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Scribed by Astrius

Spring 1186 AD


There was little news arising from the winter, save a report of the sickness with Blackney, which I had investigated along with Medius's apprentice and found it to be nothing serious or sinister in nature. Yet although my fears that the affliction might in some way be related to the village's proximity to Lydney proved groundless, the incident reminded me that the Fells remain active in the area. With this in mind I proposed that we undertake an expedition to Snigs End, which has long been a place of unholy worship. Three magi will go, myself, Medius and Cormoran, the latter en route to Cad Gadu where he intends to access to their extensive tomes on pagan rituals. Giraldus will venture out into the Dean once more to investigate what Edwin of Huntley and Oswald are up to. He will also deliver a small quantity of sulphur from the ignem caves to Magus Tewdric in the hope of obtaining some animal vis in return. While this may help our reserves a little, with the hefty levy placed upon us by Holy Isle, Medius is keen to further boost our vis stores and suggested that we revisit Mynydd Myrddyn. Although I have not yet had time to develop the spells needed to bring down the wyvern, after some discussion we agreed that an expedition might still be safely undertaken if we use the forests as cover. Wyvern's hunt primarily by sight so with use of conjured fog to cover us as we cross open ground the risk of being attacked by that creature again should be minimised. I agreed to go in Summer, along with Cormoran and Tiarnan.

At dawn the next day we set out for Snigs End, taking a sizable party with us, including Marcus, Medius's apprentice and three grogs. As we approached the by now familiar mist-shrouded wood all seemed quiet and there was no immediate sign of anyone nearby. Cautiously we pressed on in, senses straining to detect any would-be ambushers or infernal traps. The woods were as dank and gloomy as usual, with no birdsong or breeze to break the clammy atmosphere. We had not gone far when Drudwhil scented stale blood up ahead. A careful search revealed the corpse of an armoured man in Huntley's colours lying face down in the bushes just off the path. My initial hopes that it might be Edwin were soon dashed, but nevertheless what was one of his men-at-arms doing lying dead in what had always been a source of power for the Fells? Was there some sort of feud or power struggle amongst their number? Medius's magics having identified a first magnitude infernal aura about us. We cut the head from the body in case we needed to question the spirit later and pressed on, now even more uncertain as to what we might find.

A couple of hundred paces on from the first corpse, we found two more of Huntley's men-at-arms lying dead in the long grass of a shadowy clearing. There were clear signs that some sort of a fight had occurred there and also drag marks of something heavy, which Wybert confirmed had happened after the fight. The presence of an unshod hoofprint suggested a mule dragging something. There was no sign of any active magics about the place, nor any malign spirits so we continued on. As we neared the central clearing the likely explanation for what we had found became clear. Nailed to a tree by the side of the path was a wooden crucifix, but not an inverted one as might be expected in such a place. As I cast my sight into the world that lies beyond this one, I saw that the tree appeared to be illuminated by a solitary shaft of sunlight, as though free from the taint that afflicts these woods. This was confirmed by Medius's magics, which were unable to detect an aura about the tree. As we walked the last few yards to the edge of the central clearing, where once we had found a powerful infernal regio, we saw that similar crucifixes had been nailed to every tree surrounding the glade such that they all faced inwards. There was no aura where we stood, nor in the clearing itself. Wybert found signs of an old campfire in the middle of the clearing, presumably where the christians who had clearly come here had camped.

With neither infernal nor dominion auras present to interfere with our magic, Medius had the head of the first fallen soldier brought out and interrogated the man's spirit using 'Whispers Through the Black Gate'. The man, who claimed his name was Karl, was rude and surly, openly contemptuous of the questionning, though the threat of being buried in consecrated ground appeared to loosen his tongue somewhat. It appears that he and his companions had been "going about his master's business" when they were attacked. Their foes were led by a monk from Huntley Priory with white tonsured hair and brown robes. From what Karl said, it seems that the monk had organised an ambush of sorts for Karl said that at first he thought he and the other men-at-arms had the upper hand, but were caught unawares by archers hidden in trees. The fells tried to use the devilish powers they had pacted for and called upon their demonic allies, but the monk had some sort of magic that banished or destroyed all infernal spirits and prevented any such powers from working. Karl also told us why they had come here. It seems that Edwin has been cursed with leprosy and he was seeking some sort of diabolic aid for his affliction. He has not disappeared as the local rumours say, but instead lurks in the tunnels beneath Huntley manor. He and the other fells grow desperate and hide their business from the prying eyes of the church.

It seems highly likely that this is the work of the same Christian cult that threatens the magical and faerie sites in the Dean also seeks to do battle with the infernal. We can only hope that such a fight results in the destruction of both sides, though for now it seems that the Fells are being bady beaten.

We decided to remain in the woods to see what effect the fall of night would have on the aura. Medius could detect nothing in the first few hours after dusk, but in the darkest hour, near midnight a small infernal aura did manifest near the heart of the clearing. There was no sign of the regio that once stood there, with luck it has been permanently destroyed. The next morning we then returned to the covenant to report what we had discovered. The rest of the season passed uneventfully.

