Pymary, also called spellery or the Arts, is the use of the language Old Tainish to manipulate the physical properties of materials - called Aspects - through the khert in order to achieve otherwise unlikely ends.
In Unsounded, the whole of reality exists atop a spectral scaffolding called the khert. This ceaselessly shifting spectral plane contains all unalterable natural Laws, governing Time, Dimension, Gravity, and other phenomena crucial to a stable and functioning world. In addition to these are alterable laws called Material Aspects.
Aspects are the objective physical attributes of physical Materials. They are metadata that describe how Materials physically behave and interact with other materials and the world. Aspects include Temperature, Colour, Density, Contour, Weight, State, Opacity, Brightness, Momentum, Direction, Volume, and so on.
While pymary cannot cause the spontaneous creation of Aspects or materials, it can manipulate Aspects that are already present. In this way, a wright can physically shift the world via spoken commands in order to achieve a desirable effect. A wright might, for instance, concentrate the local Temperature on a warm day to start a fire, or take the Contour from a sword to create a ranged, cutting vector. Much more benign reassignments are common and incorporated into daily society and technology, such as switching the Colour of objects, removing unpleasant smells, or siphoning the Temperature from a closed container to create a refrigerator.
Aspects come in an array of categorizations. Core Aspects, for example, will destroy any material they are siphoned from since they render that material no longer functional in reality. For instance, removing the Solidity from a block of stone leaves its State undefined. The stone cannot exist without a defined State, and the khert will dissolve it from the physical world.
Mythology dictates that the Aspects of the world were first defined by the Gefendur Twin Gods, who spoke the First Language, Old Tainish. Using this language, wrights can convince the khert to obey their commands and manipulate Aspects.
Core Leeching is taking a vital Aspect from a Material without putting it back. This makes the material incomplete which causes the khert to obliterate it. The khert is the order-keeper of the world, and doesn’t abide incomplete materials.
For instance, say someone takes the Solidity Aspect from a stone in order to punch someone upside the head. This leaves the stone without a defined State Aspect. The khert has no way to know if it’s solid, liquid, or gas. This makes it incomplete and incompatible with reality, so the khert will simply obliterate the entire stone to maintain order.
This mechanic is on its own a powerful attack. If a Core Leech hits you either you quickly replace whatever Aspect was stolen before the khert obliterates you, you leave the domain of the khert, or you break the line of the spell (eg if it hits your arm, amputate your arm before the Leech - which is not instantaneous and takes time to process its way contiguously along whatever material it’s dealing with - travels up to your more vital bits).
Core Leeches carry some risk for the attacker as well. The khert doesn’t generally like doing them as obliterating materials itself creates disorder. If you try to Core Leech too large a material it’ll often backfire. The khert will refuse to grant you the Aspect and in fact obliterate you instead. So it’s a little risky to ask it to leech an entire human skeleton or the entirety of an adult’s skin. If you expect it to leech something utterly ridiculous like all the granite blocks from a three story building, that’s a form of suicide.
This danger, combined with the destructive potential of Core Leeches, has both made them flatly illegal to use against living materials, and caused Aspect swapping and Aspect borrowing to be the preferred techniques taught in pymary.
Because pymary is intrinsically dangerous, each government has its own laws dictating how it may be used, and no wright may legally write original spells. Instead, in every country there is an official database of spells created by the authorities and taught in all universities. These spells exist inside the khert itself, and are called forward by wrights with trigger phrases. The spells then accept spoken local variables and manifest, using the presumably available Aspects to perform their function. Deviating from these approved spells is a serious crime.
Because the manipulation and isolation of Aspects can become quite complicated quite quickly, most wrights are thankful to have these pre-written and tested spells, which have saved countless lives since they were first put into practise. Composing spells is a tedious, dangerous enterprise.
Nevertheless there is an alternate method of pymary called gruftgramary which relies on reverse engineering to access the khert and manipulate Aspects via a new form of Tainish. Wrights who practise this strange art are called gruftgrammers, or greywrights, and face criminal charges if they are caught in the act.
"Everyone born in Kasslyne is connected to the khert but it’s a passive connection, so the materials of their own selves and of the reality around them are able to interact and be overseen. When you’re rited, the nature of that connection is converted so the khert can receive your Old Tainish commands. Unless you’re born innate - with your connection already active (Mikaila and Duane both were blessed in such a way) - you can’t work pymary without being rited.
Riting is as simple as having a certain spell cast on your body, one that sort of infects you (in a beneficial way) with the nature of the wright who cast the spell. Each Kasslynian culture has different rites and ceremonies that are wrapped up around this spell-giving, mostly thought to bring you good fortune in your career, or make you favoured by the khert. In Alderode they typically use a pymaric blade to cast the spell instead of having the wright say it aloud (this sprang from a desire to keep the rite words secret, but no one remembers this), and you’re literally stabbed in the torso with it, though it’s a shallow wound. Pymary’s seen as a very manly pursuit in Alderode, so I think there’s also a machismo element involved here.
In Cresce only the Palace can rite you, and you usually receive the blessing of the Queen and the Gefendur High Priestess afterwards. Then you go to a party and get presents and drink until you fall down."