Mortui Vivos Docent

Margaux

placeholder for Guillaume’s story, Winter 1222

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A Rebirth of Magic
...in which a bargain with the mysterious Patriarch floods the valley with magic

In the autumn of 1222, the pious Zacchaeus of Verditius dreamt that he walked from his laboratory into a strange, enlarged, grotesque version of the Commarque basse cour. The bells of the Chapel of St-Jean called to him, and he made his way to the sanctuary amidst a sea of smallish, somehow distorted, horses. Inside, he found a couple praying at the altar, holding an infant in swaddling clothes. As he approached, the man and woman smiled at him, but when he pulled back the swaddling, the baby was an ugly, brutish creature, with a large brow and strange eyes.

On the heels of this dream, Michel de Bourdaigne arrived with an “ill” Melisandre des Escars. William of Jerbiton had arranged for the pair to court, and during a walk to go see a nearby “mystical cave”, Melisandre had “hallucinated”, so Sir Michel had brought her back to her father. Recognizing that the girl had previously shown signs of second sight, Melita of Bonisagus queried her and discovered that Melisandre had seen a brutish man (much like those encountered in the story Lascaux) glare at her and then retreat into the cave. That this man should be so strange and yet unseen by Sir Michel suggested a supernatural nature. Given the import of past encounters with these magical creatures, the promise of yet another cave with magical qualities, the strange dream, and the plans Sir William had set in motion, William, Melita, Zacc and Gaston du Rouergue accompanied Sir Michel back to the site of the cave. Once Sir Michel and Melisandre left, the magi began their investigation of the cave of Rouffignac in earnest.

Gaston and Griou immediately smelled traces of bears, and the Bjornaer posited that with the coming of winter, this place would see them in some numbers, hibernating. Indeed, as they journeyed deeper and deeper into the caverns, they saw evidence of great bear claw marks, and wallows, where a bear might seek to rid his fleas in the dirt floor. Eventually, they were greeted with the mysterious cave paintings so prevalent in the valley, and the equally enigmatic tectiform patterns that accompanied them. Upon the ceiling of one great chamber, the group contemplated the magnificent circle of animals depicted there, and wondered at its significance.

Suspecting the presence of a regio, Melita used her magics to discern its boundaries, and by tracing the path of the horses and ibexes on the ceiling, soon the group noticed more distinct paintings, and the presence of a circular well in the center of the chamber. Returning towards the cave entrance, Gaston intervened when they were confronted by a monstrous bear. The bear intimated that his kind were told by the “Patriarch” to expect the group; when questioned about this, the bear led them to a painting of a large creature resembling the elephants of legend. Melita again sought to take the group into a yet deeper level of the regio, and she succeeded. Here, the group surprised a group of the brutish people inhabiting it, and forced the things to flee. Entering into the now-familiar snow-capped realm of magic, the group sought out the Patriarch.

Gaston approached an enormous specimen of the type, and engaged the Patriarch in a strange discussion. The mammoth creature revealed the location of four of the Venus fertility idols, and instructed the magi where they should be placed when the group exited the regio for their own reality. Melita readily agreed to take the idols, and to place one of them in the well as they returned. Making their way back, the group briefly imagined all the animals from the walls running out of the cave and into the wild.

The tale took an unexpected turn when the group discovered that the magical aura surrounding the covenant had subsequently increased. Fearing the effects of such strong magics on the mundane population, the group debated what was to be done about the matter.

Cast: Zacchaeus of Verditius (Dwight); Gaston of Bjornaer (Guillaume); Melita of Bonisagus (Val); William of Jerbiton (Bob).

Alpha Storyguide: Patrick

Source Quality: 6

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Isle of the Dead, Part One

During the Normandy Tribunal the previous year, Apollyon of House Tremere tried to recruit participants for an expedition to Mount Dol, the domus magna of House Diedne. Both Gaston and Fortis had expressed interest and after having seen the expedition charter had gathered some grogs, borrowed some vis from the covenant stores and set off to explore Mount Dol. The plan had been to use the talisman of Verbantium, a Diedne magus to take advantage of the arcane connection between the talisman of the presumably dead magus and wherever his body was.

Fortis and Gaston decided to bring 13 additional mundane support personal and 10 pawns of Creo vis. Under the principle that those who pay the piper call the tune, the expedition charter stated that the resources that were brought to the expedition counted as additional votes determining what the expedition would do and additional shares for dividing whatever treasure was found. The plan had been to meet at the Summer Solstice. Fortis and Gaston wanted to leave time for unseen emergencies, and as the trip was uneventful, (other than David finding that Mary had snuck along) they arrived three days early. They and the companions set up camp. Apollyon, Tisatis and Corrin arrived the next day, and Dolden the following day. Apollyon, Tisatis and Corrin had brought 18 soldiers with them, while Gaston and Fortis had brought seven soldiers and 7 servants.

Fortis made an attempt to get to know the other magi. Tisatis was a large man wearing armor with a cheerful disposition and an optimistic outlook. He was happy to tell stories about himself, including how he had recovered the talisman. Both Fortis and Gaston asked to see it. It was a plan wooden staff, which seemed odd to both of them, as normally the more features there are on a talisman, the more useful they are to the magus. In fact, Gaston believed that Tisatis was in fact playing a prank on them and that he was only showing them a plain piece of wood. However, Tisatis assured them that it was in fact the talisman and that he had recovered it from a temple where it had been consciously left, as if for someone to find.

Corrin was another Tremere magus, and his black robe indicated that he was fairly junior. His personality was friendly, if with a much less optimistic outlook than Tisatis. He confided to Fortis and Gaston that Tisatis was a specialist in Vim, and was a fierce fighter of demons, Infernalists and other enemies of the order. Corrin mentioned that he personally was a healing specialist; assigned to this expedition by his house for this purpose. Dolden was quiet, perhaps because when she spoke, one could see her pointed teeth as part of her faerie heritage. When asked, she mentioned she was a Imaginem specialist.

Once everyone had arrived, how many votes each magus had was calculated and an election for leader occurred. As Apollyon and Tisatis had two-thirds of the votes between them and Tisatis immediately nominated Apollyon for leader, the decision was something of a done deal.

The following morning, the six magi assembled and started to cast Opening the Intangible Tunnel with the aid of Wizards Communion. Once it was cast and while Apollyon was trying to cast a spell to perceive what was on the other side, four of the magi vanished from where they were and reappeared on a black marble circle, around 100 paces in diameter. Though the magi did not know it at the time, they had all vanished almost simultaneously but each appeared perhaps ten seconds apart. The first to appear was Dolden, who promptly turned invisible to protect herself. Then Gaston appeared, then Fortis and then Corrin. After a minute or so, Dolden made herself visible and the four magi took stock of the situation.

First, they took stock of their situation. The black marble circle was perfectly smooth, but did have some twigs and bird poop on it. It was set on the north side of either an island or peninsula. When looking down from the edge, it was a good 15 paces down from the edge of the island to the beach, which was currently 5 paces from the water. It was impossible to tell immediately whether the tide was in or out. To the south were oak trees which were just starting to sprout leaves, here it seemed to be the middle of spring rather than summer back in Brittany.

Corrin took his raven cloak out of this pack and took to the air to discover more. He circled about a mile out. He did not see any habitation, but did see an island to the north, that had a snow covered mountain and a volcano shape to it. He did see a stream on the east coast of the island where the party could get water.

The party decided to enter the forest and travel to the stream. Gaston tried to determine if the forest had human habitation. He smelled rabbit, deer, boar and wolf, but noticed that the wolves had not been marking their territory and remarked that this was odd. The forest also did not seem to be harvested for firewood.

It was decided to have Corrin and Gaston transform into birds and scout ahead while Dolden and Fortis waited behind. Gaston would take the west coast and Corrin the east, and see what they could find out. Both went down the respective coasts, and met nearly 10 miles south. They determined that they were in fact on an island, that a village existed at the southernmost point. The center of the village had a tower that looked like it could have been created by Conjuring the Mystic Tower – so closely did it match Hermetic usage – but the stone was worn more than would have been reasonable. Around that building were four smaller ones, each had a wooden statue outside it standing watch. There was a dock, with a couple of boats maybe 5 paces wide and 30 paces long.

There were a number of villagers out working the fields with oxen, and children playing in the streets. Coming close into the village, depending on the animal shape to disguise them and taking advantage of the superior perception that their bird shape provided, that everyone was wearing a small skull on a necklace around their neck. The skull was the size of a rat but it looked like that of a human.

Gaston and Corrin decided to return to report to Fortis and Dolden what they had learned. They flew back and as they were arriving they noticed a pack of wolves that were approaching. Changing back, they warned Fortis and Dolden and everyone prepared to meet the wolves. Fortis cast Circling Winds of Protection, Gaston cast Beast of Outlandish Size, Dolden cast Dome of Diamond (a glamour magic spell that created a dome that kept the wolves from reaching her), and Corrin cast Blade of the Virulent Flame, with a flaming sword in the right hand and a wand that shot fire in the left.

Still, the magi were unprepared for the teamwork that the wolves showed. For some reason, the first bolt of fire from Corrin’s wand was ineffective, the second was more so, but then he was mauled to unconsciousness. Fortis dropped the Circling Winds of Protection to cast Pilum of Fire at a wolf, and then switched over to his axe, trusting his armor to protect him. It did, but the wolves still managed to wound him before he recast Circling Winds of Protection. The wolves that attacked Gaston mauled him before he could react. He then went berserk and smashed one, but upon continuing to be mauled, he calmed down and deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, Gaston climbed a tree. Dolden, safe inside her Dome of Diamond, cast a variant Agony of the Beast which incapacitated wolves right and left.

Once Corrin was down, Gaston was safe in the tree, Dolden was safe in the dome and Fortis was safe in the Circling Winds, the wolves gave up and dragged what friends they could away. Fortis lunged at the wolves that tried to drag away Corrin and blew them away. He also made threatening actions towards the wolves that were writhing in pain, trying to communicate that he would kill them if the other wolves attacked again.

With two magi badly wounded, one who was unconscious, the magi rested there. Dolden waited until her dome dissolved before coming out. Fortis cast Gift of the Berserk Fury on himself, then sponted a version of Bind Wounds on himself to avoid having his wounds worsen. He then sponted a month’s duration version of Conjure the Sturdy Vine, which he used to tie up the three wolves that were incapacitated, either by Fortis’ axe or by Dolden’s spells. Gaston noticed that the wolves who attacked all wore the same necklace as the people in the village. The party then waited, hoping that Corrin would wake up and be able to lower his Magic Resistance so that healing spells could be cast on him.

While you were waiting, an illusion appeared on Corrin’s chest, which took on the appearance of Apollyon. Apollyon and Tisatis had cast Opening the Intangible Tunnel to reach them and were trying to watch what was going on, but complained that the magi were moving too fast/talking too fast for them to understand. It seemed that the magi were in a fast time regio, as it was still morning back near Mount Dol, and only a brief time had gone by. However, the illusion that were sent across from Mount Dol acted in local time, so they were understandable, and Dolden sponted illusions of written messages back. Apollyon and Tisatis sent a Creo Corpus healing spell through the Intangable Tunnel to aid Corrin in recovering from his incapacitating wounds.

Also, in waiting for sunset, a slightly translucent man in armor approached. He only spoke English, which luckily Fortis knew as well. He identified himself as one of the grogs who worked for the Tremere who had been attacking the Diedne in the year of our Lord 1050. He was unsure how long he had been there on “The Isle of the Dead” but he knew that the rest of his party had perished and was very happy to be able to link up with some Tremere once again.

Sunset came, and Corrin recovered consciousness. Fortis cast Gift of Berserk Fury and Corrin managed to spont a personal, non-fatiguing version of Bind Wounds upon himself before casting Incantation of the Body Made Whole upon himself. Fortis also renewed the Gift of Beserk Fury and Bind Wounds upon Gaston and himself.

Cast: Fortis of Flambeau (Patrick); Gaston of Bjornaer (Guillaume); Tisatis of Guernicus (Bob); Corrin of Merinita (Val).

Zeta Storyguide: Dwight.

Source Quality: 10

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The Lost Abbot, Pt. I
...in which the Abbot of Cadouin vanishes after a mysterious visitor arrives

The warmth of spring 1222 was welcome in Commarque after the hard, bitter winter of 1221. A bright, balmy May day found Sir Gaidon d’Aubec dictating a report to his young wife when there was a loud knock upon the door.

It was Thybaut d’Limeuil, his man from the southwest region of the valley. Thybaut had dire news: Abbot Edric of Cadouin Abbey had disappeared, and with him a stranger who had sought shelter there but days before. Though affairs concerning the abbot were normally a matter for the church, he thought that the presence of the stranger suggested a very non-clerical influence—specifically, bandits. Gaidon promised to investigate and called Sir Etienne to join him.

Knowing he would need more men if there were bandits involved, Gaidon first traveled to Commarque to beseech the scholars there to lend their aid. At first they were reluctant, until Fortis pointed out that the Abbey lay adjacent to the forest of La Bessede, where some of the covenant members had planted some magical pine cones years before. Fortis convinced them that the covenant may have had some responsibility for the abbot’s disappearance, and this settled the matter.

It was decided that a small group of men would be sent to investigate, and more could be sent for if needed, for the Abbey was only a full day’s travel away. So Father Godefroi and the failed apprentice David rode in a cart, while Fortis of Flambeau, Sir Gaidon, and Thierry rode on horseback, and Gaston of Bjornaer traveled in his animal form.

When they arrived at the abbey, they were welcomed by Prior Ansel, who was dining on duck flavored with the truffle oil that the abbey sold as a small part of their income. He invited Gaidon and Father Godefroi to join him, and assumed the other men were men-at-arms, welcoming them to the brothers’ table in the main hall. This suited Gaston and Fortis well, as it gave them an opportunity to question the brothers and novices.

Prior Ansel briefly introduced his guests to Quentin, the novice who had waited upon the abbot, and explained that Abbot Edric had not been seen since two nights previously, when he disappeared sometime between Compline and Matins. The abbey received many visitors and pilgrims thanks, in part, to its possession of the Cadouin Shroud, but three days before one had been invited to stay with the abbot in his dwelling.

This man had arrived on horseback, saying that he had been attacked by bandits and robbed, and begged succor of the abbey. He was taken to the apothecary, where his needs were seen to, but soon he began to ask for the abbot, and he was humored, since his bearing and speech were noble. After some private conversation, the abbot had “Gervais” moved to his own guest room, where he stayed for two days before both men disappeared.

Meanwhile, the other men dined with the brothers on bean stew and bread, and learned some more details of the stranger’s appearance. Gaston questioned the truffle dogs, and learned that they did not like the stranger and thought he smelled “wrong”; that Quentin was kind to them; that the Abbot was good to them as well; and that the Prior kicked them.

After the meal, Sir Gaidon asked that he, Father Godefroi, and David be allowed to examine the stranger’s room and the abbot’s room. The prior agreed on the condition that he be allowed to accompany them. David, upon searching both rooms, found a few stray hairs and signs that something had been burned in the fireplace.

As the bell rang for the orders, Sir Gaidon and Father Godefroi agreed to attend at Prior Ansel’s behest, while the others stayed behind to share what they knew with each other. When Gaston learned that both the stranger’s and the abbot’s horse were still in the abbey’s barn, he knew they could not have gone far. Upon questioning the horse, he learned that the abbey’s visitor had arrived with little but a small satchel and the clothes he wore. The satchel, however, was nowhere to be found, and Quentin claimed that he had not found it when he cleaned the abbot’s house.

Fortis and David snuck back into the abbot’s house during services and took the ash they found in the fireplace, as well as a pillow which seemed to bear the mark of the abbot’s head, to use as an arcane connection.

As the novices emerged from the chapel, Father Godfrey and Gaidon attempted to question Quentin, but did not learn much other than that the boy seemed very afraid and concerned for the abbot, who had been kind to him.

The group determined that Gaston would take the hairs of the abbot and his visitor to Commarque so that Melita of Bonisagus could perform The Inexorable Search with them. After some effort, Gaston turned himself into a bird and arrived at Commarque that night. Melita performed her search and discovered that both abbot and his visitor were somewhere in the region of La Bessede; Zaccheus cast Opening the Intangible Tunnel and saw only a quiet conifer forest where the two men should be.

With this dread information, Gaston returned the next day. Fortis immediately understood its implications, and warned his companions not to venture into the forest of La Bessede, where only a person with magic resistance could go safely. With the hope that they would thus remain safe, Gaston and Fortis made ready to enter the forest and confront the trees.

Cast: Gaidon d’Aubec (Bob), William of Jerbiton, Fortis of Flambeau, and Father Godefroi (Patrick), Denel, David and Zaccheus (Dwight), Gaston of Bjornaer (Guillaume).

Delta Storyguide: Val

Experience: Source Quality ?

