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"I'd've thought Conclave would be the best bunch of people to look out for sorcerers," said Young Bill, much to Alisoun's amusement.

"There's some proper fine folk in Conclave, Young Bill, " she said. "Misfortunately, there's also a few folk who I'd not trust to empty a chamber pot, and one or two who're rotten to the core. Like one o' them old dead trees, just waiting for a chance to fall on someone and crush them."

"But surely they're just as worried about bad magic as we are?" As they walked the youngster slashed their stick half-heartedly at some thistles. Up ahead, Biscuit had found a squirrel and wanted to make sure everyone knew about it. The sleek red animal was giving as good as it got, chattering back at the loudly barking dog. Alisoun was briefly reminded of some of the exchanges she'd witnessed - taken part in - during her own time in the Conclave when she was a much younger woman with less appreciation for how valuable her limited time in this life would be.

"The problem with some magicians," said Alisoun, picking her words carefully, "is that when you're looking up at the sky it's easy to lose track of what's right in front of you. You know old Shem Landskeeper down King's Stoke way? You wouldn't think it to meet him but he's as powerful a wizard as you'll find around these parts. Could have been Archmage of Spring when he was younger. Never bothered to even challenge. Too busy, you see. Making sure the harvest was good, saving lives, fighting to keep the Marches and the Empire both safe. Never forgets where he came from. Works his magic where folk can see it. Has mud under his fingernails. A good magician, but more importantly a good man."

"I'm not sure what...." began Young Bill. Alisoun shushed them.

"i'm getting to it. Anyway, a long time ago when we were both too young not to be daft, I had to have words with Shem Landskeeper. The details aren't for your ears, but he lost his temper with Old Hagar Cotswain and called down a curse on the Cotswain farm. Wasps and brambles for days. Bad business. He knew why I was there as soon as he laid eyes on me, and we managed to sort it all out. But for a minute there he was on a bad path. A path that starts with good intentions and ends with... well. It ends in bad places."

They walked without speaking for a few minutes. The squirrel had lost interest in Biscuit and scampered off. The dog was moodily poking around the roots of the tree, occasionally looking up to see if her playmate had come back.

"If I was a magician I'd not let the Conclave tell me what to do," said Young Bill daringly. "I'd do whatever I wanted! I'd have a magic staff and a... and a crown! And if anyone tried to tell me off or take my crown off me.... pow! Take that! And that!" They swept their stick round two handed through the blackberry bushes that lined the path on the Crooks' Meadow side, scattering leaves and mashing berries with abandon.

Alisoun know that Young Bill was just teasing, trying to get a rise out of her, but she wasn't prepared to let it go. She waited a moment, then with a swift movement brought her shillelagh round and smashed Bill's stick to splinters.

"You think so?" She said, her voice cold as a Winter's morning. Bill froze in place, looked shocked. They'd never seen their friendly old aunt Alisoun like this before. Bill looked afraid. Alisoun hated herself a little, but Bill was old enough to be treated like a grown up, and that kind of talk... well it needed stopping.

"I'm sure it'd be fun to do what you pleased," she said. "To wield your magic like a big stick and never mind whose shins you whacked. There's plenty of wizards like that in the world. And let me tell you, Young Bill, that all them wizards who think their magic gives them the right to treat the rest of us like dirt? They're coming back as crows when they die. No, worse than crows. Rats. Each one of them. Filthy, disease-ridden, grain-fouling vermin. And I will drown you in that new lake in Crook's Marsh before I'll risk seeing you reborn as a rat, Young Bill. Do you understand?"

The youngster's lip trembled, and Alisoun worried for a moment she'd gone too far. But Bill's nerve held, and they nodded, freckles stark against their ashen cheeks, eyes brimming. Alisoun looked away, pointedly ignoring the snuffling noises as Young Bill dashed away their tears. They kept walking, Bill lagging behind a little lost in thought.

"I'm sorry Auntie Alisoun," said Bill eventually. Their aunt didn't reply, but patted them awkwardly on the shoulder.

