Casillius furrowed his brow. "Hrm, this is troubling indeed." The Quaesitor moved from apparatus to apparatus adjusting his myriad experiments, only occasionally stopping to cast a worried glance back at his young guests.. "Intruders, really." he thought, "Intruding upon my time. As if I want to arbitrate their petty problems." He looked back again to see that both of the intruders were staring at him, waiting for his response. He sighed, "Well, I'm at a loss. He is expected in front of the Tribunal next season, but by that time you will either have started a grand conflict against the Empire or have been destroyed by them."
One of the intruders scoffed. "I've already told you that! We're wasting our time here." Casillius quickly turned to glare at the intruders. "Tabinus, you came seeking my council, correct?" Tabinus slowly nodded. "Then perhaps you could keep your.. friend here under control whilst I endeavor to solve your problems for you?" Tabinus turned to look at the intruder who had spoken. He whispered pointedly, "Artorias, you promised.." Artorias looked angrily from Tabinus to Casillius before crossing his arms. The look on his face was one of contempt. Casillius returned to his experiment. "Young magi today," he thought, "so full of themselves.. but then, I was once guilty of the same. I suppose I can't begrudge him his growing pains."
Casillius finished adjusting his instruments and turned to sit across from the intruders. Tabinus, also a Quaesitor, was draped in muted colors and looked as though he would be at home working in the forests as a ranger. Casillius had known the man since before he had passed his Gauntlet. Tabinus was desperate for recognition in the order, and this case offered his chance for such. Artorias, the loud-mouthed magus was draped in crimson robes, arms crossed and eyes narrowed. The air around him almost seemed to shimmer, his frustration palpable. The two of them were here on account of a third magus, Vulcan. He had been secretly dealing magical items to the Empire for.. mundane profit, and was now caught in a tough situation. To continue to provide the Empire with powerful magical items would certainly get him marched at Tribunal, but to stop would be to draw the full wrath of the empire down on him and his sodales.. "Worrying", Casillius thought, "such a conflict would surely interrupt my research further."
"Well," started Casillius slowly, thoughtfully, "I see only one course of action, and I can't guarantee the Tribunal will look favorably upon it." He pointed a crooked, wrinkled finger at Artorias, whose demeanor softened a bit at the surprise of being addressed directly by the older Magus. "You, however, will be the one who has to live with it."
Breakfast at Draconmar was always a grand affair. By order of the magi, all grogs and companions (except those at their posts) were to be present every morning in case there was important covenant business to discuss. The result was that every day the grand hall was filled with bodies and the sweet and savory smells of breakfast filled the air. While most days mealtime passed uneventfully, there had been days when Artorias had punished and even executed men at the table. "No man should die on an empty stomach" he had said, though his rationale did little to assuage the terror evoked when he placed his hand on the chest of a burglar that had been captured in the night, said a few words, and blasted a charred, smoking hole through his chest. As he walked away, all he had said was "Get that cleaned up." The atmosphere was a bit tense today, as Artorias seemed to be brooding at the table with the other magi. Melodius and Grandius seemed altogether much more quiet than usual while Vulcan sat, ruined legs dangling, contentedly looking over the hall. Conversation at the other tables was hushed and hurried, with no one wishing to draw the ire of the powerful man seated at the far end of the hall. Artorias turned to Vulcan on his right and spoke. "Brother.. I have thought long and hard on this." Vulcan turned to face his oldest friend. His content smile faded a bit. "On our.. situation, you mean?" Artorias clenched his teeth, bringing his hand down loudly against the table. "[i]Your[/i] situation, Vulcan. The situation into which you have placed yourself, and us by association." As he spoke he motioned to Melodius and Grandius, who had stopped their conversation and now sat in silence. The entire hall sat motionless, unsure of what was to come next. Artorias' voice began to rise as he talked, and he began to stand. "You've colluded behind our backs with the mundanes for far too long. I.. I wanted to believe you were acting with our best interest at heart, but it has become clear to me that you care only for mountains of mundane trinkets. You are detestable. Pitiable." Vulcan looked surprised and hurt. "Artorias.. you and I have been as brothers since I can remember. Surely you can't think me so petty!" "ENOUGH!" yelled Artorias, and as he bellowed a thick black smoke began to emanate from the sleeves and neck of his robes. "If your actions simply affected only you I would not be in this situation! But through your hubris and selfishness you have brought ruin to hang above our heads." Vulcan sat speechless as Artorias grew visibly angrier. "Fortunately for you, you will not be brought before Tribunal. Guards!" At his command, the ornate, massive doors at either end of the hall opened and more than a dozen armed guards stormed in, surrounding Vulcan. Vulcan looked around, eyes wide in surprise and terror. He pulled from his robes a small hammer and began to cast a spell. Grandius jumped up immediately, pointing his hand outwards towards Vulcan. The magi could see the subtle stream of energy jump from Grandius' hand to Vulcan, but to the rest of the covenfolk could not have seen what had happened. As the energy dispersed about Vulcan, he looked about for a moment, surprised that his spell had not worked. "Grab him, fools!" cried Artorias, and the guards descended on Vulcan's twisted frame.
Artorias sat quietly in the wagon as it crawled along the main road. Behind him followed another wagon containing his prisoner. He laughed dryly to himself. "Prisoner.. may the Divine forgive me." This whole mess had worn on Artorias, had stolen many nights of sleep from the young magus. He tried to shake the thought from his head. Vulcan brought this on himself by blatantly disregarding the Code. As a magus of the Order, Artorias had a responsibility to set things right, despite his feelings for his friend.
"M'lord, word from the scouts." came the call from the driver. Alfred turned to speak to Artorias. "The troops move in our direction. They're headed for the orchard." Artorias stiffened a bit. "Then it is time, Alfred. Let us stop here, this will suffice."
As the troops appeared over the hill, Artorias stood in the middle of the road. The troops halted, and a lone rider came forward. "Hail," came his call, "I am Captain Brandt. You stand in the path of the armies of the Holy Roman Empire. You will move your wagons to the side while we pass." Artorias didn't move. "I have what you seek." He motioned behind him, and two guards brought forward a hooded figure, hands bound. They released him and his withered legs gave out beneath him. Artorias stepped over to the figure and pulled the hood off to reveal Vulcan, gagged and frightened.
Captain Brandt rode closer to examine the figure. His horse seemed hesitant to get so close to the two men in the road. "So you do, traveler..", he said, though clearly he was not fully satisfied. "But we ride for yonder orchard. My men and I were promised the treasures held therein." Artorias sneered, but attempted to keep his calm. "I must warn you that the orchard holds no such treasures for you. It holds only death." The captain was taken aback. He took a moment to survey the scene again, then smiled. "I see no such danger. If you mean to stand between my men and their conquest, it can only end poorly for you. We will take your prisoner, but you will stand aside."
Artorias was incensed. He spoke through clenched teeth as thick black smoke began to seep from under his collar. "I say again, good sir." he growled, slowly raising his hand towards the trees to his right. "The orchard holds naught but death for you and your men." For a moment, the birds in the trees seemed to grow silent, and the air around Artorias began to shimmer. The air was split with a loud crack as a massive ball of flame rocketed outwards from his outstretched palm and exploded vulgarly against the trunks of the trees. Several trees came crashing down immediately as their trunks were disintegrated, others still burst into a magnificent blaze. Artorias slowly lowered his hand and stared silently into the eyes of the captain.
As he struggled to regain control over his mount, the captain had lost all of the color from his face and his mouth was agape in disbelief. The ground below his horse became dark as its rider soiled himself. "Y-y-you.. you're right! Of c-course." he stammered. "We will t-take the prisoner and be on our way." He motioned for his men to grab the bound man and they placed him on a supply wagon. Vulcan's eyes met Artorias' for a moment, but Artorias looked away, ashamed. "You did this to yourself, old friend." he muttered, turning to walk towards the slowly-spreading blaze which was eating away at the forest. "May the Divine forgive me." he thought, raising his hand to douse the growing flames with a torrent of water.
tl;dr - my covenmate brought the empire to bear upon our fledgling covenant, and to hopefully stem a full-blown conflict between the order and the empire, I sold him out. The army captain double-botched against my intimidation roll, and I didn't need to kill all 500 of them. I did feel a bit bad about it, but I believe my actions will be defensible at Tribunal. We will see next season....