From A History of the Wars Fought-Under-Shadow, by Romesse of Khet:
Even before the Iron Queen championed the Prophecy to the intelligentsia of Spar, the Diarchian view of magic’s scholarship was already curiously close-minded. The University had come of institutional age soon after the destruction of Thago, when the attentions of the Diarchs and their generals were fixed upon the applications of organized fire and water magics for future war efforts. This, intentionally or not, seemed to form the basis of the scholars’ narrative, pairing political expediency with an already-prevalent explanation that mana was an expression of the earth’s natural, elemental energies.
The practice of magic, even then, was hardly limited to the four elements the University recognized, but it was geographically convenient to anchor its study there. Spar itself had a social comfort with fire magic, and its neighbors in the Riverlands to the west, as well as the Endless Dunes to the south, had strong traditions of water and earth magic, respectively. Alternatives were scarce or much farther afield: The Lie-magic of Khet was separated from the Diarchy by nigh-impassable mountains, and the arts of manipulating blood and plants were squirreled away in the countryside, the trade of hedge mages and medicine women. Of course, the University was aware of these. It did not dismiss their existence. It merely rebranded it.
The theory was this: The earth’s mana could be drawn to a number of ends, but the elements were channels it flowed to most naturally. With limited access to anomalous data, the scholars at first concluded that mana directed toward “impure” magics–for they classified the non-elements as combinations thereof–simply would not flow as readily, weakening the magic’s effect. However, as tensions between Spar and Khet escalated, and knowledge of Khet’s shadowmen became more common throughout the Diarchy, the consensus shifted: Non-elemental magic was not weaker, per se. Rather, it was more prone to “distortion”, a vague sort of misfiring or unintended disaster. Still, though the University concurred on a value judgment for this debatably imaginary phenomenon, scholars could hardly agree on a quantification for the risk it posed.
In effect, the Iron Queen provided a resolution to this dispute. After the Decree of Magic, the fear, the nature of the distortion, had been linked to the Prophecy, to an existential threat. It was concrete, and needed no further debate…
Top Image: Prophecy, by Quinn Milton, commissioned for War Torn/Rale