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Scribed by Astrius

Spring 1176AD


As is customary, the new year began with a council and in keeping with the blustery conditions outside it was a stormy gathering. After the shocking events at his house meeting, Magus Carwyn of Ex Miscellania, formerly known as Tiarnan, applied to join the covenant. My feelings about this were somewhat mixed for it is no secret that Tiarnan and I did not see eye to eye on a number of issues, especially regarding the part he played in Theo's downfall. Yet, despite this personal dislike and distrust, the circumstances of his having to reapply for membership did seem somewhat unfair and arbitrary and so it was with somewhat mixed feelings that I awaited the debate. In any event, I strongly suspected that Cormoran, with his animosity towards Tiarnan having been sufficient for him to consider challenging that magus to Wizard's War, was going to render my dilemma immaterial, for the charter states that any vote on a magus joining the council must pass unanimously.

Once Carwyn had made formal application to join and retired outside for us to consider his application, the discussions began. Aelfwin, Medius and Dialectica all spoke well of Tiarnan's actions in the past, Dialectica's initial words being all the more impressive considering Tiarnan's complicity in her imprisonment. Yet she tried too hard to sway me and Cormoran, and I took affront at her implication that we were not capable of putting the covenant's interests before our own personal views. I made my indignation clear, speaking of Tiarnan's flaws and his past actions which I firmly believed had put the covenant in danger, not to mention the fact that it was pretty clear that he did not hold his Oath above all other allegiances. However, when Cormoran's turn came to speak, matters became even more heated as his venality plunged to new depths when he stated that he would vote for Carwyn if he was paid enough. In my shock and anger, I did not register the exact sum of vis he requested, in addition to 3 seasons service, and a fierce argument ensued. Carwyn refused to say whether he was prepared to pay this price, though I personally believe he was, and I angrily rounded on Cormoran for his crass breach of the spirit of the Charter. Before things got out of hand, Aelfwin called for a break to allow tempers to cool and for people to consider their positions.

During the interval, Aelfwin came to see me and asked me how I was going to vote. I explained my thoughts on the matter and he told me that while he understood my reservations about Carwyn's nature, he himself did trust him. After a little discussion over an ale, I agreed that if he, as both my friend and Pontifex, considered that Carwyn should be readmitted then I would cast my vote in favour of his application. There was one sticking point however, I made it quite clear that allowing a magus to buy his way onto the council was in my view completely unacceptable and and an extremely poor precedent to set. Thus, I stated that if Carwyn paid Cormoran to cast his vote in favour, I would vote against to prevent their deal from succeeding. On this matter of principle I refused to budge so Aelfwin went off to speak with Medius on ways in which he might be able to work round this. After a little while he returned and we requested that Cormoran join us in my antechamber. Cormoran was unwilling to compromise, even at Aelfwin's personal request, and Aelfwin lost his temper with him, pointing out the times when he had stuck his neck out for Cormoran, and he stormed out. Cormoran and I then exchanged some further choice words and after making my feelings about exactly what I thought of his plan, I told him to leave.

Council resumed shortly afterwards and, to my surprise, instead of permitting any fresh debate, Aelfwin called for a quick vote. All save Cormoran voted in favour of Carwyn's application and as Cormoran voted against it swiftly became clear what Aelfwin's plan was as Dialectica instantly challenged him to certamen, demanding that he reverse his vote with a call of 'Perdo'. Cormoran attempted to speak out, but was called to answer the challenge immediately and so responded 'animal'. The contest took the form of each magus trying to destroy a pack of wolves. It was not a long fight. Dialectica clearly accrued a significant advantage in the first clash of magical energies and a moment later Cormoran lay unconscious on the floor. At this point, angered by a further breach of the spirit of the charter, I challenged Dialectica to change her vote. We fought using the arts of creo and mentem, each attempting to make the other believe that they were wrong. I lasted a little longer than Cormoran, but in truth not much. Medius then took similar issue with the maga and in an intellego mentem contest the two magi sought to make sense of strange symbols and words. Luckily for Carywn, Medius fared no better than either Cormoran or myself, being rendered senseless after two exchanges.

The next morning, when all had recovered, the council reconvened with Carwyn now present. Cormoran complained bitterly about Aelfwin's actions as Pontifex in the whole sorry affair surrounding Carwyn's application and asked what he could do about it. Aelfwin answered his question by calling for a motion of no confidence in the Pontifex. Although Aelfwin did not vote himself, Cormoran once again found himself in a minority of one as he voted in favour of the motion, though at least this time no one attempted to use to certamen to make him change his vote.

With Cormoran's complaints stilled, at least for moment, Carwyn spoke up for the first time. He asked council's opinion on the fey, with especial regard to the King's council and the brewing war between courts of stone and water over Aeddyn. Our ex-Merinitan explained some of the issues surrounding Llyr and his possession of the crown of Math that Theo once bore. He told us that the King's council had given him the task of retrieving the crown, but that the line he had to walk was a fine one. If he asks Llyr whether he possesses it and the King refuses to return it or lies and denies that he has it, then there will be war for sure. However, if Carwyn is unable to get it then he may be thrown off the King's council, thus removing another supposedly pro-Order influence from it, Archimaga Sylvania having already left.

At this point the discussion moved on to other aspects of the perilous legacy that Theo left behind, namely the great cauldron that sits still in his sanctum. I fear that I have forgetten which particular pagan God or Goddess was responsible for that artefact. With so many different skeins tangling together to make one extremely complicated mess it was clear that no one was altogether certain of how best to proceed. So the talk moved on to the crux of the matter, what outcomes would be best for this covenant? And how then might we best look to achieve such?

