Date - 8/10, 8/17/97 (80th and 81st sessions)
Gamma Storyguide - Patrick Murphy
...traps and mysterious worlds await an expedition to an ancient Slavic temple
Towards the end of an unusually warm February, as Rabenstein prepared for a trip to Greece, a sparrow alighted on the Covenant walls with a message tied to its leg. The Magi discovered it to be a magical parchment with a note from Kosar of Tremere, of Obscurum ad Luminis Covenant, who had earlier proposed an arrangement (at The Tribunal of 1209) that might be to their mutual benefit. The gist of this proposal was that Rabenstein would travel to Mount Triglav in Carniola (in the Julian Alps) with the aid of his acquaintance Radoslav of Jesenice (south of Klagenfurt). Radoslav would then lead them to an old temple dedicated to that pagan Slavic god that is the namesake of the mountain, where they would retrieve an idol of the god he believed to be there. In return he would reward them with an entire rook of vis.
A council meeting was convened, and the Magi were wary of several points: the nature of the temple, Kosar's unwillingness or inability to get the idol himself, his involvement in an "ancient Slavic ritual", and not least of all, his House and Covenant affiliation. Moreover, Tatyana had had a vision of a hand (perhaps her own, perhaps someone she knew) reaching for a door and being engulfed in flames. In the end, however, the vis-poor Covenant (thanks to the ransom paid The Lindwurm of Klagenfurt) could not afford not to investigate, and thus Lassitor of Criamon and Nicolaus of Nicaenetus were sent to make a quick journey before the expedition to Greece was dispatched.
Upon the road to Klagenfurt, the expedition was puzzled by a strange event: birds were circling above a seemingly dead fox sprawled upon the ground. Yet when a raven soared too close to the beast, it jumped up and snapped its jaws upon the hapless bird. As the group stood and watched in amazement, a majestic eagle then soared down and attacked the fox. The deceptive creature then turned and fled. Sightings and sounds of an eagle persisted throughout their travel, and the grogs became uneasy at this.
No such wondrous incidents took place for the remainder of the journey, and in Jesenice the locals pointed the group to Radoslav's residence (though not before the boisterous Ouen nearly punched one out and instead hit Lassitor). There the no-nonsense mountaineer demanded he be in charge of the expedition and set off at once to make camp at the base of the mountain. The group made good time making their ascent with his guidance, and it was not long before Radoslav pointed to a distant patch of red that he said marked the temple's roof.
Piotr discovered that Radoslav had disappeared during his watch, and the next morning his crumpled form lay at the bottom of a nearby cliff. The sound of an eagle during Piotr's watch seemed to hint at his fate. Journeying on, the group made it to the temple and then warily approached it. When Bertoul crossed the threshold, flames engulfed him and the nearby Ouen. Investigating the rather barren temple and its ten-foot high grotesque idol, Lassitor managed to trigger another trap which sprayed thorns toward the door. He was dismayed to find no vis within the idol.
The former Crusaders Ouen and Bertoul were offended by the blatantly pagan shrine, and voiced their opinion that the wooden idol be brought down. The Magi approved a plan to bring down the idol, but as they worked to do so, all were beset by a horde of birds of all types. That night, they were shocked to discover a horse appearing where before there had been only bones. There was a lot of snow on the ground and a massive pit where yesterday there had been the stump of a once-mighty oak tree.
Seemingly trapped in some sort of regio, the group reluctanly entered the pit and found themselves in a gray world of perpetual twlight. In fact, Lassitor briefly experienced his own Twilight due to the immense magical nature of the place. The group encountered several people, of all walks of life, who seemed confused and distracted, and paid little heed to them. The group moved toward the temple of Triglav in the distance, and was shocked when they recognized their departed friend Vaclav! The mighty tree of yore now grew again alongside the temple, and the group found they could climb the immense thing into the clouds.
The expedition then found themselves in a bright world, this time within sight of both the temple and a mighty golden castle. Lassitor insisted their only hope of escaping the regio was to push on to the temple. They did so, but before they reached it, a magnificent golden bird landed before them. Nicolaus and Piotr recognized it as the Zhar-Ptitsa, the Firebird of Slavic legend. The Firebird "spoke" to Lassitor, chasitizing his desecration of the idol and gaining his word that the temple be restored. With this, he flew each of the men into the clouds and back to their world, leaving behind one of his magical feathers.
Thinking themselves safe, the group moved to leave the valley after repairing part of the temple, but on their way out, a magical pit opened beneath them, and those who were not engulfed (the sergeant Bertoul and the Magus Lassitor) were beset by poisoned bolts from unknown assailants. Though Bertoul and Lassitor were seemingly mortally wounded, the mysterious eagle appeared and transformed into a beautiful woman: Ala, Mistress of Birds. She helped fend off the assailants and called forth the Zhar-Ptitsa once more to heal the groups' wounds by means of its beautiful song.
*Historical Anecdote - What we know of the ancient Slavic temples to Triglav come to us from the three biographers of Bishop Otto of Bamberg: Ebo, Herbord, and Monachus Prieflingensis. Otto campaigned against the Pomeranian Slavs along the Baltic and in 1124 cut off the three heads of an idol to Triglav at Stettin and sent them to Pope Callixtus II. It is known that another idol was destroyed between 1150 and 1157 by Albrecht the Bear in Brandenburg.
Cast: Nicolaus (Mike Daumen), Lassitor (Chris Blake), Ouen and Piotr (Jason Buss), Bertoul and Wolfgang (Kendall Miles), Radoslav, Ala, and the Zhar-Ptitsa (Patrick Murphy)
Date - 8/17/97 (81st Session)
Beta Storyguide - Kendall Miles
...The Magi brave a troubled manor House to win the prophecy of its mystic governess
In the spring of 1210, a knight and his servant from Linz rode up to Rabenstein and requested that they have an audience with the mystics within. Since the Magi were merely awaiting good weather to depart on a lengthy expedition to distant Greece, they consented to hear the men. In the library at dusk, they learned from the knight that Mistress Balara of Ebelsberg, known for her strange prophetic dreams, had recently dreamt of a place called Rabenstein. They had arrived on her behalf to petition them to come hear her counsel (or 'reading' as she called it). Although the Magi were loathe to respond promptly due to their forthcoming excursion, when they learned that Balara's vision involved their experiences on a long journey, they decided to hear her dream at once. Suspicious that other Hermetic Magi might be concocting the whole story to attempt to waylay their trip to Greece, the Magi agreed to dispatch several Magi to insure their security (fortunately this proved to be not the case, as no Hermetic Magi were encountered or inferred during the story).
