1222.1b Korvin, in the Phoenix Library, with the....

(I thought about naming this chapter "Korvin, in the Phoenix Library, with the....")

We have a lovely map to help figure out how Korvin travels there, and how long it will take.

Mercere Portals will only get you as far as Duresca or Interritus. Traveling any further south requires entangling yourself in a labyrinthine political maze, as the Iberian Redcap network is maintained by extremely junior redcaps, who have divided themselves between three Mercere Houses that are apparently at war with each other. Indeed, it seems that each House was started by a Magical Mercere of no more than journeyman status, and they have all accused each other of diabolism.

There is some scandal here, which Korvin can easily learn more about as he heads to Iberia if he wishes.

The last leg of the trip, no matter how he arranges it, involves a joining a wagon train which takes him to a fast growing town named Castiblanco. Abdul al-Faisal, the merchant in charge of the wagon train, had planned to drive the wagons across a bridge and then to the vineyard which Korvin seeks, but it turns out that the bridge is out -- some calamity had befallen it since the last time al-Faisal had made the trip.

So, it must be by ferry, briefly north and then east across the river to the small port town associated with Cijara Vineyard (and, as is known only to the Hermetic Order, the Covenant of Phoenix). al-Faisal arranges for you to take the boat ahead of the wagon train, along with one of his sons, to let Cijara know he has arrived. Despite your Gift, he wishes you fondly farewell in the traditional Islamic custom -- which involves a great dealing of touching, hugging, and clasping.

The river is slow moving in the spring, and around a lazy turn, Korvin sees that the dock town once sported perhaps a dozen buildings, but much of that was lost to some long-ago fire. Now, it is a few warehouses*, an inn*, and little else.

As the ferry boat completes the river-bend, he sees an impressive fortification under construction on the west bank, directly across from the docks.

Although the ferry is unexpected, it was seen long before it arrived, and two people are waiting at the docks to greet the boat.

The first is a magnificently beautiful Spanish woman in her 40s -- dark, lusty skin, a gorgeous mane of brown-black hair, and a curvaceous body underneath the full suit of combination plate-and-chainmail. She wears a massive sword strapped to her back, which somehow seems to back-light her open, honest, face.

Besides her, in a simple black cassock, is a worried-looking hunchback wearing a rosary made of polished stones etched with silver*. He's appears to be in his late 50s.

As Korvin approaches them, he notices that the woman's breastplate is etched in exquisite detail with an image of the crucifixion, with superhuman craftsmanship*.

  • Months later, as he becomes more familiar with her work, Korvin will recognize these buildings and items as Viscaria's handiwork.

Korvin is dressed in RedCap traveling clothes. Only the aura of the Gift would give him away as being a mage and not an ordinary RedCap.

Korvin says Good bye to Abdul in his broken Arabic (2) and thanks him for trip.

As Korvin turns away from Abdul looks at the woman with lustful interest. He lets his gaze linger on her face and body longer than would be necessary then seems to remember himself. He bows but still does not take his eyes off the woman.
In Latin
Greetings. I am Korvin ex Mercere. I hope that Ra'am has made you aware of my arrival. I've come to do research on his linage to assess if his daughter Abagail would be an acceptable apprentice.

As Korvin's gaze lingers on her breasts, something slips past his Parma -- not through his Parma, but around it, as if it were a simple garden wall protecting only a single side of his Self. The power slips past all his defenses, and sees him, knows his every flaw and fault, his every misdeed, his every joy. In that brief moment, Korvin recognizes his Lecherous ways as a hunger for the sort of personal connection he can only ever know through God, and yet at the same time, he feels his Pagan ways embraced, understood, and validated.

An instant later, it is gone. She really is remarkably attractive, in a pure and unadulterated kind of way. And her obvious ease in all that armor somehow doesn't detract from her femininity, either.

"Sorry about this, says the woman in a voice that sounds like sunrise. "Only, we've increased security a bit, and, of course, Ra'am can't help but worry, so it is the least that I can do. My name is..."

