Date - 3/22/98 (111th Session)
...a mysterious omen plagues the Raubritter, who beg the mystics of Rabenstein for a prophecy
In the cold alpine January of 1214, a host of travellers trudged up the path to the cozy fires of burg Rabenstein. Revealing themselves to be knights of the 'Order of St. Christopher', it became clear that these were none other than the infamous Raubritter of the castle Kapfenstein (robber knights of Styria). See the previous tale The Pools of Bad Gleichenberg to learn of Rabestein's past dealings with these spry nobles. Though they quarreled at once with members of the Covenant's turb, they softened the magi with gifts of jewelry and a cedar box bearing the purported spiderwebs from the cave of St. Felix of Nova (the knights boasted that their entire reliquary was filled with such wonderous objects). Their spokesman Sir Füchs von Leipzig explained their dilemma, that that great stone sarcophagus over the tomb of their castle's founder was missing, and seen to roam the castle grounds at night. Consenting to send a delegation to look into the meaning of this sign, the expedition nearly ended before it began when several of Sir Füch's companion knights attempted to embroil the magi in the intrigue of their castle (apparently some of the Raubritter had used the statue's ghostly appearances to uphold or refute the current claim to leadership of the Raubritter). In fact, Sir Pietro attempted to bribe two magi (offering them money and 'safe passage' through the roads of the Styrian hills in exchange for a favorable interpretation of the statue's haunts). When confronted with news of this complicity, Sir Pietro and another of Füch's companion knights Sir Ellhard at once challenged one another to a duel. On this blistery cold morning in the very courtyard of the Covenant, Pietro was slain by Sir Ellhard, and Ellhard gravely wounded in the arm. Though the magi refused to have anything to do with the Raubritter after this debacle, Füchs was able to convince them of their safety and tempted them with the offer of horses for their stables if they could help.
So a reluctant expedition set out for Kapfenstein. The castle was a strange place, home to scores of squires, knights, mercenaries who pretended to be 'knights', free-men, and other criminals. Yet they allowed no women inside their castle, a tradition of their patron St. Christopher (the patron St. of Bachelors and a custom initiated by their founder). Outside the castle Kapfenstein lay a small village called Afra, peopled entirely by harlots, prostitutes, and other fallen women who sought the comfort of the bachelor knights (the matron of Afra explained that some girls were married and simply sought money for their families, while others hoped to eventually marry a knight, but that all were well-treated). In this hive of debauchery the magi were startled to have their Parmae Magicae go off as they approached the castle's gatehouse. Other strange things had occured here - cattle had died, no deer were found to hunt, the grain tower was rat-infested and rotted, and songbirds flitted about merrily singing in the dead of winter as if it were spring. Setting at once to investigate the sarcophagi's disappearance, they found it difficult to weave their magics within the crypt (perhaps the Divine aura interfering with their spells). Unwilling to defile the crypt to get at the body (which did remain within according to their magic), they explored more of the castle's denizens. Clearly two factions separated the Council of Raubritter (12 knights that ruled the castle), each wishing the mystics to favor their case for leadership of the Council with their prophecy, and the magi wished not to become entangled with either.
Adjacent to the castle the magi took an interest in the garden when tales of the sarcophagi's interest in it began to circulate. Within the vast array of shrubs, trees, vines, and bark, the magi were intrigued to find an old weathered statue in a rather evokative pose (the statue featured a rather ugly man with an enormous erect phallus). Offerings of shriveled figs, a turtle shell, and verses of poetry were found at its base, and the gardener revealed that the chaplain had placed them there, for the garden had great powers (the gardener showed Meléte a bounty of duck eggs that he found there just last week - quite aberrant in the dead of winter claimed Meléte, but not apparently for this garden). To their alarm, mayflies and rabbits were sighted in the garden copulating, and not long after Magda of Bjornaer witnessed the statue wink at her, they departed. Piecing together the events at Kapfenstein in recent weeks, the magi came to the conclusion that the sarcophagus was pronouncing Divine judgement upon the castle for the debauchery that presided over the place. In fact this very night, the troupe witnessed the statue, who plodded to the brothels and touched his stone sword to the wooden building, setting it ablaze with a bright blue virulent flame. The statue even turned to approach and touch Brother Meshach when he pleaded with it to spare the harlots, but ignored the Brother afterwards. Proclaiming that the castle was being judged by God and that they must destroy the brothels, the magi of Rabenstein quickly returned home to be done with the place.
