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TS46: Strange Tales

Despite Elsa being in her atavist form, most of the students were more nervous about Inquisitor Edward. As was becoming typical, Mark was the last to arrive. He was unhappy that the only chair left was to Edward’s right, but avoided saying anything out loud.

Hypatia started the class. “There have been a lot of rumors going around because of recent events. We should squash those that aren’t true. It is also important to note that some of them are true. I know the first time I came to Atlantis, I was surprised at the currency that was used.” She looked among the students. “Has anyone heard the term?”

Slowly, Elsa raised an oversized hand. “I think it’s tails.”

“Well, yes.” Hypatia chirped slightly. “Assuming you mean a story. There’s a legend behind it. Many different versions, but most agree that about five thousand years ago, a prey animal sought refuge with a powerful Venator. The Venator demanded, ‘What can you give me that I do not already possess? I can create gold. I can make stone. I can summon spirits that will perform any task you can do, only better. What can you possibly offer?’

“The prey animal looked at the mage and offered, ‘A tale. The story of how I got here is quite interesting.’ And so it was. Stories became the currency of mages. Of course, in modern times, it’s rare that actual stories are traded, so we use tales. A tale represents about four hours of work. I have been told it’s good to think of it as about a hundred dollars when you’re dealing with mages.”

Mug shrugged, “Twenty-five dollars an hour doesn’t seem all that great.”

Hypatia said, “If that’s all it was, you’d be right. But a tale is more than that. Four hours of work for a mage is very different that four hours of work for anyone else. Your grimoire only took a single mage about eight hours to make, from tree to completed book. A non-magical book can be made in about ten minutes. Once you step outside of the world of mages, a tale is worth significantly more. To a farmer, a tale is a month’s wages.”

The rottie looked confused, “But that means the farmer gets paid… uh…” She fumbled on her fingers a moment, “sixty cents an hour?”

“Less than that, a farmer usually doesn’t have weekends. In addition, any mage who achieves Magister status is often extended credit by fellow mages.” Hypatia gestured at the class. “This tradition is what causes issues with your tuition. Until you become Magisters, you have to pay for your education as it occurs. Now, if you had mage parents, they would vouch for you. If you did not finish your education, your parents would pay. If you did finish, you’d spend a year or two paying the school back. Some teach, some get other jobs and pay down their debt quickly. Mages don’t pay for food or living quarters so it is rarely an issue.”

Elsa raised her hand again. “In our world, we had record unemployment. Is it hard to get a job after school?”

Hypatia blinked. “Oh. Um. There are less than a million mages on a land that’s larger than Earth. In addition to being a teacher or researcher, you can be a local patron. Villages, towns, and more compete to have resident mages. They can be teachers, protectors, enchanters, builders, or leaders, just to name a few. Those that become Magus often have villages lined up for their patronage.”

Duane clicked his beak. “We can rule our own village?”

“That’s one possibility.” Hypatia chuckled a little. “Actually becoming a ruler requires a certification by the Animus Council, but you can complete that as a Magister. All rulers are also subject to regular inspection by the Council. The goal is to prevent the abuses that occurred before the Oath of Habitat. That’s partly where the inquisitors come in. They track down breaches of the Oath. Edward, would you like to explain for a bit?”

The elephant nodded. “Of course.” He smiled and looked among the students. “An inquisitor is one of the major arms of the Council. We’re selected based on magical power, dedication to the truth, and a desire for justice. Loyalty to the council is appreciated, but not required. Blind loyalty is frowned upon.” He looked at Jove for a moment, then his gaze moved on. “Now, your teacher mentioned we hunt down breaches of the Oath, but the Oath contains a lot of minor crimes and issues of how people are to be treated. Inquisitors don’t care about those. We track down the big crimes. Canabalism, extermination, experimentation, enslavement, waging war; The really ugly things that having magic allows you to do.”

He took a breath and let those words sink in. The specifics were left to the imagination, but what happened to Mark was fresh in everyones mind.

“We are authorized to kill and it is true our word is taken as proof of guilt, but it is not quite that simple. I said we are chosen for our devotion to justice. An inquisitor would not act without knowing. All of us are highly skilled at divination and looking into the past. We always make sure. That’s why why the Vorax who arrived last week caused such a concern. Dominus is able to evade divinations or cause them to give false readings.” His eyes fixed Jove’s gaze for a moment. “He can prevent us from seeing the past. I’m the only inquisitor who has dealt with him before.”

Jove winced. He remembered Tan mentioned he did that when dealing with the Vorax who was in possession of Mark.

Mark looked at the inquisitor with wide eyes. “You took on Merlin by yourself?”

Edward’s magic flared and tried to pull in all directions, but the elephant kept it in check. Without any outward sign that the words were painful, he corrected the stoat. “I was the only one who both survived and remained sane. It’s also been twenty years. The current Director of Awakenings of your school, Magus Raphael Azarias, is the one who finally stopped him with Magus Southey’s assistance. I did what I could, but I was in no condition to help.”

Jove tried not to stare at Edward. He was sure now that the twitchy nature of Edward’s magic was not fueled by malice. It was in agony. It wanted to lash out in pain.

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