The Hermetic Wild West

Gathering the Chains

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Grandfather,

I will take this opportunity to practice my Latin by conveying the results of the great risk we three have taken by trusting our “covenant mates” so completely.

It was easy to discount them when their personal, magical, and political gains were relatively transparent. They freed us from Setting Son in order to lay claim to the prize for capturing Waldorf, as well as to lay claim to our valley and its magical resources. That they treated us better than Tiberious Cole did was a nice consequence, but we were under no illusion that they were anything other than kinder, gentler masters. They needed a base of operations from which to conduct their hunts for the criminals among them, and they needed to make us reasonably competent in the ways and means of their Order so we could defend that base for them when they were gone.

It is true that they took greater pains than they needed to gain our help and trust. They procured tutors in Latin and Hermetic Theory, not to mention the great power that is their Parma Magica, to improve our lot as members of their “House Ex Miscellanea” but all of these things were also of direct benefit to them, and so we kept our own council and waited to see how things would play out. Certainly, we made them honorary tribespeople. And certainly some of them have even made an effort to learn our language, but even with the one who took a Ute name, or the Ute who was taken as a child and raised among the white man, we have been hesitant to fully extend our trust.

But then they returned from a lengthy sojourn to the Mormon city of Provo in the company of a negro man, one “Blacky Aston”, who had once been a magically gifted slave. This slave had been in hiding ever since the white-man’s war-between-brothers. Although declared a free man by the government, he nevertheless needed to conceal himself against the angered wizards who hunted him for escaping them. Our covenant-mates found him, as was their purpose, but rather than slaying or imprisoning him they used their political and social influence to pardon him and declare him a full member of the Order, also of the “Ex Miscellanea.” Then, realizing he was in similar straits to us in that he had no training or resources of his own, they invited him here as a guest.

It is true that our situation and Mr. Aston’s are dissimilar in many respects. There is a common theme, however, in that both of our people have been brutalized or exploited by the white man with impugnity. Both of our people struggle to survive in the white man’s world. Once again, these three white people and one who may as well be white are using this negro man for their own political gain in that they hope to legitimize many of his formerly-enslaved yet gifted brethren and support their uplift in exchange for their votes. But it is becoming increasingly clear that their motives may extend beyond the merely politically mercenary.

When they proposed finding a magical site where they could build a “chapter” to house these once-slaves, you took what I considered a terrible risk. You revealed the caverns of the afterlife. I cannot fault your reasoning. As more and more white Europeans flood these lands our better-hidden sacred sites will not remain hidden forever. Best to reveal them to those white people who might have a vested interest in preserving and protecting them than allow them to be despoiled. Still, I was half-certain leading them to the caverns would be my final act as Little Brother.

I brought outsiders to a cave that heretofore only Little Brothers have been permitted to enter. I introduced them to the Antlered Lady. I gave her my blood and my life hoping that she would see I meant no betrayal, and that these outsiders could be trusted.

It appears that she looked into their hearts and was satisfied. Hesesiwox, once John Westphal, seems to have done more than merely change his name. The Lady treated him as a newborn child haunted by his past. Oukonunaka, long tainted by the white man’s ways, was also welcomed back. When the Lady asked Douglas Turner and Elisavet Whalen if they would spill their blood on behalf of the People and in defense of the caverns, they both took extraordinary steps, giving themselves potentially fatal wounds as I did. I was surprised. I had expected some small shedding of blood, but to place such trust in the Lady was beyond my expectations.

She accepted our offerings and enfolded us in her arms. We were healed, and thus all of us were accepted. We can no longer stand partly-aloof from our white benefactors. The Lady has accepted them, and we must acknowledge her judgment.

We spent some time with the Lady negotiating the terms under which the Cavern of Welcome might sustain a small population of the living, ostensibly these freed negroes who may become a chapter of our Covenant. First, though, these negroes need to be suitably vetted and weighed.

