1.2: of Wandering Isles

[tab][/tab][tab][/tab][tab][/tab]of Wandering Isles

Participants: Aristocles, Scylax, Ioannes A group of 6-10 people caring for the party, its equipment and giving protection

[tab][/tab] Summer is here in the southern part of the Balkan peninsula, and the fierce sun beats down on the greek countryside mercilessly. Thankfully the covenant is high in the mountains, nestled in a cliff and concealed by walls of stone. Perhaps being in a shadow-spot has its advantages, especially for those coming from the north and not accustomed to the Mediterranean climate. Once more the mountain changes; snow has completely gone months before and the supply of water is dwindling in the rivers. And while the gorges are green as ever, the annual flora of the mountainsides is starting to turn brown, forcing the herds up the slopes and into the alpine meadows. But while wildlife starts taking a pause under the strain of the summer heat, humans are busier than ever. Farmers harvested the first crops of the year and are now planting summer crops. Where there is abundance of water whole acres are tended by teams of peasants, while in more arid areas selected plots are catered for summer fruits and vegetables, the rest lie fallow till early Autumn. Teamsters ferry goods to and from the markets, merchants trade furiously, and all manner of craftsmen work on their wares before having to take a break at midday. And of course war is at a high pitch again this year, to the east of Epirus. Theodore Komnenos Doukas, the new ruler of the Despotate has consolidated his power and started moving into the Thessaly valley, forcing the Latins back towards the north.
[tab][/tab] Summer is also busy for the covefolk. Construction is fully underway and it looks like you might have some more buildings ready before winter, though the cost to your purse is anyone's guess. The masons and the resident carpenter finished refurbishing the new house for Raven's family. It is quite large for three people. Whether the Bonisagus will take full advantage of this or she will split it in two (keeping her laboratory and a modest amount of rooms for her family and leaving the other half to be used for some other purpose) is something that will have to be addressed soon. Most houses have been reinforced too, and a new oblong building is slowly being built out of sturdy stones downhill, a special project Anastaj says (he has been repeatedly seen talking with the mason headman, Dimitris and a guard that looks anything but a guard named Alexios). The Bjornaer have long left for their northern trek to their mysterious gathering (mutters of paganism are carefully kept out of the magi's earshot) and some companions too have gone on taking care of their business elsewhere. Soon Raven will be the only maga in residence and responsible for whatever happens, while Dimitrios will be in charge of the day-to-day handling of the covenant's needs.
[tab][/tab] Four days before the summer solstice, Anastaj and some of the magi will depart for a long trip to Delos, an island of the Aegean sea. It is a journey that must be made the Vlach announced to the magi, and some of the newcomers should attend. It will be an excellent opportunity to learn the duties this Covenant has, how the Tribunal works, what the countryside and people are like in Greece. It will also be a good time to socialize with your peers, talk to other magi of the Tribunal and perhaps make new contacts and friends. There might also be a gathering of newly gauntleted magi at Delos this time of year, part of the crop apprenticed two Tribunal gatherings before. Anastaj had received word by the Redcaps on the island's projected position (it famously moves around) and he lays out the route the party will be taking. Ioannina will be your first stop of the trip and you will be staying there for a day while Anastaj talks with some people of his in the city. Then you will depart for Dodona, the ancient Oracle site and stay there for the mid-summer rites, to harvest vis for the Tribunal's coffers. Then again south you travel to Arta, first city of the Despotate, across the bay to Preveza, its harbor town. A ship will be waiting for your party to take you by sea to Nauplio, an old maritime town on the east side of Peloponnisos. You will have to find another ship there to take you to Naxos in the Cyclades, where a small boat friendly to magi will ferry you to the Wandering Isle. It will be a visit of three days, while Anastaj takes care of some delicate matters, then your party will leave for Thessaly, move inland to Meteora then back to covenant passing through Katara crossing (which should be safe this time of year). This trip will take about two months in total, which is in part because Anastaj is quite old to be traveling on horseback. There is one more thing, the Vlach cautions. Killing and giving birth are strictly forbidden in Delos, not even of the animals there. That means that animals and pets of a predatory nature are not allowed and people should restrain their impulses. ''Though how the rabbits and quails manage to avoid both is a mystery'' you hear him sarcastically mutter.
[tab][/tab] While the teamsters make ready for the first part of the journey loading packs and provisions, and the few grogs you will be taking with are looking over their armaments and joke about the various towns (and brothels) they will be visiting, Anastaj takes those magi coming with him apart for some conference, gathering under the big apple tree where a impossibly tall ladder is set aside. It is time they learned of the duties their Covenant has and what they will one day be asked to do for it....

