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Scribed by Astrius

Spring 1229 AD


After the covenant's return, the council assembled for the first complete council meeting in some time, over 4 years if one is to go by the passage of time in the mundane world. Naturally, the meeting centred on discussion on what exactly had happened to send the covenant into a deep regio and what might to be done to prevent it happening again or to ensure we are better prepared should it do so. There was little to go on in terms of uncovering a cause and with a promise from Archimagus Petrus to investigate in the near future we moved swiftly on to more practical measures. Uppermost is the construction of a magical store to preserve a greater range and quantity of foodstuffs, both cereal and meat. The construction of several wards against fantastic beasts was also met with wide approval, I suggested that metal circles be inlaid into the floor of the great hall such that wards could be safely and quickly erected there without the fear that a clumsy grog might break a circle of salt or some such. There was some discussion about one or more council members learning the Aegis of the Hearth formulaically, so that if so pressed again it could be cast without the need to carry the book around.

With morale amongst the turb and covenfolk having been so badly affected by the time in the regio, we decided that in addition to several feasts, we would award those who had several with notable valour or fortitude with trophies, both practical and decorative. New winter boots or cloaks for all covenfolk and inscribed torcs for those grogs who had shown especial valour.

Both Marius and Maximus expressed their intent to attend the Grand Tribunal in Summer. Of hermetic news, we learnt of the appointment of a second nominated hoplite, Maga Kira, who beat Magnus to that position. Marius reported that there were no pressing mundane or faerie matters, with even the Erechwydd being quiet of late. His only news of note was that his son and apprentice, Urien, has been made Prince of Powys.

On the matter of our reduced numbers, Marius offered to loan us a few of his most trusted Powys soldiers. I was reluctant at first, for all that I trust Marius's sworn men, a covenant should be guarded by those who have pledged their loyalty to it and no other. However, the practicalities of the situation forced me to reconsider, though I have instructed the captain and steward to prioritise recruitment to the turb. Lysimachus also volunteered to oversee a thorough inventory of the covenant to ensure that any and all matters relating to the incident can be assessed and dealt with properly.

Matters moved on to seasons' service, with Fabius making request to be excused this year for he had spent every season last year in service to the covenant. Although wary of setting precedent, it was nonetheless a fair request, for under the Charter all magi are entitled to at least one season of their own time, and so, making the reason for the exception clear, I granted him such an exemption. Husam restated his intent to begin his activities in Bristol in earnest in Autumn this year.

With all other matters concluded, and after request that what I spoke of would be kept to the council only, I finally told the part of the tale of the events at Cotterley in full, explaining the reasons behind the horror that had befallen that place. I explained how my attack on the 4 members of the Brothers in Christ had seemed almost anticipated by them and their exaltations had, on reflection, an air of martyrdom about them. Even though that night is some years ago now, the events are as clear as if they happened just yesterday: the strangely disturbing light streaming down upon me from the star; the impact of the angel, if that is what it was, as it fell to earth; and, the fear coursing through my veins as I brought the potion enchanted with the 'Leap of Homecoming' to my lips and finding myself still standing on that eerily lit hillside.

The memories of that terrible night made my heart pound as I carried on with the tale – how I had run into the thick woods seeking to escape the angel but to no avail, finding it floating, shining in its own light in front of me, its sword bright and keen. I spoke of how it had urged me to repent and bend my knee before the Lord. Then, of how, after my repeated refusal to submit and its dismissal of my dry-mouthed demands that it explain the morality behind the torture and murder of Giraldus, it attacked and, believing myself to be far from any mundane and in any event unlikely to survive, I activated Tetheryn, the spirit-bound blade that I had helped forge over a decade earlier to take battle to Ieuan. I remembered the wounds I suffered and the grim satisfaction and surprise of feeling the angel's wing crack beneath Tetheryn's keen edge, but the core memory besides my own fear was that of the building and eventually overwhelming rage from Tetheryn as the wild spirit bound within it overcame my senses.

