- "Creation is, in essence, matter with a set of rules imposed by the Gods upon it,” he said. “A domain is when an entity, in this case you, temporarily overlays different matter and rules over it."
- ―Masego, as Apprentice
Domains are a type of ability that allows the user to overlay their own rules and matter over Creation. They have no singular power source: heroes, villains, natural beings and fae can all manifest a domain. Rather, it seems like the determining factor is the relative power of the one trying to impose their will on Creation. Kilian remarks that "domains usually belong to lesser gods, full-fledged Named late in their career or particularly ancient monsters.”
Externally projected domains cannot harm the user— Fall doesn’t freeze Cat, Sulia’s domain didn’t burn her and Tenebrous’ darkness didn’t consume her.
Domains are one of the ways a personal pocket dimension could be acquired, if the wielder was skilled and the domain’s nature allowed.
See also: Names
As a rule, most Named do not have enough power to create a domain. A notable exception to this is the Champion Line of Names from Levant. The Valiant Champion has a domain under the Aspect of Exalt and the Unconquered Champion was mentioned to trap Black Knight in his for a month. This seems like a peculiarity tied to this variant of Names - possibly related to their blood ties with Gigantes - as otherwise domains are restricted to extremely powerful and veteran Named like the Saint of Swords.
Catherine Foundling broke this rule, as a result of being titled a Duchess of Winter, allowing her to use a domain despite being a mere Squire — A transitional Name which would normally lack the power to do so.
The Unconquered Champion’s domain was mentioned to have trapped Black in it for a month, though only three days had passed on Creation. Six mortal wounds were required to kill the man inside his domain. Leading both Amadeus and Hanno to deem the man as the Black Knight’s greatest foe.
Valiant Champion's domain manifests through her Aspect Exalt. It's been primarily displayed in her fight against the Captain of Calamities. The domain itself is an arena filled with a sand floor and a cheering crowd. Its effects are mostly limited to empowering the Champion in battle, however the sun she summons also blinds her enemies.
As a Squire, Catherine Foundling managed to crystallize a domain through her third Aspect Fall. Even though Kilian stated that usually transitional Names aren't powerful enough for a domain, though stealing the mantle of Duchess of Moonless Nights from the Court of Winter allowed Cat to break that rule. It manifests as a boundless, dark night which falls over the world and is unusually offensive in that it freezes and devours all life within, as directed by her.
Saint of Swords
The Saint holds domain over one thing - swords. Unlike Fall and Exalt, the domain is not projected by default. Instead, it is projected inwards, something that took her a decade of killing Ratlings in Lycaonese lands to realize. Glamours as well as Catherine's own domain did not manage to hurt her and she was shown to destroy steel and weapons made out of Winter's shadow and ice. A swing of her arm was capable of cutting through Catherine's domain, temporarily removing her powers. She mentions that it was the crystallisation of her own faith, the belief 'Laurence de Montfort is a sword', thus allowing her to metaphorically become a blade.
Laurence's domain is tied to her Aspect, Decree. According to her, it took her a decade of killing to realize her domain was internal and not projected. Her tremendous cutting ability might also be a part of her domain, especially given Cat's description: "She had hardened her willpower so much that Creation counted no difference between her will and truth, the air howling as it cut itself apart."
With Decree, the Saint of Swords could cut with any part of her body, such as her fingers. She could catch blades with her bare hands and shrug off attacks that would be fatal. As she herself states;
'Decree, act and outcome in the same word. Tariq had told her this was a domain, once, but he did not understand it like she did. It was simply her own faith, a tenet made absolute and so perfectly harmonized with Creation. She had decreed that ‘Laurence de Montfort is a sword’, and so she was. It’d taken her decades, to make this as true a part of her as flesh and breath, but in the far north fighting the ratlings she had shaped that decree so that it covered every part of what she was. She could have decreed more, she knew, other rules and laws, but the purity of a single truth would have been lost.
A sword did not need to breathe, neither did Laurence de Montfort.
A sword did not burn or dissolve, neither did Laurence de Montfort.
But a sword cut, and so did Laurence de Montfort.'
A side effect of Decree, is that when her bones break, they make the sound of iron being dented instead of the usual crack.
The Skein is mentioned to hold a domain, which manifests itself as a labyrinth. When used in Liesse, it took the form of the Ducal Palace, looking no different and being nearly impossible to tell apart from Creation. Within the domain, the Skein was able to change the appearance of its surroundings, making it appear as though a ruined balcony was a whole room, and turning itself and its army of devils invisible.
It is implied that this is linked to its aspect Spool, which allows it to rewind events. As Masego mentions that such a working would not be possible in Creation, it is implied that the Skein has a domain in which it can use the Aspect at least twice.
Natural beings meaning creatures that are native to Creation and possess domains naturally. Masego states that they exist and cites dragons as one example - they have a domain at the heart of their body which allows them to breath fire. Similarly, Wekesa speculates elves become living domains if they're old enough. This corresponds to the ability of elder elves to ignore one rule of Creation. He states that "their entire species adds more weight to their presence in the Pattern the longer they live."
One quirk of possessing a natural domain is that it must be internal in order for it to be functional. According to Archer:
‘Tenebrous scattering the stone walls like they were made of parchment and dripping darkness everywhere. Like pools of ink the dark tainted whatever it touched, spreading down slopes and through crevices. Twice now Indrani had seen devils fall through a large patch as if it were a hole. Cocky had said that Tenebrous was living domain, but Archer had her doubts. Althea Maronid’s research in Ashur had decisively proved that a domain must be internal if it belonged to a living creature, else it would cause uncontrolled creational cascades.’
