An elemental spirit or elemental is a spirit residing on one of the elemental planes that surround a planet in the D-Verse.
The first elemental spirits were created shortly after the introduction of elemental planes, primarily due to Eris's insistence that they should exist in order to bring a certain amount of unpredictability to the planes by the exercise of individual free will.
Any time a new world is created and surrounded by elemental planes, those planes are immediately populated by a number of elemental spirits, some spontaneously generated and some having voluntarily moved from older worlds.
Elementals fulfill several purposes by existing, chief among them Eris's intentions of introducing chaos and unpredictability as far as she can manage. Beyond that, they can serve as conduits - and on occasion, companions or servants - for practitioners of elemental magic, as well as shaping the form of their respective elemental planes to suit themselves.
An elemental's appearance can vary quite widely, but one principle guides it: the shape chosen is based first on suitability for the task at hand, and then on individual preference.
When no task is at hand in the elemental plane, the elemental reverts to its chosen 'true' form, the equivalent of a resting state; for elementals receptive to being summoned, this is generally a small and unobtrusive appearance. Other elementals disperse their consciousness into areas of the plane that they have formed, so that an entire structure, like a shrine or temple, may be the 'body' of a single powerful elemental; this practice makes them more resistant to summons from the physical plane.
When summoned to the physical plane, a cooperative elemental will generally assume a large and roughly spherical shape in order to delay contamination by incompatible physical elements and thus spend more time in the physical realm. Conversely, an uncooperative or isolationist elemental may intentionally select a shape with a high surface area to volume ratio to speed up the contamination process and return to the elemental plane that much more quickly, even when under contract. 'Older' elementals, those with a stronger conduit, can assume any shape without regard for this ratio; their internal fountains of raw elemental energy push any contamination away before it even begins to affect them, meaning they can enter and leave the physical plane whenever they please.
Behavioral patterns Edit
Elementals generally fall into a spectrum of behavior, with isolationism on one end and wanderlust on the other.
An isolationist is an elemental concerned about the state of its own elemental plane over all others. This philosophical bent produces some of the grandest architecture and most knowledgeable historians in a single plane. However, hard-line isolationists also avoid being summoned to the physical plane at all costs in order to maintain and encourage the growth of their conduits, a practice which tends to keep outsiders away from the structures and libraries.
An isolationist fears a planar reset above all else, as that would undo its painstaking efforts to alter its plane. Though such events are exceedingly rare, the threat alone is enough to keep isolationists civil to the other planes, if not entirely friendly.
A wanderer or itinerant is an elemental concerned with exploration, sightseeing, and new experiences. Elementals who take this perspective are quite personable in their own way, often going to great lengths in order to be summoned as much as possible. Although this practice makes elementals' conduits grow more slowly, their familiarity with individual casters' handling of magic - and the physical plane in general - makes them prime candidates for selection as planetary spirits later on, regardless of their own strength.
Wanderers may form conduits to all four planes over time, making them highly sought after by casters for their unsurpassed versatility. Maintaining these conduits requires constant interplanar travel, since conduit growth only occurs when the elemental is on the respective plane, but wanderers rarely find such circumstances unpleasant.
When in an elemental plane, an elemental is empowered by a conduit tied to its aetheric pattern. This connection allows full manipulation of the planar environment, with the spatial limits and fine control of said manipulation a function of the conduit strength. Every moment spent on an elemental plane opens the conduit of that element a little further, up to a limit defined by the planetary spirit.
When summoned to the physical realm, an elemental's ability is once again a product of its conduit (or conduits). At first, an elemental is limited to drawing raw elemental energy through the conduit and allowing a caster access to it. Once the contamination of the physical realm reaches the conduit itself, the elemental will be immediately unsummoned and returned to the elemental plane it last occupied in order to prevent any contamination returning to the plane.
By careful observation of a caster, or better yet a variety of casters, an elemental may learn how to shape and use its own elemental energy much like an elementalist. For an elemental with a conduit of lesser output, casting in this manner significantly reduces the time it may spend in the physical realm, since the energy that would normally hold back contamination is being directed outward.
Given enough time for its conduit to develop, an elemental may grow far stronger than any elementalist, able to draw upon a near-infinite well of energy while still maintaining the purity of its form in the face of ever-present contamination. In general - at least for observant elementals - power increases while on an elemental plane, and skill (in manipulation of the elements) increases while on the physical plane.