[Saga] After The Fall

This is the game log thread for my recently begun game of Ars Magica 5th Edition. I decided to start the players off at apprenticeship, knowing in my mind the scene of the end of their apprenticeship - the destruction of their apprenticeship covenant by infernal forces, and the death of their masters.

Dramatis Personae: Players

Renaldo de la Forêt (real name: Michele) - Apprentice Bonisagi: The pretender mage - actually a former apprentice of a lone mage who was (unbeknownst to the player) turned away shortly after his apprenticeship began in favor of a new apprentice who happened to have the Sense Unholy virtue. He served as an errand boy to the mage, and studied magic when no one was around. He thus became a self-taught mage of small magical power, but with a great number of flawlessly learned spells. When Master Abelard disappeared under mysterious circumstances, the true apprentice and the secret understudy were sent to a new covenant with the rest of the Master's covenfolk. Along the way, they were attacked by wolves, and the true Renaldo died. Michele, the servant, took on Renaldo's name, and arrived at the Konvent Der Drei Silberne Ringe, chased by wolves. Renaldo is soft-hearted, and hates conflict.

His adoptive Master is Crito.

Magnus Ericcson - Apprentice Tytalus: A Jutlander taken in by Victor, a Tytalus Hoplite and man of action. He is an elementalist, and tremendously overconfident. Thus far, he has never lost a Certamen match, and so this only adds to his ego. Magnus is something of a hothead, and has thus far seen no problems that cannot be solved by a pilum of fire.

His Master is Victor.

Caliana Zarqa - Apprentice Jerbiton: A beautiful daughter of a Moorish merchant, Caliana is well-skilled in Rego Mentem. She can only cast magic, however, while singing. She is generally the most moderate voice among the mages. Caliana is a bit of a busybody, and also appreciates the finer things in life - she is somewhat anxious when the prospect of having to hunt for food or sleep outdoors arises.

Her Mistress is Helena of Malta.

Lorenzo - Apprentice Verditius: A man of massive size due to his giant heritage, Lorenzo is quiet, and often while the other apprentices are bickering, he is busy solving the problem. Lorenzo has specialised in the elements. Lorenzo was rescued from a devil worshipping cult in Spain by his master who was on pilgrimage there. To this day, the slaughter that occured on when hoplites destroyed the cult is legendary, and Lorenzo's future is tainted by it.

His Master is Aeolus of the Four Winds.

Reylar - Apprentice Merinita: Raised by fairies, Reylar is usually a very happy and optimistic fellow. He is full of noble fairy blood, and his good looks reflect this, though they somehow only get him in trouble. Reylar is seemingly easily stressed, however, for when things get difficult, he is quick to turn to treachery, deceit, or bloodshed. Thus he is somewhat frustrated that he spent his apprenticeship studying Imaginem and Herbam magics.

His Master is Astarte, who is close to her final twilight and somewhat 'out of touch' with the world.

ALSO at the Covenant: NPCs

Korva: A lovely young woman, apprentice of Minae Magnus. She has been seemingly held back from her gauntlet for two years, and finds her recent instruction lacking.

Minae Magnus: Head of the Covenant, and one of the oldest mages in the Rhine despite his lack of reputation. Minae is cruel, spiteful, and spits when gets angry. Many in the Covenant blame its failure to rise to true Autumn power on Minae's lack of political acumen and bad management.

Grogs and Covenfolk:

Hansa: The Barn - A large, strong woman who has a 'thing' for Reylar.

Albrecht: Leader of the Grogs.

Jurgen the Mouse: Another large grog, and one of the few who survived the Fall.

Steffan: Failed Grog, with a twisted leg. Died in the Fall.

Other Personages:

Rutiger: a melancholy boatman, given to drunkeness. He plies the Rhine in a fairly large boat that he somehow manages to keep together despite numerous accidents.

Wolfgang and Bear: A popular gauker and his dancing bear. They may or may not be more than they appear.

The older chapters will most likely be lacking detail as they happened two months ago. Note that their masters seem to be somewhat fickle about extending their Parma Magica over them when they're not helping in the lab. The four resident apprentices have lived together for years, and so the Gift's effects are less pronounced, though Caliana has the Gentle Gift.

Chapter 1: Harvesting Vis and A Slight Against Fae Nobility

Spring, 1220:

Winter is leaving the Black Forest, where the Covenant of Three Silver Rings is found in its southern reaches. Small patches of snow hide in the shadows of the trees, but flowers bud and animals venture out from their winter retreats.

Magnus, Caliana, Lorenzo, and Reylar are instructed by their masters to go out and harvest vis in the form of mushrooms from a hill nearby. Korva, who usually leads the expedition, is needed by her master. After talking about this for a while, they set out. The must pass through a narrow gorge to get there, and after Caliana chats up a grog who knows the area, they get directions and set off.

As they pass through the gorge, the thin trickle of water from snowmelt suddenly erupts into a rushing wall of water that smashes around a corner ahead of the apprentices.

Caliana sings and rises into the air. Magnus loses his nerve and yells at Lorenzo to do something. Lorenzo does a spontaneous casting, and manages actual steps. Reylar casts and commands a vine to yank him up out of harms way.

Safe, the apprentices decide to continue on the bank of the gorge rather than in it, though the deluge disappears immediately after.

As they are walking the few miles to the hill, they hear a commotion across the gorge. A wounded young man bursts into view, with wolves on his heels. Magnus manages to create pits that nearly all the wolves tumble in to, while the rest flee. After a bit of effort, they manage to meet the young man, who they discover speaks latin. It must be the apprentice they heard was coming to study under Master Crito! Indeed, the young man, lying through his teeth, announces his name is Renaldo. With time wasting, the apprentices decide to bring him along to gather vis, and then return with him. Apparently, the group he was travelling with was beset by a huge mass of wolves, and torn to pieces.

After seeing to Renaldo's wound, they continue and soon reach the hill. Atop it are many stones in a circle, as well as many bright red mushrooms that seem quite out of season. The apprentices begin to snip these mushrooms and gather them in baskets.

This goes on for a while, until a twelve foot talk white figure walks into the clearing. At the foot of the hill he stands, regal and full of dignity - snow white skin, a crown of ice, and pitch black eyes. From his shoulders falls a cape of snow. For a moment, no one moves. The figure inclines his head. Magnus stands his ground defiantly. The figure seems vaguely annoyed.

Suddenly, it opens its mouth and a howling icey gail sweeps over the hillside. Reylar and Caliana fall to the ground, bodies blue with chill and ice forming on their hair and lips. (Both botched their soak rolls)

Lorenzo's hand is mildly frostbitten, but he lumbers forward and hefted the two fallen apprentices to his massive shoulders. He then makes for the path back to the covenant.

Renaldo manages to not be struck by the wind.

Magnus, of tough Jutlander stock, takes the icy wind straight-on, but is nonplussed.

The crowned figure seems to be awaiting some response, but it is almost certainly not the pilum of fire that Magnus launches from his hand, despite Renaldo's cries for restraint and attempts to stop the spell. The fire laps at the tall white figure, but he is unscathed.

Realizing that the figure may be too powerful for the pilum of fire, Magnus switches to his second weapon, and drops the figure into a pit that appears in the earth beneath him.

Magnus decides he'd better cover the retreating apprentices, and leaves with Renaldo, rushing through the forest to catch up to Lorenzo.

Upon arriving back at the far end of the gorge near the Covenant, Victor, Magnus' Master, announces that he was the one to flood the gorge, and is disappointed in Magnus' lack of leadership and courage under fire. Magnus must be the rock that other mages turn to in times of crisis, not a fluttering hen. Magnus is given extra chores to do, many of which include offal.

The rest of the apprentices explain the occurances at the hill, and Astarte leaves to go to the hill a few weeks later...

End Chapter 1.

Chapter 2: The King of Winter and a Lesson in Dignity

Astarte, Merinita Maga and Mistress of Reylar, is gone for some time - weeks in fact. In this time, winter returns to the Black Forest with a vengeance. White snow covers the ground in thick blankets, and the grogs and covenfolk become increasingly irritable due to the bad weather. Word from the closest villages and towns make mention that fields are unable to be planted as they should, and the entire region will suffer due to this sudden change in the seasons.

When Astarte does appear, she brings news:
The King of Winter is the being that the apprentices met. He was on a final tour of the forest in preparation for a return to the wintery lands he resides in during the other three seasons of the year. Apparently, the King of Winter was for some reason late - he should have left the forest a few weeks ago, and it was by chance the apprentices met him. Until he leaves the forest, winter will remain.

