Ars Magica - Nigrasaxa
A relatively new covenant, founded in 1210 by Maximianus of Bonisagus.
Nestled in a small valley in southern Dorset, the covenant sits only a third of a mile from the shoreline of the English Channel. Nearby a stream runs down the valley, but dissappears into the ground before reaching the sea. The valley and hills on either side are grassy but largely devoid of larger vegetation, allowing those in the towers of the covenant fairly clear lines of sight all around. A single track, wide enough for a wagon, leads to the covenant from where it branches off from a larger road running between the settlements of Weymouth and Portesham.
The land the covenant lies on is part of the holdings of Lord Robert. Before establishing Nigrasaxa, Maximianus gave Robert aid in acquiring his inheritance (he was the youngest of four male children), earning the young nobleman's enduring gratitude. In return, Lord Robert has allowed the covenant and its members to reside on his land with no requirement of vassalage, obedience or payment; in fact he also offers the covenant a yearly stipend.
Physical Appearance and Layout
Nigrasaxa proper consists of two tall towers of shining black rock. They were conjured by magic, and their outer surfaces are smooth except where there are windows. The towers stand close together, and are linked by two short bridges, one about twenty feet from the ground and the other fifty feet or so. Only one of the towers contains a door: all access to the second tower is from the first. Only magi of the covenant are permitted to use the upper bridgeway, and visitors are generally forbidden from entering the second tower altogether.
There are also a few wooden outbuildings including stables, workshops for blacksmithing, tinsmithing, carpentry, cobbling and chandlery, and the residences of the fishermen. Among this cluster of buildings there is a well, and between the buildings and the towers is the field most commonly used by the turb for training.
The first tower, also known as the public tower, consists of nine floors:
- The lowermost floor begins about 30 feet below ground, and contains vaulted chambers with ceilings up to 20 feet high, used for storage (mainly of foodstuffs, raw materials, general tools and furniture, etc).
- Next is another level used for storage as the floor below, but with lower ceilings, up to 10 feet high.
- Above the storage floors, roughly level with the ground, are the kitchen, larder and bakery. There is an internal well here as well.
- The fourth floor is the entrance level (there's a wooden stairway on the outside of the tower rising from the ground to the entryway on this level). As well as a receiving chamber, there are guardrooms, and a couple of small rooms used as guest quarters when required.
- This entire level is occupied by the Great Hall, and it reaches more than 20 feet high. The lower connecting bridge to the second tower extends from here.
- Here are the chambers and offices for the covenant's steward and chamberlain. Currently William of Thanet is the only occupant of this floor, and he has more than ample space. Some of this area is used to accommodate guests when necessary.
- This level has a scriptorium and scribe's quarters. The upper connecting bridge extends from here.
- The library occupies this entire level, containing texts on both mundane and magical matters, as well as Maximianus' Lab Texts. Many shelves are empty at the moment.
- The highest floor contains the Small Hall, or Council Chamber; commonly used for meetings between the magi of the covenant, and to entertain visiting magi. There are also a couple of small rooms that are currently unoccupied, and used as guest quarters when necessary.
The second tower contains the private areas of the covenant: the barracks and sancta. There are ten floors in this tower:
- Much the same as the first floor in the other tower, but generally more valuable things are stored here – weapons and armour, furniture and materials for the magi and companions, etc).
- Also another storage floor for more valuable or precious equipment.
- This floor is full of rooms used as quarters for covenfolk.
- This floor is also quarters for covenfolk, including rooms for all of the turb.
- The covenant's companions are quartered here.
- Here there are storerooms (no vaulted ceilings) for the magi, most importantly for the covenant's vis stores (and Maximianus' parens' liver), but also for unused lab equipment, materials, etc. Much of this level is currently bare.
- Two of the magi have their sancta and labs on this level.
- Two of the magi have their sancta and labs on this level.
- Two of the magi have their sancta and labs on this level.
- This entire floor was Maximianus' sanctum and lab, but is now a large, bare, badly scorched couple of rooms.
