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Scribed by Jari

Spring 1284AD

We met as a full council at the start of the year and hopefully we’ll stay that way and won’t have anyone throwing a tantrum and walking out mid-meeting, as happened last time we magi sat down to discuss matters. It might be more expected of we junior magi, but surely one might hope for more self-control from the Pontifex!

Gnaeus asked if any of us had any further insight about the vision of the man and woman being offered a pale sword that we had all had at midwinter. All save Oratio that is. Make of that omission what you will, but I think it’s unlikely to be a coincidence that the one person who didn’t receive the dream is the one person who doesn’t have any acorns from the Heart of the Forest. What this says about the source, intent and veracity of the vision is harder to ascertain, but it’s certainly suggestive that it comes from the pagan powers and thus it’s clearly not coming from a neutral perspective.

In an effort to find out more about his Quest to rouse Arthur, Oratio will seek out the faerie knight Sir Maurice and also read through Blackthorn’s extensive mundane texts on the legends of Arthur and Excalibur, for we believe that is the legendary name of the pale sword we saw in the vision.

Anyway, Hypathia, who confirmed that she too had had the vision, suggested that it could mean that the longer it takes for Oratio to make a decision, the more dangerous and bloody the battle to come will be. Given Oratio’s previous experience in interpreting divinations and visions he was asked what he thought the vision meant. Hilariously, his first suggestion was that the man and the woman could be Jesus and the Morrigan!

Sadly this comic interlude was short-lived, for Hypathia grew increasingly impatient with our discussions. She said that she would not permit Excalibur to be given to King Theo or Aeddan, for she fears that, just as bearing the Crown of Math ultimately resulted in the untimely deaths of her family, namely Theo, Aeddan, and Urbanus, so too could another powerful artefact like Arthur’s sword. She said that the vision indicated that history could be repeating itself, for she believes that previously the choice of who to give the sword to was between Arthur and Morgana.

Unfortunately, when we tried to talk through what should be done, including investigating the sword to gain a better understanding of what its powers were, Hypathia simply refused to discuss it any further. She simply said that the sword was incredibly dangerous and shouldn’t even be investigated. The rest of us were keener to try and reason it out a little more, and we debated long and hard about it. However, Hypathia could not have been more explicit in her opposition and, after a short while, in what I hope will not become an ongoing trend for magi here, walked out of the meeting and, as it transpired, the covenant.

Oratio went on a little about our shared wisdom before suggesting a reinterpretation of the vision about the forthcoming great battle as representing christianity vs paganism! Quite how he came to this suggestion is still not clear to me, but the recasting of what was broadly accepted as magic as being pagan is somewhat troubling for, while the two are related, they are not the same thing at all. A magus might quite reasonably choose to oppose paganism, but to oppose magic would be the height of foolishness.

Jari’s private journal: I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that Oratio, while a reasonably puissant and capable magus under normal circumstances, when placed under pressure is incapable of making anything other than terrible decisions. Sadly it’s also becoming clear that Hypathia is far less dispassionate and rational about the whole tragic mess of her family, though her anger and frustration are easy enough to understand, given the idiot who’s been entrusted with the sword.

In other news, it was good to see our faithful Tremere remains as dogged as ever in not letting the matter of the Baron of Ipswich drop. While he has business in the Pennines this season, he will press on with his investigations later in the year. Finally, I asked for and was granted a chainmail hauberk for Sigurd, to enhance his protection, doubtless it’ll see good use.

After the council was concluded, Oratio, Barnabas, Sigurd, Erik and I set off for Glastonbury again, taking the same, somewhat circuitous, route as before to avoid Oratio or Barnabas having to cross any water, save on a broad bridge. The journey was pleasingly straightforward and I was able to practice my guise of a skald, or minstrel as they’re named over here in England, in several taverns, including the Hound Inn in Berkeley and a couple in Bristol. The trip took six days and we set up camp in the woods as before.

