The Mage and the Bureaucrat
"Well, why not?" demanded the young man angrily.
"Convention rules forbid it," replied the older, more measured man before him, for what seemed like the hundredth time. His patience with the young applicant was wearing thin. Curtly, he pushed up his gold-rimmed spectacles and said in a mellow voice, "here, you can see it in the original text." He pointed to a passage in the large, leather-bound volume he was holding open, nestled in the crook of his left arm. The young man did not oblige, but crossed his arms stubbornly over his chest.
"Very well, then," conceded the clerk, his voice very slightly pinched. This had been going on for too long. "I shall read it to you," and he began, in a solemn voice, to read aloud the referred to segment: "…And they shall use only such weapons as are approved by the tournament council, and only against opponents with weaponry of the same class, type or order; and they shall never strike or attempt to strike an un-weaponed opponent with weapon, and shall use no drug, potion, enchantment, spell or other magical subterfuge to defeat their opponent…"
"As you see, young man," said the clerk, pushing his glasses back up on his nose, "the tourney rules are stated in no uncertain terms. No spells or magical workings of any sort shall be used in convention tournaments." He laid that point down firmly. "Now, you may attend the convention all you please, and be welcome of it," he added in a placating, paternal voice, "but you will not contest in a single convention match so long as the rules are not changed, and I yet draw breath." On that last point, he was very firm. "Is there anything else?" he asked finally, his tone mild and cordial once again.
Goddor sighed. He shook his head dejectedly and was about to turn and leave, when one last question did come to mind. He turned back to the clerk. The graying head was bent over a sheaf of papers, his quill racing across the uppermost leaf like a startled deer. "Wait!" said Goddor, and paled slightly under the clerk's stern gaze. "I… I do have one more question," he admitted in a half-voice, his head hung and his eyes on his toes.
"Well, what is it, then?" asked the clerk, gathering himself so as not to speak unkindly.
"How often does the council change the rules?" asked the young mage, encouraged. The light was once again sparkling in his blue-green eyes.
"Well, let me see…" said the clerk, laying down his quill with care and furrowing his brow. "I believe... yes, I believe the last time was some one hundred and twenty seven years ago, when the councilor Farion introduced the bullet crossbow for a vote, and it was approved by a majority of twelve councilors to eight, with one abstaining from the vote."
The mage paled even more. "Thank… thank you," he managed to mumble faintly, before he stumbled out the door. In the corridor he stood a moment, his aquamarine eyes wide open in shock. "Over a hundred years!" he whispered to himself.
Goddor was certainly not a very impressive-looking young man. He was already twenty-eight, but looked to be at least ten years less, a fact that gave him no end of frustration. His skin was pale and slightly freckly, due, according to his father, to not enough time spent out in the sun and air. Whatever the reason, his pale skin made his face change color according to his emotions, and the back of his neck prone to sunburns. Slight in build, and thin from lack of physical work, his form was enveloped in ample robes of deep, sapphire blue, his face long and narrow, with thin features, a long nose and wide, captivating aquamarine eyes. With his blue hood pushed back, as it was, a mop of wavy, sun-streaked nut-brown hair was visible. That was all there was to Goddor, save his trade. His trade, though, that was worth a mention.
Goddor Riverdale, a scrawny peasant's boy from a farming village, was a highly esteemed member of the Blue Raven order of war-mages. Quite aside from being powerful spell-casters in and of themselves, members of the Blue Raven were frequently hired by established armies or mercenary companies, and were among the most desirable war-mages in the known world. Being one of their accomplished and adept mages, Goddor thought he could put a dent in the shield that kept war-mages from participating in tournaments.
"Not everything that is done in battle is acceptable on the tournament field," he was told, time and again. "Mage-craft is considered a dishonorable method of fighting." But he had been a stubborn boy, and inevitably grew up into a stubborn young man. When his shock at the clerk's reply subsided, anger took over again. He stalked down the corridor, thundered down the stairs without a care to their steepness and stormed out of the building's front door. Pulling up the hood of his robe, he scowled at thin air, then whistled for his horse. The little brown pony he had called Myreene trotted up to him and nuzzled his hand, looking for a lump of sugar. She huffed when he petted her head instead. He rode away.
The very same brown pony came to the very same wood-and-stone town building at a measured gallop the next day. Goddor dismounted and led her around the house, to tie her near the stable. He had decided to take his chances with the convention council, and was about to tell the middle-aged clerk that.
"How do I appeal to the council to change the rules?" he said when he came to the door of the clerk's office, rather out of breath because of the climb up the stairs. The clerk lifted his head from his desk incredulously, and pushed up his golden spectacles with one finger, slowly and deliberately.
"You're back, I see," he said shortly.
"Yes," replied Goddor firmly. "How do I appeal to the council?" he insisted.
"You want to appeal to the council," said the clerk with a raised eyebrow.
"Yes," repeated the young mage, tapping his foot on the wooden floor impatiently.
"Impossible," stated the older man flatly.
"Why?" demanded the boyish-looking man, slamming his open palm of the heavy desk's smooth surface.
"Only Councilors can approach the council about matters pertaining to the convention or the tournaments it involves," explained the gray-haired clerk in a soothing voice. Goddor stared at him for a moment.
"Can I appeal to a Councilor to bring the matter up?" he asked after a short silence.
"That, you may do," conceded the bespectacled man with a smile.
