Mortui Vivos Docent

The Abbot 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.

Damosel in Distress 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)

The West Breeds Wickedness, Part III 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)

The West Breeds Wickedness, Part II which the magi of Crypta Venatus investigate suspected diabolists

All who shared the journey back to Commarque were pleased to see that after about two days, Giovani began to recover his senses and the use of his limbs. Though his physical health was restored, it seemed his confidence, and perhaps his wits, had been shaken by his strange and frightening experience. It remained to be seen how he would react to this sudden and involuntary broadening of his knowledge of the world.

The covenant’s troubles were not over, however. A scant few days after returning home, William of Jerbiton received a missive from Brandon, stating in his usual laconic style that the two grogs Gerard and Thierry had disappeared, and could not be found. Reluctantly, William prepared to head west again, this time with Gaston Ex Miscellanea, his fierce ursine friend, and the grogs Esteve and Gerard for protection.

Their journey was fairly smooth, and they were welcomed with open arms by Sieur Brun and his household, who promised good hospitality and seemed concerned about the whereabouts of Gerard and Thierry. However, Gaston and Griou were assumed to be there to provide entertainment; only Sir William was invited into the hall for dinner. There he enjoyed fine wine, a good meal and the company of Sieur Brun’s guests: two traveling scholars named Damian and Fecunditas. Noting they fit the description the villagers had given him of the “two strange men in a cart”, Sir William had barely a moment to contemplate who they might be before he detected that his parma had been breached! Whoever had been foolish enough to attempt magic-casting on him had given themselves away.

Meanwhile, Gaston investigated outdoors, hoping to find some sign of the missing grogs, and perhaps some infernal taint. He believed he had discovered an infernal aura to the northeast of the manor house, and asked Brandon to bring Sir William out to assist him. Sir William was none too pleased to have his meal interrupted, and the two began to bicker. They nearly came to magical blows before Brandon realized an infernal aura might be causing the discord, and begged them to regain their senses. Finally the two magi determined to meet at the last crossroads they had passed the afternoon before, which would hopefully be far enough away from any infernal influence that they could concoct a plan without endangering each other.

Each magus left with a grog, while Brandon determined to search the two “scholars’” rooms. He was forced to make an awkward job of it and break open the doors. Inside, he found little in the way of personal effects, and no evidence of infernal influence or devilry. Frustrated, he headed downstairs to sleep in the castellan’s bedroom, where he had been staying since his arrival. To his surprise, however, on his way down the stairs he overheard a servant girl weeping anxiously and confessing to leading his two grogs astray. He ran downstairs to confront the girl with an older serving woman, and persuaded her to tell him her tale. It seems she had promised Gerard and Thierry that she and her sister would meet them in the cave behind the manor house where Sieur Brun’s wine was stored. At the last minute they had become nervous and failed to make the rendezvous. Afraid that she had led the men to their demise, she dissolved in tears, and was bundled off by her senior. Electrified by this information, Brandon changed his plans and settled down to await the return of his employers.

Meanwhile, Gaston and Sir William met at the crossroads, and debated several plans for spying on their host’s guests. Each had drawn the conclusion that these “scholars” were magi deeply involved in the infernal arts, and were determined to find evidence of such, and possibly to confront them. They surveyed their combined magical knowledge and store of vis, and Gaston declared he could cast a spell that would allow them to peer into the would-be magi’s rooms as if there were no wall there at all. They debated plans to draw Damian and Fecunditas out of the manor house, and began their return to their lodging.

Meanwhile, Brandon had grown sleepy and tired of waiting for his masters, and retired to bed. His discovery would have to wait ‘til morn. As luck would have it, when the two magi returned to their quarters, they realized they did not know which rooms belonged to their suspected infernalists, so they were forced to wake the seneschal. In the process, they woke up Brandon, who told them his tale. The maid’s story did nothing to dissuade them from their course, and they embarked on their plan to spy on the “scholars,” and possibly lure them outside for a confrontation.

