While drafting my sections for Faith and Flame I was keen to incorporate some Theban elements into the Arelat section as Massalia (later to be called Marseille) was originally founded as a Phocaean colony long before the Romans arrived to establish the Provincia and subsume the local Greek culture.
We were developing the Cult of Mercury concepts under Erik’s lead and I looked back through my notes for inspiration and found an old idea from the Light of Andorra Saga circa 2008 that I’d worked on for a Gifted Mercere character named Decimus that had been initiated into the Cult of Mercury by his mater, Honoria:
Portus Phlegythas, a watery subterranean covenant and mortuary for the pagan cult that holds a gate to the realm of Hades, located in the deepest stretch of the Verdon Gorge in rivers and lakes. Populated by pallid covenfolk warped by the high Magic aura to be overly sensitive to sunlight. A Mercere pontifex (archmagus) of the Cult, Fraxinus of Mercere, leads the covenant and officiates over the funerary rituals of the crematorium.
It is also home to a small lineage of Ex-Miscellanea Mercurians who specialise in speaking with the departed spirits of antiquity like the ancient Dacian necromantic tradition that joined House Tremere in the 9th century, thereby gaining much lost lore and occasional insights about the future.
Decimus stayed only briefly, long enough for Honoria to prearrange a ceremonial funerary service and cremation in the traditions of the Cult for him – a traditional gift from mater to filius upon being considered worthy of attempting the Hermetic Gauntlet. You briefly met the magi there and made a favourable impression on them, including Acheronus, the Tytalus Titanoi interested in controlling the powerful daemon referred to as Styx, personification of Hatred and Oaths. It’s a very creepy place, even for a covenant-raised pagan like Decimus…
I therefore wrote a short paragraph on the covenant, renaming it Portus Termini and linking it in to the history of the Coenobium by making it the destination of the necromancer survivors of the Saracen depradations of the Alyscamps, the ancient graveyard near Arles. I felt this linked in well with the funerary custom ideas for the Cult of Mercury and wanted to expand on the concept of a parens from the Cult of Mercury purchasing an obol for Charon to “pay the ferryman” well in advance for their apprentice’s ultimate death and Mercurian style funeral.
The potential Story Seeds of a magi’s obol being stolen and used as an Arcane Connection to either their living self or their ghost seemed worth exploring but I didn’t get a chance to develop it as a counterpoint to the Tremere’s custom of passing through the Gate of Eurydice (see Houses of Hermes: True Lineages, page 115 and Against the Dark, page 22 for further details) and as an example of a potential remnant of the non-Tremere Dacian necromancers. Some of the ideas detailed for Qui Sonant Pro Quieto, the covenant that serves as the final resting place for Ireland’s magi (detailed in The Contested Isle, page 105-107) could be readily applied, at the risk of being derivative. I suspect I could link it into the Cult of Orpheus somehow as well.
Another idea that occurred to me later on was to link some of my Terrae magi ideas such as the Sleeping Army (originally derived form a conversation with the former Berklist alumni, David Woods, who wrote the Guernicus chapter of Houses of Hermes: True Lineages) and link it into some of my ideas regarding Petra and the Mercurian and Guernicus involvement with Urbs Rubra.
Unfortunately, despite all this potential, during the writing process we quickly began to run out of room in the Provencal draft however and as I felt the covenant was becoming more “Theban” in style. Erik was leading the Mercurian development in an amazing direction and so I didn’t translate the remainder of my notes into a full covenant description and turned my concentration to other concepts. The sole remaining reference was spotting on the Atlas Forums, remaining as a potential “Easter Egg” clue…
I still think the concept has value as a covenant “between Tribunals” (and perhaps “between worlds”) as such, but rather than being a transport nexus and Mercer House like Harco, it serves more as a destination or a one-off expedition. Making it at least accessible via subterranean waterways gives it the potential to be visited from nearly any geographic are in Mythic Europe potentially reached by the Romans, so I hope I can expand it further perhaps as a fully fledged Sub Rosa piece but more in the style of a “Hooks” or adventure article than just a gazetteer piece.
See the remnant of the original draft text for the covenant: