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Court Vik

The position of Court Vik, or Court Mage is one of the highest a mage can aspire to - though one of the most controversial, and potentially life-threatening. There is no formal establishment in any of the kingdoms of Sammerden as to who can, and cannot, be a court mage. Nor is there even a restriction on who may employ a court mage. There are some cities, and even towns, where the Mayor consults a mage regularly - while in the Jellnev Empire very few but the Emperor are permitted to employ their own mage.   The profession of court mage is, therefore, an extremely personal one. They live, and sometimes die, based on their relationship with their patron - and might easily find themselves out of work if there is a change in ruler. More worryingly, they are not their patron's only advisor. Form a relationship with the King that's too good, and his Chancellor, Treasurer, and Marshal may all become your enemies. There are few who can survive that.   The job too is often bespoke. There's no one role a court mage will fill, they do what is needed (like most other court servants!) A day may consist of magical spying on enemies, magical assistance to builders, testing the lord's food for poison and checking his chamber for assassins, or tending to lame horses in the stables. To help those considering the path, the Weldic & Bolmor Council of Viks produces a list of "typical" court wizards as illustration:  
The 'Master of Mages'
This role is particularly in demand where the ruler is open to the use of magic, and employs several specialised mages within their household already. In these cases, the court mage's role is to oversee the chef mage, the mage doctor, the battle mage, etc. and see to their training (as well as keeping an eye on their work). This principally suits older mages - both in terms of authority, but also because they might need a good understanding of all of the types of magic at work.  
The 'Mage Advisor'
These mages are primarily hired for their wisdom in other areas, supplemented by their magical abilities. In this role, they are likely to replace a non-magical advisor and perform the role better due to their knowledge of Illusion and other magics. This role particularly suits those who are already politically astute and minded towards court service. It does, however, put one at the most risk of assassination. Other courtiers undoubtedly wanted the prize position, and may not believe the mage has won it fairly, without magical intervention. It is best to know a good number of poison cures before accepting such a role.  
The 'Advisor on Mages'
Conversely, these mages are hired almost exclusively for their knowledge of the magical world - because the ruler has a great interest, or has many magical subjects, or even has a child with the gift. They would fill a specialised role, as the Marshal advises on military affairs they would advise on all aspects of magic and mages. This can be one of the most uncomfortable positions - it is not unknown for rulers who dislike magic to hire one 'pet mage' and use their advice to persecute other mages in their lands. As ever, the College reminds applicants that no mage should take a job which would bring magic into disrepute, nor bring direct harm to fellow mages.  
The 'Jack of All Trades'
Perhaps the most tiring role, this is the opposite of the 'Master of Mages' role. While a rich ruler might afford 4 different mages, and one to manage them all, a poorer lord might hire one and hope they can do four jobs. It can be a bewildering experience, as you're magically cooking food one moment, spying on a group of thieves 50 miles away the next, and then summoned to magically check your own cooking for poisons - before performing some light magical surgery on his lordship's horse. However, some younger mages find the job a rewarding one - and it can lead to rapid promotion.

Career

Qualifications

Unlike most other magical professions, the Council of Viks offers no formal accreditation for the position of court mage - the position is a personal relationship between patron and courtier. Some lords do not even seek particular skills in a court mage - they appoint a childhood friend or an advisor skilled in other matters. Those who actively recruit for a court mage may look for some, or all of the following (Council accreditation schemes where they are taught are in parenthesis):
  • The ability to detect and counter poisons (Simple & Advanced Magical Bodyguarding; Advanced Magical Herblore)
  • Magical senses, and the ability to detect danger (Simple Knowledge Spells; Advanced Mind Magic)
  • Magical knowledge of dreams, thoughts, and magical tracking (Advanced Investigative Magic)
  • Animal handling, particularly for horses, dogs, and birds (Simple & Advanced Animal Magic)
  • Medical and surgical spells (Advanced Body Magic; Simple & Advanced Healing Magic)
  • Offensive capabilities, including fire, lightening, and water attacks (Advanced Elemental Manipulation)
Once hired, the wealth and influence of most patrons is sufficient that their court mages can gain access to almost any training course that the Council (or anyone else) can offer.

