This saga introduces an alternative history of House Flambeau, drawn from elements in third and fourth edition, and adapting concepts from the current cannon of fifth edition. There is a lot of grey area, deliberately so, and there are variations of the "truth" as well as a wide body of lore known as the Flambeau Apocrypha.
The difficulty in ascertaining the truth (as far as this saga is concerned) lies in the fact that Flambeau wrote very little about himself, and a lot is based on second hand knowledge recorded and conjectured by his followers. These also consist mostly of quips and tangential remarks, such as statements and assertions made by Elaine of Flambeau as side comments in some of her early works. The Affidavit of Apromor make only brief mention of his pater, with only dry facts that contradict latter statements. There is also the work of Kaeso of Flambeau, who tried to tie the lore of the Founder into that of his hedge magic background and his fledgling Cult of Mithras (later the Legion of Mithras). Then there is the Legend of Delendos by Julius of Flambeau, who writes with authority as if he had firsthand knowledge, but he has no citations or sources to verify his statements.
The most thoroughly considered and most respected works on the subject were written by Joseph of Flambeau, in his famed summa History of House Flambeau. He takes difficult care to separate what is known fact, what is likely conjecture, what is accepted but may be doubtful, and what is known legend. He further embraces legends and tries to explain their origin.
There are latter works on the subject of Hermetic History that are considered more accurate yet less specific, or they are very specific but somewhat revisionist and of questionable accuracy. Example authors include Arturius of Bonisagus (who corrects the history of the foundation of Val-Negra in his Historia Hermeticum, but glossed over specifics), and Primus Garus of Flambeau (who's work focuses on history after the Schism War which is usually accurate, but reinterprets early history as a didactic vehicle to teach moral values).
The most recent work on the subject has had the contradictory effect of infuriating and vindicating just about every variable point of view. Written in 1227 and presented at the Grand Tribunal of 1228, Anguish of the Avenger by Archmagus Pietro of Flambeau is the first serious attempt to reconcile scattered stories and put together an accurate understanding of Flambeau, his history, and his legacy. The book both glorifies and condemns the founder, pointing out his heroic virtues and tragic flaws, a martyr and a menace, murderer and savior, and most important of all, a human being consumed by tragedy and to be pitied. Everybody hates this book, but everybody is able to cherry pick something out of the text that proves their point in an argument about the subject material. Which is exactly what Pietro, a former Tytalus magus converted to House Flambeau, is most proud of.
The Coming of Flambeau
The Iberian roots of House Flambeau are traced back to the Roman era and the Cult of Mercury. The way the way they incorporated and adapted the diverse magic of native Iberian traditions mirrors the formation of the Order of Hermes in a sort of precognitive microcosm. Of particular interest are the Cantabrians, who had a Fire Cult and worshiped a god of sun and war latter identified with Mars. The Mercurians also incorporated some of the rituals of the Celtiberians and put together a formalized cooperative process that converted wizards could participate in. Wizards of the ancient Cult of Mercury operated in a similar pattern wherever Roman influence spread.
After the fall of Rome and the invasion of the Visigoths, the Mercurians were marginalized at first, but as the Visigoths became more Romanized, Roman practices once again became more dominant.
It is this soil from which House Flambeau sprang; where he was born, where he learned the arts of war and magic, and where he died in battle.
Flambeau's vulgar family was descended from wealthy Roman aristocracy mixed with Visigoth nobility, and controlled great wealth in the Lusitania region. Born in 698 and given the Christian name Reculed Annaeus Seneca, his childhood was an era fraught with conflict and strife. Reculed was taught the ways of the warrior from the very cradle, and wielded a sword since the day he could stand. In 710, the Visigoth kingdom was fractured by civil war when King Witza tried to place his sons on the throne, contrary to the election of King Roderic by the nobility. Roderic seized Toledo, and the Seneca family sent twelve year old Reculed to their Northern estates. This proved fortunate, for the Moors led by Tariq ibn Ziyad invaded the next year and overran all of the families Southern holdings. As the Moors pressed further, Reculed's life was endangered during an attack on the estate in 712. He was shot in the leg by an arrow, tended to by his physician Laberius, and then retreated further north to Asturias.
The Learned Laberius
As Reculed recovered, he was educated in Asturias by Laberius, his first teacher. Of the figure Laberius, much is misunderstood and much is unknown. He was a doctor and a teacher, and was possibly a minor mystic. None of the early tales ascribe any feats of magic to his credit, nor is he described as being anything more than wise and skilled in matters of medicine, artes liberals, and philosophiae. He taught Reculed Latin, Artes Liberales, Philosophiae, and probably a bit of Alchemy. Laberius was not a hermit, nor was he a pagan. These are claims made by Kaeso of Flambeau, who asserted Laberius was a Mithraic wizard priest that dwelt in a cave. Laberius was of Cantabrian heritage however, and was said to have many superstitions unique to his homeland. The ancient Cantabrian pagans had a fire/war god cult that was similar to Mithraic practice, meeting in caves and sacrificing horses instead of bulls. But any connection is wild conjecture. But to say Laberius was a mere mundane scholar would be a false statement as well. Flambeau mentioned that it was from his old teacher that he first learned the arts of Alchemy and Astrology, and initially became curious with the mysteries of fire.
As Reculed entered his early manhood, his Gift and infamous temper began to emerge. This frightened most people and even intimidated Laberius, but this also drew the attention of a sorcerer named Yusef ibn Ibrahim. A Gifted apprentice is a valuable resource, so Yusef conspired to abduct the lad. In 714, Reculed and his teacher Laberius had sought shelter in Pamplona. Unfortunately, the Moors managed to push forward North into Navarre, and having forced them into submission, a garrison was stationed outside of the citadel of Pampalona by the end of that year. Laberius insisted they hide in relative safety, but Reculed demanded they make plans to head across the Pyrenees and join up with Frankish forces. In January 715, Reculed put his plan into action, a plan that would fail and radically alter the course of his life.
Emerging from the city under the cover of darkness, Reculed and Laberius were fell upon by Yusef ibn Ibrahim and his agents before dawn. The battle was swift and brutal. Two of Yusef's assassins were slain before Laberius was eviscerated by a bloodthirsty ghul. Reculed killed one more of the assasins, but was beaten into submission by the ghul and the other two assassins, all the while Yusef smiled and laughed, mocking young Reculed in his defeat. Reculed was taken into captivity and clapped in chains, a sorcerer's slave, to be taken to Yusef's alchemy laboratory at the Black Vale and forced into labor.
Apromor coined the phrase "Time Destroys all Things", but he ascribes the wisdom behind the phrase to his pater. Yusef had Reculed clapped in chains and was bringing him to Mount Perditiu, where his cabal had recently established a base of operations from which to support their military allies. Along the way, Reculed was visited in the night by a shadow that spoke in his dreams. The shade told Reculed it was the projection of the wizard Delendar, who promised to free him if he granted him assistance in crushing the cabal. Reculed agreed, and suggested a plan. The next morning, while performing private morning functions and sanitations as permitted by his captors, Reculed tore a fistful of hair from his head, leaving a lock with bloody roots under a stone marked with his urine. He also picked up a piece of red chalk that he was told he would find in his dream, and hid it in his clothing. Reculed then bid his time awaiting his opportunity.
At Mount Perditiu, in a region known as the Black Vale, Yusef's cabal of sorcerers had subjugated a race of magical people known as the Aerie, seizing control of their powerful Magic Regio and binding their patron Spirit of the Mountain Shrine (a Genus Locus) into their own service. Reclued vowed to free these people when he managed to escape, and he began to plan and wait. For three seasons Reculed labored in Yusef's lab, using Alchemy to distil vis from the powerful aura. He also wisely kept a portion of this vis hidden aside for use when the time was right.
