Chapter One: Getting there is half the fun . . .

[color=red]Salve sodales!, shouts the Redcap Guillermo, waving to you at the Ostian docks, his latin cutting through the babble of sound. Of course, he's hard to miss. Among the throngs of merchants, dockworkers, beggers, soldiers, and peddlers, he sticks out like a sore thimb. An unruly mop of curly black hair protrudes form under his scarlet cap, which is graced by a ridiculously long peacock feather. The rest of his attire is equally lacking in subtlety.

It seems only days since you last saw him, what with the excitement of packing and travel, but in truth, it has been much longer. Seasons have passed since his face appeared at your master's covenant, with a surprising offer: a chance to explore the almost unknown coast of North Africa, to seek out the hidden mysteries of long-lost Mercurian lore, and perhaps, to found a new covenant among the ruins of a once great community of magi.

While it is common knowledge that the Romans settled the southern shores of Africa, it has been centuries since Europeans set foot there in any numbers. The teeming hordes of the Prophet ensured that. Yet, onlyseventy odd years ago, the brave forced under the command of Robert of Sicily conquered the Ifriqiyan coast. While they were eventually forced back across the water, in 1160, their foothold allowed tantilizing hints to cross back to europe and the Order.

These hints, coupled with the scattered record left by Hermetic legends such as Abdkypris ex Criamon prompted an expedition to the Ifriqiyan coast a generation before. After a few scattered commique, contact with the expedition was lost, and the turmoil associated with the Almohad invasion prevented more rigorous efforts to find the lost magi. Until now.

Guillermo breaks you free of your reflections with a happy shout, and beckons you eagerly to a large Genoan ship moored at the docks. In a flurry of gesticulation, punctated with gestures both dramatic and urgent, he manages to get your gear stowed in the ship's hold. Then, he gathers you in the large cabin the lot of you will share on the journey, and removes from his bag a leather satchel.

From inside the satchel, he draws forth and displays a pair of worn, leather-bound books, and map of much-folded parchement. These, he states, are the heart of your journey. While the logistical elements of the expedition have been provided for (with a year's worth of supplies either stowed in the ship or to be purchased by letters of credit), it it the written record left by Abdkypris, his memoirs and discourses on language, along with a map of the known travels of the earlier expedition, that will guide the early steps of your journey . . . .

[color=darkblue]And there you have it :wink: Y'all have been contracted to trace the steps of an earlier expedition to the coast of Ifriqiya (modern Tunisia). It's an area that has been controlled, successively, by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Berbers, Arabs, Normans, and then Arabs again. Your backers (a group of magi in the Roman tribunal, represented by Guillermo the Redcap), have secured you passage on one of the Genoese traders still able to gain access to the Ifriquian ports.

In addition, you have been given sufficient material goods and credit (through banking contacts of House Mercere) to support the expedition for one year. This will allow you to secure the necessary personnel and goods upon landfall at Sousse. Finally, you have been provided with your most precious resources . . . a copy of Abdkypris' travel memoirs (can be read as a Summa on either Area Lore: Ifriqiya or Philosophiae at Lvl 5, Q9), a copy of his compiled notes on Arabic (Q9 tractatus on Arabic), and a copy of the map used by the previous expedition (Tractatus on Area Lore: Ifriqiya, allowing specialization in Roman ruins). The books and map are contained in a leather satchel that protects the conents from the efects of both flame and immersion.

Feel fee to post, establishing flavour, and exploring the ship, until we have everyone's character posted. Any questions, post 'em in the OOC thread. My sig should include a link to a wiki I'll try to keep updated with info and known crunchy bits.

Salve ya'll. Guess I'll jump in

Akoe will listen very attentively to everything Guillermo has to say. He'll also listen to what everyone else has to ask. If anyone asks what he thinks, he'll say, "Hmm. Sounds interesting. Don't you think so?" At the first natural lull in the conversation, he'll excuse himself for some air.

On deck, he's going to wander and try talking to the sailors. He'll ask them what they're doing and how hard the work is. If he can find someone who's talkative, he'll ask them about the run to Sfax and what Sfax is like. Is it just a dock or a large trade town? What are the locals like? How's the wine?

He's also going to wander down to the hold. Just looking. See what kind of cargo the ship might carry.

Oh. And he's going to see if he can borrow a knife and a piece of wood. He's going to try his hand at whittiling.

[color=red]"Carthage, eh? I wager there are two or three regiones stacked on that bit of ancient ground. Well, I'm pretty sure I can get anyone into the regio if he can talk to the ghosts - I don't do dead people."

