful and practiced magic users, whose attentions fall to much more powerful incantations. Therefore, it is the sophomoric who wish to learn this spell. They are so often convinced of their own power, their destiny as powerful mages, their natural capabilities, or simply their need to advance quickly. In this way they fail to see or to compensate for the dangerous nature of this spell. And, make no mistake, readers, the magics involved in Scorching Ray are dangerous. To be able to cast a single Firebolt is certainly simple enough, however, to create, control, and restrain not one, not two, but three separate gouts of flame is an act that requires an extreme precision, concentration, and control.
Unskilled mages and overambitious sorcerers often find themselves progressing no further than the first attempt at this spell, as the attempt often results in property damage, injury, and occasionally even death.
Components and Casting
There are both verbal and somatic components to casting Scorching Ray, though the somatic component is substantially harder to master. Through a simple verbal component can the actual rays themselves be summoned forth in the space immediately in front of the caster.
The somatic component, however, is slightly tricker. Despite the popular belief that the rays are summoned individually, the opposite is true. Upon being created, the energy that makes up the rays is actually contained in a single, inconceivably small space. The energies then begin to expand at a rapid rate. The somatic component of the spell requires the caster to first clasp their hands together, summoning the energies. As the fire within the spell continuously grows in size and power, the caster’s hands, and eventually arms are used to control the energies. The nature of fire causes the energies to expand in a spherical shape, so that most casters find themselves cupping their hands, as if attempting to hold an ever expanding ball.
It is in this moment that the spell is most likely to fail, or worse, injure the caster. If the energies do not expand far enough, the spell is incomplete. However, if the energies expand too far, the caster may find themselves overwhelmed and lose control, effectively becoming a magical firebomb. Many young wizards have died in this way, attempting to cast the spell as a Spell of the Fifth Order, despite only being capable of casting it as a Spell of the Second Order.
Should the caster successfully cast the spell at the desired power, the effect is simple, yet devastating. The physical manifestation of the fire element varies. The creation of fiery streaks, miniature firebolts, sustained rays of fire, and many more have been reported from scholarly study and field testing. Despite the manifestation, the effect remains the same: destruction.
On a successful cast, rays of fire, the number dependent on how many were conjured, fly forth from the caster and seek out targets, mentally commanded by the caster. As each ray acts as an independent collection of magical energies once separated, caster must control each individually, attempting to strike one or many targets with each ray.
Casters of Scorching Ray should use caution, when possible. There is no guarantee that the elemental fire will actually strike its target. There is, however, a guarantee that it will strike something. Use of this spell indoors is highly inadvisable.