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- Not to be confused with Fire Emblem Gaiden's black magic.
Dark magic (Japanese: 闇 darkness), also known as "elder magic", is a magical weapon type in the Fire Emblem series, first introduced in Genealogy of the Holy War as one of five magic types. Like axes, dark magic in general possesses the highest might of the magic types, offset by being the heaviest and least accurate. Additionally, dark tomes are frequently distinguished from other magic types by possessing additional, unusual effects alongside just dealing damage.
The place of dark magic in the Trinity of Magic depends on the game. In its original appearances in Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776, it and light magic are separate from the Trinity comprised by the three anima types and overpower all three. In the Trinity of the Game Boy Advance trilogy and Radiant Dawn, dark is at a disadvantage against light, while at an advantage against all types of anima.
In Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, Mystery of the Emblem, Shadow Dragon and New Mystery of the Emblem, there is no separate dark magic, with the broader tome weapon type covering magic which would theoretically be dark had it existed in a game with it split, such as Imhullu and Glower. There is no dark magic of any description in Path of Radiance. In Awakening and Fates, dark magic does technically exist as a weapon type; however, it does not have its own weapon rank, is tied to the unit's tome rank, and is only usable by Dark Mages, Sorcerers, and units with the Shadowgift skill.
sought to use dark magic to help the people of Grado
||We have only the barest understanding of how dark magic operates. Maybe we can use it not only to heal wounds, but also to stop diseases... What if we can read the future, predict disasters, move mountains!?
In the context of the worlds of Fire Emblem, the position and reputation of dark magic is complex and varied. It is generally depicted at face value as an obscure, ancient and intricate discipline, with very few playable units having access to it, and it frequently has ties to evil powers. For instance, the Loptyrian cultists of Jugdral are almost all Dark Mages, the final bosses Gharnef, Julius, Veld, Nergal and Lyon are all wielders of dark magic, and the latter two were explicitly driven to evil as a result of their powers. Often, unusual or outright sinister powers stem from mastery of dark magic, such as the obscure "time shear" spell which grants its masters the ability to see the future, and the ability to create undead monsters. Unsurprisingly, dark magic is portrayed as holding a widespread reputation for being "evil" in and of itself as a result of all of this; it appears that similarly, "dark magic" as the art's common name is, at least in Elibe, a pejorative term for it which stems from this association with evil power.
In Elibe, Magvel and Tellius at least, the root of dark magic is knowledge. According to Knoll, those who practice dark magic seek knowledge and understanding, and seek to expand their knowledge of the world to know the unknown and unknowable; this is a stark contrast to light magic, which takes its power from divine faith. This is supported by most users of dark magic in this era being scholars. Canas describes the use of dark magic as requiring one to invite the dark power into oneself, which comes at a grave risk as there is a constant temptation to surrender oneself completely to the darkness, and one who cannot resist it loses their soul; this fate befell Canas's three brothers. Teodor's description of the use of dark magic is even more extreme, suggesting that complete mastery of dark magic requires sacrificing one's self entirely to become a vessel for the darkness and to maintain a strong enough will to tame the darkness to one's ends; Bramimond of the Eight Generals is, according to Teodor, one of very few people to have achieved this without losing oneself. His description also suggests that Nergal is a failed attempt at this.
The experiments of the dark mages of Grado under Lyon's leadership, and the stigma and untapped powers of dark magic, are key plot points of Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. Lyon, a student of dark magic, initially sought to overcome the sinister stereotype of dark magic by putting it to use to actively help the people of Grado. Lyon's belief that there was still much to be learned about dark magic, and that it could be used to heal people and save lives by averting disaster and eradicating disease, led him and his dark mages to begin their study of the Sacred Stone of Grado and the powers radiating from it. He rediscovered a lost ancient "time shear" spell which allowed him to witness a devastating earthquake in Grado's future, and intended to use this knowledge to save the people from it, but eventually after his father Vigarde's death from illness Lyon was driven to madness and fell under the influence of Fomortiis, leading to the game's events.
As with many things, Awakening and Fates' depiction of dark magic varies drastically from the portrayal of the GBA-Tellius era. Dark magic here is instead characterized as hexes and curses, often explicitly evil magic which inflicts a variety of forms of harm on their victims.
|A means that the weapon is available in that game, while a indicates the contrary.
Classes capable of using dark magic
|A means that the class wields dark magic in that game, while a indicates the contrary.
Etymology and other languages
|Names, etymology and in other regions
|| Definition, etymology and notes
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 "You should know, I can help in combat. I’ve some skill with a form of elder magic… Some call it dark magic, a rather biased term, if I must be blunt." - Canas, Fire Emblem
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 "Knoll: We read of a spell entitled the time shear. It causes, in effect, a hole in time. This spell warps time, punches a hole through cause and effect.
Knoll: We lack the knowledge to reproduce this ancient spell today. Prince Lyon, however, was convinced that we could unravel its secret. He felt we could use it to predict– and even prevent–future events.
Natasha: ...Prevent...the future?
Knoll: Oh, we dedicated years to studying this spell. You see, the greater the disaster, the farther it sends ripples through time. We learned to read these ripples from the future, hoping to save lives. If we could know when a disaster would strike, we could evacuate people. We could save millions of lives.
Natasha: But... It seems so, so blasphemous. That worldly creatures should take control of fate, it–
Knoll: Are you saying that, knowing the future, we should do nothing? We should simply allow people to die in order to preserve “fate”?" - Knoll and Natasha, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "Perhaps we were bitter that we receive no credit for aiding Grado. That we receive no accolades for our research, for the benefit it brings. I do not know. But we pressed on, nonetheless. The misconceptions linking the ancient magics to “evil” die hard and slow. Prince Lyon sought to change that. He wanted, as we all wanted, to prove that our magic had good uses." - Knoll, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
- ↑ "Your magic stems from faith in the unknowable, the divine presence. In contrast, dark magic stems from knowledge, from understanding. We distrust what we do not understand, and we strive to know the unknowable." - Knoll, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
- ↑ "As you know, elder magic is based on the forces of darkness... It is even more powerful than nature magic, which is often called anima. But to use this magic, you must invite the dark forces within you. The temptation to submit to the darkness is...great. ...Unfortunately, the darkness took my brothers... They live...and breathe...their eyes open and close... But...they do not move. And they do not speak." - Canas, Fire Emblem
- ↑ "Teodor: Yes. It’s the fate of those who study dark magic. If you covet the dark, you must enter it of your own free will. You must erase yourself and become an empty vessel. Only then will you be able to receive the dark and master it. If your disposition is weak, the dark will overwhelm you. You will be...lost... ...Ofttimes, you will forget why you seek the power to begin with. Only a few people ever gain true power. To win such a prize, one’s self is a small and insignificant sacrifice.
Teodor: I’ve heard rumors... Bramimond, one of the eight legends, devoted himself entirely to the dark. All emotion, all memory... dissolved in a river of dark. That is how he received the power to best dragons.
Eliwood: ...I don’t understand. Why would anyone want power at the cost of his own identity?
Teodor: "I must have it at any cost." I believe every living soul has felt such desire. I know I have. Have you not, Lord Eliwood of Pherae?" - Teodor and Eliwood, Fire Emblem
- ↑ "Eirika: I agree with Ephraim entirely. You spend every night in the library, studying cures for your father’s illness. The power of the Sacred Stones is too powerful to be used for personal gain. But you, Lyon... I think you’ll be fine. You’re the kindest person I know.
Lyon: Thanks, both of you. Hearing those words from you means a lot to me. Actually–and this hasn’t been made public yet–but... I’ve already saved someone using the knowledge I’ve gleaned so far.
Ephraim: You have?
Lyon: Uh-huh... A while back, a fire ravaged Serafew, and a little girl got trapped in the flames. Her burns were terrible: not even healing staves were able to cure her injuries. But just a sliver of the stone’s power restored her life and healed her wounds. We saved that girl’s life, Ephraim! Oh, if you could have seen the tears of joy in her mother’s eyes!
Ephraim: You really did it, huh? You are special, Lyon. Congratulations!
Lyon: Well... thanks. But there’s still so much more to be done. I am happy, though. To be honest, I just want to be able to help people. I want to put the ancient magics to use for the common good... That’s how I feel.
Lyon: And as my research moves forward, I’ll be able to do much more, too. We have only the barest understanding of how dark magic operates. Maybe we can use it not only to heal wounds, but also to stop diseases... What if we can read the future, predict disasters, move mountains!?" - Eirika, Lyon and Ephraim, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones