One late autumn night in 1227, Tranquillina and Gerulf are both in the Mons Electi library. Tranquillina has the cover open on one of the the giant tractatus written by Cannophori, its person-sized pages extremely unwieldy but containing many fine insights on the Art of Corpus. Gerulf is paying little attention to her when one of the covenfolk trots in to the library, respectfully waits for the maga's attention while breathing deeply, then says "The black rose is blooming, m'lady" in decent Latin. "That is good news, Mélanie," Tranquillina replies absently at first, "but why not tell the Aedilis? She will - ah, wait, Viscaria is no longer here, you should tell -" Without warning she stops speaking, looking thoughtfully over at the other magus in the room. Nodding to Mélanie, she walks politely over to Gerulf. "Sodalis ... has anybody taken you on a tour of the extended grounds of Mons Electi, and detailed the locations of its vis sources? - No? As I had feared ... I propose that you clear your schedule for tomorrow afternoon and evening. Come to my chambers after your midday meal."
The next day, Gerulf walks down a corridor of the mansion on the regio side*, one floor below ground level; the hallway has a single door in sight, which is currently open. Inside an opulently-furnished sitting room can be seen, with plush chairs and a lit fireplace. A young man is seated on one of the chairs, peering at a well-bound book with an illustration on each page. Tranquillina is nowhere to be seen, although the room has a door on the far side, marked with the sign of a maga's sanctum.
((Since you're somewhat new to Ars Magica, I'll err on the side of telling you too much rather than too little - apologies if I go over things you already know. A "regio" is a little pocket of supernatural reality, a little like an alternate dimension but usually quite limited in physical scope. Mons Electi has a huge mansion built in the mundane world, but at a spot where it's possible to enter quite a large Magic regio; there is an identically shaped mansion on the regio side, which is where most or all of the magi have their sancta and laboratories. See ArM5, page 189. A "sanctum" is the private domicile of a magus, typically containing sleeping quarters and a laboratory; by Hermetic law, anyone who steps foot into another magus's sanctum implicitly accepts any action the owner of the sanctum decides to take. See ArM5, pages 102 (top right corner) and 103 (top left corner).))
((PS: Do you have access to any of the ArM5 books besides the core rulebook? I don't want to refer you to something you wouldn't be able to read....))
Gerulf nods his assent absently and then returns to his reading.
Gerulf is dressed in his customary robes: form-fitting and black, edged with silver thread. He steps into the comfortable room, taking note of the book the young man is reading. He eyes the sign of the sanctum, then clears his throat and taps his cane to gain the reader's attention. "Is Maga Tranquillina in this afternoon?"
((Wow. Lots of good stuff. Thanks for the help. So far as books are concerned, the story goes thus. I had a goodly-sized Amazon gift card which was almost two years old (I had lost it and found it much later on). When I first read about Ars, I bought the core. Soon after, I was so excited that I bought the three house books and Covenants. So, that's what I currently have access to. A friend of mine who used to play has a couple more, but I'm not sure which ones.))
((Oh, fabulous! If I had to choose my two highest wishes for books you had access to, they would've been Covenants and HoH:True Lineages. That's great to know ))
Even as Gerulf taps his cane, the blond-haired reader is leaping to his feet, bowing respectfully. ((Make an Int + Awareness + stress die roll: on a 6 or higher you remember the man as having been present during the dinner when you were accepted into Mons Electi; on a 9 or higher you remember his name is Loys. Shoulda done that last post, sorry )) "Indeed so, milord Gerulf," he says in very good Latin. "She is expecting you; I shall alert her immediately to your arrival." As he walks over towards the far door, Gerulf quickly looks at the book (which has both pages and letters that are somewhat larger than one night expect): it seems to be describing creatures of legend, and the visible illustrations are of large humanoid figures.
