Mortui Vivos Docent

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.

The Legend of St. Guinefort which a Bjornaer magus cements the reputation of a local saint

Shortly after planting the magical pine cones in the nearby forest of La Bessede, Loefwen returned from Lapis Crudis covenant with two letters: one from Eglantine of Jerbiton for William de Bonville, and another from Verim of Guernicus – the senior Quaesitor of the Normandy Tribunal – for Vindicatus.

Verim’s letter indicated that Radko of Bjornaer, pater of one Petrus, had reported the latter missing after visiting the manor of Villars near Lyon. An unliked man, there was some concern that he had met with foul play, perhaps at the hand of one of his numerous enemies. Loefwen agreed to lead Vindicatus and William on the lengthy journey – eight days in either direction. They were accompanied by several shield grogs, the mysterious Nicodemus, and the towering Montagne.

Upon reaching Villars, Loefwen interviewed the peasants about the area, and learned of the local legend of St. Guinefort: the great-grandfather of the current Lord of Villars had returned home to find his newborn son missing, his crib overturned, and his greyhound’s maw soaked with blood. Drawing his sword, he hacked the creature to death, and only then found his son under the bed, safe and sound. The remains of a nearby snake told the tale: the greyhound had faithfully defended the babe against the serpent, and it was the blood of this battle that the master had mistaken for that of his son. Buried in the nearby “Old Well,” the beast had since been venerated as a guardian of children, and the simple folk of Villars took their own children there to seek her blessing. While the idea of a dog being treated as a saint was strange enough, it was said that one of the villagers – Marie – had recently seen the saint.

Interviewing Marie, she described what was clearly a robed man, albeit one who seemed disoriented. “I would protect the child,” was all he said, and then disappeared. Thinking this could well have been Petrus, the group went on to interview Sir Michel, Lord of Villars, at his manor house.

Sir Michel was evasive, and said only that Petrus had stopped at the manor and left. Vindicatus’ Posing the Silent Question spells provided little extra information, although whether this was because there was nothing to find, or the wrong questions had been asked, it was hard to say. The magi and Nicodemus supped with the lord that night, and indicated they would leave upon the morrow.

Sir Michel’s son, Daniel, was of interest to the group. He was described as “plagued by faeries,” and “strange things” were said to happen around him. When interviewed, he confessed that “animals did not like him,” and that Petrus had asked him similar questions. The magi suspected he had the Gift, and began to understand Petrus’ interest in Villars.

Guessing that Petrus had threatened to take Daniel away and that Sir Michel had killed him to prevent it, the magi directly challenged the Lord of Villars. Yet the story that came forth, reinforced by Vindicatus’ Frosty Breath of the Spoken Lie spell, was not quite what they expected: indeed, Petrus had broached the subject of training Daniel with Sir Michel. But Petrus had returned later to the son’s bedroom in the form of a snake (his Heartbeast). The shrieks of the handmaid summoned Sir Michel, who, much like his great-grandfather before him, hacked away at the “threat” to his son and heir. But when the snake turned to a dying man, he was petrified that the Petrus he had met with was a warlock. Secreting him to the Old Well, he dropped Petrus inside and then threw rocks down inside to cover him up. The magi were stunned that Petrus had died in this way, but now understood the whole affair to have been a tragic mistake and a fatal miscalculation on the part of Petrus.

At the Old Well, the hapless grogs were set to retrieving the body of Petrus from the well. Nicodemus’ Second Sight enabled him to see the nearby form of Petrus standing watch, muttering his dying words again, just as Marie had seen. Once the badly decomposed corpse was brought forth, Vindicatus used his Whispers Through the Black Gate spell to interrogate a more lucid spirit. Petrus confirmed what had happened, made it clear he could rest by finding a way to train Daniel in the Arts, and requested that his remains find their way to Crintera. The magi agreed to this, and then set about convincing Sir Michel that Daniel must be trained as a magus.

Obviously reluctant, he was ultimately swayed by the arguments that Daniel might one day return to his inheritance, and that his strange nature could be a detriment here. Properly trained, he might become more powerful than Sir Michel might imagine, and need not fear snakes, dogs, or superstitious peasants. Nicodemus agreed to begin his education immediately, and Sir Michel accompanied the magi back to Crypta Venatus to see that Daniel was properly installed there – although the question of his ultimate destination within the Order remained unanswered.

