good Lord British had instituted a worldwide system of education
by the time I had come of age which was made available to
all those who chose to apply. In addition, and by the grace
of the Great God OSI and through his avatar Lord British,
the applicant would also be raised in his or her physical
attributes according to the desire of each person.
When coupled with free transportation to the city of their dreams each applicant would receive 7 boons. It is these 7 boons which must be chosen wisely and with discretion or the effect upon one's life could be less than hoped for. The boons are divided into three: Attributes, Skills, and City of Beginning.
At least this is the Great Plan. But like all Great Plans this one has its flaws. It is not mete for me to say how this came about nor yet how to address it though comment upon the truth of it falls to every thinking man within the realm.
Suffice that when thee applies at the various places set up for this purpose throughout Britannia, thy slate will be wiped clean of any past wrongs and thee will start afresh. Some say that thou art reborn in this process.
The recruiting station was set up outside my village as is the case in almost all instances; they're occasionally to be found within a guild house. Behind a table sat three functionaries whose job it was to take down the required information and who accomplished this task with indifferent efficiency. Amongst them were two or three men whom turned out to be wizards whose job it was to cast the enchantments necessary to confer upon the applicant the desired attributes and skills.
Flanking these on either side stood two grim, rather formidable looking groups of armed men. Those in the group to my right hand held elongated shields emblazoned with an embossed silvery serpent while those to my left held round shields displaying a rather ornate embossed square cross. I was to learn later that these men were all members of the legendary Virtue Guards. Those who held the Serpent Shield had sworn fealty to Lord British himself while the others favored his erstwhile friend Lord Blackthorn. They held themselves aloof and I was surprised to observe that occasionally hostile glances passed between each group. It was unsettling.
Each applicant to the program had to pass through three stages or make three decisions. At each stage a boon was conferred upon that person. It was first required that each person declare their name.
"How doth thou wish to be called, fellow?" I was asked by the first functionary. I was staggered by this but I was quickly given to understand that my answer would determine how I would be entered into the roles and by that name would I be known forevermore.
"Elowan …" I stammered, hesitating.
"Elowan. Very well, Elowan it is." And before I could complete my answer he had inscribed it and said "Next!" passing me on to another functionary and turning his attention to the next in line. My name is Elowan Romulane but it would now be, officially at least, just plain Elowan. Well-a-day. I can remember my own last name at least.
At this time, I implore thee, make it a good name, one to be proud of and spelled properly. Do not, I beseech thee, choose a name such as BeAvIs or some such. Firstly the admixing of the letter cases smacks of some lower class villein and is unseemly into the bargain. But what kind of a name is Great Lord BeAvIs? I ask thee. Is this a name befitting a Noble Lord? An upholder of the Virtues of Britannia? I think not. Be wise here thy name may not be undone and many have come to regret their juvenile choice later on when they find that no one takes them seriously.
"Well? What will thee have, young fellow?" It was said in a friendly way and I was brought out of my confusion and looked down at a kindly face wrinkled with age. He had encountered callow fellows like myself many a time and country bumpkins into the bargain but he was too polite to let it show. "Thine attributes," he prompted. I stared at him blankly. I had had only the rudiments of instruction in this process and by an itinerant mage anxious to be on his way. In was he, in fact, that first apprised me of this opportunity but beyond that and a suggestion that I take advantage of my heritage and pursue a career in magery, I was ill prepared. Whether my parents had known about this program I knew not. Though they seemed taken aback when I had broached the subject to them soon after and chose not to discuss it further. My father only said that I must choose my path by myself. Which earned him a withering glance from my mother.
"Thou mayest choose three of thy attributes to be enhanced and to what degree: strength, intelligence and dexterity but choose thou must." A glance to my left at the first functionary gave me to know from the look on his face that he would recommend that I go long on intelligence. But he said nothing; he only shrugged and gave a glance to his compatriot seated before me that spoke volumes. I'm nothing if not perceptive. A gift from my mother no doubt and useful, but I felt small that day.
"Thee can only be granted a total of 65, as to say points. Thou mayest distribute these points amongst thine three attributes," he went on to say. When I hesitated he continued while looking down at my application. "It says here that thou doth desire to pursue magery. If that is so, then one of thy choices should be enhanced intelligence." The chap to my left nodded vigorously. "Thou shouldst also consider that having enhanced strength will serve thee in good stead as time goes on. Dexterity can be learned and sometimes will come to thee as thee applies thyself in advancing thy skills that should be a small number in my view."
