Labyrinth of Lanes was removed from Sanctuary of Ice because it displayed too few elements unique to Hermetic Alpine life. It was therefore the easiest to remove, and the easiest to add to other tribunals. Its covenant badge is the geometric design to the right.
This small covenant is officially in an extinguished Roman salt mine near Salzburg, but this site is linked to a basement in Vienna by the smallest Hermetic Portal in the Order. Only two and a half feet high, and a little over two feet wide, this Portal has been constructed in miniature so that only animals can use it. Labyrinth of Lanes is an unusual Bjornaer covenant.
Originally this covenant belonged to House Jerbiton, but during one of their introspective phases many members left for larger covenants, and its membership was opened to other Houses. A free-thinking Bjornaer with notions of adapting to urban life, considered somewhat mad by his own House, was one of the recruits. As ordered by his Primus, when the Schismatic hostilities became overt, he retreated to Crintera, and, in his absence, raiders from the Rhineland slaughtered his sodales. Eventually he returned, laid his comrades to rest, and founded a line of Bjornaers interested in living as feral animals in urban environments. Members of his House still think of these Bjornaers as a little touched, but appreciate that Labyrinth of Lanes gives them somewhere safe to stash their eccentric relatives.
A minimalist covenant, like many of the earliest Bjornaer structures, Labyrinth is a series of tunnels extending from an old mineshaft. Although extended, reinforced and beautified over the years, the tunnel complex is far from volumous. The covenant’s Aegis extends over a huge area, more than a mile in diameter, because the Bjornaers don’t want it to pinpoint the location of the otherwise-disguised covenant. Within the covenant’s huge, theoretical borders live a few families of foresters and farmers, who are whisked to the covenant when cleaning needs done.
This covenant’s chief custom is absence. Magi reside here while studying, but far prefer to live and socialise in Vienna. Although the covenant is never absolutely unstaffed, visiting redcaps often find only a single magus in residence. Sometimes Jerbiton magi visit Labyrinth, to consult the library or because they see it as a model for how all magi might, in some distant future, live. If trusted, these magi are given remarkably free access to the covenant’s areas, and some are, for brief periods, left to guard things while the Bjornaer are away.
This highlights the second custom of the covenant: disposability. The Bjornaer progenitor of this tradition survived because he was willing to give up all of his material possessions and flee to Crintera. This lesson has not been lost on the current members. Each is ready to hide, for years if necessary, in animal shape, and travel slowly toward a “safe” site. Useful items have been cached, mainly in Vienna, but also in other locales, for emergencies.
Although attached to their laboratory site, the Bjornaer are willing to abandon it if faced with overwhelming force. Raiding is less tempting than it might, at first, appear. Seasoned Bjornaer are excellent guerrilla fighters, who, if forced to retreat, would seek first re-enforcements, then revenge. Those members of House Bjornaer who are strongly influenced by pack-mentality heartshapes, or who retain compassion, have a soft spot for members of this covenant, since it’s seen as a sort of rest home for the philosophically-challenged. Such Bjornaers might aid their less-than-sane cousins, or seek recompense for their suffering.
Labyrinth is a Winter covenant, because it has few resources, little desire to expand them, and its magi are prepared to abandon their site. Technically, its members are insane, because neither of the social systems to which they adhere, the philosophy of Bjornaer or the Hermetic Code, suggest that being curled up on the lap of an old woman knitting by the fire is a constructive use of time. Legally, It’s unlikely be to extinguished, because in the absence of any other claimant, the charter of the Labyrinth of Lanes gives the Primus of Jerbiton the right to appoint a fresh Council, who would continue the covenant. A later amendment allows the Primus of Bjornaer to veto any appointment made in these circumstances.
This covenant has six magi.
Sigismondo follower of Bjornaer
The covenant’s leader, such as it has, Sigismondo’s heartbeast is feline. Technically an Egyptian wildcat, like most European cats at this time, he’s a mackerel tabby. He dislikes the churchmen, since they have a habit of incinerating black cats of Saint John’s Day. He has mastered a simple spell which alters his coat colour and, just for the priests, one of his defensive colourations is purely white, with a gold cross on his chest.
Sigismondo has adopted a human family, which he has been tending for almost a century. Gifted children are remarkably common in its many branches, and he has trained several apprentices, while in cat shape. They have entered House Bjornaer when they had an active heartshape, or House Jerbiton if he could not draw a new shape forth. A few Bjornaer train apprentices this way: these new magi have the Stingy Master and Isolated From the Order flaws.
Teca filia John, follower of Bjornaer
A young hawk, Teca has noticed that large cities are filled with pigeons. Why not, then, live in the city? The least dedicated to the covenant’s project, domesticating humans, Teca is snappish and territorial. She’s skilled at air magic, and has several violent spells mastered, so that she can cast them easily in her animal form. As with many Bjornaer birds, her favoured tactic, in Hermetic combat is to flee to a range beyond human sight, but within raptor, sight. This gives her the advantage of unreturnable fire.
Brett filius John, follower of Bjornaer
Brett is a young stallion, who spends most of his time on the stud of a local nobleman. Let’s not dwell on what he does there: apples are involved, apparently. Many magi are aware of his activities, because horses which do not throw magi are uncommon, valuable and available from the stud. Brett claims to have gone on Crusade, and witnessed various battles from beneath the buttocks of influential noblemen. He spends little time in Vienna proper, and spends the most time at the salt mine.
[B:]Antonie fillia Sylvester, follower of Bjornaer
An enormous black cat of indeterminate age, Antonie is rumoured to be Sigismondo’s daughter. He candidly admits that he has no idea if she is or not, but doubts it somehow. Touched by the Faerie, Antonie may be related to the Irish Kings O’ The Cats, huge black prowlers that can carry a man in their jaws (her heartbeast is essentially a huge panther). She may have the power to cause pneumonia, or enhance the allergic reactions ot cats in sufferers.
Antonie is the most likely covenant member to prowl the woods about the mine, seeking little sprites to breakfast upon. She enjoys Vienna because it has cream in it. Hermetic magi speculate whether the irregular mutilations of livestock that occur in this Tribunal are due to faeries or Antonie.
Amalie filia Elmer, follower of Bjornaer.
One of the rare heartshapers, Amalie becomes a warm breeze that whips through an area. She enjoys Vienna because, unlike a forest, it is full of humans with which she makes sensual, intimate contact in her airy form. She’s an attention seeker. She picks pockets, steals hats and snatches scarves, tumbling a mortal’s possession along the street in a childish game of “catch me if you can”. She looks around thirty, but has looked that way for about sixty years.
Clotilde fillia Vannear, follower of Bjornaer
A maga of middle age, Clothide has a subtle but potent ability: because of a Twilight experience, she can command all of the rats in the city where she resides. With the assistance of her magic, she can see through their eyes, hear what they hear, and use them to carry Waiting Spells. Although she prefers her human shape, she needs no grogs while in Vienna, since a swarm of filthy rats shadows her movements in the city’s sewers, waiting for her command to surge toward the light and the flesh of her enemies.
Clotilde’s heartshape is a mystery. It may be a rat, but rumours in the Tribunal indicate that its a vast leech or bloodworm. An intriguing alternative is that the swarm of rats who follow her are made from her internal organs. Clotilde has been observed shifting into a variety of shapes, but this may be through silent, gestureless, spellcasting.
The magi here simply don’t see the point in having covenfolk, except to tidy up a bit. There are humans who perform services for the magi in Vienna, but most of these are simply tradesmen whom include the magi in their clientele. Grogs seem a bit superfluous to the magi here, who can either shift into combat worthy heartshapes, or who can flee at high speed. Grogs need to be fed and housed, and then the buildings for that need to be defended, and it all seems a bit too much bother. The covenant has magical defences which redcaps have been assured are more than sufficient to deal with an army of small or moderate size, but whose precise nature have been left undisclosed.
There are currently no distorted covenfolk at Labyrinth. The distortion recorded in the Jerbiton era was related to saline magic. Certain servants gained a limited form of the Magic Resistance virtue, which protected them from demon-inspired illness, minor curses, befuddling fae and similarly themed Hermetic spells. Several salt-distorted covenfolk are interred in the covenant’s depths, their bodies incorrupt. The Bjornaer are aware such corpses could be mistaken for vampires or saints, and so cautiously prevent new distortions.
Salt has powerful antimagical properties. In certain areas, a sprinkle of salt is sufficient to dispel even powerful illusions. Minor demons find salt irritating, and disease spirits can be kept out of meat, or forced from the body, by its application. Although the current inhabitants of the Labyrinth aren’t all that interested in the magical applications of salt, their Jerbition precursors studied the matter at length, and their findings have been retained in the Labyrinth’s library. Although they don’t take a lot of care of their books, another advantage of living in a salt mine is that the air in the library is extremely dry and almost sterile, which has helped to preserve their collection.