The Hermetic Market for Gifted Children

A magus visits a covenant. As he steps in the door, he is approached by the Primus:

"Oh, the air you just breathed had a vis lien on it. In fact, all the air in our covenant has such a lien on it. While the conventional rules of hospitality state that you are allowed to breathe the air in our covenant without restriction, my sodales and I have a private agreement that we didn't tell you about, and that you didn't agree to. You see, we collect air and trade it amongst ourselves for vis. We're air collectors, you see. Each breath is traded at the reasonably low price of one queen each. We arranged this agreement several weeks ago, and have been trading it ever since. That one you just breathed in was a particularly fine specimen. As you've already used it up, you have deprived me of the magical power associated with that air breath, which I was just about to take to my sodales for trade. You are now in violation of the Code."

Or alternately,

"All the air you have breathed in for the past five weeks had a vis lien on it. Our sodales made a private agreement to that effect. You are now in violation of the Code."

Ultimately no difference between this and claiming a vis lean on anything else that a mage can normally perform without restriction under the code. Including, but certainly not limited to, the taking of an apprentice.

Yes that is exactly what he is trying to do.

Yes you are absolutely right. You can do such an activity so long as you didn't have to violate some other portion of the code. Like Scrying, Infernalism, Molestering Fae, Meddling with mundanes, Deprivation of Magical Power, Not abiding a Decision of Tribunal.

Umm... unless you can be prosecuted. I mean you just said you can. If how you did it violated another portion of the code that prosecutable. Do you think a tribunal has never had to punish a Magus for acquiring an apprentice "the wrong way"? Whatever that way might be. And that punishment could very likely include taking the apprentice away and giving it to someone more deserving. It is a canonical punishment if my memory serves.

Look it's clear that what Hound is trying to do is change the code. And that's my point PC's with effort can change the code. Don't you agree? How would you have them do it?

For my own suggestion make it a political give and take. A hermetic slave trader selling gifted children for dubious purposes shouldn't be easy. I agree it's too much to ask that the order allow a Magus to keep gifted individuals indefinitely as property. It's also unlikely you could get a Tribunal to consider that anything a Magi decides to put a magical pricetag is automatically "magical power". But convincing a tribunal that a hermetic talent scout is a good enough idea to warrant protection. That's not a hard sell to me.

So work the crowd make deals, placate objections, and compromise compromise compromise and you might end up with a decision which say's something like this.

A Magi who finds themselves in care of one so gifted as to be candidate for apprenticeship, yet intends not to use them so, is expected to seek out a well suited parens in a prompt and timely manner. So long as the perquisition takes no longer then a year and a day this Tribunal respects the effort invested as a sacrifice of magical power and as such the candidate's caretaker may demand and if so should receive fair recompense before any of our order makes formal invitation. As the search should be of strong concern and as it is understood the troubles of an untrained gift such recompense may be expected in form of silver, vis or binding promise there of.

EDIT - right, didn't read your whole post: I do agree that the magic talent scout idea is fine. It's the legal process Hound is suggesting that I take issue with.

For clarification: we're not talking about apprentices or gifted Lab Assistants here: the code explicitly says that you can take them, and not be considered robbing anyone of magical power. What the legal idea here is that one can put a vis lien on something (such as a Lab Assistant), and thus claim "loss of magical power" from the profits he will fail to get as a result of not being able to fulfill his side of the bargin.

My issue is twofold: first, it's a perfect legal defense that changes the STATE of the target, rather than the physical circumstances. In all other scenarios that have been offered as evidence, the act of taking the apprentice was never a violation: it was the manner in which you got to the point. ie, by blowing up the lab, or by molesting the fae, or by killing a noblemen, or whatever. In Hound's argument, he is attempting to make the act of taking an apprentice itself a violation, regardless of how you got there.

The second is that he is attempting to do this not by claiming that an apprentice is Magical Power that is beign stolen: that's explicitly permissible. Rather, he's attempting to use a vis lean as a legal defense.

Except that a vis lean can be put on anything that another magi can freely do under the Code, regardless of whether that magi agreed to the lien. Again - breathing air or eating pastries: it doesn't matter. If you can put a vis lien on something without the user's consent, EVERYTHING becomes a loss of magical power.

That being said: I don't have a problem with setting up a Peripheral Code that basically says "you can train Gifted Children for a year before you need to give them up", or something along those lines - a sort of safety net to be used by Procurement Agents to get children trained up before they're officially apprenticed. But that's simply a vote at Tribunal, to have something similarly-set up as Thebes does. I'd require that such Procurement agents have to declare their intent to a Tribunal Agent (such as a Gernicus), and that at the end of the year the apprentice is tested to ensure that they have learned Latin and Artes Liberales, but other than that I see no issue with it.

It's the legal path he's trying to use to get there: trying to use a private vis lien to show loss of magical power, and thus a perfect legal defense, is farcical.

No, no it doesn't. In fact, quite the opposite.

It's perfectly possible to claim a child and not affect MP. In fact I believe I made it clear that that is the rule, and my situation is the rare exception. The diff is that a public price has been put on the child, a price agreed to by contract*, for sale, which cannot be said of 99% of candidati, which changes the child's Hermetic status.

That's the difference that keeps eluding everyone (or that some simply refuse to acknowledge, ymmv), and that I think is all-important.

[i](* Without a contract or a Tribunal-acknowledged "fair price", my position is far less tenable, admittedly.

And to the predictable complaint - which does nothing to refute my position - that then any mage could put a price on a [/i]candidati - of course they could, and they could be brought to Tribunal for breach of contract if they refused to sell them at the agreed-upon price.)

Ah. Well then: to the next issue: no such market exists for gifted children: no Gernicius to validate the bill of sale, no confirmation of vis transfers, no registry to indicate who has valid claim, and so on. In other words, there is no Tribunal that has confirmed that such a sale is valid, and no laws or anything regulating such sale. Merely claiming "I have a contract!" is not enough. I can put such a claim on a breath of air, or a rock, or a grog, or anything in existence. The fact that it is an apprentice is irrelevant. You're just putting a private price tag on it with someone else, and paying in vis.

If you go forth and set up such a legal infrastructure BEFOREHAND, and get agreement that such a thing is a good idea? Sure. I think both Maine75Man, Jonathan.Link, and myself agree that getting buyoff from all interested parties at Tribunal would be a fine thing. This was probably how the Thebean system was set up. Which would be an interesting contrast, to see how it plays out. But if you get that sort of buy-off, there's no need to use the whole "I have a vis contract" reason. You've already got buy-off from the relevant authorities, which would give you legal coverage anyway as a Procurement Agent. The vis thing is irrelevant, and it doesn't hold water legally anyway.

Your comment is that you "have a contract". OK. I have a contract for the air you're about to breathe. Fully written up on fancy parchment last month, for the delivery of all the air in this room to one of my sodales, for the price of a rook of vis. Signed and witnessed by a magus in good standing. The breath you just took makes it impossible for me to deliver on my contract.

Do you feel obliged to pay that debt? Probably not. Your defense would be "I never agreed to be a part of that private contract for an activity that is freely available to all, and there is no Tribunal-wide ruling that forces me to abide by it."

To which I respond, "Yes, but we've been trading this air back and forth for a rook of vis every month for the past five years! You can see it in the covenant ledger! fully signed and certified that I paid for all this air with a rook of vis last month. And my sodales paid me a rook for the air the month before that, and so on and so forth, back and forth. You interrupted our air-vis contract, so now you must pay the wergild of a rook."

It's a silly example, yes - but it illustrates the problem of placing enforceable private contracts on arbitrary public activities that 3rd parties are allowed, by law, to stumble into.

Like the hot-crossed buns, or the ability to walk through a door, or the air of a Covenant - from the perspective of the relevant law: (Covenent law, general custom, or the Code itself, depending on which example I'm using), the property was not yours to make a claim on. And once you are able to start assigning arbitrary vis values to arbitrary actions, regardless of who is involved or their views on the subject, then the whole legal concept of "wergild as legal concept" falls apart. Those with sufficient funds can make "vis contracts" for arbitrary activities, announce them, and then force those involved to do their bidding, or else pay the price.

So: in conclusion - I don't have a problem with the idea of an Apprentice Agent, certified by the Tribunal, to find and train apprentices for a year, and then sell that service to a magi - I would imagine that some Tribunals have Redcaps doing that already. I do have a problem with someone trying to use a private vis contract to claim forfeit immunity. The law doesn't work like that - if you can get the Tribunal to set up a public "cost basis" that ALSO laid out claims of protection for the person being the Agent? Sure. But it's not the vis cost that's granting the protection: it's the Tribunal ruling that explicitly states "we're interpreting this to be part of the permissible activities of finding and training an Apprentice".

I think it was Kevin who quoted:

If it is merely frowned upon, it hardly can be more than a Low Crime. That makes it clear it cannot be the High Crime of "Deprivation of Magical Power".

And that was 5 pages ago, I'm confused where the argument was going afterward. Is there some interesting conclusion that I missed?

