Preparing a hermetic case for interference

I am going to GM a session this week that will likely end with the players wanting to prosecute a hermetic magus for breaking the code. That will be the first time this happens for me and I would like to ask some advice.

My group is playing in the Triamore setting.
A few sessions ago the players made a deal with the Duke of Brabant that he would support them against Etienne de Gaumond and hold them free of various taxes, in return for a longevity ritual and more importantly that they would support him politically as a vassal and counsel him in matters of magic, this agreement is not public knowledge!.

The Duke(Henry) has a problem that a well liked local mystic/hedge wizard (Aelfric) has been killed and he suspects that there was magic involved somehow.

In fact what happened was that a magus by the name of Flavius of Flambeau found Aelfric and offered him to join or die, and it ended poorly for Aelfric. Flavius did not make much of this killing and made no attempts to hide his deed. Mundane authorities cannot find him because he is essentially a murder-hobo who lives far away and he doesnt really know anyone in the area. But InVi spells will determine his sigil very easily.

If the players identify the Flavius to the duke Henry he will charge Flavius with murder and have him declared an outlaw if he doesnt show up for trial (which he wont).

There are some snags though.

First, the killing took place in the Normandy Tribunal, and Flavius is resident there too. But the players are based in the Rhine tribunal, and the Duke Henry is also based in the Rhine tribunal.

Second it is not entirely obvious to me that the players have a case. What they could do is try to argue that since Henry came to them asking for assistance, this constitutes mundane interference, because it caused inconvenience to the players. Could this work? What sort of legal angle could they try to pursue? What are the likely legal arguments that the players could pursue and what are the likely arguments that could be used against them?

However according to hermetic law the killing of Aelfric is entirely within the bounds of the code, as Flavius did offer him to join before killing him. He didnt ask very nicely and was surely hoping for an answer of "or die" but that is kind of besides the point. The reason why Flavius was there in the first place was to claim a vis source owned by Aelfric, but Flavius is not going to tell that to anyone.

Is it possible that Flavius could countersue and argue that the players have caused him trouble with the mundanes by making his identity known to the duke of Brabant resulting in him being declared an outlaw, where he would otherwise have suffered no consequences?

I am assuming that the players will be wise enough to not admit that they have deal with the duke Henry to assist him with magical problems, as they would otherwise open themselves up to all sorts of trouble.

So they are going to try and get a Flambeau magus convicted for killing a hedge wizard , leaving no trace the mundane's could find and do so in the Normany tribunal home of might makes right and home of the Domnus Magnus of House Flambeau.
I think they have nothing resembling a case under hermetic law. He is not guilty of intefering with the mundanes, Unless the hedge mage was providing magical services to the magi and killing him intefered with their magical resources in which case they may be able to complain about that. Killing someone outside the Order is not a hermetic crime.
I Think Flavus has a much better case if the players identified him to the mundane authorities that could be classed as intefering with the mundanes by bringing trouble to the order. If they admit to , their enemies reveal or Falavius finds out about their deal they are clearly guilty of breaching the code. This strikes me as a case for avoiding the law at all costs kill Flavius in a Wizards war or if they have to solve the case for the Duke frame some Diabolist/Hedgie kill him and case solved

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The only way they could possibly have a case is if the hedge wizard was a court wizard, since this could (arguably but not certainly) indicate an entanglement with mundane authorities that could not be overlooked. On the other hand the agreement that the covenant has with the mundane authorities is textbook interference.

no doubt about it that the agreement with the duke is textbook interference, however remember that the agreement is secret and that the secret is currently secure. I have no doubt that if this secret somehow leaks then the case against Flavius is gone and replaced with a countersuit for interference.

Thus the case really boils down to the covenant sueing over the "and thereby bring ruin on my sodales" part of the mundane interference section. I know that sometimes merely causing a mundane to approach a magus with a request is enough to warrant punishment according to this clause. Which would be the argument here, since the magus, Flavius, did not hide his tracks sufficiently well that the mundane authorities did not think to look for magic users in the aftermath.

It is worth pointing out that Triamore holds a fief, and as landholders are vassals of other more powerful nobles, in this case the duke Henry, but that this arrangement is not itself illegal, a fact which has been tried in the Rhine tribunal multiple times. Thus there is in my eyes some wiggle room for the players to act like the duke approached them simply because they were known magi rather than because of their secret deal.