The first three that Blacky Aston brought in, Jeremiah Washington, Maggie Carter, and Deliliah Johnson, all had uniquely tragic tales to tell. They seem like trustworthy people, but I understand why they have not yet been informed of the Cavern, or even that they might someday become covenant-members. They first need to be educated to a point where they can participate in their own defense. Secondly, we will need to fend off the three declarations of “wizard’s war” that have come as a result of their public legitimacy.

In one month, we may face our first test of Hermetic violence. Ironically it is not Setting Son come to reclaim what they see as their property but rather more distant magi who feel the same way about their fellow human beings.

It is not a fight we chose, but I cannot help but think that it is a worthy fight nonetheless. Father Wolf would, in my opinion, approve.

Little Brother

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Brotherhood of Broken Chains

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Elder Lee Pembleton,

I wanted to take the time to write you a formal letter stating my intentions before (hopefully temporarily) leaving your service.

You have been a fair and generous employer, certainly a far cry from those who gained from my labors prior to my freedom. You have shown me godly compassion and Christian charity and extended these goods deeds to those of my brothers and sisters who found themselves in similar straits. Your words before the Assembly here in Provo has brought gainful employment to dozens of the non-Gifted negroes among whom we’ve hidden these years. I therefore wish to assert in no uncertain terms that my departure is no comment on your generosity or treatment.

I cannot but look upon these recent emissaries of the Order and wonder at the change in attitude. To be charitable, my previous experiences with the covenant of Savannah were viewed through the lens of slavery, and I never had much experience with those magi of the north, but such simple north-south divides do not entirely explain what has happened here in Provo this past month and a half. That the overtures came from a Virginian, who openly acknowledged that he and his had owned slaves until just recently, gave my head something of a spin.

It would seem that I have been the subject of a more concerted hunt than I had anticipated. I knew that my former master and his Hermetic heirs would seek vengeance upon me for my abrupt departure, especially as they could no longer reclaim me as their property. I expected mercenary wizards to come looking for me for crass payment or political advantage. I did not expect a Virginian to spent over a month ingratiating himself into the Community, come to Temple more than weekly, and spend a considerable sum on the morale and entertainment of the negro servant-class just to get a conversation with me. And once he had that conversation, I did not expect to be offered amnesty and membership in the Order. I rather expected the noose.

I commend your wisdom, as in all things, in procuring the services of Colonel Trombley to negotiate on my behalf. The Virginian, whose name I suspect is not Gideon, brought an Indian Quaesitor, a clever choice as it demonstrates that even those who are not of the White race can aspire to high office among the Order. Over the hours of our discussions I have become convinced that a path to amnesty lies before me that may well result in my ability to live freely without fear of retaliation from the Order. I know that you do not cleave to the Order yourself, but I do hope you can understand my position.

Should these emissaries treat me honorably, and should the Hermetic Court grant my amnesty and accept my Oath, I hope you might consider, if not continued service, at least continued correspondence and friendship. I know that your good piety will not permit you to swear allegiance to any earthly Order that does not cleave to God’s Revealed Word, but I hope you will think no less of me for doing so. Know that my faith in the Lord will always remain strong, and I will keep always in mind the words of Christ that we must render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. My earthly loyalty and service to the Order will not compel me into sin, you may be sure of it.

I know that the Nauvoo Legion and the Divine Elders among them have come to blows with the Order of late. I most sincerely hope it does not escalate to full-blown warfare, but even should it do so, I swear to you that I will take no part in hostilities against you and yours, and will do my utmost to facilitate compromise and peace if at all possible.

When next we speak, I hope to stand before you as a member of House Ex Miscellanea within the Order of Hermes.

Yours in Faith,
Most Truly,
Blacky Aston

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The Bear of King's Peak

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Mr. Maximilian Foster
Quaesitor of House Tytalus
Covenant of the Setting Son

Sir,

Thank you for your query, but I assure you everything here at our covenant’s King’s Peak chapter is well in hand. Indeed, those hoplites you mentioned brought word of a challenge worthy of our covenant and our House arising here in the Utah territories.

It would appear that a rogue Bonisagus has converted to Mormonism, even going so far as to marry Brigham Young, and that for decades she has been training apprentices in some fusion of Hermetic and divine magic without gauntleting them into the Order or swearing them to the Code. These rogue Mormon magi are engaged in an enterprise to bring about their version of heaven here on earth by seizing various magical regionnes about the borders of Utah and, through powerful divine ritual magic, converting them to their ultimate purpose of turning all of Utah into a regio, the promised land of Deseret.

As you well know, our King’s Peak Chapter sits upon the border, and controls a potent regio, namely the cave of the Great Bear, a figure out of native myth and legend whom these Mormon magi seek to slay or convert to their religion. We have fought them off once already, but they are massing for another attempt.

Some months ago, your good friend Colonel Trombley managed to embed associates into this renegade order, including a certain mad Merenita named Gibbs who serves the local contingent of the Nauvoo legion. With the aid of these hoplites you were kind enough to inquire about, we made clandestine contact with Gibbs. John Westphal, now calling himself “Hesesiwox”, managed to play to Gibbs’ particular madness, bringing him to our camp as a spy. The various faerie creatures he has created to watch and harass us will turn upon the Legion at an opportune moment.

We plan now our assault, using a mix of surprise attack, assassination, and frontal attack. It is our aim to kill or capture the magi with the garrison, without whom the ordinary soldiers will be helpless. We particularly seek to slay the one among them thought to be able to perform the ritual that summons the Mormon “angel” (or whatever) necessary to seize and convert the regio of the Great Bear to their Mormon purpose.

I have every confidence in the success of our endeavor, and will arrange for a letter once the matter is concluded.

Yours,
Silvio Martinez
House Tytalus
King’s Peak Chapter of Setting Son

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The Nauvoo Legion

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Ms. McGowan,

My interrogations of the mind of one “Jeremiah Sutton”, recovered recently by our hoplites, has confirmed much of the substance of the report compiled by Elisavet Whalen. The hoplites gained the trust of the local Nauvoo garrison near Grouse Creek, utilizing the talents of Oukonunaka, disguised as one “Levi Smoot”, claiming to be recent converts to the Mormon church. This ruse was successful enough that Mr. Sutton, who styled himself a “lieutenant”, and who is one of those taught Hermetic magic by the renegade Bonisagus Mrs. Lavinia Young, brought the hoplites into the divine regio present there at Grouse Creek.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming divine aura began stripping away their magic, including Oukonunaka’s disguise as an elderly white man. This prompted the realization in Mr. Sutton that he had been fooled, which prompted Oukonunaka to wound him severely through the application of a bullet to the cranium. This act of unprovoked violence created a response from the regio which turned against our Hoplites. Mr. Douglas Turner was able to navigate a way out with the wounded prisoner. The garrison caught only a momentary glimpse of their blood-soaked forms before they fled via teleportation back here to DC.

Mr. Sutton has proven to be a wealth of information about this nascent rival order of divine-attuned wizards trained in a bastardized version of the Hermetic Arts. Mrs. Young, technically still on the rolls as a magus of House Bonisagus, has managed to combined Hermetic theory with certain non-Hermetic “holy magic” practices to create a hybrid which she has been using to instruct the Gifted among the Mormon population. They have also been aggressively recruiting Hermetic magi under a “join or die” philosophy quite familiar to us. Mr. Sutton did not have precise numbers, but he estimates there are around fifty magi practicing Mrs. Young’s tradition, or who have converted.

Needless to say, this is a matter of much concern. We cannot afford a schism in the American Order so soon after the Civil War. I am certain that House Tremere stands ready to stamp out this schism as soon as is feasible.

