Background

The city-state of Thalassa is a mercantile island nation on the far western coast of a vast continent. It was the last colony of a far-flung empire which disengaged from the Western Periphery provinces some 400 years from present leaving these outer lands to fall to barbarian and monstrous hordes. Thalassa was special, its existence and destiny was planned down to the detail. Society-wise, Thalassa is reflective of the early Enlightenment. Curious, well-educated people engaged in democracy, extensive trade and the beginnings of serious exploration. Technology-wise, Thalassa is a mixture of water-power, steam-power, and magical power. Imagine a place where magic is treated much the same as early electricity. No wires per se, but magic powers lights, many heat sources, reinforces the buildings, and creates opportunities for innovation. Visitors to Thalassa would be in wonderment as they come from a hostile, mostly magic-less fringe mired in 6-9th century Dark Ages’ like society and cultures. While not everything is perfect (it isn’t, there are lots of challenges, politics, and even hushed up vice and crime), the Thalassans are much better off than their neighbors. We’ll get to some of that in later installments.

Wizardry

In this first installment, we’ll go over Wizardry in Thalassa.

The founder of Thalassa was Ianus Sidonius, a scholar, architect and engineer who taught himself magic in defiance of the magical stranglehold the Empire’s sorcerous orders held. He in-effect, created a form of what is called Wizardry (Philosopher/Sage) in Thalassa. In fact, today with rare exceptions and ancient antecedents, Thalassa controls this approach to magic exclusively. It permeates the life of the city. He was exiled to what became Thalassa some 450 years ago. He also assembled a hundred of the wisest, most learned scholars from across the Empire to go with him. This was not done without some trouble, but in the end they took the hundred, their families, and other volunteers to journey to Thalassa. A note from one the Hundred is below:

From the journal of Andreas Nicos
Mage of the Order of Light Unchained
1033rd year since the founding of Eterium
12th day of Therm, in the 5th Year of Emperor Aulorius

The judgement of the Imperial Court has come down to us. Four of our compatriots who directly fought against the Household Guard will be put to death. Luckily, Sidonius will only be exiled to the uttermost West for his so-called crimes of telling the truth, understanding the unknowable, and his dire prediction the Empire is rotting from within. Over a hundred of Eterium’s brightest minds have chosen to go in exile with him. For myself, I turn my back on the Order’s path. I was never good at it. “Thin blooded” the sorcerous elite call me and my kind. I now see the truth, and there will never be enough of them now to push back the inevitable doom this realm is bringing upon itself. I’m inspired by Sidonius, though he is quite the humble man. An architect and engineer by trade who taught himself magic and discovered many truths. Of them these three affected me most.

  • The first truth is that anyone can learn magic, if they understand how to see the patterns that bind us together. It requires study, will, discipline, and a right mindedness. But it can be done. Blood matters not, deals with otherworldly entities matter not, and most importantly enslavement to a god matters not. The wise and intelligent, the philosophers and constructors, it is we who have the future of magic.
  • The second truth is that deities are a reflection of our desires, hates, hopes, and dreams, knotted in the pattern over millennia and given shape and form. These deities did not create us. It is we who created them and without us they diminish. Sidonius believes that it may be possible to create one. A deity that reflects our noblest goals. I’m not certain about this, but time will certainly tell. If not, we must at least act as if such an ideal deity did exist, founding a better society in the process.
  • The third truth is that accumulated knowledge is not just power, but civilization. Our task, according to Sidonius, is to gather everything we can before the 30th day of Vento. Every book, every treatise, every scroll, every piece of knowledge and copies of records that we can accumulate in the next six months. He and the others have been gathering knowledge from the provinces for the last few years. I’m honored to be part of this effort.
  • On the 5th day of Germi we shall set sail for Thalassa, a rock beyond the Brentine shore where we will live out our exile. The Emperor is glad to be rid of us. It is sad I suppose. He reunited the Empire, and is in theory a wise man, but he listens to ill counsel.

