A Special Visitor from Harco (Winter 1240)

This is meant less as a formal story and more as an intro to Elena.

Winter 1240
As snow falls outside the Mercere Tower, Lucas waits beside the Mercere portal to Harco. Today was the day the letter said that Elena would arrive, and he was never going to get anything done while he was waiting for his new apprentice to arrive. He'd tried starting on Atlanticus this morning. But after reading the same paragraph seven times, he had to admit that he was too on edge. After all, he'd be bound to Elena for the next fifteen years. That was longer than he'd have spent with any of his own children, three of whom were off to Redcap training no later than age twelve, and the fourth of which was going away next year at age ten. From what he'd heard, Elena was a good fit for him. But you never could tell for certain until you were in the apprenticeship. And then it was too late - well for him at least. One did not give up a Mercere apprentice in any but the most dire circumstances.

Will you stop pacing, Horus thinks to him from his perch on a nearby window. That's not going to get her here any sooner, and it's just going to work you up.

You're right, the magus thinks back, taking a deep breath and engaging in a meditation exercise he learned during his own apprenticeship. But if it makes you feel any better, I was just as nervous before I was bound to you.

Lucas then takes a seat on a bench set against the wall and begins chat with the Redcap on duty, Gunnvara in this case. It's clear to anyone that he's distracted. But he does his best to keep up his end of the conversation. This goes on for about an hour until without warning the portal starts to activate. A moment later, a link is formed with Harco and two people step through from that far-off covenant. One is an older woman - clearly a Redcap; the other is a young girl of perhaps ten years with long, dark hair.

"Good morning Lucas," the woman says. "Good morning, Gunnvara. "I didn't expect a welcoming committee." She smiles and looks down at the girl by her side. "Lucas, this is Elena. Elana, this is Lucas."

"Good morning," Lucas replies with a bow of his head. "It's a pleasure to meet you. Welcome to Andorra. And may I formally offer to teach you the Hermetic Arts."

That's it, he thinks. There's no going back now.

She was bundled up, coat all on, and scarf wrapped tight about her. Elena pulled her pack up close, tried not to look at her feet, and did her best to nod with confidence. It was hard - being away from home and in unfamiliar lands - but positives! Here was Lucas. Respected, she'd heard. And a good man, she'd been promised. There was nothing to worry about.

Nothing at all!

...Elena hoped. But if there were things to worry about, there was nothing she could do. And less going back for her than for Lucas. And so it was, in her heart of hearts, she hoped at least that the man who would be her parens was kind.

The young girl fidgeted a bit, put her hands together, and bowed slightly: "...master, I accept: p-please care for me...!"

Looking down at Elena Lucas can't help but think about Stepahnus and Elinor and Edvard, all off to their Redcap training at about the same age - and Maria off next year. It caused a lump to form in his throat. But he consoles himself. He might be losing his four natural children to their training, but he was gaining an adopted daughter in Elena.

"Of course," Lucas replies, leaning down and giving Elena a hug. She must be as nervous as I am, he realizes. Maybe more. "I'll take very good care of you. And I'll give you the best hermetic education that I can manage. But for today we'll get you settled in and give you a tour of the castle. You'll meet my wife, Cecilia, my daughter Maria - she's only a year younger than you, and the tower staff. We've arranged for a special dinner to celebrate your arrival."

"And I'd be remiss if I didn't introduce you to Horus right away." The falcon, which was perched on a windowsill, flies over to land on the bench beside Lucas.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Elena," the falcon says in a human voice. "I look forward to working with you in the coming years."

"But I'm getting ahead of myself," the magus says, petting Horus along his head and neck. "The first thing I should do is share my Parma Magica with you. You're covenant raised, I understand, so you know what that means, right? I'm going to extend my magical protection to you so that, among other things, you won't feel the effect of the Gift from the other magi in the covenant." He lays a hand on Elena's shoulder and mutters a few arcane syllables. While he's at it, he silently adds a spell to keep Elena warm no matter what the temperature outside. Immediately, warmth spreads through her body and her coat and scarf become superfluous.

