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To Hell and Back Again

Spring 1228.

It is decided to investigate ways to escape the world, which means travelling to the covenant of Estancia-es-Karida in Iberia to see what they know of fallen stars and other parts of the strange elemental artifacts. However, rather than go direct to the covenant, the magi decide that they would rather poke around the area themselves and see what they can find without contacting the magi there.

Obtaining some travel instructions from the Redcaps, Umbriel takes an item that Alicia has an arcane connection to, and flies south to Iberia. However, her flight doesn't take her there as directly as she would like, and she ends up on the southern coast of Spain not knowing where she is. Avoiding the nearby city, she tries asking around in the villages nearby (whilst taking the appearance of a local male), but none of the people there speak Latin, English or Norse. Eventually she tries venturing into the city, and finds a Christian priest who speaks Latin. He tells her that she (he) is in Valencia. The city she is looking for, Malaga, is far along the coast.

It takes her another couple of days of flying and asking around to locate Malaga, and make her way north towards the covenant of Estancia-es-Karida. She doesn't stop there, but finds somewhere out of the way a few tens of miles to the north. There, she is able to contact the others back home, and Alicia teleports people across. In the end, Alicia, Shale and Wee Angus travel to Umbriel's location, leaving Vladimir and Columbanus back at the covenant to look after things.

So follows another few days of asking around, though Umbriel finds it much easier when she uses Thoughts Within Babble to understand the speech of the locals. They still can't understand her, but it simplifies the attempts at sign language, gesturing and Angus' special form of interpretive dance (which gets them a few local coins, if not much information). Once they start asking about things that fell from the sky, the magi get rumours and stories about rocks and angels that fell some years ago. Directions and details are vague, but eventually they home in on more accurate stories about a blasted or cursed wood.

They eventually find themselves at the top of a valley, looking at an area of dead trees maybe a couple of hundred paces across. The trees in the centre are upright, but stripped of branches and leaves. Surrounding them, the outer trees have fallen over, pointing away from the central point. A strange haze, about a foot deep, hovers at ground level all around the area. There is a stench of dead meat and vegetation, but little sign of life except for bugs and other small critters burrowing in or crawling in the ground. There is a chill about the place, and Alicia catches sight of strange forms in the haze - tormented faces which appear and vanish as a breeze stirs the air.

Magical detections show that everything here is normal, but there is a disturbance which makes magic here unstable. Venturing into the woods, they reach the centre where there is a flat area of rock, cracked and darkly stained with the outline of an angel upon it. Beyond that, there are no signs of regios or other magical features. The magi remain here until the next day, waiting to see if anything opens or makes itself visible at particular times, but all is uneventful.

It is decided that they probably need to go visit Estancia-es-Karida after all, and talk to the Criamon magus there who wrote them the letter - ibn-Hudhayl ex Criamon.

The magi finish their investigation of the cursed woods, still unable to determine the nature of the place. Shale is able to cut a chunk of stone out of the flat rock at the centre of the area, and determines that it doesn't have much of a magical resistance.

The magi head back towards Estancia-es-Karida. On the way, they encounter a caravan of dead women, naked and chained and probably being used as slaves. They manage to avoid contact with the slavers and soon find their way to the covenant. It has the appearance of a Roman villa, set on a cliff overlooking a valley which is filled with olive groves and vineyards. There is a small village in the valley, with a good road leading from it up to the villa. The magi first head for the village, where they find someone who speaks Latin and is able to send word to the villa.

After a short rest, they are escorted up the road to the covenant (which has a noticeable Aegis) where they are met by a woman named Isalinad a'Fatihal. She quickly determines who the magi are and invites them inside as guests. They are permitted to meet with ibn-Hudhayl ex Criamon, but first they are required to bath and put on special robes. He and the other Criamon here live in an underground section of the covenant away from the other magi.

Alica and Umbriel inform ibn-Hudhayl why they are here, and tell him some of what they know about their own fallen star. He informs them that the star fell in 1221, around the same time as theirs, but beneath it was a dead angel who spoke some final words before dying. Neither he nor the others could understand what the angel said, and can no longer remember. The 'star' seemed to be a stone of strange material which seemed to dissolve in the air over time, leaving behind a single octahedron. Investigation showed that it was strongly associated with Air, and had a resistance to Hermetic magic of around 20th magnitude. Soon after, the forest where it landed became corrupt, most probably by the infernal.

