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Scribed by Tiarnan

Spring 1203 AD


Marius opened the meeting by giving a summary of his trip to the Winter Court of Llyr, noting that the King had agreed to send a representative to attend Marius’ Council of midsummer 1205. Although the Winter Court of Llyr may not be the most obvious choice to be represented on a Council that is concerned mainly with events within the British Isles, it may provide a somewhat detached and objective perspective that may provide balance to the debate, particularly on issues where others may advocate the urgency direct action against their foes. With all four of the seats allocated to the Faerie Courts now filled, Marius stated that he would turn his attention to selecting those members of the Welsh nobility who would best represent the mundane world.

There followed a brief discussion of the creation of a wand invested with Demon’s Eternal Oblivion to combat the infernal foes who have so plagued us. All were agreed that this should be treated as a priority, particularly as few of us are focussed in the required Arts. It was agreed that Cormoran would assist Medius for two seasons starting in Winter, which should allow the creation of a potent device.

Debate then turned to an offer made by De Percy to Marius to provide a subsidy of 50 pennies per year in return for access to any intelligence gathered by our spies regarding the Brothers in Christ sect and their Templar allies. Medius was initially quite hostile to the idea, feeling that it would place obligations on us to deliver information even in circumstances where we might have reasons not to do so. However, the rest of the Council could see merit in the proposal, particularly as we would control the flow of information and choose to omit details as appropriate. In the end, all voted in favour save Medius. Cormoran and I suggested the money put into our general reserves to increase our ability to withstand any unexpected financial crisis given the continued high level of taxation, but Medius, Marius and Cynfelyn voted to use the money to further expand our spy network. In particular, Marius agreed to use the money to establish spies in Dublin with the aim of finding out more about the activities of Guyere and the Fells.

Later in the season, Medius received the alarming news that our iron mine was all but exhausted, with the main seam containing only sufficient unexcavated ore to last a season or so. The miners’ attempts to located a replacement seam had come to nought, plunging the covenant’s finances into a precarious position, as we have little more than two years’ funds in reserve if the mine is not re-established. The head miner was ordered to redouble his prospecting efforts, assisted by one of the grogs. This grog apparently has the fearsome nickname of Iron-nose, not because he, well, possesses an iron nose, but rather due to his family’s uncanny knack of locating iron ore; I hope this man’s ability lives up to to his reputation.

Summer

The first matter discussed at the Summer Council was the results of the prospecting carried out by the miners. Aided by Intellego Terram spells cast by Cormoran and Iron-nose’s expertise, the head miner had located three potential sites for a new mine. The first was situated between Blackney and the covenant. The iron ore was of relatively poor quality and the road to the site prone to flooding, so we quickly discarded this option. The second possible site appeared to have the potential to produce higher quality ore, though it would require a road to be built into the forest, with all the attendant disruption. Most of us were also against this option given our desire to protect the sanctity of this wild place. The third and final option was to excavate into the ridge overlooking the former settlement at Lydney, This appeared to be the obvious choice, for the iron ore was of the highest quality and the site would not require any felling of trees in the forest. The downside is that it will require us to re-establish Lydney as a settlement, which we have long been reluctant to do given its dark history, yet I feel we have little choice. The Council voted to fund the construction of a mine there; it will cost of 1,500 pennies and take up to three years, but Marius agreed provide a subsidy of 500 pennies from his landholdings in Powys. We also instructed the head miner to ensure that all timber for the new settlement comes from afar, as we wish to do all in our power to preserve the forest. This will add 200 pennies to the cost, but I believe that it is more than worth this additional expenditure. Finally, we agreed to grant farming strips around Lydney to the villagers of Blackney and re-affirm the absence of taxation in recognition of the fact that the site of the new mine is likely to diminish the traffic through that village.

Cynfelyn spoke next, describing a trip he had made to the north in search of a new familiar to replace the fallen Drudwyl. Guided by a vision provided by the Anu in the Heart of the Forest, he had made his way along Severn to the village of Bridgnorth. A few miles from the village, he encountered a group of bandits in the process of attacking a family in a wagon. He managed to slay or drive off them off, though not before they had killed two people. There, as predicted by the Anu, he encountered a hunting hound, and the two quickly struck up something of a friendship. After escorting the remaining members of the family back to Bridgnorth, Cynfelyn and the hound, who has the rather unfortunate name of Maelgwyn, travelled back to Severn Temple. One alarming matter of note was that one of the bandits wore a pouch around his neck containing an infernal pact. Whether this is a sign that the Fells may be re-organising once more or merely an isolated case of diabolism, we do not yet know, but Marius agreed to ask our spies to pay more attention to the area around Bridgnorth.

Marius also brought us news of his travels in Wales. While abroad, he had heard from the Prince of Cardigan that a trading ship had gone missing off the coast near St David’s. A single survivor had been washed up days later, his mind addled by his experiences. The man claimed that his vessel had been attacked by a ghostly ship surrounded by a great fog bank. As the sailor and his crew mates sought to escape, they were pursued by demonic figures, who slew many men. Although the attack apparently occurred over a year ago, Marius, Medius and I agreed that we would travel to St David’s in Autumn to investigate the attack given the potential links with the Fells.

Later in the season, Cormoran returned with some disturbing news from his travels within the Dean. While searching for the Heart of the Forest, he had left his companion Ralph at a campsite guarding his weapons to avoid scaring the mysterious hind that acts as a guide to the Heart. When he returned to the camp after a fruitless day searching, he found the site in a state of disarray. There were signs of a struggle, most likely involving wolves, and one of Cormoran’s other companions was able to determine that Ralph had subsequently left the camp. Following the man’s tracks, Cormoran determined that Ralph must have become lost, for he had reversed his course on several occasions, making little progress in the tangled thorns of the forest. Cormoran returned to the covenant to seek aid, and Medius was able to determine from an arcane connection that Ralph was not within the Dean. The most likely explanation for this was that Ralph had wandered into a regio; although there are several such places within the Dean, Cormoran guessed that the most likely candidate was the infernal dell close to Lydney, and he travelled there swiftly using the Cloak of the Raven’s Feathers. As the light of dawn spread across the land, Cormoran spotted Ralph’s body lying by a blackened tree stump at the heart of the dell. Though the man had great gashes all over his body, he lived still, and Cormoran was able to take him back to the infirmary to receive care.

Interrogating him later about his experiences, Cormoran learned that Ralph had indeed wandered into the dell by mistake, where he found the high walls of the place impossible to climb. Corpses emerged from the soil to attack him, and though he was able to strike them down, he was badly wounded in the process, eventually losing consciousness. Medius surmised that this sounded like the use of Psychomachia, an infernal power possessed by many demons that allows them to mislead the senses and implant suggestions. Ralph’s battle may well have been with himself, for the wounds on his body corresponded to the blows he had given. Though we expect the man to recover fully, the possible re-emergence of the infernal power of the dell is a troubling sign, and we determined that Cormoran would spend a few days during Autumn investigating whether the place had become more active, or whether it had always been that way and Ralph had simply been unlucky in coming so close to its centre at night.

Autumn

At the Council meeting, Marius brought back initial news from the spy network that he had established around Bridgnorth the previous season. The spies had confirmed that there had indeed been an increase in banditry in the surrounding area, and there was some evidence that it was centrally coordinated, rather than the acts of independent groups. Some of the bandits apparently have the symbol of a serpent tattooed on their wrists, though this is not universal; whether this represents gang affiliation, status or some darker pact remains unknown. As yet, we have no proof that the banditry is linked to the Fells, but the modus operandi seems very similar, and so we resolved to take steps to thwart the bandit networks should our spies bring us further details of their plans.

