Around 1184, a small group of Flambeau and Tytalus magi belonging to the Ash Guild was returning from an expedition to the Norse lands. They docked at Kuressaare, on the island of Saaremaa, to replenish provisions. While the ship was being loaded, one of the magi — Axior of Flambeau — noticed something odd on the waterfront. A teenaged boy was walking along the docks, minding his own business… and every animal he passed would react to something unseen. Dogs would growl and back away, a cat hissed and took off for the nearest tree, a carter's pony shied and almost upset his cart.
Knowing very well what this could mean, Axior decided to investigate further. The boy, Gardaitis, turned out to be Gifted. Axior took the boy as an apprentice, brought him back to the covenant of Terschelling, opened his Arts… and the very next Season, perished in a magical accident, an explosion in the lab. Gardaitis survived the explosion, but it damaged his Gift and left him deaf in one ear.
One of the deceased magus' covenant mates, Decima of Flambeau, took over Gardaitis' training. Decima didn't have an easy time with young Gardaitis. The damage to his Gift left him unsuited to the traditional Flambeau approach. After several false starts, Decima determined that School of Ramius would be a good fit for him, and proceeded to train him accordingly. He was also inducted into the Ash guild, spending several seasons of study at Durenmar under Philippus Niger.
Gardaitis' Gauntlet came about almost by accident. A Redcap passing through Terschelling related how he had had his pouch stolen some months previously, and one part of the tale — the fact that the pouch strings were burned through rather than cut — caught Gardaitis' attention. He thought the theft might be the work of a "tail of fire", a minor faerie/magical spirit from the area he was familiar with. He asked Decima for permission, travelled to the area where the theft took place, tracked the fire-tail to its lair, weakened it with cups of water lined across the threshold, fought it and recovered the pouch. After he returned to Terschelling and related the tale of his adventures, Decima retroactively declared that to have been his Gauntlet.
Gardaitis spent a few years after his Gauntlet half-heartedly working towards improving himself and improving the Covenant. The total population of Terschelling was (counting him) 3 magi at that point: it was still a struggling Spring covenant. In 1200, two new magi (Hygwald Veritas of Tremere and Eric Ribecus of Tytalus) joined the covenant… and in 1201, due to personality conflicts with the two newcomers, Decima left the covenant and the Tribunal, moving to Hibernia.
Gardaitis escorted his Mater to her new place of residence, bid her goodbye, and returned… only to be greeted with the news of the Brothers of the Sword, and the massacre in Riga. He travelled to Riga to see the destruction for himself, and then spent some time traveling around the northern covenants trying to drum up support for his idea of interfering with the crusade. This came to naught — his home covenant of Terschelling had other fish to fry, and Oculus Septentrionalis (controlled by the Apfelgild) was completely against the idea. In Crintera, the Harmonist viewpoint prevailed, although Gardaitis did get some sympathy from the Wilderist faction. (I have this image of him and Urgen of Bjornaer sharing a beer and discussing — in very oblique, theoretical terms, of course — just how a magus might go about a task like this without falling afoul of the Code. Not sure if it ever happened, but it's an amusing image.)
Gardaitis next headed to Durenmar, to seek help from Philippus Niger, the head of his Gild — surely a Flambeau Archmage would jump at the chance. And Philippus Niger — who IS a Flambeau Archmage — sat him down and explained to him in mortifying, excruciating detail the political realities, and just how much of an idiot Gardaitis was being. The terms "wet behind the ears whippersnapper" were probably the mildest ones used.
Gardaitis gave up on the idea, rebased himself to Crintera as a peregrinatore to be closer to the action, and took the fight to the enemy. He did not attend the 1207 Tribunal, finding out only later that the other original Terschelling magus had also left the covenant and the newcomers had renamed the covenant to Waddenzee. The news gave him a bit of a pang, but… not that much.
The next few years were spent in the field — teaching the Estonians fighting techniques, arranging for purchases of arms and armor, sabotaging the Crusaders' supplies, men, and materiel, etcetera.
According to legend, the giant Sur Toll sleeps beneath the earth of Saaremaa, waking if the island is threatened. Early on in the Cycle, Gardaitis decided to follow up on the legend: a giant, if it could be woken, would be a terrific ally. He prepared himself, and descended into the depths of the Kaali Crater, looking for Sur Toll. He didn't find the giant. What he found was an underground river that spoke to him as he journeyed along it, whispering in many tongues that all somehow sounded the same…[A mystical experience that deepened his connection with his mythic ancestor, giving him the Virtue "Gift of Tongues". It gave him 4 Warping points, too].
Towards the end of the Cycle, he'd taken a hard blow on the head from a Crusader mace. The wound healed, eventually, but the concussion left him with occasional nausea and inner-ear problems. The events of the past 10 years had been slowly grinding away at his image of himself as "hot shit on a silver platter", and the wound finished the job.
His time at Crintera came to an end — peregrinatores have time limits — so he moved to Oculus Septentrionalis.
Around 1217, he encountered another Magus on the field, this one aiding the Crusaders — Rutilus of Jerbiton. Heated words were exchanged, but the two magi eventually came to an agreement: Certamen, with the loser removing himself from the theater of operations for a period of 3 years.
He slunk back to Oculus Septentrionalis, tail between his legs, already planning how he was going to spend those years — what spells he was going to invent, what new dirty tricks he was going to come up with to play on the Crusaders. He'd managed to get through most of this program before word came from Durenmar. A case had been laid against him, for the high crime of interfering with mundanes, and he had two choices: show up at Durenmar NOW and try to settle the case out of court, or show up at Durenmar during Tribunal and try to defend himself in a private/public hearing.