Aelfwin felt that it would be best for Aeddyn never to get the crown and thus avoid him having to cope with the inevitable issues of interfering with the mundanes that would arise were he ever crowned King of Wales. It was suggested that Carwyn goes to see Llyr but instead of asking outright about the crown and risking provoking immediate conflict, he should try to see something of how the land lies. Carwyn was a little equivocal about such a plan, and said that he would wait and see how matters turn out before making any firm decisions. In the meantime he will spend this season looking for vis along the Wye, which thus far has not been as thoroughly investigated as the larger Severn. Medius will venture abroad to speak with Magus Cestus about ways in which Ieuan and his infernal servants might be defeated. He stated that it was possible he may be gone some little time, presumably he hopes that Cestus may be able to tutor him further in his Kabbalistic arts. The rest of the council decided to remain with the covenant, engaged in one form of magical study or another.

A couple of days after Medius had left, a rider wearing strange enamelled armour arrived at our gates. He announced in Welsh that his Lord, Mynyddor, had bested Sir Turold in a duel and thus he wished for the cauldron to be delivered to his castle. There was some discussion about how we would move it from Theo's old sanctum, but Cormoran's extraordinarily powerful spontaneous arts were able to apport it safely down into the courtyard. However, when he attempted to shrink it to a more easily portable size he almost lost control of his magics and then, as if in response, while we stood around discussing what to do next, there was a banging sound from within the cauldron and its lid rattled. Remembering all too clearly Theo's tales about how hordes of undead warriors could be summoned from its depths, I quickly ordered that the lid be lashed down tightly with stout ropes. As the men set about tying it down I peered at the cauldron using the second sight that I had been gifted after reforging the cords that bind Drudwhil and I. It was an eerie and unsettling sight, for to such a view it appears not as a large iron pot, but instead a gateway to some dark other world. As I reported what I could see and we urgently debated what to do, the new alarm bell sounded.

Jory, the faithful grog whose shade had agreed to keep watch for us in the otherworld, had seen what was going on with the cauldron and rung the bell that we had had constructed to warn us of any attack from Ieuan. Although we were already alert to the danger, at least we now know that our system works. Nevertheless, fearing the consequences should the lid not hold, it was decided that the cauldron had to be moved outside the boundaries of our aegis. It was far too heavy to move by any mundane means so Cormoran bravely agreed to apport it just beyond the main gate, using some vis to ensure his magic was sufficiently potent. His spell was successful so we moved to the battlements overlooking the gate to observe matters further.
The lid of the cauldron was rattling fiercely now and one of the clasps that held the lid on snapped. I stared cautiously at the cauldron once more using my second sight and could see ghostly hands pushing manically at the lid. As swiftly as I was able, I conjured walls of stone to encircle it and keep any threat contained. Then, just as I completed this, the cauldron suddenly went quiet. As I watched warily, I suddenly saw large bestial claws reach up from the depths and the lid of the cauldron shattered as Ieuan and his demons flew out.

We felt the aegis breached almost immediately and as I turned to look demonic creatures began appearing throughout the courtyard and attacking grogs and covenfolk alike. I had begun to cast bolts of fire down upon them when suddenly, with a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, I remembered who Ieuan's first target would be. I sprinted down as fast as I could, pausing only to fight off a couple of demons that attacked me as I emerged from the base of the gatehouse. Cormoran apported directly to the doorway of the keep, but the doors were barred shut from the inside and were beyond even his prodigious strength to open. Seeing this, I wasted little time and blew them open with the Incantation of Lightning. Inside lay a scene of carnage as several of the covenfolk had been butchered there by Ieuan and his infernal allies. Cormoran and I ran on past this and up the stairs that lead to Aelfwin's sanctum. As we approached I could hear screams and I feared for a moment that I had tarried by the gate too long as I espied the body of Aelfwin's daughter Erica lying just inside the doorway to his laboratory. Drudwhil was a little way ahead and I saw him lunge at an enemy who was hidden from my eyes. As I cast my sight beyond the veil and saw the figure of Ieuan and a large winged demon beside him, I felt a sudden searing pain in my side as Ieuan cut Drudwhil badly with a vicious sweep of his sword. I screamed in both pain and rage and lunged forwards, my blow striking true. It was a strike that should have killed him, but he had bound another demon to protect him and there was no wound upon him, just an unearthly scream as his demon was cut from this world.

Meanwhile, Cormoran used Petrus's dagger to cut through into where Ieuan and his demon stood. With Ieuan engaged in a fierce swordfight with me, the demon turned its attention to this new threat and Cormoran bravely stepped through to meet it. Ieuan proved to be a skilled swordsman and after parrying my overhead strike, he riposted with a heavy blow that broke a few of my ribs and caused a deep gash that began to bleed heavily. I could feel my strength ebbing as I lashed out, activating the last of the Morrigan's powers to enable the blade to strike across the veil. This time I was quicker than my foe and my blow sent him reeling, bleeding heavily from a savage blow to his shoulder. The demon that had been fighting Cormoran sensed this and moving with preternatural swiftness grabbed Ieuan and with a single beat of its great bat-like wings it was gone.

Although we had triumphed and fought off the attack that we had been dreading this past year, the mood around the covenant afterwards was sombre. Aelfwin's daughter lay dead and we discovered that Ieuan had taken time to set our mundane library ablaze, focussing his efforts on the extensive tomes on pagan lore. Unfortunately many other books were also damaged, including much of the irreplaceable works on magical theorems by the late magus Corlear. In addition, the cursed cauldron still sat outside the gates, mocking our efforts to move it. Dialectica bravely set off to speak to Mynyddor to see if he had any means to fetch it himself.

