Chapter 1: First Investigation

Spring 1220

The gray smooth river rocks that Martin the Redcap had given each of you turned green, meaning it was time to set off for the north. You were to meet him outside of Carlisle, on the southern road. The instructions were a bit vague for a pre-arranged meeting place, but he said there’d be a landmark that would stand out - something Hermetic, he’d added when pressed, and then he’d tugged his red cap. All together, having to find him near Carlisle didn’t seem like the riskiest part of the venture. Leaving your current situation behind was the big step, at least for most of you. From what Martin told you, it would be a step worth taking.

He came to you with his proposal last fall, seemingly seeking you out specifically, in the particular region of England where you could be found. He introduced himself jovially, stating he was the Redcap for the northern region of the Stonehenge Tribunal, facilitating communications for the covenants up there. He said he took pride in keeping his ears open for any information that might be useful to the Order and that what he’d heard recently, and then followed up with a visit, had him extremely excited. This excitement was evident by how animated he became as he shared the news with you. He said he’d found Roman ruins, but not just any. This fort was the linchpin in the magical defenses that Hadrian had built to fend off the northern barbarians, and must therefore be the site of many powerful magics and ancient secrets, and that you could be the one to rediscover them. He’d also heard that the purest vis known to man could be found there. One pawn of the stuff, he said, yields as much power as three normal pawns. He didn’t know how such a thing could be possible and understood your skepticism, but what if it were true, he’d asked? A third rumor that he’d passed on was that the villagers who lived near the ruins were curiously long-lived, some living into their 100s. Maybe, he suggested, there was some ancient rite that even now is still active - a blanket longevity ritual that covered all that was within a certain boundary, perhaps? He didn’t know for sure if this was true, but again he asked, “what if it were?” Somehow, as he rambled on, he found a way to give you exactly the nudge you’d needed to be enticed to take a look at the site. After that, he’d made his proposal, which was this: he would tell you where this unique magical site could be found, and you were to cut him in on whatever it was you might find there. He’d take whatever percentage there would be, depending on the number of magi who were adventurous and hardy enough to make the attempt, and whatever it was that you’d find there. And he was convinced there would be plenty to go around. He wasn’t sure exactly of what, but it had to be good, considering what he’d heard.

And so, one by one, you all arrived at the meeting place. Turned out, it was a large farmhouse just off the road where a lone menhir stood. Martin had placed a red cap on its crown to mark it. The farmer and his family kept clear of you, but were always ready to provide a meal and whatever else might be needed. A few days passed in quiet anticipation, and now the last of the group has reached the farmhouse. Tonight, after the meal, Martin asked you to assemble in the main room with everyone else. Over the drumming of the rain outside, he says with a smile, “Maybe we should start with introductions, for the benefit of the latest arrival. You all know my name already, so I’ll defer to whoever else wishes to start.”

[tab][/tab][tab][/tab]There was something fascinating to the exuberance radiating from Martin. Alan was smiling politely while barely listening to the words that hastily tumbled out of the Redcap's mouth, tall tales mostly, and more focused on the tone and the animation of his face and hands while he talked. This effervescence was refreshing and a bit contagious, Alan agreed politely where he should, made 'hmmms' and 'ahhs' where appropriate. The Roman ruins would be a historically interesting site, probably not a linchpin of magical defenses (that would assume the Roman Emperors had magi at their disposal). 'Purest vis' would had long been discovered in these Low lands, and the tales about villages with longevity were probably just that; why in Brittany there were tales of villages that still worshiped the old gods, where druids brew miraculous potions that turned villagers into warriors. Still it would be a nice excursion and the Redcap seemed indeed a good person. Alan readily agreed, not showing any of his pragmatism or low expectations.
[tab][/tab]The large farmhouse was easy to found, just outside Carlisle itself. Alan greeted the farmers in his benign usual self, making them somewhat at ease with words and deeds. Poor family would probably be unprepared to cater to Magi, so the Criamon self-volunteered as liaison between the Magi and them, when Martin wasn't there. A couple of extra small coins didn't hurt either. Besides he ate little and drank naught, took little space at all. Alan made certain he never used magic in front of the family, peasant spook easily. Patiently he waited for the others to arrive, greeting each of them with a friendly rumbling murmur but leaving them to their own devices; it would be impolite to ask pointed questions so early in the relationship. He would engage in conversation or simply meditate.
[tab][/tab] When finally assembled at the main room, Alan hunkers down on the floor near the fireplace, his back to the warm wall. When his time comes, he starts with a pleasant low murmur. Alan:'Nozvezh vat all' he greets in Bretton, then continues in Latin, 'I am Alan, follower of Criamon. I hail from across the straits, from Brittain. I have traveled to this fair land in search of questions, and I am honored to be included in this endeavor.' He nods once smiling. He then listens attentively to the others, while the fingers of his left hand are in touch with the ground, making abstract little patterns....

