He quivered, but there was nothing he could do, even if he did escape, they'd capture him again. He was quaking. He knew he should be brave, but he was scared. Then the axe fell. The magician who had been kneeling there slumped over, his head no longer attached to his body.

What would you do, if you were a fairly powerful magician, but magic suddenly was illegal, and you didn't know if or when the guards would come to bring you to your own death, by either beheading, burning at the stake, or downing. You can't escape the city, the gates are closed and the walls are always watched, but you don't really want to leave your home either, how would you hide, or would you stand up and give up your ways of magic, or maybe go down fighting, taking as many soldiers down with you as you can.

Here's how magic works: Magic is in your blood. When you use magic you lose some of the power that's in your blood. If you run out, you die. Words are linked with the flow of magic but not necessarily, if you have enough concentration and focus you can just think what you want, but the words make it safer.

Let's say you have the power to send ten men flying backwards, fast, but then you're exhausted. My question to you is, What course of action would be the most likely to let you not only live, but continue to practice magic in this situation?


closed as primarily opinion-based by kingledion, SRM, L.Dutch, Hohmannfan, Mołot Mar 20 '17 at 6:23

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ The wording marks this as primarily opinion based. I would suggest you reword it, or the votes to close will start filtering in. $\endgroup$ – Fayth85 Mar 20 '17 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ how should I reword it? $\endgroup$ – user34780 Mar 20 '17 at 0:19
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    $\begingroup$ "What would you do?" Is by definition asking for an opinion. Perhaps: "What options does this mage have?" or "What can be done to not die?" or something along those lines. $\endgroup$ – Fayth85 Mar 20 '17 at 0:20
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    $\begingroup$ Good enough for me, but I've been itching to have a crack at this one regardless ^_^ $\endgroup$ – Fayth85 Mar 20 '17 at 0:22
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    $\begingroup$ In my opinion, this is asking the community here to complete a story. The criteria are not sufficient to determine a 'correct' answer, so I'm voting to close as 'opinion-based'. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 20 '17 at 0:52

This is definitely an opinion based question, asking about what an individual might do. However, there's some value in answering it none the less. There is a more general question of what do people do when the face death.

What to do if you find yourself stuck in a crack in the ground underneath a giant boulder you can't move, with no hope of rescue. Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won't be troubling you much longer.

-Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

What a person does at the moment of their death is incredibly personal. There's no way to generalize what a person will do. However, we can get away with putting all of those personal actions into buckets, and make sense of the buckets. I'm a big fan of Eastern thinking myself, so the first buckets I think of on such a topic are yin and yang. These words are incredibly hard to define using English... or Chinese for that matter. They are sort of their own entity and call for analyses all their own. However, for our purposes, we can pick one facet of them: yin is inward and yang is outward. Yin forces tend to stabilize the energy within, while yang forces cause changes outward.

Yin is associated with inhaling and yang is associated with exhaling. This is interesting because it suggests a different time of death than Western thinking tends to be. In the West, we tend to associate death with the final exhaling. We view the final exhale as symbolic of letting life go. In the East, the opposite is used. One is considered dead at the point where one can no longer exhale, can no longer engage in yang centered activities.

This matters for such characters because there's a distinct difference in flavor between one who breaths out their last changes, and then has an opportunity to inhale, gathering one's self ready for death and one whose final act is to let go of everything they held on to. You have to decide which sort of death your character wants. Is their final act inward or outward. Do they choose to spend their final moments collecting themselves, proud to be who they are, or do they spend those moments outward, calling upon those around them to change, or perhaps even forcing them to. No way is more right than the other, but its a rather important choice for a character.

Then, of course, there's the third option: apathy. Not everyone's final instincts are heroic. Death is not a heroic thing. It's a cold, and it's broken Hallelujah. I've heard many renditions of it, but I think Tad Williams captures the third side of death better than I ever could, and it's definitely one of the more disturbing sections I've read:

You want to snarl, but you don't. For now, looking into the pale blue eyes of this man, you realize in a way you haven't yet that you are really going to die. No one is going to jump from behind the sofa and tell you it was just a joke. It's not a netflick either-- no group of hired mercenaries is going to blow down the prison doors and set you free. In a moment the doctor is going to push that button and that bottle of clear liquid -- they would be clear liquids, wouldn't they, colorless, just like this square-jawed, flat-eyed white man they've sent to read you your death warrant -- that bottle is going to start to bleed into the main line. And then you're going to die.

