a matter of Hermetic Law - and of Calebais


...so says the words inscribed by Ornath, a Guernici, on the entrance to the Covenant of Calebais. Basically telling to stay clear of the ruins and leave the inhabitants to their fate. I know that in the adventure he has his owns motives for doing this - mostly to avoid the torment of the ghosts to come to an end - and that this warning is probably his own alone.

But in our sage I've made a few adjustments to Calebais and given it a crucial role in a metaplot of the saga. One consequence of this is the fact that the undisturbance of the covenant is not only in Ornath's interest, but an interest of the Quaesitors in generel - to the very leaders of House Guernici - is relentless to keep. The reason is the history (which I've linked to events leading up to the Schism War) of the place and the fear that revealed it might cause unrest in the Order. To that extend the leadership of the Guernici is willing to go quite far, even using less savory means, but at the same time I was interested in ways to interpret this within the Code and what hold the Quaesitors have. Both in generel and if they where to drag this case before a Tribunal. I havent been able to find any reference and frankly I do not think such a things exists withing Hermetic law - but the question is whether the Quaesitors in any right could issue such an order (as not to enter some ruin) and then sanction those who didnt comply? As I've noted I do not think such rights have ever been given them, but hwta if they where to try a case on this? What possible avenues could they take? Any suggestions?

Brainstorming it I can think of three; not abiding by the decision of a tribunal (and then disclosing the warning as a such); arguing that even just entering the ruins is equivalent of dealing with the devils; or stating that entering the ruins endangers the Order (which is what they actually themselves thinks it does).

This will probably never see 'trial' - and I have to add that his problem is so paramount to the Guernici that they are actually willing to quite far to ensure that the implicated magi do not spread their knowledge of the covenant. But that doesnt mean that certain individuals will not argue with themselves to justify this.

I know from earlier debates that peoples take on Hermetic Law is very varied so I tought it could be interesting to see people's suggestions on whether the Quaesitors can do such a thing, mark an area, and subsequently punish treespassers...

Isn't visiting Calebais IV the only death penalty left on the books?

Kudos for the Star Trek reference.

I would think it would be difficult to support the right of the Guernici to mark an area off-limits and demand a serious criminal penalty for exploring it. That is almost like being able to declare any place to be your sanctum, and sets a dangerous precedent, which I think the order would want to avoid. I can certainly understand why the Guernici would want to do it, but I think some sort of criminal intent would have to be shown (perhaps by scrying) to allow a real punishment.
Ignoring the Tribunal's declaration of the place to be off limits could realistically result in a fine.
I think the idea that a tribunal and House Guernicus could declare a place which possibly holds great magical secrets off limits and then severely punish transgressors of that declaration would go against the grain of many many magi, and the foolish mage who campaigned for such a punishment might find himself extremely unpopular in the least, and, in Mythic Europe, "extremely unpopular" is often a synonym for "dead".

I can hear cries of, "You are only trying to keep all the magical knowledge for yourselves!" already.
Of course, if that is what they are really trying to do, it leaves may interesting possibilities, story-wise.

The Quaesitores appear indeed not entitled to permanently declare places off limits to all magi on their own. But a Tribunal could. And Quaesitores have a hold on Tribunal procedures, as the presiding Quaesitor must ratify its decisions to make them valid.
Positing a divided Tribunal and already much contested operations of its Praeco, the presiding Quaesitor could pressure the Praeco to force a Tribunal decision - by silencing or ejecting objecting magi if needed - forbidding access to Calebais.
Such a decision could be revised at any subsequent Tribunal, of course - so maintaining it would bind a lot of the influence of the local Quaesitores, tie them to the Praeco and thus result in a rather corrupt Tribunal.

Kind regards,


In a less corrupt environment, Quaesitores might fare best if they find a desperate magus whom they can entice, cajole or plain bribe to set up his Sanctum on top of the site to be declared off limits, e. g. Calebais.

Just why do I always imagine player characters to be the recipients of such favors of the Quaesitores? :smiling_imp:

Kind regards,


  • double posting - :blush:

pass along - nothing to see....

