The Hermetic Wild West

Cleaning Up

James_Waldorf.jpg

To Mr. Reginald McCurry
Quaesitor, House Guernicus
American Embassy of the Order of Hermes

From Ms. Justine Moreaux
Quaesitor, House Guernicus
Marquis du Granville Covenant

Sir,

It is a pleasure to correspond with you once more. I do hope things in our Nation’s capitol continue to trend toward greater acceptance for our dear Order. We here in New Orleans have finished setting up the region’s Hermetic Court of Justice, and we already have a full slate of cases awaiting their just hearing. I anticipate the greatest number of these will be property disputes between young southern magi acting as Hermetic heirs to now-deceased criminals and northern opportunists seeking to take unattended sources of vis and other magical resources. It is sure to keep the three of here quite busy for some years to come.

I am writing to you to provide some measure of explanation for why we are shipping a member of our Covenant, Mr. Cecil Girard of House Mercere, to Annapolis to stand trial at the High Court of Hermetic Justice rather than handling the matter here. Aside from the obvious wish to avoid any seeming conflict of interest, the charges against Mr. Girard derive from an investigation by a group of Hoplites sponsored by your covenant, and therefore your jurisdiction seemed appropriate.

We recently had the pleasure of a most peculiar encounter with the aforementioned group of Hoplites led by Quaesitor Elisavet Whalen. It would appear that the Wizard’s Marched criminal James Waldorf had some curious non-Hermetic, and probably infernal talent to conceal his soul in an inanimate object and thereby return himself to life. These Hoplites had tracked the object in question to the vault of the First Bank of New Orleans, a financial institution attached to our covenant and run by our own Mr. Cecil Girard of House Mercere.

Your Hoplites were most cordial, sending a letter of introduction upon their arrival and meeting with me in my office here at our Covenant-proper, where they outlined the situation. It became clear to me right away that there were other suspicions at play. It seemed that at least one of these young magi had taken it into his head to suspect members of my covenant of aiding-and-abetting, or at the very least unknowingly aiding Mr. Waldorf. I, of course, offered them every courtesy, and even set aside my busy schedule to personally escort them to the bank building and introduce them to Mr. Girard.

Mr. Girard was most put out to learn that he may have been duped by a Wizard’s Marched criminal and agreed to co-operate, although he did insist on all due formalities, such as a description of the object prior to allowing your Hoplites into the vault, and some explanation of the chain of events that caused them to suspect that his vault contained such an object. Mr. Girard was acting a touch peculiar, however, and I decided to keep close attention to him for the duration of these discussions, as it was clear that the Hoplites, also, had some unvoiced suspicions about him.

Mr. Girard took us into the vault and handed over a stuffed Scottish terrier, black in color, which fit the Hoplites’ description of the sort of vessel that a criminal known by the nom de plume of “The Taxidermist” was fond of. Upon returning to his office, however, he began to sweat under the cool and piercing gaze of Quaesitor Whalen over questions that seemed utterly innocuous. He looked in the records and found that the deposit had been made by a woman named Danielle Cottrell, who had made the deposit of the stuffed dog in the company of her young daughter, claiming the perogatives of eccentric wealth and a great fondness for the animal when it was alive. This name seemed to pique the interest of the Hoplites, who alluded to a deputy mayor named Cottrell who had been the subject of one of Mr. Waldorf’s infamous curses.

Mr. John Westphal then, suddenly, and without warning, cast a spell directly targeting Mr. Girard. I immediately cast my own Sight of the Active Magic so as to better understand what was happening. The spell Mr. Westphal directed at Mr. Girard appeared to be of the Perdo Vim arts, but it appeared to have no effect. Mr. Westphal turned to his companions and quite openly commented that Mr. Girard was apparently not a demon, nor possessed by one. Most curious.

The Hoplites, notably Mr. Douglas Turner, spent some time clearing the bank offices of any possible curse objects, finding nothing suspicious. Mr. Girard continued to sweat, however. He did insist that suitable papers be signed commemorating the fact that a depositor’s property was being seized by Hermetic authorities. Ms. Whalen seemed most hesitant to give Mr. Girard a signature, knowing that it is a weak and brief-lasting arcane connection. This made it clear in no uncertain terms that they suspected him of something notwithstanding the fact that he is a non-Gifted Mercere, and could not use an arcane connection even if he had one. I opted to watch as matters played out.

Things seemed to resolve themselves, however, and Mr. Girard moved to escort us on our way. As we departed, Mr. John Westphal noted four books on Mr. Girard’s shelf, all tractatus’s in the art of Vim, borrowed from the covenant library. Mr. Westphal began asking seemingly innocent questions about the books, indicating a desire to, perhaps, purchase them. It became rapidly clear, however, that he did not understand how a non-Gifted individual could gain any useful education from four books on advanced and esoteric control of Vim. Mr. Westphal noticed, then, a subtle Perdo Vim effect clinging to Mr. Girard. I had already seen it but presumed it was attached to the golden key he wore around his neck, the invested item that unlocked his vault’s magical defenses. Apparently, however, it was a spell designed to conceal other spells. I asked for Mr. Westphal’s permission to take matters into my own hands at this point and dispelled the cloaking spell revealing a bevy of low-magnitude effects clinging to Mr. Girard.

It would appear that somehow, against all expectation, Mr. Girard had found some way to procure the Gift. Realizing he had been caught, he gave himself peacefully into my custody and we all returned to the Covenant-proper where Mr. Girard made a full confession. It would appear that this “Danielle Cottrell”, along with her daughter, made Mr. Girard quite an offer. In exchange for doing everything in his power to keep the stuffed black dog safe from any and all harm, she would grant Mr. Girard the Gift, the complete capacity to learn and improve upon his understanding of Hermetic Magic. This would last only insofar as the dog remained safe. Indeed, by the time we got Mr. Girard back to the Covenant, he was no longer capable of even the simplest spell, a fact that made him clearly despondent.

Mr. Rushford informs me that it is a known capability of certain Infernal entities to be able to grant a false simulacra of other supernatural talents, such as the Gift, to those with whom a bargain can be struck. It would appear that Mr. Girard’s desire to be a fully-Gifted magus overcame his common sense, and he struck what appeared to him, no doubt, to be a relatively benign bargain: Store something in his bank vault indefinitely, and receive the power of a fully-Gifted magus.

Your sponsored Hoplites stayed in town for a small while, traveling to a run-down old plantation house on the outskirts of the city in the dead of night where they engaged in violence with the sole occupant, the woman Danielle Cottrell. Apparently she was a long-dead corpse inhabited by a demon. The Hoplites neutralized the creature and left her body to the local coroner to confirm that she had been dead for some time prior to the explosion of gunfire that alerted all the nearby neighbors. Ms. Whalen was most cordial, providing us a full copy of her official report, as well as diagrams of some of the bone-based infernal artifacts that this Mr. Waldorf had apparently left scattered about the continent. We will keep these sketches in a secure archive on the off-chance they may prove useful in defending ourselves in future.

Before their departure, we gave to them a suitable “thank you” gift. As Mr. Westphal and Mr. Turner had already purchased books from our library, it seemed fit to provide them with some more texts for their personal study and eventual library.

I will, of course, be happy to submit any testimony, written or personal, that the High Court may require in trying Mr. Girard’s case. It is my personal opinion that Mr. Girard was more foolish than malevolent, clearly craving the skills his more Gifted peers in the Order possess. This is not an excuse for dealing with devils, but I believe his motives to be a mitigating factor that might, were I to decide upon a punishment, result in something less final than a Wizard’s March. I strongly suspect our Covenant Council will be expelling him from our ranks. Perhaps something akin to what happened with Mr. Westphal would be in order? If Mr. Girard were sentenced to serve the Order in some capacity above and beyond his existing commitments to House Mercere, he might repay our Society for its forbearance.

Anyway, merely a thought. I trust the High Court to make the right decision in this matter.

Yours,
Ms. Justine Moreaux

View
Politics

Fair_Point_Covenant.jpg

Unto Quaesitor Maximilian Foster, Covenant of the Setting Son
From Zachariah Smith, House Tytalus, Covenant of the Setting Son

Sir,

I took Mr. Horse, as suggested, and traveled to our chapterhouse at Round Lake Colorado to insist upon our rights as the rightful and registered Hermetic owners of the property over the squatters who have unlawfully set themselves up there. You were correct in your assessment that they were fools, quick to violence, unwitting of the long-term consequences of their actions. As expected, they did not yield, and so I began forcibly evicting them, starting with the most savage and violent among them, Mr. John Westphal.

As I turned to evict the next one of their number, however, they became most afraid of something outside from the direction of the lake, even to the point of actively ignoring me as I sought to remove them by force from the property. At first I thought this some ruse to distract me, but indeed, from the lake arose such a howling of wind and shrieking of some terrible voice that I was forced to concede that something unanticipated was occurring.

I have since looked over our covenant’s records of Round Lake and I have found nothing in the materials provided by Mr. Tiberius Cole to indicate that the three Ex Miscellanea Junior Members of the Round Lake Covenant were capable of summoning entities of such power. It would appear, however, that the squatters have firmly established a personal alliance with those three Junior Members and that these Members have chosen to act against their own covenant-mates in defense of this crass attempt to steal our rightful property. I suggest the Covenant Council vote to censure these Junior Members and strip them of any vis rights and voting rights they may have held.

I was forced to flee, leaving the squatters and their new friends to deal with the creature summoned from the lake. The method of my departure was abrupt and instantaneous, and so I have no news as to the fate of Mr. Horse. I hope he was able to escape intact.

Yours,
Zachariah Smith
House Tytalus
Covenant of the Setting Son

To Mr. Reginald McCurry, Quaesitor
American Embassy of the Order of Hermes

From Sarah Greencreek, Quaesitor
Pure Snows Covenant

Sir,

My thanks go to you, and to Quaesitor Elisavet Whalen, for such an opportunity to prosecute such a high profile case before the High Court of Hermetic Justice. I never thought anyone would have the courage to take on the Covenant of the Setting Son so directly, and it would appear that they never anticipated it either. I hope this is indicative of a subtle sea-change in the public opinion of the Order of Hermes toward those magi of native heritage being so crassly exploited across the continent.

I have no illusions that I was selected to represent Ms. Whalen and her associates for any reason aside from my innate passion for the subject, but I hope I comported myself well enough that they have no cause for complaint. My case was aided immensely by Colonel Trombley’s lecture series in New York and across the eastern seaboard where he most eloquently laid out a case for treating our native cousins with nobility and honor. Most damning, I think, was the direct interrogation of the internal practices of Setting Son’s Tytalus members. Their “policy” of official vagueness, where they do not formally condone the slavery of their native members but do so through unofficial nods and winks, cannot stand up to direct mental intrusion.

I think the High Court’s ruling was proportional and fair, punishing only the chapter of Setting Son found to be egregiously in violation of our Code and customs, but I know that these practices are widespread amongst the chapters of that Covenant. I can only hope that with this precedent more exploited native magi will come forward to prosecute similar cases.

Of course, Setting Son will do everything in their power to prevent this, and I anticipate a very turbulent time until next Tribunal. I simply hope the votes can be marshalled to stymie their attempts to overturn this precedent.

Sincerely,
S. Greencreek

View
Justice

James_Waldorf.jpg

Unto Mr. Joshua A. E. Kemp, Presiding Quaesitor, Atlantic Coast Tribunal,

It would appear that one of our fellow quaesitoris has once more decided to take Setting Son on directly. Ms. Elisavet Whalen and her hoplite associates tracked their quarry, James “The Taxidermist” Waldorf, through the verges of the Rocky Mountains to a Setting Son chapterhouse. It would seem that Mr. Waldorf had incapacitated the Tytalus in charge, Mr. Tiberius Cole, and subverted the Ex Miscellanea into covering for his presence as he used their Round Lake chapter as a base of operations.

These Ex Miscellanea, being Indians and prone to treachery, in turn betrayed Mr. Waldorf to the hoplites and he has been slain. Of more pressing interest, however, is the fact that Ms. Whalen has chosen to render summary justice upon Setting Son under the usual charges that they have successfully evaded for years.

She has three Ex Miscellanea magi who are willing to testify to the fact that they were not taught the Parma Magica, nor even Latin, and that they were sworn to the Code without understanding its meaning. She has brought the incapacitated Mr. Cole here to Washington to face Hermetic Justice for depriving his sodales of their sigil and magical power, and she has rendered punishment on Setting Son in the form of stripping them of their Chapter and granting it to the three Ex Miscellanea to petition for covenant status.

I can imagine your widened eyes as you read this message, but I do have some reassuring news. First, although she has decided on this course of action, she has not yet acted nor published her decision. I intend to have a lengthy discussion with her on proper methodology for the preservation of our House’s reputation and the good of the Order. We can’t go having tit for tat legal rulings destroying our credibility, which is exactly what the quaesitoris within Setting Son would do should she act entirely on her own authority like this. Furthermore, she may not be as easily destroyed by Setting Son as one might think. She claims to have Archmage Phineas as an ally in this, or at least access to his votes. She will definitely need them come Caucus and Tribunal.

It is my hope that we might set an expedited hearing at the High Court for this matter. With the formalities of a legal hearing backing up any action we don’t need to risk the sort of dissolution to our reputation that occurred prior to the Dixieland secession, with quaesitoris using their personal authority for personal gain.

Yours Very Truly,
Reginald McCurry

View
The Rocky Mountains

James_Waldorf.jpg

To:
Mr. William Marshall, House Guernicus
Denver Court of Hermetic Justice

From:
Sarah Greencreek, Quaesitor of House Bjornaer
Pure Snows Covenant

We have had a posse of hoplites enter Boulder and start making enquiries. Our custodes made note of them, and I took the opportunity to make their acquaintance. I am penning this letter to you by way of making a report so that any actions they may take in our vicinity will come as no surprise. Although I have appended a copy of the report that hoplite Elisavet Brooklyn Whalen of House Guernicus entrusted to me to send on to Mr. Reginald McCurry, I felt it wise to summarize the contents in my own words in case you haven’t the time to engage with Ms. Whalen’s far more detailed and meticulous reporting.

Ms. Whalen was accompanied by three associates. The first was Colonel James Trombley, a Jerbiton of some fame and import, particularly among the east-coast Hermetic elite. By way of contrast, Mr. John Westphal moved around the town of Boulder wearing little more than a burlap sack with holes cut in it for his arms and head. He, too, has a reputation, although one of a starkly different character than the Colonel’s. Lastly, Mr. Douglas Turner of House Flambeau rounded out the group.

They were tracking the Marched criminal James “The Taxidermist” Waldorf. You’ll recall the two hoplites that came through here nearly two years ago looking for the same gentleman. They lost the trail, but as you may remember, they were dispirited and wounded. We assumed that the criminal had continued west, but it would appear, from the evidence gathered by this fresh batch of hunters, that we were mistaken.

These hunters had a bit more information on what Mr. Waldorf is capable of, and were able to make pointed inquiries with our local deputy marshall, and the sheriff’s office on the subject of streaks of bad fortune and other evidence of non-Hermetic curse magic or active infernal influence. They discovered that the family of the deputy mayor of Boulder, Phillip Cottrell, has suffered unusually persistent misfortune for nearly a year and a half, beginning with the disappearance of his daughter Marguerite.

It would appear that Marguerite was Gifted, but that the religious proclivities of her family prompted significant efforts to conceal that fact from friends, family, and the Order. The hoplites’ current theory is that Waldorf took her as an apprentice, and cursed her family as a means of ingratiating himself to her.

It is true that, beneath the lintel stone of the burnt-down Cottrell family home there was discovered a deer’s scapula writ with strange runes, clearly delivered through supernatural agency. It was also discovered that a bear scapula with similar runes lay beneath the lintel stone of Mr. Cottrell’s sister’s home, where his remaining children were staying, and a squirrel scapula, similarly marked, was concealed near his room at the hotel. The hoplites utilized their arts and determined that all of these beasts were slain by Waldorf or Marguerite herself, making her at the very least an unknowing accessory to the curse upon her family. The bones themselves had been delivered by animal and human agents that, at least in the eyes of spells to peer back through time, appeared marked by infernal powers.

The hoplites removed these bones, of course, and alerted the family. But they went one step further and summoned through means unknown Mr. Samuel Sorensen of House Bonisagus. I am not privy to what Mr. Sorensen did, exactly, at the Cottrell family holdings but all hint of non-Hermetic magic and other infernal taint has been expunged and there’s the strong aura of an active Rego Vim ritual spell surrounding both the sister’s house and the hotel. My closest estimate is that both spells are of the tenth magnitude. I can’t imagine why Mr. Sorensen would expend those sorts of resources on a mundane family, but his business is his own.

As for the hoplites, they have left Boulder to pursue some leads to the south-east. It would appear that Waldorf had ensorcelled two local mine owners and operators and won, through gambling, deeds to some of their holdings. I imagine we’ll be hearing more of the fruits of their investigation when (or if) they return.

On an unrelated note, Ms. Whalen and I had a lengthy conversation on the events of the annual Caucus in Washington DC. It would appear that Mr. Maximilian Foster of House Tytalus, and member of the Setting Son covenant, has engineered his selection to represent his House as a quaesitor. It would appear that certain efforts made to limit Setting Son’s influence over the quaesitores have been summarily undone. I intend to come to visit you in Denver within the next fortnight to discuss these matters in person, provided you are available.

I look forward to our next meeting,

Sarah Greencreek

View
The Year Concludes

Unto Mr. Joshua A. E. Kemp, Presiding Quaesitor, Atlantic Coast Tribunal,

I am pleased to receive your letter of November 3rd wherein you communicated the resolution of certain outstanding feuds between Hoplites under my aegis and Mr. Maximilian Foster. I admit that I was wrong. I had seen Mr. Foster only as a schemer, and did not anticipate his willingness to make such generous amends. I suspect that Captain Trombley and his associates were similarly surprised. Considering Mr. Foster’s recent petition before our House, though, it speaks well of his ability to put his own House’s customs aside in favor of conciliation.

The “execution” (and I use the word with all due caveats) of Ms. Wendy Silverman in accordance with her sentence of the Wizard’s March, was carried out without undue difficulty. I cautioned Ms. Violet McGowan that permitting mundanes to view this particular act of justice might be counterproductive to her intended aims, but the proverbial jury is still out on that. Mr. Gray invoked his talents to summon her spirit forth from the sphere that contained it, visible to all and sundry, as the final formalities were engaged in. She had her opportunity for final words. The matter of the “execution” itself was… rather more prolonged than most had the patience for. I admit, I had wondered how we would accomplish it aside from the gross destruction of the sphere itself.

Ms. McGowan had, however, prevailed upon her House-mate, the itinerant Mr. Samuel Sorensen, to disenchant the device while Mr. Gray’s necromantic talents ensured that Ms. Silverman’s spirit did not linger. Considering the magnitude of the device, however, Mr. Sorensen’s ritual took a great many hours. While this was entirely tedious to most onlookers, who departed after the dramatic last words portion of the event, some stayed, too over-awed by the display of expertise in the art of vim that Mr. Sorensen displayed. I admit to frank incredulity that any magus of our Order should have mastered that art to such a degree. That such a master of Bonisagus’s theory should be wasting his talent as an itinerant vagabond baffles me.

Ms. McGowan further informs me that Mr. Sorensen asked for no payment for his services aside from the vis necessary for the ritual. He claimed it was a sad but necessary honor to ensure that Ms. Silverman’s spirit passed to its proper reward. What an unusual gentleman.

Well, winter has set in down here in DC with a vengeance. Our Hoplites and other agents have withdrawn from their hunts until spring, contracting with local Verditius magi, trading resources, and otherwise preparing to renew their efforts. Some may, no doubt, choose to stay for the Caucus gathering, but I suspect others will seek to eschew tedious politics in favor of getting a headstart on their respective quarries. I hope to have more news of newly-captured criminals in the months to come.

Yours Truly,
Reginald McCurry

View
War Concludes

Wendy_Silverman.jpg

To: Ms. Violet McGowan of the Noble House Bonisagus,
From: Maximilian Foster of House Tytalus,

Greetings madam,

I have recently become aware of certain suspicions that you might have voiced in influential ears regarding myself and my associates, particularly vis a vis the band of hoplites sponsored by your covenant and being led by Captain Trombley. I am writing to assure you that there is no impropriety by providing certain details you may currently lack. Forgive my presumption should you already be in possession of all the facts.

As you know, two of my own band, the late, lamented Abstract of House Merenita and Cobalt of House Flambeau (may they rest in peace), had pre-existing grudges against Ms. Elisavet Whalen and Mr. Douglas Turner, respecitvely. So vexed were they by these personal vendettas that they felt compelled to challenge their rivals to Wizards War. In fact, I strongly suspect that much of their own efforts as hoplites these past few months have been for the purpose of seeking magical resources toward those efforts.

In this they succeeded, although it did not ultimately help them.

You are aware, of course, that the initial three targets provided to me, the members of your own House comprising the so-called “Phillips Gang,” were giving us quite the chase. We were able to establish a dialogue through mundane proxies wherein I was able to negotiate their surrender. The terms of this surrender are a matter of public record at The High Court of Hermetic Justice, but I will re-iterate them here for convenience. I offered to the Phillips Gang a re-trial at Tribunal or, should one be called, Emergency Tribunal, based on certain evidence I had uncovered indicating that they had been treated unjustly by the Emergency Tribunal of 1866. I would ensure that sufficient favors were called in to grant them a stay of execution from the High Court until such a time as their re-trial can be heard. In exchange for this great favor, I asked that they surrender themselves completely and peacefully to me and to remain peaceably in the custody of the Order, and that they would, collectively, owe me and my band of hoplites, individually, a favor to be called in at our convenience.

I have faith in our system of justice, and was willing to allow the Courts to finish their deliberations before making any rash requests, but my two youngest and foolhardiest companions were not so long-sighted. Upon receiving the surrender of the Phillips Gang, Abstract and Cobalt indicated their desire to “cash in” their favors immediately, claiming that they would not honor my agreement unless the Phillips Gang satisfied their demands. The demands were, as you might imagine, the assassination of Ms. Whalen and Mr. Turner.

I objected strenuously to this, and appealed to all parties to listen to reason. I told the Phillips Gang that if they were to accede to becoming assassins-by-proxy, this would not endear them to their judges at a re-trial. I appealed to my companions to remember the Code. The Wizards War had not yet commenced, and slaying a magus outside those bounds, even if done by-hire, would make them no better than the criminals we hunt.

In the end, a compromise was reached. To satisfy Abstract and Cobalt, Percy Phillips would secure the blood of Ms. Whalen and Mr. Turner, no more, and that Abstract and Cobalt would then restrain themselves until the proper beginning of their Wizards’ Wars.

This was done. It would appear, unfortunately for me and for others, that Percy Phillips was not altogether precise in his efforts. Although he did not violate the code (it is clear that he COULD have slain Ms. Whalen, Mr. Turner, and all their associates had he wished, and by restraining himself did not “slay or seek to slay” his sodales), his assault was nevertheless indiscriminate and caused understandable harm and ire in the uninvolved companions accompanying Ms. Whalen and Mr. Turner. This led, as you will see later in this letter, to physical harm to my person, something I certainly would have never willingly countenanced.

In any event, Percy Phillips delivered the blood to us. I, suitably offended by his lack of precision, destroyed all blood not belonging to Ms. Whalen or Mr. Turner, hoping that in so doing it might permit me to smooth over any hard feelings.

I convinced Abstract and Cobalt to delay their hunt until we had properly delivered the Phillips Gang into custody. That task complete, however, I felt I could restrain them no longer. Mr. Horse and I accompanied them as neutral parties, concerned for their enthusiasm and seeking to ensure they did not violate the code in their pursuit of vendetta.

Making full use of their forfeit immunity under Wizard’s War, Abstract used her mastery of the imaginem form to scry upon Ms. Whalen at regular intervals, tracking them as they pursued their target, the Marched Ms. Wendy Silverman. Ms. Whalen and her companions, using knowledge I am not privy to, determined that Silverman was hiding in none-other than Pea Ridge, the infamous battlefield where Mr. John Westphal earned his reputation during the war. It would appear that the carnage inflicted there was sufficient to cause to arise an infernal aura, complete with multiple-tiered regio. It was within this regio that Ms. Silverman had established a covert laboratory.

Abstract and Cobalt determined to set an ambush, hoping that the dangers of the infernal regio would weaken their foes and give them an advantage. We discovered where they had staked out their horses, and Mr. Horse, using his affinity for such beasts, convinced them that they were safer under a distant tree. We then waited, and Abstract watched.

She related to me that Ms. Whalen and her associates engaged in great hardships within the infernal regio, ultimately flushing Ms. Silverman from hiding. Through our own great fortune, Ms. Silverman ran right into us. Not wishing to permit a Hermetic criminal to escape, we assaulted her in unison and with great prejudice. It would appear that she was merely a spirit, inhabiting her own dead flesh. I recovered the invested objects containing her ghost when over the rise rode Captain Trombley upon an enormous invisible mount that we all knew well was, in fact, Mr. Westphal in his bear form. His other companions, including the targets of my two companions, were doubtless also invisible passengers.

Mr. Horse and I stood aside to permit the Wizard’s War to commence without our interference. For the most part, the fight was clean. The only potential exception was when the enormous and invisible Mr. Westphal assaulted me.

I would like to speak briefly in defense of Mr. Westphal, and to explain why he was not in violation of the Code, nor was he interfering in a valid Wizard’s War. He very clearly could have slain me, but chose not to, much to my relief. In that manner, much in the same manner as Mr. Percy Phillips’ assault, he proved not to have violated the code. I have every intention of resolving any dispute that he and I may still have in a civilized manner, before a Hermetic Court at a later date. He was not interfering in a Wizard’s War because, with his immediate words, and the words of Captain Trombley, it became rapidly apparent that his grievance had nothing to do with defending his companions. Instead, he and the Captain were understandably concerned about the fate of the blood stolen from them by Mr. Phillips, and presumed that I must possess it, and therefore possessed an arcane connection that I might use for nefarious purposes.

Although I reassured them with all candor that I had destroyed the blood procured from them, and that my motives were entirely selfish, not wishing to make of them my enemies, Mr. Westphal chose to batter me unconscious, declaring that he was “arresting” me or some such foolishness. Whatever his motives, when I eventually came to my senses, I was in the capable hands of Mr. Horse, and my possessions, including the artifacts taken from Ms. Silverman, were still upon my person.

It is my intention to see to the return of the bodies and personal effects of Abstract and Cobalt, who reaped the rewards of their own youthful foolishness, and then to return to Washington where I hope to peaceably resolve any remaining disputes that might exist between myself and Captain Trombley’s troupe. I hope this letter finds you well, and acts to reassure you that the hoplites your covenant is sponsoring are in no particular danger from me, nor are there any remaining members of my own troupe with personal vendettas to pursue.

Yours,
Very Truly,
Maximilian Foster

View
War Commences

Wendy_Silverman.jpg

Darius my boy, me again. I grudgingly admit that those Hoplites you sent know their stuff. They spent a few hours in the ruins of Black Mountain and came up with some valuable raw materials, a lab text I missed, and an eleventh-magnitude greater enchanted item containing the spirit of Angus Dunne, former resident of this covenant and Marched criminal. I don’t know how I missed that. I guess I just assumed all the really good stuff was hidden away in their regio.

So I helped them talk to Dunne. Turns out he was only halfway finished with his whole “orb and crown – live forever” project. The orb trapped his spirit, but without the crown, his body was just a corpse, and we both know what happened to it. He had some useful speculation for the Hoplites about where Wendy Silverman went. She had completed the orb and crown and presumably found a quiet place to do the elaborate ritual suicide necessary to fully complete the project. Angus suspected she found another regio somewhere, maybe one near one of the battlefields she would frequent looking for… uh… spare parts. Nobody said it aloud, of course, but it was pretty clear that she may have even resorted to holing up in an infernal regio… those are the ones that usually appear near battlefields.

So I lent them the orb, even though it’s technically mine for slaying Dunne. I also lent Captain Trombley some books. He expressed an interest in learning some necromancy basics and was willing to pay for the privilege. They went on their way, planning on checking some nearby battlefields. I expected them back within a week, but they haven’t returned yet. Perhaps they ran afoul of some trouble. I suspect we’ll find out one way or another eventually.