From Astrius's private journal:

A few days after the fight with Ieuan, the Morrigan sent me another dream. In it I heard the beat of a raven's wing over a windswept hill in Wales and, looking up, saw a tall black tower on an island off the mainland. The raven landed on the sill of a narrow window slit and peered within. There sat Ieuan, heavily bandaged, one hand on a black blade whose surface held no reflection. Two dark-robed and hooded figures then entered the room, Dionysus and Cassitus. Cassitus's skin was deathly pale, with blue veins prominent in their faces, much as one might see in a fresh corpse. Cassitus handed Ieuan some vis to heal himself, which he did, though he remained wary of him, and Dionysus too, was deferential. Then Cassitus appeared to sense something at the window and the raven flew off. As it did so the vision shifted and I heard the Morrigan speaking to me. She told me that there will be another battle with the same enemy though I will have time to prepare. This time the fight will be when I am away from Severn Temple for now Ieuan sees me as the threat. She said that she would let me know if she sees any signs that such an attack is imminent. She also claimed that many in the House Tremere serve like the lich that Cassitus has become and that if I call she will come for they are her mortal enemy and for as long as I bear the blade then such aid will be freely given. For all that her aid was invaluable and her prophecy true concerning Ieuan, and such corrupted magi as he are my sworn foe, I cannot help but wonder, I am treading the same path that Ruaridh, Theo and others have walked before?


Dialectia returned a week or so later with the news that Mynyddor was prepared to accept the cauldron if it was placed on the border of the regio in which his castle stands. Cormoran agreed to try and apport the cauldron to get it there, but once again something went awry with his spell and the magic instead sent him plunging down through the gateway the cauldron holds open in the spirit world.

The remaining magi met to decide what we could do to rescue Cormoran. From what knowledge Dialectica and Carwyn have of the cauldron, it is likely that Cormoran is lost very deep within the otherworld, beyond even Arawn's gates. After some debate, it became clear that even finding Cormoran, let alone getting him out, would be difficult indeed so I drank a magical elixir of Carwyn's that he said would grant me an answer to one such question. As I stared down into the Spring, looking for guidance on how best we could rescue Cormoran, I saw myself walking quietly and cautiously up to Arawn's gates, and slipping through while the hounds that guard them were fed and thus distracted. The scene then shifted and I saw myself pass through a dark forest, the Morrigan blade held in one hand. I had the strong sense that I had been fighting, though I bore no obvious injury. Ahead, on an old road I saw a hooded figure standing there. Time blurred somewhat as I saw the scenery about me change, though ever present just ahead of me was the same hooded man. First I was on a mountain, then standing in front of a large castle, then inside the castle in a great hall where many strong and proud warriors sat amidst walls covered with weapons and trophies of war. Finally I stood amidst grey fields where crows sat in dead trees staring down at me. Hanging from one of these trees was Cormoran, a crow pecking at his side. As I cut him down, he spoke my name and the vision cleared. I asked Drudwhil who he thought the hooded man might be and he suggested that it could be an ancestor of mine.

I returned to my sodales and told them what I had seen. Dialectica explained that Mynyddor would grow angry if we failed to deliver the cauldron and that would likely put her and Aeddyn in danger once more. With such further peril to another of my fellow magi my path seemed clear, even if I quailed slightly at the thought of what lay before me. So it was that I journeyed once more to the Morrigan's hill, to ask her to take me to Arawn's gates. Although she was willing to do so, she told me that Drudwhil would not be able to accompany me. I had little option but to press on without him, so while she distracted Arawn's hounds I quietly slipped through the gates as I had seen myself do in the vision at the Spring. I found myself in shadowed, haunted woods where I was assailed repeatedly by shades of the dead, but I was able to drive them off with my blade without great difficulty. As foreseen, ahead lay an ancient road, upon which stood a hooded man whose voice seemed strangely familiar. To my surprise I suddenly realised that this was no ancestor of mine, but the shade of the renounced magus Idris. The fact that his shade had been spared by the Quaesitori offered me little comfort, but I was now committed and so reluctantly followed him on.

We took a boat across a river, the touch of whose waters Idris warned cause forgetfulness, then provisioned ourselves at his house where his wife and an ill-tempered black hound also dwelled. Then began an interminably long walk up into the mountains. Deep within such a powerful regio I found it hard to keep track of how much time had passed and as the miles dragged on, a deep, bone-weary fatigue set in and it took all my willpower to continue putting one foot in front of the other as I followed Idris's dead and untiring feet. We stopped only when I collapsed out of sheer exhaustion, unable to walk any further, but these breaks were few and far between. As the castle loomed up ahead, Idris told me that we would need the lord of the castle's permission to go any further. He stressed that the lord was a powerful king and should be treated with the utmost respect. When we finally reached King Arwen's castle, Idris waited outside and I walked into Arwen's great hall alone.
Once inside, I approached the throne that stood at the far end of the hall, my heart beating quickly as I did so and I bent my knee before the King. I was then surrounded by the strong and proud warriors that I had seen in my vision at the Spring. While I waited for their decision, I could hear something of the debate that went on and from this it was clear that they held Cormoran in low esteem. As for me, they judged that I was not yet worthy to sit amongst them, but that one day I might be if I found the wisdom that I would need to guide my sword arm true. In the end it was agreed that Cormoran's life would be given to me and that I was allowed by my virtue to return him to the lands of the living. Having been granted such a second chance, I was told that Cormoran will henceforth be judged by his gratitude to me. King Arawn then saw fit to gift me with a little of his wisdom, his words, which I shall not forget e'er so long as I live were that "a true warrior's heart is loyal and valorous, but also wise. Be not blind to the truths of the world, even for loyalty." I was also warned that I should not come before him again before my appointed time, and if I did this would be taken as a grave insult.

