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Scribed by Lysimachus

Spring 1231 AD


It has now been ten years since I joined Severn Temple covenant, which means I have spent a full third of my life here on this mist-shrouded hill overlooking the Forest of Dean. Had I been asked twenty or even fifteen years ago whether I would have welcomed the idea of moving so far from my Mediterranean home to a place so alien in cultural, spiritual and magical traditions, I might have shuddered at the thought, assuming it was a punishment for some divine or political transgression. And yet I would have been utterly wrong, for I doubt any other place would offer me such a warm welcome or varied opportunities to pursue my studies. This Tribunal may lie at the edge of the Order geographically, but much as the water at the edge of a whirlpool moves faster than that at the centre, I sense that it has an exciting dynamism that exceeds that of the older, somewhat ossified Tribunals to the south and east. I am also most fortunate to have been granted a place at Severn Temple, a covenant with a quite remarkable history and an energetic and cooperative council. No, this is my home now, and though I look forward to journeying to the Mediterranean lands in the future, it shall be as a visitor from the west.

We met as a full council on the first day of spring. We began the meeting with a discussion of what to do about the remnants of the Fells in Bristol. Husam outlined his progress in establishing his business in the city, noting that he had heard occasional rumours of internecine warfare amongst the Fells, though he had yet to encounter them himself. He planned to spend one or two more seasons in Bristol this year to complete his preparations, and he posited that it was likely that the Fells might seek to extort monies from him after the business had opened. It was his intention to make such payments, however onerous, both to avoid suspicion, but also to establish regular contacts that could be exploited to learn more about their activities in the future. The council agreed with this plan, though several of us reaffirmed our desire to take decisive action to be rid of the Fells’ leaders as soon as we had sufficient intelligence on their whereabouts.

Marius reported that the Knight of Chippenham had raised a complaint through his liege lord, the Earl of Somerset, about Maximus’ performance as magistrate last year. The essence of his charge was threefold: first, that the accused witch was illiterate and, to his mind, clearly not a scholar; second, that Maximus refused to say where or how she would be tried; and third, that even if found guilty, the witch would not be handed over to the knight to punish, despite an offer to pay the required expenses. Although Marius indicated that we should not worry unduly about this complaint, I think there is a wider point that deserves consideration. If legal arrangements are to endure, they must be understood and respected as just. Without this, they will be open to charges of inconsistency and impartiality, which could stir up envy and dissatisfaction. We would do well to reflect on how we can divert such attacks before they become more serious or sustained.

The final, and to my mind, most exciting piece of news related to Archimagus Petrus’ work on the magical aura. I reported that he had completed the ritual to travel between the lowest and intermediate levels of the Regio, and he was naturally keen to test its effectiveness. We debated the benefits and dangers of doing so, and I will admit that I was a little disappointed that some of my sodales were not as keen as I to see the ritual in action. Still, I understood their concerns, even if I personally favoured discovery above caution in this instance. Astrius at least agreed learn the ritual this year, and I suspect that the balance of views will come round to trying it out thereafter.

With news from winter concluded, we turned our attention to covenant services for this year. As ever, Marius indicated that he would be abroad in the noble courts, and Husam also reconfirmed his intention to spend time in Bristol. Astrius and Maximus both agreed to extract Vim vis on behalf of the covenant, and we decided to leave it to later in the year to determine how best to utilise Fabius’ arcane talents. For my part, it was agreed that I would journey to the covenants of Narwold, Oakham Vale, Carrion Moor and Trevalga to reinforce our relationships with the Magi there. Specifically, I was authorised to negotiate the purchase of a longevity potion for Nyal from Matthias of Narwold; to make offer of material goods to the new covenant of Oakham Vale; to make trade for any types of vis for which we do not have a regular supply; and to offer the resources of the King’s College to Magi who would seek access to mundane lores. With these matters resolved, we went our separate ways.