Claudius will talk to any magus who is willing about the potential magical bounty inherent in the area, which is mostly based on his knowledge of Latin poetry regarding the area, not that his complete ignorance of the facts dampens his enthusiasm or conviction that he knows what to do.

Regardless, Claudius is also scoping out the passengers on the ship. Any attractive womenfolk? If not, his mind will wander to a location where he can seek female companionship prior to setting sail, and calculate the amount of time necessary to do so.

Valerius keeps to him self, so many strangers and he does not know them yet. They are probably laughing at him or at least they will if they know to much. Better keep quiet, the less they know the more he is left alone. He looks at the other magi trying to determine who they are and if he can trust them.

Valerius looks at the tomes and scratches his chin, perhaps they have something interesting in them. Only time will tell. Valerius looks through the books. The ancient maps lure his interest and he begins to study them. Knowledge is power as they say…

Valerius takes the maps and books about the location and sits by a desk trying to uncover some mysteries that hides within the words. Books are my friends, that is for sure.

As Elarion boards the ship, he pauses to take stock of his surroundings. He seems genuinely excited and comfortable in his surroundings. He approaches the other magi following Guillermo’s introduction and strikes up a conversation about the upcoming adventure. “Salve, Sodale. Does anyone know about the region for which we are bound?”

Elarion listens attentively to his new companions, genuinely interested in what they have to say. As the conversation winds to a close, he heads up on deck, takes a deep breath of the fresh, salty air, and watches the sailors prepare for the upcoming voyage.

Arms crossed and leaning against a bulkhead, Octavius listens as the conversation flows around him, participating sporatically. He takes the opportunity to study his new companions, observing thier interactions, or lack thereof. Bringing one hand up to absently scratch his beard, his attention wanders from the discussion to the documents sitting on the table, and his thoughts start to roam...

As the group breaks up, Octavius remains as he stands, slowly scratching the side of his face, staring in the direction of the table, but not actually looking at anything. Only when someone shuts the door a tad loudly does he come to with a start, looking around the now almost vacant cabin. Refocusing on the books that Valerius is flipping through, Octavius straightens himself from leaning on the wall and strides over, eager to peruse the contents of Abdkypris' works. Stopping close to the table, Octavius clears his throat to get Valerius' attention.

"Excuse me, salve sodale, if I may introduce myself? I am Octavius Quintus of house Ex Miscellanea." Octavius gives a slight bow. "Mind if I take a look as well?" He gestures to all the documents provided by Guillermo, but his eye goes to the open map on the table and he starts examining it where he stands, his arm still stuck out in the unfinished gesture.

Claudius will join in any discussion of the maps, but is only interested in the large overview of what and where. Once he's gathered that information, he will make sure he knows who's who on the ship, and then work out his pre-departure plans.

As Elarion and Akoe emerge on deck, most of the crew can be seen rushing about loading the hold. The traffic, and the watchful eye of the bosun, makes it difficult for Akoe to slip into the hold unnoticed. He does, however, manage to use his crude Itallian to glean a few bits of information. While the trip will take some time, the sailors don't anticipate much trouble this season, at least until they clear Sicily. The weather at this time of year is calm, and they'll be in sight of land most of the way. The dangerous part of the trip will come as they round Sicily and head for the Ifriqiyan coast. Corsairs and pirates prowl those waters, and the fate of any Christian vessel that falls into their hands tends towards the grusome. Of course, that's also part of what makes the run so profitable . . .

As for Sousse, it was one of the port cities taken by the Normans in their invasion of Ifriqiya. While they have long since been driven out, it remains a port where some of the Itallian merchants retain contacts. Although officially closed to European traffic, the local govener turns a blind eye to the occasional ship that slips in for a bit of cladestine trading. The locals are a mix of berbers and arabs, with a smattering of other groups, including a sizeable jewish community. As for the wine . . . well, the town is Muslim . . . .

As far as Claudius can tell, there arer no women on board - or at least, none that have exposed themselves to his prying eyes. As for company of ship, well, it is a port. How hard can it be to find a friend?

The map provided by Guillermo shows a number of port cities along the coast of Ifriqiya, including Sousee, a large settlement further down the coast called Sfax, and a few otehrs. The area around the four cities, and the coast, are well represented, but as the map moves inland, it becomes visibly less accurate. There are eight marked locations inland, most using the old Roman names, with sketches of ruins beside them. Whether they are truely ruins or mark the presence of modern settlements is unclear.

[color=blue]Hi gang - quick correction - Sousse is the destination of the ship, not Sfax - Sfax is futher south. Argh.