"I've added another spell to keep you warm," Lucas explains. "I find that Winters in Arans can be pretty cold." He smiles reassuringly.

"So it's my tower first where you can drop off your things, then a tour of the castle, then dinner. I know it's a lot to take in at once. Do you have any questions?"

That's a good question, with his Silent Magic (x2) and Subtle Magic, does Lucas have to use gestures or incantations for his Parma Magica?

Lucas will cast Touch of Warmth on Elena to keep her warm.

Parma's actually not a spell, it's a "special ritual", and there's a lot of hand-wavium involved. The book never says what's involved, so my take is that it varies widely from one person to another.

To extend its protection over another (with their consent) you just have to touch them. If you want to do the whole alakazam thing to make it look more impressive, you can.

Personal contact! Elena went stiff as a board. But...Lucas smelt like family. That was enough, wasn't it? She buried her face in his shoulder and hugged him back: "...t-thank you. I'd like to meet them too..."

Bowing to Horus, Elena returned his greeting. Then she nodded because she understood what the parma was. And with it, Lucas felt much more comfortable. Warm, she felt much more comfortable. With both, Elena looked at her feet, fidgeted, and smiled involuntarily.

"I..um..." She looked up at Lucas. "...what can I do to help? I can run messages, and my memory is very good and...um..." she trailed off, waiting expectantly~...

"Your main job while you're here," Lucas replies, "is to learn. Your good memory should help with that. Everything else is secondary. Granted, some of that learning will be tedious - there's no way around that. But it's all with the purpose of making you a skilled maga. Fifteen years sounds like a long time. But there's a tremendous amount to teach you. We'll easily fill the time up and wish for more."

"Oh, there'll certainly be other tasks to do for me. I don't doubt that. And as you say, running messages is likely to be one of them. Horus will be happy for the break. He's usually who I send. But I'm not one of those magi who thinks an apprentice should be buried under drudge work. Believe me, your studies will keep you busy enough."

"But this isn't something we need to occupy the others with." He turns to the woman who arrived with Elena and offers his hand. "Isadora, thank you very much for bringing me my new apprentice. I greatly appreciate it. And if you see them, please send my warmest regards to her parents." Then he smiles at Gunnvara. "Thanks for putting up with my pacing, Vara. I hope I didn't wear too deep a path in the floor."

His goodbyes said, Lucas ushers Elena down the stairs. "This is the House Mercere tower. The covenant of Andorra has a Mercere guild house associated with it, and the guild house is centered here in the tower and some associated buildings in the bailey. I live in the tower next to this one, so it won't be much of a walk." As he speaks, the pair descend the stairs and leave the Mercere tower. It's a cold Andorra winter outside, but protected as they are, the two don't notice.

"This will be your new home," Lucas says gesturing at the next tower over. "I hope you don't mind stairs. You'll be climbing a lot of them in the coming years." He brings Elena into the tower and waves hello to the guard on duty. "Good morning, Antonio. This is my new apprentice, Elena. She'll be a regular fixture here for quite some time to come." A few pleasantries are shared, then master and apprentice start climbing the stairs. Up they go for many levels until at the entrance to the sixth level there is a symbol hung over an archway.

"This is my sigil," the magus explains. "It indicates that from here on up is my sanctum - my protected space. It contains my lab, my personal chambers, my solar, and your quarters. The only people allowed up here are my wife, my children, my assistant Andre, our maid Helene, and you. If you ever see anyone else up here, you're to come and tell me immediately. Needless to say, you're not to ever bring anyone into my sanctum without my permission. The only person allowed to to do that is my wife."

"Through that door is my laboratory. We won't stop there quite yet. Soon enough you'll get your fill of it. You'll spend a great deal of time there, either assisting me or performing other tasks to hone your skills."

The two travel up one level and through a door into the floor second from the top. The small hallway off the stairs has two single doors and a set of double doors. "That leads to laboratory storage," he explains, pointing to one of the single doors. "And that leads to a gallery over my lab," he adds, pointing to the double doors. "You should feel free to observe me working from there when not otherwise occupied."

