All the universe is filled with ether. Currents of ether swirl about the world, interacting with everything in it. They say the destiny of the world is written in the ether, every triumph and tragedy triggered by its eddies and backflows.
Most of the everyday actions performed by the people of the world have repercussions in the ether. Those things which they do often, or to which they give special significance, usually disturb the ether. An expert stonemason draws lines on the earth when building up walls that form barriers in the ether. A shopkeeper who locks his door every night places a ward on it. A child who wears a favorite pendant at all times invests some of their being in it. Anything done or said exactly three times usually attains a magical significance.
But a few people have more significant interactions with the ether. Those who learn to read and manipulate the ether directly are called wizards. Those born with the gift to do so are called magi.
Wizardry is a difficult art of learn, and most wizards need the extended lifetimes their control of the ether grants them to master it. Interactions with the ether are very complicated, and a small thing overlooked can have tremendous consequences. Because of this, wizards spend much time observing, finding and charting patterns in all things. If you finds a stable pattern, you can predict the next phase, and therefore control the results of wizardry much more easily. Wizards will often make their wizardry cyclic as well, writing it into one of the patterns they find in nature, so that they can achieve a persistent effect. Wizardry written into the longest patterns, if it is stable, tends to be the most powerful.
Timing is crucial for all wizardry. Wizards cannot exert much direct force upon the ether, so they need to push in exactly the right place and the right time in order to achieve a noteworthy effect. The effect is also rarely very precise, because the interactions are so complex, so wizardry is best done over a long period of time with a general goal and a large target. Wizardry can have a huge impact on the course of large-scale events, but don't plan on conjuring a lightning bolt to strike down your enemy when you see him burst through your door. Such speed and exactness of results is better attained in another discipline.
Magic, on the other hand, breaks most of the rules and reinterprets the rest. A powerful magi can act with much greater force and much less understanding, often achieving in a minute what a master wizard would have spent a year to prepare for by sheer force of their will. Even much more mundane magic, such as the lines drawn on the earth by an architect with little gift and no knowledge of wizardry, can be formidable barriers against the most skilled wizard. Great magi can occasionally produce very precise effects as well, but usually only illusions of light.
However, magic is extremely visible in the ether. It is hard for anything to remain hidden there, but a skilled wizard has a good chance of going unnoticed; magic is dead obvious. Also, because magi seldom have anything approaching the understanding of a wizard regarding their own actions, it is easy to produce unintended results when exercising great power.
Yes, who is it? Well, come in and sit down, boy, you look as if you were chased up here by a pack of wolves. Of course my tower is high! How do you expect me to see the stars from the ground, especially in this weather? No, don't shut the window, the fire's gone out and it's too dark in here. Well, how do you expect me to tend the fire with this howling wind coming in through the window?
Don't move that weight! That's the only thing holding the star charts on the table against the wind! I don't care what the alchemists say, I think that all air is chaotic. I'm almost finished calculating the exact position of the last star in the Tinathul constellation. That fool, Erathahn, thinks there are only six phases to its cycle, but I'm just about to prove him wrong! This is going to give me the advantage for once, I'll be able to write a more stable bit of wizardry into its pattern.
What's that? What have the stars to do with magic? How in blazes should I know? Precious little, I expect. Magic is the deviant, always breaking the rules, turning the ether currents on their head and doing the impossible just when a wizard like me is ready to do something really impressive. It's fortunate there aren't more magi in the world, or wizardry would become practically impossible. It's already blasted difficult.
If you want to learn about magic, boy, you'd best go someplace else. Yes, of course I do a little magic -- everyone does, that can't be helped. I suspect I do rather less than you yourself do. You have to refrain in my line of work, magic is far too visible in the ether. Wizardry can usually be hidden, but magic lights up the currents like a lighthouse and calls every Shadow in the area down on your head. Of course, that's no matter for the common folk -- they wouldn't notice a Shadow if it followed them around for a month, and the thing probably couldn't do anything to hurt them anyway. And the Magi . . . they can usually deal with Shadows. Even they've got to take precautions, though, warding the doors and windows, lighting watch candles . . .
No, for the last time, I'm no mage, I'm a wizard, and a very busy one at that. You see that hour glass on the shelf there? By the time those sands all fall into the bottom half, I've got to be ready or I'll miss my opportunity. Wizardry is all about timing, about utilizing the patterns of nature. Do you want a blizzard? Ask for it in the winter! It's easy to make things do what they want to do. By timing your effort perfectly, you can achieve maximum effect through a minimum of force. Someone's trying to ruin the harvest, but by altering just the right variable at just the right time, I can deflect the attack without exerting myself. I tell you, the weakest child can win the contest of strength, if he just pushed at the right point . . .
Hand me that looking-glass. Curses, the storm's picked up again. It's so hard to make accurate measurements in this weather!