As of Autumn 1220, there are 56 human residents of the covenant, including magi and companions.
The day-to-day operation of the covenant is handled by William of Thanet. He has been the autocrat since the covenant was founded, and is very good at his job. He is starting to get old however, and it isn't clear who will take over from him. William is overweight, and his grey hair is thinning.
The turb is led by a woman, Eleanor Sworder. She has been in charge for five years, and has ambitions to be a knight. It is hard to see how these can ever be realised, but that doesn't seem to bother her unduly. She has an ugly scar on her left cheek, and there are numerous rumours as to its origin.
Gloomy Oswyn was once a guild recognised master blacksmith, but his business fell on hard times and ultimately he made some poor decisions which resulted in him being driven out of Wareham. Fortunately he was taken in by Maximianus, who saw no need to waste the smith's impressive skill; though Oswyn seems barely grateful most of the time, displaying a defeatism which he shares with the curious talking shrew which can usually be found near him. Despite his attitude, Oswyn plies his craft in the mediocre workshop at Nigrasaxa, not only contributing to the upkeep of the covenant, but also manufacturing goods to sell at local markets, as well as lengths of iron wire which he sells to the armourers of Corfe castle to be used to make and repair chainmail.
In addition to Oswyn, there are 4 other craftsmen at Nigrasaxa, however none of them approach the master smith in skill level.
The Welshman Dafydd is the covenant's carpenter. He and his three apprentices have plenty of work at the moment doing repairs and replacements of the interior pieces of woodwork (floors, ceilings, support beams mostly; furniture is not his strong-point but he does what he can) that were damaged or destroyed in Maximianus' Final Twilight.
As a chandler, Rowena makes candles – an important product, especially in a covenant – and soaps. She is not particularly skilled at her craft, but she works hard, and usually manages to accrue a small surplus of product which she sells at markets or to the occasional visitor to the covenant.
Claramunda cobbles together footwear for the residents of Nigrasaxa, and also sometimes sells her excess wares to supplement the covenant's income. The pitter patter of tiny feet can usually be heard in her vicinity – she has four small children who are not yet old enough to work in the covenant.
Pitney is the covenant's tinker, creating and repairing items made of light metals that can be mostly worked cold, i.e. without the need of a forge. He seems to have an abnormal fear of thunder and loud noises for a grown man (and especially one who works in a covenant of magi), so poor Pitney came close to fleeing the covenant for good when fire and flame roared throughout the covenant in the wake of Maximianus' death.
Nigrasaxa's turb consists of 9 warrior grogs, as well as Eleanor, their captain. Overall they are reasonably well equipped, if not uniformly so – some have full or partial suits of chainmail, while others wear leather or scale armour. Weapons are likewise varied. In addition to the turb's personal gear, there are some extra stocks of arms and armour in the covenant: two partial suits of leather scale, two round shields, two heater shields, two short spears, two axes, four long spears and two short bows.
Tancred, a skilled swordsman from Brittany across the channel, sees to their training in arms.
There are two huge, well armoured axemen. But where Rune prefers to stand indomitable in the front line, Fost will recklessly charge the foe with a wild cry (he would probably bite his shield too, but he doesn't have one any more).
The grizzled veteran Hardcnut wields axe or sword with equal, brutal efficiency, and is also a competent archer, though he has a tendency to talk back to magi.
Durin the Dane, Norwood, Winoc, Dubslane, and Nogga No-tits make up the rest of the turb, armed variously with swords, axes, spears and bows.
Overall, the grogs of the turb, dirty and hard, have little time or care for the chivalrous attitude of their captain, which often leads to Eleanor becoming angry and frustrated. Even so, the turb seems to have a healthy amount of respect for their captain.
A trio of fisher folk do what they can to provide sustenance to the covenant by fishing the seashore nearby and local waterways. They sometimes venture out to sea on a small wooden boat.
