1211 A.D.

Trial by Combat

Date - 10/26/97 (90th Session)

...the Covenfolk are summoned before Duke Leopold's Court to settle their dispute with a noble family

Just after Christmas in the cold winter of 1210, the covenfolk of Rabenstein received a letter from Duke Leopold VII of Austria summoning them to appear before his Court at Graz in a few weeks to settle their dispute with the nobles of Ehrenhausen (see the previous story Wrath of the Waiblingen to understand how this dispute arose). Desperate to avoid the loss of their men through execution or severed hands at the order of the Duke, they turned to their liege at Seckau for help. Canon Gesebert offered a grim assessment of the Duke's decision, who he claimed was likely to side with Ehrenhausen simply to gain the favor of other Imperialists. Gesebert then offered to grant their folk sanctuary if they would give up their arms and join a monastery for the rest of their lives (an unlikely choice for the men in question). But Canon Ramón offered to arrange for one of the men (Erik) to be knighted so that he could claim the privilege of trial by combat to settle the dispute. The next day Sir Bedegund, Chamberlain of the Ritter of Seckau, knighted Erik.

Arriving at the town of Graz for the Duke's Court, the expedition stayed with an envoy of ecclesiastical authorities from Seckau but found their religious practices too disciplined and methodical for their tastes. Jumping at the opportunity to escape such a routine, several folk from Rabenstein walked to the Red Ox Hostel when news of their invitation was received. Inside the Tavern they met the infamous naughty Lady Liesel of Riegersberg castle, and gained her favor by entertaining her with magical tricks. The Magus Cynric in particular earned Liesel's favor, and learned that if he could use his magic to sustain her beauteous glamour (perhaps with longevity potions), that she might repay him with wealth and other courtly amenities. Julian of Jerbiton was throughly mortified at this proposal, noting that this was exactly the sort of thing that could lure them into trouble with the Quaesitori.

At the Duke's Court the next day in the mighty Schlossburg, the newly annointed Sir Erik claimed his right to trial by combat against the champion of Ehrenhausen, the gallant Sir Bedemer. But before the duel could commence, a dispute arose about the sorcery practiced by Rabenstein and whether they may attempt to use it to aid their chamion or thwart their foe. Singling out Merento (who suffered the blatant Gift), a host of nobles from Rabenstein's past gave testimony about their powers, including knights from Passau (who met them in the tale The Prophecy of Lady Balara), Sir Joachim von Radkersburg (who joined them in the story Amid the Veil of Pines), Sir Werner von Wienerneustadt (who did battle against the Huns in The Path of St. Michael), knights of Castellan Otto (who saw magic in the tale Wings Across the Neusiedler See), Sir Gozwin of Landskron (from Office of the Seclusion of the Leper), and other courtiers who had either met or merely heard tales of the 'Mystics of Rabenstein'. Duke Leopold's court wizard, Marbode of Rennes (who seemed to be a charlatan with limited knowledge of the Order of Hermes) was asked to assess the conjurers, and was cleverly coerced to speak in their favor by Cynric. Ultimately the Duke was appeased when Canon Ramón of Seckau Abbey and Canon Himmler (from the story The Dwarfs of Moosham Castle) spoke favorably about Rabenstein, and the poet Sir Gottfried von Strassburg (a friend of Rabenstein who first met them in The Picture of Castellan Demel) praised the courage and compassion of Cynric and Julian of Rabenstein, comparing their role to that of Merlin in the tale of King Arthur.

The next morning, the assembled nobility gathered at the Schlossburg to enjoy the entertaining combat. Erik prevailed in a difficult duel, finally slaying the sturdy knight from Ehrenhausen with a blow across his head with his mace and establishing his fighting prowess among the assembled nobles of Steiermark. Hence the battle was a victorious one and their feud with Ehrenhausen settled before God and Duke.

*Cultural Anecdote - While it may have seemed flippant to bestow the rank of 'knight' upon Erik in this tale, such rank is altogether common in German lands (see the description of Ritters & Ministeriales). Further, Canon Ramón had fallen victim to pride in wishing a victory for the Guelphs against the Ghibbelines and suggested this solution to honor that pride.

