Thursday, January 26, 2012

[Secaelia] Wizards

Perhaps the biggest fear which the average person has on a day to day basis is of wizards. Wizards are immensely powerful beings, known for their corruption, wickedness, and hideous appearances, and who committed great atrocities on behalf of the empires in the latter days of the wars. There is a common belief that there are no lawful wizards, the entire lot of them being motivated only by greed, envy, and their own inherent depravity. Powerful magic bears a corrupting touch to all who would wield it, and only the most powerful wizards are able to do away with its most deleterious effects. These wizards are able to pass those corruptions off by polymorphing their wheals and scars and strange afflictions onto unsuspecting victims or prisoners, or by simply transferring their consciousness wholly into another body, leaving their former, broken bodies behind. Wizards can therefore appear to be any person, any age. People are especially wary of the infirm or deformed, since natural deformation can greatly resemble magical corruption.

Since the end of the wars, many wizards have built towers amidst the wastes, and travellers who know better steer far clear of these accursed dominions. While wizards are not technically subjects to the nations within which they dwell (being granted special autonomy for "services to the empire"), many are paid off by the respective domains to attack, spy on, or harry the other. Most simply take the money as bribery and don't waste their time on such trivial matters, but others have proven to be very dangerous lapdogs for their patrons, leaving mayhem and havoc in their wakes. Oftentimes armed mobs will attempt to remove the magical threat from their areas, though these are seldom successful and usually just result in more subjects to experiment upon; since wizards often are celebrated by the powers that be as heroes of the empire, these mobs are considered criminals, despite the fact that they are just trying to protect themselves. Most troublingly, some wizards have even infiltrated remote villages, slowly manipulating the inhabitants until they are all under the wizard's control, and function as no better than thralls or herd animals to the wizard's whim. This is not even to mention those especially dark wizards who practice necromancy. While some of these stereotypes about wizards' wickedness might be exaggerations, it is clear that there is ample evidence to give wizardry a bad reputation. Any traveller suspected of being a magic-user, therefore, even a dabbler, is usually detained, questioned, tortured, and often banished or put to death.

Despite all of the negativity surrounding magic-users, there are many who practice their art in secret, or use it for good. One who can conjure a fire from thin air despite driving wind or rain, or can entangle a powerful beast with invisible threads, can be of great assistance to adventurers and scavengers. Some who have "proven themselves" again and again can even be accepted by their community; it is uncommon, but not excessively rare, to come across a town with a "village witch" or "wise man." It is representative of the state of the world that such wielders of power can be seen with such great ambivalence.

Additionally, those who are able to work miracles, such as divine clerics, are nearly universally held in high esteem. Despite most clerics being peaceful, studious types who seldom venture out beyond the walls of their monasteries and places of study, there is a whole class of stouter folk, dedicated to casting out evil with great prejudice wherever it crops up in the world. These battle-clerics accept exacting strictures, such as never wielding a sharpened weapon, and frequently tithe a large portion of their spoils back to the monasteries in which they were raised. Since it is believed that their powers to repel darkness and evil come as blessings directly from their gods, they are careful to remain faithful to their beliefs. The common belief is that clerics are by their nature solemn, prayerful, and stern, but in reality they come in as wide of temperament as anyone else, as long as they are strong in their faith. Some very skilled wizards even disguise themselves as clerics, working hard to mask their arcane energies as divine miracles, in order to practice more publicly.

Despite there being many different "kinds" of magic users, most are just simply referred to as wizards. "Wizard" is also used as a sort of insult; referring to someone as a wizard is like saying they are heartless, cruel, or insane. The most dreaded of all wizards, however, are necromancers. These are the worst, most insane, most corrupt, and most dangerous of all wielders of magic. Despite these being, often, the most powerful magic-users around, they are shunned and reviled, and hunted down by agents of the empire. For this reason, many necromancers create hidden lairs underground, or deep within caves, or even in disguised mausolea within graveyards. Some tales are even told of necromancers who have created hidden fortresses on coastal islands and reefs, or on alluvial islands in rivers, keeping their activities invisible under a magical veil.

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