When Loys reaches for the handle of the other door, he misses significantly and is thrown a little off balance. He tries again, but some invisible force pushes his hand aside. The teenager's blue eyes narrow at a semicircle inscribed upon the stone floor, with the door as its diameter. With an apologetic glance over at Gerulf, he takes a deep breath and then yells, "Milady! Milady Tranquillina! Gerulf ex Bonisagus is here...."
Before long, the door opens from the other side, revealing a blushing Tranquillina. "I did not think that through, did I," she mutters, placing a hand on Loys's arm and closing her eyes for a moment. ((Make a Per + Folk Ken roll here.... )) She turns to Gerulf and nods her head in a tiny bow. "Good afternoon, sodalis. I am nearly finished writing a letter. Would you like to see my laboratory while I conclude it?"
((Yeah. Since I had a limited budget, I did some research to figure out which ones I should have. Covenants was the clear winner, so I picked up that one. The House books were my own choice because I felt confused about the choices and wanted more information. I had begun with a Criamon, but when I read about them in the HoH, I realized that my understanding of them was waaaayyy off. So, I chose Bonisagus. Scholars most closely match my own personality, anyway, so I figured it was a solid decision for getting into an unfamiliar game system.))
Gerulf watches the bow with some puzzlement. While he understands the reasons behind it, being on the receiving end of such a gesture is a long way from struggling to survive on the streets or apprenticing. "Loys, was it? You seem in better spirits than when I last saw you."
Gerulf watches without amusement or agitation. He sets both gloved hands atop his cane and waits passively.
"It would be an honor to visit upon the workspace of a fellow scholar. I've only just begun putting together a serviceable area of my own. I suppose it's quite pleasant to have these rooms all within the mansion," he says, looking around as though peering through the walls at the larger structure. "It's more cohesive than Durenmar or Fengheld, in that respect."
((This is your lab, so I'll let you handle most of the description. I'll take a bit more liberty once we're out on the grounds.))
((Sounds great - please do take liberties! it's all part of the fun. And yes, you won't find me shy about describing Tranquillina's laboratory :mrgreen: ))
The lad smiles that Gerulf remembers him. "Spirits? - Ah, I had an important question on my mind that night, sir...." Loys seems willing to say more, but duty calls and he heads towards the far door....
((Hey, the new guy has good dice! 8) ))
Although Loys tries to hide it, Gerulf reads him like a tractatus: the quick intake of breath as Tranquillina touches his arm, the silent swallow as he tries to look everywhere but directly at her - even his pupils seemed to enlarge when the door opened upon her appearance. It's as clear as can be that the teenager is madly in love with the maga. (After all, he muses as he looks back and forth between them, Tranquillina herself looks as if she's a young woman of fifteen, rather than her true several decades. When she's not changing her visage with magic, that is - although today she has a natural youthful face and wears a plain wolfskin cloak, nothing fancier.) Just as clearly, Tranquillina seems to have no idea how strongly the young man feels about her ... but by the way Loys moistens his lips when she turns around, he is far from pessimistic about his chances.
"You are welcomed into my sanctum, sodalis," Tranquillina says in an official tone of voice; she looks over at Loys, who nods that he has witnessed the declaration. "Don't mind the spell circle," she points as they step over the threshold, "it's just a Ward Against the Curious Scullion."* Looking down, Gerulf sees the other half of the circle as expected. While he is relatively new to the legendary Parma Magica ability, he does remember being taught that it is possible for a magus to extend a weaker form of that magical resistance over those without the power; clearly Tranquillina has just done so to Loys, since he has accompanied them across the circle.**
The trio find themselves in a short hallway, only several paces long, with two doors on the right side and another at the far end. The first door on the right is partially open, enough to make each of them squeeze past it on the left ((make a Per + Awareness roll as you pass this door)); the other is closed. The door at the end of the hall is wide open, and this is where Tranquillina leads Gerulf and Loys; they arrive in the southwest corner of a large room, more than fifteen feet from the north wall to the south and over twice that wide. "Please feel free to look around," Tranquillina calls over her shoulder as she weaves a familiar path towards the opposite corner of the laboratory; "there should not be anything dangerous at this time." Loys, having waited to be the last to enter, heads along the near wall to the right and around a corner.
