: The Other Phases
Ben Lehman asks: "What are the 6th and 7th stages of a wizard's Seclusium?"
For my answer, you get a ridiculous keyhole-style essay.
A wizard's seclusium can leave its fifth phase, the "vulnerable," in one of three ways. There are two following phases into which it can progress: the sixth phase, the "encapsuled," or, bypassing this, the seventh phase, the "dissolute." Alternately, it can recover from the "vulnerable" and return to an earlier phase, typically one or the other of the third-fourth phase subcycle, the "expansive-consolidatory."
An "encapsuled" phase occurs when the wizard remains vacant, but the seclusium's vulnerabilities prove nevertheless temporary or superficial, so that the wizard's remaining safeguards ultimately seal the seclusium's wealth and accumulated knowledge securely, though purposelessly, in. Encapsulation can last a significant time*.
The final "dissolute" phase occurs when, perhaps after a period of encapsulation, the seclusium's vulnerability instead proves absolute, and the seclusium's wealth and accumulated knowledge is plundered and scattered, so that no center to it remains. Thus dispersed, the seclusium can only barely be said to exist at all, in memory and relic; from the "dissolute" phase there is no recovery.
The wealth and knowledge thus freed may enter into another wizard's seclusium, of course, in one of its earlier phases, particularly the first, the "fundamental," or the third, the "expansive."
A seclusium's "vulnerable" phase need not end with encapsulation or dissolution. If the wizard recovers sufficient will, presence, and resource to reclaim mastery of the seclusium, the seclusium can thereby be returned to the third-fourth phase subcycle, the "expansive-consolidatory," albeit lessened by the incursions against it of its time in the "vulnerable." If the wizard returns to the seclusium advantaged by the experiment or excursion, it will return to the fourth phase, the "consolidatory." If, on the other hand, the wizard returns diminished, it will more likely return to the third phase, the "expansive," with the wizard seeking to restore the now-impoverished seclusium by regaining its lost appurtenances or plundering others elsewhere.
In some cases the seclusium may even return to the second phase, the "placid." This occurs when the wizard returns diminished, but takes a philosophical attitude: perhaps that he had formerly overstepped his natural place, that his seclusium's time of vulnerability and the incursions against it have now restored him thereto, and that further ambition will serve only to place him once again at odds with the universe's equilibrium, to his ultimate detriment.
As we have seen, though, a "placid" phase is necessarily short-lived. If there is a universal equilibrium, it nevertheless consists of cycles and periods manifest in the contingencies of life and endeavor. Eventually some need will excite the wizard's efforts anew and the seclusium will advance once again into an "expansive" phase, or else natural decay or some need unmet will plunge the seclusium once more into the "vulnerable."
*Dissolution would seem to be inevitable, even in cases of extreme encapsulation, for all the earth and all that is in it must, at the utmost, fall into unordered dust, or perhaps into the inner working of stars, or into yet other states or plasms unknown to us now.