The Cartographers Guild adventures…
The Cartographers Guild is a proud scientific organization dedicated to uniting the world through maps. For nearly a century, they have sent teams of the most intrepid explorers to remote corners of the world.
The Cartographers Guild and the Search for the Jade Mask
The Search for the Jade Mask follows a team of mapmakers sent to the Pamir Mountains in Central Asia in the 1930s. But when two members are kidnapped by bandits, everything changes. Trying to rescue the missing members, the cartographers encounter hostile local officials, angry thugs, and riots. They have to elude bandits, fight a leopard, and battle yetis. Then the going gets tough. Can the cartographers find a mystical ancient treasure in a lost city and save their friends from the clutches of a madman?
The Cartographers Guild and the Mercury Crow
The door to the inner sanctum loomed black at the foot of the stairs. Maes Titanius paused at the top of the stairs; he inhaled deeply, squared his shoulders, raised his head a trifle. This would be his moment of triumph.
He placed his feet deliberately as he descended. The stairs had been constructed to make descent difficult; one must enter the sanctum with care, even one who returned a lost treasure to the temple. He stooped to enter the low door, then knelt in the rectangle of light at the entrance. He closed his eyes briefly to help them adjust to the gloom.
A voice broke the silence, deep and harsh. “Arise, Maes Titianus, and approach the Pater Patrum Magnus.”
Titianus stood. He strode to the table at the rear of the room, then bowed deeply to the cowled figure who sat on the far side of the table. “I have it, Master. The Jade Mask of Mithras.” He reached into the satchel that hung at his hip and rested his fingers on the smooth green mask within. He paused for a breath. He presented the mask as he had practiced so many times, withdrawing it from the satchel, flourishing it with both hands, and sinking to one knee while bowing his head as he extended the object. This was his service to the Pater Patrum Magus – the Great Father of Fathers, the Master of the Order of Mithras.
The Pater Patrum Magus did not move. The moment stretched on; the stone floor dug at Titianus’s knee. His extended arms began to shake as he held the mask.
At last, he could wait no longer. “Ah, Pater—the mask? Don’t you wish to receive it?” He left unspoken the other question—and give me my reward for finding it?
The Pater made a noise deep in his throat. It might have been hmmm, or it might have been the growl of a large dog. “You have done well to locate the mask, Titianus, and you deserve a reward. And yet you have failed at the same time.” The Pater Patrum tilted his head, questioning. “Can it be that you are unaware?”
Titianus jerked his head up and pulled the mask back. “What? No—I retrieved the mask as you ordered. No mortal authorities are aware. The guardians are aware, but I was told not to worry about—”
A sharp slap on the table cut him off. “No. You have failed the most basic command of the faith.”
Titianus stood upright now, indignant. “I have done no such thing. The secrecy of the Order has been preserved. Those people—those ignorant mapmakers who discovered the lost city—they know nothing of us or our purposes. Our secrecy remains intact.”
“And yet news comes to me that they exited the city with books. Two books, both ancient. The Codex Mithraica, and what seems to be the Periplus Sanctuaria.”
Titianus shivered. “No. It cannot be—I searched them thoroughly. The cartographers took nothing—”
“And yet they possess both the Mithraica, our most secret book, and the Sanctuaria—a document lost to the Order for two thousand years.” The voice of the Pater Patrum was icy. “However, I am not without gratitude. You have done well to recover the mask; you will be granted the privilege of seeking the shrine of the mercury crow. I have information that these cartographers are doing likewise; they will be in possession of the two secret codices. In addition to finding the sanctuary, you are to recover both the Codex Mithraica and the Periplus Sanctuaria. Once you possess the documents, liquidate those who know of their existence.”
Titianus knelt once more, this time placing both knees on the ground. He bowed low, touching his forehead to the floor. “Thank you, o great one. The interlopers shall be slain at once.”
The Master waved one hand in a dismissive gesture. “No, leave them be for now. I believe they will be of use. The Mithraica records the location of the Shrine of the Crow somewhere in an underground city in Cappadocia. Many good brothers have lost their lives searching for it. It would be best to let the outsiders face the risks of the deep cities.
“For a thousand years, our efforts to locate this temple have been futile; perhaps these newcomers with their science will succeed where faith has failed. I have contacts with the Cartographers Guild; I believe I can place a spy within their ranks. Conduct your own search for the shrine. My informer will pass you information to assure you stay ahead of the interlopers. Once you locate the shrine, then will come the hour for you to recover the lost books and seal our secret once again.
“Watch also for the others—you know who I mean. Do not let them stop the rediscovery of the shrine. They will challenge all who seek the shrine, our brothers and the cartographers alike. The others must be eliminated at some point; you may take any action necessary to oppose them, save that it reveal our secret to the wider world.
“Do these things—find the shrine, recover the Mithraica and Sanctuaria, and kill the cartographers—and you shall stand highest in the Order save myself. Fail, and you will pay the ultimate price.
“Go now, Maes Titianus, go upon your appointed mission. Let this be the great parting—when you return, you will be feasted in triumph, or flayed alive.”
Titianus knelt and bowed again, then backed out of the darkened chamber without a sound.
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