1205 Spring - The First Wave (Story)

Wolfgang shrugs. "If others want to learn Vigil, and cast with me, it would be helpful, but it's not strictly necessary. I can manage a decent potency on my own. I don't expect any accidents, I'm not one to do much experimenting."

The tour ends when a servant brings a message to Julius. "It appears that Master Augustus Nero of House Guernicus has arrived with a youger berthren."

"Ah," says Clusius, "excellent news!" He looks at the other magi with a smile. "Shall we gather in the council room to discuss the signing of the Charter, as well as our plans for the future?" This sounds like a rhetorical question, asked out of politeness.

Turning to Julius, he adds, "Pleas have Augustus and his companion brought to the council room. I think I will be able to get there without an escort."

(Clusius does indeed succeed in leading the group there, with a minimal amount of detours along the way.)

All the magi are finally gathered together when Julius announces Augustus Nero, along with a younger magus named Regulus Petraeus of House Guernicus.

After Clusius has embraced Augustus, expressing his pleasure at seeing the old Guernicus again, everyone takes their place at the long table. Clusius insists that Augustus take the chair heading the table, seating himself beside the old magus. After everyone is seated, the Jerbiton magus rises to speak.

"I would like to officially welcome every single one of you to Tugurium, our soon-to-be covenant. As you all know from the letters we exchanged, this covenant is being formed to honor the memory of my grand-pater, Leonardus of Jerbiton, who originally arranged this refuge to be built, not only as a place where he could retreat to when the demands of Hermetic life became too heavy a burden, but also as a place where people ill-suited to mundane life could find safety and build a life away from harassment, poverty and fear."

"Of course, my grand-pater did not do so completely out of kindness, for this valley gave him access to some rich vis sources. These resources he left as inheritance to his heirs, which include my mater. Since they could not leave their respective positions in their covenants, they asked me to create this covenant to take control of those resources. In exchange, our covenant will pay each of the three of them a rook of vis each year. That may sound like a lot, but it will leave us with plenty of raw vis for ourselves and our covenant."

"To make things a bit more complicated, as you know Tugurium is located at a crossroads between three powerful Tribunals -- Normandy, the Rhine and the Greater Alps. Each of these Tribunals have significantly different rules regarding covenants and vis sources. Some of these rules would prevent us from forming this covenant, while others would deny us a claim on some of our vis sources."

"This represents a significant challenge in the coming years. Political forces may try to tear us apart. Some may try to woo us, other may percieve us as weak and try to take for themselves vis sources we claim. Can we meet these challenges? And how? Only time will tell. I, for one, am determined to do so. Since you are all gathered here," he smiles at the gathered magi, "you must also believe such a challenge can be met."

"The first step in this challenge is the formation and recognition of our covenant. Normally, this would mean registering a Charter with a Tribunal. Our peculiar situation makes this a bit more complicated. For this reason, master Augustus has proposed an innovative approach. I will let him explain." With that, Clusius sits down, gesturing to Augustus to explain the Charter.

Augustus, a fairly stout man who appears to be in his late fifties, adresses the magi without rising from his seat. He opens a portfolio containing several documents before speaking. He looks up at the gathered magi with a smile, his brown eyes glinting.

"The Charter that I have prepared is, at its core, fairly standard for new covenants. It does contain some important changes that reflect the how and why this covenant is being formed."

"First, since the resources from which the covenant is being founded -- its buildings, inhabitants, source of income, and claim to several vis sources – were part of Leonardus’ inheritance. As such, the Heirs felt that the Charter should contain clauses protecting their rights to a share of those resources. After much discussions, it was decided that the best way to achieve this was to establish the position of Princeps as leader of the covenant, who has broad powers and is restricted to the lineage of Leonardus. Clusius will be this Princeps. He cannot be removed from this position by the other members of the covenant. Only the Heirs can replace him."

"The Princeps will have the power to overturn the Council’s decision, unless they have been reached by an unanimous vote. I have advised Clusius to his this power sparingly and after careful thought, for to do otherwise would undermine the Council’s trust in him. He should listen to the members, and rely on them for sound advice regarding the future of the covenant."

"Each of the members will be entitled to a yearly payment of three pawns of vis. The Princeps does not. Excess resources of the covenant can also be distributed by the decision of the Council, so you may end up getting more vis."

"The rest of the Charter is fairly standard."

"This leaves the most innovative part, from a legal perspective," adds Augustus. "Instead of registering this Charter with a Tribunal, it will be registered directly with House Guernicus at Magvillus. By doing so, your covenant will claim that due to its unique position, selecting a specific Tribunal at this time would cause undue strife between the three Tribunals. This will give you time to negociate with your neighbours, either to set youself as a neutral covenant, or join one of the Tribunals."

"This is certain to raise a legal storm, but it purchases you time to decide for yourselves the future trajectory of your covenant."

Regulus has been waiting patiently besides Augustus since their arrival at the covenant, mostly watching. When entering the council room anyone would notice that his left sleeve flutters emptily in the air. He would seem mildly surprised by Perion's presence, and seems to recognize Eikona, but says nothing to any of them (there is no much time before they all sit). He frowns a bit when looking at Clusius, unsure if and when he has seen the man before. Maybe at the last Normandy Tribunal?

After taking his seat and listening to both Clusius and Augustus words he politely asks for permission to speak.

"Thank you for your invitation, Clusius. I'm pleased to finally make acquaintance with you all." Regulus' eyes linger for a few moments over Perion's and Eikona's direction before going onwards.

"I am no match for Augustus when the subject is the Code of Hermes, but you can refer to me for any questions that require a quicker answer when a Redcap would prove too slow for our purposes."

"I will also take this moment to put forward my opinion about the subject: there are ways in which we can shield ourselves if any accusations are brought against us, but if that comes to be true we will immediately be at disadvantage, having to defend ourselves in our prosecutors' home. Augustus is buying us some time, but we can not forget that the next Tribunal will be in two years..."

He stops for a moment, reminding himself that this is not true in the Stonehenge.

"... and it would be better for us to be in position to make a choice, if we want to, by then".

"True, making a choice as soon as possible would be preferable," adds Augustus in reply. "If you are unable to do so quickly, I am sure that pressure will increase on you, and that it may leave you vulnerable. However, we may be able to postpone a final ruling until at least the following Tribunal."

Anyone looking at Marcus would be able to tell that he has really only just realised what a political mess he has gotten himself into.

"the greater alps would never allow us in, I believe? They're known for exporting their younger magi, which I certainly count as. So that only leaves us with two different tribunals to balance."

then he thinks again

"But I imagine that they'll definitely want to claim the vis sources, even if they wouldn't allow magi such as ourselves in" he muses

"Sorry, I expect this is why I was invited here as an enchanter, rather than a politician"

Wolfgang smiles shyly. "I quite enjoy politics. Though I am a bit of a neophyte. Augustus, what have you heard lately about the Lotharingian project? I don't know very much, just what I've overheard from discussions between the Gilds; and I believe we may be a bit south of their intended borders... If we pursued that, we would gain both allies and enemies, but I'm not sure what the balance would be. Augustus, could you opine on that? Would it be a good option for us?"

Eikona raises a finger and stabs the air: "Am I the only one who thinks we should renegotiate the passage about the rights of the line of Leonardus? Since the covenant doesn't exist at the moment, this passage can be renegotiated now. Or we could simply found a different covenant in this place using a different charter.

I do not mind giving the voices of the heirs extra weight to represent their central contribution to this covenant as it is. But I see two problems with this. First, over time, our contributions' weight will grow, but our power in the council will not. Second, if Clusius dies before I do, I might lose my home, my lab, all but my most private possessions.

I hereby suggest we limit the extra voting power of the heirs to a second vote. I'd also feel more comfortable if we become heirs of Leonardus after a membership of a number of years, like ten. This would free me of my worries of being turned out of my lab when I'm old.

As I see it, Clusius, you are under a lot of pressure. You'll need all the allies you can get to make it through the political storm you are steering this covenant into. This will work better if the people fighting by your side have something to fight for, if they are stakeholders, not just magi who can be bought with a better offer of vis."

She takes time to look into the eyes of all magi present, then leans back in her chair.

"If we are to discuss additions to the Charter... no, let's tackle one subject at a time."

"If I'm not mistaken you are Eikona of Jerbiton, right? Very well: I'd like to point out that the rights of the lineage of Leonardus do not grant full authority on the covenant, only the chair of princeps. The princeps cannot censure or remove a magus from the covenant except through a vote in the council. At worst, depending on the choice of the Heirs, we will be bound to a princeps we dislike, and he to us. There is also the chance of asking the heirs to chose other from their midst."

"I'd also like to point out that, if the worst happens and all of them perish, the covenant goes to house Jerbiton. In such case, I believe we have more to fear than you."

Regulus turns to Augustus and Clusius.

"But Eikona does raise valid points, and to start I'd like to question if Clusius and Augustus are fully entitled to make decisions in the name of the Heirs, and to what extent."

"I'd also like some assurance that, if all civility fails, we are not to be evicted by the Jerbiton on the grounds of this place being theirs. To whose hands and in what terms would the covenant go to house Jerbiton? Does Leonardus has an hermetic brother, or nephew, that would inherit these grounds, or is it all ending in your primus hands?"

"Finally – Regulus directs this to all of the present – I agree that we are to be friends, to each other an to Clusius. We will all be in dire circumstances, and we will prevail only together. I fully expect this to be the beginning of a long friendship, not bitter rivalry between us all, because I myself have objectives that I will not accomplish without your help."

"To answer Eikona's question," replies Augustus, "the assets of the covenant, including the vis sources, are currently part of the inheritance of Leonardus. As heirs, his three filii can dispose of them as them want. So trying to take control of them without their consent would constitute grounds for an accusation of deprivation of their magical power. The reasons they agreed to the formation of a covenant here, is first to respect the wishes of their departed pater, and second because it saves them the trouble of moving here themselves or travelling here regularly to harvest the sources themselves."

"As it is, the vis that will be delivered to the heirs by the covenant potentially constitutes only one third fourth of what can be collected. The log detailing the complete list of vis sources found by Leonardus will only be surrendered once this Charter has been signed."

"You worry that if Clusius should die before you do, you might lose your belongings here. But no clause of the Charter is linked directly to Clusius. Should he die an untimely death, another magus or maga from the line of Leonardus would be designated to occupy the position of Princeps. It is only if the whole line of Leonardus were to die that the covenant would be dissolved and the inheritance fall to House Jerbiton, in the form of its Primus. The intent is to prevent one or more unscrupulous members from arranging the death of the Princeps and the heirs in order to seize control of the substantial resources ceded to the covenant. As it is, you will have a vested interest in keeping Clusius alive."

"The Charter protects you as much as it protects the heirs' inheritance. You should note that it takes a unanimous vote to expel a member and that the Princeps not overrule the Council. Most covenants have a much lower treshhold for expelling someone, usually a two-third vote."

The old man shrugs, "I'm afraid the conditions regarding the Princeps are non-negociable. You can refuse to sign the Charter if you don't agree with them, but then the best you will be able to achieve here is to be offered the status of a protected guest."

Clusius raises his hand to add, "I'm sorry if this clause bother some of you. It wasn't my idea, and I wasn't even consulted about it. I hope you still decide to join as a member, and I want the council to be a team, not to be a tyrant."

"To answer my fellow Guernicus," adds Augustus, "I am not here to make decisions for the heirs. I represent the succession in the ratification of the Charter, but do not have the power to modify it in their name. Nor does Clusius. Should you reject it and request a modification, I will have to travel back, communicate with the three heirs -- who all live in different Tribunals -- and draft a new version of the Charter. This would probably take a few months. Provided, of course that the heirs agree to the proposed modifications at all."

"I understand. Thanks for the explanation, Augustus."

"I suppose it is always better to be under a Charter than no Charter – just as it is always better to be in a Tribunal than no Tribunal."

"There are other matters that I would like to bring to this council's attention, but they can wait until Eikona and the others have had all of their questions related to the succession answered."

After all other discussions end Regulus asks for the word once again.

"Well, if all other matters were already discussed, I'd like to propose the following alterations to the Charter. I have been warned – Regulus glances at Augustus – that they are too... radical. Yet, I feel that I must put them forward for your considerations."

Regulus then takes out several copies of the following amendments and distributes to everyone present (OOC: I'll link the discussion below, we don't need to repeat it here. Except for, maybe, Perion's reaction?).

After a few heated diameters of discussion:

"I have listened your concerns, sodales, and do believe me when I say I understand your fears, and even agree with them, to a point. I shall withdraw my motion. Instead, for now I only ask that all the members of the covenant agree to treat apprentices with... sigh... a general good intention. As future magi, for that is what they are."

Everyone notices that it seems like Regulus expected this reaction, but is still a bit displeased by the result. When he says general good intention it is almost possible to see the words dripping from his mouth, heavy on his tongue.

"I will draft a new text for addition, more agreeable to my fellow magi, and shall propose it at a future opportunity, according to the procedures already described on the Charter."

Regulus sits down and looks patiently to Augustus and Clusius, waiting for the next topics of discussion.

