As mentioned, the history of the Knights of Seneca is thoroughly intertwined with Flambeau Apocrypha. They were formed in the aftermath of the Schism War, when a trio of veteran Milites settled in Catalonia. They were Delendos of Flambeau, his filius Julius, and Valdarius ex-Verditus. Valdarius joined House Flambeau after accusing his former housemates of timid inaction and double dealing during the Schism War. Reputedly, he was a master of the creation and use of magical armaments. Julius was their leader during their most glorious and infamous period. A master tactician and brilliant politician, he shaped their violent past and charted the course of their destiny.
But by far the most interesting of the three is the mysterious elder Delendos. He isn’t thought of as mysterious for secretive or shadowy reasons. It’s because what is known of him is mostly legend and little fact. His name is typical vulgar Latin of the day, referring to destruction and devastation. The irony is that he was a master of the Art of Creo.
The Legend of Delendos
It is known that the historic Delendos was venerable when he participated in the Schism War. His heroism in that war and his role in establishing the Knights of Seneca are not in doubt. What’s disputed is the claim that he is far older still, and was in fact the second of the three apprentices of Flambeau. The Knights of Seneca believe that he was one of the Seven Champions at the Founder’s side for the final battle, the only one to survive that day, and that he was charged with the mission to carry out Flambeau’s final wishes. Their story is similar to the one written by Joseph, but it is more than mere legend to them; they treat it as true history. They add that Delendos was leading a counter attack on the ground below when his pater magically signaled to him a warning to seek shelter.
Delendos has his own spell ascribed to legend; a hollow sphere of steel conjured to surround and protect him from the fiery fury Flambeau unleashed in the valley. He limped back to Val-Negra to tell his tale, and an expedition was formed to investigate the site. No evidence of any battle was ever found, and when the expedition had returned, they discovered that Delendos disappeared into the night.
The saga-cycle continues, with tales filling the gap of time between the Final Battle and the Schism War. Supposedly, in the aftermath of that battle, he wanders the war torn lands of Iberia seeking solace in solitude. He finds conflict no matter where he goes, and cannot escape the memory of his fallen brethren. His opponents are often wicked sahirs or cruel jinn that he winds up defeating, but occasionally he comes across those who are gentle and noble who manage to trick, elude, or even befriend him.
Scholars find these tales interesting even though obviously apocryphal (mixing elements of 9th and 11th century history together). In early stories all sahirs are enemies. In later stories, a distinction is made between the noble sahirs (who resemble Umayyads) and the wicked (who resemble Almorovides). This cultural bias resembles the relationship between the Senecans and different groups of Moors over time.
Early Days of the Knights of Seneca
At first the Knights of Seneca were merely a ragged band of veterans and almogavers, seeking their fortunes where they may. Operating out of Catalonia, they participated in many of the conflicts and skirmishes of the Reconquista. On the outer edge of scrutiny, they felt they were doing their duty defending against enemy wizards. This was valid, for at the time the Order feared the possibility of a rival Order of Suleiman. The first sahirs to join the Order in 925 were Umayyads. But after the Caliphate fell, they came under the pressure of the fundamentalist and intolerant Almorovides that invaded in the 11th century. The Berber marabouts, akin to hereditary saint, proved resilient to magic because of their Faith. They persecuted magi and sahirs alike, though they did force some of the holdout sahirs (who had not yet joined the Order) to submit to their will. This gave the Knights of Seneca and other Reconquista magi legitimate cause to ply their skills.
By this time, the Knights of Seneca had grown into a formidable association of warrior magi commanding a cadre of elite custos. Julius filius Delendos, youngest of the original band, had matured in wisdom and power. He was now the eldest of the Knights and a formidable leader. A brilliant tactician and excellent politician, he is a fine example why it’s important to keep political savvy as sharp as skill in battle.
When it was alleged that their activities interfered with mundanes, Julius made the convincing argument that their involvement was limited to instances when enemy wizard’s participated in aggression, thus the Almorovides were acting as minions in an Arcane conflict. This was (and still is) a gray area in Hermetic law and no charges were ever brought forth. This is also around the time that the Reconquista versus Roman debate begins (see ToH:Iberia). Though there were those who opposed the actions of the Knights of Seneca, many also supported them (including the Umayyad Hermetic sahirs, who were strongly opposed to the Almorovides).
El Cid and Blood of Heroes
El Cid is a figure of actual history, whose fame and legend put him on par with figures such as Arthur, Roland, Siegfried, and others. An excellent example of a Mythic Hero, El Cid is much more contemporary than these others, and makes an excellent archetype for a Mythic Companion with the Blood of Heroes. One of his heroic qualities was his ability to overlook the Gift, religious differences, and other social handicaps.
Minor Heroic Virtue
You are not as strongly affected by the social impediments that others may have. The Gift does not disturb you, and you treat the Blatant Gift as only being half as strong. For all other relevant Flaws; such as Disfigured, Outsider, Pagan, Social Handicap, etceteras; reduce the total social penalty by half.
Tizona, the Sword of El Cid
Compared to mythic weapons such as Excalibur or Durendal, Tizona is a longsword of exceptional quality and beauty. It was forged in Toledo with exquisite master craftsmanship. It is up to you to decide exactly how to handle a quality weapon in your saga. The easiest way is to simply assign it a bonus of +1 to Attack and Damage. You may also want to use the elaborate rules for exceptional craftsmanship from Cities & Guild, and/or the rules for an Item of Quality from HoH: Mystery Cults. You may also want to choose to further enhance its mythical characteristics by incorporating powerful enchantments that enhance the wielders leadership, skill in battle, and so forth.
The Covenant of Valencia
Operating out of Zaragossa at that time, there was a band of sahirs called Al-Estancia. Stubborn holdouts still refusing to join the Order, they were also refusing to submit to the Almorovides. Longtime rivals of the Knights of Seneca, they had earned each others begrudging respect, and now found themselves facing a common enemy. Despite that, they still couldn’t overcome their differences. The catalyst for change required a heroic knight whose fame and influence eclipsed that of any Iberian wizard or king of that day.
Rodrigo Laínez de Bivar was a prominent military leader who had served the kings of both Christian Castile and Moslem Zaragossa. He had also worked with the Knights of Seneca on several military campaigns. A heroic warrior to say the least, his cunning intelligence and excellent leadership earned him the respect of the Knights of Seneca. They would participate in his strategy and planning sessions, where all were treated on the level and encouraged to come up with innovative ideas. Because of his genius in the art of war, the magi assigned him the nickname “Campeador”, Camp-Professor. Such was the awe and respect he commanded, the Moors called him El Cid (al sayed, or Lord).
El Cid’s career spans too many heroic deeds to discuss here. He served King Alfonso of Castile, and after a falling out he served the Moorish ruler of Zaragossa. It was here he first met the sahirs of Al Estancia, earning their trust and respect as he did with the Knights of Seneca. He served Alfonso again, but after another falling out he found himself in again in exile. With few followers, low funds, and no outside support; the triumph that was to follow testifies to his heroic leadership abilities. No evidence implies he sought assistance from his Flambeau or sahir friends, but he managed to capture two key castles he used as a base of operations, and miraculously laid hold of a large treasure; with which he was able to finance a much larger force. He eventually pressed on to conquer Valencia, ruling it as his own personal fiefdom.
Rodrigo had arranged a parley between the sahirs of Al-Estancia and the Knights of Seneca, himself serving as moderator, his honor alone standing as guarantee of the integrity of the meeting. Generations removed from the Founder’s conflict, The Senecans insisted that their only issue was Hermetic membership. Until now, the Al-Estancia sahirs never thought it worth their while to join the Order, seeing how their Hermetic kin still suffered persecution. But faced with the common threat of the great Almorovide invasion, they began to see the advantage. The Knights of Seneca pledged to support them against Hermetic persecution if they would swear the Hermetic Oath. They did, and both groups swore an oath of allegiance. Thus, under the patronage of El Cid, the Covenant of Valencia was established.
Though controversial, this expansion of the Pax Hermetica earned the Knights of Seneca prestige and acclaim. Enemy wizards were kept at bay, nearly all the remaining reluctant sahirs were recruited into the Order, and Valencia greatly enhanced the prosperity of the tribunal. The more pressing matter in Hermetic politics of the day was the partitioning of the Val-Negra Tribunal into the Iberian and Provencal Tribunals. The cause for this was the burgeoning population of magi, and it was hoped dividing them would resolve some of the disputes in the region.
Though short lived, the Covenant of Valencia vastly exceeded expectations for a Spring covenant, and were a paragon of achievement. Through them, many Greek and Arabic texts made their way into the Order, and it is no coincidence that the Iberian Tribunal has a reputation for their accomplishments in fields such as Astrology and Alchemy. The Library of Valencia grew quickly because of trade, and likewise so did their power and influence. At their peak, the Covenant of Valencia had twenty members from a mixture of traditions, controlled enough vis and other resources to rival older established covenants, and had they survived, they would have come to politically dominate the Iberian tribunal, rivaling famous covenants such as Doissetep and Fengheld.
But such was not their fate.
They prospered vigorously, but when El Cid died unexpectedly in 1099, everything began to unravel. Without the unifying force of his charisma, many of the Knights of Seneca wandered off elsewhere. Within a few years, Valencia fell to the Almorovides. For a small time, a greatly weakened and reduced Covenant of Valencia persisted, but when a new wave of Moors called the Almohades invaded (who were even more fundamentalist), the remnants of the Covenant of Valencia were driven out. The sahirs of Al-Estancia merged with their brethren at the covenant of Escarida in Granada. This infusion of new blood was their salvation, for they also suffered terrible losses at the hands of the Almorovides. The renamed covenant of Estancia Escarida has since grown to become the dominant political and cultural center for Islamic Magi in the Order.
Story Seed: Legacy of Valencia
The Library of Valencia contributed much to the Order of Hermes, and they themselves managed to accumulate an impressive collection in trade. The bulk of the library was divided up into the covenants various Valencia magi had joined afterwards; such as Andorra and Estancia Ecarida. Left behind were a lot of worn out ex-libris copies and exemplars, but there might have been a few forgotten hidden gems as well. When the Almorovides took the city, the last of the Valencia magi was able to negotiate by sharing his library and providing the fruits of his jinni tended orchards. When the Almohades invaded and chased him out, the fundamentalists wanted to burn the library and exorcize the jinni. However, wiser minds prevailed.
The Academic texts are great gems if recopied; but who knows arcane and magical tomes were forgotten? Valencia has a reputation for excellent quality produce, so it seems the Almohades still employ the jinni in the orchards and vineyards. But have they learned the magic necessary to control them? What other secrets were left behind?
Delendos and the Lumina
The Knights of Seneca found renewed purpose as well. The Legend of Delendos makes allusions to a relationship to the Lumina, though not in so many words. Reference is made that he know Flambeau’s final secret and was charged with his last orders. During their time at Valencia, a resurgence in the popularity of Lumina Legends coincided with their discovery of a more intimate link with them. The coincidental timing suggests the Senecans were either riding the wave of a trend, or that someone was trying to pacify these warrior magi with distractions.
Or it and everything else in the legend of Delendos might be true.
What’s more likely is that the Knights of Seneca needed to reinvent and reinvigorate themselves, so they could continue as a Societas with a united purpose.
In any case, in what seems an obvious addendum, the story is that only two magi went on the expedition to investigate the scene at Tagus Tower, Apromor and Delendos himself. Their goal was to cover the matter up and keep it quite, for the war against Damhan-Allaidh had just begun. They were not worried about moral. Rather, they did not want to distract Flambeau magi and divert them to Spain when the real threat was hiding somewhere in Britain. There is in fact a valley in that region with a weak Magic Aura. There is no sign of a ruined tower or a battle ever having taken place there; not a single corpse or ghost. The valley is overgrown with lush vegetation, and as normal, vis can be found in certain magical herbs and roots & etceteras. What’s fascinating is that the vis produced is almost always Ignem rather than some other Art. The Knights of Seneca have registered a claim to the site with House Mercere, and hold ceremonies here. They permit other Flambeau to visit the site if they treat it with respect and reverence. Some do come here on occasion, often to reflect contemplatively before a major battle.
As for the Lumina, they claim that Elaine was secretly Flambeau’s daughter, a common theme. The unique twist is that, as part of their cover up, they convinced Elaine that Delendos was really Flambeau, and he finished her training. She was very young at the time, and the use of Mentem magics completed their deception. It was decided to keep everything a secret to protect her. This is a common example of the sort of exaggerated mythical stories prolific in the Order during the twelfth century. Other popular myths from that era include Trianoma’s Ghost and the Corpse of Tremere.