Cast: Loefwen (Val), Nicodemus (Josh), Vindicatus and Montagne (Grady), William de Bonville (Bob).

Alpha Storyguide: Patrick

Experience: Source Quality 6

Amid the Veil of Pines which a deal is struck with mysterious magical creatures

Roger de Commarque received an invitation to attend Count Achambaud II of Périgord’s May Day feast of 1218, and surprised the magi by informing them that they had been invited as well. Accompanied by Sir Etienne and Lady Agatha, Loefwen of Mercere, Vindicatus of Guernicus and William de Bonville of Jerbiton journeyed to La Cité, and the Castle Barrier, seat of the Count’s power.

After watching the peasants’ pagan celebrations, the group dined with the Count and his three guests: a young knight errant named Sir Aubry, a beautiful young noblewoman named Lady Anne de Burgh, and Bertran de Born lo Filhs, son of the famous troubadour Bertran de Born, and himself a troubadour of no small ability.

In an attempt to impress Lady Anne and Loefwen, Sir Aubry produced a vial of liquid of purportedly miraculous qualities. He related how he was hunting a large boar, and stopped to resin his bow with sap from a nearby pine tree. Upon returning to his camp, however, the liquid within had magically turned to something that looked like water. He attributed this to some protective magic that the “faerie” boar must have used.

Vindicatus used his magics to examine the liquid, and determined that it was, in fact, composed of human tears. Unable to attribute much imagination to the young knight, the magi became intrigued by this tale, and asked him to take them to the site of this miracle. Lady Agatha elected to remain behind and be entertained by Sir Bertran, but the charming Lady Anne invited herself along. She showed them some of the impressive sights of La Cité on the way out of town, including the ruins of the Gaulish temple of Vesunna and a massive Roman amphitheater.

Sir Aubry was not entirely successful finding the spot where the sap had been collected, but Vindicatus used the tears as an arcane connection to lead them to the spot. Nicodemus, with his ability to see beyond the mortal coil, spied a young peasant trapped within the tree.

When a wreath of pine cones was found nearby. Vindicatus tried to use his magics upon it, and while he determined that its creators were immediately behind him, this also seemed to send the group into a regio: heavy snows now blanketed the forest, as far as could be seen, in all directions. Soon thereafter, all of the mundanes were turned to trees…with the notable exception of “Lady Anne.” When the flabbergasted William noted her resistance to the effect, she coyly noted that she was probably “protected by her parma magica” and revealed herself to be a maga of House Jerbiton. Nicodemus set off with Balthasar to see if he could find the boundaries of a regio. Not long thereafter, the morose Balthasar became oddly silent, and Nicodemus found he, too, had been turned into a tree. His challenges to the powers of the forest went unanswered, and while investigating the spot where the first peasant had been found, William’s parma magica withstood an assault.

Terse negotiations ensued. Loefwen used her Leap of the Homecoming to return to the covenant, and Vindicatus intimated that their entire Order was now alerted to the threat of the trees and would come to destroy them unless their companions were freed. The trees then released all of the mundanes except Sir Aubry, Nicodemus and Balthasar, and said they would release them when their seeds were planted: a pile of pinecones full of vis. The magi agreed, and returned home to discuss their options. After some back and forth, the magi agreed to plant the pine cones in the depths of the nearby forest of La Bessede, hoping to discharge their part of the bargain, and establish a is source in the process. Almost two months later, having been freed, Nicodemus and Balthasar returned to Commarque.

Cast: Lady Agatha and Loefwen (Val), Balthasar and Nicodemus (Josh), Vindicatus (Grady), William de Bonville (Bob).

Alpha Storyguide: Patrick

Experience: Source Quality 7

The Wolf Brought to Heel which an infamous brigand is laid low by the magi of Crypta Venatus

Early in the fall of 1217, the constable appointed by the regent of Henry III, Duke of Aquitaine and King of England, Sir Gaidon d’Aubec, arrived with another knight to discuss their recent encounter with Lobar the Wolf. This brigand had become too much trouble to be ignored, so Sir Guidon was charged to bring him to justice. The magi told him what they knew – which was little – but used their arcane connection to Matteus to locate a probable hideout. To their surprise, the ruffian with Sir Gaidon was a Hermetic magus, Fortis filius William Fireheart of House Flambeau, seeking to join their covenant. Apparently a follower of the School of Ramius, his specialty was protective spells that allowed him to wade into melee…explaining his outward appearance as a regular knight.

