1222.2b: Overture

It is late spring in the Scottish Highlands. The cerulean skies are as clear as the eye can see, and there's a brisk breeze to help keep everyone cool.

Upon approaching the site of the covenant, the first thing that catches the eye is what appears to be a wooden barn in the western end. There is a pier surrounding the two islands in the loch; about two dozen men are standing or sitting on the leg that runs parallel to the shore, fishing poles in hand. Another half dozen or so are out on the loch in rowboats.

There is practically nobody on the road once you leave Cill Chuimein (from the west) or Inbhir Mhoireastain (from the east). Your first sign of life is the residents of the covenant.

You can feel the tingling that marks the boundary of an Aegis when you set foot on the crushed stone path that marks the covenant perimeter. The covenfolk watch you suspiciously, sending one of their number up the bridge that leads to the larger island. A couple of minutes pass before a middle-aged man is brought out to meet you, trailed by a beaver.

He introduces himself as Drystan ex Miscellanea, verifies that you are here in response to their letters, hands you a casting token, and offers to show you the covenant.

The main features on the shore are the crushed-stone path, the wooden barn (which serves as a revel hall/gathering place for the muggles), a cleared circle about twenty paces across in which about a dozen or so men-at-arms are half-heartedly practicing, and a couple of archery practice targets about twenty paces downrange.

The grounds of the covenant are covered in short grass. There are a couple dozen cottages scattered randomly about the covenant, which are all connected by a network of stone paths.

Drystan will point out his own sanctum (which looks to be in two parts, one considerably newer than the other), as well as Eilid's and Doineann's (the latter of which has an open-air laboratory, currently being used by a blonde woman). A crow watches the magi warily from the peak of the roof of Doineann's cottage. Drystan points out what he calls the "common lab" on the smaller island to your left (as seen from shore), which he says has a magic aura roughly twice as powerful as the rest of the covenant. There is no bridge connecting the island to the shore. He will finish the tour with the Council Hall on the larger island, which consists of the council chamber on the ground floor and the library on the second floor.

The first three magi to arrive (Siobhan, Halie, and Aodhan) will be housed in unmarked sancta that look to have been long abandoned; although they ave been cleaned fairly recently and they are (sparsely) furnished, the labs have no usable equipment. Talia will be offered a cottage that seems to have been used by someone considerably larger than her; the bed is well over eight feet long (250+ cm), and some of the chairs are also outsized in relation to the others.

If Talia takes this sanctum rather than stays on the Whoa Buoy, then Trimalchio will be offered a cottage with no lab; if Talia elects to stay on the boat, then Trimalchio will be offered the giant-sized cottage.

Drystan asks if they have brought their own servants and shield grogs. If not, they will be assigned one of the covenfolk as their servant and a shield grog.

The next meeting is at noon on the Summer Solstice, in a couple of days – the magi are free to (try to) interact with each other, with the other magi, and with the covenfolk until then.

The meeting is in the Council Chamber on Eilean Muireach. The room is more or less utilitarian. There's a chair at the head of the table, several chairs along the size (one of which, at the foot of the table, is outsized). One of the walls is adorned with a map of the loch, on what appears to be parchment or vellum of some kind, roughly three feet by eight feet. There is a wool rug, about three by five feet, behind the chair that Eilid takes.

Drystan will introduce the other two magi of Insula Canaria, if you haven't met already. Eilid doctrinae Bjornaeris is a thin, russet-haired woman in plain robes who looks tired. Doineann is a blonde woman who looks cranky. A crow perches on the back of her chair.

"I want to thank you all once again for coming to Insula Canaria," Drystan says. "I hope you don't mind, but my sodales," he motions toward the two magae, "and I have decided to dispense with formalities and to go ahead and extend you full membership into the covenant. The charter is right here if you wish to sign. There are, I expect, some changes that we might want to make, due to changing circumstances...but we wished to wait until we had new members before making any changes."

Drystan will specifically mention that, under the charter as written, the office of princeps is held by the senior member, basically in perpetuity until such time as he wishes to relinquish the post, at which time is falls to the next most senior member who wants it. If the princeps is not available or not capable of performing his duties, the acting princeps (the next most senior member) acts as princeps until the princeps returns.

There is also a clause reaffirming that membership in the covenant is "for life," and threatens harsh (unspecified) sanctions for anyone leaving. "That is actually my fault," Eilid says. "Faileas didn't take kindly to my leaving in 1155, and by the time I returned in 1167, he had put that in there. It's never been enforced."

"That's because until Fiona left, no one had tested it," Doineann says. "I was surprised that Faileas didn't try to get something out of her instead of just letting her leave like that."