I finished the tale by telling of how I awoke covered in blood with no memory of what had happened, save for occasional, awful, flashbacks, and found the body of the angel nearby, apparently broken and dying, but when I showed it mercy it appeared before me, whole once more and offering up some further homily before departing.
At this point I explained something of the nature of Tetheryn, stressing that the wild and dangerous spirit that is bound within the blade is purely magical in nature and how it was intrinsically tied to me through the ritual that created it. I made clear that this was the first time that it had overcome me and that I had only felt the spirit stir a couple of times since its construction. As expected the sword raised many questions, with Maximus repeatedly stating his view that I was unfit to be a hoplite while I bore it.

There was much discussion as to the exact nature of the creature that sought me out and, after I refused to bend my knee and accept God into my heart, raised sword against me. The banner the Christian cultists were praying beneath, that of a sword-bearing angel above a crown of thorns, may have some significance, but its precise nature was not known. Lysimachus said that as he understood things it was theologically impossible for mere men to 'summon' an angel. Perhaps it was some lesser creature with merely the guise of an angel, but from the descriptions my sodales have read, it certainly sounds like the angel known as St Michael and its apparent origin from beyond the lunar sphere would appear to support that. Yet, if it were such a powerful entity then how did I survive the encounter, let alone apparently wound it so grievously?
Marius believes that God was trying to test me and if possible turn me to his service as some sort of pious magus. Marius said that the christian's holy book, the bible, is littered with examples of the fiercest opponents of christianity becoming its greatest champions.

Maximus, a little reassured perhaps but clearly still unhappy, then asked Marius about the mundane fallout from the massacre. Fortunately, Marius had been able to quickly and effectively deal with such, pinning the blame on a nearby band of rapists and cut-throats who he had pursued and executed by the King's men. He believes that with so many slain, the village of Cotterley will fade, though the Priory remains, albeit with new monks. He noted though that there has been talk of spirits about the place, I suppose ghosts and the like are the very least that can be expected after such grim events, we will have to keep an eye on the place to ensure that the land does not fall such that worse than the restless dead walk there at night.

Astrius's private journal.

Although I explained almost everything to my sodales, I withheld several facts, such as the true nature of the spirit being that of a dragon, albeit a juvenile one. I do not believe that any of them will link its creation back to my journey to the covenant of Dun Croigh and beyond into the far highlands of Loch Lagleann in 1211, nor do I wish to betray the secrets of Maga Moira, who died during its creation.


With the conclusion of the council meeting, we set about recasting the 'Aegis of the Hearth' and celebrated it with a bigger feast than usual, memories of long weeks on gruel still linger. A week or so into the season, as I was instructing Evan, now a young man, in the finer intricacies of the art of ignem, a letter arrived from Lysimachus. In it he reported an encounter with our old foe Benedict, one of the former Fell masters from Bristol. Lysimachus wrote that he did not believe Benedict knew who or what he was and thus he was content to remain in Oxford to continue his work at the university. I passed the information on to Husam who said that he would in turn relay it to Thomas de Percy to see if there were any mundane assets in or around Oxford who could be set to watch for further sign of Benedict.

There was no further word from Lysimachus and the rest of the season passed uneventfully, save for an intriguing report from Constantius who said that following on from the year spent within a regio he had gleaned some significant insight in his alchemical practice. Constantius believes there is likely a connection between the two events and given his background I am inclined to believe him, though what it signifies I know not.

Summer

The council meeting began with Lysimachus recounting in full his tale of his encounter with Benedict in Oxford. He had been in an inn in that town, when he espied an ill-set trio, one of whom wore the brown robes of a monk, the other two, men of cruder demeanour, wore greasy, waxed cloaks. Our young Bonisagus and his companions found the presence of the men distinctly unsettling and to add to their suspicions, the grog Osma heard a voice speaking something in his head. Although he could not comprehend the meaning of the words, he reported that they sounded like the tongue used by the wizards, that is to say, Latin. Also, shortly before he and his unsavoury companions left, the monk walked over to the fire and surreptitiously cast something into the fire, causing the flames to burn red. Sergeant Geoffrey caught the gaze of one of the ruffians, but got nothing more than a fierce glare. That night, Osma reported troubling dreams, though all he could remember come morning was an image of himself standing by an open grave. The landlord confirmed that the men were semi-regular visitors, but while he clearly liked not their manner, their coin was good so they were tolerated.