The King of Winter, Astarte explains, is a being of deliberation and dignity, his every action one of dignity. He is also somewhat stubborn.
The other mages defer to Astarte when she explains that since the apprentices caused the incident, that they should fix it - it may be that the King of Winter will not accept any other apology.

And thus, hothead Magnus and soft-hearted Renaldo are sent out.

(This was meant to introduce combat. The two apprentices who engaged the King are sent with a guard of 3 grogs, among them Albrecht and Hansa).

After trudging through deep snow along the now unrecognizable gorge, the small band spies the hill: from it juts an immense spur of ice. Entering the clearing, the see within this immense icy peak the King of Winter.

He is still in the pit that Magnus dropped him into, though now he sits on a throne of ice. All around him is a massive mountain of the purest, clearest ice.

Magnus scoffs at the King of Winter. Renaldo encourages him to shut up while he attempts to apologize and console him.

Despite Renaldo's honeyed words, the King only nods occasionally, and is otherwise silent.

Finally Renaldo remember's Astarte's words that the King is a noble creature, and must act with dignity and decorum. He orders the grogs to make an honor guard while Magnus uses magic to make steps leading from the pit, and Renaldo uses his potent magical skills to clear ice from the King's path to the top of the hill - apparently the gateway to a Faery place. He also decorates it with flowers and everything else his potent Herbam can manage.

Finally, Renaldo bows and pronounces a flowery apology as only a Frenchman can, and asks that the King of Winter find comfort in his demense and thanks for extending his snowy gifts beyond their usual stay.

The King seems to approve, and stands, steps forth through the ice, ascends the steps, regarding each grog and apprentice in turn. Finally, he turns, nods graciously, and descends into some unseeable place as winter winds sweep behind him. Almost instantly, the snows begin to melt and flower buds appear on the few deciduous trees around the hill.

Happy with their efforts, the apprentices and grogs begin the now much easier trek back to their Covenant's tower.

As the walk time passes, and they note winter's passing everywhere. They walk along the gorge, and are almost out of it when they spy five skinny wolves slinking along the gorge's walls, near the earthen rise that the group needs to take to exit the gorge.

As orders are barked out by Albrecht, and Magnus readies his fiery fury, Renaldo, the soft-hearted, begs their indulgence. Using his magic, he pacifies the wolves once by one. The conflict is averted.

Or so it seems, for as they pass the docile wolves, a large white wolf steps from the shadows of a tree. This wolf is the size of a pony. More surprisingly, it speaks - and in the voice of a child.

"Ah, I did not think I would be so lucky as to find food before returning to the Winter Country, but it seems that I will return not only with a full stomach, but a new voice besides."

Magnus decides this is a great time to pilum the apparently faery wolf, and does so with vigor, overcoming its mystical fortitude and wounding it grievously. The grogs scramble to keep the wolf at bay, but the wolf howls and previously docile wolves in the gorge's floor howl in return and charge up the exit-slope. Hansa, the barn, cleaves one a mighty blow, though another leaps past her and bites Magnus' heel. Renaldo tries to tangle the wolf in brambles and briar, but cannot best its faery potence, and his conjured plants fall from its shoulders like a shawl.

Albrecht, the eldest warrior, slips in the mud made by winter's passing, dropping his axe, but redeems himself by swinging up into the wolf's guts, felling the beast.

Overall, the combat is nasty, brutish, and short.

When news of this returns to the Covenant, Astarte is alarmed at the death of the wolf and rushes out to castigate the returned apprentices, while Victor rolls his eye (Victor, incidentally, looks somewhat like a medieval Nick Fury) and congratulates his apprentice while jogging on smoke with some newly enchanted boots.

End Chapter 2

Chapter 3: A Mysterious Arrival

First: A brief flashback - When Astarte left to see to the prolonged winter and the presence of the Winter King, she left Reylar, her happy-go-lucky apprentice, in the care of Victor. Victor was quite happy to take over the education of the soft, pale skinned Merinita apprentice for a short while.

Certamen 101:

"Alright. Reylar. Close your eyes."

"Alright, Master Victor!"

"Magnus... strike Reylar in the stomach."


"A fair hit. Now, Reylar, you say 'I challenge Magnus to certamen.'"

Magnus easily bests Reylar in Certamen, and thus does Magnus Ericcson learn of the ever so useful tool.


As Astarte rushes to see the dead faery wolf, Renaldo and Magnus are engaged in conversation.

"This damned wolf is still alive, but barely. We should kill the damn thing."

"Magnus.. no no no! We may still need to keep it alive."

"But it wanted to eat us and..."

"No, we're not killing it."

"To hell with this! Cah... certle... ah... calendrum... ah... Wizard duel! That thing! Oh! CERTAMEN!"

(This was actually a pretty funny scene, as they argued back and forth in a deadlock, until I reminded Magnus he knew of a nonviolent way for wizards to solve disputes, at which point he uttered the above line. Since they were new to the game, the terminology escaping them is understandable.)

Renaldo goes down in one exchange, and Magnus instructs the grogs to cut off the wolf's head. They proceed to the tower in triumph and are greeted with much approval by the covenfolk. Astarte is a bit upset.

As the hubbub over the returned apprentices and the disappearance of winter dies down, Lorenzo, high in his tower working on his masterwork, spies a train of mounted figures emblazoned with the Templar cross making their way towards the covenant's tower.


The next session: The Templar Knights arrive as the grogs scramble to be ready for any strange contingency. Their leader is one Sir Guy, a man with a pox-scarred face who has obviously seen combat; he exudes a certain grim world-weariness. With him are four other seasoned fighting men, and then about 25 other rather softer looking Templar knights of dubious combat experience.

Caliana goes to speak to their leader, who spares her a moment or two, speaking in Arabic. He mentions that he is hear to meet with the leader of the Covenent, Minae Magnus.

Caliana also notes that there is a large chest strapped to the back of a donkey, which the no-nonsense Templars seem to be guarding.

Caliana befriends a certain Sir Hugh, apparently a lesser noble in France before becoming a Templar. They communicate in stumbling Arabic. Sir Hugh notes that Sir Guy is a veteran of combat, having returned with artifacts from beneath the Temple Mount in the Holy Land. He also traveled in Spain and was involved in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, if rumor is to be believed.

Caliana speaks to the softer Templars for a long while, before deciding they know little to anything, and really wanted to get away from their chapterhouse in France and accompany the famed Sir Guy. Sir Guy, meanwhile, is locked away in discussion with Minae Magnus atop the tower.

While this is going on, Renaldo discovers that a sick bird that Lorenzo had taken in is actually his former Master's familiar - Redbeak, a foul mouthed crow turned to alcoholism since the disappearance of Abelard. Rebeak insists on calling Renaldo by his real name, prompting Renaldo to steal the bird away and threaten him. Redbeak, however, knows Renaldo's character, and calls his bluff. Renaldo cracks under the crow's blackmail, and a mutually beneficial deal is struck.

Suddenly a hideous cry erupts from behind the grog's barracks, where the Templar party is being housed (the grogs are in the not-so-cozy storeroom for the night).

The Templar's donkey is dead, it's face locked in a terrified rictus, its back covered in welts. Only Magnus and a bold grog discern this and tell the other apprentices. Reylar's fae eyes see a horrible corruption and a dark miasma seeping off of the dead donkey's back. Caliana pulls herself away from the affable Sir Hugh, and goes to investigate. Sir Hugh, however, is not so easily turned away from the pretty apprentice and dismissively notes that that was the fifth donkey that had died since they had left France. Just as Caliana and the other apprentices begin to hatch a plan to distract the eagle-eyed no-nonsense Templars, Sir Guy summons them to bring the massive chest they have been guarding. As it passes them by, a wave of nausea overcomes Caliana, who is vulnerable to the Infernal. She rushes into the bushes near the covenant to vomit profusely.

The next day, Korva is interrogated at breakfast by the other apprentices. She only notes that her master made her work away from their conversation, and insists the eat meat with every evening meal - something the other apprentices are baffled by, as they rarely get good meat with their food.

The Templars mount up, off to visit the monastery of St. Blasien before returning to France.

End Chapter 3.

(This chapter sets up the fall of the covenant and Minae Magnus' insidious plot. However, preparations for the Rhine Tribunal push this chapter into the background. In future, the corrupt Templar Sir Guy will make more appearances. Room for a possible Templar companion trying to determine Sir Guy's whereabouts and activities exists.)

Damn it. I just wrote up chapter 4 in glorious detail, and my login apparently expired and I lost it.

Swiving time out!


Chapter 4: Short Version.

