The natural place to begin our inquiry is with the most recent noble to have openly claimed to use magic: The Last Wizard, King Bruno Zaberwald. Or more accurately:
His Arcane Majesty,
Bruno of House Zaberwald, First of His Name
Archmage of Pentavia
King of the Huntlands
Lord of the Forest, the Hills, and the Scar
I'm sure you've heard of him. His name probably conjures warm and fuzzy images of your parents going off to war and returning sans limbs, if they returned at all. King Bruno was, after all, the eponymous instigator of the Wizard's War.
Thousands of detailed accounts have been written about the Wizard's War and how it forever changed the landscape of Pentavia, both physically and politically. But for our purposes, I approached my research with a single question in mind: was King Bruno really a wizard?
The obvious answer is, "Of course he was! It's right there in his official title: Archmage of Pentavia." That's true, it is. But you must remember that the Zaberwalds created that title when they seized the Huntlands during their rebellion in 1079 AE. It would be the equivalent of me giving myself the title "Unicorn Slayer." The only thing such a title would prove is that I have an inflated view of my hunting prowess. It certainly wouldn't be conclusive evidence that unicorns exist or that I had ever slain one.
I read every history of the Wizard's War that I could find. Most talked about King Bruno's reasons for going to war, his strategies, or his insanity. Only a few gave accounts of him actually performing magic, and those were usually limited to small tricks like extinguishing a candle from across the room or making bath water boil. The most interesting claim was that when he received news that his three children had been slain, the messenger delivering the news literally choked on his own words.
Those things all sound like magic, but are they? The candle could have been a gust of wind. The boiling bath water could have just been hyperbole. And the messenger could have been poisoned. Or maybe he had been so nervous to deliver the news that he developed acute apoplexy.
The answer is that I really have no idea. I don't even know if the manipulation of fire, water, and death relate to common claims of magicians, and that's going to make this inquiry nearly impossible. If someone was going to investigate whether or not Herovinci Turbine had actually created an airship, I'd advise they begin by looking at the underlying physics and mathematics. If there was no record of anything ever flying, then it would be unlikely that an airship had actually been created.
By that same logic, I've begun my inquiry in the wrong place. Rather than looking at the most recent wizard, I should be studying the foundations of magic. Where did it come from? What are the components of a spell? What are its limits? If I can answer those questions, then maybe I'll be able to determine if King Bruno really was a wizard.
- T.H. Sterling
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