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Scribed by Tiarnan

Spring 1152 AD


Spring is the fairest season of the year. As the warmth of the sun begins to prise the icy grip of winter from the world, the melting snow swells the rivers and streams, carrying life and vitality throughout the land. The new season brings fresh breezes, cooling mists and a panoply of wild flowers, all of which serve to lift spirits. Consequently, it was with a noticeable aura of good cheer that the Magi of Severn Temple met for the first Council meeting of the year.

Alas, the order of business did not live up to the atmospheric surroundings, and I soon found myself longing for the meeting to end so I could venture outside for a walk. Dialectica and Theo explained that they had had some success in recruiting a new contingent of grogs while travelling through Monmouth and Chepstow last season, though they had failed to find any more artisans or merchant contacts. Our expenses have therefore increased without any corresponding rise in our income, a situation that further exacerbates our already perilous financial position. However, Dialectica seemed confident that we would be able to delay payment of our taxes for a few years, which should give us time to re-establish the mine at Blackney, assuming that we do not further delay such action for fear of hurting the villagers' lives, souls or feelings. I do not doubt that Astrius and Aelfwin genuinely feel responsible for those we employ, but they can often take things too far. Indeed, so great is their concern, I am rather surprised that they are willing to allow anyone to work in the mines at Blackney at all, given the possibility that they might get muddy or rip their clothes.

More satisfyingly, Dialectica and Theo confirmed that their efforts to spread rumours that the knight of Red Morley had died at the hands of the famous Welsh War Wizard had proved successful. It seems that the English are happy to believe all sorts of falsehoods as long as the Welsh are portrayed as villains. The rumours should hopefully protect the covenant from any potential backlash arising from Astrius' actions, though the Welsh may not prove to be so lucky if the English decide to seek revenge. Theo also used the opportunity to spread rumours that Lady Yvonne, who we suspect of involvement with the Fells, may have had a hand in Red Morley's death.

The rest of the meeting was taken up with a discussion of our activities for the season. I note that previous writers of this journal often recorded these details with scrupulous accuracy. Quite why anyone would want to know whether someone was studying Mentem or Vim in a particular season fifty years ago is beyond me. I shall therefore refrain from such practice unless the item is of historical note or particularly interesting. Needless to say, there were no such items.

Later in the season, Dialectica and Theo returned from Gloucester with news of the gang of criminals we have aided in the past. Following some tough negotiations, they had persuaded the leader of the gang, a thug by the name of Maelgwyn, to hand over the infernally tainted sword he recovered from the body of the diabolist that Theo slew some time ago. In return for the sword, they had helped to uncover the hiding place of two hellish assassins who had been sent by the Fells to kill Maelgwyn. I am not entirely sure how they were able to do this, for detecting the infernal is usually beyond the power of Hermetic magic, but it may have involved Theo's uncanny ability to detect the taints left by diabolic acts. They did not tarry in Gloucester long enough to find out how Maelgwyn planned to deal with the assassins, but if the past is a good guide to the future, it is likely that they met a swift and violent end.

Dialectica and Theo brought the sword, which had an unpleasant green hue, to the edge of the covenant, but thankfully they did not bring it through the Aegis. We debated how best to destroy it, and Cormoran suggested that submerging it in running water might weaken the fires that we suspected powered its infernal magic. Doing this did appear to have some effect, for Theo claimed that the blade, which usually included fiery streaks when he looked at it using his "second sight", seemed duller and less active after it emerged from the water. However, it was clear that the water could not destroy the sword for good, and so Theo said that he would attempt to journey to the "other world" later that night to battle the infernal spirit that he believed inhabited the blade. Lacking any better plan of action, we all agreed to let Theo make the attempt.

The next morning, Theo informed us that the item had been destroyed. He described how he had journeyed to the other world and encountered what he described as a minor fire spirit that dwelt within the sword. The spirit had put up something of a fight, but Theo had prevailed and driven it away. The sword was no longer magical, but Astrius had broken it into several pieces with a mallet and anvil, just in case. We were all mightily relieved at this good news, though there were some questions and suspicions voiced by a couple of my sodales about exactly what had taken place.

