Apprentice Wizards represent the bottom of Magister Hierarchy within the Colleges of Magic. The life of any apprentice in any trade is one of hard work with only a little learning thrown in. The life of a Wizard’s Apprentice is even harder than most because it also tends to be very lonely. Where apprentices to other professions may be able to socialise with people their own age, all Wizards’ apprentices are expected to work and study so hard they rarely have any company other than their master.
This holds true even for those apprenticed to study at one of the Colleges of Magic in Altdorf. When not in a lecture, actively serving their mentor, or working with him on some spell or formulae, Apprentice are required to study alone in one of the Colleges’ huge libraries or be cleaning or preparing ingredients for something. In every College, whether it is in a great building in Altdorf or in secret caves in the Amber Hills northeast of Altdorf, discipline is absolute, and the loyalty the Orders of Magic demand from and ingrain in their members must be total.
An Apprentice’s first consideration must be the perfection of his ability to perceive and then touch the Winds of Magic. To that end, regardless of the way in which someone is innately able to perceive the Winds, they are always trained when they join one of the Colleges of Magic to actually visualise the Winds in their separate colours. Doing so enables them to control and manipulate the Winds consistently and effectively in the dependable tradition of Collegiate Magic.
In the early stages of apprenticeship, Apprentices are disallowed from casting spells without the presence and permission of their mentor; those who break this rules are punished severely (though never expelled), unless the spell was cast in the direst emergency, in which case the punishment will be more lenient. Of course, the danger is not great for these novices lack the experience to cast anything more than Petty Magic. If they are to get anywhere in their art without succumbing to insanity or worse, the potential mischief that could be caused by a group of Aethyrically sensitive youths with knowledge of even a couple of petty or lesser spells is too awful to contemplate. The last thing the Colleges need is groups of their Apprentices wandering the streets of Altdorf magically locking doors of public buildings or putting local watchmen to sleep while on duty. Apart from any immediate damage caused by such dangerous fooling around, the Apprentices would probably be lynched by a frightened mob or even Witch Hunters. Worst of all, such careless spellcasting could summon something more dangerous and horrifying than the Apprentices or their victims could imagine. Thus, Imperial Magisters keep a tight rein on their apprentices, assuring the concept of free time for an apprentice remains just that—a concept.
Once accepted into an Order and having sworn his binding oaths of loyalty and allegiance, an Apprentice is bound legally and spiritually to his mentor. Though a Magister may not be able to know what his Apprentice is feeling or doing, an Imperial Magister will always know where his Apprentice is within a certain radius. For some Magisters this radius is only a few hundred meters, but for the oldest and most powerful Magisters, this range can be a few miles. This means that it is nearly impossible for an Apprentice to leave a reasonable proximity of his mentor without his mentor knowing what direction he heads. This makes it exceedingly difficult for an Apprentice to flee his master, even if he manages to find a moment in his incessant study and work to contemplate flight.
Apprentices are also told that if they succeed in running away and evading their mentor, their names, descriptions, and location of their family home will be given to Witch Hunters. And the witch hunters will be far less lenient than the apprentices’ own master.
This means that very few Apprentice manage or even plan to escape their studies. And even the most surly and unwilling student (of which there are many), learns after his third or fourth failed escape attempt and ensuing punishments, or worse, after one of his fellow apprentices has been captured and burned alive by witch hunters, that it is best just to keep his head down and study to more quickly bring about the day when he is allowed to be free of his mentor.
Apprentices in Perpetuity
Apprentices who do not have the aptitude or strength of mind or spirit to become full Wizards, but are too dangerous to be allowed to simply return to the life they had before coming to the College, are required to remain with their Order as Apprentices. These people will only ever master a few of the least spells, but if they serve long enough and loyally enough with their College they may be lucky enough to be considered a kind of Apprentice-In-Perpetuity and are given a freedom from their College that new and much less loyal Apprentices are not. The most skilled, long-standing, and loyal Apprentices will be pushed and pushed until they are skilled and trusted enough to be allowed the limited freedoms of full apprentices—sometimes even greater freedoms if they have served loyally for ten years or more.
Perpetual Apprentices make up most of those who work for the Colleges of Magic, their Orders, and the Magisters within them. They spend their days working for Magisters as guards, servants, and secretaries, doing many of the tasks that apprentices might do, though with greater responsibility and not such a harsh routine. For those of grindingly poor backgrounds, this life is not so bad. They learn how to control what little magical sensitivity they have, so they do not suffer from Poltergeists and such, and they are fed three times a day, given a clean place to sleep, and have the opportunity to be educated in academic arts.
The better-educated Perpetual Apprentices and those that come from wealthy backgrounds who show enough loyalty are often employed to become their Colleges’ agents across the Empire, using their limited magical skills to detect and recruit potential apprentices for their College. Carrying papers identifying them as representatives of their College or posing as regular people, Perpetual Apprentices can travel anywhere in the Empire and beyond, unbound by the duties of Journeymen and full Magisters. These characters become agents and informers for their Colleges, and they can be found in almost any profession. Some of them run safe houses for Magisters of their Order, and others administer the libraries, guild houses, and College buildings. Some Journeyman Wizards of the Orders of Magic are given information detailing a network of loyal Perpetual Apprentices across the Empire that they may stay with if needed.
Those with only a slight magical sensitivity and who want to get rid of minor visions might sometimes ask to be fitted with leadrings, bracelets, and other trinkets to further dampen what little ability they have, allowing them to be integrated back into the civilian world without anyone knowing who they truly work for or where their loyalties lie. This can and has been done, but only rarely.
It is not unheard of for young Journeymen who have found themselves down on their luck in a distant city to be offered a warm bed and food by a stranger who seems to know more about them than should be possible. These kind souls tend to be Perpetual Apprentices of the Journeyman’s Order, and they are welcome faces in a world normally distrustful, if not openly hateful, towards users of magic.
Perpetual Apprentices are actively disliked and often targeted by witch hunters, because although the Orders of Magic go out of their way to protect these agents as much as possible, what they offer is far from the comprehensive shield enjoyed by Magisters. There are many more Perpetual Apprentices in the Empire than there are full Magisters, as by far the majority of people with any kind of magical aptitude will not have the talents needed rise in rank. Just how many there are is unknown to all but the highest ranking Magisters of each Order.
Apprentices who study long and hard enough eventually gain access to the deeper secrets of magic, becoming Senior Apprentices (the Apprentice Wizards career). They show such promise and dedication to their Order and studies they are permitted to travel parts of the Empire on missions for their masters. This is the first turning point in an Apprentice's life with his mentor and is recognition of the apprentice's final and true acceptance as the Magister’s trusted protégé. Such Apprentices are relatively free to travel with written permission from their master and if the Magister judges that the journey serves some good purpose and offers a reasonable chance to learn something valuable. However, such journeys are not entirely free from supervision, as masters are known to tag along, either openly or at a discreet distance.
Apprentices who have not the skill or ability to proceed further in their studies to become Magisters are sometimes permitted to become much like Perpetual Apprentices and take new careers. However, the official protection of the Orders will no longer apply to them (as with Perpetual Apprentices), and they will always be bound to serve their Order in whatever way they can.
- Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Realms of Sorcery (pg. 75-77).