Sounds good, but you didn't answer my question about the travel cost.
Isn't it in the Mercere section of HoH:TL how much does it cost to use a portal? IIRC it was 1 pawn per person.
That sounds reasonable, though I think that is actually from ArM3. But House Tremere will comp your expenses anyway, so don't worry
Found it. HOH:TL p.80. Last sentences of the Mercere Portals boxed text.
It does not specify if it is a pawn per magus or a pawn per person/sentient being. So i might cost 1 pawn for the whiole party, or 4-5 pawns.
So to kick things along...
In short order, Vocis and his entourage arrives at Lycaneon. Am I to presume you are bringing Mica and Celeste? Any gogs or servants?
There are fourteen resident magi at Lycaneon. The magus first present to greet you is Octavian of Tremere, a Past Master of Andorra. He and his partner Xalbador of Flambeau (another Past Master of Andorra and father of Kesara the Journeywoman) are at Lycaneon managing a rapid response strike force specializing in combating infernal powers and corrupt magi.
His glowing green eyes are piercing, displaying his faerie heritage and hinting at greater power. He wears the traditional robes of his house and rank, Councilarius as yourself, and charged with the Shadow Killer Vexillation (the strike force I just described). He is a veteran of the Shadow Wards, is the one who first captured Metron and chained him in Duresca, and is the one who killed Relegare. He wears decorations of Parsley, Grass, and Oak. You have heard that he is distant yet polite, and pragmatic in his decisions. He did not favor Andorra's independent status, which put him at odds with Exarch Marcus. It was his own decision to transfer back to Transylvania though, hot on the trail of remnants of the Flaming Shadows. He is a Quaesitor and a Hoplite. He is disappointed in everyone and all fall short of his standards.
He looks at you with his glowing green eyes, expressionless at first then scowling, then a smile of recognition.
Salve Sodale. Welcome to Transylvania.
But...but...but...what about...and the thing...oh, alright.
The entourage includes Mica, Celeste, Gerard (Vocis's son and shield grog), and two shield grogs to be named if necessary.
Wow. I suddenly feel like Tom Cruise wearing his dress whites. I'm going to assume Vocis worked with him at some point during the Shadow Wars.
Vocis smiles in return. Thank you, sodale. It's good to be back. He looks up at the giant statue of Tremere, bows slightly, and turns back to Octavian. You're doing well I hope? Have you managed to track down the rest of the Flaming Shadows?
If I skipped past something, let me know
Sabho filius Flagrare was captured and executed a year ago by Xalbador. Lapho remains yet elusive, but I suspect she is hiding somewhere in Novgorod. I have uncovered evidence that the renounced Leolinus formerly of Jerbiton had dealings with the Shadows. Leolinus was supposedly killed, along with the Suleiman sorcerer Jabl Tariq, at the hands of a reckless adventurer named Roberto of Flambeau. You may have heard of him. He is a valuable soldier but a loose cannon. Keep an eye on him.
But that leads me to information that may be relevant to you and your covenant, my former home. The attack on Andorra a few years ago. Intelligence we have uncovered leads us to suspect the culprit was a rogue magus named Valten IV of Flambeau. He is not renounced or marched, yet. But he is wanted for questioning and they want him to stand trial in the Rhine. The information I gathered indicates he is seeking knowledge concerning the powers of genies, and had consorted with the infamous Metron at one point before the Shadow Wars in raiding the libraries of Hermetic Sahirs during a callous and unjustified Wizard War. He is currently in Cairo, following up on the research of Leolinus concerning Chaldean magic, Cananite Necromancy, and Egyptian Theurgy. The evidence linking him to the attack comes from the analysis of magical sigils our old friend Carmen provided us. And through certain means at our disposal that need not be discussed.
What we do need to discuss are your plans for the growth of your covenant. As for the attack, the vis reserves were a hard hit. But what you may be unaware of is that there are untouched secret vaults all over the place in that castle. Many only your pontifex knows about, and some I am sue no one remembers. Now, that is besides the point other than to explain why I think the plan I am about to propose is indeed viable. Our superiors have expressed interest in establishing a secret vault to hide a bit of Strategic Reserve. They would also like to help you expand your library.
