Before discussing the Knights of Seneca, it is important to explain the Flambeau Apocrypha. It is important in order to understanding that societas, and it affects the entirety of House Flambeau. As mentioned, even the vulgar identity of the Founder causes controversy. The official stance is that his identity is uncertain, though Provencal tradition states he was born of Frankish nobility. Iberian magi insist that he was born of a Roman-Visgothic family; ascribing him the name of Reculed Annaeus Seneca, from which the Knights of Seneca take their name.
In truth, these conflicting, heretical, and apocryphal beliefs are the fault of the Founder himself. He wrote very little, almost nothing about himself, and all we known of him is what’s recorded by his followers and contemporaries. Sometimes, stories conflict. The mysterious conditions of his disappearance only serve to heighten his legend. The irony is that, as a result, more has been written about Flambeau than any other single founder. The result is a mix of myth, legend, mystery, distortion, speculation, secret agendas and hidden truths. Individual beliefs vary, influenced by region, lineage, and association. Likewise, so does one’s reaction to conflicting ideas. Respectful parlance is to refer to Legend. Apocrypha is disrespectful; not for the belief, but for an individual being debated with. Some feel their beliefs are incontrovertible truth, but may be willing to admit that it’s a hidden truth. Still, there may be conflicting ideas one finds so objectionable, it’s considered tantamount to heresy. Debates can quickly turn bitter, even violent.
Below are some common elements of the Flambeau Apocrypha. Not every Flambeau magus is concerned with them all, but certainly they have interest in one or two.
A spirited lot, disagreements amongst the Flambeau can lead to hard feelings or even combat. Certamen is the preferred way to resolve disputes, but at one time, contests of endurance were more popular; such as Test of Flames. Inirelte excelled at each, and she even enjoyed dueling while in flames. She developed a Certamen style around it, which is actually a Minor Breakthrough. It never caught on because it’s limited to Creo Ignem contests. A separate breakthrough and spell would be needed for each combination.
You know how to duel in Inirelte’s style if you know Test of Flames, because at first, this is nothing more than mere spectacle. Since normal Certamen protocols are followed, your Parma Magica protects you for now. Mastery of the spell allows you great advantages and options. You may add your Mastery score to either Attack or Defense as you choose each round, and many Mastery Abilities have obvious direct applications; such as Penetration, Resistance, Imperturbable Casting, and Quick Casting.
The Founder’s Final Fate
The most well known dispute in Flambeau lore is the final fate of the Founder. Though there’s no official stand, there are many strong opinions. Garus, the Primus, upholds the theory that Flambeau retired to a monastery; laying aside his magic so that he may die a natural death instead of fading into Final Twilight. A strong stubborn tradition insists that Flambeau died in a glorious final battle against his enemies. Detractors say his spiteful wrath was his undoing; but proud followers of this tradition say he tried to offer an olive branch to his enemies, who had set a trap to ambush him. The most popular version of this story was written by Joseph of Flambeau, who tells a tale of tragic misunderstanding.
He gives the Sahir leader’s name as Tariq-ibn-Suleiman-al-Afdal-al-Sahir, portraying him as an honorable opponent and weary warrior, ready to admit defeat. Tariq requested a parley to discuss joining the Order and House Flambeau, and the Founder had agreed to meet with him; brining seven of his followers along for the negotiations. The two camps met in a valley near the Tagus river, and at first, everything was cordial and productive.
In his narrative, Joseph makes a point of mentioning Tariq’s lovely daughter Yasmina, a powerful sahira well trained by her father. According to the story, she had been having an ongoing secret romance with a member of Flambeau’s entourage. Never naming who, the story continues with her lover sneaking in her tent at night, and tragic misunderstanding strikes when other sahirs catch them alone together. Thinking he intended harm, they attacked him instinctively and he was forced to flee. However, in his desperate escape he had killed two sahirs, and from there everything spiraled out of control in a pitched battle.
Flambeau and his champions were forced to regroup at a nearby abandon castle, thereafter called Tagus Tower, where destiny awaited them. Joseph goes into dramatic detail about the battle, graphically describing the demise of some of the Seven Champions. One is torn asunder by furious jinn, pieces of his corpse scattered to the wind. Another falls to a raging efreet, split into red ruin by it’s sword of brass. Most importantly, Flambeau is never described as a battle enraged berserker. Rather, he is likened to a parent, grieving at the loss of each follower who falls at his side. Further, the Founder’s final decision is described as one made in grim acceptance of the inevitable. He describes the Founder’s legendary talisman, the Fireheart, as capable of storing more than a queen of vis, and claims Flambeau’s ability to use vis in his spells far exceeded that of other magi. He channeled all of his energy and placed all of this vis into one final legendary spell of destructive immolation. His last shouts echo with thunder as the tower shatters with explosive force, and incineration rains down upon the valley.
