Maestro-Wizard Firenzum Edward Smith Radcliffe Zephyrous
June 1, 1590 – May 1, 1694
“Should you ask of their love for FESRZ, each would describe a different wizard. Firenzum performed many roles with many faces and names, all true. All loved life, and here they sleep.”
– inscribed on the marker over the tomb of Firenzum Zephyrous, located in the Cyril Danforth Radcliffe Library.
The founder of Callimachus Court, Firenzum E. S. R. Zephyrous, was a wizard celebrated in his own time, who dedicated his life to interweaving the arts of magic and performance. Though he had many names throughout his interesting history, Firenzum is the name he chose for himself, and the name he preferred to go by. Historical texts confirm Firenzum was a member of the Order of the Aeolian Horn, an ancient, elite, and secret magical society charged with the preservation and protection of scrolls and artifacts of magical importance. Simply being a member was an achievement many would be honored to have, yet this was not the most defining part of Firenzum’s life. Drawn to his charisma and charm, Firenzum forged long-lasting friendships and a family legacy. Firenzum defied almost every boundary he encountered, including fashion: he dressed as both a man and a woman — or a mixture — throughout his life. He was bold, flashy, and artistic, writing important works and advancing the fields of illusion, threadcrafting, and scroll-magic. One never knew what Firenzum might wear, do, say, or create next, and his personality filled the room and drew admirers to his lectures and performances.
Firenzum’s parents, Adal and Ayla Zephyrous, originally hailed from Asia Minor and were also confirmed after their death as members of the secret Order of the Aeolian Horn. During the middle Renaissance when Adal and Ayla lived, the Order of the Aeolian Horn had members in the Caucasus, Europe, Northern and Eastern Africa, India, China, Malaysia, and locations in between, parallel to the Silk Road. In addition to preserving, cataloging, and protecting magical knowledge, members of the Order also rescue items of magical importance from both mundanes and wizards who would seek to do great harm with the acquired power. While some critics call the Order’s work “trafficking” and “reacquisition,” many members have worn that criticism as a badge of honor.
Members of the Order are also the keepers of a powerful proto-language known as “Anémou Glóssa” (AH-neh-moo GLOW-sah) or “The Wind Tongue.” This ancient magical language connects to many modern runic and magical language systems, according to some scholars who worked without the benefit of access to this highly secret language. Although magic can be done with an incantation in any language, legend states that this language is the earliest and most powerful. Some consider it “the language of magic itself.”
Others think Anémou Glóssa is merely a convenient story invented by The Order of the Aeolian Horn so they could horde knowledge and artifacts for themselves. In opposition arose The Order of the Bounded Star, a shadowy group that also formed in antiquity. Originally they sought to share the secret knowledge of The Wind Tongue with all magic users. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, however, their mission changed. Capturing and torturing members of the Aeolian Horn yielded no secrets. Frustrated by hundreds of years of failed attempts, they decided they would now seek to destroy the knowledge and the Aeolian Horn itself. If this power would not be shared with all, then the Bounded Star believed it should be destroyed in order to keep a balance of power. The members of the Order of the Aeolian Horn, originally full of erudite and mild-mannered librarians and archivists, evolved into an underground guerilla force to protect knowledge from destruction. To many, they were heroes. To others, they represented an elitist hierarchy who hoarded power, while the Bounded Star were the true heroes.
At the same time as the Bounded Star’s efforts were escalating, anti-magic sentiment grew throughout Europe and beyond. England’s Queen Elizabeth I issued the Act Against Conjuration in 1563. Many wizards went into hiding and troubles flared across central Europe, culminating in witch burnings. To best protect secret knowledge and artifacts, members of the Order of the Aeolian Horn dispersed more widely and many disguised themselves as mundanes. Among these were Firenzum’s parents, Adal and Ayla Zephyrous, who relocated to England with the pseudonyms Ambrose and Avis Smith. To communicate with other mages and wizards, they used threadcrafting (informally known as “stitch-witchery”) to encode messages into fabrics, which were traded by merchants who travelled the Silk Road. The craft included ways of imbuing protection and secrecy wards, and fabrics grew more elaborate. The “Smiths” were able to hide more-or-less in plain sight on the south bank of the Thames, where their child was born and given the name “Edward Smith.” They became hotly desired costume makers for London theaters and blended in quite easily among the actors and artists. The Smiths would form a lasting relationship with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later The King’s Men), doing costume work and some set design.
