Modern apprenticeships don’t have a fixed length. In the old days an apprentice was expected to study for a minimum of seven years, but this length has gradually diminished over the centuries – nowadays four to five years is more common for Light apprenticeships, and Dark apprenticeships are shorter still. As a general rule, the younger an apprentice starts, the longer their apprenticeship will last for.
Life Cycle Of A Mage
Over the course of their lives, apprentices and mages are referred to by the following categories:
• Sleeper: A mage whose magical abilities have not yet developed. Also known as a latent or a potential. “Sleeper” can refer to adepts as well, so mages who want to be specific will spell out which they mean (e.g. latent mage, latent adept).
• Novice: A latent mage who has begun to develop their magical abilities but who doesn’t yet have any significant understanding or control of them. Known by many other names depending on culture, including but not limited to neophyte, fledgling, aspirant, FNG, and so on. Novices using their magic are usually considered a menace to everyone around them, which is slightly unfair but does contain an unfortunate amount of truth.
• Initiate: An initiate is more than an novice, but less than an adult mage. They’ve mastered several spells which they can use reliably, and can be assumed to be able to look after themselves. You can think of them as like a penultimate- or final-year student, or maybe like an older teenager: they’re reasonably competent, but aren’t generally allowed to handle important jobs without supervision. The line between a novice and an initiate is a blurry one.
• Apprentice: A novice or initiate who has been taken on by a master. Being an apprentice is a matter of legal status, not ability – an initiate who’s an apprentice isn’t necessarily any more competent or skilled than an initiate who isn’t, but they’re treated very differently by the Council. An apprentice is legally recognised as such regardless of whether their master is Light, Dark, or independent.
• Journeyman: A mage who has passed the Council tests qualifying them as an adult mage. To take their journeyman tests a mage must be at least eighteen years of age, and must be sponsored and vouched for by their master. Journeyman tests vary in difficulty and in format.
• Master: “Master” has two meanings in magical society: it can refer to the teacher in a master-apprentice relationship, or it can refer to an experienced mage who has attained a high level of skill. The various graduations of master rank are complex, and will be dealt with in another article.
In general, when members of magical society use the word “mage” without qualification they’re usually talking about a journeyman or a master.
When to Start
There’s no restriction on an apprentice’s age – they start learning when they’re taken on, no matter how old they are. Before they can find a master (or be found by one) they must come into their power, ie go from latent mage to novice.
It is generally accepted among mages that the average age at which magic develops in a new mage or adept has increased over the last few hundred years. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, records show new novices beginning their apprenticeships at ages varying from 10 to 15. Nowadays mages tend to hit the novice stage somewhat later, which puts a lower limit on the age at which they can practically begin their apprenticeship. The exact point at which magic develops is hard to measure (and argued over) – mid-teens is generally believed to be the average age, but some develop much older or much younger.
Just because a novice has come into their power doesn’t mean they’re lined up for an apprenticeship: for many, it means their problems are just starting.