You try to speak, but you can't. The cold has you shivering. Jankel pulls the think hospital blanket up to your chest, careful not to disturb the transparent tube fanged into your arm like a long glass snake. You nod instead. By God, you're not stupid. You understand the laws and how they work. If it hadn't been one, it would have been another. They make those laws to keep people like you away from what people like them have. So you nod, trying to say what your try tongue and constricted throat cannot: I know why you want me dead. I don't need any more explanation than that.

The man in the gray suit smiles, a tight curved line, as though he recognizes the look in your eyes. He nods to the doctor, just once, and then tucks his folder under his arm and heads for the door, disappearing out of your sight beyond the curving line of Janekl's blue trousers.

You have just met the Angel of Death. He was a stranger. He is always a stranger.

-Tad Williams, Otherland

  • $\begingroup$ I love the angle you come at this from. Though immediate death isn't certain, yeah, there would definitely be moments he can taste death on the air in his future. A worth read. +1 $\endgroup$ – Fayth85 Mar 20 '17 at 1:06

You study and practice your best glamour, disguise or shape-changing spells, as if your life depends on them -- because it now does!

Somewhere among your mage's skills must be something to sufficiently disguise or hide him. (Otherwise, it's gonna be a rather short story.)

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    $\begingroup$ He can save the magic. Shave the beard, cut and dye the hair, a little fake nose here a little funky liniment smell there and Wolla: you are the dude from out of town selling liniment for sore backs. If the guards stop you on the way out try to sell them liniment. Heck - the liniment business might be a good gig during Prohibition. $\endgroup$ – Willk Mar 20 '17 at 1:56

If you look at the witch trials, both in Europe and the Americas, a common thread offers you a glimpse of the options: a secret society.

What happens to any group--minority in most cases--that cannot be out in the open as to who they truly are? They go underground. They do their thing in their closets, where no one can see them. And if they happen across a like-minded soul, they test them to see if they can be trusted.

Examples: Aleister Crowley and his ilk, Wiccan religion, and according to some Stonemasons, though this is more of a revolt against the church than actual occult learnings.

How did they do it? Well, by learning to be sneaky. You have to learn to lie with a straight face, because they guards will need a legally acceptable excuse should the inquire. Your neighbours can never know that the woman that keeps coming to see you is learning to harness her magics--no, she is your 'lover' and your wife should not ever hope to find out.

If you want a far better researched basis (seeing as we can't ask 15th century witches that were burnt at the stake how they survived so long without being caught), look at the LGBT community before the 1960's. Why? They were organized, they had their hideaways, the communed together, they learned to spot others like them, they learned to communicate in ways no one not of the community understood. And most of all, they understood that in most cases, to be caught could be a death sentence (and still is in too many countries today). There were bars where they could meet. There were private parties where they could be introduced to others like them. There were discotheques where they could go dancing together. There was a nightlife, and a thriving one in the right cities.

How does this translate? Well, your mage is proud of his skill. He cannot flee, and dying isn't really an option either. So go underground. Start reaching out to those he knows are mages. Start keeping a subtle eye on the goings-on of the night, he'll be led to more and more mages--whether trained or not. This would in turn allow for an intelligence network to come about--mages are learned by definition, after all.

Keep the numbers low, and it will be easy to go unnoticed--small things move beneath the notice of others. However, the numbers will swell sooner or later. That will require a charismatic leader, and a tactician to keep all noses facing the same direction--think Robin Hood and his merry men for this comparison. (and check Crowley's page for how he kept it hidden: he had other work, not tied to magic or the occult--his overt way of 'subjecting himself to the new laws'. The things you do to survive)


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