*Historical Anecdote - Kapfenstein was founded in 1065 and was home to the powerful Robber Knights throughout the 13th Century, just a few miles from the Hungarian border. Today it is a hotel owned by the Winkler-Hermaden family, and boasts a restaurant and well known winery.
*Religious Anecdote - St. Christopher was a mythical Lycian giant named Offero that some claim had the head of a dog, who carried Christ across a raging river during a torrential flood. According to legend, anyone who gazes upon the image of St. Christopher shall not die that day (the Raubritter keep such a bronze dog-head sculpture within a chamber adjacent to their chapel). He is invoked against nightmares, and is that patron saint of bachelors, poets, and travellers. St. Afra was the daughter of St. Hilaria of Augsburg. She became a prostitute and brothel-keeper, and was eventually burned to death by a judge who once favored her services. She is the patron saint of fallen women.
*Roman Anecdote - Priapus was the son of Aphrodite, a creature so ugly that he was cast out to the wilderness. Everything grows around him, and though he is known as a fertility god, this is only one part of his aspect (he taught Ares how to dance before teaching him to be a warrior). But Priapus is best known for his incredibly enormous phallus, and he is usually depicted in a garden lifting his robe to expose his erect member. The medical affliction priapism (a constantly erect penis) is named for this god, and the tradition of garden gnomes stems from him as well. Interestingly, in early Christian times the church had a difficult time prohibiting peasants from revering this god, who baked bread loaves in the shape of phalli. Unable to disuade the people from this rather un-Christian practice, the Church fathers sanctified the loaves, providing each with three crosses carved into the top. This is the origin of hot cross buns.
*Saga Anecdote - A mysterious horse was found within Kapfenstein called "winter's mirth". Though wild to his owner and not-yet-broken, it treated several folk from Rabenstein with great affection and followed them all about. Clearly magical in nature, the magi managed to arrange to purchase the beast from its owner. Once back at Rabenstein, they learned that the beast was none other than their own grog, Lazslo (who had been lost to them in the previous story Law of the Polovtsy).
Cast: Magda and Alexandra (Ann Harper), Tobias and Erik (Chris Blake), Meléte (Blythe Newton), Cynric and Brother Meshach (Patrick Murphy)
Date - 4/5/98 (113th session)
A few months passed by without incident, until the magus Julian approached the other magi of Rabenstein the following February. Julian professed to have had a vision in which the Morrigan spoke to him. Appearing to him as a beautiful maiden named Nemain, the mystical dream-woman explained that it was the time for the planting, and that they must send their bravest warriors to chop down the old oak tree on the top of their hill and plant a new one. According to Julian, Badbh the old-crone had long presided over the hill and did not wish them to live here, hence her violent assaults upon them in the past. If the gnarled old oak was cut down, her strength would be diminished and the cycle of life would begin again, bringing the maiden Nemain to preside over Rabenstein instead (see Cultural Anecdote below). Nemain further warned that a guardian, Artos, protected the tree under the command of Babdh, and that it had swallowed the acorns of the old oak to prevent any saplings from growing (she told them to kill the guardian and cut open its stomach to retrieve and plant the acorns). The magi argued at length over Julian's affinity with this deity, but at last agreed to cut down the tree since it might well diminish the strength and severity of the violent regio that overwhelmed Rabenstein upon Halloween.
Taking a host of warriors to the hilltop, the group took their axes to the mighty oak tree, yet soon their blades bent and melted away like butter. Then a mighty serpent as large as a horse appeared near the tree, its chalky maw filled with rows of sharp teeth. The beast unleashed a mighty roar which froze many of the soldiers in terror, and proceeded to throttle the soldiers, pouncing upon them. With its sharp talons it seized several soldiers and thrust its powerful jaws into their bodies, ripping out their hearts and swallowing them. While some folk ran away in terror, it slew the aging Sir Fitz and nearly killed Sir Waldemar when it tried to seize his heart, rending away great portions of his armor instead. Trampling over their stout Miles Sir Erik, the beast was finally slain as Cynric bathed it in flames, Ladewig and Julian stabbed the beast, and Waldemar snapped its spine. Cutting open its stomach, they retrieved a handful of acorns and buried them amidst the roots of the tree. They then burned the dead oak tree, carting its ashes back to Rabenstein and dumping them within the thermal springs as Nemain had instructed Julian.
