Registration and contestation of vis source

I would like to introduce in my saga a conflit with an other covenant about a source of vis. To do so, I'm looking for more details about how the registration of a source work, if someone can contest a claim and which argument are required to do so. I read the part about mercere in True Ligneage but it didn't help me a lot for this situation.

Your topic is treated differently in each Tribunal. If you have a source book for your Tribunal, you might look it up there.
Otherwise, you might just state your Tribunal's name here, and the regulars can give you a short summary.

Thanks, we play in the Stonehenge Tribunal, but I also welcome ideas from different tribunals, as inspiration

Ok so since you didnt specify the history of the concrete vis source you are thinking of contesting, lets work through a hypothetical example. In most (keyword: most) tribunals registering a vis source works something like this:

Magus: Hypotheticus is going for a walk in the local forest and on a whim decides to cool his toes in a pond. However the bottom of the pond is boggy and by plopping around in the mud with his feet, Hypothetics stirs up some bog gasses that smell horribly like sulfur. Not one to be deterred by sulfurous smells Hypotheticus has a bright idea: Maybe the smell indicates that the gasses are magical and lo and behold the gas bubbles contain Vim vis (Vim vis because he found it on whim...). Hypotheticus then decided to come back at the same time next year and finds the very same smelly gas with the very same amount of Vim vis. He has now found a vis source.
For the sake of the example lets assume that the vis source is not clearly within the territory of any covenant.

Hypotheticus does not want anyone else to poach his vis, so he acquires a stone carved with the symbol of his covenant and plops the stone down next to the lake. He then waits until the next time a redcap (Rosa) is visiting the covenant, arranges for the redcap to either stay until the harvest date of the vis source, or has them come back at that time. Then he takes the Rosa to the site, shows her how he can release the foul smelling vis by plodding around in the lake. Rosa then goes back to her redcap colleagues and make a written description of everything she knows about the vis site: What it is, what amount and type(art) of vis it yields, how to find it, how to harvest it, what year it was discovered and by whom, what covenant claims ownership and whatever other information she might consider relevant.
Note that most people will not be quite as thorough as Hypotheticus is being in my example. Some might be content to send a letter to the redcaps or give a verbal confirmation that they found a vis source but give less than all of the information about it. Perhaps only stating: I have a source of vis in the forest of X, it yields sulfurous gas containing vim vis" or whatever other version of a description you can come up with.

If the tribunal does not have any special rules regarding vis sites, then from now on until eternity Hypotheticus' covenant retains ownership of this vis site and may do with it what they please (within certain limits*). The right to do with the vis source what the covenant pleases in most cases includes the right to sell it to another covenant.

If Hypotheticus or any of his covenant-mates discover someone harvesting the vis from their pond they can then bring a suit for deprivation of magical power against them at tribunal and if they catch the criminal in the act they can probably also attack them to a limited degree**, under a claim of forfeit immunity.

*It might be illegal to destroy your vis sites but I am not sure, it would certainly be viewed very unfavorably.
**A limited degree here means: Whatever level of violence is necessary to prevent the thief from stealing your vis, first by driving them off, but may escalate up to killing in self defense if the thief puts of a fight.

There are a number of potential other outcomes here.

Hypotheticus might have claimed the vis source for himself, and registered it with the redcap anyway, but kept it hidden from his covenant. This might constitute a violation of his covenant charter but not necessarily be a crime under the code of hermes.

Hypotheticus might have neglected to register his vis source, in which case theoretically speaking ownership would still be his if he found it first. Said ownership would be much harder to prove though.

Another magus might have found the vis source first and neglected to mark or register it and then you have a situation similar to the one where Hypotheticus didnt register his source but in reverse.

Other can probably think up more versions of this than I have done here.

Thank you very much!

To detail the situationfurther, the PC, after investigation found a vis source far from their covenant, on a small island in the Bristol Channel. Another covenant is closer and has a strong interest on the area especially an island few miles away of the one with the source.

I would like to use that situation to create a rivalery with the second covenant

I had few idea about making the claim more difficult for the PCs:

  • A grog of the rival covenant saw the PCs investifating and report it to his masters who fill a declaration the same season the PCs did (the PCs couldn't harvest all the vis, so they left some behind). How the propriety of the source would be decide in this situation?
  • The rival covenant has a vulgar influence on the land thanks to a layman and want to use this influence to secure the claim
  • The rival covenant know a genius loci of the island/chanel and can use it to make the harvest difficult
  • I know a certamen cannot overcome a judgement from the tribunal, but can they challenge the PCs for the vis source if there is no jugement? What happens if the PCs refuse the certamen?

