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Scribed by Hypatia

Spring

Our council met with two members absent. Jari has not yet returned from his venture into the faerie regio last season and our Pontifex, Oratio, is still working with Liberata at Trevalga Covenant. Thus, Gnaeus led the council session; he began by asking for any news from last season.

Terentius reported the results of Oratio’s investigation into the disappearance of children from Coleford. As he related in the journal for winter 1276, it seems the former quaesitor was successful in summoning and controlling the spirit of the witch we believe is responsible for the curse. The ghost revealed two potential ways to break the spell: Firstly, each of the mothers might prick a finger and allow a few drops of blood to fall upon their child’s pillow; alternatively, someone unrelated can break the spell by shedding a more significant quantity of blood.

There appears to be some urgency to this, as after three years the children will be permanently lost to the form they currently wear. It has been well over a year since the three children from that village were transformed into crows; by my estimate this unusual ritual must be completed before the end of summer 1278 at the latest. In Oratio’s absence, there was no further discussion regarding the timing of his plan to disguise himself as a hermit and approach the women as they wash clothes by the river.

Volutus announced that he had completed his covenant service and opened an enchantment upon the lamp. Given its utility when exploring the caves, he offered to invest an effect similar to ‘Lamp without Flame’ over the course of this season as a further service. Gnaeus agreed to this and offered to extract Vim vis for the covenant this season in preparation for re-casting the ‘Aegis of the Hearth’.

We currently cast this protective ritual at the beginning of summer, but Gnaeus identified a potential problem for this year as the emergency session of the Stonehenge Tribunal is to begin at the same time. Given the importance of the meeting, almost everyone plans to attend in person. Gnaeus offered to stay behind and wait three days into the season. If we have not returned by then, he shall enact the ritual on his own. Given this would potentially impede those magi not part of the ritual (for example, preventing them from using the spell ‘Leap of Homecoming’ to return to their sancti) and two of the council were absent, Gnaeus raised his plan as a formal motion and asked for a vote. The council supported the motion unanimously.

As the topic of conversation had moved onto covenant services, I related my plan to pursue the investigation into the Baron of Ipswich. Ideally, we need someone within the court who has the ability to perceive spirits to gain insight into whether the Baron is possessed by an infernal entity or merely bewitched. Again, in Oratio’s absence it was not possible to discuss this plan in more detail.

I noted, however, that the key issue is finding where Black Hugh may be hiding. It’s possible he is within the Baron’s castle, perhaps hidden away in the dungeon, but more likely he’s some discreet distance from the mundane fortress. I offered the council a choice: I could, quite swiftly, ask some of the King’s spies to set a watch on the place and report unusual nightly goings; or the council could take a longer path and set up a network of our own spies. Opinion was divided. Gnaeus raised a formal motion on whether we should seek the use of the King’s spies. Volutus and Terentius voted against the plan, meaning the votes of Gnaeus and myself were insufficient for the motion to pass. Terentius suggested that he could spend a season of service working with Lucky, our spymaster, later in the year to start the preparations needed to extend our spies so far from the Dean.

Gnaeus announced that he would be travelling abroad at the beginning of autumn; to visit his pater and obtain his help in the formulation of a longevity potion. For this he would need the covenant ship for the best part of three seasons. However, he waived his right under the charter to claim a grant of covenant vis.

The meeting ended with Gnaeus making a generous grant of five pawns of vis for each covenant service undertaken last year and offering a stipend of 250d to each magus.

[Hypathia’s personal journal]

It took longer than I expected to prevent Oliver Godestone being named the new guild master of the silversmiths in York. My brother, it seems, delegates such routine tasks to his chancellor and it took several weeks to track down Lord Wolton and find a way to persuade him to delay the appointment. However, eventually, the task set by Karim filius Husam in payment for his aid to Oratio was completed.

The delay impeded my other plans, however. By the time I returned to London, I’d missed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit and discovered it was too late to organise an invitation (at least one that cannot easily be refused) for Baron Henry to attend court next season.