There is also a young magus who was instructed to draft ideas for the Gold Contingency, in case Andorra needs to be invaded. I have reviewed it, but my information is out of date. I was hoping you could look it over for me and add any insights you may have.
The bold-italic font I am using is intended to hint at the strange supernatural quality of his voice. I made it dark blue because I wanted a rich dark color. But I am going to edit and change it to glowing green
I'm going to assume the grogs have been bustled away by this point. Vocis will let Mica listen in, though. Yes, he joined Andorra earlier this year. He spends most of his time railing against the masters and telling us our business. Such is life in a Flambeau covenant.
Carmen mentioned Valten as a possible culprit and I suspect she's planning to eliminate him personally. Several members of Andorra are traveling to Egypt next year to address a problem associated with the City of Brass. Carmen mentioned she's going to leave the expedition to 'visit' Valten in Cairo. I don't know her true intentions, but dragging him to a Quaesitor for a fair trial would not be my first guess. I take it you would prefer he was taken alive for formal questioning?
Well, expanding the library is one of my reasons for returning to Transylvania. I had hoped to reach some accommodation with Nestor for lab texts, if nothing else. I'm not familiar with any secret vaults. Carmen appointed herself treasurer after the attack and ensures us we're doing quite well. Hidden stockpiles of vis would certainly explain our rapid recovery. I must confess I haven't questioned her on the matter.
As for a Strategic Reserve, is Andorra the best place for something like that? The covenant was nearly destroyed five years ago, its defenses are still being repaired, and we've recently taken on a chapterhouse arrangement in the Balearics, stretching our defenses significantly. Will the establishment of this Strategic Reserve include contingencies for Tremere rapid response forces to defend Andorra if needed, or will Andorra be left to its own defenses under the assumption the Reserve won't be found? This is a situation where the absence of a governing tribunal can cut both ways.
Vocis will try very hard not to look surprised. I can certainly look it over. Under what circumstances do you anticipate needing to invade Andorra? Or is this one of Janus's obscure ideas?
You are quicker on the draw than I am. Yes, the grogs are unpacking and you are talking & walking with Octavian as Mica follows behind.
Well, that is House Flambeau for you. You have the old-school hot heads, brave warriors yet reckless. Then there are those who act like knights and are eager to follow orders yet lack initiative or imagination. Personally, I prefer a stalwart soldier of a wizard over a magus who has pretenses at knighthood. He is an asset to you. He has earned acclaim and his mentor is well regarded. But his infamous master was guilty of participating in mundane wars, crimes this Roberto fellow participated in as an apprentice. He is an asset for now, but keep a close eye on him.
We can question his ghost. The report I read has me convinced, and the ends justify the means in some situations. I am just as certain that he is also the one responsible for the massacre at Insidiae. I am not overly concerned. But I will tell you that what Valten was after is a ticking time bomb that threatens to one day destroy your covenant. The Brass Bottle that imprisons Khyron al-'Afrit. What Valten doesn't know is that the bottle is not authentic. It does imprison Khyron, but it is not a bottle of Suleiman. It is a Hermetic device that traps spirits. If opened, Khyron will be free to kill his liberator and take his revenge on Andorra. And that could affect me, because I was part of the expedition that captured him.
To pace things better, let us say that there is a interlude of rigmarole and idle chit chat while walking. Then you get to the main hall where you can sit and relax by the fire. Servants bring refreshments, and when they depart the conversation continues.
Well, your madame pontifex is wise to limit some knowledge to a need-to-know basis. I am not even aware of all of the secrets of that castle. I just know that there are secrets. And here is one. Take this key. I presume you moved into my old tower when you transferred in to replace me? There is a vault under the basement floor, I had Dimir Taar install it while I was there. All that is in there are a few casting tablets and two rooks of Corpus in the form of powdered giant bone. The floor is stone, this key activates an enchantment in the center stone that opens it into the space below. Start there. We can work out the details later, how to est utilize the space and how secret we should keep it.