To Claudius

“I can see dead people. Well sometimes, and I’ve been told they are dead. I really couldn’t tell just by looking at them. I’m Akoe by the way. Which do you think is luckier: a duck or a monkey? And if you say monkey, what do they look like? I’ve never seen one. So you’re good with regiones? Please. Tell me about your experience. It sounds like it could be quite useful.”

To Elarion

Akoe will walk up to you holding a badly mauled piece of wood a little bigger than a fist.

“[i]Salve sir. Do you think this looks like a monkey? Claudius said they were lucky. Or maybe he said that about ducks. I don’t think it looks like either. Can you do anything with it?

They say Sousse doesn’t get much in the way of Christian traffic. We might stick out. There’s a Jewish community. You think we could pass for Jews? We should think of something to do about that I guess[/i].”

He’ll glance around to make sure no one is listening. “[i]You think we could talk any of the sailors into coming with us? Maybe a couple of the big ones? Muscle might come in handy.

So what do you think of all this?[/i]”

Above the cabin it sounds as if heavy equipment is being dropped repeatedly across the wooden deck. With a moment or two of listening one comes to the startling realization that those are footsteps that cause the wood to creak and spill dust on their books and maps. With some trepidation it sounds like the steps are now heading down the stairs below deck and now towards the door. Some of the magi wonder if their protection is near at hand or packed in the hold when the door opens.

Standing in the frame seems to be a walking curtain at first. Then it becomes apparent that a massive form draped in a cloak that could be used as a tent is now forcing its way in, turning sideways and ducking low, and adjusting an incredibly large sword so it can make it through. Huge hands that seem strangely...feminine? Reach up and pull back the hood of the cloak, revealing brilliant red hair framing a large and amiable face of what is undoubtedly a woman. She removes the cloak and throws at the trembling sailor that lead her down here and sits on the floor so she no longer has to stoop so low. She sits as tall on the floor as most men do on a chair.

"Salve Sodales!" she says cheerfully as she peers at the array of books and maps on the table. "Lady Sinmore of House Flambeau. Is this where we're headed?"

To Akoe -
[color=red]It's not particular to me, but I can see things like regiones. If where we're going is important enough to send a couple expeditions, I assume they're all stacked up with power.

Monkey or duck, eh? Can't say I know much about monkeys myself. Ducks are good eating, though; bad luck for the duck, I'd imagine.

At any rate, I'm thinking of slipping off the ship for a little pre-sailing celebration. Interested? I'm pretty talented at getting women to ignore The Gift.

Continuing -
Claudius will extend the same offer of pre-departure carousing to Valerius and Octavius, with this "sweetener" for Valerius:

[color=red]"I've even got an experiment that might pique your magus Bonisagae interest. If I want to get a comely lass interested in you, despite your Gift, would you suggest a strong Creo Mentem, or should I raise her ardor the mundane way, then use Muto Mentem to redirect her affections? We can do both, see what's most efficient.

Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, Claudius determines the time for departure, checks his coin purse, and plans his detour. [/i]

To Akoe

“It’s not bad. Looks a bit like an old friend of mine. I wouldn’t call him a monkey, though. Still, I think we have lots of time, and there are probably worse ways to pass the time.”

In a returned whisper: “I’m sure we could find some friends among the sailors. They seem to be a likeable enough bunch. My Italian is a bit….rough, though.”

Back in normal voice: “It’s good to be outside, among the fresh breeze and water, don’t you think?”

Elarion turns to Claudius: “Thanks for the offer, but I’d like to see what the sailors are up to. Fascinating, don’t you think?”

To Claudius

“Me? No thanks. Women lose their sense of direction when I’m around. They always start walking away.”

To Elarion

“Wine is a language that everyone understands. I think I’m going to run and get some for the trip. It might help make some new friends. Were you going to stay?”

Akoe will walk back to the cabin.

To Valerius, Octavius, and Lady Sinmore

“Salve. I was going to pick up a couple of items before we left Italy. The sun is warm and it’s so pleasant outside. Any company for the walk would be welcome.”

Sinmore turns to the man who enters the room getting up on her knees so she can look at him eye to eye. She smiles broadly at the offer and holds out her huge frying pan sized hand to him.

"Sounds wonderful! Have that quivering pile of a man-excuse fetch my traveling cloak! I'm told the wine of Italy is the best, but I'm an ale lass myself."

Valerius mutters nearly impossible to hear; [color=red]That would not be a experiment at all, the results are predictable and not experimental at all.

