Chapter 0: Four Magi Walk Into an Inn

Regarding the lab -- Although many of the necessary equipment may be obtained in Anvers, some are not available. And those that are come from very many different suppliers. So it would take weeks, if not months, to gather them all. Do you want to postpone your departure for this?

Regarding storage -- Bernhard says that is up to you. Storage at the destination will be possible if that is what you desire. You can also store locally and have it all brought back later.

Regarding the ship (once you know that you are travelling by ship) -- Bernhard invites you all to share the same ship with him, and have the knarr and boat follow the cog he arranged for your transport. He plans on imparting more information during the trip.

Regarding Japik's pranks -- are you spending Fatigue to perform these tricks? If you do, there is a risk of botching. If you don't, your best casting total is 21 minus aura, before division by 5. Because of the aura, that will limit you to level 3 effects.

Ok, if it will take so long we will settle first and ask for the materials later in a place that is near the covenant, like Bremen.

All stuff in the ships, books and lab included. Quercus travels in the cog and so do Fresse and Alice. Fresse does not like the sea and spends most of his time holding the rail and/or feeding the fish of the north sea with his last meal. Alice takes to the sea much better than the warrior. Quercus does not seem to mind the sea much, but Alice seems to even enjoy the swing of the waves and the cold air in her face.

As for storage I say we bring our stuff with us and store it on Heligoland when we get there.

As for the ships Japik will be on the cog while the crew and his grogs sail the knarr.

As for pranks he won't spend any fatigue so no major magic tricks at all then. I forgot about the divine aura when calculating what I could do in the cellar of the inn. No big deal for this I guess or we just say he did something lesser magic or even mundane as prank.

((Repeating some of the information I had entered into the Covenant Description thread. Read it carefully, as I have edited some parts of it to reflect recent discussions and characterization of Bernhard.))

The day after the cog carrying the magi has departed from Anvers, with the knarr following along towing the rowboat, Bernhard asks them to join him into the captain's cabin. With five inside, there is barely any room to move and you are basically elbow to elbow, three of you sitting on the narrow bed, one on the clothing chest, and Bernhard occupying the single chair.

Bernhard asks the first magus who arrives to extend his Parma Magica upon him. The small window is open to let some air in, but the cabin quickly warms up to a point where the redcap is mopping sweat from his brow with his sleeve. He addresses the magi in Latin.

"Sodales, our destination is one of the Frisian island, rising between the Germanies and the western coast of Denmark. Its people call it Helgeland, which from what I understand means 'Holy Land', or simply 'ee Lunn', which means 'our Land' in the local dialect."

"Helgelund is positioned about six hours of sailing from the mouth of the river Elbe. The sea in this area is prone to the formation of sand dunes and marshland, which can be dangerous for ships travelling to the Elbe. Many of the local sailors make a living by piloting ships to and from the Elbe, for there is significant merchant shipping that uses the river. This means there is a bigger port than usually would be the case for an island that size. Most ships don't stay longer than they need to pick up or drop off a pilot, but a few are involved in local trade."

"The island itself is quite striking. As one sails from the north or west, which are the safe way to do so, it first appears as a red and white cliff rising out of the sea. These form the rocky core of the island. Two natural pillars of stone are visible close to the cliffs, about one mile apart, one of white and the other of red stone. The rocky core protects the lowland, which is mostly composed of sand dunes and marshland, from the assaults of the sea. This Unterland, as the locals call it, extend to the northeast and east, constituting the largest part of the island."

"The port is set on the southwestern end of Helgeland and is the largest settlement on the island, with over three hundred families living there. Most are fishermen, traders and sailors catering to the many ships that stop by on their way to or from the Elbe river. The houses and warehouses are arranged along the bottom of the Oberland, which is what the locals call the rocky plateau of the red stone core. This town extends up to the Oberland through a set of wodden stairs, over one hundred feet above."

"The Oberland is bare, with only a few small trees growing there because of the constant wind. The people living on Oberland are for the most part simple shepherds and some farmers, who grow cabbage and raise sheep. They have a small church, with two more down the stairs in the port town."

"All around the island, small settlements exist as well, most of them only made of a dozen families of fishermen with small boats along the coast or farmers growing crops inland. Some even live in the marshlands, harvesting them for fish, shells and plants that grow there. Others hunt for birds and seals as they come upon the shores. Or recover wreckage from ships destroyed by storms."

"There is a small but important mining industry on the island, which is rich with copper nuggets and ore, as well as amber and flint. Although the processing of the ore is done locally, the dearth of wood for smelting these ores limit the scope of the mining."

"The island is currently under the control of the Danish king Valdemar, who has a small garrison under the command of one of his distant relatives. So, technically our new covenant might be considered outside of the borders of the Rhine Tribunal, although it is the closest."

Bernhard pauses to mop his face before continuing.

"A few years ago, as I was on the island for a few days' rest awaiting a fellow redcap, I decided to go walk up the long stairs to Oberland and talk to the locals, as well as see the magnificient view that I had been told about. This lead me to discover the site where you may wish to establish the covenant."

"At the northern end of Oberland, nested between two small hills, grows a a misshapen oak, stunted and twisted by the winds but very old. Hanging from its branches in long tendrils and growing on its trunk is black oak moss. The moss is quite poisonous; even simple contact can cause illness and death. As sheep tend to want to eat the moss, quickly dying from it, shepherds keep their herds away from this part of the island. Some have tried to cut it down, even though it is said that harming it can bring a curse on the perpetrator and his family. But no axe is able to penetrate its stone-hard bark. Nor has fire done more than darken its trunk and shrivel a few of its leaves. So the locals mostly leave it alone."

"Upon hearing about this, I immediately thought that the moss might contain vis. So the next day, I went back with earthen jars, heavy gloves and a sharp knife. I collected generous samples from the moss and leaves. It is only once I was done that I realized that my gloves had turned black from handling the moss. Quickly removing them, I saw that my hands were puffy and red. Thankfully, these symptoms healed and I was left none the worse."

"I brought back my samples with me once back on the continent and asked a Mercere magus to tell me whether these contained vis. The leaves were a disappointment; even in the short time since I had left the island they were shriveled and contained no traces of magic, I was told. As I expected, it was the black moss that proved most worthwhile, for it apparently contained Perdo vis."

"Over the years, I went back regurlarly to the island to collect more moss. It grows back quickly, from what I've seen. But I was disappointed to discover that it did not always contain raw vis. At times, it was simply a deadly poison, although that property fades quickly when no vis is present. Still, over the years I was able to retrieve enough vis to pay for a good longevity ritual. Yet, I could not help but wonder if more vis might be harvested by knowing the actual cycle that it follows. But as I am no magus, I am unable to analyze it. And I feared letting a magus know about its location, that he would claim it as his own. It is only the contract that binds us, and which has been registered with my House and a Quaesitor, that gives me some confidence that you will not try to swindle me."

"I suspect there might be other sources on the island, but was never able to find more. Perhaps they are simply more difficult to find, or perhaps they are in a form that I cannot perceive. I simply was unable to spend as much time searching for them as I would have liked, because of my duties as a redcap."

After the long speech, the redcap looks at the magi nervously, mopping his face again, obviously expecting a torrent of questions.

Pytheas smiles.

Helgeland heh ? Well, I like the idea of being on an island. We'll just have to find some accommodation with the locals and find some way to explain our presence. After all, we wouldn't want any ship who stops to take on a pilot to start carrying news about a coven of warlocks setting shop on the island.

Japik laughs loudly when he hears what their destination is but he just smiles and motions Bernhard to continue his story. When he is finished he says Helgoland that's amazing! I heard my father mention it when I was very young and I have a vague memory of him pointing it out to me in the distance on one of our fishing trips. It's also great since the crew of Baltrum speaks Frisian and should be able to cover for us decently at least.

He moves, clearly uncomfortable in the crowded space being one of the three sitting on the bed.
For how long have you known this vis source and who except for us and that Quaesitor who ratified the contract knows anything about it, even if it's just that some vis source exists? Do you have any idea if there is a magic aura of any size that extends from the oak tree? He asks the questions eagerly and keeps looking out of the open window every once in a while wanting to get out there and swim in advance.

When he has entered the room Quercus, has cast a spell to reduce his size and be more comfortable in the crammed space. His eyes shine when you talk about the oak, but he grimaces when he hears that you mention that the vis is of the Perdo type. Now, from the corner of the bed he leans forward and talks.

An oak with rock hard bark you say? That sounds like something worth investigating. I do not have much use for Perdo vis, but I guess some of my sodales would find it more useful, and certainly Technique vis is more valuable, so I am quite content with the vis source.
A place like the one you just described sounds like it might contain other vis sources yes. It is quite isolated and so it is unlikely to be exploited magically by anyone, even if we should be careful about Waddenzee since they are not that far away.
I also agree with Pytheas. we need to find accommodation with the locals. One option would be to make deals with them. Island-bond places tend to have problems getting some supplies like firewood. I am sure I can provide this if they are OK with Moon based magic, and we can certainly get the necessary firewood for the smelting process. That alone should help us in our negotiations with the local overlord. I am sure my fellow magicians can also think about potential sources of income and negotiation that might earn us a place in the island. I think we can accommodate ourselves if the local lord is a proponent of his own fortune's improvement.

