A binding is a magical mechanism in the cosmos of Loge by which a person is magically linked to objects or other creatures in such a way that the location or condition of the one affects the location or condition of the other. Bindings take many different forms and can have many effects, but the underlying principles seem to be the same.
Bindings appear to be an effect of void magic, although their precise relationships to spells and to other paracarminical effects are unclear. A few celemologists believe that bindings are not truly magical in nature at all, or at least not an aspect of an otherwise known celatum, but that they result from some separate, poorly understood physical phenomenon. Be that as it may, bindings seem to be possible throughout Loge, on every godworld and in the planes beyond.
Creating a binding
Creating a binding is a lengthy process, taking, depending on the nature of the binding, from a day to several weeks. Particularly complex bindings may take even longer, as much a year, though such intricate bindings are rare. The person to be bound must remain in physical contact with the object or creature it is to be bound to throughout this period. Moreover, he must regularly be concentrating on the binding, and on certain mental formulae that help to solidify it. This does not mean he has to be thinking about the binding continuously—for one thing, of course, if the binding is going to take much longer than a day he'll still have to sleep—but if he goes too long without focusing on reinforcing the binding process it may unravel and prolong the process, or wreck it altogether and require it to be started from scratch. If he focuses too much on other things during the process of binding, the binding may go wrong in potentially disastrous ways, resulting in a possibly catastrophic misbinding.
The exact processes involved in binding are somewhat complicated: not so much to be beyond the ability of a person of average intelligence to learn simple bindings, but enough so that it will take some work. Frequently people chant mantras during the binding; these don't actually play a direct role in the binding process, but serve as a convenient mnemonic to help them better remember and focus on the necessary mental convolutions, and many binders rely on those mantras to the extent that they are unable to effect a binding without them. Some experts specialize in creating bindings, able to create them faster and more reliably than laymen, and to bring about complicated bindings which most people would find impossible; these individuals are known as ligators.
Some locations and objects are unusually easily bound to, usually because of prior preparations to that end or, rarely, because of some sort of spontaneous enchantment. An object which has been readied for binding in such a way is called a cleat. Some cleats ease the binding process so much that even people who know nothing else of binding and would be utterly incapable of creating one normally are able to bind to the cleat with little difficulty.
Objects of bindings
The subject of a binding must be a conscious being. While some celemologists hypothesize that there are ways of binding inanimate objects, no one has yet devised any means of doing so. (Attempts to, for example, temporarily possess an inanimate object and bind it have resulted in the possessing entity being bound to the subject even after it left the object.) The subject of a binding, however, can be virtually anything: an object, a location, perhaps even a concept. The methods and purposes of binding to different kinds of subjects, however, differ.
Most commonly, creatures are bound to objects. Depending on the purpose of the binding, this may mean small portable objects, or it may mean objects much too large to conveniently move. The former are certainly easier to bind to (since the creature to be bound can just carry the object around during the binding period), but sometimes there is good reason to bind to a larger objects. Among the most common items to be bound to are weapons, jewelry, clothing, and stones, but any object is a potential object of a binding.
A creature can be bound to a location, either a fixed location in space or a location relative to some large object. (In practice, of course, a fixed location in space is only fixed in cosmoi with absolute reference frames.) Most often, the location is fixed relative to the surface of the world where the binding takes place—or, more specifically, taking into account the effects of phenomena such as continental drift, to the nearest large landmass. A binding need not be to a specific point; the location to be bound to may encompass an arbitrarily large area. While bindings to very large areas are seldom particularly useful, bindings to areas the size of a room, or even of a few thousand square meters, are common. In fact, they're far more common than bindings to particular points, since such a binding would be difficult to enact (requiring at least part of the creature to be bound to remain at exactly the same point for the entire period of binding) while offering few if any advantages.
Sometimes a creature may be bound to another creature. Generally, the creature to be bound to has some subordinate relationship to the creature to be bound, such as being a pet or a servant. Sometimes, however, creatures may be bound to other creatures of comparable status, such as kin or comrades, or even to social or organizational superiors. Unlike other bindings, a binding to a creature may be (though is not necessarily) reciprocal, with each creature bound to the other with equal force.
Abstract bindings are difficult to perform, and are generally the province of only powerful ligators. These bindings involve binding a creature to a concept or a circumstance: to an emotion, a number, a word, a pattern, or a color; to an event, a time, or a contingency. Abstract bindings are diverse in their objects and their effects, and different kinds of abstract bindings may require very different methods to effect it. While demanding and rare, abstract bindings can have potent effects, and have been responsible for some impressive accomplishments.
