Dragon's LibraryThe Debate
by Anya

Tybalt, the Chaircreature, yawned, showing sharp, delicate white fangs. The Prince of Cats turned his elegant feline face languidly to regard the speakers and the floor, then sniffed disdainfully as if coming to some disagreeable conclusion.

"I call this house to order," he said, and the floor fell into a hushed silence - even the normally rebellious marble tiles stopped chattering to each other. "Welcome one and all to the debate on 'This house believes that warriors are better than mages'."

"On my right I have... the proposition: Bren Orckiller and Liliana Silversword." Tybalt pointed vaguely at each speaker with one immaculately combed paw. Polite ceramic clinking from the floor accompanied each speaker as he or she rose to acknowledge his or her name, then sat down again.

"On my left, the opposition: Ebony Windchaser and Acherl the Green. I'm sure everyone knows who everyone else is, even if something called the 'Author' apparently made you up, so this was a rather pointless bit of formality..." Tybalt trailed off as he traced a sentence on a dog-eared piece of paper before him. "'Introduce the speakers and the adjudicators'. What in the name of Bast's tail are adjudicators?"

Behind the long rectangular stretch of floor after the two slanting oak tables where the two teams sat was a long table where members of assorted mythical species were seated. They raised their hands (or in some cases, fins, paws, hooves or tentacles) tentatively, with the air of school children being asked sternly whose hamster had been caught in the classroom trying to run up a teacher's legs.

Tybalt's elegant triangles of ears twitched, if in irritation or amusement only the cat would know. "Right, so it's you lot. Since I want to go back to Egypt and continue being worshipped as soon as possible, I can't be bothered to introduce you. You're probably insignificant to this tale anyway. And besides, there is a note here on this paper saying that the Author's printer is nearly out of ink so 'make it as short as possible'. Anyone with objections?"

The cat seemed to smile, and anyone on the receiving end of such a feline expression would know the distinct sense of unease it incites. Total silence fell in the chamber, such that when Tybalt spoke up again several of the speakers, the adjudicators, and parts of the floor jumped. Ceramic tinkled guiltily back into position, shifting as if under an earthquake.

"Each speaker has... wait, the time has been crossed out. The apparent reason is also due to this deplorable lack of ink, whatever that should mean, hence each speaker should just state the points he has then sit down and waste as little time moving so the Author has less to describe." Tybalt appeared to frown up at the ceiling.

A dark shadow seemed to slink guiltily away.

"Right, that's settled then." Tybalt turned bright green eyes to Bren, who was idly picking his nails with a knife. "I call on Mister Orckiller. Hurry up now."

Bren stood up, all two metres of him. He looked as though he spent most of his days working out, and muscles seemed to bulge from every bit of his body. His appeared to have been broken at least once, and his face was painted with strange designs, making it seem like he had been fighting a losing battle with a box of pastels. He wore a necklace with what looked like bear's teeth as pendants, a dirty wolf pelt, and a loincloth.

His mouth worked painfully as a brain uniquely honed for combat attempted to shape words that did not feature in battlecries. "Good-evening-ladies-and-genn'lmen." He paused and glanced down at his cue cards, frowned, picked up a random one and squinted at it.

Liliana covered her eyes with one hand even as the opposition's faces began to take on a look of glassy politeness that usually precedes mocking laughter.

Bren made a slow decision, and put down the cards carefully, then began to intone in a sepulchral voice, "Warriors better than dress wearers because warriors strong. Mages weaklings. Warriors fight. Dress wearers jump around and wave hands like chicken and only make funny lights. If warrior against dress wearer and warrior has bow and arrow, dress wearer dead with arrow through throat before one can say 'Stupid Mages'..."

"Point of information, sir?" Ebony raised himself slightly on his haunches.

"Dragon shut up." Bren said promptly, then drew a huge broadsword from the large scabbard across his back. "Dragon, I kill." Liliana rolled her eyes.

"No death threats, Mister Orckiller, and sheathe that knife or I'd confiscate it," Tybalt said firmly. "However, I would think that constitutes a 'no'. As to you, Mister Windchaser... swallow that fireball or I'd catch it and stuff it back down your throat. Thank you. Continue."

"...constitutes..." Bren mouthed in incomprehension under his breath, then appeared to pull himself together again. "If in no-magic zone dress wearer sure killed..."