Scylax is quite excited to go. Perhaps his Patron will be there! Though he does not mention this.

He will engage in conversation with each and everyone of the fellow travelers, but specially with Annastaj and Aristocles, trying to learn about their Hermetic line and interests, the latest rumors, etc.

Meanwhile, he will be most attentive to Anastaj's instructions, carefully climbing up the ladder of the tree, he's no circus performer...

Ioannes will gather with the magi eager to listen in and learn about Magi and there strange customs. He looks quite frail for his age, leaning on a walking stick. He did pick practical trousers and a tunic for the journey though. His hair is roughly cropped at his shoulders.

Aristocles will engage with the magi and companions to learn more about who they are and what they hope to achieve. He will press Anastaj about his relationship with the red caps, which Aristocles has picked up to be somewhat strained. He will also ask him about "Hermetic trade" within the tribunal, is it normal, who acts as an intermediate, what do they charge etc. He will also cast the "miners keen eye" to look for variously gold, silver and iron as we travel the journey, low chance of success is accepted but he may just get lucky.

[tab][/tab] The ladder is positioned against a main branch of the tree and it goes quite high under the green foliage. Anastaj smiles beatifically at Scylax when he volunteers, while the young man looks dubiously up. He points to a patch of red, quite high on the tree, then gives him a silver plated sickle and instructs him as to how to cut the apple branch without harming the fruit and flowers. While the man slowly climbs, the vlach steadies the rickety ladder, though what strength the old magus might have is best not tested. Aristocles asks about the Redcaps of the Tribunal and Anastaj thinks a bit before answering. He says that the reds provide the warp to the magi weft making the weave that is the Theban Tribunal. They are quite unique in their role, but they are also political. There was... resistance when he and Christoforos, may he rest in peace, were starting the Covenant and he fears that others will send reds to spy and make mischief. He can say that the Maia woman is estranged from others of her kind and more like a hermit than a schemer. Nikos is another regular of these parts, quite young, knows his magi father, too green. Isandros though is 'shifty'. He makes runs towards the west and the Roman tribunal, mostly deals with the selling of magical items (he glances meaningfully at Aristocles). He is known to Ingasia but also serves the Arche. Him he trusts less than the other two. The rest are usually roam too far from this area, which means anyone coming here has a reason to specifically come here. Those would probably be snooping into the Covenant's busyness.
[tab][/tab] In the matter of Hermetic trade things are run a little differently as Aristocles knows. Thebans are more open to exchange of magic, in items and spells, less so in knowledge. They prefer equal trades and trades in vis less so. Information is also valuable and many keep correspondences. But most are interested in opportunities to acquire Tokens. Exchange of Tokens is more common as is neutralization of shards. He reaches into a pocket and reveals a small bronze disk with the relief of a gorgon's face. This is the currency of the Tribunal and it is important to have a stash; it took a lot of these from both Anastaj and Christoforos to start the Covenant but it was worth it. The redcaps are responsible for keeping score and these are usually rewarded once every seven years at the Assembly. Returning to the topic at hand, he thinks that you would be better off trading individually with friendly magi. The Tribunal itself, the polity, is honorable but a less common source of trade, though the 'rates' are more favorable than other Tribunals. Lastly you can trade with Redcaps themselves as intermediaries, they are good for it. As you well know there are two Covenants that have Verditius items for sale, there is one that explicitly trades in longevity rituals. Off to the east near the City, the Jerbiton have covenants that house large libraries and do copying and scribing of good quality. The rest are... more conservative in their sharing.
