A Visit to Verdi

Recently, my researches in Terram magicks led me down the course of Theophrastus' work on gems and minerals. Since the life that gems possess is normally extremely subtle and slow in nature, I experimentally researching a spell to speed the reproduction and development of gemstones in hopes of producing specimens of excellent magical properties. I decided that a proper test would require a fair number of gems of different types to support a breeding population. Since the Roman Tribunal offers an excellent price in silver for vis and the Aristeia can easily make eight hundred miles in a single day, I judged it expedient to make a quick trip to sell vis at Verdi, Domus Magnus of House Verditius, in the ten days between seasons. My sodalis Corvus d'Arezzo of Jerbiton accompanied me, as he was also in need of cash.

Finding the place itself was a bit tricky, given that the covenant is protected by The Shrouded Glen. Fortunately, Amurgsval is also so warded, and the tricks of paying attention to landmarks and so on are useful in both places. Still, if such directions were not made available to those stopping by Verdi's townhouse in Venice, the place would be very difficult to find.

Verdi itself is an impressive covenant. It is located in a valley hidden in the eastern mountains of the island of Sardinia, off the western coast of Italy; it is not far from a well-concealed harbor on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The place appears to show considerable inspiration from the height of the Roman Empire. There is a small lake above the covenant that feeds an aqueduct which, in turn, provides running water for all the buildings of Verdi; the overflow spills down to reach the harbour a few miles away.

The buildings themselves are exceedingly comfortable, with marble floors heated from beneath by the hypocaust carrying a flow of heated air from an underground furnace. The main covenant building was obviously crafted through Conjuring the Mystic Tower, but it seems clear that some amenities have been added that one does not find in the standard spell, such as privies with water flowing underneath. The adjacent buildings are all of solid construction, and could easily be mistaken for Roman make in an excellent state of preservation.

The "lake" above, really an artificial reservoir, also serves to provide for the dinners of the magi. There are a number of various ponds adjoining the reservoir, separated by levees with wicker gridwork to permit a flow of fresh water through without allowing the escape of the fish. These piscinari were apparently some of the work of Daedaelus of Verditius, who had looked into the matters mentioned by Columella and Pliny. Apparently, more of the "fish farms", these for saltwater fish, lurk down near the harbour.

The magi of Verdi immediately crawled out of the woodwork when the news came that a magus in an enchanted vessel had arrived to sell vis for cash. With new and interesting enchantments as a centerpiece of conversation, even the more laboratory-bound magi were soon chatting and praising the quality of the Amurgsvalian beer we had brought along.

The Navis Magica

When Daedalus of Verditius heard I had arrived on an enchanted vessel, he immediately wished to examine my creation, for comparison to his own Navis Magica, a splendid example of what a rich Verditius can create given time and inspiration.

The Navis is a huge vessel, dwarfing the Aristeia; it is 200 feet long, boasting two masts and three great wheels, much like those found on a mill, save that these turn in order to propel the ship, rather than being turned by the motion of water. (He claims the inspiration for the wheels came from an anonymous Roman manuscript entitled by De Rebus Bellicus, from the fourth century AD; for a magus with strong talents in Herbam, it becomes much easier than enchantments for dealing with the wind and waves.)

The ship has three decks, two complete Hermetic laboratories magically stabilised against the rocking of high seas, a large tank of fresh water (complete with an enchanted pump that removes the salt from sea water as it fills it), and a small but quite comfortable library. (A small curiosity from the library: an ink pot of eight sides with an opening in each side, that one may turn in any direction yet still be able to dip a pen in the inkwell. This device does not spill; it apparently works by a series of concentric metal rings that each rotate within an outer one. Daedalus attributes the notion to Philon of Byzantium, of the second century BC.) The vessel needs merely to anchor itself in a good magic aura, and it is well equipped for service as a small covenant.

Herbam magicks toughen its hull and control its behavior in the seas: this is one vessel that needs no ballast, nor worries about being overloaded! The ballistae and catapults are impressive in their efficacy; Daedalus informs me that even before enchanting, they can hurl an arrow three feet long almost an entire mile, and are part of the reason Rome carried such glory in battle.

A number of the more adventuresome Verditii have contributed to its enchantments, as they often take it out into the Mediterranean in order to hunt great sea creatures for their vis. (Sagittarius of Verditius has amassed an amazing collection of notes on the beasts of the seas he plans to compile into an excellent tome of fantastic beast lore; his enchanted bow makes him the equal of many Flambeaux.)

Daedalus informed me that, while no vessel of such size travels the Mediterranean any more, that even greater ones were constructed in days gone by. The Navis is quite small compared to the warship Ptolemy IV built in the third century BC, and would be quite dwarfed by the Syracusa, commissioned by King Hiero II of Syracuse and designed by the shipwright Archias near the same time. The Syracusa apparently took a year to construct, had twenty banks of oars, three masts, could carry 1800 tons of cargo, and was equipped with twenty stalls for horses, huge kitchens, a and a gymnasium.

Daedalus proposed a race between the Aristeia, which is powered by winds and currents, and the Navis, which is powered primarily by its wheels, but when I pointed out that my vessel is capable of flight he laughed and conceded my unusual design has its advantages.

Daedalus of Verditius

Daedalus is, perhaps, the closest thing that House Verditius has to a Seeker. Fortunately, he is a practical man and his seeking is after the keys to greatness of the Greeks and Romans in the height of their power. The combination of the ingenuity of the ancients and the power of Hermetic magic creates a wondrous package.

I was pleased to discover that, in addition to sailing, we share an interest in construction and architecture. The majority of work with the reservoir, aqueduct, and sewer at Verdi is in fact Daedalus' work, using magic to move and shape stone in days what took months to achieve through mundane labour. (He claims the work of the Roman author Vitruvius, particularly his On Architecture, is invaluable.) His primary tool is a surveying instrument called a diopter, invented by Heron of Alexandria. It is capable of measuring angles both horizontal and vertical, and determines the lay of the horizon with a water level. This device is, of course, enchanted to be far more useful than any mundane instrument. It is quite capable of supporting huge masses of stone in the air while shaping them into a configuration that will hold fast on its own once magical support is removed. Indeed, the vis cost of this device was hardly more than three castings of Conjuring the Mystic Tower, and in the hands of a skilled architect-magus, it could raise a great number of them indeed!

Daedalus explained that part of the reason for the Navis Magica's great size is its need for transporting large cargoes, though its lush appointments are certainly not to be sneezed at. He has often taken his diopter on journeys to quarry granite and marble for his projects; on other occasions, the vessel has carried complete sea serpents within its hold for dissection back at Verdi.

The Wonders of Verdi

While passing Verdi Light, work of the apostate Nerius who forsook the Order to follow Yahweh, Father of Demons, I insisted on checking the vicinity for Dominion and Infernal auras and warned the magi of Verdi that the Dominion is no less subtle and treacherous than its enforcement arm, the Infernal. The aura near the Light is magical still, but who knows when the forces that oppose magic will strike? Some of the magi insisted I was paranoid, but more cautious ones nodded their heads and agreed that such vigilance is useful.

This led, of course, to the usual lament of the Roman Tribunal about the fading of vis sources. I believe the Verditii become convinced I was abnormal for a Flambeau when I pointed out that one can gain a great deal more vis by working with faeries, rather than battling them all on general principles. (Perhaps I should have simply debated the Enigma with them, rather than pointing out that a Flambeau and a Merinita cooperating could recover far more vis with far less risk and long-term problems than two Flambeaux.) It is a pity that even the mercenary hearts of Verditii cling to tradition, rather than turning toward the ways of power when they are presented clearly.

Past Verdi Light is a most impressive device, halfway between clock and orrery. It is a donation from ?Stargazer? of Bonisagus, who chose to publish his developments toward piercing the Lunar Sphere with a demonstration item at Verdi as well as a lab text. This device charts the motion of the crystal spheres, showing the motions of the Sun and Moon (including the lunar phase) and all five planets as well as the fixed stars. It needs no Auram magicks to pierce clouds; it operates using pure Intéllego Vim by determining the subtle influences all these bodies exert on the tides of magic within the Lunar Sphere. Daedalus remarked that such a device could make it easy to determine one's location at sea, and that he may construct a portable version at some point.

An account of the myriad enchantments of Verdi would exhaust the reader almost as thoroughly as a complete tour of them would exhaust a visitor. Creations from all over the Order have been brought here since Verditius Gauntleted his first apprentices, and it is hard to find a bulding or a grog that does not have some magical assistance. While a great number of devices rely on the pure power of enchantment, the Verditii tend to squeeze the most out of their work through use of effects any natural philosopher or engineer could achieve. This has a delightfully synergistic effect: the better a device is at accomplishing its intended purpose, the better a bonus it gives toward the enchantment-- which then has to use less power in performing mundane tasks. The craftsmen of Verditius have the twin joys of learning for decades on end while using magical tools more subtle and powerful than any that a mundane craftsman could wield. Surely, some of the finest artifice in the world is produced by this House, even before a single pawn of vis has been invested.