Then in winter, at the sunset preceding the longest night, it was time to put the plan into motion. The Arcane Connection Reclued had left behind allowed Delendar to track him and pinpoint his location, and thereby gain access to the Black Vale. Reclueds hands were still in chains, though with enough slack so that he could perform labor. This chain was his weapon of vengeance. With it, while alone with Yusef in his lab, Reculed clubbed him, and while dazed, wrapped the chain around his neck and choked the life out of him. He then traced a circle in chalk on the floor, including the glyphs and incantations the shade of Delendar taught him in his dream, and summoned the wizard before him in the flesh. The old wizard struck the chains from Reculed's wrists, handed him a sword, and the two of them proceeded to kill every sorcerer of the cabal and liberate the Aerie Clan. The Aerie rose up in revolt and joined their liberators in the fight. One of the first magical feats of Flambeau, the Pilium of Fire, is ascribed to this battle. He had taken the vis from Yusef's lab and was using it to generate spontaneous effects to "Cast Fire" (conjure and throw flame) in battle. Delendar had chosen the longest night for a reason, for it allowed him the maximum duration on the spells he used to protect and augment himself and Reculed. Fortunately so, for the battle was fierce and desperate, lasting until nearly the very dawn.
In the aftermath, the two wizards struck up an alliance. It was the end of the year 715, and Flambeau latter refers to this as the year of his true birth, a statement that creates later confusion as to the Founders actual age. It also raises the question of Flambeau's true lineage. At this point he had learned magic from both Laberius and Yusef, but Delendar was his most influential mentor and teacher and the one he would in later days refer to as his pater.
Delendar the Destroyer
Delendar was a Visigoth wizard of the Mercurian tradition, and was a staunch enemy of the foreign Moorish wizards. No one knows exactly what drove Delendar's desperate passion for warfare. Vengence, patriotism, madness, despair, duty; these and other causes are given in conjecture. But there is no existing material penned by Delendar's hand, and Flambeau never spoke anything about his mentor's past (if he ever knew of anything to begin with). What is known is that he was a master of damaging and destructive magics. Though based upon permutated Mercurian Magic, Delendar also had craft magic and shamanistic influences from his ancient Visigoth heritage, but these were very subtle.
Delendar imparted his vast arcane knowledge unto Reculed with a haste born of desperation, and the young man proved to be an intuitive student making leaps of advancement far beyond Delendar's expectations. In turn, Reculed taught many things to his mentor. This included not only the primitive alchemy of that era and the secrets of Cantabrian fire magic, but also his own first handed knowledge of the arts of warfare and strategy. The two made a formidable pair, and before long renown of their exploits and fear of their reputation became widespread throughout the land. They participated at the Battle of Covadonga, fighting alongside of king Pelagius of Asturias. They assisted Odo of Aquitaine at the Battle of Toulouse. They also made deep raids as far as Porto and Toledo.
Yet they were only two men. They were able to inhibit the progress of the Moors, but were unable to repulse them. The annihilation of the cabal of sorcerers at the Black Vale was indeed a crippling blow, but the Umayyads were quick to recruit magical assistance from the far East. This coincides with an influx of other Arabic reinforcements and tensions/rebellions by the Berbers. Delendar and Reculed, once identified, were quickly challenged and counter-matched by enemy wizards on the battlefield. Further, as efforts to consolidate power and quell rebellions increased, efforts by sorcerers to take down the pair escalated as well. Further, the Umayyads knew that in order to push further beyond the Pyrenees, these two Latin wizards must be dealt with decisively. A new cabal of sorcerers was formed by Suleiman-al-Afdal-al-Sahir, a renowned wizard from Persia, with the dedicated purpose of quelling the resistance and destroy the Latin wizards supporting it. Delendar and Reculed became marked men.
In 730, Delendar and Reculed were supporting a revolt in the Eastern Pyrenees, and after several decisive victories, rebel forces and their wizard allies managed to cut off enemy supply lines and every avenue of retreat. Reculed suggested that they open up an escape route and force the enemy to route. Delendar wanted to tighten the stranglehold and destroy them. In their weakened and defeated condition, the Moors would have been easily defeated and destroyed.
But it was a trap.