The fact that the island is outside the border of the tribunal to me is a boon. it can give us time to do our bidding before we have to deal with the tribunal's unrest at our initiative since they do not have formal jurisdiction there. Yet, at least.

Bernhard answers Japik first. "As I said, I discovered the source some years ago, six or seven I think. My House has been made aware of its existence, although the precise location will only be learned if I disappear or die. The Mercere magus who confirmed that the moss contains vis know I have found a source, but not its location." The redcap shrugs, "Whether others have discovered it, I cannot know. I certainly tried hard to keep it a secret. But at times, when I expected the moss I collected to contain vis, it did not. So perhaps this was because someone else had gathered it before me. But I know for sure that the source has not been registered."

"As for a magical aura, I would suppose one is present, because of the tree and the moss, but I do not have any way of determining that for sure." As he mops his face again, he adds timidly, "I am not a magus."

Turning to Quercus, Bernhard's eyes grow wide then dart around nervously at the suggestion of making the magi's nature know to the locals. "Are you... sure that this would be... wise? I mean... you know best, of course," he adds quickly, "but you know nothing of the locals. Myself, I have a few contacts... but only with a few merchants. The lord, he is a Swede... and... and... they are known to be cruel barbarians." The redcap's eyes are darting this way and that, as if looking for a place to bolt and hide.

I have no personal experience with the locals, so I defer to you. I fully trust the members of House Mercere in such issues, since you are the true eyes and ears of the Order of Hermes. You might not have magical powers, but to m,e you certainly have the right to call yourself a worthy member of the Order.

For what you have said, heligoland is a rather small place. As such I am not sure we can avoid telling the locals some things about our abilities since they are bound to find out rather fast anyway. I would say that maybe it is better to tell the truth from the start (pointing out the Code clauses about dealing with them to prevent them trying to encroach on us) and pointing out that even if we are not a military or political asset we can certainly be an economic asset for them in exchange for a place where to build the covenant and the ability to exploit certain resources o the island. I present this proposal to the council, as this is exactly what we have here, in this cabin, and await your opinions on the matter.

I and others among us are not very good at dealing with mundanes, so it might fall to you, Bernhard and maybe Prochorus to negotiate for all of us. We need whoever is that it is going to negotiate with the locals to feel comfortable with the idea. My own opinion is that we are here to stay, so we'd better build solid foundations and not build castles based on lies and disguised half truths. We do not need to reveal everything to the mundanes, but we should make sure they understand some basics.

(OOC: Isn't Bernhard protected by Parma in this scene? I thought so. Maybe he is that coward/indecisive anyway, but I hope it is not an effect of the gift that makes him so nervous)

((Yes, Bernhard is covered by Pytheas' parma -- he was the first to enter the cabin -- so should not feel the effects of the Gift. Draw your own conclusions as to his personality. :smiley: ))

Bernhard grows pale at the mere suggestion that he may have to negociate on behalf of the covenant. "I cannot do that, magus! I mean... Ihave no contact with the nobility. And... I've heard stories of them. They... it is said that they... torture and kill those that do not serve them. Don't you know that the Danes invaded Stade last year because he wanted to kill the bishop-prince and only withdrew because Emperor ordered him to?"

"I want no contact with them. The less they know about me, the better."

Japik nods at Bernhard's answers to his questions.

I think we should keep a low profile, at least at start. I have never had any good experiences when interacting directly with mundanes, except for rescuing them from drowning. Then they are certainly more thankful even if they keep a distance when they get to safety, he chuckles.
You, Bernhard know the island and the locals best of us and some of them probably know you as well. Prochorus you have your tricks to work with but I still think we should try not to draw any attention towards us at first while examining the location to see what can be done about it. Of course before we start building something we need to clear it with the local lord. You said he is Swede, Bernhard? he shakes his head Never heard any good about them. (( :laughing: )) Do you know anyone close to him or someone that is in regular contact with him, maybe some village elder? Someone we could work with as intermediary?

He pauses and looks at Quercus
I think you are right that we should provide them with incentives that they want to have us at their island, helping them with their mining and such but I think we shouldn't be too open with us being magi. Since the locals seem to avoid the old oak it may be a way to convince them that we will guard it and see that no one comes to harm from it if we are allowed to settle around it. Just a thought.

"I misspoke, he's a Dane. AT least I think he is. Never met the man himself, and in general I stay away from nobility." He mops his face again, "Bad for your health, you know. And they ask too many questions. So do churchmen -- they're just as bad. Nothing good comes from doing business with any of them. Chop your head off instead of paying, they will. Or have you declared a heretic. Or both." He has regained a little color at Japik's reassurances, but still looks very nervous about the whole idea of dealing with ther local authorities.

Pytheas speaks up.

I just had a thought. We could pretend to have been hired by some unnamed consortium of merchants to give them advance notice of ships arriving. All we need to do to carry the ruse is have some pigeons, and build some kind of tower high up in a likely spot, perhaps even right near to the oak. We never actually admit it to the locals, but we make sure our grogs let something slip, or maybe we not-so-discreetly bribe a local to bring us word of which ship are laying over to take on a pilot, and having found our 'secret' the islanders won't look for another.

As for Quercus' proposal, it is hardly wise to let all of the locals know about us. They will think we are more trouble than use, and they will be right. You can also rest assured word will spread, since island seems to be a trade hub of some small magnitude.

The resident noble is another thing entirely. A single man is a fair bit easier to handle, and can perhaps be persuaded to keep his mouth shut if there are synergies involved.

I might be persuaded to reconsider once we have settled and have our defenses erect. Before that, overt action seems like a dangerous course.

Bernhard, you mention mining and processing - who controls this? Is it merely a number of individual entrepreneurs? Does the noble have a personal stake? This affects how difficult it will be for us to usurp the activities.

I like your idea, Pytheas. Why else would a number of eccentric but wealthy outsiders settle on an island such as this? It also allows for future commercial activities, should we so choose.

"But why would wealthy outsiders perform such a menial task as watching for the arrival of ships," counters Bernhard. "And why so many? That is bound to raise questions. Perhaps not from fishermen and peasants, but the merchants will wonder and may inquire."

"As for the copper, I do not know who controls it. I can inquire, but usually mining is a right granted by the local lord."

I did not mean to reveal ourselves to the general population, only the ruling noble. He is the one that we need to have on our side since he is the one that can have the power to make our life difficult or not. And I would prefer my life to be easy! He laughs. Collaborative efforts bring greater rewards than adversarial interactions.

I can agree with making an exploratory survey of the island and the population, and settle as something else other than magi. I find it to be a sound plan. However, in a short time we will be noticed for what we are so we'd better tell the ruling Dane who we really are and how we can help him before he finds out by himself and gets angry. Having his understanding is important. Settling a pair of lighthouses and being paid for it is a good idea, since we can keep them active easily at a very low cost for us. Quercus creates a small log of wood to illustrate his point, that disappears when he stops concentrating. Wood is also useful for smelting, so those activities alone should interest the ruling Dane. Do we have a name for him, by the way?

CrHe4 b2, +1 touch +1 conc. CrHe casting total: +18 + die; I think I can spont this without fatigue easily.

((You don't add a die when sponting without Fatigue -- see ArM5 p.81, the formula is "Casting Score/5" as opposed to "(Casting Score + Stress Die) / 2" for Fatiguing spontaneous magic. So the best you can achieve is level 3 if there is no aura to help you. No aura currently on the cog. You'd know that limit, though, so you can adjust you demonstration and speech accordingly.))

ok. I do not want to be a yelling maniac in front of the crew of the ship, so I will create a log of oak. That gives me a +7 to the roll (double Creo). I just checked and it seems oak is a good hardwood to act as fire material. Great, I had not checked that before :smiley:

No biggie in any case. I could have fatigued myself if not :slight_smile: Not necessary in the end.

((Indeed, if it's covered by your focus then you get to add your lowest Art twice. That would be Herbam at 6 as I think Puissant should not be taken into account for this. Still, that gives you a Casting Score of 24, sufficient to cast a level 4 spell without Fatigue.))

Bernhard cringes a little when Quercus casts his spell, looking around nervously to make sure no mundane has seen this display of magic. Which is of course absurd when one considers the small size of the cabin and the closed door.

"You don't understand, magus. It is the nobles we should be wary of." The poor redcap is pale again, "I, for one, want nothing to do with them."

Let's not be so negative now. This is a grand opportunity and we just need to find a way to use it the best way. Do we really have to speak to that Lord himself. I don't know much about nobility and such but sometimes it's just as well being on good footing with someone that the leader trusts. His right hand, advisor or whatever it may be called, maybe his wife, he laughs.

We need to learn about the structure around this Lord. I know the Harmonists at Crintera thought that was important to solve their Lord problem on Rügen, also a Dane by the way. I believe the best way to start this is to let our grogs talk to the local people and get to know them, listen to their rumours and perhaps find out something that way. I'm no Jerbiton but I heard some of them discussing at Oculus Septentrionalis and they always discussed the rumours spreading among the locals, merchants and sailors from afar, finding important knowledge from it. Your sweet lady Quercus, I think she would be able to find out a lot just by sitting in some men's knee and smiling for a while, he laughs again.

Knowledge is the key. While we find out more about the vis source and aura our grogs talk to the locals. Are we done yet? he smiles broadly.