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Scribed by Volutus

Spring 1283AD

Despite the alignment of the stars signalling that we had entered the season of spring, the covenant was still gripped by the fierce snows of winter as our council met for the start of the year. Terrentius suggested that we might begin by reviewing some of the threats that we potentially face and the Pontifex was happy to do so. We discussed the matter of Black Hugh and the creature that was once Baron of Ipswich. Now that we have a firm lead as to where they may have made their lair it was agreed that we should inform Magus Emerius and see whether he was still available to aid us in this matter. To that end it was agreed that I would carry a letter to Blackthorn for onward delivery by the redcaps, in the hope that he would be able to come before we once more lost our quarry.

Next came a short conversation regarding the faerie and whether there was any threat that currently heralds from that quarter, particularly as the covenant protects the magic of the Amaranth. Jari was confident that none of the actions of recent years will have upset the fae to any great extent and that we need not concern ourselves at this time. This was followed by a discussion about the visions we have had, and the tales that have been told by those of the magical and faerie realms, concerning a great conflict to come. Hypathia speculated that the threat might originate from the Knights Templar, who hold a legitimate presence in both Scotland and Ireland and who, despite the royal edict that bans them from these shores, have most certainly sent representatives to our tribunal. She said that there was still considerable political pressure upon King Theo to lift the edict and that he had been challenged on other matters recently, such as his protection of the Jews. We agreed that we should continue to task our spies to see if they could determine any trace of the three Templars who we had previously lost the trail of at Eastnor Castle. Jari suggested that as his mastery of the English language grows he will be able to spend more time abroad, seeking information on the guise of a wandering minstrel. Oratio suggested that he could travel to the Grey Hill and seek to use his skill in interpreting visions to determine something more of the fate that seems to be coming. Both myself and Gnaeus agreed to accompany him and we agreed to travel in the Autumn.

There was also a discussion regarding Oratio’s quest, as set by the faerie knight Sir Maurice. The pontifex revealed that he had made some study of the legends of Arthur, reading a great work by Geoffrey of Monmouth, but still had no clear idea of where the Isle of Avalon might be found. It was agreed that he would travel to the Green Chapel, accompanied by Jari, and question Sir Maurice further. This expedition is planned for the summer, for this season Oratio will be training his apprentice. Oratio also distributed 8 pawns of vis for each season completed last year and a stipend of 50 pennies to all magi, as is common.

Gnaesus and myself both agreed to extract vis from the aura as a service to the covenant, with Hypathia also upon service by visiting the court at London. Terrentius is learning the spell ‘Endurance of Pheidippides’ and Jari undertaking some personal study.

I wrote at the start of the season that the winter snows still lay heavy about us and I had underestimated their strength for as I set off to ride to Blackthorn on the day following our council met I very quickly found my progress greatly slowed from that which it would normally be. In the day that it would normally take to reach that covenant I had only just reached Monmouth and when I got to that town I was greeted by the site of burning plague fires and a sweet, sickly smell upon the wind. That night I made camp in a copse a way south of the town and near froze to death, with even my fire burning magically created wood insufficient to stave the severe chill that I felt with no real shelter from the elements. The following morning I turned back to Chepstow but found that they too had now closed their gates. I was able to bargain enough to get a message to our ship to try and pick me up to the west of the town, and to secure some camping supplies, but I was forced to travel once more into the snows for fear that I would be exposed to plague if I remained outside the walls with those who I already suspected might hold some trace of the disease. Despite my provisions however the next night was worse than the one before and the following day I could barely think so dazed by the cold was I. I wrapped Baiard in blankets as best as I was able and took the leap of homecoming potion that I carried to return swiftly to the covenant where the ministrations of Blanche were well appreciated. My fear for Baiard’s safety must have been apparent to my sodales for they considered many means by which they might recover him. Eventually Oratio cast a number of spells, two of which were from the texts including the ritual that opens an intangible tunnel to the target, and was able to recover my companion to me, little harmed by his experience. Perhaps it is this support and dedication that shows the great value of life within a covenant, for alone I am certain that my horse would now lie dead.

With plague in the area it was agreed that we should make some preparations for it might influence the price and availability of foodstuffs later in the year. We also used the mirror to determine that the ship had made its way safely to Newport and Terrentius travelled there in the form of a Seal in order to speak with the captain and provide him with a potion should he be struck with the plague. Oratio agreed to fly to Blackthorn to carry the message that I had originally committed to. For myself I should give consideration in the future to spells and enchantments that might lessen the risk of such journeys for this has been good reminder not to become complacent about travel in this land.

The season passed without event or visitor until the last week when the redcap Acerbia called upon us. She informed Jari that his House Meeting was scheduled to take place at Irencillia in Sumer next year. There was also news from London that Queen Beatrice is with child and a message from Emerius that he would arrive early in Summer to assist us. Acerbia also told us that the plague still keeps Monmouth and Skenfirth closed but Chepstow is once again open.

Volutus Private Journal: We also received a letter from Hypathia asking for the council’s view if the King’s child is born gifted, clearly a strong possibility given the history of that bloodline. The key question she asked was whether we should attempt to make an assay of this early. There are many factors to consider for while an understanding of the nature of the child would clearly help Hypathia and ourselves make some key decisions, there is grave risk if it becomes known amongst those who have shown themselves only too well prepared to take any action to prevent a magus sitting upon the throne of England. We shall think on it and discuss further with Hypathia when she returns in Autumn.

Summer

The first item for discussion at our summer council was a report that Terrentius had received from our spy network. It seems that across the region cattle and sheep have been sickening and dying of a mysterious malaise, where the sickness comes on suddenly and in many cases leaves the tongue of the creature blackened. It was reported that the disease seems to have started in the south of Wales and spread east to the Dean and areas surrounding it. Given the recent plague we wondered whether there was some link, particularly given the strange nature of the illness, and whether magic might have been involved. Terrentius will set our spies to try and gain further insight but it was agreed that, while they waited for the arrival of Emerius, he and Oratio would also make some investigation of the plague that still affects Monmouth. Hypathia was still in London, having informed us by letter that she would be staying for the birth of her brother’s child, and myself, Gnaeus and Jari announced that we were remaining within the covenant this season. I am extracting vim vis for it is not so long now before my longevity potion must be crafted and my sodales were learning spells from the library, ‘Glimpse through the mystic veil’ and ‘Crack of the splintered bone’ in turn.

At Monmouth our sodales were able to determine that the plague still holds a grip upon the town, although from the nature of the pits being used to bury the dead Terrentius surmised that the rate of deaths was slowing. Oratio could find no trace of any ghosts haunting the pits but casting spells upon one of the men who was tending the braziers nearby he discovered that the man had hermetic enchantment upon him, a ritual of perhaps the 11th magnitude that rendered him a spreader of plague, a Perdo Corporem effect that also contained requisities of Animal and Herbam. He determined that the sigil of the caster was of black blood within veins and he also told us that he had determined that there was a touch of infernal corruption upon the enchantment. Returning at night Oratio was able to espy a small, dark winged creature in the air and some other dark, misshapen creature hiding in the grasses near to the pits; identified by him as infernal imps. He also detected a 1st magnitude infernal aura where there had been a dominion aura during the daylight hours. Returning to inform us of their findings there was speculation as to whether this might have been the work of Guyere or perhaps one of his infernal hermetic apprentices, although this suggestion was driven by reports of his physical appearance rather than any knowledge of his sigil. It seems unlikely to me that it could be that creature for is he not now a demon and thus no longer a magus? We also discussed various ideas as to what the purpose of this might be but could reach no consensus on the most likely scenario. We agreed that Oratio would fly to Blackthorn to advise them of his discoveries and that Terrentius will arrange for a message to be sent to Hypathi in case there is once again some plot against the king.

About a fortnight into summer Emerius arrived at the covenant and departed for the east of the country with Oratio and Terrentius. It seems that our sodales had not asked the ship to wait for them and I understand that they paid a pretty price for their travel, with Oratio and his familiar apparently unwilling to board the vessel that they hired passage upon and instead making their own way to London. Eventually our sodales regrouped and made their way to Suffolk on foot. Taking care to conceal their camp some way from the cave they made their way to that dark place. Terrentius, in the form of a wolf, could find no trace of the charnel stench of corpses that had saturated the woods when last he was there and the cave seemed quiet from without. As they entered the cave, passing through the regio boundary that lay on the entrance, Terrentius activated the Lamp of Myddyn but something went awry with the magic. The lamp swiftly heated to such an extent that his hand was burned and he was forced to place it upon the ground. As he was doing so many litters of bones upon the floor became agitated and coalesced into twelve skeletal craetures that attacked our sodales with their sharp fingers. Fortunately, the enchantments of protection upon them meant they took no damage from the assaults and they dealt with the undead warriors with a minimum of difficulty. Oratio reported that he could see small servitor imps flitting around the higher reaches of the cave but these presented no threat to the party. At the back of the cave a narrow passage led away from the cave and they pressed on. As they passed through another regio boundary the air became thick with a sulphurous stench and they came to another cavern. This appeared empty however and the powdery residue upon the floor showed no sign of tracks. They cast intellego spells to see whether there was anything more to the place but could find nothing and realising that Terrentius’ previous investigations must have caused our foes to flee they retreated from the cave and returned to their camp, where they discovered from Oratio’s familiar that they had been away for many weeks. Emerius has agreed to return should the trail be once more picked up but quite what the next course of action is has not yet been determined.

Autumn

Terrentius had more news to report regarding the blight that continues throughout the region. There has been a great failure of the crops grown in these parts and it seems that famine is now widespread, although the preparations that we made earlier in the year mean that apart from the additional expense we will suffer no ill effect. The plague has now passed Skenfrith although Monmouth remains affected. The further investigations made by our spies have thrown up conflicting reports and we are no longer certain as to the origin or progression of the various ills that have befallen this part of the world over the year. There appears to be no pattern as to why some places have been affected and others spared. Happily Lydney still seems unaffected and it was speculated that this might be due to the protections granted this place by the powerful spirits that reside near the covenant. Reports do indicate that there has been problems as far afield as Hereford and Warwick.

Hypathia told us that the King has had a son and named him Aeddan after his grandfather. The politics of the land continue to be a concern however, with the King’s agents believing that the Archbishop of Canterbury trying to ferment a rebellion against the crown, although there is insufficient evidence as yet to raise any charge against him. The church is continuing to pressure Theo to permit the Templars to establish monasteries within England and it seems that they are threatening excommunication if he does not comply. She also offered some possible reasons why the local blight might be to our enemies’ benefit. The Earl of Gloucester is a key ally to the king and weakening him in turn weakens Theo’s position. She also pointed out that in times of great strife the populace are more likely to turn to the church and increased religious fervour becomes a possibility. It might be that the three Templars that were travelling in the region may have been sowing the seeds for this and we resolved to remain watchful and be ready to sow rumours in support of the King if necessary. Our council voted that given the discovery of a hermetic sigil by Oratio we should request of the Senior Quaesitor a formal investigation into this plague. Oratio also suggested that we should investigate a place called Snig’s End to see if there were any signs of infernal activity for it seems that in the past that place has been of some importance to our infernal foes.

Both Oratio and Jari were travelling to the Green Chapel this season, an activity that was deemed a service to the council, Terrentius was also abroad on some personal matter and Gnaeus , Hypathia and myself remained in the covenant.

Volutus’ private journal: Hypathia had asked whether myself or Oratio would be willing to travel to London to use the ritual that we both know to determine whether Prince Aeddan has the gift. I pointed out that the more who knew this the greater the chance that it would be revealed more widely for I would be surprised if some within my House did not directly ask me such in the future. We agreed that it would be best of she learned and cast such a ritual herself and to that end I agreed to scribe it and a number of other enchantments for her this season. She shall in future assist me in ther laboratory for a season in return.

I travelled to Blackthorn a few days after the council and happily my travels were easier for I used our enchanted cloak to fly there. There Octavia informed me that following our earlier information Holy Isle had already declared that they would initially lead the investigation in case it involves members of the Un-named House and that she would take over if they determined there was no evidence of their involvement. It is likely that members of Holy Isle will call upon us either this season or next.

Volutus’ private journal: Octavia seemed curious as to how Oratio has determined the presence of an infernal taint upon the ritual that is involved in the spreading of the plague. In truth I do not know myself, having assumed that it was some aspect of his gift, but it was clear that she had concerns that there might be some more sinister answer. I know that Terrentius has expressed some worries in the past into aspects of Oratio’s interactions with the infernal but I find it hard to believe that our Pontifex, who is a professed Christian, has been making studies of such a dangerous nature. Octavia asked that I inform him that she would like to speak with him on this topic when next he travels to Blackthorn.

While I was at Blackthorn I also spoke with the Praeco and he introduced me to their Head of Scouts, a man named Randulf. He had been instructed to speak with me concerning the intelligence that they have gathered regarding the plague. He was able to tell me little that was new but I felt that there would be value in he and Lucky liaising more closely and when I returned to Severn Temple my sodales agreed. We shall arrange a visit for next year. I also spoke with Theophilus and gained a sense as to the progress of the Great Library that this tribunal has agreed to found. There will be need for many works to be placed in this for it to achieve our goal of it helping bring the magi of this tribunal closer together, and these need not all be great effects of high magnitude or works of deep knowledge for not all of our covenants hold extensive libraries themselves and we have a significant number of magi who reside outside of covenants entirely.

Oratio and Jari started the season by visiting Snig’s End. They discovered no sign of any infernal presence there although within a clearing at the heart of the place there was an infernal aura of the 1st magnitude. It was reported to me as a gloomy place with little sound of birdsong but there was no trace that any have been there for many years. Returning to the covenant to pick up Jari’s consors, and also Blanche and Agnes the Red who had travelled that way in the past, our sodales then travelled to Somerset seeking the Green Chapel. The marsh that surrounds the tor upon which the chapel sits is itself bounded by a regio and in the past it has been clear that there was more than one level within. Leaving Blanche and Agnes to return to the covenant the party travelled to the that place where Oratio initially glanced through the veil with spell and saw that a mist lay across the marsh. Stepping through however they must have crossed more than one boundary for they found themselves not in a mist shrouded marsh but in the middle of a deep lake with no initial sign of land. Jari was able to cast a spell to fly from the water but the rest of the party struggled with Oratio sinking beneath the waves and Sigurd only saved by his companion Erik. From the air Jari sighted land, although he described it as unnaturally vivd in colour, and flying there was able to detect a strong presence of faerie glamour upon a boat and jetty. Jari suspected that he was in Llyr’s realm and recalling a previous invitation from the faerie that has taken the appearance of the long dead Archimagus Tiarnan called for him into the water. From the lake came an otter that claimed it was Kai, the Archimagus’ familiar. He reported that Oratio was not dead but was recovering within Llyr’s great hall and that the Lladra could transport Jari and his companions to join them. This they did and travellign beneath the surface of the water they came to a palace where they were greeted by the faerie Tiarnan. After some time, during which Jari told us he was singing for the court, Oratio rejoined them and they were taken to meet Lady Nimue, who apparently was looking after the court while LLyr was in the deep oceans and who wished to speak with our sodales. Oratio asked her about Arthur and she said that it was not his time to return and that he now resided in Arcadia. Oratio then said that he also sought Arthur’s sword and at this statement she apparently took some initial offence before telling him that he must decide what path he is upon and giving him until the sand ran through a timer to decide. She said that she had hidden the sword but would grant it if it was what he sought. If not then he would be free to leave but she would never speak with him again. She also made it clear that if Jari remained then he would be bound by whatever decision Oratio made. She left and I understand that Jari offered what advice he could, but he was clearly unsure as to what this decision might mean. As she returned he left and Nimue said that Oratio must make his choice. She said that both paths that he might take were irrevocable and both would change his life. Oratio asked for the sword and she gave it to him although as she did so she told him that she had thought it more likely he would have asked for the scabbard and thus chosen peace rather than war. She told him to give the sword to his champion and then said that this path would either unite the kingdom or destroy the world. The sword itself is a long, almost white blade and clearly magical. The Lladra then came once more and returned all four of them to the covenant.

Winter

Once more our council began with Terrentius providing us with an update on the intelligence we have gathered within the region. Though Autumn had begun with poor harvests and famine it seems that around the equinox the remaining crops suddenly recovered and produced great bounty, despite the fact that the fields were expected to be burned to destroy the blight. The famine was averted and prices have returned to that which they would normally be expected. As Oratio reported his own news we speculated whether there was some link between his actions and this renewal of the crops. A number of questions were asked of Oratio concerning the words that Nimue had spoken but he was unable to recall them clearly, and we are not certain whether there will be a price to pay for the choice that he has made. Hypathia had heard a number of legends about the sword, which apparently bears the name of Excalibur, including that it was drawn from a stone by the rightful king of the land, that the wielder would always win in battle and that it was returned to a mystical lake when Arthur died. She had also heard that its influence to war might be lessened if it was sheathed once more within its scabbard. She said that she herself would have no part of the blade and wished that it had not been brought to the covenant. She then proposed that it be returned and thrown back into the lake. Council however felt it best to learn more of the blade before making any such decision. To that end Jari will travel to the Erechwydd’s court in spring and see if any word of the sword is known and he will then accompany Oratio on another trip to try and reach the Green Chapel next summer.

All the magi remained within covenant this season with most about private magical study and only I and Gnaeus making use of the library – I to study the works on Corporem and my sodalis learning ‘Keen intuition of the magical veil’.

Not long into the season we were visited by Acerbia, Faelon and Geddyn and we were questioned about what we had learned regarding the plague. They were here for perhaps four days before moving on, the council having shared all that we knew. I understand that they were heading to make further investigation around Monmouth.

There was one other even that occurred before the year came to an end, with many at the covenant having unsettling dreams on the solstice. Some, including myself, had a vision of a pale sword, glinting in moonlight and dripping with blood. The sword was offered to a man and a woman, the face of whom neither could be seen. There followed sounds of war and battle with the screams of the wounded and dying only eclipsed by a great bellowing of men and a great crack opening within the earth as the roots of the trees crushed stone. There was the screech of birds of prey and the howling of wolves. I am sure that the reader of this journal will draw many of the conclusions as to the meaning of the vision as we did, though it’s unsettling nature was highlighted the following morning when an unseemly argument erupted between Hypathia and the pontifex, with the latter leaving in a fury accusing others of repeatedly putting words in his mouth.
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