Regulus rises from his seat.
"Hello Nele. I'm pleased to meet you. I mean, not under these circumstances, of course. I'm sorry for my delay, my new covenant has only recently been integrated into the Redcap network."
"Well... Archmagus Caecilius, thanks for requesting my presence. I'll do my best to find the young Herman. I think Nele will help me with all I need from now on. I'm sorry for taking you out of your sanctum."
Turning to Nele.
"I'll need to thank you in advance for your patience. Can you answer a few more questions while we go to Crintera? I'd like to talk with a few people. Starting with Herman's master, if possible. Who is he?"
Regulus is either unaware of the impaticence Nele demonstrated by tapping her foot or chose to not care.
Caecilius nods at you, and gives a small sigh, though you're not sure whether from relief or not "Farewell regulus, may your investigation find the missing apprentice."
Nele looks at you "Patience? I have been waiting almost a year, am all out of patience." And she starts to walk down the hallway "If you want to know the details, you'll have to catch up." When she sees you catching up, she explains "Herman's master is a recluse named Gulos. We know he lives somewhere near the northern coast, but not his exact location, since he's not part of any covenant as far as we're aware. To be fair, if not for the Ritual of Twelve Years, no one would have known he's taken an apprentice, since he never bothers to attend the Rhine Tribunal meetings."
Regulus stops the first attendant he can find on their way and quickly instructs them to find his servants and bring them to the portals.
"I'll do my utmost to compensate for the lost time. Have no doubt, this matter is as dear to me as it is to you."
After hearing Nele's description about Gulos:
"Was it Gulos who reported Herman's disappearance and requested help to find him? Why does he believe the apprentice fled? And where to?"
"ACs not working will surely pose a problem. You suspect some initiation... I don't intend to probe, but is this some common thing in house Bjornaer? As for Gulos, did he gave any explanation or suggestion regarding ACs not working?"
"You mentioned Herman's Heartbeast is a swan. Forgive me, but I know little about house Bjornaer customs. Does that bear any special significance for your house?"
You and Nele reach the portal before your servants arrive, but once you've reached it, she stops, and leans back, waiting for them to arrive.
"Yes, Gulos reported Herman's disappearance, but only after the Council has requested Herman's presence at Crintera. He forswore any knowledge of how, where or why Herman fled."
"We have a House initiation that makes a person shed all past connections, though it also includes him forgoing his former name. it is not a common thing, but it has been used on rare occasions, though never on an apprentice."
"The swan has no special significance per se, but Herman was gently Gifted, and seemed to have an inclination for convincing people, and could therefore be used as a sort of ambassador if he agreed, so we thought him better be given to someone more versed in those to act as the boy's parens. Not to mention that their Heartbeasts are not in synch." And before you can ask, she adds "Yes, we do take an apprentice from his parens if their outlook is opposed, or too different, as expressed by their Heartbeast. If you've done your homework, you might have heard of the case of Phillipa Light-Footed against Crintera in the Rhine Tribunal of 1200." (Make a Code of Hermes + Int roll to recall)
Regulus files the information about the boy being gentle gifted in his brain while he tries to recall if he head anything about the case. (Int 1 + CoH 3 + roll 3 = 7)
"I'm sorry, what do you mean with 'their Hearthbeasts are not in sync' "?
Regulus realizes he might be exposing himself to ridicule and further testing Nele's patience, but if there's any chance that this is important, then it's better for him to ask.
Regulus recalls there being such a case, but not the exact details. Something about Depriving of Magus' Power, but the outcome and the process didn't register fully. Maybe if he had more time in Durenmar, he could find the info.
Nele shakes her head "I hate to share too much information with Magi outside the House, but you're a Quesitor. As you, hopefully, know, there are different Humours. Each also affecting one's personallity. and they also correspond to different types of animals. When the dominant Humour is too different, we've found that it makes the teaching more difficult, so we usually transfer the apprentice to a different Magus, who will be more compatible."
At this moment, your retinue arrive.
"Please, you are free to retain any information not directly related to the investigation. Being a quaesitor is no excuse to probe on my sodales secrets. But understand that I do not know what is relevant or not, or what details are too much to ask. If I do so, it's with no ill intention. And I am bound to not divulge any information, or use it for my personal gain."
Regulus is about to keep inquiring when several people arrive.
Simon Le Blanc, the corner of his mouth still dirty with some kind of sauce, looks at Nele in a wary way. He is followed by two other soldiers. Otto is a veteran who served under Leonardus in Triamore, and as such, is fluent both in Low German and Latin. Klaus is a young social man who spends more time gossiping than practicing with his sword.
And then there is the boar... and the man.
The huge boar the size of a large pony, with long, coarse hair the color of night and eyes that shone with unusual intelligence as it observed the newcomers.
The second thing that caught the attention was the man standing next to the animal. With one hand he held a spear taller than him, while with the other he strongly and confidently caressed the creature next to him.
He looked like the embodiment of a wild warrior. With no clothing other than a fur skirt, you could see his strong body and well-defined muscles in his torso and arms. His black body hair contrasted with the paleness of his skin, in which numerous marks and scars from the past could be seen.
Dust and mud accumulated on him, and a quick movement under his only article of clothing revealed a long tail ending in a lock of dark hair.
His long, shiny hair fell messily down his back, and his long, bushy beard hid most of the features of his face, although his brown eyes alone conveyed the intensity of his character with just one look.
Onfroi, for that was his name, looked at both magis and quickly focused on the woman. He knitted his thick eyebrows when he saw the colors of her clothes, and he gripped the spear more firmly, but he said nothing.
"Aham... Nele, these are my servants, and a fellow traveller we met on the road, Onfroi. He helped us escape some trouble on the Black Forest. I can vouch for his competence and good intentions."
Regulus does not say that he used a few castings of Posing the Silent Question to ascertain if Onfrei had ill intent against his group. That is, however, as far as his mind probing has gone. Regulus turns to Onfrei:
"Once more I must thank you for your timely support."
Nele looks appraisingly at the large boar, but doesn't say anything.
"Good, now that we're all assmbled, let's get back to Crintera. I find Durenmar too stuffy for my tastes." She says this within clear hearing of the Durenmar guards, and the Redcap that stands near the portal, and will make sure you arrive at your destination.
The redcap is an older man, probably in his fifties, wearing a crimson robe, and the traditional redcap. He turns to Regulus and his retinue. "If this is your first time through the portal, it can be a bit of a shock, and some have experienced a turning of their stomachs, but it will get you to your destination much faster. Step right up to the portal, and go through it one by one."
The passage is instantaneous, but those without supernatural virtues, or lacking Hermetic Magic, feel a slight turning of their stomach. But it's instantly clear that you're not in Durenmar anymore. The Area you arrive at is a wild forest, and Nele begins to lead you confidently through it. "You might want to forgo your Parma while in Crintera. It shows respect for House Bjornaer, and our customs."
Onfroi turned to Simon, awaiting for a translation. When the young boy gave a explanation, Onfroi looked again to Regulus, his semblant was so hard to read as before, but the spark of a smile danced in his eyes.
"Thats nonsense." - he said in French with his deep voice - "Remember to him that I just offered to follow you at the road if he gave me a wineskin. After that, he was the one that offered me a place to live and work, the one that accepted me even when he discovered my curse, and the one that told me about the possibility to dispel my curse. I am the one that it's grateful, and the one that must thank him."
While Simon did his best to translate the idea to Regulus, the man noticed how the woman looked at Guiscard. He patted the boar with a strenght that would feel like a beating for a normal person, but seemingly was perfectly good for the animal.
"Hey Guiscard, now seems like everyday we meet a person that doesn't look at you with fear and hate. Maybe you will be popular soon." - Guiscard just moved his tail and grunted once - "Oh, c'mon guy. I know this is all very weird, but if you behave, I'm sure you'll be able to eat better than ever."
Simon translated the portal explanations as well as he could, while Onfroi did the same to Guiscard while the first grogs entered.
When everybody crossed the portal, Onfroi and the boar crossed and they found themselves another place. Knowing it in advance beforehand didn't make the experience less impressive. Guiscard grunted and looked around nervously, while Onfroi patted him again.
"Don't worry little guy, we are all fine." - he said even when he didn't look much less nervous - "To be perfectly honest I still don't know if this is a dream or a nightmare... but at least we are in a forest again."
"That was after you scared away whatever was giving us that dread feeling, mister Onfroi."
Simon is not a bit embarassed of admiting he was afraid. Still, he passes Onfroi's words, to which Regulus smiles a bit.
"You helped us, and a wineskin was given. That is that."
"But after you told me the reason you lived alone - well, not completely alone (Regulus looks at Guiscard) - I saw no reason to keep it that way, knowing there are places that will accept you. No thanks is needed for that. Well, at least, not until you ar settled and comfortable with us in Tugurium. If you accept my invitation, of course."
Regulus takes as a pleasant surprise the fact that Onfroi does not seem wary of him (or perhaps he is just very good at hiding it? Ether way, that's comendable).