Copied from the Thalassan Central Archive, Journals of the Founders, Section XVI
by Brigitte Rouann, Seer of the College of Poets, Thermidor 3, Year 447 (1480 EE)

In the centuries since, Thalassa has grown from some 500 colonists to a city-state of just over 250000 citizens supported by an extensive trade network, allied cities, and friendly, albeit barbarian clients-states. While actual Wizards are rare, their contribution to the Thalassan story is significant. They are held up by the people (usually) as role-models and (also usually) uphold the goals of the city, which perhaps more than most they are keenly aware of. But, to be a Wizard is earned, not a birthright. They have no special rights from that of any other citizen. Their Guild, perhaps one of the strongest for its size, has significant outsize influence. Rafaela Exine, a Thalassan Wizard sums it up here:

Rafaela Exine’s Introductory Speech to the Guild Noviates of the Nicosian Academy of Wizardry 
Enchanter and Pattern Architect Primus
Fructidor 10, Year 433

Today is a beginning for you all. Each of you have been selected from the best minds Thalassa has to offer to become noviates in this most ancient calling. I warn you though. The path you seek to trod is not simply the most difficult learning experience you will ever endure, but it is one of constant questioning. Questions of ethics, questions of reason, and questions of might. It is you who will weave the patterns of reality to your desires, and therefore it is you to whom the weight of responsibility lays for doing so with honor. We are the custodians of Sidonius’ dream. You may not understand yet, but you will.

One thing you should understand is your duty. It is to the truth. Magical truth, moral truth, secret truth, ancient truth, and the wisdom to employ these truths for the betterment of Thalassa, not yourself, not your friends, not any one being. By serving the City, you serve yourself and your family. By serving as a wizard, you take on a calling, not a profession. You will be a true seeker. Power will come, wealth will come, but without knowledge and the wisdom to employ these rewards, they ring hollow. Simply put, all else than the City and the Truth is simply a distraction.

Some of you miss your mothers and fathers. You will see them again, but through new eyes. For now and the future, the Guild is your parents. In a few years, should you work hard and we deem you worthy, you may become apprenticed to a practicing Mage and learn the true secrets of the Pattern. You will know more secrets and methods than any ancient sorcerer of old, you will not be beholden to any creature for your abilities, nor will you be forced to bow down to any deity save that which you choose. You will be a Wizard, a Philosopher Sage, hungry for knowledge, brave to explore the ruins of the old world as well as creating the future as Sidonius willed us to do.

In the name of civilization. In the name of truth.
Study, learn, practice, and you will succeed.

Excerpted by Brigitte Rouann, Seer of College of Poets, Thermidor 4, Year 447 (1480 EE)

The Ancient and Illustrious Guild of Wizardry is a very secretive institution. Thalassans are generally welcome, others less so. Of course it has outsize power, but it is only one of the hundred or so guilds that permeate city life. For good or for ill, it allows no rivals in magic. Yet, once graduated, apprenticed, and tested through the first three degrees of the Guild, Wizards are generally considered free agents. Sure they have a certain dedication to the city (as needed) and each Wizard must donate some of their profits to the Guild (unlike most other guilds there are no dues or initiation fees but up to a fifth of profits is expected). It sounds like a lot, but the rewards are significant. Besides prestige, one receives a comfortable lifestyle in the city, free (mostly) access to the Guild’s extensive library’s of spells/knowledge (mostly), discounts on potions, available research areas, the Guild lobbying for their needs, free transport to allied cities and trading posts, and placement on expeditions into the wild to explore and make a name for themselves.

Quitting the Guild is not recommended, and (almost) never happens.

Associated with the Wizards’ Guild are the College of Poets and the Academy of Martial Magic. They are joint custodians of the Vault of Ages with the Temple of Aarith, the Thalassan Great Library and the Constructivist Order.

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