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Scribed by Fabius

Spring 1224 AD


The year began with all magi in attendance at the spring council, Marius returned from his season in Powys. We started by relating news from the previous season and the Archimagus told us that both magical and faerie sites within Wales appeared to be more active, with increased interactions between the mundane folk of the land and the denizens of these aurae. He went on to say that he may have to further negotiate borders at a future King’s Council, to prevent conflict arising between the faerie and magical, and the human population. The Archimagus also related some of his wider political concerns since becoming King and crushing the Earl of Gloucester’s rebellion in the West. Alexander, the King of Scotland, has married John’s daughter Joan after she was smuggled out of England following Henry’s imprisonment. Marius is still concerned that Alexander may be persuaded to mount an invasion of the North, possibly in coordination with nobles within England like the Earl of Norfolk, to challenge his position as King. He is very keen to avoid further civil war and will continue to spend time in York negotiating with Alexander and his noble representatives.

Husam told us of his travel to some of the Southern Covenants last autumn as Covenant service. It seems that he was not welcome at Trevalga; Augustas having heard that Husam’s pater was apparently behind the murder of several senior magi in the Levant, including a member of House Jerbiton who Augustas knew personally. However, he was able to speak with Liberata, the Tytalan, during his over-night stay. She is very keen to improve her access to books, particularly the lore of the faerie folk. She has works on the practices of the occult and magical creatures that she would be happy to trade. Thus Husam spent most of the season resident at Carrion Moor, where he received a better welcome. Kira has stated that she would be keen to trade Animal, Auram or Corporem vis in exchange for Muto, Aquam or Vim vis. In addition, she allowed our Ex-Miscellanean to review that Covenant’s spell library; with a view to trading spells sometime in the future. On the issue of vis trading, Astrius reminded us that Borri-Tor was interested in trading Intellego and Imagonem vis in exchange for Ignem or Herbam. The Pontifex suggested that he would keep back a reserve in these latter forms in the hope of future trade. Lysimachus pointed out, however, that individual magi had the option to make these trades using personal vis that they hold; perhaps grouping together if the amounts of vis are too small to warrant the journey.

Maximus had visited Blackthorn recently and discovered that they possessed a 9th magnitude version of the ritual “Open the Intangible Tunnel”, and reminded us that Cormoran had left a goodly amount of vis with which to trade for such a spell. Our Quaesitor admitted that the spell was within the private library of the covenant, but appeared confident that a deal could be struck. Speaking rather carelessly he appeared to imply that the Praeca, Edith, would likely agree to such a deal because the Quaesitor had agreed to authorise a Wizard’s War between herself and Primus Kentigern at the end of the last Tribunal. Marius responded angrily to what this might have implied, though was quick to be placated when the rest of the council stepped in to deny that Maximus intended to mean that this trade would be a favour for having allowed the two magi to step outside the code!

There followed a long discussion regarding future services to the Covenant this year. Astrius and Maximus will investigate the village of Cotterley in summer (Marius will ensure the Knight of the manor is drawn away to court for the whole season). I shall create a limited enchantment to assist the investigation, a device which invokes an effect called ‘Intuition of the Ashes’ which will hopefully help the magi locate the site where Duncan of Lydney was put to death. Husam will be working with the Steward this season, to learn something of trade and commerce in preparation for work in Bristol. Lysimachus intends to travel across country to Narwold in summer and take opportunity to visit the cities of Oxford and Cambridge in the hope of establishing some contacts within the Universities. Marius, as ever, will be abroad dealing with affairs of state.

The season was a quiet one within the covenant though magus Frioc, former apprentice to Cormoran, arrived in the covenant and stayed at Severn Temple for much of the season. It appears that Maximus was formally required as a Quaesitor this season; though he did not reveal anything about the case and I had no inclination to spend much time with Frioc to find out.

Summer

With Archimagus Marius still abroad, we met for our summer council. Maximus claimed his season of formal investigation as covenant service, but revealed no details of the case (though judging from Frioc’s obvious frustration, I suspect he was not happy with Maximus’ ruling). Astrius brought up the issue of Longevity potions and requested the younger magi identify when they might have need so that sufficient reserves of Vim vis could be made. Husam indicated that he would need a potion the year after next, Maximus in 6 years and Lysimachus in 10 years. There will be two groups heading out of the covenant this season; Lysimachus will travel over land to Oxford and Cambridge, calling in a Narwold to speak to Matthias regarding his contact within Cambridge University.

Astrius and Maximus will attempt to discover more about the group of four Crusaders who kidnapped the pagan Duncan from Lydney. Our spies believe he was taken to the village of Cotterley, at the border between Somerset and Devon. Maximus will travel without guise, given he is now a Magistrate, and claim he is investigating an escaped criminal from Gloucester (Robert, a farrier) who has family in the area. They will use this deception to search the area using the device I constructed last season and Maximus’ ability to see ghosts. The hope is that they will find Duncan’s spirit and be able to question it, and through this identify the extent of the Brothers in Christ sect’s activities in the west. It is clear that there is some danger; for should these Crusaders suspect the group’s true purpose they may attack. As well as the magi, a number of grogs will travel with them to provide additional protection.

The party returned about a month into the season, but something was very wrong. Astrius locked himself away in his sanctum and was entirely uncommunicative upon the few occasions he emerged. Maximus appeared most upset at whatever had happened in Cotterley, he busied himself with study from the Creo book for the remains of the season. It was clear that something terrible had happened during their investigation, but what it was I could not guess.

Autumn

We had a full council once more for the beginning of autumn, though not for long. Astrius and Maximus were clearly still disturbed by the events from the last season; our Pontifex glassy-eyed and distant, whilst Maximus appeared fretful and anxious. We briefly heard news from Marius; that a treaty had been wrought with Alexander, but he did not have much hope of it holding for any great time, and that news had come to him of communication between Henry in the tower and the Earl of Norfolk which suggested a treacherous conspiracy between them. Lysimachus related a productive season. At Oxford, Lysimachus had made some contacts amongst the students and some of the masters of the college, and secured a role as a visiting master through a meeting with the Bishop of Oxford. In return for a term tutoring in Greek, he will have access to the library for the rest of the year. In Cambridge, his companion Phillip recognised an old friend from his own student days in Paris now teaching at the University. Here Lysimachus has obtained less formal access to works from the library in return for exemplars of works we possess here.

Then Maximus’ related the investigation last season in Cotterley. With obvious emotion suppressed in his voice, and with Astrius appearing oddly subdued, he told us of events which cast some light at last upon the strange demeanour of our sodales since their return.

The cover story they had prepared appeared to be accepted without question, and the group were able to make contacts amongst the villagers and search the areas of woodland in the vicinity of the village without raising suspicion. Marius interjected with an apology; he had intended there to be no noble presence within the village, and had been unaware that the knight was recently married and had left the Lady of the manor behind. However, it seems that this caused few difficulties as she was welcoming and kindly, and supported all of Maximus’ requests to make search of the village and surrounding lands for the ‘runaway’. Even the monks of a local priory and the village priest appeared taken in; apparently Father William’s concerns were focussed on the well-being of our Quaesitor’s soul, as he took Maximus’ confession and insisted he walk bare foot for a week as penance for his admitted sins. However, the investigation uncovered little during this time; Astrius using the spell ‘Pose the Silent Question’, cast without word or gesture, to secretly interrogate the villagers, but revealing nothing.

The breakthrough came when the steward of the manor, Jerome, was questioned. He was able to identify an approximate location as to where Duncan was burnt, discovered that a Brother Hugh had ordered his abduction and execution, but a third question to uncover more of the plot went awry; Astrius receiving no answer to the spell, and Jerome suddenly appearing quite agitated and excusing himself.

The magi pushed on to a nearby wood, called the Knareswold, where Jerome had unknowingly indicated that Duncan had met his end. As they searched the wood they happened upon a poacher, who they captured with some fairly blatant magic and interrogated. The poacher, fearful for his life, related what he had seen in the wood several years before; four figures carrying a fifth making their way in the dead of night through the small forest, and later hearing screams and the flickering light of a large fire lit from a glade within the wood. The poacher was able to lead them to the glade, and they let him go with a little coin; with the threat that a word about their activities would spell certain doom for the poacher and his family.

Maximus used magic to summon the ghost of Duncan and speak with him. It appears he saw little of his attackers, save 4 cloaked men who grabbed him in the darkness of his house in Lydney and transported him gagged and blindfolded to this spot in the wood. They addressed each other as Brother, a title normally reserved for monks, which appears to confirm our suspicion that the ‘Brothers in Christ’ sect was involved. They asked no questions of him, but offered him a chance to repent his sins and beg forgiveness before his execution. Duncan refused, and he was burnt alive within the glade. Astrius detected an infernal aura within the glade, perhaps a consequence of the execution or the lead brother’s assignment of Duncan’s soul to Hell. Maximus took the time to lay Duncan’s spirit to rest before the group of them left.

The decision was taken to return to the Covenant at this point, lest Jerome’s suspicions had been aroused by the spell that had gone awry. But, it appears that our enemy was already alerted, as upon their return to the village a messenger from the manor appeared claiming that ‘Robert of Gloucester’ had been captured and was being held at the manor awaiting the magistrate. The magi considered their options until after dusk had fallen, knowing it was not possible that ‘Robert’ had been captured, for the man never existed, but at the same time not wishing to compromise Maximus’ role as a magistrate by ignoring the message. Marius commented that whilst it could simply have been a trap, it was more likely in his mind to have been a test; perhaps to see whether the magistrate was really there on the business he’d stated. Anyway, the magi determined to leave without visiting the manor. Astrius set Maelgwyn to watch for pursuit whilst the rest headed away from the village.

It seems that Maelgwyn spotted light moving from the manor, sometime after the magi had left. It seemed they were not heading to the village, so Astrius used the ‘Seven League Stride’ to apport back to the border of the wood to investigate.

Then, heavy hearted, Astrius took up the tale; relating that he tracked the four men to a barn attached to a farm house not too far from the village. There he discovered them engaged in some sort of religious ceremony; with a makeshift altar and banners depicting an angel bearing a sword. He recognised Jerome amongst the three kneeling, whilst a monk (perhaps this Brother Hugh) led the rite. Recognising that these were the four men who had abducted and killed Duncan, and knowing them now to be part of the religious sect which killed Giraldus of Mercere, Astrius made short work of trapping them using webs within the barn and summoning walls of fire which burnt them alive. As he left, leading some of the horses from the nearby stable to safety, he espied a star burning very brightly above him; but our Pontifex could not bring himself to relate anything more of this tale, save for the fact that every man, woman and child within the village and the manor was most certainly dead.

Here Maximus took up the tale again, saying that from the camp perhaps a mile along the road they had spotted this bright star casting down a beam of light through a gap in the clouds. They watched as a trace of light cast down from above, like a shooting star, landing somewhere not too far from the village. Maelgwyn then appeared at the camp, telling them that an angel had descended from Heaven to slay Astrius and that they should flee for their lives, before turning back and sprinting towards the village.

It is not clear what happened to Astrius; how our sodalis could have survived the assault of such a being, or why he had appeared at the camp the next day stained with so much blood. But it was clear that Maximus believed that our Pontifex had slaughtered everyone within the village. Marius took his leave almost as the story ended, apparently one of the grogs saw him making his way to the spring via the temple gate, and did not return for the season. Maximus remained to obtain access to the Intellego book before walking from the council room. It is clear that he is horrified by what he believes is cold-blooded, mass-murder.

With two magi gone, Astrius indicated that he would extract vim vis for the Covenant, and the rest of us identified any resources we might need from the Covenant. As the council broke up, I was left reeling from the events related; questions and consequences preventing me from getting much sleep over the next few nights. I can’t believe that Astrius would kill all those villagers, but with his silence on the matter and clear feelings of guilt, I don’t know what else to believe.

Allanus attended the Covenant come weeks later, bringing news of the treaty with Alexander we had heard from Marius as well as other news from around the Order. It seems that House Tremere are warning of the threat presented by this army of the Mongols, lead by a Genghis Khan, who have slain many of that House’s allies during a great battle at the Kalka river in the lands of the Rus. News also came that last season, Francis of Assisi, leader of the monastic sect called the Franciscans, was afflicted with ‘stigmata’; spontaneous wounds which apparently echo the injuries received by Christ upon the cross. Finally, in Marius’ absence, it appears that House Jerbiton have met and narrowly voted to continue to support our Archimagus’ actions in the mundane world. They also encourage magi to form links with some of the Universities springing up around Europe in the hope of fostering better understanding and relationships with the mundane world. Finally, they joined House Tremere in expressing their deep concern regarding the Mongol armies coming closer to Christendom, calling upon House Flambeau to assist these Houses in containing the threat.

The rest of the season was quiet within the covenant.

Winter

Marius was still away when the council met at the beginning of winter. I have never known such a subdued council meeting, with Maximus leaving barely half way through, apparently unable to sit at the council chamber with Astrius. We determined our activities quickly and the council broke up after less than half an hour.

Marius returned part way through the season. I believe he spoke long with Astrius and Maximus, but did not tarry more than a night before travelling out again. As the season drew to a close, heavy snows and thick fog cast a dour atmosphere over the Covenant; almost as an echo of the heavy shadow hanging over our council over the last months; after such terrible events I shall be glad for the promise of spring and the hopes of a new year!
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