Trudging through miserable muddy roads, the expedition arrived at Manor Ebelsberg after 5 days, south of Linz, not far from the Danube River. Clearly many nobles sought the counsel of Lady Balara, as a host of men were in attendance at her court awaiting her audience (her husband had died many years ago and left his widow with considerable wealth). Two factions at the manor were quarreling (or perhaps feuding) over a personal dispute and each sought proof of their righteousness with one of her readings. The folk of Rabenstein tried to distance themselves from these bickering nobles, and secluded themselves within their comfortable chambers (for as invited guests of the Lady they were granted accomodations within the Manor), but before they could have their prophecy one of the Lady's courtisans was murdered. Alas, Erik had crept out of their chambers in the night, as seen by several guards, to pursue the affection of a nun (whom he had bedded many years ago, before her oath to God, and was visiting here at the manor by chance on her way to Vienna), so Erik was an immediate suspect. Wary to become involved in the murder investigation, the Magi tried to deflect suspicions away from their captain and were pleased to discover a host of other potential murderers in residence, spreading rumors amidst the manorfolk and satsified that simple mundane intrigue was responsible for the whole affair.
The next night the Magi lied to Lady Balara, professing that they had seen a vision of danger for her, and managed to secure themselves a station guarding her chambers (they selfishly hoped merely to keep her from danger until she could give them her prophecy). Late at night, a riot erupted in the lower chambers among the quarreling noble factions, and it spread throughout the manor. Taking refuge in the treasury with the Lady and her guards, they cautiously waited out the battle and managed to escape the fray unscathed (they were even granted their reading). As the calm returned, it was discovered that a young noble had murdered the courtisan and stolen his keys, then instigated the fray with the hopes of skulking away and thieving from the treasury (since the Magi were hiding within the treasury during the battle his plan was foiled; in fact, he was captured by Cynric). Hoping to earn her gratitude the Magi remained in the Lady's manor for several days and bestowed her with gifts before returning home.
*The Prophecy - In Lady Balra's dream, a swarm of flies had lead her to Rabenstein. Her reading was enigmatic, frustrating the assembled magi, but it became clear that she foresaw great peril in their journey to Greece. She mentioned a coiled serpent and a ring of smoke, wheels that turned upon wagons that did not move, a bountious dance and celebration, soldiers who were brothers, with black spears and oil lamps bringing death, a kingdom of violet and honey, and the valley of death, with footsteps dripping red with blood, and a grove of curious trees. For a possible interpretation of this reading, please consult the subsequent stories about the expedition to Greece.
Cast: Cynric (Patrick Murphy), Erik von Mälmo and Willibrond (Ann Harper), Nicolaus (Mike Daumen), Merento (Jason Buss)
Date - 8/31/97 (82nd Session)
...A journey to the spirit realm attracts the ire of a mighty Celtic goddess
In the late spring of 1210, Capra of Bjornaer returned to Rabenstein after an extended stay in the Kindgom of Hungary. Claiming to have acquired an insight into the realm of spirits from his discourses with Magyar shamans over the past few years, he proposed that he might attempt a journey into the land of spirits to find the soul of his forlorn custos Katrina, and hopefully return it to its mortal body (see the previous story Mist of the Ancients, and its sequel Realm of the Ancients, which describe how several socii lost their souls to ghostly Celtic warriors, while their physical bodies still lived). Excited at the prospect of rescuing their grogs, the few Magi that remained at Rabenstein (due to an expedition to Greece which had lured away several Magi), eagerly agreed to assist Capra in any way they could.
On the eve of Mayday, following Capra's instructions, socii lit bonfires on nearby hills (to help guide Capra back to Rabenstein from the spirit realm), and carried the dormant bodies of its four lost comrades - Katrina, Peter, Hans the Cook, and Liudgard - to the hilltop above the Covenant. Adorning his cloak with raven feathers, Capra began burning sticks of cypress wood and imitating a raven's cry as dusk fell (clearly a manner of hedge magic). Entering a trance, he successfully brought the spirit of the Covenant's curious Criamon Magus (Lassitor) into the domain of spirits with him. Crossing a great lake in a red boat drawn by mysterious red swans, Capra managed to find Katrina and Liudgard with the help of her dog's spirit. Returning home lest they become lost in the realm, they were startled to encounter a striking woman with black hair and eyes adorned in a flowing crimson robe. Offering to help Capra, she demanded that he bring her the heads of one thousand warriors as a tribute to the Morrigan (a Celtic goddess of war), and in return he could take her as a lover (bringing him great power she claimed). Rejecting her offer, Capra was alarmed to hear the woman profess her hatred for him instead, and that she would hinder him in the future. Although they suspected the woman to be none other than Morrigan herself, she refused to call herself by that title and was elusive about her identity.
As sergeant Bertoul watched over the entranced Magi and dormant bodies
late into the night, he observed Katrina's dog rise up and begin to lick
her face, awaking the girl from her three-year-long slumber. Soon all the
folk arose, as Capra had successfully traversed the bridge from this world
to the next and guided their spirits back to their mortal bodies (there
was debate over this point, as Capra did not ever actually find Hans the
Cook in the spirit realm, yet he too
awoke with the others). The Covenant celebrated the return of their old friends with a bountious meal the next night, though Liudgard's body had withered away as he lay dormant, and all of their bodies were pale as ghosts from languishing in the caves and out of the sun for several years. Despite this success, in the ensuing weeks trouble arose among the rescued folk, as Hans the Cook quit the Covenant in disgust at his fate, and Katrina seemed afflicted with simple-mindedness from her ordeal (she had trouble recognizing anyone new to the Covenant since her plight began, and repeatedly asked about the whereabouts of her dead sister).
