New mages can be brought into (or failed to be brought into) magical society in three ways: they can be born into it, they can be recruited, or they can fall through the gaps.
Children of Privilege
Some mages are born into magical society: either they’re the children of established Light, Dark, or independent mages, or they have one as a family friend. Their magical abilities will be noticed early, and they’ll be taught about the magical world while they’re still young: often it’ll happen early enough that they’ll be sent to an all-magical school.
For these lucky few, their transition into magical society is easy. They’ll have the opportunity to learn about how the magical world works in detail before they have to step out into it, and they’ll make contacts and friends early. They aren’t guaranteed to succeed, but they have all the advantages, and if something does go wrong they’ve got a support network to get back on track – occasionally they’ll become Orphans, but this is vanishingly rare.
Mages born into magical society form an “aristocracy” of sorts among mages. They don’t occupy all the positions of power, but they’re disproportionately represented, especially among the Council.
Brought Into The Fold
The vast majority of mages spend their early childhood outside magical society. For them, the magical world is nothing but a fairy tale . . . which makes it quite a shock when their abilities develop and they suddenly find themselves scrambling to catch up and figure out what’s going on.
At some point in this process, usually while the mage is in secondary or high school, they’ll come into contact with an established mage. Most often the way this happens is that the mage will spot the novice and approach them, but in a minority of cases the novice will seek out a teacher on their own initiative. The initial meeting is usually tense, and the way it plays out will depend on the novice’s attitude and the mage’s own objectives. In the best case the novice will end up apprenticed to a master. This master will usually not be the same mage that found them – there are mages, most often from the living family, who work as “finders”, seeking out novices for those who are interested and can pay.
Once apprenticed, the novice will be brought into magical society. Since the world is new to them, they’re at an initial disadvantage relative to those born into it, but they do at least enjoy the legal protection of the Concord.
It’s Cold Outside
Some mages don’t get apprenticed at all: their powers develop, but they don’t sign up with a master or formally enter magical society. These mages are known as Orphans.
A mage can end up as an Orphan for many reasons. Many novices simply never get spotted, either because their powers are naturally hard to detect, because they’re cautious enough to keep a low profile, or in some cases because there just aren’t enough mages to cover all the potential places out there where a new novice might be growing up. Enchanters and other magic types with natural “stealth” abilities are particularly good at this, and usually won’t be found unless they want to be.
In other cases a mage will approach the novice but will be rebuffed, either because the novice doesn’t want to learn to be a mage, because they do want to learn to be a mage but don’t have any interest in joining magical society, or because they just don’t trust the person they’re talking to. And sometimes the initial meeting between the mage and the novice just goes really badly wrong, either for the novice or for everyone. In this case the novice is best advised to flee – if they can. However it happens, the mage is left aware of magical society, but outside it.
Being an Orphan really sucks. They have no legal protection under the Concord, meaning that any mage or adept who feels like it can exploit, abuse, enslave, or even kill them. Some are lucky enough to find support networks: other adepts or apprentices who can help them out, or a mage who’ll take them under his wing. Others are alone, living on only their wits and their half-developed magical talents. They exist on the fringes of magical society or completely outside it, with few to notice if they finally disappear.