"Just as magic is not a tool in the hands of its users, so are mages not tools in the hands of their rulers."
- - Vyjios Ilaelath
These words, uttered by Grand Magister Vyjios as a sign of defiance against the very heavily magic-abusing king Orshalas Sunstrider, after receiving an order to have casters control the minds of a large group of citizens have been a milestone that marked the beginning of a new era in elven magic, the era of free magic.
Up until year 1278 after the birth of the Sunwell, the Magisterium was the central - and only - magical organization in the lands of Quel'thalas. Everyone who wished to study the arcane arts had to be admitted into the bar. This policy was later extended and, in a way, relaxed. One didn't need to join the Magisterium if one wanted to be a mage, being a mage made one a Magisterium member by default.
This solution was hotly contested: on one hand, magic was contained and controlled, the situation was stable, the land was secure and prosper, there was a house for everyone and food on the table, the cost only fulfilling services to the government should it request them. On the other, the de facto state was slavery to the King and the Grand Magister, with the Magisterium holding intense control over all magic in the realm. They didn't clamp down very hard, but they did clamp down in subtle ways to ensure their continual dominance. Restricting magic was a very big part of that, since without the ability to create one's own arcane techniques, one was limited to only what they were willing to teach you. If they chose not to research something, it'd never be researched. If one notoriously tried to delve into what was arbitrary disallowed, one could even have a short meeting with the Magisterium Death Squad.
The breaking point in the situation was the reign of king Orshalas Sunstrider, a monarch unfit to rule, who believed that all his mistakes could be unmade by use of magic. It was King's right to request the Magisters to work magic for him and expect the necessary rites to be performed, a right which he used liberally, often forcing arcanists to do very morally ambiguous tasks - the most well known being a Magister who was ordered to put a mind control spell over his own family!
Many Magisters didn't have anything against such practices, but a vast number didn't like the state of things, feeling more like government field agents than students of a noble Art. Soon the magisterium was resembling a barrel with black powder, waiting for a spark to explode, and possibly start a war.
The spark indeed came, but from the most unexpected direction - the Grand Magister Vyjios Ilaelath himself.
Tired of using magic almost solely to control the society he did things that were without precedence and left many speechless: he openly refused to fulfill the King's order, stepped down from his post and left the Magisterium, proclaiming himself a Free Wizard. This act of defiance triggered perhaps the most peaceful revolution in recorded history, with a majority of mages follwing the ex-Grand Magister's example and simply proclaiming themselves Free Wizards as well. Vyjios followed the impact and through talks and negotiations he estabilished the Free Wizards as an apolitical magical organization, opposed to the Magisterium which remained bound to the King's and Grand Magister's will.
The Free Wizards is a very loosely affiliated body of magic users without hardly any internal structure. There are two things that give them a sense of formal unity: their independence from the whims of the government and the traditional badge, brooch or pin. Because they consider themselves opposed to the Magisterium whose members wear a sun-shaped badge, the Free Wizards adopted a crescent moon, often with engraved stars, as their symbol.
As stated previously, the Free Wizards are an apolitical lot, with only one representative at the court, the High Court Mage. The post of the High Court Mage remains true to the principle, having very little political power. His main duty is to approve the magic the Grand Magister is planning to use or present an alternative. He also serves as a reminder that the Free Wizards shall gladly follow the King's orders, provided he never asks.
The post of the High Court Mage has been discontinued after the Third War and it does not seem it will be reintroduced anytime soon.
The Free Wizards rarely have official meetings (unless within their own organizarions), and contact each other either privately or at local faires.
After the Third War almost all Free Wizards have joined or rejoined the Magisterium for security, protection and better coordiantion of efforts. However, due to the recent rebirth of the Sunwell, Rommath's decline in popularity, the inner stresses and the emergence of the Wizards' Council which openly claims association with the Free Wizards, their ranks may swell again.
Notable Free Wizards of the Sha'tar
((More to come! If you feel you're a Free Wizard, don't be shy and get on the list!))
Not much to say here, this was done only to give elven mages some flavour and style as well as hooks for possible RP. It's an entirely fictional faction which does not exist in the official lore and which my mind produced just as an excuse for not finishing the Council article, heh.