You are at:
Marius returned just before the Winter council and was similarly delighted by the news from the Grand Tribunal. We were discussing the events of the tribunal and any possible fall-out from them, when Tiarnan happened to mention something that Theo had once told him, about a secret tower within Holy Isle, maybe hidden in a regio of some sort, where Dionysus, Cassitus and Ieuan dwelt. Something to pass on to those investigating that place certainly. Marius told us what he knew of the civil war. He had spent most of the year besieging Norfolk, ultimately triumphing and driving the Duke into flight and exile overseas. The Duke of York was similarly hard pressed, having been forced to retreat to his fortified capital of York, from where he was refusing to move, fearing that the Scots might take advantage of his troubles. The problems for John lie on the continent, where France has paid his brother Richard's ransom and in return Richard has promised much of his continental holdings to France, maybe even some of those in England too. An army of invasion is apparently being mustered for the new year.

Marius said that he had made request that Mynydd Myrddyn be made a royal forest, this apparently means that it will fall under Marius's jurisdiction and mundanes will be able to do nothing there without his expression permission. Marius then talked a little about the man whose candidacy he is taking such a great chance to support. Although not known as an especially pious man, in private audience John is extremely hostile to the Church. He added that the Knights Templar have pledged their support to Richard and the French and consequently John has banned them from England. The discussion finished on an intriguing note as Marius recounted how it seemed to him that people reacted to John much as they would do to someone with the Gift, curious indeed.

Following the sightings of goblins and a giant, there was some talk about the Erequith, in particular her likely attitude to the covenant for it remains a little unclear as to how things were left when the last faerie winter came to an end. Marius, concerned as I as for the safety of the folk of Blackney and Lydney, volunteered to help with any negotiations if needed, his crown meaning that he should at least be listened to. There was further speculation on the changes in the magical and faerie aurae locally and Marius told us that he thinks there has been some sort of faerie awakening across the land, somehow connected to the unity of the Welsh lands and the reemergence of the crown. Further to this he said that he may call a King's Council soon.

Tiarnan reported some further good news, the rent in Mynydd Myrddyn has been repaired by the Ceridwen, the price being a black pearl, which must be delivered to her inside two years. Marius cautioned him to be sure that he paid this debt in full and timely fashion for the Ceridwen is very dangerous if crossed, but Tiarnan seemed confident that he had ample time in which to find such a prize. Marius also reminded Tiarnan that he must apologise to Arawn, a prospect which is clearly altogether more concerning to our Merinitan. However, Cormoran offered to see if he can source a pagan ritual that Tiarnan can enact to fulfill his promise without taking the hazardous step of entering Arawn's realm.

With our discussions complete we moved as usual to the casting of the Aegis of the Hearth. Tiarnan was content to cast it, his studies in recent years having significantly advanced his arts, but, as t
he purple sheen to our walls shows, it is a difficult ritual to cast for the inexperienced and Tiarnan lost control of the spell. The vis flared up suddenly and I felt the unmistakable touch of twilight wash about me. I was able to resist that but that was by no means the end of it. Something had gone badly, badly wrong and somehow the rego vim spell had rendered all of us unable to cast any magics. Cormoran was quickly dispatched to Blackthorn with a potion of the Leap of Homecoming to seek the help of Magus Theophilus and to our great relief, he reappeared with the Bonisagan soon after.

Unfortunately, Theophilus was unable to remove the effect though he could help us determine its extent. Although Cormoran's talisman does not work and the cords that bind Tiarnan and Kai seem not to be functioning properly, both Cormoran's halberd and Kai are whole so our Gifts cannot have been destroyed. Using the Sight of Active Magics (with full permission) Theophilus could see a rego vim effect bearing Tiarnan's sigil, which he determined was suppressing our Gifts. Indeed, the unique nature of the warped magic sparked Theophilus’s Bonisagan curiosity about such effects, though he was politic enough to be aware of the obvious sensitivity surrounding the issue. Reassured that our Gifts appeared undamaged, the question turned to one of how long would the effect last for. The obvious and distinctly unpleasant option is that it will last a full year…

Theophilus, having said that he knew a fourth magnitude version of the Aegis of the Hearth, checked the covenant to see if anything had resulted from the miscasting. He found that there was a residual magical effect, which extended out to the usual ‘boundary’ area effect. There was no technique associated with it, just vim, and Theophilus speculated that it might be some form of covenant twilight effect, whatever that might be. In any event, it meant that we decided that it would be best not to have a second Aegis cast, for fear of some even worse disaster occurring. With no arts nor Aegis, we would have to rely on what items and potions we have, along with the grogs. With luck, we should be alright, though like my sodales, I was forced to relocate from my laboratory to our mundane library for my season’s research. A week later, when there had been no change in our condition, Marius escorted Theophilus back to Blackthorn, with our thanks for his efforts.

My hopes that the season would pass peacefully and our weakened condition would go unnoticed proved to be in vain. As the winter took firm hold of the land hereabouts, the Erequith and her court came calling. Her entourage consisted of two white wolves, an ice giant standing at least twelve feet tall, a goodly number of goblins and six armoured ‘knights’ dressed in blackened ornate armour, fey of the dark earth I think. The Erequiy knows of events in Swallowcliff and the fear that afflicts them as a result may serve more than the weapon itself for it could drive them into desperate acts. The hearts of those who have fallen into diablerie are weak and cowardly and they will think nothing of turning on one another if it will help save their own worthless skins.

She bade my seek here out upon my return from the continent for Ieuan is no lich and must yet be faced, irrespective of what happens at the Grand Tribunal. She said that he was more dangerous than any of the liches for he has influence, power and a potent bloodline. Mayhap investigations into this bloodline would give us a better idea of his powers and, if we are lucky, any weaknesses. To face him I will need a new weapon, though she cautioned that it was rare to find spirits such as Ruaridh who would agree to serve in such a role as he did. However, such spirit blades are not the only weapon against foes like Ieuan who can walk ‘twixt the worlds of flesh and spirit.

She paused, as though her attention was elsewhere for a moment, then said that she could see something in the future. I should look for a new companion to replace Drudwhil to give me protection against possession or similar assaults upon my mind and spirit. It seems that Ieuan can now call on creatures that would give Dionysus and Cassitus pause for thought. The Morrigan said that she would turn her mind as to how she could defend my body, but I will need a companion to help against possession. Her sister, the Anu, still holds to her promise about help with finding and binding such a familiar for I still honour her by planting the acorns from the Heart of the Forest. With that she thanked me for what I had done, saying that I had done her great service already and bade me well for my trip to the continent, “may you bring blood and ruin on those who would corrupt this land.” With those words ringing in my ears I bowed and made my way back down the hill. At the bottom stood the slight and twisted figure of Bethwyn who told me that she was looking into old magics to find a weapon as the Morrigan instructed. She also gave me the option of using her magics to transport me back to the covenant, an offer I was glad to take up with the change in season in the fey realm. Upon my return I spoke with Tiarnan and my sodales and warned them about the change in season, though our Merinitan seemed little concerned by it.

Although Medius and Cormoran planned to wait until the Equinox before taking their potions and apporting to Cad Gadu, I deemed that even with all the defences at Cad Gadu it could not hurt to be there also lest an attack came to try and retrieve the weapon so I apported the day after my return from the fey regio. I appeared beneath the great old tree in the covenant's grounds and almost immediately noticed a change in the usual laid-back air of the place. The relaxed and casual air of the guards was gone, replaced by a sober wariness, which in truth I was reassured to see. Soon after my arrival I was called to see the Prima who, along with Llandolwyn, told me a little more of her plans. Unsurprisingly, she stated clearly that none of the magi from Holy Isle would be travelling with our party, though Theodosius would. I showed her my copy of the notes that I had recovered from Llandolwyn's hidden regio, with mine and Medius's attempts at replacing the missing text. The Prima was grateful though she seemed distracted and Llandolwyn told me quietly that preparations were not going as smoothly as had been hoped. He would not be able to travel with us, something to do with his nature and ties to this land I believe, but he said that he would endeavour to keep half an eye on Severn Temple while we are gone. He also told me of his growing concerns about the Codex of Rome and how it might present a threat to our party. I was however unable to tell him much of use concerning it and advised him to speak with Medius on the subject.

As the season progressed I took the chance to look through a little of Cad Gadu's extensive libraries, for it is my hope that on my return I will have some time to study some of the tomes contained within it. Magi from our party continued to arrive, Archimagus Jolyon, Praefecta Orlania and with the Equinox, Cormoran and Medius too. On the morning of our departure Medius came to me with troubling news. He said that Saul, his young Jewish companion who can divine something of the future from reading his faith's holy book had had a troubling vision which suggested we would face three separate attacks en route to Durenmar. The first would involve some form of summoned demons coming at dusk, the second would involve more mundane foes, perhaps bribed port authorities or a merchant vessel, and, most troublingly of all, the third a traitorous maga of the Order, whom Medius was able to identify as Maga Xanthia of Scafell and, tellingly, House Tremere. Medius was reluctant to speak with Cormoran himself for he fears that our sodales may use the information as evidence that Medius has broken the Code by scrying on another maga of the Order, which technically I suppose he has. So it was that I had a most uncomfortable conversation with Cormoran in which I endeavoured to ensure that he understood the warning and would not trust Xanthia or any consors of hers, but without giving away too much specific detail. I can understand Medius’s concerns but I loathe having to play such a tricksy game with my sodales.