Well, I am sorely annoyed to have lost my previous post. Short version:

The apprentices travel to Durenmar. Korva has entrusted to Caliana a letter, to be delivered to a Quaesitor, describing her lack of instruction and her belief that her prior two Gauntlet attempts were rigged to insure her failure.

The apprentices see various sights and meet various people, including young Yorick, apprentice to Murion, who fancies himself a hermetic badass despite being age 12 and having zeroes in all his arts. Magnus beats him in certamen just to show he can after Yorick takes exception to his condescending tone and Magnus' mistaking Yorick as a servantboy.

That day, a servant of the covenant asks if the apprentices will be taking part in the Archmage Caecilius' challenge. Having heard about this via Redcap back home, they have all decided to try.

In short:
Archmage Caecilius, foremost master of Intellego, Scholae Bonisagi and Honorary Quaesitor, is sick of the backbiting and divisive politics within the Rhine Tribunal, and the deadlock and stagnation it has brought with it. He wants to promote comradery and co-operation among the new generation of mages, and so to any group of apprentices who will found a covenant within the next two years, he offers a challenge that will test them in 'the skills all worthy mages must have to succeed.' The prize for this is Caecilius' masterwork - perhaps the greatest Intellego summa ever written, as well as a small starter library featuring primers in all the arts. A boon for any new covenant!

Details of the challenge are sketchy, but all will be revealed the coming night, with the challenge to begin the day after.

Also, the apprentices are approached by various people with offers/guidance in their future covenant founding:

Murion, head of House Bonisagus and Leader of Durenmar wants the apprentices to consider her support if they decide to be part of her project to re-establish the Order in the (possibly cursed) Rhine Gorge.

Stentorius of Fengheld offers comfort and security if they agree to be a chapterhouse of Fengheld, and back out of the Archmages challenge so that Fengheld's group of apprentices can tackle it unopposed.

A maga of Triamore - Daria La Gris, asks them to consider settling in the West, so that they might give legitimacy to the Lotharingian Tribunal and then enjoy greater freedom away from the tradition-chained Rhine.

The apprentices weigh these offers carefully, and engage in vigorous debate over them.

End of Chapter 4, Part 1.

Should that be "settling in the East"? Lithuania is east of Germany...

I'm going off memory. Let me go check my GotF book...

Ah, my bad... Lotharingian Tribunal. The Lithuania is probably me mixing up other Tribunal talk, perhaps Fengheld's offer.

Thanks for that. I'll go edit it.


Chapter 4, Part 2 - Prelude to a Challenge

Apparently only two other groups of apprentices look likely to take the challenge: The Fengheld Kids and Rostov's Pagans from the East.

(The Fengheld Kids, as the players call them, I plan on developing into a rival covenant. They suffer greatly at the hands of the Silver Ring apprentices).

Fengheld's Apprentices:

Septimus, Filia Stentorius, Tremere: a specialist who really shouldn't be trying to win at Certamen, he bows to Covenant pressure.

Gloria, Tytalus: Her ambition is to be the queen of social conflict and a political mover and shaker. Beautiful, poised, and treacherous, she seems to have caught Magnus' eye.

Cestia, Flambeau: Greenhaired tough girl who hates her dryad heritage, she dresses like a man and seems to be ready to fight over any slight.

Hassan, Bjornaer: A Muslim with a heartbeast of a magnificent stallion. Quiet, and seemingly loyal to his fellow apprentices without showing them any great love.

(Rostov's group are pagan evangelicals. They don't get the spotlight like the Fengheld Kids do.)

Yorick the child apprentice of Murion seems to have nothing better to do than hang out around the Silver Ring camp. Renaldo befriends him somewhat. As night falls, Caecilius summons all of the apprentices in his challenge and announces the three part challenge:

First : At noon the next day, a champion must take a rigorous Magic Theory Test. A bell will be rung to summon the champions. Renaldo calmly explains that he's got this one.

Second: As sunset, a bell will ring. A certamen challenge will occur. A champion must be sent from each group. Magnus cracks his knuckles.

Third: A group effort: choose an enchanted device that will best benefit a covenant. From the Black Forest, gather the materials most mystically appropriate for its construction. Finally, explain and defend your choice.

Afterwards, the apprentices all retire to plot strategy.

They decide on their enchanted item, and divide up the appropriate materials amongst their members. Reylar, Caliana, and Lorenzo will go looking for certain trees and rock crystals using magic to aid them. Renaldo and Magnus will look for a pine and some other bits and pieces. Renaldo also enlists Redbeak, the crow, to look for some nuts. Renaldo and Magnus must also be listening for the bell signaling their individual challenges.

Yorick, who still has 13 years left on his Gauntlet, asks if he can join the Covenant of the Silver Ring Apprentices. He notes that Fengheld is very wealthy, and if they want their apprentices to win, they'll surely have vis.

The Silver Ring covenant's apprentices fret a bit over this. Caliana asks Hansa, the female grog, to go and carouse with the Fengheld grogs at the 'grog-off' drinking contest that occurs amongst the fighting folk of the Rhine Tribunal.

To be continued... (after my lunch)

Chapter 4, Part 3: Torn betwixt Two Worlds!

Seeing the apprentices worried over the lack of vis they have compared to the opulently appointed Fengheld Covenant ("They have their own stone house they're building here at Durenmar!"), Yorick, the apprentice's new campfollower, has an idea.

"Oh! You need vis, you should talk to Peter Virilis! He makes vis, I hear!"

Renaldo is eager to speak to this Peter, a newish mage, and asks Yorick to set up a meeting that evening.

(At this point, I take a bit of liberty with the GotF book to cover my own misremembering)

Peter Virilis, a nervous mage with a bit of a stutter, arrives a few hours later. He explains that yes, indeed, he can make vis - either Creo vis within the magical aura of Durenmar, or Vim vis if he leaves it. Renaldo is overjoyed, thinking the vis can be used in Certamen, or perhaps as some of the materials needed for the enchanted item challenge, since Vim vis is used to open items for enchantment. When Caliana arrives and tries to be her usual personable self, Peter gets nervous. Wanting to leave, Peter asks what sort of vis Renaldo wants - he has 3 pawns of Creo in his chamber, and can make 3 more pawns of whatever variety Renaldo needs - the price, however, will be first crack at copying Caecilius' book. Renaldo agrees and asks for Vim vis, and asks Peter where he gets his vis.

Peter hems and haws until badgered by Magnus, and then reveals that his particular Gift allows his masculine essence to be produced periodically as vis. Magnus loudly proclaims that he is NOT touching that vis, no matter how dire the Certamen.

Renaldo calms Magnus down, and Peter spills his whole plight - his ability to father Gifted children, the importance he has for the future of the Order, in Murion's eyes. Renaldo commiserates. Peter then leaves for the forest, to make vis, asking that if he doesn't return in half an hour, could someone please come find him - it IS a fairly scary forest at night, afterall.

More talk happens among the apprentices. Their masters come and go, checking on things, wishing them well, and so on.

Peter Virilis has not yet returned, so the band of apprentices, sans the semi-annoying Yorick, decide to go find him. The follow the path he described to them, and hope they don't find him 'making vis'. Magnus' keen senses and hunting skills tell him that something is wrong as they make their way down a woodman's trail. He decides to leave the path and follow parallel.

Only a minute later, four mounted knights burst from the trees and undergrowth, surrounding the apprentices. A voice down the dark path cautions them against using witchery, so the apprentices decide to bide their time. Caliana tries to keep people calm, but Renaldo insists on trying to talk for the group, which his Gift makes difficult. They are led down the path.

A richly dressed noble wearing a shining breastplate and possessing a magnificent sword greets them at a small clearing. Nearby is a terrified and bound Peter Virilis. Dimly they see a small glass jar which by its milky contents must contain Peter Virilis' vis.

The man declares himself a Rhinegraf and states that his son has been kidnapped a year or so ago by foul magic, and he has finally tracked the kidnapper here, to this 'city of wizards' he believes lies just down the trail.

Not only are the apprentices surprised by the fact that this mundane lord has passed through Durenmar's magical protections, they are even more taken aback when the Rhinegraf describes his son, and the description is a fair one of the red haired, lanky child known to them as Yorick.

To be continued...

Chapter 4, Part 4: ...and Yorick's plight.

Caliana has managed to determine that the Rhinegraf, one Werner, seems to have received some months ago a letter describing the way to enter Durenmar, and stating that his son is within this gathering of wizards. The only strange thing is that the Rhinegraf believes from these instructions that the 'city of wizards' that his son has been whisked off to is only accessible for the next few days - the days the Tribunal is in full swing. Obviously, someone wants him to cause a scene. The letter burst into flames after the Rhinegraf read it.

