Magic in the world of Kulhn is divided into two main types - elemental and necromancy, aka death magic. Both types use the energy of living things to accomplish the spell caster's intent, but they do this is significantly different ways.
One of the most important differences between the two types of magic is this; elemental magic can only be used by women. In order for a man to use elemental magic he must first be castrated. This single fact has been the source of major conflict for many centuries.
Elemental magic is associated with the four deities of a pantheon that is universally worshiped across the continent. The four gods are each associated with a particular element, along with their designated sphere of influence. Water and air are served by priestesses. Earth and fire are served by eunuch priests. The temples guard their authority over magic jealously, particularly earth and fire.
Any woman who is found to have a talent for earth or fire magic is required to enter the appropriate temple as a handmaiden, and permit herself to be fitted with a collar that suppresses her magical ability. To refuse is to be branded a witch, and witchcraft is punishable by summary execution. Theoretically, an accused witch is supposed to get a trial. In practice, nobody much cares one way or the other.
However, necromancy can be used by anyone of either gender. Apparently, there is nothing about being male that prevents one from dealing with death. There is the slight problem that anyone caught using death magic would most likely be torn apart by a mob before the law had time to hang them. This does complicate things for a necromancer.
Women who can work magic are born with an affinity for a particular element, earth, air, fire, or water. This is not to say that they are limited to the use of that element. A fire witch, for example, is quite capable of raising a waterspout or splitting a boulder. But they are able to accomplish more with less effort, when working with their own particular element.
Using elemental magic is physically and mentally exhausting and debilitating to the user, and if if continued too far can lead to total collapse. But obviously the witch, priestesses, or priest is not themselves the complete source of the energy. A human body is not capable of storing enough power to melt a boulder, or pull a river out of its banks. But where the bulk of the energy comes from is a mystery.
The temples maintain that all true magic flows directly from the gods as a special dispensation to the temples. Anyone who works magic unsanctioned by a temple is, by definition, consorting with demons and a witch. The temples do not distinguish, officially at least, between a witch and a necromancer.
The witches themselves respond to this assertion with language that is best left unprinted. And in practice, there seems to be no apparent difference in the ability of a woman who uses elemental magic as a witch, or as a priestess.
Perhaps the magic user somehow taps energy from the world around them and converts it. Which might explain the exhaustion. Or perhaps not. The scientific method has not been discovered yet in Kulhn, and the people who work magic have only the vaguest idea of why the power operates the way it does. They have learned, through trial and error, that certain things will cause certain results, and this is enough to satisfy them. At least for the present.
Death Magic (Necromancy)
Necromancy is an entirely different matter. In Kulhn is it called simply, 'death magic', and it is absolutely forbidden. The procedure for death magic is straightforward. Cast a death spell. Let it suck the life from your target. Absorb the living energy into yourself. Use the extra energy to accomplish your objective. The more powerful your objective, the larger and/or numerous your victims must be. For a major working, a death mage might need to kill as many as twenty to thirty humans in order to obtain enough raw energy to power the spell. For small things, a rabbit or even a few trees might suffice.
Agrahain the Conqueror, founder of the kingdom and direct ancestor of Peteros, came to Kulhn from the south and found Kulhn suffering under the rule of an necromantic oligarchy. The death mages were holding the population at large in virtual bondage, and harvesting them at will for use in their magical ceremonies.
After purging the land and executing all of the death mages that they could find, only a handful of necromancers were left. These fled into the southern forest and in desperation started using death magic to survive.
Some of them turned to lycanthropy. By using death magic, it is possible to obtain enough energy to transform oneself into a manwolf. The payoff for the transformation is blinding speed and inhuman strength, as well as becoming immune to almost anything but silver, fire, or wolfsbane. The price is that the werewolf must constantly kill, and kill, and kill again. Otherwise they will revert to human form. Also, they were unsuccessful at recruiting new pack members. Over the centuries, the werewolf population in the southern forest of Kulhn has become inbred to the point of near idiocy.
Other death mages chose to become vampires. By drinking the life of their victims directly from their veins, these death mages were able to prevent their corpses from rotting, and keep their spirits tied to their corpses. They can transform, and they are strong almost beyond belief. But they are helpless against fire or running water, and garlic paralyzes them.