How magic works in the Imperial Assassin world.
I’ve had a few requests to explain how the magic system in the Imperial Assassin world works. This page explains the what, who and how of Deenjah, the magic system.
Deenjah (pronounced DEEN-juh) is made up of three powers or Flames which humans can use:
- RED – Shakandhli (pronounced sha-KARN-dlee) the killing Flame/the Flame of destruction.
- BLUE – Askandhli (as-KARN-dlee) the protecting Flame/the Flame of maintaining.
- GREEN – Tarandhli (tuh-RARN-dlee) the healing Flame/the Flame of creation.
Anyone who can use/wield Deenjah is called a Deenjin.
There is a fourth Flame, Iskandhli (iss-KARN-dlee) which binds the system together. Iskandhli is the Flame of time and space, sometimes called the darkest Flame. However, no one currently living can draw up and use this Flame.
In the distance past, certain Deenjahi (see definition below) could wield Iskandhli.
How Does Deenjah Work?
Deenjah is a hard magic system. This means there are rules and costs. Brandon Sanderson coined this phrase and you can learn more about it here.
The three Flames of Deenjah are composed of chemical elements like gold, hydrogen, carbon, iron, argon, neon, uranium etc. Think of the periodic table of the elements you learned about in high school science:
In the Imperial Assassin world there are 334 elements, and they’re grouped in to nine classes called Sha.
The coloured boxes at the bottom of the chart above roughly equate with the Sha (however: metals comprise one group).
Not all Deenjin (see below) can use ALL of the nine classes or Sha:
- Everyone can raise the first 5 Sha or classes of elements.
- The Loy (desert tribespeople) can raise the first 7 Sha or classes of elements
- Only Yargans can raise all nine Sha or classes of elements. They are the only race who can raise any kind of metal.
So, Tizraki like Parvan can’t do anything with metal – but his Yargan healer friend (Kedron Temba) most certainly can.
Deenjah is manipulated or shaped using li – these are chemical equations made by visualising a learned set of symbols and ‘feeling’ them as you raise them.
Again, if you did chemistry and learned about arrangements of electrons, protons and valencies, this is exactly what I had in mind when I created the system.
In the early chapters of City of Whispers Parvan draws up a shield to protect himself and Dhani during an attack. To do this, he’s visualised a set of symbols that creates a chemical reaction to create a shimmering, carbon-based gaseous compound which forms a sheild.
As I said above, Deenjah is a hard magic system. The rules of chemistry and physics apply, along with the genetic race-based restrictions on what classes of elements (Sha) a person can raise and use.
The ancient race who harnessed the power of the elements into the Flames did two things to make humans able to raise and manipulate them:
- Created an external network of channels in the land which all of the Flames/elements run (think of ley lines).
- Created a circulatory system in the human body to be able to connect with the channels.
The circulatory system through which Deenjah/the Flames enter and are channelled through a Deenjin’s body is roughly like the lymphatic system.
The Flames are drawn in to the body through a point near the solar plexus and then are channelled down the left arm only and released through the left hand only.
The reason for this is that most people are right handed and may still need to hold something (like a weapon or tool) in their right hand and work Deenjah with their left.
The ultimate cost of using Deenjah is calories + the individual’s skill, endurance and strength.
A person can’t use Deenjah endlessly.
They will tire out.
For example, after four or five rounds of hurling the killing Flame at a force enough to kill an adult, most Deenjin will need to rest or risk burning themselves out or even death.
Who Can Use Deenjah?
In the Imperial Assassin world, there are three kinds of people:
- Deenjin: any race of people/person who can the Flames
- Deenjah-mute races/people who can sense the Flames but not draw them
- Null or gsho (pronounced g’SHOW) races/people who can neither sense nor use the Flames
Most of the peoples on Sooliath (aka the Continent) where Dhani’s adventures take place are Deenjin (pronounced DEEN-jin).
Yargans, Tizraki, Erissi, Loy, Agarans are ALL Deenjin.
Dhani’s people, Jhiriyans, who originate on another continent (Jhiriyah), are Deenjah-mute. They can sense Deenjah but not draw it.
A handful of nations in south-east and south-central Soolaith are completely Null. These are not mentioned in the first book, but are discussed a little more in the second book, Valley of Lies.
Deenjin are born able to draw up only two of the three Flames in the following combinations:
- Shakandhli (the Killing Flame/Red) and Askandhli (the Protecting Flame/Blue)
- Shakandhli (the Killing Flame/Red) and Tarandhli (the Healing Flame/Green)
Only about 10% of the population can draw the second combination above, meaning that Deenjin healers (drukilyi in Tizraki/drukpa in Yargan) are highly sort after individuals.
The combination of Askhandhli/Tarandhli does not occur.
Deenjin vs Deenjahi
As mentioned above, anyone who can draw up and wield Deenjah is Deenjin.
To draw the Flames, Deenjin must reach for them – kind of like wilfully tightening your belly, then identify which elements of the Flame (the Sha) they need, and use a symbolic chemical equation (called li) to shape or form the Flame before releasing it.
In City of Whispers, Parvan Gorshayik and every other Tizraki is Deenjin. Parvan’s mysterious Yargan healer friend (more about her in Valley of Whispers) and every other Yargan are also Deenjin.
Deenjahi (pronounced deen-JAR-hee) are very rare individuals who are permanently connected to the Flames. They don’t have to ‘reach’ for the Flames, and can call up much larger amounts of Deenjah – enough to destroy a city like Izurum (roughly 40,000 people) in two or three strikes.
The only known living Deenjahi are three members of the Yargan royal family. The ability is only passed on to the firstborn child, so younger children of a Deenjahi are Deenjin but not Deenjahi.
And that’s it!
I may add a little more to this page in the future, but hopefully that’s enough to cover how Deenjah works, who can and can’t use it and a little about the ideas I used to create the system.