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Scribed by Lysimachus

Spring 1271AD

We held a short council meeting on the first day of spring, with all members save Husam present. There was little additional news from winter, so we swiftly moved onto our activities for the season. The only item of note was Justinian’s petition to travel to Angers in spring to train in the Septem Sancti and then to the University of Paris in summer to study theology. He expounded on the philosophical questions that preoccupied him, most notably how to square some of God’s actions in the Old Testament with Jesus’ teachings in the New, and he hoped that the notable Parisian scholar Thomas Aquinas would be able to provide the answers that he sought. I have heard that this man’s thinking is somewhat conservative and blinkered when it comes to knowledge that in any way questions biblical revelations, but I did not seek to dissuade Justinian, as I believe that time at the university would do him good. The council voted four to two in favour of allowing these actions, with Erla casting her and Husam’s sigils against.

Early in spring, Gnaeus led a party of grogs to the outskirts of the Grey Hill, intending to spend the season studying the strange magics of the place. However, while camping in the nearby woodlands, his group were attacked in the night by a pack of wolves, who slew one of the grogs and severely wounded several others. The matter might have been even more serious had not one of the grogs driven off several of the wolves, even leaping over the fire pit to rescue Gnaeus at a crucial moment in the battle. This man, Hereward, may appear modest and unremarkable most of the time, but he has developed something of a reputation for providing sterling service when the stakes are highest, and he may have a promising career ahead of him. Astrius determined that the wolf attack had been prompted by a harsh winter, which left the creatures on the edge of starvation. He thought a repeat attack unlikely, but Gnaeus was, understandably, reluctant to venture out again that season, so he decided to extract vis from the aura instead.

Summer

Husam returned from his travels at the end of spring. He mentioned that he had called in at Deptford on the way to investigate rumours that the An Fiann had been spotted there the previous year. By greasing the palms of some of the dockyard workers, he learned that the vessel was a periodic visitor to the port, calling in there every few weeks, but he was unable to find out more details of its cargo or other destinations. Still, this is promising news, and we may be able to establish further contacts there to provide us with intelligence. Deptford is a few miles from London, but it offers ready access to that city without the scrutiny that comes with berthing at the main London wharves. It may be that Guyere’s forces have moved their focus to London; if so, this is definitely something we should investigate further given the political significance of that city.

The rest of the season passed without event, with all members engaged in laboratory work.

Autumn

The council meeting at the start of the season proved to be a stormy and bad tempered affair, sparked by Justinian’s announcement that he had taken an apprentice during his time in France. Erla immediately accused him of breaking the terms of his Excordis sentence, since he had not requested permission to do this in advance. I attempted to calm the situation by pointing out that Justinian had not actually done anything beyond agreeing to train the boy; he had not provided instruction or revealed any secrets at this stage, so there was an opportunity to resolve the situation amicably. However, neither side seemed in a mood to compromise: Erla clearly wished to levy the harshest possible penalty; Husam was red-faced with anger; and Justinian himself was reluctant to admit his mistake and slow to make any apology or offer recompense. After all sides had exhausted their arguments, Erla, Husam and Astrius voted that Justinian’s actions constituted a breach of the terms of Excordis; Justinian and I voted against this interpretation, and Gnaeus abstained. Erla then raised a motion of Exlegis against Justinian; this failed, as all voted as before save for Astrius, who voted against, judging that the penalty did not fit the offence. There then followed a vote on the milder charge of Delictum, which went against Justinian, and the council determined that he should undertake an additional season of covenant service within three years as a penalty.

I wish that I could record that, with the immediate matter settled, it provides an opportunity to put this issue behind us, but I sense that the entrenched positions on both sides will lead to further conflicts. This was evident from a vote later in the meeting on whether Justinian should be allowed to train his apprentice this season. Husam and Erla voted against this motion, though they did not succeed, as Astrius tipped the balance in favour of Justinian on this occasion. I do not know whether their vote was simply to express displeasure at what they see Justinian’s lack of appreciation of the terms of Excordis, or whether they intend to oppose Justinian’s attempts to train his apprentice every year on the basis that it represents an expansion of the membership of House Corpus Domini. If the latter, we face a truly divided council at a time of considerable danger for the covenant, Tribunal and Order.

