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Scribed by Ruaridh

Spring 1148 AD


All the Magi save Madoc met as a Council on a crisp spring morning. We discussed what we should do about our missing sodalis, and we eventually decided that I would travel to Mynydd Myddyn later in the season to see whether I could discover his whereabouts. Theo reported that he had spent the morning examining the pit where Radulfus' shrine once lay, but he had seen no evidence that the shades we encountered last season had returned. Turold reported that he had discussed ideas with the steward for the building we plan to erect over the pit, and he expected work to commence later this season. We then moved on to discuss what services we would each perform for the covenant over the coming year. My notes become somewhat sketchy at this point, but I believe that Astrius and I decided we would venture into Mynydd Myddyn later in the year to investigate whether Myddyn's Brood posed a threat to our hilltop settlement, Turold will extract Vim vis to power the Aegis, Aelfwin will work on some potions designed to heal a wounded man to full health in but a few moments and Theo will venture into the towns and villages of the Dean to extend his contacts among the folk there.

Shaun of Merinita, a Hibernian Magus well known to Turold, visited us a few weeks later. His faerie wife, Lillian, accompanied him and they brought great merriment to the coven folk, grogs and Magi with their tales and songs. Turold, who is normally the first to retire to his chamber, ever eager to practice his enchantments, stayed up most of the night drinking with Shaun, and I swear that his normally stone-like pallor was tinged with green the next morning. I spoke little with Shaun, but I learned that he had once been a member of House Verditius, but he had joined House Merinita after some argument or disagreement with his former Primus. He seemed to be enjoying his new House immensely, and I wonder whether his experiences will convince Turold to do the same.

I travelled to Mynydd Myddyn to look for Madoc later in the season. I reached our fort easily enough, and there I encountered an elderly guide, who told me that he had accompanied Madoc through the Awakened Forest some time before. He said that Madoc had made his way to the hill with the standing stones in the middle of the forest, and there he had performed some ritual, after which he and his companions vanished from sight, leaving the guide alone. The man appeared remarkably unperturbed by the turn of events, as he claimed that Madoc had performed this ritual before with similar effects. He waited awhile for Madoc to return, but he was forced to travel back to the fort alone once his food supplies began to run low. Given the guide's description, I suspect Madoc entered a higher level of the Regio, which we had hitherto not known about. What disturbs me is that this is not the first time he has done so, yet he made no mention of this when he gave his report to Council last season. I wonder what he got up to during his time there and why he wishes to keep his discovery and his actions secret from the rest of us? With another, I would perhaps put the lack of full disclosure down to benign motives or simple forgetfulness, but Madoc deserves no such sympathy, for this appears to be just the latest in a long series of lies and omissions on his part. I shall question him about this in more detail on his return.

I returned to Severn Temple to find that the redcap Loretius had visited during my absence with an urgent message for me. He left instructions that the new Senior Quaesitor had asked me travel to Blackthorn with all speed. I did so, and discovered that someone had attempted to assassinate Praeca Eloria. She survived the attempt by the skin of her teeth, and head fled elsewhere (I later learned she had gone to Cad Gadu) to recover her strength. Senior Quaesitor Iannois asked me to begin an investigation into the circumstances of the attack. I questioned the guards and servants at length, and made much use of Intellego magics designed to detect whether Hermetic magic had been used and, if so, whose sigil lay entwined in the threads of the spells. It emerged that Eloria had been attacked by one of her servants - or more likely, someone disguised as such - from behind. I found the servant's clothes, rent and covered in blood, hidden in a dank spot close to the privies. A Muto Corporem spell designed to transform the caster's appearance had recently been cast just outside Eloria's chambers, with an obscure, elusive sigil. I spent many hours using Sense of the Lingering Magics at various points in the covenant trying to find evidence of a similar sigil, since I hoped that whoever cast the spell might also have been present at the Tribunal meeting held at Blackthorn a few years previously. I eventually did find a similar sigil in one of the rooms used to house guests during the Tribunal, and Blackthorn's records indicated that it had been inhabited by Icandius of Tytalus. At least I have an initial suspect, though this case is likely to long and convoluted. By this time, the season was drawing to a close, and I travelled back to Severn Temple for the summer Council meeting.

Summer

At Council, we all reported on events of note during the season. I told what I knew of Madoc's actions and described the main points of the attack on Eloria. Turold mentioned that he had gone down to the Severn on the night of the boar tide to collect some vis. The tide had been much stronger and faster than previously - the waves rose some six or seven feet high, and the tide swamped the jetty on which he stood - and he saw an image of a rampaging boar at the centre of the wave. Turold managed to catch some water as the wave raced past, and, on investigation, it turned out to contain three pawns of Rego vis. The boar tide has now produced both Aquam and Rego vis at different times of the year, which makes it a valuable magical resource indeed.

