Sythyry (sythyry) wrote,

An Essay On Patronage [7 Thory 4385]

Originally published at Sythyry. Please leave any comments there.

Being a patron is sort being a noble, except that you didn’t have the dignity
or money or standing or whatever to buy an actual title, and you have no
actual authority or power. Briefly, the arrangement is: the patron takes some
responsibility for the lives and fortunes of zir clients. In exchange, the
clients supply doom when the patron is running short support
the patron’s pretensions, form the most loyal and active core of zir faction,
and generally make some attempt to be helpful, gracious, agreeable, or

Some patrons in Vheshrame include:

  1. A powerful guildmaster (the Couturier’s Guild’s current master) vis-a-vis
    the journeymen and younger masters in the guild.
  2. A Khtsoyis crime lord vis-a-vis members of their organization.
  3. A powerful professor vis-a-vis their senior students.
  4. A particular rich master-carpenter vis-a-vis the people who work in her
    shop, and a collection of other less well-off friends. (She lives not far
    from Castle Wrong.)
  5. Baron Heavigang, vis-a-vis a pretty random collection of friends
  6. Me, vis-a-vis the wrongfolk

Clients and Employees and Subjects and Friends

Clients are people who have a patron. Most of the crew
of Strayway are my clients. Mostly I pay salaries or allowances to my
clients, or provide other things — serious health-related spellwork for one,
temporary or permanant housing for many, loans, whatever is needful. We do not
have formal arrangements generally.

Employees are people whom I pay a salary for and with whom I have a
contract. On Strayway, this is: Grinwipey, Kantele, Rheng, and
Windigar. I have a lot more control over employees than I do over clients. I
could, in principle, fire Grinwipey based on whatever the contract says, which
I would have to ask Kantele about. (Firing Kantele would be difficult.)

(Phaniet is not an employee, though I pay her more than anybody. The exact
duties of a wizard’s assistant are not, in all cases, something that one wants
to commit to writing. (My translator wants me to explain that bit of innuendo.
One duty of a wizard’s assistant is to ensure that the wizard has enough cley
for zir workings. It is possible that this could involve the assistant
donating her own cley — of course this never happens to me — or even,
should her supply be insufficient, find some elsewhere somehow. And supplying
cley to others professionally is somewhat less dignified and respectable than
prostitution, on the World Tree.))

Indentured Servants I have described elsewhere. These are the people I
could really order around, and whom I am very much obliged to protect.
Currently this is Blenny, Este, and Umbers. I could have ordered Este
to try to seduce Totalie, though that is not recommended practice and he would
not be required to obey.

Subjects are the subordinates of a noble. I don’t have any, not
exactly being a noble. A nobles’ subjects are more likely to be cooperative
than a patron’s clients, but far less than a typical indentured servant.

Friends: I do hope you know what friendship means. More or less
everyone on board, except the stowaways, is a friend. With only a few
exceptions, they would not be my clients if they were not friends.


The actual authority of a noble over zir subjects is only moderate.
I’ve been a family friend of the counts of Gloun for most of my life. Every
once in a while they want to do something substantial with their estate –
Levande Gloun wanted to move a village closer to the highway and open an inn
and recreational spot. Her villagers refused. The debate went on for over a
year, and, ultimately, the villagers won. (Levande, with her own money, opened
a smaller version of the inn and recreational spot than she had originally
wanted, with mostly hired employees rather than subjects. It did
brilliantly, except that it was too small.)

And Levande was a countess; the highest rank short of the ruler of a

Now, certain orders must be obeyed. Nobles are (in an often-violated
principle) the ones who are most responsible for guarding their subjects
against monsters. When they say “Everyone get to a safe place,” everyone must
get to a safe place. Or, when the Duke said “Sythyry, go deal with the
nendrai,” I went and dealt with the nendrai, even though it meant, eventually,
flunking out of Vheshrame Academy, getting killed, and generally getting into
the habit of having doom every third day and sometimes more.

The actual authority of a patron is rather less. A patron doesn’t have
any military authority, since, generally, we’re not actually responsible for
defending our clients. (It’s a bit less clear for me, since I am
responsible for defending my clients from Vae, and out here we’re all
defending each other. They generally obey me about Vae and other immediate

Still, if I hint that I want something done, my clients might go and do it.

Note that word “hint”. Zi Ri are renowned and/or reviled for our use of
indirect or allusive language. I’m fairly straightforward for a Zi Ri, but
not always, and I am yet young in any case. So, when my clients are being
helpful, they often try to do something that they think I hinted at. Mostly
they’re right, too — the arguments about who would do what job
on Strayway were fairly endless, but I complained vaguely to Zascalle
about it, and she told everyone I was upset, and the next day everything was

Not all hints are intentional. Rheng went and bit off Arfaen’s husband’s tail,
on the grounds that I probably wanted him to. (I didn’t.) (Also I couldn’t
fire him, even though he was an employee: one does not fire one’s guards
immediately as one heads off into dangerous places.) In such cases where the
hint is intended, the patron is expected to deny it afterwards in any
case. I suspect that half of my crew thinks I did want Rheng to bite that
tail, and three-quarters of the crew approves.

Anyways, explicitly telling everyone “I will never command you to seduce
anyone for my purposes” would be taken as a suggestion that my clients
should figure on their own who to seduce and why, and, like as not, that they
should be doing more of it.


If this all sounds very Cani to you — who do you think designed our social

Apologies and Punishments

I scolded Arfaen … not exactly in public, but carefully making sure that
Phaniet and Mellilot were in earshot, and Quendry wasn’t. “It is not my wish
that Totalie be made so very happy. The last time I saw him, he did try to
strangle me, after all. I want him to understand decent behavior. A
theoretical understanding would have sufficed; a detailed practicum in the
advanced points was rather beyond my intended course of study. My real
concern is for the happiness and well-being of the wrongfolk. Including, in
particular, you and your family. As, I hope, is the real concern of everyone
on board.”

“Yes, Sythyry,” she said, and curtsied, and scurried off. I drooped. Phaniet
darted after her — Phaniet is a very good client, and knows exactly what to
do without being told. Arfaen reportedly dumped a great deal of misery and
self-loathing upon Phaniet, who comforted her suitably and assured her I was
not going to evict her and Quendry from Strayway so far from home no
matter what.

Which I am very definitely not going to do. She is, after all, a client, and
one does not do that sort of thing to one’s clients.

Then I slithered over to Mellilot, and apologized a bit incoherently since I
don’t exactly know what I’m apologizing for, and let her scold me as much as
she dared, which isn’t all that much. Then I promised to give her
marriage-analog as much support as I could, and she thanked me a bit grimly.

I suspect it’s too late for any help, unfortunately.

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