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Scribed by Lysimachus

Spring 1256 AD

The council met on the first day of spring, with all members in attendance. There was no additional news to share from winter, so we swiftly moved on to our goals for the coming season. I suggested that I should spend time in the mundane courts to learn more about the outcome of the war with the Welsh and also at the King’s College to keep an eye on events. The council readily agreed, and we decided it would be worth suggesting to the Queen Regent that she should downplay the importance of the deaths of Baroch and Astwin in turning the tide of the battle at Raglan. We also agreed that Husam would spend the summer attempting to recruit freeminers from the Dean to reopen the mines at Lydney.

Maximus then reconfirmed his intention to conduct a pilgrimage on foot to Rome this year. This is a significant undertaking – and, indeed, perhaps a more arduous journey than he anticipates – but he was steadfast in his determination to go. We wished him well, and advised him to take at least one grog as a travelling companion, particularly as his Gift may make social interactions more difficult than they used to be when Rufus was around.

The rest of the council meeting concerned administrative matters, save for a brief argument between Maximus and Astrius over whether their expedition to collect vis from the barrows northeast of the Dean counted as a covenant service. Maximus contended that, since the site was classed as a contested source, it should count as a covenant service to collect the vis. Daedalus pointed out that the expedition had taken only a few days and Maximus had spent the rest of the season working for himself in his laboratory, but Maximus correctly noted that the charter states that “the Pontifex may arrange for the collection of such vis as part of a service to the Covenant.” In the end, the Quaesitor opted not to press the matter further, though not before he once again accused Astrius of not being himself due to the influence of the spirit that dwells within his sword. Though I feel that this last comment was unhelpful, I believe Maximus has highlighted an aspect of the charter that we do not always consider, and we should perhaps be clearer in future about the implications of such expeditions.

At the start of the season, I travelled swiftly to Monmouth and thence Raglan, where I managed to secure an audience with Queen Regent Eleanor. She indicated that, although the Welsh had suffered a crushing defeat between the two towns, she did not regard the matter as settled, and she intended to pursue Prince Llewellyn west into Wales. I secured her permission for Maximus to use his ritual to determine whether her daughter has the Gift, and I departed for London. There, I met Maximus in an inn in Cheapside. He seemed well enough, if a little damp from the sleet and rain, though he explained that the journey between Gloucester and London had been slightly delayed by banditry around Witney. We entered the White Tower, where we were granted an audience with the princess. Maximus used two pawns of vim vis to cast the ritual, and he confirmed that she did indeed possess the Gift. I explained the result to her and the lord castellan, noting that it would be two or three years before her training could be begin. I also breathed a silent sigh of relief that the ritual had not gone awry, as explaining the consequences of a magical accident involving the princess is not something I ever want to do. I thanked Maximus for his assistance and watched him begin the next stage of his long journey, as he made his way through the murky gloom of Southwark towards the road to Canterbury.

I spent a few days at the markets in London, where I managed to locate an honest dealer in jewellery in the Jewish quarter. I secured what I believe to be a good price for several items from our treasury, and then I made my way back to Gloucester. I found something of a mystery in my quarters at the college, as the floor and bedpost were stained with what appeared to be the dried remnants of a spilled flask of ink or goblet of wine. An Intellego Herbam spell told me that the stain had been caused by red wine, but a closer examination of the floorboards revealed that they had been rotted through. The most obvious explanation for the discrepancy was that the source of the stain was infernal in nature, but I could think of no obvious meaning behind it. I took the opportunity to consult my sodales a few days later, but none of us had a solution to the mystery. I spent the rest of the season arranging for a gang of carpenters and labourers to begin rebuilding Lydney. My underlying aim was to persuade some of them to stay on permanently, and though none of the carpenters were interested in doing so, I did manage to convince the labourers and their families to take up residence in the abandoned cottages. By the end of the season, I had established the beginnings of the village, which holds out the hope that we may be able to reopen the mines in due course. We will have to take good care to guard the villagers well against a further attack by the denizens of the faerie forest, but this seems like a price worth paying to me.

Summer

At a short council meeting at the start of summer, we agreed that we would establish a laboratory on the first floor of the inn in Lydney, which will mean that magi assigned to guard the village will be able to make productive use of their time. Husam also confirmed that he would spend the season attempting to recruit freeminers, while Erla will make a further attempt to revitalise the remaining vervain cuttings.

