In the outskirts of London town has been found what we think is an old Covenant site, abandoned decades ago due to fire and flood. One of the remaining walls now is part of a piggery, and in that wall is an arch shaped niche that we have determined is a Hermes Portal. Using the instructions in an old book we acquired a while back, we can activate it, though why it will only work when the star Regulus is visible from the capstone we haven't yet worked out.
The Portal leads to a similar niche in a wall outside Constantinople. Does not seem to be claimed by anyone from the Order of Hermes.
So we now have access to a Portal to the other side of Europe, that only works for a few hours per night when Regulus is visible in the unclouded sky from London (don't know if there are similar limitations to activating it on the Constantinople end). We have been trying to work out what to do with it. Anyone have any ideas?
Control of such a portal, if known to just a few relevant nobles, might make your covenant a major player in the succession of the Latin Empire - and get it into trouble at the Stonehenge and the Theban Tribunal.
Robert of Courtenay, son and heir to Emperor Peter II of Courtenay, from 1221 is searching help all over Mythic Europe to reach and recover his empire. Sending even a hundred knights with him through that portal can be decisive, and might be used to establish privileged relations of your covenant and its backers to what is left of the Latin Empire. See for this also TSE p.19.
BTW, Regulus is also called Kalb al Asad and Cor Leonis in the middle ages: the Lionheart, Coeur de Lion. And thereby hangs a tale.
P. S.: Any conspicuous use of this Hermes Portal for trade - even if only with books and relics - would be seen by the Venetians as undesired magical competition.
That is so damn cool!
I can't believe our SG has thought it out like that.
On the other hand, it might explain why we had to roll 3 botch dice when we failed a roll reading that page with the portal activation instructions in the margin, that we thought was extracted from a letter from somebody who went on Crusade with King Richard.
If I recall correctly, the phrase "under Lionheart's gaze" was in the page describing outside the walls of Constantinople.
If you want to use it for trade, claim that merchants from Novgorod have been bringing goods along the river Don to Kiev and Novgorod, and from there people are exporting them to England to trade for herring. Nope, no magic involved, definitely normal herring trade for goods transported by a less usual route, nothing to see here...
(The herring trade is big enough that when the Mongols invade and all the people from what is now southern Russia stay home to defend their land, the coastal economy of eastern England has a massive slump and tons of herrings are left to rot on the docks as the expected merchants never show up. Any Venetian wanting to investigate how the trade is occurring will have a devil of a time investigating river trade routes far from the Venetian sphere of influence, so it will take years for them to figure out what you're up to)
Note, that the Venetians are sitting smack in the middle of Constantinople, and hence know all the merchants from Novgorod that appeared in the city and its harbors over the last 15 years. Start your research of it here and here.
I'd point out that, if I understand it correctly, you have opened a one-way portal from London to Constantinople. That's far less useful to trade, and far far less likely to worry Venetian (and/or Genoese) merchants, than a two-way portal, or a one-way portal in the other direction. Which goods from London would be in great demand, and yield great profit, in Constantinople? Wool? Rye?
Note, that with the 4th crusade redirected by the Venetians, the Genoese had lost access to Constantinople. They actually forged an alliance with the Byzantine holdout Nicaea. So they could take over the privileged position of the Venetians in Constantinople 1273, when the Latin Empire had lost control of it.
Until 1261, sharing profits with the Venetians might indeed be the best way to make money from trade with Constantinople.
To be precise: the classical Greek name of both the star Regulus (see Geminos, Introduction to the Phenomena, 1st century BC) and of the basilisk - basiliskos - is derived from 'little king'. And Geminos calls the star basiliskos, "because those who are born around this place seem to have a kingly geniture".
So in the Vulgate, the snake basiliskos simply turned into regulus: just 'little king' in Latin.
While Pliny the Elder in Naturalis Historia 8,78 still just calls the basilisc basiliscus, Isidor of Sevilla's Etymologia XII.4.6 takes up the Vulgate in "Basiliscus Graece, Latine interpretatur regulus, eo quod rex serpentium sit, adeo ut eum videntes fugiant, quia olfactu suo eos necat".
Strictly speaking we don't yet know if the Portal is two way. We haven't tested it that far yet, though I suspect it is two way with the right conditions.
Our companion walked through and walked back as we held the Hermes Portal open.
When he stepped back a second time to scout out the land, what he saw in the distance seemed to match the description of Constantinople as dawn was breaking. The time difference suggested it was Constantinople.
Two annoying bits we discovered so far:
A) during the second excursion, a cloud blocked the star Regulus for a couple of minutes, forcing the Portal closed. We were able to reopen it before the companion tried to return.
B) Over the years since the Portal was forgotten, there has been new construction at both ends. At the London end, the Portal is in a piggery. At the Constantinople end, someone has built some stables and/or barn against the section of the wall containing the Portal, you can't see the sky (which is probably needed to open the portal on that side).
And thirdly, I have been reminded that the portal arch isn't that big, barely 6 feet at the highest. It might not be big enough to allow a horse through, let alone a cart of any size. Trade may be limited to what a person can carry.
Leading a 15 hands (153 cm) destrier without saddle, barding and rider through a tunnel about 6 feet (183 cm) high at the center needs a squire who knows his business - but is still considerably less risky than the sea voyage and landing Joinville describes above.
In our sagas, Hermes Portals are typically under control of old and powerful covenants, or of House Mercere. They are typically used to convey magi with official or at least approved business abroad, and all their followers. Leading a horse familiar or another favorite horse through one should cause no problem, but a cavalcade or merchant caravan was never allowed through by those controlling them. See also GotF p.26 box Mercere Portals.
We have a player character Mercere magus with a specialty: making new Hermes Portals. But so far he was never asked for one, and instead finds people to ask for the use of those already existing.
That said, we also have another player character magus preparing to initiate TMRE p.97 Hermetic Architecture, and yet another deeply involved with the network of Roman roads. We will see where all this leads us and our Order of Hermes.