Thank you for the replies so far!

[color=darkred](Anyone playing in the saga Sic Parvis Magna - please do not read any further!! :smiling_imp:)

I agree that this is not within the power of the Quaesitors to do, to set such a mark. I do however think that the Transi'es within the Guenici would probably support a notion to move in that direction, but that is another story entirely. This case will actually be forwarded at a Tribunal, but I think that most magi would be as opposed to make such a ruling at a Tribunal and at the same time punish someone for having broken it prior to that Tribunal as they would be opposed to granting the Quaesitors more rights - especially since this is not an open and shut case.

The Quaesitors are actually not interested in any case in pushing an agenda in favour of giving them the rights to mark such a place as off limits. What they are interested in (and in the saga this goes to the very leaders of the House Guernici) is keeping Calebais 'burried'. Even a tribunal hearing to discuss it would reveal that it has been rediscovered, and even the acceptance of it being off limits (or 'plugged' with a sanctum on the top) would probably at some time lead some curious or treasurehunting magus to try to get in there anyway. And even if this would be a crime (if the above were effectuated) the truth of the place might be disclosed - and no matter whether the culprit would be punished or nor the truth might cause serious unrest in the Order - quite possible tricking a bloody continuation of the Schism War (in our saga the destruction of Calebais was used in the emergency Grand Tribunal meeting detailed in HoH:TL renouncing House Diedne as a proven case of Diedne aggresion. The Guenici orchestrated this proof as a last ditch effort to keep the Order from total collapse and war - remembering that the time prior to this meeting was one of wipespread attacks and aggresion and lawlessness and the Quaesitors inability to stem the voilence. Revealing this to be false could potentially plummet the Order back into lawlessnes and internal bloody strife).

In other words - the Guernici are more concerned with keeping this place secret by all means neccesary - than acheiving any kind of legal resolution (such as deeming it a crime to go there). This however does not stop them from arguing the case amongst themselves in terms of Hermetic Law. Moreso I plan them to shut up the PC magi who's been to Calebais not by a trial and punishment (since this would just sheed unwanted light on the existnece of the place!), but by bullying the PCs into taking an oath on their life never to divulge to anyone what they know (using one of Fenicil's rituals) by threatening the lot with a trial that they would ensure would result in the PC's denouncation and deaths. In this regard the Quaesitors need to threaten them with somewhat plausible accusations - disregarding that such a case might be tough and/or the fact that the reprensentatives of House Guernici in any case probably could in unison with the Praeco more or less ensure that the Stonehenge Tribunal would convict the PC's. Threatening the PC with a credible case is important to the involved Guernici, but at the same time they do not want any such case come to trial - bc of the risk that it might lead to nasty truths coming to light in the process[size=75] (or in the words of Jack Nicholson: "you can't handle the truth!")[/size].

Interesting. I don't see it nearly so cut and dried (but rarely do, admittedly.)

There are several elements going on here, and as SG you have to make a decision for yourself what the answers are for your gameworld, the version of Mythic Europe and its history that your players occupy. There is no "right" or "wrong", only what "I" would do vs what "you" would do vs what "they" would do, etc.

First, in any world, the various branches of government vary in relative strength- in the USA, the judicial (supreme court), executive (aka presidential), and legislative (congress), tho' in theory balanced and interdependant, have at times been dominant or weaker, powerful or subserviant to the whims and decisions of the others. Also, any "law enforcement" agency can, at time, gain autonomous power, and, seeing itself as the saviour of all, possibly grow to abuse that power, or at least over-reach the scope they were designed to oversee. Just as House Bonisagus is, in theory, the "Guiding Light" of the Order, but varies in their view on the subject, so could the Quasitors, to one extent or another, decide for themselves that "they know best", and push, above board or under the table, for more power than what is suggested by the limited canon we are given. Your world, yours history to expand upon.

Further muddying the waters, it's quite possible that different "dynasties", different Praecos of the Q's, have had different policies/approaches, some more authoritarian and autonomous, and others more cooperative and interactive. That is, the difference between the J Edgar Hoover FBI, and the "kinder, gentler" one of later decades, and the current Praeco has inherited policies they must work with, or around. Perhaps they are not even aware of secret projects initiated in earlier times (see below.)

