How to free the Spirit of the Rhine?


in RoP:M (p. 112-113) Rhenus, the spirit of the Rhine is presented. He is unable to use his (destructive) power throughout the full length of the river, because "the ancient races of dwarfes and giants tamed it." At the Rhinefalls "a group of giants hurled a mighty rock into the river, pinioning the spirit there."

In GotF (p. 40 - 41) you can find descriptions of the Rhinefalls and a Magus called Schwall, follower of Bjornaer. The passage reads, that the Nibelungs - "a race of men from the Lower Rhine" - worked together with the dwarves and giants to conquer the river.At the island in the center of the falls, there is a regio, "a turbulent elemental realm of water that houses the Rhine spirit". The magus Schwall has a fish as heartbeast and acquires mysteries by completing a number of quests for the spirit of the rhine. His last (and obviously biggest) quest has two goals: to free the spirit of the rhine and to "merge his consciousness with that of the spirit" to achieve a kind of immortality.

I want to use this story seed for my saga and am searching for some inspiration. As a start I have two questions:

  1. What kind of magic (or supernatural power) could have caused the enthrallment of the Spirit of the Rhine (by throwing a big rock in the river)?

  2. What kind of mystery could Schwall of Bjornaer pursue to release the Spirit (or to dispel the enthrallment of the giant´s rock)?

I´d be pleased, too, if someone could give me hints for similar effects in any sourcebook.

Thanks a lot,



On a purely symbolic and allegorical level, the giant rock appears to be physically pinning the spirit in place, on one spot on the river. Because his spirit is trapped, his power is also trapped, by the power of the symbol. This is an old idea in magic, "As Above, So Below." If you want to tame the river, which is big, trap the spirit which is the river's allegorical representation.

If I were running the saga, the spirit would be physically stuck under the huge boulder in the middle of the river. He might be able to appear elsewhere, but these are only illusions. His true and real self is stuck under the boulder.

Moving the boulder would free him and restore his full power. But this must be harder than it sounds or else it would have been done by now. The boulder may have grown enormous through the power of the metaphor which it represents. In other words, it's simply physically larger than it was when used in the first place. It probably has a Magic Might and thus a magic resistance. That would make it a spirit of its own, or perhaps a giant boulder-shaped earth elemental. There might be guardians, possibly multiple types of them: spells to conceal the boulder and spirit, spells to harass or inconvenience those who come near, and finally actual guardians who dwell in the water: mermaids or magi-eating barracuda or something.

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The story, for me, evokes the Titanomachia. It's part of the larger taming of magic by Faerie and men. It is a example binding, powerful Faerie magic that binds the river's spirit, enacted by a Faerie with god-like powers. The spirit still exists at the magical watery regio, but it is weaker and cannot act in the real world except at the Rhinefalls (the area bordering the regio).

This works rather well for the Nibelungs, working with dwarves. The dwarves would have fashioned the chains that hold the water spirit, and the Nibelungs were the ones that put them on it. True to the faerie ways, however, the story has a catch - someone with the true blood of the Nibelung kings of old can unchain the spirit, releasing it. Schwall is hence looking for an heir to that ancient bloodline. Which would naturally be a PC.

I can't see how the rock and the giants fit into this too well, though. Giants for me are Magic, monsters wrought by Gaia in her fight against Faerie.

As for the rock, well, there are plenty of stories of Faerie (i.e. Olympian) gods binding giants with rocks over in Greece (e.g. in the Thebes Tribunal book). This is, again, some kind of Faerie binding - but in this case I fail to see how the dwarves fit in. If the binding is by rocks, then I'd attribute it to a Faerie god, and would have the "chain" binding it weaken as faith in that god weakens. This would allow the Rhine spirit to exert influence over the Rhinefalls, and a weak influence over the river. The faerie god's curse will be defeated once the last remaining secret temples are desecrated and their auras fail. So Schwall will need to "molest" the faeries, attacking secret pagans and long-forgotten faerie auras to shatter the last bonds in the Rhine spirit's chain. This may include a pagan community maligned by Schwall, that turns to the PCs for help; Schwall seeks to identify its priests, kill them all, and prevent the community from honoring the Faeries at the temple, thereby leading to its dwindling. Another example is Schwall seeking to break into a Faerie regio, kill its Faerie lord, and take its "heart" that lies hidden - actually the hand (?) of the water spirit, that has been encased in Faerie glamour and the Faerie regio and lord draws sustenance and vitality from it. Yet another example will see Schwall attempting to destroy some record of the Oath taken by the Nibelungs before this Faerie god; destroying the record will greatly weaken the faerie curse/binding, perhaps even shattering it.

