House Guernicus, the House of Law

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Time to read: 5 Minutes


The Law Above the Will


Guernicus, a Corsican Earth Mage, estimated the lifespan of the Order to be “three score and ten years, or a bit longer thanks to the potions of longevity” when he was invited to join. Trianoma, the energetic maga behind the movement to form the Order, finally grew weary of Guernicus’s scepticism and asked him what provisions the Order would have to make to survive. Guernicus said the Order would need a Magus whose sole duty was to police the other wizards, to keep peace, and to enforce the Code. At Trianoma’s suggestion, Guernicus took this role.

Guernicus was a gadfly in his role as judge, and many accused him of looking for disputes in an effort to prove that the Order could not stand. It was thanks to his fierce challenges and insistence on regulation, however, that the Peripheral Code was formed, and it has provided the magi of the Order with a firm, mostly practical, base of rules ever since.

Symbol and Iconography

House Guernicus’s symbol is the Scales of Justice, symbolising the role as judges of the Order. In iconography, Guernicus is depicted as a bearded ancient, in a golden-brown toga. In one hand he bears the scales of justice, and in the other, his staff – a metal pole topped with a cube.

What The House Was All About

It is important to draw at least some distinction between House Guernicus and the Quaesitori – even if most of the Order did not for many years. A Quaesitor is a Judge of the Order and can be appointed from any House, though the final decision on who is accorded this status lies with the Primus Guernicus. Since its dissolution, no new Quaesitori have been appointed, and no mechanism exists to do so. House Guernicus is the tradition of magi descended from Guernicus, and the vast majority of them served as Quaesitori for their Tribunals for all of their Hermetic lives.

From its start, House Guernicus sought, depending on who you ask, to either keep the peace or enforce the Code of Hermes upon the Order. For many magi, an encounter with the Quaesitori is likely to be an adversarial one. Having started from Guernicus’ “gadfly” position, the magi of the House mostly attempted to judge the Order fairly, and in line with the Code.

In the 10th Century, a few magi discovered scrolls at the Covenant of Duresca, in Iberia, purporting to be written by Guernicus himself. He described therein a secret plot by the House to take over the Order, and eventually the world. The scrolls caused quite a stir in the Order but were ultimately judged to be forgeries by a Quaesitori Tribunal and destroyed. Documents purporting to be copies are still in existence, and provided the foundation for mistrust of the Quaesitori in some quarters for years after.

During the Schism War, House Guernicus fell in with the House Unnamed and aided in the destruction of the House Forgotten.

In 1148, a Guernicus called Simprim started questioning the common practice of basing judgements on strict interpretations of the law. His philosophy, which came to be known as Transitionalism, was that the well-being of individual magi was the foremost concern of the Code, and that the law should aid that aim, and change to fit changing times. Those magi in opposition to this position, known as Traditionalists, held that the law is more important than individual magi, and that they should learn to adapt themselves to it. The Transitionalist vs. Traditionalist split was never much more than a philosophical debate in the House – while it might cause raised voices between sodales, no schisms or Wizard Wars arose from the discussion - until 1139.

In 1139, Pope Innocent II issued a papal bull – Omne Datum Optimum, where he exempted the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon – the Knights Templar – from obedience to local laws. This ruling meant that Templars could pass freely through all borders, were not required to pay any local or national taxes, and were exempt from all authority except that of the Pope.

The Transitionalists in House Guernicus devoured the bull and realised the freedom it gave the Templars. Following the pattern that House Jerbiton had used in the Church more widely, House Guernicus began inserting itself into the leadership of the Knights Templar. They were careful not to break the spirit of the Code banning interference with the mundanes, "and thereby bringing ruin upon my sodales". In fact, they claimed, by holding the reins of power for such an Order, the Guernicus were providing protection for their sodales, increasing opportunities for trade and giving safe havens to any magum who might be in need across Christendom. Over the next 100 years, the Transitionalist faction of House Guernicus tightened its grip on the Knights Templar. The Traditionalists, very much the poor cousins of the House, were pushed into the background. Aware of the potential for accusations of hypocrisy, House Guernicus kept its control of the Knights Templar a secret from the rest of the Order.

This was a fatal mistake.

In the early 14th Century, the Templars had lost their raison d’etre as their last footholds in the Holy Land were captured by the forces of Islam. Political moves from Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V against the Templars led to mass arrests and tortures against senior Templars and the existence of both House Guernicus and the Order of Hermes was exposed to a Pope who was not under Jerbiton control.

Learning of the location of Magvillus, under the Holy See itself, Clement acted swiftly. In 1309, the Seat of St Peter, the official home of the papacy, was moved to Avignon, in Southern France, and an assault was planned on Magvillus. While the House fought hard, its strength was in its secrecy, and when that was exposed, Magvillus fell.

The Grand Tribunal of 1318 – the so called ‘Devil’s Tribunal’ – renounced House Guernicus on the grounds of gross interference with the mundanes. Many of the magi formerly of that House chose to go to the aid of House Bjornear during the attack on Crintera, their Domus Magna, by the Teutonic Crusades. It is assumed that all perished in defence of their sodales.

Other former Guernicus, no longer with the protection of the Order behind them, found themselves beset by Wizard’s Wars, or in some cases, just plain murdered by one of the innumerable magi who held a grudge. The Order had finally turned upon House Guernicus, and there were seemingly none who were willing to come to its aid.

A Timeline of Events - The Houses in 1346 - The Greater Alps in 1346

Introduction to Ars Magica - The Order in 1346 - A Who's Who of Attendees - How the Game is Played