[tab][/tab] After Scylax comes down in one piece, bearing the fruit and blossoms (a quite harrowing experience with the shaky ladder and all), Anastaj thanks the man and carefully wraps the vis in cloth, then puts it in his ever present traveling betel bag (ταγαρι). He directs Ioannes to go to the teamsters and see if he can find a mule or donkey that he would be comfortable riding. (He listens to talk about motion sickness with a rising eyebrow, mutters about doing something about it, but still sends the scholar off). He also instructs him to inform the head teamster to start in an hour or so. Him and the two magi will be waiting downhill at the meadow for the caravan to arrive. After Ioannes leaves, he motions for the others to follow him and starts down the path. He passes through the covenant, greeting and waving at covenfolk, always having something to say to each (he is very popular with mundane people), and he nods at Dimitris who is watching from the council's window. Moving with the help of his sturdy walking stick, he passes the new construction site at the outskirts of the covenant and heads down towards the river. Instead of going towards the church meadow however, he turns right on a barely walked path towards the second spring of Voidomatis and deeper into the Gorge, walking parallel to the dry stretch of the river between its two springs. The Vlach informs the two magi while walking that an integral part of each covenant is its patron. It is an ally and a boon, for some a representation and the centerpiece of the covenant itself. Others, particularly to the north are against this practice and there is strife on this among Tribunal members. There are actually two opposing Leagues on that. Non the less it is law that each covenant has a named patron; yours is Dikitos (Δίκοιτος, two river-beds).
[tab][/tab] Anastaj walks downstream past the second spring. It is near high summer and yet there is still water in this second river, though soon it too will run underground barring rain-fall. The flow is strong but definitely less than the western part of Voidomatis. At a deep stretch of water, he stops and bids you to stand a bit back, then moves near the bank. Arranging his clothes to be more comfortable, he then reaches up to his face and coaxes a small tear from his old eyes. With hands splayed wide, palms up he starts intoning a spell in greek. His tone is clear and deep, filled with purpose. There is a change happening in the river, a churning of the waters. The longer the magus chants the more turbulent, chaotic and white the surface becomes. Soon it resembles a white whirlpool that draws the waters back. Then twin lines to the east and west appear on the river, rising waves parallel to the banks, as if giant fish below the surface bloat the waters with their passing. Like the neck of a beast hidden underwater the lines become arcs in their middle, huge tubular tentacles made of water arching upwards, until the heads clear the surface and rise majestically into the air. Anastaj finishes his spell but the churning river is deafening, like the sound of a huge waterfall. Standing tall, four men high, the huge shapes made of water vaguely look serpentine in body and head, yet have no features, no mouth or eyes or nose. They are clearly translucent and while twins in shape their coloring differs; the western one looks like a dark shade of deep blue with belly scales of lighter sky tones, while the eastern one is the reverse, light back on dark underside. Their necks and heads are held still, but their bodies intermingle and churn with the river between them, undulating hypnotically, and you can see at some point one's back becomes the other's belly. Anastaj reaches gently with a palm and touches the closes one, his hand breaking the surface, fingers playing in the water while he murmurs something personal in Vlach. Bright eyed he turns to you with the monstrosities looming over and says ''This is Dikitos''...

Aristocles spreads his arms in a non-threatening gesture "Greetings mighty Dikitos, our patron, it is an honour to meet you".

Scylax is amazed. He will hesitate a bit after Aristocles speaks, will look to Anastaj for a reaction or some sign, then will take a step forward , raise his hand tentatively like Anastaj, and speak very formally in his Romanian Greek: "Ho, Dikitos! I am Scylax. I witness you, and am honored by your presence."

Ioannes returns with a donkey, leery of riding the beeast, in time to see the Patron form from the river. He does his best to remember as much detail as he can, but maintains a respectful silence.

[tab][/tab] Though they have no mouths the watery serpents speak, often completing each other's sentences. Their 'voices' are gurgly, non gender specific and echoing, coming from a height. To Aristocles '' Hail follower of Iapetus... cursed by Hephaestus...there is no honor in meeting again...only sadness at separation'' To Scylax ''Ho, unwoven one... child of calamity...there is no honor in presence...only the presence of honor''. With these cryptic remarks the snake heads each greet the new magi. The darker one then turns west, while the lighter one bow its head towards Anastaj the gurgling voice saying something in Vlach, then both serpents rapidly dissolve like mist and are gone. Anastaj looks surprised, then turns and faces Ioannes on a donkey coming from upstream. He mutters what sounds like a curse under his breath then shouts at the scholar.
[tab][/tab] ''I thought I told you to start in an hour and wait for us at the meadow!'' he motions for Ioannes to come closer his gaze never leaving him, looking annoyed at the interruption. While he holds his hands calmly in front of him waiting to hear what excuse he will be given, you can hear him mutter in Greek a spell. As the intruder comes closer, Anastaj motions towards him with his chin and a change comes over the scholar....

(Ioannes is affected by Loss of But a Moment's Memory please do a stress roll Int of 9+, and have the character act accordingly)

Ioannes is surprised and confused by the man's apparent anger, but he "knows" magi are bad at social stuff, so he attempts to diffuse the situation. "You said to get a donkey, inform the teamster we'd start in an hour and you and the others would be waiting in the meadow. I thought you were talking about that meadow" he points in the direction of the meadow "but you turned this way, so I must have guessed wrong on that."

After the scene with Ioannes, Scylax asks Anastaj in a low voice: "Have our other sodales met our patron? They also should learn the tree harvesting technique."
More upbeat "What is our responsibility, what are things we must do and avoid to keep it...them...as allies?
More thoughtful Who comes from the Tribunal to make sure of our patron, could a Covenant, in theory, name a hostile being as its patron, just because of proximity?

[tab][/tab] Anastaj hears Ioannes' explanations and allows himself to be mollified. '' Yes, yes my fault. I meant for you to inform the head teamster and stay with him. In an hour the caravan would meet as at the meadow. Now please return to the Covenant and wait with the others until they need to fetch us. This part of the Gorge is... dangerous. That is why people avoid the place all together. Run along now, I'll cast a spell on the path to keep your beast and you relatively safe until you arrive back to the rotunda''. He speaks in a gentle, slightly exasperated manner and wait for Ioannes to comply and return to the covenant. He watches the man ride the donkey ineptly back, a small, tired smile on his face and waves a bit once or twice if the scholar turns back to see.
[tab][/tab] Once Ioannes has left for good, his smile drops and he pinches the bridge of his nose, muttering under his breath what could be a bunch of swear words in Vlach. ''Dikitos?'' he murmurs ''We are here'' both voices say and a mist starts rising from the ground all around your part of the Gorge. Soon it seems a low, thin cloud has settled in your spot, obscuring vision slightly. Twin water spouts rise from the river that starts churning again and the serpent heads rise majestically over you. Anastaj: '' Sorry for the interruption, I just needed to deal with this. Explaining stuff and more importantly having people accept things would be tedious at this point and time'' he explains with slight mirth.
[tab][/tab] While the Vlach waits for his new magi to interact again with the patron, he addresses the questions posed by Scylax. '' No, the rest have not yet met Dikitos yet. I will have them meet slowly somewhere in the future. I did ask for people to come with us to Delos this summer, but someone has to stay behind and the Bjornaer had to go to...whatever they have to do in the North'' he gestures towards the north. ''I also explained how to harvest the vis but you are the first to have on hand experience. Dikitos is the spirit of the river, they are perfectly fine on their own. However every tribunal assembly we will be holding the Ceremony of Propitiation. You probably heard about it, you will read about it in Delos and see the place where our plinth has been erected. We will be sacrificing vis. ten points worth each time. They like vim or mentem best'' he smiles beatifically at the 'monster'. ''The bonds we have forged are strong and will get stronger, it is the way of things even though outsiders might not understand. The arche make sure patrons are of acceptable nature, they have investigated twice with this one (snort). They perplex most magi, they are unique and irregular in many ways'' he says fondly ''And no, you cannot hold something hostile as a patron. There must be agreement, negotiation and co-operation. You cannot force an entity to make the connection by force or guile''

