Encyclopaedia Arcana #42: Master and Apprentice (Part One)

The master-apprentice relationship has been at the core of mage society for a long time.  It’s the way in which new mages are trained, and the way in which the culture and knowledge of magical society is passed down to the next generation.  The system is very, very old, and has survived in varying forms for thousands of years.

The Basics

An apprenticeship is a contract made between two parties:  the master, and the apprentice.  The exact form and content of the contract depends on the apprentice and the master (mostly the master) but at the time of writing in modern Britain, the “standard” apprenticeship contract has become the one used in the Light apprenticeship system.

A Light apprenticeship is voluntary.  The master must agree to take on the apprentice, and the apprentice must agree to enter the service of the master.  The Light Council traditionally requires two mages in good standing to witness the apprenticeship for it to be deemed valid, as well as a second to put forward the apprentice’s name, although in practice only the most legalistic of mages would consider this a sticking point.  If the apprentice is very young, the consent of a parent or guardian may be required.

Like all contracts, the Light apprentice agreement involves consideration from both parties.  The consideration from the apprentice is obedience, labour, and allegiance;  the consideration from the master is instruction, support, and responsibility.

Apprentice Obligations

Obedience:  A Light apprentice is under the legal authority of their master, i.e. they have to do as they’re told.  There are limits:  a master can’t order their apprentice to violate the Concord, go against the Council, or do anything else blatantly illegal, but for the most part, what the master says goes.  In theory an apprentice’s obedience isn’t expected to extend to things not involving their apprenticeship, but this isn’t actually spelt out in the contract and masters can define an apprenticeship pretty broadly if they want to.

Labour:  A Light apprentice is expected to work.  They have studies, for a start – apprentices get classwork and homework just like regular schoolchildren do, although the material does tend to be a little more interesting.  However, on top of that, apprentices also get pushed into the role of magical assistant, ingredient gatherer, messenger, intelligence provider, housekeeper, lab tech, janitor, cook, gofer, and just about everything else – basically, if a mage wants something done, it’s a good bet that an apprentice will end up doing it.  Reasons for this are varied, ranging from a desire to put sensitive jobs in the hands of a trusted subordinate, the belief that work builds character, or the simple bloody-minded attitude that the master had to do dog-work when he was younger and the next generation shouldn’t have it any easier.

Allegiance:  Finally, a Light apprentice is required to serve his master’s interests.  This is the most nebulous and the least clearly defined of the apprentice’s responsibilities.  In crude terms, the apprentice is supposed to be on the master’s side – work to their benefit, avoid doing anything that would be against their long-term goals, and act in their best interests.  Vague though it is, this duty is considered perhaps the most important of all, at least by masters.  A disobedient or lazy apprentice is a nuisance;  a disloyal one is a menace.

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