The rest of the council meeting passed without much else of note. Husam and I agreed to spend the season investigating whether the White Lady and her servants have moved their operations to London, whereas all of the other magi remained in the covenant undertaking magical researches.

[Lysimachus’ private journal: After the meeting, Justinian and I spoke at length about the events that had occurred. He was rather downhearted, wondering whether he really had a future at the covenant given that he faces so much hostility from certain quarters. I counselled him not to make any rash decisions, for his position, though difficult, is not untenable. I reassured him that the covenant is stronger with him than without him, even if others do not recognise this, and I advised him to seek to build a positive relationship with Gnaeus to counterbalance the influence of Erla and Husam.

Husam and I travelled to London on foot, accompanied by a grog, Luke, who has a somewhat annoying manner, though who ultimately provided stalwart service. In Gloucester, we learned that Theo was to be crowned King later in the season, which meant that London was likely to be even more crowded than usual, with accommodation within the city being almost impossible to find. This proved to be the case, so we purchased camping supplies in Deptford and headed east to try to find a secluded spot to act as a base for our investigations. We eventually found a small copse that seemed ideal; Husam detected a minor magical aura about the place, centred on an oak tree that was wrapped in unusual vines. We speculated that this might be a vis source, and Husam searched for signs that it was owned, eventually locating a mark on the tree that indicated it belonged to Brynlee, a reclusive member of his House.

Making sure not to disturb the site, we settled down for the night. However, Luke awoke in an alarmed state, claiming to have had a strange dream. He explained that he had initially seen a vision of Theo’s coronation, which seemed to be a joyous and well-received occasion, but the scene then took on a darker hue, as he saw a woman dressed in white skulking through the shadows, no doubt intending mischief. As he watched, the woman turned to him and they locked eyes, at which point he awoke. Husam and I both recognised the likely link to the White Lady, and we both began to cast a series of protective enchantments. However, before we were finished, the copse suddenly became much darker, and I lost control of a spell, entwining myself in vines, rather than summoning the quarterstaff as I had intended. Fortunately, Husam was still able to see in the encroaching gloom, and he spied a white figure lurking at the edge of the copse. They immediately sprang towards each other, engaging in battle while I freed myself from my self-imposed prison. Alas, Husam got the worst of the encounter, for the woman moved with preternatural speed, and she inflicted a series of deep wounds on him with her raking claws. As he fell to the ground, I was able to drive the woman off by using the Curse of the Desert; though the woman was evidently some sort of undead fiend, rather than a living entity, the spell appeared to weaken her by destroying the stolen blood that she uses the sustain her unlife. With a wicked grimace, she fled into the shadows, and we were able to revive Husam and tend his wounds.

Luke’s vision implied that Theo might be the target of the diabolists’ plans, so Husam and I agreed to pursue the matter separately. While he and Luke focussed on the docks at Deptford, hoping to pick up the trail of the An Fiann, I travelled to the White Tower, where I informed the royal family of our suspicions and remained close to Theo in case of attack. Our plans did not proceed altogether successfully, for one of the agents we used to carry messages between us went missing, either captured or killed by our enemies. However, we did learn that the Ann Fiann called at the docks every month or so, and a covered wagon made its way to an area of Clerkenwell near the priory of St. John. We also discovered that a local gang leader, Osgood, had strengthened his grip on Newgate over the previous year, and we speculated that he might have had infernal assistance in this matter given that a white ghost had once been spotted in the area. During the weeks before the coronation, I had been using the Seven League Stride to enter the White Tower without raising the suspicions of the king’s retainers, but on one occasion my magics went awry, and I was struck down with a headache the ferocity of which I have never experienced before. As my head eventually cleared, I was horrified to learn that my magics had failed me, and I was not able to cast a spell nor raise my parma magica. Quite how long this predicament would last was unknown at the time, but it effectively rendered my ability to protect Theo moot, for I lacked the ability to combat the infernal without the access to my arcane arts.

A few days after this disaster, a hue and cry was raised after a female intruder was spotted in the grounds of the castle. I quickly sent a message to Husam, who fortunately was relatively close on this occasion, and he apported invisibly to the king’s chambers, where he arrived just in time to prevent the White Lady from attacking the king. On this occasion, my sodales proved to be the stronger warrior, and he was able to fend off her attacks and wound her on several occasions, before finally striking off her head. As he did so, her body crumpled into dust, leaving only her white shawl. I finally managed to persuade the king’s guards to let me in, and I explained to Theo that I had sent a spirit to defend him; he appeared to believe the ruse, leaving Husam’s role in the matter as yet unrecognised. I swiftly arranged for the shawl to be burned a long way from any habitation, and I was relieved when the ichorous black smoke that it gave off disappeared into the air.

With the immediate threat gone, Husam resumed his intriguing around Deptford, but this proved to be a dangerous cat-and-mouse affair, as watchers had clearly been set in the area to look for anyone paying undue attention to the area. Husam had to move his camp to avoid the attentions our enemies, and at one point he was forced to return to Severn Temple after he fell ill from too many nights out in the cold rain. Still, we made it to the day of the coronation without further major incidents, though subsequent events proved that we had not yet seen the last of the infernal threat.

I was allocated a place in the gallery above the site of the coronation, granting me a clear view of proceedings, and I agreed with the Lord Castellan that I would send him swift message should I notice anything untoward in the crowd. As Theo approached the throne surrounded by his household knights, I spotted a strange expression on the face of one of his retinue, Simon Fitzwilliam, the son of the Lord of Dublin. He looked deeply conflicted, as though trying to reconcile his conscience with an unpleasant duty. I immediately sent word to the Lord Castellan to have Fitzwilliam arrested, but he hesitated, unwilling to interrupt the coronation at such a late stage. This proved to be a grave error, for as Theo turned to receive the crown, Fitzwilliam drew a blade and plunged it into his back. All was chaos for the next few minutes, as Fitzwilliam was seized and the king was dragged into an antechamber, surrounded by guards. I was eventually able to gain access to this room, where I found him unconscious; the royal physician stated that the wound itself was probably not sufficiently deep to kill him, but there were signs that the blade had been poisoned. My own investigations confirmed this diagnosis, for I saw signs of necrotising flesh within the wound, which I suspected related to an unnatural poison crafted by the diabolists.

The royal physician and I disagreed on how to proceed, for I rapidly ascertained that his ministrations would prove inadequate; the man was clearly grasping at straws, at one point asking for holy water to be used to bless the wound. A furious row erupted when I countermanded his instructions, which was resolved only when Eleanor decided to dismiss the man and appoint me in his place. In truth, I had few ideas about how to proceed at this stage, for counteracting the poison lay beyond my knowledge of medicine, and I still lacked access to my Hermetic arts. I managed to get in contact with Husam, and after some equivocation on the best way forward, he apported to Severn Temple to summon Astrius, who we surmised was the only person we knew with the arts to cast a healing ritual of the required strength. In the meantime, we moved the still unmoving body of the king to the White Tower, as we needed a less public place to carry out the ritual.

Astrius agreed to help, and he travelled to the White Tower invisibly, once again adopting the guise of one of my spirits. There, he incanted in welsh for a long period, calling on the Anu at various points, though I understood not the rest of his spells. Whatever it was, it proved effective, as after a short while, Theo opened his eyes, seemingly as strong as ever. The wound in his back was fully healed, almost as if he had never been struck at all. I gratefully dismissed my helpful ‘spirit’, and I spent the next few weeks in the pretence of healing the king, so that his recovery did not raise undue suspicions at court. Both nobles and common folk alike greeted his eventual recovery with great cheer, and my efforts to downplay my involvement in his recovery fell on deaf ears. My position as chancellor and now royal physician is now much more notable than it once was, which means that I will have to take steps to replace this persona in due course before it brings too much unwelcome attention.

As the king recovered, he asked me to visit Fitzwilliam in the dungeons to ascertain what had motivated his assault, since the two had been childhood friends. I lacked the magic to question Fitzwilliam’s mind directly, so I had to rely on natural intuition, but I feel he spoke truthfully to me when he said that he could not explain why he acted as he did. He had experience a dark dream the night before, which filled him with foreboding, but he had not intended the king any harm until the moment that he struck. I asked him where he obtained the poisoned blade, and he had to think for a while before his memories cleared. He explained that it had been a gift some seven or so year before from a merchant seeking to curry favour with him and his father. As he meditated on the merchant’s face, he saw that it was a mask, beneath which lay the horrifying visage of a long dead corpse with no hair, black eyes and crooked teeth. The merchant had gifted him with a dagger and his father with a sword, which raises the question of whether he may also hold some sway over the Lord of Dublin. Politics meant that Theo could not spare his friend, even though he may have believed the words that I relayed, yet the fact that his involvement was not deliberate provided him with some small comfort. I returned home at the end of autumn, grateful that all of endeavours had borne fruit, even if the matter had hung in the balance for much of the season.]


Winter

We began the winter council meeting by recounting the details of the season Husam and I spent in London. We explained that we had encountered the White Lady close to London following a prophetic dream experienced by one of the grogs; fortunately, we were able to drive her off. Husam encountered her a second time later in the season, and on that occasion he was able to cut her head from her body. This is potentially a great victory, though Husam seemed slightly concerned about whether the entity he defeated was truly the White Lady, noting that he had been misled before when the diabolists created a simulacrum of the vampire Dougal. For my part, I described how the Simon Fitzwilliam, the son of the Lord of Dublin, had attempted to assassinate the king during the coronation, though his wounds did not prove fatal. I was able to interrogate Fitzwilliam, and I learned that he had experienced dark dreams the night before the coronation, and he could not explain his actions. He revealed that he had been given the dagger he used seven years ago by a merchant, though as he meditated on the man’s appearance, he saw that it bore the horrific visage of a long-dead corpse. The merchant also gave Fitzwilliam’s father a weapon, and Husam agreed that he would pursue the investigation further.

Later in the season, the redcap Acerbia brought us news from the Tribunal and beyond. Praeco Arcanus has called a meeting of the Stonehenge Tribunal for midsummer next year. Arcanus plans to visit Severn Temple in spring to discuss matters with Astrius, presumably in his role as Archimagus or Hoplite. Acerbia announced that King Theo has been crowned in Westminster, and the Chancellor of the King’s College had thwarted an assassination attempt. The assassin, Simon Fitzwilliam, has been hung, drawn and quartered. In Wales, Caerphilly castle has been completed after many years of construction; it is the largest such fortress in the land. In Rome, Pope Gregory the tenth has been selected as a compromise candidate after a three-year conclave. The rules for selecting the pontiff will be re-examined to avoid such long delays in the future. Elsewhere, the county of Toulouse has been returned to the French crown. In the Levant, the Mongols have captured the citadel of Krak de Chevaliers. Finally, the magus Matteo Polo of Mercere has departed for Far Cathay to meet with the Khan of All the Mongols, which may offer the opportunity to gather intelligence on our foes.

[Lysimachus’ private journal: I also received news from Acerbia that there are “no magi with formal residences on the island of Malta.” I found the statement slightly curious – does it imply that there are magi who spend time there even if they are attached to covenants on the Italian peninsula? – but it potentially provides me with more freedom to pursue De Analytica].


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