It would seem reasonable to some minds (both some players', and certainly some Quasitores'), that 7 years is far too long a time to wait to address a "clear and present danger" to the Order, to borrow a phrase. Just as, in cases of urgent necessity, the Q's can act with autonomy against a rogue wizard of the Order, or declare a Hedge Wizard or even other Mundane as an enemy of the Order and act against them, so (it can be argued, and reasonably assumed) could they declare one locale off limits. (Or not- up to the SG, but it's hardly unreasonable.)

And, as hinted above by others, a faction, sub-order or secret society within House Guernicus could arise to shoulder that responsibility as perceived, to do what must be done, even to bend the Code to breaking in order to save it. (Stranger and darker rationalizations occur daily in RL law enforcement.)

While the peripheral code usually only addresses generalizations such as "not endanger the Order", it does not attempt to address every instance or interpretation of that, but nor does it state that all magi have an equal vote to determine that, what does or does not constitute "endangerment". If that were the case, then every book suspected to contain Demonic Lore would have to be read and perused by every voting member, and then voted on. That is not the case, since reading such books is, de facto, understood to be endangering the Order. Can't let everyone read the forbidden knowledge just to agree that it is, indeed, forbidden. The Q's say it's bad, they burn it, done deal, next item on the agenda.

If the Q's determine that the very knowledge of Calebais is "endangerment", then, with that interpretation, just spreading that knowledge would be breaking the Code, and it is up to the Q's to stop that, even before it happens. (And remember, it doesn't take a consensus or Tribunal vote to reach that, only one arrogant element of House Guernicus, and the will to act on that self-certainty.)

How, then, to do this? And what to do if someone does stumble upon it?

Well, the are no unwritten rules than can be enforced, there is no "double secret probation". You can't have a doomsday device if no one knows about it. You need to keep someone out, but you don't want them to know they need to be kept out. Problematic.

The "sanctum" angle works little better than a Tribunal vote or decree, since the area is a bit large for a single magi's sanctum, and more to the point hardly appears to be one at face value. If a sanctum is kept a secret, hard to fault anyone who enters it. If you declare an entire covenant's worth of area a sanctum, it will raise questions, and perhaps invite visitors, and require that mage to have no other sanctum. Sticky.

There could exist a secret society/group, a cross between "The Men in Black" and those masked wahoos who for generations guarded the secret of The Mummy, who's (self-assigned?) mission is to keep such locations secret (and there could be many besides Calabais!)

First, hit the place with something akin to "The Shrouded Glen", to divert anyone searching for it. Then, by monitoring various locales via wards and such, a nearby "response team" could be notified to go out and deal with intruders. Tho' it would be difficult to imagine a Mage stationed to protect it, a nearby Quasitore could have (as a "Flaw") the duty to respond whenever needed by the secret society. And any Society of mage's worth its salt could have mundane agents located there, perhaps even someone/thing non-human specifically place or even "contracted" to that purpose. Lastly, there's a reason landmines are popular- magical traps tend to discourage many, and even dead magi tell no tales (usually).

But what if (as the current situation), despite all precautions, someone does stumble upon the knowledge?

If it's dire enough, anything is possible, from gentle reasoning and persuasion to strong-arm tactics, overt threats, blackmail, possibly even assassination as a last resort (it worked in The Mummy- or at least it was policy).

In a Saga I was in, one of the players went waaay around the bend, and it was decided their mage was possessed by demons (only explanation for their actions.) The Q's were going to come around, and take them away, and try an exorcism- only option short of a March (or a private War). What would happen next? Who knows, (and we never got that far). Maybe they'd be "disappeared", maybe get brainwiped, maybe a dishonorable discharge, maybe killed attempting to escape - anything's possible. A bit "men in black", a bit 1984/Stalinist Russia, but not all that unsimilar to this situation.

