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There is a queen - let us call her Eowyn. Eowyn rules her land well, with wisdom and justice, and all the lands under her prosper. Her people are happy, her castle and grounds are well-kept, and she has ruled in peace for thirty years.

But Eowyn is about to run into a very serious problem. You see, Eowyn knows nothing at all about magic. This has never been a problem for her, or anyone else, before! It is a novel situation for all concerned. For three hundred years, there has been no magic in the world, and so no one understood it; there was nothing to learn or understand. But two years ago, on a brisk autumn evening, a brave, clever, and honorable young page stumbled across a secret cabal who were involved in a dark conspiracy.

He was drawn, not entirely by choice, into an epic and noble quest to stop the evil conspirators from conquering the world with their secret powers. After several seasons of earth-shaking battles, mysterious shadows, break-neck races across steep and terrible cliffs by a sliver of moonlight, and general acts of heroism, the young protagonist and his companions managed to save the kingdom, and the world - and, in the process of doing so, overturned an age-old curse that had befallen the land three hundred years prior.

The young hero and his friends were, of course, rewarded handsomely for their troubles and their triumphs, and ballads regaling their adventures were sung across the lands. The kingdom returned to its normal peaceful state. But in private, Eowyn gathered her advisors in closed chambers. In the lull, things were quite smooth, and people were happy - the advent had changed very little, it seemed. But Eowyn knew this would not last. The laws governing magic had long been forgotten, or very nearly so. In ages past, the ruler of any land would have sorcerors about them, as many and as highly regarded as the other counsellors. But as magic disappeared from the world, those traditions had fallen into disuse, and the tomes and proclamations that reasoned out the relationship of magic with the law and court and people were deeply buried in forgotten shelves of ancient libraries, and their dialects archaic and arcane, difficult for any but the most learned scholars to decipher.

This was clearly an urgent problem, and none had a clear solution. It was decided, at the least, that those scholars who claimed to understand the ancient tomes should be brought to the palace, and that they should be paid by the crown to devise new books, in the modern dialect, to instruct the public and their monarch. The state of affairs could not continue - a queen who ruled a land of magic should not be ignorant in the matter herself.

And so it was that in the late summer of that year, as the harvest began to be taken, the travelers came from all across the land, converging on the palace as one. They came in dusty, road-worn clothes, and in horse-drawn finery; as lone riders, taking dangerous roads in search of speed; in caravans of convenience, working or paying their way along with the merchants; with bags filled to bursting with notes and books, and with ink spattering their skin from head to toe. By the time the first frost had begun to crackle on the towers of Eowyn's gardens, the libraries were bustling.

We shall join her there, on the eve of the first frost, as she confides in her vizier, whose wisdom in her reign thus far has been invaluable.

***

"At least half of them are imbeciles."

Darius smiled and tapped his pipe. "I'm not denying that, Eowyn. We shall have to put some sort of test; those who pass will be

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thulcandran

May 2013

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