[Astrius's private journal: My feelings about the situation at Snigs End are intensely conflicted. The Fells and the infernal powers they serve are anathema to all right thinking magi and their foulness and corruption should be fiercely opposed wherever it is found. Yet the enemy of my enemy is not my friend for to my mind the dominion represents the single greatest threat to the future of magic, and thus the Order, So despite seeing the infernal taint apparently cleansed from a site we have long watched and which has claimed the lives of several from the covenant, I am left disquieted. The power of the church in these lands is greater than I thought. Will the christian magics that were so devastatingly effective against the Fells work against hermetic magic? The cult is clearly both well informed and well orrganised. We would do well to consider the possibility that they will set a similar ambush against us. Harvesting vis may become more dangerous in the years to come for a similar attack against a solitary and unsuspecting magus as they visit one of our vis sites could quite easily prove fatal. We must take the battle to them somehow. But how would we win such a fight without grave risk of breaching the Code?]

Summer

The Council was one short when we met for the second meeting of the year as Giraldus had not returned from his travels around the Dean. Given his stated intent to continue his investigations into Oswald and the cult, there was no little concern for our sodales, especially with what we had learnt from Snigs End. Marius said that he will ask around mundanely to try and find out what has become of 'Gerald of Briavel', any search being somewhat complicated by the strict legal issues surrounding tracking Redcaps. Let us hope he is just delayed in one of the many taverns he enjoys spending his time in. On a more positive note, Dialectica announced that she had found a creature, a barn owl, which she intends to bind as a familiar and will start the binding ritual this winter. There was some discussion about the events at Snigs End, it seems that the monk was not Oswald as I had assumed. Apparently brown robes are worn only be a certain type of monk and as a magistrate Oswald wears different colours. This is even more troubling for it suggests that there are at least two members of this cult out there who can wield some form of magic. The fact that the monk whom Tiarnan slew could also wield such power suggests that either the cult is focussing its resources on the Dean or the gift they bear is not uncommon. Neither possibility bodes well. But with Marius set to his task there was little else for the rest of us to do so we made our plans for the expedition to Mynydd Myrrdyn and set out on the morning after council.

As I write this, it is but one day since my last entry and my mind is still reeling with all that has gone on in that short space of time. How could a relatively trivial matter spiral so quickly out of control into something that threatens the very survival of this covenant? I will do my best to commit to parchment all that has gone on in the hope that we can ensure such never happens again.

Yesterday, as I discussed details of the journey with Tiarnan in the great hall, it became clear that his faerie menagerie would be accompanying him. Although his familiar Kai can of course be trusted to act appropriately in a potentially very dangerous regio, the same could not be said of Eanfled and Bodkin, his two faerie companions. I expressed my concerns and while he did not disagree, he said that he was unable to prevent them from coming with us. After some immensely frustrating discussion, I found myself agreeing to his plan to deceive the two faerie creatures by sending them down to our barge in Blackney while we journeyed down to Chepstow and hired a barge to take us up to Skenfrith. Tiarnan seemed convinced that this would be a simple enough task so I reluctantly agreed. Next time I will not be so amenable.

At first all seemed to be going well, the faeries trotted off trustingly to Blackney while the rest of us made our way down to the ferry that leads to Chepstow. We waited in a small copse of trees near the bank while Wybert headed into Chepstow to arrange passage for the five of us the next morrow. Wybert returned successful and so we all took the ferry into town to seek lodgings for the barge was to depart at dawn the next day. Once in the town, amidst its stinking streets and the ever-present onerous weight of the Dominion, we heard that there was a series of trials being conducted in the town square. Wybert was sent to arrange a room in a inn for us, but as we awaited his return I wondered whether the trials were in any way linked to Giraldus's disappearance. Wybert returned after a short while, having failed to secure a room.

Before we moved on to seek alternative accomodation for the night, we decided that we should make sure that "Gerald of Briavel" was not one of the prisoners, for if he were he could face execution that same day. Tiarnan agreed to go to the market square to try and find out if our sodales was indeed being held. Unfortunately in the meantime, although we had done our best to appear as inoffensive as possible and had hidden the weapons and armour we needed for Mynydd Myrddyn as best we could, we attracted the attention of a guard patrol. Seeking to avoid a confrontation that was not likely to go well given mine and Cormoran's gifts we hastened away, pushing our way through the crowded streets. What precisely happened to Wybert is still unclear. He must somehow have got separated in the throng of people, though we only noticed he was missing when Drudwhil spotted a confrontation between him, a townsman and the guards. It was clear he was being arrested, but rather than leap in to rescue him through force of arms and risk repeating previous mundane bloodbaths, we deemed it best to simply leave the town as quickly as possible and go and fetch Dialectica with her greater subtlety and mundane expertise. We quickly left the town gate and as soon as we were out of sight of the wall, Cormoran apported back.