It's the claim that putting a vis lien on a Gifted individual (ie, being in a business arrangement, and promising the child to another magus, in return for a portion of vis) allows you to claim "loss of magical power" if the child is taken from you. Not because of the loss of the child - but because of the loss of the business arrangement.

Mainly it's been me (somewhat muddily) arguing that such a claim isn't possible under standard understanding of contract law, or even Germanic wergild: promising to pay for something in vis doesn't make it any more magical than promising to pay for something in silver makes it non-magical. Also, having a contract to sell something you don't actually have legal right to doesn't make it any more yours than it was before the contract was signed.

Hound is clarifying that if he "has a contract", then it has more weight. My observation is that yes - if such a contract is somehow formally recognized by the Tribunal, then it counts as protection: but not because of the "loss of magical power" - but because the Tribunal has recognized the right to train apprentices (say, for a year) before actually opening up their Arts. The whole "vis lein = legal protection" is irrelevant, and unnecessary. If the Tribuanl OK's such an activity for Apprentice Agents (which they can do - Thebes is an example of a tribunal that has an alternate apprenticeship system), then you don't NEED such legal protection.

The caveat I could see on that is that if delivery is promised by the end of the season then you could argue that we have a special case of "I was waiting for a new season to start to open the arts"

I think this is indeed one case where you may indeed claim some "rights" on the child, and one where traditionally the decision (lacking some sort of agreement) is by Certamen. It's a bit like the case when two magi bump into each other while harvesting the same patch of magic mushrooms; there's no clear "first" and either some sort of agreement is made, or Certamen solves the issue.

But other than that, I agree with KevinSchultz. Pretty much all the examples in the books make it clear that you can't stake any rights on a Gifted child until you've formally taken him as an apprentice. Because you have no rights on him, you can't transfer any rights on him to anyone else.

Yes, there is the one edge case of "the season hasn't started yet - therefore there is no way to start the Opening of the Gifts yet" that could be argued. The phrase "with all due reasonable haste" I believe is used. As long as you have claimed the apprentice and are planning on opening his arts at the first available opportunity, then you're arguably covered. However, that edge case is protected by the fact that the magus has formally claimed the apprentice - there's no caveat for Agents delivering the child to a magus, who will then claim the apprentice.

However, if Agents had been OK'd by the Tribunal, then it would likely be reasonably covered.

And even if agents were only informally doing their job, the magus could claim "I sent my Agent to find an apprentice for me, and he was delivering the child to me before the first of the season." However, that's a bit more tenuous. I would agree that Certamen is probably a decent way to solve the issue... although a strict interpretation of the law still says "first formally claimed, first served."

Although an easy away around that is to have some sort of arcane connection to the Agent. When they find a child - do the formal claiming of the apprentice through the AC. THEN, the magus could argue that his apprentice was already claimed, and that they were simply waiting for the Season to start in order to begin Opening the Ways.

Or even just some form of limited power of attorney...?

KS summarized it well. And the most vocal parties (perhaps myself foremost) have qualified and modified their original positions as valid counter-points have been made.

Can anything, including a Gifted human (that is NOT an apprentice!), be claimed as "magical property", belonging to a mage? If so, candidati have been equated to property in canon...

Does the "Right of Claiming" override such a value or claim at any time, or do all canon citations only address the issue of "who has final claim on the child?", and none directly address the issue of whether a non-apprentice has innate value?

I admitted before - if this thread has clarified anything, it's that there is no simple single answer, not in canon nor (most probably) in the minds of any clear majority of magi.

And I believe the answer is "Gifted humans can only be claimed as magical property under the Code inasmuch as they are potential apprentices."

The implication being that otherwise, it's covered by the general laws relating individuals to their employers and/or liege lords and/or legal guardians, not the Code against Loss of Magical Power.

All canonical references that I am aware of are about the final claim. So, yes. If a magi kidnaps a Gifted Child, but doesn't claim them as an apprentice...then it is not covered by the "apprentice-snatching" clause. One of the books discusses that scenario (taking a Gifted individual, and using them only as a Lab Assistant - and the response is "anyone can claim them as an apprentice"...which again, loops back to the Apprentice Clause.) However - it seems that the apprentice clause is an "Active Defense" - you're acknowledging that what you just did (kidnapping) is normally outside the Code, but because you claimed them as an apprentice, it is permitted by the Code. (The modern versions of those are Self Defense and Insanity Defense.)

So if the activity of the kidnapping itself, if it is not covered by a Claiming? Then it falls under whatever rules against kidnapping there are. Is this the High Crime of Loss of Magical Power? Eh... I'd say not - no more than loosing a sodales to a murder, if they sometimes collaborated with you in the lab. You didn't loose your magical power - you lost access to someone else's magical power. Which might be enough justification to declare Wizard's War on the assassin - but not to claim Loss of Magical Power.