It is dusk when Magnus arrives on a small cart drawn by a donkey. He is accompanied by a heavy built grog with a huge sword strapped to his back. The cart is not overly full. A couple of medium-sized sacks, and a dozen long metal tools sticking up along one side. There are hammers and sledge hammers of different size, tongs, a poker, and an axe.

Magnus is less than 4' tall and dressed like a Christmas tree, with poaches, small metal tools, necklaces, and amulets hanging all over him. His cloathes are evidently working clothes, evidently worn, but good quality, made for heavy use. A silver ring on his left hand and a silver amulet look very out of place with the rough working clothes. Entering the main the farm house, he wears a good, brand new, grey traveller's cloak over the working clothes.

«Salve Sodalis. Pleased to meet you, Alan. I am Magnus Smith ex Verditius. Oh. It is so good to be out of the lab for a change; I wonder what this adventure will bring.»

He smiles, and looks attentively around the room. Is there anybody else present?

Lignarius arrives on a cart. He persuaded a waggoner that he needs a wagon delivering to a village over a week's travel away, and has paid the man well. Lignarius could control the cart through magic, but not wishing to spook mundanes with self-propelled carts unnecessarily, has tolerated being bumped around on a cart.

Lignarius is a man with a short brown beard, wearing a dull brown tunic and hose. His tunic has a large badge with the crossed keys of St. Peter (which is also the symbol of Bonisagus) attached to it. He carries a staff and also has a bundle of wooden stakes with him. He hurries to the house.

He will say in English "Is this the right place? Is Martin here? I've brought a man with me to transport my cart, but I think he'd rather camp outside with the wagon then a spend a night with people like us."

He looks around the room, realises that the other magi may not be English, and then switches to Latin and says "Salve Sodales. I am Lignarius ex Bonisagus."

Caernos arrives across the bleak, mist shrouded fells of north Cumberland to the indicated farm on the night just after the meal and is ushered in to the main room by Martin. A great slab of muscle of a man, wild looking with greatly misshapen features, he is dressed in rough furs over a suit of full chain armour, carrying a war-hammer and a large travelling and camping pack. He looks cold and very very wet.

He introduces himself in Latin when asked. "Me Caernos of rag tag mixture, red bonnet say find place and me find it. Most you feel bad, you here kill Caernos?" He hefts he war-hammer menacingly.

A high walled cart pulled by a shaggy highland horse arrives at the farmhouse in mid afternoon. It is driven by a short and broad man with a large red beard spilling down onto a hauberk of chain mail. An axe and a buckler sit in easy reach. A tall grey cloaked man carrying a bow across his shoulders walks beside the cart. A long sword and a glimmer of chain mail can be seen under the cloak. His black hair is streaked with grey and pulled back with a leather string. His features are marred by three gashes across his face giving him an evil look.

