Chapter 1: Helping Horst

The fires were burning, giving warmth on a cold and windy day. Most of the covenfolk had assembled around them, eating drinking and celebrating the day after Winter Solstice.
In the morning the resident Magi had walked around the covenant in a solemn procession, casting the Aegis ritual to protect Durenmar from malign influences.
Hildegard had not tried to join the celebrations, not wanting to spoil their innocent happiness, had holed herself up with Xavier. They were exchanging stories from their time on the road. It felt good to see him again after a two year absence from Durenmar, and it felt wonderful that she was being treated as an equal - not as an apprentice and not as a child either.

Rabanus was standing at the edge of the congregation, just near enough to one of the fires that the chilling cold could not entirely creep into his robes. He watched the happy and for once carefree faces of the covenfolk. Accoding to House Criamons beliefs, time is an endless circle and every human is reborn and destined to lead the same life over and over again. "If every day would be like this, people would probably not mind being trapped for eternity. Or would they? Can there be happyness without grief?" wondered Rabanus. It was only a few weeks since he returned from the Greater Alps tribunal. For 15 years, Durenmar was what he called home, but much had changed in his 2 year absence. To be more precise, it was Rabanus who had changed the most. And he knew that what once meant the world to him was only the starting point of his lifes journey. Master Sekleatus, his parens, had arranged for him to be able to stay until the weather was more favorable for travel, without the usual expenditure of vis that is required of journeymen mages, on the basis that he had been an apprentice at Durenmar. But he made to clear to him that new insights can not be gained in familiar surroundings. Sooner or later he would leave this place for good...

It has been almost a week since Arturous appeared at the magical borders of Durenmar, demanding access to the great library. Andrus, the old balding magus in charge of the library, balked at his request at first, but the weak willed magus couldn’t defy Arturous determination for long, and finally allowed him access for a few short days.

It didn’t take him that long to find what he was looking for. An old musty tome submitted to the great library centuries ago by an obscure Tytalus magus. Worthless to most Hermetic, few knew the old book’s true value…

For the first time in years, Arturous felt like he was on the right track. He diligently worked on scribing the important parts of the tome for the last few days, hardly paying attention to neither the festivities nor the day-to-day affairs of the powerful convent.

The door burst open so suddenly that both Xavier and Hildegard looked up, alarmed. It was only Marco, a bald Redcap that sometimes took himself too seriously, who came in.
To Hildegard’s astonishment, all Xavier did was raise a quizzical eyebrow and ask: “Has it happened?”. When the redcap nodded, and gave him a broken stick, he asked: “Who?” and the bald man in the door looked worried as he replied: “Master Horst”.
Hildegard knew Xavier well enough to see that his calm was only superficial when he said to Marco: “Please get Muriel. She needs to know.”
And turning to Hildegard, he added: "Providence has sent you. A brother requires your help. But wait until Muriel explains."

"Master Rabanus?"
The boy was not looking at Rabanus, trying to be polite. But it was plain to see that he was afraid of the man with the tattooed face. “Archmaga Muriel has asked if – “, the boys swallowed and spoke quicker, eager to be done, “she said she wants to see you at once at, … I mean if you please had the time to come to the hall of the Mercere house. Now, she said.”
As soon as he had finished, he ran away, never looking back.

Artourus didn’t notice the bird – a gallows bird – a raven until it hopped right onto his table. “Trrying to get in herre frreely, don’t you?”, the fat black bird croaked, clearly enjoying himself. “We want to see you at the Merrcerr house hall, Jourrneyman, now”. Before Artourus could say anything the arrogant avian added: “One does not contrradict Arrchmaga Murriel!” and flew away towards the entry.

Arturous gently brushed away the snow flakes from his long dark robe as he entered the Mercere house, taking a brief instant to examine the hall before stepping inside.
Anticipating Murion might drive him away from Durenmar after he outstayed his welcome; Arturous was prepared to travel quickly if needed. The precious scrolls that have taken several sleepless nights to scribe were tucked away carefully in his backpack, together with the rest of his meager possessions.
Firmly holding his trusted traveling staff, he patiently waited the Primus to acknowledge him.