The Rhinegraf's main interest is in the fact that his son is his only heir and will inherit his lands and castles and carry on the family name. He doesn't seem to be concerned about the boy in any other fashion.

Caliana's Gentle Gift again pays off, as she and the rather terrified Peter Virilis are brought along with the Rhinegraf to go find his son, while the rest of the apprentices, sans the hidden Magnus, are tied to a tree with two knights to watch over them.

Within about five minutes of the Rhinegraf, Caliana, Peter, and his other knights leaving, the two knights guarding the apprentices find themselves in a huge earthen pit, and Magnus is untying the apprentices themselves, and debate ensues over how best to deal with the situation.

Meanwhile, the Rhinegraf's party has been stopped by the guard tower of Durenmar, and is loudly proclaiming his intent. A rather looselipped grog is sent to fetch Murion, but what instead issues out from the Forum of Hermes and every camp and pavilion is every nosey mage and maga in the Tribunal as the stream out following Murion and her few hangers on. The scene is set for a scandal, and Caecilius, archmage and quaesitor, is present.

In the end, Murion say she's not at fault, but she won't give up the boy without some sort of compensation due to her investment in him on an educational level and the drain it was on her time. Some people mutter than she may be guilty of agitating the mundanes, but the Silver Ring apprentices know that the Rhinegraf must have had help to find this place.

The Rhinegraf makes vague threats - that he has friends in high places who know where he is and know what to do if he doesn't return with his son.

Yorick, meanwhile, wanders up chewing on some sort of roasted fowl, and seeing who has come for him, he runs off back to the covenant. The apprentices approach him and ask him what he wants to do. Yorick wants to be a great wizard, but Murion has been a bit lax in her educational efforts with the Tribunal looming.

(This plotline gets shelved a bit. It's still not resolved. It's meant to be a 'Kramer vs. Kramer' court room battle type thing, but as of yet, the players and perhaps I myself am not sure what role the PCs are meant to play)

Caecilius offers to mediate and hear both sides of the story.

The Rhinegraf seems angered but accepts this. Murion tries to act dismissive and tells Caecilius to call on her if he absolutely must - her conditions have been made perfectly clear.

The crowd of mages, apprentices, and assorted other folk slowly scatters, with much gossip going on.

End Chapter 4

Chapter 5: The Archmage's Challenge

The night goes on, and the Fengheld Kids decide to come probe the opponents. Gloria takes an interest in Magnus, which seems to be returned.

In truth, both want to find out the strengths and weaknesses of each side's certamen champion. After lying outrageously, Magnus hopes that Gloria has bought his claims of stopping the King of Winter with a 'mind blast' (Oh, D&D... your legacy lives on... sigh)

Not quite sure what he means, but gathering that Magnus seems to be saying his strength in is Mentem, Gloria nods politely.

The conversation is had over a few drinks at the festival stalls south east of the Silver Ring camp. Eventually, each knows the other is trying to use them, and the magic of the moment is gone. Excuses are made, leave is taken.

Septimus, the Tremere with the Prince Valiant haircut, is meanwhile trying to explain that everyone would win if the Silver Ring folk became a chapterhouse of Fengheld. Renaldo says they can't in good conscience back out of the challenge now.

As Magnus comes back, he comes across Cestia, and suddenly feels some spell dash itself upon the Parma Magica his master has extended to him.

When asked, Cestia claims innocence with a smirk, though she does note that neither of them has sworn the Oath of Hermes.

Magnus' face grows red with rage.

He turns to walk away and feels something again hit the Parma.

He turns, sees Cestia's green hair and smirk, and yells once again his favorite word as he stabs his mighty Jutlander finger at her.


The Arts chosen narrowly favor Magnus, and aren't the elements that are his strength. He beats Cestia, and as she falls - too stubborn to give up - he shoots a spontaneous spell her way as his mark of victory. He makes a critical success on his roll... and Cestia's sleeping face is now graced by a massive handlebar moustache - green like her dryad hair - that will be with her for a month.

The night ends. Hansa does say that she saw the Fengheld Kids carrying around an ornate box and guarding it like their life depended on it. Though this must be where their vis is kept, no one acts upon the info.

The next morning, a great bell announces that the contest has begun, and the various groups rush into the forest to gather appropriate materials for their theoretical magical devices.

Cestia leaps onto the back of her fellow apprentice Hassan in his horse form, and rushes into the forest.

Two of the Rostov apprentices go into the mine nearby.

Caliana, Reylar, and Lorenzo head off looking for certain trees. They instead find a small fairy village. A Mr Fox claims that he can find the tree they're looking for. In fact, he drags it out of his hut.

Mr Mole bursts from his hut and calls Mr. Fox a liar and a charlatan and offers his own tree. Mr Fox calls Mr Mole the same. The apprentices have a feeling that these too convenient trees may not be the real thing when they return to Durenmar, so instead they ask a certain Ms. Mouse if there any hawthorns and oaks growing nearby. Ms Mouse asks for something pretty for her trouble...

... specifically, Reylar's golden hair. Reylar refuses until Caliana gets nasty about it and threatens him. Hair is cut, with a spontaneous growth of hair given him by Caliana later.

(Not sure if Rego Corpus to force hair to grow is long lasting or what. Wasn't a big deal, though I'm curious)

Lorenzo looks over the trees that Ms. Mouse takes them to, and pronounces them good to work with. He cuts down a few lengths of wood, and the group drags them back to Durenmar. They also collect a few other needed materials on the way.

As they pass by the fairy hamlet, they see Ms Mouse admiring her new golden hair that is growing from her head. Reylar groans.

(Note to self: arcane connection sitting there in the same forest the future enemies of Silver Ring are most likely foraging in.)

To Be Continued...

Chapter 5, Part 2:

Meanwhile, Renaldo has cast Intuition of the Forest upon himself, and is trying to find a certain kind of tree as well as some rock crystals. After a lot of scrabbling around, they find a lightning struck pine. Also looking at the tree are Cestia and Hassan, who want it for the lightning-struck aspect.

A lot of bickering and heckling ensues between Magnus and Cestia. Renaldo tries to keep the peace, while Hassan the horse looks on quietly. Magnus notes that Cestia's moustache looks very nice, at which point she grabs it and rips it quite brutally from her face and challenges him to certamen again, certain she can best him after last night's loss.

Magnus agrees to certamen, if Cestia and Hassan go find their own tree if she loses.

She loses. The contest is much closer this time, and Magnus sweats for a moment, but in the end she admits defeat and rides off, fuming, new green stubble already forming on her lip. Magnus, in a surprising fit of mercy, decides to not cast a new spell on her as she breaks the trance.

A few moments later, as they are dragging the tree back to Durenmar, the bell sounds: time for the Magic Theory test of the archmage, Caecilius!

Renaldo drops his log, excuses himself, and races off, Magnus assuring him he can get the log back to the camp.

The magic theory test is a series of five questions. Wax tablets and styli are set out for the use of the apprentices, as well as astrological charts and assorted other references. A small crowd has gathered.

Representing Three Silver Rings is 'Renaldo'.
Representing Fengheld's Apprentices is Gloria of Tytalus.
Representing Rostov is a young man named Igor.

Caecilius explains the questions will start of difficult and get only more difficult. He feels free to give out points as he sees fit, and take away points for shoddy scholarship.

The questions are ridiculous and involved, dealing with vis, astrological influences, magical auras, combinations of Arts, and so on...

(I have all the participants roll Concentration to keep from getting a bad case of nerves. Renaldo makes his. I tell him he cannot botch during the test.)

The first question is asked: Something along the lines of "Given the combination of Creo and Auram in the enchantment of a magical item, and the use of more Creo than Auram vis in a three to one ratio, considering the magical aura of the enchantment site to be equal to that of Durenmar, what astrological influences should one wait for to begin enchantment in order to complete the item within a season? Consider also the added complication that the theoretical magical aura is within 200 feet of a cathedral."

Renaldo scores a critical success, and I have Caecilius give him an extra point for spotting some subtleties in the potential influence of Saint's Days on the Divine Aura of the nearby cathedral.

The other questions are similar. Renaldo uses Conviction, recalling Abelard's lessons to the real Renaldo. Renaldo misses one of the following questions, so by the end he has 4 points thanks to his extra credit.

Gloria has also missed one, and the Rostov boy has missed two - he's apparently not so good at magic theory and seems to be panicking.

Finally, the last question hits - (a difficulty 22 task):
"The unthinkable has happened, and the Church has declared war on the Order of Hermes. You are instructed to attack the Pope, in Rome, on Sunday. How much vis will be needed to guarantee victory, based on your assumptions of the Divine fortitude of the Holy City of Rome and the Pope himself? What is the best form of attack? How can such a seemingly impossible task be made more possible? What astrological influences might aid such an endeavor?"