The cart stops and the tall man continues forward, scanning the farmhouse. "Ab Ordinis! I think we have arrived." His voice is gravelly and loud. He stands there looking around until Martin comes out to greet him. Upon seeing Martin, the tall man nods then seems to blur. Then in his place is an equally tall man with bright yellow hair. Gone is the sword, the bow and armor. The grey cloak is still there covering some green robes. Martin quickly looks around to see if the farmer or any of his family saw then shakes his head and runs a hand through his hair. The driver of the cart begins laughing a loud belly laugh at the sight.

Martin leads the tall man into the the farm house where he sits down in a chair and looks around the room. Martin clears his throat and gestures to the others. The man seems a bit lost then is eyes widen a bit. In a smooth voice with none of the gravel first heard he speaks in Latin. " Greetings. I am Tomas ex Merinita. Lately of Crun Clach."

[tab][/tab] Alan watches as alone or in pairs the Magi gather at the farmhouse. After brief introductions, he mediates with the farmhouse owner so that each cart and especially the animals can find shelter in the barn, as well as some space for the grogs. No need to subject followers and transportation to the cold, Scottish rain. Some exchange of petty coins later, Alan comes back to meet his Sodales. Dressed in peasant brown tunic and hose, made of linen and lined with wool, he looks painfully thin.
[tab][/tab] On the get-go the difference of language is apparent. Alan tries to find what most people speak, finding speaking with the dwarf easier, as French and English Norman are close. The Germanic Saxon English most people speak is beyond him, and while everyone speaks Latin, the fearsome warrior seems ill at ease with it. The Criamon was surprised and a bit worried when he saw the huge ex Miscellanea, not because of the shape of his features, but of the explicit threat of violence the man radiated. The accoutrements of war he brandishes were an ominous reminder of the violence in the area. Though a complete opposite to the creed Alan followed, the Criamon decided not to hold it against him. It would be comforting to have competent people guarding their little community.
[tab][/tab] He shares a little of himself in Latin. Alan: ''I am Bretton by birth and I grew up and apprenticed in the same area. Some would call it lucky, I call it convenient. I was apprenticed to be a stone cutter at a quarry until my parens found me. I am still good with stone and rocks, and surprisingly with people. My Gift seems to be Gentler than most. I must admit though I wont be any use in endeavors of strife'']/color] he says in a low, pleasant rumble. He cautions ''Fair warning though, keep your glass and ceramics away from me... they tend to crack and break easily''.

Magnus answers politely in English, with a heavy, posh and Norman accent: «Yes, Lignarius; it is the right place. I am Magnus Smith ... born in London and raised in [*]. Good to see you.»

[*] some covenant in the South of England ... SG's choice

Then he turns to Alan, and speaks in Norman «So, stone you say, Alan. I prefer to work in iron and steel myself. Armour is my forte, and then I dabble a little with other materials. Have you built something great?»

When no obvious aggressive action is made against him, Caernos seems to relax at Magnus and Alan begin to speak. He moves over to Alan and says in fluent, but heavily accented (northern) English. ”Greetings Alan, your aura is indeed gentle and I feel no evil from you. I can’t say the same for the others here except Martin, our Redcap brother, you included Magnus”He seems to instinctively shrink from Magnus as he speaks. My Parens always shrouded his gift from me but that does not seem to be the way of things out in the world. This may prove a difficult thing to get use to for me”

Magnus looks up at Caernos, obviously surprised. «So? Why?», he says, again in English, «you are trained yourself in the arts, are you not?»

“I trained a full 15 years under my Parens Stephan ExMiscellanea and he taught me well. I am fully versed in the Hermetic Arts and the skills of the magus, though my Latin is poor, as was his. Why do you ask! Do you accuse me of something?” His body tending as he speaks and his hand take a tighter grip on his huge hammer.

Raising his hands, open towards Caernos, he says «easy, easy. Why is my Gift bothering you so, when you have one yourself?» Hesitating for a few seconds he adds, «Please, excuse my ignorance, no insult is intended. It's good craftsmanship, that hammer, but please put it down. We are all friends in here.»

Lignarius gently shuffles away from the magus with the hammer and looks towards the fireplace.