Cynfelyn and Cormoran then provided a brief summary of the meeting of House Ex Miscellanea, which took place at midsummer. The first item of business was the appointment of a new Prima, following the Final Twilight suffered by Fenriata. In line with its tradition, the House elected the eldest of its members, Maga Amanita, to the position. Her style is significantly more autocratic than that of Fenriata, and she appears willing to use her powers more directly to cajole or threaten Magi into doing her bidding. The second and final item discussed at the meeting was the selection of Magi to re-establish Holy Isle covenant. Whereas Fenriata had previously indicated that she would welcome applications from across the Order, Amanita clearly intends for House Ex Miscellanea to dominate the Council. She conducted interviews with candidates, both willing and less-than-keen, for a number of days before pronouncing that the Magi Faelon and Cedric of Hibernia, Mac Keel of Loch Leglean and Erin and Geddyn of Stonehenge would take five of the nine seats on the Council. Cormoran was also interviewed for a post, though his open declaration of his interest in druidic practices convinced Amanita that he would be a poor choice, perhaps because it could lead to future conflicts of interest. One direct consequence of the moves is that Erin is unlikely to be able to offer longevity potions on quite so generous terms as in the past, though the exact nature of future costs will depend on the Charter of Holy Isle, which will be drawn up by the aforementioned Magi over the coming season, no doubt with the close involvement of their new Prima.

There were no other matters of note discussed, and so we each set about our activities for the season.

***

Autumn has provided far darker and costly than any of us expected. Medius is dead, the Severn Boar lies broken at the bottom of the sea and I have spent the past few weeks leading a bedraggled group of survivors through the wilds back to Severn Temple. I shall relay the tale as calmly and neutrally as I can for the benefit of posterity.

Our trip to investigate the wrecking of the ship in the waters off St David’s started well enough. Marius, Medius and I first made our way to Grey Hill close to Chepstow to see whether we might learn anything about our journey from the stars in the deepest level of the regio, as they can sometimes grant visions. Medius was able to use the spell Sense the Illusive Boundary to guide us through the complex entrances to the regio, and we soon found our way to the field of stars. As before, we were all transfixed by the majestic spectacle, though only Medius and Horobetrax received visions. Medius described seeing a ship with a square sail, then a lone rock spire rising from the sea, then a cave by the shore in which he spied two green stars that reminded him of eyes, plus the hint of fangs below; Horobetrax refused to speak of his vision on the basis that it concerned him and Medius alone. Still, Medius’ vision provided hopeful, if ominous, suggestions about how we might pursue the investigation of the missing ship, and we therefore set sail in the Severn Boar, arriving in St David’s several days later. Marius swiftly found us good accommodation and then he left us to pay visit to the Prince of Cardigan’s court.

Over the next few days we pursued rumours of the fate of the ship and the lone rock spire through various sources around the docks, but received little hard information to go on, other than the fact that the survivor of the wreck was currently occupying a cell at the local priory. However, while we made plans to visit him, one of the grogs learned that a Jewish usurer named Enoch had lost a great deal of money due to the wreck, and Medius resolved to pay him a visit to see whether he knew any more about what had happened. He found Enoch to be a broken and dejected drunk, though when sobered up, he explained that he had lost his life savings when the ship, the Milford Eagle, was wrecked. He now owed 100 pennies to another Jewish money lender, Zekiel. Medius was sufficiently moved by the man’s plight to agree to pay off his debts, and he travelled to Zekiel’s home that evening to settle the account.

Zekiel proved to be a profoundly unsympathetic figure, for even when Medius paid Enoch’s debt, the money lender produced a document that he claimed gave him the ability to vary the interest rate in the event of non-payment, which he used to justify further charges of 200 pennies. Enoch expressed doubts about whether the original contract contained such provisions, but his signature was clearly appended to the document. Medius attempted to use the enchantment Pose the Silent Question on Zekiel to determine whether the contract had been altered, but to his astonishment, the spell failed, and Zekiel was clearly aware that he had been subject to a magical effect. Fortunately, the money lender assumed Medius to be a member of the Kabbalah, and the Quaesitor made a swift exit after having paid the remaining interest. As Medius hurried through the streets back to the inn, Horobetrax spied a bat following them through the night, though the creature proved no match for the silent hunter, who swiftly brought it down.

Back at the inn, we discussed how to react given the likelihood that Zekiel was likely either a diabolist or Magus. Using Sense of the Lingering Magics, Medius was able to determine that the bat had been created through a Creo Animal spell; he also learned the sigil of the caster: two dark eyes. Realising that Hermetic magic had been used, he also cast The Invisible Eye Revealed and found that we were indeed the subject of an Intellego Animal scrying spell, which was swiftly cancelled when the caster realised that he had been detected. We determined to confront the caster immediately; Medius still held out hope that he might be a member of the Order, though I was all but convinced that he was a member of the Unnamed House.

