I developed this concept for the Levant initially but it applies equally if not more to potential Hermetic foundings in the Mythic Middle East and links in nicely to the Mongol material presented in The Cradle and the Crescent.
Mythic Europe is a big place. The lands beyond the contemporary bounds of Christendom are even bigger still. Hermetic settlement is canonically densest in western Europe and the lands of the former Eastern Roman Empire, but scattered colonies of Hermetic magi can be found in Peripheral Tribunals such as Loch Leglean, Novgorod and the Levant. In these more remote areas the Peripheral Code is weaker, but regular meetings of Tribunal guided by a Quaesitor every seven years and the far-reaching Redcap network are usually able to keep even these distant outposts of the Order in communion with the heirs of Bonisagus at Durenmar. Most uphold the basic spirit of the Code with only nominal restrictions.
But for some magi, even this nominal control is too much.
Such magi strike out past the borders of Hermetic presence, forsaking Tribunal and House sponsorship or assistance with no intention of colonizing new territory in the name of the Order, desiring only the chance to explore their magic and interests without interference. The majority of these pioneering magi hail from the societates known for their independence: Ex-Miscellanea, Jerbiton, Flambeau, and Tytalus. Magi of the true lineages of Bonisagus, Guernicus, Mercere and Tremere are too bound by their obligations and traditions to take part and are considered by pioneering magi as representatives of the heirarchy they are trying to escape. Alone amongst the exoteric mystery cults, Merinitia magi sometimes seek to escape into the wilderness or pursue distant Faerie courts far afield as their initiations are less reliant on their housemates and can be petitioned from Faerie lords or pursued along the paths of Arcadia.
Although each founding magus of an isolated covenant beyond the traditional borders of Hermetic Europe is still bound by the Code of Hermes and thus bound to ensure their apprentice swears the Oath, even well intentioned second and later generation magi may consider such formalities to become less important as time passes compared to pursuing their own magical interests…
Such independent or autonomous (Greek: “self-law”) covenants are in theory answerable only to the Grand Tribunal held every 33 years but lack the protection afforded by belonging to a regional Hermetic tribunal, relying instead on their isolation and removal from Hermetic politics. Redcaps visit these locations only by request and may even been actively discouraged from sharing the existence of the covenant with the wider Order.
This “don’t call us – we’ll call you” stance of self-reliance and non-interference rests uneasily with the Quaesitors. Many reassure themselves that many expeditions of magi seeking to found new covenants fail after the first generation in any case, but if a fouding is successful and establishes a sustainable community, there is little practical that can be done short of a Wizard’s War to enforce the law past the frontier. The Bonisagus Tenens of the East is therefore charged with keeping in touch with these distant islands of Hermetic culture, to ensure that the secret of the Parma Magica does not fall into the hands of hedge magicians outside the Order (whether by conflict or even trade) or that the lonely outposts do not fall prey to diabolic corruption. At least one expedition of Hoplites has been dispatched since the Schism War to deal with just these scenarios.
The Covenant of Urania
The Covenant of Urania, first detailed in the ArM2 supplement, The Sorceror’s Slave, is an example of a “tribunal-less” or autonomous covenant that has stood the test of time.
Established beyond the fringes of the Tribunal of Thebes and the former Tribunal of the East in the early 9th century by early followers of Merinita, this isolated covenant plays no part in nearby tumult of the Levant.
Nestled within a network of caves situated at the junction of two cliffs above the northeastern shores of the Black Sea, it has had only minimal contact with representatives from Thebes over the last two centuries since the Schism War and is now considered truly autonomous.
The covenant is dedicated to the study of the local Faerie creatures known as the Genji, believed to be a unique tribe of Faerie jinn involved in the legends of the nearby kingdoms of Georgia, Armenia and petty Muslim emirates of the Caucasus. At some point early in the covenant’s history, the magi struck a bargain with the leader of the Faerie tribe known as the Genjii, a pact which would be considered unacceptable within the tighter confines of the Peripheral Codes of the core tribunals but has allowed them to thrive and prosper.
Although self-sufficient in terms of basic magical resources such as vis, members of Urania might suffer from a lack of correspondence with the wider Order and may be unaware of recent advances in Hermetic theory, similar to the Exsules of Fenistal mentioned in Guardians of the Forest, page 114. Their isolation may be rmodelled by possession of the Weird Magic Flaw and the Poor Reader Flaws, as the majority of their study will have been from vis or perhaps jinn. Similarly, their Parma Magica may be crippled by the Flawed Parma Magica Flaw, and their Aegis may be weaker due to their inheritance of earlier versions of this breakthrough rituals. Other Hermetic Flaws may be appropriate, but to compensate the magi of Urania may have learnt non-Hermetic techniques similar to those known by Faerie Wizards (see Realms of Power: Faerie, pages xxx) from their Genji allies.
Story Seed: The Prodigal Magi Return?
The threat of the encroaching Mongols may be enough for the magi of Urania to break their isolation, seeking help from their lost Hermetic brethren at the upcoming Grand Tribunal of 1228. When a delegation of oddly spoken wizards claiming descent from House Merinita gate crashes the opening ceremonies, will the Order welcome these prodigal sons and daughters back into the fold or will they turn their backs on their wayward cousins? Worse yet, will the Quaesitores and hoplites see these returned magi as a liability or a threat that must be neutralised?
Perhaps the prospect of the secret of even a flawed version of the Parma Magica falling into the hands of the nomad shamans will spur the Order from its complacency…
But perhaps it is already too late?