"As for the curse..." Regulus looks at Nele while Simon translates the previous part back to Onfroi.
"That's something I'd like to discuss with you in due time, Nele. But finding Herman takes priority at the moment."
It's not Regulus first time passing a portal, but the grogs seem a bit dizzy upon exiting through the other side. He looks around to make sure everyone is fine and then follows Nele, at first without dropping his Parma (on one hand he can't cancel it, only supress by actively concentrating; on the other he is yet unsure of what to expect).
"We can discuss whatever this 'Curse' is, at a later time. Do not be alarmed, but as we go further, you, and our men, are likely to undergo some slight changes. The changes will only last while you're staying here."
And she leads you through this wild forest, and you can all feel eyes upon you, though Nele is moving along as if uncaring of their gaze, unless she doesn't show it, or is unaware of them.
There are many twists and turns, and it's unclear how she knows how to traverse it. (Regulus may make a Second Sight roll, to see if he can see the Regio borders as they travel through them.)
And as you travel, there are indeed some changes, subtle at first, but soon a bit more apparent. Onfroi exhibits some boar tusks, and his head seems to be larger, and his feet seems to be more like cloen hooves.
Simon's hair seems to have grown like a man, and his face takes a more lion-like look.
Otto's ears grow longer, and his nse becomes almost a snout, and a tail seems to grow from his behind, a short tail with a tuft of hair
Klaus, on the other hand, has his hair become short, except for some clumps of hair down he middle, his skin changes color to blue-green, and he sprouts a tail of beautiful feathers, like a peacock.
If Regulus allows the effect in, his own skin seems to be covered in ight feathers of white and brown, his eyes become larger, and his nose shorter, like a beak.
I rolled a 0, so unless this is a simple roll I'll need to know how many botch dice to roll. =|
If simple die, the total is 14 + aura. If stress it will be 4 + aura (or zero if I botch).
(By the way I'm using physical dice, but if you prefer I can use discobot from now on.)
After seeing the changes on the grogs (and ascertaining that it doesn't seem dangerous) Regulus suppresses his Parma just long enough to seem respectful before allowing it to return, claiming a poor concentration (that's partially true (Conc score is 0), but there's also the fact that he does not want to risk getting caught in a Mentem effect with potential to jeopardize the investigation).
Is some of that due to aura? His SS is magically aligned (I should note that on his sheet somewhere). But well, in order:
7 - 4 - 9 - 5 (dodged that one, at least).
It's more due to the Regio, but because it's a Magical Aura, the Regio's Aura doesn't get doubled.
Even if the woman already warned about it, Onfroi got nervous when the changes started to appear, getting scared at the possibility of turning completely and becoming a danger to the rest of the group.
Luckily, the changes were apparently superficial and stopped quickly. He looked at the others, that were transformed like him in a mix of human and animal.
"Can I ask w'y it this habening? And w'at this 'eans?" - he asked with some difficulties due to the tusks in his mouth.
He wasn't completely sure if he should be in alert since the rest of people seemed surprised but not hostile to what it was happening to them.
Nele regards each of you as your changes appear, and they appear gradually as you walk through the forest, and seems to approve of them.
"Crintera is closer to the Animal Spirits than most places in Europe, and so, when one gets near, one's animal nature gets evident." In a lower voice, and only to Regulus, she adds "This is also how we know beforehand what Heartbeast each apprentice has, when they come to the Gathering."
At that point, you arrive at a large clearing, where six towers and a group of building stand. "Welcome to Crintera, I will have some of our covenfolk show you to your quarters, and tomorrow we can have you present all the questions you want, so you can begin on your mission." She points to a field to the left "Do not wander there if you're a prude. That area is set for those of our House who wan to change between their human and Heartbeast shapes." It is clear that she's more relaxed now that she's arrived at Crintera. And then she begins walking to that field, slowly taking off her clothes as she walks, not looking back at you.
Regulus finds that a bit odd. He hesitates a bit before running after Nele and standing before her, doing his best to avoid looking at her in a disrespectful way (she might not care, but he does).
"I'm sorry Nele, but given the urgency of the matter I'd expect to begin the investigation right away. Indeed, I was sure, given how the subject seems to be dear to you, that you'd want the same. Unless you don't find it that urgent after all?"
OOC: I'm actually trying to probe her with that, it strikes oddly at Regulus that she would be so impatient for the presence of a Quesitor, make them immediately go to Crintera, but as soon as they arrive change to a "tomorrow we continue".