Unfortunately, they no longer have the artefact since it was stolen from the covenant in 1225. They had spoken of it to a few people, notably the magi of Numantia covenant. However, they believe that it was probably the Flambeau of Jaferiya covenant, since they are noted trouble makers who have caused them problems in the past and are on good terms with Numantia. However, they have no evidence of this and don't wish their accusations to be made public.

The magi decide that their time this season is probably better spent travelling, so decide to head east to Rellantali in Rome where they believe another fallen star has been located, and then onwards to Transylvania to try and locate the one there.

Isalinad informs them that the magi of Rellantali will not accept visitors at their fortress on the island of Asinara, but instead they should head to Venice where Rellantali have a town house from which they perform official business.

They decide they might as well visit the other covenants on the way there, and start to plan their journey.

The magi decide to leave Estancia-es-Karida and head for Rellantali covenant in the Rome Tribunal. Making their way along the southern coast of Spain and France, using a combination of flying and teleportation, they eventually reach Venice where Rellantali have their town houses where they accept visitors. It seems to be a collection of houses on the bank of the Grand Canal, surrounded by high walls and guarded by thugs. After introducing themselves as being magi (through their use of Latin, and their unnatural aura) they are met by a plump and richly dressed magus named Artur ex Jerbiton, who listens to their explanation that they are looking for information about fallen stars, and decides that they will need to talk to other magi.

They are taken through to talk to three magi of the covenant - Dareth ex Tytalus, Insidiae ex Tremere and Katherina ex Bonisagus. The three listen intently as Columbanus and Shale give a honestly blunt (in that order) account of what has happened, and why they are seeking information.

Back at Cruentis Petram, one evening Vladimir receives a message from York via the prostitute Katalin, who claims to have important news of some urgency. Initially, both are surprised to find that the other is from Hungary, and quickly switch to Hungarian for their conversation. Vladimir is initially more interested in why Katalin is here, and finds out from her that she came up to England with the mercenary group known as the Black Guards. She was in a relationship with one of the mercenaries, but she left him soon after they came to York, and she became a prostitute in order to make money. That was about ten years ago.

Eventually Katalin gets a chance to explain that there has been a fight in the brothel. Harold, who happens to be the seneschal of Voluntas covenant was down in the bar area of the brothel when he came downstairs. They both looked identical, were both dressed identical and both claimed to be the same person. They got into an argument, then a fight, and one of them as stabbed and killed whilst the other fled, heading towards Voluntas. They're not quite sure which one it was that killed the other. The body was taken through to the back and kept there until someone could come to take it away, but Katalin smuggled it out and took it to the Cathedral, which she persuaded the priests to lock it away in the crypt (she has a certain relationship with them which can be useful sometimes).

She is being paid by Marigold (who heads the covenant's network of spies) to report interesting things back to the covenant, and decided that this was definitely interesting, possibly worth money, and she doesn't like Harold (he pays her well, but his tastes are somewhat painful). With that in mind, she left for the covenant at dawn, and came here as quickly as she could. Whilst she was leaving, a cloaked figure arrived at the brothel asking about Harold, but she didn't stop to find out more.

Vladimir takes Katalin and one of the Bear mercenaries to York quickly via magic, and tries to find out what has gone on. At the brothel, they find out that the figure was a woman, pale and partially burnt, who Vladimir guesses to have been Corva ex Bjornaer from Voluntas. She spent some time questioning people, then searching around the room where the body had been kept, before leaving.

Katalin takes Vladimir to the Cathedral, where the dead Harold has been locked up. Not unsurprisingly, he rose as undead at dawn, and as been demanding his release since then. He claims that the one who killed him was an imposter, and that he must get back to Voluntas to warn them. Eventually, after further investigation, the undead Harold is let go and he heads to a town house of Voluntas in the city to get a horse and guards to take him to Voluntas.

Vladimir follows invisibly, noting that a huge storm has developed and it is now chucking it down with rain. When Harold gets to the Voluntas, a shouting match begins between the undead Harold and the one now inside, both claiming to be the real thing. Eventually guards come out to 'take him into custody', but are unable to get him into the covenant. Eventually they chain him outside in the rain, despite his protestations. Vladimir decides that he probably now has a magic aura (either because he is some magical creature, or simply because he is now undead) and can't get through the covenant's Aegis of the Hearth. For some reason, apparently no magi come to the gate of Voluntas to investigate.

He invites Katalin back to the covenant, and she inquires whether Drogo is still there. Inquiring how she knows of (the long missing) Drogo, she says that he was part of the Black Guard mercenary company, and she met him in Transylvania when the mercenaries were down there. He left the group about ten years ago to go join some wizards - presumably Cruentis Petram back when it was founded. The mercenary group are based in Whitby, and led by Michael of Kent.