The delightful excitement and chaos of the Southwark Theatre District and the community of actors and artists created the backdrop for Edward’s childhood. His parents, still posing as mundanes, watched carefully for any sign of magic in their child. While the theater community was accustomed to odd and unexplainable things happening nearly every day (such is the life in theatre), the Smiths knew that the threat from the Order of the Bounded Star and mundanes’ anti-magical bigotry was ever-present. They taught him the ways of the mundanes, including reading and writing in English, French, and Turkish, and he assisted them making costumes and sets.
At age 7, Edward’s magic first emerged, in a way that was true to form — rather dramatically. The troupe’s lead playwright was fond of Edward, and noting that he could read, allowed him to study from source texts. While reading or reciting, his magic seemed to entangle with the texts. Edward would get uncontrolled visions, as if scenes from Venice and Florence and battlefields of England and France were coming to life. These were not mere visions, however, as the illusion magic transfigured parts of the room around him, making it resemble the descriptions from the text. One day, the playwright walked in and almost caught Edward in ancient Rome. Through the door, he heard Edward recite the line, “When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” Upon the door opening, Rome faded away, leaving Edward with his coat wrapped over his head.
Edward showed a natural knack for visual and illusion magic, and soon could no longer hide it from his parents. They revealed to him that they, too, were magic users, though they continued to keep their full identities secret. They began to add magic to his homeschooling, cautioning him about using it outside of their house. They also taught him the art of threadcrafting, in which he showed unusual aptitude and enthusiasm.
Edward’s recurring magical visions would worry his parents. Occasionally, tiny glimpses into the future would appear to him while he studied the playwright’s texts, including visions of him performing on stage. At age 13, his parents supported his wish to audition for an acting role. During a tryout for a revival of Midsummer Night’s Dream, as he touched his hand to a stage wall, he foresaw a wooden beam collapsing. He shouted and the actors paused, confused. A few seconds later, the beam broke and fell. The troupe assumed Edward saw the beam starting to crack, but his parents had a better view from the audience and knew it must be magic. They realized that it was time to reveal the dangers their family faced. They gave him a silver, jeweled amulet, and warned him that adversaries hunted them. Still, they did not reveal the Order of the Aeolian Horn or their actual identities by name, fearing the knowledge would further endanger him.
The next few years were full of tremendous growth and exploration of self. As was the custom of the day, Edward played both male and female roles, and was particularly lauded for his portrayal of Viola in Twelfth Night. At age 15, Edward’s secret became exposed to another magical family, but this opened the door for camaraderie and further learning. Humphrey and Millicent Radcliffe, members of the prominent Radcliffe family, were theatre patrons as their son, Roland, had a particular interest. At a performance of Macbeth, Edward, playing one of the wyrd sisters, had another uncontrolled episode, falling into a trance during the scene where the witches prophesied. The audience thought nothing of it, but Roland saw it for what it was — magic. Roland returned to his parents and reported what he saw. Concerned about public displays of magic and interested in learning more about this mage among mundanes, the Radcliffes arranged a meeting and questioned Edward. He denied any knowledge of magic, but the Radcliffes used a charm that illuminated magical enchantments — making his amulet glow. The Radcliffes met with the Smiths, and to assure their friendly intentions, they offered to provide tutoring to Edward.
The two teenagers quickly became friends. Roland and Edward studied a variety of classical subjects: magical theory, medieval literature, ancient languages, and so on. Through this tutoring Edward first learned of the ancient poet Callimachus of Alexandria, and became inspired to write his own poetry and short plays. Roland assisted with staging these plays, and during one of these rehearsals Edward’s life took its most tragic turn.
The Order of the Bounded Star was active in London at the highest levels of mundane government. They had placed a spy inside the Court of King James, who had gained influence by revealing the names of three English wizards, creating a public show of force for James’ anti-magic views. Eventually, they suggested collecting lists of recusants from each parish to ferret out magic-users. These lists culminated in the capture, arrest, conviction, and execution of many witches and wizards throughout England in 1612, including the infamous Pendle and Lancashire trials. While this hysteria heightened, the Order of the Bounded Star made coordinated moves in London, Amsterdam, Constantinople, and Malta to gather the Order of the Aeolian Horn. Members of the Aeolian Horn were systematically kidnapped in an attempt to locate and assassinate all those who know Anémou Glóssa. This included Ambrose and Avis Smith, who were taken while Edward was at the Radcliffe estate, practicing a new play he had written. By the time news reached Edward, his parents and their possessions had already been burned. The Radcliffes saw the danger to Edward, and with Roland’s insistence, agreed to protect and hide him, saving him from the same fate as his parents.
The anti-magic sentiment reached a fever pitch in the country, and the Radcliffes decide to take their family and their fortune to the New World. Many wizards were captured and killed, including those who had no affiliation with the Order of the Aeolian Horn. Given the dangers to his life, Edward adopted the name Firenzum Radcliffe, a name he chose for himself and would continue to use for the remainder of his life. Humphrey Radcliffe, as the patriarch of such an old and respected line of wizards, cultivated favor with other newly arrived wizarding families in the New World, including the Forsythes and the Samsons of Virginia Isle.
Roland and Firenzum worked side-by-side, settling into their new society. They quickly made friends with other elite families, and relocated to Virginia Isle with the sponsorship of a friend, Gorgias Burke. Together, the three founded the first theatre in the Magimundi, The Painted Pixiu, on what will become the infamous Penumbra on Virginia Isle. Together, they pioneered scroll-magic: through it, words come to life and live actors can interact with projections and magical effects that mimic lighting, wind, illusions with character appearances, and more. When he tested magical scrolls and historical texts, Firenzum could see visions related to the items physically held in his hands. Firenzum would ultimately combine these two magics, after years of research — and a connection to his unknown secret past.
When Imperial first opened in 1623, Roland and Firenzum joined the inaugural class at the prompting of their father, Humphrey, a member of the original Praestantes. If the burgeoning magical society was going to create an educated upper class based on breeding and merit, then the Radcliffe family needed to be a part. The years at Imperial were a bit stodgy and painful, but both Roland and Firenzum completed their studies and earned the official title of Wizard.
His life flourished. With The Painted Pixiu running well under Gorgias’ management, Firenzum and Roland were hired to teach at Providence Preparatory Academy for the Advancement of Arcane Arts (P2A4), whose campus and faculty were still joined with Imperial at the time. As the library grew, Firenzum switched to a position as archivist, allowing him to continue studies with its many magical artifacts and scrolls. The stability of living in one place also allowed him in 1654 to adopt Firenzum’s only child, Emilee. Emilee would become a large part of Firenzum’s world, and the two enjoyed a strong loving bond tempered with a respect of personal freedom and expression.
Living in the isolated environment of Imperial and spending so much time with research also insulated Firenzum from the anti-magic sentiment of the mundane world, especially in Destiny Province near Boston. The Imperial faculty had increasingly frequent debates about what to do about the “mundane antagonism.” Firenzum would often argue on the side of maintaining ties with the mundanes, if only to assist those among them who manifested magic.
Firenzum’s own work was slow, but steady. Scroll-magic advanced. One great leap was discovering that magical words were not essential; the magical residue and environmental context of objects could also be “read.” Firenzum saw an opportunity: if only others could see what he saw when he held objects and scrolls; if only he could focus and control the scroll-magic, so that others could use it as well! He theorized that a device could be made – a channeling object that could use a scroll or artifact to project an image for any user to reside inside a scene fully, similar to the spontaneous illusion magic that had erupted from him as a child. It seemed plausible, and he became obsessed with it as a legacy. Yet, all sorts of setbacks occured. The best materials for such a magical amplifier were unknown, as this was new ground. Because of the connection to the past and future, attempts were especially sensitive to the ley lines as well as residual magic and scarring. As part of his efforts, Firenzum attempted to use the amulet he had been given by his parents, feeling strongly that there was a connection to be made. Unfortunately, that too resisted concentrated efforts; he kept getting visions of his parents’ death, and the emotional and physical toll was always too fierce to learn much more. Eventually, he stopped trying, assuming the memento held no further secrets to discover.
There was also one looming obstacle which finally presented itself: The Order of the Bounded Star. By 1657, Firenzum’s published research and prose had circulated through the Magimundi and to distant shores. He had made a name as a talented writer of fiction, drama, and poetry, even as his other research into illusion magic and artificery wasn’t taken seriously by many wizards. However, a cunning and learned wizard in the Order of the Bounded Star was able to piece it together. Firenzum wrote of England and the theater, and scroll-magic was too similar to the ancient Wind Tongue Anémou Glóssa to be mere coincidence. By the next year, Firenzum was receiving anonymous threats in the form of letters. Each bore no signature, but had animated images of a sun and wind being snuffed out by a slow, rising tide of the ocean.
By 1658, Magical Theory Professor Peregrine Myles Brewster was speaking with several prominent wizards about separating Imperial from the P2A4 campus and expanding the school. He required wizards to complete a great act to prove their worth as one of the school’s Court founders. Firenzum knew the time to make his great achievement in scroll-magic was now or never. He aided Vitruvius H. P. Steinkraft (who would become another Court founder) in a prototype: a pocket reality in which Steinkraft would entrap the Corruptor that plagued Leodegrance. In return, Steinkraft assisted Firenzum in the magical architectural design of the room needed to help focus Firenzum’s invention. Ptolemy Court’s founder, Thomas Woodhouse, provided knowledge of exotic Miroven materials to construct the device. Isaac de Lucena, who would found Paracelsus, provided a lost rune that completed the magic wards that balanced and stabilized the magic in the room and the surrounding ley lines.