Suleiman-al-Afdal had been baiting Delendar and Reculed, trying to lure them into open battle. They allowed the enemy to surround them, pinning them into the valley. When rebel forces rushed in to what they thought was going to be an easy victory, the situation was instantly reversed through magic. The Moorish troops vanished as the rebels ran in, then reappeared surrounding them. Now it was they who were pinned in the valley. Nevertheless, they maintained an entrenched position, and bolstered by the might of the two wizards, managed to hold off the Moors for several days as they planned their counterattack. The rebels hoped that, if they could break the enemy lines, they could escape West and join up with some fellows. In a desperate sortie just before dawn, Delendar and Reculed assaulted the enemy with all their might and forced a gap open. Rebel forces poured through unto freedom, but this was also part of the enemy's plan. They sifted out the mundanes so that Suleiman-al-Afdal could close in with his sorcerers upon the two Latin wizards.
Spells and spirits fell upon the pair, and they were barely able to withstand and deflect the forces unleashed. But they were unable to stand their ground, and became separated by a thunderous whirlwind conjured in their midst. Reculed was taken up into the air by a thirty-foot tall djinn. It intended to hurl him back down to the ground with force, but Reculed's ferocity was underestimated and the young wizard killed the jinni in quick measure. Still left to plummet of his own accord, he managed to magically shorten his fall by making a Wizardly Leap to a point only a few feet above ground. Injured and winded, Reculed scrambled to his feet and hastily made his way over the hill to join Delendar back down in the valley. But it was too late.
Suleiman-al-Afdal and the other sorcerer's concentrated all of their might upon the lone Delendar, pummeling him with mystical forces and setting raging jinn and howling spirits upon him. But the great wizard stood his ground, a look of determination fixed upon his grim bearded face. He unleashed the full unfettered force of his destructive magic, the ground cracking beneath his feet, soldiers turning to ash with but a gaze, bolts of thunder clapping all around him. But the sheer numbers and weight of forces overwhelmed him. As Reculed gained the top of the hill, he gazed below to witness Delendar being obliterated by incredible magnitudes of magical force. The Wrath of Reculed was terrible, as he filled the valley with torrents of fire and death. Only the most clever and quick thinking enemies survived and fled, including Suleiman-al-Afdal and a few of his sorcerers. Reculed walked down into the valley, the wind still and all now silent, stood over the broken body of his mentor, and wept.
Flambeau the Avenger
Reculed's heart hardened that day, otherwise grief would have broken and consumed him. Delendar was Reculed's teacher, mentor, and his friend. But it was more than that. He had become a father figure, an idol, and a personal hero. And he was powerless as he watched them rip his friend to shreds. A fire of fury and wrath burned inside him, hotter than ever before, and he would never be the same man again. He decided to head North, crossing the Pyrenees to join with the Franks and rebuild his forces. This is when he began using the nom de guerre of Flambeau, and when his passion for revenge turned into an obsession with vengeance.
Flambeau's popularity amongst the Franks is often exaggerated. He did not have Delendar's natural talent when dealing with mundanes. Delendar apparently had the Gentle Gift, Flambeau obviously did not. However, though the Franks feared him, they knew of his unrelenting hatred of their common enemy. In turn, Flambeau sympathized with the fiery temperament of the Franks and shared their love for battle, so he struggled to earn their begrudging respect. Then came the fateful day when he was approached directly by Charles Martel, King of the Franks.
The king was desperate for Flambeau's assistance, but he was wise and played it off as if he was the one doing the wizard a favor. Charles knew of Flambeaus legendary wrath and obsession with revenge, as well as the difficulty he was having recruiting soldiers for his cause. The king did not suffer from the same feelings of unease around the wizard that others did, and after their famous meeting they shared a mutual genuine respect for one another. Charles placed a company of one-hundred mercenaries under Flambeaus command. He chose only men of stern backbone and a stalwart sense of duty, and gave them strict orders to train relentlessly under their wizardly commander despite any unease they may feel. And train they did, until they learned to become accustomed to his Gift and could trust him enough to develop mixed magical-martial strategies.
