The Five Founts
The Five Founts of Magic, mentioned in the description of arcane magic, collectively represent one of the most important concepts connected to this type of magic. Without the Founts, no mortal practitioner could safely draw upon arcane magic.
Arcane magic actually originates within the seething storms of the Elemental Chaos. This magic is, in essence, the energy of creation. The primordials used this power to help mould creation. As such, it is powerful and dangerous. If a mortal spellcaster draws magic directly from the Elemental Chaos, he is calling on Blight magic, and his body and soul are in jeopardy.
This powerful magic flows out of the Elemental Chaos in rippling waves, much like an ocean tide coming to shore. Although this magic suffuses other places, a barrier protects the mortal worlds (Stormfell, the Feywild, and the Shadowfell). If not for these barriers, the various mortal domains would plunge into rampant chaos and an eternal cycle of creation and destruction.
The barriers protect the different mortal worlds, but there are places where magic leaks into these worlds a bit at a time. Without these “leaks,” no mortal could cast the simplest cantrip or orison; magic simply would not exist.
On Stormfell, magic passes through the barrier via five different physical locations. Each location is known as a Fount; collectively, these are the Five Founts of Magic. Each Fount allows magic to enter Stormfell. More importantly, each Fount filters out the corruption and harmful elements within the magical flows. This process of purification is what allows mortals to cast spells without harm to mind, body, or soul. After passing through the Founts, magic flows across the world in invisible waves.
At present, the locations of at least two of the Five Founts are known (with a possible location for the third widely suspected). The other two Founts, despite millennia of searching, remain hidden to mortals.
During the war between gods and primordials, the goddess of magic, Numira, used her divine essence to filter magic and thus allow mortal spellcasters to use it without fear. Without her intervention, every arcane practitioner would have suffered insanity, death, or worse in rapid succession.
The barriers came into being by the will of the gods. After the Dawn War, the gods did not want primordials to be easily able to enter the mortal domains and use their powers. In this original design, arcane magic would have been blocked from all mortal domains forever.
Numira argued against this plan. In an unusual display of cooperation and agreement, the gods Erathis and Ioun agreed with Numira’s objections. This trio of gods argued for the creation of the Five Founts. For reasons not fully understood, the other gods relented. Numira, aided by Ioun, created the Five Founts and hid them throughout Stormfell. She installed other similar channels in both the Shadowfell and the Feywild.
Although most wizards and other arcane magic-users are rarely prone to religious awe, almost all arcane spellcasters feel a sense of almost spiritual elation when thinking about the Five Founts. If different faiths possess their individual holy sites, then arcane magic-users view the Founts with similar zeal.
After creating the Five Founts, Numira called twelve of the most powerful and talented arcane magic-users amongst the Immortals. She appointed these individuals as Sentinels of the Founts. Two Sentinels would serve each Fount. One individual would serve as the Archmagister and overseer of all Five of the Founts, with the last individual serving as his adviser. The goddess of magic granted vast knowledge of magic to the Sentinels. Several of these individuals became the first priests of Numira, and they established her church on Stormfell.
Unfortunately, one of Numira’s chosen took the arcane knowledge and power given by the goddess and used them for his own ambitions. With time and much bloodshed, this person would become known as the god Vecna, a name feared even to this day.
There remains considerable debate about how the different forms of magic interact or are related, especially with regards to arcane, primal, and psionic. Practitioners of these different forms of magic have their own views and opinions, but precious few proven facts. There are two fundamental schools of thought on the subject.
One school of thought holds that all forms of magic that are not divine are, in fact, arcane in one form or another. This includes arcane magic, psionic, primal, pact magic, and others. These forms of magic originate from the same source – the Elemental Chaos, and are filtered one way or another to permit mortals to use them. The worshippers and priests of Numira believe in this school of thought, and they teach that the Goddess of Magic is ultimately in control of all forms of non-divine magic. In their view, all magic travels through the Five Founts, regardless of what mortals choose to call it. At the foundation, psionic or pact magic are no different from arcane magic, save for a few trappings.
The predominant school of thought, on the other hand, holds that arcane magic is the only true form of arcane magic. All other types of non-divine magic have different origins and different rules. They may behave similarly, and they may demonstrate a great deal of similarity in effect, but each form of magic is separate and unique. Only arcane magic travels through the Five Founts, and only arcane magic (and Blight magic, of course) originates from the Elemental Chaos.
Most practitioners of magic ultimately find such questions academic at best. As long as they retain access to magic and its use, they care little for its actual origins.