She is interrupted by a hissing noise of disapproval from the hunchback beside her. She sighs demonstrably, but good-naturedly. "Oh, alright. For security reasons, please call me The Lady of The Sword. Mi'lady will do." From others, the tone might have sounded annoyed or condescending. From her, it comes across as good-natured indulgence, as if to a child. "And this wary gentleman beside me, is Father Fidel, my confessor. Could you please remove all your silver? This will only take a moment."

That was interesting...
As you wish M'Lady
Korvin begins to divest himself of his purse, silver pendent and a silver cup used for spell casting. Do you want them in a certain place or is here on the ground all right?

"On the ground is fine. Could you open your purse and pour the coins out, as well?"

Assuming he continues to do as requested, Confessor Fidel then prods his staff into the pile of coins, examining them, but careful not to get close to them. As he does this, The Lady asks gently, "Is this all your silver?"

As she says this, Korvin again feels the summer-bright tide of pure compassion and acceptance wash through the strange tableau, and knows that he could not lie in that moment, even if he had cause to.

As soon as he answers, the moment again fades from reality, seeming somehow too good to have been true in the first place.

(Assuming he has not tried to hide any silver from them.) "My thanks for your indulgence. May I offer you a blessing to compensate your indulgence?"

(Regardless of the answer, the two will help him collect his possessions, and then begin walking towards the manor house on the opposite side of the vineyards.)

Korvin hand waves consent for the blessing but does not seem very interested.

He looks around to see how the Covenant is set up and how they are doing during their walk.

Paion sticks her head up out of Korvin's travel bag and chitters.

Yes. Very interesting isn't it.

(more chittering)

I will ask them if you can read in the library while I'm doing my research.

She raises her hand very solemnly and intones, "The Lord sees thee, and knows thee as one who walks in daylight."

As she says the words, the sun peaks out from a break in the clouds, and Korvin's face is suddenly warmed by the light.

The trio then begins to walk inland. As noted before, the dockside area was clearly destroyed by a fire several years ago and rebuilt partially with magical means. As you walk east along the well-made road, Korvin can also see that some of the fields clearly suffered the same kind of damage, but have not yet been restored.

Confessor Fidel begins to discuss some of the history of the vineyard with you, though his knowledge is entirely mundane. "...And over there, I don't know if you can see it from here, you'll see that we've begun additional work on the mosque, as well. Curious craftsmen, these moslems, for they eschew imagery entirely and work only in abstract patterns. Beyond the fields and between those two hills is our Temple to Judea. There's a wedding to be held later this week. You're welcome to attend, if you're so inclined...

The Lady steps off the path shortly before arriving at the unused field, walking towards a group of older women of mixed heritage who seem to be having a picnic. They are surprisingly unperturbed by Korvin's presence, and one or two even flash him a smile of greeting in passing.

Korvin's group passes between a pair of trees and across a regio boundary. Inside the regio, you are among an ancient and untended city, filled with buildings of strange construction. Plant life has taken over much of it. You walk down a short street, turn into a building and cross another regio border, seemingly back into the mundane world.

It takes him a few seconds to get his bearings after the shortcut, but Korvin quickly realizes that they've covered a great distance. Ahead of him is the manor house, with the long walls extending out in two directions. Behind him is the side wall of a blacksmith's forge or some such.

A few minutes later, he is greeted at the entrance to the manor house by Ra'am.

"Korvin, welcome. I hope your journey was uneventful. I apologize for the security precautions, but, well, they were necessary." Ra'am knows that just seeing Korvin means he passed her test. Seeing him fills Ra'am with hope that should Abigail meet Korvin's requirements, she will be in good hands, preserved from the dangers he knows all too well.
"I've accumulated all of our family's records. Most of them are in Hebrew, but I'm sure, in consultation with your Mercere histories you'll find what you need. I've long believed I have a Mercere heritage, given my gifts for spell mastery and penchant for doing ceremonial spells, although that could be as a result of my previous life as an academic. In any event, I think you'll have all you need to satisfy yourself. Come, have some wine, a light snack, enjoy a siesta and we'll see to our business. I invite you into our Aegis."