A few days into the season, Zephyros the redcap visited the covenant. He informed us that, despite fears of a possible attack on northern covenants, there had been no sightings of Damhain-Allaidh in recent seasons. Members of the Loch Leglean tribunal had encouraged rumours among the Scottish nobility about the dangers posed by lowland rebels in an attempt to make it harder for Damhain-Allaidh to recruit more supporters to his cause. Further south, Zephyros confirmed that the English army had routed the Welsh at Raglan, and Prince Llewellyn had fled west past Cardiff to Neath, where he was seeking reinforcements. Captain Baroch, who had been so influential in previous battles, had not been seen, and there were rumours circulating that he had been killed in battle. The victory had boosted Queen Regent Eleanor’s standing among the English nobility, and she had taken the opportunity to order that the castles of Raglan, Chepstow and Goodrich be reinforced to deter any future attempts by the Welsh to recover their losses. Finally, far to the east, the kingdom of the Bulgars was in disarray, as Emperor Theodore II of Byzantium seized Thrace and the Mongols sacked the trading port of Varna.

[Lysimachus’ private journal: Zephyros also brought a reply to a letter I had written several seasons ago to Avaris of Tytalus. It seems the two of us have quite different motives for acquiring De Analytica, for his main interest in such works appears to be in preventing others from having access to them. Still, it seems that some accommodation may be reached, for there is apparently something else that he values even more, and he would like my assistance in obtaining it. The details are still obscure, but I intend to take him up on his offer once I find a suitable time to meet him in the Mount Ventoux region of Provence.]

Later in the season, Husam returned to the covenant with the good news that he had managed to recruit a dozen freeminers. However, they had baulked at entering the mine in Lydney due the presence of large spider webs that suggested Amabila’s minions had not all left the area. We resolved to cleanse the mines of this infestation, so Astrius, Husam, Constantius and I made our way there with a party of grogs. In hindsight, our tactics were poor: the four of us entered the mine, leaving the grogs at the entrance in case any spiders eluded us, but Astrius’ liberal use of spells to illuminate the dark tunnels evidently greatly unnerved the spiders, several of which decided to flee rather than fight. However, despite being outnumbered, the grogs put up fierce resistance, and they turned what could have been a disaster into an impressive victory.

Alas, our second foray into the tunnels did not end so well. Leaving Husam at the entrance to assist our wounded grogs, Astrius, Constantius and I ventured back in to clear out the final passages. Astrius detected that a large spider was lurking down a particularly low shaft that had room for only one person to crawl along at a time, so we decided that Constantius would lead the way, hoping that Astrius would be able quickly slay the creature once it revealed its position. Unfortunately, the spider reacted more swiftly than expected, and it managed to pin Constantius down as he sought to make way for Astrius. Its fangs inflicted terrible wounds on our consors, yet worse was to come, as Astrius accidentally skewered Constantius with a Spear of the Glacier’s Heart that was intended to drive the creature away. Though he killed the spider a few moments later, Astrius’ efforts were too late to save Constantius, whose crumpled form lay covered in blood, his chest crushed beyond recognition by Astrius’ spell. We retrieved his corpse, and it was a sombre group that made its way back to the covenant, our early victories deflated by the death of the covenant’s longest-serving consors. We buried Constantius with great honour a few days later. The covenant is greatly lessened by his absence.

[Lysimachus’ private journal: Constantius’ death was most unfortunate, and it served as a telling reminder of the risks we each take when battling the fierce array of enemies we face. No blame can be attached to Astrius; though it was his spell that slew our consors, it was simply a dreadful accident that could have happened to any of us.]

Towards the end of the season, Husam once again returned with important news from his travels through the Dean. He had heard that the English armies had captured Penarth and whole of Gwent, forcing Llewellyn to take refuge in Carmarthen. Closer to home, he had sensed a strange aura and tainted atmosphere while exploring the ruins of Huntley Priory, which had allegedly been sacked by Welsh raiders during a previous winter. Returning with Astrius, he noticed that the hinges of the gates to the compound appeared to have been frozen and then shattered; elsewhere, the walls were pockmarked in a manner that reminded him of the aftermath of the Erechwydd’s attack on our own covenant. Venturing further, the magi first located the priory’s religious artefacts and treasury hidden under a flagstone, and then a sealed iron door at the top of a tower at the back of the main hall. Forcing the door, they entered a room that was at once both a torture chamber and a smithy. Hanging in a cold iron cage, bound by chains and manacles, was the decaying corpse of woman we now know to be Bethwyn, a former apprentice of a member of this covenant and lately the sorceress of the Morrigan’s Hill. It was clear that she had been badly tortured prior to her death, for one of her hands was missing, and her body bore the signs of many cuts and burns.

Elsewhere in the room, the magi found a book containing religious imagery, particularly saints. Using Sense the Lingering Magic, Astrius discovered the signs that non-Hermetic spells had been used to control Bethwyn’s mind and force the truth from her. Downstairs, in the main hall, he also found traces of a spell to make an offering an occult entity. All three spells bore strange non-Hermetic sigils that had the appearance of stylised script.

The magi returned to the covenant with Bethwyn’s body and the texts. There, Erla used Whispers Through the Black Gate to speak with Bethwyn’s spirit. The part-faerie sorceress confirmed that she had been captured by a group of monks as she sought to leave the faerie regio after the Morrigan faded from the realm. She was taken to Huntley Priory, where she was tortured to reveal the secrets of her staff, which grants dominion over the wolves, cors and spiders that inhabit part of the faerie regio. She claimed that the monks worshipped a being of light, though they could not see that its brightness concealed a dark heart. Though Bethwyn refused to yield, she saw that they broke the spirit that dwelt within her staff, corrupting it and turning it to their purposes. She was then sealed within the room and left to starve to death. Bethwyn also revealed that the staff had other powers, including the ability to speak with, and see through the eyes of, the cors, transport the wielder to places covered by the shadows of the forest, provide glimpses of the past and future, and reveal many hidden places of the faerie forest. She urged us to find the staff and destroy the spirit that now lurks within it. As Erla dismissed her, Bethwyn let out a final defiant curse against her enemies.

It now seems like we have now uncovered a plausible explanation for the events of recent seasons: Bethwyn was captured by the Brothers In Christ while attempting to flee the forest; inspired by a demon that disguises itself as a angel, they corrupted her staff, hiding a dark spirit within; Amabila and the Erechwydd learned of the monks’ actions, and they attacked the priory, though Bethwyn had since expired; Amabila took her staff, but she was in turn corrupted by the spirit within, for unlike the Erechwydd, she is partly human and thus vulnerable to its infernal powers; finally, Amabila used the staff to take over the creatures of the Morrigan’s Hill, but the Erechwydd realised that something was wrong, and the two former allies went to war. If this narrative is accurate, we face a potent foe who wields Hermetic, faerie and infernal powers, and we shall have to remain alert and focussed to defeat her. Still, at least we now understand more about the origins of our problems, and we can look to use this knowledge to our advantage.

[Lysimachus’ private journal: My sodales have now discovered almost all of the information the demon in Gloucester told me, though the delay means that we must deal with the aftermath of the incident, rather than seeking to prevent it in the first place. Maximus’ foolish decision, which I think was motivated more by his personal morality than a strict interpretation of the code, has cost several lives and placed many others in great danger. I hope that he will now see that the Brothers In Christ have been terribly mislead, and that they must now be opposed with all of our might.]

Autumn

The council meeting at the start of the season began with a discussion of the werewolves who dwell in the regio near to Huntley Hill. Astrius and Husam revealed that one of the freeminers they had encountered in the summer was a werewolf. This man claimed that the werewolves and their spirit guardian had felt a dark shadow moving through the forest over the past two years. Amabila had tried to capture some of the werewolves, presumably in an effort to turn them into corrupted servants, but they had so far managed to elude her. However, the spirit had informed the werewolves that it could not hide their home from her forever, and they would soon have to move away. One option would be for them to move north to the forests around Mynydd Myddyn, which would put some distance between them and the faerie regio. The other option would be for them to move to Lydney, which would allow us to protect them in return for their labour in the mines.

The council debated the advantages and disadvantages of each option for some time. I advocated moving them to Mynydd Myddyn, as I was concerned that they would be inconstant allies who would make it much harder to maintain the fiction that Lydney is a normal village with no connection to the mythic world. Daedalus echoed this view, and he also pointed out that even if the werewolves were genuine in their offer of cooperation now, this may not always be the case in the future, and we are therefore just storing up a problem for the future. Astrius, Erla and Husam disagreed, and they argued that the wolves had changed their previous ways, had learned to live peacefully alongside mundane communities and would prove to be useful allies against Amabila. In the end, the vote split along these lines, and we resolved that Husam would make the offer to the werewolves to take up residence in Lydney this season.

We then turned our attention to the information we had discovered at Huntley Priory last season. Opinions were divided on how widely we should promulgate this news. Erla was characteristically reluctant to inform anyone outside of our immediate circle save for “confirmed allies”, which I take to mean Edith and no other. In particular, she argued that we must not tell Maximus, as he would almost certainly pass the information up the chain of command in House Guernicus, which would warn supporters of the Brothers In Christ that we were on to them. Astrius was also of this view. Husam, Daedalus and I, in contrast, countered that the information could help persuade those sympathetic to the Brothers In Christ, or who had yet to make up their minds, that the monks posed a great threat. We argued back and forth for some time until Astrius proposed a compromise: we would send letters to a select group of figures outside the covenant, including the Primi of Houses Bonisagus and Tremere, to take their view on how open we should be about our findings. We would also delay making a decision on whether to tell Maximus. All agreed with this course of action, though there was no formal vote.

Next, Erla asked whether we planned to do anything to disrupt Amabila’s plans this season. We had learned from the werewolves that Amabila had turned various villagers into monstrous “flesh spiders,” which were growing as she “fed them shadows.” Erla and I thought we should mount an expedition to the faerie regio to kill as many of them as we could, though Astrius and particularly Husam were more cautious, arguing that it would be dangerous both for those in the party and those who remained behind. After much debate, we agreed that it was a worthwhile endeavour: Astrius and I would lead a party of grogs into the regio, while Husam, Daedalus and Erla remained behind to guard the covenant and Lydney.

The final item of note from the council was that Husam petitioned the council to be able to keep one of the spider eggs he recovered from the mine in Lydney. Though this struck at least some of us as an unusual request, we agreed in exchange for a pawn of vis. No doubt he intends to study its venom, though he admitted in council that he has no small admiration for the beasts as silent killers. With that slightly disturbing thought in our minds, the council meeting came to end.

A few days into the season, Astrius and I set off for the faerie regio, accompanied by four grogs: Leonard, Elias, Dilwyn and Symeon. Astrius led us through the lower levels of the regio easily enough; there was little sign of winter, and the isolated patches of slush and snow were simple to avoid. We made our way straight for the Morrigan’s Hill, and we had nearly reached that place when we were ambushed by a host of spiders and wolves on a twisting forest path. The next few minutes were a blaze of violence, fire and death that even now I shudder to recall. The creatures were on us in an instant, and we had little time to form a defensive circle. Astrius managed to erect a Ward Against Beast of Legend that protected him, Dilwyn and Symeon from their assailants, though the circle was too small for any of the rest of us to enter. We managed to hold our own in the first few moments of the battle, though it seemed that times that the sheer numbers would overwhelm us.

I had expected Astrius to call down a smothering fog as we had previously agreed, but he must have been prevented from doing so when a large group of flesh spiders materialised, apparently from thin air, among us. They were not stopped by Astrius’ ward, and several of us were knocked to the ground, bitten and poisoned. The venom of the flesh spiders was particularly dangerous, for it appeared to age a man by several years with each application.

All looked bleak, but I managed to struggle to my feet and use an Arc of Fiery Ribbons that caught several of our assailants at the same time as Astrius, still pinned under several flesh spiders, cast Immolation of the Cornered Wizard, which incinerated several spiders and greatly wounded many others. The grogs and I were protected from the flames by wards, and we were able to use the fires to our advantage to get some separation from the remaining spiders. The battle swiftly turned in our favour, and hardly any of the creatures escaped. Two of the grogs, Leonard and Elias, had paid the ultimate price for our victory, and Dilwyn was heavily injured. All fought valiantly, and the piles of slain bodies that surrounded them were a testament to their fierce resistance. Leaving our fallen comrades for a short while, we made our way up to the summit of the Morrigan’s Hill. We found a rudimentary laboratory there, which we destroyed, and a goodly quantity of vis, which we removed. Returning to pick up the bodies of the dead, we made of way out of the regio. We saw signs of the Erechwydd’s spies lurking in the snow on the route, but fortunately they chose not to attack. Despite our losses, I count the mission a great success, for we have stripped Amabila of many of her servants, destroyed her laboratory and made the point that she cannot regard anywhere in the regio as beyond our reach.

Winter

The council met on the first day of the season with all save Maximus present. We discussed the events of the previous season, speculating on how the losses we had inflicted in autumn would affect Amabila’s plans. With fewer spiders and wolves to defend her, our foe may find it difficult to maintain her position within the faerie regio in the face of ongoing pressure from the Erechwydd. If this is the case, one possibility is that she might seek refuge elsewhere, perhaps in an infernal aura. On this basis, Astrius agreed to scout the borders of the infernal dell within the forest to look for any signs that Amabila or her forces had entered that place.

Administrative matters took up the rest of the meeting. Astrius agreed to spend most of the season in Lydney in case Amabila returned there, Daedalus will create a batch of Leap of Homecoming potions for our allies at Blackthorn, Erla will study from the vim text, Husam shall review one of the covenant’s bestiaries and I will learn the spell Seven League Stride.

There were no more events of note during the season.
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