Demon spawn laid siege to the city, leaving death and destruction in their wake. In the months that followed the demonic invasion, heavy repairs were underway everywhere throughout the city of Moorgate. It was a time in history that wouldn’t soon be forgotten, yet much else would be. Most of the city’s recorded history was lost to fire when the library burned to cinder. Not much was known about the origin of the Mages’ Guild and where the mages that once were came from. Much like how the ash drifted for miles across the lands, so did rumors.
“Let me clear the air this night and tell you my account of things – In the days leading up to the swarm, there was a fresh prophecy among the Arcane Society that was spoken of in hushed tones. It warned of a coming danger, but no one would have dreamed it would be so soon, or dig so many graves,” the half-elven battlemage rubbed his weary eyes in remembrance of the massacre. Imagery flooded his mind, waking nightmares of winged creatures that blotted out the sun and made an artificial night last over a week.
“Sir? Lothaine?” The youth’s voice broke the battlemage from his trance. A newly appointed scribe had been tasked with the responsibility to interview the Mages’ Guildmaster to create a record for the guild’s origin. The novice continued, “I’ve never heard of the Arcane Society before.”
“Well, I know you’ve only been here for a couple months, so to understand the way things are now, you’ll need to understand the way things were before. Before the invasion, the Mages’ Guild didn’t exist yet. Back then, we were an unorganized group of magic enthusiasts whom gradually discovered one another in the community. Amusingly enough, we most often crossed paths in the library trying to research from the same books. There wasn’t much material on magic so this was a frequent occurrence. Eventually, most of us started to routinely meet at the library to share our knowledge and experiences with one another. In time, we became known as the Arcane Society. Most of us were self-practitioners, and few took apprentices. There was no demand for leadership. There wasn’t a need for it yet.”
Lothaine paused to study the scribe’s expression for a moment. “You seem puzzled. What’s on your mind?”
“Then why do I sometimes overhear rumors about another guildhall? I was told it burned down during the invasion.”
“Oh I see, good question.” Lothaine gave an approving nod. “As you’ve no doubt come to learn by now, magic can prove to be a dangerous mistress, especially for the untrained. With the Arcane Society sharing so much information, minor incidents would spring up here and there with increasing frequency. At first it was harmless experimentation when someone froze the town fountain’s water, but the first time there was an accident with fire during a street performance the town was in an uproar. Known practitioners were regarded with indifference or uncertainty. Sometimes even fear. As such, we then secretly gathered and practiced in private under the roof of a large abandoned warehouse. So you see, when you overhear something about the old guildhall, it’s actually that warehouse they’re talking about.”
“Interesting… but surely the guards patrol near all the abandoned warehouses… How did the Arcane Society manage that?”
“The local guard intentionally stayed clear of that warehouse. We had a mutual understanding. Tension was high and no one wanted a civil war. Rather than create unnecessary conflict, they would turn a blind eye in exchange for our discretion and self-policing. Besides, even a couple of the guard themselves were among us,” Lothaine said with a smirk.
“I understand. That clears up a lot. Okay, what were you going to say about a prophecy?”
Taking a moment to reconcile his thoughts, Lothaine chose his next words with care. “Only one thing was known for certain about the prophecy, and we have the wizard Kaede to thank for that translation. She came to me and was certain that a forgotten scroll would offer more clarity to the dark prophecy, perhaps even a solution. And thankfully, she was right.”
Lothaine waited for the scribe to finish writing before continuing, “She tracked the location of the scroll to a tomb several days sea voyage out. So, I left my armor in a strongbox and sailed out on the next ship.”
“You left your armor behind? And excuse me for saying so sir, I’m certainly glad that you did, but you just believed her? Just like that?” The scribe’s eyes immediately grew wide after realizing what he just said. “I just mean, I uh… that is to say… I didn’t mean to question your…”
The Guildmaster chuckled a bit at the young scribe’s flustered nuance.
“At ease. I understand your perspective. It’s true that not many put much faith in prophecy, myself included, but let me share with you a universal wisdom. If the prophecy was false and she was wrong, then we’d be no worse off aside from me going on a fruitless adventure. On the other hand… if the prophecy was true and no one put any stock in it…” he paused for a moment, swallowing a lump in his throat, “oblivion… So, when presented with such a scenario, I don’t believe it’s a difficult decision to make.” Lothaine took a sip of tea, as if to allow his wisdom to sink in.
“Besides, she’s the leading authority on all things pertaining to books,” he said with amusement in his tone. “As for leaving behind my armor, that’s more simple. I was trying to appear less conspicuous. All I needed was my sword and my wit. Leave that bit out of the records though, wouldn’t want them to suggest I’m pretentious. And this is about the guild’s history, not mine."
The scribe nodded and dipped his quill in more ink. “Okay, let’s see, you were talking about going to retrieve a scroll?”
“Right, thank you. Forgotten doesn’t even begin to describe the condition of this unassuming scroll, or rather, the location of the tomb. With little difficulty, I found it hidden below an equally forgotten graveyard, tucked away in a dark corner of a distant forest. Strange really, how I managed to find it at all. It was as if the woods themselves guided me… but that’s a different story of course…”
“Well, okay… then let’s get back to your role in this and why the invasion is important to the guild’s history,” the scribe prompted.
“Where was I? Yes, that’s right… I sailed in on the next trade vessel headed this way. Imagine my surprise… the horrors that were running through my mind when I saw the city’s flaming glow on the horizon. Until that point, I didn’t even know the prophecy was real. At the very least, we thought we’d have more time… A party of winged creatures started destroying the ship in an instant. I had to get to shore to find my friends as fast as I could. I swam to the docks and used my ring of invisibility to stealth around the ruined city.”
“Good thing you had that ring!” the youth piped in.
“Absolutely. So, my search led me to the stronghold you currently recognize as the Fighters’ Guild. Many brave warriors were protecting as many survivors as they could, and the mages were helping them. My friend Trisana even stepped up and started a triage for the injured. In the end, the city’s survival came from every citizen banding together. My sudden arrival seemed to comfort those who noticed, it was as if they were expecting me. Kaede spotted me immediately and rushed me over to Eloras and Halren. They delegated the handling of the scroll from that point – all I know is they managed to get it to the monk Khaji. Everything happened so fast… next thing I knew, some knights took me aside and began to outfit me in armor while Eloras caught me up to speed on everything I missed in my absence – Without leadership, the Arcane Society was scattered and unprepared for an invasion. Being a powerful sorcerer, he stepped forward in a time of crisis and took charge. According to him, Halren essentially had a group of warriors under his banner, but more than that, he already had a plan in which the scroll was paramount. A rogue called Sam had discovered a portal the demons were flooding in from.” Having finished his tea, Lothaine reached for the teapot and began to pour another cup.
“Wouldn’t that make Eloras the Guildmaster then?” the scribe asked.
“I’m not to that point yet, don’t jump ahead. Listen, before I had even arrived with the scroll, Kaede had managed to devise that it contained a passage that only an enlightened monk would be able to understand and wield in order to seal the demonic rift. Halren had devised a strategy that involved escorting Khaji to the portal. Sam would show them the way. Eloras told me to ‘see this through’, suggesting I go along with them. With the arrival of the scroll and an end to the terror in sight, the outing party assembled, hope renewed. Other mages asked to go along, but I only accepted the help of one, a battlemage by the name of Deesul. He insisted on protecting me and wouldn’t accept no for an answer. Having fought alongside him in the past, and knowing him to be no stranger to war, he was certainly a welcome addition. With such a large group of fighters on their way out, it was better for the rest of the mages to remain with Eloras and help hold the line.” Lothaine leaned back a bit in his chair and with a sigh concluded, “Gory details aside, we succeeded.”
“Okay, so then what? The city was in ruin at this point. How did the guilds come to be?”
“Town guards always managed to be sufficient enough at keeping the peace – until the demonic invasion back in 118 of course. The truth is, Moorgate had never encountered a threat that powerful before. As a result, in reverence to those who so bravely fought to save the city, four guildhalls rose from the rubble and came into existence once construction began. Today, these households are most commonly referred to as the Fighters’ Guild, the Mages’ Guild, the Monks’ Guild, and the Rogues’ Guild. Should Moorgate face such perilous odds again, we’ll band together to defend our homes at every turn.”
“How is it you came to be appointed to lead the Mages’ Guild?” the scribe asked while dipping his quill in more ink.
“Eloras was well respected for rallying the mages in my absence. Certainly he was a clear candidate for the position, but he approached me after the chaos settled and told me he only took control because no one else did, and it needed to be done. ‘I don’t have the mind for paperwork’ he tells me,” Lothaine said with a soft chuckle. “Once upon a time, he was my apprentice. He had a way with magic though, quickly outgrew the need for my tutelage. The point is, he trusted me to do a better job. And in respect to the role I played as the mages' vanguard in our joint mission to close the rift, the other mages accepted the transition with ease. This ring,” he spoke while setting a ring down on the desk, “was given to me by an elderly mage the hour of our salvation.”
“How? It bears the seal of the Mages’ Guildmaster. You said the Mages’ Guild didn’t exist then.”
A wide grin spread across Lothaine’s face. “How indeed. Guess you could say the guild seal was modeled after this ring, not the other way around.”
“Fascinating! I never would have… Wait, what happened to the old man who gave it to you?”
The grin faded as Lothaine continued his story, “There was a group of mages beyond saving. They were mortally wounded and the battle left healers fainting from exhaustion. Even if they could be saved that day, most of them were elderly and not long for this world – they bravely demanded the younger citizens be saved first. They had one last trick up their sleeves though… we helped them to the site where the Arcane Society’s warehouse once stood. It was there that man gave me the ring. I still remember how it felt… when he placed it in my hand and closed my fist around it. I could feel a power awaken from somewhere inside me…” The Guildmaster’s eyes pulsed softly with an unnaturally vibrant glow. “Honestly, I wish I could tell you his name, but strangely enough I’d never seen him before…”
The scribe abruptly stopped writing. He slowly lifted his gaze to meet the pair across the desk, “Am I mistaken in assuming that you would know every member of the Arcane Society?”
“No, you’re correct. Even if I didn’t know him, I would have at least seen him at the warehouse. Either he was never a member, or…”
“Or what? Then where did he come from?”
“I have no idea. More peculiar still, no one can claim to have seen us talking together, and I haven’t seen him since.”
“You’re kidding,” the youth barely managed in a flat tone.
“He told me to build a guildhall. When I blinked the man was nowhere to be seen. That trick up their sleeves? They joined hands at the center of the ashes and began to cast a spell in a tongue I’d never heard before. Initially I had no idea what they were doing, but then a massive cornerstone sprang from the earth. A sense of awareness washed over me… I approached and placed my hands on the cornerstone and joined in the chant. Observers looked on in shock as members of the circle drifted into the Aether… It was a spectacular sight to witness. Raw arcane energy gathered around me. Suddenly, acting as a conduit, their essence channeled through me and poured into the cornerstone, hallowing the grounds that the rest of the guild would be built upon.”
“You’re talking about the cornerstone with the plaque? What happened to those mages?”
“The plaque serves as a reminder of their selflessness in death, sacrificing their very souls to weave an unrivaled spell of protection… There are a lot of magical things in this world we don’t yet understand. The exciting thing is, our guildhall just happens to be one of them. The cornerstone, the very basis from which the guild was built upon, serves as a ward that grants safe passage to those deemed worthy. Also, since magic played a pivotal role in defending and rebuilding Moorgate alike, the people cast aside their old prejudices and gladly welcomed the Mages’ Guild to the city’s charter. Moorgate’s Guild Initiative Article required a signature from each of the four factions. If you ever read it you’d find my signature alongside Halren’s, Khaji’s, and Sam’s at the bottom.”
“You’re saying if it weren’t for the invasion, magic today would likely still be shunned..?” The boy’s words drifted a bit, his face slightly paled. “This is a lot to take in.”
Lothaine gave a solemn nod. “Feel free to take your time. But at some point, I’d like you to pen two identical copies of my tale. Store one in the guild library, and make the other available to the public in Moorgate’s library.”
“Yes, sir. Was there anything else you needed?”
“No, thank you. That will be all.” Lothaine stood. The scribe followed his example, bowed, and exited the Guildmaster’s office to reflect on what he just heard.