The rest of the season passed fairly uneventfully. The only thing worth recording occurred on the Equinox, when I collected the Creo vis from the magical spring next to the covenant. As in previous seasons, there was a definite sheen of faerie influence about the place, though my sodalis have confirmed on various occasions that the aura hereabouts is magical rather than faerie in nature. I took the opportunity to use Urania's necklace to speak with the waters while I collected the vis. As before, they responded in a calm and friendly manner, and they indicated that all was well and that they were subject to no malign influences. I asked about their path between their source and the great Severn river, and they confirmed that some of the waters passed through the faerie lands to the west. The waters did, however, refuse to speak to me of whether they had any connection with the Heart of the Forest, since I have not been shown the path to that place. The secrecy that surrounds the Heart is a mystery indeed, and I am far from sure that Theo, who is the only one of us to enter that glade, has told us everything he knows about it. If so, he must regard the secret as something precious, since he is very forthcoming on most issues.

Summer


We assembled at the start of the season for the customary Council meeting, though Astrius was absent, since he had departed a week or two earlier in order to make his way to Solis Castle in time for the meeting of House Flambeau. The first item we discussed was the infernal blade that Theo had destroyed. Cormoran and Medius appeared keen to know more about how Theo had managed to detect that the item was infernal and drive the spirit from the blade. Theo's answers did not seem to satisfy the two, and they pressed him to clarify his actions on more than one occasion. It was obvious that Theo was being evasive, but for my part, I was more than happy to let him keep his secrets given the positive outcome of his actions. Eventually, Medius began to suggest that, if Theo was so skilled at detecting the infernal, this might be something that would be of use to the Order as whole, and no doubt his House in particular. At that point, Dialectica stepped in to end the debate, claiming that non-Hermetic powers such as Theo's were untested and had little standing under Hermetic law. Her intervention was somewhat peculiar, and I am still not sure whether she sought to protect Theo from further questioning, to make a point about the superiority of Hermetic magic, to take a jab at Cormoran and Medius or to end an ultimately futile argument. Perhaps it was a bit of all four. I suspect that Cormoran's questions were provoked by mere curiosity, but it is possible that Medius had a more calculated motive for his actions.

Dialectica and Theo then informed us about the results of their foray into the border towns the previous season. Dialectica had met the local Reeve, who informed her that the Baron of Monmouth had agreed to waive the payment of taxes for the next five years given the unfortunate events at Blackney, though he would expect some back taxes at the end of the period. Dialectica was not sure how large the back taxes would be, but whatever the amount, at least we now have some time to reorganise our finances. On the way down to Chepstow, Theo stopped to check on the ruins of Blackney. He noticed that the shadows that lay about the place seemed slightly deeper than when he had last examined the site, which led him to believe that the grip of the infernal was slowly growing. We resolved to speed up our efforts to recruit the miners needed to re-establish the village, since we cannot afford for Blackney to follow the path of Lydney.

After the meeting, I made my way towards the faerie Regio to see whether I could find the glade where the mushrooms that contain Imagonem vis grow. I found the glade fairly easily, which I take as a sign that I am becoming more accustomed to the twists and turns of the forest, and I spotted the faerie Palug hiding in the branches of a nearby tree. As one of the grogs stepped forward into the glade, Palug shot an arrow at the man, who immediately fell over in a daze. Twice I tried to ensnare Palug using a spell known as the Weaver's Trap of Webs, but both times the sticky threads would not grasp him. I suspect from Varsavia's notes that Palug is not the mightiest of faeries, so the inability of my spells to take hold is a warning that I need to strengthen my Arts if I ever wish to use them against non-mundane foes. Luckily, Palug proved less able to evade Kieran's bowshot than my spells, and he fell out of the tree after being hit square in the chest. While the faerie was incapacitated, I cut down six of the mushrooms in the glade, leaving just one left.

Palug then began to stir, and we traded barbs about whether his attack was justified given the grog's actions. We eventually made a deal to the effect that he would refrain from attacking or waylaying any future expeditions we sent to pick mushrooms and, in return, we would make sure that no one picked all of the mushrooms, since one needs to be left at all times for the others to regrow. He accepted the deal remarkably quickly, and it was only later that I realised that the implications of my side of the bargain were rather wider than I had intended, since I had actually meant to offer just an assurance that we would not take all of the mushrooms. My carelessness may prove to be costly in the future, but I don't think it is worth dwelling on what might have been. Instead, I just have to make sure that the mushrooms remain safe, though this may be easier said than done given that the Erechwyth's minions have been spotted close to the glade.

