Friday, January 23, 2009

The Cantrik, or Why I Am Not a Wizard by Tilo Greenbottle

I've never cared for the appellation - 'wizard'. And I want to use this graduation address to convince you, my fellow classmates, that you should not care for it either.

It is pure abstraction. Too distanced from the realities of life of the non-spontaneous arcane spellcaster. This distance only serves to rend it's use mystifying. No one knows me better for knowing I am a 'wizard'. In fact - and I suspect that many of my brothers and sisters in arts like it this way - I get the feeling that people know the real me even less than before when I tell them I am a wizard.

Mages apprenticed to the Northwaite Academy, if you are like me and pride yourself on a matter-of-fact worldview, 'magic user' better captures what our training has made of us. Magic user, not 'wizard'.

While it may sound melodramatic, it is quite accurate to say that I first applied to the Northwaite Academy to learn the secret knowledge of wizards. Doesn't that sound naive, almost indolent now? As a young halfling, I had learned to love the power and beauty of the sorcerers of Sunhilda, and I was most captivated by the intense intellect of the wizards of all sorts. As I grew, I grew in my desire to know what deep power of mind allowed these select few, alone among sentient creatures, to summon forth and command such ancient energies.

To know what wizards know...yes, that describes part of my desire. Surely their great power must extend only from great knowledge. But even more, if truth be told on this, our graduation day, I longed to know more: I was so blinded by fascination for wizardry and the arcane arts when I first began my studies here that I honestly hoped to discover what it felt like to think and to know the way wizards think and know.

It was with this no doubt romantic inspiration that I cobbled together the last remains of my inheritance and paid my retainer, thus placing my education and my mind quite literally in the hands of the partnership of mages of Northwaite.

In lecture after lecture, I sat patiently and worked harder than I had worked ever before. I sat patiently and listened to sage after sage, occultist after occultist, and archvist after archvist. I sat patiently and I opened myself for the moment when these tremendous studies in arcana would unlock that deep natural and hither too latent talent that I had always hoped lay within me. I waited, day after day, for the great knowledge to pour forth from my mind.

One reason why I am not a wizard, my friends, and one reason why you aren't either, is that I now have the self-possession that comes with knowing that none of us ever has such a moment.

I remember the morning of that spring day when I first came to understand the only real secret knowledge of the so-called wizard. If you strip away our class and profession to its core, the "secret" knowledge that we wizards possess amounts to nothing more than one, simple and straightforward (although hard won) ability. The mighty power that separates the wizard from all others is the altogether unremarkable achievement of being able to commit to memory a single, seemingly minor spell - Read Magic all non-initiates call it. You and I call it what it is, the Cantrik.

We called it the Cantrik, whether we were illusionists or necromancers or transmutations, because, well, that is what it is, isn't it? Falling asleep one night, after nearly two years of painful and frustratingly intense study, only to wake up the next morning, with the simple yet life changing ability to now comprehend the ancient language of the arcane. So simple that it seems like it must be a trick. But it is an all important trick. And in the final analysis, it is the only trick that we mages can call our own.

Separate a wizard from his spellbook and he instantly goes from being the most powerful creature in the room to being a pitiful creature very nearly without a class. He is nearly as helpless as a new born babe, without a whisp of a babe's innate charisma. He is next to nothing; but he is not yet nothing. For what makes a wizard a wizard is not just the possession of a book.

Even with our tomes and ancient annals of magic, without the Cantrik we are but blind. It is the Cantrik that enables us to survive being separated from our texts and notes, and to (eventually) recover to our earlier status. And yet, the Cantrik, without the tomes, is but an empty and meaningless parlor trick.

So, why am I a magic user and not a wizard? Because at the heart of who we are lies this undeniable fact: we are manipulators of a power and might much greater than even the greatest mage can envision. We aim to grow everyday in our knowledge and comprehension of how we do what we do, and why the arcane energies work the way they do. But in the end, we are little more than manipulators of symbols and children playing with powers much greater than ourselves. We are users of magic, but we are not its masters. We are users of the secrets of the arcane, handed down with great care from one generation to the next in the form of practical wisdom and knowledge, but we do not create these secrets. Were we to vanish from the Hrothgar or the Fallen Lands tomorrow, these energies would go on as if nothing ever had happened.

As much as we might not want to admit it, we are not commanders of the arcane energies. We are simple, ordinary and weak humans, elves, gnomes and halflings who have learned to put these energies to our use through the manipulation of the magic symbols of the ancient arcane languages. We are frauds and fakers, posers and pretenders. But what wonders we can create through our fakery.

*Tilo shared this address written originally for the occassion of his graduation from the Northwaite Academy with his fellow travellers at the Captain's Lantern, the evening of his return to the city. For posterity's sake it should be noted that Tilo Greenbottle was never considered a candidate to give the apprentice speech at graduation, so this speech must have been composed entirely for his own personal benefit.

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