Renaldo manages to pull off the question despite his reservations as a good Catholic. Caecilius is pleased, and Gloria, only a point behind, wilts noticeably.

Chapter 5, Part 3: The Certaman Tournament - or the Spunk of Victory

A note: Minae Magnus and Korva, his apprentice, stayed home at the Covenant tower. Most people assumed this was due to his typical terrible leadership. Exactly why he stayed will play out in time...

Caecilius' Certamen Tournament:

Each group of apprentices must choose a Champion.
Silver Ring of course chooses "Undefeatable Magnus".
Fengheld chooses Septimus of Tremere, mainly out of 'House pride'.
Rostov chooses Ivan... all the Rostov apprentices seem to have 'I' names.

As incentive to challenge, the challenger gets a pawn of Vis of their choice.
No sooner than this is said than both Septimus and Magnus yell out a challenge to each other (I make them roll initiative and Magnus wins). All Magnus has to go on is Yorick's speculation that Tremere tend to like Rego as a form.

The challenge/veto exchange occurs, and Septimus gets stuck with an Art he has a score of zero in - so much for the Certamen focus.Septimus is actually too specialized - not the ideal duellist. Magnus isn't in his home turf, but he's at least got scores in both arts. He DOES have a TON of vis on him - approximately 9 pawns that he can use. The combination is Creo Corpus.

The two duelists meet on the floor of the Forum of Hermes, facing each other, steely eyed. From the floor rises phantasmal giants, then hordes of them, armies of giant ghosts that attack like legions, trying to reach the opposing magus. Ranks of the opposing giants clash, two armies pressed against each other in close combat. Initially, Septimus' giants rush forward, bowling over Magnus' legion, new giants rising to fill in the gaps of those felled by Magnus' defense.

Then, Septimus' initial vis-powered rush tapers out, and Magnus switches from defense to offense. The Tremere quickly goes down, much to Fengheld's dismay.

For his victory, Magnus gets a crown of bronze laurels - within which 3 pawns of Terram vis are infused.

Magnus then goes up against Ivan of Rosnov. Ivan has a bandolier of roots about him, and pouches full of nuts and berries. No one is sure if this vegetable-based vis was brought with him, or harvested from Durenmar during the last week or so. Ivan is a rough and tumble sort, wearing a wolfskin jerkin and boots. He glares at Magnus with dark eyes.

Magnus is quickest to challenge yet again. This time, the exchange of vetos ends up making the contest a Creo Ignem battle. Magnus thinks he has this one in the bag.

As the two apprentices manifest jets of phantasmal flame at one another, meeting in a roiling ball of fire, Magnus realizes this is not as easy as he thought. The initial exchange is a lucky blow on Ivan's part, and Magnus is dizzied. The second exchange is another lucky blow, and a vis-powered defense on Ivan's part despite his sub-par Arts. Magnus cannot believe what's happening. With pure grit and the self-confidence of his Tytalus upbringing, he soldiers on.

In the seats of the Forum, the Silver Ring apprentices are aghast as Magnus is repeatedly overcome by jets of ghostly fire, withering under Ivan's magical assault. This was their one sure thing, they thought! If they could have locked this down, the rest of the contest would be a mere formality.

Ivan is now trying to capitalize on his lucky first few exchanges with some vis-powered magical blows. Magnus has regained his senses, and manages to whittle Ivan down a bit to a more equitable position. Having regained his footing and weathered the lucky strikes and vis-powered follow-ups, a determined yet weak Magnus readies his last desperate attack... and he realizes he has the vial containing Peter Virilis' Creo vim in the form of his 'manly essence'.

The promise of victory outweighs Magnus' distaste, and so Peter's vis is consumed in a burst of phantasmal fire.

Ivan goes down... and Magnus staggers, a second bronze laurel placed upon his head.

(Ivan was meant to be a quick fight, but lucky rolls made things suddenly a lot more worrisome. At the end, Magnus' player felt like he truly earned this one)

Chapter 5, Part 4: The Enchantment Presentation, and Victory

Magnus is duly tired from his Certamen matches. The rest of the apprentices congratulate him, as does his Master, Victor who is pleased as punch that he beat a Tremere apprentice.

The Silver Ring group rushes off to prepare for their presentation of their "Most Useful Enchanted Item for the New Covenant" contest. By now, however, barring unforeseen circumstances, they've locked in the victory.

Note that the items did not actually have to be built - they merely needed the component parts collected and then give a short speech on why their item is best.

Fengheld's brood present a golem meant for defense of the Covenant in case a weak Parma Magica is in place, as well as capable of performing manual labor in a Covenant lacking sufficient covenfolk. They have a carved model of the golem, and all the wood and stones needed for its construction. Caecilius seems modestly impressed. Apparently, the golem will breathe fire.

The Rosnov group presents a stone altar for sacrificing... things... which in turn would provide a Covenant much needed vis... and the approval of the Old Gods. The crowd of mages goes silent at this. The Rosnov group shuts up and lets Silver Ring turn over.

Silver Ring presents a miniature table, and the supplies needed to make a larger table. The types of wood and rock crystals promote clarify and truth. The idea is that many tables would be made from the same tree or supply of wood cut from one tree. These tables, carved with faces and the symbols of other covenants, would be enchanted to allow communication between those seated at it, the words apparently coming from the mouths of the carved face in the table's centerpiece. A big speech, penned by Renaldo but spoken by the lovely and eloquent Caliana is delivered, playing to Caecilius' motivations for holding his challenge.

"Communication and fellowship are the bonds that hold the Order of Hermes together. A new covenant needs to lends its voice to the Order, and also hear the voices of its fellow covenants. In this way can ideas be shared, can disputes be resolved, grievances aired, suggestions made, and the wisdom of the Order as a whole be pooled together."

There is a LOT more, much of it slightly pandering to Caecilius' views. Lorenzo's small model that he has carve looks excellent. The materials chosen are well suited to the task. Renaldo's writing is well-done, and Caliana's delivery and poise is exquisite.

There is no doubt who the victor is: der Konvent der Drei Silberne Ringe.

Caecilius announces this with much pomp and circumstance, and the apprentices are given much applause, as well as bronze laurel crowns containing yet more vis. That night and all of next day, they are given the very best from the Durenmar kitchens, including imported oranges from the east - something that Renaldo is quick to note and pocket the seeds of.

The next day, however, is one that gets quite interesting for many of the apprentices: the Masters have decided that the apprentices are indeed ready for their Gauntlets...

End Chapter 5.

Chapter 6, Part 1:

(As readers may note, I've incorporated a lot of material and ideas from answers to my threads posted her in the Ars forum. Thanks so much for all that help, and I promise to remember to use Konvent more consistently.)

(The Gauntlets were the result of a lot of ideas posted here. Most went really well.)

A note: the day before, Lorenzo's masterpiece tap was judged sufficiently interesting and useful to entitle him to the rank of journeyman mage by three Verditius mages at the Tribunal. He is the group's first mage by a day.

The laurels of victory resting on their brows, the apprentices are congratulated by members of various covenants and eat like kings at their own special table set up in the Silver Ring camp site. All of the Masters stop by to wish them the best and congratulate them on their victory. The next day is one of glory for the apprentices. Recovered from his tiring certamen, Magnus joins in the festivities at the Silver Ring celebration. Yorick also slip in to share in the food, not speaking about the situation with his father and Murion.

As the sun sinks low, Caliana is summoned by a grog and taken to the Tower of Bonisagus. She is told to enter a room in the library, and then take a seat.

The sun's fading light falls through the narrow window of the room, catching specks of dust drifting about. In the center of the room is a chest, and around the chest is a circular rope of braided silver with occasional hermetic symbols inscribed on loops clasped to the silver rope.

The chest is large, iron bound, and sturdy.

In the shadows of the room sits Helena of Malta, Maga of House Jerbiton and Caliana's Mistress.

"Caliana, now is the time of your Gauntlet. The hourglass to my left, when turned over, will have a few diameters of sand left within it. After I finish speaking, you have until the sand runs out to describe to me the contents of that chest. You will ask me no questions. I will tell you only one thing - the silver ring around the chest is a ward."

And so the hourglass is turned over, and the sands of Caliana's Gauntlet begin to flow.

First she examines the ward - it's against Intellego magic. She doubts she can overcome it with her meager Intellego score, and wishes she were able to get ahold of Caecilius' summa and study it all in one night.