You could make the rock merely the mundane representation of a larger, supernatural, Terram-based Faerie that guards the river spirit in the spirit realm - a high level Faerie regio within the Magical regio of watery chaos. Defeating the Faerie lord will not release the river spirit, but may weaken its bonds temporarily (the guardian will re-awaken in time, as its power is drawn from the regio's aura and the Faerie binding).

Schwall may seek to bring in Muspelli to lower the Faerie auras, in order to break them. Or he may be initiated as a Muspelli himself, perhaps by the river spirit itself. Although the whole Ettin-mod that goes along with that is, again, very much Magic, so again the "vs. Giants" theme doesn't fit in. Perhaps the spirit can simply teach him a Mystery to lower a faerie aura with a powerful Aquam ritual ? Perhaps by gradually creating a Magical aura to usurp it ?

Mysteries that would help him fight faeries or enter faerie regios are also nice. This includes Second Sight, surely. From TMRE, I would suggest non-Hermetic Synthemata (which can greatly increase Schwall's penetration against faeries) . Potent Magic in Aquam is also quite fitting, as is a Theurgic Spirit Familiar. The transformation to a spirit accompanying the Rhine spirit would probably be something like Ascension to the Hall of Heroes, but with the spirit playing the "fellow cultists" role (in return for setting it free), which greatly helps Schwall pull it off. (Inscirption on the Soul is also quite useful to a Bjornaer, and needed for this ascension path.) So, an initiation path would be:
[] Second Sight
] non-Hermetic Synthemata
[] Major Potent Magic in Aquam
] Theurgic Spirit Familiar
[] Inscription on the Soul
] Ascendancy to the Hall of Heroes

Hmm. That's it. Hope some of that would be useful.


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So YES! This is very much how I understand the story in an Ars Magica context, except condensed into far fewer words!

Ah, but it is such an obvious idea! Ofcourse there are Faerie Giants too! (well, there are, in RoP: F)

Wow, thank you for your input. I can´t write about all my ideas that came out of your answers at once. So as a beginning I´ll start with two points:

  1. Some more background
  • In my saga, I think the PC´s will have an interest to prevent the relief of the spirit of the rhine. Probably they´ll try to fight against Schwalls plan, because their covenant is located at the rhine and will be washed away by the flood that would be the consequence of freeing the spirit.
  • In my saga, I have integrated the norse gods as faerie gods. There are giants and dwarves, too, but they are members of the magic realm. I could add faerie giants easily, but it would blur the essence of the supernatural realms in my saga, so I think, I´ll try to avoid faerie giants. The idea of faerie and magic forces that are adversaries fits in my saga.
  • I don´t feel compelled to implement every detail of the above-mentioned story seed, but I´d like to have a realization in my saga, that corresponds with the rules of AM5.
  1. The binding
    What is it that hinders the spirit of the rhine? I think, I have to develop this first. The spirit of the rhine is a magical daimon, so maybe his conqueror was a powerful faerie. I searched RoP:F and found an interesting faerie power (a greater power): Transform Victim in (Object or Plant). The usual duration is sun, but there is a more powerful version with the duration "until". This version has the range "touch", but this is no problem, because faeries in other supernatural realms can use only touch-range, anyway (and it isn´t necessarily a ritual-power, even though the "until"-duration counts as ritualmagic for magi of house Merinita). I thought about the possibility, that it is not a mighty rock thrown into the river that pinions the spirit, but it is the mutation into a mighty rock, that generates the problem for the spirit. Then I calculated the necessary penetration. The power costs 5 mightpoints, so the penetration of the faerie will be his might + penetration - 25. The magic might of the spirit is 50. The biggest faeriepower in my saga is Wotan (aka Odin) with a Faeriemight of 70. He has a penetration of 6. His casting total will be modified by +1 or +2 based on the magicaura of the place, that supports faeriepowers a little bit, too. If I calculated right, he is just able to bind the spirit this way. This is my first idea: Wotan comes along, enters the regio of the spirit of the rhine, touches him and transforms his powerbase in a rock. The once wild and torrential river becomes slower and navigable. The isle at the rhinefalls IS THE SPIRIT TURNED INTO STONE.

Schwall´s task to free the spirit of the rhine is to find out the until-condition of the spell.

What do you think? It is correct? (At a later date I write about the initiation path Yair proposed).


Sounds awesome!

