Alandar: A Brief History of Sorcery, Part 2 (the Sorcerers)
For long ages and, indeed, even in our modern and enlightened era there has been much misconception of how someone becomes a practitioner of the High Arts. For most of recorded history, it was assumed that one needed to be born with a particular talent or genetic bloodline. The ancient sorcerers and sorcerous families encouraged this belief, and none more so than the Warlock Kings themselves. If the High Arts are only accessible to a select, special few, it therefore follows that such a select special few ought to have dominance over the others. The ancient Warlock Kings and the ancient magi who succeeded them were considered a species apart from the balance of humanity – super beings, if you will. Their facility with the High Arts was used as proof positive of their superiority and they used such a belief to manipulate affairs in their favor.
This, however, is not the truth. Anyone has the capacity to learn the High Arts, assuming they are dedicated to the endeavor and possess a modicum of intelligence. Evidence of this fact is obvious with a visit to your local Hannite Church and with the presence of hedge wizards, witches, and mystics that dot the countryside. While the Hannite priesthood might prefer to think of the sorcerous acts they perform as some manifestation of the power of Hann, this is not actually the case – the Shepherd is merely performing a sorcerous ritual, just as any wizard might. Many are those who, through trial and error or ancestral instruction, know a handful of spells and rituals that they find useful. Such persons have a variety of explanations for such powers , crediting faith, blood, luck, or astronomical phenomena for their success. That they do not understand said ritual is what separates them from true sorcerers.
Such ignorance, it must be said, works to the advantage of those who rule our society – namely, those who understand the principles of true sorcery and can either invoke it themselves or have the resources to call upon those who can. Such elites have no interest in dispelling the myths of sorcery, as to do so would mean giving the common people a means to change their lot by manipulating the fabric of reality itself. This is a harrowing thought to any person of power or influence, and especially so to those whose power and influence is built upon the misfortunes and domination of others. The ‘Balance’ that the Defenders of the Balance protect, though it is said to be a metaphysical concept, can also be understood as a social, political, and economic one – historically, their regulation of the High Arts keeps those on top on top and those on the bottom on the bottom. Though recent decades have seen this purpose soften somewhat, any local witch can tell you of the hassles and harassment that must be faced when bringing on a new apprentice.
Practitioners of the High Arts go by a variety of titles and, to common people, such titles are interchangeable. To those in the profession, though, they have distinct meaning.
- Wizards are those who can work with the High Arts to some extent. This is a catchall term that includes everybody from the talented mystic healer or gifted Hannite paladin to the shepherd who can ward his sheep against sickness. This is a lowly term, and calling a sorcerer or mage a wizard is tantamount to an insult to their intelligence.
- Sorcerers are those who have formal sorcerous training in the High Arts. They understand the broad principles of sorcery, have facility in at least two disciplines of incantation and ritual, and often are devotees to one or more philosophical schools of sorcery. These are true professionals and powerful individuals whose services are in great demand and to whom respect is warranted. Those who achieve their First Mark in the Chamber of Testing may be called Sorcerers, but they are not yet magi, and are called ‘apprentices’ by other magi until such time as they achieve their Second Mark.
- Magi (or mages) are those sorcerers who have achieved the Second Mark in the Chamber of Testing beneath the Arcanostrum of Saldor. They are only the most talented and skilled of sorcerers, taught by the true masters of the Arts, and are all under the supervision of the Archmagi and, by extension, the Keeper. Magi are technically forbidden from inheriting titles and may not serve as a head of state, though that ancient rule has been somewhat eclipsed by many centuries of work-arounds and technical loopholes.
- Masters are those magi who have achieved their Third Mark. They are persons of incredible power and often given great responsibility within the internal organization of the Arcanostrum.
- Archmagi are the five leaders of the Arcanostrum, situated just beneath the Keeper of the Balance in rank. There is one for each energy – the Archmage of the Ether, the Archmage of the Lumen, the Archmage of the Fey, the Archmage of the Dweomer, and the Lord Defender of the Balance. They reside in Saldor. If an archmage should die or retire, their post will remain vacant until such time as a Master achieves the Fourth Mark in the Chamber of Testing. Few can do this and many die or go mad in the attempt. The Archmage is also the Headmaster (or Headmistress) of their corresponding college in the Arcanostrum, and oversees the training of new magi.
- The Keeper of the Balance is an archmage who has achieved their Fifth Mark. They are sorcerers beyond equal, powerful and wise. When a former Keeper dies, the Archmagi select one of their number to ascend, and this person attempts to achieve the Fifth Mark. If they fail (and therefore die), a new archmage is selected. The experience of achieving the Fifth Mark is harrowing, but completely secret. All that is known is that those who undergo it are changed somehow – they are not the same person who went in, becoming more reserved and often reclusive – and it is for this reason that all Keepers take on a new name upon their ascension. There is never and has never been more than one Keeper at a time, though there have been instances where there have been no more archmagi to make the attempt, and so the office of Keeper has remained vacant for some time.
To Be Continued…