The ArM4 supplement Heirs to Merlin, by David Chart, briefly details five male Stonehenge Redcaps (Jocelin, Percival, Great William, Little William and Edgar) based out of the so-called Mercer House near Coventry, a location that is geographically central (pages 114-115).
Although no longer canonical for fifth edition, the supplement contains no game statistics and the material within can be readily adapted to ArM5 (or potentially adapted to a different game system and used as background setting material).
The Mercer House and Redcaps mentioned in Heirs to Merlin differ somewhat from the later ArM5 versions (for details see Houses of Hermes: True Lineages, pages 82-88). These differences may be readily developed however and may create interesting stories.
Firstly, there is no senior Redcap running the House, although Perceval, the eldest Redcap, would be the logical choice as his family lives within its grounds and his ten year old son, Guy, would seem to be next in line for a job as messenger when his father “retires” and may therefore make a suitable apprentice level character for a Stonehenge Saga. In a beginning ArM5 Saga, Percival may already have retired, with one of the Troupe’s Companions assuming his former role and duties while the older man stays behind and manages the Mercer House. For concepts suitable to retired Redcaps, see my article “Training Packages for Redcaps” in Sub Rosa #13 (aka “the Diedne Issue”).
Second, the Redcap’s base is not clearly associated with one of the nearby Hermetic covenants or co-located with a settlement of Hermetic magi. The only Gifted Mercere mentioned on page 132, Viator of Ungulus, does not appear to be closely associated with the Redcaps at all – he’s in fact retired to “develop a magical means of communication between covenants which will not compromise their magical defenses against each other”, which sounds like he wants to replace the Redcaps altogether!
Such an independent setup is quite unlike Harco (Roman), Durenmar (Rhine), Dragon’s Rest + Cunfin (Normandy), Alexandria (Theban) and Shrouded Bay (Transylvanian). This may not necessarily problematic as the temporary Mercer House set up at the Champagne fair (see TLatL, page 111 and City & Guild, page 108) is similarly removed geographically and politically, although it is perhaps technically still associated with Cunfin as it is run by one of the Redcaps from there. One option is to associate it with an existing nearby covenant such as Blackthorn or Scholae Pythagoris, but neither covenant is actually very close to Coventry, even with the aid of Hermetic magic. The chaotic politics of the Stonehenge Tribunal may make this problematic as control of the Mercer House means control of the messages to summon a Tribunal and political influence – this may suit Sagas where Blackthorn is ascendant. Alternatively, the upkeep of the Mercer House may be the responsibility of the player covenant, but this may be considered limiting without major modification unless playing a non-magi or Redcap only Saga. Relocating the Mercer House to the London Bridge Covenant perhaps makes some sense as although London is not geographically central, it is the mundane political centre and the hub of the major road networks that traverse England (and Wales).
The third difference is that the Mercer House contains a Hermes Portal to Harco, which is used once a month to send messages. This presents a difficulty as the ritual requires substantial vis (15 pawns at each end) and a magus capable of casting the ritual must be physically present, traveling to the site on a monthly basis. Even if the exorbitant vis cost was justified, the latter requirement is clearly prohibitive and replacing the ritual spell with a Mercere Portal to Harco makes more sense (see HoH:TL, pages 80 and 100-101 for details). A magically unguarded conduit direct to the Domus Magna of Mercere in a political disunited backwater could be seen as a security liability however, so who or perhaps what guards the gateway if there are no Hermetic magi or a Redcap guardian present?
fifth point is the magic items of the Stonehenge Redcaps themselves. Unlike the magic items for Victor the Redcap or Ash of the Broken Branches (See BCoC, pages 10-11), these are not detailed due to the supplement’s lack of game statistics but can be summarised as follows:
- a ring that gives magic resistance
- an enchanted shield
- a brooch which makes a mount and its rider invisible
- boots that allow faster than normal walking
- a large axe enchanted to be more accurate
- a suit of chainmail enchanted to be lighter
The first item sounds like a ArM4 relic, legacy magic items that break the Limit of Universal Magic Resistance and thus non-canonical in ArM5. Optional rules for this sort of lesser enchanted item as a potential Breakthrough are given in the description for Parmulae (see Houses of Hermes: True Lineages, page 32-33).
The second item is a bit vague, but the third item is effectively just a derivation of an Invisibility Cloak with a Veil of Invisibility style effect boosted to a spell level of 35 (to affect rider and horse: +2 Group, +1 Requisite: An; already Touch range) and does not suffer from the issue with the Leap of Homecoming effect above as the Base level is 4 as opposed to 35. I’ll add a formal write up to my page on magic cloaks sometime, as although I note Percival is said to have a magic brooch, the two types of items really belong in the same thematic category.
The last three items are relatively simple effects. The boots could confer either a low level ReCo effect or a straight boost in Qickness (as a Minor Virtue, 30 spell levels). Great William’s magical axe may simply confer the effects of the Puissant Single Weapon Minor Virtue on the wielder and Little William’s armour is enchanted with a low-level ReTe effect that offsets the item’s significant encumbrance penalty.
Fourthly Finally, in terms of the actual Redcaps as a group, David writes that in the Stonehenge Tribunal:
Each Redcap has an enchanted item which can cast a higher level version of Leap of Homecoming once per day. This effect will bring a Redcap and his horse back to the central courtyard of Mercer House from anywhere in the tribunal.
While thematic, an item that virtually teleports a horse and rider back home is actually a significantly higher level effect than the standard Leap of Homecoming (ReCo 35) spell favoured by unmounted Redcaps. In fact it’s possibly as much as 4 magnitudes higher (+1 Touch, +2 Group, +1 Requisite: An) or level 55, but this then becomes a ritual spell, although it can still be placed in an enchanted item as it’s only a ritual due to its spell level. The Messenger’s Shortcut, a level 45 spell introduced in Transforming Mythic Europe, page 108, only transports a rider and his mount 1 league and suffers the same issue if trying to boost the range. Enchanting this latter effect into a magical device with 24 uses per day for a total level 50 effect (the maximum a starting newly Gauntleted Redcap is allowed) allows the Redcap to travel in multiple short hops up to 72 miles, which is only enough to travel from West Drayton (old Middlesex) near London back to the Mercer House – somewhat short of the range of the intended “teleport home” from anywhere in the Tribunal effect and decidedly “unMythic” in execution at that. A potential solution that retains the original thematic elements is presented in the following insert.
How to Lead a Horse to Water
One way of resolving the Leap of Homecoming style effect of Stonehenge’s mounted Redcaps is the creative use of the Hermetic parameter Target: Circle instead of Target: Group. This drops the magnitude of the effect by 2 (10 levels) but requires the Redcap to draw a ring (see ArM5 page 112) around his stationary mount first. For ease of use, the enchanted object may be one capable of being used as a tool to draw a ring – this may be a wand, staff or perhaps even a seemingly mundane weapon (Great William’s axe or Little William’s sword to use the Stonehenge examples). Once the ring is drawn, the Redcap can mount his horse or stand beside it while placing a hand on its neck and activate the effect. Although this makes it an impractical spell to use in combat, the original description implies that Stonehenge Redcaps travel to covenants by mundane means and use the effect to return to the courtyard of Mercer House once they have passed just beyond the boundary of a covenant’s Aegis.
Succour of Coventry
ReCo(An) 45 R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Circle Pen 0, 1/day
This variant of the Leap of Homecoming spell transports a horse and its rider to any location the caster has an Arcane Connection. This spell is usually enchanted into a long staff or tool and the destination is traditionally set as the courtyard of the Mercer House of the Stonehenge Tribunal. Unlike The Messenger’s Shortcut (TME, page 108), this spell is not designed to effect only 2 particular individuals in order to avoid warping and affects anyone or anything within the ring drawn. Although this exposes the Recap and his mount to the effect of warping (1 Warping point each per use), it does allow the pair to readily transport back additional people or materials made of animals or bone provided they are within the ring at the time of casting.
(Base 35, +1 Touch, +1 Requisite)