Knights of Seneca in the13th century view Lumina legends as a metaphor representing the more noble and virtuous qualities House Flambeau is supposed to represent. They were to be the Custodians of the Lumina, meaning that they were to uphold and exemplify these virtues. As Delendos lost his sense of purpose wandering the borderlands, the Senecans forgot their true purpose while fighting in the Reconquista. Virtues they like to emphasize are called the four Illuminations; Courage, Loyalty, Temperance, and Wisdom. Flambeau is the first Illuminator and represents Courage, setting the example for all to follow. Delendos represents Loyalty, fidelity, honor and duty. Apromor represents Temperance, patience and pragmatism. Time destroys all things. Wisdom is represented by Elaine, as knowledge is the basis of all power, and force must be tempered by wisdom.
The Knights of Seneca have not actively participated in the Reconquista for over a hundred years, though they have had skirmishes with the Almohades. They also played a major role in the recent Shadow Wars (see ArM3 HoH:Iberia). In brief, Infernal forces sought to stir up hatred and warfare during a lull of peace and tranquility. Heretics tried to blemish the reputations of the Knights of Santiago and the Templars. The Infernalist Rasus infiltrated the Covenant of Jafaryia, killing those he could not corrupt. He began hostilities against Estancia Escarida, claiming that it was they that were the diabolic threat. When exposed in 1208, Archmagus Karandos was first to strike against his corrupted filius. He charged in blind and alone, and was thus vanquished. Remembering their pledge from long ago, having defended Estancia Escarida against allegations all along, the Knights of Seneca launched their full weight into the Shadow Wars. By 1220, it is believed all Infernalists have been purged, but the tribunal remains vigilant.
Modern Knights of Seneca resemble magical questing knights, always in search of adventure. With Lumina legends regaining popularity, they use their connection as motivation for quests. This is just an excuse for adventure, but they would be delighted to turn up evidence that they actually possess some secret truth. Goals for quests could be a manuscript of lost lore, a legendary artifact, a supposed true descendant, etceteras. Adventures might include travel to distant mythic places, studying among the sahirs, plundering treasure, challenges of a crafty jinn, the intrigue at Val-Negra, and more.
Though scattered across several covenants, they hold regular meetings and ceremonies, and assist each other whenever possible (the assistance given and received roughly balances out). They also train together periodically in order to insure their effectiveness as a martial unit, with elite custos and warrior companions participating as well.
The Knights have a very loose organization and a simple hierarchy based on seniority. They choose a leader from their elders, and this position is currently held by the Archmagus Antonio Perez of the Covenant of Andorra. His comrades jokingly refer to him as the Grandmaster. Continuing with the theme, custos and warrior companions are called Sergeants, and apprentices Squires. This is just casual parlance, not an official designation. Though scattered, they remain in constant communication. They are rather small, just over a dozen members, which makes this easy. Elder members look out for the juniors in a sort of mentoring system, and all Knights can depend on each other for help and support (the loan of silver or vis, access to training or important texts, the services of one or more specialists, direct assistance of a fellow, and so forth). This balances out, and a Knight of Seneca can be expected to be called upon for assistance by his fellows just as much as he expects to be able to call upon them.
Joining the Knights of Seneca
Friends and allies who have proven their valor and skill are occasionally invited to join the Knights of Seneca. This is indeed an honor and a sign of great respect, as an invitation requires a unanimous decision. One must be a Flambeau magus of much Acclaim, and they are required to face some sort of challenge or complete some sort of Quest. A Knight of Seneca might choose to raise his apprentices as a sort of squire among the knights, in which case they all participate in his training and the administering of his Gauntlet. A newly accepted Knight of Seneca is inducted in a sacred ceremony that involved baptism in the Tagus River and a banquet held in the historic valley.
If creating a starting character as a newly Gauntleted Knight of Seneca, you must choose the Mentor Minor Flaw, representing the influence of your elders. In addition to the Free Virtue granted by the school of your parens, you were also trained in the School of Julius, and must choose the Skilled Parens Minor Virtue. If creating an experienced magus as a starting character, you may simply incorporate membership in the Knights of Seneca into your history. They are not a Mystery Cult, and no new Virtues or Flaws are gained.