"And this," Lucas says, pointing to the last door, "is your room." He opens the door to reveal an average-sized room containing a bed, chest, desk, and chair. A tapestry with a unicorn on it hangs on the wall, and a sheepskin carpet covers the floor between bed and desk. Several extra blankets are piled at the foot of the bed. It looks for all the world like the chambers of a noble or a well-to-do merchant.

"Much nicer than what I had," he says with a smile. "I lived in a monk's cell for most of my apprenticeship." He gestures for Elena to go inside. "We can drop your things off here before we continue. No sense you lugging that around everywhere."

FYI, this is Lucas's tower: http://andorra.wikidot.com/lucas-de-mercere-s-tower

Slipping in, Elena and hefted her belongings carefully onto the bed...then she pushed them together. Squared them off. Made them neat. Good, she nodded, just how it should be. Almost how it should be. Ok, nothing in this room was like it should be. This wasn't home at all! Elena scrabbled into her pack, pulled out a rough-hewn pony figurine, and a raggedy rag-doll.

They were put on the desk; things were moved; things were neatened again: "...better? Better..." The room didn't look that much different. But it was different enough! Right? That's what countered.

Elena trotted back over to Lucas: "All done, y-yes! It's like...like what I had before. Before I went to live with the other Redcaps." She quietened down thoughtfully, just for a moment. "...are there other apprentices too? Andorra is very large."

That's a funny question. I'm not sure when Solomon and Carmen are getting their apprentices. They might have them now or they might not. And who can tell what'll happen with Fleur vis a vis apprentices? So I'll answer as best I can. When facts prove what Lucas said as wrong, assume he told you the truth and adjust the post accordingly.

Lucas remains silent as his new apprentice sets her things down and arranges a few personal items around the room. This was a lot for her to take in all at once.

"Yes," Lucas replies when Elena asks her question. "There are other apprentices, or will be. Carmen ex Flambeau, our Pontifex, and Solomon ex Guernicus, our Inquisitor are both taking apprentices. I'm not entirely certain about the status of Fleur ex Bonisagus. But you'll meet all your fellow apprentices in due time. There's also my daughter Maria, who's around your age. As I said, she's just a year younger than you. You'll meet her presently. I'm afraid my other three children are away at Redcap training."

The magus looks around the room. It looked perfectly homey to him. But perhaps it was still a bit imposing for Elena.

"Is there anything I could get for your room that would make it feel more like home?" he asks. "I know this is all a big change for you."

Elena looked around the room again. It was different. It would be hard to sleep tonight. She had to make a good first impression though: she had to be brave! ...she wasn't going to be brave. Being a burden was worse than being scared though.

So she shook her head: "...n-no. It's nice." Elena considered her master. She had a feeling she'd miss her parents a lot, so Lucas' daughters must miss him too...but did parents miss their children too? "Do you miss them?"

"Every day," Lucas replies, a look of melancholy falling over his face. "I miss them every day. But I know that they're enjoying Redcap training. And it will prepare them well for a good place in life. Also, Cecilia and I are lucky. Between her Redcap travels and my magic, we've both been able to visit them from time to time. And we write regularly. One of the benefits of being in House Mercere, as you'll find out, is that your letters tend to get delivered pretty quickly. But it's still hard to look around the table at meals and see their empty chairs. Stephanus and Elinor both left five years ago, and Edvard has been gone for just about a year now. Maria leaves next year. I'm proud of them and very happy for them. But that doesn't stop me from missing them."

"I know it was hard for them at first, being away from home. It will be hard for you as well. I understand. I went through it all myself thirty years ago. You miss your family; you miss your friends; and you miss the covenant you left behind. Now you're in a totally new place and nothing is familiar. That has to be a bit of a shock. All I can say is that things will get better. You'll start to get familiar with the castle and you'll make new friends. Pretty soon it won't all seem so strange. And through it all, Cecilia and I will try and be the best surrogate parents we can. I can't promise that there won't be times when you'll be sad or lonely. But I can promise to always be there for you."

