Never mind looking around for me; I’m currently invisible. No, no, I’m not doing it to impress you or frighten you or any of that nonsense – it’s part of an experiment. I wouldn’t expect you to understand. Just sit down, will you? Not there, thank you very much – that’s where I’m sitting – try over there. On the books.
To begin with, let me make one thing abundantly clear: You aren’t special. Well…perhaps that’s not entirely true; allow me to rephrase. There is nothing genetically or mystically unique to your person that indicates that you can become a mage. It is a common misconception among the common folk that magi (or wizards or sorcerers or warlocks or what-have-you) are somehow ‘born’ with a special gift that sets them apart. That, at least, is the clap-trap peddled in the Twin Kingdoms and in Kalsaar. We live in the West, we are civilized and intelligent beings, and we ought not believe a word of that nonsense.
Please look over here where I’m sitting. I despise speaking to someone who is looking elsewhere. No, not there – a little higher. Yes, quite right. Thank you.
Anyway, as I was saying, what you refer to as ‘magic’ (but what we refer to as the High Arts) is accessible to anyone with a studious disposition, a strong work ethic, and other things that make people good students. It is, at its heart, an academic discipline (well, barring those brutes who focus on channeling the Fey, but that’s a topic for a different time). The point is that anyone with a good head on their shoulders and a good teacher can learn sorcery. This, historically, has been a troubling fact to many rulers, as the prospect that any number of ornery peasants might learn how to conjure demonfire or toss lode-bolts around was enough to give them permanent indigestion. Indeed, that is where the whole ‘wizards are born, not made’ myth originated, no doubt. Better to convince the populace that they have no hope than allow them the knowledge that they might re-make the world as they see fit if only they hit the books hard enough.
Am I still invisible? Good. Be certain to let me know if I start to appear. It might be a bit grisly, mind you – the digestive tract is usually the first thing to show up. If you must, there’s a basin beside you. Make certain not to vomit on any of the books, or I’ll turn you into a frog.
Just kidding. That’s enormously difficult to do and it wouldn’t be worth the effort. I’d probably just Shroud you so you looked like a frog to everyone else. Just as frustrating for you, but much less likely to freeze my lungs solid as I channel that much of the Dweomer.
Now, where was I? Ah, yes, wizards. Well, the first thing you ought to know is that I can’t, technically, train you to be a mage. It’s something of a semantic distinction, unfortunately. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but such is the world we live in. There are three ‘titles’ affixed to practitioners of the High Arts. The first, most common, and lowest is ‘wizard’. A wizard is anyone who can utilize some aspect of the High Arts, no matter how meager. It’s a catchall term. Call an alchemist a ‘wizard’ and he’ll be pretty flattered, since he probably only knows how to use the Low Arts. Call a staff-bearing mage a ‘wizard’, and he’ll react as if you spat in her soup. Fair warning.
The next up the chain is a ‘sorcerer’. A sorcerer is any wizard with some degree of formal training; a conjurer who can only conjure up water is a wizard, a conjurer who’s studied the Art of Ilticaci, a Kalsaari sorcerous art dedicated to desert survival, itself a derivative of the arts practiced by the Salasi Sandmagi of the Century Desert, can rightfully be called a sorcerer. It is a serious term for serious practitioners, not dabblers, and it is that which I could promise to teach you to become, should you pass my tests.
Finally, of course, is the title of ‘mage’, bestowed only upon those sorcerers trained in the ancient halls of the Arcanostrum of Saldor and who have achieved their second mark and, thus, earned their staff. I did this myself, and I have the staff to prove it. It is a unique and special distinction and, should you show talent, I might suggest you tender your application to the Arcanostrum yourself, that, however, is for another time.
In any event, what is most important to remember is this: the High Arts, and the profession of sorcerer, is the most important profession in the world. One man with vision can reshape society, history, and even the land itself using these arts, and this is not to be taken lightly. No, we are the safeguards of the future and it is our purpose, more than any priest, to shepherd humanity to a brighter tomorrow. To become a sorcerer, you must cast off your personal concerns, your lusts for power, your ambitions for wealth, your…AGH! Kroth dammit!
The cat jumped on me again! Stupid animal! Did you let it back in the room? Hann’s Boots, boy! I’ve totally lost my concentration! You can see me, can’t you? You can! I can tell by the way you’re making eye-contact. Dammit all to bloody hell! I was on my way to a record, too. I spent the past three weeks without being able to see my own hands. Do you have any idea how hard it was to get dressed? Kroth, Kroth, and bloody goddamned Kroth. I knew I should have sent the cat to stay with my brother. Dammit.
There is a price to knowledge.
It is more dearly bought than thou thinkest.
A son wishes to know his father’s secrets. To learn them is cheap – time, patience, vigilance, cunning are all in ready supply. These are not the price. The price is in the knowing.
The son learns the father is a cheat, an adulterer, a coward, a liar. Or the son learns the father is a hero, a paragon, a faultless man of integrity. Or the son learns his father is exactly as he appears, and nothing more. The exact fact does not matter.
To know is to cease to hope. Learn, and kill possibilities with broad strokes. Slay thy dreams with every learned fact. Build thy prison out of truth and evidence. Watch thy youth die at a pace with thy tutelage.
Think thou that I and my brethren were ever thus? We once walked with men in an age before thy reckoning. We were scholars, prying at the seams of Truth, seeking the answers to all questions. We learned them. We Know.
The Knowing had a price. Death became our slave, pain our tutor, power our currency. We were undone; our humanity withered with our imagined wisdom. We cared not. We wished to Know, and there was no price too high. It is only now, with the perspective of aeons, that we can savor the rich irony of our quest. We wished to become gods through our learning. Instead we have become servants; slaves to the Truth. Custodians of the Answer.
The wonder in our souls is but a half-remembered whisper. Our curiosity is as dead as the cities that birthed us. We are men no longer. We are husks, hollowed out with secrets. Thou cometh hither to seek such secrets; for them thou shalt pay. This, though, I give thee for free:
Ask not. Let thy secrets lie. Dwell in the possible.