Honorus drops off Stratified Layers, A young Mage's Illustrated Primer to Terram at the library. It held some insights on the Art but still seemed to miss the connection to the other elements. If you do not start them with the right information how can one expect later mages to learn the correct things.

As he makes his way across to the great hall for the feast, he thinks about his note from Stentorius, his parens and counciliarius. I can think of worst places to spend the winter months. he thought. Perhaps he is waiting for some political thing to happen before sending me on a mission. Or perhaps, he is waiting for a scout to report.

Theron landed on his shoulder; startling Honorus a bit. "Did you have good hunting my friend?" Theron fluffed himself a bit and began to look around. "We will be staying here a bit longer. The owl swivels his head to look at Honorus. " I do not know why. Orders from Stentorius." Theron looks at the magi a bit longer then flies off to perch at the edge of the woods leaving Honorus alone to walk to the great hall.

The doors opened again. Murion strode across the basement hall of Trianoma’s tower. With a casual flicker of her bejewelled left hand, she lowered the room temperature. Master Xavier started fidgeting with his robe as she sat at the head of the table.
Hildegard fought back the instinctual urge to curtsy, and opted for a nod. Murion was sitting in silence, which was interrupted by a swushing noise when her raven familiar landed on her shoulder and started whispering in her ear. Her stern gaze swept over Artourus and Hildegard, before it was fixed on the door.

Before long, Honorus had entered the room with Theron on his shoulder. Theron gazed warily at Kolkrabus. Murion’s cold eyes thoughtfully stared at the young Tremere, filius of her Fengheld rival. Her voice sounded like dry parchment as she told him to sit.

Then, she fixed her eyes on the door again – obviously waiting for someone else to arrive.

Its a good thing Rabanus knows the location of the Mercere house like the back of his hand. The poor boy... Rabanus needed to get used to his new effect on mundanes. "At least Mistress Murion will look past that."

Upon entering the hall Rabanus was somewhat puzzled by the number of magi present. But by the way Murion was looking at him, his presence seemed to be of importance to her.

"Greetings Archmaga. How may i be of service to you?"

“We’ve got a situation, Sodales.” Murion said quietly. “Master Xavier will explain”. At the mention of his name, Xavier’s face turned a darker shade of red. Then he raised the broken wand he held in his hand. “We’ve been experimenting with a system of emergency communications for our Redcaps for a couple of months. We’ve offered charged wands like these to our younger brothers and sisters and kept a second wand as an arcane connection. When a Redcap breaks her wand, the wand we keep here at Durenmar also snaps. It’s a sign that the redcap is in mortal danger. This is the arcane connection to Master Horst of Mercere’s wand. Something terrible must have happened to him. He was travelling with two grogs. He is probably somewhere near Dankmar. You can use the wand to guide you. I can’t go myself because I’m in the middle of producing a commissioned longevity potion, and I cannot fail my customer.”
Murion took over: “Since you’ve been using our resources without contributing, you might as well make yourself useful and earn a season at the library – more if you succeed.
Hildegard, my girl, one of your brothers needs your help and we need a Mercere to retrieve his messages if he has failed to deliver them. Rabanus, without your Intellego magics, this mission is bound to fail. Honorus, Horst taught you your Magic theory, didn’t he? Stentorius would not like to see one of Fengheld’s best to get lost in the Black Forest. I’ve already instructed your grogs to pack. We are expecting heavy snows, so I’d appreciate a quick start. Understood?”

Hildegard nodded. “No question, Archmaga. I’m ready to go.”

Black Forest in winter:

Arturous locks his hollow eyes with Xavier's
“Hand me the wand,” he speaks softly "hand me the wand, and we shall be on our way"

Xavier took a step towards Rabanus, then shrugged and tossed it to Artourus.

"If one of our sodales is in danger, i will gladly offer my sevice to helping him. You can rely on me partaking in this mission."

Directed at Xavier, Rabanus asked "Was his message destined for Dankmar or how do you know his location? Possibly the mages of Dankmar can tell us, if Master Horst has already been there."

"Master Arturous, im glad to see that you are as eager as me to rescue our sodales from the grave danger he seems to be in. But with so many wise mages present to offer their opinion, maybe now would be a good time to see if we can bring some light into what has happened to Master Horst. If you please give me the wand for a moment."

(After getting the wand, Rabanus will cast a spell to show the immediate surroundings of the wand, InHe(Im) 15, Base 2, Range: AC +4, Duration: Conc +1, Target: Ind. He will use Life-Linked Spontaneous Magic to make sure the spell succeeds.
Spont spell to show the surrounding of the wand. (1d10=9)
Roll 9+In 10+ He 1+Stamina 1+ Magical Aura 7 =28 + 1 additional fatigue level =30.
After casting the spell, Rabanus is weary)

Xavier looked at Rabanus with interest and said: "He said he was leaving for Dankmar. Hard to tell if he was there already. The magi of Dankmar might help, but it is a dreary place to go, and they are not the most welcoming of magi."

For a moment, a scene formed in front of Rabanus. After a strange whistling noise, the focus became sharp enough to see a tree root in the red snow. A hand was grasping a broken wand, just like the one in the room. A pace away, two dead blue eyes were staring into the room. The lower half of the head was a mushy pulp. A wolf muzzle appeared and sank its blood-stained teeth into the left half of the face. Rabanus concentration shifted, slowly focusing on a wider area to see more. Backpacks, a fire - not quite burning - a chaotic mess of tracks, most of them wolf tracks - two dead wolves - and a second body - obviously of a large athletic man dressed in armor - a pack of five wolves doing their bloody business. Rabanus tried to focus on what was further away, but it kept slipping out of focus when he tried to see areas too far from the wand. Beyond the little clearing, dark firs seemed to be stretching in all directions.

"None of the two men is Horst", Xavier said, somewhat unsteadily, yet relieved. "But wherever he is, I doubt that he can outfox a pack of wolves for long. "And did you see tho equipment? I wouldn't leave it behind if I were him".

ooc: I've decided that focus is Rabanus sigil - unless you object. You can end the vision or keep it up, as you like.

Honorus looks at the scene with interest.

Those are grogs from Fengheld. The one with blue eyes is Joerg. He was called the Mule because he was used to carry heavy packs. The other....

Honorus turns his head and looks at no one. "Yes that one looks like Gabrielus' familiar but I'm sure it is not."

"The other is called der Lange Hans. He was a woodsman." Honorus turns his head slightly as if listening for something or someone. " Yes, I saw that. Looks like they were surprised. Not much of a fight."

"So all we know is that Master Horst is not in possesion of the wand himself. What happened to him we dont know yet, but we must find out without any delay. Hopefully we will find a clue to his whereabout ón site. I agree we should depart swiftly. Let me just catch my breath for a moment, i dont need to fetch much apart from my traveling cloak."

Arturous nods slightly at Rabanus.
"Get what you need; I shall wait for you all at the guard tower"
He nods once again at the Primus and Xavier before turning away swiftly, hurrying out of the great hall.

Murion nodded dismissively, and Xavier wished them good luck.

"Someone must have thought of informing our grogs", Hildegard realized as she saw the three men waiting without the gate. She took a pebble from the ground and gave it to the smallest of the three, telling him to pack it.
Looking at the forest, she realized how difficult traveling would be. The snow was almost two feet high, which was waist-high for her. There was less snow between the firs, but the trees were closely together, making a dark night even darker. Brushing against the trees could lead to little avalanches from above.
She called on her magic energies, drawing them in deeply , then weaving a pattern of change into her eyes, which became green and looked feral.
"I'll be the rear guard", she announced, knowing that ploughing a path throw the fallen snow would be too laborious for someone her size. When she had recovered from the strain of casting, she repeated the spell on her bloodcap grog. "I can give you cats' eyes, too", she offered, "but it will take a quarter of an hour for all of our party, since I must take little breaks in between. Do you have any other magics that can help us travel through this winter wonderland?"

ooc: MuCo(An) 5: Mu 5 + An 0 + Aura 7 + Sta 1 + Roll 4 and 9 = 17 and 22

Arturous speaks a few short words, and a magical blue flame appears in his palm, emitting a soft glow which illuminates the surrounding forest.
"As long as we do not mind who might see us, this will serve us well"

Cast palm of flame, roll 8+7(aura) =15
Avoid magic addiction[/size], roll 1+3(int)+2(con)+3(iron will) = 9

The three grogs looked around uneasily.