After returning the mushrooms, each of which contained a pawn of Imagonem vis, to the covenant's stores, I spent much of the rest of the season exploring part of the River Severn. I spoke with several of the fish, most of whom had little of interest to say, though a talkative old perch warned me about venturing too far downstream, where the great water leaper mentioned in the journal was rumoured to hunt. One day, I saw a great wave racing along the course of the river, and I decided to see whether I could speak with the waters. I plunged into the river, but I soon found it difficult to keep my head above water and to determine my own course, since the raging power of the Boar Tide was too difficult to control. I was not too worried about drowning, as I had taken the precaution of casting an enchantment to allow me to breath water as well as air, but I soon became exhausted from fighting the current and bruised from tumbling into rocks submerged within the river. I was almost losing hope of being able to reach the bank, when I suddenly felt a surge of water behind me, and I was carried high onto the ground. Kieran, who had been sprinting along the side of the river as I was carried away, said that he saw the watery image of a woman pushing me from the river, though I was too busy concentrating on my immediate plight to see anything myself.

After I had regained my breath, I travelled back to the covenant, and Theo and I decided to consult the spring. As I spoke with the waters, Theo confirmed that he could see a woman within the pool, though I could see nothing more than a shroud of mist and stars, though these were clearly of faerie origin. I thanked the Ladra for rescuing me from the Boar Tide, and she warned me to be careful, as the Boar is a violent and stubborn beast. While we were talking about the pagan powers that influence this place, the Ladra mentioned that Theo walked between the darkness and the light, and she asked me to enquire whether he had chosen his side. When I relayed the message, Theo replied that he sided with men but honoured all of the old powers. The Ladra accepted his answer, though Theo, who could see the woman's face, said she seemed somewhat disappointed. I cannot claim to understand all of this, though I suspect the darkness and light refer to the Morrigan and Anu respectively, given Theo's description of their roles in the pagan religion. An interesting situation, to be sure.

Autumn

The Council meeting at the start of Autumn was far more interesting than usual. We were rejoined by Astrius, who had returned from the meeting of his House looking grim and underfed. I must admit that I regretted for once that he had developed a spell to disguise his cracked voice, since the tale of woe and despair that enveloped House Flambeau would have been even more entertaining had it been delivered in his usual uncertain and variable pitch. Still, he looked as though he had been pulled through a hedge backwards, and his thinness accentuated his bulbous nose, giving him a faintly ridiculous appearance.

It seems that House Flambeau had met the previous season at Solis Castle, intending to drive the Scottish armies out of England and to slay their leader, the renegade Ex Miscellanean McGreine. Astrius arrived at Solis Castle to hear genuinely troubling news: the covenant of Bori-Tor had fallen to the Scots, and one of the Magi, Du Clerc of Jerbiton, was missing. Astrius was given the task of guarding a supply train as it made its way north towards Gallashiels. However, the caravan's progress was halted as it made its way through the wooded hills by an unnatural rainstorm that made it too difficult to drive the wagons forward. While the men waited for the rain to lift, they spied figures watching from the cover of nearby trees, and sensing that something was amiss, Astrius gave the order to prepare for an attack.

This attack soon came, for as the rain clouds became heavier, lightening repeatedly struck the ground close to the wagon train, killing both men and horses. A pack of large wolves them broke the cover of the forest, followed by a brace of monstrous beasts known as lions. Astrius and his men took the fight to the creatures, and they initially had a measure of success, but it soon became apparent that they were facing opponents with knowledge of Hermetic magic, for one-by-one the soldiers were affected by malign enchantments cast by shadowy figures from within the tree line. Astrius himself was struck blind, and several of his men were incapacitated in a similar manner. Lacking the ability to target the Ignem spells he had used to drive off the first wave of magical beasts, Astrius was forced to surrender, calling out that he would submit on condition that his men were spared. Two men, evidently Magi from McGreine's band, emerged from the forest to take Astrius prisoner, binding his hands and feet fast. As he was being loaded into a nearby wagon, Astrius heard one of the men give an order to slay all of the remaining grogs. Only one man, Dylan the hound master, escaped this callous slaughter, and it took him several months to make his way back through the forest to Severn Temple.

Astrius was taken to a secret hiding place deep in the Scottish mountains. On the way, he encountered another prisoner from his House, Andrea of Trevalga Covenant, who had also been waylaid on the road to Gallashiels. Andrea was taken away to be interrogated while Astrius remained in the cells, and he did not see her again. Astrius was later questioned by McGreine himself, who asked about the composition of House Flambeau's forces and their military intentions. He was then lead away, though his life was spared because of an agreement between McGreine and House Flambeau to exchange prisoners from the recent conflict. While on route to the place where the exchange was to happen, Astrius managed to slip his bonds and make off into the night. After many days of hard travel as he sought to evade his pursuers, he reached the safety of Solis Castle. There he saw the signs of great battle, and he later learned that, while he had been captive, McGreine's forces had besieged Solis Castle and that they had only recently been driven back.

More alarmingly, for him at least, was the news that Primus Hastus of Flambeau had been slain in battle, along with some of his followers. Xerres of Holy Isle has been elected as his replacement, and he will shortly leave Stonehenge to take up residence at the Domus Magnus of House Flambeau in the Provencal Tribunal. Following Hastus' death, the Flambeau had some success at reversing McGreine's former gains, but their victories must ring hollow given the high price they have paid. Perhaps their losses will curb this violent and unpredictable House that often seems almost out of control.

The rest of the meeting, and indeed the season, passed without incident. The only news of note was that Theo managed to locate a merchant who was interested in purchasing our glass. This is good news, since the income is solely needed at present, though in the longer term I still feel it is unwise for us to deal with anyone who might sell our wares on to Christian churches. My sodales have fewer qualms about this, and I do not believe that many of them take the rise of the Dominion sufficiently seriously.

Winter

The season began with a short Council meeting. There was little discussion or debate, possibly because of the chill draft blowing in through the shutters and from under the door. Like the others, I was keen to get back to my studies and, for once, the heat of the hearth. I have always felt uncomfortable in the presence of fire, but I must admit to its usefulness in thawing frozen fingers and toes. You need to keep your eye on it though, for the flames crackle with a malicious energy that can surprise the unwary. Unlike the true elements - water, earth, wood and air - fire is a devious, tricksy entity that exists only to consume. A fire once snuck up on me when I was an apprentice and, since then, I've made it my business to keep them where I can see them.

Theo made the only comment of note at the meeting when he mentioned that he had discovered a reference in the pagan lore texts to a shrine in Lydney to Lugh, an old god associated with the sun. If this is true, Lugh must be dismayed mad at what has happened to the village. This is something we should investigate if it ever becomes safe to explore the place.

A few days into the season, one of the grogs saw an arrow thud into one of the walls of the covenant. He could not see the archer, and when he went to investigate, he noticed that the arrow was made of leaves rather than wood. Rather puzzled by this, he brought the item back into the covenant, but it began to disintegrate as soon as it passed through the Aegis. By the time the other Magi and I were summoned, all that was left was a pile of dust, but Theo was able to recreate an image of the object from the remains, and it soon became clear that it belonged to Palug. I took this as a sign that his glade was under threat, most likely from the Erechwyth's minions. Given the likelihood of conflict, I persuaded Cormoran to accompany me into the faerie regio in return for a promise to take him to meet the faerie smith Gofynwy in the future.

We made swift progress through the mundane forest, but the path through the faerie forest to Palug's glade appeared uncertain and difficult to follow. I initially assumed that this might be the work of the Erechwyth, but it transpired that Palug himself had cast a glamour about the place to hide it from the Erechwyth's servants. We spied a group of her cruel goblins lurking in the forest, but they made no immediate move to attack, possibly because Cormoran was standing in plain view with a determined look on his face. Just then, Palug appeared, and he agreed to show us into the glade, where we could lay an ambush for the goblins. This proved to be a complete success, and they were soon all captured or dead. I must say that laying ambushes doesn't seem half as difficult as Astrius makes out, so perhaps I should offer him a few tips. Cormoran also played an important role, reinforcing my view that he would make a better Imperator than the Flambeau.

We were just debating what to do with the bodies, when we heard an enormous crashing and banging from beyond the glade. I had used the Weaver's Trap of Webs to seal in the goblins, and we surmised that one of the Erechwyth's ice giants had found its way to the outskirts of the glade and was making its way through the webs. We weighed up the possibility of taking on the giant in combat, but we decided that it would be better to try to lead it away. The fleet-footed scout Ferret was persuaded to attract the creature's attention and then scarper into the woods. He was soon able to lose the lumbering beast in the forest, and Palug gifted him a magical sling in return for his bravery. With the threat gone, Cormoran and I exchanged a few pointed words over whether we should harvest vis from the bodies of the goblins, and at one point I thought that Certamen was certain. However, good sense eventually prevailed, and he agreed to leave the bodies where they lay. In my mind, this demonstrates his good hearted nature, and I hope to be able to repay his consideration in the future.

The rest of the season passed without incident.
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