Yours,

Darius Gray


Parens,

It seems my first foray into official Hoplite business has been something of a failure. You know that I’ve been looking for a way to use my skills, honed in the war, in a more positive direction and Colonel Trombley was nothing if not charismatic in recruiting me to join his band of Hoplites, but I fear that he may have bit off more than he can chew. I’ve spent the last five months in deep cover, pretending to have converted to Mormonism in order to keep track of a growing threat to the Order, namely a lineage of magi being trained by a rogue Bonisagus who are capable of using magic in Dominion auras. In fact, these “holy wizards” seem to gain benefit from proximity to the Dominion and have difficulty using their magic in the more customary magic auras.

We stumbled upon this growing threat while hunting some Hermetic criminals who had apparently fled to the sanctuary of the Mormon church and the territory of Utah where they hold significant political and military sway. We rapidly realized that there were a lot of Mormon wizards who were never gauntleted, and had never sworn the Oath. When a force of them confronted us with a politely worded “join or die” Trombley made the decision that the four of us would convert. He planned to ingratiate himself with the Mormon hierarchy enough to get concrete information on these holy wizards’ numbers, dispositions, and locations for the Order. He and Ames headed back with most of our captors to Salt Lake City, while Gibbs was assigned to a Nauvoo legion platoon headed toward Colorado. I was left behind in the godforsaken wasteland that is the black rock desert with a few of the younger and less competent holy wizards to watch over a former native regio that had been… converted.

And there I sat for five months. In order to make myself useful, but also to create a means whereby I controlled what information my camp uncovered, I bound a local vulture as a familiar. I named him Sydney after the brother I lost in the war. He’s a bit of a smartass, but through his eyes I was able to monitor the desert much more efficiently, which permitted us to make camp in a more shady, secluded place. It also let me keep watch for anyone who might be useful in getting information to Trombley, or to the greater Order.

Eventually, I saw a small party moving through the desert who, it turned out, were other Hoplites searching for the missing Trombley. Apparently he still hasn’t reported anything to the Order. These Hoplites and I orchestrated my extraction, leaving an inert, magically-created corpse-copy of myself under conditions reasonably construed to be a natural death. There were some minor hiccups in the plan, but hopefully the demoralized troops won’t care enough to put a lot of effort into investigating. As far as they’re concerned, I’m dead, which will hopefully not draw additional suspicion on the rest of my team should they still be alive and on-mission.

For now, I’m going to rest up, enjoy whiskey again, and make myself available to the ongoing effort to find Trombley and to counter this growing threat in Utah.

Yours,
Callie Hobbs
House Flambeau

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Into Deseret

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Phineas, Archmage of House Tremere,

Greetings and fond wishes from Washington DC.

Much to everyone’s surprise, no doubt, I’m writing to you here in the aftermath of Colloquium not to discuss your significant voting power and the uses to which it might be put but rather to discuss the martial and magical power at your disposal and ways it may be required to defend the Order.

You are aware, of course, of the band of Hoplites that we, the American Embassy of the Order of Hermes, have sponsored for the last couple of years. They engaged your aforementioned votes, in fact, to defend their claim upon a former chapter of the Covenant of the Setting Son just a week ago. It seems that they did not spend this last winter entirely idle or focused on covenant-building concerns. They have brought to us news out of the Utah Territory that, should it become public, would, I fear, cause great consternation among the mundane government and not insignificant tensions between them and our Order.

It is widely known that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, colloquially called “mormons”, wield remarkable power over the Utah territory. They call it “Deseret”, after their mythology, and they control the territorial militia, called the “Nauvoo Legion” after the town in Illinois where they once lived and where their supposed prophet was slain. We at the American Embassy were aware of five Wizard’s Marched individuals who had sought sanctuary among the Mormons, particularly by joining service with the Nauvoo Legion. It seems that in investigating these criminals, our Hoplites discovered something far more disturbing.