A few months later upon Mayday, a single oak sapling sprung forth from the ground where they had buried the acorns, rising three full feet as if it had been growing several years already. Then at dusk, the youthful spirit Nemain appeared to Julian once again in the caves, and agreed to answer any questions the magi might have. See The Magical Cycle of Rabenstein for more information about what the magi learned.
*Cultural Anecdote - the Morrigan is known as the phantom queen, goddess of sexuality and death. Like many Celtic deities she possesses three distinct aspects. The first is called Nemain, associated with virginity, beginning, benefit, and spring. Macha is the second aspect, who is associated with the summer, a time of increasing and fertility. Babdh is the old crone, who presides over destruction and battle, and is strongest in the time of winter. It was Babdh who had tricked the covenfolk into slaying one another in previous tales, and demanded a head in the spectral dance described above. Together these three aspects comprise the Morrigan. The raven is Morrigan's animal, and three of them haunt the hillock upon which Rabenstein sits (one for each aspect).
Cast: Cynric and Sir Waldemar (Patrick Murphy), Julian and Bertoul (Kendall Miles), Melete (Blythe Newton), Merento (Jason Buss), Nicolaus (Mike Daumen), Magda and Alexandra (Ann Harper), Erik (Chris Blake), Host of Covenfolk (everyone)
Date - 4/12/98 and 4/19/98 (114th and 115th sessions)
Gamma Storyguide - Patrick Murphy
Co-written by Jennifer Murphy and with apologies to C.J. Cherryh
Adventure notes and character statistics available in Adobe PDF format
...far from home, Rabenstein is caught with a Gifted boy amidst the internecine strife of Rus
With the warmth of summer, Rabenstein began its journey to the mother of Russian cities, Kiev the Golden. Merento of Bonisagus had received word from Durenmar that his tales of the lost house of Díedne were not believed, and that he should gather evidence of their existence if indeed he could (see the story The Forsaken House Díedne to learn how Rabenstein became embroiled in this matter). Meanwhile, the covenant had two other reasons to journey this far to the east: Cynric wished to inter Brother Meshach's body at his home monastery, Pecherskaya Lavra just south of Kiev (recall that Meshach had fallen during the story Babdh the Old Crone, Act I), while Rabenstein also looked to collect its reward for slaying the rogue magus Rostan of Criamon (as detailed in Dredging up the Past) from the Covenant of the Summit (Zavet Vrkhina), mightiest of all Novgorod covenants and found within the walls of great Kiev herself.
Traveling with merchants from the Hanseatic League who were journeying east from Vienna to Krakow, then to Lemberg and Kiev, the magi Merento, Magda, Nicolaus, Cynric and Loretta took several men-at-arms and moved along the border between the Principalities of Galicia and Volynia. Along the roads of Galicia, the magi were surprised to run into a Hermetic magus, Sigurd of Tytalus, filius Lanerte, pater of the much-maligned Spitihnev of Lacrimare Saxum covenant, and himself member of the Tower of Thorns covenant (Zavet Stlupa Trina). While he was much interested in their presence so far from home, he would not reveal the reason he was so far south from his covenant in the Principality of Turov-Pinsk, although the magi gathered he was searching for something in the area.
After parting ways with the dangerous Tytalus, Magda discovered a boy hiding not far from camp among the birches. The scared lad was disheveled and frightened, and he revealed that the villagers of Vojvoda, his home, called him a witch and wanted to hurt him. It seemed he had strange premonitions and a recent fire which killed his uncle Fedya was quickly blamed on him as well. The boy had since been kidnapped by foreigners in the middle of the night but had escaped them and fled into the woods until Rabenstein found him.
Not quite knowing what to make of the seven year-old's tale, Loretta suspected young Aleksandr Vasilyevich ("Sasha") had the Gift. He took to her and Magda readily enough, and pretty soon it was clear that the lad was valuable to someone and Rabenstein was going to hold on to him. The boy's premonitions and knowledge of the land was proven quickly enough, as wood faeries known as leshys beset the group as Sasha had predicted, and he had the group put their clothes on backwards to ward the malign spirits' glamours. Meeting some Poles along the road who demanded the boy be turned over to the Grigorevichi whom they served, magic convinced the men they should move on and seek someone else. After that, magic was used to make the boy look like a girl, and the group slipped through a village with little trouble from the superstitious peasants, who were warning them to beware the witch boy that burned down his uncle Fedya's barn and killed him.