With all assembled, we set off for the short journey to the coast where a Redcap ship, “The Rising Star” awaited us. After some initial trepidation during the brief rowboat trip out from shore to ship, when our party was necessarily split up, I was greatly reassured when I got on board. As I inspected the ship carefully to ensure that no assassins or other foes lurked on board I was able to appreciate just how well constructed and scrupulously maintained she was. In stark contrast to most ships I have been on, the wood fairly gleamed with polish and the sails were pristine and immaculately rigged. The ship’s captain, Dallan, a non-Gifted Mercere, was content for me to inspect the ship’s fittings, which included at the helm, an array of polished brass fittings in the shape of various animals, a leaping fish, a seabird and a merman amongst them, each of which was inscribed with Verditius runes.

Despite the reassuring quality of the ship, Cormoran and I took no chances with our duties as hoplite and we each took watch outside the Prima’s cabin for half the night. The first three days at sea passed uneventfully as we made serene progress up the Western coast of Britain, then, on the fourth day, Captain Dallan spotted a ship stranded atop a sandbank. Through an enchanted quartz eyepiece he was able to discern that it was the ”Morning Wake”, Holy Isle covenant’s vessel.

After a little discussion about whether any delay caused by stopping might delay our passage to Durenmar, we hove to and a gangplank was lowered to the stricken vessel. Archimagus Motus came on board and told us of how his ship was attacked by many winged creatures and dark shadows flitted about the sails, driving the vessel onto the bank. Also on board were Quaesitor Galfriedas, Maga Ursula of Tremere, Primus Ponrius and Maga Xanthia of Tremere. Dallan bade

Cynfelyn's private journal: Unsurprisingly, Prima Fenriata did not want to stop and have magi from Holy Isle join our ship but, bound by the ship’s charter of service of all magi, Dallan refused to listen to the Prima’s arguments and in the end she was forced to accede, fearing that to push further would damage her relationship with Primus Mercere, whose support she would need at the Grand Tribunal. We did discuss whether any of the rest of us could reasonably use certamen or similar such strategies to at least deny Xanthia entry; however, with Cormoran and I nominated as the Prima’s hoplites, neither of us could act without risk of causing offence to House Mercere so it was down to Medius to act (it being a gross breach of etiquette for Archimagi such as Jolyon or Sylvania to challenge a younger maga). Although initially reluctant, Medius came up with a cunning ruse and, as Xanthia sought to board the Rising Star, he stepped forward and loudly proclaimed that someone needed to travel to Cad Gadu to inform the magi there of the change in personnel of the ship and as they were both without formal office at the Grand Tribunal it should be one of them who disembarked at the next covenant and made the long journey south. Although he had not shared this plan with us, I was nevertheless greatly heartened by his plan for it was just about reasonable enough not to offend House Mercere. Yet, instead of pressing home his advantage and issuing a challenge to certamen to settle the matter, Medius paused, presumably hoping that Xanthia would object. However, traitor or not, Xanthia was no fool and was clearly suspicious of Medius’s intent. Inwardly I was screaming at Medius to just say “intellego” but instead he stood silent as Xanthia’s eyes narrowed for a moment and then with a cruel smile simply replied “rego”. A clearly downcast Medius could only reply “vim”. I could have wept with frustration - surely even Cormoran would not have been so slow-witted had their places been reversed? Instead, suppressing the momentary urge to punch Xanthia’s teeth out of her smug face, I quietly handed Medius a rook of rego vis. In truth, the contest was closer than I had expected, with Xanthia clearly taken aback by the strength of Medius’s initial assault, but as his vis began to dwindle her superiority in the chosen arts told and he was soon carried below decks unconscious. Thankfully Fenriata was able to prevail upon the by-now somewhat bemused Dallan that she could not afford any delays and so Medius stayed with us rather than being dropped off at Cape Wrath covenant. From what I have seen of Loch Leglean I do not think he would have enjoyed the long journey south back to England. Yet, he was far from out of the fire, for we were now on a ship with one probable traitor and four other possible ones, though from all I know of Motus, I very much doubt he has fallen.

Later that evening, storm clouds began to gather and an hour before dusk there was a cry of alarm was sounded. One of the Holy Isle men had been found murdered, apparently slain by a knife wound to the chest, the exact nature of which – his heart having been cut out - would be revealed too late for any pre-emptive action to be taken. An hour later, at the exact moment the sun slipped beneath the dark storm-tossed horizon and our parmae and protective magics went down, there was an unearthly shriek and the sound of beating wings.

I had barely started the parma ritual when a half dozen or so demons materialized in the cabin. They were largely skeletal in form, with blood red eyes and tongues of flickering flame. Realising that raising my parma was not an option I drew my sword and moved to defend Fenriata as best I could in the confined space, now full of shrieking demons. I managed to fend off a couple but one got through and caught Fenriata full in the chest with a vicious swipe of its claws. For a moment I feared for her but as the claws tore through her tunic there was a flash as they connected with the russet-hued robes she wore beneath and she was left completely unharmed. Having handed them to her predecessor I immediately recognized the Robes of Dusky Dawn and was greatly reassured. Nevertheless the situation was still extremely grave. Even though Fenriata was able to raise a ward against demons powerful enough to throw our attackers back out of melee range, there were unmistakable sounds of combat from the adjacent cabins. Using his Kabbalistic anti-demon ritual Medius was able to destroy those creatures attacking Theophilus and Jolyon, but sadly was unable to save his scribe and diviner, Saul.

The situation deteriorated further as the floor beneath us collapsed, leaving us backed against the wooden walls, feet scrabbling for purchase on the scant timbers that remained. It was impossible to see what was going on in the new pit that lay in front of us, filled as it was with a foul, choking smoke, though there was the unmistakable sound of mortal combat. From the direction of the deck I could hear what sounded like Motus incanting lightning as I urgently rewove my parma. As I did so the ship suddenly lurched violently and Cormoran was pitched into the smoke-filled hole. Thoughts of an immediate rescue for my sodales were quickly dispelled as I heard Motus's voice from the corridor outside, urgently shouting for Prima Fenriata. Fenriata and I exchanged quick glances, if my intuition was wrong and Motus had Fallen then things were about to go from very bad to even worse very quickly. I drew Garius's wand from my belt and took up as much of a protective stance in front of Fenriata as the remnants of the floor would allow. Then the door burst open and Motus emerged, hard-faced and purposeful. I flinched for a second, my hand subconsciously raising the wand, before I saw the genuine relief in his eyes that the Prima was unharmed and relaxed a little.

Fenriata then took charge, reminding me that we had to protect the lantern, which was still in her chest in the captain's cabin next door. Orlania was still there, though she grimly reported that Archimaga Sylvania had fallen down into the smoke-filled hold. Fenriata had just managed to reach the chest when there was an almighty roar from below and a great demon rose up, its arrival dispersing the fumes somewhat. I quickly conjured light in the hold, which revealed exactly what poor Saul had foretold, as we saw maga Xanthia clearly controlling the demon. In the last moment before all my focus switched to trying to keep the demon from Fenriata and her precious cargo I saw Cormoran as he ran behind Xanthia and stabbed her with his halberd. Although staggered by the blow she kept her footing and the demon didn't pause in its assault.

The fight with the demon was hard pressed. The initial ferocious volleys of fire and lightning that we three rained down upon it injured it, but not greatly, and as I attempted to parry a particularly heavy blow I would have been knocked down into the hold had it not been for the ‘Rise of the Feathery Body’ enchantment I had cast upon myself. Then, as Cormoran's repeated attacks struck home true and Xanthia collapsed, her hold on the demon broke and it turned its attention to her body and the large figure of my giantish sodales next to her. With its attention diverted from us, Fenriata, Orlania and I renewed our elemental attacks and despite its inhuman toughness the demon was unable to resist our combined firepower and was destroyed.

Fearing for the fate of our sodales and indeed the safety of the ship we quickly began to search the ship for survivors or more enemies. I was not greatly surprised to discover that the remaining Holy Isle contingent – Galfriedas, Ursula and Ponrius - had all survived unscathed, apparently cornered in the prow of the ship. Of more concern were those magi who had fallen into the hold where the demon had been summoned. After checking whether the traitorous Xanthia was dead, which I am glad to report she was, we pressed on. The fighting had clearly been fierce, with bodes of grogs and crew from both ships lying bloodied and broken all around us. Happily, all the missing magi were alive and well, save Theophilus who was nursing a broken arm. A further inspection of the ship itself revealed no serious damage so after the surviving crew were patched up we resumed our journey.

Although we were edgy and prepared for trouble at the drop of hat the remainder of the journey was thankfully uneventful and the ship hove into the port of Boldenhagen, which lies on the coast, a few days travel North of Durenmar. Waiting for us there were Quaesitor Memorius of Bonisagus, and Archimaga Alexia, both of House Bonisagus, Inquisitor Gratia and maga Varinia of Merinita, along with a contingent of Durenmar grogs. After exchanging greetings and describing what had befallen us aboard the Rising Star, we set off for the covenant. I know not who else, if anyone, noticed, but it was clear to me at least that Archimagus Motus was being markedly more circumspect around the rest of the Holy Isle party.

On the sixth night, as we camped in the ancient pine forest that surrounds Durenmar, we were attacked again. Cormoran was on watch, patrolling round the outside of the Prima’s tent, when he was assailed with a magic that drained the heat from his body. As he tried to sound the alarm he was barely able to get more than a couple of words out when something akin to Twist of the Tongue was cast upon him by some invisible foe. As he tried desperately to locate the assailant, I scrambled to my feet in the tent’s antechamber where I had been sleeping and quickly strode into the Prima’s quarters.

As I looked around I saw a knife blade cutting a doorway through the canvas wall of the far side of the tent. I let rip with Garius’s wand, sending a gout of flame through the rent in the fabric which clearly connected with something but did not stop the attack. I conjured webs to block the entrance and ensnare but like a fool did not think to block off the tent’s interior from the attacker’s line of sight and Fenriata and I were subject to repeated castings of the same freezing chill spell that Cormoran had suffered. Although my parma had been flattened by the power behind the spell, I had been able to resist the worst of it, but the Prima was clearly badly afflicted, her hair rimed with frost and her lips blue. She was trying to free the lantern from its box and so, thinking she meant merely to stop it from being targeted by spells I took it from her and cut a hole through the side of the tent so that I could get both her and it out of the immediate spell range. I was able to drag her outside, but even as I conjured a Rampart of Protecting Stone to block off line of sight we were assailed again, brining the Prima to the point of collapse.

Fortunately Cormoran had returned, along with Medius and several other magi and he was able to carry the Prima to safety as Medius, interpreting the Prima’s request more accurately than I had, opened the lantern. Initially I was alarmed, fearing that using it would tip our hand to our enemies, especially given that the magi from Holy Isle were within sight of what was going on; however, as the silvery light of the lantern spread across the ground it revealed the animated corpse of what could only be a lich standing nearby. Whatever enchantments has been placed in the lantern worked, for as well as rendering it visible, the light was clearly causing it great distress as it writhed and began to decay.

There was a long moment where all about stared in horrified fascination at the sight before us, before, not knowing whether the light alone would be sufficient to finish the job, I screamed at Medius to use his Jewish holy fire to destroy the creature. As the light arced from his arms and struck it the body fell lifeless, whatever spirit had animated the corrupt flesh banished, leaving naught but a heavily decayed corpse upon the ground. With that, we hurriedly covered up the lantern and regrouped away from any prying eyes of further would-be attackers, either from the woods or within our own traveling party.

We were still at least a day, maybe two away from Durenmar covenant so Motus restored Cormoran’s tongue as we gathered to discuss the exact nature of what had just occurred. Gratia explained that it was her belief that liches were able to move through solid matter, somehow passing through the spirit world in a way that sounded more than a little like Ieuan’s ability. It would certainly explain why it was able to escape the webs without any obvious effort, though I was confused as to why it had cut open the tent when it could have just walked through easily – for had it not been for the growing rent in the canvas I doubt I would have had any inkling of the direction of any attack. The Inquisitor speculated that, as with other undead creatures, liches are subject to certain restrictions, one of which could be crossing thresholds. Thus, to effect an entry into the tent it would first have had to create an opening. The body of the lich, which now had the unpleasant appearance of a corpse that had been dead for no little time, was preserved and kept safe, and next morning we set off again. Although we did not reach the security of the covenant that night, there were not further incidents of note and on the afternoon of the following day we got our first sight of the Durenmar, the de facto heart of the Order.

The Northern edge of the covenant is marked by a small range of hills, topped by three tall stone towers. As we drew nearer the size of the place became more apparent, with a veritable host of buildings to accommodate delegates from across the Order, with a compound for each House, but also numerous laboratories and libraries. All of this lay outside the actual covenant itself, which is separated by a great stone wall and presumably a not-inconsiderable Aegis of the Hearth. The richness of the buildings was remarkable, with elaborate carvings of strange beasts with jeweled eyes, doors inlaid with silver and bronze and designs such as I had never seen in all my travels. Between them walked guards in black tabards, with the covenant symbol of a silver tree underneath the cross keys of Bonisagus picked out in silver thread, their manner courteous and helpful, and all apparently fluent in Latin. Although we cannot hope to match such splendours at Severn Temple, there are improvements that can be made, most notably in our grog turb. Mayhap if all goes well at the Grand Tribunal I shall we what can be done there, at the very least they can learn some rudimentary Latin and manners.

Memorius welcomed us all formally to the covenant and showed us to our respective quarters. The Ex-Miscellanian compound, while still smaller than the others – whether for historical reasons or more prosaically the small number of magi from the house who attend the Grand Tribunal I know not – was nevertheless far from cramped. Built around a large central stone hall, with a high vaulted ceiling with carved wooden beams, there were sub-wings running off each side, each some three stories high. The Prima’s quarters were situated at the back, beyond the end of the Great Hall and through an antechamber in which Cormoran and I set out our bedrolls as the Prima took her rest.

Once Fenriata was recovered from the long journey and any vestiges of the attack, she requested investigation be made into the attacks made upon her en route by the traitor Xanthia and the lich. As Primus Guernicus had not yet arrived, Inquisitor Gratia took charge of the immediate enquiries. First to be investigated was the corpse of Xanthia, though it proved to be largely fruitless. Despite her best efforts, Gratia could only get Xanthia’s shade to admit to being behind both the attack on board the Rising Star and the intentional grounding of the Morning Wake. It denied any outside involvement and refused to reveal any details of its plans. Somewhat stymied, Gratia stated that she believed that a malign influence still lay about the spirit and that it was preventing her from gaining any further knowledge. Fenriata suggested that, while not without serious risk, if Xanthia’s spirit could de directly summoned to appear then further coercion could be worked upon it. After no little discussion, given Xanthia’s diablerie, of what might happen were the summoning to go awry, Memorius, acting on behalf of Durenmar covenant, reluctantly gave authority to proceed and with painstaking care Gratia invoked the necessary ritual.

The spell was successfully cast and the pale translucent shade of Xanthia stood before us. Whatever Gratia had sensed before clearly still lay about her, for her tongue was blackened, a known sign of corruption apparently. Gratia was nothing if not dogged and determined, but after a fruitless hour during which Xanthia’s shade laughed off all Gratia’s threats, saying that there was nothing the Inquisitor could do that would be worse that what it would experience if it talked, even she was forced to concede defeat. The only other thing of note that I was privy to was the fact that magics had been cast on board the ship with a “black flame” sigil, not Xanthia's. This of course means that either Xanthia had help from another magus or used an item of some sort. I hope it is the latter, but strongly suspect that it is not.

With Xanthia's shade safely banished back to whatever dark place it had sunk to, Gratia turned her attention to the body of the lich. Given its probable infernal nature there could be no question of summoning its shade so Gratia was forced to use less direct means. She was able to discern what the body had looked like when alive and conjured an image of such for us. The figure was that of an old man with the appearance of someone in his seventies or eighties, though there was still a proud set to his features and his stern grey eyes were clear and sharp. Neither I nor anyone else present recognised him and there was no discernible sigil or aught else to give further clue as to his identity. Spells to determine when he died proved confusing, with Memorius and Medius getting similarly contradictory results when asked by Gratia to confirm her findings, namely, that he had died both 13 days ago and many years ago. This presumably being an effect of the magics used in becoming a lich, when, as I understand it, the body is slain and then animated as a shell for the spirit. Gratia was able to determine just such a non-hermetic effect upon the body, with lingering traces of some non-hermetic effect involved in controlling flesh. With the investigation into the identity of the lich at an apparent dead end I offered myself for investigation as I had been the target of repeated castings of 'The Indubitable Cold; or some similar effect. Sure enough, Gratia was able to find such a spell, which bore the sigil of smooth, sinuous spiralling. This sigil was also found upon Cormoran's tongue, though none present knew of a magus who had had such a sigil. Medius and Memorius will check the extensive records of sigils held at Durenmar to see if they can find anything else but that was all that could be gleaned there and then. After a couple of days spent poring over old tomes, their investigations bore fruit when they came across a record of just such a sigil, one that belonged to Clerius, a member of House Tremere no less, even though it was dated well over a century ago.

Later that day, Archimagus Motus came to see the Prima and offered to act as her hoplite. While she politely declined, I sense that it is an offer she may yet take up, for while old magi might not think twice about facing off with either Cormoran or I, there can be few, if any, who would not at least pause if faced with the prospect of coming into direct conflict with an archimagus of my former house.