Sir Gaidon retrieved his friend Sir Étienne de Cendrieux, and Sir Roger de Commarque agreed to accompany them. Brandon Macheth, the mountainous Montagne, and Captain Ivor’s team of longbowmen joined the force, and Fortis, Melita, Vindicatus and William came as well. It was decided that as their expedition must travel south, and close to the covenant of Belinor, they should pay their respects there before engaging Lobar. A mysterious man named Nicodemus, a Magister in Artibus of the University of Paris, arrived just before they set off and asked to join them, trying to make sense of visions of a charging white horse.

Three days to the south, the band was intercepted by self-important knights of Lord Garmond, and escorted to the village closest to the “scholars” of Belinor. The villagers seemed cowed by the covenant’s reputation, yet a young man was found to lead them to the squat tower in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The magi of Crypta Venatus were challenged by a man named Marcus, and two seemingly robotic grogs. Shortly thereafter, the magi were brought before two of the members of Belinor: Celera of House Ex Miscellanea and ??? of House Bjornaer.

Pleasantries were exchanged, and more wooden servants brought refreshments for the guests. However, Belinor’s magi seemingly lost interest in the visit upon learning of Crypta Venatus’ reason for journeying this far south. The magi left with the promise of correspondence and vis trade.

Their hounds picked up the scent of Lobar’s men soon after leaving the village, and though Lobar’s men kept a careful watch, they were first lulled into letting their guard down when Fortis took on the appearance of their captured companion, and when flights of longbow arrows were followed by a fearsome cavalry charge, even the hardened Brabaçon mercenaries were cut down quickly. Sir Gaidon eviscerated one with his lance, Brandon Macheth lopped the head clean off of another, and Lobar himself died when Melita hit him full in the face with her Shower of Needles spell.

Although all of the men were killed or captured, the only sign of the mysterious hedge wizard Rene were the magical grenades some of the mercenaries employed in the battle. Flush with the thrill of victory, but anxious to put the matter with Rene to rest, the group marched back towards Périgord, and home.

Cast: Sir Gaidon and William of Jerbiton (Bob), Nicodemus and Balthasar (Josh), Brandon Macheth (Nick), Melita of Bonisagus (Val), Vindicatus of Guernicus and Montagne (Grady).

Alpha Storyguide: Patrick

Experience: Source Quality 8

The Inheritance which con men fail to leave with the de Commarque treasure

Two Sword Brothers of the Hospitallers arrived at the covenant in the summer of 1217, asking to speak to Sir Roger de Commarque. The magi arrived to find that they had produced a letter from the Grand Master of the Order of Saint-Jean, which caused Sir Roger to faint upon reading. Loefwen of Mercere stole a glimpse of the letter, which requested that Sir Roger hand over the property of the Order promised by his ancestor Sir Geraud; Aureus Ex Miscellanea noted that the Brothers’ armor was serviceable, but inexpensive, and their tabards seemingly newly made. William of Jerbiton made excuses for the lord and took the Brothers off to drink at the buttress house before they met again at dinner.

Vindicatus of Guernicus acquired an Arcane Connection for one of them from their horses, and attempted to eavesdrop on their conversation that night. While they spoke in a language he did not know, he did note the significance of one of the Brothers pulling out a piece of cloth that could only have come from William’s cloak!

Suspecting that the Brothers were impostors, and knowing they had gathered at least one Arcane Connection to one of their number, speculation began as to their real intention. Suspicion immediately fell upon Temeritus of Tremere, thought to be plotting his revenge on Commarque and Vindicatus in particular. Could one of the men in fact be a magus? It was decided to shoot first and ask questions later, and the grogs were set in motion. The longbowmen occupied the guard tower, their weapons trained on the buttress house, while Montagne led the melee grogs to the narrow passage between the buttress and oven houses. Loefwen mounted one of the “Brothers’” horses and made a racket so they would come out to investigate.