Young Henry Winker is the covenant's messenger boy. His cognomen derives from the physical condition which afflicts his left eye. Henry has spent most of his life in the covenant, and likely knows it better than anyone else (including Maximianus, who can be forgetful of matters that are not at the forefront of his mind).
There are 13 other servants besides Henry, including a blacksmith's apprentice, three carpenter's apprentices, cook, baker, maids and stablehands.
The vast majority of provisions and supplies for the covenant are sourced from several towns, villages and markets in Dorset. A crew of 8 buyers, wagoners and haulers procure and transport these necessities for the covenant.
The four children of Claramunda are too young to contribute anything significant to the covenant, while Oswyn's wife and the father of one of the teamsters no longer perform duties due to decrepitude.
The covenant currently has a low income stream. Profits from the sale of the various wares that the crafters make brings in about 10 pounds per year (most of that coming from Oswyn's work). Another 30 pounds per year come from donations by Lord Robert, bringing the total income to about 40 pounds per year.
Against this, maintenance of covenant buildings costs 11 pounds per year; the upkeep of six laboratories 6 pounds per year (Maximianus' old lab is totalled so no longer requires maintenance); annual wages for covenfolk total 19 pounds; writing materials cost 6 pounds per year; weapons and armour for the turb and spares cost 2 pounds per year to maintain; and consumables and provisions account for 66 pounds per year. The resident crafters and labourers save the covenant 22 pounds per year in these expenditures, but the total still comes to 88 pounds per year, meaning Nigrasaxa is currently looking at a yearly shortfall of 48 pounds.
Fortunately the covenant is not in danger of impoverishment yet, as Maximianus left a small hoard of silver coins, stamped with the head of King John, and worth about 200 pounds.
: [20 pawns of vis] preserved larvae of the Blandford fly.
: [4 pawns of vis] dark brown chunky powder, stored in glass vials.
: [12 pawns of vis] blood stored in vials.
: [7 pawns of vis] scrolls of papyrus bearing Coptic writings.
: [12 pawns of vis] vials containing a clear liquid.
: [12 pawns of vis] foot-long lengths of a rope-like material coloured violet.
: On the shore of a bend in the river Stour, downstream from Blandford, in amongst the ruins of a Roman-era temple now overgrown with weeds, new generations of Blandford flies are hatched every summer. An ancient, partially submerged marble basin is packed with larvae over a couple of weeks, and these may be gathered for 5 pawns of raw Animal vis each year.
: Maximianus has a glass jar containing what he claims to be the liver of his now deceased parens. At the start of every season he fills the vessel with a particular solution (made using common ingredients from the lab), and then leaves it to steep for the remainder of the season before gently heating the vessel in an alembic. The precipitate which eventually forms in the receiving vessel may then be harvested for a single pawn of raw Corpus vis.
: Agnes the crone, despite her considerable age, has not passed through menopause, and her menstrual blood contains Creo vis. At the start of autumn each year she brings a quantity of it to the covenant which contains 3 pawns worth of raw Creo vis.
: The story goes that Nelda was the daughter of a powerful and rich chieftain. She fled his house and his riches in order to marry a lowly shepherd. They were happy until the chieftain’s men found them and chased the shepherd out into Romney marsh. Nelda followed swiftly but lost, alone, and despairing she slipped into a stream and was drowned, never knowing if her beloved husband had lived or died.
Now, when autumn turns to winter (winter solstice), the place where she died seems to remember her. It starts with echoes of her voice, calling out again and again for Eadgar, her husband. The echoes can be followed to the place where Nelda drowned, and there she appears, bent double on her knees, grasping at the earth, wailing and crying with a despair like no other. Those without Magic Resistance or supernatural abilities experience a temporary +1 Despair Personality Trait. Those affected by the trait who break down and cry with Nelda’s spirit find that their tears contain Mentem vis.
Romney marsh is about 150 miles to the east of Nigrasaxa, making the expedition out there and back to the covenant a process that takes about two to three weeks (using mundane transport). Six pawns of Mentem vis can be collected on the night that Nelda returns.