Although we cannot be certain, the evidence seems clear to my mind and that of my sodales that this is Benedict. The key question is, what to do about it? We know from bitter experience in Bristol of his uncanny ability to use spirits, both shades and demons, to identify and track those seeking to find him, especially those using magic to do so. For his part, Lysimachus intends to take no direct action, nor change his plans, for he has taken a position as a tutor of Greek at the university there and does not wish to jeopardise that. To add to the potential tinder box in Oxford, it seems that the Bishop of Oxford is something of a zealot, for he has had some ‘heretical’ texts removed from the university library.

That season, whether by coincidence or something more sinister, Lysimachus once more ran into Benedict on his travels. He was staying in the inn in Witney, a village lying a little under a day's travel to the west gate of Oxford, when he heard a commotion from without. There was a scream and on investigating he saw a man age and wither away before his eyes. As he watched this, he noticed a bat flitting away in the sky. On investgating it turned out that things had been going wrong for about a week, when a shepherd went missing near the “Devil's Circle”, a hill just off the road between Witney and Oxford. There was talk amongst the villagers of figures dancing on the hill at night and of people going missing from the road, never to be seen again.

Suspecting the hand of Benedict in this, Lysimachus gave one of the grogs with him his Leap of Homecoming potion, along with a message about what he had seen, saying that he was going to report it in his mundane guise of Alexander of Oxford to the Bishop there. His fear was that not to do so risked irredeemably compromising his mundane reputation should word of the witchcraft reach the bishops' ear from another source. He decided to scribe a message to the Bishop in his mundane guise of Alexander of Oxford, speaking of the witchcraft he had witnessed. While Lysimachus waited in his university quarters, Philippe delivered the message to the Bishops' house, but to both he and Lysimachus's surprise the Bishop did not wait to speak with Lysimachus but instead went at once to the Earl and taking Philippe with him, gained 2 knights and a dozen men and set out for Witney that very same night.

Back at the covenant, on receiving Lysimachus's message, we discussed what could be done, given the likely heightened mundane sensitivities to any sign of magic in or around Witney. In the end, Husam set forth in the shape of an owl, with several items from covenant stores for his protection. After some initial difficulty, he was able to speak with Philippe, who was staying in the village tavern, the Bishop and his men being in the knight’s manor house. After confirming that all was well within Witney, he set off for Oxford to speak with Lysimachus. Before he did so however, he saw that the Bishop had arrested a woman and tied her to a stake in the middle of the village. Knowing that the guilt lay wholly with Benedict, and thus the woman was innocent, Husam took the decision to free her, bidding her to flee as far as she could. With this good deed done, he then flew off to Oxford to seek out Lysimachus.

He found his sodales in somewhat pensive mood, for he had been paid a visit by Benedict’s demon while alone in his room, with no leap of homecoming potion, having given it to the grog he sent back to the covenant. Lysimachus had been sitting at his desk when suddenly the room was plunged into darkness and he heard the sound of the bolt on the inside of his door being drawn back. Quickly conjuring light from his staff, he saw a man with small red horns step uninvited into the room. With an admirable lack of hesitation, Lysimachus flung a ‘Ball of Abysmal Flame’ at the figure, correctly judging it to be a demon. However, to his dismay, the fire merely washed harmlessly off the creature, suggesting it has a protection of at least the seventh magnitude. The demon seemed unconcerned by the attack, saying that it simply wished to talk. Although at first afeared, after some talk about Greek philosophy, on which subject it seemed very well read, Lysimachus listened to its offer. It claimed that Benedict had sold his soul many times over and it would enjoy seeing him dragged screaming down to hell. To this end, it told Lysimachus that Benedict was planning to conduct a ritual at the Devil’s Circle that night, during which time he would be sufficiently distracted as to be vulnerable to an attack from an outside source.