We made our way quickly to his home, and I used a Muto Herbam enchantment to bend the planks of wood in the stout door so we could enter. At the bottom of the stairs, Medius announced himself loudly as a Magus of the Order, though he received no reply. At the top of the stairs, we noticed a sanctum marking on one of the doors, though the mark appeared very fresh, as though it had been painted on only recently, perhaps to delay us. Medius repeated his announcement, and I once again used the Muto Herbam spell the part the boards of the door. This time, however, I was unable to enter, for a sickly arm ending in vicious claws emerged through the gap, as the infernal creature that had previously masqueraded as Zekiel’s wife sought to bar our passage. The demon resisted my first spell, but I was then able to transform it into an eel, and Medius used his non-Hermetic talents to destroy it. The room beyond was deserted, its former occupant having fled via the window, though we were able to recover a variety of arcane items, some of which were hidden behind an illusory wall. These included a Hermetic text on the Art of Perdo, various spells and treatises on diabolism and the occult. More importantly, there were also notes on the locations and memberships of the Stonehenge covenants, further suggesting that Zekiel was a member of the Unnamed House. We also found several grisly body parts, including a preserved head.

Gathering the items and a good quantity of money from the cellar, we made our way directly to the docks to what we assumed would be the safety of the Severn Boar. However, when we arrived, we found the ship in a state of alert, for the captain’s door had mysteriously rotted away, though no one appeared harmed. Medius used Sense of the Lingering Magics to determine that a Perdo Herbam spell had been used by Zekiel to destroy the door, and he also noticed a strange, unidentified effect that had been used on the captain. He questioned the man for some time but found no lingering or suspicious effects. We sent a message to Marius to warn him of the night’s events, and he joined us a few hours later to plan our next move. Given the important information we had recovered on the Unnamed House, we agreed that Medius and I should return immediately to Severn Temple on the Severn Boar, whereas Marius decided that he would continue his work in the noble courts.

We departed the port at St David’s at first light. The journey to Severn Temple should have been relatively short at full sail, but I noticed after a time that we were not heading directly west. I questioned the captain, who replied that he was trying to avoid a vicious current flowing out of the Bristol Channel, which would result in a more significant delay than going around it. The first mate confirmed this approach, so I put my doubts aside for the moment. A few hours later, we spotted a bank of fog rolling in from the sea. I warned the captain that we needed to avoid this at all costs, and he set a course to outrun it. As the minutes went by, I determined that the plotted course would not succeed, so I ordered the captain to head directly east and I used a Rego Aquam spell to raise a great wave at the stern of the ship to drive it forward at great speed. Despite this, the fog seemed to move preternaturally quickly and we were soon engulfed, which cut visibility to a few yards. Medius attempted to use True Sight of the Air to pierce the gloom, but the spell was not sufficiently powerful. As I concentrated on maintaining the spell to propel us forward, three demonic figures flew through the air and crashed onto the deck. Each was the size of a large man, with black skin, curved horns, bat-like wings and cruel talons. These creatures severely wounded Constantinos and several of the sailors, though the men were able to keep the ship on course and Medius and I safe while we used various enchantments to despatch the creatures.

Heartened by the defeat of these enemies, we pressed on at full speed towards the shore, preferring to risk running aground rather than be caught by the ghostly ship that we suspected was pursuing us from within the fog. However, our spirits were dampened when we heard a loud crack as the mast suddenly splintered for no obvious reason, possibly due to a malign spell. Furthermore, a great green-eyed serpent rose from the waters before crashing against the side of the ship, impeding our progress and throwing most of us down onto the deck. I did not get a good look at the creature, for I remained at the stern marshalling the waves, but it was clearly of huge size if it could throw the ship off course.

