Bonisagus Magi Taking Another Magus's Child as an Apprentice

My Spring-Covenant PCs include a non-Gifted redcap who is the widower of a Gifted redcap and the single father of their three daughters, the eldest of which is a Gifted NPC. Also at the covenant is an ex Miscellanea hedge witch / midwife who is starting to teach the girl stuff...a little of this, a little of that. You know how hedge witches operate. Also at the covenant is a Bonisagus magus who has had several discussions with the girl's father (the Redcap) and the girl's teacher (the ex Miscellanea maga) about maybe taking the girl from the ex Miscellanea maga for a season or so every year or two just to give the ex Miscellanea maga a break and to give the girl a little bit of a different perspective on magical instruction (read "more Hermetic").

The non-Gifted redcap and his Gifted NPC daughter, and the Criamon primus of the Spring Covenant (but not the ex Miscellanea maga) accompany the Bonisagus magus to Durenmar for a Special Convocation at which the Gifted girl garners some attention for her exceptional intellect and courage. An archmage poses a Seeker Question to the attendees and the PCs of my Spring Covenant beat out a nearby Covenant in an Intelligo Certámen, thus figuring out the answer to the Seeker Question. The rival Covenant is quite chagrined.

At the end of the Special Convocation, the Bonisagus maga of the rival Covenant evokes the right of her House to take another magus' apprentice, and calls for the girl. The PCs vehemently object, and argue (in a Bill-Clinton-esque "it depends on how you define 'sexual relations'" sort of way) that the right doesn't apply here because the girl has not received any Hermetic training, and cannot, therefore, be characterized as an apprentice; the Bonisagus maga can't appropriate an apprentice if the apprentice doesn't exist.

The girl doesn't want to be separated from her father, the non-Gifted Redcap. The Redcap doesn't want to see his daughter taken away from him, but doesn't express that aloud, but rather keeps silent, wishing only the best outcome for her. The ex Miscellanea maga who is teaching her "a little of this, a little of that" isn't in attendance at the Convocation. The Criamon Primus and the Bonisagus of the Spring Covenant are the most vocal opponents of the request. And the Bonisagus maga from the rival Covenant puts on evidence to defeat their opposing argument that the girl isn't being Hermetically trained: a witness, to wit, a Merinita maga who was bored during the Convocation and wandered around Durenmar, ultimately strolling into one of its many libraries where she met the girl and saw her reading from a hermetic Tractatus about Herbam magic. When the adjudicator (Murion, Prima of Durenmar) asked the girl about the incident, the girl said (again somewhat ambiguously) that she didn't really "understand" what she was reading, but was drawn to the books because it had a lot of pictures and diagrams of plants in it, which she liked.

Adjudicating this dispute was the LAST thing Murion wanted to do at the closing ceremony of the Special Convocation, and she brusquely ruled in favor of allowing the girl to stay with her Father, DENYING the request of the rival Bonisagus maga to take her away, less on the basis of the Peripheral Code and more as a "courtesy" to the father, who, while non-Gifted, was a member of the Order of Hermes (as was the girl's late, Gifted, Redcap mother).

As a final motion, the rival Bonisagus maga asked that should the girl ever commence Hermetic instruction, that the Bonisagus maga be given the "right of first refusal" -- that is, be given "dibs" on the girl. Prima Murion took the motion under advisement and quickly dismissed the Convocation before anything else cropped up.

Now the rival Covenant is in league with the faeries of the region surrounding the PCs' covenant, trying to spy on them and see if the girl is being Hermetically instructed. Prima Murion informed Prima Bilera of House Guernicus, just to let her know that this dispute was out there. Prima Bilera has tasked a recurring PC (the player shows up only once in a while) to investigate this matter. He's spent enough time in the past at the Spring Covenant to know that the PCs are not being entirely forthright -- that the girl HAS been given SOME Hermetic instruction, but he sees a valid argument in that it might only be considered "de minimus" in light of the fact that her primary instruction so far has only been in midwifery with some magical (and not necessarily Hermetic) elements mixed in.

Is there any precedent in the Peripheral Code involving a dispute of apprenticeship that included a child of a mage of the order?