"May I put forward a..." Acherl began in his high-pitched, slightly shrill voice, raising one aristocratic hand laden with an impossible number of tasteless jewellery.

"No," Bren said as promptly as before, which was probably just as well, Liliana thought, because Bren had a ballistic reaction to questions involving foaming at the mouth and charging at full sail. "Also, magic users not know how to ride horse. Thank-you." He sat down, pleased with himself.

"Thank you for that tactfully ended speech, Mister Orckiller." Tybalt commented with a perfectly straight face. "Now, Mister Windchaser?"

"Good evening again," Ebony said in a clipped voice with not a hint of the normal draconic lisp. Sitting on his haunches, his horns nearly touched the ceiling. "I would like to refute the learned Mister Orckiller's statements." Little tinkles from the floor could be heard in appreciation to the veiled jibe.

"Though some warriors may be stronger - physically - than mages, some mages are also stronger - again physically - than warriors. For an example that should not be too complex for even the proposition to understand, I could probably pick you up with one hand, Mister Orckiller, but could you?" Ebony smiled toothily - the only way a dragon can smile - as Bren growled.

Hearing no further comment, Ebony continued. "However, on this point of strength, I would like to state that most mages are stronger - mentally - than warriors. It has been proven that those with high intelligence are less likely to be affected by psionic control, and I presume I am safe to assume that Mister Orckiller's IQ can be counted on the fingers of a sheep."

"Sheep no fingers..." Bren's stage whisper echoed around the ceiling.

"Precisely my point," Ebony said suavely, "Though of course, that can be magically arranged, so if by some happy chance you acquire some IQ, do refer back to me. As to your succinct summation of all that we mages can do, I am afraid to break your illusions, but quite a few spells today can be cast with a single gesture, or all at once - in fact, one of the more popular spells known as a Spell Sequencer can cause at least three spells to be cast immediately one after another. We mages also have spells against mere missile weapons."

"Point of information, sir?" Liliana raised her hand.

"Very well?" Ebony fixed her with one giant, gold-flecked eye.

"Theoretically," Liliana commented dryly, "These 'quite a few' spells do seem to either be on the level of pathetic defensive spells such as Barkskins. What is the use of having skin like treebark to a mage if the warrior has throwing axes? As to the few offensive spells that can be cast in the short period of time between a fired arrow reaching its target, all of them hardly do grievous injuries."

"We are all assuming," Ebony said as Liliana sat back down, "That this archer somehow managed to get close enough to the mage to fire an incapacitating shot. Any mage so unprepared, without wands or sequenced spells, deserves such an end."

"Point of information?" Liliana stood up.

"Sit down, madam, you have said enough already," Ebony ignored her, "Now as to the 'surely killed' part of your speech, intelligent beings have a higher chance of being resourceful enough to survive, than if a warrior would be, since it's well known, quote, you lot can't think and walk at the same time. Unquote."

The dragon addressed Bren again, who was apparently still stumbling over the word 'lofty'. "As to your last point about wearing dresses, I must say I expected even one as illiterate as you to be able to identify robes as what they actually are. And regarding horses - I belong to a species that views them as food, not for riding, so I hardly see how this applies to your case." Ebony bobbed his serpentine neck at the end of his speech, black scales taking on an oily rainbow gleam.

"Thank you, Mister Windchaser," Tybalt glanced up from his bowl of caviar. "Lady Silverblade?"

Liliana stood up and bowed. "To physical strength, Mister Windchaser," she said mildly, "I have no doubts that you would be able to pick Mister Orckiller here with great ease, but would you be able to pick your brother Ivory up?"

"I can hold up my brother," Bren rumbled, like a miniature volcano about to wake.

"Very good," Liliana said hurriedly before Bren had the chance to make any more comments. "Saying that 'all warriors are stupid' is also generalisation. I do know several intelligent warriors, and also some severely idiotic mages..."

"Point of information?" Acherl's jewellery made annoying scraping sounds as he raised his hand.

"Yes?" Liliana did not look too pleased with the interruption, but to her credit her hand did not stray towards her sword.

Acherl bowed mockingly. "A large majority appears to be on the same lofty intellectual plane as your friend there, however. It doesn't take much of a mind to swing a sword, ride a horse, and pillage places, does it?"