Ioannes has questions, but its not a good time to push them. So he leaves and returns to the Teamster.

[tab][/tab] After briefly talking with Dikitos, Anastaj takes out a small vial of smoky glass from his ever present bag. Removing the stopper he asks your patron '' We will need some of your water. We are going to Delos, I thought it good to reannoint our plinth''. While he gently fills the small vial directly from the body of the patron, the vlach explains that during the ceremony of propitiation an arcane connection has to be used or the patron itself must be present. That is not an option for Dikitos as it cannot leave the river. Closing the vial with the stopper and securing it with a piece of cloth bound around it, he turns with some hesitation towards you. '' In order to call Dikitos a special spell is needed, one that is probably beyond your expertise. It is possible to just call them here near the river but they are usually too preoccupied and wont respond. Chances are improved though if they have a connection to the caller. Such a connection can be achieved by giving them some of your body fluids. A tear works best'' he hastily adds, then continues '' Would someone of you like to form such a bond? I am just asking....''

"I would be honoured to form a bond with our patron. This covenant will not succeed unless we commit fully to it". Comes Aristocles immediate reply. "However spell casting is not my strength so if the sharing of a connection is limited in number it may be best if another does so over me. If it is open to all the magi, please let me be first to make the bond and committment".

Scylax speaks hurriedly, almost trying to cut off Annastaj before he might push Aristocles into agreeing to this "small" thing on the spot. Yes, Annastaj, please explain the nature of this bond and Meru Mudi's agreement with this wondrous being, what does it entail, were you and/or Christoforos thus bonded to Dikitos? This seems weighty and a matter for the whole Council to explore. To Aristocles, more sheepishly I hope you agree, Aristocles sodales; but of course, I support your decision, and am abashed to even interrupt your momentous offer.
Scylax's alleged embarrassment registers for barely a moment, and now he is looking at Annastaj rather intently.

[tab][/tab]Anastaj shrugs ''Its a simple thing. The tear is a water substance that Dikitos can incorporate. Using that as an arcane connection, they can sympathetically know when they are being called'' He makes a face '' In reality its less effective. They are usually preoccupied by...things happening and are quite inattentive. The arcane connection makes it sightly more probable that you would get their attention without a spell. Also, they are invisible and unless you have the gift of sight or use some other magic, you won't know they are there. My spell usually acts as a call and entreat rather than a compulsion and summons. To Aristocles' question, no limit who can be 'known' to Dikitos. It is something that any and all people, Gifted or not, can do to improve their chances of communing with them''. He pets the watery form above a bit, then shrugs at Scylax again '' I understand your hesitation. It is of no matter, as long as you know it is an option. Sometimes things befall us that we have not planned for....'' He takes a faraway look full of sorrow, then sighs. ''Shall we?'' he moves to dismiss the patron and depart.

I would make my bond now if I may. I understand the implications of such an action but I am committed to this enterprise and will not shy from the Covenants success. Replies Aristocles.