My season proved to be most productive, and I hope that we have laid the foundations for continued good relations with the covenants of the south and east of England for years to come. At Narwold, Matthias kindly agreed to brew a longevity potion for Nyal in the autumn in return for copies of the spells Aegis of the Hearth and the Eyes of the Treacherous Terrain. We also agreed to exchange mundane texts, and our library should shortly be augmented by new works on the church and occult. I made my first visit to Oakham Vale, which is a small fortified settlement in the woods south of Nottingham. Unsurprisingly, the Magi there gladly accepted our offer of iron tools and weapons, and I was accorded a warm welcome. Oakham Vale has regular sources of Intellego, Rego and Imagonem vis but, despite its forested location, no source of Herbam vis, and I therefore agreed to an exchange that should benefit both covenants. At Carrion Moor, which has regular sources of Animal, Auram and Corporem vis, I agreed to exchange a rook of Auram and Corporem vis for the same amount of Aquam or Vim vis from our stores. I also concluded an agreement to exchange mundane texts, which will add new volumes on philosophy, legends, fantastic beasts and Hermetic law to our library. Finally, at Trevalga, which has regular sources of Animal and Imagonem vis, I agreed a further trade of vis and also an exchange of texts that will add several important works on the faerie folk to our library.

Summer

All save Marius were present at the summer council meeting. Fabius reported that he had completed work on his item for the House Verditius competition next year, though he had not yet had chance to investigate whether it worked. The item draws on the knowledge contained in Corlear’s notes to provide two linked effects: the first detects that the wielder is falling, perhaps due to a mishap, and the second then activates the Wings of Soaring Wind to prevent him plummeting to earth. Fabius had experimented during its creation as Corlear’s notes did not contain a full description of the process, and he was therefore keen to assure himself that it worked to avoid the possibility of an embarrassing failure at the competition itself. After some discussion, Husam nobly volunteered to try it out after the Council meeting, since he believed that he would be better able to survive the fall should the item prove ineffective. We also discussed the risks that the Barbary pirates posed to Fabius’ journey to Verdi covenant, as they hold both sides of the Straits of Hercules and there are rumours that they work in conjunction with the Moorish sorcerers of Andalusia. Fabius resolved to contact House Mercere to see whether he could purchase a berth aboard one of their vessels, rather than risk running the straits in our own vessel.

Astrius announced that he had learned Petrus’ new ritual, the Trail of Silvery Footsteps, during spring, and we agreed that Astrius, Husam and I would investigate how well it worked later in the season. I sensed that I was the most eager of the three of us to return to the regio that lies above the covenant, but the caution evidenced by the others simply reflected their desire to ensure that we took every possible precaution before taking on the risks that such a journey entailed.

There were no other significant matters discussed at the council. Shortly afterwards, we convened on the banks of the Severn to watch Husam test Fabius’ new item. Husam transformed himself into a bird – an owl, I believe – and soared high above the river, before cancelling the transformation spell. He began to plunge but he had travelled no more than a few paces before he was borne aloft by a powerful wind, which transported him back to the covenant. Greatly cheered by Fabius’ success, we retired to the great hall to celebrate his achievement. There, Husam revealed that activating the item had revealed a third, unexpected effect: he was able to see through the mists that habitually shroud this part of the Severn. Fabius was somewhat perplexed, for this had not formed part of his intended enchantment, though it seemed to be a beneficial side effect of his experiment.

Testing the Trail of Silvery Footsteps proved to be a rather more dangerous affair. Accompanied by three shield grogs, Astrius, Husam and I assembled in the courtyard to begin the ritual. Astrius incanted the first part of the spell, and as the Vim vis flared in his left hand as it fed the ritual’s power, his eyes took on the appearance of polished mirrors. Astrius told us later that he saw a trail of intermittent silvery footsteps upon the ground, and he led us out of the courtyard towards the spring, where he began to walk in an increasingly tight spiral around the pool. As he completed the ritual, the mists around the spring became immensely thick, and visibility dropped to no more than a pace, which meant that we lost sight of one another. Astrius erected a Ward Against Beasts of Legend in case there were any giant spiders lurking in the gloom, and he also detected that the magical aura around the spring had risen to the eighth magnitude, confirming that we had indeed passed into the deeper level of the regio. While we were there, I heard a curious sound at the edge of my hearing, which I can only describe as a conversation, or perhaps an internal monologue, arising from the mist itself, in which it stressed the importance of hiding this place from us. The fact that only I could hear this suggested that the mist may indeed be an elemental of some kind, though given its size, it must be of considerable power.

Using the Hunter’s Sense, Astrius was able to determine that there were three spiders beyond the ward, though none of us could see them. This presented us with something of a quandary, for we would have to venture beyond the circle to leave the regio, but Astrius would be unable to use other spells while casting the ritual, which meant that we faced considerable danger from the as yet unseen spiders. We resolved to try to lure them towards the ward so that they could be slain; this succeeded with two of the creatures, but the third remained stubbornly out of sight beyond the circle. To give us more of a chance to complete the ritual unmolested, Astrius conjured several lions and instructed them to drive the spiders away. With little option but to trust to these defences, Astrius began to cast the ritual once more, and stepped beyond the circle. We had completed a little over a third of the ritual when we were assailed by several spiders. One of the grogs, a young man named Harry, was carried off into the murk, and Astrius was forced to abandon the ritual to defend himself. Conjuring several more lions, Astrius tried again, and we were greatly relieved when we found ourselves back in the mortal world. In the hour or so that we had spent in the regio, three days had passed back at home, but we have proved that Petrus’ ritual works, and we now have a means of escape should the covenant ever again fall into the regio.

Later in the season, Alannus arrived with news from abroad. He reported that the monastic orders, which were prevented from establishing bases in England, had done so in the Scotland: the Dominicans in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and the Franciscans in Dumfries and Dunblane. In Paris, the University had complained to the Pope about the interference of the Church in its affairs, and the Pope had granted them significant privileges and independence over their activities. In Hermetic news, Archimagus Jolyon has not returned from a trip deep into a faerie regio, and the covenant of Lear Valley are concerned about his whereabouts. Alannus also brought private messages for Astrius and Husam.

Towards the end of the season, Marius returned with his filius, now Magus Urbanus of Jerbiton. Marius repeated his desire for Urbanus to take up residence at Severn Temple, and Astrius decided that Urbanus should first reside here for a season so that we might get to know him better before we make a decision. Astrius also announced that he would be forced to miss the autumn council due to a private matter, though he expected to return later that season.

Autumn

The council met at the start of the season, with all members save Astrius and Marius in attendance. The meeting itself was relatively short. Fabius announced that he intended to travel by Redcap ship to Verdi in spring and that he would likely return at the end of autumn. Husam confirmed that he would spend the season in Bristol overseeing the covenant’s business there, which he hoped would soon come to the attention of the local criminal gangs.

I spent an interesting season investigating how to communicate with elementals. In principle, the solution I have found should allow discussion with all kinds of elemental using a single spell, and it should also be possible to call out to them even if they are not visible. I will have to wait until next season, when I intend to invent spells to conjure minor elementals, to test whether my theories prove correct, but the principles underlying the spell seem solid enough. I am keen to establish exactly what elementals are, whether they have independent identities and how they differ from otherwise similar collections of mundane elements. If the elements are truly the irreducible building blocks of all things, how can elementals exist, for they would appear to possess something extra that gives them agency? Just what is this additional factor?

I was also fortunate enough to spend a few evenings in discussion with Urbanus, as I felt it important to get to know him better before the council meets next season to consider his application to join Severn Temple. I shall not burden the reader with the details of our conversation, but we covered political philosophy, Hermetic theory and his initial goals as a newly gauntleted Magus. I am convinced he will make an admiral addition to our council, and I hope to welcome him formally to our ranks in the near future.

Winter

The council met on the first day of winter with all members in attendance. Astrius began by explaining the reasons for his absence in early autumn. House Flambeau had secretly convened a meeting at Holy Isle to take action against a suspected covenant of the Unnamed House in the north of Wales. Quaesitor Faelon of Holy Isle explained that the covenant, which lay almost entirely underground, had been discovered with the aid of some faerie allies, and through a perilous investigation by Magus McKeidh, Holy Isle had learned that it had two separate entrances spaced about a half a league apart. Primus Motus decided to assault the covenant, and he placed Astrius in command of a group of Flambeau Magi who would attempt to seal the rear entrance so none of the inhabitants would be able to escape. This proved to be a dangerous task, for Astrius’ group were spotted as they approached in the dark of night by a griffon that had been set to patrol the area by one of the diabolic Magi. The defenders were, therefore, at least partly prepared for the attack.

It was clear from Astrius’ manner that it had been a hard fought affair that had been finely balanced until the very end. Astrius’ group were able to take the tower that protected the rear entrance relatively easily, but there followed a magical battle in the caverns below the tower where the group faced at least three members of the Unnamed House: one with the sigil of grey gloom who used Auram magics to poison the air in the cavern; a second with the sigil of black bile who was greatly skilled at Mentem; and a third with the sigil of yellow sulphur who summoned infernal entities. Astrius’ group also faced a great armoured worm that belched forth acrid gasses. Yet, despite the chaos of fighting such enemies in the cramped darkness of the caverns, the group managed to slay two of the three diabolists, though it is believed that the third, the one with the sigil of yellow suphur, managed to escape. Astrius’ quick thinking and decisive action during the encounter saved the lives of two of his comrades: the first when the noxious fumes from the worm almost overcame one of his companions; and the second when a demon used infernal magic to transform a Rego Ignem warding spell against the cold into a Perdo Ignem spell that almost chilled the Maga to death.

With its defenders slain or scattered, the Flambeau Magi were able to collapse both entrances to the covenant, sealing it forever. The main force had slain a third diabolist, believed to be the leader of the band, who had great power over beasts. His sigil, the sound of rushing blood, had previously been found in the crystal caves of Mynydd Myddyn, which means that he had been involved in the death of Archimagus Tiarnan. Although the victory seemed complete, it did not come without a sting in the tail, for Astrius’ young apprentice, Evan, had fallen in combat. Astrius announced that he had subsequently been awarded the title of Archimagus on the basis of his long-standing service to the House and Order, but I could tell from his voice that any satisfaction he took from this achievement was tinged with sadness at Evan’s death, and I rather suspect that he would have gladly traded away any such title for another chance to save his apprentice. Still, though the circumstances meant that the award was bittersweet, we all congratulated Astrius on his well-deserved honour.

Next, Husam reported that his business in Bristol was now paying protection money to the faction of the Black Knives that controlled the docks and the east of the city. He reported that this faction had slowly gained strength at the expense of its rival over the past year, though it was unclear whether this was just part of the natural back-and-forth of such struggles, or whether some event had tipped the contest decisively in their favour. Husam also reported that Martin, the captain of the watch, had also demanded bribes, and he seemed suspiciously knowledgeable about Husam’s arrangements with the Black Knives. We speculated whether this meant he was himself involved with the gang, or whether he simply had his ear to the ground, but we could not resolve the question either way. Marius noted that the man was rumoured to be close to the Baron, which increases his influence, and we agreed to keep a close eye on both the captain and Baron’s activities.

The final item of note discussed at the council meeting was Urbanus’ petition to join our number. There was relatively little debate, as I suspect that most of us had already made our minds up during our encounters with him during autumn, and it was no surprise that his request was unanimously approved. Thus, the council of Severn Temple now consists of seven Magi, all varied in our strengths, weaknesses and ambitions, yet united in our desire to see the covenant prosper as a positive force in both Hermetic and mundane spheres.
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