The formal conversations between my brother and Archbishop Robert Kilwardby were related to the condemnation he had issued against two Oxford scholars. It seems that philosophy and theology have clashed with one another. The work of these scholars is perceived as potentially undermining the eucharist; the philosophical claims that a body cannot exist in more than one place, and that no more than one body can exist in one place, were ruled to contradict the manifestation of the body of Christ through religious rite. Lysimachus would have enjoyed some of these arguments, and I was painfully reminded of his absence.

Behind closed doors, however, the Archbishop brought further pressure to allow the Knights Templar to found monasteries within England and Wales, and to renounce the protection granted to scholars of the Hermetic Order under Magna Carta. We rehearsed some potential diplomatic defences against these positions last year, and it seems Theo was able to frustrate the Archbishop without inviting Papal censure.

On the first issue, he feigned offence that pilgrims were unsafe travelling within his Kingdom and referred to a speech given by the Archbishop last year at Cambridge where Robert had encouraged the faithful to make the pilgrimage to Canterbury given the “safe roads of England”. Theo deflected the request by arguing that the Holy Land was surely more perilous than ever, and that he would generously support a Templar mission - over there.

On the latter, Theo affected sympathy with the request, but explained his hands were tied; as any attempt to annul the great charter would potentially plunge the Kingdom into turmoil and even civil war. He assured the Archbishop that he would do everything within his power to accede to the Pope’s request, but pleaded for patience given the political difficulties of complying.

I was abroad for the greater part of the season, but returned before the end to attend an informal council prior to the emergency tribunal.

Jari had returned safe and sound from the Erychwydd’s realm about a week into the season. He described the great feast she held in his honour; it seems his musical talents were appreciated by the Queen, for he was granted the key to Cormoran’s tower further into the regio. It seems however one of his companions ate and drank the faerie offerings at the feast and is now cursed: mundane food tastes of ashes and even the finest ale tastes sour. On a more positive note, Jari thought he saw some sign of a presence returning to the Palug’s glade and found a small mushroom growing amongst the long grass near the centre of the glade. He thinks there may be a way to restore that site in the future.

Oratio had also returned, having spent the season investigating the outcome of the occult ritual he and Liberata had performed. The ritual attempted to cleanse his spirit – and apparently felt like being burnt alive over and over. During this trial, Oratio had a vision where he appeared to be offered a choice between a scrying stone and his familiar Barnabus. Wisely, he chose to save his familiar, but it seems that as a consequence he has lost his power to dream of the future. However, this aspect of his gift has not been entirely destroyed, he suggested, there appears to be some latent aspect of this magic which survived the flames. How this might manifest in future is unknown.

[Hypatia’s personal journal]

It’s clear that some members of the council were quite unsettled by the report of this ritual. Terentius was quite openly suspicious and refused Oratio’s request that the council speak of it to no one. To be fair to our new Tremere, his House was plunged into corruption and almost destroyed by dark secrets and even darker ‘occult’ practices. I can understand his concerns. However, Oratio appeared genuinely relieved of the demon’s curse, and his mood and manner were much lighter than they have been for several years.


Summer

The emergency tribunal at Blackthorn was held over the first few days of the season. Whilst the Stonehenge Tribunal was not in a position to rule upon the guilt or innocence of magi charged by the Iberian Tribunal, Senior Quaesitor Octavia agreed that our Tribunal could rule on who was responsible for the attack and thus must present themselves for judgement next year.

Quaesitor Faelon had voluntarily placed himself into the custody of Blackthorn, claiming that the others had acted as Hoplites under his authority. However, this ruling was contested by Primus Olafsson, who argued that as a Primus of the Order he ultimately bore responsibility. The meeting was an offering between Scylla and Charybdis: Which of these good men would face uncertain justice in Iberia?