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The Glassblower's Curse

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Zeta Storyguide: Dwight

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The Redemption of Argent
...in which a strange man with silver eyes embroils Commarque in an old feud

Returning home from the Tribunal, the party was surprised when a very injured man stumbled into their camp. Taking him back to the covenant, the magi turned him over to Sabine, who tried to nurse him back to health. When he finally regained consciousness, Sabine was shocked to see that the man’s eyes were silver! As the man seemed to have lost most of his memory, and could not remember his name, the covenfolk quickly dubbed him “Argent”. Argent remembered only that he wanted to get to Rome to ask for absolution from the Pope. Beyond his tattered garment, his only possession was a white feather. Investigating, the magi determined it contained Corpus vis. Argent also seemed to be able to converse with anyone in any language.

A knight, Sir Claude, arrived at the castle, and claimed he was seeking a man matching Argent’s description on behalf of his liege lord, Count Etienne Fournier of Turnhout, of the Duchy of Brabant in the Holy Roman Empire. He produced a writ stating that the man had escaped the Count’s gaol. Not greatly moved by the desires of some far-flung foreign lord, Sir William sent word to Sarlat Abbey and asked for guidance. Should the man be turned over to face justice for some ambiguous crime, or be sent on his way to complete his quest for pennance?

As the magi waited for an answer, a boy showed up at the castle and claimed to have a message he needed to deliver to Argent. Turned away the first time, David followed him back to where he had received his missive, where he found a giant of a man and his four companions. Watching them from a distance, David tried to tell the boy to return to Commarque and bring Fortis, but his lack of Occitan made this almost impossible. The boy finally returned, and delivered his original message: his eyes glazed over and he barked in a menacing voice, “I’m coming for you, brotherless one”. The boy seemed to not be aware of his first message, and tried to convey to Sabine what he took away from David’s command. Sabine told Argent what was said, and in the subsequent confusion, Argent quit Commarque. David’s message was finally deciphered, and a force was dispatched to relieve David and confront Gerbald, the Count’s gaoler.

Cast: David (Dwight), Gaston of Bjornaer (Guillaume), William of Jerbiton (Bob), Sabine and Melita of Bonisagus (Val).

Alpha Storyguide: Patrick.

Source Quality: 5, 1 Cnf (2 Cnf for Gaston)

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The Tribunal of 1221
...in which Crypta Venatus formally joins the Normandy Tribunal after an attempt on their lives

With the approach of the Normandy Tribunal meeting of 1221, the magi of Crypta Venatus set forth for the host covenant of Oleron, a week’s journey east on the island of the same name. After journeying to the coastal village of Le Chapus, they were met by a very tall and thin knight from Oleron who introduced himself as “Sir Guy”. The knight was to guide them to the island regio in which Oleron lay.

The next morning, the group boarded a large boat chartered by Sir Guy, and below decks, the magi discussed their plans when a cry went up on deck that the boat was taking on water. Discovering to their horror that the hatch leading to the open air was held fast magically, Fortis carved his own hole in the deck with Perdo Herbam magics. The magi then magically repaired the damage below the waterline and the vessel limped towards Oleron.

Sir Guy had the vessel circle a small island counterclockwise three times, and after the third pass, the ship docked at Oleron. Sir Guy led them to the Apple Mile, where a small town bounded by apple orchards hosted the covenfolk, the might castle overlooking it home to the Oleron magi.

With the Tribunal under way, a vote was taken and both Crypta Venatus and the new covenant of Promitto were admitted to the Tribunal’s ranks. As preparation for the tournament began, the magi were approached time and again by advocates of various political factions within the Tribunal, seeking to gain their service and support. In turn, the magi of Crypta Venatus were approached by:

  • Vacva filia Kybella of House Tytalus (Fudarus faction)
  • Proctor of Guernicus (Confluensis faction)
  • Caprican of Merinita (Oleron faction)
  • Calvinus of Jerbiton (Florum faction)
  • Runild of Tremere (Montverte faction)
  • Mnemon of Tytalus (Sinapis faction)

While some advances were immediately rejected (not openly, but in private), the magi were more inclined to join a faction like Confluensis, considering it to be a more “noble” and “trustworthy” one, or the Sinapis faction, which housed Lapis Crudis, with whom they had dealt before. Still, the magi were loath to commit to any relationship which placed them in a subservient role, even in a faction like Sinapis, where they might enjoy more influence than most.

Melita was accosted by Iacula of Bonisagus, who tried to inspire jealousy as she recounted her achievements. Apollyon of Tremere approached the magi about participating in an expedition to investigate what became of the Díedne. Gaston lost to him in Certamen but impressed the much older magus with his fortitude.

Despite their youth, the magi acquitted themselves reasonably well in the competition. For their efforts, they were awarded 5 pawns and 12 build points worth of texts. They returned home pleased with their winnings, yet uncommitted to a political future.

Cast: Melita of Bonisagus (Val); William of Jerbiton (Bob); Gaston of Bjornaer (Guillaume); David and Apollyon (Dwight).

Alpha Storyguide: Patrick

Source Quality: 6, and award of 1 Confidence point to Gaston

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The Abbot
...in which the Abbot of Sarlat and Commarque are acquainted

As September of 1220 drew to a close, Master Matteus announced that the grape harvest needed to start and called for assistance from the peasants in the villages nearby. As a result, hundreds of people made their way to the villages south of the keep. Among them were many who were not there to work the harvest, but to make a living amongst the crowds: jugglers, wenches, thieves, and so on. Their numbers also included a group of Englishmen ‘scholars’ and a young girl, led by Loefwen. The Englishmen turned out to be Zacchaeus of Verditius, the failed apprentice David, and the latter’s daughter Mary.

