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Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Gathering Dark - Chapter 12

An unexpected visit.

Chapter 12 - The Apprentice Wizard

Most magical organizations of the time were cults of personality, built around one particular wizard who attracted sufficient followers. If one of those followers then attracted his own students, his group, those followers, would in turn split off from the main body and form their own magical organization. Usually such organizations fell apart with the death of their founding charismatic masters. In the case of the Magician's Conclave, the student usurped the master's position, yet its eventual destruction was not prevented, only deferred,. Interestingly, one of the mages present as the demise of the Conclave was an individual named Jodah.

-Arkol, Argivian scholar

Jodah continued on with his scripting for the first few weeks. Histories, poems, scrolls, folktales, and legends. He read through three different histories of the Brothers' War, with each contradicting the other. There were mentions of a book called The Antiquities War, but that particular version didn't seem to within the library. If there was a book that Jodah couldn't read, either because it was written in a different language or because it had deteriorated too far, then he would transfer it to a different pile that Nedda would later look through to transcribe herself.

After Jodah came across a book about spells, written by a scholar who had been talking to a goblin shaman, he decided to start spending his breaks on the balcony to soak in the surrounding mountainside and commit it to memory. He spent hour upon hour doing this until finally he could begin to sense the red energy of the mountains . He soon was able to light one candle in his room, and then several at a time. It felt right to being learning the color of magic of his former mentor.

In general, the library was a quiet place. Only occasionally throughout the day servants would be sent with book requests, or sometimes even mages themselves would show up, and Nedda would know instantly if they library did or did not contain that book. As for Nedda herself, she mostly stayed behind her desk reading one book or another or spent time tending her plants.

As Jodah practiced candle-lighting later that evening, he began thinking on the different approaches to magic. Voska seemed to think magic was a natural gift that one had or didn't. Sima seemed the think the exact opposite and very strictly treated it as something to be studied and mastered. Barl seemed to think that it could be described like his machines through set physical laws, and others here at the Conclave seemed to treat it simply as a job that or a tool for entertainment.

As for Jodah...

Jodah blinked. He wasn't quite sure what magic was or what he wanted to use it for. He had spent too much of his time hiding or running or fighting to figure such things out. He thought of what he had told Barl that first night. He was tired of being hungry, hunted, and cold, and he wanted magic to cure that.

He was no longer hunted, no longer hungry, and no longer cold. He wondered what the purpose of magic was now?

...Two days later...

With the Conclave built so high up in the mountains of the north, clouds constantly cover the Conclave Citadel. And so when a bright spot shows up on the page right in front of Jodah, it takes him more than a moment to recognize that a bean of light is shining down through the window. Jodah takes a look outside and the sunlight bursts through the clouds, and where once there was always a never ending grey, now the forest is filled with more greens than he'd ever imagined, and for the first time he can see plumes of smoke off in the plains . The first sign that he's seen that there really are villages out there like he's been told.

"It is a beautiful view," said a rich, fluid voice behind him.

Jodah spins around to find himself facing the Lord High Mage. Lord Mairsil continues on with the small talk to say that it's a shame that days like these don't happen more often. Jodah glances over to Nedda's desk and finds the librarian gone. Mairsil asks how his studies are going, and Jodah tells him that he's been getting a lot of books recorded. Mairsil can see that by the pile of books where Jodah works, but that's not what he meant. He wasn't asking about how he's been doing at his tasks. He wants to know about his studies He hopes that he hasn't been so busy that he hasn't been able to get any studying done.

Jodah suddenly was afraid that his lack of spell research would be taken as an indictment of Nedda's overseeing of his work.

"No sir. I found a book on red mana in the collection and was working with it to develop in that area." He stammered for a moment, then added, "Sort of on my own."

"Excellent!" said Mairsil, pounding the table-top with the fleshy part of his hand. "And have you come up with anything?"

Jodah tells him about his exploration of red mana and success with lighting candles. While he doesn't think he's accomplished much, Lord Mairsil is more than excited at the response. Excited that Jodah took the initiative to do it on his own and impressed that he decided to branch out beyond the white spells that he's already had success with.