Korvin bows as he accepts the aegis token. Thank you for kindness in gathering the records. My trip was long and interesting. This is my third time to visit the Iberian Tribunal. Once as an apprentice and once as a messenger Redcap. Beautiful country.
Is there a translator to help me with the records? I speak French, Italian and Latin and some Arabic but no Hebrew.

I have high hopes as well that the records will show a bloodline to the Founder. We Mercere tend to, how should I say it, prolific in our quests for Gifted children.

Korvin sits and enjoys the wine and fruits after the long journey. Tell me about the history of this Covenant. I have seen that you are religiously diverse

"This land is changing very much as the Christians drive out the Almohad from the region. It is probably much different than what you remember. And your House has a nasty competition we of Phoenix are peripherally involved in. There are three Magical Mercere here trying to establish the predominant Mercere House for the Tribunal, one of whom resides here, Azura." Korvin knows immediately that she is one of the youngest of the Magical Merceres, about 13 years past gauntlet and if he had to could probably do a bit of recollecting to determine who the other two might be.

"You can consult with our Rabbi, he's learned in Latin and can do an apt translation, and he's become used to those of us with the Gift, at least enough to not let his discomfort show too much."

Over wine and a small meal, Ra'am details a bit of the history of Phoenix, "Phoenix was started many years ago by a family of Magi, the Lannisters, and their supporters in a Roman coalition as a bulwark against the continued advance of intolerant Christians. This land, until the conquest by Christians, had been a center of Jewish thought and tolerance, even Christians were treated well by the Muslim lords. The reverse is not happening as the lands become controlled by Christian lords, there is intense persecution of non-Christians. Some believe that these lords are calling themselves Christian, but are not true to their Faith, that there is a darkness behind their motives. Jamie Lannister calls Phoenix his home, but he travels extensively to secure a political base within the order. I reside here and have become a healer of sorts, though originally I had much different goals. There are a few other magi here, but they have retired from the arena, as it were, and have essentially allowed Jamie and I to act on their behalf. Jamie handles the political matters with the Tribunal, and I handle the more local issues, although the mundane issues are handled by my able assistants, Etienne and Raoudha."

Esteban, an old and weary-looking gentleman who has joined them for dinner, though he does not seem to be allied with the Order, adds additional detail. "Of the founding Lannisters, only one survives in any meaningful way. Tyrion died battling demons some years ago, and his spirit has returned to Phoenix, but it is but a shade of his former self, if you will forgive the pun. Salamandrus returned from Twilight a few years ago, but it perhaps would have been better for him had he not. His sanctum had been occupied for many years by a magus whose powers were, in some ways, the antithesis of his own, and it left a strange impression on him....

"And then there is Cersei, whom we had thought dead at the same battle that cost us Tyrion. Alas, the truth is much worse...."

Ra'am regards Estebhan a bit, "Yes, of course, that is the recent history, but every covenant must face their own battles on their own terms. Such is the life of a magus."

"But through it all I think we've built a solid community, and I have two daughters who spent some powerful formative years here. They are now both young women, but I believe they will both have an enormous impact on the Order as a whole. And then there's Azura's child, who given Etienne's record is likely to be Gifted. Honestly, I would've loved to have taken both of my daughters as an apprentice, but there is a bit too much sibling rivalry there, and their temperament is quite different. Elizabeth is deeply introspective and studious, Abigail is adventurous with a sense of wanderlust and a fiercely independent streak. The autonomous nature also leads me to believe that Mercere's blood runs through us." Changing the subject, "I'm not saying you are or are not, but if you happen to be of or familiar with the Neo-Mercurians, please send them my compliments."

The brief meal, incidentally, is served in a small dining room on the second floor of the manorhouse, on the mundane side of the regio.

The Neo-Mercurians have contacted me but, so far, I have declined to join. There interests and mine are not on the same road right now.

Korvin will try to recall the names of the other magical Mercere who are Iberia. ((or I can make up names.))

The other two have not been stat'd out yet. Feel free to make up names and/or personalities for them.