Phineas

From the Autobiography of Mrs. Abigail Wincott, Head Mercere of the Atlantic Coast Tribunal

When Ms. McGowan called upon me at an unconscionable hour to request my help, I suppressed any natural irritation in favor of curiosity and a keen nose for personal advantage. She is not one to unnecessarily annoy. It would seem that her covenant-mate, Mr. McCurry, had received a most intriguing report from one of his Hoplites, Ms. Elisavet Whalen. It would seem that she and her cohort had been waylaid upon an otherwise mundane stretch of road by a flying, invisible assailant who assaulted them with a veritable explosion of otherwise mundane glass shards, solely for the purpose of collecting their blood for future use as arcane connections. The assailant made his escape once the blood was in hand.

As I was well aware, this sort of assault is the practically patented methodology of the Phillips Gang, a trio of Bonisagus magi who have specialized in inventing a wide suite of spells suitable for targeted assassination from afar. Ms. McGowan pointed out that the Phillips Gang, additionally, were the three initial targets given to Mr. Foster of the Covenant of the Setting Son and his own band of Hoplites, two of whom have recently declared Wizard’s War against Ms. Whalen and her associate, Mr. Turner of Sutter’s Rock. Considering Mr. Foster’s previous, disastrous attempts at “poaching” one of Ms. Whalen’s targets, it sparked certain… suspicions that Ms. McGowan could not, of course, prove. She asked me to transport a certain minor invested item to Ms. Whalen and her associates as swiftly as possible, and to furthermore convey her authorization to hunt the Phillips Gang themselves should they so choose.

I found Ms. Whalen and her cohort recovering from the attack in a farmhouse adjacent to where it took place. I told them of the Phillips Gang and their preferred tactics and known assassination methods. I considered it reassuring that they had, in the two weeks since the attack, not been subject to any further assault via magical intangible tunnels. This merely confirmed our theory that Mr. Foster and his Hoplites had entered into some sort of arrangement with their targets, and that the contract was only for the procurement of blood, not for intelligence or assassination services. By the time I reached them at the farmhouse, the commencement of the Wizard’s War was but one week away.

They engaged in spirited debate about what to do, the main opinions being to 1) go on the offensive somehow, 2) hide in a friendly covenant for the duration of the Wizard’s War, or 3) ignore the whole thing and continue their efforts against their current target.

I departed once it became seemly to do so, not wishing to be too privy to their plans.

It would seem that the defensive option won out. I helped arrange their transport by train to the covenant of Sutter’s Rock. Within a week of their going to ground, Mr. Foster and his cohort returned triumphantly to DC with the three members of the Phillips Gang, captured alive. Rather than be executed, however, the significant political weight of the Setting Son pressured the tribunal to stay their execution until the next emergency session could consider “new evidence” that might exonerate them.

Although I had no evidence to support this theory, it seemed plain to me that Foster offered the criminals the sort of leniency that only Setting Son had the clout to ensure in exchange for their services in procuring blood from their rivals. The intention appeared to be to drive Ms. Whalen’s group to ground so that Mr. Foster’s group could make up for lost ground in their competition for resources and prestige. Having brought the Phillips Gang in, they probably were given two or three more targets that they can now safely spend the next three weeks pursuing while their rivals hid in Sutter’s Rock.

That was, perhaps, their assumption. Ms. Whalen’s group doubtless became aware of these events and came to similar conclusion…

View
A Mundane Solution

Suzanne_Claremont.jpg

August the 18th, 1868

Dearest Diary,

It feels a bit strange starting a new page in a new book, but my other diaries were sadly lost in the fire set to my old home and general store in North Ridge by some aggrieved member of the community. I fear I did not keep up the habit while I was unjustly incarcerated by the Order of Hermes in Philadelphia, not wanting to give them the satisfaction of any written evidence that might inadvertently aid them.

I have had something of a minor change of heart regarding wizards, however, notwithstanding the ill-treatment I received at their hands. Captain T., Mr. T., and their associates treated me with all due honor, and even found a solution to my beloved’s current legal troubles that will hopefully see the two of us quit of the Order once and for all, and perhaps even quit of these United States.

After those other magi came for me at my shop, rendering me unconscious and seeking to abscond with me, I’m told the townsfolk of North Ridge became possessed of a sort of madness that caused them to throw their lives away in nauseating numbers to recover me from my abductors. As much as I love her, my beloved terrifies me sometimes. I know that her heart is motivated by the greater good, but she is capable of such atrocities…

No matter. With this solution, even those concerns are now behind us.

I spent some weeks wrongfully held in the custody of the Order in Philadelphia, writing letters to the local authorities seeking a hearing, and insisting upon my rights as a citizen of the United States. They were seeking my beloved, of course, as she suspected they would, which is why she told me nothing that might lead them to her. The notion of these filthy wizards pawing through the contents of my mind disgusts me, but I know they did it, probably more than once. I know what she’s capable of, however, and had every reason to believe that she was watching out for me from afar.

Eventually, however, I received two visitors, the gentlemen I referred to earlier. They impressed upon me that they were a different sort of wizard, concerned with their duty and honor, of course, but also possessed of basic courtesy due a lady. The good Captain gave me his word that he would remove me from that place and would escort me to wherever I wished to go, and that I would be free to depart at any time I wished. He implied that his sympathies lay with my beloved’s general motivations, but that he did not have the power to simply let a wanted criminal of the Order run free. He was hoping I might get a message to her to set up a safe conversation.

I didn’t immediately trust them, of course, but I wanted to be freed from that house, and so I went along with them. As I rode on the wagon they procured for my use and we jouneyed back to North Ridge, however, their courtesy, and the courtesy of their rougher companions, did not lapse. Although Mr. W was capable of some truly terrifying feats of personal transformation, he seemed genial enough in a rough sort of way. Ms. W. seemed a woman after my beloved’s heart, preferring mannish pursuits and attire. Their native scout was quiet and kept to herself.

As we traveled, I was certain of my beloved’s concerned gaze, and so I made it a point to speak aloud at regular intervals the fact that I was not a prisoner, and that they were treating me honorably.

We arrived in North Ridge to discover my home and store burnt. It was a shock, but not a surprising one. I did not witness the carnage in North Ridge, but I can understand how my presence there would be a source of consternation to them. My companions were able to recover some of the melted silver, as well as my safe, which had preserved certain important documents from harm. We then continued our travels, seeking the home of my parent.

Before we arrived there, however, my beloved made her move, having chosen a dilapidated barn in an abandoned farmstead for the meeting. Things were quite tense, but my traveling companions were true to their word, and laid out their concerns and their thoughts. They were honor bound to bring her to justice, but preferred to do so in a fashion as might seem honorable to her. She then gave to them a counter-proposal.

She told them that magi of her Criamon House who walk her particular philosophical “path” are capable to turning magical things entirely mundane. This includes other wizards (if they submit) and more importantly it includes herself. In fact, magi of her “path” commonly perform this rite on themselves just prior to when they might ordinarily die (or enter “twilight”, whatever that is) because their philosophy holds that dying a normal mortal is preferable for reasons I admit I do not entirely understand.

She offered to abdicate her magical gifts entirely, becoming a mere mortal, and thus removing herself from the jurisdiction of the Order. In exchange, she asked that they let me and her depart to live out our lives in peace, no longer pursued.

Much of the rest of the conversation was about assurances and legalities. It would appear that my companions have never considered the possibility that someone might be capable of just giving up the ability to do magic. They also feared that she was engaged in some trickery or subterfuge to throw them off her trail. I know her better than that, but I suppose I can forgive their suspicion.

Mr. T. seemed particularly concerned, and rejected the offer at first, but after a night sleeping on it, changed his mind. The next morning, my beloved handed over her precious long-rifle as a sort of surety or proof of her mundanity, and closed her eyes and meditated for about a half an hour. When she opened them again, she was a normal human woman. The strange shifting tattoos that have always covered her for as long as I’ve known her were gone. Her affect and manner were subtly different, more approachable, less intimidating.

Captain T. tried a halfhearted subterfuge where he appeared as if he might threaten me to see if she would leap to my defense with magic, but it never got to the point of violence. I was most relieved that he remained a true gentlemen despite the effort.

All rested, then, on their honor. We were both helpless before them. Fortunately for us, they gave my beloved an ordinary rifle to replace the one she had given up and gave us the wagon and bid us good day.

My heart sings. We’re finally free to be together. True, we no longer have the immense resource that was her magic. We must face the prejudice and hatred of the world without those assurances, and even so, the Order may some day get wind of this and may pursue us, but I have hope again. I feared, at first, that the loss of her magic would be crushing for my beloved, but she has borne it stoically, even cheerfully. I’ve never fully understood the mystical philosophy she was raised into, but it seems in some ways that magic is a great burden, and that on some level she is relieved to be free of it. I will never fully understand, but I don’t need to understand to love her.

As for the wizards who gave us this new chance at life, I wish them nothing but good fortune in their own lives henceforth. They will always have a special place in my heart.

~V

Wendy_Silverman.jpg

Darius my boy, I hope you’ll forgive the brusque manner of this message, as well as the terrible rudeness of causing it to appear on your pillow notwithstanding your aegis, but the matter is somewhat urgent. I have some folks here at the ruins of Black Mountain claiming to be Hoplites looking for Silverman. What were you thinking, lad? Silverman’s a Tremere matter. We don’t get sending non-Tremere to clean up our messes for us! Well, true, we haven’t had a lot of resources to spare looking for her with all the other reconstruction issues to worry about, but the least you could have done is warned me they were coming. Obviously, if you didn’t send Trombley and co., do let me know immediately so that I might appropriately express my disapproval at being lied to. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and some grudging cooperation, but warn me next time.

Archmage Phineas

2 seasons
Intellego 3
Perdo 4
Vim 5

View
Dividing the Spoils

Jonah_Wylie.jpg

Emma,

A few hours before dawn I heard a noise and looked out to see those two fugitive fellas dragging that dentist Mr. Wylie out of Granny Henderson’s place. Mr. Wylie was trussed up like a hog, and they were making to take off with him. I thought to call out, but that Mr. Westphal turned into the biggest bear I’ve ever seen, and I though better of it.

I started rousing folks, though. It took a while to get organized, but we figured if we headed out shortly after dawn we could find where they went and get them to return Mr. Wylie with the threat of gunfire. The sun had just come up, and we were getting ready to move when, to our surprise, Mr. Wylie returned on his own, on the back of the same enormous bear.

Now, Mr. Wylie was never much for speechifying before, but he seemed full of good spirits. He told us that he had been hiding among us because his Order had judged him guilty because he had made and distributed enchanted items in violation of their rules. He reassured us, however, that the Order had given him a reprieve, and he was on his way back to DC. He did, with some regret, insist that we needed to return those items he had given us for our use and his defense. I handed over the rifle he gave me. I’ll be sad to see its loss, but I’m glad he’s no longer being hunted. Our town has lost a good dentist and a good man.

James

My dear Senator,

Believe me, no-one is more appalled at the news coming out of Pennsylvania of the slaughter of the town of North Ridge at the hands of a band of our peace officers. Know only that although they wielded the weapons that slew those townsfolk, they were not responsible for their deaths.

You may, rightfully, wonder how this can be. I’ll ask you, why did even the women and children of North Ridge see fit to attack a well-armed band of magi, with limited weapons or capabilities? What could possibly explain this incredibly odd and suicidal behavior from otherwise ordinary folks? The answer, of course, is that they were not in their right minds. The true criminal responsible for this vile act is none other than Ms. Suzanne Claremont of the infamous Oakley Homestead massacre. She is the criminal that our officers were pursuing, and it was she who ensorcelled the townspeople to such violence.

