Aristocles will explore the town with particular emphasis on the items on sale. He is looking for metal ware of superior or better quality with a view to setting up buying options via one of the un gifted covenfolk.
< OOC Since Comprehend Magic will be hindered by the town's inevitable Divine aura, Scylax will cast somewhere out of sight Spont InVi 5 Base 1, R:P, D: Sun T:Smell to detect vis (InVi 15 + 2 Sta +_: 1D10 =  = 9) /2 = 13 , extra magnitudes for Smell to Hearing, and for Hearing to Sight. So hearing!!
InVi 10 Spont magic aura detection Base 2 D:Sun T:Smell extra magnitudes for Smell to Hearing, and for Hearing to Sight. (InVi 15 + 2 Sta +_: 1D10 =  = 5 ) /2 = 11, no extra magnitudes. OOC>
After this, Scylax will initially follow Aristocles around, but he's not very interested in looking at wares, and more on meeting people, perhaps an expert down on his luck that can be recruited. He will encourage Ioannes to accompany them, to get to know the man, and perhaps have him deal with people, the Ungifted way. Also, might not be a good idea for 2 Gifted people to wander together.
Ioannes will focus on the various metal work although he's really quite exhausted from riding on that horrible donkey.
[tab][/tab] The town of Ioannina is a burgeoning place. Named after its patron saint, St John the Baptist, it was a small mountain town until some years ago. After the fall on Constantinople, the late Comnenus Ducas had refuges settle here and in the city of Arta. While there are still tensions and a cultural divide between locals and newcomers, things are settling down and the town is prospering for it. The refuges, mainly town-folk from the shining city itself, have brought useful skills and are willing to start their lives again. Hence the new quarter.
[tab][/tab] At the southern part of the town, inside the stone walls and near the southern Citadel, a new quarter devoted to metallurgy has slowly been built. Old wooden shops have been steadily replaced by stone buildings housing workshops dealing with iron, steel and copper mongering. These are not the typical blacksmiths and country metalworkers, these are highly professionals who ply their trade in not ideal conditions. There is plenty of business going around, each workshop filled with masters, apprentices and potential buyers. But the majority of the shops are traders of metal items, the fronts of the workshops themselves. All manner of useful metal items are on sale, especially copper ones; serviceable cooking pots and utensils, highly artistic table sets, decanters and carafes, large cauldrons and copper alembics for distilling spirits, weapons and trinkets.
[tab][/tab] Aristocles finds two workshops adequate to his needs. The first one is a master artisan dealing in jewellery settings and small knick-knacks named Stelios of Prussa. A refugee off the Ellispondos, he is in his mid thirties and starting his small business selling finely made small items out of copper and silver, sometimes gold too. He has a tiny shop and workshop that he manages with his wife and children. The other one, Fondas the heavy, is a barrel waisted man in his late prime that runs a workshop with a few apprentices, exclusively producing large copper contraptions (alembics, large pans, drainage pipes, covering and any manner of large custom made things). Though large in scale his work is professional and fine. Both are quite interested in doing busyness with Aristocles, though they naturally seem reluctant and wary of the magus. Prudence has the scholar Ioannes handle any negotiations. Both are happy to be working in this town, but are willing to work on custom made items for a price.
[tab][/tab] Scylax is wandering with his mind more on the arcane than the mundane. There are a lot of people, a lot of smells and noise. However even in the midst of the city, he catches tantalizing 'sounds' of vis. Four times he has caught a whiff, twice in the busy marketplace (which he has lost the trace in the bustle), once outside a large enclosed villa and the last in this quarter, from a seedy-looking shop that has its cavernous front door open in a byway behind the main streets. The sign made in stylized letters, named ''Antiquities''. Unfortunately the massive green door is closed.
<OOC is Scylax accompanied by a guard? OOC> He is most interested by what's behind the green door , and will ask his minder to knock on it. This might be an important (or dangerous) contact to make.
<OOC Any Hermetic presence we are aware of in this city? OOC>
May I play that animal handler/tracker who came with Scylax? Delete if the answer is no
He is a young, slender Greek. He is a gentle spirit, usually well-liked by people and beast alike. Born and bread in Scylax' old covenant he is used to following the magi around, helping them all sorts of tasks where the Gift is a handicap. «Sure, master,» he says, «what do you want me to say if they open?»
