Humans typically gain access to magic through bonding with a dragon. Bonding is a magical phenomenon in which a dragon gives a human it trusts access to its magic. Once bonded with a dragon, a human becomes a wizard.
A human can bond with up to four dragons, depending on variables such as the amount of elements each dragon has. The strongest bond is that between a human and a single dragon. Bonds to several dragons will not be as powerful.
The Bonding Process
The Traditional Process
Traditionally, bonding happened in a variety of ways. Sometimes, adolescent aspiring wizards would go on pilgrimages about the countryside, wandering with few belongings to their name until they met the dragon they sought. Sometimes, old wizard families and old dragon families would form alliances lasting many generations where the humans and dragons of each generation would bond out of tradition. (An example is the Stater family, the members of which have traditionally bonded members of a particular copper dragon family for generations.) Sometimes, bonding happened as a result of a chance friendship between human and dragon. On occasion. Sometimes, a dragon would seek out a human to bond. Towns would hold informal bonding ceremonies where humans and dragons could intermingle.
The Modern Process
Today, bonding takes place in a long process designed to help future wizards find what dragon they are most suited to, culminating in the Bonding Ceremony, where the bonding actually takes place. After graduating from primary school, young wizards spend up to a year seeking out a dragon to bond so they may move on to one of many wizard schools. They will have spent much of their time in primary school surrounded by dragons and learning about dragons, so by the time of the Bonding Ceremony a future wizard will usually have a good idea of what sort of dragon they relate best with.
This process has been criticized for being too standardized. Many wizards believe that bonding should happen on its own time and naturally, not through a process.
Some young wizards do not find a dragon to bond through this process. Some such humans settle down and live comfortable lives as non-wizards, others spend many years searching for the right dragon. This type of phenomenon is the source of most of the criticism surrounding the modern bonding process. Many wizards with great potential lose their chance to be educated normally due to their inability to find a dragon to bond.
Many modern dragon discoveries are due to the wandering of unbonded wizards searching for the right dragon.
Bonding and Magic.
A wizard's style of magic will match that of the dragon or dragons they are bonded to. Wizards who bond multiple dragons may be able to work incredibly complex magic, while a wizard bonded to a primary lightning dragon will only be able to work Electromancy. Wizards who bond several dragons of the same element will be extremely powerful in that element, however. Many wizards with a high degree of expertise in one area may bond multiple dragons of the same species.
Effects of Bonding
Once a dragon forms a bond with a wizard, the bond will strengthen over time. The human and dragon's magic becomes more powerful as time passes. The two often begin to be affected by one another's emotions. If the two are separated from each other, the wizard's magic will weaken, or even disappear. If the dragon becomes ill, the wizard it is bonded to will also be affected.
Being bonded to a dragon often lengthens a wizard's lifespan by many years. On the other hand, when one member of a bond dies, the other often follows soon after. A dragon can survive the death of its wizard--some long-lived dragons have been bonded to dozens of wizards throughout their lifetimes. Some such dragons are passed down through wizard families. If a wizard's dragon dies, however, the wizard is unlikely to live long afterward. However, when the wizard is bonded to multiple dragons, this will only happen when all dragons die.
Despite that, wizards who would like to bond to short-living dragons, like the Plains Dragon, usually also bond to another dragon or bond many years later to live longer.
Most dragon species will only communicate with the one they are bonded to. In fact, in most cases dragons are not at all tame and will behave very differently around strangers than they will around their bonded wizard.
Severing a Bond
In rare cases, a dragon will choose to sever its magical bond with a human. This strips the human of their magic and is very painful for both. When a very old and powerful bond is severed, the wizard may die. Some wizards have survived the severing of several bonds, but this can have effects lasting a lifetime.
This naturally occurs when a dragon dies, leaving its wizard behind. The effect is the same; the wizard's magic is destroyed, and death may result.
If a wizard is bonded to multiple dragons, the effect of a bond's severing will be less severe.
Only the death of one member of the bond or the deliberate severing of a bond by the dragon will sever a bond. A wizard cannot sever their magical bond with a dragon; only the dragon, as the source of the magic, has this ability.