1207 A.D.

Tales Along the Road to Bohemia

Date - 11/10/96 (43rd Session)

... An expedition travels to Moravia to lend assistance to fledgling Weeping Rock Covenant

Invitation to Bohemia (Act I)

Anheta of House Arteman arrived at Rabenstein in January of 1207, having travelled from her home Covenant of Lacrimare Saxum (Weeping Rock) in Moravia. In council she explained that a man claiming to be the legendary mystic Samo had been rising in stature in nearby Slovakia, attracting throngs of diseased peasants and heretical Bogomile followers who lauded Samo's ability to heal dreadful maladies (according to the Travels of Fredegar and Eastern European legends, Samo was a Frankish merchant who led the Czechs to stem the Magyar invasion of the 8th century and establish the short-lived Empire of Slavs). Worried that this Samo's heresies might inspire the wrath of the Bishop of Prague and result in a witch-hunt, perhaps bringing down Weeping Rock and creating an inhospitible climate for Hermetic Magi in all of Bohemia for years to come, Anheta petitioned for assistance with the matter. Although the Magi of Rabenstein were less than enthused about the prospect, Raisel of House Guernicus had advised them last autumn thatWeeping Rock might request such assistance, so to please the Quaesitori they consented to send a token delegation (including Lassitor of Criamon, Cynric of Ex Miscellanea, the resident Magus Magda of Bjornaer, and 5 socii).

En route, a mysterious omen was witnessed by the expedition in the foothills near Wien. They caught a magnificent large fish in a small mountain pond (seen as a gift from good St. Florian - the patron Saint of Austria) and feasted on it for dinner, but during the night they observed a peacock strutting near their campfire...further, attempts to snatch the bird saw it vanish into the night, and when dawn broke the bones of the fish from yesterday's feast were missing. Magi discussed the significance of the bird, noting that it was associated primarily with pride, but also known for its blood's ability to dispel evil spirits. They continued along their journey from Steiermark to Moravia, a journey of 8 to 10 days on foot in the winter. En route, two interesting tales unfolded, and are presented individually here:

Tale of the Morena

Two Czech peasants approached the expedition on the road northeast from Vienna to Breclav, near the marshes of Dürnkrat, and begged the wizards (Lassitor and Magda in particular) to help return their village's Morena. Although no one understood what this quite meant, Anheta of Arteman insisted that they learn more of the peasant's plight, for her studies focused on native traditions and legends. Departing the main road, they followed the peasants through the frozen mud to the nearby village of Lobkovíce. Taking in a feast of carp soup and red beets, several villagers relayed the following tale: each January, young village boys construct a straw-woman which they call the 'Morena', and for three consecutive sundays, they carry the Morena to a field while singing sad songs (it is the Morena's duty to stand over each of the village's three fields for one week). Then on the fourth week, they beat the Morena to pieces, and throw her sticks and straw in the river. The conclusion of this cycle marks the end of winter, and the beginning of spring. But this year, the Morena vanished come the 3rd sunday, and villagers feared the spring would never arrive without it. A village boy, Lazslo, claimed to have seen it dance away into the woods, so after dark the expedition from Rabenstein gathered up the few pieces of straw left from the Morena, and used them as an Arcane Connection to attempt to lead them to the Morena. Heading into the eastern wood, they searched for hours as the night grew colder and a frost chilled the forest floor (and Bertóul!). Eventually Tatyana spied the grotesque straw figure, which attempted to weave a circle around the expedition. Fleeing and dancing away from the circle delineated by the Morena, the Magus Cynric summoned a great gust of wind which cast the straw and stick figure completely apart. Bearing its pieces back to Lobkovíce, the villagers rejoiced and rewarded the heroes with woolen blankets and the gift of a strange white flower (which they called a birdseye primrose) that remained in bloom even in winter.

*Folktale anecdote - the ritual of the Morena, which symbolizes the end-of-winter and the coming of spring, is an old Czech tradition. It is accompanied by the decoration of a fir-tree (much like a modern Christmas tree), and is purportedly still practiced in parts of rural Czechoslovakia.

The Hunting Party of Master Imre of Zlín

Along the road from Breclav to Olomouc (following the Moravian river), the expedition encountered a group of Czech nobles on horseback returning from a hunting trip. Anheta of Weeping Rock had previously warned the Magi of Rabenstein that the Czech nobles were angered by the influx of Germans to their land (by invitation from the Czech king), and since Rabenstein's soldiers were primarily of German stock, she counseled caution in dealing with them. Although Cynric, in his unusual Slavic accent, soothed the nobles by claiming they were from Novgorod, and merely passing through Moravia, one of the Czechs (Master Imre of Zlín), demanded a tax for using the road. When they professed poverty and the pretty young Tatyana began to flirt with him, Imre offered to accept the afternoon with her as payment. But her would-be-fiancé Piotr protested loudly, and the insolence of the group angered Imre, so he ordered them to empty their sacks that he may determine what share to collect as a tax. As his comrade knights dismounted to assist, Imre observed that Cynric withheld a small pouch from scrutiny (it contained Mentem vis in the form of sulferous powder). Arguing over its value, Imre reached to seize the pouch, and this prompted the heretofore quiet Magus Magda of Bjornaer to respond. Already angered that the Czechs had draped the carcass of a wolf over their pack horse as a prize, she used her magic to break Imre's hand as he reached for the sulfer. Thus ensued a tempestuous battle that quickly resulted in the capture of Imre and 4 of his fellows, while the spooked horses and several other Czechs ran away in fright. In a bizarre twist, Imre's neck was brutally cut (probably a mortal wound) by Bertóul after the row, when Bertóul attempted to intimidate the noble by cutting off his ear (an unfortunate moment to lose his grip on his axe). Stunned at this turn of events, the grogs were hastily ordered to knock the nobles unconcious, and Imre's wounds were stabilized (although with sunset only a few hours away, not much promise was given for his survival since no vis was invested in the healing spell).

The expedition collected the noble's valuables while Anheta employed a spell to render the Czechs drunk, and then the entire group did an about-face and retreated to the south, eventually leaving the main road to seek haven in the less-travelled woods. While Anheta was angered at the possible repurcussions of violent conflict with nobles so close to her Covenant, the Magi of Rabenstein were similarly angry with Anheta for stealing trinkets from Rabenstein (which they had observed in her bag when Imre had forced them to empty their cargos). In this bitter climate, the expedition made its way past Brno to the Covenant of Weeping Rock along the narrow river Trebava.

Cast: Cynric (Patrick Murphy), Bertoul and Piotre (Kendall Miles), Magda (Ann Harper), Tatyana (Blythe Newton)

King Samo, Master of Lepers

Date - 11/17/96 (44th Session)

... In which a renounced Hermetic Magus is discovered to be behind the rise of Oravsky Podzamok

The Code of Hermes (Act II)

In the winter of 1207, an expedition from Rabenstein trudged to the nearby kingdom of Moravia at the behest of Quaesitor Raisel, to lend assistance to the fledgling Spring Covenant of Weeping Rock in dealing with a hedge wizard (see Act I of the previous story Tales along the Road to Bohemia for more information). At an inter-covenant council meeting, Weeping Rock's apparent leader, Spitenhev of Tytalus, relayed to Rabenstein's Magi his knowledge about this nearby hedge wizard called Samo Spáty (named for the mystical Frankish King Samo of the 8th Century, who founded the Kingdom of Slavs and thwarted a Magyar invasion). Although he insisted this 'modern' incarnation of Samo was a fraud, Spitenhev expressed concern that Samo had managed to insulate himself in a nearby castle with Bogomile heretics. During the Council, the Magi debated what course of action to pursue. While Spitenhev advocated prodding Samo with magics to test his strength, the Magi of Rabenstein managed to convince the Tytalus to delay implementing his plan until they could glean more of Samo's powers and intentions by implanting a spy. Thus the Magus Cynric elected to journey to Samo's fortress (called Oravsky Podzamok), along with Tatyana and Polu, to survey his estate and its kin.

Arriving at the fortress of Oravsky Podzamok (about 2 days east of Olomouc along the Orava river), the three potential spies discovered that a throng of over 140 lepers and beggars had camped out at the base of the castle's towering limestone cragg, including the baker Frank of Thörl (see the previous story Office of the Seclusion of the Leper). Convincing one of the gatehouse guards to let them inside, Tatyana earned the jealousy of a beautiful Czech woman named Hlavka when she sang for the bored Czech soldiers and stole their hearts. Hlavka garnished her revenge when she sauntered off with the expedition's sole translator, Polu, and the wiry lad wasn't seen again until the next morning (exhausted from his evening with the temptress, but changed by the experience).