When Husam flew back with news of this offer, he, Fabius and I debated long and hard with as to the wisdom of sallying forth and making attack on Benedict. Although I was sorely tempted, in the end, especially given the source of the information and the dangers inherent in entering a potential infernal regio of unknown power, we decided that it was too risky. Maybe if Tiarnan or some of my other older sodalibus were still here I might have gone flying off into the dark night to do battle with Benedict and his demon, but they are gone and now I am the covenant’s Pontifex, and the only magus here of sufficient age and hermetic power to face them in direct battle should they choose to attack us. In the end it would be taking a gamble with the covenant’s future, something I am sure this demon would be only too glad to see.

Looking back, once returned within the safety of the Aegis of the Hearth a few days later, Lysimachus said that he thinks mentem magics or maybe some form of psychomachia were used upon him, for his initial fear quickly disappeared and he became unusually curious about what the demon had to say. In any event, the demon’s propensity to talk does not diminish the threat he poses, not least to Lysimachus.

Autumn

The council meeting focused primarily on the matter of Benedict and the possible evil that lies within the Devil's Circle. I was heartened to see that while some of my sodalibus lack in years they neither lack in courage nor the desire to put an end to such diablerie so we resolved to mount an expedition before the end of the year to go and deal with the Devil's Circle and whatever lurks there.

Of matters pertaining to the rest of the season, I agreed to brew another batch of potions of the Leap of Homecoming to replenish our depleted stocks of such. Lysimachus will speak with various candidates for the position of master of the university Marius is building in Gloucester, which it seems is to be known as the “King's College.” Marius, unsurprisingly, will be abroad on some mundane business or other.

Maximus gave a detailed report on the Grand Tribunal, although much of note took place, happily there was not the high drama of the previous such meeting. One of the first matters raised was Primus Motus’s briefing on the current threats to the Order. Potentially the most dangerous, the Golden Horde, a vast horseback army that comes from the great steppes to the East of the Order. The Horde has magicians who practice a shamanistic form of magic, with wide-ranging powers of no little potency. They can use spirits as spies and also to enhance men's strength and toughness, as well as striking fear into their foes. Apparently the lands that they hold are three or four times the size of Europe, which if true, would suggest they are a powerful force indeed to rule such a vast area.

The Order of Suleiman, a mysterious but large body of magicians who dwell in the lands to the South East of the Levant were also mentioned, and while there is no open conflict with them they are most definitely rivals rather than allies, though pressure on their lands from the ever-expanding Horde may yet change their minds. A mission is to be sent to parlay with them in that regard. There was some discussion as to the nature of the djinn that they treat with, Primus Jerbiton asked whether they were magical or infernal in nature, though a Criamon Archimagus said that they were more like Unseelie fey, though it appears that the truth of the matter is that no one really knows. Primus Odaghosh said that before the Ordo Ethiopicus joined the Order of Hermes they did some deals with the Order of Suleiman. He said that their magic was similar to that practiced by the Ordo Ethiopicus and that they were numerous, perhaps equivalent to 3 or 4 of our houses. If the nature of their magic is close to that of Ethiopicus, that may make another discussion at the meeting pertinent for future dealings with them, for Odaghosh also revealed that his house were having difficulty learning the parma magica, though he said that by the next Grand Tribunal they alll should have it. It is also his intent to have members of his house join covenants across the lands of the Order.
Another group of exotic magi, the Moorish sorcerers, appears to have allied themselves with the Barbary pirates, their base is believed to be near the Pillars of Hercules. There was also concern raised by Loch Lagleann about the continuing sightings of the UnNamed House ship in the seas off that tribunal.

Of particular concern to Marius was the news that the Hanseatic League of merchants has been infiltrated by diabolists. A further mundane threat, the Christian Inquisition, remains very dangerous and is openly hostile to the Order, which it views as a body of heretics.

Of legal matters, Maximus reported, with some obvious relief, that his actions in endorsing Praeca Edith's wizard's war against Primus Kentigern had been legal. A further motion on the subject, brought by Primus Erin, to require the Senior Quaesitor to contact both involved parties before making a ruling was voted down.

