It is the Fall of 1222 in the Stonehenge Tribunal. All of the Magi of England it seems have gathered outside the dreary caves of Southern Wales. Some of the older apprentices from the Stonehenge Tribunal remember coming here once before at a previous Tribunal, but this was as far as they were allowed. The various covenfolk and Custos from their masterâ€™s home Covenants would set up tents and pavilions outside the caves. Hospitality and rooms were offered inside, but few would accept the offers given by the strange folk of Blackstone, whose eyes were often large and luminescent.
Those that were here before as a younger apprentice recall that they were not allowed inside, one of the few times since being taken from their parents that they were not near their master. Only later would they find out that they could accompany their master if their master wished it, but few Magi would risk being held accountable for a fidgety and unruly apprentice while in front of the assembled Tribunal. The young apprentices were gathered under a pavilion by an old redcap named Timothy, who was too old to travel any more but was a wealth of knowledge. He would regale the apprentices as well as anyone else with tales of his travels, stories about the Founders and other famous Magi, and the history of Stonehenge.
Timothy was also known to allow, and even encourage the apprentices to actually ply some of their Arts, which they were usually forbidden to do. Impromptu contests of lighting cooking fires, levitating books, fanciful displays of glamour and magical pranks on the Grogs were the norm. At the last Tribunal the fun ended when an apprentice forced a Grog to dash a bucket of water into the face of his sergeant. But great fun was always had. You are saddened to hear that Timothy has passed. In his place stand two giants; Great William, and Little William. Both redcaps, and enormously tall, but one can see why Great William is set apart from the other, standing over 7 feet easily. The two of them take charge of the young apprentices, telling tales, displaying their strength and keeping them entertained.
All around, the Tribunal has a festive air, most of the Magi are more reserved, but their Custos are treating it like itâ€™s a holiday. Here and there small groups of wizards gather and speak, and small displays of magic and wares are offered. Nothing so vulgar as actual market stands are set up, but many Custos wander the grounds barking out the wonders of their masterâ€™s latest Lab Text or magic item, or that they have Vis that they would trade for those that are interested. Itâ€™s not all friendly though. A few bouts of Certamen are engaged outside the cave (cave what cave? You see a bare wall in the mountain, but occasionally people seem to walk right through it) and some darkly muttered threats about an â€˜invitation arriving at the Full Moonâ€™ but for the most it seems to be a great time.
This day a great many apprentices will be presented to the Order; their excitement is barely restrained so that a dignified presence might be maintained. Some are here with their Masters, others have proof that they have passed their Gauntlet (letters, a bag which contains the voting sigil, and other things to verify the claim). For those that are new to Stonehenge, you find this to be slightly strange. To your knowledge this Tribunal meeting is a year late, as the other Tribunals in the Order held theirs in 1221. When asked about this you find that this is not a specially convened meeting, but the normal one held at Stonehenge. When asked why itâ€™s simply muttered â€˜Traditionâ€™.
A young Redcap in his early twenties wanders through the assembled throngs searching for apprentices that will be elevated this day. He has light brown hair, blue eyes and seems to be quite the charmer. One by one he finds you and after giving respect to your Masters (where possible) he asks that you accompany him to the cave as you will be receiving your initial introduction into the Order. Your Masters nod and allow this, perhaps offering some encouragement or other words as you follow the young man and his small crowd of apprentices. Some of the Masters look on proudly, others perhaps with relief, some possibly with sadness. The Redcap says that his name is Edgar and that heâ€™s the youngest in the Tribunal, and that he too will be recognized today, but heâ€™s been performing this duty for a bit longer. You arrive at the wall that is guarded as properly as a castle gate and you wait for your next instructions.
Soon there is a whisper of a breeze and you see the rock wall part, seemingly like curtains and a woman perhaps in her 40s steps through the opening. She is dressed in rich purple velvet robes with elaborate stitching in gold thread at the hem and sleeves. She has an elegant girdle at her waist from which hang various pouches and implements including a large key ring, which seems ceremonial, surely such large keys as that couldnâ€™t open anything? Her long black hair is swept aside as she steps out and greets you.
â€œGreetings apprentices. I am Goliard of Tremere and the Seneschal of the Covenant of Blackthorn. I welcome you to the Covenant and the Tribunal convened today, and would ask that you follow me without question. Come.â€ She says simply. Her voice is quiet but is with firm authority. She turns and walks back inside expecting you to follow her. Inside the cave you find that it is an enormous complex stretching high into the natural ceiling above and lit by globes that glow softly. There is no dampness in the air as youâ€™d expect from a cave, and at the entrance are all the outfittings of a military guard, with armed men in armor and the livery of Blackthorn assembled.
Goliard leads you further into the cave and off to your left side. There are doors installed in the walls all around the cave that you can see. She opens the door by placing her hand in the center of it and a warm glow emanates from within. She waits outside the door and beckons you in. â€œI shall leave you in their capable hands and see you at the meeting.â€ Goliard says as she closes the door behind you.
Inside the room, which appears to be a kind of classroom for writing carved out of the rock, with a lectern at one end and desks in front of it. Seated in the far end near you is an older man dressed in gray robes, balding, he seems to have a tattoo of a red serpent on his face. He has sheaves of vellum in front of him and some ink. He studies you quietly. The other is a tall and attractive woman dressed in vibrant red robes, trimmed in gold. The only thing brighter than her robes is her own brilliant red hair. She steps forward with no expression on her face to address you sternly.
â€œThat, apprentices, is Iudicium, the Senior Queasitor of the Stonehenge Tribunal. He is to witness this.â€ She says pointing to the man in the corner. He merely nods as you turn his way. â€œIâ€¦am Barbara Immolatrix. Hoplite and the oldest Filia of the Praeco of Stonehenge, Talion of House Flambeau. I will be instructing you in the final portion of the ritual of the Parma that you may join the Order.â€ Her tone is firm and her presence has menace behind it, like a fire ready to burst free from its confines.
The last portion of the ritual of the Parma! Thatâ€™s why your master didnâ€™t share it with you this morning! Itâ€™s finally coming to pass! You strive to maintain your composure at this final lesson.
Barbara continues, her words have the feel of an often repeated speech, and she is used to being listened to.
â€œYou will be learning this from myself, and take your proper oaths at the Tribunal. Before you do that you will demonstrate your ability to raise the Parma.â€ She pauses, allowing you to savor these moments, the last you spend as an apprentice. Then her expression goes stern. â€œKnow this apprentices. The greatest of the Orderâ€™s gifts are not strewn about to the witless and the honorless. This treasure from Bonisagus is given only to those who swear to uphold the Orderâ€™s laws and fraternity. You will take this Oath later. Until then, to ensure that this is not some trick to steal the Parma you will present me a lock of your hair along with your credentials. Should you try to steal the Parma, you will not live to profit from it nor share it. I will be the one that hunts you down, it will be my eyes that you shall take with you as your last sight on this world. The only reason that wonâ€™t happen is if your Parentes has the honor to fulfill his Oath and slay you himself before I reach you. This is of utmost seriousness apprentices. You shall grow into full Magi this day, such a life is not meant for the weak, the timid, and those without honor. If you are ready to begin step forward and present to the honored Iudicium your credentials if he has not already obtained them from your Master. Then step up to me and sheer a lock from your head.â€ She says as she holds up a pair of gold colored scissors.