Her second thought is to use Perdo to destroy the box. She tries a spontaneous spell, and knows that it should have some effect - the chest itself must be proof against magic. She examines it from outside the silver ring as best she can - she sees a few hermetic symbols worked into the metal of the chest.

A diameter has passed. The sand seems to be running out quicker than she expected. She casts another few spells. Nothing. She begins to panic slightly. She turns to ask her Mistress a question, but the icy calm demeanor of her Mistress stops her voice before a word is uttered. With a bit of worry she steps over the ring. The sand is almost run out. Only a smidgen remains as she tries Intellego from within the ring, but her Intellego is meager and she gets not result. Desperate, and sweat dotting her lovely brow, she dashes forward and opens the chest.

"Ah... ah... a bottle of wine, two glasses, a necklace and a purple dress."

Helena claps her approval. Caliana has learned the lesson: not every problem needs to be solved by magic.

That night, Renaldo is summoned to the Durenmar library in the Tower of Bonisagus. He finds his Master, Crito, in the same reading room. A lectern and a wax tablet as well a sheaves of paper and ink sit nearby. Crito hands him a folio and a fresh quill.

"This is the standard Bonisagus magical theory test. This night will decide if you are worthy to stand amongst the esteemed ranks of House Bonisagus. Begin!"

Hours go by... it is close to morning when Renaldo finishes. Redbeak is with him, dozing. Finally he gives his work to his adoptive Master, and then leaves to wander outside while Crito checks his work.

(I had the player make two rolls. Once was a 24, another a 20. He used Confidence on both.)

When Crito summons him, he has bad news.

"Though your work was commendable and would be enough for lesser Houses, Renaldo, I am afraid to say you did not pass this test. You are not fit to be a Magus Bonisagus. We'll work again this year and try again, eh?"

Renaldo is taken aback.

"Master... I... I did my best work on that test. NO one could do better!"

Crito seems unmoved.
"Renaldo, that may be enough for lesser Houses, but House Bonisagus is esteemed above all others. Worry not, I am sure eventually you will take your place among us."

Renaldo seems to be going into academic shock.

"But... I'm worthy to be a mage! I know I am!"

The argument goes on for a moment or two longer, Renaldo getting increasingly perplexed, baffled that he must have missed something.

"I am a mage! I am!" he yells.

Crito mildly responds "If you are worthy to be a mage, burn this test book! Refute what I have said!"

Renaldo, of course, cannot burn the book while Crito watches. His flawed Gift and long hours secretly practicing magic on the sly have hobbled him.

But Redbeak has an idea: "Go! I have this!" says the crow as it flaps into Crito's face, cawing wildly.

Renaldo takes the chance and casts, calling on his faint knowledge of Creo Ignem!

And something goes horribly wrong. Is it the intense aura of Durenmar? Renaldo's panic? Regardless, his magic goes beyond his control. His sleeves catch fire, as does Redbeak and Master Crito's robe. The test book and lectern are reduced to ash. Fire begins to creep across the floor from the lectern's embers towards the precious shelves full of books and scrolls.

Renaldo manages to stop the fire with magic, but Master Crito is not amused and demands that Renaldo get rid of the animal that obviously caused the conflagration by distracting Renaldo.

Renaldo WANTS to say that he DID burn the test - he is a mage! But tears streams from his eyes and he runs out of the Tower of Bonisagus.

Renaldo runs to the mines nearby and sits there with Redbeak, who is somewhat in fear of his small crow life. Redbeak heckles him slightly and then flies off. Renaldo passes what's left of the night bawling. Finally as the sun does begin to rise over the trees, he walks back to the camp.

He meets Master Victor on the way, carrying a large, rolled blanket, suspiciously human sized. He gives Renaldo a pouch of silver coins, and tells him to go to the path outside the covenant, where a small group of rough types will be waiting. "Tell them half now, the rest when the boy is dead. Now run along, Renaldo."

And so Renaldo goes to pay a group of bandits to kill Victor's apprentice.

To Be Continued...

Chapter 6, Part 2: The Gauntlet of Magnus and Reylar - OR - How A Merinita Can Anger Every Faery He Meets.

To recap: Caliana is now a mage, as is Lorenzo. Renaldo returns from paying some bandits half of the money he was given (actually shorting the bandits, ah well)... which takes us to Magnus.

The morning sun tickles Magnus' eyes. He opens them... and finds himself laying on his back, in a clearing, naked.

Memories drift into his head as he lays there... memories of his Master, Victor going on and on about the Roman Empire, the glory of the Legions, and other ancient people as well... such as the Spartans.

Many a time did Magnus go on about the rites of manhood for a Spartan - to be left far from home, lost, naked... with only wits and their own physical prowess to get them home.

And so, Magnus surmises, this is his Gauntlet: To get back to the Covenant of Durenmar, despite whatever obstacles lay in his path, and without the aid of a map.

Magnus is also hungry. He drank a great deal the night before, but didn't eat as much as the rest. As his stomach grumbles, he decides to try his hunting skills... which failed to aid him at all in figuring out where he now is, but might get him a bit of breakfast.

He spies a rabbit, but fails to catch it, and gives chase. It disappears into some heavy undergrowth, and Magnus bursts through as well.

He finds a small picaresque hamlet scaled down in size, and the rabbit he was chasing is now walking on two legs, inexplicably wearing the clothes of a well-to-do burger. The rabbit trots off down the street, calling for the militia.

A weasel, badger, and a rat come dashing out of a small building, carrying branches of holly, and point them at Magnus threateningly.

Magnus hails the rabbit and says there's been a terrible mistake. The rabbit introduces himself as Squire Rabbit, servant of Lord Fox of Fox Castle. Magnus, in a rare display of eloquence, tells Squire Rabbit he is lost, needs help finding his way back to a place called Durenmar, and would be grateful for their assistance.

Squire Rabbit confesses that he knows little of the area beyond the hamlet, as he and his fellows are but simple people. Perhaps Lord Fox might know? Or Woodsman Lynx, perhaps.

Magnus asks to talk to Woodsman Lynx, and the Squire obliges, sending Weasel to fetch him.

Magnus' stomach grumbles, and a kindly Mrs. Vole offers him a bowl of steaming mixed greens and some brightly colored flakes that look like flower petals.

Magnus asks what it is as he devours it, and Mrs. Vole confides that it is her special recipe: dandelion and butterfly mash. Magnus is only concerned with the fact his stomach is full, and thanks her.

A while later, Woodman Lynx arrives, wearing a huntsman's cap as well as a leather jerkin and carrying a small bow. He says he will be willing to take Magnus to the place he is looking for, but first he wants Magnus to get him some honey from the bees in the nearby gorge. Magnus agrees.

As he walks, Magnus' stomach begins to feel a bit gassy... and suddenly he lets out a massive passing of wind, accompanied by a flight of colorful butterflies pouring from his behind. Cursing Faeries in general under his breath, Magnus continues, letting loose with a torrent of butterflies every once in a while.

He sets off down the gorge, and after a few miles finds a massive beehive hanging from a tree growing from the gorge's side. Huge bees the size of his forearm are flying in and out of the hive. Magnus decides the best tact to take is to light a fire beneath them.

And now a change of scene! Let us join Reylar, about to set off on his own Gauntlet!

Chapter 6, Part 3: Reylar, the Worst Merinita

Early in the morning, after a fine breakfast, Reylar is summoned by his Mistress, Astarte.

"Today is a special, momentous day, my sweet Reylar. It is your Gauntlet! I know you are ready, and this will not be too terribly difficult!"

She leads him to the edge of the Black Forest, near the boundary of Durenmar's Aegis of the Hearth.

"It is quite simple, my Reylar. You must follow this path that has been conjured for you. Anyone you meet upon it you must befriend. Before you return you must find a token from a king, and bring it to me. Go!"

And so Reylar enters what is perhaps the worst Gauntlet in living memory.

He strides off with verve into the Black Forest. Soon he spies a massive bird of prey, as big as a man, feeding its chicks in a nest.

"Greetings, friend bird! I am Reylar! I'd like to be your friend! What can I do for you?"

The bird, a massive magical eagle, inclines its head.

"Well, small thing, I can do with some help feeding my children. Come here."

Reylar gulps.

"Oh, nono, great bird. I am just a terrible human, I taste horrible!"

And Reylar uses a formulaic spell to indeed make himself taste horrible as the great bird lands before him and nips his pinky to taste him.

"Phefgh... Indeed, pale thing, you taste terrible. Well, go find me something tasty for my chicks. I must watch them."

And so Reylar slips off into the forest. A while later, he sees a rabbit bound past. He picks up a twig and sends it hurtling into the rabbit's side. The rabbit collapses, yelling curses.

