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
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.
Ms. Justine Moreaux