The attributes are, as the functionary said, intelligence (which determines mana or spell casting energy), strength (one's ability to withstand injury as well as wear certain armor and wield certain weapons) and dexterity (which translates into stamina) and should be divided wisely as only so much in total is granted to begin with. The current grant is 65 'points'. To be a warrior mage one needs as much strength and intelligence as possible. Dexterity can be gained through practice. Hence thou art advised to take as much as possible in the former two and as little as possible in the latter.
So I chose, giving myself those boons I felt, in my ignorance at the time, would serve me in good stead. In retrospect, I would choose differently were I given another opportunity to do so. Because it is not wise to attempt the path of the pure mage from the outset. This I found through serendipity. I wish to spare thee the pain of blundering. To survive long in this place thou must be a warrior mage.
I recommend 25 in strength (so that thee may wear chainmail and wield a mace); 30 in intelligence; and 10 in dexterity but no lower else stumbling over an alley cat will bring thee low. The latter will reduce thy ability to run but will not excessively restrict thy movement at this time. Some would have thee increase the strength grant at the expense of intelligence but I disagree. Strength will go up as thee uses thy mace (or war axe) so not being able to wield aught but a practice sword now does not signify. Since it is important to cast spells successfully and the higher the spell the more rapid thine advance in the art, thou wilt need more mana which is related to intelligence. And intelligence is one of the slowest to advance naturally.
Having chosen, the man inscribed my choices then raised his head and stared at me with raised eyebrows. "Thine skills?" I stared at him blankly. He sighed and rubbed his eyes appearing to age before my eyes. The fellow to his right snickered and I reddened. My questioner took his hand from before his face and explained patiently: "Do not take it personally. Thou wert supposed to have been given some basic instruction in this process. Milord British has apparently not stressed this point sufficiently to his minions." This last comment gained him a snicker from the group holding round shields and scowls from those holding the elongated ones. It was puzzling at the time and made me uneasy.
The recruiter went on. "Lord British will grant thee immediate training in three basic skills to give thee a head start upon thy profession." He handed me a scroll. "Look these over and come back here to me when thou hath decided." He waved me to a log nearby. I obeyed dumbly and sat down heavily. I stared at the list before me. How did I know what skills I should choose? Magery seemed obvious but it was possible to have a level granted of 50 only. What else should I choose? While I pondered, Carin came over to sit down beside me and we discussed it. Carin had chosen to be a Ranger. Hence his choices were ready made and he had little to add and all from his perspective.
Before thee chooses take a look about thee. Study the map of Britannia. It has been constructed after painstaking research over many years by learned cartographers and scribes. It is a fair land and vibrant; filled with beauty and promise. But it is a violent land withal and he who would venture into the untamed vastness is well advised to go prepared. There is evil there and in plenty. I do not know why this is so. Do I know the mind of a god? Though I suspect OSI of a sense of humor. Suffice that it is so and one can only accept that there is evil; evil deep and powerful that seeks to swamp the flickering flame of goodness that burns here and there throughout the Land. It is the duty of the warrior to stand between this rapacious evil and the good citizens of Britannia.
Recall that I spoke of a samurai, that mysterious and legendary warrior of the semi-mythical land of the Japans. A samurai was more than just a warrior, however. These formidable fighters were required to be adepts at poetry, flower arranging and the cha no ryu ceremony. Being adept with sword, mace, axe, or halberd, is not enough to prevail in this incessant war against evil in Britannia. Every Master Warrior must therefore be more than just an armsman; each must typically be at least an adept in the arcane art of magery and possess other complementary skills. Therefore, the starting skills must be chosen wisely.
I had no guidance what-so-ever in these choices and were I to have the opportunity to do it over, my choices would be much different. I had some magical ability as a child, undoubtedly inherited from my mother, and so I had decided that I wished to become a magus. At an early age I was able to make leaves fall from trees a useful skill I don't think. More useful, certainly more annoying to some, was my ability to make people sneeze. This was a source of endless malicious delight until I was given to understand and in no uncertain terms that such behavior was unseemly and that one did not take advantage of others in this manner. Besides, it was showing away a fault not to be tolerated. All children are cruel to some extent. We are but a step removed above a savage at that time in our lives. We were all little savages when young and some of us were more savage than others and more cruel into the bargain though to be sure some never advanced beyond that stage. There were two of these that come readily to mind …
Magery is one of the slowest and hardest to advance within. But then so is Resisting Magic in point of fact, it may be even more difficult than acquiring proficiency with the arcane. The ability to resist eldritch energies may often be the difference between life and death. Many would advise thee therefore to choose this skill in place of something else.
It is therefore tempting to take the maximum allowable of the skills that one needs as a magus if that is thine aim. Hence one finds many aspiring mages who launch their lives with 50 Magery, 49 Resisting Spells, and 1 of something else. Be advised that these choices may not be altogether wise. Firstly, unless thou art fond of sleeping in the streets and begging for thine sustenance, it is not possible to live well enough through practicing as a neophyte mage. The fact of life it is that magery is expensive and one must work at some other trade in order to pay all for the reagents and other paraphernalia necessary for a life as a magus.
Secondly, there has been an erosion of the powerful spells originally cast upon the applicants which grant them their initial skills. Some of these skills have been advanced through hard work and diligence and yet daily many are seeing these self-same skills being steadily drained away. Hence if thee chooses Resisting, thee may find that since thou wilt receive little opportunity to stimulate this skill, that it may drain away to great extent by the time thee gets to the point whence thou needest this skill. It is a conundrum of the first water. As to death itself we will have more to say anon.
A most honorable and profitable, not to say life preserving path to magery is via the Way of the Warrior. Therefore, thou art often advised to take the following skills: Tailoring 49, Magery 50, Archery 1.
Some would advise taking Tactics in place of Tailoring. The logic in that being that thee may buy Tailoring skills through being taught by a Master Tailor while Tactics will help thee fight better. True, but the same can be said for learning Tactics from a Master Armsman and Tactics will not buy thy daily bread, whereas Tailoring will. Furthermore, as a neophyte swordsman/mage, thee will be hard pressed to hold thine own against even a rabbit thus Tactics has no immediate survival value. However, as thee practices thy archery and mace (war axe) skills, thy Tactics will improve automatically.
There is another consideration. When thou hast chosen thy skills, it is the custom of Lord British to bestow upon the applicant, tools related to these chosen skills. Thus it is that thy choices must be centered around what serves thee best now and that will still serve thee in the dim future. Hence should thee choose the first of the choices I have outlined for thee (Magery 50; Resisting 49; Tailoring 1), thou wilt be granted some bolts of durable cloth; a sewing kit; and a spellbook along with 3 each of the 8 required magical reagents as well as a few spells in the form of scrolls all enclosed within a backpack along with a dagger and a candle. Coupled with the customary 100 gold granted to each new student, thou wilt be covered with bounty indeed. Milord British will grant thee nothing for choosing Tactics undoubtedly thinking thou art too stupid to be permitted to live for long.
The practice sword granted thee if thou shouldst choose Swordsmanship is of little value in the long run it can't even be sold and while it is true that the tools accompanying magery and resist are identical and not duplicated, advancing to any degree of worthiness in any skill takes time, hence it matters little in the whole of it.
As I hesitated in my choice, one of the guards who had been watching the proceedings called out: "Choose Sword, Tactics, and Tailoring! Magery is natural to thee thou mayest enhance it later!" And so awed was I by his voice and manner that I followed his advice. But shouldst thy choice be the one that I have presented thou wilt be better served. The path I chose was Sword, Tactics and Tailoring; a mistake. While I have done well regardless, it was an arduous undertaking. Remember that there is no perfect choice nor is any choice totally wrong some are just better than others. My advice after having had many years to reflect is to choose: Magery 50, Tailoring 49, Archery 1.
After I had made my choice of starting attributes and skills, I was given certain potions to drink and someone who could only have been a mage passed his hands lightly over me while muttering some incomprehensible words. Other than a slight tingling from that and a vague feeling of nausea from the potions, the experience left me none the worse. I was then ushered over to another bureaucrat who handed me a full backpack and asked: "What city?"
There was no question in my mind what he meant and which city I desired. There was none then and there is none now despite all. "Britain," I answered.
He pointed. I turned and I found myself facing yet another mage. This fellow was tall and looked at me with some amusement as he reached into a pouch at his belt. He withdrew a small stone inscribed with an arcane symbol and which he dropped on the ground before him. "Step into the gate when it appears," he advised. He bowed over the stone and muttered: 'Vas Rel Por'. Great Change of Movement. Mine eyes grew wide and I looked at him in astonishment. I understood the words! With a ringing sound, a shimmering bluish oval of light appeared over the stone. "Step in," he directed. I did so, still bewildered by my sudden understanding of the words the mage had uttered, though had I known what was in store for me and that I would not see my boyhood friend Carin for almost two years I might have hesitated in entering the gate. I looked over at him as my surroundings began to blur. Just before he disappeared from my view he winked. That wink was oddly comforting to me ...