The next day, two brothers arrived at the keep and asked to meet with Lord Commarque. Brother Clotaire was of noble origin and prior of Tamnies. In his twenties, he probably owed his rank to his noble origins more than his piety. He wore expensive clothes and a few pieces of jewelry. He obviously loved comfort and was in charge of the group. Brother Thomas appeared to be in his late thirties and had lost most of his strength. Nevertheless, it was obvious by the way he walked and comported himself that he used to be a Hospitaller. The brothers explained to Lord Roger that they had come to Commarque at this time to make the best estimate possible of the various taxes owed to the Abbey. As the harvest was Commarque’s main source of income, it was therefore the perfect time to make a correct assesment. The magi were uneasy at this claim to “their” wealth.

Brother Thomas mentioned various rumors that he had heard regarding the castle and its inhabitants. He expressed regret that the castle was no longer in possession of his order and seemed to take offense at any number of “unorthodox” features of Commarque: the number of unmarried women, changes to the keep, the primacy of Jews in the construction, etc. Meanwhile, Loefwen journeyed to Sarlat and confirmed the identity of the two visitors. Brother Clotaire seemed apologetic for his zealous comrade, and helpfully suggested to Fortis that a donation to the church as a proof of their faith might allow them to mitigate any comments to the abbot that Brother Thomas might make. Soon thereafter, Lord Commarque proudly announces that he has decided to make a significant donation to the church (about 20% of the current Tithe). The magi are not pleased, but the brothers leave soon thereafter.

A week later, William de Bonville returned to Crypta Venatus. Conferring with his sodales, the magi hatched a plan to discredit Brother Thomas. Fortis assumed the appearance of Thomas by means of Disguise of the New Visage and went to the nearby inn. There, he espoused many views consonant with those of the heretic Cathars. William used further magic to get the innkeeper to spread news of these deeds.

By mid-October, Brother Clotaire had returned to announce that the abbot had been so impressed by the work performed at the castle that he himself would come at the end of the month for a visit. Brother Clotaire remained to help Lady Agatha to prepare the keep. During his time there, he went to considerable lengths to impress upon William the Abbot’s various predilections: good wine, good food, and “feminine beauty”. Meanwhile, the magi sent the more unusual denizens of the castle to stay with Gaidon d’Aubec, cleared the library of all suspicious-looking books, and camoflaged their labs to look like storage areas.

The Abbot arrived with his guards and entourage at the end of the month. William tried to cast a spell on him, but some force resisted his magic. The abbot congratulated Lord Commarque and the other nobles on their work but expressed concern regarding the presence of Jews in position of authority, the fact the chapel was not as developped as the rest of the keep, and the large number of Englishmen in the keep. The magi countered that the presence of the Jews should not concern him, and that they would probably soon convert anyway. After seeing a trophy wolf pelt (see the story The Devil’s Wolves), the Abbot decides they should go on a hunt the next day. The residents then scrambled to make preparations for this.

During dinner that night, he invited Melissandre des Escars to come to Sarlat to learn how to become “a real lady”. He also recommended Commarque send his son off to become a squire, and that the children of the Jews be sent to one of the monasteries nearby to get “a proper religious education”. William managed to change the topic and to keep him happy and entertained during dinner; Lady Agatha and Melissandre were asked to sing.

At this point, the Abbot mentioned the unusual taste of the wine. Fearing that the Abbot was being poisoned, Lady Agatha went to the cellar below and discovered a beheaded corpse in the wine barrel. Surreptitiously alerting Fortis, the magus handed the head to an aghast Agatha and then destroyed the body with the spell Dust to Dust. Agatha barely had time to recognize the head of Francois the innkeeper before hiding it behind some crates just as Brother Thomas descended the stairs.

David is sent to investigate but noticed that the inquisitive Brother Andri was following him. Recruiting Mary to distract the monk, he noticed scratch marks on the cellar wall indicating that the door was “opened” from the outside. Brother Andri, sensing nervousness on the part of the magi, asked many questions. Meanwhile, concerned that the wine might be poisoned, Brother Thomas asked Brother Frederic to check it. This old monk is an apothecary and recognized the presence of blood in the wine, as well as parsley. The magi were able to convince them that the blood came from rats that had been trapped above the barrel. Still, an uneasy Brother Thomas positioned guards in the main keep to protect the Abbot. Fortis was suspicious of a large number of armed outsiders being thus placed and ordered Ivor to post as many guards as possible to counter any attempts at treachery. Confronting Thomas, the magi use spells to interrogate him. He seems to know nothing, but calls for help. The magi are forced to put him and a guard to sleep, and to use Mentem magic to remove their memory of these events.

The next day, the 20th of October, the shocking news of the discovery of the head of a billy goat on the chapel altar, surrounded by a circle of blood, set the castle abuzz. Moreover, suspicious marks are found on stones in the chapel. The magi immediately suggested a frame up, determining that the head of the goat was not used in a satanic ritual. Magic located the goat’s headless body hidden in the woods north of the keep, and determined that a man dressed as a monk had killed it the previous night.

Uncomfortable by these many strange events, the Abbot decided to leave the keep early. Lord Commarque proudly announced that he had found a solution to restore the reputation of the keep: he would pay the monks to bring the statue of Saint Peter to the keep to rededicate the place to Christ in a pious procession. This was, of course, helpfully suggested by his wife Lady Maria.