The spell cast by Gaston only revealed sleeping forms, so he and William woke the scholars and claimed they had spied an eerie light outside that men of learning such as they would surely wish to see. All parties at that point became aware that no one was fooled by this, but the sarcastic Fecunditas awoke his friend anyway and the five of them traipsed out into the dark in the middle of the night.

There, strong words were spoken, but no satisfaction gained. The suspected diabolists were, in fact, Hermetic magi, and seemed befuddled and outraged at accusations of skullduggery, and roundly averred their innocence. While they admitted they belonged to a covenant, the younger one, Damian, claimed to be a Redcap, while Fecunditas stated that Mentem magic was his weakest art. Frustrated, and not quite sure enough of themselves to engage in an all-out battle, Sir William, Gaston and Brandon were forced to let them return to bed. Damian stormed off first, but Fecunditas promised to accompany the three from Commarque into the cave where there grogs had been lost on the next day.

Cast: William of Jerbiton (Bob), Brandon Macheth (Nick), Giovani and Gaston Ex Miscellanea (Guillaume), Fecunditas of Merinita (Patrick, via Skype!).

Delta Storyguide: Val

The West Breeds Wickedness, Part I

In the spring of the Year of Our Lord, 1220, Matheus the Vintner came to Sir William filled with excitement about a possibility for great profit and renown. It seemed the Sieur Brun d’Argen, who was responsible for supplying his Majesty King Henry’s court with wine, had heard tales of the delicacy and flavor of that made by Commarque. He wished to sample some, and if he liked it, to purchase 500 barrels.

Delighted with the prospect of sampling Sieur Brun’s wines and possibly establishing a profitable partnership, William determined to join Matheus. The newly arrived foreigner, Giovani, as well, detected the possibility of profit for himself, and attached himself to the travelling group. He traveled always with his bodyguards, who were most welcome on the journey, since the recent battle with mad wolves was still fairly fresh in everyone’s mind. Brandon Macheth and his faithful hound, along with Thierry and Gerard, accompanied them, as well, for protection.

At first the journey through a cold and damp spring was uncomfortable, though Sir William was at least able to conjure the water away from himself. However, on the sixth day, the group descended a hilltop to find the sun brightly shining and the small village of St. Emilion lying below them like a jewel in the valley.

All was not well in the village, however; the men of the village were thrashing the underbrush and calling for three lost children: friends, who had all left together to play the day before. After speaking with the mother of one of these, whose name was Philipe, Sir William was struck with sympathy for her plight and announced that he and his comrades would find the children. Many in the village suspected two foreigners, somewhat dark-complected, who had asked about children while passing through the previous day.

Sir William, Brandon, Gerard and Thierry set off in the direction of a meadow the children often used as a playground, while Giovani and his men stayed behind to rest their feet and watch the pretty young women of the village go about their spring chores. Using a cap of Philipe’s, Brandon set his wolfhound on the trail of the children, which ended at a stream. Though he found evidence of some sort of movement on the other side, the hound was confused, and Brandon could not tell whether man, animal or cart had taken the children away. Once he climbed up a tree, however, a trail of some sort became evident, leading off into the woods. He and Sir William and the others followed the trail until it seemed to end in a sparse section of wood by the side of a hill.

The hound perched himself at the base of the hill, whimpering, and attempted to dig. Sir William concluded the children must, regardless of the absurdity of it, be within the hill. He exhausted himself and used vis to cast a spontaneous spell and blow away a portion of the hillside, only to find the central part of this hole remained intact. Quite sensibly, Brandon stuck his hand into the central portion and found it went straight through – this was an illusion.

At this point, Sir William and Brandon began to feel the atmosphere of the place work upon them, though they did not know it. After exhausting himself further attempting to determine the nature of the aura they were in, William became convinced that there lay a great magical treasure or relic within the hole, and nothing would do but that he must get to it before anyone else did. Brandon could clearly see the magus huffing and puffing with fatigue, and attempted to talk sense into him. The two began to argue and even came to blows, each in his own way; finally, in disgust, Brandon abandoned William to the cave and began his return to the village.

