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Introduction


Every world has magic. You might not believe me, but in all my time of existence, I haven't found one without it. Dismissing the possibility of magic is easy when your world is lacking in flashy spells and fire-breathing dragons. I can't lie and say I don't tend to enjoy such worlds more than their "low-fantasy" counterparts, but no matter the physical laws to which it abides, magic exists and is unique to every sentient, thinking life form.

I am a scholar of magic. You may simply call me the Scholar. I do not have a fixed name, gender, or appearance. Visiting other worlds and specific places requires me to blend in and go largely unnoticed as I observe, study, and experiment with different magic systems.

I usually don't remain in one place long enough to become established. There are times, however, when I must approach certain beings and form connections, but they don't last as anyone who remembers me past my visit soon forgets.

It would be half-true to say I lead a lonely existence. This was the path I chose and I wouldn't give it up for anything. For me, no connection with another sentient, thinking life form is as divine as the privilege of being near-immortal with the means for instant space travel, which less technologically advanced species can only dream of having.

As mortals in general romanticize finitude, I, too, make the best of my interactions and sometimes reflect on them with a melancholic appreciation. The beauty is not in the impermanency itself, but the liminal experience that nourishes distinct personal growth.

I never want to sound arrogant. I sympathize with those who do not share my privileges. To be at the mercy of an entropic, indifferent universe is an unfathomable nightmare that must be endured if biological immortality, high-tech space travel, post-scarcity, and other wonders and miracles are to ever be achieved.

Unfortunately, mortals in many worlds accept their fate rather than fight against it, leaving future generations to suffer and prolong suffering. It's a vicious cycle, an ouroboros that should be slayed.

If I could, I would help them. It pains me to know I could heal and evolve a world in a matter of days, yet not even I hail from a place of infinite resources. Some who catch a glimpse of extraterrestrial activity wonder why we do nothing but pay an occasional visit. With technology that eclipses theirs by light-years, we should have some moral imperative and do something, shouldn't we?

Yes, we should. But the truth is complex and unfortunate.

Intervening in the evolution of a species entails more responsibilities and risks than is manageable. Helping one world could mean the fall of our own. If mortals wouldn't declare war out of primal fear or greed, then their deities and spirits would spur them to act against us with xenophobic propaganda. All mortal-inhabited worlds have gods, real or myth, and all gods have their own agenda, whether it benefits them or their followers more.

We, the extraterrestrials, can nudge progress here and there, but it's ultimately up to every collective to take responsibility for its own evolution and independence. It's also wise to bear in mind that not all extraterrestrials have well-meaning intentions. Some are no less selfish and wicked than the gods and spirits of mortal myths and folktales.

Mortals often seek to escape the worlds into which they'd been thrusted, and I understand. There are few things worse than having to accept not only mortality, but also the unknown that surrounds the afterlife or lack thereof. Every universe has different laws regarding mortal fate.

I have been to some universes where rebirth is possible, but not reincarnation. Their mortals do not have souls that can withstand death and continue evolving. When they die, they cease to exist altogether until consciousness springs from a new arrangement of neurons.

What's truly terrifying about these universes is that there is no karmic scoreboard of any sort. There are no spiritual hierarchies. In one life, someone could give up all their material possessions and desires to improve the lives of others. In the next, they could be born into circumstances that inevitably corrupt them. It's tragic.

When I have to make connections, however fleeting they are, there is one important rule I follow aside from maintaining a degree of secrecy: be kind.

No matter the universe, life is suffering for mortals and even certain immortals. Once upon a space-time, pain was overall greater than pleasure for my species, too. We were driven to commit vile acts in order to survive. We were the things of nightmares, the primordial shadows in the corners of the subconscious, feared by all throughout our universe, and the fear fed us well.

After many questions, after the revolutions and wars, it was no longer a matter of survival, but progress. We agreed to defy our nature and work against it by seeking knowledge.

That is why I am a scholar of magic.