On the 15th of November, no less than 30 monks, led by Brothers Thomas and Clotaire, arrived from Sarlat. Brother Clotaire asked for volunteers to carry the holy statue and described the order of events to the participants. That night, as the monks and volunteers prayed, the magi were on the lookout for suspicious activity, fearing the spectacle was just another opportunity for their unknown enemy to cast further suspicion on them. Indeed, the next day, when the expensive wax candles adorning the statue failed to light, it was seen as a sign. Even Fortis’ magic failed to light them for more than a few seconds. Zacchaeus was able to determine that the wicks are not made of wool, but leather, and thus designed not to burn. The magi cried foul, confronting the monks and claiming that someone is trying to tarnish their reputation. For their part, the monks are greatly offended, as Brother Clotaire explains that the candles were provided by the Abbot himself. After consultation with Sir Gaidon, it is determined that while suspicious, all parties concerned should return to the Abbey to investigate further. Arriving that night, the suspicious candles are placed in the main chapel to be watched, while a meeting with the Abbot is arranged for the next day.

While David and William were in the chapel to prevent any further legerdemain with the candles, Fortis, Jehan des Escars and Roger de Commarque were put up in small rooms in the guest wing. In the middle of the night, Fortis awoke to a slight noise at the door. After a few more seconds in which he convinced himself that no one was entering, he arose and checked the room. The Flambeau quickly realized that someone had added a few incriminating items to his pack: a purse filled with coins marked with demonic symbols, a small book with drawings of the Devil, and a half empty vial. Checking with his companions, the group soon realized that similar items were introduced into their possessions, while Lord Roger’s dagger was missing.

Deciding immediate action was needed to prevent an attempt on the Abbot’s life (for which they would doubtless be implicated) Fortis assumed the appearance of a monk by means of Disguise of the New Visage and quickly left the abbey to hide the false evidence. He then moved to check on the Abbot with the help of Sir Jehans. At the Abbot’s door, the pair discovered a dead monk, and could hear whispers coming from the room. Bursting into the chamber, they found Brother Clotaire and two burly monks in the process of torturing the abbot.

A brief standoff ensued as the monks threatened to kill the Abbot and Fortis spoke something of his true power…but then battle was joined. Fortis used his Circling Winds of Protection to thwart the actions of the evil brothers, but Jehans was seriously wounded, and he retreated to bring William to their aid. However, the Jerbiton’s spell backfired, and he entered a brief Twilight. Still, the noise brought other monks to the scene, who were stunned to see an Abbot threatened by his prior and Fortis hurling flame at his opponents. In the end, the Abbot was saved and the magi victorious, but the men of Commarque were held while their role in the affair was sorted out and the nature of their strange powers investigated.

Five days later, the Abbot had recovered enough to question the magi. He had already gotten some information about the “scholars’” activities from Lord Commarque but wanted to hear what the magi had to say for themselves in their defense. The magi made the case that while they did have supernatural powers, they were not granted by Satan, and tools which could be used for good or ill. Obviously, they had chosen to use their abilities for good, as they had saved his life and vanquished the treacherous monks. Furthermore, they recognized the Abbot’s authority, and were able to kiss the cross in the chapel. Therefore, he sent to his superiors for guidance and the magi stayed as his “guests” as the investigation continued.

Melissandre des Escars arrived at the Abbey to take care of her father as he recovered from his wounds. The Abbot did meet her, but he apparently does not act inappropriately. Investigating brethren returned from interviews with the locals which acknowledged strange abilities by the magi, but seemingly no evidence of diabolism. At this point the magi were guests at the Abbot’s table and afforded access to his library for study, but still prisoners, as the Bishop decided to himself turn to Rome for guidance. The magi are also frequently quizzed on matters of faith.

Brother Thomas’ questioning of Brother Clotaire revealed that the latter intended to murder the Abbot, pin the murder on Lord Commarque, and then become Abbot himself. In this way, he might assume the office, remove one of the more powerful nobles of the area, and then presumably bestow Commarque upon one of the members of his noble family. Still, there was no proof of the family’s complicity in this plan.

For the Winter Solstice, the magi snuck out of the Abbey to join in the casting of Aegis of the Hearth, and returned to their confinement with apparently no one the wiser. They spent Christmas at the Abbey, although the noble visitors saw them as guests, not prisoners.

Finally, on the 12th day of January, Anno Domini 1221, word came from Rome that the magi should be released, but provided with guidance to ensure that they not walk a crooked path and instead remained good Christians. Therefore, a Father Godefroi was dispatched to minister to the Chapel of St-Jean, who was to regularly report to Brother Thomas on the magi’s spiritual health. Brother Andri was chosen to regularly bring correspondence between castle and abbey.

Cast: William of Jerbiton (Bob); Fortis of Flambeau (Patrick); Zacchaeus of Verditius and David (Dwight); Melita of Bonisagus (Val).

Epsilon Storyguide: Guillaume.

Source Quality: 8.

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Damosel in Distress
...in which Lady Agatha is abducted from a splendid tournament by an enigmatic creature of the Cult of Mercury

As the summer of 1220 wore on, excitement built amongst the nobles of Périgord with the approaching tournament which was to be sponsored by Achambaud II de Talairand, Count of Périgord, and Hugh “le Brun” de Lusignan, Count of Marche and Aubusson (and by right of his wife Isabel, widow of King John and mother of Henry III, Count of Angoulême). The tournament was to be held at the Château Mourette, manor of Lord Antoine Montagrier, and Lord de Commarque and Sir Jehans des Escars understood they would be expected to attend. Sir Étienne and Sir Gaidon agreed to accompany them.

William was naturally interested in attending, but only the mention of cave paintings lured Melita and Gaston away from the covenant. Lady Agatha journeyed with them, as did Brandon and Giovani and the grogs Broderick, Eadwyn and Thomas.

Those new to the tournament circuit were stunned by the sheer magnitude of the event – hundreds of knights and their retainers were in attendance, and from the heraldry, it was apparent that members of the royal family were in attendance.

A grand feast was held the evening of the group’s arrival, and William was glad to again make the acquaintance of “Lady de Burgh” (in fact, the maga Eglantine of Jerbiton). Lady Agatha was likewise aflutter over once again meeting Bertran de Born lo Filhs, the renowned troubadour. He coaxed her into singing as he played for the assembled crowd, and she awed even the accomplished minstrel with her beautiful voice. Sir Étienne spent his time chatting with the lovely Lady Alix Delcorde, who had accompanied her brother Jean to the tournament. She was so taken with Sir Étienne that she gave him her favor to wear in the next day’s joust.

After the peasants engaged in a mock melee in the morning, the jousting began, and Sir Étienne was the only member of the group to participate. However, he quickly became the talk of the tournament, as he faced opponent after opponent and came away from each tilt as the victor. Murmurs went through the crowd when he defeated Sir Henri de la Rochenoire, a distant cousin to the King, but it was certain the Royal family’s honor would be redeemed when Sir Michel de Bourdaigne, a more grizzled Royal cousin, entered the list against Sir Étienne. However, on the second pass Sir Étienne managed to inflict a grievous wound to Sir Michel, and there was stunned silence as the Royal lay incapacitated and near death. A stricken Sir Étienne withdrew from the contest, and went to stand vigil over his felled opponent. William and Eglantine made their way into the Royal’s tent, and with the aid of some Corpus magic, made Sir Michel’s chance of survival much more likely. By the next morning, he seemed to have turned the corner, and the contingent from Commarque breathed a sigh of relief. William began calculating the chances of parlaying their help into an arranged marriage for Melisandre des Escars...

Meanwhile, Commarque’s reputation was further enhanced when three of its members – Broderick, Eadwyn and Thomas – were the top three participants in the archery contest. Eadwyn’s final, winning shot awed the viewers, as his longbow arrow went halfway through the center of the distant target. For his mastery of the bow, he was awarded a miniature golden arrow, while the others were given small amounts of coin as a prize.

Yet there was considerable consternation the next morning when it was determined that Lady Agatha had not been seen since the night before. Suspicion fell upon the troubadour Sir Bertran, but questioning convinced William that he was guilty only of arranging a late-night rendezvous with her for which she never arrived. Intellego magics proved ineffective at locating her, but Gaston tracked her easily enough after assuming the form of a dog. A short time later, the group from Commarque happened upon some well-hidden caves of the type so prevalent in the area. Entering the caves, the group quickly met with a mysterious locked iron gate.

Challenging anyone beyond, Gaston was sent fleeing by some magic that penetrated his parma magica, and when Étienne shook the gate, a large, menacing figure from the other side put a spear point to his throat. He backed off, and a grotesque, towering figure came out to parlay. Dressed in the manner of a Roman legionnaire, the giant bore a snout and small tusks, but looked otherwise human. He professed to be a Roman named Tarquinius who had been cursed, and claimed even to be a member of the Cult of Mercury! The magi were stunned and perplexed by this figure, who returned Agatha to them unharmed, saying that he had simply been lonely and wanted her company for a few hours. The magi did not know what to make of his story, particularly when he said he had been the Sir Turquine of lore who bested all of Arthur’s knights save Lancelot. At any rate, the group withdrew, and the question of exactly what to tell the Order of their discovery – and when – was hotly debated in a council meeting.

Cast: Gaston, Giovani and Thomas (Guillaume), William and Gaidon d’Aubec (Bob), Brandon (Nick), Sir Étienne and Eadwyn (Dwight), Melita and Lady Agatha (Val).

Alpha Storyguide: Patrick

Experience: Source Quality 6, 2 Confidence Points (3 for Étienne)

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The West Breeds Wickedness, Part III
...in which the magi of Crypta Venatus escape a mysterious regio only to be put on trial for diabolism

A trip to the wine cave the following day would not be soon enough to satisfy our heroes, who, after Fecunditas’ adjournment, decided to investigate the cave that very evening. Their grogs had been missing for ten days, they had found no clear answers yet, and they were filled with impatience at the slow turning of events. Fatigued from lack of sleep and worry, they broke the lock on the gate.

At first, the two magi and their companion found only large barrels of wine—a veritable treasure by any standards. The cave extended well beyond the wine stores, however, and further back the walls revealed many drawings similar to those in the magical caves near Commarque. The two closely investigated the drawings for signs of infernal influence, but they were for the most part too simple to seem anything other than what they were: drawings of many different types of animals, some strange, some familiar.

In one rear corner of the cave, Gaston discovered the remains of a very small fire. One would have to be either very foolish or very determined to wait in the cave in order to create a fire there, so he and William considered the finding important. However, there appeared to be no other evidence of Gerard and Thierry’s passing, nor any other passage in the cave.

After some debate, Brandon recalled the illusion which had hidden the lamia’s cave. Feeling foolish, he nonetheless blindfolded himself and began to bang on the wall of the cave near the remains of the fire with his sword. Just as he was about to give up, he found himself stumbling forward into a passage strewn with rocks. Looking back, he saw only more passageway, and no magi. Since Sir William and Gaston had kept the torch and it was dark where he was, Brandon sat down on a stone and waited for his masters.

Little did he know that his masters were not entirely certain they wished to follow him. William and Gaston argued for some while about whether the risk of entering what was probably an infernal regio was worth the retention of a few grogs. Indeed, William could not help but wonder whether Brandon had fallen directly into the pit of hell, a fate which he did not wish to share. Finally, though, their curiosity and their desire to bring these dark magicians to justice overrode their fears, and they mimicked Brandon’s trick for finding the entrance to the passageway.

For Sir William and Gaston, the discovery was almost immediate. They both stumbled over Brandon himself, who had been patiently awaiting their arrival. Now there was no sign of the wine storage cave, only a passage slanting upward behind them and downward below them. The three began to climb upwards, reasoning their chances of reaching daylight were better in that direction.