I think there's a lot of evidence that the Gift runs in some families: notably, House Mercere's few Gifted magi are all descended from Mercere himself. House Mercere utilizes a dedicated campaign of encouraged breeding and the use of spells like Mercury's Blessing (HoH:TL). If we assume that the "average" lifespan of a Mercere magus is about 140 years (lowballing) and there are 12 of them, they need to produce one Gifted child every 10 years to maintain replacements...and that's with them trying and using magic to get results (also, with some coming from Redcap families with Mercere blood and/or non-Redcap families with Mercere blood as well). Given all that, the rate of Gifted children in bloodlines known to produce Gifted offspring reliably is pretty darn low, it seems. I think that this effort to produce offspring is probably the most important factor here because it's a numbers game. Also, most magi gauntlet at age 25, that leaves 10 short years to have children. Having the Gift can make finding a partner for that a bit difficult, too.

I think it's notable that Mercere himself kept his own biological children rather than giving them to Bonisagus, as he did with all the other Gifted he found, and that may form enough of a precedent to act as a loophole. But it's a largely untested one, given how few magi have Gifted children of their own. I think most Bonisagus magi know enough to not try to claim the apprentices of Mercere magi, if for no other reason than to avoid Redcap censure. If the majority of magi come between direct bloodlines, Bonisagus's right will be sorely tested, if not outright altered.


My thoughts are that Murion got it wrong. As I understand it, the rival Bonisagus magus was in the right in either case (whether the girl was an apprentice or not).

If she was not an apprentice, then she was just a Gifted child who no one had claimed. The rival Bonisagus magus could then claim her as is his right as a magus of the Order. Neither she nor her father get any say in the matter. That has nothing to do with his being a Bonisagus. Any magus at the convocation could have done that.

If she was an apprentice of the ex Miscellanea, then the Bonisagus has a right to take over her teaching under the Code, because he his from House Bonisagus.

The only out I could see is if you could somehow claim that the girl was the apprentice of the local Bonisagus magus, since he was training her too. Then the rival Bonisagus would not have a right to take her.

But otherwise, you're out of luck. Gifted kids have basically zero rights in the Order.

As an aside, the real question of her apprenticeship is an easy one, There's a bright line test. Have her Arts been opened or not? If yes, she's an apprentice; if not, she isn't. It's like being pregnant, There's not really any middle ground.

There are all sorts of political reasons why the rival Bonisagus magus might not want to take the child (including upsetting House Mercere by taking a Mercere Gifted child - though even then, training by a Bonisagus has precedent.) But I can't see any legal reason under the Code that he shouldn't prevail.

Not clever parading around a valuable unclaimed Gifted child at a convocation, in my opinion.

FYI, here are some citations.

HOH:S, p 52 notes: "In order to protect the future of the Order, an unclaimed Gifted child can be taken by the first magus who makes a formal and witnessed offer to teach them the Hermetic Arts." It also notes that "to officially claim an apprentice a magus must initiate them into Hermetic magic" (i.e., open their Arts).

HoH:S, p 53 provides an example similar to yours - a Gifted child of a maga is claimed by another. The discussion notes that there really is no legal basis for victory, and that the best way to go is to make a moral claim. But the facts of that situation are very different. That involved a child of six who was "about to be" claimed by his mother. He had received instruction in Latin and knew Artes LIberales, but hadn't been taught any magic.

I fear that given your Gifted child's age and her being taught "a little of this" and "a little of that" by Ex Miscellanea and Bonisagus magi will make it seem a whole lot more like they were intentionally delaying her apprenticeship (assuming they hadn't opened her Arts yet). In that case, it seems to me the rival Bonisagus magus has a good moral argument on her side: "The poor girl was being used and not being properly trained in her birthright! I was just remedying that wrong."

And after a Bonisagus maga has claimed an apprentice, the only legal way to "liberate" the yougling is by rightfully slaying the maga in a rightfully declared Wizard's War, and claiming it as spoils of War. It is advised not to proceed too often with this, though.

So, to be clear, this Gifted child is definitely the child of a Magus Mercere? And was in the care of her father, a Redcap? And was of a sufficient presence of mind and age to be apprenticed?

In my opinion the Bonisagus maga was entirely in her right to take the unapprenticed child. She would also be within her rights to take the apprentice. It seems that the maga did not walk away with the child, but a Tribunal may well rule that she does indeed have the superior right.

Notwithstanding this, the Bonisagus magus who takes the child of a Magus Mercere has committed a serious breach of inter-House relations. This child is, unless I've missed something, a descendent of Mercere and therefore one of the House's most treasured assets.