Valerius shows the maps to the crowd gathering near him. [color=red]I am Valerius Ex Bonisagus by the way. His voice becomes harder to hear as he speaks, as if he where unsecure of his words. If Valerius had the chance to notice something interesting then he points out that feature and remarks that it is a most interesting feature.

Octavius looks up from his examination of the map to watch agape as Sinmore enters the cabin. When she asks about the map, he will nod and turn back to it, speculating enthusiasticly with all gathered around the table about their destination until Claudius and Akoe return with their propositions to go explore Ostia.

A large smile emerges on Octavius' bearded face at the invitation to go ashore. "A splendid idea sodales! I didn't get the opportunity to look around earlier, being in such haste to get aboard the ship. A glass or two of the local vintage would certainly hit the spot, eh Valerius?" Octavius declares as he turns to Valerius, clapping a hand on his shoulder. "Come my new friend, let us have a look at this town. Enlightenment is not always found bound in dusty leather covers. Who knows what lies in wait for us to discover!" Octavius' eyes sparkle with enthusiasm as he makes a broad gesture to emphasize the town beyond the ship. Anticipating an equally eager response from Valerius, he goes and grabs his worn wooden walking staff left leaning against the wall.

The next day begins early for the crew, who have teh ship easing away from the dockside almost before the sun's rays break over the horizon. Just in time, a trio of tired, but somewhat self-satisfied magi stuble aboard as the gangplank is lifted. Tumbling into bed, Claudius, Akoe, and Octavius miss the glory of sunrise over the ocean, as the Swallow Dorato eases her way out into the Mediterranian.

The rest of you are wakened by the calls of the gulls,a nd the shouts of the crew. Coming on deck, you are greeted by the scent of salt water and the gentle rocking of the ship as she makes her way down the coast.

The first several days of the journey are uneventfull. They are taken up by adjustment tot he rhythms of the ship, getting to know your new sodales, Guillermo's stories, and a casual perusal of the map and books he has provided. The locations marked on the map seem clustered within a day or two of travel from Sousse, some directly inland, some north and south. While Guillermo can provide you with some introduction to the city, it is not yet clear whether you will be better served by establishing a base there, or proceeding directly towards one of the older sites.

As the coast of Italy receeds, and Scicily approaches, the crew becomes noticably more tense. While the Scicilian Normans nominaly control these waters, it is common knowledge that they do not have the resources to patrol them effectively. As the Dorado breaks free of the northern shore of the island, and turns south, it seems that the crew always have one eye peeled on the horizon.

And not without reason. One afternoon, a shout rings out from the rail, and an urgently pointing finger draws your attention to a dark smudge on the horizon. It quickly resolves into a black sail, rising over a swift-moving galley - a galley which gradually seems to be drawing closer to your ship . . . .

Lady Sinmore did not suffer too much of the sailors's superstitions about a woman being on board the ship, not after knocking five senseless in a very one sided brawl. They stopped saying such things in ear shot of her after that. She spends much of the time on deck as below deck tends to bump her head and dent the walls and ceiling. She seems vaguely interested in the maps and different books that are offered, but mostly allows others to peruse them first. At the shouts and pointed fingers to the smudge on the horizon though she perks up.

"Ah! Someone please tell me that is a pirate ship!" she exclaims in her husky voice while cracking her knuckles. The sound is like that of rocks being dropped onto a marble floor. She grabs a cabin boy by the collar and lifts him off the ground in her eagerness.

"Fetch my sword and armor! My little sister has a dance to attend!" she shouts in Latin to his face before dropping him to the deck, uncaring whether or not he understood her. She often refers to her huge great sword as her little sister.

To Lady Sinmore

"Ah Milady. Please do not make me fall in love with you. You see, I like my women like I like my weather: big and stormy. And you would just break my heart in the end, wouldn't you?"

In General:

Akoe will watch the black sail getting closer. In Latin to whichever one of his sodales are nearby, he'll mutter, "I suppose we have to do something. Hm. Maybe we can capture some of them. Or the ship itself. That might come in useful. Maybe not."

He'll stare a moment longer and then make a face like a man who has drunk milk which has turned. "I'm a rat after all. I should know something about sinking ships."

Akoe will turn to one of the sailors and speak in Italian. "You sir. How long do you thinkit will be before she'll be on us?"

Sinmore turns and stares down at Akoe. She appraises him a few moments and licks her lips giving a hungry smile.

"I'd break more than your heart little one." she smirks as she reaches down and pats his cheek, her hand is hot and dry and covers almost the entire side of his head.

"Perhaps when the boy can help me with my armor?"

She turns back to the smudge on the horizon, straining her neck and trying to get a better view. "So...fried or just a little singed?" she asks.