Cynfelyn's private journal: After Motus had gone we discussed whether or not he could be trusted. Fenriata was understandably concerned that he could yet be playing a long game, a little irony that I kept to myself as that fear had been precisely why I decided not to vote for her as Praeca and instead opted for Ponrius, one of several misjudgements I have made that still weigh heavily on me. Fenriata believed that the attacks that had come at us thus far appeared to be hurried, unconcerted affairs and she fears that the main attack is yet to come. She asked me directly whether I thought Motus could be trusted. In truth it was a difficult question to answer, for while my instincts told me that he was as he seemed and if offered the position of hoplite would fulfill it to the very best of his ability, regardless of who or what threatened him or her, I still found it hard to forget the fact that he has long been a member of Holy Isle. In the end I gave a qualified yes, which, quite naturally, was not sufficient for Fenriata to base such a potentially critical decision on. She asked me to speak with Orlania on the matter, to see what that maga thought of Motus. The extent of Fenriata's concerns about future attacks were give further emphasis when she asked me for my opinion on Orlania. Thankfully I was able to give my Prima much more firm advice there, for, despite the bitter disagreement Orlania and I had concerning my actions in Ethiopia, I have no doubt whatsoever as to her loyalty and courage.

It was a tricky conversation with Orlania. The matter of the aborted assassination of Oda Ghosh still lies heavily between us and being nobody's fool she was very much alive to the reasons for my asking after Motus as we walked in the grounds a little way beyond the House Flambeau quarters. However, despite all that, she answered my questions as fully as she could, stating that she thought he was straight-laced and that she would find it very hard to believe that he would stand idly by if there was any hint of corruption. As I made my back to the Ex Miscellania compound and through to the Prima's quarters I heard gossip that Primus Tremere and the Coeris contingent had still not yet arrived even though it was now the night before the Grand Tribunal was due to begin.


Summer

On the morning of the Grand Tribunal, as I rose and carefully strapped on my armour before donning my good surcoat, Orlania and Motus presented themselves to the Prima and were duly sworn in as her personal hoplites. Thus they joined the small Ex Miscellanian procession that made its way through to the main hall where the tribunal would soon begin.

It is a huge building, dwarfing even the conjured space of Archimagus Jolyon's conjuration in Severn Temple. Even Cormoran could stand his full twelve feet in height without difficulty. In the middle of the hall stands a large central table, around which were twelve seats, one for each of the Primi. To the sides of the room were two banks of seats for the Archimagi, some 29 of whom were present, with four unoccupied, three of which represent vacant positions and the last was the Archimagus of Tremere from Coeris. On opposite sides of the hall were the seats for the thirteen Praeci. The remaining attendees were seated in the two broad galleries sweeping gracefully round the first and second floors. The first two rows of the first floor gallery were set aside for the tribunal representatives with the observers crowded in behind them or on the second floor. With Fenriata safely escorted to her seat amidst her fellow Primi, we took up seats on the second floor, save Motus who sat with the other Archimagi. It became quickly apparent as the magi all took their seats that the pre-meeting gossip had been true, Primus Tremere had not turned up.

Cynfelyn's private journal: Primus Tremere's absence could surely only mean one thing, that the conspiracy within his house reaches the very highest levels and that he himself is a lich! Why else would he absent himself from such an important meeting if not out of fear of what Fenriata and the lantern could do? Troublingly, this also strongly implies that he must have had forewarning of the nature of the threat to him. Given how closely guarded that knowledge is, that suggests that his information most probably comes from the response to the lich attack in the woods outside Durenmar. This would surely mean that one of our party is party to the conspiracy. No doubt one of Ponrius, Galfriedas or Ursula, though only Ursula is of House Tremere and so must be regarded as the prime suspect.

Despite our lofty position, the acoustics were uncannily good, doubtless due to some enchantment, as the venerable Archimagus Gravidius, Primus Bonisagus and Praeco of the Grand Tribunal stood to address the assembled throng. After welcoming everyone to the meeting, he outlined the issues which were to be discussed. He spoke in a most positive manner about the application of the Ordo Ethiopicus to form a new house, highlighting the great success of integrating Ex Miscellania as an example. Next he addressed some of the threats that face us as an Order, the rise of the Order of Odin, tales of great warlords to the East of Novgorod, the ever-present danger of the UnNamed House and lastly, but by no means least, the Gifted Christian monastics and the traitors who have chosen to betray their Oaths and aid them. Finally, he brought up the matter of the proposed investigation into the dedicated covenant of Holy Isle, on which point he asked if any of the Tremere present could explain why Primus Tremere was absent. None of the Archimagi of that House said anything, so Gravidius noted that there was no legal compulsion to attend and that the Grand Tribunal could legally proceed without any of the Primi, save the Praeco. Thus, he stated firmly, the tribunal would proceed as planned, with or without Primus Tremere.

Gravidius then went out to describe the meeting's agenda. Firstly there will be reports from all the tribunals and houses, for which four days have been allocated, then, after a feast day, we will debate the main issues. First will be the matter of Ordo Ethiopicus's application to join the Order of Hermes, at which point Gravidius made it clear that Oda Ghosh had already sworn the Oath, presumably to head off any thoughts of rendering the debate academic. Next would be the debate on what can and should be done regarding the Christian monastic sects and finally the future of the dedicated covenant of Holy Isle. Each of these will be allocated a full day for debate and discussion, with the final day set aside for any other business.

I have neither the ink nor the patience to record every last detail of the meeting itself so will instead describe the most important highlights of what went on. The first House report was that of House Bonisagus and was thus delivered by Primus Gravidius. He said that his house was looking into the magical traditions of the Ordo Ethiopicus and had found many similarities with that practiced by hermetic elementalists, who call on the “natural forms” of the elements to provide either elemental effects or to summon elemental creatures such as sylphs or djinn. Interestingly, Gravidius reported that the Ordo appears to have some common ancestry with the Order of Hermes, primarily through Mercurian magics, though the Ordo’s magic appears to be more influenced by Greek than Roman magical traditions.

Next up was Primus Pallaeus of Merinita who raised the issue of the increasing rate of destruction of faerie and magical places. He specifically noted that while the problem may not appear so acute in those tribunals on the edge of Europe, in the traditional heartlands of the Order such as the Greater Alps there are scarcely any faerie aurae remaining. In his unsurprisingly somewhat angry speech he laid the blame firmly at the door of the Dominion and mundanes.

As Primus Tremere was still absent there was no report from his house. Mayhap I was missing some cunningly concealed subtext, but Primus Tytalus appeared to say little, choosing instead to dissemble aimlessly. Primus Bjornaer, in a rare accord with that house's ancient sparring partner, backed Pallaeus’s concerns about the loss of magical and faerie places, highlighting the logging of the Black Forest as a prime example of the growing destruction of the wild places of these lands. The Verditius report contained little more of interest than the Tytalan one, a few words on trade and magical items, but nothing of note. Perhaps the only notable aspect to it was that it contained nothing to contradict the claims of Merinita and Bjornaer. However, next to speak was House Jerbiton. Noticeably failing to directly address the concerns of the two Primi, Primus Jerbiton proffered his house as one with the power to influence princes, kings and mundane rulers into taking decisions more favourable to the Order. He specifically counseled against any form of direct confrontation with the mundanes however, stating firmly that it would not work and appealing to the fact that, like the mundanes, all in the Order are mortal men.

Cynfelyn’s private journal: Except for a sizeable number of Tremere that is!

As with House Tytalus, if there was a meaning or point to the House Criamon presentation it was lost upon these ears. House Mercere drew attention to the growing problem of piracy in the seas surrounding the Iberian peninsula and the problems in delivering messages and taking sea journeys that it was causing. It was also announced that the House has dedicated another Mercere ship and, with that, Primus Mercere called for more resources from the Order to support its growing fleet.

Primus Guernicus then stood and made report on the impact of previous rulings on wizard’s war and certamen. It seems that while there are now fewer wizard’s wars, the number of complaints about magi ‘bullying’ other magi through use of certamen had increased. Gregorius stated his belief that the “new” changes may need addressing. Primus Periculus gave the traditional Flambeau speech about the defence of the Order and the honour of the House, though it some effort not to laugh out loud at his hypocritical pretensions to anything resembling honour and nobility.

Then, finally, it was the turn of Prima Fenriata. There was a clear hush in the room as she stood and denounced those who have forsaken their Oaths and bear only the guise of the living. There was immediate uproar and many magi, including I noted Ursula, sitting on the far side of the second floor gallery, leapt to their feet. Primus Gravidius called for order but his shouts went largely unheeded as Fenriata brought out the lantern. Ursula immediately started sprinting for the shadows offered by the spiral staircase leading down, while one of the Archimagi of House Tremere made a move for the main door. I tracked Fenriata as best I could from the opposite side of the hall, shouting “Lich!” and pointing at her as I hurriedly pushed my way through the crowds. Motus however was more successful in delaying the Tremere Archmage and he was still only halfway across the great hall when Fenriata opened the lantern and the silvery light spread out. He was bathed in the light and almost immediately his flesh was revealed for the decaying, lifeless meat that it was and his inanimate corpse slumped to the floor. Meanwhile, although I had not been able to stop her from reaching the stairwell, Ursula had not quite been quick enough as Medius saw the light catch one of her arms and show it for the dead flesh that it was.

