According to the lore, mages in the Northern Kingdoms are
trained in one of two places – girls receive their education at Aretuza,
located on the Isle of Thanedd off the Cidarian coast (technically part of
Redania, but I get this feeling that Thanedd is to Redania like the Vatican is
to Italy in a lot of ways), while boys undertake their training at Ban Ard in
There is no evidence of any formal ways of training mages that
are particular to the Aen Seidhe. Furthermore, the only elven mages that are
encountered throughout canon are Francesca Findabair and Ida Emean,
yet at the same time, it is very heavily implied that the Aen Seidhe have a
much higher affinity for magic than humans do.
So, what exactly happened to the elven mages?!
In the old days, when the Aen Seidhe were still able to live
according to their own traditions, mages would have been trained within the
context of the tribe, with the elder mages passing on their knowledge to the
younger generation – an organic, intuitive learning process rather than a
scientific, academic one.
Now, guess what happened once the Aen Seidhe lost the basis of
their traditional existence, their way of living, learning, and teaching as
they were forced to integrate themselves into d’hoine society?
It is likely that one of the very first pieces of legislation
specifically targeted at nonhumans concerned elven children who showed evidence
of magical talent, and there is no doubt that these laws were passed due to the
demands made by human mages, who felt threatened by their elven
counterparts, who wielded a power that defied human control and comprehension.
For as long as elven mages existed, the balance of power would remain in their
favour. With brute force out of the question, the only way that remained was
the strategic dismantling of the arcane knowledge of the Aen Seidhe.
It was a plan as perfect as it was cruel, as cunning as it was
Practically overnight, all elven children became by law required
to be examined for magical affinity, the evasion of these ‘screenings’ being
subject to draconic punishments. Once the latent mages had been identified,
they were immediately placed into the care of the respective academies, Ban
Ard, and Aretuza – environments that place magic into exclusively human terms.
While all adepts, regardless of their racial origins get put
through a harrowing deconstruction of their identity, the forced severance of
all their personal ties to families, friends, and communities in order to
ensure that their loyalty lies first and foremost with their fellow mages, the
process that is undergone by Aen Seidhe adepts differs in a number of ways. In
addition to having to meet the same expectations as their human counterparts,
the young elves are subject to a number of additional ‘educational measures’.
While human students are encouraged to connect and interact with
each other and work collaboratively, Aen Seidhe are strictly forbidden from
making any attempts at communication with each other. Given that they are
usually few in number, they are consistently placed into different classes,
with opposing timetables. This is done with the purpose of both dismantling cultural
and racial identity and preventing the formation of what could potentially grow
into a network consisting exclusively of elven mages.
Aen Seidhe are also forced to pronounce the Elder Speech
with a human accent, and become subject to extensive punishment if
caught using Elder Speech outside of the context of their studies.
The most extreme measure, however, concerns physical
appearance. Every Aen Seidhe of magical talent is subject to extensive
magical transformation of their appearance. While human adepts are made flawless,
superimposed with a perfect but ultimately empty, soulless perfection, their
elven counterparts undergo a very different process. They are made to look human.
The rationale for this ultimate destruction of whatever
remains of their identity is that elven mages will always and forever be
regarded with mistrust, resentment, hatred and fear. Needless to say, none of
these are conducive to the fulfilment of a mage’s social and political roles,
which incidentally explains why Francesca Findabair and Ida Emean, both of whom
are distinctively elven in appearance, have never assumed roles that placed
them into the public eye despite their formidable powers.
Ida and Francesca, the last of the elven mages, precariously
positioned between two worlds. Given their immense ages, both would have been
taught their magical skills in a time so far in the past that it might have
been in a different world, and both would have lived through the changes that
saw their people lose their lands, their culture, their autonomy as the
human race spread across the world like a plague of locusts, stripping the
ground bare, drawing their borders and erecting their stone walls.
Die, or adapt. Surrender your life, or surrender your self.
Francesca Findabair and Ida Emean chose what they believed
to be the lesser evil, conforming to human practices (in essence, a
bastardisation of the techniques of the Aen Seidhe, although there is a
distinctive difference in how magical force is drawn and channelled – an elf may
learn the way of the d’hoine, even though it will forever feel cumbersome,
clumsy, and needlessly complicated, but no human has ever managed to draw even
the tiniest spark of magic using elven techniques).
They became relics, remnants of a lost world that remains
alive in memory alone. Imagine Francesca Findabair, member of the Chapter of
Mages, and the sole elven representative within the magical government,
spending extensive amounts of time on Thanedd. Imagine Francesca, being forced
to bear silent witnesses to the strategic extinction of the magic of her
people.Watching her own being forced to think like humans, speak like
humans, talk like humans, and work magic like humans, generation after
generation, realising that not only is she powerless to intervene, but that her
time is running out.
The enormous sacrifices through which she ensured the
establishment of the elven state of Dol Blathanna, her betrayal and sacrifice
of her own people, people who were desperate and prepared to die for her, people
who she repaid by publicly denouncing them – they were the price that Francesca
paid for one last chance.