  1. I have never heard of a case being brought where being approached by a mundane is considered ruinous
  2. The covenants connection to the Duke is itself against the code. While there are covenants in vassalage positions it is arranged through a soldales who is the actual vassal, and providing longevity potions to mundane nobles is itself grounds for interference.

In short their "case" seems to boil down to "hey he is interfering in our interference" which isn't going to turn out well for them.
To even try and make the case you would need to explain why killing that hedge wizard is interfering with mundanes while interfering with others is not, which will begin with the question of why was he popular with the surrounding people. If he wasn't Gifted than the "join or die" offer isn't valid, if he was gently Gifted then you might be able to focus on how he was part of that community.

Of course the other wise of this is to play the political angle - a murder hobo Flambeau isn't going to have a lot of political allies, which may allow them to lower the bar of what evidence will actually be needed to convict. Of course if that conviction is anything short of being marched they can expect a wizard war in retaliation and could simply skip to that instead of trying to build such a difficult case.

This is the Normany tribunal as well, Domnus Magnus of House Flambeau and a tribunal where raiding other covenants and brigandage is not sufficient to intefere with the mundane's. Plus the fact you are outsiders from the Rhine Tribunal the pc's would need a really solid case and an onside Quasitor to win the case. Bringing in a Quasitor though is a potential disaster as a few InMe spells on the Duke and his court and he will discover their crimes. everything about this case screams do not try this you will fail and make a lot of enemies , as Silveroak says they should skip to the Wizard's war or back down if he is too powerful

Your players aren't thinking politically. If they implicate the Flambeau, here's what happens:
-The duke is unhappy because he can't prosecute a far away wizard - maybe he asks the players to catch him.
-The Flamebeau is mad because you fingered him to mundanes. Maybe you get Wizard's War declared on you, maybe he digs into your relationship with the duke.

OTOH, if they finger some stooge like an annoying local hedge wizard, here's what happens:

  • The duke catches the hedgie and executes him, and is thus satisfied.
  • The Flambeau has been protected by the covenant, so looks favorably upon them.

Why choose lose/lose when you could choose win/win?

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preferable some hedge wizard with the blatant Gift so your story will be believed without question.
Or blame some spirit or supernatural being. I'm sure there are faeries who would love to take the blame. They might even become the kind of nuisance that keeps the Duke very grateful for your friendship.

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So let me add my voice to the chorus of "the Flambeau did nothing wrong". I really don't see a case against him, let alone a cross tribunal one. All the party really risks is being exposed as the court wizards they are becoming.

Castra Solis is in the Provencal Tribunal IIRC, not the Normandy Tribunal.

More generally, didn't House Tytalus take issue with both Tremere and Flambeau magi trying to claim resources in Normandy post-Schism War? If they find out about the vis source, does the Perthean Compact assign it to someone else because it is close enough to be a seisin? Does not registering it deprive the Tribunal as a whole of magical resources a few years on if it would be a tropaeum and not declared a legacy? Is the Lotharingian Movement a factor in your campaign? I'd think proponents of the movement in both Tribunals would stick their oar in here.

Doh. I keep forgetting how modern france is divided up into tribunals my apologies for that mistake

The vis source is not close enough to anyone to be a seisin and is easily harvestable. According to the rules of the normandy tribunal it should have been registered with the tribunal so that it can pass into public ownership as a tropaeum after 7 years. I included it because it creates a way for the players to discredit Flavius if they want to avoid a suit, though this will require some patience because if they act too quickly Flavius can simply claim that he was going to register the source soon (he isnt going to unless forced).

Also if the local noble learns about it they will want to dispose of the vis according to their own desires. Thus it is a potential source of conflict in the future, since Magi dont normally respect mundane ownership over vis-sources, but nobles on the other hand are able to stir up a considerable amounts of trouble if they want (this is a story hook from TME that I want to use later on).

The lotharingian tribunal is very much a thing in my campaign, and is directly related to the plot, in that the current story is meant to highlight how easily magi can get away with murdering random people. The players belong to one of the main proponent covenants of the lotharingian movement. That is why they might want to pursue a case even if it is quite legally dubious. They do have quite a few allies in the normandy tribunal who support the lotharingian cause and who are based in the area where it all happened.

I'm with a few people here. They have to put their head down. The moment the law gets involved, it is a poor outcome.