"It's alright, youngster. I shouldn't have talked to you like that. But it's time you learned, When you've got a big stick, you have to think twice as hard about what you do with it. Your Uncle Ben taught me that, a long time ago, and stack me with the haybales if I'll not teach it to you, too."
Bad Blood.jpg
Don't think it's in the past; these kind of wounds they last, and they last.
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The repercussions of the magical storms that wracked the Empire, breaking the drought but also causing extensive flooding, are still being felt in some places. The waters are receding, but leaving behind them all the usual problems caused by floods. Mud covers everything and needs to be cleaned; furniture and in some cases whole buildings need to be repaired or replaced; bloated, drowned carcasses must be removed; everything stinks of stagnant water. Sometimes the water will not go willingly and needs to be removed with bucket chains, leaving behind the lingering worry that next time there is a heavy rain it will return like an unwelcome cousin. Mostly, though, life is returning to normal.

It would be easy to overplay the negative consequences of the floods, but also unfair. Again and again reports of loss of life have proved to be exaggerated - there has been some loss of life but no more than might have died in any terrible storm. Fewer, arguably, given that there were ample warnings of what was to come and people were able to make preparations. Property damage has been extensive, true, but the mud churned up by the rising waters has left a thin layer of very fertile topsoil in its wake. herb gardens and farms are doing very well out of the magically infused waters, thank you very much. The floods have also left opportunities in their wake, and the Senate has stepped in to deal with the worst of the damage.

But while the physical damage caused by the storms is being addressed, the recent tempest have reinvigorated discussions about the responsibilities of the Imperial Conclave and the dangers of sorcery. Debates that started among the threshers of the Marches, and their concerns about Rivers Run Red, have spread to other nations. That the Conclave should be the arbiter of what is, or is not, a proper use of magic is not particularly in question. Rather, the questions being concerned relate to who should be trusted to use that magic.

Regarding the casting of Thunderous Deluge the following cast the ritual. Ibiss of Netherwatch, Thalia of Netherwatch, Galene of Netherwatch, Mercurio Ankarien, Aquillian of Urizen, Aspasia of Netherwatch. The following directly facilitated the ritual: Fabienne de Miel and Arsenio Sanguineo Rezia di Tassato. Laelius of the Waxing Sun of Urizen took actions which makes them a person of interest. We remind everyone to act within the law on this matter. Investigations by the magistrates, mages of the Conclave, and priests of the Synod have begun - let us work unhindered so we achieve accurate (??)

Jenny Arbor, Marches Assemblyt, Autumn Equinox 384YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 112-0)

The Names on the Wind

  • The Marcher assembly has provided a list of the names of those involved in summoning the recent magical storm

It's common knowledge that the storms were not natural in origin, but rather summoned by Imperial magicians in response to the dreadful drought that held the Empire at the beginning of Summer 384YE. Not everyone agrees that the decision to take advantage of the peculiar conjunction and invoke the Empire-spanning magical tempest was a good idea, however.

Concerned that this might mark a certain laissez-faire attitude to the use of large-scale destructive magic used to harm Imperial citizens, several vocal threshers in the Marches asked their National Assembly to do some preliminary investigation as to who was responsible. Jenny Arbor provided a list of names, and their peers in the assembly agreed that the list was accurate.

All six of those named are prominent Urizeni. Ibiss of Netherwatch is the actual Archmage of Spring. Thalia and Galene are by all accounts heavily involved in Urizen's financial affairs; the former is also the Ambassador to the Sarcophan Delves while the latter is the actual Imperial Inquisitor! Mercurio Ankarien is the former Prime Factor of the Pallas Docks, and Aspasia of Netherwatch is Merchant to Skoura - both presumably with similar interest in Urizen's economic fortunes. Urizen being a nation of mountains where, presumably, massive flooding is less of an issue. Coincidence? Some think not.

Perhaps even more significant is presence of Aquillian of Urizen on the list - the single most famous sorcerer in living memory! The Conclave apparently reconciled with him at the Summer solstice (presumably before he was involved in the casting), but there are threshers who remember that for nearly two years the man was considered too dangerous to be allowed to perform ritual magic. The list of those who directly facilitated includes a former Archmage of Spring, the Grandmaster of the Order of the Golden Pyramid, and a former Grandmaster of the Celestial Arch. Persons of interest indeed!