Elena reached over and took Lucas' hand. She didn't look at him - just stood there, looking at her room: what she would probably call her home for longer than she'd ever been alive. It really was too much for her to take in. She didn't understand the full scope of what she was getting into, she couldn't grasp what being here meant, and didn't understand what entirely her relationship to Lucas actually was. Not fully; not entirely.

She squeezed his hand: "...we can help each other not be lonely."

"I'd like that very much," Lucas replies, squeezing Elena's hand. He lets the silence stretch out for a while before he speaks again.

"This has all been a lot for you to take in. Would you rather stay here for a while to gather your thoughts, or would you like to go downstairs to meet my wife and daughter? I've got the whole day set aside for you settling in, so there's no hurry."

Elena stood there for a little longer, thinking. The room seemed a bit less strange and a bit less scary like this. She swung Lucas' hand just a little.

"I want to meet our family."

"Excellent," Lucas says. "Cecilia and Maria can't wait to meet you. They're down in the sitting room right now. Shall we?" Then he releases her hand, knowing that it would be hard to walk down the stairs hand-in-hand. He leads Elena back to the stairs and down three levels revealing a hallway with two double doors just across from the stairs. He opens the doors and leads her into the room.

Inside is a large space that takes up almost half of the floor. There are tapestries on the wall, rugs on the floor, some musical instruments in one corner, chairs arranged about, and a table large enough to seat six. Sitting at the table are a small, but strikingly beautiful, blonde woman in her mid-thirties, and a young blonde girl about Elena's age. The girl is studying a book while the woman seems to be looking on. As the door opens they both turn and smiles appear on their faces.

"This must be Elena," the woman exclaims before Lucas has a chance to speak. She rushes over and gives Elena a hug. "I'm Cecilia, and I want to welcome you to your new home." The girl walks over and Cecilia gestures to her. "This is our daughter Maria." Maria responds with a wave and a quiet, "hello."

"I hope you had a pleasant trip," Cecilia adds. "Travel by portal can be somewhat unnerving the first few times."

"She's doing just fine, dear," Lucas replies. "I've settled her in upstairs and I thought she might want a moment of relative peace and quiet to settle herself before we take a tour of the castle."

More whirlwind introductions! Elena accepted the new hug with less confused panic this time around. By the end of today, she thought, she would be very, very tired.

Elena gave Maria a small wave back, and then turned back to Cecilia: "It's...very nice to meet you. Thank you for looking after me. I'll t-try to be helpful while I'm here." She fidgeted. "The castle is...like Harco. It's very big? Busy? B-bigger! ...than I thought it would be. I'll learn it all."

After some quiet time during which Lucas and Cecilia ask Elena about herself, and Maria starts to chip up as well, Lucas finally stands up. "Well, Elena," he says. "Time to move on. I think first I'll show you my laboratory, then I'll take you on a tour of the castle."

So, back up the stairs it is after goodbyes to Cecilia and Maria. Back up to the sixth level, one level below where Elena's room is. A door on the stairs opens to a large room that fills the entire floor, with about half the room opening up to the upper level. The room is filled with tables, equipment, glassware, and parchment.

"This is where I spend the a lot of my time," Lucas says. "And where you will too. Let me explain left to right." He begins by turning and facing a comfortable chair facing a fireplace. "Here is where I like to sit and read. You'll find that magi tend to read a lot. Feel free to do your reading here, if I'm not using the chair. There's nothing special about it, except that it's particularly comfortable."

He turns to some cabinets tucked in one corner. "Over here is where I store the things I need most often. I have a larger storage room upstairs. But it's easier to keep the more common materials here. This is also where I dispose of materials I don't need anymore. Be careful here. Sometimes the trash can be very dangerous."

"Next is the cauldron." He points to a large round cast iron cauldron sitting over a small fire pit. "Useful for making all sorts of concoctions." Next to it is a table with alembics, bottles, small tools, and a variety of other equipment - all stowed neatly at the moment. "This is where I do most of my physical experiments. I'll have you extracting vis here in a couple of years, so you'll get to know that station well."