Approaching the border of the Grand Principality of Kiev, Magda the wolf was patrolling the forest ahead of the group when she sensed an all-too-familiar scent: the Cumans - Polovtsy to the Russians - who had fought Rabenstein over her Bjornaer lineage (see the story Law of the Polovtsy to understand Rabenstein's involvement with these tribes). Warning the group, Cuman shapechangers surrounded the expedition from Rabenstein and two Cuman warriors demanded the boy be turned over to them, as they represented his father, the boyar Vasily Vasilyevich Misurov. Merento blasted their leader with a Pilum of Fire and a melee ensued. Rabenstein's forces repelled the assault, killing four horsemen and the two foot soldiers, although two of their own number were grievously wounded. Fleeing farther to the east, most of the group rested as Cynric Ex Miscellanea journeyed alone into Kiev to try to gather some intelligence which the group was sorely lacking, not knowing who to trust in this debacle.
That night, a raven came to Merento in his dreams, and spoke to him as Taras the Volkhv, Cuman shaman and servant to Vasily Vasilyevich. A parley was arranged and Merento journeyed with Sir Waldemar to the boyar's residence. Merento learned that the Cumans were indeed allied to Vasily Vasilyevich, while some of the many Poles within Galicia were allied to his enemies, the Grigorevichi. Sasha was the boyar's illegitimate son, and while it was clear he would never be lord, it was equally clear he had magical abilities which his father hoped to exploit. Having hidden him away in the small village of Vojvoda, Vasily Vasilyevich eventually hoped he would be trained by Taras or some other volkhv and then would come to his father's court and aid him against his enemies. After hearing about Rabenstein's magic and how it defeated his Cumans, Vasily Vasilyevich struck a deal with Merento: in exchange for taking the boy back to the distant Holy Roman Empire and training him in this powerful sorcery, to be returned to his father upon completion, the boyar would grant them some horses, some expensive Byzantine garments and Novgorodian furs, and arrange for them to travel back home by way of the Dnieper to the Black Sea and then Constantinople, thus avoiding the near civil war in Galicia. They kissed the cross on the agreement and Merento was escorted back to the others.
Rendezvousing with Cynric, the group entered the Golden Gates of Kiev and visited St. Sophia's Cathedral before traveling a couple of miles south to Pecherskaya Lavra, the Caves Monastery, where Brother Meshach had been a brother before leaving for the west. Speaking to Brother Polycarp, he confessed his reservations about Meshach's interest in secular matters but also expressed his fondness for him and admirably compared his death to that of Saints Boris and Gleb. He assured Cynric that he would be buried in a place of honor, next to Marko the Gravedigger, and gave them a wonderfully decorated wall hanging to adorn the chapel Father Eusabius was to dedicate to the Orthodox monk. Finally, a visit to the Covenant of the Summit brought Rabenstein in contact with the mightiest of Russian covenants, and the Quaesitor Boris Naumov ("the Blackbeard") presented Cynric and Rabenstein with magical matroshki dolls for slaying the Marched wizard Rostan (again, see the story Dredging up the Past).
*Historical notes - Rabenstein ran afoul of the feuding princes which mark this period of Russian history before the Mongol invasion (mighty Kiev herself had just been sacked in 1203 because of these feuds). Galicia in particular was contested by several princes and controlled alternately by Russians, Poles and Hungarians. In 1214, the Grand Prince of Kiev is Mstislav Rostislavich, following the death of Vsevolod Chermnyi, who died in 1212. Mstislav will rule until 1223, when he will die at the hands of a Mongol force reconnaissance at the Battle of the River Kalka and be replaced by Vladimir Riurikovich.
