Niffins are powerful beings made of pure magical energy, created when magicians fail to maintain a clear mind while controlling a spell and becomes consumed by it. Magicians can also become Niffins if they cast a spell that calls for more magic than the Magician can muster. The spells become unstable and the magic burns away everything leaving an entity of wild magical force.
- "There are certain energies, certain spells, that are far too powerful for one magician alone. If you lose control, it will turn against you. It will kill you. It will consume you. Change you into something else."
- ―Henry Fogg on turning into a Niffin.
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Products of a failed casting, Niffins are largely an unknown and less studied entity due to their reportedly dangerous, impulsive nature. What is known about these creatures is limited to a few published works, each of which only retains generalized information gathered from secondary sources.
As a Niffin no longer posses a Shade, they are no longer inhibited by morality, stated to merely run off of impulse. Niffins are extremely deadly due to this, even described as bloodthirsty. However, not all Niffins have been attributed to this type of behavior. On one account, a Niffin insisted that it didn't feel the urge to kill anyone, but rather, wanted to be free to do whatever it wanted and perform beautiful magic. Niffins can be contained, much like Cacodemons, within a magical seal on the body, but the magician won't be able to hold such a pure form of magic for a sustained amount of time, and it will eventually kill both the Niffin and the Magician.
The power of a Niffin has been compared to that of a god: Alice Quinn specifically allowed herself to become a Niffin in order to kill The Beast who wielded magical abilities strong enough to subdue deities. She later expressed the possibility of being able to kill Reynard the Fox. The Shadeless Julia told Quentin when he had Alice trapped in his body, that he had a nuclear bomb inside of him.
It's been said by a Niffin that they are able to perceive magic to a deeper and more profound degree than a Magician, and are able to perform more complex magic that does not require intricate castings.
Those turned into a Niffin display a vastly increased capability for magic and all that it entails. The distinction of their power is vast enough that a complicated unlocking spell that would've required a genius magician hours to break, was solved by a Niffin in 15 seconds. They are able to travel and teleport in blue wisps or fire. Alice's knowledge in the days she was free allowed her to understand the functions and hierarchies of the universe and many rules of magic, which allowed her to accurately predict that Ember's murder would result in the Old Gods shutting off all magic.
Alice once also sought out to reverse the Niffin transformation and restore her brother Charlie to human but failed. Quentin would later attempt the same with Alice but succeed and return her to a human form using the missing element of Alice's Shade that he collected from the Underworld.
Niffins such as Friar Joseph who inhabit worlds devoid of magic are capable of slowly dying. For they, like Magicians, draw magic from the Wellspring making them inherently different than other Magical Creatures which possess independent magic naturally.
When a Magician is consumed by a spell, their body will begin to distort rapidly. At this point, if a magician stops, they will not become a niffin, but if the spell is continued after this fact, their hands will begin to burst into blue flames. At this point, the transformation is assured and can't be stopped even if the spell is dropped. Interestingly, the initial flames are not felt by the magician and usually result in confusion but a sense of serenity. As the flames spread from the hands, the magician flames are felt and the magician is in excruciating pain as they are literally burned alive. The eyes and mouth will glow distinctly in the flames and billows of black smoke are produced in the blaze but dissipate very quickly. The magician is still able to move but their physical form is obscured by the bright blue fire. This process is the magician's physical body being converted into pure magical energy and is consumed by the flames. At the end of the transformation, they simply disappear leaving a brief blue flame in the air that extinguishes itself. During this transformation, the Magician loses their Shade.
After the transformation, a magician retains their previous overall physical appearance but their skin partially glows with trailing blue magical energy coursing through them like blood in veins. Occasionally, a small burst of flame will escape a niffin's form. This will also contribute to the fact that niffin's are hot to the touch and Alice, in her niffin form, produced white smoke simply by touching Martin's hand and burning him from the contact.
Boxing a Niffin
A binding ritual was created to trap Niffins within small, specially made wooden boxes, as no method for killing or defending oneself against a Niffin currently exists. It is a general rule by most magicians that Niffins must be boxed or otherwise banished, as per the incursion protocols at Brakebills on sight, as Niffins have been noted to be incredibly dangerous. Most Niffins can be sealed away, but certain Niffins have been able to escape them.
The box must be carved and be enchanted by a month-long ritual. The box has no lid as the Niffin becomes part of the wooden structure in itself, and therefore cannot be released. While boxing a Niffin, a Turkish incantation must be said 3 times. This incantation is "Seni Bağlıyorum" or "Seni Bağlamak", both mean "I bind you" in Turkish.
There have been incidences wherein a Niffin is able to work around a "boxing" and escape.
Restoring a Niffin
It is possible to restore a Niffin back into a human, but it requires 3 essential things for the ritual to succeed:
- A power source, strong enough to fulfill the spell completely to its end.
- The Niffin's Shade, it's human soul. Many spells specifically failed due to a lack of a shade.
- A specially made warded metal cage to contain the Niffin.
The procedure starts with the Niffin's Shade being released inside the cage and subsequently locked inside. The Niffin is soon drawn into the cage, due to its connection with its Shade. The power source is put into use and is located at the four corners of the cage in a drawn seal. Upon the invocation of the spell, both the Shade and Niffin are forcibly combined, leaving a fully whole human in its place.
A restored Magician is equivalent to that of a newborn in terms of magical ability and cannot cast spells for the first few weeks. Due to the different physiology and capabilities experienced as a Niffin, the restored Magician will slowly lose all the advanced magical knowledge and comprehension of the universe that they obtained as a Niffin, though this does not affect their memory as a whole, as they retain the memories of their time in that form, however fleetingly it may be. When Alice Quinn described being human again, she stated that she 'understood everything' about the universe and that returning her to a human form caused all of her profound knowledge to fade like a dream. She also expressed a feeling of being 'stuck' and unable to 'see', expressing frustration that her enhanced magical perceptions were now reduced back to that of an ordinary human. Though it takes time, a newly reverted Niffin can acclimatize to human form once again.