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Scribed by Astrius

Spring 1181 AD


The first council meeting of the year began with an address from Dialectica's apprentice, Aeddyn, who wished to speak to us concerning his desire to call a "King's Council". Although his mater deems this unwise, she was nevertheless prepared to let him speak to the concillium on the matter. Aeddyn is now fully aware of the significance of his position as Theo's heir and he wishes to resolve the ongoing issue of the Crown of Math before undertaking his gauntlet. The very real risk of a war between the court of water and those of stone and wood concerns him greatly, especially given the likelihood that it will draw in magi from House Merinita. While I have little sympathy for magi who would swear allegiance to such fickle and untrustworthy creatures as faeries, clearly such a conflict should be avoided if at all possible. Aeddyn's plan is to seize the initiative by convening a King's Council at which he will command Llyr to keep the crown safe from all mortal hands and enemies of Aeddyn until someone whom he judges to be just and true of heart comes to claim it. This Aeddyn believes will undercut any claims from the courts of stone and wood that Llyr is denying the "King" his rightful possession, as well as ensuring that this extremely powerful magic item remains beyond the reach of those who would misuse it. The particular reason that Aeddyn needed to address our council is that the Spring here is by far the most convenient place to hold the King's Council. If it cannot be held here, then it may take much time to find another appropriate site and with Aeddyn's gauntlet likely to be held next year and his knightly responsibilities in Powys only just beginning, if we refuse his request it may be years before Aeddyn is able to find another suitable site.

On a side matter, but nevertheless worthy of note, it seems that Aeddyn's gauntlet will be held at Valnastium covenant in Provence, Domus Magnus of House Jerbiton. Given his background and training at the Prince of Powys's court, it seems like a most reasonable choice of house for the lad. I suspect Theo would have approved.

Once Aeddyn had finished speaking and taken his leave of us, we began our deliberations. Unsurprisingly, Carwyn thought that it was an excellent idea which would solve matters once and for all. Dialectica was less convinced and is greatly concerned that by standing forth as Theo's heir and issuing commands Aeddyn will merely confirm to the waiting fey that he is indeed the King and thus lay himself open to all sorts of potential problems and threats. Although admitting that inaction would likely result in war and heavy casualties amongst the fey and maybe the Merinitans too, Dialectica's natural concern for her filius means that she cannot support such a plan. This sparked a fairly lengthy debate between Carwyn and Dialectica about just how dangerous the council would be for Aeddyn and what the likely long-term consequences were.

Cormoran and I both expressed broadly similar views, namely that seizing the initiative and not risking one of the fey taking matters into their own hands was probably the best course of action. Medius vacillated, torn between the rights of a maga to control her apprentice's destiny and the need to stop the war. In the end he decided to let Dialectica make his mind up for him by asking her whether she would stop Aeddyn calling the council if she was able. She seemed a little uncertain, but agreed that she probably would. Thus, with Medius's mind made up, we moved to a vote. Cormoran, Carwyn and I voted in favour of granting Aeddyn's request, while Medius and Dialectica voted nay. Thus Aeddyn shall call a King's Council at the end of Spring.

Following this weighty matter, Cormoran made an announcement that he had been able to brew some cider that boosted men's bravery. There were a couple of barely suppressed snickers at this point, before Cormoran hastily pointed out that this was due to a minor magical property in the brew rather than the usual mundane consequences of drinking alcohol to excess. Apparently one pint of the cider will have the desired effect. Whether this is worth a season of a magus's time I am not sure, but clearly it will have some value for the men before a major fight and I am sure that they will raise no objection to such a potion!

Medius then awarded those who had performed covenant services in the past year tithes of vis in reward, granting four pawns of vis per season's service. Giraldus and I had both done two, with Carwyn, Cormoran and Dialectica having done one each. He also awarded us the sum of 150d each.

The meeting concluded with a discussion of our plans for Spring. Of note, Giraldus will perform a service by presenting himself formally to the Earl and seeking to infiltrate Tintern Abbey in a disguise, to see if he can learn aught else of the christian cult that we believe to have influence there. Meanwhile Cormoran and I will travel to Mynydd Myrrdyn on the covenant's behalf to harvest what vis we can from that place.

