The Structure of Magus Court

1 Mar

Just a few notes for future stories …

The Structure of Magus Court

In theory, the City of Shallot is a democracy. In practice, it’s a little more murky.

The population is not divided up by districts, but ‘families’ – a term that is no longer literally true for anyone outside the Houses and Great Houses themselves. The Potions Guild, for example, is a ‘family’ even though most of its members are not, in any sense of the term, blood relations. A person can hold memberships in several different families at the same time, although – obviously – the value of these memberships tends to change. A Potions Master, for example, might be a member of the Potions Guild, the Merchants Guild and the Landowners Guild, all of which come with a vote in family affairs.

These votes are of different values. There are a relatively small number of full-fledged potioneers in Shallot, so each voter within the guild carries considerable sway. On the other hand, there are thousands of merchants in Shallot, so a single vote within the Merchants Guild is worth relatively little. (That doesn’t mean it isn’t important.) The blending between the different families provides considerable mileage for the patron-client networking that makes up most of the city’s social structure. What we would call nepotism and blatant corruption is simply a fact of life. There is nothing wrong, as far as the city is concerned, about a father helping his son’s career – indeed, people might be more concerned if he wasn’t.

Each ‘family’ has the right to elect its representative however it wishes. The Great Houses, for example, generally grant the position to the Patriarch. (If the family has a right to more than one seat in Magus Court, the infighting over who gets the second seat is a sight to behold.) The guilds generally elect their representatives, following their own individual rules. Again, the value of a vote tends to rise and fall based on the number of voters involved. The Dockworkers Guild has so many members that their votes are almost completely diluted.) Other trades, particularly the illegal ones, don’t have guilds and therefore don’t have any representation on Magus Court.

There are one hundred seats in Magus Court. Thirty of them, more or less, belong to the Great Houses. (A House is said to lose everything when it loses its seat, if only because possessing a seat gives them an edge in city politics.) The remainder are distributed amongst the guilds and other such institutions. In theory, this gives them the power to bring the Great Houses to heel; in practice, the patronage networks ensure that the Great Houses rarely have to face a concentrated challenge from the remainder of Magus Court. (The representative from the Potions Guild was selected, at least in part, because he had strong ties to House Ruben). That said, the Great Houses can never take their dominance for granted. They have to work with the rest of the Court if they want to get anything done.

Each year, three officials are selected to manage the court. The Speaker is selected by the courtiers himself – he is, almost always, someone from a family lucky enough to possess two seats. By custom, the Speaker cannot cast a vote if, by doing so, it would result in a tie (which is why the post, for all of its glory, is seen as a poisoned chalice). The two Arbiters are the real heads of state, doing everything from leading discussions, sitting in judgement and proposing laws. They are selected by the guilds themselves in a reasonably free election – although there is normally a great deal of backroom dealing – and serve for each year before retiring to the backbenches of politics. The post carries a great deal of prestige and, unsurprisingly, the competition during elections is savage.

Below Magus Court itself, there are a handful of basic bureaucracies that handle public services within the city. Most of them are run by careerists, although that doesn’t mean they are inefficient. (An inefficient bureaucrat would probably be replaced very quickly, once resentment started to build.) If nothing else, the posts are excellent places to build a patronage network. The Arbiters are responsible for overseeing the departments, as well as everything else.

Technically, every representative is supposed to serve as a judge during legal cases. In practice, the duties are normally dumped on the bureaucrats. Magus Court can and does hear cases when the stakes are high – treason, for example – but that is relatively rare as it would be effectively an act of state. If the defendant was found guilty, there would be no recourse and no appeal.

5 Responses to “The Structure of Magus Court”

  1. G March 2, 2019 at 3:32 am #

    Any idea when the next SIM novel will be released??

    • George Phillies March 2, 2019 at 5:35 am #

      Surely this is the equally wonderful Zero series?

      A very clever legal structure. Isn’t there also a king someplace? Does he have any say in this?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 2, 2019 at 4:06 pm #

        There is a King but likely has “less say” in this than he likes. 😀

  2. Carla March 7, 2019 at 3:52 am #

    I hope you are feeling much better. The concept sounds intriguing although I am too in love with the schooled in magic universe to get equally excited by another

  3. CARL RHODES March 9, 2019 at 6:20 pm #

    This would be a good baseline for a story, or background to expand the “Schooled in Magic” universe. maybe one that shows how the two main families are forced to work together. Distrust, but working to build a new future while the crown is trying to find a way to gain more power over the magical families, and Guilds? maybe force a trial of the Gordon?

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