*Historical & Story Note - Sir Gottfried composed the soon-to-be legendary ballad of 'Tristan and Isolt' in 1210, and having recited it here at the Duke's Court had already gained the favorable ear of the Duke and his courtiers, so his praise alone ended all debate over the merits of their practice of magic. Gottfried's praise also led to the acceptance of two new members to Rabenstein, Sir Waldemar von Strassburg and his squire Andreás.

Cast: Cynric (Patrick Murphy), Tatyana (Blythe Newton), Erik (Chris Blake), Julian, Nicolaus, Brother Meshach, and Sir Hammond (Mike Daumen)

The Necromantic Apprentice

Date - 11/2/97 (91st Session)

...in which a monk possessing ancient texts is suspected to possess the Gift

Scene I: Grave Robbing

At the monthly market in Leoben (February of 1211), some of the socii were startled to find themselves unwelcome and accused of practicing necromancy. Apparantly someone claiming to be from Rabenstein had been seen in the village a few weeks before asking to borrow a shovel, and the cemetery was found with disturbed earth that next morning. Pleading their case with Brother Gregory and the dimwitted Marshal of Leoben, the socii managed to acquire most of the foodstuffs they sought, but did nothing to sway the locals that they didn't harbor graverobbers at their home. Returning to Rabenstein, the Magi dismissed this news as yet another poor rumor that they best ignore, but the stubborn sentry Polu felt ashamed and insulted, and determined to discover who was truly behind the grave robbing (Polu was also attempting to impress the two new members of Rabenstein, Sir Waldemar and his squire Andreás, with his diligence). Obtaining a few days leave from the Covenant, the dutiful Polu escorted Sir Waldemar and Andreás back to Leoben and investigated the matter. They found that a single grave had been tampered with, belonging to a young horsethief who was hung last month at Landskron Castle. Waldermar yielded to the demands of the peasants, who feared the body was now missing and might walk the earth as a zombie, and allowed them to dig up the grave. Inside they found the body still occupying its coffin, but to the horror of everyone the corpse's left eye had been gouged out and was missing, which only furthered rumors of Rabenstein's involvement in this necromancy. Returning to the Covenant with haste, Polu relayed his discovery and the Magi decided to send their Mentem specialist Julian to investigate further.

Scene II: The Monastery

Back in Leoben Julian attempted to glean a vision of the man who claimed to be from Rabenstein that had been sighted looking for a shovel, but his magics were not strong enough. Learning that the exhumed body had been taken to nearby Goss, Julian led the small expedition from Rabenstein to the old Benedictine monestary to stay for the night (their arrival set a rather grim tone at the monestary, since the last time Julian had visited Goss was during the consternation over a similar matter; see the previous tale Mist of the Ancients). After vespers the expedition spoke at length with the brothers and Abbot Jurkis about the matter, each having their own opinion. Brother Adalbert spread consternation among the monks with his interesting theory about the end of the world, but Julian was most startled to learn of recent miraculous events within Goss itself. The brothers spoke of Scripture appearing upon paper and wood in the rectory some mornings even though the room was locked at night, and about a rosebush blossoming in the dead of winter several weeks ago. That night Julian crept into the rectory during services, feigning illness to avert suspicion, and witnessed a pen write verses all by itself (he detected no ghosts, but did discern a magical luster as the pen flitted about).

At dawn the monks and expedition awoke to a blood-curdling, mottled screech. Spilling outside they witnessed a large, horrible crane-necked bird of some kind. Using their swords Sir Waldemar and Wolfgang slew the beast, which was found to be the mutated body of the monastery's rooster. Further, its body harbored Animál vis. Through the course of yesterday's dialogues suspicion had begun to fall upon the scientific-minded brother Hörst (the magical pen had scribed Ephesians, just as brother Hörst did during the days recently), and Julian managed to corner the quiet monk alone later that afternoon. Using his spells to probe Hörst's mind, Julian affirmed that the monk had been practicing necromancy from an old book, and had hired someone to obtain a corpse's left eye, instructing the grave robber to mention Rabenstein if he were discovered. After confronting Hörst with his knowledge, Julian spoke at length with the reticent monk and became convinced that he possessed the Gift; the pen, rooster, and rose all attributable to his latent magical luster or necromantic acts. Convinced that Hörst must be guided down a Hermetic path or stopped entirely, Julian managed to arrange for the monk's journey with him back to Rabenstein.