Along the way he encountered Giovani and his men, who were following their trail. Brandon attempted to explain what they had found, but the language barrier combined with the fantastical nature of their discovery made clarity difficult. They all returned to the hillside together, to find that Sir William had entered and was rifling through a pile of bones and rotting flesh in the back of a cave, still convinced there was treasure to be found. It seems however, that one live person was within, for the boy Philipe began to whimper and call for his mother. He was alive, but could not move, for some strange reason. William, utterly exhausted at this point, picked up the boy and took him outside in order to silence his whining.

Soon a strange slithering and thumping sound in the underbrush announced the return of the cairn’s inhabitant. The strange creature had a woman’s head and upper torso, but a snake’s lower body and fierce-looking fangs. With an enraged hiss, she hurled herself at the men with terrifying speed, and began to claw them. A great battle ensued, during which it seemed likely at many points that all of them might succumb to the creature’s claws and enchanted singing. At one point, she bit Giovani, who then gradually over the next few moments became unable to move.

However, just as the men feared that one or all of them might be killed, the beast was distracted by the movements of Philipe, who was regaining his strength, and began crooning to him and slithering up to him, ignoring the men. Sir William croaked out a spell to confuse her, and it worked—she began to circle aimlessly, and was unable to return their blows. The men, entranced and sleepy from her singing, nonetheless finally managed to kill her after several mighty strikes. When the battle was over, another child, paralyzed, was discovered in the underbrush. However, since Philipe was regaining his strength, it seemed likely that this child and Giovani would, as well.

Disturbed by the encounter and the effect the area had had on him, Sir William apologized to Brandon and decided that perhaps he didn’t need to sample any new wine, after all. He returned to Commarque with Giovani’s prostrate form and his men, leaving Brandon, Gerard, and Thierry to escort Matheus the additional day’s journey to Libourne. While Philipe’s mother was overjoyed at his safe return, the other parents were not so happy to learn that their children had been killed by a “witch”. The decapitated head was showed for evidence, then taken to Commarque so that the two pawns of Imaginem vis that William had discovered in it could be extracted.

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

Delta Storyguide: Val

The Feast of Fear, part II which the magi of Crypta Venatus deal with threats to their lands from both man and beast

While the large wolf caught by the magi struggled in a stony grasp, Gaston of Bjornaer could see that this was not the wolf he had scried previously. As the sun rose, the wolf turned into a very large man. Questioning of the man revealed him to be Allard, a local farmer. Upon their return to the castrum, Aureus ex Miscellanea imprisoned Allard in the stone beneath Commarque.

Waiting for the magi in Commarque Castle was Emma, Lady d’Aubec, who had heard about the soldiers from the north hunting for Cathars. Emma, whose swollen belly indicated an advanced stage of pregnancy, apologized for the absence of her husband, Sir Gaidon d’Aubec, who was away in England securing his position with the new Regent of the King. Melita of Bonisagus noticed that Emma had started to go into labor, and spent the next several hours assisting in the delivery of Gaidon’s first-born (a daughter) with the help of Corpus magic.

Meanwhile, the others crafted another letter, this time from Crecin de Abassart, commanding the crusaders to meet him in Toulouse. Sir Balleray was easily fooled by the forgery and led the other knights and men-at-arms away. The lycanthrope Allard was released after an agreement was forged to research and remove his curse.

Over the next two weeks, news of a huge black wolf terrorizing the countryside made its way to the residents of the castrum. The savaged corpses of sheep were left at doorsteps, and children woke in the middle of the night to see a monstrous wolf with glinting yellow eyes gazing at them from outside. Other than an old man who suffered a stroke after being chased for miles, the wolf seemed content to terrify rather than harm.