Gardaitis, not being a stupid man, chose option 'A' and traveled to Durenmar immediately. To his surprise, his accuser was a Jerbiton he hadn't ever met before, from one of the southern covenants. There was quite a bit of evidence against him, ameliorated by the fact that he WAS subtle and careful and his magic wasn't flashy. After a bit of wrangling, the two parties and the mediating Quaesitor agreed on a punishment: a year of working for the Quaesitori, and an agreement to stay the hell away from the Crusade for a period of ANOTHER 3 years.
Gardaitis returned to Oculus Septentrionalis, but his troubles weren't over. Rumors began to spread about him — that he'd broken the law, that he'd bribed the Quaesitori, that he'd done this and that and the other thing. After about a year, Oculus Septentrionalis politely but firmly informed him that he had overstayed his welcome. Accordingly, he'd packed his stuff and moved as a Peregrinatore to the newly-founded covenant of Heorot, serving out the rest of his time there… and once the 3 years were up, he'd headed right back to Estonia.
He finally experienced his first major Twilight, caused by a magical botch while building a makeshift abatis. Luckily, he managed to comprehend it, gaining a total of 8 Warping points, a Twilight scar (a smell of fresh-cut pine that hovers around him for a short time after casting), and increased understanding in Magic Theory/mastery of the spell involved (Tree Falling in the Forest).
And in the winter of 1226-1227, the Brothers of the Sword crossed the ice to Saaremaa, and the fight was over.
He'd spent a quarter of a century trying to single-handedly stop a crusade. Trying something all-but-impossible, with no help from anyone, getting slowly ground down. Self-imposed labor of Sysiphus. Sacrificed everything for the cause — bled for it, had his good name dragged through the mud, saw younger magi catch up to him and FAR surpass him in magical power… didn't have time to so much as bind a familiar, let alone train an apprentice… everything he had, he gave to the cause.
Thing is, if he'd succeeded — if his mundane allies were willing to keep fighting — it would all have been worth it. But when Saaremaa fell, and his mundane allies surrendered and accepted Christianity, he KNEW he'd failed, and he knew that all of his time, his effort, his sacrifice was for NOTHING. That was the breaking point. The fight was over, and it cannot be picked up again.
Gardaitis was at loose ends after Saaremaa fell, and in pretty bad shape. He headed south, with no particular destination in mind. Not even flying — walking. He wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere, he needed time to think, and if he got tired or his feet hurt… well, so what?
He thought a lot as he walked. Tried to figure out what went wrong, and then gave up trying to figure it out. He came to the reluctant conclusion that he couldn't even blame the Elders for choosing to surrender and accept Christianity. If they'd wanted to save their families, they didn't have a choice in the matter. Yes, being a martyr to one's principles would have been a grand and heroic thing to do — but if there was one thing he'd learned in his years of fighting, it was that there are very few people who are true heroes. He couldn't even count himself among that number — and what was that the Christians said? "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?"
So the entire thing, looked at in retrospect, just seemed predetermined and foreordained and completely pointless. Blind as puppies, all of them, himself included — smashing into walls, whining in pain, picking themselves up and smashing into the same walls all over again.
He did promise himself one thing. He would never get involved in a religious war again. Ever.
He'd spent the winter and spring of 1228 holed up at a Mercer house, somewhere in Normandy. Caught up with the latest news of the Order… finally dispatched some letters to Decima and Philippus Niger and a few other folks, telling them he was alive and not to worry… and found out about the Covenant of Andorra, who were looking for new blood. He'd been going south anyway… Andorra seemed like as good a destination as any.
So he headed south.
From Central Normandy.
Right through… yep, you guessed it. Languedoc, and the heart of the Albigensian crusade. Welcome to Irony. Population: 1 shell-shocked Flambeau.
Winter of 1228-1229 found him near Vareilles. Correction: IN Vareilles, surrounded by a Crusader army. He tarried in the besieged town for a few weeks, and to this day he doesn't know why. He could have flown out, teleported out, escaped in a dozen different ways… but he didn't. Something was telling him to stay just one more day. One day too long, as it turned out. On his last night in the town, the Crusader army stormed the walls.
He was going to stay out of it. Really, he was. He'd learned his lesson. He promised himself — remember that promise? — that he wouldn't raise a weapon in a religious war ever again. Unfortunately, that promise proved rather hard to keep. He could not sit idly by and watch the slaughter.
But he wouldn't try to play the hero either. No more Mighty Mythic-Blooded Magus, trying to hold back the tide. Go find yourself someone else to play King Canute. No. He'd do what another man would do in his place. No more, and no less.
So he took the first group of panicked civilians he ran across — two young women, and a handful of children — and got them out of the besieged town and through the Crusader lines. He did keep part of his promise, though — never did raise a weapon…
Of course, the question that arose the next morning was, what exactly was he supposed to do *now*? Two young women and a handful of children in the middle of a war zone are tasty prey for the kind of scum that follows armies around. He couldn't very well just leave them. Did they have any relatives he could drop them off with? Oh, all the way in Limoges? Nothing closer? And it's the middle of winter… and the kids are sniveling…
So Gardaitis ventured a suggestion that they follow him to where he's going. They could probably find a place to stay for a few months near Andorra, until the weather turns better, until the Crusade moves somewhere else. It won't be for very long. Really.
And apparently he moved along shortly, headed who knows where. Will he return one day?