Thousand Caves covenant occupies a small portion of the Valley of a Thousand Caves, a long, twisting gorge that runs down from the western face of the Ural mountains. At the mouth of the gorge is a great rearing massif, the Earth Crown, watchpost of the covenant, below which is the main settlement.
The heart of the covenant is the Great Cavern, a cathedral-sized cave with a towering arched entryway. This is adjoined by the mages’ private caves and laboratories. The Great Cavern is the only fortified portion of the covenant, its entrance having a rough stone wall and gate. Approximately fifty other adjacent caves are actually inhabited, and they depend on inaccessibility for defense. They are accessible either by precarious ledges, by rope ladders, or not at all unless you can fly. At this time almost thirty members of the covenant have avian heartbeasts. Another thirty or so have other animal heart-beasts. Needless to say, it was a surprise to the Bjornaer to discover this many people with heart-beast tendencies, and the foremost speculation is that Thousand Caves’ strong Slavic faerie aura (of +6) has had some sort of “quickening” effect on the locals.
The covenant has a very unsophisticated lifestyle. The valley bottom is farmed; there are flocks, hunting, and fishing. The level of technology is late iron-age; a decent quality “modern” sword is a great prize here. The need for parchment, glassware, and inks always places the covenant in debt. However, the magi have considerable sway in this region. Thousand Caves is the acknowledged leader of the local clan, and several of the magi spend a good deal of their time roving amid the camps and semi-permanent villages in the surrounding countryside. In addition, the magi have broadened and intensified the normal pagan Slavic relationships with the local animals and faeries. Thus, despite its lack of formal defenses, the covenant is ringed by allies and friends.
Thousand Caves’ mystical status is very complex. The magi have admitted Volkhvy as members (affiliating them to House Ex Miscellanea) and are teaching them Hermetic techniques. They have also accepted Malincka’s reasoning that tempering an aura will require three vital elements: an Hermetic equivalent to the Volkhv Great Ritual, the willing participation of a large group of mundanes, and a mighty faerie “divinity” to “bless” the procedure. Malincka is hard at work on the first requirement. The second will come in time with Thousand Caves’ large population. The last is the most difficult, and the simple, practical aim of the Thousand Caves magi is to come up with a god. They hope to entice a great faerie to assume this role; indeed they hope to bring the influence of Hermes himself back to the world. For thirty years they have worked to this end, preaching to the local communities, teaching Hermes’ mythology, creating new festivals, teaching rituals of worship, and spreading arcane lore to promote their “new” cult.
To date there are some small signs of a positive nature. The local Volkhvy have proved capable of mastering Hermetic magic. There is nothing in it that denies their faith in their gods, though they have not managed to blend Hermetic and Volkhv techniques. The Volkhvy can use either, but only separately. On the other hand, Malincka Capcek has achieved some blended effects, and the magi have recently begun to get hints that their efforts to “tune” the local magical aura may be paying off. Sudden surges of magical energy have been experienced, as well as ecstatic, visionary dreams. Lastly, it seems that there may now be one person who can truly bridge the gap between the two traditions. A young girl, Stenya Vassanovna has proven herself Gifted, and claims that she can talk to “Lord Hermes.” She is preaching his cult with remarkable persuasiveness. If she is telling the truth then perhaps one day she will be the first priestess of a newly revived Hermetic religion.
Of course, the chief difficulties with all this research lie in the fact that the powers of the Volkhvy come from the faerie realm, while Hermetic magi draw on magical powers. The thrust of Malincka’s research is to figure out some way that the techniques of the Volkhvy, aided by the existence of pagan believers, can be made to affect magical auras in the same way they affect faerie auras. Clearly much research into faerie, magical energy, and the strange power of mass mundane worship is needed.
It is assumed by the magi of Thousand Caves that their patron, Hermes, is of the magical realm rather than the faerie (after all, their magic is based largely on the power of the Cult of Hermes — how could there be any other explanation!). One fear at Thousand Caves, however, is that they will wind up simply attracting the attention of demons.
Since declaring their successes at the 1214 tribunal, Thousand Caves has been striving to convert the tribunal to their point of view. They are keen to expand their numbers. Much research into faerie, magical energy, faith, and belief is needed. The philosophical questions are almost as complex as the magical ones, and Malincka urgently wants competent collaborators.
Current Relations with Andorra