Theo reported that his bound spirit, Viremos, had contacted him claiming to have seen great spiders lurking in the forest surrounding the covenant. It is possible that the changing faerie seasons may once again make it possible for spiders to move through the gap that normally separates the covenant from the magical Regio that we know lies above us. We debated how best to protect ourselves from such a threat, and we resolved to reinforce the great hall and gather all the grogs and coven folk there in the event of an attack. Aelfwin also agreed to spend a season brewing some potions designed to protect against the spiders' venom, which should help the grogs stand up to them better should combat occur.

A few days into the season, I travelled to Cad Gadu to speak with Eloria. I told her of my investigation to date, and she said that she suspected that Icandius was a false lead designed to deflect suspicion away from the true perpetrator. In any case, Icandius would be very difficult to find as he does not live in a covenant and is known to go to great lengths to protect his privacy. Eloria suspected allies of Vernastes, one of the two candidates for the position of Primus of House Tytalus, since Eloria is known to be an ally of his rival, Marea. I know not how much faith to put in Eloria's words, since she herself is undoubtedly playing some unfathomable game, but I will bear them in mind. I still need to find Icandius if possible, and Gyriania or another of the redcaps might be the best place to start the search.

I returned to Blackthorn to continue the investigation. As I examined the room where I found Icandius' sigil, I noticed a few telltale signs of infernal influence: dark shadows where none should be and sickly moss on the walls. I was overcome with the sense that an act of great evil had happened her, and for a moment I could see the floor awash with blood. I know not the full story of what happened in the room, but I suspect some infernal sacrifice or act. Given that agents of the devil have penetrated Blackthorn's defences on at least one previous occasion - when they rescued Caelestis - I resolved to spend time looking for how they might do so. I found a journal, written by Eloria many years before, that described the tunnels beneath the covenant, some of which were said to lead to the countryside outside. Could this be the way that infernal agents are able to enter the covenant without breaching the Aegis?

The Concilium Quaesitori met at Blackthorn at midsummer. Iannois asked each of the Quaesitori to speak about what they considered to be the most important issues and challenges facing the Tribunal. Dionysius and Ponrius produced predictable diatribes about the need to hunt down the remains of the Unnamed House and reveal any of its supporters or sympathisers within the Order. Yania raised the issue of the war in the north of England and the likely involvement of McGraine and his allies. It seems that the northern covenants are under more pressure than I suspected, and Yania predicted that Bori Tor might even fall if the Tribunal is not able to offer more support. I spoke of the distrust of Holy Isle within my House given Darius' treachery and, though I said I hoped that time would heal old wounds, in my heart I know that there can be no comprise with those such as Dionysus. Iannois issued two commandments: first, the Quaesitori should bring all disputes to him rather than arguing in public, and second, we should not criticise each others' motives in front of others. He also gave out a series of tasks to each of the Quaesitori: mine were to review our records and those of Carrion Moor for clues to what happened to Lazarus and, in conjunction with Blackthorn and Cad Gadu, to keep a watch on the ancient stone circle at Stonehenge for signs of the Unnamed House. With the end of the Concilium, I returned to Severn Temple as the season drew to a close.

Autumn

For the first time in several seasons, Madoc joined us for a Council meeting. His presence caused much discord and strife, and the meeting ended with him leaving the covenant for good. I shall attempt to recount the events as neutrally as possible, but I hope the reader will forgive me if my own opinions occasionally colour the narrative somewhat.

Madoc explained that, prior to setting out for Mynydd Myddyn, he had decided to visit the Heart of the Forest. There he noticed that several large acorns lay about the grass under the great oak tree at the centre of the glade. He examined the acorns using Intellego magic, and he was surprised to learn that each one contained a pawn of vim vis. He managed to gather nine acorns in total, three of which he turned over to the covenant as stipulated in our charter. This was indeed a fortuitous discovery, for our sodalis had once again discovered a source of vis for the covenant.

Madoc then told of his travels in Mynydd Myddyn. He explained that he had ventured as far as the stones on the hill at the centre of the Awakened Forest, where he had realised that there was another level of the Regio lying above the place. The veil between the two levels was apparently very thin, and Raegwulf was able to make out what he presumed were druidic sprits carrying out some form of ceremony around the stones on the higher level. Madoc and his party crossed between the levels, and the druids became visible to them all, though the place itself changed little in appearance. They spoke briefly with the druids, who told them that they should leave the area, for they had not been invited to witness the ceremony. As they were speaking, two druids dragged an unconscious body up to the stone at the centre of the circle, where they split his skull with a mallet. The ceremony appeared to be drawing to a close, and, fearful of what might happen, Madoc and his party descended the hill, stopping some way away at the tree line to observe what would happen next. Within a few minutes, the sky began to darken, and the rumble of thunder became audible. Lightning lashed the surrounding area for a prolonged period, which culminated in a great lightning strike on the stone circle itself. As the smoke cleared, Madoc observed a group of figures moving among the stones. They appeared to resemble the pagan gods and goddesses of legend. They remained within the stone circle for some time, after which they faded from sight.

With the spectacle apparently over, Madoc decided that he would venture back to our hilltop settlement to see whether it appeared any different on this level of the Regio. He reached the village with little problem, and he found that it was inhabited by villagers of celtic appearance. Using a ring enchanted with Tongue of the Folk, Madoc was able to converse with the Celts, and their headman told him of the place. Odd though it seems, the Celts appeared to be living in the past, for the headman spoke of the Celts' battles with the Romans. He knew of Severn Temple, and he grew alarmed when Madoc intimated that a group of Roman wizards now controlled the place. Perhaps most intriguingly of all, the headman mentioned that the village was the home of a promising young bard, Myddyn. The headman said Myddyn was away from the village at the moment, but that Madoc might find him down by the caves near the lake (which, on our level of the Regio, are the home of Myddyn's Brood). The interview was going well until Madoc let it slip that he was a magician. The headman asked who his master was and, slow-witted as usual, Madoc replied that he had been taught by Torius. The headman's demeanour changed on hearing that Madoc had been the student of a man with a Latin name, and Madoc was forced to admit that he had learned Roman magic. With that, the headman ordered Madoc and his party from the village, promising that they would meet in battle if they ever returned.

Ejected from the village, Madoc made his way towards the caves, where he hoped to find the bard known as Myddyn. He reached the caves and decided to venture inside, leaving Arion's groom outside to watch for danger. The rest of the party followed a series of twisting passages until they came to an open chamber deep in the rock. The cavern was lined with crystals of all shapes and sizes, and Madoc realised that it could be the legendary place where Myddyn was able to view the past and future. Peering into the crystals, Madoc and his group saw visions of various kinds, most of which were hard to interpret. After pausing to think awhile, they made their way back outside, where their groom had an even more interesting tale to tell. While the others were gone, he was apparently approached by a young man who claimed to be Myddyn. The two spoke for a while, and the groom revealed that they had come to seek him out, but Myddyn said he could not tarry long for fear of annoying the headman. The groom mentioned that he considered Myddyn to be a spirit, perhaps an echo of the past, but Myddyn laughed and said that it was surely the groom who was the spirit. To prove his point, he thrust a stick through the groom's torso, which passed through him without resistance. After sharing a meal of the fish he had recently caught, Myddyn bade the groom farewell and departed. A short while later, Madoc emerged from the caves. Believing he had accomplished more than enough for one season, Madoc gathered his group and returned through the Regio levels to Severn Temple.

We were all impressed by Madoc's tale, for he had clearly been witness to several fascinating events that warrant further investigation. Yet all the while, we knew that he had not been completely honest with us. When he had finished speaking, I asked whether he had ever been to the higher level of the Regio before. He replied that he had not. I then mentioned that I had spoken with the old guide, who had told me that he had passed through the veil on at least one previous occasion. At this, Madoc flew into a rage, ranting and raving that I was accusing him of lying. I explained that we knew he had not told us everything, and we had every right to be suspicious of his actions given his previous reluctance to tell us the whole truth. Madoc then stormed out of the Council chamber. The rest of us debated what we should do, and I suggested that we should speak with the groom, since he had accompanied Madoc on both of his previous expeditions. My sodales agreed, and I left the chamber to locate the man. I found him in the stables, and asked him to follow me back to the Council chamber. As we were climbing the stairs, Madoc, his brother Aledd and his familiar Arion came charging after us, trying to prevent the groom reaching the Council chamber. Madoc grabbed hold of the groom, and said that he would not allow him to continue. I explained to Madoc that he was defying the entire Council in this matter, but he was unmoved, so I told him that we should settle this through Certamen. Although I had challenged him in the past, and therefore could not do so again until he returned the challenge, I told him I would accept his challenge, unless he was too much of a coward to make it. Madoc refused, and he led the groom away. Resisting a momentary urge to incinerate the lot of them, I returned to the Council chamber to explain to my sodales what had happened.

The rest of us decided that we would postpone the meeting for a day or two to give Madoc time to come to his senses, and Aelfwin said he would try to speak with Madoc to convince him to be open and honest with us. I initially favoured stripping Madoc of his Good Standing immediately, but I agreed that he should be given one more chance to redeem himself. We met again a few days later. Madoc accompanied Aelfwin into the room, but he remained in the corner away from the rest of us. Aelfwin said that Madoc was willing to give a full account of his actions, but he wanted to do so at the end of the season. Several of us objected, for Madoc had shown both bad faith in lying to us and discourtesy in leaving the Council mid-session, and we saw no reason why he could not explain himself right then. Aelfwin called for a formal vote on the matter, brushing aside our attempts to discuss further the merits of a delay, but in doing so he miscalculated the anger at Madoc's actions.