Meanwhile, Drudwhil, Marcus and I made our way back across the river to wait in the copse where we had initially rested.
On hearing the news Dialectica hurried down to Chepstow as fast as she could, walking down the hill to Blackney and taking our barge down to Chepstow. Unfortunately for Wybert and the covenant, it appears that when a magistrate is in town what passes for justice in the mundane realm is arbitrary and extremely rapid. Before Dialectica had even reached the barge, Wybert was standing before the magistrate, the infamous Brother Oswald. As Tiarnan watched from the anonymity of the crowd, Wybert was dragged up onto the wooden platform and publicly interrogated by Oswald. Tiarnan later reported that he believed Oswald was using some form of magic to make people tell the truth, as well as quieting the noisy, baying crowd. Wybert held his tongue at first, but when threatened with being hung, drawn and quartered he started blabbering about how he was in service to wizards who dwell on Briavel Hill. At this Oswald seemed greatly satisfied and had Wybert led away to Chepstow castle for further interrogation.

Several hours later, as the afternoon was drawing to a close, Dialectica, Cormoran, Tiarnan and I assembled on our barge to discuss how best to proceed. Clearly the first priority was getting Wybert out of the gaol before he could further compromise us. Cormoran took a 'Leap of Homecoming' potion and assumed the form of a raven in a bid to drop it through the grate which lies over the main public gaol so that Wybert could drink it and apport home. Sadly however there was no sign of him in there, clearly Oswald had had him taken deeper within the castle. With the first attempt having failed, Dialectica set out to infiltrate the castle herself, using the 'Veil of Invisibility'and her formidable array of mentem magics. Next morning, having had to wait for the town gates to open before she could leave, Dialectica rejoined us, the look of dejection on her face telling us that she had failed before she spoke. Wherever Oswald had had him held it was nowhere in the normal castle dungeons.
With all that Tiarnan had heard Wybert tell Oswald in a few moments in the market square we had to assume that with over eighteen hours to work on him, Oswald would have extracted all that Wybert knew about the covenant and its magi, possibly incriminating Blackthorn to. Clearly this represented a serious danger to the covenant for even as we sat and talked, Oswald might be arranging an armed force to assail the covenant with the backing Baron of Chepstow, who we also believe to be a member of the christian cult,. Cormoran was thus dispatched to warn Medius so that necessary precautions could be taken. Once Cormoran had apported back, the remaining three of us took the barge to Monmouth to find Marius and alert him to what had happened. Fortunately Dialectica was able to locate him quickly and he immediately made preparations to travel to the Earl's court at Gloucester to pre-empt Oswald and with luck, ameliorate some of the political damage Wybert's betrayal could wreak. Marius's news on Giraldus was somewhat sparse. He had managed to trace him from Chepstow to Monmouth, where he had found a lead suggesting that Giraldus may have journeyed to Ross on Wye after Monmouth.

Back at the covenant, having been brought up to speed on events by Cormoran, Medius used an arcane connection to Wybert to cast the 'Ear for Distant Voices'. To his alarm Medius heard latin voices. A quick casting of 'The Inexorable Search' confirmed his suspicions as he learned that Wybert was in Tintern Abbey. Recasting the 'Ear for Distant Voices' to eavesdrop on Wybert's interrogation, Medius was somewhat surprised to hear sounds that suggested Wybert was having breakfast with the monks and not undergoing torture or similar forceful interrogation. Oswald was asking questions about the wizards who dwell on Briavel Hill. When Oswald heard about Medius, the "Jewish necromancer" he became particularly interested and pressed Wybert for details about Medius and his travels within the Dean. To Medius's horror, Wybert told Oswald that Medius knew a jew in Chepstow whom he oft-times visisted. Realising the danger Zedekiah was now in, Medius let the spell drop and hurried off to warn his Kaballah ally. Cormoran wa able to apport Medius close to the walls of Chepstow from where Medius made his way into the city only to arrive just in time to see first-hand the full horrors of an anti-Jewish pogrom.Amongst those who perished in the flames was Zedekiah, who defied Oswald to the very end.

Although Zedekiah followed a separate path to the Order, he was a good ally to the covenant who provided us with invaluable aid in our fight against the infernal. For that he deserves to be remembered well by this covenant and perhaps if Wybert had shown similar courage we would not find ourselves in the dire situation we now face. I understand that it is unrealistic to expect that all of our grogs will give up their lives rather than betray us, but Medius's scrying revealed that Wybert spoke freely and openly while enjoying breakfast in the abbey. He can expect summary justice if I see him again.
As I write I am once more returned to my sanctum, though it now feels as though there is a chill in the previously warm summer air. I have instructed the veterans who make up the Blackney watch to send urgent word should any mundane force approach that settlement, but in truth I am unsure as to what we can do if Oswald and the Baron send an army against us. I do not doubt that we can withstand any mundane attack they can muster, but what of the code and its strictures? What consequences might use of blatant magics in the sight of a Baron of the land have? I must speak urgently with Medius on his return and in the meantime think on what can be done with less visible spells. We must also have a care that the Oswald and his minions do not take more subtle action against us. A permanent guard must be set on the spring for a start. Given Wybert's knowledge of the grog turb that too should also be reorganised. In any event that will doubtless come as a relief to the poor wretches who I see on perpetual night watch. There is much to be done, but whatever further ills come to pass as a result of all this our foes will not destroy this covenant without a bitter fight.

The covenant barge was sent down to Chepstow to meet Medius but there was no sign of him and the sight of Chepstow's men-at-arms thronging the docks clearly indicated that something was amiss. Although I had thought that, short of all-out war with the Christian cult and its noble allies, the situation could not get worse it seems that I was wrong, for Medius had been captured by Oswald's men. Apparently, after having witnessed the pyres upon which Zedekiah and dozens of other jews who refused to convert to christianity were burnt alive, Medius returned to Chepstow's Jewish quarter to see if anything of use could be salvaged from Zedekiah's belongings. He had managed to reclaim an elaborate copy of the Torah, the Jewish 'holy' book, when he encountered a young Jewish lad, named Josef, a sometime protégé of Zedekiah. Medius quickly sensed that the boy was Gifted and thus resolved to help him escape the town so that he could be offered formal hermetic training. However, although the pyres in the town square had burned out, Oswald was not yet finished and everyone seeking to leave the town was being closely questioned by the town guard. Medius used imagonem magics to make Josef look like a regular town urchin but despite this the lad was turned back by the guard. As Medius, who had rendered himself invisible, tried to help Josef Oswald appeared at the gate and somehow picked out Josef as the boy cowered in the shadows of a nearby alley. Medius later reported that he believes Oswald is somehow able to sense the Gift at range. In any event, a desperate chase through the town alleyways ensued as Josef fled for his life with Medius following closely behind. Then, as Oswald and the guards closed in, Medius's invisibility failed him. Whether this was a result of Oswald's accursed divine magics is impossible to say, but given their known power against other illusions they must be the most likely cause. Whatever the reason, Medius felt no challenge to his parma. In any event, it proved to be disastrous for Medius as he was quickly captured by Oswald's men and gagged and blindfolded he was dragged off to the castle.

Once inside the castle, Medius was taken to the Baron's court. There he was introduced as "Medius, the Jewish necromancer" and the Baron was warned not to look into his eyes. To ensure that Medius had no chance to make this happen, the Baron ordered one of his guards to stand behind Medius with his sword on Medius's neck and explicit orders to decapitate him if he tried to look up. Unsurprisingly Medius did not try to test the Baron's resolve. The Baron was obviously delighted with Oswald's latest captive and offered him whatever resources he needed to continue his "good work". The Baron asked a few questions but when it became clear that Medius was not going to crack was easily as Wybert, Medius was hauled off to the dungeons for more rigorous questioning. The torture my sodalis endured was extensive and thorough, clearly Oswald was aiming to break his will down over a long period of time. Fortunately for Medius, after a failed first attempt Dialectica was able to penetrate the castle's defences and rescue him, but not before he had had all his toes and the little finger of his right hand cruelly severed. Less happily, Dialectica was unable to recover Medius's personal effects which had been stolen by Oswald and stashed elsewhere. These included several enchanted items and his talisman.

After Medius had made it safely back to the covenant and had had time to rest a little after his ordeal, an emergency council was called. At that meeting we urgently discussed our position. There had been no reports of unusual activity near the covenant and Dialectica reported that she had spoken with Marius who had managed to secure an audience with the Earl of Gloucester. Happily, the Earl still holds to our deal and Dialectica stated that with the Earl's approval our status was secure for neither the word of a magistrate nor even that of a baron would be sufficient to threaten our position here. For this reason a massed mundane attack is out of the question and so the primary threat that we face is that of the monks themselves. If only they would be so obliging to launch a direct assault themselves while I am in the covenant. Dialectica also noted that the magics she had used to effect Medius's rescue were not all as subtle as she might have liked and it will likely easily deduced that he was freed by another wizard. We also debated what we knew of Oswald and the troubling amount of knowledge he seems to have amassed on our spellcasting, for instance his specific instruction to the guards to strike Medius is he spoke in either latin or hebrew. Does he have some inside source? Could there be a traitor within the tribunal or has he forced such information out of Giraldus through torture? In any event, we agreed that the Praefecta and indeed all other magi across Stonehenge needed to be informed about the current dangers of passing through Chepstow. Cormoran agreed to bear such message to Blackthorn once more. The ongoing implications of Wybert's confessions were also thoroughly reviewed. The main threat lies with the future safe movement of individual magi, for Wybert's skills meant that he accompanied several of us on journeys across the Dean and beyond.

Yet, in all of this the most pressing matter, that of Giraldus's disappearance, still remains unresolved. Although we have no proof of his location, it seems increasingly likely that the Christian cult has seized him. We need to find out if the monks have indeed kidnapped him or whether some more mundane accident has befallen him on the road. To achieve this, I suggested that we capture one of the monks and interrogate him. The priory in Huntley is small and isolated, and the surrounding woods make ambushes easy to execute. Marius will speak with some of the nearby charcoal burners whom he has been building as contacts and see if he can build up a good picture of the movements in and out of the priory. On a positive note, Cormoran was able to rescue Josef from Chepstow and Oswald's clutches. He is staying with Medius until the autumn council meeting when we will decide how best to deal with the lad. I agreed to devote my time to developing a spell to restore Medius's missing digits, while Tiarnan will extract vims vis for the covenant and Cormoran will guard the orchards lest the cult seeks to attack us through our mundane resources. Thankfully, after such a torrid start to the season, the rest of summer passed without incident.

Autumn


The first matter to be discussed at the autumn council was he issue of what to do with Josef, the Gifted Jewish child from Chepstow. After his Gift was formally determined by Medius we debated how best he might be trained in the ways of the Order. Medius already has one apprentice so he is legally unable to take on Josef's training and of the rest of the council, only Dialectica has the depths in the arts to be able to train him. Although the maga said that she does not have the time in the longer term to take him on, she was prepared to do so in the short term while we try and find him a more permanent parens. Although Giraldus was still sadly absent from the council chamber, Marius was returned and reiterated in full detail what Dialectica had reported at the emergency meeting last season. While our situation remains relatively secure, we still must be cautious in our dealings so as not to give our enemies further grievances to present before the Earl. Marius also reported that his contacts amongst the charcoal burners had agreed to watch the road in return for coin and with luck he will have some details of the monks movements later in the season. He has also spoken with the Sheriff in Monmouth with a view to persuading him of the importance of the Jewish community's contribution to the town's economy and he hopes that this will lower the risk of the pogroms spreading to Monmouth.

This season he will aid our new ship in changing its registered home port from Chepstow to Caerdydd, as well as continuing to search for any trace of Giraldus's passing in Ross. Dialectica will begin Josef's training before beginning the year-long process of binding her familiar in winter. The rest of us will be undertaking laboratory work of one form or another. Dialectica suggested once more that Arcturus might be able to help in the search for Giraldus, but Medius bade her wait until Marius reports back. If necessary he said he would journey to London again in early winter. After council was concluded I cast the ritual that I had developed and was able to restore Medius's toes, although he will bear his missing finger as a permanent reminder of his sufferings.

A fortnight or so into the season Praefecta Orlania arrived at the covenant. She was greatly disturbed by the possibility that the cult may have abducted Giraldus and the growing threat that the cult poses to the safety of the covenant. The Praefecta recommended that Arcturus be contacted as soon as possible given his role as an investigative hoplite for the tribunal on this very matter. She also suggested that Praeca Yania might be able to assist us rescue Giraldus as she has extensive experience in mundane interactions. Orlania stressed that if a magus were confess all they knew about the Order and tribunal it could be extremely damaging, particularly if the magus in question were a Redcap. Indeed she views the situation as the single biggest threat to the tribunal right now. The Praefecta will travel to Blackthorn to speak with the Senior Quaesitor to get the necessary authority to kidnap and interrogate one of the cult. Meanwhile, at her direct request, Medius agreed to travel to London to seek the assistance of Magus Arcturus. Orlania returned the next day with the agreement of both the Praeca and the Senior Quaesitor. Praeca Yania also agreed to lend her aid to Medius's mission in London and she will set off to find him there.

Meanwhile we discussed our plans to kidnap one of the monks from Huntley Priory. Although Orlania was happy with the essence of the scheme, she thought it best to enact it solely with mundane agents if possible. Dialectica reported that Marius had been unable to obtain any fixed pattern to the monk's movements, but he will alert Dialectica if any word of a white-haired monk is brought to him. As we waited in the Dean for the chance to grab one of the cult, events in London took place that may yet have huge ramifications for the future of this tribunal. At first, all went well. Medius was able to meet up with his Kabbalah contacts and learn of the death of then King's eldest son and nominated heir Geoffrey. Ordinarily this would seem to be of little import but apparently the next-in-line, Richard, is a pious man. No doubt the cult will try and curry favour with him if he ascends to the throne. A few days after Medius's arrival, during which time he and his Kabbalah allies undertook some religious ritual which supposedly divines the future, he was joined by Praeca Yania. Incredibly, Medius told the Praeca that as a result of the divination he was no longer prepared to meet with Arcturus. Apparently the divination suggested that if he were to meet Arcturus there would be a risk of a pogrom in London. Medius would not budge on this issue so Yania determined to go and meet with Arcturus herself. Unbelievably this was not good enough for Medius and he challenged the Praeca to certamen, attempting to forbid her from meeting Arcturus lest their meeting similarly result in another pogrom. The Praeca won the intellego vim contest comfortably and left to meet with Arcturus.

[Astrius's private journal: As I had feared, Medius's religious priorities are now coming before his duties to the Order and indeed his sodalis. Where in all his justifications about his fear of a pogrom was any thought about the real reason for seeking to meet Arcturus, namely our sodalis Giraldus? What about him? It seems that Medius was prepared to risk losing a real chance to find our sodalis so as not to risk the lives of Jews in London. How can that be viewed as anything less than a betrayal? I am gravely concerned that, like many of our Order who have succumbed to the siren song of religion, Medius is on a path which ultimately can only lead to his Renouncement.]

When Yania did not return as arranged, Medius went to the inn which had been designated as the meeting place to find her. He found the room dark and quiet as he cautiously entered and to his horror found three bodies on the floor, Praeca Yania and her two bodyguards. But even as he took in what he had found he heard movement from the corridor outside. He could see nothing as the door opened but moments later he heard Arcturus's voice incanting a perdo corporem spell of some sort. His parma withstood whatever malign enchantment Arcturus had aimed at him and he swiftly drank his 'leap of homecoming' potion. Fortunately, this time whatever aura was present in the city did not interfere with the potion and he was apported safely back to his sanctum.

Once back, Medius quickly called another emergency council meeting and informed us all of the grim news. A number of things were immediately obvious. Firstly, the ruling from the last tribunal was wrong, Arcturus is clearly a traitor and must be regarded as such. With this in mind he must also be regarded as a clear and present danger to this covenant. An invisible assault of the covenant in a similar fashion to that of the lich Dionysus is an all too real possibility and Arcturus is not a young magus. With the mentem and imagonem magics he undoubtedly possesses I dread to think what he could do within this covenant if he were to make a covert attack. Clearly Cormoran and I must remain within the covenant lest such an attack is made. Yet the murder of the Praeca of this tribunal is tantamount to a declaration of war by the christian cult and we must strike back.

Tiarnan and Dialectica will journey down to Huntley with a couple of grogs to speak with our spies amongst the charcoal burners and lie in ambush for a monk. We simply must have some intelligence on what they are up to, Arcturus's betrayal means that they must know a great deal about the Order, its structures, covenants and magi. We cannot afford to sit back and wait for things to get worse before acting. If this new heir to the throne is as religious as Medius was told, what if the cult suborns him to their cause? The time to hurt them is now.

The kidnap had mixed results. Two of our grogs were able to abduct a white-haired monk fitting the approximate description of the man who had led the Christian raid on Snig's End, but when Dialectica probed his mind with her mentem magics it became quickly clear that he had no knowledge of the cult, Giraldus or the fight with the Fells. However, although he could provide us with no direct intelligence on the cult, he was able to shed further light on the set-up at Huntley Priory. The priory is led by Prior Yorath, whose description seems similar to that of the silver-haired monk at Snig's End, and houses a score or so monks. From the rough layout we got it seems unlikely that Giraldus is being held there, it is simply too small for a prisoner to be held in secret from those monks not part of the cult and there is only a small food cellar, certainly not room for a dungeon. Tintern Abbey is a much bigger site though and could certainly have room for such a place. It is a large rambling estate with more than fifty monks and while Huntley is relatively isolated with few visitors, Tintern has many. The Abbott there holds a senior position within the Christian monastic orders and is reputed to be a most holy man. Our captive had heard that the Abbot had not long ago healed a man of a terrible palsy. He must be a prime suspect to be the leader of the cult hereabouts. The monk had heard tales of wizards in the Briavel, but these sounded little more than the old folk stories about the "Welsh war wizard", presumably the Renounced Magus Idris who once dwelt here and was convicted at tribunal of aiding the Welsh army in its capture of Gloucester castle. There was nothing more of interest that could be gleaned from the man's mind so he was left in his cell lest the Senior Quaesitor or Praefecta wished to speak with him at a later date.

After a few weeks of tense waiting, Magus Alannus arrived at the covenant bearing the news that we had expected - Senior Quaesitor Serenia has called for an emergency tribunal meeting at the end of the season. At the meeting a full report into the death of the Praeca will be made, along with the trial in absentia of the traitor Arcturus and the elections for the new Primus. From what I can recall of those candidates who stood last time and the ages of the other likely elder magi of the tribunal, the choice will probably be between Prima Fenriata of Ex Miscellania, Archimaga Sylvania of Merinita and Quaesitor Ponrius of Flambeau.

A couple of days after Alannus had departed to take the news onwards across the tribunal, Serenia came to the covenant to speak with Medius and I. With a month left of the season, she wished us to accompany her to London to investigate the inn where Arcturus had murdered Praeca Yania. The journey to that stinking, dominion-dominated city was without incident and although our small party got a few suspicious looks from the guards manning the gate, we were able to enter the city unchallenged. Inside the city as we passed by the Jewish quarter we could see that as Medius's mystic had foretold, there had been a pogrom and clearly very recently too, for smoke was still rising from the ruins of some of burnt out houses and the acrid smell of smoke hung in the air. We had a frustrating two day wait in the Inn of the Red Shield before the room where Arcturus had murdered Praeca Yania became free, but finally Serenia was able to begin her investigation. The 'Eyes of the Past' ritual revealed that on the night of her murder, Yania, disguised as 'Abraham', Medius's Jewish identity, had indeed met with Arcturus. She had sent her guards out of the room while she met with him and he had done likewise with his. If Arcturus saw through her disguise he hid it well for her addressed her as Abraham, but then, as he apparently stood before her, her throat was suddenly slit. Further intellego magics revealed that the treacherous cur had cast a version of 'Image from the Wizard Torn' and while Yania's attention was focused on his image, he had crept behind her and cut her throat, his blade slicing through the protection she bore. Satisfied that 'Abraham' was dead, Arcturus dropped the illusion and cast a spell of some sort upon the corpse. He appeared shocked by the results, presumably because the spell had revealed to him that his victim was not Medius but the Praeca. Acting quickly, Arcturus called Yania's guards back into the room and swiftly slew them with further magics before hurriedly leaving. Serenia confirmed that all the spells cast bore Arcturus's sigil and unsurprisingly declared herself satisfied that she had firm evidence that Arcturus was indeed the murderer. The Senior Quaesitor was also able to shed a little more light on the attack on Medius. She determined that Arcturus had tried to blind Medius, probably believing him to be naught but a mundane if Arcturus's curses when Medius apported away were anything to go by.

Given the possibility that Arcturus or other cultists might be watching the tavern I suggested that we leave swiftly now that Serenia's investigation was complete. As we walked away, Drudwhil's keen eyes espied just such a watcher, a scruffy, surly-looking fellow. Deeming a potential confrontation with the cult, and potentially Arcturus too, inside London's city walls and in a powerful dominion aura to be unwise we hurriedly made for the nearest gate. Happily we we were able to depart the city unmolested and once out of sight of the city walls Serenia apported home. Medius and I made camp a good ways off the main road and next day made our way to the tavern to collect the grogs Medius had left there on his last visit, along with some of his Jewish compatriots. That done, our group was able to return to the covenant safely and we saw no sign of any attempt to follow us.

Winter

On the last day of autumn, Medius, Cormoran and I made the short journey to Blackthorn to the emergency tribunal meeting, Dialectica having started binding her familiar and Tiarnan and Marius electing to remain behind, though their sigils were passed on so that their votes might still count on the key issues to be discussed. As has become custom now, we kept a careful eye on the phase of the moon before taking the road from Skenfrith that winds its way past the forests that extend into Mynydd Myrddyn. Although we have had no trouble from the fickle and treacherous lycanthropes who plague the lands thereabouts we must maintain our guard lest they prove faithless once more. It is only a matter of time before we have trouble with them again and I merely hope that it is not before we have dealt with our current problems. Then they will find out just how much our arts have improved since their first attack. Nevertheless, there was no sign of any wolf or wild man and before long we were ascending the steep mountain road which leads to Blackthorn covenant. There was a fair turnout of magi from across the tribunal already present, but given the necessarily short notice a fair few were missing, including most of those who dwell without covenant and thus, many of those from House Ex Miscellania.

Quaesitor Ponrius came to speak with me before the meeting began, it seems he does indeed expect to stand for the position of Praeco and had come to ask for my support, but I told him that I would not commit to voting for any candidate before the meeting. Somewhat disgruntled, Ponrius then shared his concerns with me about the lack of communication between Stonehenge and Loch Lagleann. Apparently the Order of Odin once threatened the Orkneys, a small group of islands which lie in the wild seas beyond the northernmost shore of this isle, and he fears if what Cormoran and I learned from Magus Atroxus is true then the Orkneys could once again come under threat when that aged magus finally succumbs to final twilight. Ponrius fears that they may seek to set up a base there from which to launch attacks against the mainland. The covenant's purchase of an ocean-going ship now looks like an even more prescient purchase, but if it is to be used to take battle against such magical foes as the Order of Odin then we will have to ensure that both the ship and crew are well protected. We have regular sources of both herbam and aquam vis and should make good use of them in the creation of enchantments to aid our vessel and hinder those of our enemies. I myself must also consider what magics I can develop to overcome the ships of our foes, as well as any hostile shore-based settlements.

At dawn the next day the meeting began. As expected the three candidates for Praeco were Prima Fenriata, Archimaga Sylvania and Quaesitor Ponrius, the magi Kara and Raeriania declining to proffer themselves for election. Fenriata and Sylvania gave broadly similar speeches to those they had made a few short years ago when Yania was elected, though Sylvania suggested that a more proactive and martial approach was needed to combat the ever-growing threat of the Christian Church. Ponrius's speech was exactly what you would expect from a traditionalist Quaesitor and member of House Flambeau. He argued that as our enemies were numerous, the Order of Odin, the UnNamed House, the Fells and the Christian cult to name the prime ones, a much more proactive and aggressive strategy had to be adopted than those proposed by Fenriata and Syvlania. With each of the candidates having made their case for election, I asked what to my mind at least was one of the key issues, namely whether if elected they would continue to support the position of Praefecta. Ponrius confirmed that he would, as did Fenriata, but the Archimaga was somewhat equivocal in her answer. While she would back Orlania to continue in her role in the short term, she clearly had doubts as to the value of the position in the longer term, a short-sighted and dangerous view in my opinion. After some further discussion a vote was called for and after a recess to allow magi to further consider their choice, the election went ahead, which Ponrius won by just two votes.