Scene III: Denoumet

Hörst was allowed to stay at Rabenstein while the Council of Magi debated his fate. It became clear that if Hörst rejected the notion of joining the Order to pursue magic, he might have to be killed to protect the Order. Scouring his books the Magi were stunned to discover that one of his texts, the Art of Necromancy, was attributed to the lost founder Epebolus (see Additional Houses) and his pupil Paracelces. Hörst claimed this text had rested at the monestary of St. Gilgen in the Salt District of Austria and that he stumbled across it by accident. Further, Merento of Bonisagus found allusions in the text to the actual location of Epebolus' sanctum within the Alps.

*Rules Clarification - Brother Hörst possessed the +1 Virtue 'Secret Vis Source', embodied in his own blood (befitting the necromantic bend to this tale). The magical rooster was created when Hörst botched a spell from his text calling for the use of his own blood (fed to the rooster along with crushed absinthe in an attempt to cause forgetfulness in those who heard the rooster's cry at dawn). Hörst's intent had been to dissuade further investigation into the necromantic affair.

Cast: Polu, Andreás, & Nicolaus (Mike Daumen), Liudgard, Sir Waldemar & Cynric (Patrick Murphy), Wolfgang & Julian (Kendall Miles)

Burglary in the Lindwurm's Lair

Date - 11/9/97 (92nd Session)

...a rescue attempt is mounted to the Lindwurm's foul cave to liberate covenfolk imprisoned there

Please refer to the first Act of this tale in which several covenfolk were imprisoned by the Lindwurm of Klagenfurt (described in the previous story The Lindwurm of Klagenfurt). In that previous tale the decrepit yet menacing dragon demanded that the magi find a mate for it before he would release his captives, Lady Enelle Hallinger and her nephew Gelvin. For nearly two years these prisoners languished in the Lindwurm's putrid lair until this next tale began...

Frustrated that they were unable to discover a mate for the Lindwurm, or a means to attract one, the Council of Rabenstein determined to abandon their quest to meet the Lindwurm's terms and try to blatantly rescue their hostage covenfolk. So in the summer of 1211 an expedition headed for the Lindwurm's cave in the neighboring Duchy of Carinthia. Evading a brigand camp they eventually managed to find the ledge demarking the magical entrance into the Lindwurm's mountain. Despite their efforts to enter the mountain however, the terrain seemed unfamiliar and the once obvious entrance now hidden to the mortal world. Their path remained blocked until Lassitor of Criamon exhausted his supply of raw vis in the casting of a spell to reveal the cavernous entrance into the rocky mountain. Before the entire expedition could enter the cave however, Lassitor lost his concentration and poor Cynric found himself trapped alone within the dark cave with a handful of socii. Lighting torches with Cynric's magic and carefully creeping into the cavern, the group made their way to a plodding underground river where they encoutered one of the Lindwurm's servant drakes. Cornering the mischevious creature and slaying it in the river, the group hastened onward until they heard the steady snores of the mighty Lindwurm. Within its stagnant chamber they found the pathetic Gelvin and Castellen Demél (see the previous tale The Picture of Castellan Demel) huddled together. Rescuing them the group carefully stole back to the entrance of the cave, and two days later were able to escape when Lassitor managed to reopen the entrance from the outside.

From Gelvin and Demél the magi learned much to their horror that the other hostage, their Autocrat Lady Enelle, had been swallowed whole by the Lindwurm and transformed into one of his servant drakes. Apparantly the Lindwurm was aging and tired, and had dispatched all of his drakes save one (including Lady Enelle) to seek out a mate for himself before he died. Although this explained the relative ease of their rescue mission, they were mortified to learn of their Autocrat's fate, and learned that she had changed her temperament and behavior altogether (what she retained of her former identity and her knowledge of Rabenstein remained uncertain). The mystic Engelbert, who had coordinated the kidnapping of the hostages in the previous tale, was conspicuously absent. Demél claimed that Engelbert had fled the Lindwurm's cave several months ago, and professed to know his current location (Demél was imprisoned in the Hundeloch of Rabenstein once they returned home, as he has long attracted the ire of the magi of Rabenstein).