The motion failed, and we therefore called Madoc to make full explanation of his behaviour. Madoc turned on his heel and left the room once more. Astrius leapt to his feet and bellowed a challenge of Certamen. Madoc ignored him and marched outside, where he proceeded to gather his belongings and mount his horse, seemingly willing to leave the covenant forever. Astrius grabbed hold of the groom to prevent him leaving with Madoc, an action Madoc sought to overturn through Certamen. This enraged our Flambeau even more, since his previous challenge had gone unanswered, and his face turned a most violent shade of red as he uttered a stream of curses in Madoc's direction. Finally, Madoc confirmed that he intended to renounce his membership of Severn Temple and spurred his horse away, leaving the groom in Astrius' clutches. The rest of us returned to the Council chamber, where we solemnly agreed to accept Madoc's resignation.

Others may have mixed feelings about Madoc, but I view him as a craven, spineless coward, who was more interested in preserving his precious privacy than assisting his sodales. He seemed to have a deep-rooted persecution complex, which made him believe that any criticisms of his actions, however slight, were in fact part of a sinister plot to discredit him. Though he undoubtedly had skill at locating sites of magical power, I think we are far better off without him, since it is important that we can all trust each other to act in the best interests of the covenant. I hope he finds others who are better able to appreciate his talents and overlook his gaping flaws. Maybe he will find like-minded companions elsewhere, perhaps at Blywyddyn. Good riddance.

Scribed by Astrius


I have taken over the recording of this journal for now, as Ruaridh is currently missing and none of us know when or even if he will return. Events have taken place that have once more shaken this covenant to its very core and so must be recorded for posterity. Things began not long after Madoc's abrupt departure, indeed my anger at that magus's deceit and disdain for his sodales was still coursing through my veins when there was a shout from the grog on the Spring gate. The soldier reported that Raegwulf, Madoc's sometime companion and self-proclaimed seer, had been seen staring into the pool and had then shouted up a warning. He screamed that Madoc had betrayed the covenant and the cause of our doom was heading North to summon a great evil which would come down and destroy us. Though my opinion of that magus was poor to put it mildly, I was loath to believe that he would seek our destruction and was in truth somewhat suspicious of Raegwulf himself. For it was no secret that he was infected with lycanthropy and I had already seen at first hand just how werewolves behave. Raegwulf was not the only one bringing this warning though, for Theo's spirit companion Viremos, came babbling to him in terror recounting a very similar tale. A council was swiftly called and with two independent sources we took the portents seriously. Ruaridh and Turold were very quick and decisive and set off almost at once to try and find Madoc and stop him. I wondered how they might do so, given that he does not seem to be answering challenges to Certamen, but Ruaridh is adept at the arts of Rego and Corporem and I assumed that he would use some such magics to immobilise Madoc. Looking back now I find it hard to believe that either magus had anything other than murder on their minds.

A little time later as we waited anxiously in the council chamber for our sodales to return, Dialectica apported in close to the covenant bringing that grave news that the Redcap Lauretius had been attacked as he was leaving Blackthorn and gravely injured. Some deadly blade had cut his shoulder to the very bone, despite the magical armour that he wore. Dialectica was seeking Ruaridh to help with the investigation and myself to act as hoplite, though I suspect she also wanted Ruaridh's martial capabilities as well as his Quaesitorial ones. My sodales had not yet returned though and so we made to leave without him. To the relief of both of us, Ruaridh arrived back in the covenant just at that moment, I know not from where, and the three of us travelled to Blackthorn. The Senior Quaesitor, Iannos, was organising a party to investigate the attack and was being cautious in his approach lest whoever or whatever had sought to slay Lauretius was still lurking outside. After some preparations and instructions from Iannos, we set off, with Ponrius and Venius joining the group as a further Quaesitor and hoplite respectively alongside several trackers from Blackthorn's turb. We quickly reached the scene of the crime and found Lauretius' horse still lying there. Although it had been dead for little more than a few hours, killed by a single vicious sword swipe, it looked as though it was already starting to rot and maggots were crawling out of its eye sockets. There was no trace of any magic about the body and the ritual 'Eyes of the Past' failed to see anything at all save a grey haze or some such. The immediate suspicion was that the hand of infernal was involved so we redoubled our guard. With nothing immediately to be found we split up to begin a painstaking search of the land thereabouts. The Quaesitori were investigating using magicks so I was set to watch over the mundane trackers as they scouted the land about for any tracks or aught else out of place.

