Magicians, capable people to bend reality to their desires, are definitely an important part of Aegis Aurea. Given the conflictual relationship between the Empire and magic, the existance of wizards within the borders of the Empire is far from trivial. Knowing that using magic is considered a serious offence, how can a person be able to learn to use it?
The first solution is that the magician comes from outside the Empire. If the character has grown in an area where magic is not illegal (perhaps immoral, but it is a different topic) his access to the magic will be so easy to not be a source of concern. Of course, the Empire is aware that there is freedom outside its borders to learn magic, and this is one of the reasons that immigration policies are very stringent. A magician is not recognizable from a normal person in any manner as long as they don’t use magic (and in some cases even then may not be trivial to recognize). This induces a certain paranoia towards people from outside the Empire.
Even for those who are born in the Imperial territories it is possible to learn to use magic. Too easy, according to many. Remember that anyone can learn to use magic with the right training and enough determination. So, although it is difficult to get access to the right knowledge, potentially every citizen of the Empire might become a magician.
The most traditional of way is the family. The father or mother (or both) of the magician were practitioners of magic, and trasmitted to their child the knowledge in the field since an early age. These mages are usually very knowledgeable, but also mentally unbalanced. How do you think a child would grow knowing that potentially they can get everything they want, if they put enough efforts in it? These families are usually small in number and do not extend far each generation, as too many magicians who share the same surname could start a carpet search by NOAM. This has led many families to use a similar approach to the ancient Oriental martial arts, in which only the oldest or the most deserving child could transmit his knowledge to descendants. Failure to observe this rule, disagreements over who is the rightful heir or premature death of head of the family often brought these families to violent, fratricidal conflicts. A method to limit the damage is arranged marriages with other families that use magic, creating some kind of magical nobility parallel to the official one. Again, everything is not always so rosy, and a numerous fights among these families, given the limited social circle size and danger of revealing their secrets in public, have resulted in bloody feuds.
A second, more peaceful method is to be taught by a master belonging to a sect (or guild, or sabba, or congregation, or anywhere else the call will do modos a group of Mages). This way tends to be more peaceful than the family one, but on the other hand it is much more limited in the choice of skill that can be learned and managing one’s live. The guild who risked so much to teach magic to a student would frown upon if they abandon everything and went to make their own business. This makes the environment of sects much more oppressive for a magician. Some rare, sects behave like groups of collaboration among magicians to share resources and knowledge but, more often, they become institutions with very specific purposes, which have no qualms to exploit and sacrifice their members.
The largest sects also have a well-defined hierarchical structure, which allows the system to operate efficiently and invisibly. Many magical knowledge, rituals and techniques are revealed only to adepts of the highest level, and only to those granted access to magical objects owned by the sect. Ranking up often becomes an obsession for many magicians, led by greed, lust for power and wealth, but also by the desire to break free from the interference of superiors.
A small number of sects aims to spread the use of magic in the population, as they are convinced that humanity is ready to handle it. To do this they leave clues, books and similar materials for people with enough curiosity, determination and interest in hunting the forbidden knowledge. These people are usually followed from afar, so that their error does not fall on the sect, but are put to the test in a variety of ways, in order to verify that they are worthy of the power entrusted to them. Many people do not survive the tests, but those who are successful are left free to practice magic, often without even telling them what really happened. If they seem appropriate they might be involved in the activities of the sect, to bring even more people to the use of magic. Obviously these sects and their wards are considered an extreme danger both by NOAM that Hawks, that act accordingly with brutal repression.
Finally there is a small number of magicians who learn magic exclusively by themselves, by natural predisposition and sheer determination. These people have a desire for something so intense that they didn’t stop at nothing. However, this road is difficult and does not teach caution, so the prisons of NOAM are full of people like that.
Some, on the contrary, can be trained by the Empire. Promising members of the forces of magic repression are often promoted in rank and get taught the magic needed to carry out their work. These wizards are often trained to fight using magic, something few are interested in outside of law enforcement (apart from the hunters, which will be discussed in the future). These people are often guided by a larger goal: to get revenge for wrongs suffered by magic users, free the world from magical creatures, get more power in a legal way, and so on. There are countless reasons that can lead a person to join the magical forces, and therefore each of them has its own dedicated unit to recognize and ferret out unhealthy subjects. Unfortunately they often do not arrive in time to prevent these do damage.
The latest way to get the magic is to strike a deal with an entity, using what is called the path of faith. Affiliating to a religion and devoting themselves to the divinity, sacrificing their freedom and following all the rules of faith, a person can gain access to the immense power of these entities, and training from others with the same power. There are also cases where the darkest people have individual pacts with magical creatures, to gain access to their powers in exchange for services and sacrifices. This behavior is the basis of beliefs about satanic cults that they would commit human sacrifices, and in some cases are the true (the relationship between divinity and sacrifice will be topic for another article). Many fools who live alone in the woods are known for making pacts with the fairy folks, which provide their powers in exchange for protection from unwanted visitors and hunters.
These are the main ways in which a person can be exposed to magic, but do not cover the full spectrum of possibilities. Just like magic, there are infinite variations on these themes, and unexpected news lie behind each corner.