Belts of the Cincture
The magic of Maroon comes to humans in many ways. To those able to wield it, the powers of magic can shape their world for good or ill.
The Cincture, an agreement first forged in the early days after the rebellion against the First Folk, regulates the overt expression of a mage's power within the Old City and later, the provinces. Any mage who has undergone mandatory training at the Academ receives the plain hempen belt of the Cincture, signifying her agreement to be bound by its authority and laws. Unbelted mages are forbidden from using their craft in any public capacity in Vindulan.
Outside of the tight discipline of the Academ, magic can be wild, sometimes unpredictable. The Beacon safeguards the people of Vindulan from this threat as much as they do from the external threats to the freeholds- however wisely or justly she may be said to have ruled, within the Cincture it is never forgotten that the first Sorceress Regnant took her throne by force of magic, at the cost of human lives. Sorcerers, hedge wizards, and warlocks are all merely Unbelted in the eyes of the Beacon.
What is it like to be a Belted mage? The answer lies in the Academ, where men and women who can sense the wind are trained. There are no classes, as such, for each person studying at the Academ must come to their understanding in their own way and time. The works of past Consiliars, High Deacons, and other women and men of talent are gathered in the library there, available for transcription and study, but they are merely guides. Officials in the service of the Academ visit on a volunteer, rotating basis to give lectures and demonstrations. The only class as such is the basic safety course that all Belted mages must undergo; until a mage is cleared of this primary requirement and takes the hempen belt of the novice, no further access is granted to the resources within.
The division of the Cincture into Red, Yellow, and White belts is a distinction of talents, but not of raw skill--more of a difference in style. Three great schools of thought emerged in the decades after the Awakening, and the talents of each school manifested in different ways. Diffierent students are receptive to different techniques, and as students learn and study, they usually find themselves gaining traction with one of the three. For the majority of Belted mages, a single Belt is a lifetime achievement, carrying her through her service to Vindulan without need for broader study. Each Belt is form of certification, granted only by demonstration of basic forms at several tiers of performance, followed by a thesis both academic and practical. Some few mages have attained twin belts, and most rare is the individual who has earned the woven braid of Junction.
Outside of the Academic order, magic is variable and unregulated. Unbelted mages are distrusted, as their powers are the product of self-study, lacking control. Every freehold beyond the Wall has stories of mages who did fell deeds despite good intentions; the Norside settlements have had trouble with would-be Sorcerers Regnant seeking to establish their own little kingdoms carved out of the Blood Wood. But there is good among the Unbelted mages, too, for they can aid their fellow settlers in unrepayable ways, driving back threats that the Beacon will not face and molding the fabric of their world to suit their needs with seeming effortlessness.
The Church of the Three adheres to the tenets of the Cincture, and as part of ordination, a clerk of the Aspects must earn the plain hempen belt of the novice. Several Aspects of the Arcane have taken the White in furtherance of their journeys, and Boddigan, the first Aspect of War, famously took the Red after the Beacon had lost Hilgarden, taking command of the Beacon under order of the Council. After his successful efforts to push back the Fartheen, Boddigan founded the Knights Unveering, finding among the Beacon soldiers some rare few who had been granted gifts like his.
The Church is most influential within the Wall, but the presence of the gods can be felt outside the bounds of its organization. These are less trusted by the Beacon, as they are essentially Unbelted, but the good they have done is undeniable.
The wood witches are more talked about than seen, but even the most virulent Red Belt will grudgingly concede that humanity would not survive long outside the Wall without them. Theirs is a power far subtler than the forceful effulgences and crude conjurations of the mages, Belted or otherwise--there is an energy about them that runs quietly and deep, gently nurturing and vigorously protecting the natural order.