by Timothy Toner
"Ah...the price of immortality."
-Clint after this story
"What a suck prize. I'm not entering one of his contests again..."
- Evan after this story
Silence filled the halls of magic, soaking into the very flagstones, rendering mute the steps of the intruders. The first, long and lithe, swung the pencil thin flashlight warily. The second, a runt wearing a scarlet bathrobe, followed close behind. He held a book in his right hand, and a strange glowing rock in the left. They came to an intersection.
"So which way now?"
The runt consulted the map. "I told you we'd get this far. To the right, then second door on the left."
The tall one glanced first one way, then the next. Positive no guards lurked behind the everpresent tapestries, he slipped around the corner.
They came to the second door. "This is all too easy, Evan. There's got to be a HELL of a trap on this door!"
"Shut up, Clint. I've waited a century for this, and I'm not going to blow it now." Evan reached inside the bathrobe, and removed a pendant, with an inordinately huge piece of quartz on the end. He swayed it, and mumbled a few words. The makeshift pendulum did not deviate in course.
"How are you so sure THAT thing's safe?" "Because Caladrin is a moron! The senile old fart is forever forgetting where he laid his traps. He invented this thing to test if any harm lay in a certain direction. The pendulum did not deviate. No trap. Got it?"
"Got it. I guess." Clint reached out, and tested the knob. Locked. "Here's where I come in, I guess."
"Do you think I would have invited you otherwise?" Clint knelt down, and examined the lock. "Christ, what is this thing...300 years old?"
"Four hundred. Now get cracking."
It took but a moment, and the lock rasped open. The door swung open into musty darkness.
"Caladrin has ten rooms like this in this house alone. After he grew weary of the standard Tremere games, he stopped his research altogether, and locked them up. No one's been in here for a hundred years."
It showed. Dust covered everything, and the entire room seemed suspended in time, a chamber waiting to breathe. It inhaled the two.
"If Caladrin's so angry with the Camarilla, why doesn't he give us the book?"
Evan stopped suddenly, and Clint ran into him. "If you were in an accident, and lost both your legs, would you give your Astin-Martin away to the crowd of punk kids hanging outside your window?"
"No, I guess not. I'd probably just wait for my legs to regrow."
Evan slowly turned away, and shook his head. "It's over here."
"How do you know where everything is?"
"When Caladrin felt his mind was slipping, he made a copious accounting of where everything was, in case he needed to find it. I just needed to wait until he forgot where he put the account book. Took the bastard 80 years..."
Evan had been bobbing and weaving through an endless canyon of moldering tomes, searching, searching, searching. At last he stopped.
"Here it is." He reached up and grabbed a thin album." "Doesn't look like much."
"In magic, nothing is as it seems."
He opened to the first page. Blank. Second. Blank. Third. Blank. They were all blank.
Clint swore under his breath. "We were gypped!" Evan smiled at his friend's foolishness. Do you have the knife I told you to bring?"
"Remember when Gaston told you that you were too stupid to wield magic? That Brujah just didn't have it, whether it was in your head or in your blood?"
"He lied. Give me your hand."
Clint offered his hand slowly, afraid something horrible was going to happen to it. Like a cat, Evan lashed out with the blade, driving it into Clint's skin.
"Let it bleed..."
The Brujah let the blood flow, and Evan ripped out one of the pages. Setting the book down, he smeared the blank page across Clint's bloody flesh. "Now read it."
Glancing at it, Clint was amazed. There were words, blood red, where there were none before. He took the page, and began to intone the words which leapt into his head. His eyebrows arched, and a notion crossed between his ears. He could fly.
Thought became reality, and he shot off the floor. Dipping and weaving, he flew about the room. Finally he alighted.
"That was incredible!"
"That was also your payment...for now. Obey me, and there will be more."
"In all things, Evan."
Evan chucked lightly. He held power...true power in the palm of his hand. The secrets of Thaumaturgy in the hands of anyone with enough to offer. Clan Tremere would do anything to keep the secret locked away, even, perhaps offering the neck of their beloved sire to Evan, when the time was right.
Clint was just glad his head wasn't blown off by the elder vampire before him. He had been told it was the usual practice once they got what they wanted, and inconvenient witnesses were still standing around.
"Come, we have much work to do. I must make...more. The Inner Circle is having a meeting in a week to discuss Baba Yaga and that damnable mirror. I want to see their reaction when I begin passing these things out like candy..."
The Pages are an awesome mystical power. They consist of a single sheet of parchment, 10" x 15". Most are blank when found, but there are a few exceptions, as discussed below.
It is said that in the past, magi were able to store all the potential of a spell on pieces of parchment, so that they could be read off with but a moment's notice. However, one needed to be puissant in the Ars Magica before the spell could be unleashed, forever denying those without the Gift from magic use. With the death of magic, many who were researching ways to empower the UnGifted with power moved on to more pressing details, such as survival. The Pages exist as the closest anyone had come to that goal.