Gerulf takes his time before crossing the room, as there is already plenty to see in this end. Many of the items present are to be expected: a small table (with accompanying chair, by a shuttered window on the west wall) bearing an astrolabe; a basin and freestanding stove on the south wall, before the corner; a writing table with two slanted surfaces, and a wax tablet and stylus for making notes while standing; and two spell circles (one large, one small) on the floor near the center of the room, surrounded by ample lighting. But the entire northwest corner of the lab has been set up to feature a central object which, for an instant at least, appears to be a statue. Upon a hexagonal pedestal, made by a skillful woodworker, stands an entire human corpse, propped up by wooden struts and in an excellent state of preservation except for multiple deliberate excisions at various points on the body. The surrounding area has clearly been arranged to facilitate work around this preserved corpse, with the slanted writing surface, a bookstand, a free-standing mirror, a pallet (with restraints lying loosely across the thin mattress), and even a plot of earth installed in the floor, all within easy reach. A second fireplace is centered on the north wall, this one apparently built into the room's original construction. Notwithstanding any psychological effects from the corpse-statue, the air in the laboratory is surprisingly fresh, even stirring with the lightest of breezes.
((Please make a Per + Magic Theory roll, to see what you might deduce from the rest of the lab when you see it....))
"An important question indeed," Gerulf muses to himself. "Poor child. Even at that age, I had begun to understand how meaningless such things were in an eternity of fleeting sensations. Human beings are simply incapable of creating or being anything but momentary." Outwardly, Gerulf looks down at the floor in thought, and his jaw is set in contemplation.
Gerulf seems to awaken to the present moment and nods his acknowledgment, taking his cane in hand as he strides forward.
He pauses in the doorway. "I am rather fascinated by wards," he says, giving the circle a cursory examination. He kneels down to get a closer look. "You might call it a, um, special interest of mine. Perhaps we might discuss the intricacies of this particular ward at some point in the near future?"
Gerulf peruses the lab with mild interest. There is clearly a great deal of interest here, but he refrains from touching anything. "Perhaps nothing dangerous, but disturbing one's notes or poking at one's... experiments. Well, that could be considered dangerous in itself," he says aloud.
He continues looking about the room while Tranquillina finishes up. "You said you were writing a letter?"
When Gerulf crosses any part of the circle, he feels a mostly unfamiliar twinge, like he has been lightly poked in a nerve not corresponding to any part of the body; he realizes that this must be the feeling of his magic resistance opposing a spell.*
"Ah, truly so?" Tranquillina answers, her voice mixing cheerfulness with a bit of pride. "I would be delighted to describe what I know of this spell. You are welcome to appraise that particular ward yourself, if you wish - I cast it forcelessly**, so you could suppress your Parma Magica momentarily*** to experience the ward first-hand. I could also cast a full-powered version if you are interested - although," she adds thoughtfully, "it might be better to do so in our ceremonial casting chamber, to ensure that I can cancel it when I wish."
Gerulf catches a fleeting glimpse of Tranquillina's bedroom as he passes by the open door. A few steps later, he realizes that while he saw a tall standing mirror (in addition to the bed and a small side table), he did not see any wardrobe nor chest.
As Gerulf wanders further through the laboratory, he approves of the many tiny ways in which the arrangement of equipment improves upon the vanilla laboratory setup one is taught as an apprentice. He is able to appreciate many of the refinements, and even takes note of a couple of clever efficiencies he had not thought of; indeed, there are a few aspects of the organization that do not immediately make sense to him. The lab is generally marvelous, feeling even more spacious than the already amply large room would imply, and of course contains the high-quality tools and equipment, made by skillful local craftsmen, that he is enjoying in his own sanctum. A notion dawns on him after a few minutes, and he looks around again thoughtfully, tapping his fingers on his cane. The scan verifies his initial impression: surprisingly, there is no still at all in the laboratory, nor any sort of large tank. Gerulf realizes that it would be nigh on impossible to extract vis from the latent aura* without that equipment.
