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Library: The First Mage (bard tale)

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Author: antarax
Date:Jun 14 2012

In this world, it is only after death that you can know for sure that your
life was truly a Distinguished One for the Gods themselves create an eternal
tombstone to mark your grave. Even with all my travels I only ever saw four
such tombstones myself and of course I never saw my own. But, I do know what
title I was given.

"The First Mage"

The first to learn to use more than one prayer-song, the first to develop the
mental techniques required to make practical use of prayer-songs solo, the
first to understand the meaning of the words in prayer-songs and the first to
create new ones.

Though maybe it would be correct to say "the first mortal mage" since it is
clear to me now that "magic" is something the Gods left us to discover.

In addition to an eternal tombstone left in the mortal realm, a further boon
given to me after my death is the right to have my life history recorded in
the Hall of Heros. This gives me a unique opportunity to look back at my own
life, though unfortunately it is not something other mortals will be able to
learn from during their own lives.

Why do I think the Gods wanted us to discover magic? Consider these well known
facts: in each of the thousands of islands that make up the world there exists
a large stone covered in writing, almost exactly like the tombstones that mark
a Distinguished One. On one side are the words to a prayer-song unique to that
island and on the reverse side is a list of rules. The main village of each
island inevitably forms around these Song Stones.

It has generally been believed that each prayer-song was a gift by the Gods to
be used only by the people living in each island, but nothing in the rules
promotes secrecy or isolation - very much the opposite, in fact. Everyone on
the island is required to participate in the prayer-song events, the benefits
must be shared equally, the words cannot be hidden and the leader of the
singing events must be shared among the people rather than inherited.

Clearly the Gods did not wish for the prayer-songs to be kept secret or hidden
though they did not explicity encourage them to be spread among the islands
either. Perhaps they wanted the prayer-songs to become trusted and understood
individually first. If so, then perhaps they did not expect people to come to
believe that the prayer-songs would only ever work at the original island or
when sung around the original Song Stone.

It is perhaps due to such beliefs that it would be many centuries before
anyone would realise that these assumptions were false - it would require
someone to discover that the prayer-songs would work even when performed by
a single person and would also work regardless of location. Needless to say
I discovered these facts by accident.

With each island in the world being self-contained and self-sufficient and
travel between islands being difficult, it is uncommon for people to migrate
between islands. Naturally when they migrate they would no longer perform the
prayer-song from their old island and participate in the local prayer-song
from their new home. Failing to obey the rules of the prayer-songs would
always result in them not working and since they still worked when people who
were born outside the island participated, migrants were accepted.

It was clear that the prayer-songs were not tied to people's blood. Instead it
was assumed that it was tied to the area.

My grandfather had been a well respected prayer-song leader before he retired
and tried to pass his knowledge and experience on to me since my father could
not be chosen. This lead me to practice how I would lead a prayer-song in
private. However, due to some misfortune I lost my best chance to be selected
as the next leader and my grandfather decided we should move to another island
and hope for another chance, since it is not uncommon for prayer-song leaders
to serve for decades.

On the new island, more out of frustration than anything I kept practicing
in private and not just the prayer-song from my new island but my old one.
Perhaps in my youthful innocence I believed that with more practice I could
somehow turn things around and return to my original island in triumph.

Instead something more implausible occurred - the prayer-song from my old home
helped crops and plants in Spring to flower quickly and strong, protecting
them against late frosts and so on. Early one Spring, I was astonished to
discover that the plants immediately around my practice area had all flowered
before all other plants on the island. The effect was too small to convince
anyone and with Spring passing quickly I could not try again for another year.

After the first success, even I was still doubtful because the effect had been
quite small but I was desperate to know the answer and put in far more effort
the next Spring. Though the results were much more obvious the second time, I
decided to keep them to myself because it seemed to upset people. Later that
year I jumped at the chance to take a short trip to another island where I
tested the prayer-song from my second home which helped drive away diseases
from crops. This was also successful.

I had proven to myself that prayer-songs worked even with one person and that
they were not tied to the islands. All prayer-songs could be used by anyone
and at any place, though most people struggled to produce a useful effect by
themselves.

Turning these various realisations into reliable and repeatable skills that
could be taught to others took considerable time and effort, however. Harder
still was decoding the meaning of the prayer-words themselves, allowing for
entirely new prayer-songs to be created. Even by the time of my death it felt
like we were only just beginning to truly understand the possibilities. The
true mastery of magic will have to be left to my apprentices.


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