The Ministry of Quests and Quest-Like Endeavours
A short story
“I’m sorry, sire, but I simply cannot process this Questing application if you haven’t filled out Form 113A-Þ and had it notarized in sacred sheep’s blood,” I tell him. The dumbfounded knight stands before me in full armor, clenching his fists.
“But the instructions don’t say anything about Form 113A-Þ!” he bellows. I ask him to show me to which “instructions” he is referring. He pulls a crumpled scroll out of his breastplate and hands it to me. Just as I suspected, it’s Instructional Addendum 11F (version 4), and not Instructional Addendum 11D (version 7).
“M’lord, this is Instructional Addendum 11F. This procedure only applies to seaborne voyages to discover long-lost island kingdoms and/or slay any sea creatures habitating therein,” I tell him. “Your application clearly states that your Quest will primarily be land-based with the intent of rescuing a captive damsel in distress. For that type of Quest you’ll need to reference Instructional Addendum 11D. ‘Tis a totally different set of forms.”
As typically happens in this situation, the knight flies into a rage and draws his sword to strike me down. Luckily, security is on him and dragging him out of the building before he has a chance to swing. Anyway, there’s a transparent layer of magick between our desk and the customer to block these types of things.
It happens all the time. For some reason the Regulations make knights very, very angry.
They think Chivalry is all about Courage and Slaying Dragons and Rescuing Princesses. But True Chivalry is about Protocols and Procedures and Regulations. Anybody can slay a dragon. Not everybody can correctly fill out seventy pages of paperwork about a mythical adventure and file it at least three moons but no more than five moons prior to the journey’s commencement.
I was a knight once. A ravishing good one, too. Always filled out all my Questing paperwork correctly and turned it in during the appropriate moon cycle.
I was so good that, whenever I travelled with a fellowship, the rest of the fellows asked me to help with their paperwork as well. That basically made me the leader of every fellowship. (The other fellows never said this explicitly, of course. But it was implied. If filling out everyone’s Questing paperwork doesn’t make you the leader of the fellowship, then I don’t know what does.)
But, with my Questing days behind me and my form-filling hand not what it once was, I took up a job at the Ministry of Quests and Quest-Like Endeavours. Here, at least, I could help other brave souls gain official approval to embark on adventures of their own to the far corners of the Realm.
It’s often a thankless job. But I don’t expect credit or accolades for the work that I do. It’s reward enough to know that every potential act of heroism is properly documented beforehand and standard processing fees are applied.
“Jego, I have a special project to consult with you on,” my boss calls to me. I’m on my lunch break but I decide to listen.
“What is it, boss?”
“Knight came in here saying he’s going on a Quest… through time,” he says. Quest through time. Standard enough.
“Past or future?” I ask him. “One way or round trip?”
“Does it matter, policy-wise?” he says. He got promoted into management because of his noble bloodline and family connections, but he doesn’t know squat about the Questing Regulations.
“Oh, yes,” I tell him. “It matters very much. Time Quests into the past are strictly prohibited under Paragraph 87 of Ordinance S. 105-19, as are round trip journeys. But one way Time Quests into the future are allowed under certain circumstances, if one submits the proper paperwork. Although scrying into the future is strictly forbidden, whilst scrying into the past is allowed into most public spaces during business hours.”
“Well, now I’m even more confused,” the boss says. “Why does Ordinance S. 105-19 allow quests to the future but not to the past?”
“I think it had something to do with budgeting that year,” I say. “It’s led to some potential loopholes, too. I’ve been submitting proposals to The Board for years trying to get them addressed. But you know how they are.”
“What kinds of loopholes?” he says.
“Well, if one’s mind were to, say, become unstuck in time, one’s consciousness could travel to the past without technically violating the Regulations, because metaphysical displacement of consciousness falls under Scrying Regulations instead of under the time travel Ordinance,” I tell him. The Scrying Regulations are such a mess. “Hypothetically, one could also travel to the future, to a time when the Regulations have changed to allow time travel into the past, travel to the past from that future date, then travel back to the present from the past, all without violating Questing Regulations in the specific timeline from which they departed.”
“Maybe you should just talk to him,” my boss says. “All this time travel and scrying talk is making my head spin.”
“Maybe after my lunch break.”
I talk to the knight after lunch. His proposed Quest would travel to the future—to slay some demonic Scourge of the Realm or other that’s been prophesied to one day destroy mankind. This is, of course, allowed under Questing Regulations. But as I look through his paperwork, it turns out he has never even applied for a General Questing License.
Rookie move! You need a General Questing License in good standing before we can even accept an application for a Particular Quest.
I decide to help him out. I give him a checklist of everything he’ll need to apply for a General Questing License.
“It’s only about a 6-month wait after you complete the mandatory 8-week training course and submit the paperwork,” I tell him. “Not including shipping time for the crow to deliver your application to our General Licensing Office on the other side of the continent and back. And they’ve been really backed up on appointments, so make sure to book one at least nine moons in advance.”
He’s vexed, but surprisingly keeps his cool. I think there’s a bit of Chosen One in this guy, even if he doesn’t know the first thing about Questing Regulations.
“The Time Portal is only open for another three days, and then it shall close for a millennium, dooming mankind to extinction. For the good of our descendants and the future of the Realm, I need this approved now!” he cries. “I beg of thee, humanity shall burn if I don’t fell the Great Evil of…”
Blah, blah, blah. I kind of zone out once he gets going about “Great Evils” and “Battles for the Fate of Mankind.” You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times.
So I send him on his way, hopeful that he’ll follow the proper Protocol to get his quest approved and “save mankind from destruction” or whatever other chivalrous nonsense he has in mind.
A few days later, I’m in my office reviewing the new policy on curséd relic disposal, and the recent updates on which pits of fire deep in the bowels of a forgotten land have been approved for casting them into. I take a break and pick up the paper to see what’s going on around the Realm. Right there on page three is a picture of the knight in full armor, being dragged away by Immigration and Questing Enforcement.
The caption says he was arrested trying to enter a Time Portal without a permit. He’s currently in the dungeon awaiting sentencing. And this after I specifically explained the Regulations to him! That’s the twelfth knight this week that’s tried to enter the Time Portal without a permit, the story says. I guess this “Scourge of Worlds” or whatever he called it is a pretty big deal.
Well, the Regulations are a pretty big deal, too.
Some people you just can’t get through to.
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