The strategic reserve controlled by House Tremere is vast beyond imagining, and pieces of it are hidden in thousands of locations across the known world as far as Iceland and Cathay. And what I am trying to tell you is that your covenant was not even close to being destroyed. The sum total of the material losses, ten times that amount lies hidden away somewhere in there.
It is standard procedure. There is a contingency planned for every covenant in the Order, including each of our own. What if all of the magi go mad? Possessed by demons or faeries? What if a future generation goes rogue like they did at Jafariya? What if enemies of the Order capture it and try to use it as a stronghold and staging point against us? There is a contingency folder for each Tribunal. The Pyrenees and Provencal covenants are part of the Yellow Plan. Andorra is the Gold Contingency, Doisettep Saffron, Castra Solus is the Sunshine Contingency, and Mistridge...
Our House often assigns the design of such invasion plans as a mental exercise for young Tremere magi. These are compared to the official plan for that covenant, kept at Coeris, which is updated if any new insights or ideas are deemed useful. Basically, you and I are just making comments on some kid's theoretical plan concerning a covenant he knows little about. And yes, it is Janus who will review the plan and our comments, and update the Gold file if he finds anything useful
Absolutely. At some point I'd like to get more details of Roberto's background, but that can wait.
I'll ask Carmen to ensure she keeps his corpse, or at least his head. This Brass Bottle must be another of Carmen's secrets. I've heard nothing of it. Is it stored with the secret caches or perhaps in the Vault of Valdarius? The latter has been largely restricted to the Flambeau members of our covenant and I've chosen not to push. He glances at Mica. Though I'm beginning to suspect I've allowed my responsibilities as parens and librarian distract me from investigating my new home.
Thank you. I'll keep them safe. And secret. He gives Mica a look and she quickly nods. Approximately how much space are you talking about? I'd like to think on it while I'm here, perhaps discuss options before I return to Andorra.
Vocis smiles briefly. We may be quibbling over definitions here. I acknowledge the full resources of the covenant were not destroyed, but a covenant with no living magi is no longer a covenant. In this case it's simply a well-hidden treasure hoard with no dragon to protect it.
I see. I'll certainly do what I can to expand his plans. The new Hermes Portals will complicate matters, if nothing else.
Arachné was already torn between Valten and the City of Brass, but if Vocis tell her this, her choice will be clear
No worries there. Vocis will tell Carmen and Arachné about this and Valten's probable involvement in the Insidiae massacre. He's also going to suggest you don't wait a year to deal with him and avoid picking your fight while almost all the magi are away from the covenant. The chances of him having an arcane connection to somewhere just outside our Aegis are very high.
At some point during this visit, before you move to points onward, the two of you are going to exchange reports on various things. He will give you a dossier on every member of Andorra, provided by House Tremere. You provide him with updates and briefings you have written up and the reports of others on the western front that need to make it back to the central records. And, um, everything is written on a magic scroll which can only e read using your secret Tremere decoder ring. Yea, that's the ticket.
I do not know. There are several "Vaults of Valdarius". There are old enchantments with strange requirements that can only be activated by members of certain rank or office. But you do have the right as a Master to inquire about them. There are so many secrets to that place that no one can ever know them all. I have gazed into the Eternal Flame with these accursed eyes of terrible power, and I saw visions nigh incomprehensible. The surface is the humble keep you are familiar with. Below, there are vast catacombs and caverns that twist deep underneath then up into the mountain.
As I said, the Bottle is a Hermetic device. It was used as a desperate last resort weapon against the 'afrit Khyron, who had twice attacked Andorra. According to lore, if you release a genie from its bottle, it is bound by the law of Solomon to obey you. But as I told you, that bottle is a Hermetic device with a high powered Rego Vim effect, not an authentic Bottle of Solomon. That leads to several problems. If released, he can do whatever he wants. And there are issues with the Aegis and taking it out of the Aegis for too long or transporting it to another Aegis. Can't just destroy it because that releases him. Tossing it in the ocean is a risk only a madman would take. So the only responsible thing to do was hide it.
