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Runners

In many lands, 'runners' are another name for 'footmen' (or footwomen, though traditionally it's a male job, as part of it was speed in running plus the ability to defend oneself against interception).

There are all kinds of personal messengers, and those jobs have changed over the years depending on where you are. Probably the most well-known designation for 'Runner' is the Marloven (and historically, the Marlovan) Runner.

Marlovans did not trust mages, who made no attempt to hide their attitude toward a people they considered barbarians and conquerors. On moving into Iascan lands, Marlovans had adopted their castles, their attitudes toward the cultivation of land, their language and many of their customs. They also adopted written language and the attitude toward preserving history. The Marlovans had abandoned writing when they were cast out by the Venn because Venn runes were associated with the Venn paradigm, which the Marlovans rejected. For a long time they were illiterate, preserving their history (shed of most Venn elements) through song.

But on the taking of Iasca Leror the advantages of writing were immediately clear, and here was a ready-made alphabet that had nothing to do with the now dimly remembered ex-homeland. However, because of the attitudes above, the Marlovans quarreled with the Mage Guild, the Heralds' Guild, and the Scribe Guild--all of them headquartered in Sartor, and all making certain kinds of demands before they would re-establish Guilds in Iasca Leror. The Montrei-Vayir government felt they were well rid of all of them (they considered them all spies for the former government), outside of getting the most basic magical needs met. Since the Mage Guild vowed that no human would go without the basic spells, this actually created a conflict when they eventually tried to boycott the Marlovans, and in fact this boycott is still considered a failure by Council scholars due to its consequences.

So, the Marlovans adapted swiftly, creating their own heralds and scribes. The Heralds were in charge of archives, the scribes were basically hired pens. The entire aspect of communication, once the province of both guilds, was shifted to the Runners, whose function already existed.

Runners were messengers, but to the plains Marlovans, without writing, messengers were crucial--and had to be trusted. Runners were trained to speak with the Voice of the sender, that is, to pronounce the message as given. They took an oath never to speak the message to anyone else but the designated recipient, on pain of death, and many Runners were in fact captured and tortured for their messages. Since most of them held out, it became an accepted fact that harassing Runners would not get you anything but grief, because once the interception was found out, the consequences were always dire. Nobody overlooked murdered Runners.

Runners were thus more than servants, though part of their duties were to see to the personal effects and daily care of their oath-holder. Marlovan personal effects were usually scanty--the job mostly entailing packing and unpacking camp gear, brushing coats, etc, dunking linens, etc, into ensorcelled buckets, drying, folding them. Seeing to weapons and horse gear. If the oath-holder was sufficiently important, Runners were numerous, and could even have their own Runners. Runners worked with stable hands seeing to the horses, and they had their own trails, stables, and animals, as Runners prided themselves on being fast. Runner trails thus crossed through the lands of various local governors, but were in effect invisible (and some of the roads were scarcely visible as trails); Runner seldom used the regular roads, which were maintained as part of oath duties by governors or by the king, and which were carefully constructed to observe borders, except for the three Great Roads that had existed before the Marlovans took over.

The Runners thus had their own map that lay over the map everyone else used. They had special privileges that no one else had, including Jarls and their heirs. They could be given an order in the King's Voice, which meant they took precedence over everybody else.

Runners finally were trained to defend their oath-holder, including in war. The words 'master' and 'mistress' are avoided here, because of the implication of social hierarchy. Runners were considered social equals: the Marlovan ranks were more military than social, and Runners had the right to sit at table with their oath-holders, they performed the same salute that Jarls and the military did, and they wore weapons. They just did not command.

Runners aspired to be chosen as King's or Queen's Runners. Both of these had access to the highest decision-making processes, and traveled all over the kingdom--even, sometimes, outside of it. They carried messages either in heir head or written, and relinquished the messages only to the designated recipient, and they did not gossip except among themselves. Rare was the incidence when someone learned personal tidbits from a Runner.

The Runners' functions gradually changed over the years, the most spectacular change being during the later years of the Montredaun-An "exile" before they regained kingship, for this is the period when Runners learned magic. There are two reasons behind this change: first, the Montredaun-Ans (Montredavan-An in those days) were not permitted to attain any rank but Runner, and also they were the first to gain access to magic. The family was extremely long-sighted, making certain that the magic that they demonstrated was in the form of small, useful sorts of spells, which not only eroded the distrust of the Montrei-Vayirs and Ola-Vayirs, but also the Mage Council. Thus, when the Montredaun-Ans regained the throne, they emerged with a complete communications network under their control (the Runners) plus the ability to take their place on the world stage as mage-kings.

Runners gradually lost their status as mages, during the violent changes afterward, and their duties also evolved, sometimes including military training and duties, other times not, depending on circumstances. But the great period of the Marlovan Runners was when the Montredaun-Ans ran them secretly, though the kings thought they did.

Runners could, and can, come from anywhere, though traditionally the Runners trained to deal with Jarls, Kings, and the upper ranks of the military were the third sons, the cousins, of Jarls, or the descendants of second sons. Both male and female served as Runners, and their training at the higher levels was always extremely rigorous. Runners in the early days were forbidden to marry, for no one wanted them torn between two loyalties, but when the Montredavan-Ans became Runners, that rule was relaxed.

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Page last modified on January 30, 2008, at 07:54 PM