The eastern part of the laboratory holds fewer surprises: rows of conventional equipment have been gathered in groups according to functionality, with natural pathways left among them for safe movement. More often than not, any mounted lantern is accompanied by its own small table with wax tablet and stylus; Gerulf takes a few seconds to glance at one but, as expected, very little of Tranquillina's shorthand is comprehensible.* Some low shelves along the northern wall past the fireplace hold stacks of fine parchment held down by flat stones; a couple of the top pages have parts of spell names visible, and Gerulf imagines that the pages would be filled with the same personal abbreviations. On the south wall, the laboratory becomes even wider around the little corner, and the resulting space has been given over to storage for the most part; Loys is there, making a tally of some glassware implements. The most novel feature of this side of the laboratory is a series of cabinets spanning the east wall, clearly manufactured as a set by a skilled carpenter, that are topped with display cases; the items on display are human organs and tissues - dozens and dozens of specimens, an excellent reference collection - all in nearly flawless condition.
((ArM5, page 102, Writing Laboratory Texts))
"Well, quite so," Tranquillina murmurs absently, "although most everything in here is winding down. I have been mostly reading since the Tribunal ended, and I am about to reorganize things a little bit...." Her voice trails off as she concentrates on her task: indeed, Tranquillina is seated at a large desk near the northeast corner of the room, dipping her quill into a silver inkwell that is delicately engraved with leaf-and-vine motifs and images of a woman's face. "Hmm? Yes, I am initiating a correspondence with Petronius of our House ... perhaps you know him, or met him at the Tribunal? In addition to being a pleasant fellow with many connections, he has great skill with the fine points of physical magic, and I know I have much improvement before me in that ability."
((Gerulf comes from the Rhine Tribunal, right? You can make a stress die roll against an EF of 6 to see if you know Petronius, as per ArM5 page 19. Petronius was a cameo from another saga.))
((Heh. Nah. He’s just got a gloom about him. It comes from his background as well as a couple of secrets lurking about.))
“Gracious of you, but I don’t think that will be necessary. Loys has helpfully demonstrated the intended effect of this ward on its subjects, and I would enjoy a conversation on the details at a later time when we can devote our full attention to it. Scholarly discussions are so pleasant, after all.”
Gerulf makes note of many items of potential interest, but he files them away for later. Instead, he says, “Petronius. Hm. ((stress die 0botch die? 4 I don't know if it is necessary in this case?)) Can’t say as I remember him. Looking for a book of some sort? Perhaps a spell?” he asks. His eyes flick to the preserved organs, but he does his best to focus on Tranquillina before she notices.
Tranquillina wholeheartedly agrees; Gerulf gets the impression that she would skip a night's sleep on a moment's notice if a good theoretical conversation were the alternative.
((A stress die could always botch, so it's worth rolling. A botched Reputation check would presumably mean that Gerulf "remembers" something completely incorrect about Petronius - this probably wouldn't end up being crucial but could make for some good fun while it got resolved. This thread contains a nice example of a botched Awareness roll and the hijinks that ensued.))
"Mmm, nothing in particular at the moment," Tranquillina slurs, her quill signing her name with a smooth arc, "just cultivating the relationship. One never knows, though, perhaps we will be able to provide something tangible for each other in the future." The letter apparently finished, she puts the quill in its silver holder (matching the inkpot) and incants a dramatic Perdo Aquam spell* over the letter to dry the ink; she then rolls and seals the letter, pressing a coin from a pouch at her side into the wax drippings. "Very well ... Loys, I will be gone the remainder of the afternoon - you have your task well in hand? Good. Shall we head up the mountain?" she asks Gerulf cheerfully as she leads him out of her sanctum. She seems completely unaware that Gerulf was staring at the human specimens.**
((Inventing a spontaneous spell! The PeAq guidelines on page 123 of ArM5 have "Completely dry something" as base level 4; the Range must be Touch, adding a magnitude (now level 5); since the liquid is mixed with the particulates of the ink, the Target must be Part, adding another magnitude (now level 10); the Duration can stay at Momentary, since Perdo makes permanent changes. So she needs to cast a level 10 spell. Sta -3 + Pe 14 + Aq 0 + aura 5 + loud words/bold gestures 2 (ArM5, page 83) + stress die 8 = 26, halved (ArM5, page 81) is 13: she makes it. Tranquillina loses a Fatigue level, but as long as they walk calmly, she'll gain it back in a few minutes (ArM5, pages 178-9).))
