"I might remind you, the Test is intended to weed out the weak willed among our order… those that might be harmful to themselves, to us, and to innocents. Recall as well, that it serves to, hopefully, teach the mage something about himself…"
When the gods gifted a handful of mortals with the ability to manipulate great power, those that rose from the ranks realized there, too, lie great responsibility. Though it was not their place to decide who should serve in the interests of Good, Evil, or Neutrality, they understood people would choose their own paths. But they understood as well, that the gods were still watching to ensure mortals wielded their power wisely, or the Gift would drive them mad with power…
The wizards created the Tests not just to test a person's magical abilities, but also to learn how he would use his magical powers. Each Test was different, specially tailored to an applicant's own strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Failure meant death. A wizard who undertook a Test literally pledged his life to magic, and if he survived, his fellow wizards could be sure he would continue to give the fullest measure of devotion to magic.
This part is mostly related to GMing a Test, for general info. Most mages are aware of rumors of this stuff, though they will have no idea what truly awaits them.
Every Test, though unique, had several elements in common.
- They were rigorous: Failure always meant death.
- Every Test featured at least three challenges to examine the mage's knowledge and use of magic.
- A Test included at least three perils or tasks that could not be solved through magic alone.
- In a Test, a wizard faced at least one confrontation with a known ally.
- All Tests involved the mage in solo combat with a more powerful foe.
Generally, a Test will combine all of these things in proportion with the applicant.
Every hero takes his Test alone and may carry with him only regular clothes and two weapons. The candidate may not wear armor, carry a shield, or employ magical items. Most situations that confront a hero during a Test require him to use magic to intervene on someone else's behalf. Finally, every Test includes some elements that measure the hero's ability to discern when using magic might be appropriate and when it would not. Each Test includes at least one situation that requires the successful use of sorcery from the specialty the candidate has studied. In addition, the hero often faces a situation he can resolve without magic, but finds that using magic will allow a faster or more complete solution. Finally, subjects generally also have to defeat one magic-using foe in single combat.
To begin a Test, a candidate must be unwounded and have his full powers available.Those who reach the Tower injured or fatigued can rest to refresh themselves. When ready to begin, a candidate presents himself in the Hall of Mages, where the Grand Master of the Order and at least seven high-ranking Tower residents await. If the candidate has brought others with him, they may enter the Hall of Mages as well.
The Test can be fatal, the Master reminds the candidate at this time. However, its difficulty depends on the candidate's own ambition. A modest hero will face little danger but can expect little in the way of reward. The bolder the candidate, the greater his danger - and the potential reward. Is the candidate willing to undertake the Test under these conditions? the Grand Master asks. If the sorcerer agrees, the Test begins.
Witnesses see the candidate vanish, to reappear only when he has completed the challenges before him. In most cases, the witnesses retire to another chamber for the duration of the Test. Retiring to another chamber allows Tower residents to go about their business while the Test proceeds and spares the candidate's comrades the sight of their friend's dead body reappearing in the Hall of Mages if he fails.
Pending a candidate has the mettle to pass and survive a Test, several things change for them. First and foremost, they gain the acknowledgement of the 'higher ups', as every mage who has passed their Test is almost like a brotherhood on its own, and any mage who has faced such will be treated as an equal, any petty grudges aside. This extends to the next point:
The Mage's Robes
While a student or apprentice, one is allowed to wear the standard grey robes of an untested youth, or the robes of their master. Once they've passed their Test, however, they formally declare their heart to magic, and gain the right to wear these mystical threads.
Mage's Robes are different then mundane cloth in many respects. First and foremost, they ALWAYS reflect the inner heart of their wearer. Mages use this to easily identify each other, and no binding has ever been able to subvert this particular ability. If a mage's heart be good, the robe is white, reflecting their purity and intent. If they are black, the same occurs, reflecting their corruption and greed. For those that exist solely to expand and use magic for magic's own benefit, the robes are red, reflecting the balance in all things. Obviously, there are far fewer mages of the red robes, though they are still a force upon themselves: utterly dedicating oneself to magic gives them almost unsurpassed power in any magic they weave. As they are essentially bound to their owner's souls in this regard, they can be summoned and dismissed by their owners at will, over any distance, at any time. Mages ALWAYS wear their robes within the towers, though outside of them, that is up to the mage themselves to decide.
Next, the robes are unnaturally resilient, and do not hold stains. Though they can be cut by great force, they are also self-mending, and will do so over time. This allows them to act almost as a form of armor themselves, though obviously, it is not as completely effective as real armor. An additional property of this effect is that a Mage's Robe can be custom tailored to the mage. For instance, a female mage's robe may be both hoodless and sleeveless, though for all other purposes look like a robe. Another mage's might have an overly-deep cowl, and long cloak attached with many hidden pockets. This is built into the fabric itself, and mages will learn how to alter these properties when they gain possession.
An additional, final effect and one that bears separate mention: The weavings of the robes are especially built for magic. This gives mages not only a slight resistance to other's magics', it also allows their holder's to cast enchantments upon them, individualizing the cloaks for the mage they serve. Magic's bound into the robes in this way will generally add visible sigils to the lining, and the embroideries of master mages can be exceptionally elaborate. Without fail, the centermost sigil of any piece is the mage's own personal symbol, and this makes some quite easy to spot by others in the community. However, this property too, can be customized to the mage's whim, and can be 'supressed'. Though the sigils ARE actually borne upon the cloak, they might not be visible to others. Canny mages use this to keep their robe's simple when faced with unknown opposition or when they seek to avoid attention, while those more ostentatious mages proudly sport their advanced weavings for all to see… though obviously, this carries it's own risk…
Sometimes, mages of rare powers come along, and after their Test, the Grand Master and his Council decide something more is in order. Occasionally, this reward is seen as a beneficial artifact that may aid the magus, or compliment their abilities. On rare occasions however, the Council or the Grand Master might decide that a more… 'compassionate punishment' be levied instead… this is generally done if it is shown that the mage can survive the Test, but learned little from it. To further put things into perspective, the Council or the Grand Master might go through intricate rituals that leave the candidate a changed person in one respect or another… this is done to further reinforce what they should have learned, though all involved realize this will not always change the candidate. Rumors abound of previously fit candidates that came out cursed with poor health, those who used to 'have it all' and lord it above others, left with only their magic to 'lord' above anyone… others came out with more physical or mental changes… left only speaking in harsh, gutteral tones, or worse…
Things like this do happen, and shall continue to do so, in the name of keeping magic alive.