"Would you tell me where to find one of these Councilors?" requested Goddor hopefully.
"Yes, I will do that," replied the clerk, still smiling. "You might find one right here, if you wish."
"Here, in this building?" asked the mage, slightly suspicious.
"Here, in this very room," answered the clerk, who had adjusted his spectacles and turned his gaze back to the papers on his heavy desk, where lines of fine, clear, script were visible. Again, Goddor stood dumb-founded for a moment, his aquamarine eyes torn wide open, fixed on the small, dark-eyed man, who with a kindly smile had just informed him he was on the council of the warrior convention. Aware, suddenly, that he was gaping, the bright-eyed mage clamped his mouth shut and looked at his feet, his face reddening swiftly.
Sir Weryth A'Quaro, Lord of West Tuerynia was a man of some years, well over sixty, his face lined and his hair gray. At one time he had been an active knight, and an accomplished and highly skilled jouster, but an ill-fated hawking incident took away his riding ability, and with it, his military career. Daunted, at first, by the prospect of introducing such changes in his life, he soon adjusted and found himself in sufficient demand as a tactician and military advisor. As an offshoot of his second bout into warfare, he found himself assisting in the organization of the most well-known and widely-attended gathering of warriors in the mapped world. He was intelligent, a quick learner, and well versed in the life of a warrior; his way to the top was paved.
Now, he sat in the record chamber, his hands resting on a logbook, calmly staring down a man that sought to achieve that which went against every precedent, every unspoken warrior's code. Introducinmage-work into convention matches was an idea that had only been brought up once, many years past, and only been discussed unofficially, that Sir Weryth could remember, and he had been at work on these conventions for some twenty five years. Any chance that what had hardly been spoken of in the past would be accepted now was too slim to be worth giving the young mage-boy any hope over it. He had no heart to disappoint him.
"Listen, my boy," he said to him paternally, "leave be. You've no chance to change the rules, not by yourself."
Goddor crossed his arms over his deep blue robe in silent obstinacy. "I'd like a try, though," he said stubbornly. "I might surprise you."
"Now, then," said Sir Weryth disapprovingly. "Don't be mulish, boy. For twenty years I oversaw attendance to the warrior convention. Some years the lists were long enough to fill a small book," he gestured at the rows of huge, leather-bound books that lined the room's walls. "Not one of the official delegates was a mage or spell-caster. Not one of the jousters would be willing to contend against a mage, if one should be allowed to participate in the tourneys. It will never happen, boy. Give it up."
Goddor glared at the Councilor maliciously. He was becoming quite cross. "War-mages are allowed on the battlefield-" he began, but was interrupted by Sir Weryth, who's impatience was rather strange, in light of the courteous, kind manner with which he had handled him previously.
"So are body-robbers and common thieves, and yet you never see them in a self-respecting tournament!" cried the former knight exasperatedly. "There are facts in this life, boy," he started a moment later, after gathering his senses and calming himself down. "You must learn to deal with these facts, and the sooner, the better."
"I resent the comparison between myself and a grave-robber," replied the young mage coldly, his grim expression making his face appear, for once, as old as his years. "But if the martial community cannot accept the very same people who they ally themselves with, those who guard their towns and cities, who break their sieges, who defend their flanks and cast protective spells on their forces, contaminating their precious jousting field, then perhaps we should both reconsider any future alliances." With that, the young mage turned a contemptuous back on Sir Weryth, and strode out the door.
The next day he was back, bright and early, standing imposingly at the doorway, his sapphire-blue hood pulled up and a wooden channeling staff gripped firmly in his right hand. "I've come to unregister," he said curtly, when the older man looked up to see who it was, adjusting his golden spectacles with one quick, precise movement.
"Why is that?" inquired the former knight moderately.
"I detect a certain hostility towards men of my profession among the other attendants," retorted Goddor, a viable sarcastic edge to his voice.
"Do you count me among those perceived hostile colleagues, if I might ask?" asked Sir Weryth lightly, laying down his quill and briskly rolling a sheet of parchment, on which the ink had already dried.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do," replied the young mage, his lips tightening into a thin line.
"Well, then, I believe you to be making a severe error of judgement," remarked the gray-haired man in a businesslike tone, picking up his quill and dipping it in a pewter inkbottle.
"Now, why is that?" asked the mage, crossing his arms and leaning against the doorframe.
"Because, in truth, I have nothing against war-mages. I have seen them participate in many battles, both with and against me, and in so many ways they are no different than any other warrior," replied Sir Weryth earnestly, his eyes locked on the black void where the mage's face should have been.
"Then why did you forbid me entrance to the convention's tourneys?" demanded Goddor, taking a step into the room and ripping the hood off his wind-tousled head.
"I never forbade you entrance to the tournaments," corrected Weryth sharply. "I was merely the messenger, passing along information."
"The information that I am forbidden on the jousting field," said the Blue Raven mage, equally sharp.
"The information that in the eyes of most, there is still a wide berth between the battle field and the jousting field," corrected Weryth again, his voice tired. "If it were for me to decide, things would be otherwise," he added softly. Goddor slumped, the fire in him extinguished as if by a downpour of reality. Sighing, Weryth gestured at the chair across from his.
"Sit, please," he asked of Goddor. "I'd like us to talk, if you don't mind." Extending his hand towards the mage, he introduced himself. "Sir Weryth A'Quaro. Call me Weryth, please."