The question is, however- how dire is the knowledge? Is it worth killing for? Can they risk trusting in the cooperation of this mage? Or do they take more overt action, perhaps a powerful and special purpose PeMe "Calebais? What's a Calebais?" spell, or a MuMe "Calebais is not there" spell, or a ReMe "never think of Calebais again" spell. (Difficult to RP, but fun if it could be done.)

If you were sworn to uphold the Order, would you break the rules on occasion to save the Order? Some certainly would- history proves that, again and again.

Cheers Cuchulainshound, for your inspiring reply!

No disagreement. If holding back on the Quaesitors it isn't to any adherence to canon, but rather in regards to what I think leads our story in the most interesting way. On one side I do think many Quaesitors at one time have or continue to feel that they are such a 'guiding light' who knows best. Falsifying the report of the 3 Quaesitors that had visited Calebais shortly after it's (self-)destruction to present it as a tale of diabolic Diedne to blame, wasn't bid for power as much as seen to be a desperate measure. But even so this falsification caused the death of many many people and the eradication of a House. So no matter the motivations this must have been a decisive decision to the ones involved - one that for better or worse stay with them for the rest of their life. Thus the Guernici might not be pushing for power or domination (least of all in their own perspective), but they have some nasty skeletons in their closet nonetheless.

Indeed! Only few people know of the deception, and since all records of Calebais location (and its defenses continued strenght making it hard to locate or stumble upon) were removed, they never expected anyone to ever get there. Maybe that was failing of theirs or maybe it was a touchy subject even amongst themselves. In any regard there would have been no story if they had completely leveled the place back then. The 3 Quaesitors going there in the first place did not at the time of their inspection know that the place would become pawn in a political game. And soon after the Schism War raged - which might have tied up ressources, made Calebais (on the British Isles) inaccesible, caused the death of some of the 3 Quaesitors - and in the aftermath few might have had the energy to care about a forgotten hidden Calebais (which I btw renamed Lumen in my version of it). In any instance there would not have been a story without it still there. The current Primus of House Guernici quite possibly do not know of it - but the apprentice of the then Primus Antonius, now an old magus himself, knows it and he sits on the inner tier of the Quaesitors council and he is the 'leader' of those in the know. His philosophy is that the fewer who knows the better.

The next Tribunal is within a year, so that will set the stage for the quaesitors addressing the PC magi. Which also takes into account that their tresspassing has to be discovered by the local quaesitor in the know, then it has to be investigated and confirmed, and finally information has to pass to and from Magvillus. I agree that a quaesitor could resonably declare someplace off limits as a present danger untill resolved at the Tribunal, but this is not in anyones interest since it will only draw focus to what must stay hidden.

Certainly. And those 'forces' are already marshaling. Even trusted hoplites might offer themselves to such an enforcement of the peace. This is a nice reserve to have or to use in any sableratling, but it will not be the first response. Killing the PC, or setting them up against completely impossible odds, does not make very good stories. A saga about someone always on the run is feasible but not what we set out to do and it is also quite far from the backbone of the covenant run saga. On the other hand saving the PC with a deus ex machina can erode a story just as well.

Might be true (though I think many magi resent too much influence to the Quaesitors), but any regard this rests on trying the case - which is detrimal to keeping the 'secret safe'.

"It was to be announced at the Tribunal on Monday. As you know, the Praeco loves surprises". lol. Well it is very problematic. Which is why they quaesitors in the know untill now had follow the path of letting sleeping dogs lie, but now that the cat is feared to be out of the sack, they are forced to act. But they intend not to make a case or Tribunal hearing out of this, but to only bully and threaten the involved PC into cooporating - and this they will do with the thread of making a tribunal case out of it. It is a highstake poker on who will flinch first. If they PCs don't give into coorporation (they might realise that the quaesitors dont really won to push this to a case) the quaesitors probably have no other way than to use overt force. They need to know who knows and from whom these got the knowledge. And then they have to clean up and when all is said and done they might simply opt for destroying the remaining ruins. Then they will probably either leave it at that or maybe at this point push for a tribunal decision on declaring it off limits.

Ahh - the Medjai! Interesting idea. I had no plans for a such, but this is an interesting idea that could certainly foster stories of its own.