In October 732, at the Battle of Tours, Flambeau stood alongside Charles Martel. The moors were led by ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi. His ally, Suleiman-al-Afdal, Flambeau's old enemy, led two other sorcerers and between them they commanded several spirits. Flambeau had his men form a shield wall in the shape of a hollow square. The soldiers stood firm and inflexible as a wall of granite, swords and arrows bouncing off of them with no effect. Further, they formed the boundary of a ward that repulsed spirits and other creatures the sorcerers tried to set upon them. When the Moors ordered a desperate all-out attack, they were smashed against this immovable block in the Frankish lines. From within this defensive square, Flambeau had archers rain arrows of fire down upon the enemy and he himself launched arc of fire and destruction that wiped out enemies by the rank and file.
The Moors were broken and the Franks swept them away like dry leaves before the wind. ‘Abdul Rahman was killed as his routing troops were themselves massacred. It should be noted that Charles won the battle of Tours without any cavalry, only his Frankish infantry and the assistance of one lone wizard. The enemy had three allied sorcerers and a dozen jinn. One of the sorcerers was hacked to pieces by Frankish axes in the heat of combat. The other two attempted to flee when the rest of the Moorish army began to route. That's when Flambeau decided to break formation and pursue. He managed to catch up with Suleiman-al-Afdal, and though chroniclers like to make up tales of an epic dramatic battle, the truth is that Flambeau managed to kill him by a swift surprise blast of multiple bolts of fire.
The other sorcerer, Tariq-ibn-Suleiman-al-Sahir, the son and apprentice of Suleiman-al-Afdal, managed to escape. He would burn with the same bitter obsession for revenge as Flambeau felt. This was the basis for a rivalry that would last the rest of their lives and an enmity that has lasted generations since. Tariq was now the only surviving member of the cabal that assassinated Delendar two years earlier. Flambeau had just killed Tariq's father. These men had every justifiable reason to hate one another, in time they would come to forgive one another, but in the end they would wind up killing one another.
Flambeau knew that this was still not enough. Asturias managed to retain independence and the Moorish advance was repelled at Tours. But the invaders still occupied over three-quarters of the peninsula, and they had the advantage of the assistance of organized and accepted wizards. In the past generation, vulgar sorcery had fallen out of fashion in favor of "clean" magic such as practiced by Sahirs. They had the acceptance and support of mundane authorities, and they vastly outnumbered him. Flambeau set about trying to recruit other wizards to his cause.
Flambeau's efforts were met with resistance and conflict. His detractors say that this was his intent, that he was honing his skills and hunted over fifty wizards just for sport and to steal their magical power. This is exaggerated and false. Flambeau's followers insist he was trying to form a cabal of his own, but the effects of the Gift (now well known) caused others he met to react with distrust and hostility. He did have around a dozen violent encounters that are well known lore, but this is far short of fifty and none of them involved sport. He did kill a priest of Woton whose human sacrifices he found objectionable, he burned a trio of infernal witches in Greece, and there are a few cases where he approached with peaceful intent only to be met with hostile distrust and violence. He did meet a handful of wizards he could interact with on amicable terms, but though they were willing to share hospitality with him they would not follow him.
It was during this period that Flambeau met Trianoma. Though it is claimed that he was trying to form alliances, the fact is that he was infamous for his violent confrontations, deserved or not, and had become one of the most feared wizards in Mythic Europe. That is exactly why Trianoma sought him out. It is said that he was suspicious of her offer and doubted the idea of an Order. Others say that he was suspicious because she sought him out and doubted the idea of an Order not commanded by himself. But recent research into the journals of Trianoma seem to indicate that their initial meeting was friendly. She demonstrated the effectiveness of Parma Magica and taught him how to use it. Shielded from the effects of each other's Gift, Trianoma mentions that they became fast friends and had long discussions on philosophiae and theology. He agreed to accompany her to Durenmar and meet the others that were to become the Founders of the Order of Hermes
Flambeau the Founder
There is the famous battle with the necromancers of Varidian's Tomb,