The Hermetic Wild West
Unlike the California gold rush which prompted a surge of westward migration, the Hermetic “vis rush” has been a longer, slower affair. While over 300,000 people migrated west in hopes of easy gold, the magi of the Order have long known that any source of “easy” vis is bound to be contested.
To that end, the Order did what it has done for centuries: co-opted mundanes as cannon fodder. Magi of all Houses attached themselves to westward migrants as “security” against marauding Indians and other trials. Most caravans who could afford it wanted a wizard around to guard against the sorts of peril that tended to kill the unprepared. In exchange for these services, magi demanded all magical resources or spoils that might be encountered along the way.
While this did commonly lead to cases of fraud, such as magi who would claim that gold nuggets were “vis” and therefore confiscated from mundanes who had no way to counter the claim; or to instances of magi skipping out on their contracts as soon as they found a rich vis source and a suitable site for a small covenant, most magi fulfilled their contracts, “flagging” discovered sources to be officially claimed later.
This practice led to hundreds of disputed vis claims, bouts of certamen, and wizard’s wars.
It also led to organized bands of magi, claiming legal “covenant” status notwithstanding a lack of a permanent, stationary holding, citing precedent from historical “nomadic” covenants, moving systematically through the west gobbling up vis and other resources while overpowering weaker claims through magical and political might.
Most infamous was the Covenant of the Setting Son, a covenant consisting mostly of Tytalus and Ex Miscellanea magi, who would target native settlements, hold them hostage until they revealed their shamans or holy figures, and would impress them into the Order under “Join or Die”, claiming that their newfound membership into the Order (and the Covenant) brought with it legal ownership over any and all magical resources exploited by that tribe. The Covenant would then leave their new members behind (with suitable covenant oversight) to tend the sources, calling them “Chapters”, and would move on to the next target. This resulted in dozens of “Chapters” of Setting Son scattered across the Louisiana Purchase territories harvesting vast amounts of vis for covenant magi through effectively enslaving poorly-trained new members of Ex Miscellanea.
Members of Houses Bjornaer and Merinita, which had been steadily growing among the native populations for a half a century, along with other factions of Ex Miscellanea, took violent exception to Setting Son and guerilla actions were launched to free the forcibly-inducted from their “Chapters” and get them a proper Hermetic education. This led to formal complaints in the Tribunal of the Atlantic Coast, which had to adopt a Peripheral Code policy of annual “Caucus” meetings just to handle the load of legal disputes. Although Setting Son’s practices were generally held to be reprehensible, they did result in an influx of native magi joining the Order, a political bloc that has only started to become effective at Caucus or at Tribunal.
Ultimately, however, the outbreak of the Civil War put most of these disputes on the political backburner, as most magi involved in the vis rush took sides and fought on battlefields throughout the continent.