** ((Since Gerulf was trying to look while Tranquillina was distracted, that seems like an opposed roll: your Prs + Stealth (perhaps; maybe Dex, maybe Guile) against my Per + Awareness (maybe Folk Ken). Since this is just for fun, I assumed you rolled a 6, so you got Prs 1 + Stealth 0 + "roll" 6 = 7; I got Per 2 + Awareness 2 + stress die 0 (no botch) = 4.))
((K. So I handled that correctly: no zeros on the botch dice, then he just doesn't know Petronius. Would almost rather have a botch or a success so it doesn't end up as a dead end.))
Gerulf nods and follows her across the thresholds and into the hallway. The light is somewhat dimmer here, and he seems to relax a bit. "I've become quite accustomed to working by candlelight. There's something genuine in the austerity, like the monks trundling about their little enclosed abbeys." He walks beside her as they take a casual pace, and he watches the scrollwork of the wooden paneling with interest as they pass. "This place has a similar feel, though it seems to blend that simplicity with elegance: a quality I admit that I found quite appealing when I first arrived for the tribunal. But, do you know what I appreciate most?" He pauses and tilts his head. "Do you hear that?" he asks, pointing into the air with his cane. "It's so quiet here." He motions for them to resume their walk. "Fengheld is a... crowded place. For a reason that I can't quite ascribe to the arcane, I always felt as though there was a buzzing in my ear, and it would agitate me something awful during my studies, particularly during the day. That, I suppose, is the reason for my affinity with the candlelight." They arrive at a junction, and Gerulf watches Tranquillina to see in which direction to go. She points casually down the left hall.
"How do you find Fiona?" he asks as they turn. "I've not yet had much opportunity to visit with her regarding her delegacy, but I believe I've detected a certain 'current' surrounding her. Nothing so fascinating as an aura or her heritage, of course, but rather the company she keeps... and I suppose the manner in which she keeps such company."
((Makes sense. I can see how you arrived at all of the calculations, so perhaps the system will not be too hard to master. ))
((Went ahead and rolled this up just to complete the exercise properly. Close guess on your part. Per 2 + Stealth 0 + stress die 4 = 6.))
Tranquillina is more than happy to walk slowly, as she catches her breath from the spell. "Apollodorus did indeed display excellent taste in the construction of these mansions." She enjoys seeing the details of the architecture through Gerulf's new eyes - it is so easy to not even notice the decorative panels any more. She smiles when he points out the silence. "There are few people who need access to the regio side of the mansion, so it is uncommon to pass someone in the halls." The hall they turn left into leads to the staircase on the far side, but it is closer to the exit than the nearer staircase. "But it is a triviality to go to the mansion on the mundane side, and thereby encounter bustle and motion. One can adapt to one's mood ... always convenient." After a one-story climb, they turn into the main hallway on the ground floor, with its opulent rugs and arched ceiling, and head out the front door. ((still on the regio side)) Tranquillina hands her sealed letter to a servant stationed there, instructing him to make sure it is placed where the next Redcap will pick it up.
Tranquillina smiles at the mention of the giantess. "It took me a long time to warm to Fiona - longer than it seems it should have - but she is one of my favorite people at Mons Electi. Of course, it does not hurt that we both come from Loch Leglean, originally ... finding someone here who speaks my native tongue was a very pleasant surprise." At this point, she catches Gerulf's implication, and shrugs. "Fiona's ... hobbies, are something she is quite passionate about. And she is eager to share them. Widely...." She tries to keep any note of disapproval out of her voice. ((Com 3 + Guile 3 + stress die 6 = 12.))