A few members of the Order of Tremere quickly distrusted Tremere and his vampiric Inner Circle, especially when they received word that members of the Circle, including Etrius, were visiting Covenants all across Mythic Europe. They soon realized that they were being drawn into a hideous conspiracy, an attempt by the Circle to regulate and control who utilized magic in this brave new world.
Many went into seclusion, and pored through musty tomes, seeking answers that simply weren't there. How could they ensure that magical power would not be only in the hands of a potent few? One finally returned from Vienna with horrific news. It was no longer a question of choice. Tremere was ordering _all_ members of his Order to submit to the Embrace or die. While there, he managed to steal several of the very books Tremere had consulted in researching vampirism. The mage in question, Caladrin, learned that vis could be found in relative abundance in the vitae that flowed through a vampire.
Those who resisted banded together with a new goal. Rather than holding out against the inevitable, they would ensure that the vampires themselves would be the regulating agent, holding the Tremere in check. Two, Caladrin and Frenault, set out with a plan. They would voluntarily submit to the Embrace, and use an untested spell to break the savage bond which was dooming their Order. It worked for Caladrin. Frenault was dissolved into a puddle of vitae by the powerful magicks.
Caladrin was ready. He used parchment, specially blessed by allies he still held in Rome, and engraved spells into the paper, using a stylus and his own ink for blood. No success. He could use the spells, but that wasn't the point. No one else could.
In a flash of insight, it came to him. He returned to the parchment, and merely carved the spell into it, leaving graceful channels cut into the paper. He then had a Ravnos friend apply his own blood to the paper. Success!
But alas, Caladrin's attempt at "playing the game" in Vienna, whilst secretly working on the project, was sucking him into the intrigue too far. He gave what he knew to the few mortal allies still alive, and took but a single copy of each spell with him. The book is know as the Album Caladrix, and is highly sought after, especially by the Sabbat.
The person wishing to make a Page must first have access to the spell he is trying to instill within the page. Thus, one wishing to imbue a page with Movement of the Mind 3 has to be able to cast it himself.
Then the mage must obtain a piece of parchment (dried and cured animal skin) which has been blessed by a priest of a Faith of no less than 3 (For this reason, many older Bibles are sought out as raw materials for unscrupulous creators). It is felt by some that if the Will of God is behind it, the outcome will be desirable.
Finally, a stylus must be used to inscribe the spell. The stylus must have at least 10% gold, 10% silver, 10% platinum, and 1% mercury, as a remembrance of the fallen Order. For every level trying to be generated, a Thaumaturgist must work for one full night, spending only one hour to meditate, and one hour to feed. Thus, to create a Path of Flames 4, the thaumaturgist must work for 4 nights straight, carving the intricate patterns into the paper. Any interruption, and the paper is utterly ruined.
The thaumaturgist must roll Dexterity+Thaumaturgy once per day, difficulty 7. A failure means the paper is ruined. A _botch_ means that the paper looks fine, but the full effect will be on the user, and not the target.
If a ritual is trying to be invoked, the creator, after preparing the Page, must perform the exact ritual before the Page. The material components will be consumed, but the ritual will have no effect until the Page is read.
A user who finds such a page will see it as blank. Those with Auspex 1 can "read" the contents by feeling the grooves cut into the paper by making a Perception+Auspex (diff 7). They also have instruction for use at the bottom.
If the spell invokes Movement of the Mind 3, a vampire must cover the page in three blood points worth of blood. As the blood flows, it fills the channels in the paper, and none spill over to obscure the words. If the invoker only spends two blood points, it will only be Movement of the Mind 2. Note that the Offering of vitae may take more than a single turn. When the paper has been prepared, the spell can be read. The reader makes an Intelligence + Occult roll, with a difficulty of 4. The number of successes garnered equals the spell level actually achieved.
The spell lasts for a scene, unless specified otherwise in the spell description. At that point, the Page disintegrates, reducing the paper into a puddle of spent blood.
Those Tremere who survived suspected treachery on the part of Caladrin, and made preparations for their downfall. They offered their pages to monastic orders and bookbinders as palimpsests, where the pages would be scrubbed, and written over. These pages were incorporated into books, such as bibles and histories. A journey to a rare book room at a college might reveal a few Pages.
It is also hinted in dark corners that the skin of a human, prepared just like an animal's, would decrease the difficulty on creation and invocation rolls by one, and the skin of a lupine would decrease it by 2. Make Humanity rolls where necessary.
The user holds the pendulum at arms length, and spins it in a small circle. She then rolls Perception + Occult (Diff. 6). With one success, any danger within a 100' radius will be indicated by a shift in the pendulum's path. The pendulum will swing toward the sight of danger, vibrating when the pendant reaches the highest point in the arc. If more than two dangers exist in 100', then the closest one will be pointed to. Danger is governed as per the Danger Sense merit in the Player's Guide. The user must remain perfectly still while the pendulum is swinging, and must spend a full turn preparing the pendulum before she can use it. Four successes on the roll will indicate an obfuscated character. Note that the pendant only reveals the presence of danger, not the distance or severity.