Beware, it's a long one! ;)
The sudden sound of thunder did not shake him the least. He only stared motionless at the closed shutters, that might have been as old as my Master looked. From rain and sun and frost the wood had bent and produced gaps, allowing an occasional gust of wind to tickle the candle flames.
Master Zargeth sighed. "There's no use in keeping this secret from you any longer. Since you're already curious, it would only cause more trouble later. I'd advise you to just sit back and listen, so don't ask anything unpleasant, alright?"
I simply nodded in anticipation and made myself comfortable, ready to absorb any story he'd throw at me.
"I hope you don't expect any grand narrative, because my reasons were quite simple. This disguise's only purpose was to let me live in peace." He shifted in his chair, frowning over his thoughts.
"So you did it yourself?" I asked. Whoops.
"What? Ah, yes, I put this spell onto myself. But it wasn't irreversable at first. Actually, let me start at the beginning instead of the end. Let's go back ten or twelve years. I can't even remember how many it was anymore, but it doesn't really matter. At that time I had just left my home town to join the Guild and enter their school. Just like you told me you had done.
"But it wasn't so easy for them to send me away, since I grew up in a mostly elven community. Everybody there knew a little bit of magic and taught it to their children, so of course I had already been a fairly able novice. And I wanted to learn more. By law they had to admit me, but they didn't like it."
"But why!?" I blurted. This was something I desperately needed to know. It never felt like they had a true reason not to take me in.
He continued with a grim face "Because they are not us. They're scared of us. The Guild is a human invention, their leaders are humans, most of the teachers are humans and they like to keep to their own. They don't want long-living leaders that think in centuries instead of decades. Imagine how it must be to know your lifespan is only a fleeting moment to another. If a human were to have an elven friend from childhood on, they will have grown children by the time that friend celebrates their coming of age."
"That is true, but there are plenty of human settlements already lead by elvish clan leaders or other long-living people, aren't there? And they seem to have accustomed to the quicker pace of humans. Why is the Guild so particular about it? I mean, most of them are temporary anyways, with senates and all behind them."
"That's the part that's different but also very stupid about the Guild. First: they are not a place that needs a governor, they are a guild. Second: they are afraid of power. As long as they are in their own little, controllable world, they can do whatever they like. For generations the leading positions have been given to the most able mages. Teachers or researchers, those people with greatest power and knowledge in their field of expertise. Do know what that means?"
"Picking the most talented from all mages in the Guild, would include mostly those of elven origin. Old elves have much more experience and even a young one can soon surpass a seasoned human mage, if he's talented. Because we have a natural affinity to magic, it's already in us when we're born. It's part of our life."
Oh, I got it. "What. They just don't let elves in for this matter? Keep them out and they won't disturb us?"
"I am not sure actually. Being part of the Guild gives you the legal right to research, teach and councel, maybe it's not just old men being racist. I don't know."
"Wait, so you are still IN the Guild?"
"No, I was expelled."
"Me teaching you is illegal, yes."
Oh. "So I never had a chance to be admitted?"
"Well, I was admitted. They had to, because I was already practicing. Of course they found a way to expell me before I graduated. You probably know why already, when you stole those books from the library."
Forbidden research, If I remember correctly. Blood rituals, dangerous experimentation, spell research, tainting and extracurricular spelling. I nodded, though I wanted to ask what exactly it was. "I don't know what the reasons really mean, though." I decided to mention.
"Hopefully you'll never." He said in an incantatory voice. I shivered. "Anyway, back to why I am disguising my appearance."
Oh, right, that was what this was about.
"They expelled me and tried to ban me from ever practicing again. Of course these things are done by sealing and signing. Of course I had no choice. Going against them would have caused a lot trouble. I'd be a wanted criminal, maybe even declared a danger to all life, hunted until killed."
I gasped at the thought.
"It was a humiliating ceremony. My punishment was enforced in front of an audience of at least one hundred Magisters and Senators. I was bound with spell suppressing shackles, guards watched my every move, ready to pin my feet to the ground should I try to spell with them, and I had to wear a magicaly woven mask to restrain my face muscles. At least I was allowed clothing." He chuckled ironically. "The sealing itself felt similar to how it should have felt, when I put one on you, but it was done by several Magisters to amplify the power of the bind enough to make the sign unbreakable."
"But… You still CAN use magic, Master."
"Are you that powerful?"
"Apparently, I am."
"How?? Did the sealing just fail? Did they do something wrong?"
"No, I don't think so. It felt right. Definitely. And seals and signs don't have an expiration date. But when I stepped out of the courthouse, still wearing that stupid ceremonial robe with nothing to do but go somewhere and start over, I was already casting magic again with no trouble at all. I even felt a bit stronger"
I was speachless.
"I ended up coming here to hide away, moving into this old tower. The original owner had died long before I got here, I had even found his skeleton unburried in the living quarters. Of course I had to diguise myself to mime the new owner and to keep word of a young, powerful darkelven wizard practicing in these woods from traveling back to the Guild."
"Ah, so that's why!"
"Hush, I'm not done, yet. Disguises can be done temporaryly or more firmly, you see. To keep up a good impression of an old man, I had to use an illusion that couldn't be seen through by close inspection. For that method you bind the disguise to an object and switch between looks by touching said object. That is how I did it."
"That means you still can change back? Anytime?"
"No. Not anymore. The Guild is more clever than you might think. They found me regardless, found out what had happened. Maybe they were following me. tracking me down to keep an eye on me. I could tell, that they didn't trust me. Well, I really did do all those things I wasn't supposed to." He grinned. He didn't want me to know what his deeds really were, but now he grinned. "And then, with no other option left, they decided to just take away the bound object to fix their failure. This way I'd forever be the old man in the Tower, that dabbles in magic but never graduated from magic school." He smiled at me. A cold, tired smile. Like an old man talking of precious days of the past. "Well, now you know. Back to your studies."
Actually, I didn't really want to read anymore right now.
"No, actually" The chair creaked as the Master stood up. "Let's continue breakfast."