Encyclopaedia Arcana #43: Master and Apprentice (Part Two)

Part One of this article covered a Light apprentice’s obligations under a standard Light apprenticeship:  this second part will cover the master’s responsibilities.  

Master Obligations

Instruction:  The first and most basic obligation of a master is to train his apprentice.  This can take the form of one-on-one tuition with the master or with other mages, or participation in larger classes.  For Light mages (and for many independents) it’s taken for granted that the apprentice will be enrolled in the Light apprentice program.  Masters may take training more or less seriously, but it’s rare for a master not to put serious effort into it.  An apprentice’s skill is a reflection on the master, and an incompetent apprentice is a major embarrassment to their teacher.

Support:  In a lot of ways being a master is similar to being a parent, and just like a parent a master is expected to provide their apprentice with food, shelter, care, and so on.  The way masters deal with this particular responsibility varies.  It’s common for masters to take apprentices into their household and give them a room in the master’s home – this saves on rent and has the advantage of placing the apprentice where the master can keep an eye on them.  Masters who place a higher value on their privacy (or who just don’t want the apprentice underfoot) will put their apprentice up in a flat somewhere.  Other lodging options include shared apprentice accommodation, for the apprentice to carry on living with their parents (common for very young apprentices, or those that were already family friends), Council-owned property, or even a place in the mage’s personal shadow realm.

Responsibility:  A Light master is legally responsible for the actions of their apprentice – if their apprentice breaks something and can’t pay for it (which they usually won’t be able to) it’s the master who has to foot the bill.  This, more than anything else, is why masters are careful who they take on.  Simple property damage or financial loss is easy enough for a master to fix (a mage taking on an apprentice is unlikely to be poor) but serious crimes and breaches of the Concord can get a master in very serious trouble.

Balance of Power

Although a Light apprentice is free to decide whether or not to accept the apprentice contract, once they’ve actually signed up then the scales of power are weighted heavily in favour of the master.  As long as a master fulfils his obligations, he’s free to treat his apprentice pretty much however he wants.  On the positive side, it’s very rare for masters to shirk their teaching duties – there’s little point in having an apprentice if you don’t train them.  However, it’s common for masters to use their apprentices for cheap labour and dangerous tasks, and cases of outright abuse are far from unknown.

An apprentice who feels they are being mistreated by their master doesn’t have many options.  They can put up with it, they can run away, or they can approach the Council to have the apprenticeship dissolved.

Divorce Proceedings

To dissolve an apprenticeship, the apprentice (or other petitioner) must prove to the satisfaction of a Council court that the master has failed to fulfil his obligations under the apprentice contract or has otherwise acted unacceptably.  The master can oppose the motion (in which case it’ll be his word against the apprentice’s) but doing so means that the master’s dirty laundry will be aired in a highly public way.  In practice, a master will rarely oppose a dissolution:  it involves too great a loss of face, and an apprentice not loyal to their master (and who is known not to be loyal to their master) is a liability.

If the apprentice just runs and hides, then the apprenticeship is still considered legally binding, meaning the master still has authority over the apprentice (although whether he can actually do anything about it is another matter).  In either case, the apprentice will have great difficulty finding another master afterwards.  As a result, most apprentices unhappy with their master choose in the end to stay.  Having a harsh master is bad, but having no master at all can be worse.

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One Response to Encyclopaedia Arcana #43: Master and Apprentice (Part Two)

  1. Locnil says:

    Something that crossed my mind, when I was reading Ars Magica – if a master is responsible for everything their apprentice does, does that mean if an apprentice succeeds in killing the master, it’s considered to be a suicide?

    Incidentally, when developing the Dark mages, was House Tytalus from Ars Magica/Mage the Ascension an inspiration? I understand that their philosophy isn’t anything new, but still.