"That we would like permission to come in, what else!" Scylax burst out laughing. "At the very least we'd like to meet the owner of this establishment, or set a date for a visit, if that's the etiquette! That your master may be interested in... Antiquities." Scylax pronounces this last cryptically, exaggerating for effect.
The area where the shops is says to Scylax that this place is either out of the way on purpose or that it is not that successful; in any case, vis calls, and he knows how to listen! He readies himself for a social battle of wits, composing his visage into a guileless facade, and wondering if he should look for magical defenses. Of course, a knife to his ribs would be just as efficacious, and much more likely in this part of Ioanninna. Why must I always have such cheery thoughts! he mutters.
<OOC Scylax is confident in his charm, one on one, despite the Gift, so he sometimes tends to interact with people on his own, which is not necessarily a great idea. OOC>
[tab][/tab] Several repeated poundings on the green door have no effect, but you do get the attention of an old woman weaving baskets under the shade of a straw awning. '' He ain't there, Φοιβος'' she yells, naming the store owner in Greek (Fivos is also the epithet most associated with Apollo). Your man politely talks to the woman who grudgingly shares information only after he purchases two handwoven hats and a small basket. ''He left early summer, went down Thessaly to mount Pilio. He is a strange that one, he is. Shady business and character, buys and sells weird stuff, new and ancient. Bunch of hoax if you ask me'' she spits to the side, refusing to share more than that the owner will come back early autumn and that he has local goons watching over his stuff.
[tab][/tab] You have heard nothing about other arcane occupants in Ioannina, Hermetic or otherwise.
Ioannes doesn't find anything he wants to buy for himself, but he's happy to handle negotiations for any magi!
<OOC Do we see any sign of these goons, any street urchin lurking about? Does the shop have windows or anything of the sort? Is it one story or more? Does it occupy the whole of the building, or are there living quarters/other shops adjacent/part of the same building? Scylax is sorely tempted to break in, but not only might that be dangerous, but counter productive to a possibly profitable association. Was tempted to do some Veil of Invisibility shenanigans, but will rein himself in. OOC>
Say your goodbyes to the nice lady, lad. We will be back, during business hours.
In a lower voice: Keep eyes and ears wide open, won't you? These hidden goons might like to follow and not mind their own business.
«Thank you very much for your help, madam,» the grog says, «we had better be back in the Autumn then. Good bye.» He smiles, and moves away.
He looks quickly around. What kind of house is it? Detached? Public roads around it, or a more private corridor into a back yard? How many people are around?
«As you wish, master,» he says to Scylax. If it is possible to walk around the house without arousing all sorts of suspicion, he proposes that he do so.
[tab][/tab] There are no goons or protectors that you can see in this street. The building is part of a block of small, tightly packed stores in this area, each sharing walls with their neighbors. It looks like its a two storey building with no balcony, just an overhang over the street, making a short of unintentional promenade in the front. The door is stout, the shop itself shows no viewing window or other openings. In fact, besides it is a staircase going up, some kind of different shop or living space occupies the floor above. Whether the shop itself has a basement you cannot say.
«I can go around the block, and scout out the back, if you want to,» the grog offers, whispering.
Hmm. Yes, do so, but do not tarry. I would confer with Aristocles. If there are any thugs to be found, well, lose them or find me quickly! Your mother would never forgive me if you get into any trouble.
<OOC Scylax is a Busybody, so he should be familiar with the lad's parents, if he is indeed from Scylax previous abode. OOC>
[tab][/tab] After a brief trek, the grog returns. It seems there are shops going all around the block, possibly having a common empty lot behind them or a small skylight area. Unless you can gain access to the back-room of such a shop, the only way to get there would be above the rooftops.
Thank you, lad. Let's join up with the others, we will visit this place later.
<OOC Scylax will be alert to being tailed, although he's just slightly more perceptive than normal. OOC>
The lad tags along, 15 paces behind, also on the lookout.