"Assuming that it was still Faileas at the time," Drystan says. "He may have already been lost to us by then."

He will also point out a clause in the charter affirming the Pact of Crun Clach, while mentioning that they have not raided any other covenants in decades, that they have (for the most part) been left alone by the others, and Insula Canaria is too far from the borders to deal with invaders.

"I leave it up to you as to whether you wish to keep the current charter with changes or to craft a new one."

Drystan appears to be a little surprised by Halie's lack of attire. "Erm...shall we send for some clothing for you, maga?"

((it would be Int...but check for botch on that 0, please.))

Halie seems startled by the question. "Oh, um... if you want," she replies lamely.

(How many botch dice, and what is stressful about this situation?)

Drystan takes a step back and gives her a quick up-and-down look, then looks like he suddenly gets it. "Unless, of course, it's better if you go..." and waves at her nudity absently. If she asks for clothing, he will have someone bring some; if not, he won't.

One die, and you're cold-reading a legal document without a real chance to keep reading it over and over again. Knowledge rolls tend to use stress dice, because you can always mis-remember or misinterpret something.

Not a botch.

By and large, Insula Canaria's charter seems to be similar to the Flavian Charter, straight out of Covenants, with the following exceptions:

  • As Drystan mentioned, the office of Princeps "shall be held by the most senior member of the Covenant; should the senior-most member be unwilling to perform the duties of Princeps, the office shall devolve to the next most senior member. Should that member be unwilling to perform the duties of Princeps, it shall devolve to the next most senior member, and so on. Should no member be willing to serve as Princeps, this Covenant shall be dissolved." The charter goes on to say: "Should the Princeps be unable to perform his duties for whatever reason, the duties shall be performed by the senior-most member, until such time as the Princeps is able to resume his duties." There is no mechanism for removing a Princeps against his will; a Princeps may resign his office at a Council meeting.
  • The status of "Probationary Member" lasts two years, as opposed to seven seasons. The probationer's status shall be reviewed at the first Council Meeting on or after the two years have passed, at which time he may be elevated to Full Membership.
  • Any member who causes harm to the Niseag, whether intentionally or by accident, shall be subject to immediate expulsion from the covenant. Should such actions result in the death of the Niseag, he shall be subject to expulsion as above, and pay the Covenant the sum of fifty pawns of vis. Should the Council determine that the death of the Niseag was due to the deliberate actions of the magus, he shall be sanctioned as above, and the Covenant may, at the next Tribunal, call for the magus to be cast out of the order for depriving his sodales of their magical power.
  • In an addendum to the Charter, there is a provision that the members of the Council acknowledge that they have pledged their lifelong support to the Covenant. Should any member wish to be foreswear their oath, they shall agree to pay the Council whatever forfeit they deem fit.

"I would like to change the requirement about joining for life. While I don't expect to leave, I do think that such a clause is extreme. And apparently it has been enforced haphazardly, if this Fiona didn't get punished. In any event, that's my only concern. I have never been part of a covenant, and I'm interested, but my interests and pursuits may pull me away from the covenant life, or may not."

((Talia will keep her quarters aboard the Whoa Buoy, she would like to find a permanent spot for mooring it. Is the pier strong enough to handle the vessel? IIRC, it's a medium sized cog, which is 100 tons cargo capacity. I would've posted earlier, but we were focused on finishing the floor. It's done, except for a narrow strip and an air vent or two. Back and hands hurt!))

"I agree with Talia. There is too much ambiguity in what constitutes 'support,' as well. Interpreted a certain way, it could be abused easily."

((The pier should be able to handle her if you moor parallel to it and not perpendicular, secure the ropes to three or four piles. Once Talia secures the ropes and makes her way to the pier, it's fairly apparent that it's quite possibly the best-crafted dock she's ever seen. Likely magic...human hands can't plane wood that consistently evenly.))

"Fiona was the first maga who's tried to leave in some fifty-odd years," Eilid says, "so it's never come up before. That was one of the clauses that we would like to change, once we have new members."

Trimalchio joins the magi examining the charter.

"It seems to me", he ponders, "that the problem is that the penalty for leaving is unspecified, whereas the penalties for risking the Nesaig are defined. Currently there exists a perverse incentive, where if someone wants to leave but is unsure what the penalty will be, they are better off staging an "accident" which will cause non-lethal harm to the Nesaig to make sure they are removed while minimising the risk of being taken to tribunal. Surely we should agree some reasonable procedure for leaving, whereby those who wish to leave make some form of recompense for use of the covenant's resources and offer to help recruit new members."