With these words ringing in my head, I walked back out, conscious of the gazes of his warriors still upon me and feeling a strange mixture of pride and fear. Idris seemed surprised to see me, saying that I was a remarkable man to have entered the hall and left again. With that, we set off again along the long road and I fell into a mindless rhythm of walking as the minutes turned into hours, turned into days. By now, I had lost all sense of how much time had elapsed since I had entered Arawn's gate, but I was vaguely conscious of the long beard that I bore and my worn shoe leather and bleeding feet. Yet still we marched on.

Eventually we came to the grey fields where crows sat and pecked at bodies hanging from dead trees. Idris said that this was where those ill-favoured by Arwen were put. As I had seen in the vision, it was there that I found Cormoran and cut him down. We shared a brief conversation, then headed back towards the mountains, but this time in the foothills we came across a cave. Idris bid us farewell at this point and Cormoran and I went on into the darkness. After a short while the cave narrowed and became steep enough for us to have to start climbing and after a time, although I did not notice when the change happened, the rocks beneath my fingers turned into metal rungs and then suddenly above my head was the wooden lid of the cauldron.

The feeling of relief when Carwyn opened the lid and we clambered out was indescribable. I lay on the ground staring up at the sun for a long time, before I was helped into the infirmary whereupon I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep from which I did not awaken for three whole days. I awoke to find that Dialectica was missing, presumably being held by an angry Mynyddor. Reluctantly, though with no little courage considering what had happened when he had attempted it before, Cormoran cast a spell to apport the cauldron into Wales. Happily, this time he was successful and it was not long before Dialectica returned, Mynyddor having released her when the cauldron appeared.

Medius returned not long after, having found a gifted child on his journeys and so it was with much relief that such a tumultuous season ended, with all my sodales safe and well with our covenant.

Summer

The council meeting began with me recounting all that had occurred in the rescue of Cormoran. There was some further debate as to whether or not the issue of Ruaridh's spirit in the Morrigan blade should be raised at tribunal. All though almost all were agreed of the need to keep the blade, given that it was only the blade he empowers that drove off Ieuan, sadly it seems that the death of Iannos still drives Medius's stubborn refusal to countenance any compromise on this issue. There was further discussion concerning the nature of the spirit world that lies about this covenant, but no one was knowledgeable enough on the subject for any conclusion to be drawn. We can only hope that magus Petrus, who once dwelled here, may be able to shed some further light on this matter.

Medius reported that missive had been sent to a member of the Kabbalah who may be able to create wards that can stop demons coming through. Given all that I have seen of the Kabbalah's power in battling the infernal this is certainly a matter worthy of further investigation. Medius then suggested that we re-establish a spy network, to be run by Giovanni with Hugh of Huntley in day-to-day charge. Again, a sensible notion that all were agreed was a good idea.
Later that month, as Dialectica and Giovannia went about setting up the network, they learnt from Hugh that a small merchant caravan had been attacked by werewolves within sight of Huntley Priory. After ensuring that the survivors, one of whom had been afflicted by lycanthropy, would not be spreading any further rumours of demons and beasts within the forest, they returned to the covenant to inform the council what they had discovered. Dialectica believed that with Theo dead then the werewolves of Huntley were no longer bound by the King's peace. To find out exactly what had occurred, Dialectica and I travelled down to the woods close to the site of the attack. Dialectica cast the ritual 'Eyes of the Past' but before she had time to see what had happened, Drudwhil was attacked by two werewolves. I slew one and the other fled at the site of the flaming sword I bore.

Not wanting to risk facing the whole pack by ourselves we hurried back to the covenant where an emergency council meeting was called. I had severed the head of the dead werewolf and brought it back with me, so Medius cast 'Whispers Through the Black Gate' upon it. The shade claimed that the pack still held to the King's peace but that Theo had not answered their calls. It tried to claim that it was we who had broken the pact by slaying it, dismissing their initial attack on Drudwhil as a "mistake". There was little else we could learn from it, so when the moon was next full, Carwyn and I stood atop the walls facing towards Huntley and I called out in the tongue of wolves. After a pause one of the werewolves howled back. The shifter said that the pack would hold to the pact so long as we did not interfere with their plans to take "not a large number" of women from the nearby villages to restore their numbers. I suppose at least we in Severn Temple and Blackney remain safe for now, though it sorely pains me to think of them kidnapping and infecting more innocent womenfolk. Although an uneasy peace reigns for now, mark my words, there is still a reckoning to come between the werewolves of Huntley and I.

Autumn

The autumn council meeting began with Dialectica's announcement that she would be spending the season with Aeddyn in the Welsh court for he is now 14 years old and thus considered to be a man in mundane circles. In accordance with the deal struck with the Prince of Powys he will be made a squire. While this role should not prove too onerous and is one which many magi of House Jerbiton have undergone before, there may be problems ahead when he reaches the age of 18 and will then be expected to be knighted and to take possession of his noble inheritance. In connection with this, Carwyn asked what the current legal status of our lands was, given that the previous landowner, Theo, is dead. Dialectica replied that she needed to speak with the Earl of Gloucester who is still away fighting in England's bitter civil war. She explained however that there were two principal ways we could go about reacquiring the titles to our holdings. The first would be to declare Aeddyn as Theo's named heir and thus look to directly inherit the lands. This would probably be the most straightforward way of doing it, but runs not inconsiderable risks as he is not a member of our concilium, nor is he even a magus as yet. The other option would be to appeal to the Earl's favourable view of us given how previous magi helped his father and simply to offer to buy the lands as required. In any eventuality we will need to cede ownership of Skenfrith given its strategic importance and great size, but Dialectica thinks that we should be able to retain Briavel, Blackney and probably Lydney too, though this latter settlement may be slightly more difficult should the Baron of Chepstow still harbour a desire for those lands.

Medius announced that he will travel to Narwold to speak with Arcturus and possibly Fergus too. Dialectica reminded him that given the Duke of Norfolk is fighting against the King there may well be problems with armed men on the road to that covenant. As the maga had predicted, barely three days out of the covenant, while riding a little way ahead of the rest of the small group, Giovanni espied a group of well armed brigands on the road ahead. To avoid any conflict, Medius ordered them to hide within a small copse that lay a little way off the main road. During the night, Giovanni, who had been on watch, was attacked by three vicious humanoid creatures with long, raking claws. Fortunately Medius and the two grogs were able to reach him quite quickly or it could have gone ill for Giovanni as the creatures had borne him to the ground. The creatures were no match when it came to an even fight and, although Medius suffered a nasty gash, they were wounded and fled off into the dark woods. Once things had calmed down, Medius was able to determine to their relief that the woods had a faerie aura and thus their wounds would have no diabolic taint. Medius was subsequently able to reach Narwold without further incident, delivering a letter from Helena to Matthew, telling him of the sad news of the death of his sister.

Meanwhile, Carwyn ventured forth to attempt to fulfil his previous pledge to search the river Wye for possible magical or faeries sites of interest, and with luck, vis. To the subsequent great delight of several members of council, when Tiarnan checked the 'Trellech Stones' that lie just across the river from Clearwell village, he found that the lichen that grows on them contains intellego vis. His familiar, the otter Kai, also made a discovery, locating a magical cave that can only be accessed by swimming up a dark and narrow underground river that feeds into the Wye. Inside this cave dwell eels, one of which, a particularly large and vicious one contained animal vis. On the bank above the entrance to this cave it is said that ghosts of the drowned can be seen on certain nights of the year. Nearby, in one of the many beds of reeds that dot the rivers throughout the Dean, lurks a reed witch who claims to be kin to the one that dwells downriver from Blackney.

Winter

At the winter council, Medius relayed troubling news that he had learnt from Magus Arcturus about the Christian cult that the tribunal had set him to investigate. It seems that the prime movers in this cult are nobles, one of whom is the Baron of Chepstow, as well as some monks from Tintern Abbey. Even more alarmingly, this cult of pious knights uses not just simple ritual magic, but quick to cast spells of some design that mimic many aspects of hermetic magic. If they do possess something akin to our gift then clearly something must be done. Given the membership of the Baron of Chepstow, he who covets the lands of Lydney, we shall have to watch out local situation more closely than ever. Dialectica will try and determine whether she can extend our nascent spy network to watch matters. Intercepting mail between the members of this cult may prove not to be very helpful for Medius said that their communications are heavily encrypted and have as yet defeated Arcturus's best efforts to decode them.

After Carwyn's announcement of his find of intellego vis, it was agreed that it should be registered as soon as possible as a covenant vis site. As well as the moss, he reported that he had also found an ancient-looking bronze shield with pagan designs of a red and a white dragon fighting. Drudwhil recognised it almost immediately as the shield of 'Dylan Eil Ton', which means 'son of the wave', another pagan god of the sea, who legend has it is married to the Lladra. As I recalled from conversations with Theo, the red and white dragons fighting refers to Wales and England. However, Medius stated that the shield was an item belonging to the UnNamed House. He claimed that the serpents appear to be stylised to be consuming each other, a known symbol of the UnNamed House. Although Dialectica pointed out that the device he was referring to was in fact a single serpent consuming itself, he would not be shaken from his opinion and stated that no magical investigations could be undertaken of the shield until we knew more about its origins. From her readings of Mynyddor's library while imprisoned, Dialectica was able to shed some more light on these. She believes that the shield is one of the legendary twelve treasures of Britain, along with the crown and cauldron that Theo once owned. Given that Dylan Eil Ton is supposed to be the Lladra's husband, Carwyn will try and speak with her at the Spring after this meeting to see what can be learned from her.
Dialectica then reported that our scribe has begun the long and delicate process of copying out the water-damaged tomes from our mundane library and that, as covenant service, she will begin to copy Corlear's notes on magical theory. Carwyn suggested we petition Cad Gadu for a fresh copy of the works on pagan practices and beliefs, which all agreed on.

After the council meeting was finished, Carwyn went to speak with the Lladra and learned that the shield was indeed crafted by her husband. The Lladra also added that ancient prophecy had it that once the King is crowned then the other ancient treasures of the land will slowly emerge, although they all 'belong' to Aeddyn, as 'King' Theo's heir. The treasures were hidden long ago using powerful magics to hide them from both man and faery. She suggested that if Carwyn wished to learn more then he could seek out her husband 'where the waves beat the shore'. He apparently commands great white horses that live in the surf near the coast. She then asked for the shield herself in the name of Llyr, but Carwyn refused, saying that it was Aeddyn's.