The journey there was uncomplicated, the road now being well known to both of us and it was not long before we were presented with the usual obstacle of the steep slope that leads from the white stones that mark the regio boundary up to the rolling hills of Mynydd Myrrdyn proper. With a noticeable lack of enthusiasm amongst the assembled men to be the first to scramble up the slope, and thus do so without the safety of a rope, I took on the role myself. This time thankfully there were no mishaps on the climb, though I was once again reminded of the benefits that installing a chain and stakes on the slope would bring. However, 'tis a relatively minor matter.

Disappointingly, it seems that the Brood have learnt from their previous two attacks and subsequent massacres, and we were not assailed upon entering the woods near the slope's peak. A deeper search of those woods revealed no signs of the Brood's presence, save for a long-decayed old log trap. We thus took the decision to cut across to the woods that lie to the West of the Celt's village, where we believe they hunt and thus the Brood might do also.

On the way I determined to investigate the spring that provides the source of the river that flows down the slope and out of the regio. After some searching, Diarmuid's keen eyes caught sight of a smallish copse of trees with small statues in the surrounding undergrowth. Closer investigation revealed that these were small figurines made of wood or grass, the most recent of which was no more than a week old. Judging by the condition of the others it seems probable that they are placed here with some degree of regularity and that these acts of dedication have been done for some considerable time. There is a faint track leading from the spring off to the Northwest where the celtic village lies. To my otherworldly vision the trees seemed strongly present and I thought I glimpsed a woman's figure moving amidst them. Drudwhil believes that the place is most probably dedicated to the Anu and may be a place of healing. I was naturally resolved to go in and investigate further, but to my surprise Cormoran was firmly set against such a course of action. He stated implacably that entering the trees would likely upset the Celts, whose goodwill we need if we are to set up a permanent base within the regio. While his concern was perhaps valid, assuming that the celts do regard this as some sort of holy place, quite what additional harm a quick investigation of the site would do, given that we were already present, was unclear to me. So, after a quick and ultimately indecisive argument, I pressed on into the copse without him.

To my slight surprise, there was a regio present within the trees, though both Drudwhil and I passed through without any difficulty. In this deeper level the grass and stick figures were gone, replaced with much older, lichen-encrusted stone ones. Drudwhil spotted the female spirit once more and I hailed her in Welsh, hoping that she might speak the ancient cymric tongue of the celts and thus be able to understand something of the modern-day welsh, as the celts can. However, although I saw her mouth move as though speaking, I heard naught but a faint rustling of a wind stirring the branches of the trees.

We pressed on, eager to find the spring itself and after a little while came across a small, steep hollow at the base of which was a small pool. It was fed by a spring that flowed from a crack in the rockface on one side of the depression. The pool was encircled by more of the figures, mostly made from an earthy clay and were clearly some sort of pagan earth mother in design. Climbing carefully down, I filled my waterskin from the small waterfall and collected some of the damp, verdant moss that grew thickly about the rockface. As I turned to look back I saw the female spirit standing close by, legs apart and arms crossed, clearly unhappy. After a hasty conversation with Drudwhil we decided that she was probably angered by my failure to leave a statuette as an offering to her or her mistress. Thus, marshalling my spontaneous magics I used an effect akin to the 'Rock of Viscid Clay' to mould a figurine from a fistful of rock that I gouged from the rockface. The long hours I have spent honing my fine control of magics so that I can accurately hit my foes with bolts of fire and lightning bore fruit here, for I was able to mould it into a fair likeness of the other statuettes. Happily, this did indeed mollify the spirit and Drudwhil and I departed unmolested.

As we re-emerged from the regio, we espied Cormoran striding down towards the woods. Apparently we had been gone three days from their perspective. Aware of just how quickly time passes in the outside world relative to that in Mynydd Myrddyn, we hurried on. Judging from our previous expeditions, one season will pass in the real world while only a fortnight will go by in here. We soon came into sight of the village and approached carefully, taking care not to stray into range of their bows. There, we left behind the goodwill offerings of small iron tools, nails and the like, as well as one of Cormoran's barrels of cider, that we had brought as part of our efforts to restore good relations with the Celts. Until we speak with them it is impossible to tell whether any alliance can be reforged, I suspect it will hinge on how much time has passed in the regio since the magi of Holy Isle slew their chief and abducted their druid.