Where magic failed, sharp eyes succeeded and one of the scouts found a couple of imprints of a man, some distance off in the wood. Again however, scrying magics failed to determine anything about who, or what, made them once more, to the vexation of Iannos and the others. The trackers were sent out again, this time deeper into the forest in the hope that they might find some trace that had not been obscured using some fell magic. They came across further tracks, one of which looked to be that of a man bearing a staff of some sort but Intellego magics could determine nothing else. As we stood pondering the next move, Venius observed that there were no beasts or birds of any kind in the woods. I confess I had not noticed myself but as soon as he pointed it out, it swiftly became apparent that he was right. There was a preternatural stillness and lack of any fauna as far as we could sense. For some reason, (unfortunately we were not to realise just how informed that magus was about matters infernal until later on) Venius did not seem to think that the power that was abroad was hellish in origin and thought instead that it came from something old and magical in origin.

A spell was then cast to see if any beasts at all were about in the woods. All that could be detected of any significant size was a single wolf. This immediately raised my suspicions, for I had been concerned that the werewolves may have had a hand in this and while we have no experience of them wielding blades, I voiced my concerns. Iannos asked Ponrius to investigate the wolf and so that magus flew off. Some minutes later we heard a dull retort a mile or so away. Unfortunately Ponrius had lived up to the worst stereotypes of our house and having startled the creature had pursued it from the air as it fled and incinerated it with a bolt of flame. Iannos was not best pleased and snatched the bag of ashes that was all that remained of the beast. As he examined it, amongst the ash and charred bone, he found a tooth. Not the sharp canine of a wolf but rather the tooth of a man. Iannos conjured the image of the man whose tooth this had been. Ruaridh and I recognised him at once. It was Raegwulf, Madoc's companion. Iannos's eyes narrowed as he heard this and I recounted Raegwulf's message, and he suggested that we returned to the safety of the covenant and its Aegis to summon Raegwulf's shade. As I could not fly or apport I walked back with the trackers and Venius accompanied me, his black-scaled snake familiar coiled inside his cloak.

Once back at the covenant all those magi present, which included both Madoc and Turold, gathered for dinner to discuss the situation. Turold I gather had travelled to Blackthorn merely to speak to Madoc. Later events though would suggest more sinister motives behind his visit. The atmosphere was somewhat stilted both by the gravity of the matter at hand and the ill-feeling between the magi from Severn Temple and Madoc. To my disgust, but to no great surprise, Madoc attempted to deceive the others about the manner of his leaving and I could not help but set the record straight and bluntly correct his lies, daring him to contradict me. Fortunately calmer heads intervened and Iannos set about further investigations. In the meantime, Turold flew back to Severn Temple. Deeper in the covenant, Venius and I waited outside while Iannos summoned the shade of Raegwulf. Madoc was also present and the Senior Quaesitor clearly had some suspicion about him for we were instructed as hoplites to rush in should we hear Iannos shout out. Fortunately such action was not necessary and after a while the two magi emerged. Iannos looked stern-faced and angry, but to my surprise Madoc was free to go, it was Ruaridh Iannos wished to see. Obviously suspecting some involvement by Turold in what had gone, at the very least as a witness, Iannos bade me return to Severn Temple and ask that magus to remain there until he had the chance to travel there and speak to him personally. As yet, Iannos was accusing Turold of no crime and he told me that save for Certamen there was nothing I could do to make Turold stay if he did not want to. To make sure I could return quickly to bring him news if Turold left, I was given a 'Leap of Homecoming' potion which would bring me back to Blackthorn. I thus returned to Severn Temple and Iannos and Venius moved on to find Ruaridh.

As soon as I got back, I went down to Turold's sanctum and found him in. I relayed what Iannos had said and he suggested he fly there himself but I told him no, that Iannos had specifically requested he remain within the covenant. He agreed that he would do so and so I left him to his own ends. It was near-on impossible to read what he was thinking. His face, barely human as it had become, was impassive and unreadable. After all that had occurred though I was not prepared to take him at his word and so I took a seat in the Great Hall and set Gan to watch the staircase leading down to Turold's sanctum. I must have dozed off but was woken sometime later by Gan telling me that he had seen Clifford leaving. We hurried after him and Gan caught him. I attempted to question him to find out what he was up to but even as I did so I realised that he was providing a distraction to enable Turold to slip out unquestioned. Despite a quick search, he was gone, his sanctum emptied of everything easily portable. Clifford was then placed in the cell until we received further word from Yania on Turold's status. Clifford's loyalty to Turold, however creditable, makes him a risk should Turold seek to do us mischief and I for one do no trust his greedy nature when he speaks of owning Turold's sanctum and his remaining possessions. I do not think he realises the gravity of the situation he is in and with all I have gone through of late my patience with him grows ever shorter so he would do well to heed what he is told.

