This page contains a direct transcript of Glest's official background. It was written by Enveloop with images by Tucho. The background has since been removed from the official site, but can be found via web archives.
|“|| Deep rests Science in the Mind
as Magic deep in the Heart;
Glest takes place in a context which could be compared to that of the pre-renaissance Europe, with the licence that magic forces exist in the environment and can be controlled.
The practice of magic by particularly qualified individuals gets lost in the night of times, and appears profusely documented since the first known writings. The mages, sorcerers, shamans... played a key role in the first semi- nomad societies, although it seems clear that their abilities were rather rudimentary and they didn´t always achieve the desired results.
As to the percentage of gifted, the most accepted hypothesis is that it should not have varied substancially in respect to the current average. It is known that with adequate training almost everyone can develop magic skills in some way, though mastering the most powerful spells requires a certainly exceptional talent. With a merely intuitive control of the technique, and considering the small size of the populations in primitive times, it can be easily understood that their progress was very slow in comparison to technological advance. Before the farming revolution, which allowed the settlement and prosperity of civilizations, the number of mages must have been very small, the contact between them non-existent and the transmission of the technique, direct, oral and by imitation. Even though the references to selection and initiation rites are sparse and fragmentary, most likely because of their esoteric nature, it is possible to deduce that only every three or four generations the master found an apprentice with adequate capacities, whom he taught to be his successor; we can thus infer that not every village had a mage, and even in the case of having one, the continuity of his task was not guaranteed at all.
It can´t be said, given the existing references, that the mages participated actively in combat until relatively recent times: as we pointed out beforehand, their practices weren´t always successful, and particularly in the case of destructive spells or casts, the risks probably surpassed any possible benefits. However, there is some evidence of the use of these types of techniques in cases of absolute necessity:Within the Epic Poem of Zan there´s a reference to the providential appearance of a "winged fire" which saves the people of Rï from the "northern army" siege; we quote this example as it is common knowledge and its interpretation quite evident. Equally known, even older and very curious, is the legend of the disappearance of Atl, "gobbled by the living seas".
Following our exposition, we reach the point on which farming techniques are advanced enough as to allow the sustained development of a growing population. As we pointed out beforehand, against the growing sophistication of technology in this period, the magic had barely gone through any advances, and in fact many of the ancient magic skills started to be unnecessary since hunting was not anymore the centre of the community´s life and farming, or afterwards, building techniques, eased the dependence on meteorology. In this context, the mage´s tasks could have probably been relegated to healing or favouring rain in times of drought. However it didn´t happen like that, and in fact we know very well that from that time on the number of mages raised slow but constantly.
The main reason for this change is simply the population increase, and especially its concentration on the most fertile zones. Albeit we pointed that the total number of mages was scarce, in some places there should have been enough as to establish contact between them.
The second fact to take into account is, undoubtedly, the formation of pre-national identities, especially the expansion of political decisions to big groups of population. In this context, the mages´ authority would have declined in favour of local leaders and first monarchs if it weren´t for the consequent increase in the scale of conflicts and the appearance of the first armies understood as such. That´s how the ancient the use of invocations and combat spells decreases in view of their strategic importance, not only during battle but also politically, as the owner of those knowledges had a share of power granted.
As History advances, we then see that the causes which prevented the development of magic, mainly the dispersion of its practisings, disappear in favour of the rise of a new class. In parallel to the improvement of metallurgical techniques it is possible to document the appearance of manuscripts about magic, principally of descriptive character, and afterwards of the first attempts to systematize the existing knowledges. At the same time, "schools" start to appear in the places where the number of mages is big enough, their inner structure or characteristics remaining unknown. We do not think that this stands in contradiction with the "lonely" character of mages until that moment: we rather understand that it was the search for a common welfare or simply the spirit of survival which favoured those associations. It is not difficult to find parallels with the development of Philosophy schools later on and, in any case, we must remember that in those times the number of mages in a "big city" was still very reduced, they could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Even though their combat skills grew quickly, they neither were as many nor had enough power to defeat an army, and this situation remained unaltered for a long time.
It is out of our intentions to stablish an exact chronology about the developement of magic: enough to say that the primitive esoteric character of the selection and initiation rites broadened to reach all their activities to a point which makes extremely difficult any serious investigation. For instance, it is known that they advanced enough in the study of the chanalization of "magic matter" or "mana" as to be able to use it as their sole food and not only to cast spells, even though no one would dare to give any dates for that.
We then reach the point on which we must give an explanation to the causes of the current situation. In particular, the question could rise of how it is possible that mages didn´t arouse mistrust within the population before. Well, we gave a reason for this, that to a bigger or lesser degree everyone has aptitudes towards magic. Throughout History this has been common knowledge, and even if the mage channelled his people´s forces, everyone felt in touch with magic in a kind of pantheism which somehow survived among the people. The mage was traditionally more respected than feared, and even when they stopped to eat that fact was perceived as asceticism, more than an evil fact. Furthermore, we shan´t forget that the mages continued to perform healing tasks even when medicine and science in general had advanced enough... as to rival with magic. Certainly, the technological and scientific development started again to raise doubts about the functions of magic; finally, everything could be explained by the science, but magic itself. And so, voices started to appear that stated that the reason for this incapacity was that magic didn´t exist, and in the case that it existed, because it was unnatural and it had to be eliminated.
Of course, this wasn´t the only question, nor the most important one. Mages not only developed knowledges related to wizardry but for centuries, for the sake of perfecting themselves, studied the nature, especially the human nature.
By the time when Medicine was giving its first steps -we are sorry again as we can´t give exact dates-, they discovered the way to strengthen the innate abilities towards magic that everyone owns, and started to transmit their knowledge through real "schools". Archmages were and still are as few as mages of antiquity were, but the number of "initiates", extremely useful for the expansion of their influences,increased proportionally to those. Meanwhile, the popular knowledges, especially the everyday relation with magic, decreased until almost disappearing in the urban range, and even in many less advanced regions mages started to be seen with distrust.
Personally, we think that the real cause of the events which came afterwards was the fear of the excessive power that the mages were accumulating. Certainly, not all of them did good, but even so the schools of magic developed the study of Anthropology, Philosophy or History, in addition to share approaches with Biology or Botany, although from different points of view. We could say that, despite the secrecy surrounding their activities, in general terms they acted for the benefit of the society, and their role within the goverments was merely consultative. However, in comparison with ancient times, the power of the mages had increased up to a point on which they could oppose an army by themselves, given their number and capacities. Using mana as the sole resource, they could also be completely independent from the rest of the society, and the effects of some of their spells were really terrifying.
None of this justifies, but maybe explain, the why of taking the decission of eliminating all of them. On a single strike, in a sudden, thinking that they wouldn´t have time to organize themselves, their properties were confiscated, their practices forbidden and they were scattered and chased one by one.
That´s how we reach a situation of total war, on which different "technological" and "magic" factions battle for power. Even the regions which were initially pacific have been involved in the war, and only that who manage to assert its authority will decide our future...