Any Quaesitor worth his salt will want to know how this Flambeau murder-hobo was identified. Some easy InMe on the mundanes sorts out the party ratted out someone in the order to local authorities. A little more digging, and court wizard accusations kick in.

The party has the choice of wizards war on Flavius, or let it go. If they go to the law, they could have severe penalties imposed by a tribunal judgement, and maybe even multiple Flambeau declaring wizards war.

Actually what they should probably do s lay claim to the vis source in the Rhine tribunal, and argue that since Flavius is of the Normandy tribunal he is ineligible to claim it.

I think that the big deal is that the killing took place in the Normandy Tribunal. Thus, in principle it can't be prosecuted in the Rhine Tribunal. And the Normandy Tribunal -- that has very loose rules on mundane interference, and on what magi can do to each other's mundane "assets" (they can freely murder each other's grogs!) is likely to laugh off any complaints from those "Rhine sissies".

So the position of the PCs is rather weak. One possible way to tackle it, if it took place close to the inter-Tribunal border, is to try and convince the other Rhine magi that this is a Rhine vs. Normandy conflict: possibly a good pretext to "nibble" at the Normandy borders and vis sources, and certainly a chance to state in no uncertain terms that the Rhine will not tolerate violence/robbery etc. "spilling over" from Normandy. Exactly how the Rhine will then build its case is something bigger than the PCs.

Also something that would have to go to the Grand Tribunal. try explaining to the noble they are a vassal of that this will be cleared up in another decade or so...

The defence I'd use if I were defending your PCs would be: They didn't endanger the Order.

So conversely I'd try to show that killing the hedge wizard did.

Can't see how mind you.

Perhaps "He should have known under whose protection the fellow was!"

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and the opposing counsel argues that your magi did endanger another magus by revealing to the mundane who the culprit was.

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The session was 2 days ago. For those who are interested Here is a short summary of how it went down:

The players got called to investigate,as given in the premise by the Duke with whom they have a (totally illegal) deal to support in magical matters. I should mention here that the Duke is their formal liege lord due to events that have played out, where they got to transfer their manor from they Count of Namur's holdings on to being a direct vassal of the duke of Brabant, because of some shenanigans that the Count engaged in.
The players managed to not make a terrible impression on the knight whose land the killing occured on, and the knight gave them directions to the hut. There they determined by visual inspection that it had been an unusually fierce fire and through InVi they were able to determine that the fire was caused by a Hermetic CrIg effect, and that the sigil the spell carried the wizard's sigil of "Anger". This immediately made the suspect a magus Flambeau through some "order of hermes lore" rolls.
However they also wanted to investigate why anyone would want to kill this hedge mage, and by asking around in the village (and using the "Social contacts" virtue they found out that this hedgie sold love potions (they couldnt procure any, but suspected that they were primarily a confidence booster), and varius talismans and amulets. They did get their hand on a good luck charm but could not determine whether or not it was magical (it was). What they did find out, was that this talisman was a textbook example of the sort of thing that unGifted people can make with the "Magic lore" ability.
In the village they found a witness who had seen a strange man in red robes arguing with the hedgie on the day of the fire. The witness had not spoken out before, because he had been going to by a love potion and he was a teenager.

In the end they concluded that this hedge wizard had likely been offered to "join or die" and chosen "or die" and that there was very little they could do about it. They informed the knight and the duke that the fire had been a killing and that there was likely a wizard involved in the killing but that they were not sure who (they didnt know at the time). They decided to go back to the covenant and consult various records to determine if a fire wizard with a sigil of "Anger" exists and that led them to identify "Flavius of Flambeau" in the Normandy tribunal.
The players learnt that as a hermetic wizard it is possible to get away with killing non-hermetics with no legal recourse. Many of them are apple guild and there is one Ash guild who wants magi to rule as proper lords. They were not entirely happy with the lack of legal options but decided that it was a losing battle to pursue.

On a side note, but possibly of interest:
The character who has social contacts in this plot is a roguish outlaw leader (who is disgraced nobleman) rolled to see if he had a social contact, and his contact was a former lover. She is the one who provided them with a good luck charm, and gave confirmation that the hedgie sold love potions. It also turned out that the outlaw has a quite young daughter who is a natural with a sword, he didnt notice himself, but one of the magi did.