It would appear that the twenty-seventh wife of the Mormon patriarch and effective “king” of Utah, Mr. Brigham Young, Mrs. Lavinia Young, was once Ms. Lavinia Ross of House Bonisagus. She converted to Mormonism and married Mr. Young in Illinois, traveling with him and the mass migration of his parishioners, to the Utah territory where she has ceased to participate in Hermetic political affairs. She would be easily overlooked but for one problem: She has apparently been training apprentices, and not in insignificant numbers. These apprentices are taught some bastardized version of Hermetic Theory that incorporates Mormon so-called theology. These apprentices may not have sworn the Oath or know of the Code. They have certainly not been Gauntleted or granted their sigil. She is creating a schismatic group of religious fanatics who wield Hermetic magic.

The one saving grace is the relative rarity of the Gift in the general population, but the Mormon obsession with breeding may result in this problem becoming dramatically worse in a relatively brief period of time.

And so, we have an unknown number of schismatic Bonisagus magi granting asylum and sanctuary to any Wizard’s Marched magus willing to renounce the Order and convert to Mormonism.

These magi have already shown their worth in the conclusion of the Black Hawk War, which ended in armistice just over a year ago. The sporadic and now quite-suspicious inability for ordinary Hermetic covenants to gain a foothold in the Utah Territory may also reflect converts or concealed Hermetic crimes.

The Hoplites have traveled to Utah and I anticipate regular reports as they learn more. I merely wished to reach out to you with the situation so that you will not be surprised should there be a formal request for military aid to put down these renegades, preferably quietly, for the good of both the Order and the US Federal Government.

Yours,
With Affection,

Ms. Violet McGowan, House Bonisagus
American Embassy of the Order of Hermes

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A Fair Point Fairly Taken

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To the Honorable Covenant Council
Sunset Gate Covenant
Oakland

As the magus most directly involved in the recently concluded investigation by a team of Hoplites under the command of Ms. Elisavet Whalen, I feel I should lend my perspective to your deliberations as to the re-organization and enhanced security methods of our covenant.

It would seem that these Hoplites presented themselves to me under misleading pretenses, but considering their eventual discoveries, their caution was commendable. It seems they were seeking a particularly cunning trio of gentle-gifted gentlemen, the wanted members of the Fair Point Covenant of Mississippi. They had reason to believe these criminals were hiding under our noses in San Francisco, and wished to avoid alerting their quarry to their true objective.

It would seem that these criminals had been operating with the aid of various Oriental spirits under the command of Mr. Bao Zhu’s eldest daughter, a trained Chinese sorceress whose mere existence was of some embarrassment to Mr. Bao. This may well be why he never mentioned her to us. It seems that she is something of an outcast among her tradition, and so saw the benefits of allying with outcasts of our tradition.

She proved herself most cunning, however, and rather than standing in opposition to the Hoplites, she approached them and negotiated an arrangement. I’m given to believe the negotiations themselves were fraught with cultural and magical misunderstandings, but ultimately she agreed to accept the protection of the Order of Hermes, joining our great society, and in so doing supplanting her father who has always held himself aloof from us. Upon acceptance of her petition to join, she revealed that the criminals of the Fair Point Covenant were living and working as covenfolk for us.

Imagine my shock to discover that our finest lawyer/accountant was, in fact, Mr. Micah Wright, a former quaesitor, and that one of our trade factors was Mr. William Fairbanks, a former Bonisagus. The Hoplites and I, with a few trusted helpers, apprehended Mr. Wright. The Hoplites themselves hunted down Mr. Fairbanks in our city’s sewers before he could alert his fellows. We then set a trap for the third, Mr. Henry Duvall, who was one of our traveling negotiators, to be sprung upon his return to the city.