The place actually has something far better than the Glen - it has the Veil of Mormulus. Not only does it divert people, it is a very effecient block against most forms of scrying. In this case there is a hermetic descendant to Ornath of House Quaesitor (he led the trio of quaesitors doing the original investigation) and she is in the know. No one ever expected the need for a response team, maybe because the place has also been forgotton or somewhat brushed aside by the people in the know. As a curious sidenote most antipersonal mines have failed if they manage to kill. A wounded screaming legless soldier who you have to drag on to the next aid station puts much more stress on a unit than a dead one (which might have been instrumental in most of the world signing the Ottowa Convention against antipersonal mines - and at least in official records banning there use).

Hehe - I am not beyond that. I once SG a half year of sessions which all were constructed memories of the PCs. I slowly started to make strange things happen (this being a result of the mindaltering effect having flaws and being imperfect), and slowly I made more and more gross red flags - in the end even starting a couple of scene all over repeating them more or less before moving on. People being in the wrong places at the wrong time in terms of logic. I recall one player accusing me of doing a bad job and being indefferent to logic (only later did he realise the plot) and having to console him that all was as it should be. In the end the characters even realised it and they had a discussion about feeling like actors upon a stage.

Well, my plans are not different from you mentem spell after all. I hope the PC will end op choosing to cooporate with the quaesitors. If so they will demand the PC to swear on their lifes never to discuss or in any way divulge the existence of the covenant or anything they learned there. This will be done by using the Fenicil ritual of 'The Will Of Alatheia'. It makes people sick even by contemplating to break the vow. I think this could be interesting as it would keep the saga in motion yet would challenge the players and PC in a very interesting way. What could be more driving than knowing something yet being unable to address it! Moreso this makes it possible for the spell to be broken at some fortunate time (in terms of the metaplot) in the future.

Some issues will remain at large for the future aswell. A devout and inflamatory priest was brought there at an earlier incursion into the covenant ruins. He was lost somewhere along the way (a botched teleport) - will he ever reappear and make a stir of things...? Someone sent the letter that got the PCs interest peaked and ultimately led them to the foot of Calebais - who was it and will they stir again...? The most active of the PCs in this undertaking is actually a Ex Miscellanea trained as a Diedne undertaking a search for his own roots (and a missing sister)... what will be in store for him?

Without doubt!

You honor me by having slogged through the entire thing!

Because this is so arcane and delicate, I'd strongly suggest... not making any hard decisions until you absolutely have to! That is, consider the options, and their implications, but until one path or another needs be chosen, leave all avenues open as options. If, later in the saga, a different bacfground or historical event suddenly would be more convenient, and changes nothing known thus far to the Players, then that is in fact what actually happened all along!

So much better to lead from a back row...

I wonder if a local baron or such could be used to throw a small mundane army into the cause, either directly or indirectly?...

No, but making them think that's the story makes a very good one... and gets their attention right away.

(Use a "cut out" man- the Q's mundane agent dons a disguise and hires a middle man ( a known criminal kingpin), who in turn hires the actual assassins (who will unfortunately be slagged by the mage, natch). The mage can use Whispers Thru the Black Gate or other tricks, but by then, the middle man will have been killed, turned to dust and that dumped in a river, and long gone beyond reach, dead end. That alone should sound alarms to any savy Player...)

Exactly! Praeco Dmitri, iirc. :wink:

I've done something like that, but several players refused to play in something that "made no sense"- it was sad that I finally had to explain it all to them, at which point they were willing to continue, but there was no more point in continuing that particular plotline. They didn't understand that, either, sigh...

I would think that there could be some spell that could read "character flaws" as well as "intentions". That is, while the target might honestly "swear" not to divulge the info, are they likely to ignore that oath at some future time? No way to tell for sure, but somewhere in their mind is a self-awareness of what they have done in the past, and how they feel about it in general...

Sounds like fun if you can pull it off!

(But have the Medjai (Madjai? Magi?) ready anyway, just in case!)