Late one evening, a little over a fortnight later, Drudwhil told me that he had been sent a dream by the Morrigan in which she told him that Dionysus had moved out of his place of safety and was in the mountains of Wales, searching for something. The Morrigan claimed that he was taking a big risk in doing this and it presented an ideal chance to put an end to his evil. The last that had been officially reported of Dionysus was in the Spring of 1159 AD when Magus Lauretius reported that he had passed into Final Twilight. Unsurprisingly, given his clear dislike of those less latin members of the Order and the suspicions of many, including my pater, that he was engaged in sinister, maybe even infernal, practices, his parting was not much mourned. However, although he had been declared lost to the Order, it was not clear to me whether I could legally take his life so I went to speak on the matter with Aelfwin, who in turn suggested that I speak with Medius. The quaesitor, while he made it clear that this was to be an investigation into what had happened with Dionysus, not the hunt that Drudwhil was so enthusiastic for, was very amenable to heading out in search of him. So, next morning, guided by Drudwhil, his eyes the eerie blue colour that they always take on when he is on the hunt, we set off, taking our respective consortis, Giovanni and Owain with us. After taking the barge to Skenfrith, we alighted just outside the town's walls to avoid raising suspicion among the local populace and I conjured horses for us to ride. Fortunately the moon was still new and we saw no sign of the werewolves as we passed by the forest that surrounds Mynydd Myrrdyn.

On the fourth day out, as we entered the mountains proper and the weather grew cold and wet, Drudwhil sensed that our target was near and we would reach him tomorrow. The next day we crested a ridge and saw below us a deep valley, covered with dark woods, in the midst of which stood a lone ruined tower. I did not need Drudwhil to tell me that this was where our quarry lay. Owain asked his magical kite, Aradd, to fly over the forest and when he returned, he reported that there was a group of four armoured men in a camp a short distance from the tower, but he had seen no sign of anyone fitting Dionysus's description. Before we set off, Medius appointed me formally as his hoplite. We approached cautiously, moving up through the woods to the south. However, in the process of crossing the river that runs through the forest, Gionvanni slipped and made enough of a clatter in his chainmail to alert the men whom we took to be Dionysus's guards. Nevertheless we pressed on as stealthily as we could until we reached the edge of the clearing in which the remains of the tower stood. Although it had lost at least the top storey and its roof, the ground floor was still wholly intact and it was from within there that the shadow of a man was glimpsed for a moment. Drudwhil, who was in no doubt whatsoever about the corrupt nature of Dionysus, was chafing at the bit to attack and as we hesitated, he ran round to try and come at them from behind.

Meanwhile the armoured men had made it into the tower and their sergeant issued a forceful challenge to identify ourselves or he and his men would open fire with their crossbows. I counselled waiting and holding our position where we had good cover behind the trees, but Medius was determined to press on and loudly declared himself. He then got up to move forwards across the one ground to the tower. Before he broke cover, I pressed Medius to make clear what actions we would take if, or more likely when, it became clear that Dionysus was indeed a lich. To my astonishment, Medius stated quite bluntly that lichdom was a perfectly legal state within the code and as such no action could be taken against him. I urgently demanded to know how he came to such a bizarre conclusion, pointing out that from what little I knew of the subject liches were dead flesh made animate by the ghosts of magi and as the ghosts of magi are outside of the Code, then so too were liches. Medius was however unmoved, stating that it was merely a variant on the longevity potion. Brushing aside my vociferous protests Medius stood up and walked towards the tower. I was deeply reluctant to follow him, but as he had named me as hoplite I had little choice but to follow him. First however I conjured a wall of protecting stone to block off any firing angles that Dionysus's men at arms might have. As we drew closer, Dionysus himself appeared, his face all but obscured by the heavy dark robes that he wore. After a slight, ominous pause he too declared himself and invited us into the tower. Watching him closely I did so, all too aware of the four armed men who stood within. The presence of Giovanni and Owain to even up the numbers reassured me a little, but not greatly, for while neither Giovanni nor Owain lacked skill at arms, Dionysus's men had the look of seasoned killers.

Once inside, Dionysus offered us some food and wine, Medius glanced at me to see whether I thought this was a good idea, but I shook my head firmly. If Dionysus noticed, he paid no heed and went downstairs, away from the men, where we could talk in private. The cellar of the tower was dark and poorly lit, so without waiting for Dionysus's permission I conjured light about it. Dionysus recoiled as though pained by the light, saying that the twilight that had afflicted him had left him exquisitely sensitive to light. He asked me to drop the spell, but I simply shrugged, telling him that I was unable to call back the magics. He did not seem overly perturbed by this and his pale, blue-veined hands quickly formed the shapes of perdo and ignem and the bright light vanished, leaving us once more in near darkness.

Dionysus exchanged pleasantries with Medius, telling him what had happened to him since his apparent final twilight. Once he had established that we had come here alone, without any wider tribunal involvement, he made some excuse and reached into a pouch at his side. The motion aroused my suspicions, but I hesitated, for a critical moment, feeling unable to act first without clear proof of hostile intent. Dionysus quickly rendered any such mental debates academic a second later when he produced a skull from the bag and I felt my parma crushed. Although I felt a slight dizziness for a moment, nothing else happened, but as I drew my sword and lunged forwards, I caught sight of Medius's eyes, now clouded and milky white. Although the Morrigan blade I bore plunged into Dionysus's chest there was no resistance and his image simply winked out, appearing a pace to my left. I almost wept with frustration and anger at falling for such a simple trick, especially when our situation was so dire.

Dionysus must have exchanged some prearranged signal with his men, for I heard sounds of steel on steel upstairs. I could only hope that Owain and Giovanni would have the time and wit to drink their potions. As Medius fumbled for his potion, I tried desperately to use my second sight to get an idea of where Dionysus stood, but even as I did so I felt my parma flattened again. This time my resistance was not so strong and I felt my tongue twist into a useless spiral, leaving me incapable of uttering a sound, either to cast a spell or to invoke the Morrigan's power to aid my sword arm. However for a fraction of a second I thought I caught a glimpse of a black void cast in the shape of a man and with a strangled cry of rage I swung desperately at it. This time I felt my blade strike something solid, but my triumph was short-lived for my parma was almost immediately flattened again. Although I felt naught but a brief moment of nausea, I knew that it was only a matter of time before Dionysus managed to punch some other malign effect through my parma. I lashed out again where he had been but my blade found nothing but empty air and with Medius having apported out, my fingers were already reaching for my potion when I felt my parma collapse once again and the world went dark.