Cast: Nicolaus (Mike Daumen), Cynric (Patrick Murphy), Bertoul (Kendall Miles), Lassitor (Chris Blake), Magda and Wolfgang (Ann Harper)

The Lion of St. Mark

Date - 11/16/97 (93rd Session)

...in which an expedition to Venice enjoys the splendor and squalor of the legendary port

Having exhausted their supplies of vellum and in dire need of laboratory equipment, an expedition from Rabenstein was mounted for Venice in the summer of 1211 to procure supplies. The long overland journey was hindered by a lame donkey, rickety cart, and brigands along a mountain pass, but finally reached the terra firma of the Venetian Empire in relatively good spirits. Following Merento of Bonisagus' instructions, the expedition made their way across the swamp to the townhouse of the Covenant of Merento's apprenticeship, Isola Vulcano. Its master Lorenzo the merchant welcomed them and arranged to procure a supply of vellum and ink for them with their funds (and a small fee for himself). Lorenzo explained that no magi from Isola Vulcano had stayed at the townhouse for several years, and its few folk were quite hospitable (Nicolaus gleaned that the house was haunted of late by a former magus of Isola Vulcano who once resided here). Many Covenants of the Roman, Transylvanian, Theban, and Greater Alps Tribunals maintained townhouses here in Venice (Lorenzo further tried to sway the magi of Rabenstein that he could secure a townhouse for their own uses for the right price, but they rejected the notion as premature). Following Lorenzo to the towhouse of Pontestura Covenant, the magi negotiated with its tenant Orlando of House Tremere and arranged to trade their rook of vis for the services of Pontestura's talented glassblower and smith to manufacture some laboratory equipment. Underestimating the magi of Rabenstein, Orlando made a casual clerical error in their favor due to his boredom (he botched his bargaining roll). Although it took several weeks for the craftsment to manufacture and secure the laboratory equipment they desired, the expedition returned to Rabenstein successfully at summer's end bearing a wealth of quality glasswares.

Scene II: The Merchants of Harco (play-by-email sessions)

During their stay in Venice, Cynric and Magda journeyed to the townhouse of Harco Covenant, the legendary Domus Magnus of House Mercere. Little more than a dingy ale-stained tavern, the redcaps maintained an opulent den above the hostel however, and entertained the magi of Rabenstein. Agreeing to guide them to Harco, the redcaps arranged for Cynric and Magda to accompany one of their own, Edouard, on his journey back to Harco. Although Edouard was unreceptive to them and seemd to be accompanying a caravan of merchants rather than delivering any letters, they found the villa of Harco to be quite wealthy and a welcome respite from the crowded filth of Venice. Here at Harco they met several covenfolk and a resident Quaesitor, and gleaned that Harco was deeply involved in mercantile trade throughout the region (Harco's magi were scattered among its many landholdings). Desiring to speak with the lovely Lady Loretta who had journeyed here last year (see the previous tale The Harlot of Fröhnleiten), Cynric learned of her residence at the port of Finale Ligure. Walking with the redcap Antón to Finale Ligure, Cynric and Magda discovered more of Harco and visited with Loretta, learning of her station with another magus in a townhouse here. After a stay of several weeks, the magi returned to Venice. On the matter of Cynric's relationship with Loretta, the young magus was noticeably silent, but discerning eyes noted a spring in his step and the oft-surly Cynric far more jovial.

*Historical Anecdote - Ownership of propery in the town of Venice in the 13th Century is strictly tied to military service under the Doge. When Lorenzo attempted to arrange for Rabenstein's purchase of property it would have actually involved financing the purchase in the name of an eligible soldier, resulting in a mutually beneficial arrangement for the magi and the new landholder.