Father Galen of Frohnleiten arrived at Rabenstein not long after midsummer, having heard from Hans the Cook (who had taken up residence in the village) some manner of the tale. Offering flowers of Elencampe as a gift to the covenfolk (known for their power to protect those who wear it from committing sins), Galen spoke with Cynric Ex Miscellanea and agreed to provide the folk of the burg with spiritual guidance in this time of peril (until Brother Meshach returned from Greece).
As a hot, dry July overcame the Covenant, morale among the socii
was rather wavering. Despite the return of their friends, their cook had
abandoned them, Liudgard remained a withered husk of his old self, Katrina
was getting little better (in fact she had taken to sleeping naked, often
forgetting to eat and spending hours atop the Roman ruins among the crows),
and rumors began spreading that Tatyana had forseen grim death and bloody
conflict in their future. During a morning patrol in July, Bertoul and Matthias
spied an encampent of nobles not far from the Covenant; making their way
to the tent they discovered ravens and crows about the place, and learned
from its soldiers that they had come from Ehrenhausen castle and were intent
on exacting vengeance upon Rabenstein for the death of one of their Imperialist
knights (see the previous story summay Wrath
of the Waiblingen, which transpired the previous summer). Fortunately
Bertoul had approached along the main road and managed to lie about his
ties to Rabenstein lest he be captured by the nobles, and he returned in
a circuitous route to the Covenant by dusk to warn everyone of the danger.
Closing the gate, the covenfolk holed up for several days in their small
castle before deciding to send Bertoul and Tatyana to Frohnleiten to beseech
the aid of its Marshal and knights of their liege, the Bishop of Seckau.
On the path to Frohnleiten, however, they were ambushed. As a crow squacked
on branches overhead, Bertoul lost his cool and engaged
in a most savage battle. Miraculously (to the astonishment of Troupe and Storyguide alike), Bertoul slaughtered his four assailants, who could have shot him with arrows but instead assailed him with their axes. Returning to the Covenant with the severed heads of his enemies, Bertoul and Tatyana both displayed a disturbing sense of bloodlust, as did the other covenfolk, who urged that they set out for Ehrenhausen itself to slaughter its inhabitants. Noticing that the ravens and crows from Rabenstein had followed Bertoul (these birds were known to be the animal associated with Morrigan), the Magi concluded that somehow they were inciting a bloodthirsty ambience among the socii (further, as the covenfolk became agitated around them, the parmæ of several Magi were assailed, indicating a magical effect). Casting Glade of the Peaceful Dove throughout the Covenant from a text within the arcane library, the bloodlust receded with the night, and a relative calm returned to the Covenant.
The weeks passed and Katrina grew worse, roaming the Covenant naked and feeble-minded. Then on a lazy late summer morning Magda of Bjornaer was patrolling the grounds about the Covenant when she spied a strange old woman washing dishes in the river below Rabenstein. Approaching the woman, Magda discerened the 'dishes' to be rather bloody weapons, and when she tried to speak with the old hag the woman vanished, turning into a simple tree trunk washed up along the shore. Realizing that this was the morning of Lugnasadh, she returned to the Covenant and a sense of alarm began to spread among its Magi with her tale. Near dusk, one of the grogs spied a strange old hermit within the library, which vanished with his touch. Gathering the other covenfolk, they returned to the library to find a bountious feast of fish, pork, and red wine laid out for them (tainted with magic according to Lassitor, who recognized a bowl on the table from an old hermit he had met in the spirit world world with Capra. In fact, this hermit was clearly none other than Guthre, first encountered in the previous story Florian's Knob). Locking down the castle gate, the assembled covenfolk and Magi indulged in the curious feast and set many extra men upon watch.
As a buoyant wind graced Rabenstein in the cool summer night, several of the sentries spied strangers within the Garrison, some perceiving the intruders to be warrior Celts (from the previous stories) and others nobles of Ehrenhausen. As confusion beset them the alarm was raised, and soon the entire battery of sentries were engaged in a ferocious melee with these assailants. Other covenfolk spilled out from the library and the remnants of their feast as the sounds of battle clamored about them to find their home beseiged, and they too joined the fray. Though no one had been spied entering the castle, there was little time to question the reality of the dangerous intruders as the blood began to spill and the ravens squacked with delight. Several Magi entered the fray, as Cynric and Magda engaged in a mighty contest of magic with other Hermetic Magi (Magda was forced to withdraw while Cynric forced his enemy to retreat). Spying the naked Katrina atop the ramparts wearing a Celtic torc and clutching a sword, Cynric moved to protect her only to be astonished as his parma deflected a magical attack from her. His heart filled with blood lust, Cynric burned poor Katrina upon the castle walls, and as her body melted away the embattled Covenfolk were shocked to find themselves fighting each other! As the raven cackled and flew away the horrific bewitchment ended and the covenfolk's senses at last returned, though many of them lay dead and dying from the bloody fight.
*Cultural Anecdote - The Morrigan (the Celtic goddess of war) has been established as a major threat to Rabenstein throughout the saga, as the Covenant itself was named for and sits upon land frequented by ravens (Morrigan's most common animal form). One of Morrigan's most infamous powers was her ability to confuse warriors and make them see each other as enemies, inspiring bloodlust within them as they fought (this power was hinted at in a previous story, With Friends Like This..., in which a grog was slain by his fellows when they perceived him to be their enemy). During this battle, each grog or Magus perceived many other folk to be their personal enemies, and especially for the grogs (who had little chance to resist Morrigan's inspiratory bloodlust within them), this led to predictably gruesome results. Cynric and Magda actually battled each other during the fray (their parmæ unable to resist the glamour lest they physically touch their enemy). Other folk battled a hodgepodge of perceived enemies, which began to make little sense to the Magi.
*Denoument & Debate - Apparantly Katrina had been the vessel by which Morrigan instigated the climactic battle among Rabenstein's members. Though her body is now dead, perhaps her real soul is still lost within the spirit realm (or perhaps her soul was simply too weak to overcome Morrigan's purposes).