[Astrius's private journal: What a dilemma about who to vote for in the election! I harbour grave doubts about each of the three candidates and it was very much a case of picking the least worst option. Given what I know about the extent of House Tremere's treachery could I really take the chance that Fenriata was not playing some deep undercover role? It seems most unlikely but if they were to gain the positions of both Praeco and Prima of the dominant house of this tribunal then all could be lost. It is a chance I dare not take, especially given her startlingly naïve response to the threat of the Christian cult. As I rode to Blackthorn en route to the meeting I had thought that I would cast my vote for Archimaga Sylvania, even though I have not forgotten her role in Theo's "council" where she demonstrated quite clearly that her loyalty lies first to the courts of the faerie not our Order. However, Sylvania's overt dislike of the role of the Praefecta and her obvious reluctance to take the necessary steps to curtail the growing threat of the Christian cult, despite her very disingenuous speech, makes it impossible for me to cast my vote for her, no matter who her rivals are, for to my mind her inaction would lead Stonehenge to naught but defeat and disaster. So I was left reassessing my suspicions about Ponrius. Long have I suspected him of being a diabolist and in league with his former hoplite, the Renounced Magus Venius, but in truth upon what evidence is such suspicion based? The fearsome flicker of rage in Ponrius' eyes I saw when I told him that Venius was a diabolist? My pater's warning to have a care when dealing with him? There can be no doubt that he is an odious, hate-filled and rigid traditionalist who believes that the lives of 'latin' magi are worth more than those of non-'latins', but does any of that make him a diabolist? Of course had there been another option I would have gladly have taken it, but given the choice I had I believe I made the best decision, though only time will tell whether my reassessment of Ponrius was correct. If I am wrong, I can only hope that the increased attention he will come under in the role of Praeco will uncover any such treason.]

The new Praeco's first act after resigning his position as a quaesitor was to call upon Senior Quaesitor Serenia to present the results of her investigation of the murder of Yania and to call for a Wizard's March against the vile traitor Arcturus. The tribunal listened intently to Serenia's account of the events leading up to the assassination of its former Praeca. There was widespread shock at Medius's decision to challenge Yania to certamen over her refusal to acquiesce to the concerns raised by his Jewish diviner's 'revelations'. When the obvious guilt of Arcturus became clear, there were some hard questions asked of my sodalis regarding his handling of his previous investigation into Arcturus's dealings with the Christian cult. Maga Ursula was particularly scathing concerning Medius's willingness to use scrying magics inside Arcturus's sanctum but not to use magic to break into his cupboards and in a heated exchange accused him of letting the tribunal down. Tempers further flared when the talk returned to events in London and Medius's refusal to meet with Arcturus because of his fear of sparking an anti-Jewish pogrom and as the tribunal descended into acrimony the Praeco was forced to call the debate to order.

With a measure of calm restored, the Senior Quaesitor made formal accusation against Arcturus and he was duly renounced by a near unanimous vote and a Wizards' March called against him. Thus the Renounced Magus Arcturus, formerly of House Tytalus and Narwold Covenant, is to be slain if encountered, or if this is not possible his location must be reported as soon as is possible. With the formalities settled, Ponrius called for strategies for action against the monastic cult. Praefecta Orlania stated that she wished to assemble a posse of magi to hunt down and execute the Renounced Magus Arcturus. Once this initial objective has been achieved, Orlania wants to gather detailed information on the cult, its extent, lead members, connections to important nobles and the like, and then deal it a hopefully terminal blow by assassinating its leaders. The Praefecta restated her greatest fear in all of this, that of the Pious Magi. The thought of Gifted monks learning the parma magica and then combining it with the awesome power of the Dominion is too fearful a prospect to permit even the smallest risk of it coming to pass. Orlania made it quite clear that any and all members of the cult must be hunted down and slain to a man, no matter who they are for they represent a grave threat, not just to Stonehenge, but to the Order as a whole. Ponrius requested a single stipulation to the Praefecta's proposals, that the posse must have at least one quaesitor with it at all times to ensure that its magi remain within the Code. Orlania readily acceded to this request. It seems likely that if Orlania's proposal is approved then Medius will have the chance to redeem himself in the eyes of the tribunal.

With a proposal for the hunt set, Ponrius asked if any other magi had alternative suggestions to deal with the cult. Prima Fenriata stood up and stated her belief that no direct action should be taken and the tribunal should conduct no more than an investigation. Apparently Prima Ex Miscellania believes that to act risks open war with the Christian church and potentially the wider mundane world. Fenriata requested that before any action is taken it must first be approved by vote of tribunal. Unsurprisingly Orlania objected to such a stipulation saying that it would dramatically reduce our chances of achieving success and rightly pointed out the time it had taken to organise even an emergency tribunal meeting. Orlania stated bluntly that she will need the power to use her discretion to take action at short notice and set ambushes and the like. In the time it would take to garner approval for an act, the chance would most likely have been lost. Although this seemed like simple common sense to me, Prima Fenriata did not agree, openly insulting Orlania by suggesting that she did not have sufficient understanding of the mundane politic to recognise a situation which would likely result in serious mundane repercussions and thus a potential breach of the Code. A fierce debate then ensued, with tempers growing increasingly frayed on both sides until the Praeco brought matters to a head by calling for a vote on which strategy the tribunal should adopt. Fortunately Orlania carried the vote by a half dozen sigils and so we can at last take the fight back to those enemies who murdered Praeca Yania and all-too probably our sodalis Giraldus too. With the decision made, Ponrius called the emergency meeting to a close.

Before everyone set off back to their respective covenants, Orlania held some quick discussions about the make-up of her posse, selecting Medius as its nominated quaesitor. I must wait for my chance for revenge, for her initial aim is to garner further information and with this in mind she made her initial plans with a number of the Jerbiton. Orlania is also still awaiting word from Harco as to whether a thorough investigation can be made into what has happened to Magus Giraldus. With that I returned to the covenant with my sodales, where the rest of the season and the year drew to a close.
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