The Sable Magic System


A Brief History of Magic

Text of a short welcoming speech given by Robert de Lacy, Duke of Worcester, FRS, FRTS, FASM to the new students at
King's College, Cambridge, Terra Magica, October 1997

Good afternoon.

First, I would like to thank Madame Chancellor Brennan for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon. It is always a pleasure to return here.

King's College has a long tradition of producing the best mages in the country, and I am sure that you will all live up to that as time goes by. My purpose this afternoon is to briefly put the magic we take for granted into some kind of historical context. As your courses progress - both for those of you studying magic, and those of you who have chosen to pursue our new and growing sister art of conjuration - your lecturers will go into more historical detail, I am sure. However, for this afternoon I hope you will permit me to say a few introductory words.

The Talent has not always been with us. There are no references to be found in the oldest known writings we have discovered to anything even remotely resembling what we now think of as actual, working magic. The earliest mentions are probably to be found in the Old Testament, and due to the nature of that work, it is difficult to count them as references to familiar magic. In fact, it is not until the last two centuries Before Christ that clear references to what we know of as magic - or at least what developed into magic - can be discovered. However, while this begs the question "Where did the Talent originally come from?", it is not my purpose to answer that here and now.

Throughout the dark ages of the first millennium after Christ, what I would call proto-mages - our early predecessors - appear to have become more...if not common, at least present...although in many cases they were treated with suspicion, hatred and abject fear. Slowly, however, as the centuries stretched, a grudging acceptance began to form...with the occasional hiatus, depending on the prevalent political and religious feelings of the day...and magic as we know it now slowly began to be developed.

By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Talent was becoming still closer to what we are familiar with here at the end of the twentieth century, and those who were blessed with it were beginning to be welcomed, and in their own way honoured. Finally, after many dark centuries, they were allowed to grow...mainly through the good offices of the Angevin Kings who were willing to take the fledgling mages under their protection, even if their reasons for doing so probably had their origins in a desire to increase their personal power. Indeed, we have one of the scions of the Angevin line to thank for the college we stand in today. Without Henry VI's foresight at endowing an establishment where the Talent could be developed and formalised, magic would be a far less tangible and potent power now.

In a way it is a testament to the stubbornness of will that seems common among mages...myself included... that rather than letting themselves be destroyed due to suspicion and superstition, the Talented survived until humanity finally learned to think of the ability that everyone in this room has been born with as a gift, rather than a curse. However, true acceptance was a long time coming. Even up until the reign of the Angevins it would have been very easy for those with great influence within society, notably the Church and the higher echelons of the nobility, to outlaw the use of magic - be it through jealousy, or just lack of understanding.

After all, humanity usually has a habit of wishing to destroy that which it does not understand, and even now can we truly say we understand magic? I believe that had normal human nature been allowed to run its normal course, our society would have turned out very differently...and I would probably have been burned at the stake long ago, rather than have been given the opportunity to speak to you.

As the years passed, more Talented people were discovered, their abilities were developed, and slowly magic became key in the lives of all, not only in England, but over into Europe and ultimately the New Worlds also. Admittedly, not all the Kings of England and Scotland were as foresighted as Henry - the Stuart line immediately springs to mind - but magic managed to endure and grow, to become an everyday part of society. Now we use it to soothe our ills, to find solutions to our problems, to influence the land around us and, inevitably, in our battles.

Where would Terra Magica be now if it had not been for the patronage of the few then?

Over the last fifty years or so we have seen an increase in the availability of courses for studying magic. Even as late as the start of the Second World War, the number of universities offering comprehensive courses in magic could be numbered on the fingers of one hand. As of this academic year, however, a full fifty establishments across England, Wales and Scotland have magic in their prospectus, and the rule of law has laid down that anyone who has the Talent automatically has the right to train it - whoever they are, and whatever their background - and will be given opportunity to do so.

A far cry from the screams of "burn the devil-spawn" that will have been heard in the Dark Ages.

With the advent of conjuration over the last twenty-five years, the need to train the Talented has become more important still. If the life of the man in the street is to improve further, then our budding mages are a resource that should be nurtured and encouraged.

Without is little further we can go. Even Terra Magica's new breed of scientists, inheritors of the alchemists of old, and not so old, need the mages to develop their theories. After all, where would a steam engine be without magic to heat the water? To burn the more physical resources of this planet to generate that heat would most likely lead to a decline in the quality of life as the air around us fills with the dust and debris that would be generated, and the land becomes despoiled. It seems a shame to let that happen when there is an alternative already in place and accepted.

Now, as conjuration develops to take its place with the other main areas of magic - healing, natural, investigative, combat and battle, practical, structural, mechanical, and more recently entertainment - the Talent becomes more potent still. Over the next century I predict that conjured power sources will become part of everyday life, leaving the mages more time to help develop new fields which should ultimately improve the lot of us all.

I hope you enjoy your time here at King's. I remember my own days here with a great deal of fondness, and I wish you all good luck now and in the future.

Thank you.