((gerg, I'm still browsing the posts of this saga on a regular basis, so if you want an in-character reply to the letter from Petronius just let me know. Who knows what useful information Tranquilina might pick up that way? ))
((BTW, note that the Petronius used for cameos in Bibracte is about 50 years older than the one currently shown on the wiki for Via Experimenta / Laurus Argenti.))
(( That young pup can't even recognize the name of a Master from his own House and Tribunal? I had no idea that House Bonisagus had such low standards these days... ))
((Clearly he is wowed and awed by Tranquillina's mere presence. Thoughts of other magi have been discarded as irrelevancies. Don't take it personal, kiddo.
I'd always be happy to RP around a letter or two, if you wanted to for fun! The initial letter is more or less a "nice to meet you, let's keep in touch" type - Tranquillina is an ardent correspondent in general. She's hoping it might develop into a bit of back-and-forth discussion about Finesse, which she takes to be a specialty of Petronius's. And she's always game for a bit of Hermetic gossip...!))
As they crest the stairwell, it is Gerulf's turn to take a breath, though he attempts to keep it subtle ((Sta 0 + Guile 2 + stress die 8 = 10)). Upon arriving outside, Gerulf squints at the bright light. However, he seems pleased to take a draught of the crisp autumn air. "Well, it seems your correspondence is managed. Where would you like to begin?" he asks, following Tranquillina's lead. The midafternoon sun is warm, and as they walk, he binds his dark brown hair to keep it off of his neck.
"I had decided as much, but sometimes first impressions can run away with one's senses. I had to be sure I hadn't exaggerated the matter." After a pause, "I feel quite comfortable asking since it seems that she herself doesn't mind being quite open about it. In truth, that proclivity is probably as much asset as liability when engaged in politics." Leaves skitter across their path and whirl in small eddies on occasion as they make their way across the grounds.
((Heh. Yeah, the dice didn't bear that one out for me. Gerulf's excuse is he isn't very sociable. He's playing the part of the knowledgeable delegate-maker toward his purpose, but he's not as clued-in as he seems to be. Could be very interesting if he ever encounters Petronius. Could be one of those scenes where the new-hire spots a guy in a white suit and tells him to mix him a drink, not realizing he's the CEO. ))
"Hmmm, well, certainly she seems to form connections with other magi as well as anyone," Tranquillina admits. "So who am I to advise her otherwise?"
Tranquillina does notice that Gerulf also gets out of breath when climbing stairs ((Per 2 + Awareness 2 + stress die 8 = 12)); she doesn't bring it up of course, but she is happy to know that she can keep her own pace slow and both of them will probably be more comfortable for it. "We could go down the path here, which as you know soon leads to the lesser stone bridge and thence to the garden on that circular outcropping. That is indeed one way to access the track that goes up and down the mountain," Tranquillina explains as she veers left off that very path. "But we shall take the more direct way, past Fiona's cottage, since we are heading up the mountain this afternoon. Our first destination is the mulberry grove." The sound of birdsong starts to be audible as they distance themselves from the mansion and main path.
((If Tranquilina's looking for a discussion on Finesse with Petronius, she can get one. But I think she's going to be disappointed by Petronius' puzzled response. The expert on Finesse was Praxiteles, the Jerbiton sculptor that was killed by Valerian during Tribunal. Petronius is the Mercurian portal researcher. The discussions that Tranquilina had with him were on Magic Theory. Although he is no slouch at Finesse, since he was a covenant-mate of Praxiteles and so had access to the late magus' writings. Whether or not you want to translate that confusion to in-character interactions is up to you. ))
((I'm certainly willing to have Petronius visit back at some point. Whether that will mean help, trouble or just a distraction to Mons Electi remains to be seen. ))