He says in Latin, "Is there any food? It has been a long journey."

The grog with the big greatsword on his back appears at the door and makes a sudden stop.

He looks uneasily at the spectactle, right hand over his shoulder, only just touching the hilt.

If you mean no insult I'll take none Caernos says in English.

He takes a few deep breaths and puts his warhammer against the wall next to Alan and stands with his back to the wall next to it. He lifts his empty hands to Magnus in a show peace.

«Thank you,» Magnus says, and turns to look into the fire. While he falls into quiet meditation, the grog relaxes and fades away into the shadows.

[tab][/tab]While people fire off in the guttural Germanic patois of Saxon, Alan shows with an expressive shrug and a smile that he does not understand them, only to watch with alarm an almost coming-to-blows between them. He raises his hands in peace and comes between them.
[tab][/tab]Alan: ''Sodales please. This is not our house. Just calm down everyone, what would our Redcap host think?'' placating the big man with gentle gestures, tries to have people sit, mentally noting to keep an eye to any liquor consumption, least more eruptions like this occur. Still in Latin he turns to Lignarius ''I believe there is both for you and your man. I will alert the farm owner, he will have some plain, but hearty food''. The Criamon then turns and sits next to the ex Miscellanea ''Sorry, I do not understand Germanic. Could you repeat? Norman? Gaelic?'' He repeats in those languages too. His gaze pass over the way people are dressed and carry themselves. Clearly some come from cities, while others look more like hermits coming from the Fens. Of particular interest if the tall blond; for a Merinita he sure looked human, but then his little Imaginem display betrayed quite an aptitude in illusions. Whatever Crun Clach is, it sounded a like a Highland clan...

Tomas does not speak much and seems to become engrossed in his hands. After a moment a very large caterpillar crawls out of his sleeve and proceeds to transform into a brilliant blue butterfly. The butterfly then begins to fly around Tomas' head.
Tomas!! Martin hisses and the butterfly disappears. Tomas looks around with a sheepish grin.

((How about Libellus?))

Martin mentally chastises himself for scolding a Gifted magus, of all people, and returns his attention to the group at large. "Well now, that was a bit more awkward than I was expecting. Thank you for stepping in, Magus Alan.", he begins in Latin, and then switches to English, "And Magus Caernos, I'm sure Magnus Magus - pardon me, Magus Magnus - had no ulterior motive behind his question, as he said. I asked myself the same thing when I saw your reaction. But no matter, we'll leave that be for now." Then back to Latin, "Maybe it would help put each other at ease if we all state why we're here. You don't have to share anything too personal if you don't like. But if you all know about the things that brought you all out here, I think it'd be a good start to building up some trust. I'll go first: I'm here because I'm always looking for a big break, if I'm being honest. This site could be a big enough find that it'll make a name for us, and some nice money on top of it. Who's next?"

[tab][/tab]Alan nods to the Redcap and taking the initiative starts talking in Latin. Alan: '' I came to Alba following a yearning, to seek out root I never had. All birds need a place to roost, no matter how long they can stay aloft, and so do we Magi. I meandered ever north until I reached this place, these plagued Lowlands. I sense...two tales being played side-by-side. The Mythic song, full of imagination and vitality, dangerous yet compelling at the same time; and the song of Strife, blood lost time and time again over this patch of land. Time cares not for Kings nor crowns, paupers nor sinners.''
[tab][/tab]The Criamon shakes his head a bit, then turns pragmatic. Alan: '' I am interested in these ruins and what can be found there. I admit, I am intrigued by lore of these Isles, of the magic and fae realms here and their stories. This is a very good opportunity to join a Covenant and I am going to seize it. It would be difficult for me to be accepted in these parts after all. You may have noted by Norman accent, most people here look at me a skewed for that. For the record I am a Bretton, one of the last Celts remaining in old Gaul.''
[tab][/tab]Alan nods twice more then looks up to the other Magi, ending his small speech. His left hand never left making small patterns on the ground...