That being said: If the magus can legally say "that person belonged to me", and there was no Rite of Claiming - then I would say yes: it's loss of magical power, just as if you took their talisman. But slavery is illegal everywhere in the Order...except maybe in the Levant?

However, the immediate defense is "OK, I claim them as my apprentice." At which point there is no recourse. Or else someone else swoops in, and claims them as an apprentice - at which point neither of the magi have any recourse.

Thank you, that makes it crystal-clear.

Yeah, that's usually the case. And it comes down to how much political clout you need to sway the majority.

Ok this is something I'm having trouble understanding. Are you saying that the code of Hermes contains some form of contract law or wergild concept not connected to the provision on Magical Power. Or that there are general laws or statues in the code relating to kidnapping and "employment" relationships. Because my understanding of the code of Hermes is that it's authority is fairly limited in scope. That the Tribunals authority derives from, and all rulings must relate back to, the Hermetic Oath in some manner.

As a general legal principle you can't be said to legally own anything unless it is illegal for it to be taken from you. So I think the only property rights a Tribunal can actually defend (or some might say be bothered with) are those relating to Magical power. Whether it is a Magical Property or merely a mundane resource seams to determine if it's a high or Low crime. And no other relationships have value in Hermetic law unless they can find some provision of the Oath that encompasses them.

No, actually, it's not - at least not with regard to what The Code says, or supports. With regard to the actual vote, sure, anything and everything could be skewed with enough political influence - but that doesn't mean that vote is in line with The Code or precedent.

Can you give any citation for that "general legal principle", because I'm not familiar with it. That something is "legal" only if law has been passed against violation of it? So it's not legal to walk down a road, because it's not specifically illegal for anyone to simply stop them? That it's not legal to lock your door, because it's not specifically illegal to prevent a door from being locked?

I know in the US, the opposite is usually held to be true - that something is legal unless it's specifically illegal - not always the best case of affairs, and not historically relevant, but a clear counter-example to your "general principle".


An over-general statement, I believe. I bet a counter-example could be found without too much trouble. That's exactly what the Peripheral Code is about, the unexpected "holes" and exceptions in The Oath.

(Edit - and even before posting is cold, I've thought of one - Hermetic contracts outside The Oath, including but not limited to anything involving a Covenant Charter. Nothing in The Oath says a mage has to uphold their sworn word, nothing in The Oath about Covenants at all, yet those contracts seem to have (significant!) legal standing.)

When it comes to this particular example? Interference with Mundanes. Even if you aren't prosecuted for kidnapping (or murder) of a grog, or breaking a contract with someone under the Code - kidnapping and murder (and contract-breaking) is still illegal, and the local grogs can complain to their liege and/or the church about the whole thing. I'm guessing that's the clause that enforces the "let's obey the local laws" idea.

To bring it back around to Apprentice-snatching: it may be perfectly fine under the Code to take an apprentice, but if they're the heir of the local nobility who was studying under a particular magus, you'd better be sure it's not going to backfire on you before you snatch them up. Which, again - brings me back to the "so how DO you prevent a snatching? Hide them with the nobility, or the fairies, or the Church."

So - to argue against my own point: it's not loss of magical power that can prevent a snatching: it's the contract law of the mundane world that can. If you have an external contract to educate a child, and the child is taken from you, then (I would argue) it's up to the snatching magus to deal with the consequences of the fact that he, from a mundane perspective, just kidnapped someone. Not illegal under the Code, no: but he's going to have to use some nice mind-wipe spells, or pay someone off, or SOMETHING, in order to avoid bringing the local authority down on him.

EDIT - and to go with Hound's comment - the idea of "we shall obey local law whenever possible, as doing so reduces our likelihood of bringing down the mundane authorities upon our head" is probably in the Peripheral code in most, if not all, Tribunals.

Actually, it's part of The Oath itself, and an important one...

It's important to note that the prohibition in The Code is not against "interfering with the affairs of mundanes" - that would be nearly impossible to avoid for any mage who pokes his nose out of doors, and many who don't. (Note that it doesn't even specify that "magic" must be used - "interfere" is all it says.) Either way, how open ended is that?!

But fortunately, It's only illegal to "interfere in the affairs of mundanes and thereby bring ruin on my sodales" - that is the dealbreaker.

So it's not about the interference itself, so long as the mage doesn't get caught. Literally, in this case, if you don't get caught, it's not illegal. 8)

(Compare this to the section in The Oath about Faeries - that is a more absolute "just don't go there" prohibition.)