[tab][/tab] Your party pass some time in the quarter, marvelling at the wares and chatting with shopkeepers and crafters, looking for bargains or exceptional items. Aristocles makes headway with the two aforementioned workshops, while Scylax is still wistfully looking for arcane stuff. You take a quick lunch on foot, buying fingerfoods and baked goods from street vendors, then you are ready to pass more time until your have to return to your inn. Tomorrow your party shall depart for Dodoni, for the midsummer rites.
[tab][/tab] Dodona, the ancient oracle site of Zeus, who is also called Xenios Dias. Once it must had been a magnificent site, a place bustling with life and buildings. Now it is less than a shadow of itself, a place of rubble and smashed marble, overgrown by weeds. You have traveled a short way from Ionannina to reach Dodoni, as the whole place is called, just passing over the hill separating the lake valley from this one. Below you, on the north east side of the valley, is the ancient site and on the opposite side of the valley Tomaro mountain. Some small plots of cultivated land dot the valley, most is covered in lone olive trees and reeds, marking a marshy terrain. Dodona is recognizable by the ancient theater that still exits, some stone walkways doggedly marking the land, and a small church built where the shrine of Zeus used to be. Till Christians arrived, there were ancient oaks making a ring in the center of the complex, but those have been cut down by order of a local Archbishop. Some decades ago magi of the Tribunal planted some oak saplings, remaking the sacred grove. It is in this area that you are to initiate and partake of the mid-summer rite.
[tab][/tab] Anastaj has your people make camp in the amphitheater, then judging the sun's position, he takes the rest of the Gifted and whomever else wants to observe to the grove itself. A rough circle ringed by oaks, overgrown by weeds with some ancient flagstones peeking through the vegetation, it is a sad reminder that all things change and pass on. Yet there is still power here, you can feel it vibrating like a pulse, rising with the sun's ascendancy. Facing north towards the hill, there is a recently reconstructed archway made of old and new marble, flanked by two statues representing lions. The Vlach explains that those were erected by Seekers of the order, restoring an ancient gateway to no-one knows where; probably a regio of some kind, though to this day there has been little success in entering it. He advises you to avoid the archway, while he makes preparations for the rite.
[tab][/tab] He finds a ring of stones close to the center of the grove, a site where a camp-fire has been previously set, and after clearing it of debris places a small bronze tripod over it. '' I need sticks and branches for a fire. Dry fallen ones, all of them from the oaks here. Mind you oaks only, and do not break any living wood, you hear?'' he shoos you to do this task, while he rummages with his bag. Humming, he places a shallow bowl made of cast iron dark with soot over the tripod, and a contraption of shiny mirrors on the ground besides it. Anastaj fastidiously calculates and makes correction on the placement of this device, regularly checking the position of the sun and some undetermined landmarks until he is satisfied. Next he takes out a flask of red wine, some ceramic cups and a bundle of expensive myrrh from Levant, purchased at great cost. He waits until you put enough wood to fuel a medium fire, rearranging the dry sticks again and again to his satisfaction, then sends you to gather more of the same wood to make an extra pile , just in case. His last task to Gifted magi, he hands out small copper knives, weird looking little things with curved representations of an eagle in flight holding a pair of thunderbolts on one side, and a lioness in front of a full moon on the other. You are to gather new oak leaves and green oak nuts from the trees themselves. The leaves must be cut in threes and must be green, whole and new. The nuts must be green too, complete with their casings and without blemishes or holes. Anastaj himself opens the mirror contraption and has it focus the power of the sun on the dead branches below the tripod, harnessing the light to ignite them.
[tab][/tab] ''This is one of the jobs we tasked to do; gathering the vis of this place. Learn well, cause you will be doing it next year'' he snorts.
Aristocles will pay particular attention, making notes on parchment of the particulars. He will question Anastaj about where he obtains the Myrrh and if the red wine is any particular type. He also questions the use of the mirror device and it's alignment. Once he has all the detail and the ritual is complete he will simulate the required actions asking Anastaj to observe and correct any errors. For some reason Aristocles has a feeling he may not get the opportunity to gain Anastaj's wisdom in this matter again, so takes every opportunity this time round.