Polycarp was a noted figure among many famous monks from the long history of the Monastery of the Caves; he was an ambitious monk who is best remembered for his correspondence with his rival, Bishop Simon of Vladimir, which resulted in many of the tales of the Kiev Crypt Patericon. One of the tales of this patericon is that of Marko the Gravedigger, who was so pious he commanded the dead. Here also lived and worked the chroniclers Nestor, Nikon and Yakov; the physicians Agapit and Diamant; and other famous brethren of the patericon, including Prochorus the Olach-Carrier, Gregory the Miracle Worker and Theodore who commanded demons. Saints Boris and Gleb were martyr princes who were killed in 1015 after refusing to take up arms against their brother, being among the first figures to be portrayed much as Christ, humbly accepting their deaths for the sins of man. They are particularly looked up to for not taking part in the internecine strife which plagued Rus.
Cast: Merento and Loretta (Jason Buss), Nicolaus (Mike Daumen and Chris Blake), Sir Waldemar and Jos (Blythe Newton), Magda (Ann Harper and Blythe Newton), Sasha and Mishigi the Leshy (Patrick Murphy)
Epsilon Storyguide - Chris Blake
Date - 4/19/98 and 4/26/98 (115th and 116th sessions)
...Rabenstein follows the trail of Díedne and surprisingly finds it leads back home
After the magi's travels to Kiev (as told of in The Little Boy Everybody Wanted) they had finally reached the mighty city itself. After taking care of their business there, Cynric and Sir Waldemar set out looking for a guide. After trying a few places where the better guides could be found, and having had little success, Cynric was suprised to hear a troubadour singing in German. What was more strange was that the minstrel was singing about the very town (Peresechen) that Englebert's book had indicated that Cesarius of Díedne had fled to (see the story The Forsaken House Díedne for more information on Rabenstein's involvement with this 'renegade' House of the Hermetic Order).
Mikhail, as the young minstrel was named, agreed to guide the party, but he never named a price. This seemed strange but he was the only guide available, so Cynric gave him the job. This was perhaps a bad choice, since his guiding skills left something to be desired. He mistakingly turned north when he should have turned south...on the plus side he at least turned at the right river.
Upon reaching Peresechen the party quickily learned of an order of 'monks' living just outside of town, whose members claimed to be Followers of the Life Mother. Investigating the monastery of this very Díedne-sounding group, the magi were greeted warmly by the monks. One monk, Grigory, went so far as to suggest that Cynric stay and learn the ways of the Life Mother after the Ex Miscellanea demonstrated interest and knowledge of the Old Ways. After dinner they were interduced to Umfrey the librarian, who related something of the history of the monastery to the magi. As the tale was told, a stranger had come out of the west and freed the land from an overbearing lord, and then took in a young boy and taught him the ways of the Life Mother. This young boy, Prista, then started the Order after the stranger died. As this story was being told Cynric flipped though some of the books, and learned that contained instructions on performing rituals. The magus recognized these rituals as of Díedne origin. How he knew this was of some concern to the already suspicious Merento of Bonisagus.
This intrigued Merento, who decided to find the grave of this stranger, or perhaps of Prista his student. Thus at midnight the magi set out for the monastery graveyard. On the way there Merento spied a ghost approaching the gardens from the direction of the graveyard. Entering the gardens, the magi found a shimmering form of a man tending to the herbs growing there. Employing magic, Cynric spoke to the spirit and ascertained that this was the ghost of Cesarius of Díedne. Cesarius spoke briefly with Cynric and then told him that should he seek Díedne, he should seek a boulder by the beach in the ashes at the bottom of the cliff.
Moving along the waterfront and searching for a beach and a boulder, Magda hit upon the idea that perhaps 'ashes' and 'beach' referred to the trees which were so important to the Druids. When the group found a boulder along the river not far from a stand of ash trees, they followed the thickening ashes until they found a clearing which contained a mound and a simple hut near the base of a cliff. Speaking with its inhabitant, a hermit named Eldar, both sides avoided coming straight to the point, but when Merento cast a quiet spell upon their host, Eldar's parma was set off, and a heated exchange resulted. Calmer heads prevailed and both sides learned something from the other in the resulting parley. It seemed that Eldar was the grandson of Cesarius, and he had been trained in the Arts and in the ways of Díedne as had his father Jensen before him. He had known that one day the Order would come, but both sides agreed that it was fortunate the meeting had been first among less-than-dogmatic members of each side. Also like his father before him, Eldar remained in the area to keep watch over the mundane monks who, although lacking the Gift, carried out the rituals taught to their founder by Cesarius. The group was shocked (perhaps none so more than Cynric) to learn that Eldar's father Jensen had been a failed apprentice of House Ex Miscellanea and that Jensen's master had been Zhilandro Ex Miscellanea, who would later become Cynric's pater at Earthwound Covenant. Rabenstein also gathered that he did not know what had become of Díedne, although Eldar suspected his father would have known. Without knowledge of his father's final resting place, it was unclear how Rabenstein might further follow the trail of Díedne.
Yet Magda had sensed something magical about the mound outside, and Merento utilized magic to see a body buried within it. Eldar amazed the Hermetic magi by effortlessly moving aside the huge boulder on top of it by means of spontaneous magic...estimated by those present to have at least been a Fifth Magnitude spell which did not even tire the young wizard. A long-dormant spell cast by Cesarius was then triggered: a phantasmal head relayed a rather cryptic message which directed seekers of Díedne to look to the steppe town of Tmutarakan on the Black Sea.
Although Rabenstein decided not to follow the trail of Díedne any further at this time, they attempted to convince Eldar that he should leave the area, for the Order could surely find him if they had. Eldar could not be convinced to leave his vigil, although he did provide Rabenstein with some of his blood to serve as an arcane connection to him should they need to try to contact him. Eldar was gone the following morning, though when Merento attempted to take a bone from Cesarius' grave, he was beset by gnats, and soon thereafter a pack of wolves came to guard the grave, so Eldar's presence was felt. On the long trip home (from Kiev, they journeyed to Naxos and then to Italy), the magi were left to try to decide what implications the journey had for their Hermetic future.
Cast: Merento (Jason), Cynric and Waldemar (Patrick), Magda (Ann), Nicolaus (Mike), Cesarius and Eldar (Chris), Mikhail (Chris and Patrick)
Date - 5/3/98 (117th Session)
...in which Rabenstein discovers interloper magi arrived from Hispania to found a rival Hermetic Covenant
In the lazy summer of 1214 Rabenstein remained a tranquil refuge from the blistering sun as many of its folk had departed for an overland journey to distant Kiev. One hot afternoon the covenfolk were surprised to see the return of their old comrade, Wolfgang. This hot-tempered, insubordinate grog from Rust-an-Neusiedler had served Rabenstein dutifully for many years until his self-exile as a result of the previous tale Dredging up the Past (in this tale it was discovered that Wolfgang had raped and murdered his own sister, drowning her in the lake when he learned she was pregnant with his child). Despite this sinister past, Wolfgang had long been popular among the common folk of Rabenstein, and declaring himself a changed man the remaining magi saw little choice but to give him his old job back because they were so short-handed.
Yet Wolfgang also had a pressing tale to convey to the magi at Rabenstein. He had recently observed two magi from rival Valcum Covenant in his own hometown of Rust (recognizing their Latin spells and gestures). Wolfgang had spied upon them and learned that they were in search of the old church by the lake to steal the body of St. Colman, and begged for the wizards of Rabenstein to stop them. Although they had little reason to instigate another quarrel with the more powerful Valcum, Julian and Nicolaus recognized that Valcum had agreed with Rabenstein not to transgress into Austrian soil. So reluctantly, Julian departed along with the young magus Tobias (who is at Rabenstein petitioning for full membership) to intercept these magi of Valcum and parley with them about their intentions. Arriving at Rust they took lodging in the home of Wolfgang's cousin and learned that the magi of Valcum (posing as pilgrims) had set off across the lake by boat. Renting the use of boats themselves, the expedition from Rabenstein set out to find them the next morning. Alas a storm came up while they were on the lake, and after one of the boats tipped over in the Neusiedler See the troupe sadly made their way to the marshy shore after dark. They became lost and confused by mysterious dancing torch-lights, which led them to a horse stuck in the swampy muck. Matthias was nearly killed when the horse bolted towards the water with him atop its back (for it was a variety of Kelpie), but Julian and Tobias managed to save the startled Matthias.
Setting camp, another group of people approached the expedition from Rabenstein having been attracted to their campfire and the lights of the Ignis Fatae. After initial tension, it was discovered that these folk were magi of the Order. But they were not from rival Valcum Covenant in Hungary, rather two magi from Iberia named Dolores of Flambeau and Renato of Criamon (Wolfgang had assumed incorrectly that they were from Valcum). These magi claimed to belong to the Moravian Covenant of Novus Promitto of the Tribunal of Novgorod (in the previous tale Novus Promitto the renounced magus Samo of Menecrates and the bizarre Iberian Tempestatus of Flambeau had announced that they were forming a new covenant and had invited fellow magi from Hispania). This news alarmed Julian and Tobias, who suspected diabolic influence at the castle of Oravsky Podzamok (the home of Novus Promitto). During a lenghty conversation the strange Renato of Criamon revealed that he suspected Tobias of Tremere was actually a reincarnation of the evil-natured Menander (an enemy and rival of Criamon from times predating the Founding). This assertion was vehemently debated until at last Tobias consented to let Renato demonstrate the truth to him with a spell. Lowering his Parma, Tobias was plunged into a horrific Twilight by Renato, who claimed he did not wish to harm Tobias, but rather help send him to final Twilight and so avoid his reincarnation yet again.
The next morning, Julian departed with the magi of Novus Promitto in search of the aforementioned church of St. Colman, but after becoming lost in the swamp for nearly one week and running out of food, they abandoned their quest and departed their separate ways. Tobias and the others trudged sullenly home.
*Historical Anecdote - The magi from Hispania were searching for the tomb of St. Colman, an Irish monk who was executed in Austria in the 11th Century duing his journey to the Holy Land because he spoke no German and was labeled a spy from Moravia (with whom Austria frequently warred). The spirit of Colman appeared frequently to lost travellers to demonstrate the proper path in both Austria and Hungary, and Colman is one of the principle Patron Saints of Austria, second only to Florian.
Alas because they sought to overtly raid his tomb their quest was thwarted by the divine powers of Colman, who kept them lost in the swamp. The magi also yearned to find the site of St. Quirinus, death, a Roman who drowned in the nearby the Raab river, having been cast there in the 4th century by fellow soldiers for his Christian faith.
*Saga Anecdote - Rabenstein has developed many suspicions of the castle Oravsky Podzamok in previous tales (including King Samo, Master of Lepers, The Siege of Oravsky Podzamok, and Novus Promitto). They suspect the place is filled with demonic influence. The formation of a real Hermetic Covenant based there has never seemed likely to them, but the sudden appearance of these two new wizards solidified the existence of the new Covenant of Novus Promitto (meaning "new promise" in Latin).
Cast: Tobias (Chris Blake), Julian (Kendall Miles), Domán and Matthias (Patrick Murphy), Alexandra (Ann Harper)
Date - ?/??/98 (118th Session)
...in which the saga culminates in a titanic conflict between Rabenstein and its demonic foes
As the group set out from Hungary, they received graver and graver messages from home via the Tableau of Stolen Glimpses: the Bogomils had arrived in the area, Josephine and Hans among others had caught leprosy, and Eusebius had been driven from the covenant under suspicion of rape, his relic removed from the chapel with rumors that it was a hand of glory. Suddenly the messages stopped altogether, with the party a few days from the burg. Wary of splitting up the group in the face of unknown danger, they proceeded on foot.
It was in Bruck that they encountered a band of the covenant folk heading the other way, led by Merento. They explained that the Bogomils had arrived in force with a contingent of mercenaries led by the outlaw Bertoul. He led the way to the magi's sancti, revealing some of the more scandalous contents. In the chaos which followed, Julian spied Samo in the crowd of attackers, and the Russian Ivan was captured after a scuffle, buying time for Sasha's escape. Miehau had barred the library door to gain time to hide several books, but Vincente echoed the accusations of necromancy and worked a miracle to split open the library door. As the attackers tried to enter, the valiant Sir Waldemar nearly slew Bertoul and Hammond at the threshhold, escaping with Miehau only minutes behind Merento, Gundulf, Mikula, Vasilko, Sasha, Christian, Sebastian, and Mathias, through the secret exit deep in the caves.
As the reunited covenant drew closer to Rabenstein, avoiding well traveled tracks lest they be spotted, they decided to retake the covenant quickly. The secret passage remained open, but the caves had been scoured of useful items and the way to the castle barred from above. Cynric then opened the front gate with a mighty Herbam spell and the group rushed in. They met little resistance except from two magi on the second floor of the principia, whose spells harried them as they crossed the courtyard. The members of Rabenstein were able to enter the keep and ascend to the second floor, only to find it empty. It was then the magi heard Vincente's mocking voice, summoning them to their council chamber for a climactic confrontation.
