When Krisha unified the warring princedoms in what had once been the Lord of Fire’s domain, he knew that peace and security would require that he deal with the question of magic users. Because magic’s effects can be so valuable, he wanted to preserve them, but had to find a safe way to do so.
A People Divided
His new realm was split on the question. In some areas, every known wizard, witch and petty conjurer had been captured and killed. In others, they were banished. Some were maimed in ways that would prevent them from casting spells. Only a handful of tiny communities with a trusted wise man or -woman had allowed the spellcasters to go unmolested.
The Problem of Control
The Emperor quickly moved to establish and enforce a code of laws, including declaring the skills of magic-users to be assets of the state. The destruction or misuse of those assets was listed as a serious crime and punishable by death. None of the Mage Lords’ most powerful underlings had survived the war, and Krisha felt that this would be sufficient to establish control and reassure his subjects.
Unfortunately, he had underestimated the depth of fear and hatred in the populace, especially among the newly-risen aristocrats. Most of them had been important persons in the Lord of Fire’s government, but had been barred from true power by their lack of magical gifts. They feared that mages would once again seize the reins of government once they’d had enough time to grow their talents.
Ironically, it was a wizard who proposed the solution to the problem. Braxxis was a family friend and trusted advisor to the Emperor, and had been the Lord of Apprentices in the old regime. The Lord of Fire had had similar thoughts about the conflict between a lesser mage’s utility and the danger he posed to the realm. The Lord of Appentices was given control of a small army of lesser spellcasters whose power had been harnessed by the use of a device called a Yoke of Stars. Braxxis himself was similarly enthralled the Lord of Fire himself. Braxxis showed the Emperor how to attune himself to the Yokes, and helped him to establish the corp of Keepers who would ensure that the nation’s mages would never endanger the world or enslave its people as they had for a millennium.
The Servants Today
All children are tested at the age of six for signs of the mage gift. Gifted children immediately become the property of the Empire, and are taken to the Citadel of the Servants to be raised and trained. The family of the gifted child have no legal recourse, but at times the Keepers can be convinced to leave a marginally gifted child with its family. Before being allowed to stay behind, the mage gift is blocked using a complicated ritual magic that is known only to the Keepers.
A new Servant quickly learns that their place in society has two faces. On one hand, they are a valued asset, and they are kept comfortable and reasonably happy. On the other, they are most certainly slaves. The major decisions of life – career, family, dwelling – are out of their hands.
Early life is dedicated to the same things that a moderately prosperous child experiences – basic schooling, playing, and religious instruction. The school at the Citadel is focused intensely on driving home the lessons of the Wizard Wars and the Servants’ duty to their nation and the world. Very few young children withstand this pervasive brain-washing.
Most gifted children learn to cast spells during puberty. Some scholars believe they are linked, but others maintain that the timing is coincidental. Once the Servant acquires the ability to use their gift, they are bound to their Yoke of Stars and attuned to their first Keeper. Most children are attuned in a group to their school teacher, but a few exceptional students are powerful or willful enough to require their own Keeper.
The childhood test is not perfect, and children who were missed at the age of six usually enter the Citadel at this time, after their first undisciplined manipulation of magic. These are usually powerful casters (weak casters who are missed probably never spontaneously manifest), and are also known as “wild talents,” “wildlings,” or “sparks.”
In addition to scholastics, adolescent Servants begin learning vocations. During this time their aptitudes are tested, and their likely place in society is determined. Due to the extreme differences in their training, Servants are divided into thaumaturgists and biomancers early in this stage.
Between the ages of 16 and 20, the Servant is judged to be ready to take their place in society. At this time their Yoke is attuned to the Keeper who will watch over them as they go about their daily work. The vast majority of Servants end up in essentially menial positions. Thaumaturgists spend their time performing repetitive but useful functions, such as powering magical engines, overseeing alchemical and engineering projects, or manipulating the weather for naval vessels. Biomancers find themselves in hospitals, employed as poison testers for aristocrats, or acting as medics for the armed forces.
Exceptional individuals are given exceptional places in society. Soothsaying, bodyguarding, or Imperial medical service are possible. Many such Servants find themselves assigned to one of the Emperor’s Hands.