Next to the experimental table is another table next to a large window. On the table is an astrolabe and a few other pieces of brass equipment used for for observing the stars. "The placement of the stars can effect your work," he says. "So we have to monitor them to see when it would be most auspicious to act."

Next to that is a metal circle on the wall and an inlaid circle on the floor, each with arcane symbols worked into them. "Here is where I do most of my summoning and creating. This is the heart of my purely magical research. It may be some time before you're ready to make use of this part of the lab."

Beyond that is a mirror on the wall with a chair and desk beneath. "You never know when you'll need something to scry with," Lucas says. "And I prefer a mirror to a basin of water. The desk, of course, is where I do my writing, and sometimes reading. You'll use it to take plenty of notes."

Then, he turns to some shelves in the nook opposite the storage nook. "Here's where I keep magical trinkets, memorabilia, and other trophies, if you will. That stuffed raven was a gift from my parens; the sketch of a pegasus was done based on a description Cecilia made of an encounter she had with a wild pegasus; and burned piece of wood is a relic of one of my first enchanting efforts that went awry. I keep it to remind myself to be humble."

In the center of the lab is a small round table with two chairs. "I had these put in when I heard I was going to have an apprentice. I figure we can use this as a place to discuss various questions of magical theory."

"So that's the lab," Lucas concludes. "Any questions?"

Lucas's Lab

Elena followed closely behind Lucas. She examined, carefully, every item her master pointed out: cauldron, it looks like this – a cooking pot but not! – it makes concoctions; astrolabe, looks like this, it examines stars, stars effect magic. Surly, knowing all this? It would be important at some point in the future! That's what she thought.

But it was the metal circle that attracted her attention.

Magic. Elena could do it. That's what she'd been told. She was lucky, and special – people were happy for her, they'd celebrated her apprenticeship! And magic was...a lot of reading books. Elena couldn't read, so reading itself felt a little special, but magic was something more than that. And it seemed to her that everyone who had it, did it a little differently to everyone else? Something like that.

So yes, Elena had a question. Two: "...master, what's your magic like? Will I get the same, or will it be different?"

"My magic tends toward movement, transformations and illusions. Body and mind, mostly." Lucas replies. "Muto, Rego, Corpus, and Imaginem, in hermetic terms. I'm not strong in the elements, nor in destruction nor information. I play to my strengths in subtlety since I don't need to use gestures or incantations to cast my spells. I try not to make my magic flashy. Part of that is because of Redcaps."

"You know that Redcaps are magi by courtesy?" he asks rhetorically. "Well, it's considered rude for a Gifted Mercere magus or maga to be too flashy about their magic around Redcaps. We don't want them getting the impression that we think we're better than they are. They do a tough job that's vital to the Order. They earn their status and we shouldn't forget that. So I keep it subtle. It's even caused some people to mistake me for a Redcap on occasion."

"As to whether your magic will be the same or different than mine, well, the answer is that it will be at least partly the same. I'll be teaching you, so I'll be certain to teach to my strengths. And when it comes to you learning spells, I'll obviously teach you ones that I know. You'll also learn mutantem magic from me. You're of the right bloodline after all. But you needn't follow my path entirely. If you want to hurl fire bolts around like Roberto of Flambeau, you can do that. You'll have the opportunity to focus your studies where you like. And there are other ways for you to learn spells than from me. So it really depends on what you want."

Grabbing her braid, Elena tugged at her hair reassuringly. It looked like she was trying to give Lucas an answer, but wasn't quite sure if she could. She hadn't thought about what her magic was like, and she didn't understand how it was divided up.

With the benefit of hindsight, magic to 'make all of this less awkward' would probably have been her muttered reply...!

Instead, she looked out the window: "I..I want to know how to stay warm." And when she turned back to Lucas, she was possessed of a small determination.

Lucas gives Elena a warm smile in reply. "We can certainly make that happen. If you like, we can have that be your first project, researching a spell of warmth - or perhaps a device of warmth. If you can wait, it will certainly be in the first group of spells I teach you - though that's likely a few years away."