In the council chamber, Magda, Julian, Cynric, Merento, Nicolaus, Tobias, and the Flambeau Dolores found a powerful group of enemies: an unknown Bogomil, Samo, and Tempestatus. Hlavka stood in the background over the prostrate Loretta, and Vincente held the babe Natalia in his arms. Immediately he offered the infant's life in return for the magi's souls, but Tobias proposed a contest of spells to see who was the stronger. Tobias called forth a mighty Perdo Vim spell, which struck true. But before the Bogomil could join the battle, the folk of Rabenstein advanced to attack.
Julian and Nicolaus, conscious of their opponents' superior power, surprised Samo and Tempestatus with arms, preventing spells from being cast. As several of the grogs fell in after their masters, the two heretics changed form: Vincente into a horrifying demon, and the other to a doglike creature who rushed to attack Magda. Magda managed to defeat her attacker, but Vincente's revolting appearance affected even the most courageous of Rabenstein's folk, and his flaming sword felled Doman, even as the Hungarian's spear pierced the demon's side.
Nicolaus knocked down Tempestatus, who was harried by Cynric as Hlavka leaped to attack the Arteman. After Dolores disposed of Polu, who tried to backstab her under Hlavka's thrall, the Flambeau turned to her former ally as well. Polu's evil mistress changed her appearance to a otherworldly hag and eventually broke through Nicolaus' defenses, leaving the mage for dead as Magda challenged her in his place. A second mage fell when Vincente, with a clear shot, cast a bolt of fire at Tobias, obliterating him and claiming his soul per their bargain.
But all could sense the tide turning, as the newly-awakened Morrigan sent three shades to help the covenant: the ghosts of Vaclav, Axel and Sean. More and more grogs reached the fray, and soon the usurpers were beaten: Tempestatus by Cynric and Dolores' magic, Samo by Julian's blade and Merento's spells, and then Vincente by a spine-shattering blow from Erik. As Tatyana came to her daughter, Hlavka lunged at her with her final strength, and inflicted a mortal wound. As the two lay dying, the demoness offered Tatyana life if she would give up her soul, but with her last breath Tatyana refused, watching her tormentor expire.
Aftermath: Although the day ended with the burg regained and Rabenstein's enemies destroyed, the results of the confrontation were nothing short of catastrophic for the covenant. The death toll was high, and included not only stalwart grogs, but companions and magi as well. Those with leprosy - Erik's wife Josephine, Hans and Mikula - had been burned at the stake as demon-tainted before their rescuers could arrive. Alexandra and Doman fought valiantly, but vainly, and were hacked down in front of everyone. Even the magus Tobias fell in battle, made all the more painful with the knowledge that by his own bargain with Vincente, his soul was thus condemned to Hell.
Yet as important as this human capital was, the covenant sustained damage that was more grevious. Precious vis and vis sources, magical items and books — the lifeblood of the covenant — were lost in as yet untold amounts. Worse yet, the covenant's reputation in the Order, and its relationship with the local villagers and the Church, undoubtedly suffered greatly, if not mortally. The burg will be occupied by the Bishop's men, and some magi will not be able to show their faces to the locals. It is unclear whether Rabenstein can survive such restrictions.
The experience is reflected in the death of Tatyana. Beloved by some, a source of seemingly undending consternation to others, few could imagine the covenant without her. Now the covenfolk were forced to watch Sir Ladewig heartwrenchingly clutch his wife's still form amidst the dead and dying. Yet in the end, her strength thwarted Hlavka's ultimate victory, and as Magda cradled her babe Natalia, in the child lie the possibilities of life to come.
Cast: Tobias of Tremere and Erik (Chris Blake), Julian of Jerbiton and Bertoul (Kendall Miles), Cynric Ex Miscellanea and Waldemar (Patrick Murphy), Magda of Bjornaer and Alexandra (Ann Harper), Nicolaus of Arteman and Miehau (Mike Daumen), Merento of Bonisagus, Delores of Flambeau, Vincente, Hlavka, Samo, Tempestatus, Loretta and Tatyana (Jason Buss)
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