Sources of Power for Enchanting
When crafting magical items, each item requires a font of power. Some clever dwarvish engineers have found mundane, alchemical means for powering such things, but these tend to be cumbersome, short-lived, and often dangerously unstable.
A permanent enchantment requires a more potent, stable, and compact power source. Preferably one that replenishes itself.
There are three primary sources employed: souls, secrets, and legends.
Souls are, by far, the most common source of power for magical items. Most enchanters will use small portions of their own soul to give power to common magical items. Souls are such a potent source of power, that for any commonly needed object, the impact on the enchanter is negligible.
A couple issues arise when employing souls as power sources, however. The first relates to greater enchantments, ones that would require a significant portion of a soul, or even several whole souls. Enchanters are typically disinclined to sacrifice their own, and either accept this limitation, or seek out less wholesome means of soul acquisition.
The second issue arises from the semi-sentient nature of souls. Over time, they can begin to form opinions on how and when the object they are inhabiting should be used, and can exert a limited degree of control in that regard.
Collective belief in the power of an object can imbue an object with power. It is something of a circular truth that can be hard to exploit in commercial enchantment, however, it is possible to transfer legendary power through the dissection and distribution of relics.
The body of a legendary figure can used to power all manner of object. A molar can imbue a necklace, sword, or handbag with a variety of enhancements. Also the growth and decay rates of legendary power are well understood. Elven relics are the most valuable as their decay rate is much longer than other races due to the rich oral tradition and long lives of the believers of legend.
The limitation of enchanting with relics, is that there is a limited supply of genuinely legendary materials available, and only enchantments that match the alignment and actions of the legend can be applied.
Secrets are the most potent, yet least stable source of magical power. They operate on the potential impact of a piece of information. A single truly great secret, one known by literally nobody but has the potential to destabilize nations, can power a huge mithral golem indefinitely.
There are a few challenges in secret power. The first is that secrets are temporal. Their impact wanes with time and great secrets tend to be exposed in relatively short order.
The second is curiosity; good secrets come contained. It is not uncommon for an enchanter’s self discipline to waver and have them take a peak at the secrets with which they are supposed to be working. The moment they do so, the power of the secret is greatly diminished.
One consequence of these flaws is that many secret driven devices are overpowered, employing more secrets than necessary in order to extend their life and reliability.
The Power Grid
There are few legitimate dealers of any of the above listed power sources. The acquisition of relics, souls and secrets lends itself to unsavory exploits. However, there is a steady black market for all of them, often referred to as the power grid.
Genuine relics are the hardest to come by, however fakes abound. There are enough finger bones of Galavant the Endowed around to build a brothel in his honor.
Souls are difficult to fake and relatively easy to acquire. However, due to the high probability of murder involved in their collection, they are the least popular black market item
Secrets are Popular but suffer from badly from duping. The same secret can be copied and sold to several clients, a process which enhances its power as now there is a secret about the secret itself. However, if that secret is exposed, all of the enchantments running on it will weaken or fail. Trustworthy secret vendors are highly prized in enchanting circles.
There are other sources of power which may imbue an object with magical abilities, however they have not been thoroughly listed as they typically are not manipulable by mortals.
Divine creation is the most commonly noted, however there are also examples of places of power, the random products of aberrant field collapse and interplanar condensation.