You honour me by honouring me honouring you for honouring me with the answer to begin with! If you savvy :laughing:

You did not just use a Intellego Mentem on a fellow forumer, did you? That is actually how I often like to work, adjusting everything not in stone if I see a more interesting story popping up. But I also like to have at least some frames in place, so that if those story potentials dont pop up, the story I do tell is at least prepared and thought through.

Their Covenant Ianitoris Oporotheca is in fact Triamora adapted to an English Shropshire version. In other words they live on a mundane manor that already has mundane enemies and it should not be a great task to rise any single on of those to action. But I reckon a clean sweep to shut them up for sure is probably better organised by deploying magi.

True.. but at some time it has to be resoluted. And the possible endgames arent as inviting on a sagalevel.

Spies and infiltrators have already been sent forth...

I weep for you :cry: and I will offer one of my best chattels, I mean players, to the gods of the Olympos to beg of them better fortune in your blessing of players (and if any of my players read this and complains they will feel the wrath for having read this in spite of the 'sanctum' mark I put above!).

The more character flaws and intentions the better. If you do not know the ritual of which I spoke, it will cause them to die if they break their Oath... Even thinking of doing so will make the voilently ill.. The same going for undoing the spell thus cast on them.... All in all this will only lead to the PC having some interesting internal battles.. and that the spell might at some time, for some obscure reason evaporate and this metaplot can be resumed (though it will not stand still inbetween).

Cheers! Or if they can!

I will have to announce it at the an upcoming session in January. As you know, I loves surprises. :wink:

Well, in that case Hermetic law arguments are academic.

The Quaesitores would likely reconstruct a Guernicus covenant on top of Calebais and call it Calebais Renata to 'repair the Diedne assault'. That new Calebais would keep the legend of that assault alive (easy), the ghosts in check (ahem ... not that easy) and outside investigation of the site at bay with Aegis, Sancta and charter.

After all, who would dare to scry on or surreptitiously investigate a Quaesitoris covenant? :wink:

Kind regards,


Divine/Infernal Quaesitors!

:laughing: :laughing: :laughing:

Not entirely. In an effort to intimidate the PC into coorporation they will be using the threat of making a legal case - even though they would never intend to make such a case - and that threat has to be as genuine as possible (disregarding the fact that a threat of trial from group of Quaesitors would probably be intimidating enough).

A very great idea! And what a flag in the face of the PC!! Especially if they accept to be sworn to silence (and the force of Fenicil's ritual making them keep it). This however will not be staged untill after they have had their confrontation with the PCs...

Or even smear their name in public!

Even a Fearsome Flambeau would not be so daring. :wink:
No matter how many times that lisping Quaesitor mispronounced his Name.

ROFL :laughing:

Quite right; quite right!!!

In fact the NPC Flambeau Furion Transsanus, from which I took my monicker (for what reason is beyond me) when creating my profile here, did partake in the PCs intrusion into the broken covenant. When the magi had defeated the resident hrools (alas they got a violent end) Furion and his filius Volvulus (a PC) had a heated row - they had heaps upon heaps of unresolved issues - that led to open hostilities. Furion having Fury and Addicted to Magic ended up wreaking a havroc and pushing himself into a Twilight. The only remains of him in the physical world at the moment is a burning diadem hoovering on a hall in the depths of Lumen (Calebais)... So one one hand he cannot be annoyed at the moment - but on the other he will someday be coming out of Twilight it what then will probably be a Guernici covenant!! What ironi!! :laughing:

The guernici could say that there was a crime in Calebais which is still being investigated, due to the nature of the crime and the magics used. As such it is still a crime scene and entering it is disturbing the quaesitores investigation. You are interfering with an investigation which is itself a crime.

Oh Noes!
It's [color=red]CSI : Mythic Europe. :astonished:

Well, with the legend they have circulated in Furion Transsanus' campaign, the Quaesitores could any time pretend to feel responsible for the containment of the heinous Diedne magics which caused the destruction of the original Calebais, and to hence not let anybody into the basement of Calebais Renata.
But we should keep modern police procedures out of ArM5, shouldn't we?

Kind regards,