I'd like your opinion about how a "vanilla" tribunal would react to this situation or what argument could be used by the rival covenant to contest the claim?

In canonical Stonehenge Tribunal, the Tribunal gatherings were inquorate for a long time before about 1200, when this changed. Is this the same in your saga?
In any case, even a quorate Stonehenge Tribunal might just require a public certamen in front of the magi gathered to decide the ownership of the vis source, if you introduce even some of mentioned ideas.
Canon 1220 Stonehenge is also known for vicious politicking between some covenants, making a Tribunal gathering interesting.

In general they would lose the vis site for good - unless there is still a verrry good reason the magi of Stonehenge would side with them on the Tribunal gathering.

In general I am in agreement with @OneShot in his reply.

I would like to elaborate on my opinion a little further:

Assuming perfect knowledge, as we have the luxury of here. Your players discovered the vis source first and the other covenant does not have ownership over the site of the vis source, thus the vis source is rightfully theirs - in theory!

The fact that the rival covenant desires vulgar control of the site of the vis source is not relevant to the question of ownership - again in theory.

However the NPC's in the saga do not have the luxury of perfect knowledge. So the question of who has the superior claim becomes really important. Personally, my opinion is that a hermetic court would not value vulgar influence very heavily. On the other hand I do think that the testimony of the magi themselves regarding the exact date of their harvesting matters as well as the date that they filed their claim. Keep in mind that this is my opinion on hermetic justice.

As a member of a vanilla covenant my main interest with the case you present would be to spend as little time on it as possible. Thus I would not be willing to go through weeks of investigation, cross referencing dates, questioning witnesses, etc. just to determine someone else's ownership of a vis source. For that reason I would support a decision by Certamen as it skips over all the bothersome details and resolves the question right away with no further process required.

Certamen of course cannot overturn a tribunal ruling, but a tribunal can rule to decide an uncertain question via certamen in which case the result of that specific certamen becomes a tribunal ruling. If there is any significant degree of doubt about who has the legitimate claim, my opinion is that it would be decided by Certamen. I think that is what is most likely to happen here, since it seems to me that right away there is already significant doubt about who has the stronger claim.

The genius loci is a nice twist, but do be aware that if your players win the vis source and the rival covenant gets the genius loci to bother the players and they discover it then they can sue for deprivation of magical power and/or failure to abide by tribunal ruling. I am not saying that your NPC's shouldnt do that - having your players try to find proof that their rivals are sabotaging them is a great plot.

Another caveat to this- canon Stonehenge is 4th edition, and you might decide (as I generally do) that the history and canon setting does not apply across editions. If you have ever read third edition Tribunal of Rome there are some very good reasons for this...
in which case it is up to you to decide how the Stonehenge tribunal acts. If magical and mundane mirror each other then all land in England should be claimed by one covenant or another in terms of rights to magical resources, if not it may be a simple matter of registering your find, or there may be no legal protection and keeping it a secret is your best bet. What is clear is that Stonehenge has no frontier- no wild uncivilized area where new vs sources are expected to show up where nobody has any reason to claim them, so your version of Stonehenge should be designed accordingly.

True, more even because the Stonhenge supplement is more focused on vulgar/historic England and Walles than the Hermetic and supernatural landscape (that's why I also look for other tribunal's decisions)

About the only thing I would keep as canon is the limitation of creating/releasing 2 pounds of silver per year per magus, which also suggests a rather plentiful supply of vis to be worried about magical creation of silver's effect on the economy...

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Heirs to Merlin is a 1999 book written by David Chart, and formally 4th edition indeed. But as it does contain just the setting and no rules or stats, and an explicit Stonehenge 5th edition was never planned, written or published, tmk it is generally used as the book describing 5th edition Stonehenge as well.

It is clearly a saga call, not technically RAW, but an available resource. Personally I find the internet a better resource for the historical record of England and can overlay my own mythic reality.

A situation which has occurred in one of my sagas, when a vis source was discovered by a player magus. They harvested and brought it back to their home. Reported it to the redcaps. The source, however, was being used as a personal supply by a rival Tytalus, who had hidden it from his covenant. The Tytalus told his covenant about it (Claiming he was saving reporting it for 2 years later when he would be required to do membership work for the covenant).
The covenant sent the tytalus to certamen the magus who found it. The two agreed that whoever won the duel would have harvesting rights only until the Tribunal decided who properly owns it. The player magi got lucky, the Tytalus dropped into twilight, and that settled it before I could cause trouble in Tribunal.

That Twilight sounds pretty anti-climactic... But lucky for the party.