2.4 An unexpected party

It is the morning of March 7th as Étienne d'Levrier makes his way on horseback to the location of the Covenant of the Phoniex. He's had to employ every measure of reaching out to his social contact network to find the exact location. His repeated entreaties with the Redcap network when he was at Le Maison d'Levrier were constantly ignored because they were overwhelmed with other duties. As he approaches, he takes note of the abaondoned buildings in the village. As he approaches the wall, he pauses and hopes for someone to come by and see him. He does not relish entering a covenant uninvited. He waits for a while hoping someone comes buy, or someone within is on guard, but well hidden. He pauses to consider something for a moment. He dismounts and pickets his horse on a nearby tree. Then crossing the road begins to have what appears to be a conversation with thin air, involving obvious actions of blocking someon, standing in someone's way, and shouts of No! with a Norman accent. [1]

[1]OOC: Even before I understood warder meant ghost in this saga and that there were so many of them, I had decided that my majordomo would have one, to be used as a secondary means of acquiring information. I don't have the warder fleshed out, yet. For clarity, he's arguing with the warder about trying to cross the Aegis. Étienne is pretty well set against it, both from a safety for the warder point of view and from a don't annoy the Maga and Magi of the house. If someone guarding has Second Sight or some ability to see the Warder, they'll witness the other party to the conversation. Note, he's presuming that there is not an Aegis where he's at, and that it would harm the ghost. He has no knowledge of either and working on an assumption.

Étienne d'Levrier 's luck changed when he stopped looking for the covenant and started looking for the covenant's cover story. In this neck of the woods, [i]everyone[i] has heard of Cijaran wines. He may have had a glass or twelve on the journey before realizing they were the same place.

A young boy sits atop the crenellations on the wall, playing some kind of game with string. "Hallo!" the boy calls in Castillian. "My name is Najib! Who are you talking to?"

[*] "Warder" is something between a surname and an honorific given to the undead who are counted as inhabitants of Cijara. It is a local term, not used elsewhere (although the players seem to have quickly adopted it). The rest of the world uses standard terminology as you might expect (you are encouraged to make some up) and there are different kinds of undead/Mentem spirits/ghosts, though a Cijaran would probably call all of them Warder, if they wanted to be polite/inclusive/non-threatening.

A "standard" ghost will be invisible outside the Aegis, visible through effort when inside the Aegis, and always visible in the regio ("Phoenix section of the Aegis"). Player's choice for what happens with Etienne's friend.

Étienne knew it was likely to happen. Circumstances back home required he leave the covenant he was working for and go to work for Ra'am. Prospero was quite adamant about that. With a pained look, he first says in Norman French, "Do you speak Latin?" Then, without even waiting for a response from the boy, he says in Latin that would sound much like what the boy would expect to hear Magi of the Covenant speak to each other, "Do you speak Latin, can you take me to someone who speaks Latin? Is there a Magi or Maga available?"

OOC: Posting Étienne shortly, he has Latin 5 specializing in Order of Hermes, since he was formerly the Autocrat for Le Maison d'Levrier.

The boy stares unblinking for a moment, and then picks his nose and says, "You speak funny."

While Etienne grapples with this stunning insight into his character, another boy, younger than the first climbs up and speaks haltingly, as if he is being coached, in Latin. "Good morning...fair traveler. It is not....it is not....it is not every day that we receive guests like you....from.....from...from the west. Whom do you seek?"

Etienne can also see an old Muslim man in battered armor, carrying a wooden sword, making his slow, arthritic way up to the gate.

Étienne groans. Then while thanking Providence says "a Magi or Maga. I have no names," while walking calmly towards his horse. He pulls out a letter and gives it to the boy. "You take it to Magi. I wait here," saying each word carefully and waiting for the visible signs of understanding to show on his face.

He also starts rattling off the names of merchants he knows of or has heard of. Hoping one of them might stand out.
Social Contacts of merchants of exotic items (like the things Magi vwould need)
Pre (1)+ roll(8)=9

The contents of the letter, written in Latin.

Dear Magi and Maga,

Allow me to introduce myself, I am Ra’am ex Bonisagus, filius of Prospero. I am not currently affiliated with a covenant and am seeking to join one in Iberia. Rumor has reached me in the Normandy Tribunal that there had been vast devastation of covenants, with offers of full membership in exchange for some short terms of service or other small concessions. With me, I bring a few staff, mostly members of my extended family that have a wide variety of skills which can be offered in service to the covenant. Some are used to covenant life, but most are not, and I or my majordomo will see to their smooth transition into coven life. Some of the notable services are an exquisite baker, an accomplished wainwright and a rabbi. My majordomo has an extensive network of merchant contacts specializing in the specialty items we need. As you may have noted, I said I was bringing a rabbi, most of my party and I are Jewish and were unsure of the arrangements available, and so felt it best to have one come with us. He’s up for a bit of adventure and some of the younger rabbi’s had been chafing under his yoke and he felt that they were ready to take over his work. We do not proselytize, and we expect the same treatment in return. I myself have a wife and two daughters.