Sounds cool. :slight_smile: I see two plotlines here - Schwall discovering what the Until condition is, and Schwall working to achieve it. So that sounds like two (related) adventures - the PCs running into Schwall as he uncovers the condition, and the PCs stopping Schwall from undoing the binding. Or maybe even one adventure. If that's all you want from him as a villain, great; if you want to use him further, consider making the Until string together several conditions, and / or make them vague enough that he'll be able to try to achieve them in several ways. You can also link them to the ideas above with things like "As long as the blood of the Nibelong flows in mortal veins, as long as Wotan is honored in song....".

If I wanted the PCs to break such a curse, I'd also try to make it allegorical. For an NPC it might be less important; indeed it's perhaps better for the PCs to realize he's going to break the curse immediately, without having to figure out the allegories. Nevertheless, if you're looking for inspiration - the best use of such conditions that I know of is in the Stardust book (& film). It went something like "Until the moon loses her child, in a week where two Mondays come together". [spoiler]The moon's child turned out to be a fallen star/angel, and the two Mondays are one Mr. Monday marrying his beloved.[/spoiler]

Good ideas, I will do it.

Now some words about the Initiation path Yair suggested for Schwall. First of all thank you: I´m not very intimate with Mystery-Initiations, but - yes - I think, Schwall is an opportunity to become more familiar with them. I´ve read the single steps of the path Yair proposes and have some questions:

  1. Second sight: A good beginning.
  2. Non-Hermetic Synthemata: Do you use this Virtue if you feel so impressed by a spiritual entity, that your future goal is to free it? For me this virtue sounds quite violent - you don´t make friends by using it. But perhaps, the idea was to use the virtue against the enemies of the spirit... in this case I´m not sure, how helpful it is, because I still have no plan, if Schwall was confronted with the Faeriegods at all.
  3. Major Potent Magic in Aquam: "Aquam" is a field too broad for a major affinity / a Potent Magic Virtue, but in RAW a good example is "fresh water"... why not? Would you initiate Potent Magic as a minor Virtue first (it is proposed in TMRE, p. 31)? The initiation path is quite long already…
  4. Theurgic Spirit Familiar. This is a virtue I´d like to give Schwall. Unfortunately he is a Bjornaer… I assume Spirit Familiars count as Familiars (they have bonds, etc.), so the members of his house should not be able to get this virtue. Is there another option to create a bond of affection? (Maybe it is, see 6.)
  5. Inscription of the soul. Good! I think I´ll take it.
  6. Ascendancy to the hall of heroes. This Virtue requires the Hermetic Theurgy Virtue as prerequisite. I´m not able to completely estimate the usefulness of “Hermetic Theurgy” for Schwall, but I think it could be interesting, especially the spell “Invoke the Pact of (Daimon)” is very near to my ideas of the relationship between Schwall and the spirit of the rhine. So, perhaps I´ll add “Hermetic Theurgy” to the initiation path. “Ascendancy to the hall of heroes” with the spirit of the rhine as replacement for the cultists is a good idea in my eyes. It´s not exactly what TMRE says and so the success of the operation is insecure… I like it for that very reason – it is a singular event in Mythic Europe, who knows what will be the outcome?

(And the mysteries of House Bjornaer? I´ve checked them, but I think there is no clan- or housevirtue that could influence Schwall´s final plan.)


This is mainly to allow Schwall to locate and enter Faerie regios, as well as to see invisible faeries and perhaps see through their illusions.

I offered this as a way for Schwall to increase his Penetration against faeries, so he could defeat them. I'm assuming here Schwall's penetration is otherwise poor, and this Mystery will allow him to increase it without finding Sympathetic & Arcane Connections or so on. However, if you are playing by RAW then Schwall may very well have enough Penetration to combat faeries, even faerie gods; and surely will with the help of a little raw vis. So this Mystery can be stricken off the path.

It isn't suitable for affecting the Rhine Spirit, no.

I would indeed initiate it as a Major Mystery straight away, precisely because the initiation path is quite long as it is.

I'm not sure if Bjornaer are disallowed Theurgic Familiars. I'd personally allow them, as they're quite suitable for them IMHO [In My Humble Opinion]. But YMMV [Your Mileage May Vary]. More in (6) below...

Good. Personally, I'd make Inscription on the Soul a House Mystery for all of House Bjornaer. They really need it. Not having a familiar and not having a talisman without jumping through hoops and ruining the whole "vibe" of the character ? Baah.

Well, the problem is that Hermetic Theurgy is too broad and too weak. It's cool that he can summon the Rhine river's spirit - but HT allows him to summon any daimon. I don't think we want to make this character into a spirit-master, with a dossier of daimons at his fingerprints. Likewise, spell spirits are a neat idea but the RAW on them is rather weak; you're generally better off just using Hermetic spells, and they're so different from usual spirits that there's an annoying disconnect there. For these reasons, I suggested sticking to just Theurgic Spirit Familiar, as a way to represent his unique bond with the Rhine spirit rather than mastery over spirit magic in general.