With a little trepidation and, I couldn’t help but notice, Oratio pointedly taking the lead this time, we crossed the regio boundary once more. Thankfully this time we simply passed through into the faerie marsh rather than straight into the great lake that surrounds Llyr’s realm! We had a brief discussion about how to cross the marsh, but with flying through the mists adding a little complexity to the uncertainty about where exactly the regio boundaries lie, I decided that we should walk when asked to choose by Oratio. The marsh was extensive, with many deep pools and mires that could drag a man down to a watery death. As we squelched onwards, there was the occasional unnerving splash of something entering the water nearby, but the only overt sign of any living was the croaking of crows overhead. Erik’s eye for a safe path held good though and we made it across without incident.

On reaching the hill in the marsh’s centre, we passed quickly through a regio boundary at its base and then up the steep hillside. I chanced to look back to see how the marsh had changed and saw that it was now a murky-looking lake. Climbing the hill was hard work and there was a further regio boundary near the peak of the hill. As we crossed that, the stone ruins we had previously seen atop the hill changed into an ivy-cloaked tower.

As soon as Oratio entered the chapel there came the sound of hoof beats and Sir Maurice arrived on his faerie stead. He recognised the unicorn badge that I had been given by Hypathia and was reassuringly relaxed about our presence. He spoke to the ‘questing wizard’ who had a few questions for him, but little of interest was gleaned from the exchange. Sir Maurice restated that the quest was to “restore Arthur to his rightful place” and in doing so “usher in a great golden age of Albion”. One notable titbit was that Sir Maurice claimed that Myrddin couldn’t help Arthur in his final battle because of Nimue, who he said was not to be trusted. He also said that Excalibur was a magnificent and terrible blade, which he had seen wielded in battle, but also sheathed in peace. Bearing it was the mark of a true King.

After Sir Maurice left, I ventured inside the building. It had the manner of a church, in so far as I can tell, with benches and an altar all covered in moss. There was a pleasing loamy fragrance and no sign of the usual dampness you find with such an abundance of moss. On closer inspection, I discovered that the benches and altar were not covered in moss, but were actually made of moss. There was an aura of the seventh magnitude inside, but no sign of any faerie glamour. I took a small handful of moss for vis and we headed home. Erik’s guidance was once again true and ‘ere too long we were back in the mundane realm.

Once back in the Dean, I paid a quick visit to the Erequith’s realm (how casual I appear to have become with such a journey!) to see whether she had sensed aught about Excalibur’s return. A brief trip to the Wizard’s Tower yielded 2 pawns of animal and 3 pawns of mentem vis, then off to her court. It was relatively empty with mid-Winter having passed, but Sigurd and I were greeted by name. She said that all was well with her realm and when I, as casually as I could, dropped Arthur and Myrddin into the conversation, she showed no reaction. Of course she could be pretending otherwise, but unless I miss the mark she has no idea that anything has happened relating to the return to this world of Excalibur.

Jari’s private journal: Before I left, the Erequith told me that I will always have a place where the seas freeze and ice cracks the foundation of the mountain. I was a little alarmed with my initial reaction of it being a nice fall-back position. I need to be careful about how invested I become in the various games of the fey and to treat this as a warning of their seductive power. Too many magi of my House who were far wiser than I have fallen prey to it.

A few days before season’s end, Acerbia returned bearing urgent news. The Pope has excommunicated King Theo for his refusal to allow the Templars into England. As a result of this, France is already mustering armies and war is likely soon. Such was the urgency of her news she left almost immediately, saying that she planned to visit both Trevalga and Carrion Moor that day. Events are moving quickly and I can’t help but think back to those visions of great battle, but there seems little that we can immediately do to help.

On a related note, I wonder if the Pope is involved in the diabolic conspiracy that several of our predecessors here at Severn Temple believed has corrupted the Templars? It may well be that he simply sees them as a Christian sect that should be supported, but it must surely also be possible that he is in cahoots with them, with all the implications that has for magi who profess to follow his Church. There doesn’t seem to be much alarm or even serious consideration of this possibility, which seems rather short-sighted if you ask me, but then again I suppose such magi have long turned a blind eye to the destruction of magic that their precious Church is committing!

Summer

All save Hypathia were present for the second council of the year. Discussions began with the cheery subject of whether the infernal plague was created as part of a strategy to make King Theo look like a bad King ahead of the excommunication or ‘simply’ the activities of Guyere. We lacked enough information to reach any conclusion, but did decide that it was worth checking local aurae to see if there’d been any changes. I joked that we should check Snig’s End again, but Gnaeus thought it prudent to actually do so. Whether this speaks to the concept of a wise fool or suggests that I should take things a little more seriously is unclear, though I’ll wager at least a couple of my sodales would incline towards the latter.

Speaking of whom, Volutus stated that he will write to Durenmar to see if they have any records of any changes in aurae in the Rhine when the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick was excommunicated. Oratio made the astute suggestion that the whole thing could be targeted at Hypathia as part of an elaborate scheme to draw her into more actively defending her brother and thus more likely to be liable for legal charges. The enemies of her magical line have certainly been that devious in the past so it’s something to be properly considered. Oratio further noted that the ex-communication likely presents a very useful opportunity for infernal opponents of this covenant such as the Templars and Black Hugh.

With regard to the views of the Church on all this, Gnaeus suggested we talk to ‘Magus’ Avery of ‘House’ Corpus Domini in Oxford for his perspective. Terentius will also set our spies to see what the local priests are preaching. Finally, the steward will be tasked with keeping our stocks of food at good levels, lest the Church try some form of trade interdiction against us – as has happened before.

With that subject done for now, Gnaeus turned council’s attention back to Excalibur, or as to give it its Welsh name Caliburruchh, something like that anyway. Oratio agreed to investigate the sword hermetically and, as part of that, to cast “Greet the Maker” on it. With Terentius a little nervous about having the sword at council, it was agreed that Oratio and I would have an initial look at it before we proceeded, so council was adjourned. Down in the depths of Oratio’s sanctum, clearing aside the Templar tabard and arms from his table, I gazed somewhat nervously on the sword, letting my sight switch to from the mundane to the faerie. The blade now shone as if bathed in bright moonlight and it was immediately clear that it was not a creation of glamour. More curiously, I could see writing on the blade, in a script that I did not know. Although heavily imbued with the power of the fey, I do not believe it to be a faerie item as such, but something created by wizards. Whether a standard hermetic investigation using Intellego and Vim will work I do not know. With that in mind, when we returned to the council, it was agreed that I will assist Oratio in his investigations into the sword as covenant service. Volutus and Gnaeus will visit the libraries at Cad Gadu to try and learn more of the sword and its origins.

We discussed our findings, but could come to no fixed conclusion and no one at council recognised the letters I transcribed from the sword’s blade, as best I could. I also asked about the hermetic legal consequences of giving the sword to the wrong person, given it is a powerful magical item, though nothing unexpected came up by way of an answer. We agreed, without formal vote, that we would keep the sword secret for now.

Jari’s private journal: I noticed that handling the sword has left a glow of ‘moonlight’ on Oratio’s hands. I told him, but he was already aware of it through his own magical sight. I hope Oratio took the hint when I asked about the legal consequences of giving the sword to the ‘wrong’ person, but it would not surprise me if he did not. If by carelessness, foolishness or malice he chooses to give it to someone who wreaks havoc upon magical or faerie powers he can expect to face consequences.

With that we moved on to the next item of business. Volutus has done us the good service of crafting a new Charter which he has placed in the library for our consideration. Although we’ve muddled through well enough under the old one, it is rife with heavy handed and autocratic measures, and badly needs amending before it is abused. The fact that no one has taken advantage of it as yet is no guarantee such will not happen in the future.

The next matter was a most intriguing one. Oratio said that he had had a worrying letter from Liberata and he asked Terentius what had been said between the two of them. It was all a little unclear, but it seems the matter that had “shocked” her so related to spirits or “such like” and was perhaps related to the ritual that Oratio enacted with Liberata. Terentius stated that he was a good judge of whether people are being honest and that Liberata seemed genuine in her concern. Forgive me Terentius when I point out to readers less familiar with this tribunal that Terentius is a Tremere yet to take his longevity potion while Liberata is a Tytalan of well over a century in age. A curious business though!

With the rest of council business decided, we went our separate ways for the season. Oratio began our investigation by casting ‘Greeting the Maker’ on the sword. He relayed to me that he’d seen the sword being forged by Gofannon, along with a male figure with a spear and a female figure cloaked in shadows. The creation appeared to have been done deep in Gofannon’s realm and presumably the other entities were Llugh and the Morrigan. It does seem a little odd for Llugh, a Faerie Lord of the court of Air, to be so deep underground though. What this means I cannot say, though one might speculate that he was compelled in some way, either by great need or some bargain of great value to him.

The investigation confirmed my early impression that although the blade had faerie powers, it was magical too. The first power we found was that the blade somehow protects the wielder, likely fighting for itself on their behalf. While the wielder can focus its attentions, the power does not require the wielder to possess any skill with a sword themselves. The second is that no blade, nor armour, can resist the sword if the wielder chooses. There is at least one more power, but it eluded our investigation, which suggests it is of at least the fourteenth magnitude, if not more. Another curiosity was that there were no balances or restrictions on these powers, as might be expected given the heavy faerie element to the enchantments.

Jari’s private journal: Oratio was surprisingly interesting company over the course of the season, showing a keen interest in the philosophical nature of magic and the realms. Not at all like the listless, seemingly near-broken figure he has been of late. Is that demeanour merely an act or exaggeration to deceive us to some end? It seems unlikely to me, but the discordance was striking.

Autumn

Volutus began the autumn meeting by telling us what he and Gnaeus had learnt in Cad Gadu. Excalibur, also known as “the sword of the moon” or Arthur’s sword, is one of the thirteen treasures of Britain. One ancient and rather obscure legend has that it was forged by the gods and given to a hero of the people named Dafydd ap Newell to kill a giant named Cumbran who couldn’t be slain. The myth goes on to say that, that after killing the giant with the sword, Dafydd used it to defeat all his rivals and rule as a tyrant. A Dafydd ap Newell is known in history as a legendary Welsh king who conquered many Welsh tribes to forge a kingdom so there could well be something to this legend and it certainly illustrates how the power of the sword can be abused to great ill. Gnaeus reported that he had come across a similar tale from Ireland, where a blade sounding a lot like Excalibur, the “white glaive of light” or “Claiomh Solais” (no, I can’t pronounce it either), was linked with the great Irish hero Cu-Chulainn. He sought the help of the gods in defeating Gorlagon, a dread creature whose skin shattered all weapons that hit it.

The thirteen treasures of Britain, with what my sodales were able to learn about them, are apparently:

The Cauldron of Bran, which can summon dead warriors

A pale sword, also known as the sword of light, no prizes for spotting the obvious connection here

A scabbard, the only thing that can contain the sword

The Spear of Llugh that when thrown will kill its target but also lay a curse

A knife

A platter to bear food

A cup or goblet

A large horn

A banner

A magical stone

A mantle or cloak

The Crown of Madh, a lesser item whose powers are sadly lost to history

The Shield of Dylan Eil Ton which Archimagus Tiarnan once found

In truth, the above list, while interesting, didn’t help us much as we sat chewing over the various titbits of knowledge. Oratio raised the story of Saint Kenneth, an Irish saint who legend says had a blessed sword. More intriguingly, Volutus reported that he’d spoken with Primus Galleowen while at Cad Gadu. Galleowen told him that he’d had the same vision about a great choice having to be made about the sword as most of our council had. He asked Volutus what he knew about it and Volutus somewhat sheepishly confessed that he had inadvertently let slip about an ‘ancient treasure sword’. While Galleowen is unlikely to pass such information on to those who side with the extremists in the Christian Church, it does raise the troubling question of who else might have had such a dream? If we assume it was like the past episode with Davnaelleous, might members of the UnNamed House or other infernalists have heard about it and started to make plans to take it for themselves? And will they, like Galleowen, suspect Hypathia bears it?

To add to our seemingly ever-growing list of concerns, Volutus also reported that he had spoken with Notaria and learned that House Mercere is looking into the Templar monasteries in Loch Lagleann lest they contain those who can unweave magic. Notaria is keen to speak with Roger Bacon at King’s College Gloucester, presumably to obtain his secret recipe for black powder and thus a powerful non-magical weapon to fight them with. She said that Acerbia is likely to ask us for introduction to him or the university.

It seems that the regio has returned to Mynydd Myrddin! Or to perhaps be more accurate given what we currently know, a regio has arisen there once more. Oratio, Volutus and Terentius made the surprising discovery a day after the council after Oratio saw green and blue lights in the sky as they camped nearby one night early in the season. They investigated next morning and found that there was a regio boundary by the white stones, right where it had stood before. Remembering the records, Terentius led the group three times widdershins around the stones and they found themselves in a twilight realm, with the gentle slope up now much steeper and a fourth magnitude aura present. There were also fresh wolf tracks nearby and a few of their group heard the eerie cry of a wyvern off in the distance. They, rather sensibly, made sure they could leave by walking sunwise three times back round the stones, before pressing on, leaving Oratio to continue on his way to Blackthorn.

The rest of the group made for the woods where the caves lie in the mundane realm. There were further wolf prints near the caves and the power of the Light of Myrddin cast aside the gathering shadows and revealed a regio boundary just inside the cave mouth. They made their way in, finding where there had previously been a second or third magnitude aura there was now a magical regio of the fifth magnitude. The caves appeared physically bigger, with further to travel between each of the sections they had previously mapped and none of the improvements made by Lysimachus visible. On the positive side, the greater magical intensity was reflected in their vis harvest, though some of it was harder to obtain.

A few days later, Acerbia arrived bearing the news that Good King Theo has set sail for the continent with a large army to stop the French attacking English lands there. More startling was his choice of regent – Hypathia!

Jari’s private journal: I like Hypatia, she’s very smart, pragmatic and determined, but this is surely madness! It practically begs Primus Guernicus or one of his Quaesitorial lackeys to bring a charge.

I was still contemplating the potential ramifications of this startling news as Acerbia spoke on so I confess I wasn’t paying full attention to the next couple of pieces of news. Firstly, there’s been a big sea battle between two places I’ve never heard of and secondly gold coins are very popular on the continent, which doesn’t seem desperately newsworthy to me, but that’s what happens when you don’t pay proper attention.

Anyway, my attention was restored by an interesting warning to be careful when travelling in the Rhine tribunal. This related to a tale of a mysterious piper in the village of Hamelin who had been paid by to drive away thieves and bandits and duly did so, luring them over a cliff with his music. The reports say that he wanted the village children in return and, despite the objections of the villagers, drew them away as he had the bandits. A maga of House Mercere tried to stop him but his tune overcame her not-inconsiderable protections and she had to be rescued herself. It sounds to me like the village struck a poorly phrased deal with a powerful unseelie fae, who is unlikely to be much of a threat to the casual traveller.

Several weeks later at the Equinox, Gnaeus and I went to the Heart of the Forest to try and talk to Llugh about the sword. I tried to sleep beneath the great oak tree there but despite my best efforts I just couldn’t nod off. Gnaeus found it much easier, but woke 20 minutes later from a dreamless sleep. So much for that potential source of information, perhaps he’ll only talk to pagans?

The rest of the season passed uneventfully.

Winter

Gnaeus discussed the letter he had had from Hypathia in a reply to one he had sent to her after the news of her becoming regent broke. In it she said that she had been surprised by the request, but felt that the King had no one else trustworthy enough to give the role to. She reported that England was broadly stable, though with the King’s armies abroad, trouble from the Scots was a distinct possibility. More locally, the absence of nobles such as the Earl of Gloucester could lead to a rise in banditry. With such in mind, she asked that we keep a careful eye on Tintern, lest they try and take advantage too. She also told of a plague outbreak, this time near Northampton, with a similarly random pattern to the one to our west. Oratio and Terentius will investigate it this season.

We next turned our thoughts to Mynydd Myrddin. What exactly has happened there and why? If the journal is to be believed it was previously ‘powered’ by a dragon’s egg, which has long since hatched, so how is it back? Has the dragon returned to its birth place? Was that the ‘wyvern’ that people heard? Is Myrddin up to some new scheme? Is it something to do with cycles and the regio’s relationship to time as Oratio suggested? It was interesting speculating for a while, but the truth is none of us really know any of the answers to these questions. I sense some of my sodales are keen to find out, as am I, though I’m sure my curiosity will be all the greater once we’ve determined whether there’s a dragon flying around the regio or not!

Oratio said that he’d been told by Arcanus that there was a Saint Maurice in history, a celtic warrior who defended the peasantry. He also believes that he spoke to the spirit of Morgana le Fay near Glastonbury, though ‘Tongue of the Dead’ didn’t work, perhaps because the language was too ancient? Or it was some magical tongue? Certainly an example of the tenuous link between hermetic magic and the realm of spirits. Oratio said that he trusts me to ask some of the faerie powers to try and learn more about Excalibur, though given the reaction it brought in the Court of Llyr I shall be very circumspect in doing so!

Jari’s private journal: The glow from the sword has now spread up Oratio’s forearm. He seems very sanguine about this, but I can’t help but wonder what that last big enchantment in the sword is. I’m pretty sure that whatever the glow represents it’s not something Oratio should want to spread to his head or heart.

Oratio then brought up the matter of Hypathia becoming regent. He asked whether anyone thought that Hypathia should have checked with the council before accepting the position, it clearly being more than the “routine action” allowed for in the magna ex parte role. However, no one chose to speak against her so he let the matter drop, for now.

Jari’s private journal: I’m pretty sure most of us are concerned about what she did, but now is not the time to condemn her, she needs our support. In any event, I’m sure the ex-Guernican will raise it again when Hypathia next attends council, whenever that might be.

With council concluded, Oratio and Terentius set off on their investigation. They were able to determine that the Northampton plague was caused by the same 11th magnitude perdo corporem animal herbam spell, with the same internal taint and sigil as we’d found before. After some debate we had a theory of transmission that fits what we know. If it is correct, then the plague is not spread from victim to victim, but from the person bearing the enchantment to those who are unlucky enough to be within range when they pass by. A bit like a corporem version of Treading the Ashen Path. Oratio sent letters describing the results of the investigation to Holy Isle, though we received news from Acerbia a few days later that Magus Geddyn of that covenant is already there investigating.

One other piece of news, our now ironically named spymaster Lucky has been badly burned after being apported home into a fireplace. He has been lucky enough to survive but will bear the scars for the rest of his life.

Jari’s private journal: I received letter from Marissa saying that I should be at Carrion Moor by the Spring Equinox at the latest, for it will take about a month to reach my Domus Magnus by her route, which involves a faerie regio of some sort, probably a wet one. I confess I’m quite excited at the prospect of attending Irencillia as a magus of Merinita!

The weather is harsh again as the year comes to an end. Outside the ring of trees a blizzard has been howling for several weeks and even within the snow is thick on the ground, requiring some strenuous effort by the grogs and covenfolk to keep the paths between the keep and the outbuildings open. But the shield by the main doors offers a ward against the cold that keeps the worst of the chill from their bones and while the main feast is at mid-winter, there is always a gathering for drinking and songs to see in the New Year. So, faced with choice of continuing this great and worthy record of our covenant’s history or getting drunk and singing, I
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