It's easy to imagine there is something more going on here than a desire to end a drought. Jenny Arbor urges "everyone to act within the law on this matter." A few hot heads argue that anyone who calls themselves a thresher should be heading to Anvil to discuss the storms with those involved, because it looks like stagnant water isn't the only unpleasant smell attached to this destructive magic. Fortunately cooler heads prevail for the most part - Jenny Arbor says that the mages of the Conclave and priests of the Synod are investigating. The last thing they need is some well-meaning threshers stepping in and muddying the waters by executing people.

Not right now, at any rate.

Endorsement and Consensus

  • The Constitutional Court has chosen to treat the Concord of the Imperial Conclave as equivalent to the new endorsement power
  • The magistrates have put aside their investigation of the tempest and the damage caused
  • While there will not be legal consequences, priests and magicians may still act against those involved

During the Autumn Equinox, the Grandmaster of the Sevenfold Path Rafael Barossa di Tassato raised a declaration of Concord in the Imperial Conclave affirming that Conclave did indeed form a broad consensus at Summer Solstice 384YE that casting thunderous deluge on the whole empire was desirable. The declaration was supported by the Conclave, and in the weeks since the Equinox the Consitutional Court have apparently declared that they would consider this to be equivalent to an endorsement - a declaration that says a magical working is in the interests of the Empire. Legally, this means that the magistrates and the militia will no longer investigate matters related to the storm. Any legal case they had been building must now be put aside.

However that need not be the end of the matter. Alisoun Bathwater - either a respected hunter-of-sorcerers or an interfering fool depending on which side of her you are standing - has been unsurprisingly quick to point out that there are more tools for dealing with bad magicians than just the magistrates. "Sharper tools, wielded by wiser people," as she puts it. She's not calling for anyone to drag anyone else into the road and behead them - obviously - but she urges every thresher who can make it to Anvil to investigate the nine people mentioned by Jenny Arbor. And probably the Grandmaster of the Sevenfold Path who raised the declaration, just to be on the safe side. She suggests they start by talking to the militia and see if they can be persuaded to share what they've found out in the course of their investigation or help in other ways.

If there's any suggestion that they had anything but the purest of motives, she says, then the first step is to take the matter to the Assemblies and maybe the Conclave. Condemnation, excommunication, and the Declaration of Sorcery are all legal tools that threshers can use to bring to book anyone whose use of magic is suspect. "People should not use magic to hurt their neighbours," she reiterated to any who ask (and to anyone who gets too close regardless of whether they ask or not). "If anyone has actually stepped out of line, then you need to make sure they don't do it again. And you need to do it in the open to send a message to anyone else who might be considering wicked magic. Like a gamekeeper's gibbet but for wizards."

Despite her garrulous exterior she also urges caution. It does nobody any good to punish innocent people. It undermines the cause, it makes threshers look like heedless idiots, and it makes people reticent to do what needs to be done the next time it needs to be done.

The Rat-Catcher

  • There is a call for the Imperial Senate to establish a post in the Conclave responsible for leading declarations of sorcery

The recent restructuring of the Conclave has raised some interest among threshers and others with an interest in policing the use of magic. The idea that magic must be used responsibly is not a purely Marcher consideration. In Highguard and Navarr particularly there are people just as passionate about ensuring that the most destructive tool available to mortals be used to the benefit of humanity rather than its detriment. Many Highborn believe strongly that magical study should be accompanied by a study of virtue so that a magician can better understand when to use magic and when to refrain from using it. Some vates look to the lessons of the fall of Terunael, and the creation of the vallorn, as a warning of what hubris can do when coupled with the power of the magician. Both groups broadly agree with the Marcher threshers that vigilance means keeping an eye on their fellow users of magic, and ideally stepping in before anything disastrous happens.

With that in mind, these groups are calling on the Imperial Senate to create a new imperial title with responsibility for identifying and condemning sorcerers. As the Imperial Censor identifies magic that should not be used, so this new title would be responsible for identifying people who should not use magic. Unfortunately that's about all they agree on. The Highborn magisters involved in the discussion are concerned that the title focus on vigilantly monitoring anyone dealing with eternals. Alisoun's sect of threshers call for a Rat-Catcher, a thresher who will investigate and prosecute anyone who uses magic to harm their fellow citizens. The Navarr who have expressed an opinion agree that it is most important to keep an eye on all powerful magicians, to make sure that arrogance and overweening hubris are not leading them down darkened paths - it's no use to prosecute someone for destroying the Empire with magic after the fact.

The Senate could easily create a title with the power to raise a single Declaration of Sorcery to the agenda for debate during a Conclave session. They would not need to use the declaration solely to declare sorcerers - it can just as easily be used to reconcile someone with the Conclave. The exact responsibilities would be a matter for the Senate. In addition to questions of misuse of magic and interactions with eternals raised during the discussion, the title could also be responsible for monitoring active sorcerers and taking appropriate action if they overstep their bounds.

One sticking point is that the Constitutional Court are very clear that this new title would need to be appointed by the Conclave itself, via the Declaration of Candidacy. Demands that the magicians cannot be trusted to appoint their own watchdog fall on deaf ears - the constitution is abundantly clear that oversight of magic is the purview of the Conclave.

Additional Support

  • Depending on their responsibilities, a new Imperial title could receive support from Marcher threshers, Highborn magisters, and/or Navarr vates

If the Imperial Senate does choose to create an official "Rat-catcher" of some kind, the three groups most interested in seeing magicians policed properly have proposed conditional support for the role.

As long as the Senate makes it clear the title is to identify anyone using magic to the detriment of their neighbours, and that the Conclave won't seek to limit who they can investigate, Alisoun Bathwater and her fellow threshers in the Marches will provide the title holder with a Thresher's Cudgel each season at their own expense. They'll even go so far as to having it hallowed with the Hallowing of the Torch to serve as a reminder of what needs to be done. At first there's an assumption Alisoun means to provide one cudgel a year but in fact she plans to arrange four. In her opinion, whoever the Conclave puts in charge of hunting out sorcerers will benefit from having a gang with them who know how to break both staves and heads.

If the Senate explicitly indicates the new title has a responsibility to ensure that those who deal with eternals are doing so virtuously, and not seeking to make secret agreements to the detriment of fellow Imperial citizens, then a small group of magisters from the Umbral Shroud in Necropolis are prepared to endow the title with the Lantern Ring as regalia. This once powerful group of magisters were at the height of their influence during the reign of Empress Giselle, but their numbers have long since dwindled. Now they wish to pass on this unique artefact to the Empire in the hope that it can once more serves its true purpose. The ring allows a wearer versed in the insight ceremony who performs a thorough insight to discover if the person whose aura they are observing has recently visited a chamber between worlds. It will sometimes reveal what realm that chamber was associated with, as well.

The vates of the Lost Lore Steading in Miaren refuse to be outdone by threshers and magisters. They with the Senate make it clear that the title should actively investigate anyone with an Imperial title appointed by the Conclave, and ensure that they are not becoming corrupted by their power. If they do then they'll arrange for the title to receive a Thornpath Sash once a year. This rare magical item is a focus that grants additional power when performing Bright Lantern of Ophis, Ties that Bind, Hand of the Maker, and Eye of the High Places. They believe it will help the title-holder gather all the evidence they need to secure a successful declaration of Sorcery.

The Constitutional Court has confirmed that as long as the Senate motion creating the title specifically accepts these items as regalia for the title, they won't need separate endowment and the responsibilities associated with them can be added to the title automatically. The ring and the sash cannot be employed at the same time by the same person, of course because both are talismans). The magisters and vates assume the title holder will recruit someone capable of using whichever item they cannot use themselves to aid in their investigations - just as Alisoun assumes they will recruit some "aides" to do any required heavy hitting with her cudgels.

Limited Opportunity

Alisoun, the Umbral Shroud, and the vates of Lost Lore Steading have their own business to pursue. If the Senate acts quickly, they will provide the regalia they have promised. If they linger, then those concerned about the misuse of magic may look elsewhere. The opportunity to gain regalia for the Imperial title will be lost at the end of the Spring Equinox 385YE.

Further Reading