They were correct, though a sad sight awaited them as they emerged from the passageway into a larger room with an entrance to the outside. Thierry lay on the ground, his head propped on a cloak, his color pale. Sir William examined him and found that the right side of his chest had been partly crushed, and several of his ribs broken. Though Gerard was nowhere to be seen, there were signs that someone had attempted to care for Thierry and make him comfortable, as well as the embers of a small fire.

Sir William’s fears were somewhat abated by finding at least his immediate surroundings seemed normal enough, though, unlike Gaston, he had no interest in venturing outside the cave. As the two were discussing what their next action should be, the sound of approaching footsteps made its way into their awareness. It was Gerard, looking gaunt and haggard, wearing no cloak and carrying a small dead animal slung over his shoulder. The look of alarm on his face was quickly replaced by amazement and agonized relief—-he had begun to give up hope that he and his comrade would ever be found.

Quickly the magi questioned Gerard, who was eager to go back with them with all haste. He answered their questions with wide-eyed honesty. He and Thierry, he said, had been promised they would meet two fine young lasses (he honorably refused to reveal who they were) in the cave, and when it had become apparent they were being stood up, they had decided to explore further. Once they started down the passageway, they became lost and couldn’t return. They turned around, hoping to find light and higher ground, but found only this cave and this strange land instead.

This land, Gerard said, was inhabited by odd and ugly men similar to those in the caves near Commarque. Remembering how dangerous those brutes had been, he and Thierry had avoided them, but could not resist attempting to capture a magnificent horse they had spied. The horse, he said, was all glossy black, with flaming red eyes and snorting fire, but he had proved too much for them and kicked Thierry in the chest for his pains. Thierry had believed that the capture of such a horse would abate their masters’ ire at their misbehavior, and he had suffered for his overconfidence.

The phrases “flaming red eyes” and “snorting fire” immediately grasped the attention of William and Gaston, who believed the beast to be evidence there was indeed some infernal influence over this realm. They became curious about the beast Gerard carried over his shoulder, and asked to examine it. Gerard defensively replied that he and Thierry had not brought their bows with them, and had been reduced to setting snares for small animals for their supper—and there were precious few of those to be found here. They had only eaten three times since arriving. Finally, ashamed that he had allowed himself and Thierry to devolve to such a wasted state, he allowed his masters to examine the rabbit he had caught. The beast indeed had some strange signs on him: long fangs unusual in an herbivore, a slick, oily dark coat, and an unhealthy dark red-looking mouth. The magi considered themselves assured that they had stumbled upon an infernal regio, and, after some argument—-Gaston wished to explore, while Sir William most assuredly did not—-they agreed to leave with haste.

Gaston changed into a bear and allowed the ailing Thierry to be strapped to his back. Now the puzzle of how to find their way back to the cave presented itself. William formed an idea which had some merit: he would cast a spell that would allow him to smell the wine in the cave and follow its scent to the surface. Gaston was able to give him a temporary pig’s nose to enhance the efficacy of his spell, but Sir William’s own magic failed and he lost his sense of smell entirely. Fortune favored Gaston, who successfully cast the spell on himself, and followed the scent of the wine through the tunnel to Sieur Brun’s cave.

All members of the party were overcome with relief that they had returned safely to the surface. Bursting forth from the wine cave’s entrance, they were confronted with an enraged Sieur Brun and several armed men. He accused them of witchcraft, tormenting his guests, and disturbing his household by breaking open doors. (At this, Brandon blushed to the roots of his hair.) It seemed as if the crew might be burned alive or hanged after all their difficulties, if they didn’t take swift action. Fortunately, Sir William was able to persuade Sieur Brun to put them on trial and have them examined by a priest rather than executing them outright. It seemed the two “scholars” had left early that morning, declaring they could take no more violations of their privacy, and they stated they would remove themselves so that peace could return to the household.

Gaston, in bear form, was tied up as the beast they perceived him to be, and Thierry was taken away with promises that he would receive medical attention. William was hopeful for a positive outcome at the trial, but when his own servants were questioned, Thomas stuttered and looked guilty, while Esteve off-handedly referred to William’s “controlling that monstrous beast,” causing a grim look to cross Brun’s face. Calling for his local priest, Sieur Brun locked his formerly welcome guests into a rude dungeon beneath the ground floor of his manor house to await their examination.

Meanwhile, Gaston managed to change himself into a dog while his guard was distracted, and escape his tether. In hawk form, he circled the dwelling to assure himself that his companions were not about to be killed. Finding no evidence of pyres or scaffolding being prepared, he flew north, looking for the diabolists’ cart. Gaston reasoned that they would head back toward their own covenant of Oleron, but saw no sign of them in that direction.

Down in the dungeon William cast a bit of gossiping magic to compel one of his guards to repeat a rumor that he was close companion to King Henry. He saw evidence of the success of his spell when the guard whispered, alarmed, into another guard’s ear as he arrived, bringing the priest. Perhaps the fear of His Majesty’s ire would save him and his friends where reason would not. An elderly, timid man, Brun’s priest swallowed his fear and required each of the prisoners to repeat the Lord’s prayer and submit to the touch of holy water. They all passed his test, and, satisfied and relieved, he left to repeat his findings to Sieur Brun.

After some time and quite a bit of anxiety, Brandon and Sir William learned that they were to be released and accompanied to the border of Sieur Brun’s land, whence they should never return if they wished to live. Grateful for a reprieve, they assured Brun they would abide by his wishes, and carried Thierry back to Commarque in their own cart. Would Gerard and Thierry be affected by their time in a tainted aura and the food they had eaten? Only time would tell…

Cast: William of Jerbiton (Bob), Brandon Macheth (Nick), Giovani (Guillaume).

Delta Storyguide: Val

Experience: Source Quality 6 or 8 (for all three sessions)

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