If a Magus Bonisagus takes such a child, House Mercere must get the child back! A negotiation must begin immediately! Selling apprentices is frowned on by the Order, so wrap it in seven layers of fiction, but buy the child outright if need be! Vis, gold, magic items, vis sites, special favors - get the child back and safely put beyond further threat of being taken from House and home!

If the Magus Bonisagus refuses all offers and inducements, the hardball negotiations begin.

Offers for the liberation of the apprentice continue. Little mail for this magus - letters vanish, deliveries are returned. The covenant receives only the least visits from Redcaps, for the shortest periods. No loans. No news. No rumors. No favors. They are spoken of briefly to others, and in shaded terms. Their allies are urged to intercede and suggest settlement of the matter. Bounties are quietly offered to bother this mage, and her covenant mates. Their grogs suffer bad luck. Their companions suffer worse luck. Commercial contacts wither up. The House Certamen Champion (who is a relative of the apprentice) takes on any contract for certamen against this covenant's members. Political opposition mounts, indirectly, on all fronts on all issues the covenant is involved in. If the magus is not overwhelmingly powerful, Wizard's Wars seem likely. All of the Magi Mercere now have it in for this mage and covenant, as do the bulk of the Redcaps. Pressure will mount from Harco to Durenmar, and on every covenant in their Tribunal.

Bonisagus has the right, but Mercere has the blood.

Murion also has a couple of other tools at her disposal, if said magus insists on his prerogatives, despite the Prima's objection.

  1. She can stick him with a research assignment that leaves him no time to properly train the apprentice and make sure the Colentes won't vote to overrule her.

  2. She can kick him out of the house by declaring him Orbus. Then any other Bonisagus magus can snatch the apprentice away. Even the threat of Orbushood may be enough.

Also, the dispute seems to have come to a head in the Rhine Tribunal, so a Bonisagus of greater rank within the Tribunal rank system may have a better claim, were it exercised when the dispute arose, based on the local Peripheral Code.

Has the redcap - at least informally - notified his House of his Gifted daughter in time? Then it should have made an effort to coordinate with him and have the girl's Arts opened by a Mercere magus, thereby keeping the precious girl in the House.[sup]*[/sup]

As TimOB has explained on this thread before (see ), a sane Bonisagus magus would not take the apprentice of a Mercere magus without the consent of the latter and his House. But because the girl is not yet recognized as anybody's apprentice, things are different, more murky, and more reliant on courtesy and Tribunal politics.

As things stand, both the redcap and House Mercere owe Murion big time: and Murion always can use personal and discreet services of redcaps.


[sup]*[/sup]: If this is a newbie campaign, a SG should assume that a redcap is aware of the basic interests of his House, and his basic obligations to it. If in doubt, the SG can always request a simple Int+Hermes Lore roll to have the redcap remember them.

Even though the Gifted Mercere mother is deceased the Gifted child is an asset. The Redcap father should have brought the girl to the closest Gifted relative to have her apprentices in the family, and should have joined her there as to not break up the family. Good Redcaps can always find employment, especially if their move is supported by their House.

Since this has not happened the Bonisagus theoretically has the right to grab the girl, whether or not she is officially an apprentice. Since her Arts have not been opened in fact any magus could do this. So it is a grave tactical mistake to bring this unclaimed Gifted girl to Tribunal.
It would also be a grave mistake for the Bonisagus to use his right to claim the girl, because of relations with House Mercere. I imagine some of his mail would get lost occasionally.

This actually happened (sort of) in LIght of Andorra recently. We learned that a non-Gifted Redcap had Gifted twins (!) who were raised by a Verditius as Flambeau magi. Details are still murky as to how he discovered the twins and why they were never brought to the attention of House Mercere. But the Verditius who claimed them was totally in the right legally.

What surprised me the most was the calm way in which House Mercere took the whole situation. Prima Insatella basically shrugged at the loss of Gifted twins, said that their parens was in the right and there was nothing that House Mercere could do about it, so we might as well accept it. No talk of Redcap retaliation; no talk of trying to get the apprentices back. There's no indication that their original parens will face any consequences for what he did. The apprentices were just fostered off to a Flambeau and a Bonisagus magus and the matter was apparently dropped. I'm quite disappointed in House Mercere.

Now I want to see that in a movie.

The only way this ruling makes sense is if the bonisagus was not at a point where they could open their own apprentice...

Well if the Bonisagus hasn't 5 in each Ars he may want to upgrade his compétences, before opening the child's ars.

Oh my gosh! You folks are AWESOME! Thank you so much for the great responses, everyone!

Trogdor, you raise a lot of great points. Your “bright line” test refers to “opening up the girl’s arts,” but that’s a metagame thing, not something characters would be cognizant of in game. It’s a contrivance, a game-mechanic representation of intangible things going on in the story, and while there’s a bright line OOC, it’s not really a bright line IC as I see it. But I agree with your conclusion that there is “no legal reason under the Code” that “the Bonisagus maga shouldn’t prevail.”

I think One Shot sees it the way I saw it when I was running the game (and had Murion see it): it’s a murky situation that she resolved more with courtesy to a fellow member of the Order, and politics surrounding House Mercere, than blackletter law.

I think TimOB is right that “If a Magus Bonisagus takes such a child, House Mercere must get the child back [through] negotiation….Vis, gold, magic items, vis sites, special favors,” etc., and Murion knows this and just tried to save all parties the trouble and expense of wrangling around an unfavorable legal outcome.

Jason72, what “came to a head” in the Rhine Tribunal? Can you give me more information so I can look into that some more?

[quote="RobShanti" Your “bright line” test refers to “opening up the girl’s arts,” but that’s a metagame thing, not something characters would be cognizant of in game. It’s a contrivance, a game-mechanic representation of intangible things going on in the story, and while there’s a bright line OOC, it’s not really a bright line IC as I see it.[/quote]
There is a way for the Characters to determine if the arts have been opened: It gives the apprentice a score in 0 in all the arts, and hence MR= 0 which is different from MR= not existant.


I disagree. As described, the opening of the Arts is a season-long process that opens up the magical abilities of a Gifted person and allows them to cast magic. Before your Arts are open you have no value in the Arts and can't use magic. You can't learn spells and you can't cast spontaneous spells. After your Arts are opened, you are capable of casting magic, whether spontaneously or from a learned spell.

So, I don't see it as a game mechanic, a contrivance, a metagame thing, or something intangible. It's a very real transformation in a person that unlocks their ability to use magic. It's something that characters would be very cognizant of. Did the master spend a whole season performing the necessary rituals to open the girl's Arts? That seems very tangible to me.

I simply meant that the claiming of the Gifted child in question happened at Durenmar, in the Rhine Tribunal. Given that fact, the Peripheral Code of the Rhine Tribunal is likely the guiding body of rulings for the resulting situation. Rank matters in the Rhine - archmage beats master beats journeyman, so the NPC could be/have been outclaimed if he's only a journeyman or a master.

Also, note the following :

So, if the claiming magus is not an acknowledged Master in the Rhine Tribunal and he claims the apprentice there, there may be consequences. At the very least, if the apprentice is treated as a hedge wizard, he or she loses some of the ability to help the parens in the lab post-Gauntlet without loss of face (HoH:TL, page 19).

I agree with 2 previous posters relatively to the opening of the art.

Cast a pink dot without any penetration. If pink doted = MR non existent => arts non opened. If not pink-doted = MR existent => arts opened.
It's all but a metagame thing. It's the center of the magus life.

Obviously, test this without anyone sharing the parma with the child.

Everyone seems to be on the same page, and Trogdor's post was the most spot on.

Correction, by a Flambeau magus with a lineage splintered from Verditius generations ago.

There are many things yet to be revealed there. But keep in mind that it was not discovered until seven years after the fact. The Flambeau (not a Verditius) magus in question is not around to receive any retribution, and the twins are out of his hands and being closely observed. Ophilio himself is on the case :wink:

My lore is a bit rusty, but unless the non-Gifted Redcap was also a descendent of Mercere (as in the Founder), the twins wouldn't have any right by tradition to be trained as magi Merceris, right? I don't think just being part of House Mercere cuts it if you're a Redcap recruited from outside the bloodline, though the leaders might or might not have looked the other way for the circumstance. (I mean, Gifted twins? Holy moly.)

I mean, they ended up being Flambeau so it's moot, but it sounded like you were saying House Mercere would've wanted them, and I'm not sure that would be the case.

That seems quite correct: many Redcaps are descended from Mercere, but many are not. A Gifted child born to a non-bloodline Redcap would be politely declined by the Magi Mercere and probably offered to House Bonisagus first unless otherwise claimed.