"This should silence the critics."
Mana and the Use of Magic Edit
Arcane power is that which defines a spellcaster. It is potential that dwells within a person but does not always manifest itself. All men are connected to mana; this we have known. But only those with this potential may draw upon its power. Arcane power is, then, a measurement of one's ability to draw power from mana, and it is this power that is expended in spells.
As in all other things, it has limits. Just as a man has the strength to lift only so much weight and no more, a caster cannot work more spells at one time than his arcane power allows. If he wishes to work spells that would be beyond his strength, a spellcaster must fortify his arcane power with a source. Without a source, it is possible for the reckless to expend their own life-force in the working of spells, and occasionally, ambitious apprentices injure or even kill themselves by over-exertion.
Reality and Other Falsehoods Edit
It is easy to confuse illusion and transmutation. Both schools of magic attempt to create what is not there. The difference is in the rules of nature. Illusion is not bound by them, while transmutation is. This may seem to indicate that transmutation is the weaker of the two, but this is not true. Transmutation creates a reality that is recognized by everyone. Illusion's reality is only in the mind of the spellcaster and the target.
To master transmutation, first accept that reality is a falsehood. There is no such thing. Our reality is a perception of greater forces impressed upon us for their amusement. Some say that these forces are the gods, other that they are something beyond the gods. For the caster, it doesn't really matter. What matters is the appeal couched in a manner that cannot be denied. It must be insistent without being insulting.
To cast transmutation spells is to convince a greater power that it will be easier to change reality as requested than to leave it alone. Do not assume that these forces are sentient. Our best guess is that they are like wind and water. Persistent but not thoughtful. Just like directing the wind or water, diversions are easier than outright resistance. Express the spell as a subtle change and it is more likely to be successful.
The Apprentice's Assistant Edit
No doubt you have heard tales of my adventures. Stories carried from kingdom to kingdom, all the land in awe of my feats of magical prowess. More than once, I am sure, you have thought, "if only I had Zahar's ability. Then I too could seek fame and fortune in magic duels!" It is true, of course. Great fame and limitless fortune await those who are successful. But to be successful, one needs to learn from the best. That is why you have purchased this book, so that I may teach you. I am, of course, the best. Here, then, is my advice. Follow it, and you too can make a name for yourself throughout the land.
To know your opponent is to know his weakness. Infinitely more versatile than a simple blade of steel, a good spellcaster has a wide array of spells at his disposal. More than that, he knows when to best use them. He knows that frost spells can stop a charging beast, or keep a savage brute from swinging his sword. He knows that shock spells can drain his opponent's arcane power. He knows that illusion spells can set a group of enemies against each other (should he find himself in a less than fair fight, an all-too-common reality when his opponents know they cannot win in single combat) and that there are spells that can save his in a moment when all seems lost.
To know yourself is to know your limits. Even the best spellcaster has a finite reserve of arcane power; none born yet have been graced with infinite reserves of power. And so a good spellcaster does not over-extend himself. He makes sure he always has enough arcane power to keep himself safe. Failing that, he makes sure he has a sizable supply of potions at the ready. Failing that, he makes sure he always has an escape route. Not that the Great Zahar has ever fled a fight, but of course you do not necessarily share his superb natural ability. That is why you must practice.
Wards can kill you. There is no question that wards are an essential tool of any aspiring spellcaster. They can block incoming spells, negating your opponent's attack and wasting his arcane power. A good spellcaster knows, however, to not rely too heavily on his ward. Keeping a ward readied for too long will leave a caster drained of arcane power, unable to retaliate, and at worst unable to maintain the ward and therefore completely defenseless.
Two hands are not always better than one. Any advanced spellcaster has learned to cast spells with both hands, dealing more damage. There are certainly times when this is to your advantage, such as when an opponent is already weakened, or when it is likely to draw a bigger reaction from the crowd that has no doubt gathered to watch you. It is not always the best strategy, however. Concentration spells, for example, can often be used on the ground when an opponent is especially nimble. In that instance, using both hands independently can cover more ground at the same time. A spellcaster throwing fireballs with both hands cannot immediately raise a ward to defend himself, or heal while he continues to attack.
Always rise to a challenge, especially when you know you can win. Remember that your first priority is, of course, to stay alive. Following closely behind, though, is your need to please the crowd. You are, after all, depending on their generosity to fund your adventures. Here, then, more than magic comes into play. If you can gain a sense of your opponent's ability before the duel begins, you can enter into the event with confidence. Knowing that you outclass your opponent is of great importance, as it means you can confidently give the crowd a better show. Likewise, knowing ahead of time that you could very well lose a duel, you are afforded an opportunity to suddenly find yourself engaged elsewhere, and be unable to attend the event. (By no means do I suggest that I have ever done such a thing; I simply find that my great fame occasionally means I am unable to respond to every single request for a duel).
Keep these few things in mind, keep your wits about you, and you too can make a name for yourself by putting on great displays of magical prowess. Take care, though - for if you become successful enough, you may find yourself facing a challenge from me!
Dark Magic: Three Pretexts Edit
It is unfortunate that the arcane discipline known as "Dark Magic" has acquired such a pejorative name in the common parlance, as it tends to relegate the practitioners into that class of sorcerer slanderously known as "evil wizards." To counteract such dangerous libels, it is handy to keep in mind the following pretexts. Pretext the First: Insofar as it negates, drains, and preys upon the arcane power and mana of other spellcasters, knowledge of Dark Magic is a necessary safeguard that enables the reining in of rogue casters.
Pretext the Second: Insomuch as it replicates some of the deleterious effects of spells cast by inimical fiends and demons, knowledge of Dark Magic is a useful tool for learning how to counter said effects. Pretext the Third: Whereas its application is regarded by the ignorant as frightful and loathsome, use of Dark Magic to inflict condign punishment upon transgressors is a deterrent to crime and therefore a social good.