Cast: Capra (Dallas Perry), Magda (Ann Harper), Lassitor (Chris Blake), Cynric (Patrick Murphy), Bertoul (Kendall Miles), Tatyana (Blythe Newton), Host of Covenfolk (Mike Daumen and Tim Keeler)
Date - 9/7/97 (83rd Session)
...A mysterious sacred well serves as a battlefield between Christian and pagan traditions
In the spring of 1210 an expedition from Rabenstein departed on a lengthy journey for the Greek Islands, in search of an ancient Egyptian necklace on behalf of Rahewin of Trianoma, the pater of Merento. Taking the overland route into Croatia and the March of Carniola, the group trudged through muddy villages, past beggars and peasants afflicted with St. Anthony's fire, becoming lost in the Dalmatian hills. Stumbling across a bee-keeper amidst a grove of wild flowers, they were excited to find a quaint little Dalmatian village called Kadosa just before Easter, whose inhabitants welcomed them with food and hospitality, particularly brother Meshach. Apparantly the villager's priest (Dominik) had recently vanished, taking with him their icon of the Virgin Mary, and with Easter approaching the villagers had in desparation offered a sacrifice to God to aid them (they interpreted the subsequent arrival of brother Meshach the next day as divine deliverance). The bucholic Balkan villagers seemed confused about theology, interchanging ancient pagan traditions with new Christian ones, but they attentively obeyed the commands of brother Meshach, who instructed them to prepare for a fast beginning at dusk upon Good Friday. Agreeing to provide spiritual guidance to the villagers during Easter, Meshach convinced the Magi to remain within the village for several days while he supervised the holiday, and they were happy to oblige him as the villagers treated them well and they could refresh themselves from their weary journey thus far. Soon the Magi discovered that three Bogomile heretics also lived within the village, and their leader Hugo spoke German with the homesick covenfolk. He argued theology with Brother Meshach and the other folk at length (winning the pious curiosity of young Willibrond), displeased with the veneration the villagers displayed for Meshach's icon of Jesus and disappointed with their sinful consumption of meat (Rabenstein had previous dealings with Bogomile heretics in the story King Samo, Master of Lepers).
Learning from a crazy village woman about a nearby sacred well, a group of Magi hiked to investigate the site and discovered that its waters harbored a magical luster. The villagers had told Julian that each spring young maidens came to the well and dropped rose petals within its waters, and were often granted a vision of their future husband in its reflective waters. Boldly lowering himself into the water's clear but icy waters, Julian was surprised to find his parma magica assailed so he retreated. As the Magi pondered what to do and peered within the dark well, Brother Meshach spied a faintly glimmering object resting upon the floor of the well, and entered the water to retrieve it. Surfacing, Meshach revealed that he had found an icon of the virgin Mary within the well, probably the one belonging to the absent priest Dominik. Further, he had heard a man's voice within the water, calling out to Jesus for help. Assaying a toppled crucifix adjacent to the well, the Magi deduced that the missing priest was somehow trapped within it, perhaps within a manner of regio. Returning to the village, the Magi learned that its folk used to pay homage to a kind goddess named Vid within the sacred well, but since last summer the priest Dominik had encouraged them to pray to the Virgin Mary instead.
While Meshach attended to the Orthodox Easter feast on Saturday night, the Magi returned to the holy well and attempted to free Dominik from its clutches. Entering the water, Nicolaus of Arteman found an airy cavern with a beautiful young maiden with roses and garland in her hair. Though he tried to bargain with the spirit, she was angry that a man would violate her home and that villagers were calling her "Mary," so the spiteful Vid nearly drowned him with her glamour, as Julian of Jerbiton rescued the young Magus. Boldly maintaining his parma against the girl, Julian bargained with her for the release of the priest, agreeing to take the priest away never to return. Also consenting to teach the villagers to honor Vid rather than the Virgin Mary at the well, Julian received a gift of rose petals (harboring Intéllego vis), but was forced to promise to return to protect the well in the future from similar Christian threats.
Honoring her bargain, Vid returned Julian from the well's regio along with the priest Dominik (though she had spitefully cut his tongue out). The Magi thrilled the villagers by returning Dominik's icon of the Virgin, but they carefully hid their rescue of the priest himself and kept Dominik sheltered in the woods with some grogs (for fear that he might anger Vid again by stirring up trouble among the villagers). With Easter past the expedition whisked Dominik away with them, leaving Kadosa in the hands of the Bogomiles and marching southward along a muddy road to seek a harbor with which to continue their journey to Greece.
*Faerie Note - The Spirit of the Well vowed to Julian that in the event he failed her and the villagers turned to 'Mary' again, she would flow to her father the ocean with her dying breath and tell him of Julian's treachery.