Types of bindings
Bindings may be done for different purposes, and have a host of different effects. A full list of the types of bindings would be impractically lengthy, and almost impossible to make exhaustive. The following, however, are some of the more common types.
The term "restorative bindings" actually refers to two perhaps conceptually related but fundamentally distinct kinds of bindings: bindings that restore lost or damaged subjects to their prior status, and bindings that restore lost or damaged objects. The former, sometimes known more specifically as a protective binding, allows lost subjects to immediately translocate to the object of the binding. More powerful protective bindings may even restore dead subjects to life at the object's location. Protective bindings are usually to sites instead of to creatures or portable objects, though nothing in principle prevents them from being made to mobile objects. The latter kind of binding is sometimes known as a retentive binding, and allows the subject to restore the object to his own location should they become separated. More powerful retentive bindings may even allow damaged or destroyed objects to be restored to their former condition. Retentive bindings are usually made to cherished possessions, especially powerful talismans or objects of great sentimental worth; they may also be made to valued servants and other creatures important to the subject.
It is possible, and not uncommon, for both kinds of restorative bindings to be applied to the same subject, who is bound both protectively to a location and retentively to his possessions, such that if he dies he is then restored to that location with his important possessions intact.
An accitive binding allows the subject to call the object to him, whatever its location. Accitive bindings are usually made to creatures, who the subject may then call to aid him in combat or to serve him in other manners. They may, however, be also made to objects, such as weapons or specialized talismans, that the subject may find himself in need of at unpredictable times.
The differences between an accitive binding and a retentive binding are largely semantic. Both allow the subject to call the object to him. In general, such a binding is considered retentive if it involves something that the subject expects to have with him most or all of the time, and only need to recall to his location under special circumstances; it is considered accitive if the object is something that the subject does not expect to have with him except when he particularly needs it. The distinction, however, is often a fuzzy one. One more objective difference, however, is that most (though not all) accitive bindings, unlike retentive bindings, also allow the subject to dismiss the object when he has no more immediate need of it, returning it to where it came from. The summoned creature returns to its lair (or whatever its former location was); the summoned weapon or talisman to the safebox where it was stored.
A custodial binding allows the subject to sense the surroundings of the object. Exactly which senses are involved may vary; while most custodial bindings are visual, allowing the object to see his surroundings as if he were there (possibly with a fixed direction, or possibly allowing him to rotate his field of view; possibly including the ability to see in the dark or to detect invisible objects, or possibly not), custodial bindings may instead be auditory, olfactory, or tactile, or to involve more obscure senses. And of course they may (and frequently do) combine several senses to give the subject a better idea of the area. In the case of most custodial bindings, the subject is not continually aware of the object's surroundings, but must consciously decide to "look in" on them. Some, however, do provide such a continuous awareness, generally not replacing the subject's normal senses (bindings that do this do exist, but have obvious drawbacks), but rather supplementing them with a second apparent ubiety. Such a dual presence, the simultaneous awareness of two discrete sensory inputs, can be difficult to get used to, and it's not unknown for inflexible subjects to have been driven mad by such bindings.
By itself, a custodial binding does not allow the subject to affect the object or its surroundings in any way, merely to sense them. Custodial bindings are frequently combined with other bindings, however, that may allow the subject to act on what he senses.
Breaking a binding
Unless explicitly broken, bindings are generally permanent; they are powerful bonds that once forged are not easily undone. A binding can be purposely broken, but it is a very difficult process—unmaking a binding is much harder than creating that binding in the first place. A binding made by an ordinary person may require an expert ligator to undo. A binding skilfully made by an expert ligator might be unassailable by anyone in the world.
Slightly easier than breaking a binding altogether—though still more difficult than forging the binding—is moving the binding to a different object. Sometimes, when breaking a binding proves impossible, a desperate subject may resort to moving it to a less objectionable object instead. Technically, in fact, breaking a binding involves the same basic processes as moving the binding, only the new object it is moved to is nothing. Hence the difficulty of breaking a binding—the inevitable difficulty of moving a binding at all combines with the difficulty inherent in such an abstract object.
Technically, there is an exception to the rule that bindings are difficult to break: it is possible to intentionally set up a binding so as to make it easily breakable. Called light bindings, these bindings are complicated to perform, but creating a light binding is still much easier than breaking a binding not so prearranged. Light bindings are generally made when the subject intends in advance for the binding to be temporary, and wants to be sure to be able to break it when the time comes.