Spring 1221: Andor's First Crusade

The sun beats hot over the roadside khan just north of Jerusalem as an odd variety of people come to visit. Multicolored tents are ereceted all around the khan and people are already gathered in and among them, talking, trading, arguing. And a shockingly large number of small animals hang about nearby, far more than would be usual, a sure sign that magi are around.

Andor has had a long sea journey from Coeris to Jaffa, then overland to Jerusalem, and finally eleven miles north to Domus Pacis, "The Abode of Peace," where the Levant Tribunal meeting will be held. Thankfully he was not the only magus traveling to the Levant Tribunal, so he was able to take passage with a small group of Tremere magi with business at the there.

As they arrive at the covenant, they see that the doors of the khan are closed and guarded. But before they can comment, a woman approaches, having noticed their arrival. She's an attractive woman, of medium height and build, with short blonde hair and pale skin. She's dressed in simple white robes with a blue hooded cloak, and also wears a plain gold circlet on her head. A number of tools and what look like spell foci hang from her belt.

"Good day," she says in Latin with a distinct English accent. "Welcome to Domus Pacis. I'm Esther of House Verditius. Are you expected? We have plenty of guest space, so you needn't worry about that. But I like to keep track of who's arrived."

Andor's tone is warm as he replies "Greetings comrade! I am Andor ex Tremere of the New Atlantis Covenant", he pauses to let his fellows introduce themselves before continuing. "And no I am afraid that we are not expected; however if you would be so kind as to direct us to the contingent from House Tremere, we'd greatly appreciate it!"

"New Atlantis?" she replies with a curious look on her face. "What Tribunal is that in?"

"As for Tremere," she says, "They always bring their own tent, say it's safer that way. It's the tall one with the red and blue scrollwork and the three peaks over there."

Her question is met with a boisterous laugh "A very good question actually! In short, none. We've only recently raised the island and it's too far away for any Tribunal to realistically lay claim to; so I'm afraid it's a matter that can only really be decided by a Grand Tribunal." Chuckling again, he continues "But look at me rambling, I'm sure that you have much better things to do than listen to me just babble on." Flashing a charming smile, Andor finishes "Thank you very much for your hospitality Esther, if there's anything else you'd like to know about our Covenant, please feel free to seek me out, I'll be here all Tribunal." With an slight incline of his head towards Esther by way of thanks, Andor begins leading the Tremere Magi to their tent.

Pausing mid stride, he stops and turns back to Esther "Though come to think of it, there are more than a couple sites that someone like yourself just might find fascinating...." before continuing on to his destination.

((A little potential recruiting never hurts!))

"Raised an island," Esther says. "And you're calling it New Atlantis. Bold." She smiles. "I wish you luck. You won't be the first covenant that's tried to straddle tribunals and make a unique place for yourself. May you have better luck than all the others." When he brings forth the carrot of something interesting to explore, she just laughs. "I'm afraid I have too many irons in the fire here to be interested in some moldy old ruins. But I appreciate the information."

Andor then moves over to the tent that Esther indicated. It's a fine tent in a fine location, and inside are a number of very efficient grogs, some servants and some soldiers. The tent is divided into a number of smaller chambers by hanging walls, but the entry chamber is by far the largest. It has a large table with several chairs around it. In one of those chairs is an elderly magus who appears to be in his sixties or seventies, though with longevity rituals, he's likely much older than that.

"Good afternoon," he says to the newcomers, interrupting a grog who was about to do the same. "I can see by your dress that you're Tremere. Come here for a bed, no doubt." He smiles. "It'll be camp cots and barracks living if we get too many more. But we'll survive."

"I'm Catullus, by the way. Forgive me if I don't rise." Andor has heard of Catullus. He's a very respected member of the house, having served many years in high positions prior to his 'retirement' after a long period of Twilight. "Come, have a seat and join me in a glass of wine."

Her slight rebuke draws a chuckle as Andor returns to walking, bowing his head slightly to Esther in acquiescence. Arriving at the tent and to Catallus' greeting, he smiles. "I'd be honored." Taking the offered seat, Andor is quickly given a glass of wine by one of the servants. Accepting it with a murmured thanks, he turns his attention back to the elder Tremere, trying to remember anything that he can about the mage on the other side of the table. "Your hospitality is most appreciated friend, it has been a long road."

"Longer for some of us," Catullus replies. "Longer for some of us." He laughs and drinks some of his wine. As he does so, Andor considers that he's sitting across from the man who, until he disappeared into Twilight for seven years, was the Exarch of Thebes and the Levant. It was during his absence that he was replaced, And upon his return three years ago, he didn't press for his position back. No one could question that he'd served his House well. He was deserving of a relatively quiet retirement, though how quiet things could be when a Crusade was going on around you was debatable.

"Tell me," he asks, "What tribunal are you from? I'd know you if you were from Thebes or Levant. You must be visiting. Which makes me curious. What brings you all the way to the Levant? We don't get many visitors that aren't interested in the Crusades. And you don't strike me as a Crusader."

Laughing at the joke, Andor sips at his wine, mulling his thoughts over. At Catallus' question, he laughs. "Well isn't that just the question of the hour? In short, none. As for the long version, you'd scarcely believe me if I told you..." And with that, Andor proceeds to regale the elder magus with the tale of New Atlantis and his true reason for coming to the Levant. It's a long tale (requiring much more of the excellent wine that is being poured!), taking no small amount of time. Thankfully the wine flows easily and Andor answers any questions that might arise with surprising candor.

"The real Atlantis?" Catullus replies with wonder in his voice. "No kidding. Oh, to be a hundred again and have the chance to sink my teeth into something like that." He listens carefully to the story, sampling the wine himself as he does. Throughout he asks incisive questions and looks for the occasional clarification, showing that Twilight has not dulled his intellect, even if it has sapped some of his energy.

"You'll have trouble with Guernicus and Bonisagus," he says, right away. "They're the most conservative houses out there. Bonisagus will hate that it takes the focus away from them, even though it was a Bonisagus that raised the island. And Guernicus will want to fit the covenant into a pigeon hole just like every other covenant. They'll hate that you want to keep aloof of the Tribunals for now."

"But what are your plans for people? You can't stop with just a single covenant on an island that big. Even a handful of covenants won't be enough to defend it. You'll need people, real people. Where do you expect to get them? And what about rulership. Have you given thought to what the government on your island will be? Will you have a king, a baron, a doge? And will it be separate from the magi? Oh, I can imagine a lot of people will get upset if they think you're playing politics." For all that he seemed lost in a funk when Andor arrived, clearly the thought of a new island of magicians has stirred his blood.

The passion in the elder mage's voice brings a smile to Andor's face, and he can't help but let out a slight chuckle. "Yes, I figured we'd have problem with both, though with a Quaesitor as a founding member of the Covenant, we'll at least be able to split Guernicus' vote somewhat." When the topic of mundanes arrives, he nods "That is in fact, our biggest problem. As for people getting upset, since we've set a fairly good precedent in the Transylvanian Tribunal, which when coupled with the fact that the Covenant has sworn no oaths to any mundane ruler, should prevent anyone from being able to complain all that loudly. But you do raise a very good point, how should the island be governed?"

Hmm, I forgot, he's Tremere. He might have heard of you.
Reputation check: 1D10+3 = [1]+3 = 4
Multiplier: 1D10 = [4] = 4 = 8

"Wait, did you say your name was Andor. Not the duelist by any chance?" He raises an eyebrow and is not surprised when his guess is affirmed. "I've heard of you. You're quite well respected. Please forgive me; I must be getting old. I'd never have made that mistake before my last Twilight."

"But you've been around long enough to know that precedent and lack of oaths won't stop people from complaining. If you're acting like a king, the Order will treat you as if you're pretending to be a king, and that might not go well for you. My advice is to tread very carefully along that path. It might be worth getting a puppet ruler for you, or at least someone you could putatively make your oaths to. I wonder if you could make a deal with Isabella - she's the Queen of Jerusalem. She's just a girl, but she has the backing of the church. If you sent her taxes to help support the Crusades, I doubt she'd make any other demands on you."

"But here I am telling you how to rule your land and I've only just met you." He smiles and takes another sip of his wine. "Again, forgive me."

"So what brings you to the Levant? It seems like you have plenty to do in Atlantis to keep you busy. What do you expect to accomplish all the way out here?"

Andor smiles at the recognition and nods, waving off his apology as the conversation continues. "Pshh, hardly my friend! You are simply giving a fellow Tremere some good advice. Advice that is in fact, most appreciated." He pauses to collect himself before continuing. "I'm here for two things, the first as you so astutely noticed is people. Tribunals are always a good time to... find qualified help, something we're in dire need of. The second is to see which way the winds were blowing in terms of the political landscape. Given our current situation, it would behoove us greatly to test the waters as it were. But officially, I am of course here at the behest of our new covenant to simply bid the Tribunal welcome and introduce ourselves."

People, huh." Catullus peers over his wine goblet at Andor. "Magical or mundane people? I'm not sure you came to the right place for either. The magical people are usually here for a specific reason. Few are the magi that settle in the Levant by accident. And the mundane population is mostly preoccupied by the Crusades. Half are Muslim to boot. I suppose you might find some who wanted to leave this war-torn land. But knowing the people are there and actually finding them is the tricky part."

"Politics I can help you with," he adds, "though I'm a little out-of-date." The magus considers his next words carefully. "You'll find that the Levant cares little about what happens all the way in the Atlantic Ocean - not surprising, since we're the farthest tribunal from you. If the question of your status comes up in a Grand Tribunal, Praeco Tau will be practical. He's a good man who genuinely cares about the people in the tribunal. He'll try and do well by them and get the best deal he can. I won't say that his vote can be bought, but I will say that it can be obtained for the right price. And his presiding quaesitor, Scipio, is a Transitionalist. He'll be more willing to listen to what you have to say."

"I can introduce you to Tau if you like. I'm not going to bother him just now. But once the tribunal meeting starts, I'd be happy to bring you to him and put in a good word for you."

Andor nods. "I can only imagine how the war is affecting those who make this place their home. It was a long shot, but still worth the effort. As for your most generous offer, I would greatly appreciate it. I think I'd like to meet this Scipio too, assuming you don't mind." The crux of their conversation concluded, the two begin discussing things of personal interest and swapping stories of their many adventures over the years.

Time passes and the tribunal meeting starts. There are the regular issues, covenants with disputes to settle, messages from other tribunals to convey, conflicts between magi to hear. All at once it's both exciting and boring. Andor has to sit through several debates over who stole what from whom, which gets old very fast. But he also hears a lively debate on the status of magi in the Crusades, what it is and what some magi think it ought to be. And he hears an impassioned speech by David ex Tremere imploring other magi to join him and his fellow, Xydas ex Bonisagus, in their quest to recover magical artifacts from the Muslims. All in all, it's a standard tribunal.

After the praeco ends the meeting for the day and dismisses the gathered magi, Catullus ushers Andor forward and waits until the praeco and the presiding quaesitor have a moment free.

"Tau," he says, catching the praeco's eye. "There's someone I want you to meet. Scipio, you too." He gestures at Andor. "Gentlemen, this is Andor, of my house, a certamen duelist extraordinaire. He's come from the farthest ends of Europe to be at our tribunal meeting. Andor, this is Tau ex Flambeau and Scipio ex Guernicus."

"Gentlemen, it's a pleasure. Catallus here tells me only good things about you both." Andor flashes a winning smile and gives a half bow. "I come on behalf of my covenant, New Atlantis. As we are freshly founded naught but a year ago, we simply wished to give our greetings and introduce ourselves to our fellows." He pauses and waits for the inevitable questions about the covenant.

"A pleasure as well," the praeco says, with just a little more meaning than Andor would expect. Apparently Catullus' recommendation carries some weight around here.

"Likewise," Scipio adds.

"So, New Atlantis," Tau continues, moving into the obvious questions. "Is that in the Mediterranean? I'd heard rumors about the lost city of Atlantis being somewhere in the Med. Can't be too close to here, though, since I didn't see anything on my agenda about a covenant called New Atlantis petitioning for membership."

"Congratulations on your new covenant," Scipio adds. "I don't envy you the work you must be having trying to get a new covenant in order. It's not as easy as it sounds, though try to tell that to a magus fresh out of gauntlet who doesn't want to abide by covenant rules." he laughs heartily.

"Believe it or not, we're quite a ways out in the Atlantic. We're quite literally in the middle of nowhere, which is part of the problem. You see, we have no tribunal to call home, as we're just too far removed geographically from everyone. It's a fairly unique case, as we're almost a tribunal unto ourselves." He smiles at the two before continuing "I am sure that this will end up before the Grand Tribunal in a few years, but it is problematic in the interim. I was mentioning this problem to Catallus the other day and he suggested seeking your council."

Charm: 8 + 6 = 14

Charm: 1D10 = [8] = 8

"Ah, the truth comes out," Tau says with a broad smile breaking out on his face. "As it always does. You're here looking for votes in the Grand Tribunal in eight years. I commend you on your initiative."

"But I caution you not to be optimistic," Scipio adds. "You're not the first covenant that's come forth looking to create its own tribunal. There have been others across the centuries; none have been successful. The tribunals were set in the Ninth Century and have remained relatively stable ever since. Oh, the borders have shifted from time to time. But it's been three hundred years or more since we added a new tribunal. There will be a great deal of resistance to such a proposal, not the least of which will be from my own house."

"Scipio is right," Tau continues. "It'll be an uphill battle for you, one you have little chance of winning. But I'll be frank with you. All other things being equal, I'd probably vote no on a new Tribunal. It would dilute our vote and upset some of the houses. No sense stirring up a hornet's nest for no reason. Still, I'm willing to be convinced. I won't say that I'd never vote yes." He looks Andor straight in the eye. "Tell me why you think it would be a good idea to create a new tribunal? I don't want to hear about why you think you deserve it. Yes, yes, you're far away from the other tribunals; you don't want to be in the other tribunals; your situation is unique and the other tribunals won't understand your needs. I'll concede all that. But why would it be good for the Order, why would it be good for the Levant Tribunal, for there to be a New Atlantis Tribunal?"

Charm result gets some frank discussion from Tau.

Forgive me if I have gotten the history wrong.

Andor smiles and inclines his head slightly, almost the sort of gesture one would expect from a fencer acknowledging a good parry. "I must say that I appreciate your candor. As for why we deserve to be a new Tribunal? In short, because the Order is strengthened when we push boundaries and test our limits. We are the Order of Hermes! Bold forward thinking created our Order. We should be rewarding innovation and creativity, not stifling it because things have never been done that way before! We have a chance to try something entirely new, to expand the Order, to push the limits of what we previously thought possible and ultimately be beholden to no man but ourselves!" Andor is truly passionate about this and it shows. He waves their coming rebuttal down and quickly continues. "But words come easily, it is actions that speak the loudest. Don't just take me at my word then; I invite you both to come visit us in a few years, judge for yourselves if we're truly what we claim and if we're worthy of your support."