Upon signing the covenant, and being granted a token to practice, or being part of the Aegis Ritual I am prepared to offer two books immediately to the covenant. One is a summa on Magic Theory written by my parens. I am also willing to add a season of service to gloss the work. Additionally, I have a tractutus, also written by my parens, which I have already read and glossed, during my apprenticeship. I have some other books to submit to the covenant. These books I will reserve the right to refuse access to, should I want to access them during a season, please see the list below. I will relax that prohibition once I have completed my work with them. We should be arriving about a week after my majordomo delivers this letter, assuming he is able to deliver it as soon as he arrives at your demesne.

We have had an arduous journey beginning over a month, with a brief respit in Salamanca among family and old friends. We are looking forward to building a new home, and I will do anything within my power to make that happen.

Prospero's Treatise on the Nature of Magic
Type: Summa; Total Quality: 10; Quality: 10; Level: 5;
Topic: Magic Theory; Language: Latin; Subject: Magic
Theory; Author: Prospero ex Bonisagus

I'm a Terram Expert and So Can You!
Type: Tractatus; Total Quality: 9; Quality: 7; Skilled Binder;
Skilled Illuminator; Topic: Terram; Language: Latin;
Subject: Terram; Author: Atlas ex Tremere

And the River Runs Deep
Type: Summa; Total Quality: 10; Quality: 10; Level: 5;
Topic: Aquam; Language: Latin; Author: Aquarius ex Miscellanea

Mystic Beasts of the Alps
Type: Summa; Total Quality: 9; Quality: 9; Level: 5; Topic:
Animal; Language: Latin; Author: Hagrid

Better Living Through Judicsious Application of Imaginem
Type: Summa; Total Quality: 10; Quality: 10; Level: 5;
Topic: Imaginem; Language: Latin; Author: Aurelius ex Jerbiton

Know Your Friends and Enemies Before They Know Themselves
Type: Tractatus; Total Quality: 10; Quality: 10; Topic:
Mentem; Language: Latin; Subject: Mentem; Author:Aurelius ex Jerbiton

Yours in magic,
Ra’am ex Bonisagus

(Edit: Revised books after a good night's sleep and developing a deeper understanding of the Saga)
(Edit: Final edit after some OOC discussion, revised several tractuses

(OOC: As I consider any book with a quality less than 10 (-ish) to be a "vain summa," I encourage players to come up with titles that imply the vanity of the writer. If you do, they are assumed to be alive, and PCs might meet them. Not a requirement at all, just some fun options for you if you want them. I also encourage players to add any missing details to such books as already exist in our library -- for example, "Author:House Bonisagus" may eventually get a named author. Mind you, I've never actually tried to explain all that before, so I'm not really sure how I handle such elements of world-building, but I'm generally treat it as a bit of a free-for-all, with a "throw something good at me" attitude :wink:

The boys are playing on top of the wall, but the old man has reached the gate, and after quickly checking if you're alone, begins fumbling with the iron barred gate to let you in. Etienne now recognizes the man as a Jew. "What are you on about? Oh, sure, we know Abdul. Excellent tapestries, that man has a talent, for a Moslem. Don't be giving me that letter, what do I want it for? Any man can see you're on noble's business, and I'm just a grape-picker with a bad back. Come in, come in, I'll show you to the manor. We'll find somebody to receive you properly.

"Hey, can you help with this thing?" He gestures to a small wheelbarrow full of wine casks. He gestures vaguely to indicate that it needs to go somewhere near the manor house.

When/if Etienne crosses the wall, he enters the Aegis. Should he look back, he'll see no one besides the two boys (sitting astride the weed-covered wall) who would have coached the boy in what to say.

Étienne fetches his horse and comes inside the gate. As he turns back to talk to the man, he expresses mild suprise that he's disappeared. If the barrels and wheelbarrow are not phantasmic, he asks the boys to take his horse in Latin, saying "Boy, Horse, You, Lead, Please." If the boy doesn't respond or the wheelbarrow was a phantasm, he will proceed on horseback, his horse moving at a gentle walk along the road to the manor house. Hopefully someone else will be along the road, or be outside the manor house. Knocking on the door of a manor house of unknown wizards is most discommoding.

Sorry, that was unclear. The old Jew with the wheelbarrow is not a phantasm, but nor was he the one coaching the boy to speak to you in Latin. You can't see who was coaching the boy.

The two boys are up on the wall and there is no apparent way to come down.

OCC:Ahh, reread it and now understand.

Étienne says to the old Jewish man, "I'd be happy to take the wheelbarrow to the manor house. Could you lead my horse?"