Nigrasaxa is currently empty of enchanted items – the few that were in the covenant were in Maximianus' sanctum or lab and consequently destroyed.
All of these texts are written in latin. Most were authored by Maximianus, with the rest written by a handful of other magi.
Health and True Function of the Human Form (Summa, Corpus; Quality 9, Level 15)
The Passage of the Waves (Summa, Aquam; Quality 7, Level 10)
Change and Renewal and Decay (Summa, Muto; Quality 5, Level 12)
Threshold of Resurrection (Tractatus, Corpus; Quality 11)
Warrior's Deliverance (Tractatus, Corpus; Quality 10)
Full Health and Vitality (Tractatus, Corpus; Quality 8)
The Lame Leap (Tractatus, Corpus; Quality 6)
Watching Over (Tractatus, Corpus; Quality 6)
Purging the Infection (Tractatus, Corpus; Quality 5)
Closing the Wounds (Tractatus, Corpus; Quality 4)
Questions and Justice (Tractatus, Mentem; Quality 4)
Authority and Humility (Tractatus, Mentem; Quality 4)
On Standing Firm (Tractatus, Terram; Quality 3)
Health and Healing (Summa, Medicine; Quality 9, Level 6)
On the Order (Summa, Order of Hermes Lore; Quality 8, Level 4)
On the Eye (Tractatus, Medicine; Quality 10)
On Bleeding (Tractatus, Medicine; Quality 8)
On Congestion of the Lungs (Tractatus, Medicine; Quality 8)
On the Stars and Humours (Tractatus, Medicine; Quality 7)
On the Limits of Magic (Tractatus, Magic Theory; Quality 5)
The Hermetic Arts (Tractatus, Magic Theory; Quality 4)
All of these spells were written by Maximianus, but they have been decrypted from his personal notes so that they are readily understandable by any magus. They are all described in the core rulebook.
Parching Wind (PeAq 20)
Curse of the Desert (PeAq 25)
Bind Wound (CrCo 10)
Charm Against Putrefaction (CrCo 10)
Gentle Touch of the Purified Body (CrCo 20)
The Chirurgeon's Healing Touch (CrCo 20)
Restoration of the Defiled Body (CrCo 25)
The Severed Limb Made Whole (CrCo 25)
Incantation of the Body Made Whole (CrCo 40)
Physician's Eye (InCo 5)
Revealed Flaws of Mortal Flesh (InCo 10)
The Inexorable Search (InCo 20)
The Eye of the Sage (InCo 30)
Sight of the True Form (InCo 30)
Disguise of the New Visage (MuCo 15)
Gift of the Bear's Fortitude (MuCo 25)
Dust to Dust (PeCo 15)
Rise of the Feathery Body (ReCo 10)
Endurance of the Berserkers (ReCo 15)
Gift of the Frog's Legs (ReCo 15)
The Gift of Vigor (ReCo 20)
The Leap of Homecoming (ReCo 35)
Illusion of the Shifted Image (ReIm 10)
The Captive Voice (ReIm 25)
Confusion of the Insane Vibrations (ReIm 30)
Image from the Wizard Torn (ReIm 30)
Haunt of the Living Ghost (CrIm 35)
Gift of Reason (CrMe 35)
Frosty Breath of the Spoken Lie (InMe 20)
Posing the Silent Question (InMe 20)
Thoughts Within Babble (InMe 25)
Peering into the Mortal Mind (InMe 30)
Aura of Rightful Authority (ReMe 20)
Hands of the Grasping Earth (ReTe 15)
Sense of the Lingering Magic (InVi 30)
Sight of the Active Magics (InVi 40)
Wizard's Communion (MuVi 20)
Wind of Mundane Silence (PeVi 20 AND PeVi 40)
Demon's Eternal Oblivion (PeVi 30 AND PeVi 40)
Aegis of the Hearth (ReVi 20 AND ReVi 30)