"To the contrary, the best swordsmen - and women - need to think to devise new techniques. It takes intuition and intelligence to know how to ride well, and as to pillaging, especially well defended places, it requires some brain activity to form strategies to survive. I have no doubt that to you, learned sir, the words 'siege strategy' would be equal to warriors waving swords and charging forward, but I can assure you that is not always the case. Is that too hard to grasp?" Liliana smiled innocently as Acherl's face turned a beautiful sunset red.

"Now to define 'stupidity'... which is more stupid, the warrior who fights in a battle doing what he knows best, or the mage that tears apart the fabric of reality just because he can? Therefore I conclude that the point must stand. Thank you." Liliana sat down to loud tinkling from the floor that only quelled when Ebony cocked his head in that direction, steam gently rising from his snout.

"Finished already?" Tybalt attempted to feign disappointment.

"Sir..." Acherl tapped the table for attention.

Tybalt glared at Acherl. "Oh hurry up then."

"Thank you sir." Acherl stood up, wreathed in trinkets, his pointy hat heavy with occult symbols drooping rakishly over an ear. Absently he pushed it up and adjusted his horn glasses. "Now then. While people - sorry Ebony - creatures can be trained to fight, magic is an ability which as to be inborn. Hence..."

"Point information." Bren creaked as he stood up.

Acherl raised an elegant, sardonic eyebrow.

"So what?" Bren sat down, beaming. He had made a Contribution.

"I was just getting to that, my impatient friend." Acherl ignored the muttered 'Bren no wizard friend' and plunged on. Hence, magical skills, being a natural ability, tend to be better honed into a higher degree of skill than warriors can hope to achieve with mere crude weapons. That and there being a larger number of select mage schools with good teachers than warrior schools, which we also know is another name for an oversized brawling tavern..."

"Point of information?" Liliana pushed back her chair.

"I'm afraid I'd have to pass on any illuminating statements you would like to make, warrior," Acherl said, his tone suggesting that the term 'illuminating' was in a great degree of doubt. "It also takes fewer mages to do deeds of significance than warriors. An army of warriors is needed to actually repel an army of goblins, for example, but one mage with a few well-placed fireballs could do better."

"Point of information?" Liliana said, not even bothering to get up now.

"Very sorry madam, but I believe that shadowy shape trying to sidle out of the tale is making frantic signals along the lines of 'Nearly four pages already!' and I will have to end off. Therefore, since one mage may equal several warriors of the same level, I conclude that this view cannot stand."

Tybalt clawed the dog-eared piece of paper. "'Announce that 'The debate is now open to the Floor."' Since you lot can only tinkle anyway, we'd pass on that. Any objections, see Ebony here." The dragon grinned toothily, and sneezed a small jet of damp flame. Tinkles were abruptly stilled.

"'When the judges are ready call the house to order...'" Tybalt glanced at the adjudicators.

One trotted over to the Chaircreature's table and handed the cat a piece of paper. As Tybalt glanced at the words the teams seemed to tense - Ebony took a breath, Acherl fingered what looked like a spellbook under the table, Liliana began to toy with her sword, and Bren ostensibly began checking his bowstring for strain.

"Well, well, we have a draw," Tybalt said mildly. The cat didn't look surprised.

"We thought that both sides were..." the adjudicator began.

"We have a comment from the Author that the story is too long already and your opinion probably isn't worth a cat's whisker anyway. Hey, a cat's whisker is pretty valuable..." Tybalt glared at what looked like a shadow until a patch of darkness detatched itself from it and began to sidle away again. "In any case, I agree. I'm due to be slavishly fawned over in Egypt. Have a nice day." Black smoke boiled from under Tybalt's paws, and when it cleared, the cat was gone.

The adjudicators, tiles, and one mobile shadow hastily left the tale as a fight began to break out between the teams.

***

Author's Notes: Tybalt is the supposed son of Bast, the Egyptian Goddess of cats, and is reputedly the Prince of Cats. Cats being what they are, he seemed like an ideal chaircreature.

This particular debate is loosely based on the British parliamentary system, but with less speakers, less time, and less rules.

The constant references to the lack of ink is because I wrote this story for something in college, and well, I was really running out of ink...

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