The Canons of Conduct

The Osmeri policy towards magic-wielders has always been very dogmatic. There are only two, mutually very exclusive, positions: either one is an Academy guildmage, or a target for termination. At a glance, it would seem that guildmages have an easier time, as they do not live under constant threat and fear of discovery and reprisal. But the cost for solace is very high. Immediately upon induction into the Academy, guildmages have to sign with magic and their own blood the Canons of Conduct. The Canons are a long, stern list of commandments that, as many a magical dissident would have yelled, is signing away one’s free will. This life-long contract cannot be breached in any shape or form, for there is only one punishment available: excommunication and, as a known non-member, persecution until death. No mercy or no attenuation exists, only implacable retribution.

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The Canons use some of the oldest magic known to Academy practitioners, one that has been studied for many millennia. The blood and magic invocations bond – quite literally burning – the commandments on the skin of the newly inducted. While its glyphs remain hidden from sight, they will perk up rapid and brutally once a potential breach is felt. Any attempt to go against the contract will cause a flare up, the magic vow scorching the would-be oathbreaker’s body. The tormented soul feels their skin boil and crackle like a burning parchment. The smell of their smoldering flesh becomes intoxicating, with bitter sulfurous taste flooding the mouth, choking. Their eyes see the fires of reckoning shining blindingly, engulfing and melting them. Their bodies contort and twist beyond possible. Their brain feels every inch of their being shatter under the pressure. Again, and again, and again. Wave after waves of pain “help” remember where loyalties should lie. This educational reinforcement (using Academy terms) acts even if not going willfully against the code. If the caster has been bewitched or is being magically forced to betray the Academy, its continuous transgression will eventually kill the mage. Indeed, true free-will is not a commodity the Canons allow.

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As much of a cornerstone as they are, the Canons have seen many developments, many new inceptions. Most revolve around new clauses, editing old ones to make them both more encompassing and more generic (meaning, more restrictive), and finding ways to make that enchantment (or curse?) even harder to dispell. While a degree of sadism has to be involved in developing these rules, it is fully promoted by the Academy’s dread of a repetition of the horrors of the Second Age. And not all Osmeri leaders are nefarious. A more progressive conclave, during later days of the Third Age, decided to change the cantrips involved in the binding. Punishment became exclusively sensorial, without any physical sequelae. The underlying rationale was to treat their own guildmages in a more human fashion, and avoided the exclusion of evokers that had visible brands of their shortcomings. Unruly voices retorted spitefully that having too many branded leaders was the true reason. But are more recent Conclave has decided too much rein had been given, and took away elsewhere to keep the balance. Mid-Fourth Age, the conclave decided that openly questioning the Doyens’ wisdom was not enough. Since, all Academy students’ hypothetical meandering of the mind that asked a wrong “what if” would be met with a magical rebuttal.

The chains of the contract keep most dissidents in line. However, the Academy’s biggest fear is when enchanters manage to break the Canon’s shackles. Notwithstanding being a rare occurrence, some very strong can achieve such dreadful feat or disentangling bodies and minds from the castration that are the Canons. While the Savants at the University have not been able to make the Canons completely unbreakable, they have managed to cast a really nasty curse, destined exclusively to those who break free from the contract. On the moment of disruption, the breaking of the ethereal seals send waves that reverberate along the world. Those sensible to its presence hear it, feel it, as like a bright light in the night. The Academy then marshals its Justiciars and Menders to meet a threat that needs to be tackled swiftly and without pity. Out of all those the Academy’s hit-men hunt, none are more hated or feared than the Canon-breakers. The first, for having betrayed their families, their guilds, their covenants, and themselves. The latter, for having the raw power to survive doing it.
Below are a few clauses that illustrate the complexity and the strict nature of the Canons:

Failure to comply in full with any of the clauses in the Canons, be it deliberate or not, with result in the excommunication of the Academy and revocation of any magic-wielding privilege;
Upon induction into the Academy, guild members must forsake any allegiances to family, race, country, clan, and any organization, institution or group that would cause a conflict of interest with the Academy’s directives;
Guild members must report any infant displaying magical potential as per (…) to the Academy without exception within a swift period time;
Guild members are required, when in contact with unaligned magic wielder, to either [subdue and convert the unaligned magic wielder] (…), or terminate their life if conversion is not possible;
Any research performed in any field of magic and/or that involves any sort of magical manipulation and/or experimentation requires the approval of the Committee of Magical Research, (…) with mandatory updates to be filed with a periodicity of no longer than six months.

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