OCC: How good is his Latin?

He has Latin 3 (orders).

The old man gratefully trades jobs with you. As he leads you around the manor to the southern side, Etienne sees movement in the overgrown vines. It seems like the entire place has been left untended for most of the year.

"So how are you called?" You may call me Étienne." He then proceeds to ask some questions and engage in smalltalk trying to get answers to the following questions. How many Magi? What do the Magi call this place? How large is the estate? What commerce do they conduct here?

OCC: Charm Roll
Charm (4) + Pre (1) Roll (16)=21
invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/3121064/ (1)
invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/3121066/ (1)
invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/3121067/ (4)

The sole remaining Magi is Jamie Lannister. His brother and sister died recently, along with most of the menfolk of this vineyard. Their secret lair (a regio, Etienne deduces) is called Phoenix. The only remaining guardsmen are ghosts, but the talking grapevines do a decent job as sentries. It was the grapevines who instructed the boys in Latin, and how the man (currently unnamed cuz I am too drunk to think of a good one) knew to get you at the gate. The grapevine mentioned a second person with Etienne, but they are prone to exageration so he is not surprised they lied.

Etienne also learns that Jaime Lannister, a specialist in Fire and political machinations, is distraught over the losses at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, and the humiliores have been unable to shake him from his grief long enough to eat, let alone tend to his duties.

If I may be so bold: who is holding this place together? This is to whom I must speak.

Étienne finally reaches the manor house with the wheelbarrow of wine, while the old Jewish man is talking his ear off. He waits patiently for someone in some measure of authority to receive him.

Interlude in this post and at the end of this one

Sol, the old Jew wipes his brow with a sodden kerchief. "I guess that'd be Old Man Mustafa's wife. He's gone off to war with the rest, but his woman's been doing a fine job running the vineyard."

An old Moslem is teaching swordplay to a Jewish serving maid and a Christian who couldn't be older than 10, on the other side of the courtyard. Before Etienne, to the west, lies the wide expanse grapevines. He sees the settlements scattered about inside the walls. (Do you need me to describe the place more?)

An older woman, also Jewish, strides purposefully across the stone-tiled front courtyard. She has two young boys with her, but they both scamper off before she reaches Etienne. Oozing confidence and competence, she says in Castillian, "How can I help you, sir?"

Étienne inwardly groans and thinks to himself, this is going to be so difficult. For a moment he indulges in a bit of self-berating for not managing his appetites better. In French Norman he says, "No" allowing his French accent to make itself known
He says, in Latin, "Do you speak Latin?"
If she doesn't understand and if the old man is still in earshot Étienne will call out or say, depending on proximity, "Help translate, please? Tell her I have a letter I must deliver to Jamie Lannister from Ra'am ex Bonisagus, who wishes to join the covenant. He should be here in a week."
Otherwise he'll pantomime talk and say "Jamie Lannister" but not point to the letter, trying to get her to get someone who can understand him and translate.

The Widow Mustafa frowns, then shakes her head. She turns abruptly and walks away. After three paces, she gestures for Etienne to follow.

She leads him into a field of grape vines, then speaks again in her rattling words, apparently to no one.

Without warning, a thick, leafy tendril shoots out from the ground, seeming to unwrap and lengthen, aiming straight for Etienne, making a queer sucking and stretching noise as it does so.

The grapevine tendril stops mere inches from Etienne's body, pointing straight at him.

"Bah! Kids these days! a disembodied voice says in flawless French. "Do I look like a translator to you? No respect, these young whippersnappers today. Why, in my day, the field managers asked where you needed to be pruned! It's all on account of this damnable smoke, ever since that blacksmith set up shop! You just don't get the same kind of sunlight as you used to. It's gone all hazy, now. Makes the young ones impertinent, I tell ya! But I can tell you a thing or two about that smith that'd curl your leaves 'fore the autumn frosts! Not you kids would know a bad frost from a light one! Why, in my day...."

The woman interrupts the voice, cutting in with more words of her own.

Chastened, the voice says, "Didn't mean to startle you. Name's Yosef. How can I help?"

Étienne groans. Again. He was barely able to understand the grapevine. And hopes that the grapevine can understand his dialect well enough to translate.
In French Norman, ""Do you speak Latin? As you can tell, I speak an odd dialect of French. Latin is better, if you know it.."

Whichever is the language of choice, he'll say, "I must deliver a letter to Jamie Lannister, it is from my master, Ra'am ex Bonisagus. A magi who wishes to join this covenant. My master asked that I do my best to deliver it personally, waiting at least three days to try and leaving the letter in someone's care should Magi Lannister be indisposed."

OOC, if in French Norman, let's assume that the communicators are communicating at an effective level of 3 with each other, and let the games begin. I do know that the modern French and French Norman are considered intercomprehensible between speakers, but I'm not sure when that process began.