The hands of the magi were forced, however, after Giovanni Dimatti discovered the dead body of the redcap of Lapis Crudus in a field east of the castrum. The redcap bore a letter from William of Jerbiton saying that he and Fortis would be staying at Lapis Crudus for the duration of the season. His corpse had a look of horror on its face. Melita used Corpus magic to speak to the corpse, which told of being attacked by a horrific black wolf that chased the redcap for hours until his heart burst.

Giovanni’s guards returned to the castrum later with the redcap’s horse, which bore a wound from a creature’s claw on its flank. Melita and Gaston used the horse’s wound to locate the wolf in the vineyards south of the castrum. A force was quickly assembled and sent out to confront the wolf.

Sir Jehans des Escars, Loefwen Brand, and Brandon Macheth, all on horseback, were the first to encounter the wolf. Loefwen managed to put an arrow into its shoulder , but when the wolf bared its teeth and growled at its attackers, fear gripped the hearts of Jehans and Brandon, and they could not press the attack. Loefwen was not affected by the wolf’s glamor, and she dismounted to face it. The monster charged and bore her to the ground, and she used her Boots of Homecoming to avoid being savaged by the beast. At that point, Gaston in the form of a bear – his Heartbeast – arrived and immediately attacked the wolf. After a furious exchange, Gaston struck the wolf a blow that sent it flying. The wounded wolf turned and fled, but Brandon, having recovered both his courage and control of his mount, caught up to the wolf and cleaved its spine with one stroke of his sword.

The wolf spoke before dying and its dying words and Melilta’s postmortem examination gave clues as to its nature and motivation. This wolf was a creature of the Faerie Realm that subsisted on fear, and thus had followed the marauding soldiers from the north as they struck fear in the populace wherever they traveled. Melita recovered 3 pawns of Intellego vis from the eyes and nose of the creature.

Cast: Melita of Bonisagus and Loefwen Brand (Val), Giovanni Dimatti, Gaston of Bjornaer, Griou, and Jehans des Escars (Guillaume), Aureus ex Miscellanea, Montagne, and Brandon Macheth (Nick).

Gamma Storyguide: Bob

Experience: Source Quality 5 (Brandon, Jehans and Montagne), 8 (Melita, Aureus, Gaston), or 6 (Loefwen)
[5 was also assigned to Griou, but she subtracts her Magic Might of 7 from all Source Qualities]

The Feast of Fear, part I which crusaders from the north bring fear and chaos to the communities of the Grande Beune

By December of 1219, the campaign against the Cathar heretics in Languedoc was going poorly, with many fortifications re-taken by the forces of Count Raymond of Toulouse. More knights and men-at-arms in the north were encouraged to join the crusade. Giovanni Dimatti, a banker from Lombardy, ended up traveling south with one of these knights, Sir Balleray.

Upon arriving at Commarque, Sir Balleray delivered a message to Sir Roger of Commarque, informing Roger of a visiting force of crusaders on their way to Toulouse led by Lord Crecin de Abassart, a favorite of King Phillip Augustus. With William de Bonville of Jerbiton and Fortis of Flambeau away at Lapus Crudis on a trading mission, Sir Roger hurriedly summoned Aureus Ex Miscellanea and Melita of Bonisagus to inquire if any of the scholars at Commarque were Cathars. Melita assured Roger that none of their number followed the Cathar heresy.

Roger then met with Giovanni the banker, who won an offer from Roger to stay at Commarque indefinitely using words of honey and a gift of a jeweled ring recovered from the severed hand of one of the Muslim defenders of Acre, which was taken by crusaders in 1191.

A couple of days later, Crecin de Abassart arrived at Commarque with a handful of knights and a score of men-at-arms, demanding that all within the castrum provide food and lodgings to “the army of your liege-lord, King Phillip Augustus”. Abassart, a short, arrogant, and thoroughly unpleasant and ill-tempered noble, demanded access to the building housing the laboratories of the magi. He was dissuaded from using the laboratories when the quick-thinking Aureus used Imaginem magicks and several pawns of Creo vis to make the laboratories smell awful.

Later that night, the residents of the castrum were awakened by a clamoring from Abassart’s soldiers, who discovered that two of their number had been attacked in the woods. The surviving soldier told of a stranger wearing the yellow cross of the Cathars, who attacked one with his own polearm, then changed into an enormous wolf and killed the other.

Earlier that day, Gaston of Bjornaer happened upon a deer in the forest that had been killed by a predator. Examination of the dead deer and the tracks surrounding it indicated that the predator was likely a unnaturally large wolf. Given the full moon of the previous night, Gaston suspected that a lycanthrope was near and traveled to Commarque to warn the other magi.

Abassart was furious that a Cathar had attacked his men. He set out from the castrum to root out Cathars in the nearby villages and hamlets, taking with him both his soldiers and the men-at-arms of the castrum’s nobles and scholars. Before he left, Abassart declared that he intended to draft the Welsh archers and take them with him when he left for Toulouse.

The magi resolved that the arrogant noble must be dealt with. They forged a letter to lure Abassart to a copse of trees that included the magic pines planted from an earlier adventure – pines that claimed people as their own, transforming them into trees. Loefwen Brand (disguised with her Ring of Obfuscation) rode to Abassart to deliver the letter, and found the noble angrily lecturing a crowd of frightened villagers and peasants on the evils of heresy. In the background, a handful of their number (including a priest, a village idiot, and others who were lame or deformed) hung by their necks from trees.

Abassart was convinced by the forgery, and traveled to the copse of trees that night. As Loefwen watched, a scream echoed from the copse, and Abassart’s horse emerged from the treeline sans rider.

Meanwhile, Gaston used the wounds of the dead soldier as an arcane connection to cast Image of the Beast, and received a vision of a man-sized black wolf with glinting yellow eyes. Gaston, Aureus, Melita, and Montagne set a trap for the wolf, using urine from Gaston’s bear companion Griou which had been transmuted to wolf urine with Muto magic. With the aid of Aureus’ Hands of the Grasping Earth spell, the party caught a man-sized wolf as the full moon filled the sky…

Cast: Melita of Bonisagus and Loefwen (Val), Giovanni Dimatti, Gaston of Bjornaer and Griou (Guillaume), Aureus Ex Miscellanea and Montagne (Nick).

Gamma Storyguide: Bob

The Devil's Wolves which the magi run afoul of an infernally-tainted crusading army

In the autumn of 1219, Fortis of Flambeau, William of Jerbiton and Melita of Bonisagus were returning from the covenant of Atramentum Renatus, where they had been invited to set up vis and text exchanges. Stopping at an inn to rest for the night, the group noticed three soldiers in the common room with livery bearing three horses argent on a field of vert. Speaking to these soldiers, Fortis learned that they were employed by one Gille de Roche – a French Nobleman from the Vale de Sombre – and were participating in the crusade against the Cathars to the south; specifically, at the town of Lalanne.

As the night wore on, a flood of refugees appeared at the inn, claiming to be from Lalanne. Two of the refugees stood out: Avram ben Schlomo, a Jewish scholar, and Martin, a tradesman. They informed the magi that they have been pursued by the soldiery which sacked Lalanne, and also that the soldiers had been searching for a book in the town. William noticed that the three soldiers in the inn left as soon as the refugees arrived. Martin gave Fortis uncannily precise directions when questioned on the way the refugees had traveled.

Deciding to further pursue the mystery of what the soldiers sought in Lalanne upon the morrow, the magi retired for the night. Fortis and Melita were awakened by an attack upon their parmae, while William and the mundanes in the inn were afflicted with bad dreams of being hunted through a forest. Martin was the only person not affected by such dreams and indeed had joyous dreams of running with his “family.”

Deciding that Avram might prove useful to the covenant due to his skills as an architect and mason, the magi sent him and his family on to Commarque; meanwhile, they arranged to take Avram’s son Mikha’el and the mysterious Martin with them to research the sacking of Lalanne. Along the way, the magi ran into a small army with the livery of Gille de Roche, including a large number of priests. Posing as pilgrims, William and Fortis approached to parlay with the head priest, Father Chrétien. Father Chrétien loudly denounced the heretics of Lalanne, seemingly supernaturally enraging the army and Fortis, but failing to penetrate the William’s magic resistance. Sensing that Fortis was now poised to harm Martin, William prevented him by casting a spell upon him to break the incitement to violence. Attributing Chrétien’s power to diabolism (the smell of brimstone was detected), Fortis conceived a plan to disguise themselves as soldiers, infiltrate the army, and gather more information, while William suggested they might kill the false priest. Fortis was well pleased with this suggestion and assented. Meanwhile, Martin exhibited more animalistic behavior, adding to the suspicions that he might be a werewolf, and William again came to the group’s rescue with Mentem magics, calming the tradesman.

Disguised as common mercenaries, Fortis, William, and Eadwyn joined the army. That night, Fortis was given guard duty outside Father Chrétien’s tent, along with another soldier, and the Flambeau overheard Father Chrétien carrying on a conversation, seemingly with himself. Later in the evening, William approached the tent and put the guard to sleep with his Call to Slumber spell. Fortis then quickly slit the guard’s throat, and the men proceeded inside. There, Fortis grievously wounded the priest, and Eadwyn was aghast when Fortis then decapitated the “holy man.” Taking Father Chrétien’s journal, a demonic Bible, and a tainted torc, the magi made their escape back to Commarque.

Upon having Bernard the scribe and Avram read the journal, it was discovered that Chrétien had been after something called Υιοσ λυκαον, κυον σωτερ.

Cast: Melita of Bonisagus and Eadwyn (Val), William of Jerbiton (Bob), Fortis of Flambeau (Patrick).

Beta Storyguide: Nick

Experience: Source Quality 5

Lascaux, Part II which Crypta Venatus does battle with the denizens of a magical regio

The expedition to Lascaux was hastily assembled, with William of Jerbiton, Aureus Ex Miscellanea, and Melita of Bonisagus leading Thomas, Balthasar, Madoc, Phillipe and Sabine to the enigmatic cave. A cold rain plagued them for their entire journey, and when they arrived at Lascaux, they were surprised to find a wild-looking giant nearby with a bear companion.

This individual was apparently a man, although towering above everyone else there, and he seemed a menacing presence. The grogs nervously placed themselves between him and the magi as tense (and terse) exchanges were made: the giant told them to leave, while William insisted that the caves were their property. Aureus made some quips about the giant’s parentage as well, and it seemed like the groups would come to blows. Then William got the notion that this man might be a Bjornaer magus, and queried him in Hermetic Latin. It turned out his assumption was correct: the giant proclaimed himself Gaston of House Bjornaer. Gaston indicated he had traveled to many similar caves, and was interested in what they might teach him about his ancestors – apparently believing himself to be descended from a union of cave bears and humans. He expressed no interest in the cave as a vis source, but wished to explore the cavern with others. The magi of Crypta Venatus hesitantly acquiesced.

Once inside, all was as before, and Melita led them once more into the powerful magical regio, finding the same snowy landscape. Gaston noticed human-like tracks leading away from the cave, and the group followed these for some distance. The tracks led uphill to a cave of some sort, and the party heard strange voices coming from within. Melita used Intellego magic to discern the number of creatures inside, but before they could act upon this information, the group was spotted by the cave denizens. Feral-looking men in pelts poured out of the cave, menacingly wielding stone-tipped weapons.

Before they could act, Aureus held one of them fast with his Hands of the Grasping Earth spell, but the creatures were very fast. They launched a volley of javelins, inflicting several serious wounds on the grogs (particularly the lightly-armored longbowman Madoc), and another group stabbed Gaston and his bear several times. Aureus erected a Wall of Protecting Stone before the javelin throwers, William blinded two with Flash of Scarlet Flames, while Gaston seemingly went berserk. The beastmen were no match for the giant and bear, crossbows and longbows…nor even for Melita’s again surprisingly-effective Shower of Needles spell. Soon all of the creatures had fled, been captured, or killed.

Entering the creatures’ cave, little of interest was found, save another of the creatures lying insensate on the floor. He was alive but did not react to prodding; next to him was the Venus “stolen” from Melita’s sanctum. William attempted to read his mind, and gained a Warping point for his trouble. When the grogs made to bind the prostrate creature, however, they turned him over and he convulsed once and died. It was decided his spirit might be interrogated back at the covenant, but William wanted to ensure the creature could not return to plague the covenant. So Thomas was given the unenviable task of beheading the corpse, and the head and Venus were taken back to Crypta Venatus.

Cast: Aureus and Balthasar (Nick), William and Thomas (Bob), Gaston (Guillaume) and Melita (Patrick).

Alpha Storyguide: Patrick

Experience: Source Quality 5 or 6 (if participated in both sessions)

Lascaux, Part I which an enigmatic horse of Lascaux penetrates the covenant's defenses

With the approach of Imbolc in 1219, Melita of Bonisagus prepared to journey to the caves of Lascaux in order to collect its Animal vis, and once again study the cave paintings that she was sure would lead her to insight into Fertility Magic. Fortis of Flambeau agreed to accompany her, as he had never seen the caves, as did Brandon Macheth and Gaidon d’Aubec (in case of brigandage, but in an attempt to keep the party small).

Upon their arrival, Fortis discovered one of the mysterious stone “Venuses” prevalent throughout the caves, but Melita was shocked to see that the cave paintings seemed less lustrous than in the past. Looking throughout the caves to see the extent of the damage, Melita used her magics to detect a powerful Magic regio, and began leading the group into it. A botch brought her alone into a strange vista, blanketed by snow and unfamiliar landforms. Melita feared she might have entered the realm of the mysterious magic pines (see the story Amid the Veil of Pines). Fortis managed to lead the rest of the group to her shortly thereafter, and they spent a short time exploring their immediate surroundings. Brandon tried his luck at shooting an enormous elk that happened nearby, but his arrow barely stuck in the thing’s thick hide before it trotted off.

Returning to the mundane world, Melita collected the vis as usual the next morning, but was dismayed to find that the amount of vis collected was less than it had been in previous years. Although Fortis wanted to return to the regio and explore it further, no one else shared his enthusiasm, and Melita was primarily interested in reporting the distressing news to the other magi.

A council meeting was called, and the ramifications of their discoveries debated. The specter of Temeritus was – as always – raised, especially since he was the original discoverer of the caves. Concern was voiced for the many other caves in the area featuring the mysterious art, as well. It was decided that at the very least, the cave at Lascaux should be sealed magically, so as to hopefully prevent any easy intrusion into one of the covenant’s vis sources, and Melita recruited her sodales Aureus of Ex Miscellanea for this purpose.

During this council meeting, however, the grogs standing watch stood stunned as an odd-looking horse came right up to the walls, sniffed a bit, and then jumped through the walls and into the courtyard. Despite chasing it, and summoning the magi to attend to the matter, the horse quickly disappeared as it entered the casse bour. Afterward, it was discovered that the Venus Fortis had found had disappeared. More worrisome than the apparent theft of the Venus was the knowledge that this creature had somehow walked unhindered through the covenant’s Aegis of the Hearth! An expedition back to Lascaux was hastily mounted.

Cast: Aureus Ex Miscellanea, Balthasar and Brandon (Nick), Fortis of Flambeau (Guillaume), Gaidon d’Aubec and William of Jerbiton (Rob), Melita of Bonisagus (Val).

Alpha Stroyguide: Patrick.