Eikona mulls it over, then says: "I think some kind of guest status would be ideal for me. Valnastium will always accept me as a member since I am a vis source. I could be some kind of liaison between that covenant, which might inherit all of this here anyway, and at the same time enjoy being closer to the place I was born. For you, the advantage would be that I wouldn't claim any of your vis and that an attack on my sanctum would be an attack on Valnastium. I'd have to ask Andru about it, of course, but I'm sure the Alps would like to see you as part of their sphere."

You will want to join the Alps anyway, if this covenant has enough vis to show: If you join Normandy, you will be raided and joining the Rhine will not only take forever but also mean that your voices won't be heard since voting in the Rhine favors elder magi. Waiting for the Lotharingian Tribunal to form is a bold move, because it means waiting until the Tribunal of 1228."

Feeling rather out of his league with the sudden storm of new names, legal rulings, and differing Tribunal customs, Perion sits quietly and listens to what the other parties have to say before offering some of his own opinions. As Eiokna finishes, he breathes in sharply and starts in quickly, "I have no real preference for any of the Tribunals based on any of our prior experiences with them. I would much rather see us join whichever is most likely to not interfere or cause us trouble than for us to blindly stick to our old allegiances."

Perion pauses and slowly looks each Magi in the eyes around the table, lingering for a moment when his gaze passes over Regulus. He continues, "It seems we all come from rather different places, and I think that it might be best to avoid stepping on each others' toes as much as we can. That seems to be the most accommodating solution for everyone here. I doubt this will be the last time we discuss the charter anyways. Perhaps we should add some kind of provision to put it up for review again by the Council after some number of years? Otherwise, I myself don't find anything particularly troubling with any of this so far."

"I am sure that we will have many discussions about which Tribunal we should join," says Clusius with a nod. "It is certain that we will have to get in touch with authorities in each Tribunal to learn what would be the conditions to join them, as well as how they will react if we join another Tribunal. At the moment, I know very little about the rules for the Rhine and the Greater Alps. Or even Normandy, for though I was apprenticed there, I was seldom interest in such questions."

"But that is for the future. I suggest we postpone further talk until later."

Turning to Eikona, he addresses her preference regarding her status, "You can of course remain here for a time as a protected member, sodalis, if that is your wish. I had hoped you would join us as a member, based on the letters we exhancged. Perhaps, after a year or two here, you will reconsider?"

Nodding to Perion, Clusius adds, "Indeed, after a while we may want to make some changes to the Charter. I believe the only clauses that cannot be modified pertain to the nomination of the princeps and the payment of one pawn out of every four1 we harvest to the heirs, "is that correct, Augustus?" The old Guernicus nods.

"Are there any additional questions," asks Clusius, "before we sign the Charter?"

1 My mistake in Augustus' initial speech, for I was quoting from memory. The Charter actually states one pawn for every four harvested, not one third. I will correct my previous post.

Eikona leans back in her seat and watches the rest of the debate unfold. She thinks about the weird clauses in the charter and wonders if any of her Jerbiton sodales are martial enough to end the line of Leonardus. A few years ago, she would have said that was almost impossible, but the fall of the Constantinople has activated a surprising amount of martial rhetoric in her house.

While the others are talking, she composes the letter to Andru in her head in which she explains why she wants to be an off-site member of that covenant. Unbidden memories of Constantinople interfere, of what was and of what could have been.

After proposing his additions and failing to gain enough support Regulus has no more points he would like to address about the Charter. He sits back and waits for a few seconds before asking for the word again.

"After signing the Charter are we going to hold our first official council meeting? If so, is there a competent scribe to take notes of the proceedings? I believe it would be best that this person is not one of us, so that we can focus on the discussions."

"On the other hand, we could delay the first meeting for a couple of days, if you all agree. I could surely make use of a hot bath and a good night of sleep."

"Anyway, whenever we hold our first and future meetings, a scribe would be helpful."

"We don't have a professional scribe amongst the covenfolk, and I am not sure about letting a mundane be present during Council meetings," Clusius answers. "But we could ask Julius to take notes for us. Unless one of us wants to take them?"

"If you trust it, I have no qualms."

Regulus leans back in the chair and waits to sign the Charter.

"Notes are probably a good idea." he smiles

"you would not imagine how much easier things would have been in my apprenticeship if all the covenants kept good notes. I agree a council meeting is in order, but I'm sure that giving all of our newest arrivals a night to rest and wash the dust from the road off of them is a good idea."