Drystan looks at Eilid and Doineann. "For Doineann and I, we have lived here our entire Hermetic lives. And I honestly don't know what the 'normal' procedure is for trying to leave a covenant. What about you?"

The two magae shake their heads. "The twelve years I was gone, I was an aonaran," Eilid says. "I'm sorry."

"And as to causing harm to the Nesaig – it is somewhat powerful, and elusive. Ness is a big loch, and even with the map to aid us, I think each of us as seen it at most a dozen times over the years."

Talia offers, "A covenant charter is an outward contract representing what the magus feels in their heart. I don't personally desire to be in a covenant with anyone who is compelled to stay. Their hearts and desires are elsewhere, and the covenant is all but broken. I don't find that there should be any punishment for deciding to leave the covenant. It is, in my opinion a petty display of power. I will support the covenant as long as I'm a member. My sodales troubles will become my troubles, their triumphs mine as well. And when they or I wish to leave, we will have built something better here, for those who follow."

Focusing on the timing issue, "I find it unnecessary or unreasonable to sign the charter and become a member to initiate the change. If the change isn't made before we join, you three have no reason to accede to a change at a later time, and will have entered into a covenant with us in bad faith. You have several prospective members, and it appears we all have concerns about the language of being a member for life."

Halie, Talie, and Trimalchio notice Doineann shooting daggers at Drystan and Eilid at this, but she says nothing.

"Fair enough. I move that we strike the provision of the charter reaffirming the members' lifetime commitments and the penalties for leaving," Drystan says.

"I second," says Doineann.

"And I vote aye," Eilid says almost immediately after.

"The amendment passes." Drystan says as he reaches for the charter with one hand, and a quill and inkpot with the other. He then proceeds to strike a line through the passage in question, his tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth, and makes a notation in the margin next to it. (The notation reads "Removed by vote of council 15 June 1222.")

and I can't believe I forgot this - but there's also a clause added to the charter, to the effect that if two or more members desire use of the Common Lab, it shall go to the member with the most seniority.

((Just for clarity, I thought we were in a council meeting, or are there multiple time streams happening all at once? I've tried rereading it, and I can't seem to make a clear idea of how things are flowing.))

((multiple time streams. The main focus is on the council meeting, but there are hopefully subthreads of people showing up, meeting, getting to know each other and the area.))

((edit - the threads are split. This one for the council meeting, and The Gathering for people showing up and interacting.))

"So whatever happened with Faileas? He finally go off into Twilight? And I haven't seen that tasty dish of an apprentice of his, what's his name? I sure hope he doesn't have any tattoos, yet." Her gaze seems to drift off and a salacious smile appears on her lips.

Drystan, Eilid, and Doineann exchange awkward glances. "We...actually aren't sure," Eilid says. "We assume that he's dead."

"If Duncan was even half as smart as we all know he is, he'll have killed him," Doineann says. "Wouldn't want his master to show up and ruin everything, now, would he?"

"At some point, we think about three years ago, Duncan replaced Faileas," Drystan explains. "Assumed his form and his role in the covenant, pretended to be him in every way. We don't know what Duncan did with his master, but we assume that Faileas is dead. It's possible that he's gone into Twilight, possibly even Final Twilight, or that he's been secreted in a regio somewhere. Advocata Laetitia filia Iudicium was unable to find him via an Inexorable Search. Duncan, himself, appears to have embraced diabolism, and claims to have learned the Greatest Secret from Fiona...despite her having been in Normandy for over a year. Whitburh couldn't be bothered to do anything about it, since Duncan had never sworn the oath and was therefore not bound by the Code prohibiting dealing with devils."

He looks around at the newcomers. "He is also the reason the library is not as robust as it once was...when he was found out, he absconded with the library catalogue and summoned a good number of the better tomes before we could stop him."

He sighs deeply. "We would all like to get hold of Duncan, for one reason or another."

Halie is gobsmacked. "What the bloody hell?!?" she exclaims in Orcadian Norse, before picking her jaw up off the ground, and resuming in Latin. "There's a diabolist wizard running loose who knows Parma and a Quaesitor did NOTHING?!? I will notify the rest of the Magvillus Outer Council today, both of the potential threat to the Order and of Whitburh's apathy towards it," she promises.

"Well, that is unfortunate." She says a bit unconvincingly. Talia's thoughts turn to the dealings she's had with Faileas, or was it Duncan disguised as him. Had she ever seen them together? She can't seem to remember, whenever she did Duncan her mind tended to contemplate the possible delights below his clothing.
Talia regards Halie, "Have you considered that the Magvillus outer council knows, and that's why you are here?"