Cast: Nicolaus (Mike Daumen), Cynric (Patrick Murphy), Magda (Ann Harper)

Law of the Polovtsy

Date - 11/23, 11/30, 12/7/97 (94th, 95th, and 96th Sessions)

...the lineage of Bjornaer are assailed by a band of bloodthirsty Kuman shapeshifters

Scene I: Plight of a Friend

In the frigid December of 1211, several Covenfolk began to experience strange visions of a ghost within Rabenstein, and eventually recognized it to be their own member, Capra of Bjornaer, who had been long absent in Hungary. Magda called an emergency Council meeting to relay that she had seen the vision of Capra within her laboratory and spoken with him, perhaps in a dream (*Magda possessed the Virtue 'Second Sight'). Apparantly Capra had become lost in the spirit realm and was unable to find his body (he feared that it must now be languishing, perhaps even dead). Capra's spirit had found Rabenstein by following ravens in the land of spirits (as he did in the previous tale The Morrigan), but it had taken several days and he grew weary. He begged Magda to help find his body and return it to Rabenstein so that his spirit might reunite with it. Making haste, a small band was assembled and immediately trudged east across the Styrian hills into Hungary to save their friend. After a miserable 6-day journey in the snow, they arrived at the village Kobol-Weiler where Capra lived, and discovered that both he and the village shaman Tibor (Capra's teacher) were gone. After investigating the matter it became clear that the villagers believed both men had ascended to heaven due to a host of symbolic events, and did not expect them to return. They also learned that Capra had taken a wife, Aczéd, who was with child. Persuading Capra's wife to take them to the sacred glade where Tibor lived and taught Capra, they found an abandoned hut and a flat rock with strange triple-spiral patterns etched upon it.

Scene II: The Raven

As the troupe milled about the sacred glade, a very large raven circled down and perched upon the rock (a bird that had been seen following them for several days). To everyone's collective shock the bird began to speak in strange verses, shedding light upon the fate of Capra and Tibor. Interpreting the raven's words, the group decided that poor Capra had fallen captive to a mysterious band of men who held some manner of grudge against him (though whether he lived or died remained unclear). When the raven offered to lead them they decided to continue the pursuit of Capra's body, and headed south into the snowy hills of Transdanubia. En route they found the dead body of Capra's mentor Tibor, hung to a tree and let of blood. Following the raven they reached a circle of stones and set camp adjacent to them. As dusk fell upon the stones and the strange spiral pattern appeared upon them, a man wearing a wolf's pelt, replete with its head as a hat, appeared within the circle. He boasted of his errand to 'expose' Capra and it became clear that he knew of the lineage of House Bjornaer, seeking to exact some manner of punishment on them. He threatened Magda of Bjornaer and laughed that his band of men were more numerous than the stars in the sky and would soon fall upon the troupe. Late the next night, the groggy watch found themsevles suddenly assailed by a host of wolverines. As they frantically struggled to fend the beasts, it became clear that the wolves possessed a magical lustre (and the power to bestill the men with their gaze). The fight raged, and Magda of Bjornaer mortally thrashed two of the beasts in her heart-beast shape, but as a menacing bear began lumbering into the fray along with more wolverines, she was forced to flee, leaving her comrades to the bloody jaws of death.

Scene III: An Unusual Ally

Stranded alone in the wilds of Hungary the maga Magda of Bjornaer slipped in her wolf-shape by night to the nearby shores of frozen lake Balaton to escape the pursuing wolveringes, who she discerened were shapeshifters (perhaps of the same lineage that slew her pater). Roaming the penninsula of Tihany and its ghostly volcanic-cones she took shelter for several days among villages while searching for the nearby Covenant of Valcum (she hoped to find help from its Bjornaer maga named Sibiu). With the help of a haughty German trapper named Oskar, Magda learned of the probable location of Valcum atop mount Badocscóny and soon journeyed to its high slopes along Balaton's north shore. Taken in by a hermit named Kristof, Magda soon found herself shackled by a band of gruesome Magyar soldiers amidst a hovel of earthen huts atop the flat-topped basalt mountain (several of these folk appeared to be walking corpses). Magda was released when several magi of Valcum arrived, and learned that these miserable soldiers were Valcum's grogs. Within an opulent underground chamber replete with Byzantine decour, Magda explained her tale to the Council of Valcum's magi and met privately with Sibiu of Bjornaer. Sibiu elaborated that the band of shapeshifters Magda had fought were called Kumans, and were intent on slaying all magi of Bjornaer. Further, not 10 days ago the Kumans slaughtered eight of Valcum's grogs and injured Sibiu before she escaped in the shape of her heartbeast, an eagle. The Council of Valcum expressed reservation about Magda's tale, but Sibiu enlisted their support and they agreed to work together to learn more of the Kuman shapeshifters and defeat them without enlisting the Quaesitori. Sibiu offered to journey to Rabenstein as soon as she recovered from her wounds to devise a plan to deal with the shapeshifting villains.

Scene IV: On the Homefront

Returning to Rabenstein just after Christmas, Magda relayed her woeful tale about the probable death of the socii that accompanied her. Then a few days later, Nicolaus returned home as well with the German trapper Oskar, and relayed the dismal fate of their men. According to Nicolaus, Sean and Liudgard were slain, and the shapeshifter's leader, Turkís of the Kuman, had made Piotr and Lazslo "one with nature" (probably transforming them into wild animals). Turkís had offered to return them safely only if Rabenstein would surrender their own Magda of Bjornaer to them (clearly Turkís and his band were intent on slaying Magda). While the folk of Rabenstein desperately wished to recover their friends and lay vengeance upon the Kuman shapeshifters, they were weary of another expedition in the frigid winter and decided to await the arrival of Sibiu of Bjornaer from Valcum, hoping to combine their forces. But within a few weeks, some of the Covenfolk spied wolverines within the valley, and the Marshal of Frohnleiten warned that some villagers had been stalked by the beasts. As the folk cloistered themselves within the Covenant's walls, a messenger from Turkís arrived and demanded that they hand over Magda of Bjornaer to avoid the spilling of innocent blood. Refusing the messenger's grisly demand, the covenfolk prepared for a direct assault upon the castle by the Kuman. Yet several days passed without incident, and tensions mounted. Several socii experienced shared dreams in which they were massacred by vicious wolverines, and Magda sighted the spirit of Turkís invading the caves of Rabenstein. When it became clear that the wolverines would wait them out (and perhaps devour innocent villagers), the magi agreed to to mount an expedition to hunt the Kumans.

Scene V: Battle in the Snow

The hunting party was delayed when Sibiu of Bjornaer (from Valcum Covenant) arrived at Rabenstein, having flown there in the form of her heartbeast. Once she had recovered from her trip, the troupe exited the castle and headed for high ground upon the mountain slopes to face the Kuman on their own terms and away from the potential bustle of the valley-road. Arriving at a desirable clearing, the group set a campfire and awaited their foe as a snowstorm began. The beating of distant drums was soon heard, heralding the coming of the wolverines (these drums had been heard in the shared dreams by several socii, and their sound illicited great fear among the troupe). As the drums grew lourder and surrounded the folk, a host of wolverines burst into the clearing and attacked them. Holding their ground in the pitched battle, they slew several wolves and and drove away others as they unleashed powerful Hermetic magics upon them. Although Turkís was not found and many of the wolverines escaped into the snowy woods, the troupe felt confident that they had routed the Kumans for now. Returning to Rabenstein victorious, the magi agreed to work with Sibiu of Valcum in the future to learn more of the Kuman and defeat them.

*Game & Cultural Note - The legend of Bjornaer and her lineage was loosely appropriated from the Ars Magica supplement Shamans by John Snead (see pp. 75-76). The Kuman (also spelled Cuman) are a pagan steppe tribe from southern Rus, also known as the Polovtsy. Their refusal to embrace Christianity led them to wage incessant war with the Principality of Kiev well into the 13th Century, until the Tartars overwhelmed both the Polovtsy and Kiev.

Cast: Nicolaus, Ladewig, and Polu (Mike Daumen), Magda, Alexandra, and Wolfgang (Ann Harper), Lazslo, Bertoul, Julian and Liudgard (Kendall Miles), Sean, Cynric, and Piotr (Patrick Murphy), Erik and Lassitor (Chris Blake)

This page last modified on 12/9/97.

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