The first of the men did, and when Montagne and his men tried to sieze him from behind, they were surprised by how adeptly he avoided their attempts. However, as he fled toward the tower, Melita of Bonisagus gave the order to fire, and he was dropped by a flight of longbow arrows. Storming inside the tower, Montagne faced a defiant (and now armed) “Sir Martijn”, but as the doughty warrior moved to attack, he slipped on a piece of furniture, fell, and disarmed himself. He grudgingly was taken into custody and interrogated.

Apparently this man – Matheus – and his companion were Brabacon bandits in the employ of the infamous Lobar the Wolf, who had sent them to acquire Sir Roger’s inheritance. They admitted to having magical help, but the magician they described – a man named Rene who gave them magical charms – sounded more like a hedge wizard than the feared Temeritus. The magi sent him on his way with a letter to Rene, describing the Order and suggesting he must join…or else.

Finally, the magi persuaded Sir Roger to show them his inheritance. Gold, a chalice, and a shroud from the Holy Land were dazzling, but not magical. Sir Roger sheepishly admitted spending part of the money on building the castrum, which had, in fact, been pledged to the Hospitallers, and all were left to wonder how Lobar and Rene found out about it.

Cast: William (Bob), Aureus (Nick), Vindicatus and Montagne (Grady), Melita (Val).

Alpha Storyguide: Patrick

Experience: Source Quality 7

Beginnings which the magi establish the covenant of Crypta Venatus and meet their neighbors

As the Winter Solstice of 1216 approached, and the newly-arrived magi Melita of Bonisagus, Vindicatus of Guernicus, and William de Bonville of Jerbiton prepared to engage in their first Aegis of the Hearth ritual, visitors presented themselves at the gate. Four brothers of the Abbey of Sarlat presented themselves: Lucas, Andri, Daniel, and Lorenz. Accompanying them for the last leg of their journey was Kara of Mercere, to become their fourth member, along with wagon loads of lab equipment.

William was welcomed to a meeting between the Abbey members and Roger de Commarque. Brother Lucas informed Sir Roger that the Abbot wished a chapel to St. John to be built upon his lands, in order to serve the spiritual needs of the people of the village of Beyssac. Brother Lucas enthusiastically seized upon the idea, to William’s chagrin. William glumly reported the matter to his sodales, who immediately began plotting a means by which to thwart the encroachment of a Divine aura on their turf.

As they dined together that evening, Melisandre des Escars brought Brother Andri to speak with the magi. It seemed he was more interested in hearing about their scholarship than discussing matters of the faith. They dodged his request to see the Gallery of the Hunt but otherwise engaged him in discussion of Artes Liberales.

Days later, the Autocrat Agatha de Reims brought a frantic Jehans des Escars to beseech the magi to find his daughter, missing for the last couple of days. The Inexorable Search revealed her to be on the castle grounds, and Summoning the Distant Image showed her to be trapped in a cave somewhere, but searches proved fruitless until the day of the Solstice. While the magi completed their Aegis of the Hearth ritual, Lady Agatha asked them if they had searched the caves next to the Gallery. Puzzled, they went with her to find that indeed, a cave entrance leading farther below ground appeared, where previously there had been none.

A search of these caves revealed nothing, but when Melita cast Piercing the Magical Veil, another level of this regio was revealed, where more cave paintings survived, and a strange, phosphorescent fungus illuminated the caverns. Here, they found Melisandre, and returned her to a grateful Sir Jehans, who pledged his eternal support to the magi.

Things seemed to be about to settle down when one last visitor paid their respects: Curina filia Rex of House Bjornaer, of the covenant of Doissetep in the Provencal Tribunal. Ostensibly, she was there to make a courtesy call and inform them that some of her House might be in the area as part of their rituals. It was clear, however, that she also sought to convince them that joining the Provencal Tribunal would be a better fit for them than the Normandy Tribunal. The magi were noncommittal.

Cast: Melita of Bonisagus and Kara of Mercere (Val), Vindicatus of Guernicus (Grady), William of Jerbiton (Bob).

Alpha Storyguide: Patrick

Experience: Source Quality 5