We did not tarry to see if the goods were collected but instead marched on into the woods that lie to the west of the village. There we found clear indications that the celts were regular hunters within this part of the great forest but again there were no traces of the Brood. So we marched on again, this time cutting across the open rolling hills that lie in the midst of the main lower level of the regio and into the Awakened Forest. Recalling clearly the route we had taken previously, we made good time beneath the heavily shaded boughs of the ancient trees that dwell here. The men were all warned to take no action if they espied any of the golden-eyed deer that live here, Ruaridh's encounter with the great bear that appears to protect them is still all too vivid in my mind. I suspect that Cormoran might be able to best it in hand-to-hand combat, but its reported habit of appearing without warning in the midst of groups leads me to bide my time for now, though I shall not forget that a potential source of animal vis awaits collection. Such musings were however moot as there was no sign of any deer or bears and we reached the Great Oak without incident. After tapping the sap that yields up herbam vis, we decided that there was likely not enough time left in the season to enter the deeper regio where the lichen-covered standing stones lie. Our assessment was correct, for as we exited past the white stones that mark the regio's entranceway the blossom had gone from the trees and there was the unmistakable promise of summer's warmth in the air.

We arrived safely back at the covenant just before the King's Council. I did not attend but was given good account of what went on by Dialectica. As he had stated, Aeddyn took control of the council in his role as "King" and, after telling the council that he was going to dissolve it at the end of the meeting, gave each council member a task to perform. He asked Dialectica to watch over him and ensure that he stayed true to his oaths, the Prince of Powys was requested to provide him with good mundane council, Emyr, Theo's magical owl, was sent to find the reborn soul of Theo and keep an eye on him, giving periodic report to Aeddyn and Mynyddor was tasked with preventing the cauldron from being ever used as a weapon by the King's enemies again. Of the faerie creatures there present, Iago was told to tell Nynniaw of the Court of Wood that the forest should watch over the Severn Temple, Turold was given message to take to Gofannon that Aeddyn wished him to protect him from his enemies and provide him with safe paths when needed, Llyr was told to guard the crown from all mortal hands until one who was just and true of heart came along, and Carwyn was asked to continue was Aeddyn's ambassador to the faerie courts and the Order of Hermes. With all seemingly content, he then disbanded the council. No bad thing in my opinion.

Summer

After a discussion of various intentions for summer, the only one of any note being Medius's proposed trip to London to further investigate the mundane dealings of the Fells and Christian cult, Dialectica raised a troubling matter. Ever since Petrus erected the gateway in the wall at the head of the great hall she has felt strangely uncomfortable when sitting near it. Carwyn claims to share her discomfort and Dialectica noted that even in the frigid depths of winter the servants would rather sit and shiver than sit close to the fire and thus the doorway. With our Bonisagus's knowledge of mentem and her unique insights into passions and emotions, her description of such a feeling as being troubling on a deep level needs to be taken seriously, though for myself it feels no more uncomfortable than the vague sense of feeling exposed you get when camping out in open ground. Cormoran suggested that it could something of the essence of the otherworld seeping through the crack that I saw with my spiritual sight when Petrus tried to dismantle the archway. While all this is troubling, there was little that anyone could think of that can easily be done about it. After all, Petrus spent a season thinking on just this before departing without coming to any conclusion as to what the crack signified or how it could be fixed. The only suggestion came from Carwyn, who will speak with Fergus of Narwold to see if that magus's knowledge of spirits can shed any light on the issue.

Despite such concerns the season passed without incident and Medius returned hale from his journey to England's capital. He reported that he had seen no sign of the christian cult, but had learned that the new King is a very religious man and is inspiring a rise in christianity, especially amongst the nobility. Clearly this alarming trend must be watched carefully and, if at all possible, action taken.

Autumn

To my great surprise Medius announced to the council that he "had" to go away to Iberia the next morning and would be away until the Spring of 1183. Although his house is assembling in Magvillus in the Rome tribunal in a year's time, he was not forthcoming about what his business in Iberia was. Of course a magus is entitled to his privacy, but Medius has a heavy responsibility as Pontifex here and my concerns were not helped when he refused to address the issue that I raised about Mynydd Myrddyn. Given that he would be away for the next six or seven seasons, with me as Ministrator and Cormoran as Imperator, we cannot both journey abroad at the same time. Given that our expeditions to Mynydd Myrddyn have been shown to be much safer and more effective when we both go, I had hoped that as we had just begun harvesting that site properly we could continue to do so, especially as in our last visit we had uncovered not just one but two new sources of vis and I am sure that there are many more just waiting to be revealed. Yet although this problem was pointed out to him Medius simply shrugged and moved on with the agenda. If we need to contact him urgently Medius will journey first to Cordoba covenant which lies in the South of the Iberian tribunal, in those lands which are still held by the moors.

I can only assume that he journeys to Iberia on some business of the Kabbalah. Given my own experiences in that tribunal I am sure that the jews there have much to debate. I worry that Medius is losing the impartiality and good judgement that he has become widely respected for and is getting drawn ever deeper into the webs of his religion. How many good magi have lost sight of their responsibilities to the Order whilst following one of the One True Gods or bending their knee to one of the many pagan so-called deities? The danger of religions is that they almost always require followers to give them their primary loyalty, something that a magus surely cannot give. Sadly it seems many are prepared to do so. Of course, I am sure that Medius has stayed true to his Oath, but the signs are getting clearer that he is taking a path that will inevitably at some point force him to choose between his faith and his Oath. I hope he makes the right decision.

The first half of the season was uneventful, but on the night of the equinox, after a long day's reading, I retired to my cot early. My slumber was fitful and uneasy and my dreams disturbing, full of an unshakable feeling of an impending threat. I dreamt that I was standing in front of an entranceway to a ruined old fort, with the smell of death all about me. I moved on into the darkness that lay within the tower and caught sight of a tarnished bronze bowl sitting on a plinth at the far end of the room, lit by moonlight streaming down from holes in the cracked roof. Inside the bowl, which was clearly of great antiquity, I could espy designs of intertwined beasts and men in a celtic style, engraved in the silver that lined the bowl's interior. I felt a great sense of relief as I looked upon the bowl and found that it was still there. Suddenly I felt my relief turn to alarm as a shadow loomed up in front of me, its broad-shouldered back to mine. As I watched, the shadow reached forwards and grasped the bowl. As he did so, for it was unmistakably the shadow of a man, the moonlight turned blood red and I heard the squawk of an enraged raven. The shadow merely laughed, a guttural and unpleasant sound, and put the bowl into his cloak. The pedestal where it had stood was now bathed in thick, red blood.

At this the dream broke and I found myself awake and back in the warm confines of my sanctum. I threw aside my blanket and stumbled quickly to my feet, reaching instinctively for my sword-belt. I saw plainly in the dim light that Drudwhil had had a similar sending, for his eyes were glowing with the preternatural blue hue that signifies he is on the hunt. He told me that the Morrigan had called such as our enemies that lurk within the dark tower in the North are abroad once more. Taking my dream to indicate that Dionysus was again out hunting one of the ancient treasures of Britain, I did not need to be persuaded and quickly gathered my gear. Unfortunately, Drudwhil did not know where the fort that I had seen in my dreams was, so we were briefly stymied. I drew my Morrigan blade and asked the spirit within if it knew where Dionysus might be found. Unfortunately it did not, but told me that if I journeyed to the Morrigan's glade in the faerie forest then she should be able to help guide my way. With no obvious alternative, I informed Cormoran of what I planned, warning him to stand ready lest Dionysus make a further attack upon the covenant and then I set off.

The faerie forest was still very much in summer and resplendent with many shades of green as I walked past the site where the creature called the Palug once dwelt. For a while I could see why Carwyn is so fond of the place, but before long I was reminded of the true devious nature of the faerie. Despite our best efforts to follow the path it twisted and turned so much that after a while we were forced to admit we were lost. I drew the morrigan blade again and asked it to guide us to its mistress's hill. It agreed and we set off in a straighter line. This time the summer woods slowly became darker and more sinister, with wolves lurking in the shadows and yellow eyes peering down at us from the darkness of the canopy. I strode as boldly as I was able up the long slope that leads to the Morrigan's sacred standing stone at the top of the hill. After a short while I sensed a dread presence approaching. I steeled myself to ignore the small voice inside me that begged me to turn and flee rather than stand and face the terrible shadow of a woman that walked towards me, a human skull in one hand and an evil-looking sword in the other.

Her voice was cold and pitiless, "the enemy moves" she told me and said that she would guide me to him. The place that Dionysus, for it is indeed he, seeks a long-hidden place in North Wales. It is a dark place where the dead walk, including one of great age and considerable power. The Morrigan told me that to defeat this ancient spirit of a long-dead warrior would leave me in no fit state to be able to face Dionysus. She proposed that I first seek out an ally, a man who lived a long time ago yet breathes still. He guards the grave of his commander and has done so for many centuries. There he continues until one comes along who will take up the mantle that his commander once wore and thus enable him to perform such service as will allow him to complete the oath that he once swore. It seems that he was oathsworn to protect the standard of a King of the Cyrmric peoples against their enemies, the savage overseas warriors who came after the Romans. However, he failed in this task and is thus compelled to await the chance to redeem himself.

She gave me two warnings about this man. Firstly, while he was valorous and loyal, he will suffer in the realms of the dominion or infernal, though he is fine in such places that are under magical or faerie 'fluence. Secondly, and most importantly, I must ask him no question concerning his past, lest he remember his dishonour and lose his hope of redemption.

The place where this warrior can be found lies deep in the north welsh countryside. The Morrigan will instruct her witch Bethwyn to guide me along a secret mystical path to a point just south of the Hafsen forest, from where I must make my own journey. Drudwhil and I must head west to the coast and then follow the coast to the north as far as Dolgellau. From there we should strike east up through the narrow valley that bisects the two mountains that overlook the bay. Then I will see a single high tor, with a forest at its base. The place that I seek lies within a regio atop the hill. Once I have picked up my companion we should quickly seek out the ruined fort which should lie somewhere nearby. The Morrigan could not tell me exactly where it is, though she knew its name, Talardd.

So it was that Drudwhil and I set off, guided along a strange path by the Bethwyn until we found ourselves standing in the drizzle with the great forest of Hafsen on our right. After three days walking, we reached the coast and turned north. The road improved enough for me to be able to conjure a horse and ride, speeding up our progress significantly. Although the locals were understandably nervous and suspicious of me, they were happy enough to sell me provisions for our journey when I made it clear that I would not be dallying. I rarely have any cause to speak with the common folk of my own land, but it was heartening to see that they will treat fairly with a stranger bearing the Gift, even if their fare was simple.

After two damp days travel we reached the great bay that the Morrigan had spoken of. Across the short stretch of sea, half-hidden by the mist that blanketed the far shore we could make out the town of Dolgellau. Not wanting to push my luck with the local mundanes, we skirted past the town and headed up into the mountains. A day and a half later Drudwhil and I stood at the base of the tor. Despite our close proximity to our objective, progress from there quickly became frustrating. The forest clearly had some sort of magic to it that constantly sought to guide us away from the top of the hill and it was only after I cast the 'Intuition of the Forest' that we were able to make any headway. We made camp about two-thirds of the way up the hill and that night as I lay huddled beneath the sparse shelter of a large oak tree I had another dream.

I saw dark clouds gathering to the North, coalescing above the black stone tower that stands at the heart of Holy Isle. From there a great storm built and spread out quickly, racing over the surrounding countryside. I had the distinct feeling that there was a foulness in the air that blew all abouts. This ill wind caused leaves to wither on the trees and I sensed a malevolent intelligence behind it, a black-cloaked, broad-shouldered figure, the Renounced Magus Dionysus.

I awoke just before dawn, shivering slightly with the cold and damp. I could only assume from the dream that time was running out and we had to move quickly. After cutting through the second of the two regio boundaries that we encountered as we hurried up the steep upper slope, the summit finally came into sight. Here though it was night and there was an eerie howling coming from the hilltop, along with the unmistakable sound of steel on steel. We rushed up to find a lone soldier bearing a great tower shield desperately fending off a baying throng of mail-clad undead warriors. The battle that ensued was fierce and at times desperate, for the fell magic animated their corpses meant that they were entirely unaffected by any injuries, even when gravely wounded. However, thanks largely to Drudwhil's efforts, we were victorious.

With our foes finally lying unmoving on the ground, I was able to claim the wolfshead mantle that lay on the sole gravestone atop the tor. As I placed it upon my head, Marcus bowed his head and pledged to serve me. Anxious to leave behind the upper regio in case there were any further dead which might be animated and sent against us, we headed down to the mid-regio where, battered and tired almost to the point of collapse, I sank down to the ground, conjuring naught but a few furs before falling into a fitful but dreamless sleep.

Next morning, bruised but rested, I briefly returned to the hilltop to claim the helms of the fallen corpse warriors, having discovered that they contained corporem vis. Using these helmets I attempted to heal my wounds before we pressed on to Talardd. In my haste to get moving, I lost control the magic and, with the vis I was using to make the healing permanent, the magic spiralled so badly out of control that I sensed the threat of twilight looming. I managed to wrest back control of my magics just in time, but the errant magic still made the wound worsen instead of healing it. I took a long moment to compose myself again and then attempted to recast the spell. Fortunately my concentration held good this time and my wounds were eased.

With that we pressed on. Marcus recognised the name "Talardd" and while he could not quite remember its exact location he knew the rough area where the fort of Talardd once stood and said that he would know it if he saw it.

In the end it took two days before at last we crested a rise and espied a mist-clad forest that lay on the hillside on the far side of the shallow valley that lay below us. Marcus recognised the place and said that the fort of Talardd lay at the heart of the forest. We hurried down, fording a small brook that flowed through the valley's base and up into the dark woods. The place was not dissimilar to the forest that surrounded the tor where we found Marcus and once again I was forced to cast the 'Intuition of the Forest' to enable us to pick a way through the gnarled, moss-covered trees. However, where the woods about the tor were alive with the sounds of bird and other woodland creatures, these were eerily silent, with no sign of animal life at all. We had not gone far before Drudwhil picked up the scent of graves and I began to see ghosts of warriors clad in a strange archaic uniform that I did not recognise, though it bore some similarities to that which Marcus wears.

Despite these signs that we were drawing close, it was nearly night when Marcus said that we were almost there. Taking care to move silently, lest Dionysus was somewhere near, we crept forwards. Ahead the trees thinned out and I saw the ruined fort that I had seen in my dream. It was a low stone tower, the upper level of which appeared to have largely collapsed, though the ground floor seemed whole enough still. It was built on top of a man-made earthen rise, the side and rear slopes of which were so steep as to be almost impassable. We snuck carefully around the edge of the clearing until we were almost level with the entrance to the fort and then, taking a deep breath, crossed the open ground leading to the doorway.

The darkness inside the tower was mirrored in the spirit world and I could sense a presence within it. Whatever it was, was old, powerful and it knew we were here. I confess I quailed slightly at the thought of walking into that blackness to face it and in an effort to lure it out I issued a challenge, my voice echoing round the clearing, breaking the unnatural silence of the place. The spirit refused to be drawn out and so I attempted to conjure light within the tower. To my disquiet, instead of illuminating the room as brightly as though it were bathed in sunlight, whatever power generated the darkness counteracted my spell to a large degree. It did however provide a little light, perhaps that akin to starlight, enough at least to see by with the 'Eyes of the Cat'.

Now I could see my opponent. It was a tall figure with a ragged plumed helmet and rusty chain hauberk worn over flesh that was clearly no longer living. Part of its jawbone was visible through an old gaping wound in what remained of the leathery grey flesh and elsewhere exposed bone glinted through gaps in its once-fine clothing. In its hands was a fearsome great axe, which, unlike the rest of it, appeared entirely undiminished by age. Summoning my courage, I stepped inside to engage it in combat. Almost immediately I did so, four more ghosts materialised outside, two on each side of the fort, each bearing cruelly sharp shortswords. Drudwhil valiantly took on the two to the left, while Marcus held off the remaining pair from within the tower as I battled the undead champion.

It was a hard fight. To my alarm, when I struck the creature a firm blow on the leg and called upon the power of the Morrigan to cleave through its iron greave, the spirit resisted the magic and my blow went skittering harmlessly off its armour. I wondered for a moment if I would survive this fight, let alone the one to come against Dionysus, but if my sword could not pierce its protections, perhaps my magics could. Shutting out the signs of combat from outside, I focussed on my foe with a fierce concentration, parrying his axe with my blade, while incanting lightning to strike him down. It took three bolts before he finally fell, at which point all the other ghosts evaporated, their swords clattering to the ground. I scarcely had time to register Drudwhil slumping unconscious outside when I heard Dionysus's voice shout "Now!"

Two winged demons charged into the tower. Marcus engaged one but the second leapt at me, bearing me down to the ground as I frantically sought to restore my parma, which had been ablated by the backwash from my lightning. Although I felt the demon's claws scrabbling for my throat I kept a cool head and once again called upon the arts of creo and auram, the lightning blowing the top of the creature's head off. I rolled to my feet, urgently trying to reforge my parma. As I did so, I felt it blown down again and I heard Dionysus's voice again, this time from somewhere in or near the doorway. With honeyed words he told Marcus and I to lay down our swords and save ourselves. Clearly he had cast a mentem spell of some sort, something akin to the 'Trust of Childlike Faith' at a guess, for despite the demon in front of him Marcus dropped his blade, though he held on to enough wit to keep his shield. I too could sense a compulsion behind the words but was able to resist and desperately peered into realm of spirits to seek out my enemy.

I caught a glimpse of a man-shaped void that I knew only too well standing in the doorway and charged. Screaming out invocations to the Morrigan to power the blade I held I lunged forwards. I caught Dionysus with a vicious blow, cutting deeply into his torso. He fell to the ground, desperately reaching into his bag for an item of some sort, but whatever it was nothing happened and I brought the Morrigan blade down in a brutal overhead sweep, once more calling out to her. My aim was true and Dionysus's head was severed from his neck. Still filled with a furious rage and burning vengeance I dismembered the corpse to ensure that, no matter how powerful the enchantments of lichdom were, his body would never rise again.

Once my temper had cooled a little, I suddenly remembered my fallen familiar and rushed over to him. To my great relief he was bloodied and bruised by not gravely injured. Satisfied that he was going to be alright, I looked back towards Dionysus's body and saw to my horror that it had vanished. Looking frantically about, I caught a glimpse of a shadow rapidly moving towards the trees. Realising that my bitter foe was escaping I charged after it but I was too late as it reached the woods and the darkness that lay within. As I stood just inside the tree-line trying futilely to make out Dionysus's spirit amidst the myriad of other shadows that lay within, all I could hear was the sound of mocking laughter. Bitterly disappointed I returned to where he had fallen to see what remained. Although his flesh was gone, his clothes and equipment were still there and I caught sight of a black skull lying in the grass. I immediately recognised it as that which had blinded me before and probably also claimed the life of Aelfwin, along with countless others over the years. It took a couple of blows but I shattered it in two. Dionysus might have escaped in some form, but at least it had cost him dearly. There was also a copper dagger with an ill feel to it that I bent out of true, as well as a not inconsiderable quantity of vis, on which no taint was visible.

I gathered up Dionysus's possessions, including the pieces of the skull, and instructed Marcus to collect up the weapons that remained when the ghosts that had borne them had vanished. Then, I carefully approached the pedestal where the bronze bowl still sat and gingerly picked it up. Somewhat encumbered and carrying my still unconscious familiar, Marcus and I got as far from Talarrd as we could before we were forced to rest.

Next morning, Drudwhil was thankfully much recovered and we set off back home. The journey was uneventful and just under a week later we stood beneath the boughs of the Hafren forest once more. There, in the shadows of the trees lurked Bethwyn. She told us that, despite the escape of Dionysus's shadow, we had done him great harm as his physical form would be hard to replace and we should consider it a victory. She then led us back to the Morrigan's glade, from where we were able to make it through the faerie regio without mishap and back to the covenant. After letting Cormoran know that I was returned safely, I made the short journey to Blackthorn to make report of what had happened to Senior Quaesitor Serenia. After listening intently to my tale, she took possession of the broken remnants of his items, telling me that the vis was mine to keep. My duty done, I returned once more to the covenant, where I am glad to report the remainder of autumn passed peacefully.

Winter

Giraldus began our winter meeting by telling us the news he had, which was not good. Arcturus is still not returned to Narwold and his gravely concerned sodales have requested a quaesitorial investigation into his disappearance. I told the council of my fight with Dionysus, the bitter feeling of frustration that his spirit had evaded my vengeance still raw. With the aid of a temporary loan of 5 pawns of vim vis from Dialectica, we acquired sufficient vis to recast the Aegis. Carwyn agreed to extract such vis from the aura as covenant service this season to help ensure that next year the council is not forced to beg loans from its members. The casting and indeed the season and thus the remainder of the year eleven hundred and eighty one passed peacefully, with naught of note to record here. Although Dionysus and our infernal enemies have been struck a heavy blow, they yet live, if their state can be called such, and while they must now regard us with much greater caution I have little doubt that the war is far from over. While we can now have hope that they can be bested, we must not drop our guard lest we too suffer the same fate as poor Aelfwin.
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