Cast: Julian (Kendall Miles), Nicolaus and Sir Fitz (Mike Daumen), Brother Meshach and Sean (Patrick Murphy), Willibrond (Ann Harper), Erik and Ouen (Chris Blake), Merento (Jason Buss)
Date - 9/14/97 (84th Session)
...A voyage by sea divulges unholy secrets aboard a haunted boat
Trudging down a muddy road in Dalmatia, the expedition bound for Greece arrived at the port of Spalato along the Adriatic Sea in late April of 1210 (see Act I: Leap of Faith to read what has gone before). Still recovering from the Venetian sack of 1204, the depressed port offered few boats for hire. However, a single boat captain named Mieszko agreed to bear them to Zagreb in a few days. His boat, the Folio, was purported haunted according to the local harlots, but Mieszko staunchly defended his craft, explaining that it was the only ship not to founder in recent storms and to survive the Venetian sack, so any spirit which plagued his vessel was a blessing and not a haunt. Setting sail with his crew of 3, most of the mountainfolk of Rabenstein quickly learned that they lacked sea-legs, as most of the expedition was overcome by seasickness. Once safely out to sea, Julian offered to pay Mieszko a bountiful sum to bear them to distant Athens, and though the captain was wary of the offer (and fearful of Venetian warships), he agreed to sail for Crete. During the first night aboard ship, one of Rabenstein's watchmen (posted to protect the expedition's money) heard a thud and smelled the foul stench of human waste in the hold, discovering feces and urine amidst their straw beds. Certain that he had seen nothing, the guard learned from the boat's young crewman Besé that 'the Kalli' was sure to blame for the prank. Apparantly this 'Kalli' was a mischevous spirit aboard the Folio which often played pranks upon its passengers, and its recent deeds were evidence that it must have taken a disliking to some of the new folk on board. Over the next several days several pranks were blamed upon the 'Kalli', as fishing lines were cut, Willibrond was pushed overboard, and urine was found in the barrel of apples. Erik even saw the spirit one night, a short little creature with a grotesque face, long spiral tail, and devilish horns from its head. The crew took no heed of Erik's evil description, pointing to patches along the hull where the 'Kalli' had miraculously kept the boat from sinking in the past. But such minor irritations took on new meaning when poor Dominik (the Orthodox priest rescued from the Well of Kadosa in Act I) was found dead, having bled to death upon the galley floor. Either the 'Kalli' had murdered him, or caused an iron pot to fall upon his head. Brother Meshach led a funeral service for Dominik, and the assembled crew and covenfolk solemly gave him a burial at sea. A few days later, Willibrond went fishing to take his mind off the grim fate of the priest, but was horrified when his first 'catch' proved to be the body of Dominik (a strange event since the boat had sailed many leagues from the site where they dropped the body). Then the next morning, the body was again sighted floating alongside the boat. Captain Mieszko set out upon the small dinghy and retrieved the body, and explained to Julian what he must do. Apparantly many years before, when his father owned the Folio, a priest had died on board of the gout. His body too kept returning from its watery grave, and it was then that the 'Kalli' first appeared to his father and told him to keep the priest's bones on board. Mieszko explained that they must take this preist's body ashore, burn the body, and place the bones in the hold. When Julian explained this tale to his comrades, Brother Meshach took offense, and the group agreed that this creature called the Kalli was probably demonic. While Mieszko bore Domink's body to a nearby island to be burned, Merento and Nicolaus found the bones of the original priest and Sean removed them from the ship's prow (further, when the new bones were placed in the prow that night, Sean snuck out and removed them as well, though the captain Mieszko remained oblivious to his deed).
With the bones removed, the Kalli's affection with the Folio wore thin, and the next day his wrath became evident. Approached by several Venetian warships, Mieszko's attempt to outrace the heavier boats was thwarted when the Folio's sail cross-post suddenly snapped, stalling his vessel. As the Venetians approached and the crew struggled to Jerry rig the sail, boards along the hull burst open and the ship began to founder. Rabenstein's folk desperately strove to salvage their money and goods, but over half of their supplies were lost when the over-stuffed dinghy capsized, including the bones of both priests which sunk to the ocean floor. As the Folio sunk, the Venetians rescued the crew, and fortunately no one was drowned.
The Venetians were nobles of Keffalonia, and offered to bear them to the isle of Naxos (en route it became clear that the Kalli now haunted the Venetian warship). As Mieszko and Julian leveled accusations against each other, the Venetians led them all to the new castle at Naxos-town and imprisoned them until the Court of the Duke convened to hear their case (among others). Before Duke Marco Saludo, Julian's knack with noble courts proved invaluable, as he gracefully talked his way out of the situation, gaining the favor of the Court. Entertained by the witty Baron Julian, Duke Marco gave him the use of one of his boats for transportation. The crew of the Folio were fined and released by the Duke, but when Brother Meshach began to explain the tale of the 'Kalli', the priest's bones and Mieszko's complicity aboard the haunted ship, the Duke sent them to Ecclesiastical authorities. The troupe departed Naxos before the Folio's crew were judged, and did not learn of their fate.
*Cultural Anecdote - A 'Kallikántzaroi' is a manner of goblin, extremely ugly, possessing a long tail and horns. They are well known for spending the twelve days of Christmas playing pranks. At Epiphany they are chased away by the blessing of the water.
Cast: Julian (Kendall Miles), Nicolaus and Sir Fitz (Mike Daumen), Brother Meshach and Sean (Patrick Murphy), Willibrond (Ann Harper), Erik and Ouen (Chris Blake), Merento (Jason Buss)
Date - 9/21/97 (85th Session)
Alpha Storyguide - Jason Buss; Delta Storyguide - Ann Harper
...the expedition encounters the Knights Hospitalers, a mysterious Cult of Diana, and an ancient Hermetic Covenant of Doctors
In the port of Naxos, the expedition decided to temporarily delay their quest for the Necklace of Golden Flies, and attempt to first find the Hermetic Covenant of Doctors (House Menecrates) in the hope they could heal the lad Gundulf and Sean (whose arm was broken at the Duke's castle in an unfortunate accident). Uncertain where the Covenant lay in the Isles however, they determined to sail for the lands of the Knights Hospitalers in the Dodecanse. Taking advantage of the Duke's generous offer of the use of one of his boats they boarded a warship bound for Constantinople. Maintaining their pretense to be pilgrims, they asked to be left at the Isle of Patmos in the Dodecanse (where St. John wrote the book of Revelations), but the captain explained that Patmos was a frequent haunt of dangerous pirates, and convinced them to disembark at the nearby Isle of Kós instead. En route, they engaged in a battle at sea with a Genoan raider, but were unscathed by the affair as they retreated to the safety of their ship's hold while the Venetian crew was victorious. In Kós-Town they met several Knights Hospitalers (of the Order of St. John) and their chaplains, and learned that wise doctors served as Sergeants of their Order and resided at the nearby Temple of Epidavros on the Isle of Nisyros. One of the knights showed them the nearby ruins of Asklepios (which these doctors often visited) and agreed to help them hire a boat to nearby Nisyros to visit the doctors. Amidst the ruins a local farmer told them that these 'doctors' were actually the legendary priests of Asklepios. According to the farmer, so great was their power to heal that the priests had long ago raised a man from the dead, but that God had destroyed this temple with an earthquake in retribution for their deed, and never had their power been as great since. However, by slaughtering a cockrel in the temple's upper terrace and sleeping there, a sick person could still be granted a dream about how to heal their affliction (which only the priests of Asklepios could interpret).
