Here’s something about a few things which cropped up in the short story Wing-Taker, namely the royal compacts, the Baubles and the fate of rogue magicians. Enjoy.
The Royal Commission of Sorcery and the Baubles
One constant issue for all states that end up relying on magic for prop themselves up is to avoid being enslaved by sorcerers. Granted, that hasn’t happened for a long time in human history, but still, no state wants to end up serving those that initially served it. Since the Swedish Empire has a grand total of three Schools directly serving it, more than any other state, issues of sorcery have been on the minds of the swedish monarchs for a long time.
Queen Christina founded the Royal Commission of Sorcery to deal with matters relating both to the Schools and sorcery in general. While there has never been a witch craze in Sweden, owing to the widespread use of magic in general, sometimes hedge wizards are persecuted out of ignorance and fear, especially when natural disaster strikes. Queen Christina found this unpleasant and thought that the state should put an end to it.
The Royal Commission of Sorcery is headed by the Councillor of Sorcery who also serves on the Crown Council. The current Councillor is count Per Brahe, one of the richest men in the Empire and a free thinker. On the council, there are ambassadors from four Schools: the Dragon Speakers, the Winged Wizards of Gotland, the Wizards of the Green and the Priesthood of Bifrost. They are allowed to speak to the commission but aren’t allowed to join the decision-making. In addition to them and count Brahe, there is a handful of lawyers, academicians and judges.
One of the most important jobs of the Council is investigation of cases where a member of a School has broken the terms of the compact they hold with the Crown. The Priesthood of Bifrost, the Dragon Speakers and the Winged Wizards are all bound by compacts to never serve another crown, not even indirectly. The penalty for this is death in all cases. The Schools are mandated to hand over such cases for deliberation to the Council, and if the Council finds that someone has broken the compact, the Council grants the School freedom to carry out the punishment. Often this requires the School to hire someone to take care of the issue. The practical-minded Winged Wizards of Gotland employ so called Schoolmen, non-wizards who kill any Winged Wizard who breaches the compact.
Count Brahe sometimes lets people go if the breach of the compact has been done by mistake, in which case the School is still allowed to carry out any form of punishment they want, apart from corporal punishment and capital punishment. This does not happen very often though: breaching the compact is the most serious offense a wizard can commit. People have managed to burn others alive with magic and only get fined for it, but breach the compact and you are dead.
One task that the Commission of Sorcery has also undertaken is the investigation into counterspells and magic-inhibiting artifacts. This has brought to wider attention the potential of certain mysterious artifacts that are only known as Baubles.
The Baubles are spheres pitted with symmetrical holes. They weight a decent bit since they’re made out of a metal-like substance and as far as anyone knows, they’re virtually unbreakable. They emit a certain anti-magical field which disrupts magic to a certain degree. Their main function, though, is that they can kill a wizard by simple contact. At least some Schoolmen are in possession of Baubles which they mount on arrows to slay winged wizards in flight. A wizard who comes into contact with a Bauble takes absolutely horrible wounds, because the Baubles seem to melt, liquiefy and turn flesh into salt on contact. As long as there’s enough motion behind one, it will pierce someone’s body easily.
The Commission retained the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe to carry out research on the subject. It’s best to not think about what Tycho Brahe actually did, but according to his study, only extremely thick gloves or clothes allow a wizard to handle a Bauble. For some reason, it will go through thin clothes without issue.
The Baubles also don’t react on everyone who can use magic. Apparently, the damaging effect only triggers when it comes in contact with someone who has gone through Transformation or knows higher magics. Tycho Brahe’s conclusion is that the Baubles have been designed both as a defensive tool against magic and as an offensive tool.
If there would be more Baubles around, it would change the dynamics of sorcery to a significant degree and end the edge that Sweden now has over its neighbors. However, Baubles are quite rare: there are only about five hundred known Baubles in existence, mostly in the hands of rich nobles and merchants who want some magical defense. The Winged Wizards own three Baubles, the Danish Crown has bought up around fifteen and the Royal Commission has their hands on twenty.
If someone could find the origin of the Baubles and get their hands on more of them, it would be a world-changing event.