So it was that I appeared in the infirmary, blind and mute. Aelfwin quickly restored my vision, but told us that the covenant did not have enough vis in its healing reserve to remove the effects from both of us. After some clumsy sign language, Medius signalled that the vis should be used to heal me first, something that I was not about to disagree with for it was clear to me that if Giovanni or Owain were going to return they would have already done so. This meant that Dionysus had two potions of the leap of homecoming in his possession.

An emergency council was swiftly called and it was decided that the Aegis of the Hearth should be re-enacted to prevent Dionysus or anyone else using the potions to enter the covenant. While the others cast the ritual, Cormoran and I would wait in the infirmary lest anyone apport through before our magical shield could be restored. As I write these words I still find it hard to believe that we were all so dull-witted. How could we have failed to think to simply break the slab that the arcane connections in the potion were taken from? How could we who call ourselves magi have been so stupid? Aelfwin would surely be here today if just one of us had thought clearly. Yet I must remember that while this tragedy could have been averted, we are not responsible. Aelfwin's blood lies on the hands of Dionysus and Dionysus alone. At least I had the foresight to check my sword and saw that I had drawn blood, or at least some foul approximation of it, when I struck Dionysus and I took care to wipe it off with a soft cloth, pocketing that for when an arcane connection might prove useful.

Time passed, though I know not how long exactly, when suddenly I felt my parma collapse. Cormoran and I had been sitting within just a few feet of the apportation point within the infirmary and yet neither or us had sensed anything. Despite this it was obvious that Dionysus had rendered himself invisible and used one of the potions. Cormoran bellowed with anger and charged at the spot but Dionysus had clearly moved quickly and there was nothing there for Cormoran to hit. As I felt my resistance assailed once more, I decided that to stay inside the room merely gave Dionysus the opportunity to render both of the covenant's battle magi blind or worse and so I dived out into the corridor to take myself out of his sight and to hopefully set up some sort of ambush for him. Inside I could hear Cormoran crash around, but judging by his frustrated cries it was clear that he was having no luck in finding Dionysus. Thinking quickly I conjured a light coating of dust about the floor outside the doorway in the hope that Dionysus's footsteps might betray his location and thus give me the chance to land a proper blow upon his dead flesh.

All suddenly went quiet within as Cormoran, weakened and physically aged by Dionysus's corporem magics apported himself back to his sanctum. While I have criticised Cormoran for leaving the field of battle early before, this is one occasion when no accusation of cowardice can be levelled against him, indeed he fought valiantly, albeit in vain, and for longer than might have been reasonably expected. Unfortunately Dionysus must have spotted the dust and as I waited, sword held high above my head, ready to strike at a moment's notice, a wind blew the dust away. I could see no sign of him, even with my second sight, so I didn't wait around for the inevitable attack and instead dived for the spiral staircase in front of me, taking the steps three at a time in my desperation to break line of sight between me and him. As I waited round the bend in the stairs, catching my breath, I heard the door that led into the great hall open. I raced up the stairs to the next floor and hurried out to the musicians gallery that runs above the hall. I cautiously stole a glance down below and saw a horrific sight. Dead serving folk lay all about, blood running from their mouths, and off to my right I noticed one of the reinforced double doors swing slowly shut. He was outside.

I turned and sprinted for the stairs that I knew lay on the far side of the tower and would perhaps grant me the chance to flank Dionysus. As I emerged into the cold night air, I hurried to the corner of the keep and looked around for signs of his passing. To my further dismay I saw a grog on duty above the Spring Gate suddenly clutch at his chest and topple lifelessly off the wall. Dionysus was obviously not too far away, but to my frustration I was still unable to sense him so to cover my approach I conjured a thick blanket of fog about the covenant, using the Sight of True Air to see through it. As I crept closer I caught sight of a dark figure atop the gate and let rip with a ball of flame from Garius's wand. However as the fire washed harmlessly about the figure I saw to my surprise, and no little alarm, that it was not Dionysus but the dread figure of the Morrigan. She told me that she had cast her shadow about the covenant and at its touch Dionysus had fled. I could sense the rebuke in her words for my failure to attack him when I had the chance. Although I bitterly regretted not putting an end to Dionysus's cursed existence, if Dionysus he still is, when I took the sword I made it clear that I would hold to my Oath above any common cause we might have and would not act as her champion and obey her every command.

Yet it was only a quarter of an hour later that I learnt just how bitter such regrets would prove to be for as the fog cleared it revealed the body of Aelfwin lying lifeless just outside the wall, his heart crushed as he tried to recast the Aegis with Dialectica and Carwyn. A further roll call revealed that both the castellan and the captain were also dead, along with at least half a dozen coven folk. Suppressing my anger and grief as best I could I set up organising the surviving grogs to make sure that what defences we still had would hold good, then joined in the recasting of the Aegis. Medius, now the Pontifex, called an emergency council meeting, though he was still blind and dumb from Dionysus's magics. Perhaps predictably, tempers ran hot during the meeting as we discussed in full the events that had gone on and after a furious exchange with Carwyn during which I refused to be silenced, he eventually found the courage to challenge me to certamen. We fought using Intellego and Ignem and fuelled by anger and frustration I won without too much difficulty. Matters returned to what Dionysus might have been looking for in the Welsh mountains, given what we know of his and Holy Isle's past interests it seems likely that he was looking for one of the legendary treasures of Albion, though his purpose for doing so is not known.