You can rest assured that the law-abiding magi of the Order of Hermes do not abide such bloodshed, and take every effort to comport ourselves in a civilized fashion. That our recent War should have degraded otherwise civilized men and women to such savagery is not unknown even among non-magi. I can assure you that we will answer these crimes with due justice, and will take all conceivable efforts to prevent any such future slaughter.

Sincerely Yours,
Violet McGowan
The American Embassy of the Order of Hermes

To: The Esteemed Virgil of House Verditius
From: Reginald McCurry of House Guernicus

A band of Hoplites has just returned to Washington DC having captured the wanted criminal Jonah Wylie. Mr. Wylie’s execution is set for two weeks time. I know that you and your covenant have an outstanding claim against Mr. Wylie, and I would invite you or a representative to come to DC to discuss how that claim may be satisfied.

Yours,
R. McCurry

My Dearest Seth,

Our son Douglas has returned from his second successful March, this time having avoided the near-deadly wounds inflicted upon him in the hunt for Mr. Farnsworth. He and his associates have registered a not-inconsiderable number of assets claimed from the defeated Mr. Wylie, including a magical aura, complete with two-tiered regio, and two considerable sources of vis. It turns out, Sutter’s Rock is the closest covenant to these assets, and so I have decided to tender an offer on behalf of our covenant for the purposes of founding a Chapter there.

Our bid was one of three. Unsurprisingly, Shenandoah attempted to flank us, but with Douglas in a position to sway his companions, they had no significant chance of success, particularly once I negotiated a side deal with Ms. Lorelei Winter of House Merinita who was the third party in this negotiation. She and her three associates are willing to become our Chapter at the site rather than establish their own covenant there in exchange for certain perfectly reasonable terms which I will discuss with all the magi of Sutter’s Rock upon my return. Their resources added to ours permitted us to secure the winning bid.

Ms. Winter and her compatriots will be providing the vis portion of the sale price. Our obligation is a single copy of every book in our library. I gave them an overview of the contents of those books, but I write to you now to ensure that our scribes start putting together the typeface as quickly as possible to secure proper payment so we can take possession of the area.

It is a magical aura, complete with regio and means of access, in the vicinity of a small community of potential coven-folk. I think we did fairly well in the bargain.

Yours,
Eliza

OOC:

  • 3 seasons
  • 5 Reputation xp
  • Animal vis: 5
  • Corpus vis: 5
  • Imaginem vis: 2
  • Mentem vis: 6
  • Vim vis: 18
  • 1 silver tooth (arcane connection to Wylie’s Terram vis source)
  • 1 set dental tools enchanted with an assortment of minor corpus, mentem, and imaginem effects
  • Jonah Wylie’s lab texts
  • 4 dental picks enchanted with Invocation of Weariness 6x/day
  • 6 rifles enchanted with Eyes of the Eagle 6x/day

30 pawns of vis and copy of the Library of Sutter’s rock (in payment for all interest in Wylie’s aura, regio, and vis sources, Wylie’s laboratory, and the walking stick that permits access to the regio):

  • 15 pawns vim vis
  • 5 pawns ignem vis
  • 5 pawns terram vis
  • 5 pawns corpus vis
View
Into the Hills

Jonah_Wylie.jpg

To My Esteemed Sodales,

By now, many of you have heard of the small measure of fame and acclaim that has accorded itself to the band of young Hoplites sponsored by The American Embassy of the Order of Hermes. Captain Trombley and his merry band brought the Farnsworth fellow to justice, to the plaudits of all.

It is to that end that I would recruit you to join a band of Hoplites sponsored by the Covenant of the Setting Son. Two of you are, like me, young magi of that covenant seeking Hermetic prestige with which to play the grand game of politics. Ms. Abstract may be interested considering that we would be rivals, in some respectes, to the group containing Ms. Whalen. Finally, I have included Cobalt of the Shenandoah covenant who may wish an opportunity to surpass Mr. Turner in reputation and prestige among our peers.

I met our would-be rivals at a recent gala hosted by Ms. Evelyn MacFarland, wife of Senator MacFarland. I spoke with Mr. Turner at some length, as well as to Mr. Mr. Westphal, the group’s muscle. Westphal is about as I expected: blunt, indiscreet, and unused to social convention, but of all of them may well be willing to defect should our successes exceed their own. Mr. Turner was more cagey. He and their Ex Miscellanea, Ms. Hagadorn seemed to imply a certain political opposition to Setting Son’s current expansion policy. I informed them that they had inspired me to form this group, although I did neglect to mention any of the rest of you by name.

It is my hope that, having expressed interest in such an opportunity, you four will consent to join me in the hunt for rogue magi to our collective fame and fortune.

Yours,
Maximillian Foster
House Tytalus
Covenant of the Setting Son

Emma,

We had another pair of fugitive Hermetics come to town. One’s a big fella. Folks say they saw him tranform from an enormous bear. He and his well-spoken companion are fleeing the false “justice” of their Order, and both are good Virginia boys. We were suspicious at first, but Charles says he’s heard of the big guy. Says he was at the massacre of pea ridge. While I’m not sure that makes me very comfortable, at least the story holds up. We sent them on up to Granny Henderson’s cabin, as usual. I figure if they aren’t what they seem, Granny will figure it out.

Not two, three days later a trio of other folks come into the general store, two Northerners and their Indian guide. They carried themselves with all manner of arrogance, showed me a wanted poster with the big guy’s name to it… John Westphal. We didn’t tell ’em anything, of course, but Phil got a bit too chatty around the handsome bounty hunter with the saber, started talking about the dentist, so Sarah had to hush him up. Sure, they were hunting someone else, but no need to give ’em any hints about any other fugitives we may have hiding out here.

Richard said he saw their Indian going around town with a dowsing rod, although why they’d need to find water or gold here is anyone’s guess. She put it away when it seemed like she was going to start bumping into people. Suspicious, all around. We sent them all on their way quick enough. Hopefully that’ll be the last we see of them.

We’ll talk more when you get back.

James

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.