But you can go with HT in place of TSF, sure. Whatever works for you. :slight_smile:

Well, he might be an Ilfetu and obtain Second Sight and his Wilderist tendencies that way.

But generally speaking - no, Schwall has deviated from the House mysteries, pursuing the spirit mysteries the Rhine offers instead. He has abandoned the ancestor cult [I hate that element of the official House], turning instead to worship a wild and primeval power of nature. Instead of delving into his inner heartbeast, he strives to become something else entirely, a daimonic spirit.

All of this makes him not a good choice for an Ilfetu clan member, but he's an unconventional Bjornaer at any rate, and the Ilfetu are at least both Wilderist and mystical so that the clan suits him rather well. The other obvious clan choice is Sirnas, the protectors, and here too he will be a maverick due to his Wilderist ideals.

[Personally, I'd probably erase most clans from the House as well; the House is too small to harbor such divisions IMHO. The idea that each Clan maintains a few Mysteries since the time of Bjornaer is also untenable IMO, it implies Bjornaer either knew a lot or else the Clans developed them in the meantime which seems unreasonable for at least some I'd leave Ilfetu, but make the other "clans" more like factions in the House for players to contemplate and perhaps interact with. The Ilfetu can offer the full assortment of House + Clan Mysteries, or a diminished but still large one. All this means that Schwall can just be a "regular" Bjornaer, without worrying about clan affiliation.]

Hope that's helpful. Have fun now,



yesterday I took a whole day to see, how Schwall of Bjornaer´s development could be. I was able to implement nearly all of Yair´s proposals. Two questions still remain:

  1. Even if I´d allow a Bjornaer Magus to have a Theurgic Spirit Familiar, the following sentence in TMRE (p. 81 - 82) seems to be a problem: "A magus who seeks a Daimon familiar must [...] learn as much as he can of its name, history, past life (if any), its beliefs and habits - and whether it is likely to respond well to the suggestion of bonding itself to a magus. (As a rule of thumb, if the (Technique + Form) proposed for the bond is less than 2 x Might, it is likely to reject the magus as not worthy.) Well, the spirit of the rhine has a magic might 50 - I have difficulties to see a magus, worthy to be his friend. This is the reason why I sticked to Hermetic Theurgy. Yair is right, the Virtue is weak, because it is time consuming - but for a persistent Schwall, it is not completely useless, I think.
  2. Ascendancy to the Hall of Heroes: Usually you need some potent celebrants with Wizard´s Communion to work this Ritual. They need a Penetration of ca. 65 minimum, probably more. In the case of Schwall, there is only one celebrant: the spirit of the rhine. It occured to me, that the spirit will use this spell as a power. I can assume a low Might point cost for the spirit (lets say 0), then the spirit has a penetration of 50... still not enough. The spirit has no penetration ability (see RoP:M, p. 112). Is there a possibility to raise his penetration for this power? I don´t know any. Schwall is old and has many negative characteristics and a high decrepitude... the Transformation Points he needs to ascend will be extreme high. In short... I´m not convinced anymore, that this way to merge with the spirit is possible for him...


I did understand that he wanted to bond with a spirit, not THE spirit of the Rhine. I can imagine him easily bonding with a SUBSERVIENT spirit to that of the Rhine, but not the Rhine itself. The magus is acting as a servant for the spirit of the Rhine, not his equal or superior. Being his first officer would be a quite worthy position for the magus himself.

Another alternative is to disregard these rules completely and just go for a link between the 2 if his arts are above those of the Rhine spirit, for example. or add other elements there, like his ceremonial casting total and arcane connections and the like to see if he gets a lab total of Might*2. AFAIK you are using this as a NPC. Bend the rules to fit the cool story.

Or just reduce the Might of the spirit to 40 at the time of bonding since he is trapped. Given the heavy powerplay that you can achieve in Ars, a TeFo of 80 (40 in both arts) should be reachable by the magus if he is commited to it. Remember affinities. Afterwards, the power of the Rhine Spirit can grow as its ties unravel and it recovers its freedom; the familiar bond remains even if the creature grows in power.


Thank you, Xavi. I have to think about it. If I see a solution I´ll post it.

I have another question: In GotF (p. 40) Schwall is presented as a story seed. At one passage they write: "His heartbeast is believed to be a fish, but he is also able to take the form of a seething mass of water by virtue of one of the Mysteries he has acquired." Can you tell me which Mystery could be meant?


