In this book, I worked on the magi of House Jerbiton. They follow the broad outline of Sanctuary of Ice, which I wrote, and so I think that I was, perhaps, not inventive enough with their design. There are a lot of questions I did not answer, and I hope the writers of The Sundered Eagle have cleared some of these matters up. For example, what does the tower stand for?
I had some elements I was certain I wanted to include. These were:
The Greek connection
In Ars Magica, the whole history of the Order has traditionally written with a Western historiography. The thing is, in 1220, this way of thinking about the world does not exist. People who live in Constantinople call themselves “Romans”. They live in the capital of the Roman Empire, founded by the first Christian Emperor. They are a tool in the hand of God himself. Thinking of them as “Byzantine”, indeed calling their Empire “Byzantium” is a far later convention by English people. The descendants of Rome were, for the most part, not the barbarian tribes of the West, although the Church could claim some relation to the fallen Empire. The Roman Empire does not fall in the East, until 1204.
So the obvious question is, when Bonisagus gathers all the Founders, why is there no-one from Greece? Why is there no Domus Magus in Greece, despite the obvious perfection for the purpose in so many Greek sites? I decided to plug that hole with House Jerbiton, and use the battles between the Iconoclasts and Iconodules to explain why the Domus Magus of the House most interested in mortal affairs is so desperately far from anywhere with a cultural life. If we did it again, the Domus Magnus of the House should be near Constantinople, certainly within a day’s travel.
The lack of any cohesion
The fall of Constantinople needs magi to utterly fail to influence mortal affairs. Unless you want to blame God, and make the Crusaders assailing the city mystically protected, House Jerbiton needs to be asleep at the wheel for the Fourth Crusade to sack the city. That suited what I wanted to write. I’d just finished the Criamons, who are a religiously constrained House, and I liked the idea of a House with so little discipline that it cannot even protect its interests.
I wanted to make urban magic easier, so that stories set in cities are still possible. This is why lacunae and ceremonial casting are dwelt with in such detail.
Seeking beauty, as the point of the House
The point of the House, in previous editions, was an interest in mortals, which to me was always too weak a design motif. The grogs are mortals. Are they fascinating? Why not? There’s got to be something beyond using the mortals as a Realm. I felt that the Jerbiton should be interested in Beauty, since it fit so well with their previous interests in illusions and art. It also separated their interest in art from the Veriditus interest in craft.
Perrottet, Tony (2002) Route 66AD: On the trail of ancient Roman tourists, Random House Australia, Sydney.
Casson, Lionel (1994) Travel in the Ancient World, John Hopkins, Baltimore.
Gombrich, E.H (2002) Art and illusion: A study in the psychology of pictorial representation, 6th ed., Phaidon, London.
Steiner, Wendy (2001) The Trouble With Beauty, William Heinemann, London