Primus Ex-Miscellanea related the decisions leading up to the attack upon Tomer and the disastrous assault which robbed our council of Lysimachus, Husam and Astrius. The events are related in detail by Oratio (then Justinian) in spring 1275 of this journal, so I will not repeat the sorry tale. There were numerous requests for further specifics and many questions from the gathered magi, so the telling of events took up most of the first day.

The next day, given few magi are particularly knowledgeable about the Church, Theophilus of Bonisagus presented an outline of what the Papal excommunication meant in religious and philosophical terms. Excommunication means to expel an individual or a group from communion; essentially depriving them of receiving the sacrament. It is intended as a "medicinal penalty" to provoke the offending party to change their behaviour or beliefs, repent, and return to full communion. The attack upon Tomer has led to excommunication because the Order is accused of violating the enclosure of a monastery and committing physical violence against the monks within. The state can be resolved through, in this case, an act of obedience: handing those who attacked Tomer over to the Templars.

It’s disturbing to note that when Black Hugh was excommunicated (see Antonius’ entry for Winter 1110) there appeared to be a subsequent rise in infernal activity; on the other hand, the excommunication of John (reported by Medius in Summer 1201) and Emperor Fredrick (see Maximus’ entry for summer 1240) appeared to bring political rather than supernatural threats. It seems likely to me that Hugh’s dark association with Guyere was the true reason the infernal powers appeared to wax at the time. However, for the many practising Christians within the Order, this ruling essentially condemns them and it’s hard to argue that this doesn’t represent a disaster for relations between the Order and the Church.

Nitoria of Mercere attempted to summarise some of the political ramifications of this ruling against the Order. In summary, no one really knows, but the worst case scenario of individual magi or weaker covenants being attacked by zealous nobles seeking to ingratiate themselves with the Pope remains a distinct possibility. Somewhat ironically, we are safer here in Stonehenge than our sodales on the continent, the great charter essentially underwrites our rights and freedoms within England and Wales.

Eventually, the tribunal was called to vote upon the matter for which it had been convened. As I said, it was a stark choice between two unpleasant options. I, along with the majority, supported Olafsson’s motion. I cannot see much advantage coming from his determination to attend the Iberian Tribunal, but sparing Faelon is at least a small good that was achieved by the vote.

Upon our return to the covenant, we held a council meeting. Gnaeus reported that he had successfully recast the Aegis of the Hearth, and reminded us that this magical barrier would impede our spells until we re-enact the ritual next year. There was some discussion related to a magus who has recently joined the tribunal. Brother Avery of House Corpus Domini has taken residence as a scholar at Oxford University. Jari spoke out strongly against forming any association with the man, however Volutus firmly rejected this position; arguing that unless council explicitly ruled otherwise, that he intends to make contact with him. Let me note, for the record, that council made no such ruling.

Jari also proposed undertaking a project to translate the extensive lore we possess related to the pagan gods and practices. He suggested approaching Cad Gadu with the offer of granting the Welsh copy of the books and scrolls we own, in return for them translating the work into Latin. This suggestion was well-received by the council, though no immediate actions were agreed.

[Hypatia’s personal journal]

Theo received an envoy from Rudolph, King of the Romans, over the course of the season. It appears the State of the Teutonic Order has amassed a large army and, with the threat of the Horde now diminished in the East, King Rudolph is worried that they may seek to extend their lands into his own under some pretext. It seems that Theo’s resistance to the military orders of the Church has gained him a potential ally – and the timing is good, for surely France may soon take opportunity to exploit the political pressure on Theo and threaten English lands held on the continent. Rudolph has a daughter, Catherine, and a clear opportunity for an alliance was implicitly made. In private, Theo was his normal, annoying self, of course – teasing me that I would sell him off to the first ugly princess that came along if it meant securing a future for my precious Order.

Anyway, I still think the best match is Beatrice, daughter of Charles of Anjou, King of Sicily. Charles would make a strong ally and, when I met Beatrice a few years ago I was impressed by her clear intelligence and strong will. Whenever I raise the idea, Theo makes silly jokes about marrying me off to Lord Thursby (who does follow me around like a puppy whenever I attend court).