Mairsil asks why he chose to explore red, and not green or any of the other colors, and Jodah explains he did so to honor the memory of his former teacher. Lord Mairsil says Voska's name out loud as if he knew him, and tells Jodah that he's sorry about what happened to him and shares his loss. He goes on to say that he hopes that Jodah doesn't ignore the other colors. He tells him that the colors in and of themselves are limits to a mage, and he should always strive to push against any limits imposed upon him.

Since Lord Mairsil is being so friendly that he even insists Jodah call him Friend Mairsil when they're in private, Jodah musters up the courage to ask Lord Mairisl what his color is. Mairsil lifts up his hand and five flames float above each finger tip, each colored according to a different color of magic.

"Most people believe that magic is broken down ito five colors, correct?" quizzed Mairsil. "each of those colors is tied to a particular type of memory of the land."

Jodah agreed, thinking of his discussion with Barl on the parapet that first day, before he was officially welcomed into the Conclave.

Mairsil still held his flaming hand in front of him. "But what people don't know is that there are certain basic temperaments that are tied to the colors themselves, and that, in many ways, determines the type of mage one becomes." The Lord High Mage motioned with his non-flaming hand, pointing at the pinkie. "White's tend to be healers, fixers, and social individuals. Those who want everyone to agree in an argument. Those who like order. Neat people are attracted to white mana - its simplicity is appealing to them." Mairsil nodded to the younger man, "No offense for your own casting."

He goes on to explain that red mages tend to be more destructive, disorganized, and impulsive which is why he's surprised to see Jodah take red on as part of his studies. He tells him that green mages tend to be similar to white, but that they have a longer view of things and plan far head and while they tend to be good with animals and plants, they can also be very judgmental. Blue mages are very much about control, and can be very stubborn about people not accepting their point of view, which is one of the reasons why there are so few blue mages in the Conclave. And as for black, it is quite misunderstood because blacks tend to be secretive and loners and are often associated with the dead.

As for which color he is? Maisil is the full rainbow of colors. And he tells Jodah that he can be the same. He tells him that he shouldn't define himself by any one color. He should understand that each of the colors are tools to pick and choose from. Too many have forgotten that.

The last thing Lord Maisil tells Jodah before he leaves is that he hears that he's done quite well at his tasks, so well in fact that he's well ahead of Nedda's projected pace, and tells him that he should spend more time studying the mountains and working on his studies. Almost as quick as he appeared, Lord Mairsil leaves, leaving Jodah quite unsure about what to think about the whole experience. That couldn't have been a random encounter.

Both Lord Mairsil and Barl show up for dinner that night, but neither even glance in Jodah's direction. Jodah on the other hand takes a closer look around the room and he sees the false cheeriness around the room, and he feels the undercurrent of fear that it masks.

Everyone is afraid. And Jodah needs to know why. When Jodah spots an extremely drunk Shannon very unsuccessfully trying to flirt with Drusilla, he knows where to find his answers.

* * *

The Visit

As much as I talked about how I love how the plot is moving forward almost in spite of Jodah, and how I was looking forward to seeing Lord Mairsil work his influence on the unsuspecting mage... I forgot one major thing.

We're pretty much two-thirds of the way through the book.

While we did get to see Mairsil begin to work his magic in claiming Jodah as his apprentice despite the official stance that there are no teachers in the Conclave, and it is working to an extent. Jodah is already immediately sensing that something isn't quite right. (And who wouldn't in his circumstance?)

(Oh, and obviously the title of the chapter was once again taken from one of the cards in the set, despite the actual card completely misrepresenting the character of Jodah... which is probably for the best. I don't think I'd want to read about the person in the card as the main character of a story.)

The Lesson

Again, we're learning stuff that we, as players, already know. But I understand the need to put these basic lessons out there. This is the book about the introduction (or reintroduction) of magic to the plane of Dominaria. Not only that, but these books were written at a time before magicthegathering.com. Before Mark Rosewater's constant discussions on the Color Pie/Wheel and his very in-depth articles on the philosophical essence of each of the colors and their various combinations. And so this was one of the ways that Wizards of the Coast could use to help reinforce and/or introduce these concepts to new players.

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