Wandering from community to community, it would be easy to mistake most Hedge Mages for beggars or vagrants, but this is far from the truth. Hedge Mages are people capable of performing, sometimes quite powerful, magic, but who have not been trained and are not registered with the Imperial College of Arcanists. As a result, they are deemed to be operating illegally, which is why so many of them would be happy to be mistaken for a poor wanderer. However, they perform a vital service to remote or neglected communities, bringing hope and healing through their magic.
In the middle and upper echelons of society, Hedge Mages are unanimously looked down upon, and are regarded as charlatans and quack doctors, an opinion that is very much stoked by the Imperial College of Arcanists. Amongst poorer communities, however, they are viewed with a great deal of respect, especially if they are who they claim they are and the services that they provide prove genuine. However, as so many non-magic users pose as Hedge Mages to con people out of their money, it does not take much to turn a remote community against all Hedge Mages.
As one of the prerequisites to being a Hedge Mage is the ability to be able to wield and control magic, only around 2% of the entire population of Kelbonnar are thought to be capable of enacting arcane arts, who are not linked to the Imperial College of Arcanists. Even so, not all of this two percent of people are in fact Hedge Mages, they only have the necessary skills to be one. Estimates from the Imperial Bureau suggest that there are less than 2,000 Hedge Mages plying their trade across the Empire, most of whom are believed to be itinerant. Because the Imperial College of Arcanologists tends to attract magic initiates from the middle and upper classes, Hedge Mages tend on the whole to be from the lower echelons of society, who either can’t afford the exorbitant fees for attending the college, or who are distrustful of the institution’s connections to the Imperial system.
Very much depends on the job at hand, but can range from wands to written spells, to potions, unguents, salves and a variety of other tools and techniques.
A large proportion of Hedge Mages are itinerant, travelling from place to place, generally within a set circuit that they have established themselves, offering their services when they arrive at each community along their route. Most itinerant Hedge Mages will tend to circulate around villages or other smaller communities, often in more remote areas, who are either too poor or too far removed from the larger population centres to attract a Mage registered with the Imperial College to the area. Some Hedge Mages set themselves up in larger communities where there is enough trade to sustain them throughout the year. Again they will prefer to settle in towns where the Imperial College of Arcanists has no presence, but some are also happy to settle in larger communities where there is an Imperial presence, provided that they feel that they will not be discovered. In these places, Hedge Mages will tend to establish themselves in poorer communities where Imperial Mages are very unlikely to look for business.
The range of services that Hedge Mages can provided varies greatly and is partly led by what their clients ask and partly by what services a Hedge Mage is comfortable offering. Very often their services will revolve around the healing arts, but often they will be asked to provide charms for luck and divination services. Some Hedge Mages are open to darker requests, such as placing curses on people and it has been reported that some particularly unprincipled Hedge Mages perform necromantic rites for those with enough coin.
Dangers & Hazards
The use of magic always comes with its inherent risks, which can range from instant immolation to transfiguration into something less than humanoid and rather unpleasant. Most Hedge Mages, will be well aware of the boundaries of their power or knowledge, and will not tempt fate by attempting something that they know is beyond them. As with all things, however, there will always be a subset of reckless Hedge Mages whose pride or overconfidence will lead them to trying things they shouldn’t even dream of, let alone attempt, which can lead to some rather nasty accidents.
Rag-and-Bone Wizards / Wizardly Wanderers / Sorcerer Errant / Arcane Tramps
Whenever they appear in communities, Hedge Mages will find themselves in high demand, especially if it is a poorer community with no magic user permanently based there.
Since the time that Borial II ‘the Wary’ ascended to the Imperial Throne in 294AIF it has been illegal for any magic user to practice their art in exchange for payment without being registered with the Imperial College of Arcanists. Though this law does not require that all magic users be educated at the Imperial College, it does effectively mean that only those educated at the institution are granted licenses to ply their trade. This is because the Imperial College of Arcanists has always been incredibly suspicious of those who gain a magical education outside of their walls, or worse still those who as sorcerers have a natural, uncontrolled affinity for magic that isn’t taught at all. Even though it is theoretically possible for a magic user not educated at the college to pass the tests levelled against them to be given a license to practice, as a rule these are never given out by the College to those other than their own. Because one either has to pay an exorbitant amount to be educated at the Imperial College of Arcanists, or study there on a scholarship programme that ties you into indentured servitude with them for at least five years, few of those magic users educated outside its walls submit to the law and study there to get a license. Instead, they have taken their services underground and operate at exactly the same capacity as they always have, just in greater secrecy. One of the problems of this, however, is that the enforced secrecy of Hedge Mages’ activities means that many a charlatan with no magic abilities whatsoever has posed as a Hedge Mage to dupe unwary people out of their coin.