Meanwhile, Cynric and Tatyana met the debonair Bogomile leader Vincente, who led them to his quarters and piqued the interest of the Magus with hints of connections to Jewish book-merchants. They spoke at length about Bogomile theology, revealing their Heretical leanings, but wary of Vincente's far-too-charming nature. The following day, Tatyana managed to sneak up to the third floor of the castle, home to master Samo, only to be captured by Samo's servants. At Samo's behest, she summoned the others to meet the castle's master, who announced himself to be Hecunáh of House Callimachus, a Greek Magus and master physicus from the legendary Hermetic house of healers (see Additional Houses described in the House Rules section). Hecunáh had devised a ritual spell to cure leprosy, although he lacked the vis necessary to cure the throngs of lepers who had descended upon his castle. He promised not to attack Cynric, and seemed worried of attracting the ire of the Order with his growing power. In a lengthy meeting with the three folk of Rabenstein, he admitted that he had been renounced by his House, and relayed his intentions to support the Bogomile heresy and undermine the authority of the Church in Rome (which he despised), and asked them to join him. Despite Cynric's reluctance to accept (and the good Christian Polu's insolence to Hecunáh), he felt sympathetic to the Magi's ambitions, and promised not to relay his discovery to the Order. Further, he arranged a meeting between the Magi of Weeping Rock and Hecunáh in hopes that they could reach an understanding.

Cast: Cynric (Patrick Murphy), Lassitor (Chris Blake), Tatyana (Blythe Newton), Magda (Ann Harper), Bertoul (Kendall Miles), Polu (Chris Blake, Kendall Miles, and Ann Harper)

The Path of St. Michael

Date - 11/24/96 (45th Session)

... A star falls to the earth in Hungary, unleashing a throng of ancient Huns

Near midnight (February of 1207), some of the sentries at Rabenstein noticed a strange light moving among the stars in the path of St. Michael (the Milky Way). As a few gathered covenfolk watched, the light grew brighter and fell to the earth somewhere to the east, illuminating the sky with a shimmering pale glow. An emergency Council was convened, and an expedition hastily sent forth to investigate this strange celestial phenomenon. After passing east of the Neusiedler See and into Hungary a few days later, the expedition was besieged by mounted barbaric warriors while trudging by cover of darkness, perhaps attracted to the soft glow of the Magi's magically-conjured lanterns (the riders charged onward into the cold night and did not harrass the expedition further). Piotr thought the warriors were evil Polovtsi of the distant East, but the body of one slain by Helmut had Roman coins that shined as if they were brand new. Further, a horse captured by Lassitor from the "Polovtsi" vanished with the coming dawn in a glimmering display of sparkling starlight.

Meeting some monks from the Goat-church in Sopron who had just returned from a pilgrimage to the fallen star, the folk from Rabenstein learned that the star fell just outside the village of Hegyashalom (30 miles south of Bratislava), and that it was regarded as a bad omen. Journeying to this small Magyar village, the Magi were led to a small crater a few miles south of town. Dozens of German and Magyar peasants surrounded the crater (which housed a smashed chariot), praying, gossiping, and offering their tales of the event for alms. After extended conversations, the Magi surmised that whatever the nature of the star, it had somehow released the very band of heathen horsemen encountered earlier (who had apparantly raped a young Magyar girl and slain her brother; although other villagers insisted this tale was false, it rang true to the Magi). Piotr tried to track the horses, whose hoofprints were visible in and around the crater, but the pursuit was slow-paced, and the trail was lost on the eastern banks of the Neusiedler See. Unsure where to pursue the Polovtsi band, the expedition decided to seek shelter (and information) in the nearby Austrian village of Eisenstadt (since the son of its Burmester, Nikolas Esterhazy, had been seen at the crater taking an interest in the story of the Polovtsi, and somehow believed himself to be responsible according to magics of the Magus Julian).

*Cultural anecdote - "Bull's Blood" was shared by monks of Goat-church (in Sopron) with the covenfolk. This drink was such a potent wine (80 proof) that the church ultimately forbid it in Hungary.

12/8/96 - 46th Session (Act II)

In Eisenstadt the expedition discovered that stories of the malevolant Polovtsi riders were beginning to spread (in fact, three villagers were missing and presumed lost to the barbarians). Further, a local young peasant woman named Kira had been accused of causing the falling star and summoning the devils with her witchcraft. But upon meeting the imprisoned girl, Lassitor determined that she was capable of little more than love spells and paltry hexes. The villagers, however, were fervently embracing the local priest's sermons about the end of the world being at hand, and had determined to blame Kira (consequently, at dusk they shaved her head, tied her hands behind her back, and placed her in a cage in the town square with a cat to test her guilt or innocence). Although they were unable to gain audience with Nikolas Esterhazy, the Magi became convinced of his involvement when they learned that just last week, the grave of his grandfather had been desecrated. Fortunately the Miller, a friend of Nikolas, was intruiged by the scholars of Rabenstein and spoke with them at length about the Esterhazy family. He asked many questions about their knowledge of Jewish spells, which prompted the Magi to pursue rumors of a mysterious 'Jewish princess' they had heard about earlier in the day.

The Magi returned to the sight of the fallen star to investigate the existence of this so-called Jewish princess, but Lassitor and Julian discovered her to be none other than a Magus of Valcum Covenant, Sibiu filius Math of Bjornaer. In the tense moonlight accompanied by her sullen Magyar grogs, she accused them of encroaching upon Valcum's territories by entering the Kingdom of Hungary (Sibiu and the Magi of Rabenstein did not get along, but she gave them a bottle of wine as a gift before departing.) The next day, the Magi encountered yet another Magus en route to the sight of the fallen star, Paternostro filius Yedeg of House Tytalus, a member of Nubes Fenestrae Covenant of Badgastein (obviously this celestial event was going to attract many Magi, depending on how far away the event had been observed).

Back in Eisenstadt, the Magi managed to illicit the truth from Nikolas with the help of his friend Viktor the Miller. Due to an ascendancy dispute within his family, Nikolas had purchased a recipe for a magical elixir from a Jew of Sopron to empower him with the strength of his ancestors (which included, according to legend, the mighty Attila the Hun). But instead, the spell seemed to have summoned these bloodthirsty riders, who were obviously Huns! The magical unction had included most foul ingredients (including the fingers of his dead grandfather, Martin Esterhazy), and Nikolas had drunk the elixir three nights in a row at midnight (on the third night, the star fell to earth). Detecting something most unusual and magical in the belly of Nikolas, the Magi determined to try to have him exorcised. But Nikolas was a well-known noble, and refused to consent unless he did so in disguise at a distant monastery, so they agreed to depart the following afternoon. Earlier in the day, Magda of Bjornaer had discovered the campsite of the marauding Huns west of town, and observed that their tracks in the fresh snow simply vanished altogether. Speculating that the magical Huns must vanish with daybreak (and would assuredly return at dusk), the Magi determined to consult Sir Guenther, the Marshall of Eisenstadt about their discovery. Guenther listened to the tale, and agreed to gather many Rittern to fight the barbaric Huns should they appear. Fortunately, 35 knights were available and eager to volunteer (since many had journeyed to the sight of the fallen star over the past few days, and were easily summoned from their encampments around the crater). In a terrific battle after dusk, over 20 Huns were vanquished by the gallant Rittern, though an incredible 9 good knights lay mortally wounded (more than double the casualty rate of a typical Medieval battle of mounted knights!). Hastening Nikolas to the Church of Our Lady of the Riverbank (12 miles from Wien) in disguise as a peasant the next day, Julian and Lassitor were stunned to observe a toad crawl out of his mouth during his exorcism (it was found to contain 3 pawns of Rego vis), but it seemed to end the wrath of the Huns.

In a subsequent session, one of the Hun warriors, László, arrived at the Covenant and took sanctuary there when the Magus Julian was able to converse with him in his native language (by means of Hermetic magic). From his tale, it seemed László was born in the 5th Century but had never died, instead riding in some magical land (or regio?) before becomming lost from his leader, Bleda the Hun in recent weeks. Confined to a mystifying Europe of 750 years later, László sought refuge at Rabenstein and nominally joined their turb.

*Historical anecdotes: the Esterhazy family of Austria (in the village of Eisenertz) has long been one of the wealthiest and most influential families of the nation, claiming to have descended from Attila the Hun. They achieved fame in the 18th Century for being the patron of the classical composer Haydn (the teacher of Mozart).

Also, the testing of the witch Kira was based on a traditional Italian method called the 'Evil Cat Test'. An accused person had their head shaved, their hands tied behind their back, and was placed naked to the waist in a cage with a cat. If they could kill the beast with their teeth without losing an eye (and without using their hands), they were judged to be innocent.