Realising that I had no way of knowing where Turold had gone or any means of following him, I drank the potion I had been given and apported back to Blackthorn to inform Iannos. I returned however to find the covenant in chaos. The library had collapsed in upon itself and the magi were hurrying around trying to figure out what had happened. I managed to find Iannos and Venius who I learned had been unable to find Ruaridh. It seems my sodales had vanished, without telling a soul or leaving the covenant by any obvious exit. This must have lent weight to Iannos's suspicions following his interrogation of Raegwulf's shade, for his desire to find Ruaridh as a matter of priority was clear. Ruaridh's movements had not been entirely unobserved though, one of the grogs on watch had noticed a figure on the battlements a short while before who had disappeared from sight once challenged and so we hurried over. Iannos determined through Intellego magics that Ruaridh had indeed been there, though he could not have simply apported through the Aegis for Iannos had felt no breach. Iannos thus determined to investigate the ground below the wall for further evidence.

As we assembled a squad of grogs in the courtyard, Venius noticed something in the storm clouds that were building overhead. A crow of some sort I think he said. In any event, whatever it was it terrified him and with a face as white as chalk he stammered that the Morrigan was coming. Iannos did not seem to share his concern and merely continued his preparations. Venius pleaded with Iannos not to go outside, insisting that only certain death awaited. Seeing the fear in the Venius' eyes, and he was I knew was a very experienced hoplite, I believed him when he said that we should not leave what little protection the Aegis offered. Sadly however Iannos did not and insisted on going outside, whether we accompanied him or not. As a Flambeau and nominated hoplite I felt I had little choice but to swallow my fear and go with him, though in truth I could not see what help I would be if the Morrigan was as powerful as Venius said. With great reluctance and a final unheeded plea, Venius joined us and a squad of twelve men as we marched out through the gates. We followed the narrow path that skirted the edge of the walls round towards where Ruaridh's sigil had been found. Before we reached there we espied a creeping dark fog ahead and the soldiers who were in front collapsed and died as it rolled forwards over them. Venius screamed that we had to flee and turned and ran with the surviving soldiers who had been guarding our rear. I mastered my fear long enough to urge Iannos one last time to turn back but then he was pulled suddenly into the air and his body began to disintegrate in a matter of seconds. I will not go into the gory details save it was a gruesome and unpleasant death, though at least it must have been mercifully quick. At this I turned and fled back to the gate after the others. Although I swiftly caught up with Venius I was not quick enough to outrun the Morrigan and I felt a terrible affliction come over me. It is difficult to put into words how what she did to me felt, for even thinking about it now as I sit safely in my sanctum it makes me feel shudder. In any event when I saw what had happened to Venius and the wrinkled skin on the backs of my own hands it became clear what had befallen us. We had been afflicted by something equating to the 'Bane of the Decrepit Body'.

Why we were not slain like Iannos I do not know, perhaps she was toying with us. In any event Venius was very much of the belief that she was not done with us yet and would not be kept out by the Aegis and so we rushed across the courtyard and into the entrance hall. Once in he ordered the grogs and servants inside to bar all the doors and then leave us. I wasn't convinced that this was a good idea as I wanted to find Dialectica and the other magi in the covenant and warn them about what had happened. When I made to climb the stairs to unblock the door leading deeper into the covenant where I assumed the others would be, Venius told me to stop. After an angry exchange of words over what I was doing Venius threatened to kill me if I took another step. I had no doubt that if he tried he could easily do so and there was something in his tone that suggested he was prepared to carry his threat out so I stopped and waited to see what he had planned. Once satisfied that the doors were barred and I was going nowhere, Venius lit a bonfire in the centre of the room and after chalking out a pentagram of some sort, he began to summon what he claimed was an elemental. I had no reason to doubt him on this point and merely watched as the flames grew ever higher.

After a few moments chanting in Latin, a shadowy figure appeared in the flames and to my horror it became clear that this was no elemental but a demon and judging by the size of the creature a very powerful one. As I desperately pondered my next action, the door to the courtyard crumbled away. I seized my chance as Venius glanced behind him and paled visibly, fear adding a shrill tone to his words as he hurried through the ritual. Casting quickly, I conjured a torrent of water to douse the flames from which the demon was rising, breaking whatever control he had over it. As Venius screamed and the creature turned upon him I heard the incantations to 'The Demon's Eternal Oblivion' from near the doorway. It was a voice I knew well. Ruaridh had returned. There was a white flash about the creature but it did not appear to affect it much, if at all, and it stepped forwards and sunk its claws into Venius' chest. As he died more white light crackled about the demon but once again it seemed to do little other than annoy it. I could see no sign of Ruaridh but clearly the invisibility spell he had placed upon himself was not enough to shield him from the demon's eyes and it lunged for him. It must have missed for I heard him call out to me, asking if I had heard the demon's name during the ritual. As calmly as I was able I tried to recall if I had. There was one word which Venius repeated several times and while I will not scribe it here I shouted it to Ruaridh, in the hope that this was indeed the creature's name. The demon half-turned as if recognising its name before attacking Ruaridh again. Although its claws seemed to make contact with something, Ruaridh managed to let loose the spell and this time, its power magnified by use of the demon's true name, the white light opened a pit below the beast and it was dragged howling back down whence it had come.

I still could not see Ruaridh and despite his battling the demon, after what had gone on outside I did not wish to wait to see what he would do next. I ran to the door and began trying to remove the bars which wedged it shut. As I did so, I heard Ruaridh's voice again, though in the sudden eerie quiet it sounded somehow different than usual, fainter perhaps. The words that he spoke both scared and enraged me, "By not killing you Astrius I am damning myself." Anger won out, did he expect me to thank him for not killing me? "You damned yourself already." I replied, regretting the rash words almost as quickly as I spoke them for I knew that Ruaridh if riled had both the spells and arts to slay me. For a long moment I held my breath, straining to catch any incantations but there were none, Ruaridh had gone.

I hurriedly returned to the task of unblocking the door and quickly had it open. Dialectica and Ponrius were there urgently asking what had gone on. I told them of Iannos's death and Venius' diabolism. Ponrius reacted angrily to this and said that he had known Venius for years and demanded to know what made me so sure. At this my anger rose again and I shouted back that there could be doubt about Venius' guilt for I had seen it with my own eyes. There was a terrible flicker of rage in Ponrius' eyes as I did so and for a minute I thought that he was going to attack me. Then he mastered his fury and brushed past me to examine the room. Dialectica had obviously noticed Ponrius' expression as well and was quite alarmed by it. At that moment I could not but wonder about how a magus might have a diabolist in his covenant for decades and not know it, especially one who had acted as hoplite for him on so many occasions. I pray I am wrong and that the rot stopped with Venius but Ponrius' expression still lingers in my mind and my pater's warning to have a care around him seems ever wiser. Geriania, the gifted Redcap who dwells at Blackthorn, left swiftly to inform other covenants of what had happened and to request the presence of Yania to help with the investigations now that Iannos was dead and Ruaridh under suspicion and missing.

Although it seemed like an eternity it cannot have been that long before Quaesitor Yania, with Orlania acting as her hoplite, arrived and began her investigations of the ruins of the library and other places where Ruaridh's sigil had been found. Although as with so much of what happened, her investigations could not provide a complete picture of what occurred, it looks very much like Madoc was slain in the library before it was brought down by hermetic magic, thus removing any chance of contacting his spirit for interrogation. This is surely what the assassin intended. As no firm evidence of guilt on the part of either Ruaridh or Turold could be found, even though Ruaridh's sigil was found near the doorway to the library on some spell to destroy wood and stone, Yania ruled that they were both still magi under the full protection of the law until the tribunal could rule on their guilt. Nevertheless from all that I have seen and heard I find it difficult to come to any other conclusion other than that it was one or both of them who attacked Lauretius and slew Madoc, and Ruaridh who invoked the Morrigan to slay Iannos and curse myself and Venius.

So it was that our council was once more greatly reduced in number and experience. Although the covenant and indeed the Order may miss Madoc's undoubted skill in finding new vis sites, I think on the whole his selfish and deceitful nature was such that it will be better off without him. Nevertheless he deserved a better death than the cowardly assassination that appears to have befallen him and for that at least I am sorry. As to Ruaridh and Turold, it seems to me in the end that they were both corrupted, not by the infernal, but by the Morrigan and the fey respectively. To what extent those two powers were related in their aims I know not, though the glade where the Morrigan dwells lies within the faerie realm so it is quite likely that some connection existed. Yet although more learned magi than I have said that the Morrigan is in no way diabolic and indeed the Stonehenge tribunal has ruled so, I do wonder myself, the deceiver wears many guises it is said and could it not be that she is simply one of his oldest?

A few days later, a grim-faced Jordael and Garius arrived at the covenant and what they told us of the conspiracy surrounding the discoveries at Swallowcliffe explained much, though Aelfwin I gather was already aware of it. Had I not been told by my pater and Primus Jordael I would have dismissed out of hand the idea that Primus Tremere is a lich and may have started the Schism simply to slay those in Diedne who had discovered what he was doing. As it is, I still find it all scarcely credible that so much of what I have been taught as the history of the Order may not be all that it seems. Nevertheless for now I will keep this secret as instructed, for if it is true then the danger to those who know this is all too clear. This must be what drove Ruaridh and Turold to such extreme measures, though it still cannot excuse their flagrant breaches of the Oath. Jordael is continuing to investigate further and has spoken to the spirit of Bryghtgan, though he disclosed no details of what he learnt and we did not press him for any.

On a brighter note, Garius and Jordael offered to stay for the season to help us re-establish ourselves while we were still reeling from the loss of our two senior most magi. Specifically they feared that Dionysus would come to the covenant seeking to pull it apart under the pretext of some investigation. We of course we only to happy to be able to offer them hospitality. Even more so when Garius offered to spend his time to make us a wand to shoot fire to bolster our defence and Jordael made me a longevity potion to stay any further ageing resulting from the Morrigan's curse. A week before the end of the season, just as Garius and Jordael had expected, Dionysus arrived, with Xeres accompanying him as a hoplite. Garius was blunt in denying them entry, stating that the covenant was under his protection and was quite safe. The Quaesitor claimed to be investigating a case but when pressed by Garius could provide no details of such and left frustrated.

On the last day of Autumn, Lauretius arrived at the covenant bearing messages. He appears to be recovered from his wounds, though the sword that struck him may have been cursed by the Morrigan, for his bone still bears a mark that hermetic attempts to heal have not been able to remove. He began by detailing all that had gone on at Blackthorn and the results of Yania's investigations. Praeco Eloria and Primus Jordael have made a direct request to Primus Guernicus for a new Senior Quaesitor, clearly Ponrius is not viewed as a suitable candidate for the role. Of mundane news, Geoffrey Plantagenet of Normandy has defeated the French in a great battle and a new kingdom named Portugal has been founded on the west coast of the Iberian peninsula. A martial religious order, the Knights Templar has attacked Damascus in the Levant tribunal and all magi are being warned to beware of them. They bear a cross pattern design on their tabards and shields.

Locally, a new abbey has been consecrated in Bristol, the largest in the area since Tintern was burnt down. Whether or not it will have any inhibitory effect on the Fells who dwell in that city remains to be seen. Also, our previous efforts to convince the Earl that the "welsh warlock" who killed the knight at Mitcheldean had been slain were not as successful as we had believed for his widow has appealed to the Earl to seek him out. I cannot see where our plan failed, but in any event after the curse I have suffered I now look different enough that I need have no fear of being recognised by any who saw me that day. Finally, Lauretius warned us about a Welsh rebel by the name of Cadfannon who was leading local resistance against the English rule and has hidden out in the forests between here and Blackthorn. He may thus pose a threat to any magi or grogs travelling between the two covenants and so whilst I have no great desire to battle a man fighting for the country of my birth, if he offers threat to any member of this covenant he can expect no quarter.

Winter

At the quarterly council meeting, with just three of us present the chamber seemed very empty indeed and I found myself wondering if Theo with his Sight could maybe see the shades of all those magi who once sat and spoke around this table. But it was not the time for such idle speculations and we busied ourselves in discussing what capabilities we had between us and how we should share out what needed to be done. We decided to distribute the magical items and vis from the treasury amongst the three of us so that if threat came we would be ready to deal with it instantly, rather than having to rush down to the stores. As for our season's work, with my proficiency in Creo, I agreed to extract vim vis for the covenant stores, Aelfwin was to develop a Creo Corporem ritual to counteract the effects of Perdo Corporem spells and Theo was to learn Creo, with the aim of casting an enchantment to bind wounds. We also discussed how we would go about vis collecting in the new year and how we might collect vis from the boar tide but could not come up with any satisfactory measures beyond that which we had tried before. More troubling was the issue of the Aegis, despite the dangers that still lurk beyond these walls, none of us are able to cast the potent version of the ritual we have had about this place up previously, so the lesser of the two will have to suffice for now. The mundane situation also gave us cause for concern but we decided that given all the other problems there was little that could practically be done about those until Spring.

At the very end of the year, an Ex-Miscellanean hedge wizard named Cormoran arrived at the covenant seeking to join. Jordael's contacts must be even better than we had hoped for. Quite literally a giant of a man, this young magus had but recently passed his gauntlet, having served under the reclusive magus, Gideon in the lands of Cornwall. We were of course only too happy to welcome an applicant to bolster our numbers and invited him to stay with us and take stock of the place. So what had become another bleak year in the history of this covenant, ended with a glimmer of hope for the future. Dark clouds yet remain on the horizon, with another diabolic magus revealed and the malignant taint of the Morrigan still corrupting the lands hereabouts, but once again this covenant has survived, even if there is now no direct link to its refounding and I remain steadfast in my belief that we will grow back into Summer and vigour once again.
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