Durenmar, the domus magna of House Bonisagus and the oldest covenant in the Order of Hermes, is the meeting place for gatherings of the Rhine Tribunal and the Grand Tribunal, and is home to the Great Library, the repository of collected knowledge of House Bonisagus and the largest collection of Hermetic books that exists. Durenmar likes to consider itself as the center of the Order of Hermes, both traditionally and politically. While it remains greatly respected, largely due to its inseparable association with House Bonisagus, in truth its power and influence are waning somewhat, both within the Rhine Tribunal and further afield. Its Bonisagus magi look inwards, and most of the covenant members are preoccupied with their own research, leaving the neglected infrastructure to slowly crumble. The majority of Durenmar’s magi belong to House Bonisagus, and most other members of that House visit at least once during their lifetime.
Durenmar is nestled at the floor of a steep-sided valley some 15 miles within the northern Black Forest, surrounded by a great expanse of undulating woodland. The natural geography of the place affords a good measure of protection by itself — the only sensible means of access is from lower down the valley. Here, the covenant maintains a guard post, which is enchanted with protective magics to hide the track of three miles leading to the covenant. It is very seldom that unwanted mundane eyes catch sight of the towers of the magi, which lie below the treeline of the forest outside the valley, although exaggerated rumors persist in the monastery of Hirsau, about 15 miles to the north, of the “hidden city of sorcerers.”
The covenant consists of a number of buildings spread over a large clearing, divided in two by a small river — little more than a stream. There are no physical fortifications to speak of (the covenant relies instead on seclusion and magical defense). The principal buildings are the Forum of Hermes and the three towers. Viewed from the north side of the valley, and set against the dramatic backdrop of the steep rocky and forested slopes, the ancient vine-covered towers form a scenic picture that is famous throughout the Order, conveying an impression of peaceful idyll. The quarters for the covenfolk and guests are a jumble of buildings of various ages and states of repair.
A Magic aura of 7 is present over the clearing, and it is protected by a very high magnitude Aegis of the Hearth.
The Tower Bonisagus
More commonly known as The Great Library, this 450-year-old tower houses what is undoubtedly the greatest collection of Hermetic books ever assembled. It was created by the first ever casting of the ritual spell Conjuring the Mystic Tower by the Founder Bonisagus himself. The success of this spell set the template for the other two towers at Durenmar, created decades later by his successors, and numerous others in covenants throughout Europe. The tower is perfectly round, 80 feet high, and 30 feet across, with seven floors above ground and two basement levels. Each of the floors is of ideal proportions for a Hermetic laboratory and living quarters — the purpose for which the building was originally used before the library grew to occupy it entirely. It remains perfectly proportioned and structurally sound — if somewhat weathered by the centuries — a testament to Bonisagus’ skill. It is rumored that if his tower should ever fall, so will the Order of Hermes also fall. The entire tower is enchanted with protective magics to prevent all forms of natural decay to the books inside.
At the base of the tower grows a huge and ancient magical vine, rumored to have originally been planted as by the Founder Merinita, as a gift to Bonisagus. It spreads up and around the entire height of the tower, branching often, and in sections actually winding inside the building — here the interior design is adjusted to accommodate it. The vine does not damage or degrade the stonework of the tower — it almost seems respectful of the structure. The magi of Durenmar, in turn, revere the vine (although the smell of the blossom in the spring can be cloying) and carefully harvest its sap (which is a golden- green color) as precious Intellego vis. Merinita magi like to think of the vine as being symbolic of their faerie magic — a flavor distinct from the Hermetic; a living, natural power with the potential to suffocate and conquer Hermetic magic, yet which chooses instead to twine within and coexist harmoniously.