Meanwhile, back in Venice, Katherina ex Bonisagus says that they know of three fallen stars - their own of Earth, one at Doissetep which is Fire, and one of Water which is held by the Tremere of Transylvania. She has been investigating their own, and has confirmed that it has a resistance against investigation of about twenty magnitudes. Investigation currently requires a lot of vis, and is quite expensive. She has determined though that it seems to have memories, or at least impressions attached to it. They are of a dark and terrible nature, and she has not probed further to determine their exact details.

There is much discussion about what the artefacts mean, and whether the theories dreamt up by the Criamon and Jerbiton as to the nature of the world, and its ending, are accurate. Insidiae does commend the magi on being 'very Tremere' - acting for the greater good of the Order.

Dareth ex Tytalus mentions that it is best to not share the information outside of the Order, since there seems to be a lot of undue interest by the Church. It seems to be coming indirectly from the nobleman Adalricus Ambrosius, who has influence in a lot of places - including House Jerbiton and the Vatican. Relantalli has lost a lot of their agents in the Church recently, but have confirmed that the Pope has died and is now ruling as undead. There have been considerable power struggles within the Vatican, which has resulted in a lot of people going missing.

Back in Yorkshire, Vladimir is woken in the early hours of the morning by yelling, and one of the covenant's mercenaries comes and demands his presence at the gate. After correcting his 'demand' to a 'request', and apologising that he wasn't sure what came over him, the mercenary says that there is a very demanding old woman who wants to see the magi.

It is Silis, the old Ex Miscellanea hedge wizard from the northern Yorkshire Moors. She demands to see the Quaesitor, and when told Vladimir is the only magus here accepts that he will have to do. Apparently there has been a grand magical battle on the northern moors, to the north of Voluntas. A large army of undead were marching on the covenant, and the magi there went out to meet it, wielding considerable magical power against it. As well as the Latin magi, there were three small giants - Muspelli - using magic alongside the known magi of Voluntas. The magi seemed to win, though with casualties, and then headed northwest in the direction of the demon lord Konstantin.

Vladimir flies quickly to Voluntas, and finds that it is under attack. Undead have got through the walls and are fighting the covenfolk. A ring of chanting undead and fires surrounds the covenant - possibly some ritual has been used to bring down the Aegis of the Hearth.

Heading off in search of the magi, he finds the remains of a large scale battle below Konstantin's fortress. Lava bubbles from some rocks, there are frozen flood waters and plenty of dead bodies - mostly undead, but no sign of any living. Avoiding a draconic beast that tries to track him, he eventually finds one survivor - a large nordic looking woman. Though she barely speaks Latin or English, he eventually persuades her to go back to the covenant with him.

Back at the covenant he leaves a message for the other magi, calling for them to return immediately.

The following morning, the magi in Venice perform their usual scrying and pick up the message. They thank Relentalli for their aid, and Alicia teleports them back to Cruentis Petram.

However, it is not Cruentis Petram that arrive at, but in some small dark underground cells. Breaking out, they determine that there is a large infernal aura here, and Alicia is unable to teleport away. Fighting a demonic gaoler, they try to find their way out. As they progress towards what they assume is the surface, the temperature begins to rise rapidly, and a dull red glow can be seen coming from above.

The stairs come out onto a stone ledge about twenty paces wide, which stretches for maybe half a mile along a vertical stone wall. Beyond the ledge, maybe half a mile away, a second wall rises at an angle, meeting the first some distance far above. The magi cannot see the floor beneath the ledge, but the entire place is lit by fires from below, and a tremendous heat rises from the depths.

The ledge is filled with moaning, crying, gibbering people. They are short, lacking in detailed features and slightly transparent. They crowd the whole ledge, trying to avoid the edge as best they can. Towering over them are several whip carrying demons. There is a short fight between the magi and the demons, in which the latter are slain. A few of the spirit people are knocked off the ledge in the fight, and terrible screams are heard from below.

In the far distance is a doorway, which the magi head towards. It is guarded by two large tentacular monsters, though Shale is able to construct stone walls around them, preventing them from attacking. Heading through the doorway, it leads up to a black marble throne room, lit by braziers formed from the burning flesh of screaming souls, and decorated with vile carvings. Upon a throne sits a large female, with long arms and legs, her skin criss crossed with hard bony ridges, and carrying a sceptre. She seems to be served by the tortured souls of women, who lay about the room, watching the magi. She Who Sits welcomes the 'visitors', and demands to know what they seek. When the magi refuse to answer, she offers them a ring, which she says will take them home. Still they refuse to answer, and so in her anger she summons up acidic webs which surround them and bind them fast from which even Shale is unable to break free.