After the meal, Ra'am leads you across the regio border -- down into the basement level of the manor, into a cave network, and then, using some mirrors to guide your steps, across the border.

A dozen shades are standing guard over the border entrance, accompanied by a single living warrior. They salute smartly.

Beyond that, you traverse the caves back up into the manor house. The library is located on the ground floor, and Korvin notices that all of the windows are overgrown with grapevine. A little light passes through, but he cannot see outside -- is Ra'am hurrying him along intentionally?

The grapevine can talk! Several of the plants overgrowing the windows greet Ra'am by name.

Inside the library, a small staff of women are working. They are very oddly dressed, in a manner that would be provocative if the teens were not each so unattractive. There are a few others inside as well. Ra'am introduces you to them all:

  • Sharae, the Librarian. Dressed in the abaya, Sharae oozes authority and competence. Korvin guesses that the woman is in her late 40s, from what little he can see.
  • Danielle Castiblanco, Scribe. A short, slightly pudgy girl wearing what appears to be a black and white, frilly maid's uniform, which reveals an indecent amount of her short and stubby legs. A white bow in her mane of black hair almost gives the appearance of cat ears.
  • Sandra de los Montes, Binder. A long limbed, awkward girl, who often bangs her elbows and knees on any piece of furniture in range. Though her features clearly indicate a mix of Castillian and Moorish blood, she is dressed as a Scotsman, complete with tartan kilt. She has dyed her hair a very unnatural color of red.
  • Fidelia Castaneda, Illuminator. Unnaturally thin, and dressed in a sinful reinterpretation of a nun's habit, with impressive tailoring and artfully placed rips in the fabric. She is wearing an inexpert application of white face powder and kohl, which contrasts unfavorably with her dark hue.
  • Charles Edwards Vintner - a thick mass of grapevines which seems to grow everywhere inside the library.
  • Reyes, a short, stubby man who looks ancient. His hands seem palsied and barely usable.
  • Abraham Warder, the shade of a rabbi.
  • Ibrahim, a living Rabbi (thanks for reminding me of his name, JL)

The three scriptorium girls burst into a shriek of high-pitched, squealing laughter as they are introduced to Korvin, as if he is the butt of some inside joke. There is something familiar about the laughter, as if it were part of a dimly remembered dream. Sharae scowls at them in a half-hearted manner, clearly used to this behavior.

As Korvin is being introduced to the covenfolk, it suddenly occurs to him that he is being much more warmly received that even Ra'am is, not just by the staff, but all day thus far. Even the ancient crones working in the fields had paused to wave hello to him.

These thoughts are interrupted by a strange squelching, stretching noise, as a thick tendril of grapevine reaches out towards Korvin. [color=purple]"Pleased to meet you, sir." the grapevine says to him in a thick English accent.

The living Rabbi is Ibrahim.

"Charles, meet Korvin. Korvin, meet Charles. He's our resident literate vine. Ibrahim is here to assist you with translating anything you need from Hebrew to Latin."

Korvin bows his head to the vine. Charles. If you do not mind, are you a magical being or a spirit or ghost inhabiting this vine?

Several thick masses of tentacles sprout tendrils as if they were fingers, ticking off points, as the atrociously English-accented vine replies. [color=purple]"It's all a bit of a conundrum, my good lad. Thomas would tell you that we're creatures of Faerie, but I say the boy's got mud for brains. Marguerita would tell you that we're clearly magically aligned beings, based on Murion's Third, Fourth, and Sixth Laws of Classification -- that is, we can think, we were born in a magical environment, and we balance other forces that exist within our environment. Vivica would argue that we're some kind of external force which possesses or inhabits the vine, based on our diet, but I'd argue that Hiem's Folly disproves this -- both the substance and the nature of the vines around his tower were changed by The Event.

"Amaranta believes, in stark contrast to the others, that we may be either Divine or Infernal beings, based on our diet, but this is an argument easily disproven."

Interesting. I would have thought a ghost because of the accent. Is it perhaps that there were Engish speakers here when you came intro being and you picked up on their accent?