The only other matter of note was the continuing failure of the Novgorod tribunal to hold a formal tribunal meeting since the last Grand tribunal, quoracy in those wild and remote lands being the problem.

After having passed on his news, Maximus generously made gift to the library of two books on esoteric non-magical practices that he had obtained from his dealings in Durenmar: “Occult Practices of the Southern Rhine” and “Priest Cults of Rome.”

Astrius's private journal

After the meeting, Marius came to talk to me, saying that de Percy, the new Earl of Gloucester, would, if asked, send out soldiers on our behalf to deal with mundane issues such as Witney. Although I am cautious about embroiling such a mundane power directly in covenant events, I can well see the use of such a power and given all else Marius does as King Aeddan while here, it is something that we may well call upon in the future.

Once Marius had gone and I had set Evan working on a minor vis distillation, I sat in my sanctum in reflective mood. Even with the confusion caused by our recent experiences in the regio here, it seems almost unbelievable that it has been 33 years since the unmasking of the Tremere corruption at Durenmar. Also, sadly, most of those involved in that challenging time are now gone. Of the four of us who stood accused of murder at the Grand Tribunal by the Houses Tremere and Guernicus, only Gratia and I yet live, Medius and Prima Fenriata both slain whilst fighting the UnNamed House. Archimagus Gravidius, Primus of the Grand Tribunal, who led the bold and honourable raid into the House Tremere complex, is similarly gone, passed into final twilight. And of my sodalibus here at Severn Temple at that time, only Marius remains.

I hope that when I, Gratia, and those others who witnessed those events are gone, what happened is not forgotten, for it should stand as a lesson that the greatest enemies of the Order do not always lie without it. It is also almost certain that there are still liches in existence and that there must be a fair number from within the House of Tremere who knew of the plot, aided it even, but, because they did not undergo the process of lichdom themselves, escaped all justice. They almost corrupted the Order once, it must not be allowed to happen again.

But I ramble, it seems that even longevity potions as potent as the one Jordael brewed for me, cannot altogether hold off the weight of more than a century of memories. Still, I am yet hale and there is much do. If fate allows I have many more years yet before I join that august company that awaits me beyond the veil. Time enough to see my apprentice become the magus he was foreseen to be, time enough to ensure that this covenant and its magi reach their full potential, time enough to make our enemies pay and maybe even time enough to try and build the Order into something greater. For now though, judging by the smell of burning creeping under the door, it is time simply to go and see what Evan has set fire to now.


The only noteworthy event of a relatively quiet autumn was the arrival late in the season of Magus Alannus with news not only from the Grand Tribunal, but also of two other items which were not known to us: firstly, that Theophilus has scheduled another symposium for next summer; and, secondly that Magus Quellior of Merinita has taken the 'long walk' into Arcadia. From those few dealings I had with him in my youth, I cannot say his passing is a loss.

Winter

Once again, the council meeting began with a discussion of recent events near Witney and those intelligences that we have been able to glean over autumn. It seems that the Bishop's investigation has gone quiet, with the girl still remaining at large, though still sought by the episcopal authorities. The road 'twixt Witney and Oxford appears quiet, though we must assume that it is set with spirits. On such matter Maximus shared a little of his knowledge of spirits, he believes that such spirits are most likely ghosts of no more than the second magnitude in power. As far as I recall, this fits with what we learned some years previously in similar dealings with the Fells.

Husam announced that he was off to Bristol to begin his long-planned attempt to establish a permanent base there, while Fabius also made a start on a similarly long-planned project, in his case, an enchanted item for the competition to be held at his forthcoming house meeting.

Lysimachus reported he had been successful in finding a master for King's College, though while, as Chancellor of that place, he has the power to fire such a man, I cannot help but think his choice of a monk will go ill. The man belongs to the pious Order of Franciscans whose rituals have been boosting Dominion aurae across Europe. Still, it is his choice and his responsibility.

After the meeting was concluded we recast the Aegis of the Hearth, restoring it to its traditional casting time, in best harmony with the fluctuations in the aura hereabouts.

A couple of hours later, our party assembled in the great hall: myself with Maelgwyn and my apprentice, Evan, now a young man with a decade or so of training behind him, Lysimachus and Maximus with his consors Duncan and a couple of grogs. As expected, the first half of our journey was uneventful, but as we neared Witney, at a crossroads a little ways past the tiny hamlet of Burford, Maximus's unearthly sight espied the ghost of a man with dark shackles upon him. Under questionning, the shade spoke of being bound to the spot by a bad man and a demon with small horns that walked beside him, doing his bidding. It seems it is this creature that places the shackles upon the ghosts Benedict uses, not the man himself. It further said that it had been told to watch for notable travellers – men of importance, nobles or those with some sense of power about them. When pressed on this last point, it said that it could sense some such about me but not Lysimachus, suggesting that ghosts are sensitive to the Gift, but not those blessed with a gentle Gift. With that, Maximus sent the shade to its rest using 'Lay to Rest the Haunting Spirit'.

A mile west of Witney, by the Windrush river, again at a small crossroads near a hamlet, Maximus found another ghostly watcher, albeit with Maelgwyn's help this time. Lysimachus was able to identify the shade as that of the guard magically aged to death in Witney in Summer. It spoke of seeing a shadow in the air in the form of a bat which changed into the guise of a man with red horns just before it slew him. The shade stressed however that it was the 'friar' who was the true foe. Much like the first shade, it had been set to watch for notable travellers, including college folk in particular. Maximus then once again sent the unfortunate spirit it to its rest. We found one more ghost en route to the Devil's Circle, the last one on a crossroads just beyond the bridge leading in to Witney itself. With too many common folk around to risk speaking with the shade, Maximus simply laid it to rest with subtle magics.

After perhaps half a day's march we reached our goal and cut off the road, through the woods to the low bare hill on which reportedly lies the 'Devil's Circle'. Lysimachus found a series of seven small stones set into the earth in a circle some seven paces across. Maximus could see no ghosts, but reported seeing troubling shadows in the Otherworld. Using 'Sense the Lingering Magic' I was able to find traces of magic in the centre of the circle. It was non-hermetic in nature, but appeared to be an effect akin to some form of 'rego vim'. Maelgwyn's sharp nose also picked up a faint whiff of blood in the area where the magical residues lay.

It was now clear that this was indeed a place where infernal magics had been worked. Further magical investigations suggested that the place had an aura of about the fourth magnitude, this in broad daylight and an 'intellego terram' spell to see through the earth showed the stones to be long, thin and weathered, extending deep within the earth. I could also make out some form of animal skeleton in the centre of the circle, presumably the source of the blood.

Maximus decided that we needed to learn more of exactly what it was Benedict, assuming it was indeed he, had been doing here. So, he selected spot from which he could clearly see most of the top of the hill and, sitting down, cast the ritual 'Eyes of the Past'. He sent his sight back to a little before midnight on the 3rd day of Summer, the night of a new moon when we believed Benedict had been here. He could see Benedict, accompanied by two men in greasy cloaks. In the centre of the circle was a dead sheep, its throat cut and its life’s blood staining the earth red. He called out and a shadow of a bat appeared, which then coalesced into the form of a small man with red horns. Benedict scolded the demon and seemed to give him orders of some sort, for the demon then flew off East in the direction of Oxford, presumably to go and speak with Lysimachus in his university room.

Benedict then walked round the circle, taking care to step on each of the seven stones, one fist in the air, one in the circle. As he completed the circle, the body of the dead sheep began to jerk and twist, almost jumping into the air as its movements became more violent. Then suddenly it burst open to reveal an enormous maggot that further writhed around as it too underwent some dark metamorphosis. After maybe half an hour its transformation was complete and before Benedict stood a large winged demon, its body covered in dark scales, its head a fanged sheep skull with horns like a ram. Whatever manner of vile demon it was, and conjuring it from the body of an animal suggests it was not as powerful as one conjured from the corpse of a man, bringing it under control was clearly right at the edge of Benedict's capabilities. After much effort and no little battle of wills, Benedict was able to make the creature kneel in obeisance. However, as Maximus continued to watch, the creature suddenly stood and glared right at him, despite the scene playing out in front of him having taken place some two seasons ago. In any event, the shock was enough to break Maximus's concentration and the ritual was broken.

He quickly told us of what he had seen and we were discussing what to do about it, when Lysimachus heard a cracking in the earth. As we all turned back to the circle to see what was going on, the grass began to blacken and die and fissures appeared in the ground, spewing forth a malodorous smoke. Maximus, watching with his otherworldy sight, could see a shadowy column of smoke rising from the circle of stones, which were now rotating. There was a further crack from within the circle and the small fissures merged into one large one, as the ground fell away to reveal a deep pit full of orange and red flame, as though the earth itself was burning. Maximus caught sight of what appeared to be a shadow of a bat, but it was too quick to follow and was almost immediately lost in the shadows of the trees that surrounded us.

Then, one by one, the stones began to split. Maybe we should have thought about leaving then, for something bad was clearly about to happen.I could dimly hear Duncan urging his charge, Maximus, to drink his potion and return to the safety of the covenant, but I for one was focused solely on the fight that was surely coming. I could feel the familiar mix of excitement and fear surging through my body as I drew my sword and mentally ran through the incantations of spells I was likely to use. As the last but one stone split, I tensed, adopting a defensive stance, blade in one hand, the other already forming the gesture for 'Creo'. Then the final stone split and the world went black.

As I struggled to make sense of what had happened I conjured a circle of light, but the spell flickered and died almost instantly. Biting down my fear, I cast a higher magnitude version of the spell and this time it was strong enough to remain. I could see that we were all in a large cave, with large stalactites and stalagmites giving it the air of a cage. A couple of paces in front of us was a large rent in the earth, from which a choking black smoke was belching forth. I could feel my parma resist something, from the hacking coughs of my sodalibus the smoke clearly had some infernal power to it.

Then, across the chasm I espied a column of flame approaching. I hurled lightning at it and was gratified to hear an animalistic bellow of pain in response. Lysimachus flung a 'Ball of Abysmal Flame' at the creature, but the magic simply washed off and Maximus's attack with a dagger containing a sixth magnitude 'Demon's Eternal Oblivion' was no more successful. As the flames drew nearer, I cast more lightning, hearing another bellow of pain as the lightning arced across the chasm and one of the bolts struck its target. I could feel the choking black smoke continue to break against my parma, but it was potent enough to cause no little distress to some of the others, eating away at their clothing as well as searing their lungs. Shouting the invocation at the top of my voice I sent a third gout of lightning towards the demon and this time, the cry of pain cut out abruptly and the glow from it began to fade. Quick-thinking as ever, Lysimachus immediately cast 'Chamber of Spring Breezes', banishing the smoke.

As it cleared, the body of the demon could be seen lying broken on the floor, a few paces from the cleft. With no desire to remain in what must surely have been an infernal regio, I located the regio boundary and walking widdershins around its edge, led us back out onto the hill and the fresh winter air. Although the grass was blackened, there was no sign of a pit, so we made our way back to the covenant on foot. On way back, Lysimachus spoke of how the red-horned demon had walked inside the 8th magnitude Ward against Demons that had been set up just before we were pitched into the regio. A troubling development indeed, the most obvious concern being whether our Aegis is sufficiently powerful to keep the demon out.

Once back at Severn Temple, Lysimachus was able to use his knowledge of apothecary to brew an inhalation to soothe the lungs of those most grievously affected by the infernal smoke. Although we were successful in banishing a demon of not inconsiderable might, we still lack much knowledge of what exactly it is that it was summoned for. It is clear that Benedict remains a real threat to us, and this red-horned demon maybe a bigger threat still. We cannot afford any complacency, nor should we pick sides between the two of them, they are both servants of the infernal and as such should be dealt with accordingly.
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