Cast: Lassitor (Chris Blake and Patrick Murphy), Magda (Ann Harper), Julian and Ouen (Kendall Miles), Piotr, Helmut, and Axel (Patrick Murphy and Kendall Miles)

The Troll of Magdalensberg

Dates - 12/15, 12/19/96 (47th and 48th Sessions)

... Rabenstein stumbles into a treacherous faerie regio atop a sacred mountain

This tale employs many of the characters from a previous tale, The Picture of Castellan Demel. If you are not familiar with that story, you should consult it before continuing to avoid confusion...

Instead of making the monthly trip to Leoben market, Rabenstein decided to attend the festival of Carnevale (preceeding Lent) at the walled town of Friesach in the Duchy of Carinthia (3 days distant by foot). Gorging themselves upon meat and pheasant before the 40-day fast, the expedition sauntered amidst the tables and tressles of the many craftsmen of Carinthia while arranging prudent purchases for the Covenfolk. Late in the day, the Duke of Carinthia arrived with a substantial retinue of nobles and ecclesiastes, and served to judge a contest of song among 3 talented minstrels. Although the competition included Sir Gottfried von Strassburg, a friend to Cynric and Julian, the contest went to the wonderful minnesinger Tannhäuser von Wartburg, who sang of his grandfather's visit with the goddess Venus beneath the Hörselberg in Thürningia, and his subsequent melancholia and darkened soul. Utilizing his friendship with Sir Gottfried (and the colors of the Bishop), Cynric mingled with the nobles after the contest, and was invited to the Count of Friesach's castle, Petersburg (overlooking the town), to complete the festival with a night of dancing and dining. At Petersburg Cynric learned of both the ascension of Sir Renard to the post of Castellan of Strassburg, and the strange disappearance prior to Christmas of its previous lord, Demél. Cynric further agreed to accept Gottfried's invitation to visit Strassburg when he learned that the pretty young Loretta had recently returned there so that he might speak with the girl (he retained only three servants for this errand, sending the rest back to Rabenstein with their supply of provisions from the festival).

Arriving at Strassburg, Cynric was happy to find Loretta well, and promptly agreed to accompany her to visit the Magdalenberg (a majestic sacred mountain to the south that she yearned to visit in hopes of finding her peace with God about Basil's death, for he had spoken reverently about the mountain). Receiving permission from Castellan Renard to escort Loretta to the precipice, the small expedition departed for the Magdalensburg the next day and there discovered the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to Mars. Loretta found the hillside a sad place, taking little solace in the beautiful view the mountaintop offered, or in Tatyana's assertion that faeries haunted the mountain peak. Spending the night on the windswept hillside around a campfire, young Gelvin awoke to discover that both Tatyana and Loretta had vanished while Cynric, Erik and he had slept (two simple piles of rocks and acorns lay in their places). Pursuing them at once to the mountain's zenith, the Magus Cynric was left alone when a booming voice near the precipice invoked a strange faerie magic that forced his socius back down the slope (as if an invisible force pushed/pulled them down the hillside). Further, the voice claimed to have 'paid' for the women in full (the acorns maybe?) and demanded that Cynric depart. Though he could soon hear their pleas for help, Cynric could not see the girls, and when confronted by a menacing troll of some kind, he was forced to retreat when his magic could not best the creature.

After several frustrating hours, the expedition discovered that by discrediting the faerie spell, they could end its power and hike back to the mountaintop (refuting the three truths told by the troll). Searching the woods atop the Magdalensberg, they came upon a white mole which spoke to them. Named Boabdil, the creature told them that the troll intended to kiss the girls for three consecutive nights, which would make them ugly, because once the troll had been a handsome prince (Modron, the wife of the Mountain's son), and he was bitterly envious of all creatures so beautiful. Boabdil agreed to tell them where the troll Modron had taken the scrawny girls and how to get there in exchange for 13 sacks of beer the following winter. Following Boabdil's directions, the three men walked around the hazel tree at the summit thrice, and then made their way to a circle of standing stones on the hillside (Cynric speculated that they had somehow entered a faerie regio, observing that the Roman ruins had vanished altogether, and white flowers grew in their stead). The standing stones seemed to be the 5 brothers of Modron, transformed forever into stone. The brothers could still speak, however, and angry with Modron, they offered exotic methods to kill their brother. Following the advice of the brothers, the group made their way along a narrow path and up a precipitous ledge to the cavern lair of Modron, which was sealed with a large boulder. Spying inside, Erik observed the troll making the two girls a bed of leaves. Arguing with him that they could only sleep upon a bed of feathers, the girls convinced the troll to fetch some geese for them. When Modron pushed aside the boulder to hunt some geese, both the girls tried to escape, and the men attacked the troll. Although Gelvin was grievously burned by a tumultuous wash of flames from the Magus Cynric, Erik managed to slay the troll in a pitched battle (its horn contained 3 pawns of Terram vis). Constructing a litter for Gelvin, the expedition hastily returned and encircled the hazel tree thrice counter-clockwise to depart the regio. Descending the mountain, they stumbled upon the tent of some nobles, including Sir Heinrich (Loretta's fiancé), who had come searching for Loretta. It seems they had been absent for 4 nights on the mountain! Since Gelvin was seriously wounded, he was borne the next morning to nearby Hochsterwitz castle to recover.

*Historical anecdote: Tannhäuser was a real 13th-Century German minnesinger, whose legendary journeys and Venus tales inevitably confused him with another, mythical Tannhäuser (or perhaps with Eckhart of the 14th Century). Like Sir Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan and Isolt, Tannhäuser's tale was also given operatic treatment by Wagner in the 19th Century.

Also, during Medieval times the Magdalensberg served as one of four neighboring hilltops on which great bonfires were lit the second friday after Easter in the annual 'pilgrimage of the bonfires'.

Cast: Cynric and the brothers Grolsch (Patrick Murphy), Erik von Mälmo (Chris Blake), Tatyana and Gelvin (Ann Harper), Gelvin (Kendall Miles), Loretta (Blythe Newton)

A Penaunce for Sigismund

Date - 12/29/96 (49th Session)

...A baudy sinner leads some soldiers to temptation and incurs a penance

Rabenstein decided to dispatch a servant (Matthias) to Hochsterwitz castle in nearby Carinthia to assay the progress of their recouperating socius Gelvin, since he had been recently wounded in battle with the Troll of Magdalensberg and left there to recover. Arriving at Hochsterwitz, the beautiful seat of the Duke of Carinthia, Matthias discovered that Gelvin was still several weeks away from undertaking a return trip back to Rabenstein. He and the Miles of Rabenstein, Erik (who had remained at Hochsterwitz while Gelvin recovered), determined to await the recovery of their friend. They quickly grew bored in the castle however, as its Butler Sir Agobard refused to give them any responsibilities, and they found little to do but eat, sleep, and endure the company of father Otto, a priest suspicious of the mystics of Rabenstein who incessantly preached to them. Consequently, the two stir-crazed socius leapt at an opportunity to join an excursion departing the castle. With other soldiers from the garrison of Hochsterwitz, they searched the nearby woods for several days for a missing child (it's despicable parents were accused of abandoning it in the forest to die). Although the child was eventually found without their assistance by other soldiers, Matthias witnessed a strange event in the woods. He saw one of the soldiers of Hochsterwitz, Sigismund (whom Erik had befriended during their stay), curse the name of the Lord over losses in gambling and launch an arrow into the sky against God Almighty. Not fifteen minutes later, the same arrow fell back to the earth at Sigismund's feet dripping wet with blood! Matthias convinced Sigismund to give him the arrow (to show his masters) in return for keeping the event secret, and at the conclusion of the search he set off to return to Rabenstein with the arrow.

Although Sigismund's strange secret was kept, Otto the priest caught news of the theft of wine from the kitchen, and of gambling among the soldiers during the search for the child. Discovering Sigismund's friends (including Erik) to be the perpetrators, Otto imposed a penance upon them, sending them to the nearby town of St. Veit where they should live as barefoot paupers for a week, drinking only from the Holy Well and eating only what bread they should be offered as alms. Though they made a brief appearance at the Well and drank from it, Erik and Sigismund did not abide by the penance, and instead used their coin to eat from taverns, refusing to beg. Annoyed that no harlots could be procured since it was Lent, Sigismund and Erik made their way to humble dwellings near the town in search of some tramps. Erik was frightened by the grotesque manner of the midwife Gretchen so he returned to St. Veit, but Sigismund remained with Gretchen's beautiful raven-locked daughter, Pauline. When Erik saw Sigismund yet again later in the week, he was bewitched, with pallid skin and baggy eyes. Further, Sigismund spoke of a strange dream in which Pauline led him to a barn and placed a bridle over his back, transforming him into a horse and riding him hard into the night. Despite Erik's attempt to talk his friend out of returning to the lass, Sigismund departed, and when the penance ended he did not return to Hochsterwitz. Eventually, Erik led Sir Agobard the Butler to the house of midwife Gretchen to retrieve Sigismund, and there they found him languishing (having lost over 30 pounds and deathly ill). They took him back to St. Veit to recouperate, but Erik and Gelvin departed for Rabenstein before they learned more of Sigismund's fate or of the mysterious midwife and her bewitching daughter.

In a later session, the Magi discovered that the arrow had the residue of human blood upon it, but harbored no magic, nor was the amount of dried blood on the shaft sufficient to be utilized as an Arcane Connection.

Cast: Erik von Mälmo (Chris Blake), Gelvin and Matthias (Patrick Murphy)

The Meerfrau of Lake Balaton

Date - 1/5, 1/12/97 (50th & 51st Sessions)

... the search for a lake faerie leads to a confontation with a Magus of Valcum

After many seasons absence in nearby Hungary, the Magus Capra of Bjornaer returned to Rabenstein in early March of 1207. Professing his desire to study the realm of spirits, Capra described at length his decision to depart the Covenant indefinitely and immerse himself among Magyar folk. By doing so, he hoped to absorb their magical traditions, and eventually adapt what he could learn to Hermetic discipline for the benefit of the Order.

During his stay at Rabenstein, Capra relayed a tale about a furrier he knew who had earned the wrath of faeries. Apparantly this furrier, Fédor, had taken a water-sprite as his wife - a creature he found upstream from Lake Balaton which was most beautiful from the waist up, but when wet had a fish's tail instead of legs. When the other villagers taunted him about his strange wife, named Brita, he grew weary of the woman and urged her to return to her native element. Despite her protests, he picked her up and carried her back to the lake and threw her in, whereupon her tail reformed and she vanished beneath the water. Unknown to the furrier, however (for he was away hunting), a strange witch came to his village for three successive nights the following autumn (the witch came during the green flood, which occurs each fall in Hungary). Unable to enact her vengeance upon the absent Fédor for his rejection of the Lake's daughter, the witch told the villagers that she would return with the spring flood, and that if the furrier was not to be found then, she would let her vengeance fall upon the whole village. So the villagers deemed not to tell Fédor of the witch, and find cause to keep him at home during the spring flood. Although Capra did not have a solution to the furrier's curse, he felt sorry for the man, and wondered if any Magi of Rabenstein would wish to pursue the matter (since Capra was deficient in the Art of Aquam and wary of the vast lake). A small expedition hence mounted to both visit Capra's recent home (in the tiny village of Sitké), and to investigate the legend of the Meerfrau Brita. As the spring flood drew nearer with the thawing snows, the expedition met Fédor the furrier in his home, Heviz, a village just north of Lake Balaton. Roaming the lakeside unsuccessfully with him for signs of the fay, the group set camp near its bank . But during the night a woman with slick-wet hair and grey clammy skin crept into the camp and kissed Fédor as he slept (filling his lungs with water and killing the poor man). When she was spotted trying to slip back to the lake by the weary-eyed sentry, the alarm was raised and the devilish woman was attacked by Bertoul, who perceived her monstrous luster. Bertoul was nearly kissed himself by the fiend, which possessed a great strength and pinned him to the ground, but Matthias drove his spear into the creature, transforming it suddenly into a great splash of water and tiny fish gasping for air (the collected fish harbored 3 pawns of Aquam vis).

Although the danger (and Fédor's curse) seemed to have passed (especially with Fédor's death), the encampment decided to move away from the lake (1/2 mile) to wait out the rest of the cold drizzling night by campfire. Several hours later as a light rain fell, the alert Lassitor noticed several human-like figures to their flank. Rousing the group, they were suddenly confonted by unknown, methodical assailants. As the row ensued it became clear that their enemy was not faerie but rather monstrous grogs of Valcum Covenant, one of which had the head of what appeared to be an old man sewn onto its hulking body. When the Magi began using spells to defend themselves, the attack ceased and a Magus of Valcum began to parlay. Both sides angry at each other, the parlay quickly degenerated and the battle was rekindled. At its conclusion, the Valcum Magus Pirmin of Merinita was forced to yield and was captured by Cynric (having been wounded by a crossbow bolt during the fray), but not without a price, as Lassitor was grievously stabbed with a knife and several other socii injured. Unwilling to risk reprisal for killing the Magus, they ultimately released Pirmin and agreed to meet with representatives of Valcum in the future to diffuse any similar entanglements. Spitefully, however (and unknown to Primin), the Magi of Rabenstein planted all of their dangerous magical spruce cones in the vicinity of the lake and hence Valcum Covenant (see the previous story Amid the Veil of Pines to grasp the significance of this deed).

*Geographical note - Lake Balaton is the largest lake in all of Europe.

Cast: Lassitor and Matthias (Chris Blake), Tatyana, Capra, and Uri (Ann Harper), Cynric (Patrick Murphy), Bertoul and Ursmar (Kendall Miles)

With Friends Like This...

Date - 1/12/97 (51st Session)

... A malicious Celtic ensorcellment leads to the gruesome death of a sentry

Strange occurences on the Covenant grounds in the early spring of 1207 prompted the Magi to convene a council. Apparantly over a period of several nights Lassitor been awakened to the wail of a trumpet (though no one else heard the blast), the distillation apparatus in the caves had been violently knocked over, the ravens (known to live on the hillside) had been fighting and squawking noisily after dusk, and one of the sentries had spied a strange cloaked figure in the wood above the fortress (though no trace of them could be found upon a search). Further, Lassitor and Merento were able to distinguish the faint scent of mistletoe in the caverns beneath the Covenant (a hint the strange Celtic past of the hill). Although the Magi agreed to post additional sentries, they largely dismissed the events as trivial manifestations of the hill's ancient Celtic past, citing several similar occurences over the past few years. Several nights later however, the tranquility was broken when a naked barbarian was spotted on the ramparts (who resembled one of the Celtic spirits from the previous tale Mist of the Ancients). Desperate to save their lives and slay the dangerous intruder, the sentries engaged the Celt in a particularly gory battle, leaving Bjorin and Wolfgang injured before Bertoul felled the barbarian and decapitated him, triumphantly mocking this gruesome manner of the Celts. Only then was it observed that the slain Celt was rather their own sentry, Axel! Although the sentries had all seen a fearsome Celtic warrior, they now pondered the mutilated body of their friend at their feet and recalled his absence during the battle. Stunned at this bewitchment the covenfolk offered up tearful and frightened prayers to God Almighty the rest of this sleepless night.

As a result of the incident, Axel's brother Helmut decided to depart the haunted Covenant evermore (wishing to seek vengeance for his brother's death, but unsure whom to seek retribution againt since Bertoul's deed had merely prevented him from fighting his own brother!). Along with Helmut, his uncle (the Magus Gustav of Merenita), declared his intention to depart the Covenant, weary of its growing mundane ties to the Bishop and deeply troubled by the strange aura of Rabenstein and its possible link to the death of his nephew.

Cast: Lassitor and Helmut (Chris Blake),Wolfgang (Ann Harper), Cynric and Bjorin (Patrick Murphy), Bertoul and Julian (Kendall Miles)

St. Michael, the Avenging Angel

Date - 1/19/97 (52nd Session)

... The appearance of the Archangel Michael lures an expedition to Bavaria

At the Easter celebration in Bruck (1207) a Knight Templar, Sir Berengar, relayed a majestic tale about the recent appearance of St. Michael in the Bavarian town of Passau. Although the Magi were too busy to pursue the matter (for it would interrupt their studies), Brother Meshach arranged an expedition to investigate the miraculous story. Arriving in the town of Passau on the Danube, the troupe met with brother Hilderic of the Chapel of St. Hippolyt and learned more of the miracle. Indeed, the angel had appeared once within the town, about a month ago, with great white wings and a golden aura accompanying it. According to guards who witnessed it, the 'angel' strode silently through the narrow streets, pausing to occasionally knock its mighty spear upon a door. The next day, any house which the angel had struck was found to have suffered the death of one of its tenants. Among the 7 dead were some Jewish moneylenders, a harlot, an old merchant, two ecclesiastes in the employ of the Bishop, and the Castellan of Schärding (the nearby fortress-residence of the Bishop of Passau). Investigating the relatives of the deceased, Meshach discerned hints of past sins among the dead, which only strengthened the notion shared by the townsfolk that this angel had enacted heavenly retribution of some sort upon the dead for their sins. The dead priest Lothar for example, lived in a luxurious townhouse with fine silks and the trappings of a noble, and the moneylenders were reputed to be cheats. Of interest to the expedition was the surviving house boy of Lothar, a mute orphan (staying at the Cathedral since the death of his acolyte master). Professing to Brother Hilderic their acquaintance with a learned doctor, Meshach convinced him to release the orphan boy (named Michael in honor of the Archangel since no one knew his real name) into their custody. Taking the boy back to Rabenstein, the Magi were able to communicate with him, and learned that his real name was Gundulf, and that Lothar had cut his tongue out to prevent him from spreading a tale he overheard last year (something about someone named Simon). But when a Hermetic spell was cast upon the child, Gundulf fell into a writhing fit. With time, the Magi learned that such seizures had fallen upon the boy in the past (in the presence of Lothar, in dreams, and once during a stay at the fortress of Shärding), though their nature remained unclear.

Cast: Bertoul (Kendall Miles), Brother Meshach (Patrick Murphy), Tatyana (Ann Harper), Piotr (Chris Blake)

The Lottery of Kalkstein

Date - 1/26/97 (53rd Session)

... A personal debt lures an expedition into the Tirol where it must face a fearsome vampyre

Magus Julian of Jerbiton called a Council meeting in early April of 1207 to explain a personal dilemna he faced. Apparently, three years earlier (not long after completing his apprenticeship), he had encountered a mysterious limestone rock formation in the Tirol while journeying with an elderly monk, and there he heard the forlorn cries of a ghost. Although he was unable to communicate with the spirit, he had the timely good fortune to encounter the Magus Mnasitheus of Trianoma and his apprentice Sabine in a nearby village named Kalkstein (both Magi were of nearby Nubes Fenestre covenant of the Greater Alps). Although Mnasitheus expressed no interest in the tale, the young apprentice agreed to hike up to the site where Julian heard the ghost and to assist him with her Vim magics if possible. But that evening, as dusk fell upon them on the limestone crag, frightful shades appeared and assaulted the two young Magi. During the encounter, Sabine was lost as she tried to commune with the spirits (perhaps vanishing within a regio), and Julian was able to free the ghost he heard previously (who turned out to be a living woman from the nearby Kalkstein). He returned to Kalkstein with the woman, but the villagers expressed nary a thanks for her safe return. Further, Mnasitheus was angered by the loss of his apprentice, so went with Julian back to the rock to attempt to retrieve her the next night. Unable to retrieve her, they were able to communicate with her, and learned that she could only be released on the eve of St. George (April 22nd). Hastily attempting to deter the ire of Mnasitheus and earn a poor reputation so soon out of apprenticeship, Julian proposed to pay the elder Magus an annual supply of vis until such a time that he could free Sabine (since the village girl had been freed alive and well, it seemed Sabine might similarly be released in the future).

Now that Julian had settled in at his new Covenant Rabenstein, he proposed to lead an expedition to attempt to rescue young Sabine since the eve of St. George approached. Since the spirit-master Lassitor was recovering from a recent injury, Cynric agreed to depart with him along with a few socii and the young Russians. After a week's journey past Strassburg and westward along the Drau river the group came to the small valley in the southern Tirol. Arriving at the small village of Kalkstein they received a cool reception, being mistaken for tax collectors from the Count of Görz. Further, few if any travellers had either visited the village or been able to leave the valley of late (certainly none that left had returned to the village over the past three years). Over the course of the next few days, the group learned the legend of the Pisantes family and the annual lottery of the village...

The Tale of Farnus Pisantes

In the time of the villager's grandfather's fathers, a hunting party from Kalkstein had been caught in a terrible mountain snow in the Tirol. They took shelter in an ancient ruined fort during the blizzard, but were hopelessly snowed in, without food. To save themselves, their leader Farnus (of the Pisantes family) devised a plan to save them. He had them select some of their number by lot and eat them, and in so doing, they managed to survive until the pass became navigable and they returned home. This secret was kept for many years afterwards, but when the son of one of the dead men caught wind of the tale, he murdered the now elder Farnus. A blood-feud ensued and the whole Pisantes family was killed in retribution, but not long thereafter Farnus came back from the dead as a horrible monster and took his revenge on the ungrateful villagers. To save themselves, they offered him tribute in the form of a human sacrifice, and ever since then, on the eve of St. George, a villager is selected by lot to be sacrificed to Farnus.

So the lottery approached this year (as it was the week before St. George's Eve), and according to the ruling of their Burmester Albrecht, the folk of Rabenstein were subject to participate (further, not one but two folk were to be sacrificed to appease Farnus because the girl Julian had previously rescued had been a sacrifice, and the villagers blamed their recent woes on her release, which they considered to be a violation of their pact with Farnus). Julian also elucidated the death of Mnasitheus of Trianoma when he recognized the elder Magi's skullcap and robe among the villagers (Kalkstein's forester Tibor claimed he found the trinkets on a dead man in the woods, and Julian discerned this tale to be true). Although a shield tax was paid by the expedition to keep Tatyana out of the impending lottery, Brother Meshach was among two folk chosen to be sacrificed to Farnus. So on St. George's Eve, the villagers hiked up to the limestone crag and chained the brother and a village woman to a weathered pole as sacrifices to Farnus. Against the wishes of the villagers, the expedition refused to leave the limestone crag, and when threatened with force by young village boys with bows, the armor-clad socii of Rabenstein brought their weapons and shields to bear (such a menacing spectacle caused the young archers to flee, not to mention the approach of dusk and the thought of the coming of the monster Farnus). Freeing their friend and the peasant woman (who promptly ran away in terror), the expedition awaited dusk in hopes of finding a means to free Sabine.

2/2/97 - 54th Session (Act II)

Soon a host of spirits became visible, encircling the crag, and Julian conjured a ward against them. Sabine was spied among the shades. She claimed to be lost, unable to see the huddled expedition, but recognized Julian's voice. She also claimed to have been led to a strange mountain ruin by a man, and was shocked to hear that three years had passed since she was lost here. As it grew dark, the other spirits became menacing, almost taking corporal form when haraunging the living folk that strayed outside Julian's reach and terrifying Ursmar and Tatyana. Before a means could be found to rescue Sabine, a pale man purposefully strode onto the crag and toward Julian, who called out to him, and was nearly upon the Magus before Matthias and Ursmar flung the Magus out of the way and intervened. The gaunt, black-eyed man had terrific strength and tried to throttle Ursmar (who was only saved by a stroke of luck as his iron collar absorbed the creature's viscious bite - though his neck did bleed), and when Cynric threw magical flames at the guant figure, it was forced to flee. Meshach suggested that the man might be a vampyre, creatures known to rise from the dead and walk the nights drinking blood and eating human flesh, much as the tale of Farnus described (which also explained some blood-let sheep the villagers had dealt with recently). The expedition determined to pursue the vampyre (whom they assumed to be Farnus) in hopes of finding the ancient ruins referred to by both the Tale of Farnus and by Sabine, so they gathered a piece of tattered clothing from Farnus and tried to use it as an arcane connection to pursue him. They hiked for hours on end to the top of the Alpine ridge above, well past midnight, and by Cynric's keen eye managed to spy an old path along the ridge. Fighting exhaustion the group trudged onward until they came to a descending trail that led to a precipitous ledge. When Tatyana began to feel edgy, they determined to push ahead, and hugging the cliff walls they came to an old Roman fort blocking their path under a looming rock face, just as Sabine had described (standing on a ledge magestically some 400 feel above the valley below). As they tried to kindle a torch, horrific undead corpses clambered out of the fort, gnawing and tearing at Julian and scratching his eye. Alas, the expedition was incredibly weary from their mountain hike, and while Cynric washed them with fire the gruesome Farnus leapt from the fort's roof into the fray, throttling poor Ursmar in an instant and dashing Matthias to the ground. Nearly killing Cynric, the monster was forced to leap off the cliff when the young Magus set it ablaze. As dawn broke Sabine's burnt body was found among the ghoulish corpses, and Cynric probed the fort where he collected several human bones containing vis (he also discovered the lair of Farnus in a small recess in the cliff-wall above the fort, and burned it). Placing Ursmar in a litter, the expedition departed in the early afternoon to avoid another encounter with Farnus (whom they feared lived on and were concerned might be able to fly, as brother Meshach suggested). They hiked back to the ridge at the Reipenspitze, and set a huddled camp. Though Farnus did not come this night, Ursmar arose from the dead and tried to attack the watch, biting at Meshach's neck and gnawing off part of his ear before Julian lifted him in the air and Cynric set their former socius ablaze. Meshach consecrated Ursmar's body and they buried their poor friend on the hillside afterwards.

2/9/97 - 55th Session (Act III)

Returning to Kalkstein the expedition received a dismal reception, as they had interrupted the lottery and offered no proof that they had killed Farnus. Many villagers called for their banishment, but the Burmeister Albrecht vowed to contemplate the matter and agreed to let the weary expedition sleep in his home this night. In the middle of the night however, when their weary guard fell asleep on watch, the village woodsman Tibor and some of the village men assaulted the expedition and bound and gagged them (and stole their possessions). The next day they were put in a sagging old barn, and learned that they were to be taken to the crag, the whole lot of them, to be sacrificed to Farnus. Using his magics (without voice or gestures of course), Julian summoned a most magnificent Perdo Herbam spell which not only destroyed his bindings, but the entire sagging edifice, which collapsed into dust and rotten flaky wood with a groaning heave. Assaulting the peasant guards, they terrified the villagers when they summoned Hermetic magics (Cynric's winds of protection gathered up straw, dust, and wood-bits from the ground and flung them about in a mighty whirlwind). As the villagers ran away, Cynric strode to the hunter Tibor's house and set it ablaze (even Matthias had grown to despise the hunter, and smashed the proud antlers adorning the doorway with a pitchfork he had seized from the barn). They retrieved most of their possessions from the Burmeister and set out to hunt down Tibor (they were now convinced of his involvement somehow with Farnus and with the possible murder of a Hermetic magus, Mnasitheus, whose rings Tibor now wore and whose money Tibor flaunted). Despite bullying the villagers and searching the woods for Tibor, they were unable to locate the forester and determined to depart the valley until they could return with reinforcements to face the vampyre.

Cast: Julian (Kendall Miles), Matthias and Ursmar (Ann Harper, Kendall Miles)Tatyana (Blythe Newton), Brother Meshach and Cynric (Patrick Murphy)

Menan the Witch

Date - 2/23/97 (56th Session)

...One of Morrigan's sisters haunts the nearby village and its new Marshal

Scene I: The Feast of St. John

Canon Gesbert of Seckau came to Rabenstein just prior to the Feast of St. John (at midsummer) to discuss the administration of the village Frohnleiten (and the impending toll) to be constructed along the road (refer to the machinations which led to this new duty in the previous story summary Banner of the Bishop). While staying as a guest of Rabenstein, the canon observed the lack of a chapel, and despite their reservations, the Magi were forced to agree to let him consecrate a chapel in the gatehouse of the fortress during his stay (perhaps inevitable since the Bishop now presided as the Covenant's liege).

In the midsummer's ceremony at Frohnleiten, Gesebert annointed Sir Hammond as the new Marshal of the village, and Hammond was introduced to the village council where he received a new house, gifts and heard grievances (including those of the argumentative miller and peasants worried about implementation of the new Peace of Swabia - laws dictating codes of behavior for the village folk, including what weapons are permitted and even proper hair length!). During the midsummer's dance, Magda observed the grisly decapitated head of a man atop the village maypole, and though none other than she could perceive the foul thing, Merento concurred that something strange permeated the village this night (both Magi are known for their ability to often glimpse what others may not). When it became clear no one remembered the exact site where the maypole was felled, they determined to seize the pole when the village was finished with it, in autumn, to see if it harbored any residual vis.

Scene II: The Feast of St. Brigit

A few days before the Feast of St. Brigit (also called Lugnasad, the annual Covenant festival at Rabenstein), Marshal Hammond of Frohnleiten learned of a bewitchment afflicting one of the local farmers. Apparantly the man, Herschel, had thrown rocks at crows congregating around Apple Tree Man last winter (the oldest apple tree in the orchard), and of late a crow had haunted his hut's thatch roof and upset him. He received permission from Hammond to throw rocks at the foul bird and chased it away, but when Hammond learned that a village lad had recently turned up missing, he hiked to Rabenstein to relay the events to the Magi. They searched unsuccessfully for the child and peroused the Apple Tree Man, but were unable to find a useful arcane connection to the fatherless lad, and returned to their home to ponder the significance of the ravens of the hill. Then a few days later, on the eve of Lugnasad (August 2nd), the folk of Rabenstein were roused by the Beittel (messenger) Harold of Frohnleiten who told them Marshal Hammond needed them at once. Journeying quickly to the village, the Magi discovered poor Herschel had been reduced to a guant old man when a hag came to his door that night and touched him. When the peasants with Hammond gave chase and caught up to the stringy-haired old woman south of town, she hexed them all, sapping their strength and causing dreadful pains in their limbs as even Hammond was unable to hold up the weight of his axe. The ugly old hag raised her arms and spake, calling herself Menan and laughing of the lashing wind and coming storm, then trudged away. Fearful that this hag might be one of Morrigan's sisters (and perhaps one of the ravens of the hill), the Magi returned to their home to await Lugnasad on the morrow (see the previous story summary Morrigan the Witch to understand the Magi's trepidation and learn of their past dealings with her).

Scene III: Denouement

The night of Lugnasad passed relatively uneventfully, although a storm did rage throughout the sultry summer night, thundering and frightening the sentries (who thought they spied a cloaked figure on the hillside). Thereafter thoughts of the strange crow-witch were dismissed and life at the Covenant and Frohnleiten returned to normal (the old man Herschel managed to live, albeit as a weakened and changed man). A few months later however, the body of the missing child was finally discovered. His body was found to be imbedded within the very rock of the fortress walls, and Merento discovered that the lad had been drowned, crushed, and garotted prior to the placement of his body within the wall (exactly how the body got there remained unclear), and the discovery of the body was kept a secret from the villagers of Frohnleiten.

Cast: Magda and Sir Hammond (Ann Harper), Julian (Kendall Miles), Cynric (Patrick Murphy), Peasants of Frohnleiten (Patrick, Jason & Kendall), Lassitor (Chris Blake)

Caverns of the Deepearth

Date - 3/2/97 (57th Session)

... A quest for Vulfram's treasure ensnares folk within the magical depths of the deep Alps

This story is the sequel to the previous adventure summary Sapphires in the Deep. If you are not familiar with that short tale, you should consider reading it before proceeding.

Magus Lassitor of Criamon determined to lead an expedition back to Vulfram's mine in the late summer of 1207, hoping to learn more of the mysterious creatures and the treasure (of which Vulfram boasted) within its depths. Arriving at the wind-swept peak, the small expedition found Vulfram's hut to be abandoned, but perceived signs of recent habitation. Bearing magical torches sparked by the Magus with them, the troupe set out at dawn into the mine, crawling into its narrow confines, until they arrived at the small underground lake deep within the mountain where their comrade Jozef had been slain last year. Pressing onward, they became nervous as they slipped along a narrow cleft in the rock and soon stumbled upon an ancient archway. Lassitor pronounced that its worn carvings denoted a faerie boundary denoting an unknown power. Despite reservations and the distant strains of an unknown music, the expedition descended past the doorway and even further through the vast twisting caverns, reaching after many hours a mist-shrouded cave. There a faerie prince named Schodu appeared to them, surrounded by a host of the blue- and red-eyed goblins (the very kind that had slain Jozef). He mistook them to be the folk of 'Chambaceras the Moonscry', disbelieving Lassitor's pleas of ignorance on the matter. The faerie became torn between slaying them or hearing their mysterious tales (and learning how he might slay the Moonscry by practicing upon Lassitor). When Gelvin relayed an enchanting story of mountain creatures, the faerie became enamored of young Gelvin and bestowed him with a gift (a plain stone). Despite his interest in Gelvin, the faerie imprisoned the others within strange stone 'cages,' joining two hapless Crusaders who had followed Vulfram into the mine for a 'Goblin Market' earlier in the summer. When the faerie prince departed to gather his fickle folk and win back their devotion with one of Gelvin's entrancing tales, the group seized the opportunity to flee. Using his magic to break free from the cage, Lassitor hastily led the group back toward the distant surface, following marks the Magus had inscribed upon the cavern walls to retrace their path. They tired from the swift ascent, but did not pause in their escape, fighting their way past grim goblins. Near the surface it became clear that poor Gelvin, whose reddened face belayed his exhaustion, was weighted down by some manner of faerie hex. The lad soon utterly collapsed, and only when the magical stone given to him by Schodu was removed from his pouch were they able to depart the mine and return to the Covenant.

Cast: Lassitor (Chris Blake), Gelvin and Vaclav (Ann Harper), Bertoul (Kendall Miles), Matthias and Sean O'Falladha (Patrick Murphy),

The Siege of Oravsky Podzamok

Date - 3/9/97 (58th Session)

...An expedition is trapped within an eerie castle when it falls under seige

In the winter of 1206, an expedition from Rabenstein discovered the presence of a renounced Hermetic Magus named Samo in nearby Moravia, and agreed to keep his lineage a secret from the Order (see the previous story summary Tales Along the Road to Bohemia, particularly 'Act I: Invitation to Bohemia', as well as its sequel, King Samo, Master of Lepers). Since this Magus was trained by the legendary house of physicians, House Menecrates, Rabenstein decided to appeal to him for assistance with the more serious medical problems of their members.

So in the late summer of 1207, an expedition departed for Samo's fortified castle in Moravia to petition him for his skill as a doctor. Its members included Magus Julian (who suffered from a scratched eye he recently received in the Tirol), socius Wolfgang (maimed arm), and Gundulf (the lad whose tongue had been cut out in Passau). Arriving at Oravsky Podzamok, Samo's home overlooking the Orava river, the folk from Rabenstein were at first mistaken for warring soldiers, but bribed the fort's disheveled guards to let them enter the castle. Magus Samo (whose Hermetic name was Hecunáh) explained that his growing power had attracted the unfortunate attention of a nearby Czech noble, and that his fortress had been beseiged the previous April. In exchange for Julian's diplomatic assistance in defraying future entanglements with the pesky noble, Samo agreed to heal Julian's eye, procuring a golden ring as described in the book of Herbarius, and utilized some of Rabenstein's Corpus vis to soothe the orbit. He also agreed to transcribe a spell to heal Wolfgang's arm, if they would procure vis for him, but he was unable to assist young Gundulf (suggesting instead that they visit his master Asclepius at the Covenant of Heraditus, Domus Magnus of House Menecrates in the distant Tribunal of Thebes). During their stay at the castle, the boy Gundulf was quite uneasy, relaying his nightmares to Julian, particularly his fear of the Bogomile Vincente. Further, when Lazslo described a strange dream in which he saw a woman (or perhaps a child) stabbed with a knife, the Magi kept Tatyana and Gundulf close at hand in their own tiny quarters each night. Lazlo's dream proved to be prophetic, as several nights later the tormenting castle's harlot Hlavka was murdered in a jealous fit by her lover, the captain of the guard Czeské (Hlavka had earned his wrath by repeating her tryst with young Polu of Rabenstein). Ominously, the bloodstains marking the sight of her murder were chicken blood, and not human...

Before Samo could complete the transcription of his spell to heal Wolfgang's arm, the castle fell once again under seige, trapping the expedition from Rabenstein within Oravsky Podzamok as horsemen and footsoldiers surrounded the castle with picket lines. But this time the seige consisted of both the Berizslo family (who had attacked Samo previously), and their new ally the Slavnikovki family, led by Lord Gyarfas of Zlin. A messenger from the assembled army demanded the surrender of Samo, blaming his servants and their magics for the death of Lord Gyarfas' nephew (particularly three raven-haired witches). Unbeknownst to Samo or his servants, this nephew had actually been slain by folk of Rabenstein when they first journeyed to Bohemia, and the three 'witches' to which the messenger referred were none other than Anheta of Weeping Rock Covenant, and Magda and Tatyana of Rabenstein (see the previous adventure 'The Hunting Party of Master Imré of Zlin', described in the story summary Tales Along the Road to Bohemia).

3/16, 3/23/97 - 59th and 60th Sessions (Act II)

Julian and Cynric set out with one of Samo's servants named Yedeg to parlay with the encamped Czech nobles, and learned of a division within their ranks (Lord Gyarfas desired revenge for the death of his nephew, while the Berizslo family sought to ensnare the castle for themselves). After heated discussions over the guilt or innocence of Samo, Yedeg claimed that the three 'witches' who had slain Gyarfas' nephew might indeed be in the castle, but that certainly Samo did not know of their evil powers or crimes until now. He further volunteered to produce the raven-haired witches, handing them over to the nobles in return for peace. Returning to the castle, Samo listened to the results of the parlay, and determined to sacrifice two leper women to the nobles, using his magics to disguise them as witches and dull their minds such that they not protest their fate. Due to claims made by Julian during the parlay, the third witch was chosen to be the dead Hlavka, but during the night, her body mysteriously disappeared! A search was undertaken, but no sign of her body could be found, and the next night young Oúen the grog was terrified when he curiously followed an entranced Polu into the castle's donjon to spy Hlavka's ghost before a bevy of the castle's bewitched soldiers. Much confusion ensued during the night, in which a young Czech soldier died in his sleep, panicked soldiers were slain when they tried to slip away through the forest, over-exuberant Bogomiles dumped the castles's low supply of meat over the cliffside to ensure everyone's salvation in the coming seige, Oúen insisted that demons haunted all his comrades, and hints of diabolic influence were discerened with the discovery of a snakeskin hidden in the donjon.

Over the course of the next several days, life within the castle remained dim. The lad Gundulf tried to run away, nearly perishing in an attempt to climb down the sheer limestone cliffs of the hill. Also, Tatyana confessed to being haunted by the appearance of Hlavka during the nights (insisting that she was still alive). Despite their reservations, the folk of Rabenstein could not conjure a better solution, and anxious to depart this God-forsaken castle, they conspired with Samo to sacrifice three innocent leper women to the nobles. Using their Hermetic magics to make the women appear as black-haired witches, the Magi expelled them from the castle and were witness to their burning that afternoon (the fact that Cynric made them appear similar to Magda and Tatyana also enchanced the depection). During the burning, Cynric noticed that the Magus Spitenhev of Tytalus (leader of Lacrimare Saxum Covenant) was among the army disguised as a lesser Czech noble (Spitenhev seemed to recognize Cynric as well, although the Magi did not speak to each other as the Tytalus pretended not to know Cynric). Perhaps Spitenhev orchestrated the entire seige to test Samo's strength as he had advocated previously. After the death of the witches, Magus Julian negotiated a truce between Lord Gyarfas and Samo, upsetting the rival Berizslo family who stormed out. As payment for his diplomatic assistance, Samo delivered to Julian a written copy of a Hermetic spell to mend Wolfgang's broken arm, and soon thereafter the expedition departed for home, vowing never to return to this sinister castle.

*Historical anecdote - the Bogomiles threw the meat over the cliff because they believed it was a sin to consume any food derived from sexual union

Cast: Tatyana and Polu (Ann Harper), Cynric and Ouen (Patrick Murphy and Chris Blake), Julian, Lazslo and Wolfgang (Kendall Miles).

The Peripheral Code

Date - 3/30/97 (61st Session)

...a failed apprentice turns to Rabenstein for protection from her powerful Tytalus master

In the autumn of 1207 Minnesinger Gottfried von Strassburg and the enticing young Loretta arrived unexpectedly at Rabenstein and renewed their friendship with the Magi at a hastily prepared feast (you should refer to the previous story summaries The Picture of Castellan Demel and The Troll of Magdalensberg to learn more of these visitors). After the feast, Loretta met with Magus Cynric to confess a delicate matter involving her past history with the Order of Hermes. It was already known to Cynric that Loretta was a failed Hermetic apprentice, but now she revealed the details of her past. As it turns out, her master was a powerful member of Nubes Fenestre Covenant in the Tirol named Fredebertus of Tytalus (and a pupil of the legendary FransÌ Dar). But he had mistreated Loretta, even going so far as to rape the girl in an effort to attempt to instill in her a hunger to never feel so helpless again, as her master had explained. After many failed attempts to flee her master, she crept into the crypts of the Covenant and destroyed the sacred vessels containing arcane connections to past and present members of Nubes Fenestre (since she was unsure which vessel contained her own artifacts), and she escaped to the court of the Count of Graz. There she perptrated a ruse that she was of noble blood (a trick taught to her by her master) and plotted to flee the Duchy altogether. When her master Fredebertus arrived to reclaim her, she claimed that he had raped her, and privately threatened to reveal his wizardry if he did not depart. After this escape the 15-year old Loretta hid for some time in a Carinthian priory, and secured a seat among the ladies court at the castle of Strassburg where she remained for three years with the benevolent assistance of its master woodcarver, Basil. Basil perpetuated her pretense to be a noble, and even gave her a stipend each year (pretending that it came from her uncle). But since Basils death (in the previous story The Picture of Castellan Demel ) she had exhausted her monies, and to make matters worse she suspected that a redcap from Nubes Fenestre had recently discovered her presence at Strassburg. So in fright, she fled to Rabenstein and asked for help. After Cynric explained the situation to the other Magi, a heated Wizards' Council debated the matter for some time, and despite their conclusion that the Code probably demanded her return to Nubes Fenestre, they ultimately agreed to aid the girl and send her north to distant Braunschweig to remain in hiding for the winter (where Lady Enelle's uncle ruled as Count).

4/1 - 4/11/97 Play-by-Email sessions (Act II)

Since Magus Julian of Jerbiton already had a personal need to visit the Covenant of Nubes Fenestre - to deliver news of the deaths of some of its members (see the previous story The Lottery of Kalkstein), he decided to expediate this errand to learn more of Loretta's tale and appraise her previous master and his Covenant. So in late autumn of 1207 he departed for Badgastein in the eastern Tirol. There he discovered the nearby mountain location of this Covenant, which the locals called Valkensberg. The weathered walls of its fortress lay within the thick clouds of the mountain peak - looming over the valley a thousand feet below, and its doorman Bethegund allowed his small group to lodge in a drafty stone cottage below the fortress (until Julian revealed his Hermetic lineage the next day, whereupon Bethegund granted them lodging in the fortress proper). Julian learned that Bethegund was formerly a Hermetic apprentice here, but had lost the Gift somehow in his youth, and now served the Covenant as its autocrat and librarian. The assembled Magi met before Julian, and took the news of Mnasitheus' and Sabine's deaths rather well, referring to their departed friend as careless and clumsy. While he was too cautious to risk mentioning Loretta's name directly to the members here, Julian did manage to meet with several of the Magi on an individual basis (refer to the description of Nubes Fenestre in the Other Covenants of the Order section for more detailed information). He traded vis with some of its Magi (procuring invaluable Corpus and Creo vis), and fostered a tentative friendship with the Tytalus Paternostro during the course of his stay (Paternostro had visited Rabenstein once before, at the conclusion of the story The Path of St. Michael in 1207). Paternostro confessed that although Bethegund had agreed to consider allowing a scribe from Rabenstein to make use of their wealthy arcane library, he was unlikely to allow the notion to come to fruition until Rabenstein could prove its stability. Paternostro even joked about his departing Nubes Fenestre to join their Covenant, perhaps a hint of his displeasure with his stature here. Satisfied with his amenable visit, Julian returned to Rabenstein convinced that its Magi would either be apathetic toward news of Loretta, or support Fredebertuss claim to her out of a mere sense of loyalty to their fellow member.

Cast: Cynric (Patrick Murphy), Julian (Kendall Miles), Lassitor and Gelvin (Chris Blake), Merento and Loretta (Jason Buss)

The Watchman's Grotto

Date - 4/6/97 (62nd Session)

Beta Storyguide - Kendall Miles

...the mysterious legacy of a Marched wizard lures an expedition into the Salt District

While members of Rabenstein were visiting Graz (to procure their supply of salted pork for the coming winter), they rescued a mysterious man named Jurgis from a pack of ruffians and discovered much to their surprise that he had come from France in search of their castle (though he refused to state his purpose). Escorting the man back to the Covenant, Jurgis met privately with Merento of Bonisagus and explained his perilous errand. Apparantly his former master was the Magus Tremula of Bonisagus from distant Monslibrorum Covenant in the Provencal Tribunal. Tremula was known to Merento during his youth, having apprenticed at the same Covenant (Isola Vulcano) in Sicily. But news of his old friend was rather bad - Tremula had been found guilty of conspiring with demons, and by a special Tribunal he was Marched from the Order last year and killed by dutiful servants of the Quaesitori (Merento had heard rumors to this effect during a previous visit from the Redcap Aestrius, but doubted its certainty until now). After this catastrophe, Jurgis followed the last instructions of Tremula and gathered several of his master's magical trinkets, heading for Rabenstein. Jurgis explained that his master intended for him to leave these enchanted objects (including a simple weathered chain, and a pair of copper bracers) at a mystical place in the vast Salt District called the "Watchman's Grotto" - a place Tremula had visited in the past. But agents from the Order had been pursuing Jurgis in his journey, and they certainly possessed an arcane link to him somehow as he could not elude them. He appealed to Merento for assistance in his task, and in a subsequent council meeting Merento relayed most of this tale to the other Magi. They determined to study the magical trinkets themselves, and to shelter Jurigis within the covenant in the meantime. But ere this task could commence, two Magi on horseback arrived at the Covenant in search of the renegade Jurgis (a Tytalus named Simone and a Flambeau named Octavius). After placating the dangerous Magi and diverting them to nearby Frohnleiten village for the evening, a hastily contrived expedition departed for the Salt District with Jurgis and his enchanted artifacts in hopes of out pacing the pursuant Magi. Alas, efforts to delay the pursuing Magi were ineffective, and they managed to overtake the expedition in the dense woods of the Stubalpen several days later. Their immediate efforts to slay Jurgis were thwarted, and Merento managed to establish a parlay with the Tytalus Simone regarding the affair. Despite a near-fatal interruption when Jurgis disrupted the promising negotiations by striking down the startled Tytalus with the enchanted chain, Merento was able to calm the Flambeau by saving the life of his fellow Magus Simone, and convinced them not to slay Jurgis outright quite yet, by explaining about Jurgis' tales of their mysterious destination.

4/13/97 - 63rd Session (Act II)

The two Provencal Magi agreed reluctantly to join the expedition in order that they may learn more of this mysterious regio, so the group crossed the Niedere Tauern and trudged down the Enns valley toward the west. En route, Merento began to suspect that his former colleague had indeed been tainted by the touch of foul demons, for the chain displayed strange powers and Jurgis seemed to slip into recollections of events only Tremula could have known (it seemed that some semblance of the mind of Tremula was retained within the mortal shell of Jurgis). Joined by the Bjornaer Magda, who trailed the expedition in the form of a wolf, the group marched onward and crossed into the Salt District at the village Grimming. Alas, a mighty snowfall hindered the group's progress, and during several wilderness overnight encampments a man's voice was heard in the snowy night, charging them to return the way they came, and return "the oathbreaker." Despite efforts to elucidate the meaning of these claims, Jurgis remained silent and efforts to pry into his mind with magics proved futile. By this time the group were united in their assessment that Tremula had somehow managed to subsume the body of Jurgis (though not completely successful, as the man's jerking fits and confused manner suggested). While they did not wish to aid Jurgis in his task, they shared a curiosity about the nature of their destination and its place in this tale (which Jurgis called the "Watchers Grotto"), so they agreed to at least learn its location. This turned out to be a wide ledge on a cliff overlooking a mountain lake, though the blizzard made determination of their exact location within the Salzkemmergut uncertain. As the troupe clambered down a narrow trail, Jurgis proclaimed an oath to a mysterious unnamed "Watcher," and the cliff face split asunder in response to his call, allowing him to stride within. Combining their Vim magics to follow, the troupe entered the mountain to find Jurgis linking his magical chain to another mighty chain inside the mountain. As the troupe watched, Jurgis utilized Hermetic magic to confront a young man (who later called himself the guardian of the Grotto). Yet even as Jurgis was clearly now fully possessed of the mind of the Magus Tremula, his body would not repsond to his control very gracefully. His arms remained rather rigid, and twisted halting movements characterized his actions. And as great hulking stones arose to crush Jurgis at the command of the guardian, the Provencal Magi used the opportunity to attack Jurgis. A terrific confrontation ensued in which Jurgis was slain (shot through the head by a well-placed bolt form Erik, burned by several Magi, and pummeled by the living rocks of the Grotto), though Octavius fell to his death during the battle (Merento suspected that Simone may have conributed to the fall, for he had observed them argue incessantly during the journey, and while he had tried to save Octavious, Simone made no such efforts despite his proximity). At the battle's conclusion the guardian spoke to the gathered troupe, and though he refused to fully explain who the "Watcher" was, or what this Grotto represented, he did reveal that Tremula had once been a pupil at the Grotto, but had broken his oath and betrayed the Watcher (endangering a ritual called "The Saning," which somehow related to the magical mysteries of the Salzkammergut). Despite their pleas for more knowledge, the guardian bade them leave the Grotto, but agreed to consider Lassitor's offer to return in the future and learn more of the Watcher and his powers. Burying Octavious in the snow-covered soil outside, the troupe parted ways with Simone and returned to Rabenstein, glad to be rid of Jurgis and the tainted magics of Tremula.

Cast: Lassitor and Erik von Mälmo (Chris Blake), Magda, Ouén, and Uri (Ann Harper), Merento and Hans the Cook (Jason Buss), Brother Meshach, Bjorin and Piotr (Patrick Murphy), Bertoul and Polu (by committee)

This page last modified on 11/5/97.

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