As the acid starts to burn into them, Columbanus tries to destroy her but loses control of his magic, barely avoiding Twilight. Whilst Umbriel tries to use magic against the webs, Shale and the Demoness have a fight of sorts, but she manages to dodge his earth magic, and he is able to block her poisonous attacks with his own defences. Alicia manages to teleport Angus out of the webs, but he teleports back to the prison cells rather than just outside the webs. Suddenly, the Demoness seems to retreat, taking to smoke form and vanishing. Several of the slaves had been harmed or killed by the magi in the combat.

Escaping the webs, the magi open the doors and see a vast plain of dark sand. In the far distance are white capped mountain peaks, but before them is a burning forest, and a river of liquid fire. Not too far away is what looks like a city on the plain. The door to the throne room seems to open out of the side of a gigantic cliff face, which stretches for many miles in both directions, holding back a vast lake of fire.

At this point the magi are tired and thirsty. They do not seem to be recovering from magic which has fatigued them, and there is no sign of water of any type. Heading towards the city, they find it to be in ruins, but populated by hordes of souls. All are in bad shape, fighting over a single well outside a ruined cathedral. Many of those around the well seem to be in great pain, with long worms burrowing out of their bodies.

Nearby though is someone different - a man who seems to be alive, though he has lost his mind. He does not remember his name, though speaks Latin when he can remember the words, and calls himself only Diedne. He says that the souls of the dead gather here to hide from the demons that roam the wastelands, and that he has heard that the mountains offer hope. The well quenches thirst, but things live in it which grow out of those that drink its water, causing great pain. He is also infected with the worms, when he has drunk because he can no longer stand the pain of thirst.

By this point many of the magi are weak from dehydration and exhaustion. Umbriel still has strength left, and flies to the mountains to see if she can find a way out. They are covered in snow, but it is acidic and undrinkable. However, high in the peaks is a large statue of a demon, beneath which is a passage that seems to lead out of the infernal realm, to some unknown mountains in the middle world.

She manages to shrink down some snow and carry it back to the city, providing a small amount of water to the rest. They come up with a plan that will enable them to fly across the burning forest to the mountains, avoiding the demons and hopefully reaching there before exhaustion takes them. Umbriel and Alicia argue about what to do with the Diedne, Alicia wanting to leave him here to rot in hell, or better yet, killed. Eventually it is decided to take him with them.

Eventually they make it outside of the infernal regio, and find a place to rest in the mountains. By morning, the rift into the regio has closed. Exploring further, they find that they are in the Alps, and manage to locate the covenant of the Sinews of Knowledge in order to rest and heal.

At Cruentis Petram Vladimir has heard nothing from the other magi since getting their message that they would be heading back as quickly as possible, so he begins preparing the covenant in case it is attacked.

The mercenaries are sent out on patrols around the covenant, where they encounter a few skeletal undead who seem to be scouting the area. They are generally driven off or killed without any casualties. The content of the library is moved to the Cave of the Moon.

Checking in on Voluntas, he meets with Corva who has survived, though she has taken to wearing dark grey robes that cover her entire body. She says that only she and Adric survived the assaults, and that they are planning on moving into the city of York.

A few days pass with no further word from the other magi. Several of the mercenaries report seeing norse wizard Valka taking on demonic form whilst outside the covenant, and performing rituals. Vladimir confronts her about this, and she says that it is simply her etin-mod, her Giant form which she takes on when blessed by the giantess Urdur, mother of Odin. In that form she can better commune with her patron. She then grows in size, to about twice the height of Vladimir, and her legs form into the body of a serpent. Vladimir decides to trust her.

After a couple of weeks, news is finally received from the other magi, who are resting up in the Alps after their escape from Hell. They return as quickly as they can, with the exception of Alicia who heads to the Caves of Twisting Shadows instead.

Vladimir and Colombanus head to York, to find Adric and Corva and question them further about the attack, and Corva provides them with much detail as she can. It seems that the main threat were infernal Wyverns who breathed a fire which shredded the Parma Magica of magi. Many of them were destroyed, but a few still remain protecting Lord Konstantin's castle. It would appear that the majority of his army has been destroyed, but the magi were defeated whilst trying to break through its defences.

midnight/history/1228/1.txt · Last modified: 2018/12/22 15:24 by sam