Culture Spotlight: The Corelian Cape Pardox

Fashions, much like prehistoric beasts, change with the winds of time lest they become extinct. The traits of the clothes you wear are mediated by the same primal forces that have shaped your body: hot, sexual lust and cold, pitiless nature. Styles exist because they look pretty or because they are functional and rarely because they do both.

Clothes are in a constant state of flux. New styles arise to replace the old. Hemlines rise and fall. Ruffles rule the roost for decades only to reduce to vestigial fluted collars and then vanish entirely. People are defined by the clothes they wear. A king in ermine robes looks regal. A dockworker in ermine robes is putting on airs. He’s lucky if all that happens is his mates pitch him into the sea. He wears a cape in the style of royalty, nobles, and generals. But degrade the fabric to oilskin, shear the fur trim, and add a hood: now what was once stylish has become utilitarian.

Mages wear capes as well, but are they objects of style or utility? You will often a master mage wearing a small half-cape often trimmed with tasteful furs as befits a scholar and student of magic. Mages have always worn capes, but the cape of the apprentice and journeymen is more aligned with their coarse origins: long, flowing, and heavy. These capes are meant to shelter travelers walking in the rain, harken to the image of a minstrel playing a song, or project a larger, imposing figure in battle. Mages have been many things over the ages, but magic was first and foremost a tool of war.

The first practitioners of the ethereal arts were not scholars. These battle mages were killers, violent foreigners whose lust for power profaned that which we hold sacred today. Their capes were imposing garments made from heavy, dark flowing fabric woven with dragon scales meant to turn blades, not heads. The capes of the first mages were nothing more than military uniforms fashioned to keep the hands free and ready to attack, yet sheltered when not calling doom upon their enemies.

Over time, the length of the capes has shrunk and the weight decreased as protection in battle ceased to be a concern. What was once practical became fashionable. Yet as the capes have grown smaller the legends of the mages have grown larger and more exaggerated. Much like a well-groomed domestic canine evokes the howling wolf of yore with a mere snarl, the neat, beaver-trimmed half-cape of the most humble, self-effacing magic scholar elicits the fiery battle mages of old as soon as he raises his fist.

As the capes have gotten shorter and shorter, the mythos has grown longer and longer. All the weight borne on the shoulders of the battle mages has become untethered from reality and metaphorical, yet is this insubstantial weight not heavier and more cumbersome for today’s modern scholar than mere bolts of armored fabric? As the capes shrink, thus their mass expands. Every master mage in Corel must drag a long train of history, violence, and terror along the ground behind him, disappearing into the ether.

Step wisely around such a short mage cape. Beware you do not trip over it.