In the pandemonium that followed, Primus Gravidius led the Primi and Archimagi out of the hall, presumably to discuss the matter somewhere quieter. I searched the milling, chattering crowds of magi as best I could for Ursula but could find no sign of her anywhere. I could only assume that she was either lurking somewhere invisible, or, more likely, had apported elsewhere within the covenant. I was seething with barely suppressed rage as I scoured the hall for Ursula. How long had this conspiracy been going on? How many Tremere were now liches and how many more were still human but complicit?

Meanwhile, Cormoran had run after the Primi and managed to catch up with them as they were being admitted to the covenant proper. He was initially denied entry, but Fenriata insisted that as her hoplite he be allowed entry, though he was instructed to wait in an antechamber as the Primi conducted urgent talks in private.

Back in the great hall, I had been joined by Medius and he was able to find traces of the 'Veil of Invisibility' bearing Ursula's sigil. After meeting with Archimagus Motus, Medius quickly nominated us both as his hoplites and we made our way to the Tremere compound with the express intent of finding the traitorous Ursula. The compound is akin to a fortified manor house and I could not help but notice that the grogs on guard duty bore colours other than those of Durenmar. Archimagus Motus wasted no time and rapped loudly on the outer door, demanding that Quaesitor Medius be given access to conduct his lawful investigations. A young-looking, olive skinned maga who identified herself as Maga Xestia of Blacklake Covenant greeted us and calmly admitted us, leading us within towards Ursula's quarters. Once inside the extent of the risk we were taking became clear. We were certain of the corruption within the house and yet here we were, walking into the lion's den. Motus voiced his concerns first and I was in truth grateful that he had done so. Medius was clearly reluctant to abandon the hunt, but would not gainsay the advice of both hoplites and so we made our way out back the way we had come.

From the Tremere compound we went to try and find Inquisitor Gratia, whom we correctly reasoned would be inside the inner covenant with the Primi and Archimagi. Archimagus Motus was permitted entry and was gone for some ten or so minutes before emerging to report that Gratia had been summoned before the Primi and would be busy for some time. Motus suggested that we try and find Quaesitor Galfriedas to see if he could shed any further light on Ursula's whereabouts or condition.

As we hurried across to the Guernican compound, we passed small clusters of magi in urgent and earnest debate about what they had witnessed at the tribunal. We did not stop to talk with any of them. Unlike the Tremere, the Guernicans had seen no need to shut the doors leading into their complex and so we simply walked straight in, having no fear of anything untoward happening within. Medius saw someone he recognised, Maga Winfrieda, Senior Quaesitor of the Novgorod tribunal, and after a quick conversation with her learnt that Galfriedas was within his quarters. When we found him, he was rude and uncooperative, refusing point blank to speak to Medius with hoplites present. Whether his belligerent manner resulted from his complicity with the crimes of House Tremere or his poor excuse for a personality was hard to tell, though one thing is for sure, my Oath was strongly tested at that point. With all the emotion of the day's events coursing through me I would have slain him there and then had it not been for the Code. In any event, Medius was unable to learn anything of use from him so we departed, more than a little frustrated. As we left, I caught a glimpse of Galfriedas hurrying off in the opposite direction, to warn his co-conspirators perhaps? It was impossible to tell.

Walking back through the compound, Medius was stopped by Archimagus Philippus who wanted to know what was going on, my sodales deflected his questions as best as he was able and we carried on. Just as we were leaving the main courtyard, Medius was approached by a more welcome person, Magus Hermocrates, a friend of his. He knew something of what had transpired in the hall that day and was clearly concerned for our safety, He told us that liches have the ability shift between flesh and spirit, though that ability is limited, as we had suspected, by the need to cross thresholds in flesh form. In addition, they may not cross a line of salt. With that, he wished us well and hurried off for the relative safety of House Criamon's quarters. Although I was loathe to place too much faith in so elementary a protection, I nevertheless procured a small barrel of salt from the Ex Miscellania kitchens and spread a line of it across both the main door and that leading to my quarters.

Some hours later, Motus returned, saying that Medius had been summoned to appear before the Primi. We both accompanied him to the fortified gate leading to the inner covenant where our identities were carefully checked and we were admitted. Motus and I were both bade to wait in a side room as Medius was ushered into the room where the Primi were deliberating. After what seemed like an eternity, I too was called before them. The Primi were all seated around a large, ornate wooden table, save for Periculus, who was standing by the fire. My former Primus did not attempt to hide the curl of his lip as I entered the room. Also present were Medius and Gratia, both standing quietly off to one side. I was told that I was formally relieved from the Rule of Silence and was bidden to make full report, starting with when I first learned about the rediscovery of Swallowcliff by magi from Severn Temple.

I gave a full and honest account of all that I knew, doing my best to ensure that none listening could be in any doubt of the roles of the fallen magi from Holy Isle. There was a pause after I had finished my tale as the Primi took in all they had learnt, though in truth I doubt there was much that I had added to the accounts of Medius and Gratia, save perhaps the presence of Llandolwyn inside the regio in the remains of Halls of the Forest. Periculus was first to speak, stating boldly that he believed we, that is to say, me, Medius, Gratia and Fenriata, had all been “gravely misled by diabolic forces”. Were the situation not so serious, I might have laughed out loud at the sheer effrontery of what he said. However, as he went on, it was clear that the facts could be readily twisted out of true to make it appear as though what he was saying was far from unreasonable, likely even. We had, he opined, been tricked into using a weapon made by the UnNamed House to assassinate leading members of the Order and had displayed “negligence, poor judgment and ambition” to bring the weapon to bear at the Grand Tribunal.

I had been prepared for physical and magical counter-attacks but was quite taken aback by this political riposte and realized the very real danger we were in, that if Periculus’s warped version of events was taken as truth then all our efforts could be in vain. Fortunately Primus Criamon at least was unconvinced, saying that he had a very different interpretation to Periculus, one much more akin to ours. Predictably, Primus Guernicus sided with Periculus’s version of events and bluntly accused us of being accomplices in the murder of Archimagus Stephanus (the Tremere lich whose corruption had been revealed in the tribunal hall by the lantern’s light). Thus we were bound over to our respective house quarters, with sombre warning that if we tried to leave then our guilt would be assumed. With that, Medius, Gratia and I were all escorted by grim-faced Durenmar grogs back to our compounds.

Cynfelyn’s private journal: Not knowing what would happen the next day and fearing that there was an all-too real chance that we could be found guilty and lose not only our lives, but also all hope of ever rooting out the corruption in House Tremere and potentially the wider Order. What then? How could that spell anything but the end of the Order as we know it, if it were to fall into corruption and diabolism? Such was my emotion that I stated boldly to all those magi of my house in our main hall who would listen that if the Prima and the rest of us were found guilty then the only possible recourse would be nothing short of a new Schism, a civil war within the Order for it would signify that it had become irredeemably corrupt. My words fell on receptive ears and there were many pledges of support, so when next day I was escorted back to the tribunal hall I was reassured that all opposition to Primus Tremere’s diabolical schemes would not end were we all put to death that day.

Primus Gravidius wore a grave expression as he opened proceedings the next day and told the hushed audience that the agenda had by urgent necessity changed. He charged the tribunal with deciding what happened to Archimagus Stephanus of Tremere, was it the ending of a lich’s existence or the murder of a magus? He formally noted that Prima Fenriata and Inquisitor Gratia were charged with the Archimagus’s murder, while me, Medius and, in absentia, Llandolwyn,. were charged with being accomplices to said murder.

With that he sat down and Primus Gregorius of House Guernicus rose, as accusator, to make the case for our guilt. He spoke much as Periculus had in front of the Primi the previous night, but with much greater fluency and drawing upon many more purported sources of “evidence”. Invoking the long-standing friction between Holy Isle and Ex Miscellania, he accused the Prima of having been so blinded by her hatred of Holy Isle that she used a weapon of the UnNamed House to assassinate members of House Tremere. To add strength to this, he deftly wove in the pagan beliefs that I and many other members of Ex Miscellania share, using Iannos’s murder as an example of the Morrigan’s “hatred for the Latin houses”, blithely ignoring the fact that I was a member of a Latin house when I first forged an alliance with the Morrigan, and that Medius and Gratia were still members of Latin houses. He went on to state that we had been manipulated into entering an infernal regio to get a cursed weapon, left over from the Schism War and that Gratia and Fenriata had both illegally called upon the Rule of Silence, which he said that, when invoked, by law had to be brought immediately before Primus Guernicus. There were more lies and distortions but that was the essence of his case, and, as with Periculus the previous night, to any who had no experience of what was being discussed, it must have sounded all-too plausible. He finished by brandishing a missive which he claimed to have received from Primus Tremere, saying that in it the Primus explained that his absence was due to his fear of an assassination plot leveled against him by plotters from the Stonehenge tribunal.