It was then that Medius made a fateful decision that was to lead to his end. Having realised that the creature was not infernal, for his Kabalistic magics had no effect on it, he demanded the Virga Fulgaris, intending to use the wand to drive the creature off. I handed it to him, and he rapidly made his way along the deck to catch sight of the creature. I did not see what happened, but there were a series of loud cracks of thunder, punctuated by the screams of the dying. I later learned that the lightning from the wand had hit the serpent, killing or gravely injuring it, but Medius had either mis-judged the distance between himself and the creature or decided to take the risk of being caught by the effect in order to save the ship. Whatever the reason, Medius was hit by a lightning strike and burnt beyond recognition. A few moments later, the ship hit a reef, tearing a great hole in its side. As the fog lifted, there was no sign of the serpent or our pursuers, but the deck was littered with dead bodies, many showing the effects of intense fire. It was clear that the ship could not be saved, for its hull was completely broken in several places. Those few of us who survived managed to struggle ashore using rowing boats; as we did so, the wreck sank beneath the waves, taking her captain with her. The next few days passed in something of a blur, as we organised help for the wounded in nearby villages and eventually purchased sufficient wagons to accommodate everyone. Given the number of severe injuries and bad weather, it took several weeks to make our way from the outskirts of Bideford in the county of Devon back to the covenant.

I have not yet thought through the full implications of Medius’ death, but it is clear that we have lost a loyal and dedicated leader. It is sad that so many of his life’s ambitions remained unfulfilled, yet I know that he will be very much missed by his sodales within the covenant and wider Tribunal.

Winter

The Council meeting was understandably sombre as I recounted the tale of our expedition to St David's and the tragedies it entailed. The shocking news cast a shadow over proceedings, though we resolved to take steps to replace the various skills and talents that Medius brought to the Council as soon as we might. We also agreed that Cormoran would travel north to Blackthorn and beyond to take the information we had discovered from Zekiel to the Senior Quaesitor, Holy Isle and the Praefecta. I appointed Cynfelyn to the post of Ministrator and gave him the responsibility of organising the collection of vis each season and the authority to allocate magical items without consulting the Pontifex. Following the meeting, Cynfelyn successfully cast the Aegis of the Hearth from the text in the library. He had originally intended to shut himself away in his sanctum to bind his new familiar, Maelgwyn, but he agreed to redirect his activities given the likelihood that he would be called on to assist any investigation of the events at St David's.

[Tiarnan's private journal: The papers recovered from Zekiel contained information on each of the covenants and Magi in the Tribunal, though it appeared somewhat out of date. Most of the information was relatively sketchy, though there was significant detail on Holy Isle (particularly Galfredus, including his ability with Certamen and favoured Arts) and the location of Trevalga. In addition, the names of Maia and Jerriana at Blywyddan were crossed out, possibly indicating that they had died. The information appeared to relate to a period shortly after the appointment of Ponrius as Praeco, perhaps around 1193AD. Cormoran returned from Blackthorn a day or so later with a request from Serenea that we should not disseminate the information further given the potential connection with the Unnamed House and the possibility that it had been obtained from a spy within the Order.]

Later in the season, the Magi Faelon, Geddyn, MacKeidh, Orlania and Serenea arrived at the covenant. After I had given them a detailed description of the events at St David's, they asked Cynfelyn and I to accompany them to see whether any further information on Zekiel might be found. At Zekiel's house, Sereana and Faelon used various scrying magics to examine the events of the night, and MacKeidh, who apparently possesses various unusual arcane talents, was able to determine that a dark spirit had also been present during the previous encounter. It was MacKeidh's view that Zekiel used the spirit to dominate the wills of the animals he created using Creo Animal magic, for the spirit rode on the back of the bat he summoned, whispering instructions into its ear.

Further investigation was also made of the madman who survived the attack on the Milford Eagle. By posing as concerned visitors, the Quaesitori were able to gain admittance to the priory to see the man, and they learned that the attack had taken place off the coast of a small village to the north of St David's. I spent several hours exploring the surrounding seas before I spotted unusual turbulence in the currents that, upon careful investigation, appeared to indicate the presence of a hidden Regio. Using Glimpse Through the Mystic Veil, I was able to determine that the Regio contained a single rock spire to which a ship might once have been moored and also a deep sea cave where a serpent might dwell. However, of the ship and the serpent themselves, there was no sign. When I took this news to the rest of the party, we debated whether to enter the Regio to investigate further, but in the end we decided to await the arrival of the ship from Solis Castle next year given how vulnerable the Magi would be in a rowing boat if the serpent was still present.

Little else of note happened during the season, except for the arrival of news of further attacks on merchants by bandits on the roads between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster.
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