Having apprehended these criminals who had infiltrated our very covenant and who had, among them, embezzled significant funds and assets for their private use, I brokered talks between the Hoplites and a representative of the Covenant Council to ensure that no collateral legal sanctions fall upon us for inadvertently harboring such criminals. The Hoplites kindly acknowledged our claim to the property embezzled by the criminals rather than seizing it as their due. In exchange, of course, we paid them handsomely in vis and promised favors.

Although we reached an equitable arrangement with them, they are engaged in a rather high-profile dispute with the Covenant of the Setting Son, our chief ally in the Tribunal when it comes to our aim of forming a Pacific Coast Tribunal. This may cause some tensions if our votes should be called upon by two masters. I leave such considerations to your wise and esteemed selves.

Very Truly Yours,

Eliza Coventry
House Jerbiton
Sunset Gate Covenant

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The Tiger with Five Tails

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Ms. W~:

Those hoplites you mentioned arrived the other night. They quite cleverly opted to send only two of their number to pay a call upon me, ensuring that those of my covenant-mates inclined to report their movements to Setting Son would underestimate their commitment to their San Francisco investigations. Unfortunately, the other half of their number were not merely waiting somewhere but engaged in active investigation in our local Chinatown which threatened the fragile peaceful arrangements we have negotiated with the local Daoist wizard Bao Zhu.

Fortunately, despite coming to the attention of a Buddhist monk named Xiao-Lin who is, in reality, a monstrous spirit-tiger with five tails, and despite chasing Mr. Bao Zhu’s young daughter through the streets, they managed to placate the angry Oriental gentleman and our accord has held.

I have maintained the polite fiction that they are seeking members of the Brotherhood of Broken Chains. You have been rather close-lipped as to their true objective, but I will exercise patience and trust and hope that they accomplish their aims quickly.

Yours,

Eliza Coventry
House Jerbiton
Sunset Gate Covenant

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San Francisco Bound

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Ms. W~

You made some slight inquiries into whether I could cast any light on the progress of certain agents of ours in apprehending other certain individuals presumed to be on the West Coast. From what I can tell, they have spent much of the past few months cleaning up the loose ends left by Mr. Waldorf, and converting the spoils of their endeavors into further power and capability. Mr. W~ and Mr. T~ have both engaged the services of members of House Verditius, while Mr. T~ contacted my own self to inquire into joining House Mercere’s network of augmentation specialists. I provided him suitable texts for the corpus-based ritual effects along with the usual caveats and contractual obligations. If he is truly capable of learning and casting these ninth-magnitude rituals, he has come a long way indeed.

I know you were concerned when Ms. EW~ wrote to you asking for more objectives, but I believe your intuitions were correct in this regard. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were engaged in activities in or near San Francisco, and merely wanted to muddy the waters for Setting Son, should their spies seek to act on their absence from Round Lake. Also, considering the turbulent political situation between the Sunset Gate covenant of San Francisco and we here on the East Coast, I can see why they might have wished to misdirect as much as possible.

In any event, sending them word about the Brotherhood of Broken Chains was inspired. I anticipate being most pleased at how they choose to utilize that information.

Yours,
Abigail

Your Name is Famous, Oh Porcelein Empress, and I prostrate myself before you.

Your thread was cut. He Who Dances to Bells has been destroyed by the magic of an interloper. I do not know of this interloper, but I saw three others watching one of the Houses we have been asked to watch. I do not know why our Mistress chooses to send us on the White Devil’s errands, but I can only obey.

I am who I am, however, and one of these spies saw me and treated me with due deference and respect. He brought an offering of fish and milk and in exchange I am bound to speak of him no more. In any event, he and his companions were no longer there when I returned, nor is their smell anywhere about the city.

If not for the destruction of He Who Dances to Bells, I would not have brought it up at all, but if our Brother’s demise is connected to these other strangers, I felt I could not but dance upon the edge of my obligations for the good of your Court.

Be Well, Oh Empress, and may Your Terrible Gaze seek others to punish for your son’s demise.