Finally, it was Prima Fenriata’s turn to speak and she began by describing the very real persecution of members of her house at the hands of Holy Isle magi, noting that members of House Tremere had been at the forefront of such. Furthermore she detailed the full litany of crimes that magi from Holy Isle had been found guilty of, noting the corruption of Darius, Dionysus and Cassitus. She apologized for the commotion she had caused by her use of the lantern, but stated that this had been necessary to reveal the full extent of the corruption that threatens the Order. With that the day drew to an end.

The trial resumed next day, with Primus Tremere now present, the pinkness of his cheeks doubtless little more than an illusion to cover up his corrupt dead flesh. The day was long, with heated arguments and questions flying back and forth for hours until Primus Gravidius called the tribunal to order and said that vote on our guilt would be taken on the morrow.

Cynfelyn's private journal:

That evening, to the surprise of me and Prima Fenriata, Primus Gravidius came to the Ex Miscellanian quarters to speak with Fenriata. As her hoplites, we were all present, though in truth I do not think any of us believed that he came with any ill intent whatsoever. Whatever Gravidius ha to say was clearly something significant for he was most insistent on ensuring that he could speak freely without running the risk of being scryed upon. He began by saying just how disturbed he was by the whole affair and how it was almost impossible to be certain which side was right. However, that said, he went on to explain that House Bonisagus has records not known to Magvillus and, in the light of the accusations made against House Tremere had studied them carefully. Following this he said that he had come to the conclusion that Fenriata was right and thus Primus Tremere was in all likelihood a lich. Given that, and the clear threat that such posed to the Order, he stated quite calmly that he intended to break his house's reputation for words not actions. To my growing delight, Gravidius proposed that we take the lantern into the House Tremere compound and use it to search that place for shadows, from top to bottom if necessary. He was well aware he said that this would in turn make him complicit in the supposed plot against the Tremere, but that, as Praeco of the Grand Tribunal, he simply had to know whether others besides Primus Tremere and his lieutenants were complicit or fallen, or just venal and opportunistic politicians.

Fenriata replied that, to the best of her knowledge, the evidence only pointed to members of House Tremere as liches, namely Dionysus, Cassitus, Clerius, Archimagus Stephanus, Ursula and Primus Tremere. She went on to say that she did not believe that either Periculus or Gregorius were liches, but self-serving, bigoted politicians. She also stated that in her view the Schism was not as cut and dried as was now painted, a statement that Gravidius agreed with. Although in the midst of all the momentous events that were happening at the time I did not dwell overly much on the significance of this last statement, it is one of the things that has subsequently caused me most personal reflection. How much else of our history can be replied on as fact? Have we been systematically lied to by our elders, who in turn were lied to by theirs?


That evening, Primus Bonisagus came to the Ex Miscellanian compound and told the Prima that there was to be direct action taken that night to determine, for once and for all, the truth of the allegations of lichdom in House Tremere. He said that in this he had the support of Houses Jerbiton, Criamon, Bjornaer and Merinita (which, given that Mercere and Guernicus by tradition do not vote, would, with Ex Miscellania, make it a voting majority of the Primi in favour of such a course). The plan was for all those magi who could usefully aid such a mission to meet in two bells time by the Tremere complex. After some deliberation the Prima selected just two others besides we hoplites, Druscilla and Archimagus Jolyon.

At the appointed hour we assembled outside as planned. There were perhaps a couple of dozen magi there, from a range of houses, I saw magi from Bonisagus, Bjornaer, Merinita and Criamon, though it is possible there were others whom I knew not. Primus Gravidius, his age-worn face grave but eyes shining brightly in the torchlight, addressed us. He made it clear that this was not a formal or legal investigation and that our actions might well be judged unfavourably by the Grand Tribunal. He urged us to use minimal force, restraining rather than slaying men where possible. With that the assault began. The Tremere grogs on the parapet were swiftly taken down and Archimagus Jolyon conjured a ring of rock salt around the whole complex to try and at least delay the flight of any liches. An Archimagus of Bonisagus then effortlessly opened the ornate locked doors and we stormed in. There was fierce resistance initially from those Tremere grogs and magi close to the entrance, though they were swiftly dealt with as their parmae withered until simultaneous magical assaults that sought to render them insensible or immobile. We pressed on, anxious not to lose our momentum and give our foes any time to regroup. As we moved on, floor by floor, aiming for the top storey of the main building where it was believed the Primus dwelt, the resistance strengthened, slowing us but not stopping us. Even the Archimagus of Tremere who tried to organize a counter-attack was rendered insensible as all his magics were adroitly counter-spelled by the senior Bonisagi.

Finally we reached the Primus’s quarters and once again the ornate, doubtless heavily magically warded door was swiftly opened by the Archimagus Bonisagus who had opened the main gates. Gravidius had called up Fenriata to the front of our group, so, as her hoplite, I was close enough to see all that went on. The room was filled with a billowing, foul-smelling smoke from which shadowy demonic forms materialised and leapt at us. Sticking close to the two Primi, I spotted one leaping down from the ceiling above Gravidius and was able to knock it to one side with the sword before its claws could reach him. There was fierce fighting ahead of me, magus against magus, the Tremere fatally handicapped by the senior Bonisagi who countered almost every spell they could send against their assailants. Then, as the light from the lantern spilled out into the room, the smoke dissipated and the two main combatants collapsed to the floor, like puppets whose strings had been cut, their flesh aging visibly. For a moment I could still shadowy forms where the bodies had stood, but then, like the smoke, they flickered and were gone.

Just then, there were shouts from behind us as more Tremere arrived. Primus Gravidius turned and with a booming, authoritative voice that quite belied his frail and elderly appearance, shouted “Stop! This is over.” He checked the two bodies and even though the flesh was much changed, it was clear that it was Primus Tremere and Ursula who lay dead. Gravidius took the symbol of House Tremere from the body of Primus Tremere and held it aloft so that all could see. There was a deathly hush from all present as he spoke, more softly this time, “See this? This is the evidence that your house has fallen, the senior members of it twisted and false. You may make accusations in the morning and I shall answer them, but I say to you House Tremere, get your own house clear. We are leaving now, any assault will be taken as an attack upon us all.”

The remaining Tremere magi, mostly young, backed away, palms held out to show their lack of aggressive intent, and we were soon back outside. Once we were a little way away from the compound, Gravidius turned to us and said “Tell your houses what happened here. I will be judged by my peers tomorrow. You have done great service in dealing with a canker that has lurked too long in the Order.”

We filed back to our respective compounds largely in silence, elated but numbed by the magnitude of what we had just witnessed. Conflicting thoughts and emotions were coursing through me as I sat in our house's great hall, with a tankard of ale, thrust into my hands by a jubilant Ex Miscellanian. It seemed almost unreal that we had finally triumphed after such a long struggle, even though I know that with Dionysus, Cassitus and Ieuan still at large the war is far from over. It's still hard to believe that it was almost half a century ago that I, but recently arrived at Severn Temple, sat with Aelfwin and Theo and listened in stunned silence as Garius and Jordael revealed exactly what Swallowcliff was. Knowing that I would be able to get little if any sleep I stayed in my seat, nursing my ale, waiting for the sun to come up and with it the Grand Tribunal's verdict on our 'plot' and the night's raid on House Tremere.

Unsurprisingly, many of the senior magi had already been briefed as to the events of the previous evening when the day's session began. Periculus was clearly furious, while, in contrast, Gregorius seemed quiet, subdued even. Gravidius stood and described in full just what had gone on, taking full responsibility for the attack. He announced that he had found two liches within the compound and held up Primus Tremere's chain of office, offering it as the final evidence of the guilt of Tremere. Furthermore, he stated quite clearly that either the canker was real or he too was complicit in the assassination 'plot' and that he was glad to sit before the judgment of his peers on such a matter.

Gregorius, after a brief pause to collect his thoughts, stood up. He began by confessing his shock at the actions of Primus Bonisagus, but moved on smoothly to state the penalties that he was proposing as Accusator for the now five accused. Before he could elaborate further, an angry Periculus cut in, saying that the matter had to be judged as an infringement of the primary code. Gregorius agreed and said that if found guilty of willfully deploying a weapon to murder magi, the sentence for Prima Fenriata and Primus Gravidius could only be death. For Inquisitor Gratia and Magus Llandolwyn, if the latter could be found and brought to justice, for their roles as primary instigators of the assassination plot, the sentence could be no less than loss of their Gifts. For Medius and I, he judged that although we were actively involved in the conspiracy we had been manipulated and as we were not directly involved in the killing of any of the Tremere magi the sentences would be correspondingly lesser, destruction of his talisman for Medius and a fine of one queen of vis for me, payable by the next Grand Tribunal. Perversely, I felt a little disappointed as I heard the relative leniency of my proposed sentence - so proud was I to stand in front of the Grand Tribunal, shoulder to shoulder with my Prima and the Praeco of the Grand Tribunal, answering for my actions in a cause in whose righteousness I had no doubt. Garius would have approved, I am sure.