Career Progression

There is no formal career path for a court mage - indeed, some mages come to the role as a way of retiring from other roles, and guaranteeing support in their old age. Nor is it normal for court mages to regularly switch patrons, moving higher and higher up the ranks of the courts they served. Very occasionally, the King will favour a mage he has met from another court - though recruitment would be a delicate matter. 'Stealing' courtiers can leave bad blood - and that is not good when magic is involved.   However, for the young and ambitious, a few years service in a noble court can open doors. There is the possibility of leading expeditions, or of using the free time to push the boundaries of magical study. Some of the greatest mages in Sammerden spent their early lives in courts, the (almost) limitless resources, and few requests for help, can give time to focus on learning - without the dull restrictions of the Council. If your patron requires your services for offensive battle, or subterfuge, then there are other employers (and some of them are even legal) who would let you use those skills to their full potential in their service.

Other Benefits

For able, higher-class, magicians it is unlikely that the pay available to most court magicians will make it the most attractive position. Not every court welcomes wizards at all, and those that do can rarely lavish vast riches on them. However, the pay, and particularly the prestige, is far beyond that of a village physician or a caravan guard for a mining company. A position at court is one of the few ways that a lower-born mage can really use their talents to climb socially.   For mages of all classes, it is the benefits (and the savings) which are more attractive. Most at court are paid some small, nominal retainer in coin - but no real wage. The benefits though, are myriad. For a start, there is almost no cost. Lodgings, food, warmth, security - all are provided at the patron's expense. Secondly, the job is not a full-time one. There may be bursts of activity, or time on the road, and many stressful situations. But an advisor rarely needs to stand around for hours. It is common courtesy to lodge a court mage with private rooms and permission to perform magic within their quarters, so as soon as tasks are completed, the court mage is free to hone their skills.    In most circumstances - the royal court excepted - the patron will also be happy for the court mage to take payment for magical services rendered to the townsfolk. Of course, fellow courtiers should be assisted free of charge, but outside the doors is another matter. It is prudent not to be the highest charging mage in town (even if you are the most skilled), but that only makes business brisker. Plus, with no real expenses, even token gifts add up quickly.   The social benefit is - in the right circles - considerable, though less than other courtiers. Even among those who tolerate magic, the court mage is thought of as somehow inferior to the Chancellor, or even the Treasurer. Nevertheless, the status of courtier is very useful among outsiders, and within the magical community. In particular, for those ambitious within the Council of Mages, good service to an honourable lord is a significant bonus to election and preferment.

Operations

Dangers & Hazards

While it has many benefits, a court mage can find themselves surrounded by enemies on all sides - particularly if they are not careful. The population their lord rules over is the most obvious source of danger. Not everyone trusts magic, and a tolerant lord does not always possess a tolerant public. Any decent lord would keep their court safe from minor disaffection, though the court mage should be prepared to hear their name cursed more regularly than others. The problems get more serious when there is general discontent - the people may sooner blame a mage (and it is likely the court mage is not local) than their beloved leader. Here, problems can get serious quickly. If it becomes accepted that a court mage is the evil advisor to a lord, it is a brave and honourable lord who will stand against his people. Unemployment and banishment are some of the nicer consequences for those who don't serve such a generous lord.   Even within the court, dangers exist - perhaps more so than outside. While the populace can guess at a court mage's malign influence, courtiers see them daily, and hear many of their counsels. If they are suspicious of magic, or personally jealous of the court mage's position, they can easily let that hate fester. Worse, courtiers are usually loyal people. A courtier who suspects the court mage is harmful, or even plotting against their lord, would consider any means to stop them.   Finally, faced with these threats, it is not always easy for the court mage to retreat back into their own community. Serving the authorities is still controversial among some mages, and being the most visible mage at court can get you a reputation as a turncoat and a traitor. Assassination plots against court mages are rare - though not unheard of, but the real danger is that the court mage becomes stuck between two worlds. Courtiers and people can quickly become distrustful of magic, and some mages can be unwilling to accept those who 'defected' to the court.
Alternative Names
Court Mage; Master of Magic
Type
Arcane

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Comments

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23 Jan, 2022 18:01

I think the article is really well done. It's nice how you show how the internal relationship in the council is, even if the person is perhaps highly respected on the outside (if, for a change, there aren't too many reservations about magic). The different roles are also good to read, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the potentially very dangerous position. In this sense, thank you very much for the article.