The Arca Tenebrarum’s creation was bittersweet. The magical object could project a whole scene based on any artifact or scroll that touched it, drawing from the long history of the object. Tomes in the library came to life with new and more accurate translations. Wizards left magical traces on the artifacts that they possessed, especially over long periods of time. These artifacts used with the Arca Tenebrarum came to life with a wealth of historical knowledge about their owners. Yet on the evening of Firenzum’s success, Order of the Bounded Star member Virtus Scylax arrived at Imperial, intending to assassinate Firenzum. Firenzum’s closest friends and supporters had gathered to witness the reveal of the new artifact and its completed room in the library. Scylax had managed to slip inside the event disguised as a foreign researcher. At an opportune moment, he drew back his cloak and aimed his wand at Firenzum. Roland stepped in the way, wand drawn, and collapsed as a gleaming white glow seared through his body.
Firenzum had only a moment to act. He touched his family amulet to the Arca Tenebrarum, hoping the scene of the fire that consumed his parents would distract the assassin. Instead, something unexpected occurred. The world seemed to slow down for Firenzum, and the whole history of the Zephyrous family stretched out in a series of projections: his childhood, his parents’ lives in London, moving from Asia Minor, images of libraries around the world, and the Zephyrous family crest. And then, suddenly, the knowledge of Anémou Glóssa itself poured into his mind. The world seemed to speed up again, and Scylax’s body lay limp on the ground, a final spell from Roland Radcliffe ending the cultist. The glow in Roland consumed him, then faded as it drained the rest of his life.
Firenzum was awarded the title of Maestro-Wizard, and founded Callimachus Court at the new Imperial campus. He chose Callimachus as the namesake for his contributions to poetry and to the Library at Alexandria, which was an important center for the Order of the Aeolian Horn. In honor of his true ancestry, Firenzum added the last name Zephyrous, a proud, loyal, and powerful magical family of Asia Minor. He had many protegés and students of the arts at Imperial, and Callimachus became the center of arts and creativity for Imperial as it still is today.
In 1688, Firenzum took a well-earned sabbatical and left the Imperial campus to travel. Publicly, it was a tour of fame, with poetry readings and lectures about scroll-magic and magical inventions to wizards in enclaves all over the world. In secret, Firenzum connected with the Order of the Aeolian Horn. He returned in 1692 by boat to Salem, Massachusetts. He found a country of mundanes where anti-magical fervor had erupted. Firenzum sent a messenger to Imperial and remained to investigate. Seeing the irrational, extremist behavior of whole communities of mundanes, he finally resigned to the idea that mundanes and wizards were far too volatile together for magic to be out in the open. He prepared to depart for Imperial, but when the messenger returned, they informed Firenzum that Imperial had been locked away by the Praestantes. The school was unable to be located, even by wizards! This two-year protective period became known as the Profundus Absconditus.
With no prospect of an immediate return to Imperial, Firenzum rented a small local estate and sought to help wizards and mundanes suffering under the bigoted zealotry of the witch hunts. Posing as a retired fabric merchant of Boston, he quietly funded efforts to conceal wizards and sent support to Increase Mather, President of the mundane university of Harvard, who spoke out against the more outlandish “spectral” evidence — testimony about dreams and visions — used to convict witches. Firenzum also managed to smuggle an accused witch – a mundane named Mary Parsons, accused a third time of witchcraft – out of Salem, but not before twenty others were executed. When the Profundus Absconditus was lifted, Firenzum returned to the Imperial campus as a professor emeritus.
Given the ongoing threat from the mundane world and looming threat from the Order of the Bounded Star, Firenzum made a final sacrifice. Firenzum conferred with his daughter, Emilee, passing along the amulet to her and inducting her into the Order of the Aeolian Horn. Determined to keep the Order of the Aeolian Horn’s secrets safe, Firenzum decided to cast a spell that copied all of the knowledge from his own mind to the Arca Tenebrarum. This would protect the knowledge, but end his mortal life. After writing his epitaph with his daughter, Firenzum chose to complete his life and life’s work, at age 103; he channeled his mind into the Arca Tenebrarum, where students can learn from an echo of Firenzum to this day. It is also said that he left clues about his life and ancient secret lore in the threadcrafted works he created, and mages to this day seek to discover scraps of cloth that were worked by his hand.
Firenzum was loved by many, and in many ways. A daughter, protégés, a best friend Roland, colleagues at Imperial, students, readers of poetry and theater buffs, and many lovers all had glowing words of praise, none quite the same.