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Still Cleaning Up

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My Brothers and Sisters of the Venatore,

For those of you wondering why I needed more than three rooks of vim vis for our cause, I have secured a most amazing find. Hoplites of the Order, having slain the criminal James Waldorf, were tracking down his far-flung holdings and they uncovered here, in the rural wasteland of northwestern Kansas, a secret bolt-hole and laboratory the likes of which I have never seen. I spoke to these hoplites and they tale they told was of a criminal of only mediocre magical talent in the Hermetic Arts but who, nevertheless, was able to inflict terrible curses despite the significant power of their parma magicae. As you all know, the infernal arts of most dabblers tend to do poorly against Bonisagus’ shield, and so this disparity was somewhat confusing to me.

The answer was apparent as soon as I stepped into the barn in which Waldorf kept his lab. Dominating the far wall was an immense mosaic of bone, runes, charred and scarred diagrams and designs that, after some careful scrutiny, appeared to be an elaborate ritual aid for the summoning of a duke of hell.

Since the barn was intact, and Waldorf was alive when the hoplites found him and slew him, it seems to me an entirely like hypothesis that Waldorf had managed to procure a lab text for the creation of an infernally invested summoning nexus. The particular demon tied to this portal is, very likely, a creature of seduction and knowledge, although I’ll know more once I decipher the shorthand in the lab text itself, which the hoplites also provided, along with extensive notes on other artifacts of Waldorf’s tradition.

My hypothesis is that Waldorf was learning directly at the knee of a potent demon, whose false arts permitted Waldorf a much greater facility with diabolic powers than he could otherwise have achieved in such a short time since he was Wizards Marched.

I encourage those of you with a scholarly bent to contact me so that we might study the matter together. Our credo and methods prevent me from studying any such thing by myself, nor would I wish to inadvertently risk my soul by doing so.

As for those of you with a more martial bent, should we learn enough to deem it a reasonable proposition, we may wish to convene a war party solely to summon forth this entity and put it to the sword.

Yours in Faith amidst Darkness,
Alexander Morgan, House Bonisagus

Suzanne,

I have always found the term “grog”, when speaking of our non-gifted associates within the covenant, to be pejorative and rude. There is no reason why the unGifted should be so looked down upon when you all provide to us vital and valued service. Because I value you, know that the visit we received from certain old acquaintances of yours was not due to any intention on their part to renege on their bargain, nor to track you down. During your time of trouble, prior to entering the service of our covenant, a Wizards Marched individual named James Waldorf contacted me in an attempt to make a proposal to you. He was seeking allies to stave off the Order, and thought you might make a potent and useful one. I laughed in his face, of course, and never saw the point in mentioning it to you.

It would seem this Mr. Waldorf met his end at the hands of your acquaintances and they were following up on that conversation. I believe they were duly satisfied at my cooperation, and seem to hold continued resolve to maintain the bargain that you struck with them.

Yours Truly,
Farrell

Mister Axlerod Sir,

I know you probly dont bothr to read my reports much, but there was sum trubble in the nayborhood the othr day. Sum wizards was pokin around in one of the burnd out houses. I thawt they was maybe looters, but one turnd into a rite big bear. I rousted em and one was rite rude to me, treatin me like I was his boy to ordr around. I wusnt gonna take that from no wizards, and made em move along. But somethin they said cawt in my mind. They was talkin about strang magic stuff in the area and I remembrd some odd animal bones some local kids was playin with. I figurd Id follow em, see what they were up to. They went uptown to the house of madam White. I cant knock on her door and get any answers outta her but you could do it. Ask her what them wizards wanted. I think maybe they might be spreading ill luck or curses around or somethin.

Annyway, they left madam Whites after a spell seemin a bit spookd. They all grabd a straynge rope and vanishd, all magic-like. It was rite strang.

Honorary Deputy Jeremiah

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Cleaning Up

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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

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