Before the vote was called, Gravidius stepped forward and announced that he firmly believed that what he had done was in the best interests of the Order. He and the rest of us should be found innocent of all charges, for those whose murder we were accused of had died long ago, taking their own lives to become liches and thus we had committed no crime. Then he sat and the votes were cast. Of the Primi, only Periculus voted for our guilt, though Mercere, Guernicus, Verditius and Tytalus abstained. The rest of the votes went largely in our favour, with a clear majority voting for our innocence.

Now formally cleared of any crime, Gravidius stood once more and after thanking the tribunal for its “wisdom and judgement” he announced that, before the tribunal could return to its scheduled business, a decision must first be reached about what should be done with regards to House Tremere. He proposed that to ensure that the House was free of all taint, all members must stand before the light of the lantern before the next Grand Tribunal and any that fail to do so will be declared enemies of the Order. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the motion, with even Periculus reluctantly joining the 'ayes'. All Tremere present in the chamber were then called up and one by one duly stepped into the lamp light. None failed the test, so Gravidius announced that on the next day the tribunal would return to its planned agenda. Maybe the corruption does only lie with the upper echelons of House Tremere and the younger members of the House and allies like Periculus and Gregorius are nothing more than politicians, but, even if this is all they are, let the names of those who actively stood against those who battled the corruption be forever blighted by their association with a conspiracy that sought to corrupt the very heart of the Order.

Cynfelyn's private journal: As I slowly followed the Prima out, Archimagus Motus came striding past and turning to me, said, with a triumphant expression on his face, “I hope you're not too attached to your new house, Periculus won't last long.” I said nothing, though from Motus's expression he was not expecting an answer, I believe he simply assumed that as soon as Periculus is deposed I will come running obediently back. Quite a presumption, given that, while Periculus may have been the main architect of my de facto expulsion from House Flambeau, it was not his apprentice who slew Drudwhil. I remain a Flambeau at heart, but I also remember well what Arawn said to me, "a true warrior's heart is loyal and valorous, but also wise. Be not blind to the truths of the world, even for loyalty." For each Flambeau that I respect, such as Motus or Orlania, there are others like Viperion and Lycestus, who speak loudly of honour and loyalty but in truth know nothing of them.

My mood was not further improved when Cormoran tried to show me up in front of the Prima by highlighting my failure to follow strict etiquette when switching between hoplite between Fenriata and Medius and back again. Will he never change???

The next two days were spent discussing reports from the various tribunals. There was much talk of the various threats, both real and potential, to the Order from those tribunals on its fringes. From Iberia came reports of continuing skirmishes with the Moorish sorcerers; the Praeco of the Levant tribunal spoke of the aftermath of the crusade and issued a stark warning about the growing temporal power of the monastic knights and their great wealth; Novgorod discussed troubling rumours of a great warlord to the East of the tribunal, but there was no mention of the Order of Odin. I wonder whether Atroxus still continues his lonely vigil up in the far North?

After two days there was a day of rest during which much trading of vis, items and rare materials went on between magi from different tribunals and I was greatly pleased to be able to purchase a wand carved from a tree struck thrice by lightning, for it is a powerful focus for the 'Incantation of Lightning' and I was happy to part with almost a rook of vis for it from one Magus Ludabius.

Then it was back to business and the first of three great decisions to be made – should the Ordo Ethiopicus be admitted as a new house? I noticed that for the first time Oda Ghosh was present in the hall, serenely watching proceedings with an admirably calm air. Primus Guernicus highlighted the pertinent legal issues and was careful to point out that that there was no need for investigation of the Ordo's members as House Bonisagus had already done that. Therefore the vote was simply whether or not House Ethiopicus would be created or not. At this point, somewhat incredibly, the Tremere attempted to raise a point of Order, saying that as there was no Primus of their house present the vote should be delayed until the next rand Tribunal! I would have laughed had the intent behind it not been so deadly serious. Have they no shame? Maybe it would have been better to simply Wizard's March the entire House. In any event, Gravidius dismissed the proposal out of hand and the vote was taken. It was by all accounts a close run thing, but in the end, after a recount, the Order gave its approval for the formation of House Ethiopicus by a margin of just 6 votes. Of the Primi, just three voted against the motion, Bjornaer, Flambeau and Verditius. With that, a thirteenth seat was brought in and Oda Ghosh took his place at the table of the Primi. With a nod from Gravidius he stood up and the first Primus Ethiopicus addressed the tribunal. He spoke of the great honour that the Order had bestowed upon him in granting him and his House a seat at the table, and how it would be a further honour to stand and help face the Order's enemies. Oda Ghosh then spoke of of his hopes that his House could help expand the Order's knowledge of the arts and reunite the magical traditions of Europe and the Southern lands. There was warm, if not universal, applause for his speech.

The next topic for debate was what, if anything, was to be done concerning the Christian monastic sect. Bitter arguments raged for two days as members of House Jerbiton argued for the use of temporal contacts to keep the Christians in check without any need for direct confrontation, while the Bjornaer and Merinitans made equally strong representation that direct confrontation was the only viable option. The third option, “watch and see”, received little support outside of House Verditius. Eventually, after final representations from both sides of the debate, Gravidius called for a vote. As three-way votes were not permissible, the first vote, which passed almost unanimously, was whether we should take action or not. Then it was down to the main vote, should the Order take only subtle and indirect temporal action or declare the Christian cult an enemy of the Order? This time the vote was closer than even the Ethiopicus vote, with indirect action winning by just four votes.

There was a short recess and then the third and final topic was put before the magi, the proposed investigation of Holy Isle. Archimagus Motus asked Gravidius if he could speak before the debate proper started and, as both an Archimagus and member of Holy Isle covenant, he was duly given the floor. Motus expressed a strong desire for a full investigation of the covenant and all magi who had ever dwelt there, it was he said, the only way to be certain of clearing those magi who were innocent of the taint that traitors like Ursula, Darius, Dionysus and Cassitus had spread there. After the revelations concerning Primus Tremere and the Archimagus's personal request for an investigation, those who might otherwise have bitterly opposed such a motion were silent and the motion was passed with a goodly majority. The question that was then was raised was what to do if the investigation uncovered firm evidence of corruption? Clearly House Tremere could not be trusted with the dedication any longer so either it should pass to a new house or the covenant should be disbanded. Two houses put themselves forwards as candidates, House Flambeau and Ex Miscellania. The tribunal was not minded to let such an important covenant be discarded, with the motion for a new house to take up the dedication winning comfortably, with no Primi voting against it. Predictably the vote for which House it should be was much closer and although I judge that House Flambeau had a slight lead after the votes of the Primi, Praeci and Archimagi were counted, the tribunal representatives voted heavily in favour of Ex Miscellania and in the end we triumphed by some ten votes (including the Primi of Bonisagus, Merinita, Criamon and Tytalus). I will savour the memory of the look on Periculus's face as the results were announced for some time to come!

Gravidius then rose and gave a short speech on what a memorable tribunal it had been, with the Order growing for the first time in many years and his hopes that this will signal a move from Autumn to Spring for the Order. Furthermore he expressed the hope that by the next Grand Tribunal House Tremere would not only be cleansed, but renewed. With that, the ancient Bonisagan made the formal announcement that the next Grand Tribunal will be held in Durenmar in 33 years' time and the meeting came to an end. With both age and twilight seeming to weigh heavily on Gravidius it seems likely that this will have been his last Grand Tribunal, we can only hope that the next Praeco is as true and bold as he. With a lesser man I dread to think of how things could have gone.

Although Medius will stay on for another two seasons, I did not tarry long in Durenmar but left the next day with Prima Fenriata and the rest of the Stonehenge magi. Thankfully the return journey was much less eventful that the outbound one and the Rising Star bore us swiftly home.

Autumn

Cormoran and I arrived back at Severn Temple the day before the Autumn council meeting. Tiarnan was naturally eager to learn what had happened at the Grand Tribunal and was delighted to hear the good news we brought back. He had few notable events to report from the covenant in the time we had been gone, there was some small matter of a minor fey in an old midden beyond the covenant walls bothering some of the covenfolk, but it did not sound serious and he was confident it was all in hand. Of greater significance was his confirmation that the fey season was turning to winter. There was then some discussion about the magical and faerie nature of the trees about the Spring being strengthened, which Tiarnan thinks is connected to Cormoran's rituals, though Cormoran believes that it may be due to the faerie regios having expanded as a consequence of the change in faerie season. I confess that some of the finer details of the debate were lost on me, though in truth I am not sure that either of my sodales was entirely sure of what was cause and what effect. In any event, that Spring Cormoran, watched by Tiarnan, sacrificed a rabbit to the Morrigan, letting its blood fall into the pool and asking her to watch over this place. Within moments of him having done this, the Spring waters bubbled up, much as they do at the Spring Equinox. On checking it was determined that the bloodied water was corporem vis. Provided that the Spring still provides us with Creo vis at the vernal equinox, this is quite splendid news!