Though variations of this story are popular, they are not universally believed. Lately, the idea that he retired peacefully has grown more popular. Regardless, a traditional custom among Flambeau is to carry large quantities of vis reserves on their person, usually an item of jewelry. They call this the fons et origio, meaning “source and origin”; typical of their subtle and deeply contemplative philosophy.
Joseph of Flambeau
Joseph was a 12th century magus descended from the lineage of Elaine. He was fond of using a dual meaning for Flambeau; a torch, which can bring destructive fire or creative illumination. Arturius of Bonisagus called him one of the greatest Hermetic authors of his day, with famous works on topics such as Finesse, Parma Magica, Penetration, and Spell Mastery. But his most acclaimed tome concerns the history of his House and the early Order, entitled simply The saga of House Flambeau (Order of Hermes Lore Summa, Level 5 Quality 14).
Origin of Flambeau
Like his death, the origins of Flambeau are also disputed. His vulgar heritage was already mentioned, but there is also the issue of his pre-Hermetic lineage. This is actually a pedantic debate over whether Flambeau was descended from more of a Mercurian or Mithraic tradition, but agreeing both had an influence. Also, the Franks have apocryphal stories of Flambeau allied with Charles Martel before the Founding. The timing for this is all wrong, and it’s now believed these were actually the exploits of a Visgothic wizard named Delendar; a friend and mentor to Flambeau who perished before the Founding.
“Join or Die”
Fear of Flambeau, along with his infamous “Join or Die” recruitment campaign, motivated many wizards to join the nascent Order for protection, stimulating its early growth. The dispute concerns the amount of brutality used to enforce this policy. Besides the sahirs, it’s known that Flambeau had at least two famous battles against other wizards. One was against Varstus in the Alps, whose followers surrendered after their leader was slain. Another was against a cult of Roman necromancers, who not only refused his offer, but tried to attack him with a necromantic artifact called Vardian’s Skull. Flambeau shattered the skull and defeated these necromancers in a fierce battle.
The tradition of Ex-Miscellanea necromancers at the Covenant of Varidian’s Tomb claim they are descended from those defeated necromancers. Further, they claim he was a butcher who stalked his victims maliciously, and that he hunted over fifty other hedge wizards just for sport. No one believes this outrageous assertion, but scholars doubt that Flambeau’s recruitment policy worked out as peacefully as is claimed.
A legend that reoccurs throughout the ages is the Lumina; the supposed mysterious lost bloodline of Flambeau. These stories wax and wane in popularity, with each generation of magi reinterpreting them for themselves. In 1220, most mature magi have grown tired of these stories and doubt their credibility. However, the younger magi are rediscovering these myths, and the senior Flambeau are quite eager to share them.
The earliest of these tales date back to the Primacy of Apromor, and the resurgences in their popularity often coincide with great struggles. The Schism War, Reconquista, Crusades, and other conflicts provided many new and entertaining Lumina stories. The youngest Iberian magi were apprentices during the battle of Nova de Tolosa and the Shadow Wars, which explains the renewed again popularity of these tales. As for their origin, it may be that his followers took the loss of Flambeau as such a tragedy; they needed to immortalize him through some mysterious obscure lineage. Perhaps this same sense of loss is what caused Flambeau scholars to research the origin and fate of the Founder, developing the variety of contradicting theories.
Or perhaps there’s some grain of truth in these stories.
The classic form of the tale never identifies the “Mother of Light”, but scholars have theories based on various hints; an unknown young maga, asecretive Frankish noblewoman, and even a mysterious sahira. One bawdy joke involves Trianoma cuckolding Bonisagus, but many find this offensive.
Some say Elaine, but most prefer to think that she was actually the first Lumina. This is unlikely, but it’s never been proven or disproven, and the myths persist. If Elaine was indeed the Lumina, then the torch was extinguished with her, for she never bore any children. However, she also disappeared just as mysteriously as the Founder (Joseph claims she retired to a convent). Still, myth is not easily discouraged. Famous Flambeau heroes have often been compared to the Lumina because of their virtuous and heroic qualities, including such names as Iarna, Vancastium, Garus, and Pietro ex-Tytalus.
Modern magi view the Lumina as a metaphor for the more noble and virtuous qualities the Founder represented, an example for the children of his House should follow. These and other stories have become vehicles for lessons of bravery, valor, and honor. As a candle flame replicates itself, a Flambeau magus is supposed to pass these lessons on to his filiae, so that the eternal flame of the Founder may be carried on.