"AH! You base brigand! I am undone! My life's blood spills upon the ground! Take... cough... take me to Midwife Vole!"

Reylar does indeed pick up the rabbit, and heads back to the eagle's clearing.

"Sssh! I'm terribly sorry. It'll all be over very soon. SSSSH!"

(The other players are somewhat aghast that Reylar is going to give up a talking, possibly fey, rabbit to the eagle -especially since they seem to have remembered the terms of his Gauntlet better than he has.)

Eagle at first seems pleased, but then realizes he knows the rabbit.

"Squire Rabbit! I can't possibly eat him, nor can my chicks! He is the head of the village yonder! Take him to have his wound seen to, murderous lout!" says the semihypocritical eagle.

Reylar does indeed take the rabbit to the village Magnus was in a short while ago. The militia appears and threaten him as rabbit is taken to Midwife Vole's timber house. Reylar realizes perhaps he has goofed, and begs Squire Rabbit's apology. Squire Rabbit tells him to leave and never return, and he will accept his apology.

Reylar begins to leave town, but sees a butcher's shop. He buys some meat and rushes back to the eagle. The eagle is pleased. Reylar returns to the village, and asks the butcher if he'll be his friend. The butcher, a rottweiler, says he'd like some stones for his garden, and there are some pretty ones in the gorge just down the way, washed smooth by the floods that pass through it periodically. Reylar happily heads off for the gorge.

And now, an aside. Reylar is tall, golden haired, and very handsome in a bad way. Magnus has blond hair, is tall, and has rugged good looks. The bandits have only been given a description of Magnus... and Magnus and Reylar look an awful lot alike. The bandits are traveling the forest, looking for Magnus... and they see Reylar and think they've found him. As Reylar looks for rocks in the bottom of the gorge, the bandits surge out of the forest and charge towards him. Reylar is startled for a second, and then casts Wizard's Sidestep, followed by Aura of Rightful Authority as they swing wildly at his illusionary double.

Reylar then tries his best to look imperious, and tells them that the person they want is... over there (add vague gesture).

The bandits, befuddled by the illusion and Reylar's enhanced noble fae features, retreat to the woods. They gather their courage and follow Reylar from a distance as he turns back to the gorge and sees a plume of smoke. He walks off that way, followed by bandits he is oblivious to, and find a massive beehive over a pile of burning brush, with Magnus hiding behind a rock, stark naked and farting butterflies.

Bees begin to emerge from the hive, one wearing a small golden crown. The bandits charge! Magnus hears them and begins creating pits in front of them - all but one of the bandits ride right into the pits, and the one who escapes rushes off in a panic. Reylar, meanwhile, uses magic to put out part of the fire. Magnus, in irritation, asks him what in God's name does he think he's doing. The bee king asks who is to blame for this annoyance - meaning the fire and the screaming horses. Reylar quickly points as Magnus. Magnus decides he just needs to leave and begins climbing up the wall of the gorge. Reylar decides to try Rego Mentem to make him apologize to the bee king. It does not penetrate Master Victor's Parma, but Magnus feels it hit the shield and give Reylar a frosty gaze. Bees swarm from the hive, but Magnus, in a display of magical prowess, casts a torrent of winds upon the bees, without using his hands. The bees tumble away, except for the bee king. Magnus climbs to the top of the gorge and runs off. The bandit leader, climbling from his pit, spies him leaving, and his vengeful nature gets the better of him - he creeps off after Magnus while Reylar talks with the bee king, while his fellows are either unconscious or dead from unfortunate falls.

The been king demands that the harmony of his small home be restored, and Reylar busies himself making a rock mosaic beneath the hive, and eventually.... killing the wounded horses to stop their noise. He does this by sending large bits of tree limb into them over and over...

(The fact that imaginem could take care of the noise and the appearance of the pits seemed to escape Reylar)

In the end, with the promise of sweet foods, Reylar manages to get a single drop of honey from the still angry bee king. He trots off home.

Reylar has befriended exactly one eagle, severely wounded one rabbit, not followed through on a deal with a rottweiler, angered a fellow apprentice, dismissed a gang of bandits and later killed their horses, and only half-way stopped annoying the king of the bees.

Magnus, meanwhile, had decided that the bandits were obviously after him - Reylar told him as much from words the bandits said to him - and that means they must have come from Durenmar. He decides to retrace their passage. His hunting skills come in handy and he does indeed follow the trail back to the road that goes into Durenmar. His victory seems close at hand!

That is, until an axe slams into his back. Blood begins to course out of the wound Magnus has suffered, and he spins to see the bandit leader looming over him. Magnus lets fly with a pilum of fire, but it seems ill-guided and spatters off the bandit's leather armor. He swings at Magnus again, and again cuts him. Magnus is in dire straights, blood slicking his legs as he scrambles to get away from the bandit and give himself room to think. Another pilum flies, and the bandit is again not impressed - he laughs, thinking this must be the best these pathetic wizards can do. He goes in for the kill, but Magnus manages to finally launch a pilum at the bandit's head. The smell of charred flesh fills the air and the bandit leader screams, stumbling off into the forest clutching the wreck of his face. Magnus struggles to stand, binds his wound with magic, and stumbles down the trail to Durenmar. He passes out somewhere near the guard post, having done the necessary things to enter the Covenant's mystical protections.

Victor is overjoyed to hear his apprentice has survived, and rushes off to trade for some Corpus vis so he can restore Magnus to health. Magnus is taken into Victor's tent, and a chiurgeon is summoned.

Reylar has been back for some time. Astarte listens as he describes how Magnus "ruined his Gauntlet". Astarte is concerned that Magnus might not be his friend, and that was the stipulation of the Gauntlet. Reylar goes to Magnus and apologizes, hopes he feels better, and is there anything Reylar can do to... you know... be Magnus' friend.

Magnus tells Reylar to go get him two honeycombs from the bee king. Reylar does, after venturing to the bee king with pots of jam from the Durenmar kitchens, with the added promise of more each day until Reylar leaves.

Astarte decides that the Gauntlet seems to be sort of concluded, and Reylar is probably a mage candidate now, and promptly gets distracted by other events while Reylar confesses that he thinks of Astarte as his mother, and would do anything for her. Astarte says that's nice.

And this brings us up to date. Reylar's Gauntlet went terribly, mainly due to the player not keeping his mind on the restrictions of the Gauntlet. Next game, others in House Merinita are going to get wind of his activities and what he did on his Gauntlet, and most likely refuse to accept him as a magus of House Merinita.

Chapter 7, Part 1: The Faery Secret, Final Twilight, and The Return Home

(An aside. I show up early for the game, and Robert, player of Reylar, is there. "I can't handle playing Reylar anymore." he says "He's too... nice."

Robert is a bit of a problem player. He makes, on paper, interesting characters, but deep down when the going gets tough, the character breaks and Robert wants to... act without restraint. Frustration breeds completely out of character actions - basically, when the going gets tough, Robert emerges, not the character, and Robert wants to flex his escapist muscles.

I explain there will be some profoundly emotional moments in his character's future - I'm thinking of "The Fall" alluded to in the saga's title, the event that will signal the change from Prelude to the Saga proper.

I explain I'll gladly have Reylar die a memorable death during these upheavals, and have him bring in a new mage who shows up at the soon-to-be founded covenant, but for now to wait and see. I also discuss that Robert's got noble fey blood in his veins... and it may be that it's not all good happy sunshine fey he's related to. He may have a darker legacy that he could explore.

He says he's going to wait and see. And thus do I devote another evening to Reylar, which I probably should not have, but in the end, I think his character's direction is much more palatable to the player.)

Renaldo has a plan. He goes to Caliana and explains he needs her to remove part of his personality for a while. Caliana asks specifics: Renaldo wants her to remove his meekness. After working things out in her head, Caliana is relatively sure she can do this, though the problem will be penetrating Master Crito's Parma Magica. Renaldo says she can take some of his blood. Caliana says she can better her chances with, say, an effigy of Renaldo, or his Baptismal name. Renaldo vetoes that quite stridently, and tells her the blood will need to be enough.

Caliana can, if she is lucky, remove Renaldo's meekness as long as she concentrates. A grog is instructed to make sure Caliana is not disturbed, she sings he spell upon Renaldo, and suddenly emboldened and a bit angry, Renaldo strides off to the Forum of Hermes, around which a number of Bonisagus mages are discussing recent research. Among them in Crito.

"Ah, Apprentice Renaldo! Is there some problem back at our tent? Have you not cleaned my shoes?" Crito mocks with a bit of gentle disappointment.

"We have to talk. NOW." says Renaldo, brazenly staring down his master as he points to a colonade.

Crito excuses himself, and walks to where Renaldo impatiently stands in the shadow of the Forum.

"Look, Master Crito... I passed that test. You KNOW I passed it. I am fully worthy of being a mage of House Bonisagus! Fully worthy! If you deny my... my genius, you are a liar!"

Renaldo has stepped very close to Crito, but even as Crito leans back out of reach of Renaldo's empassioned spittle-flecked declaration, a smile spreads across his pale, pinched face and he extends a hand.

"Congratulations, Magus Candidate Renaldo du Foret. You have passed your Gauntlet. You have claimed your place among the Magi of House Bonisagus."

Renaldo apparently had an entire day's worth of ranting saved up to throw at Master Crito, and so is a bit shocked to find the wind taken out of his sails. He thanks his Master, and realizes he has some business to attend to.

He finds Magnus.
"Where are those 15 silver pennies I gave you?"

Magnus raises a lazy eyebrow as he sits eating his breakfast.

"In my safe keeping, Apprentice Renaldo. I'm saving them for... wizardly things... like maybe the Covenant I'm going to help found soon. Of course, you wouldn't know anything about that, since you're not a wizard."

Renaldo's ire, normally a shy creature, begins to buck and kick.
"I AM a wizard. I have passed my Gauntlet."

Magnus chuckles, remembering Renaldo's tear-stained face.

"Suuuure you did. Your grief must have overcome your senses. Don't you have some of Crito's shoes to clean?"

Renaldo smacks Magnus across the mouth, and as Magnus sits there in shock that the Frenchman has dared to smack his fine Jutlander features, Renaldo grabs the small purse of silver coins that he was originally given to pay for Magnus' death at the hands of bandits. Renaldo takes 8 of the 15 silver pennies, and throws the remaining 7 to Magnus.

Renaldo then begins to walk away, but Magnus, recovering from the fact that the formerly soft-hearted Frenchman has just slapped him, rises from his seat, and rushes after Renaldo, tackling him.

For a few moments, Renaldo puts his 'knavish' fighting to use against Magnus' impressive Jutlander wrestling, but the commotion disturbs Caliana's concentration, and Renaldo's meekness returns. As Caliana pockets Renaldo's blood for later use, Magnus' hold on Renaldo slips, and a terrified Renaldo scampers away.

Mages from many camps are baffled.

A short time later:

Reylar's Mistress, Astarte, is visited by the higher ups in House Merinita, happy to hear her apprentice has done well and passed his Gauntlet. Handri and a few others come to visit her in her tent, and ask her what tasks Reylar had to perform.

Caliana sees them in, with Handri asking her in a worried whisper "Is she... doing well today?"

The visitors enter the tent, and after a while, voices are raised, and argument breaks out.

Reylar is off, giving sweets to the Bee King, but when he returns, an angry Handri is pacing about the campsite.

Handri grills Reylar about his Gauntlet. Reylar answers vaguely at first, until Handri keeps attacking his statements, pushing for definition, asking simple yes and no questions, and finally, the full extent of Reylar's carelessness is exposed. Handri sends off Merinita to inquire with these simple Fey and find out the truth of the matter as best they can. He leaves Reylar, explaining that he will see him tonight and will make a judgement on Reylar's future then.

Later that night, Reylar is summoned. He has been consoling his Mistress - whom he has taken to calling 'mother' much to the other apprentice's bafflement. Astarte is quite shaken by Handri's upset.

Leaving Astarte secretly so as not to upset her, Reylar approaches the Irencillia campsite beneath the great oak tree. Within the branches, tiny motes of dancing light can occasionally be seen. A semicircle of mages ad gathered carrying torches or flame-crowned staves. Their hoods are up, faces shrouded in darkness. Handri sits on a great carved chair, and looks grim.

Handri, in an officious tone, explains that Reylar failed in following the instructions given to him. He caused pain and anger as he passed through the mock-hamlet of the fey he met. He did not befriend, in truth, all of those he met.

Handri continues: Though it is Astarte's right to declare Reylar a mage, Handri has it within his power to keep Reylar from being part of House Merinita. Therefore, Handri offers a choice - Reylar may stay a mage, but will not be allowed to enter House Merinita - perhaps House Ex Miscellanea will take him.... OR... Reylar may refuse to be made a mage based on his 'Gauntlet', and take another Gauntlet of his Mistress' choosing, that Reylar will then complete with more competance.

Reylar decides to take the second road. By this time, the apprentices - led by nosy Caliana with Astarte in tow, have walked up to the fringes of his meeting. As Handri and his fellow Merinita disperse, the apprentices and Astarte approach Reylar. Astarte, having heard all of this, is a bit of a wreck and blames herself, has no idea what other Gauntlet to offer, and seems basically stuck in a loop of self-castigation - unable to focus on a new Gauntlet idea.

The apprentices decide to help her, under Renaldo's prompting. The rack their brains for previous Merinita Gauntlets: solving fey labyrinths, navigations of regios, riddle contests, fey hide and seek, muto contests with fey shapechangers, and on and on. Magnus figures if his first Gauntlet had him hurt Squire Rabbit, then maybe change the Gauntlet to 'Kill Squire Rabbit' as the job is halfway done already, and Squire Rabbit probably can't move too fast. The apprentices decide to let Magnus go back to the camp.

One idea that sticks in Reylar's mind is a Gauntlet to 'Pierce the Veil of Faerie and Discover a Fey Secret'. Reylar's not even sure what that means, but he remembers that strange stone slab inscribed with words he could not make out. He scratches one into a wax tablet and shows Renaldo, the Latin master among the mages.

Renaldo sees it is an older form of Latin, perhaps from the Eastern Empire of Rome. Something old, unusual, and a bit out of date, but the word that Reylar's magical memory has scratched down in wax is a form of 'Bonisagus'.

Reylar decides that returning to that stone table will be his Gauntlet. He announces he will pierce the Faerie Veil, and bring back a secret. Renaldo really wants to know where he got this strange form of Bonisagus from, but Reylar is already looking to find Yohannes Acer and borrow his fey stag.

Yohannes explains that no Merinita is allowed to help him. Reylar nods, and decides to go it alone. He walks off into the night, trusting his faerie eyes to show him the way.

To Be Continued...

Chapter 7, Part 2: A Quest Goes Awry

Reylar walks. The forest wraps around him, and he casts Intuition of the Forest on himself to help him find his way. After a while, he sees a faeries regio... a place of strangeness where it seems every leaf, pine needle, every rock holds a the promise of a secret. There is strangeness and magic in the air, and Reylar knows he is on the right track. Time seems to stop, and a perpetual twilight seems to be fall upon the forest as Reylar walks through its fae avenues. Though he succeeds in entering one potent regio, he falters when looking for a higher layer.

He eventually finds himself at a massive cliff-face. He could climb it, but decides not to. Instead he calls upon his knowledge of magic, and commands his body to rise, much like the formulaic spell Caliana knows.

But the magic flies out of his control, slippery like an eel, and Reylar is flung up the cliff, and over it, hitting a wall of rock and plunging into a cold mountain stream below it. Battered and slightly bloody, Reylar struggles to keep afloat. He does not know how to swim! He reaches for roots, a stony fingerhold, a low-hanging pine branch, but his lack of strength and his bruised body betray him. He is dragged off by the narrow, yet deep rush of water, and finds himself sent into a dark cleft in a rock face. He passes out as his face goes under the cold water again.

He awakens, his face resting on wet gravel. His eyes open, and he finds himself in a subterranean grotto. The sound of rushing water can be heard nearby. Only reflected luminesence and glowing faerie mushrooms light the place, but its enough to reveal to Reylar a naked young woman crouched down, looming over him. Arms wrapped around her knees, she stares at Reylar, until she finally snakes a hand down to probe his scalp.

A shock of pain grips Reylar as the naked maid withdraws her hand from Reylar's headwound, her fingers dark with Reylar's blue faerie blood. It is then that Reylar notes her webbed fingers and toes.

"Ah, you are one of us then. Welcome." she says, smiling.

Reylar asks where he is, and many other questions, though not who his host is. After these pleasantries are resolved, the fae maid of the underground river asks Reylar why he is here, and thus Reylar notes that he is seeking out a faerie secret.

"OH! I know a secret! I know the secret of the mountain, and those what live within it, and what they do, and who they do it for and how they got there besides!"

Reylar's bloodied face perks up, and he begs the faerie of the grotto to show him this secret. She demures, however, asking what she might gain from revealing such a thing. Reylar asks her what she might want.

"Ooooh! The corpses of the drowned! Then I would have something to eat, and would not be so hungry and cold!"

Reylar considers this...

To Be Continued...