[tab][/tab] Anastaj takes a step back and makes space for you to approach the entity. He indicates that Aristocles should pick a tear with his finger and hold it aloft. The right head arches over him and down towards the upraised hand, a huge mass of water bending over the Verditius, an a small tendril snakes out like a tongue and gently laps the tear. The magus feels nothing different, there is no visible effect. ''We sense you'' '' Our waters recognize you'', Dikitos says. The Vlach smiles in support and makes his goodbyes. In an instant, like twin water spouts losing their support all that mass drops into the river in a great sound of splashing, water droplets high in the air making rainbows. Heartbeats later the river has returned to normal.
[tab][/tab] The old magus has already turned his back, retracing his steps on the path towards the meadow. '' We have a brief time before we meet the others for questions'' he says while making good use of his walking stick. Soon you can see the meadow and church in the distance, the scholar waiting the chain of mules coming downhill from the covenant...

[tab][/tab] The three magi reach the church meadow just as the teamsters bring the mules down the dell and turn them north towards the hill, skirting the vividly green patch of river encircled earth and following the path out the Gorge and down to Aristi. Fierce sunlight beats down the massif, making the tiny church almost glow with its whitewashed walls and grey-slate roof. Rejoining the party you can see some of your fellow travelers cross themselves as they see new damage to the building, claw marks ripped off chunks of plaster revealing the plinths below, while most just focus on treading the path pretending everything is normal. The ascend is slow, dust and the ever-present smell of animals makes breathing difficult, especially when your caravan is this large. Summer is in full force, and while your flocks are early out to pasture high in the mountains, you can see the settlement of Vikos bustling with activity. Soon you are on the road going out the mountains, past the rickety bridge to Papigo, following the natural curve of the river for a bit. While the Mediterranean sun slowly roasts wild plant-life to brown husks, the trees and bushes next to the river are in full foliage, a bewitching light green canopy rustling in the morning breeze, seemingly whispering secrets. Life is thriving in the river, even though the waterline is now low, silvery silhouettes of trout darting around against the current, myriad insects darting above it. Meadows with tall summer wild-flowers claim spaces where trees have fallen, natural clearings that show recent disturbance; whether animal, human or something else frolicked there, making patterns in the sunlit grasses and shadowed ferns with their passage. Soon enough your path takes away from the river towards the former-Imperial outpost, then past it through the fertile valleys and busy villages, the golden wheat fields, the green vegetable gardens and the orchards.
[tab][/tab] The sun makes its travel mercilessly through the sky. Your travel brings you to the town of Ioannina, approaching from the north during the last hours of sunlight left before sunset, the glowing orb plunging behind the western mountains. It was a long, hot trek under the sun and your people are glad for the respite of some cool splashed water and cold wine awaiting them. Anastaj has planned the travel well, choosing an inn outside the walls of the city and away from the lake, a friendly place that seems to have been expecting your party. The teamsters competently unload the mules, turning them over to the two stable boys for a rub down and a feeding of oats, while the rest of you make use of the place's amenities. Small, dark and made out of unplastered stone, 'Eleni's Place' is a homey backwater inn favored by merchants and travelers. A large common room with tables (that will also bed most of your party), a kitchen and preparation area, and some rooms on the top floor reached by a walkway and stairs, make this place a relatively cheap yet clean inn. While young children relatives of the inn keeper serve you cold summer fruit to slack your thirst (well-held watermelons, sweet apricots and juicy nectarines), Anastaj confides in you that this little place holds great comforts; the wine is cheap and of passable passable, the beer is light and cold, and most importantly its too far from the lake and the swarms of mosquitoes that rise each evening. Over a slice of chilled watermelon with cheese, he tells you that tomorrow they will have the animals rest while he takes care of some busyness. He will be meeting with an acquaintance of his inside the walls, to get up to speed to any news and gather some information. It would be a great day to visit the town and wander around, he has heard that the new wares quarter has a lot of bronze workers from Constantinople opening specialty shops. Or you could wander outside, scout the lake, visit the island, hike the wooden hills or the bare low mountain to the east. He knows how young people are frisky....