Autumn

The council meeting was a short affair after the intense politics at the tribunal last season. Volutus and Terentius plan to explore Mynydd Myddyn this season, how that Oratio has successfully enchanted the lamp with an effect akin to ‘Sense the Elusive Boundary’. Gnaeus will be travelling abroad this season – so Oratio appointed Terentius as the new Ministrator to take his place.

[Hypatia’s personal journal]

Since Myddyn named me his apprentice, I’ve been able to travel freely along the many roads of the Otherworld, well-protected against the less-than-benign entities which sometimes find themselves close to the veil of the mortal world. Following the advice of my ageless mentor, I have explored the shallow parts of that realm with caution; using the ancient spells and invocations he taught me to avoid getting lost within the labyrinth that is beyond.

There is something brewing beyond the veil. I feel it. It is like storm clouds massing unseen beyond the horizon – I feel a charge within the unsettled air, smell the torrential rain upon the wind, but cannot perceive their origin or cause.

I don’t think it’s a dragon, or some other terrible creature from the unfathomable deeps of the Otherworld. At least … I very much hope it isn’t.

For all the secrets Myddyn taught me, my inexperience betrays me. It strikes me that if there’s some great threat coming, the fae may perceive it more clearly than I can. Next time Jari plans a trip to the faerie regio, perhaps I’ll join him and quietly see whether the Erechwydd or any of the other more powerful entities we bump into have sensed it also.

Terentius and Volutus returned before the end of the season, reporting a successful venture into the caves beneath Mynydd Myddyn. Terentius believes he has enough information to draw up an approximate map detailing various routes through the caves. From Lysimachus’ descriptions the place sounds like a labyrinth, so this is no small achievement!

In addition to those sites routinely collected, the party successful located a source of Imagonem vis within a moss covered grotto within the caves. Nestled in this verdant cavern can be found small mushrooms which glisten slightly in firelight. However, visitors to this cave should beware of breathing in the countless spores which thicken the air within. Laurent’s lungs became congested after inhaling these spores, though the magical protections around the magi prevented them from being likewise stricken. Fortunately, one of Erla’s potions was able to cure the malady.

In addition to the vis sites, the magi identified what appear to be six regio boundaries within the network of caves. We have some idea where at least two of them lead, and might suspect a third leads to sulphurous tunnels which were previously inhabited by infernal serpents. The others are yet a mystery.

There was no further news over the course of the season.

Winter

Our council meeting began with news from last season and details of the expedition into Mynydd Myddyn (see Autumn 1277). Oratio reported that he had uncovered a number of old items within the covenant store which, according to records, may be magical and possibly faerie enchanted items belonging to, and in some cases perhaps crafted, by Archimagus Tiarnen. He suggested that Magus Jari might have use of them in his ventures within the faerie regio, and indicated that investigation of these devices might form covenant service for one with the appropriate skills and arts.

The Pontifex went on to offer each member of the council a specific role or title (as described within our charter): To Jari, he offered the title of ‘Legationis’ to the fae; to Volutus, he offered the position of Civilitor; to Terentius, it seems Oratio was minded to grant the position of ‘Imperator’, but as he hold the title of Ministrator, this was not possible, therefore he offered the dedication of ‘Magne ex parte’ in relation to the spy network; to me, the dedication of ‘Magna ex parte’ in relation to the noble courts. There was some brief discussion, but each of the magi present accepted these positions and responsibilities.

There was also some discussion related to the charter. It seems Oratio has some ambition to review some of the elements of this long-standing contract between us all, but noted that there was not currently any formal way to make additions or amendments to the charter. There was some brief conversation about how we might formalise changes to the charter and what sort of changes magi might envisage. However, with Gnaeus away, this discussion did not advance beyond general discussion.

This season, Jari offered to undertake covenant service through further exploration of the faerie regio. Given his new role, unsurprisingly Oratio supported this suggestion. I decided to accompany him, partly out of sheer curiosity but also to gain some idea about the balance of power between the various courts so close to our home. Ortaio announced he would be training his apprentice. Volutus and Terentius requested and received access to the library to study Intellego and Vim respectively.

[Hypathia’s personal journal]

The trip into the faerie regio was straightforward enough. We paused only at the Palug’s glade to assess whether there was any further sign that place may become inhabited once more – but otherwise made our way swiftly into the deeper forest, which appeared as if spring was making a promise to return.

Having announced my presence, we were led directly to the Erechwydd’s court. The Queen of Snows was keen to celebrate our arrival with a feast, but I was eager not to tarry too long in that deep regio so I asked for a brief private audience where I made excuses for why I could not stay.

Following the strange sense of impending storm I perceived within the Otherworld, I enquired of the Queen whether she had sensed any threat from beyond the veil. Her answer surprised me: She spoke of an impending winter storm, the like of which no mortal had ever seen. This fierce blizzard would freeze the sap within the heartwood of the very oldest oaks, and cover the seven seas with thick coats of ice – stretching as far as the edge of the world.

I interpreted this as metaphorical (not least because scholars know the world is a sphere), and decided that I should seek a second opinion. I took my leave, accompanied by Jari who appeared both curious to find out what I was up to and keen not to risk his companions coming under the sway of faerie magic at another winter feast.

We made our way to the Summer glade, where we were able to gain access. We were met by Iago the centaur – another former member of the King’s council, aligned to the Nynniaw and the court of the summer forest. He was clearly very suspicious of Jari, but agreed to lead me on through the regio where I might meet with the Lord of Oaks. I left Jari and his companions taking their rest within the glade and followed the centaur along a winding woodland path.

We eventually approached a deep, veiled glade. I was struck at once by the prominent tree stump in the centre. Upon close inspection, the strange knots and tangles, and thick, winding roots took on an almost human resemblance – as if that of an old man, curled up and asleep.
As we waited, I sensed a sudden biting touch to the air and saw light flakes of snow begin to fall from the grey skies above the canopy of trees. Iago reacted to this with sudden anger – accusing me of tricking him and allowing the Erechwydd access to the Summer glade. It took a while to calm him – and convince him that I had no plan or part in any conspiracy to grant the Queen access to Nynniaw’s sanctuary. Iago appeared convinced that Jari had somehow opened the silver gate to the realm of the winter court – though, given his young age and nascent powers, this seemed extremely unlikely to me.

As we had this debate, a figure quietly entered the clearing. Iago’s reaction revealed that this was the Lord of Oaks, but it took me a moment to realise this. I had read descriptions of the Nynniaw – an awesome presence, clad in silvered robes, with hair of oak leaves, but this figure was much changed. Nynniaw appeared as a frail old man, robed in ragged brown, his hair and long beard a tangle of bare twigs and yellow leaves.

The Nynniaw was willing to hear my question, so I swiftly asked about the storm I had sensed deep beyond the veil. The Lord of Oaks replied that it was not a storm, but a great season of growth, abundance and renewal, unknown across the ages of mankind. This force of nature would tear down the thickest castle walls and topple the tallest steeples of the jealous god, and cover the land in lush forests – stretching from one coast as far as the other.

His answer unsettled me even more than the Queen’s – for it seems each of these faerie powers perceived this deep presence in the Otherworld as some golden age for their court, yet their assessment of the nature of it and its potential influence upon the world was entirely contradictory. It seems that my adventure has left me with more questions than answers.

My journey back to the covenant was somewhat more convoluted than intended. It seems the route back to the glade was lost when the Erechwydd took over the regio – thus I was forced to find alternative paths. From where I emerged back into the mundane world, I suspect the regio I’d been within must be in the vicinity of a lost Diedne covenant – called, I think, Hall of the Forest – described occasionally within the journal.

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