The discussion was kept relatively quick for it was imperative that we inform the rest of the tribunal of the attack, so, after I quickly scribed letters describing what had gone on for Praefecta Orlania, Cormoran apported to Blackthorn to speak with the Senior Quaesitor and Archimaga Gyriania. Fortunately for us, the archimaga was present and promised to bear word of the attack swiftly to the praefecta and nearby covenants.

Two days later, Serenia and Orlania arrived at the covenant, though by this time I had left to go and fetch Drudwhil, who had managed to escape albeit with a wound and was making slow progress on foot back home. Orlania was able to restore Medius to full health, but unfortunately she was unable to help Cormoran, for it seems that Dionysus used the spell 'Curse of the Leprous Flesh' upon him, which was beyond her means to heal. Meanwhile, Medius called another emergency council meeting and declared Trepidus for its duration in order to appoint a ministrator. He asked Dialectica, but she refused, so, after some hesitation, he asked Carwyn, who reluctantly accepted, doubtless seeing the responsibility as less onerous than risking having Cormoran as Pontifex should anything happen to Medius.

With a Ministrator appointed, Medius left with Orlania to journey to Blackthorn where the tribunal's battle magi were assembling for the hunt. Cormoran's affliction meant that he was unable to join them and instead flew to Lear Valley to seek out Erin. Luckily Erin was dwelling within that covenant over winter and was able to heal Cormoran, though he was sorely grieved to learn of his filius's death. Meanwhile, Medius attempted to guide Orlania and the others back to the tower, but was unable to find the valley where it lay. After searching fruitlessly for a little over a week, Orlania returned to Severn Temple to try and track me down. Fortunately I had met up with Drudwhil quickly and was home when she called again. We didn't tarry, though when I joined up with the others I confess that my heart sank to see just how few defenders of the tribunal the Praefecta had been able to call upon. The last couple of decades have proved costly for those of our number who can fight. Maybe I should look to my arts and think about taking an apprentice sooner rather than later. In any event, with my better knowledge of the welsh countryside I was able to locate the tower within a couple of days. However, as we had suspected, there was no sign of Dionysus and the blood that I had carefully wiped from my blade had vanished. Prima Fenriata reported that there were signs of infernal magics having been used and tellingly there were traces of an excavation that had taken place after the fight, though whether it was successful is unknown.

Using blood stains found on the stone steps leading down to the cellar, Senior Quaesitor Serenia was able to find the bodies of our fallen comrades Owain and Giovanni. Let their long and loyal service be recorded in this journal for as long as this covenant that they served so bravely endures. Serenia spoke with Giovanni's shade, which was able to tell her that Dionysus had magically commanded him to tell him all that he knew of Theo's crown and any other ancient pagan artefacts. This means that Dionysus now knows that Llyr holds the crown, Mynyddor the cauldron and Carwyn the shield, though I understand that soon after the expedition had been concluded Serenia took the latter into her possession for detailed investigation. More importantly, Serenia ruled officially that Dionysus is no longer a member of the Order of Hermes and is to be treated as a renegade who shall be given no quarter and destroyed on sight. This will be formally confirmed at the next tribunal.
As we returned to our respective covenants, Orlania informed me that she is planning to propose the creation of permanent hoplites for tribunal and plans to speak with Moravius about commissioning items to enable such magi to communicate quickly between one another.

Once home again, just before the end of what has been the hardest and darkest year I have yet faced in my time at Severn Temple, I appointed Eadhild as Captain. While she might not be the brightest of our grog contingent, she has proven her valour and loyalty on more than one occasion and I am confident that she will hold the turb together until we can find a long-term successor.

From Astrius's private journal:

So what to do? Now perhaps I can see how Ruaridh and maybe others before him broke their oaths. The danger that the Morrigan represents is far more subtle that I had previously imagined. My blood burns with the desire for revenge on Dionysus and the rest of his unholy cabal in Holy Isle and I am certain that the Morrigan will provide me with whatever is within her power to help me obtain such just vengeance. Yet what of the Code? I know that Drudwhil chafes at its restrictions, and there can be no doubt that fighting enemies who clearly laugh at their oath, while you hold true to yours, is akin to duelling with one arm tied behind your back. But if I veer from the Code, where does that leave me and all that I stand for? I do not for a second believe that I would be as bad as those I fight, for even were I to break my Oath, I would still have my humanity and sense of right and wrong, but what of honour and fidelity? My pater took great care to impress upon me the importance of such virtues, yet what if the only way to root out the canker that festers in Holy Isle is to put them aside? Should I cleave true to my word even if it means the death of me and those that I hold dear, and the victory of evil? As I sit and stare out across the dark woods that surround my home it seems like an almost impossible choice. Yet I feel in my bones that I will have to make such a choice sooner rather than later.

Garius's wand rests on the laboratory table in front of me and I can see the names that he inscribed upon it, a record of all those that I once held as true friends, all now dead. Garius, Jordael, Theo and now Aelfwin too. There is no one left anymore with whom I feel such a close kinship with as I did with those four. Dialectica maybe, but the long years in Mynyddor's prison have changed her. There is coldness and a suppressed anger inside her now that was not there before and in truth she scares me sometimes. Medius I trust, though he is not a man whom I could ever call friend, and his gross misjudgements of late have proven costly. Cormoran and Carwyn are still as selfish, fickle and unreliable as ever.

But enough of this self pity, if I am to claim the title of warrior then I must accept that the path I walk will oft-times be a arduous one. I came through the pagan lands of the dead unscathed so surely I have the strength to prevail now. If hard decisions arise then I will make the choices as best as I am able and face whatever consequences come from them.
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