The rest of the season passed uneventfully, until a fortnight or so before the winter meeting, when we received report from Blackney that some of the Erequith's blue-skinned goblins and a giant had been seen near Blackney. On investigating, Tiarnan found that the reports were true and that the Snow Queen's minions appeared to be on some form of patrol on a wide circuit through the forest, looping round the West side of Blackney Hill before returning back to the faerie woods. As there was no sign that they had any hostile intent towards Blackney, Tiarnan agreed to keep an eye on the situation but beyond that there seemed little to be done.

Winter

Marius returned just before the Winter council and was similarly delighted by the news from the Grand Tribunal. We were discussing the events of the tribunal and any possible fall-out from them, when Tiarnan happened to mention something that Theo had once told him, about a secret tower within Holy Isle, maybe hidden in a regio of some sort, where Dionysus, Cassitus and Ieuan dwelt. Something to pass on to those investigating that place certainly. Marius told us what he knew of the civil war. He had spent most of the year besieging Norfolk, ultimately triumphing and driving the Duke into flight and exile overseas. The Duke of York was similarly hard pressed, having been forced to retreat to his fortified capital of York, from where he was refusing to move, fearing that the Scots might take advantage of his troubles. The problems for John lie on the continent, where France has paid his brother Richard's ransom and in return Richard has promised much of his continental holdings to France, maybe even some of those in England too. An army of invasion is apparently being mustered for the new year.

Marius said that he had made request that Mynydd Myrddyn be made a royal forest, this apparently means that it will fall under Marius's jurisdiction and mundanes will be able to do nothing there without his expression permission. Marius then talked a little about the man whose candidacy he is taking such a great chance to support. Although not known as an especially pious man, in private audience John is extremely hostile to the Church. He added that the Knights Templar have pledged their support to Richard and the French and consequently John has banned them from England. The discussion finished on an intriguing note as Marius recounted how it seemed to him that people reacted to John much as they would do to someone with the Gift, curious indeed.

Following the sightings of goblins and a giant, there was some talk about the Erequith, in particular her likely attitude to the covenant for it remains a little unclear as to how things were left when the last faerie winter came to an end. Marius, concerned as I as for the safety of the folk of Blackney and Lydney, volunteered to help with any negotiations if needed, his crown meaning that he should at least be listened to. There was further speculation on the changes in the magical and faerie aurae locally and Marius told us that he thinks there has been some sort of faerie awakening across the land, somehow connected to the unity of the Welsh lands and the reemergence of the crown. Further to this he said that he may call a King's Council soon.

Tiarnan reported some further good news, the rent in Mynydd Myrddyn has been repaired by the Ceridwen, the price being a black pearl, which must be delivered to her inside two years. Marius cautioned him to be sure that he paid this debt in full and timely fashion for the Ceridwen is very dangerous if crossed, but Tiarnan seemed confident that he had ample time in which to find such a prize. Marius also reminded Tiarnan that he must apologise to Arawn, a prospect which is clearly altogether more concerning to our Merinitan. However, Cormoran offered to see if he can source a pagan ritual that Tiarnan can enact to fulfill his promise without taking the hazardous step of entering Arawn's realm.

With our discussions complete we moved as usual to the casting of the Aegis of the Hearth. Tiarnan was content to cast it, his studies in recent years having significantly advanced his arts, but, as the purple sheen to our walls shows, it is a difficult ritual to cast for the inexperienced and Tiarnan lost control of the spell. The vis flared up suddenly and I felt the unmistakable touch of twilight wash about me. I was able to resist that but that was by no means the end of it. Something had gone badly, badly wrong and somehow the rego vim spell had rendered all of us unable to cast any magics. Cormoran was quickly dispatched to Blackthorn with a potion of the Leap of Homecoming to seek the help of Magus Theophilus and to our great relief, he reappeared with the Bonisagan soon after.

Unfortunately, Theophilus was unable to remove the effect though he could help us determine its extent. Although Cormoran's talisman does not work and the cords that bind Tiarnan and Kai seem not to be functioning properly, both Cormoran's halberd and Kai are whole so our Gifts cannot have been destroyed. Using the Sight of Active Magics (with full permission) Theophilus could see a rego vim effect bearing Tiarnan's sigil, which he determined was suppressing our Gifts. Indeed, the unique nature of the warped magic sparked Theophilus’s Bonisagan curiosity about such effects, though he was politic enough to be aware of the obvious sensitivity surrounding the issue. Reassured that our Gifts appeared undamaged, the question turned to one of how long would the effect last for. The obvious and distinctly unpleasant option is that it will last a full year…

Theophilus, having said that he knew a fourth magnitude version of the Aegis of the Hearth, checked the covenant to see if anything had resulted from the miscasting. He found that there was a residual magical effect, which extended out to the usual ‘boundary’ area effect. There was no technique associated with it, just vim, and Theophilus speculated that it might be some form of covenant twilight effect, whatever that might be. In any event, it meant that we decided that it would be best not to have a second Aegis cast, for fear of some even worse disaster occurring. With no arts nor Aegis, we would have to rely on what items and potions we have, along with the grogs. With luck, we should be alright, though like my sodales, I was forced to relocate from my laboratory to our mundane library for my season’s research. A week later, when there had been no change in our condition, Marius escorted Theophilus back to Blackthorn, with our thanks for his efforts.

My hopes that the season would pass peacefully and our weakened condition would go unnoticed proved to be in vain. As the winter took firm hold of the land hereabouts, the Erequith and her court came calling. Her entourage consisted of two white wolves, an ice giant standing at least twelve feet tall, a goodly number of goblins and six armoured ‘knights’ dressed in blackened ornate armour, fey of the dark earth I think. The Erequith asked to parley with Marius, speaking from “Queen to King” as she put it, though the tone of her message made clear that it was more than a casual request. Marius agreed to her request and said that she and three guards could enter. She picked her two wolves and one of the faerie knights and walked through the gate. Although it is hard to read faeries such as she, I am certain that she noticed the lack of the usual Aegis, though she made no comment on the matter.

The discussions went back and forth, with more said I think in the subtext of her and Marius’s words that their obvious meaning. I was impressed by the way Marius handled it to be honest for she was clearly pushing hard for some sort of alliance and at the very least, a guaranteed seat on his council, to “redress the imbalance” previously shown in favour of the seelie courts. She was not content to settle for mere “fragile words” and so, after she requested hospitality, she was shown to the outbuildings that house the guest quarters while a council was convened to discuss what could be offered to her without risking Marius or the covenant being drawn into the internecine conflicts of the faeries.

In the end, it was decided that Marius would commit to a balanced structure for the King’s council, which would consist of 12 members, 4 representing the realm of magic, 4 from the mundane world and 4 from the faerie, two of which would be seelie, two unseelie. The two most powerful Seelie courts are apparently Stone and Water, so they will almost certainly represent the Seelie and while it is likely that the court of Ice is one of the two most powerful unseelie courts, Marius was not sure. He asked a favour of Tiarnan, if he could determine which the two most powerful were.

Happily, this proved agreeable to the Erequith when council with her was reconvened, presumably she just assumes that she will automatically be one of the two unseelie representatives. Seemingly content, she offered us a gift, her knightly companion as a servant to us, to learn of our ways. In return she invited one of us to spend time in her court. Marius was alive to the danger implicit in such a gift, speaking carefully of mutual hospitality, to which the Erequith replied that the invitation to her court was open and that anyone form the covenant would be treated as honoured guests in return for the hospitality shown to our new ‘guest’, the warrior, Brador. She made it clear that Brador would follow orders and would be under our authority. We shall see. It is likely that how we treat Brador will be mirrored by the Erequith should any of us visit her, so we must be careful not to keep him confined to the covenant or place onerous duties upon him.

In any event, the Erequith seemed content with the outcome of our discussions and left in good humour, moving gracefully across the thick snows that blanketed the ground until she and her escort were lost from sight. Doubtless there will be trouble to come from her in future but for now all seems well, which, given our current precarious position regarding the Aegis can only be a good thing. Thankfully the rest of the season and thus the year passed without further incident, though my relief was somewhat tempered by the fact that we were still unable to cast magics.

It has certainly been an eventful year! Yet, despite the uncertain position we find ourselves in at present, we should take good heart from the great victory against corruption that has been won this year. We still have enemies aplenty, but make no mistake, we have won a significant battle.

Cynfelyn’s private journal: If I could have one wish, it would be that Drudwhil was here to share in our triumph, for he played as much a part in it as any of us. Yet it has been four long years since his death and while I still feel the loss intensely, the hurt is not as raw as it once was. As the Morrigan made clear, the war is far from over and if we are to put an end to Dionysus, Cassitus and Ieuan’s miserable existences then I will need better protection against all that they will doubtless throw at us. My defences have been found wanting before, it is time to look to the future and, if I can find one, a new familiar. I am confident that it is what Drudwhil would have told me to do, were he somehow here, though I cannot help but feel like I am betraying his memory to even contemplate replacing him.
 You are at: