One of the interludes (read “info dump”) from my 2010 NaNoWriMo project, about Mediums and Mages, two special classes of people on the planet in the story. The formatting for this was edited/cleaned up. Content was not (or at least very little), and my NaNo draft is reeeally rough, so I’m sure this is full of holes and info that makes no sense, or needs to be tightened up or clarified. I’ve got one or two more of these little info dumps written already, and notes for much more, but they’re a little disjointed, so I’m prepared for people to be confused about stuff. Feel free to ask questions if something is confusing or just plain doesn’t make sense. It’s likely you’ll hit on something I forgot, or haven’t thought about at all!
Adapted as they are to their electrically-charged environment, every person, plant, and animal on Veridia inherently has a highly active bioelectric system, as well as a much higher tolerance for electrical current.
A small percentage of the population though, two distinct groups, called Mediums and Mages, are born with not only a stronger bioelectric field than is normal even for their planet, but the ability to deliberately tap into it in ways that give the two groups each their own distinct preternatural abilities.
The first to be discovered were the Mediums, less than a generation or so after the establishment of the root network. By some trick of brain chemistry and current, they can sense (“hear”) the biocurrent of the trees themselves — what the Mediums refer to as “the voices of the Colony” — and with proper training, are able to interpret the messages that the trees send.The training it takes to properly exchange communication with the trees, which have a simple but thoughtful sentience, takes many years. Most often, children who are found to have the spark for mediation are taken from their families, to begin new lives in the nearest Medium commune. This can be a sad time, but it is considered a source of great pride for a family, to have born a Medium from their line.
When the children of a commune reach their majority, they are allowed to begin working, serving in a form of apprenticeship under more experienced Mediums. This generally lasts a few years into their young adulthood, as they are gradually given more and more responsibility and autonomy, eventually culminating in a permanent position somewhere. Mediums are traditionally employed by the local government, to mediate with the city’s Regent tree, or oversee the development of new- and young-growth trees in the area. More enterprising individuals can easily find independent work in current stations, in government office, or anywhere it is necessary or useful to have direct communication with the Colony. Especially skilled Mediums may become Journeymen, traveling with ground caravans to scout out new territory, or make personal contact or even settle with new outlying colonies to help cultivate communication with the local trees.
Over the last three decades, an independent Medium group has risen with a dire message; they claim to have been told that the current is killing the trees, and that the entirety of the Colony itself will eventually die if something is not done. They have gained enough in numbers and support over the years to make demands of the High Council itself, but their proposed solutions are not easy ones, so the Council balks, and the politics continue.
The second group of current-gifted Veridians are called Mages. Not to be confused with the magic-wielding sorcerers of other worlds, the Mages of Veridia exert a level of mastery over current unlike any other naturally occuring thing on the planet. Veridian Mages are able to channel and manipulate their own biocurrent, as well as the residual current in the air of their immediate vicinity in physical space, generating arching bolts of electricity from their bodies that they can, with proper training, bend to their will. Without such training, though, a Mage poses a serious risk to their environment and the people in it. Individuals with the spark for magery are almost always discovered as young children, usually after some current-related accident. Unlike Mediums, they are always extracted from their families for proper development of their abilities, and magery is usually, but not always something families boast of.
Mage-children live in the rough equivalent of a military school until their twenty-first birthday, or their formal training is completed, (whichever comes first). The first year or two of a young Mage’s training is spent simply learning is how to safely channel their own biocurrent, and it is only after they have firmly grasped this fundamental skill that they begin learning the fine control of manipulating their biocurrent. In the following years, they move on to channeling and manipulating residual current, graduating slowly to more and more complex techniques, as well as learning how to use various specialized Mage tools in conjunction with their new skills.
Mage-students are not allowed off campus for the first three years of their training, for their own safety, as well as that of the general public. The early-year Mage schools are usually very strict about safety measures, with severe punishments for students who try to sneak out, or who try experimenting on their own or without proper supervision. Along with the skills directly related to magery, Mage-students are given a formal education equivalent to that of the lower noble classes or better, depending on how much funding a given school receives from the local government and the community itself. Students at these schools learn subjects ranging from simple reading and writing, to history, mathematics and science, and foreign languages, and every student receives combat training, begining with hand-to-hand after their first year, then melee (dual batons being most commonly preferred weapon of the Mage class) and special techniques over subsequent years. Students graduate to university level Mage schools after their eighth year, and it is then that they learn to use their combat skills in conjunction with their magery.
Every young Mage goes through a final battery of tests before they graduate from university — or exit, in the case of a rare late foundling — during which the full range their abilities are assessed by a special panel of Mage-elders, and they are given a Degree and ranking of their power and skill respectively. Ratings range from one to five, First Degree, First Ranking being the highest attainable. It is possible to overcome a lower initial Degree-ranking with further independent training, or just plain hard experience, and open magery examinations are held annually at the universities in most Regent cities for those wishing to be reevaluated.
A good three quarters of all newly-graduated Mages decide to spend some time in the military, with nearly half of those electing to make a career of it. Fully-trained Mages often make excellent candidates for commissioning; in the current day and age, it is actually quite rare for anyone above the rank of Major to not be a Mage of some ranking. Independent Mages, though, like their counterpart Mediums, have no shortage of employment opportunities outside the usual military roles. They are nearly always welcome among the ranks of law enforcement, and the quick wits developed by years of training translate well to the verbal sparring of politics. It is not unheard of for a Mage to go into the trade of personal security, becoming a guardian of whatever noble or politician can afford the stipend appropriate to their Degree. Unfortunately, other Mages tend to see this form of employ as a waste of ability, unless the charge is one of exceptionally high rank, such as a visiting dignitary or High Council member.
Both the Medium and Mage populations have become subcultures unto themselves over the generations, Mages being occasionally elitist, and Mediums mysterious and insular. Since the first contact with Offworlders, very few individuals from either group have traveled off planet, and every one of them returned, shaken and refusing to ever leave their world again; not because of anything they had seen, but because outside of the static atmosphere of Veridia, the current could not reach them. Mediums traveling star-side found themselves suddenly feeling deaf to their surroundings, and Mages that no current would come when they called, not even their own body’s biocurrent. And all felt the same discomfitting, dull sensation that any common Veridian stellar traveler did, of artificial atmosphere, sterilized of as much residual electricity as possible. And they all came back. Every generation there are a few who decide that they want to explore the stars despite what they have been told, but so far space travel has proven to be too strange and alien a place for Medium or Mage-kind, who seem to lose a little of themselves when they attempt it.