Chapter 1 (IC): Welcome?

The weather has been ghastly for the last week or so. Ice, snow and storms have made travelling harder than usual and the old from Bois de Haillot, the village close to Triamore, are hard pressed to remember a winter like this one. Yet, you have been set an exact date, and being late would certainly shed a bad light on you, especially since the invitation was signed by a Tremere maga, an unlikely candidate to take well to incompetence.

But you've finally made it through the village (so much like other villages all across Mythic Europe).

You finally reach the line of trees, and have a look at your new home. Much has been said about the castle that Triamore occupies, but you don't see how a very impressive structure might be so thoroughly hidden behind such a scant stand of oaks and hemlocks. When at last the trail turned into those trees and the gatehouse comes into view.
Here is a true barbican, and to its right a tall white tower of some fineness. One could see immediately that this was a fortification of some might, at least against the temporal threats of lords and their rabbleous armies: the gatehouse
is framed by two stout half-round towers, between which penetrated the vaulted passage of the entryway. It is sturdy enough, with loops and murder holes, and a high slate roof — and yet the trees of the forest grow directly in front
of it; vines cover one flank in unchecked foliage; the sturdy gate is rusted and frozen in place, and the walls that flank it — those that confine the large bailey beyond — sit in broken ruin, revealing a peak of the snow-covered interior courtyard. Just
visible beyond this sight was the keep itself — quite a large structure, to be fair, but built up only to the height of two or three floors. Atop, ancient beams and scaffolds can be seen.

It looks unfinished.

Smoke is rising from the chimneys, but only one lonely grog stands huddled by the gate.

ooc: If you're character is ready to play, please use your first post to characterize them by talking about how they travel, how they feel about arriving at Triamore and how you address the grog. Arrive by one by one, or meet up on the road and ride/fly/walk/... thelast mile (or more) together. The snow gives a good explanation why some people may arrive a little earlier than the others.

Eduardo had moved himself on foot, his feet not trudging into the earth as he walked with his head easily up high as he had a piercing gaze to his dark eyes. As the wind picked up with only minor effort did he speak to himself to ward the moisture of the snow to slide off him with only a little effort. (Ducks Feathers 1d10 → [7] = (7)+5/2= 6) His cloak was thick and luxuriant a rather ostentatiously vibrant scarlet with underclothes the color of charcoal. His adoration was otherwise rather simple, he wore a rather chunky ring of copper with a bulls signet, upon the opposing hand was chunky silver ring of a bull. A practical dagger sat on his hip and his long dark hair fell easily down to his neck to frame his swarthy features as he observed the keep thinking of how much effort it would take to turn it to tumbling blocks then put his eyes to the grog before speaking. I am Eduaro Rana, filius Veratus of House Flambeau. I have come to answer the summons of Magus LaGris, and I am expected. With that he passed on his invitation.

The grog, a brute of a man, squinted down at the robed figure as it spoke to him. Warily, he scrutinized the stranger whom the snow did not seem to touch the way it was supposed to, then snatched the letter and trudged around a corner to ring a bell twice.
Then he came back and said something in an unknown tongue before resuming his waiting position and handing back the letter.

A minute later a tall man moving with the grace of an experienced swordman arrived and exchanged some words with the grog, before asking in Latin:
Salve, magus. What brings you here on such inhospitable a day?"

The trip itself wasn't so hard on her, especially after all the Seven-League Strides she'd been doing the past half year. A little bit of spontaneous Rego magic had kept her warm despite the weather and her clothing. She'd shown up with wet clothes at the home where she paid for food and shelter, far from Triamore. That night in the barn she'd avoided the animals as best she could, used some Rego magic to dry herself, and lay down some minor circular wards to protect herself from animals and people. She then let her magic run through her and over her body until she passed out.

In the morning she destroyed the circle to end the wards. After she left she used a little Rego magic to clean and neaten her outfit. Many castings of Seven-League Stride in secluded locations, walking as needed to spot new locations, and she was within sight of the covenant. Wanting to arrive at the covenant looking her best, she applied a little more Rego magic to clean and straighten her clothing and dry herself. She then added a little ward to keep her boots dry for where she would be standing when she arrived. Then she was ready. One more Seven-League Stride and she was there, at what she hoped would be her home for a long time. Upon seeing the guard she said, "I am Adele Verditii, filia Gudrun Tigurina. Maga LaGris is expecting me."

One day before the deadline, a very localized cold breeze blows through Bois de Haillot and then up the road leading to the fortress of Triamore. A short way from the covenant, the breeze leaves the road to move a short way into the forest that surround the covenant and stops suddenly between two tall trees, out of sight. A few soft words can be heard by the squirrels and birds, and a man appears out of nowhere on that exact spot.

He is dressed in a light grey padded tunic, with a woolen cloak a shade darker, along with darker chausses tucked into sturdy leather boots that stop below the knee. All of his clothes are stained with mud and melted snow, even the lightly padded arming cap upon his head. Beneath the cloak, forming a hump as if he was hunchbacked, is a travelling pack. In his right hand is a long-handled axe, held close to the blade in way of a walking stick rather than for imminent combat. The man is of only a bit taller than average, visibly in good health and strong, but lean and fit rather than heavily muscled. A few strand of long white hair escaped from his cap, its color contrasting with the young face.

Coming out of the forest and approaching the gate at a slight jog, he slows down to a walk before reaching the guard. In French, he calls out, "I have dispatches to Daria LaGris."

Hildegarde do not like winter, She hates above all snow, the coldness creeps everywhere, makes landscapes monotonous and muffle the sounds. It becomes almost impossible to travel without leaving any traces and the slightest rut becomes an irritating obstacle.

She is usually rather cheerful but would have easily ceded to melancholy if she weren't accompanied by Andreas, her, more than ever, faithful grog, who chose to leave the few acquaintances he he had in Fengheld to stay with her.
She traveled mostly on foot, avoiding most of the villages on the way. She felt safer in the woods, and had a habit of sleeping in a small Cache fitted within a tree She always chose wisely, following criteria quite obscure to Andreas . She shared her bed with him for quite some time now when they were on an expedition together, She had no real gene against him anymore and He knew her enough to know that They would not share anything more than their body heat and that at the least displaced gesture He would suffer the biting cold of the ground for the next few days.

She made ​​sure to arrive a day ahead in the village below Triamore and used the opportunity to wash and dry her clothes, take a hot bath, hair and make herself presentable for her host. Hildegarde wanted above all to avoid embarrassing her host by making him perceive the harsh conditions of the journey he had inflicted them or for her attire to triggers a reaction of compassion or even worse commiseration. It was out of the question to appear weak, today even less than usual.
So She took the departure from the village fairly early in the morning and took the time to observe the manor carefully during her ascent, chasing out the brief nostalgia of Fengheld germinating in her wandering mind with a deep breath. Observing more carefully, expertly, how vegetation had recolonize ineluctably the facades and was seeping into the building immediately making it welcoming. She quickened her pace a little and walked resolute and smiling to the grog that kept the gate, chasing some flakes on her bangs, she said with a firm voice : "I am Hildegard of House Flambeau, and here is my henchman Andreas. Let your master Daria LaGris know that I arrived as planned."

The oppertunity for a warm roof over my head and the place for a lab are what bring me here, as any fledgeling both miniscule or grandiose, we all need a place to work our studies, and a bowl of something warm could not hurt at this point. He would dip his head in greeting to any of the magi who made their way to the gate as he did. Snow and rain are ill suited companions even on the best of days, thus i would request your hospitality.

After spending most of the autumn in the shape of Nicolas travelling as a merchant between the cities and towns of Flanders, Picardy and even once into the lower countries to the north, Menatia was happy and thrilled to set out for this new challenge which would involve herself as hermetic maga more directly. Or so she hoped at least.

Monetary funds was not a problem after her successful trading adventures. So she hired a fancy wagon with a driver and two armed guards in Ghent that would take her (a prominent noblewoman) inland to the small village of Bois de Haillot and the covenant of Triamore. She had only heard her master and some of the other magi at Florum mention the covenant a few times and didn’t really know much about it other than it belonged to the Rhine tribunal despite its vicinity to the Normandy border.
Normally the trip would only take a few days and they had set out from Ghent in good time to get there on the set date, but with the increasingly bad weather Menatia started to get worried that she would be late. The wagon wasn’t built for travelling on the roads in their current condition and finally two of the wheels collapsed less than a day from their goal.

Menatia was furious and cursed the wagon, the driver and the guards, but most of the harsh words she spilt on the bad weather. She had all her things in that wagon and she needed to get them with her. She decided to go back to the last village they had past and there she hired a farmer with an ox and an open cart big enough for her big chest. She left the wagon and the driver to his destiny while she continued with the guards and the farmer.

It was a slow ride but it was a bit safer in the current conditions. It had already got dark on the day of the set date when the company arrived in Bois de Haillot and asked for directions to the castle. Menatia wore an elegant fox-fur cloak that she had bought the day before she left Ghent, but it didn't protect much from the snow and chilly winds so she had cast some simpler Rego Aquam magic to keep herself dry at least. Keeping the warmth was trickier and she cursed her master's inaptitude with Creo magic that had resulted in her own difficulties with Creo Ignem magic.

As they stopped in front of the gate Menatia jumped down from the cart where she had been sitting on her wooden chest during the journey while the others walked. She approached the lonely guard. Good evening! I am Menatia of House Tytalus. I believe I am expected by Madame Daria LeGris. Will you please send words of my arrival?

EDIT: I changed the part where she is frozen and soaked. She would of course spontaneously cast something like Cloak of Duck's Feathers to ward herself from some of the weather conditions.

Each of you in turn is welcomed by the martial-looking man who studies your letters with an unfathomable epression before pocketing them. He then welcomes you as honored guests and leads you to a chamber where he leaves you with the promise of a warm bath and some food.
He informs you in Latin that there will be a dinner an hour after sunset and promises to send someone to show you to the great hall for the feast.

Eduardo is the only one who doesn't notice that there is something odd, almost impolite, about the way they are being treated: This is certainly not the welcome a new covenant member would expect. Your honor guard of two grogs seems a little nervous, and it is strange that you haven't been handed Aegis tokens yet. The food and wine you are offered is brought swiftly though, and tastes fresh. The servants also do their best to prepare a hot bath (should you wish to take one), and respectfully offer to clean any travel-stained clothes or boots for the dinner. If you are trying to wander about, you are told by the grogs (or the captain you saw earlier if you are unable to speak French) that the customs of Triamore demand your official welcoming ceremony to take place before they can let you roam freely.

Those of you who speak French overhear enough of the servant's talk to learn that theirs is not the only bath to be readied, and that several magi seem to have arrived.

In the evening, you are led to a great hall and seated on the sides of a U-shaped table. The centre is occupied by a stern-looking woman dressed as a noblewoman in expensive grey cloth, and the man you took to be a guard captain. There is a second table (obviously added for the occasion) that seats several other people, probably the companions of the resident magi.

When you are all seated, the lady in grey rises: "Sodales, permit me to introduce myself, my name is Daria LaGris ex Tremere, and this is my fellow mage Remi de Museau ex Jerbiton. You claim to have been invited here, by me" she picks up one of the letters as she says it. "Unfortunately, I have to inform you that this is not my hand-writing and this inadequate style is certainly not the Latin I use. This allows for two explanations. Either have you conspired to set up this meeting - but I cannot truly see why you would do that - or, and that seems the most likely explanation, you have been misled by a third party of unknown intentions."

She stares at each of you with her cold and grey eyes.

ooc: I had to railroad you together into one time and place for convenience's sake.

(OOC: I'll take some liberties with the surprise factor, to take into account the Tremere factor. If you consider it inappropriate, I'll simply come back and change my post as you consider suitable.)

Animus hands over his sealed dispatches to the martial man, reminding him that those are from the Exarch and for the eyes of Daria. They are sealed with the Tremere official sigil, so it would be surprising to see them mishandled in a covenant where a maga Tremeris holds a high rank. He trusts that they will reach her safely, otherwise he is sure that she can deal the necessary punishment to the man. As he had not received instructions to hand them over directly to her, it is out of his hands now.

Even though he'd been warned to expect suspicion, considering the circumstances, he frowns at the discourteous treatment. He holds his anger in check, at least whenever someone can see him, for the fault lies with someone else.

After Daria has introduced herself and addressed the assembled magi, Animus speaks. "The Exarch also recognized that this letter was not in your handwriting, when I showed it to him. I am certain that one of the dispatches I brought to you contains his thoughts on the matter. He gave me orders to assist you in whatever ways that I can in discovering what lies beneath this." He white-haired magus nods, "So I am yours to command."

*his eyes darkened rather quickly before standing up and speaking holding back his annoyance with grandiose words as he slammed his fist into the table as he angrily spoke * If this is not your writing, and I have traveled for naught...I demand satisfaction to strike with great vigor and venom at the charlatan who has wasted by considerable talents for a fools errand and falsified the good name of a Maga!

Adele has more a look of anger than of shock, though that anger doesn't seem directed at anyone present.

After calming herself she replies in Latin, [b]"I would like to know who has misled us all, as well. Is anyone present particularly good with arcane connections? Some of the letters could be arcane connections to their writer, if the magus wasn't clever enough to destroy the connections ahead of sending the letter. Even if the magus did not actually scribe them, knowing who did scribe them would put us on his scent.

"And while we are all here, I should ask the question that is begging if you don't mind. If you would be so kind, even if this letter is not from you, is Triamore accepting petitions for membership? Or is membership closed at this time? I'm sure all those who have traveled would like to know."[/b]

Daria nods as she accepts the Tremere documents.

(ooc: I'll have to tweak one minor thing, but it will either be irrelevant, or it will improve the story (depending on your future actions). I'll refrain from further comment until everyone had a chance to reply.)

Hildegarde was considering the situation her eyes fixing the wall behind Daria for a short time. This whole story made no sense ! What could be the purpose of this trick ? Who would It benefit to regroup a bunch of freshly gauntleted magus ? We are of no influence in the tribunal, what's point in forcing us to basically lose a season like this ?

She was almost expecting the trickster to appear right in front of them... Maybe the counterfeiter wasn't ill-intentioned after all. Anyway She had no intention to play that fool's game, She had no time to lose investigating a stupid letter, She had to make the best of the situation. Triamore had fair relationship with Fengheld, and she could probabably find something to study from the library.
Yes, that was a good plan... Now that She was here She could ask for Hermetic hospitality even if they asked her to pay for It she had 4 pawn of vim. Focusing Her vision on Daria again She spoke with a faint smile " I guess this is a learning experience... It almost seemed to good to be true. I don't really care what was the purpose of this fool"
Now considering each person around the table with a brief gaze "I'm not going to waste my time investigating a letter, this is probably what this person is expecting and I'm not going cooperate willingly. Now that I'm here I'm respectfully asking for hermetic hospitality next season, my master was Indulius Ex Flambeau from Fengheld. I've heard you have good relationship with this covenant so maybe you will consider my request. We were both tricked I already lost face by following this chimera, please don't make me lose my entire season. Of course, If you're accepting petition for membership as Adele suggests you already know by my presence that I would be honored to join your covenant !"

Menatia first looked shocked like some of the other guests, but then she started laughing loudly. She looked around the table and stopped laughing when she met the harsh eyes of Daria.
I'm so sorry, but I can't help finding this a delightful joke if someone has taken all these measures to get the five of us here at the same time and none of you knew about it. She looks at the two older Triamore magi. I definately would like to meet this person, or persons may be. But not to strike down upon with force as some of you are suggesting. No this is someone to learn from and then outwit in his or her own game.

Daria looks at Menatia, then comments drily: "I see this amuses you, Tytalus. And maybe it is just a joke." Steel creeps into her voice has she adds: "But even if it is would I like to know who dares to make jokes about us. And maybe, just maybe it is more than a joke. Someone clearly has put some effort into this. "

She looks over to Remi who nods at her.

"So Remi and I have decided to make you an offer. These letters are rather believable because our covenant has lost several members over the past decade, mostly due to death and twilight. An infusion of fresh blood would indeed be rather welcome. So here is our offer. Learn more about these letters. Who wrote them? What did they want? "

Her gaze turns to Hildegarde, by when she speaks you know that she is speaking to all of you:
"If you are willing to spend this season investigating the letters, and two more seasons setting up labs here at Triamore for which we would provide the necessary amount of silver, we would consider this as payment for three years of hospitality at Triamore. Moreover, we would consider these years a trial period, and are willing to offer a probationary membership to those of you we find agreeable."

She beams at Animus.

"What do you say?"
, Remi adds.

HIldegarde tighten her jaw as she gaze back at Daria : "Well, If this investigation becomes a payment for hospitality, I guess this is different..." She then relaxes her face : " But I still believe these letters won't bring any valuable informations. In my opinion, this person has an agenda for us and will probably make other more blatant moves in the following weeks. I'm not really sure yet that He's malevolent, despite his obvious lack of etiquette. Nevertheless You're making a generous offer considering the situation and I gladly accept It." after a few seconds, a little embarrassed she adds "Sorry to overindulge on your hospitality already, but I assume this offer includes board and lodging for my Henchman Andreas, I'm sure we can find him some employment in the covenant."

Adele listens to each of the others in turn. She definitely seems pleased when Daria announces the offer. "I find that offer quite acceptable," she replies after Remi's question. She looks around to study the others as they give their responses.

Menatia looks intensely at Daria when she speaks and then Remi as he questions them for an answer.
"It's nothing but acceptable. I will happily stay and investigate the source of these letters and at the same time enjoy your hospitality. One question though. After three years we would get probationary membership if you find us agreeable. How long would it take to become a permanent member?"

He gripped the edge of the table as his temple thobbed a little the words from the pair of triamore mollified the flambeau a little* Your terms are fair, but when we find the impudent shit who cooked up this plot, they owe me certamen for their deception. Eduardo rubbed his jaw lightly before returning to his seat, still fuming a little about the deception, but not entirely being a waste of his time put his blood pressure back in place.