Dragons possess a domain at the heart of their body, which allows them to breath fire, unleashing flames capable of melting stone and scorching men with ease. Even Named were known to be ‘kept on the backfoot’ by dragonfire.
‘The elves did not appear, because appearing had the implication they had not been previously there. They had been, they’d just decided that Creation would not be able to see them. That was the way with the older elves: they decided what rules applied to them. They could not ignore more than one, but that was usually enough.’
Elves can ignore a single rule of Creation once they grow old enough. A power which they call Assertion. Wekesa the Warlock considers them to be essentially living domains as a result.
The former champion of the Forever King and trainer of the Emerald Swords, Borean Longsorrow describes the act as:
‘“Assertion, the act of asserting yourself on the fabric of Creation, it is…”
She trailed off.
“It is to perfect an aspect of yourself in a way that not even the world can resist,” she finished.’
She also suggests that a half-elf could perhaps learn the Assertion, but very few half-elves live beyond a thousand years, which isn’t long enough for them to learn the skill.
Assertion is one of the most powerful and flexible abilities seen in the books. The elves have so far been see manifesting this ability in these ways:
- Making themselves invisible
- Reversing causality
- Creating destructive shockwaves with blades
- Enhanced durability
- Enhanced strength
- Seeing through Fae glamour
- Destroying portals between Arcadia and Creation before they even formed
- Warping distance
- Seeing through mist
- Barehandedly destroying Winter ice
- Withstanding a portal opened right through the torso
- Turning to mist
- Slowly healing from wounds
- Running atop water for days on end
- Enhanced speed
However, this ability is not without limits, as it was unable to allow the elves to break free of the curse that prevents them from having children. And Borean took twenty years to break free of the curse Iseul Su tricked onto her, mentioning that a sage could have stretched it out longer.
’More likely Tenebrous’ domain was physically incarnated and static, somewhere far below Ater, and she was trying to bring it up here by spreading around that darkness clinging to her hide. On the bright side, that meant climbing on top of the spider wouldn’t be like stepping over one of the pools: if the domain was external it wouldn’t work on the creature herself.’
Giant poisonous spider progenitor Tenebrous is somewhat of a strange case. She possesses a domain, but as far as we know, no longer possesses a Name and shouldn’t be a lesser god. Archer doubts that the domain is natural, as it was projected externally. In clear violation of the rule that natural domains were solely internal.
So far, it manifests as darkness that can cling to her hide and be spread like a liquid. Consuming those whom stepped on a large patch of it like a pit. The bulk of it is believed to be buried deep beneath Ater.
Worth noting is that Tenebrous isn’t a natural creature, but rather a human mutated into a giant spider via sorcery or devilry, but will be placed in this section until further clarification on her nature.
The domains of lesser gods generally seem more versatile and broader in scope than the previous two categories. Indeed, Cat's description sums up the difference quite well.
- "I breathed in and out slowly, then reached for the power again. This had been an aspect, once. Fall. Now it was just a part of me, true as hair or toes. When it’d been crystallized into a single word it’d been stronger – no perhaps not that, simply more rigid – but whatever had been lost was more than made up by the breadth of what I could now achieve with this power. Before, I would never have been able to forge this half-world I was now painting over the room with brushstrokes of night. The threshold of my domain, the thought came, forged of instinct and inhuman certainty."
- ―Catherine Foundling
The highest ranking nobles (e.g. Dukes and Royals) among the fair folk are capable of using domains. These are rather standard - overlaying their reality and transporting the user along with the targets into a place where they control the rules.
It's possible that the Kings and Queens of Summer, Winter, Autumn and Spring have their respective parts of Arcadia as domains. It would make sense as they exhibit the typical qualities - can sense people (the Woe) when they're inside of them, can manipulate space and time, etc. This is backed by Sve Noc's statement that Catherine as Sovereign of Moonless Nights, had stolen half of Arcadia with her domain.
Princess of High Noon, Sulia
The Princess of High Noon's domain took the form of a field full of ashes, with the Sun of Arcadia burning down on it. It was mentioned that Sulia only called upon her domain to being an end to Winter. Within it, Sulia's strength was restored and she could burn all that set foot within it with the Sun of Arcadia.
Prince of Nightfall, Larat
The Prince of Nightfall's domain was mentioned to be very similar to Catherine's Fall. Larat has only been seen using it once in the books, using it to kill the Red Mage in Dormer.
Sovereign of Moonless Nights, Catherine Foundling
After becoming the Sovereign of Moonless Nights in full, her domain has changed drastically, grown more flexible and versatile. No longer tied to the Aspect ''Fall'', she could use it to:
- Imbue objects with her domain, to allow Cordelia and herself to speak face to face across a continent
- Create various weapons to use in combat
- Replicate some of the abilities of Sve Noc's Night
- Sense people
- Summon people to her pocket dimension (as with Fall)
- Freeze all that set foot in it
The domain of Sve Noc is called the Gloom. It serves as a boundary that prevents intruders from crossing it easily, allowing it to serve as a protective moat around the Empire Ever Dark. When entered, the Gloom prevents the unprepared from bypassing it, with even an entity as powerful as the Ranger being prevented from passing through. That is not to say it is impermeable, as the Kingdom Under and the Kingdom of the Dead have been able to breach the Gloom using sorcery and artefacts.
When underground, the Gloom was invisible, overlapping with the tunnels leading into the underground Everdark and leading the unprepared through dummy tunnels that led nowhere. When overground, it manifested itself as a massive stretch of deep darkness and mist.The territory within the Gloom was plunged into eternal dusk when used overground, allowing Drow to use Night freely while within it at all times.