Mind you though, crafty old Rodrigo was the master of the double blind triple bluff. If there are rumors that someone found a bottle, then you can be sure that this is not the bottle I am talking about. As I said, there are several vaults.
It isn't much. Large enough for a second lab though. I had the notion to create my own secret vault. But my Arts did not favor the endeavor and decided knowledge of a reserve should be shared by a select few. Dimir Tarr dug it out and built it, capping the seal with an enchanted stone using a few of the various Vault of Valdarius Investments. So I suppose you could say it is one such vault, unused for the most part. The stone activates by speaking the name of Tremere's familiar while standing on it, with the Requirement that you also hold one of the designated keys. Dimir Tarr has the other one. I was waiting to see if you would last five years there before turning mine over to you. Take an Arcane Connection from the floor just in case you loose the key.
One magus dead, Valentino. Antonio and Dimir Taar are reportedly in Twilight and could return one day. Arachne survived, Carmen survived. and Xalbador and I survived. Though I was here, my transfer of membership wasn't official until just after that event. That vault that Dimir Taar kept on the surface, it was a decoy. Just the accumulated junk that members have been enchanting for generations. Most of it was uncatalogued and virtually unusable.
Still, I do understand your point. It isn't a House mandate, just an idea so far.
Maybe you should acquire a dragon.
Those new portals are what gave me the idea to place some secret reserves at Andorra. It also makes it doubly important that we insure that covenan never falls into the hand of the enemy.
Perhaps when your apprentice is one day ready, she can draw up a plan for one of the Green Contingencies. Iberia. Barcelona is Emerald.
I should point out that Octavian has left it to your broad discretion as to what your apprentice should and should not hear. He has said nothing, in his opinion, that is ultra top secret.
Works for me. Vocis's report on Vulcanus certainly would be entertaining. I'm also assuming Vocis introduced Micaela to Octavian during the walking/talking chit-chat.
Is Carmen aware of the bottle's weakness?
You've alleviated my concerns about the Strategic Reserve, though I do want to clarify two related points. Does the House intend for this to be kept secret from the other magi of Andorra? If so, will the Andorran portion of the Reserve fit within the vault beneath my sanctum?
As to that, have you heard of the Andorran hedge wizard who recently joined the Order under the name Sigismund?
Vocis gives Mica a speculative look. Perhaps. We're just starting to discuss strategic actions. I've yet to determine if she has a talent for it. Dark spots of color appear on Mica's cheeks until Vocis gives her a solemn wink.
I'm assuming he'll drop a hint of some kind when it's time for adult topics. I'll grab a grog and bustle her off at that point.
Depends on what you feel is best, and perhaps on the nature of what we put in there. My original idea was a medical sanctuary, but I also imagine we could store some reserve heavy weaponry as well. .
Yes. She was also part of that expedition. So was Estaban of Jerbiton, he's still around sometimes I think.
What did you guys do?
Now might be the time for that.
A secret zenodochium? That shouldn't be a problem. I'd prefer to have some weaponry there as well, but not enough to arm a large group. Just enough to provide me with the means to defend the covenant and my sanctum until reinforcements arrive. Along those lines, I'll want to establish some way to communicate with Lycaneon independently of the portals. I can enchant something myself if we can find a way to work around our respective Aegoi.*
*It's Greek. I'm guessing here.
Then away Mica goes. I assume you're familiar with the dragon Sigmundo. We helped him deal with a minor faerie problem shortly after I joined Andorra and he offered to help us rebuild our library. The deal was each of us could copy a book from his extensive library and he and his minions would repair one of our damaged books. It was a great deal, but the question of its legality came up pretty quickly. We figured there was a good chance he wasn't just repairing our books, but copying them for his own collection. Since most of the books we needed to repair dealt with the Arts, this posed a potential problem. Making matters worse is that Antonio had apparently been trading with Sigmundo for some time and no one really knew what he was trading.
