Education in the Familiars World

Magical education, that is, since readers of the series know that both private and public schools exist. Lelia has a GED, André has a BA that he earned while on active duty (or would have, if he hadn’t busted that one English Lit final and then failed to get the paper turned in on time [he was a titch bit busy].) Since the Spell Eruption Event, many schools offer basic magic testing and classes. Beyond that, it depends.

Most public schools, like those in Phoenix and Riverton, test for magic. It’s not a bad idea to know if a student might be a proto-sorceress, so that if she loses her temper at a classmate and accidentally casts a spell, the teachers are ready. Relatively few children show up as having magic of any kind, and most who do have minimal powers. High schools sometimes offer magic as an elective, for those who have enough ability to warrant training. The students are trained as sorcerers or sorceresses, with some group work. That usually sorts those who are more inclined toward being witches and warlocks. Kit Wilmington is taking magic in high school.

His father is also teaching him additional skills at home. Frequently, if a parent is a magic worker, and the child shows abilities, education begins at home. Shielding, self-defense, power control, those are the basic skills parents who teach pass on to their children. As with other things, having a family member as instructor is not always the best way to go. Parents who can afford it and whose children seem unusually talented may hire tutors, or send Junior to camp.

The vast majority of magic workers are not that strong. They can shield themselves, sense magic, warn off Elementals or cast charms, but not much more. The characters in the Familiars books are the top 1-2% of magic users. Mages by their nature tend to be fairly strong, but Heike and Walburga are, oh, two-thirds of what André is. They are weaker than Uncle Leopard. Lelia is the top one half of one percent, which she doesn’t realize yet. Neither does her instructor . . .

André was a very weak sorcerer until his encounter with the IED. His magic was forced due to trauma, which brings a number of complications with it. The subconscious association never goes away. He has mellowed a great deal, but his default as a magic user is to blast first and identify later. A lot of what his instructor in Germany, Meister Gruenewald, focused on was weakening that default and getting André to think before spell-casting. Meister Gruenewald is very, very strong, stronger than André. That made it safer for all of them, including Rodney. And it took some pressure off of Rodney.

It is far easier for a Familiar to train a mage from 0 than to re-train someone. Just ask Smiley Lorraine. He will tell you, in excruciatingly painful and thorough detail of the woes and tribulations of re-training a witch into a mage. And Morgana still backslides on occasion. Tay had it a wee bit easier that way. A Familiar can team-teach with someone from another discipline if they need to, and that does happen on occasion. André’s not far off when he grumbles about shadow mages learning on the job – or on the run. That’s true of most mages once they get past school basics. About a third of mages show no talent at all before their Familiar appears. Lelia didn’t, although Uncle Leopard sometimes wondered a little.

Most teaching magic workers are relatively weak, except in defensive magics. In some places, they keep in close contact with other magic users in order to pass on observations or direct students to more specialized teachers. That is not the case in Riverton, at least not at Central High. The teacher there keeps himself to himself. Most other magic workers know he’s a he, and a sorcerer, but no more than that. The students also tend to keep quiet. This should be a giant clue, except that teenagers are teenagers. Selective honesty is not rare.

From “Familiar Sorrows” on, Lelia’s education will focus on patching holes in her knowledge and sorting out her strengths and weaknesses. That she can tap into Rodney’s power means that she has more options than most, although it comes with its own problems. Not the least of which is Rodney himself, who is going to wake up some morning in a box on a slow boat to  Diego Garcia if he doesn’t settle down.


21 thoughts on “Education in the Familiars World

  1. I don’t recall whether I asked this before. Is Lelia’s previously latent power why Tay came out of guilt-induced retirement? And do all the other Familiars understand this?

    • The other Familiars know that she’s strong, but Tay has been keeping some things close to his chest. She needs to grow into her strength, which she can’t do if the others treat her differently. And yes, her raw power had something to do with their getting paired up.

  2. Some very good back story as structural work. Can do a lot of building off these ideas. Thanks.

    I had a sketch of Rodney appearing at USAREUR’s big military hospital in Germany, navigating to his assigned mage, and trying hard not to bite several clerks and nurses on the way in. Probably had a snippy reply about him being the reason HER ward was so free of vermin.

    Smiley might be more dangerous when starting with the “it can be shown …” line, flinging obscure texts and footnotes at the unlucky questioner, to be answered by Friday. Devoured alive might be less painful.

    • Ooh, “It can be shown …” takes me back. Those are words of power, they are. Right up there with, “Honey, we need to talk.”

      • “Building on the observations from last week’s discussion, it should be apparent that . . . ” the grad students in the seminar room are doomed. Except for the one who took notes. Maybe.

        • The INFAMOUS story of (roughly) “It’s plainly obvious to the most casual observer that…” *PAUSE* *Prof. disappears for 20-40 minutes… returns… “Yes, it’s plainly obvious that…”

          • I heard that he spent almost the whole two hour class filling the side blackboard. Five minutes before the class is to end, he exuberantly declares “Yes, it is obvious that …”

            I may have had a prof or two capable of that.

  3. Nice add to the backstory! Snerk… Rodney on Diego with the coconut crabs? THAT would be a story in itself… LOL

  4. Most other magic workers know he’s a he, and a sorcerer, but no more than that.

    Now why do I think there’s a story there (in more ways than one)? 😉

  5. I’ve had the uncomfortable idea that shadow mages might need to suffer to unlock their talents – Andre got blown up, Leila ran from her tyrannical mother and got hooked on heroin … It would also explain why shadow mages are more common in war zones and disaster areas. But Heike doesn’t seem to have a painful past, so I guess that’s wrong? Or not the whole story?

    • Heike has a normal background, likewise Martin (who has become a shadow mage.) It is a certain combination of elements, but always requires that the person have very a strong sense of wrong and right, and a willingness to acknowledge and then to face down evil. Heike’s father helped refugees from behind the Iron Curtain. Martin stood up to trouble when he was in college.

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