Chartering a small fishing boat to the Isle of Nisyros (within sight of Kós to the south), the expedition arrived at the village of Mandraki, and began hiking into the rocky hills to seek the doctors of Epidavros (hopefully the Domus Magnus of House Menecrates). While following the rocky path, the group was startled to encounter a group of several women in the middle of nowhere. Their menacing spokesman Alexandra, who only had a single breast, claimed that their arrival had been prophecized by the Goddess Diana, and asked that the 3 Magi and Laszlo return with her to serve the Goddess. At first wary of the offer (since Merento relayed that Diana was known to transform would-be lovers into animals and then ruthlessly hunt them down), the group was comforted by Alexandra's assurances that no harm would come to them. Blinded by his affection for all things Roman, Merento at once agreed to her offer, and soon the expedition clambored down to a cove and boarded long boats. Sailing a mile to a tiny island, more women were encountered upon its black beach, and they led the Magi with Laszlo to the Temple of Diana, clearly within a manner of regio while their comrades waited by the boats. Giving them a bountious feast of olives, grapes, and oranges, Alexandra explained that the Goddess must be 'renewed', and the men were escorted away by beautiful young women dressed in white. 'Serving' the women, the weary men returned to the beach with Alexandra, and sailed back for the Isle of Nisyros at dusk (once they climbed back up to the trail, they could see that no sign of the nearby Isle of Diana was evident...only open sea). Alexandra reluctantly journeyed with the group, claiming that the Goddess had instructed her to remain with them (some of the folk were wary of this bizarre Greek, one-breasted woman, but Merento at once took a liking to her and instructed her to obey his commands).
Continuing along the path the expedition came to an old, wheathered fortress flying the black and white flag of the Knights Hospitalers. Entering the castle, a man named Symeón led them to the 'Chamber of Tongues' when it became clear they did not speak one another's language, and in this open-aired chamber with marble benches and ivy, everyone could understand each other. After a misunderstanding in which the Magi of Rabenstein were reluctant to announce their rank and the folk of Epidavros were defensive about their home and the Knights Hospitaler that populated it, it became clear that this was indeed the Hermetic Covenant of Epidavros, Domus Magnus of House Menecrates. Covenfolk at Epidavros were wary of the girl Alexanra that accompanied the folk from Rabenstein, explaining that such women had slain several of their men in the past (one of their Magi further elaborated that they believed the nearby Goddess Diana was not authentic, but rather a fraudulent hedge wizard living in a regio). Several of the Magi of Epidavros were introduced to the expedition, including their Primus Mnesithius, a decepit man over 200 years old. The Magi listened to Julian's tale of one of their brethren, Hecunáh (see the previous tale King Samo, Master of Lepers), and seemed divided upon his fate (Mnesithius would have no disparaging talk of him, while Luciano of Menecrates insisted that Hecunah was a liability and must be Marched, and Hecunáh's pater Laertes propsed that Rabenstein admit his former student to their Covenant). Although the Magi of Epidavros were amenable to healing the lad Gundulf, they made a strange proposal. Explaining that their turb was primarily stocked by sickly individuals or the Knights Hospitalers, they asked if they may be allowed to 'borrow' the grogs of Rabenstein for the summer. Apparantly this summer marked the Tribunal of Thebes at Cyllene Covenant in Crete (the birthplace of Hermes), and traditionally athletic games were held between the representatives of each Covenant. Since the games involved pagan icons and might offend the Christian sensibilities of the Knights Hospitalers (whose role as grogs might also disturb the Quaesitori), and since the rest of their turb were rather modest athletes, they hoped to use Rabenstein's grogs as their representatives (apparantly how well a Covenant's athletes performed had significant influence on voting). In return, the librarian Athanasius of Menecrates offered to allow the three Magi use of their library for the summer season. This sparked a lengthy private debate among the group, whose need for haste in pursuing the Necklace of the Golden Flies was now tempered by the opportunity to gain access to wonderful Hermetic texts, including lost works by Hippocrates and Aristotle. Ultimately Rabenstein refused the offer of Epidavros for fear that news of their presence in the Greek Isles at the Tribunal might attract unwanted Hermetic attention from the Tribunal's Magi.
The attempt to heal Gundulf's tongue failed, as he proved to be strangely resistant to the magic (and the text from which the spell was cast burst into flames). Further attempts to soothe his ailment by sitting in the fumes of a vast volcanic crater also proved to be of no avail, although Sean's broken arm was rejuvenated when the Magi agreed to lend their grogs to the Covenant for the impending Tribunal Games.
Cast: Julian and Lazslo (Kendall Miles), Nicolaus (Mike Daumen), Brother Meshach and Sean (Patrick Murphy), Alexandra and Willibrond (Ann Harper), Erik (Chris Blake), Merento (Jason Buss)
Date - 10/5, 10/7, 10/12/97 (87th, 88th, and 89th Sessions)
...the expedition retrieves an ancient Egyptian artifact from the Isle of Crete and must face the dangerous Shawapti who guard it
The expedition departed the Covenant of Epidavros in the early summer and returned to the port of Naxos (agreeing to return to Epidavros by the end of July to lend their grogs to the Covenant as described in the previous Act III: Byzantine Hospitality). Chartering a small fishing vessel and arriving at the Isle of Amórgas in the southern Cyclades, the last known resting place of the Necklace of Golden Flies, the expedition determined to climb to the solitary Monestary of Chozitossiva to inquire about the item. Although the monks knew nothing of the necklace, within the wealthy monestary, brother Leo conveyed that perhaps the Necklace was part of the horde of Alexander the Great, whose treasure had once graced Amórgas. However, such riches had long ago been stripped from the humble island. Although Leo did not offer any insight into the fate of this necklace, he did suggest visiting the anchorite of the Church of Theologós, who might know of such things. Following Leo's advice, they hiked to the top of the 2500 meter Mount Kriklo to find a solitary hermit tending to some beehives and a tiny whitewashed church with a blue dome overlooking the brilliant blue sea. Although the hermit Eusebio seemed quite mad and annoyed by their display of military might, he did ramble about ancient 'icons', claiming that perhaps this Necklace was a holy icon that came from the distant past, in the sacred time when angels and fallen angels roamed the lands. Eusebio relayed the legend of Alexander the Great's treasure, which once lay in the town of Arkisini here on Amórgas but was born away by the islanders in the time of the romans to keep it safe from their generals, and taken to the Gorge of the Dead upon the Isle of Minos, where it was guarded by the lions. The expedition set off for the ruins of Arkisini, but could find no hint of any treasure hidden there. Recognizing the term 'Isle of Minos' as the ancient term for Crete, Merento determined to lead the expedition to this gorge in search of the necklace.
Arriving at the port of Iráklion, Julian divined the location of the Gorge of the Dead from some local farmers in the nearby hills, who warned them that those who entered this burial place of Minoan kings would return insane. Undaunted, the expedition hired a small boat to bear them to the eastern reaches of Crete near to the gorge. Hiking inland to the rocky cliffs, the folk from Rabenstein discovered a deep crevice lined with caverns, scrubgrass and dusty rocks, with a small river weaving through the red stone of the canyon's floor. Looking for the best path to climb down the gorge, the group stumbled across a group of four ancient stone lions crumbling in disrepair. Weary from the long day of travelling and with dark falling, the group set camp near the lions and decided to enter the canyon with fresh legs in the morning sun. But during the night, one of the lions came to life, ponderously clamboring off its pedastal with great grinding noises. Clearly decrepit, the beast spoke to the group, asking if Rome still ruled and proclaiming that it knew they came in search of the nineteen flies of Ra. As they spoke, the lion offered that if they would procure sacred water from the nearby lake Dílos to restore his pride, he would tell them the secret of the Gorge, the location of the flies, and allow them to take it alone from the tombs which he guarded. Although they felt capable of defeating the ancient lion and ignoring its demands, they were wary of the farmer's tale of insanity befalling those who entered the gorge, so they agreed to the lion's offer. With first light, they followed the beast's instructions and hiked several miles inland to a clear, blue lake and filled their wineskins with its soothing waters. Returning to the lion statues, they set out their water in bowls before each of the beasts and awaited nightfall. As the sun set, the lions indeed came to life, slurping the sacred water and growing stronger with its taste. Although the other three beasts moved menacingly as if to pounce upon the folk, the older lion from last night sparred with his fellow beasts and drove them away. Keeping his word, the lion revealed the location of the necklace (in a small cave just south of here), and the means by which to thwart the envious spirits of the gorge, which would attempt to enter the living through their mouths and eyes if proper care was not taken. The lion also spoke of the danger of the nineteen flies of Ra, explaining that they were guarded by seven Shawabti, who might defend the necklace if they did not approve of its new owner (the necklace prefers kings, and was last worn by Alexander the Great).
Hiking down into the gorge in the dark night, the group made their way to the small cave described by the lion and found the ancient golden necklace. Laszlo perceived brilliant fires burning within fifteen of the nineteen precious stones set upon golden flies, each clutching a military weapon. While the group hiked back up the gorge, a strange man assailed them along the ledge, one of the Shawabti described by the lion. The man was small, with a painted face of blue, gold, and red, and made completely of petrified wood. Although the magical statue was quite menacing and moved with a supernatural grace, its wood was easily smashed apart by Lazslo and Willibrond and the expedition fled away from the gorge bearing their new prize, the Necklace of the Golden Flies.
The next day the expedition chartered a boat to Venice from the nearby port. Awaiting their departure, the group was startled this night when another Shawabti bearing a spear strode into the communal hostel to face them in the starlight. Erik smashed the wooden statue to pieces before any villagers arose, but it became clear that the group must face seven Shawabti as the lion warned if they were to keep the Necklace. Not wanting to attract the attention of the authorities (who had already taken notice of the strange statue and stories of a devil entering the hostel among the local peasants), the expedition set camp north of the port the next night while they continued awaiting their departure by sea. As expected, a third Shawabti arrived this night, but it was much more ferocious in battle than its predecessors, and its spear terribly wounded both Erik and Lazslo before Merento burned the creature. Clearly the Shawabti were gaining strength with each passing night, as the statue's wood was more resilient and its strength much greater. Since the group had one final night to spend upon Crete before their boat departed for Venice, they returned to the port during the day and procured buckets of pitch and oil with which to burn the coming Shawabti. Not long after night fell, a fourth and more powerful Shawabti (identical in appearance to the former statues) strode into their camp bearing its spear. Willi was impaled as he tried to set the creature ablaze, and Sean was nearly slain before the Shawabti was burned.
As if matters couldn't get worse, with three more powerful Shawabti yet to face, the group awoke to find a group of Hermetic Magi arriving at their camp led by Laertes of Epidavros Covenant (see the previous Act III: Byzantine Hospitality), having tracked the group since leaving his Covenant. Laertes was accompanied by a Criamon seeker of Pindus Prodidae Covenant named Balsámon, who inquired about their purpose in the Tribunal of Thebes and recognized Merento as the pupil of Rahewin of Trianoma. Warning that Rahewin was in quest of dangerous ancient relics linked to the 'old ones', and that any relics within the isles were the distinct property of the Tribunal of Thebes, Balsámon challenged Merento to Certámen to know his mind on this matter when Merento denied knowledge of such relics. Merento defeated the seeker when Balsámon lost his concentration, and the defeated Magus departed honorably (though Laertes used his lancet and the Ars Medicorum to expediate healing their wounded when they agreed to deliver a letter to his renounced former apprentice Hecunah - see the previous story King Samo, Master of Lepers). Since Balsámon had seen the expedition's grogs and their allegiance to Rabenstein, the previous agreement to lend grogs to Epidavros Covenant for the Theban Tribunal games was hence rendered impossible.
Fortunately the Shawabti did not or perhaps could not assail the group while they remained on the boat bound for Venice, so they had time to recuperate and plot their defense. Arriving in Italy, the expedition headed for the rural farmlands and determined to assail the next Shawabti with magic and burn it while their men cast nets over the statue. But when the Shawabti arrived that night on a small hill in Lombardy, the battle went poorly and Ouén was slain and Lazslo gravely wounded before they succeeded in slaying this fifth Shawabti. So grim was their situation that Merento determined to flee the group the next day with the Necklace of Golden Flies for Rabenstein alone, using his magic to fly with the winds. Humbled and discouraged, his comrades bore Lazslo and Alexandra to a nearby village to recover, and were gladdened when the sixth Shawabti did not come to claim their lives that night (it had probably followed Merento home). Out of monies, they were forced to expend the last of their vis to save Lazslo's life and remain in the village working for two months whilst their folk regained their health. Returning at last to Rabenstein in the autumn, they were startled to discover that Merento had never returned, having probably been slain by the Shawabti.
One chill October afternoon, Merento suddenly arrived at Rabenstein after several month's absence (most folk had assumed the Shawabti killed him), and called an emergency council to explain his fate the past few months. Apparantly Merento had gone to the nearby Covenant of Caverna Naturno in Lombardy rather than Rabenstein, hiding within its strange regio to avoid the Shawabti's pursuit. There he remained for nearly two months until the Shawabti arrived at this Covenant and slew many of its folk before being bested by its Flambeau Magus. Though the Covenant did not blame or suspect Merento for the creature's appearance, when he expressed concern that they bolster their defences again the next night in anticipation of another foe, the Magi of Caverna Naturno grew suspicious of him, challenging Merento to Certamén to learn his mind of the affair. Though Merento won the Certamén, he fled the sanctuary for home and now expected the seventh and final Shawabti to assail them here at Rabenstein. Assembling the Magi and several socii within the courtyard at dusk, the remaining covenfolk were sent into the library and caves for safety, and the main gate was left open. By midnight the musty scent of the tombs of Crete began to permeate the hill, and the mighty seventh Shawabti strode menacingly into the courtyard with its oil lamp and spear. Though the allied Magi succeeded in destroying the creature with their sorcery, it slew Péter von Braunschweig and grievously injured Matthias before it succumbed to their flames. Hence the journey to the Greek Isles came to an end, and though Rabenstein now possessed the mysterious 'Necklace of the Golden Flies,' the morale of their covenfolk was eroded by the death of their kin at the hands of the Shawabti.
Cast: Julian, Bertoul, and Lazslo (Kendall Miles), Nicolaus and Sir Fitz (Mike Daumen), Brother Meshach, Cynric, and Sean (Patrick Murphy), Alexandra, Magda, Ouén, Péter, and Willibrond (Ann Harper), Erik and Lassitor (Chris Blake), Merento (Jason Buss and Chris Blake)
Date - 9/28/97 (86th Session)
...the demon Hlavka continues to expand her carnal influence among the Covenfolk
This story deals with a mysterious demon named Hlavka, which has appeared in several previous stories (beginning with King Samo, Master of Lepers and The Siege of Oravsky Podzamok, then Lorelei of the Schützklamm Falls, and The Love Potion). Please consult these stories prior to reading this tale.
In the early autumn of 1210, the covenfolk of Rabenstein hiked to the nearby village of Fröhnleiten to enjoy the festival of Michaelmas. Bobbing for apples, telling ghost stories, dancing, gaming and drinking fine ale the covenfolk mingled among the villagers and had a good time (though Polu wretched while dancing and had to recover in father Galen's house). Amidst the revelers Cynric spied the redcap Aestrius, who had paused to enjoy the harvest festival and its fine beer on his way to Rabenstein. The Redcap discussed news and relayed a letter from nearby Weeping Rock Covenant, and brought the lovely Fraulein Loretta with him (see the previous stories The Picture of Castellan Demel, The Troll of Magdalensberg and The Peripheral Code). Loretta spoke at length with the Magi, and professed her intention to journey with Aestrius to Harco Covenant, the Domus Magnus of House Mercere, perhaps to petition for membership and training as a Redcap. During her visit, Loretta grew closer to Cynric who made his amorous affection for her more clear (even offering a rook of his own personal vis to appease her former master). In addition, Tatyana continued to court the honorable Sir Ladewig throughout the festival.
In the village however, Péter succumbed to the wiles of a beautiful young temptress named Elka, and woke up the next morning in a haystack with his pants missing (some pranksters had removed them and tied them to the top of the Maypole). When it turned out that 'Elka' was really Marshall Hammond's frequent wench 'Marta', Péter had to plead his way out of being pummeled by the knight for his promiscuity. As the festival continued the next night, Liudgard fell victim to the wiles of the lovely Marta, sneaking off into the woods to enjoy her embrace. Then as the night waned, Sergeant Bertóul discovered Marta and Liudgard together, but recognized the sultry woman 'Marta' to be none other than the wicked harlot named Hlavka from Bohemia. Drunk with ale, Bertóul submitted to Hlavka's taunts and sending Liudgard off for more ale, he took her into the woods and made love to her to prove his manhood. When Liudgard returned and threw his ale at Hlavka in disgust for her carnal sins, she grabbed him with an incredible strength, bit his lip, and told him to tell Tatyana that she was waiting for her.
When news of Hlavka's presence reached the Covenant, Tatyana was mortified (since Hlavka had come for her in the past and clearly would not submit until Tatyana was hers), and the Magi determined to defeat this demon before their lives and the safety of the Covenant were further imperiled (her expanding influence in nearby Fröhnleiten was also rather disturbing news). Alas, the Council of Magi concluded that over the course of four years Hlavka had slept with at least six of their fifteen socii (including Piotr, Polu, Tatyana, Liudgard, Bertóul, and Petér), as well as Marshall Hammond of Frohnleiten. The nature of Hlavka's power or influence of these covenfolk remained uncertain, but the Magi agreed not to trust them in Hlavka's presence.
Cast: Cynric and Liudgard (Patrick Murphy), Tatyana, Polu, and Wolfgang (Ann Harper), Matthias and Peter (Chris Blake), Bertoul (Kendall Miles)
This page last modified on 11/25/97.
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