Once we learned that, the proposal was made within the master's council to invite Sigmundo into the Order. Vulcanus, Arachne, and I opposed it, but we lost the vote. The fact that Vibria is apparently Sigmundo's natural granddaughter was a factor. Solomon researched the situation and determined bringing a dragon (or other magical creature) was not strictly prohibited by the Code. He actually administered the Oath to Sigmundo himself. However, Sigmundo chose to join as 'Sigismund, grandson of Sigmundo' or something. Sigismund is actually Sigmundo in human form. He's since repaired several of our better summae.
I lament the loss of our sodale Antonio and hope he returns from Twilight one day. But now, I doubly wish he was present today, so that the old Flam-bonehead can deal with the consequences of his reckless swagger.
I suppose it is too late to keep this under wraps?
I am conflicted. As a Quaesitor, I understand that it was wise to make him swear the oath. But as a Tremere magus, I simply do not think it is wise at all. Do you realize the scale of power you are dealing with? I have seen him walk right through the Aegis and not even notice it.
Still, perhaps it is good to have a dragon of that magnitude as an ally bound tight by the bonds of Oath and Code. Octavian looks off in the distance with stoic concern for something he shall not speak of.
Did you obtain an Arcane Connection to Sigmundo? Can you procure one for yourself and one for Coeris?
Probably. Solomon wasn't happy with Sigmundo's proposed ruse, but it seems he lost the argument before administering the Oath. From what I know of Solomon, he presumably informed someone within his House out of honesty and possibly feelings of guilt, if not security reasons. The Andorran magi have agreed to keep the situation quiet. (Stated without a trace of irony. ) Sigmundo's goal was to petition for membership in Ex Miscellanea as Sigismund, a flame-based hedge wizard descended from Sigmundo.
That is the very argument I made at the time. The other masters likened his power to that of an archmagus, who while dangerous, could still be successfully Marched should the need arise. They were strongly influenced by Carmen, who was the only one of us familiar with Sigmundo, and by Vibria, his natural-born descendant. As I said, I lost the vote.
My other concern, voiced at the time, is that we can't consider a creature of this power 'bound' by mere words. The Oath is not a geasa. I believe he will respect the Oath and Code as long as it suits him, then Sigismund will 'die' and Sigmundo will proceed as he chooses, only now with all the secrets of the Order at his disposal. To a creature this ancient, a century posing as a magus is nothing.
I have not, but I can certainly make the attempt. He has made a standing offer to Andorra to allow us to copy books in his library in exchange for new works of our own. I've not written anything myself, but I could do so for the excuse to enter his lair again.
I am a Quaesitor, I understand why Solomon felt compelled. The dragon already had these Hermetic secrets. It was a case of Invite or Kill. Still, it would be best to obtain an Arcane Connection. And to discern exactly what Magnitude of power the dragon's potential really is. Still, every hardship is a blessing. We are having, well, some trouble with the dragons around here. As I said, I don't like it any more than you. But he may be of use to us out here. This could be a mixed blessing. See if you can arrange a meeting with him. Mention my name. It will have to be soon, as I am planning to ship out for Novgorod in less than three years.
Of course. I'll make it a priority upon my return.
We never really discussed my final itinerary for Vocis. In addition to visiting Tablinum and speaking with Nestor, he plans to do the following:
- Meet with a Tremere physician who specializes in healing but not necromancy. Vocis is torn on which role to train Mica for. She's better suited for healing, but her father wanted her kept away from necromancy. Vocis needs to find out if that's even possible within the ranks of the physicians.
- Identify a magus to 'foster' Mica for a year in Transylvania. Her primary role with either be a physician or a scout depending on how the first item goes, so he'll need to find someone in one of those specialties willing to take her on.
- Ask around about Scholomance-trained professors that Andorra might be able to hire.
- Meet with Poena to provide her a direct report on Andorra and introduce Mica to her. I'm assuming this is a reasonable idea, but if you disagree we can skip it.
- I didn't get an answer about the Vulcanus suggestion, so just assume I'm wearing his armor whenever it's reasonable and telling those who ask about his skill at crafting.