HoH:MC p. 32 The Mystery of the Anima. The final Mystery Schwall searches for himself - merging his consciousness with the Rhine elemental - can be seen as just an extension of this: to escape becoming a separate, dumb water elemental in Final Twilight.
You better determine whether IYC Schwall shall follow his ancestors and the Bjornaer Mysteries or other ones, though: once your NPCs mix and match, just wait until your PCs start with that, too. :smiling_imp:


EDIT: If Schwall shall follow his ancestors, he looks like Clan Maruhs (HoH:MC p.12f) to me. Puissant Art: Aquam, Dream Magic and Free Expression provide a nice set of means to manipulate Faeries, dig up secrets and put them to use in the water - while Unpredictable Magic and Reckless just look like Schwall, as described.

I generally don't insist on following the rules so strictly.

The Te+Fo total, especially, is just a guideline. I can see no problem with the rhine spirit deciding to accept Scwall with a lower TeFo total. I can also see him accepting things like Magical Focus orPotent Magic as increasing the total. So you could have him with something like 30 Mu + 30 Aq + 30 focus + 6 potent + 2 puissant = 98. Tweak a little and you have your 100 total.

As for the penetration - yeah, the rules are designed for Hermetic magi, and the penetration of crratures sucks in comparison. You can decide to let the ritual work without Parma, if that helps. At any rate I would personally place sich a transformation within tge range of a Might 50 . You can decide otherwise, of course. Maybe it requires some Might 75 spirit in the Magic Realm?

Finally, as One Shot said, you need to decide if Scwall followed the Inner Heartbeasr / Anima or the spirit mysteries. Especially since he has so many from the spirit mysteries already.

Yes, indeed.

This in particular, because the GotF p.40 Schwall does not want to take Rhenus, the Spirit of the Rhine, as a familiar, but "merge his consciousness with that of the spirit", thereby becoming part of Rhenus. No need for Schwall to initiate stuff like Theurgic Spirit Familiar or Ascendancy to the Hall of Heroes. By GotF p.40 Schwall follows in his Quests for Rhenus a version of The Paths through the Forest (p.35ff), hence has a high Nature Lore: Water (Rhine) and can directly communicate with the Spirit. This is further elaborated in HoH:MC p.102ff Nature Mysteries, which also include (p.105) Guardian of Nature, allowing the initiate "to join her spirit with nature and herself become a guardian spirit". If the GotF p.40 Schwall thinks of familiars, it may be more like becoming - in his Inner Heartbeat elemental form (HoH:MC p.32) - the 'familiar' of Rhenus. :smiley:


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Here's an alternative Schwall, based on the GotF and RoP:M texts defining him:

Bjornaer: Heartbeast - some kind of fish
At birth: Second Sight - because useful for the story
Clan Maruhs: Puissant Art: Aquam for Unpredictable Magic - so Schwall does accumulate Twilight fast
Clan Maruhs: Dream Magic - useful to get all kind of weird inspiration and knowledge
Clan Maruhs: Free Expression for Reckless - this makes him a good manipulator of Faeries, and helps on solitary, foolish missions
Clan Maruhs are Wilderists, so here Schwall takes his creed.
Inner Bjornaer Mystery: The Mystery of the Anima - Schwall gets his trademark gush of water (German: "Schwall") form as Inner Heartbeast
Walking the Forest (rather Water) Path: Nature Lore: Water (Rhine) at a high level, so Schwall can always communicate with Rhenus
Walking the ...: <some space yet, to give him a rare Virtue the story needs: Awakening, Wilding, ... >
Walking the ...: Making his Inner Heartbeast shape into an immortal Guardian of Nature merged with Rhenus, if he succceeds in drowning a few thousand people.


I like this one. I can see the last bit as him having to drown a few thousand people AND himself, so there can be the paradigmatic battle with the players trying to save the people while trying to let Schwall drowns and him and his allies (he will have allies, right?) trying to prevent it. Classic showdown.


Dear One Shot,

this is really a good idea. I´d never thought of searching Merinita Mysteries for Schwall of Bjornaer. But you´re absolutely right: it´s the Merinita Nature Magic path that suggests itself.

I´ve read the Guardian of Nature Mystery. Now I think, it isn´t even necessary that he ends in Final Twilight. It´s enough, if he chooses the guardian spirit form in order to never return.

I´d never been able to find this solution by myself (maybe in the future...). So thank you One Shot and all the others in this very helpful thread.


Cool :slight_smile: