Makin’ the Law, Makin’ the Law

Posted in Feature on May 3, 2006

By Matt Cavotta

Matt has worn many wizard hats in the 18 years he has worked on Magic—art-mage, logomancer, lightning bard, and (of course) Planeswalker.

Prahv, where much work is done to make sure nothing is accomplished.

Many years ago, Ravnican citizens both guilded and unguilded began to have problems with some of the big, uncivilized creatures with whom they shared their cramped city streets. Enough momentum was gained through the influence of Orzhov business and Simic interests that the Azorius Senate set out to create a new law (which turned out to be, in grand overblown Azorius fashion, a long list of related laws) that would help deal with the problem. Though the Senate does not need approval of other guilds to make law, it often considers the requests of guilds in order to build political capital. Other than the Orzhov, the Azorius are the most interested in jockeying for power and influence among the 10 guilds.

Rakdos Pit DragonIndrik Stomphowler
UrsapineGate Hound

In the case of strange beasts roving unrestrained and unregistered through the streets, there was plenty of support from the Boros, Orzhov, and Simic to make it a shoe in. After a few short years (short in terms of how long the Azorius normally take to inform, lecture, lobby, and stonewall each other) the Ravnican “Leash Laws” were put to scrolls. The short and sweet of these laws was that any “pets” that were registered as a citizen’s property had to be restrained either physically or Dream Leash while out in public. Of course, there were countless other sub-laws and sub-subsection addenda to laws that dealt with the nature of said restraints and the mountain of paperwork necessary to actually declare another being one’s “pet.” But, to most regular citizens, the Leash laws just meant that you had to keep Scruffy on a string.

Once the new law is made, it becomes the duty of the Azorius to make the new laws known to the public. When this demand was placed upon the guild way back at the beginning, it did not seem like such a big deal. But now, with people spread across the entire plane and down deep into the undercity, this sort of announcement has become more difficult. After decades of poor communication of new laws, and a glut of cases being heard with defendants not even knowing about the laws that were broken, Grand Arbiter Augustin I instituted the Skyscribing policy. This policy authorized the one-time only use of mind penetration magic that would essentially “broadcast” new laws to all living citizens through a magical script written into the sky. The wonderful thing about this technique is that the hustling, bustling (and illiterate) citizenry does not need to take the time to learn the new laws. (Another byproduct of this, which makes the Azorius happy, but no one else, is that now there is nothing keeping them from making every law they can imagine, as well as laws that fit only on scrolls two miles long.) Still, it has proven to be a resounding success, and also a great responsibility. Other guilds have been angling to get their hands on this mind-penetration magic since Augustin I created it. In the hands of any guild other than the Azorius, this power would lead definitely lead to trouble.

Tuudgrit tried to sign the guest ledger with his own pen so it’s a fat dose of “P.P.I.A. Vol. III” for ol’ Tuudgrit.

While making the law is a long, drawn out process, enforcing it is, well, long and drawn out too. The Azorius are not the sort to skip over protocol or speed things along or really anything that does not involve full implementation of the written processes or the dotting of all i’s and crossing of all t’s with the official i and t scripting stylus as described in “Processes and Procedures, Implements and Accoutrements Of, Volume III.”

In the present day, laws are broken all the time. Skyscribing or not, people are bound to slip up or just go bad. The Azorius are busy with these cases each and every day of the year, except for official holidays (when most of them are deep in the bowels of Prahv anyway, poring over dusty old scrolls anyway. The Azorius are not known for cuttin’ loose at parties.)

Take the Leash Laws, for example. Just a short three and a half years ago (again, short only to the Azorius) Igort Uriklatz was arrested by Boros Legionnaires for Disturbing Commerce and breaking the Leash Laws. One of his many registered pets, in this case an Ogre, broke free of his restraint and rumbled out the door and through the streets - tipping over Orzhov merchant carts and trouncing Selesnyan Cryers. It rampaged for a short while until it was easily handled by Boros officers. They traced the blood and wreckage back to Igort’s home. There, they secured the secondary crime scene and signaled for a Sky Hussar patrol.

When a Sky Hussar arrives on the scene, it is prepared to do the job alone, but is most often accompanied by a processing host consisting of Azorius First-Wing or Second Wing units. In the case of Igort Uriklatz, the wing team of Sky Hussars arrived without aid. As always, they appeared in crisp formation, dismounting with a snap of the cape, armor gleaming in the sun.

Ocular Halo
Nothing falls through the cracks when scrollwardens “Don the Eyes.”

They extended no pleasantries to their partners in law and order, the Boros, but immediately launched into the long pre-transfer recital of arrest to trial protocol. That takes about a half an hour, during which the trigger-happy Boros usually split as soon as the Azorius takes his first breath, (and you’d be surprised how long they can blather without stopping.) Once the arrest documentation and evidence scrolls are accounted for, the crime scene is turned over to scrollwardens to add more paperwork to the file and to go over the minutiae with Azorius precision. (Boros hotheads cannot possibly be trusted to thoroughly document the crime scene.)

The detainee is brought immediately to the lower levels of Prahv where he will be turned over to the Court Hussars, the wardens of the guildhall grounds. A similar transfer speech takes place- even though the Sky and Court Hussars each know the whole thing backwards and forwards and in their sleep. The Azorius follow the rules to the T, no matter how inefficient the rules may seem.

The detainee is then taken into the underchambers and put into a Stasis Cell by Prahv detention mages.

An interesting thing happens next (though it has nothing to do with the law.) Whenever an Azorius guildmember finishes up involvement in an arrest or detention process, he or she immediately performs the cleansing rituals as stipulated by “Processes and Procedures, Dress and Etiquette, Volume I.” As Azorius guildmembers see themselves as living extensions of the law, any guild member who comes in contact with outlaws or even alleged law breakers must then wipe away “the taint of impropriety, the stain of lawlessness,” - P.P.D.E. Vol. I. This cleansing procedure involves magical methods as well as good old fashioned soap and elbow grease. “…the Law is perfect, clean and precise. And so shall you be.” - P.P.D.E. Vol. I.

While Mr. Spiffy spitshines his breastplate, Igort remains in stasis until a lawmage is appointed to him and all the evidence is processed through all the proper channels. It’s a good thing that the Azorius are so thorough with their documentation, and that the Stasis Cell keeps the detainee from aging, because it takes so much time to weave and wind through all the Azorius pre-trial bureaucracy that witnesses forget what happened, crime scenes are ruined by Helldozers, and arresting officers often pass of old age.

When the trial is finally ready to begin, the courtroom is quieted by Prahvian Paladins and the Minister of Impediments opens the trial with a reading of the protocol of the courtroom (in its entirety), the list of allegations, the laws that were broken by the accused (in their entirety) and then the pre-presentation list of evidence. Some days later, the presiding Senator and his or her appointed sub-attorneys and guildmages enter and the trial itself begins. Those who have not dozed off or contemplated suicide or fled screaming in mind-numbed horror to the nearest bumbat hole rise, repeat an oath of procedure after the Minister of Impediments, and then sit down to an Azorius treat that could last years- and that’s just for minor infractions (like that of Igort Uriklatz (thank goodness, for our sake.)

The courtroom clicks with the crisp rhythmic monotony of Azorius bloviation. Igort feels like this is his sentence, not his trial. Things are not going well for him, though he does not know it. The Azorius speak with such arcane legal jargon that they could be discussing this weekend’s NFL draft and nobody would know but them. But they would never do that, because this is a court of law and there is hardly enough time before the Dodecimillennial just to talk about the Leash Laws. (The Dodecimmillennial, for those without a Ravnican calendar handy, is only nine-thousand, nine-hundred eighty-something years from now.)

The dronery is broken some months later when Igort is finally called to testify. He is placed in the verity circle, an area that is enchanted with truth magic that will not allow lies to be spoken. It is quite effective in that one may believe that he is saving his butt with a finely planned lie, but in reality he is reciting the poetry of his own guilt. Understanding of the verity circle has trickled out to the rest of society, so now people rarely try to “beat the system.” Instead they try to leverage any law that would allow them to keep their own mouth shut. Unfortunately, Igort had not heard of it before and has dug himself into a pretty deep hole.

Every time he opens his mouth, he brings up another rule he has broken. The Walking Archives amble in and out of the courtroom, providing documentation relating to each infraction Igort mentions.

While Igort is busy dooming himself and his lawmage is slumped over in defeat, the courtroom begins to buzz and murmurs break the silence in the gallery. The Soulsworn Jury have entered the courtroom. To those in the know, this can only mean one thing; the Grand Arbiter Augustin IV is coming. In Prahv there are many trials going on concurrently, and the Grand Arbiter presides only over those of greatest import. When such a trial is not in session, he and his Soulsworn move from one trial to the other, “laying down the law.” While most Azorius impress each other with how longwinded they can be, Augustin IV and his disciples pride themselves on brevity and decisiveness.

Swift Silence
“This world may not know peace, but in my presence you will know quiet.”
—Augustin IV

Grand Arbiter Augustin IV enters the room on his floating bench. The proceedings halt and, finally, the steady stream of talk ceases. “I have heard enough,” he says. “Guilty.” The courtroom erupts. The gallery cheers, the lawmages resume their argumentative tone, and Igort goes nuts. Not thinking, he screams out “Due process! Due process!” Voices from the gallery can be heard yelling “Oh god, please no!” The place is out of control.

“Silence!” Booms the imperious voice of the Grand Arbiter, and then there is nothing. “This trial shall move to sentencing, now.”

Igort glares at his lawmage, nudging him and gesturing for him to do something. The silence spell dissipates. In a half-hearted attempt to please his client, the lawmage raises an objection to the decision, “Your Honor, statute 12B of the Porcedural Code states tha-“

Overruled!” The lawmage is immediately shut down by the Grand Arbiter. The lawmage feels like a child who was just scolded by an angry parent. Beneath the humiliation, however, lies a deep-seated pride that he is part of the guild that follows such a stern, powerful guildmaster. His utter defeat reminds him of the clear-cut perfection of the law, and of the power it extends to those who follow it.

The Grand Arbiter and the Soulsworn breeze silently from the room. Once they are gone, the court officials bustle about, quickly rearranging the trial scene to that of a sentencing. All seats and signets and guards and recorders must be positioned as laid out in “Processes and Procedures, the Courtrooms of Prahv”, Volumes I, II, III, IV, and V. Once the room is properly arranged, the sentencing hearing begins. It is as if the very aura of the Grand Arbiter still lingers, or perhaps it is his show of power and decisiveness that has rubbed off on the lawmages in the room. Something has happened because the sentencing hearing takes only four and a half weeks! When it all shakes out, Igort is fined, all 22 of his pets are confiscated and turned over to the Simic for “care,” and his Non-citizen Domestication license is revoked permanently. He is crushed. “Be happy you escaped imprisonment,” his lawmage tells him. It does not make Igort feel any better. The entire process ends with the room rising to its feet, facing the great Azorius signet upon the wall behind the judge, and reciting “The Oath of Life and Law” as it was first uttered and recorded by Grand Arbiter Azor I, the parun of the Azorius guild. This takes several hours. Apparently, Igort’s sentence also includes a few hours of torture as well.

It is a gloomy, lonely scene when Igort returns home. His “friends” are already gone. He cannot bring himself to think of what horrible things the Simic are going to do to them. He is weak-minded, and can’t help but imagine his Drekavac’s head stuck on his Ursapine’s body. He cringes. “Stupid laws,” he says to himself. Then he notices that they took all the animals, but left all the leashes. “Sure, rub it in why don’t you. Stupid Leash Laws!” For months Igort stews in his loneliness. But necessity breeds invention, and Igort needs companionship. He pulls himself up by his bootstraps, gathers his thoughts, his cash, and some items from the house and sets out to find an Izzet. He has an idea.

Constructed of leather and irony.

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