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Scribed by Terentius

Spring 1291AD

We met as a council on the first day of spring. There was little news from winter that required further debate, so Princeps Volutus led a discussion on our goals for the coming year. Hypatia reminded us that her brother would be travelling to Edinburgh in the summer in an attempt to resolve the long-running dispute over the Scottish succession. With no easy solution to the problem in sight, Hypatia intended to travel with him to provide support and private counsel on how best to weigh the competing claims. She hoped to be able to return in time for the autumn council meeting, though this would depend on how the negotiations proceeded. The only other matter that was expected to take magi away from the covenant for an extended period was the planned expedition to Roxburgh and the covenants of Loch Leglean. Volutus, Jari and I reaffirmed our intention to travel there in summer, which would leave Pyrrhus as the sole member of the council in the covenant that season.

The discussion then turned to two issues much closer to home: the mysterious murders in the towns along the Welsh border; and the disappearance of the monks in the fire at Abingdon Abbey. On the former matter, I agreed to spend a few days at the start of the season attempting to find out what had become of the bronze knife retrieved from the grave at Coleford; on the latter, we agreed that we would mount a further examination of the ruins later in the year once Volutus has learned additional investigatory magics. With that decided, we turned to our activities for the season. All shall remain in the covenant engaged in library or laboratory work, save Jari, who will travel to London to learn something of the art of disguise from the agents of the crown.

Following the council meeting, I made my way to Chepstow to investigate the location of the bronze blade. It was a simple matter to gain the confidence of the surviving members of the late watch sergeant's family by posing as a distant acquaintance of the dead man and offering a little charity. They revealed that his belongings had been sold to an itinerant tinker, Fulk of Newport, who plies his trade in the towns and villages of southern Wales. Given the likely connection with the news we had received of an unsolved murder on the road out of Chepstow, I travelled to Newport to try to locate the man. There, Vassily was able to learn through bribery that Fulk had left for Usk or Carleon a few days earlier, and he made arrangements for word to be sent to us if the man returned.

I brought the news back to the council, and we debated whether there was time to pursue him this season rather than wait for his likely return to Chepstow later in the year. I had already used up much of my free time this season, so any pursuit would fall to Pyrrhus, though he initially appeared reluctant to take on the task. I confess I grew a little exasperated with his attitude - finding problems and obstacles where none existed - but he was eventually persuaded to take on the task. Travelling swiftly to Usk, he discovered that Fulk had been arrested the previous day, having attacked a young woman with no excuse. He was languishing in the knight's dungeons, but Pyrrhus was able to bribe a guard to allow him to acquire the blade. Back in the Dean, he placed it in a weighted bag and sank it deep in the Severn, hopefully ending the curse attached to disturbing the grave.

Later in the season, Acerbia arrived with news from the wider world. By far the most significant item was an instruction from House Guernicus for Hypatia to attend the Grand Tribunal to face a charge of interfering with mundane affairs. No further details were forthcoming, but this represents a clear escalation of the hidden war to determine the Order's future. In other news, Holy Isle announced that they had lost track of a member of the Unnamed House close to Harlech. The quarry has the sigil of rotting flesh, and Holy Isle advised caution when travelling in the vicinity of the town. In mundane circles, Acerbia brought news of Theo's intended journey to Edinburgh and the victory of Sancho IV of Castile over the Moors at Tarifa.

Summer

Discussion of the implications of House Guernicus' charge against Hypatia dominated the council meeting. There was swift agreement that she should seek as much advice - legal and political - as possible from our allies across the Tribunal, both to evaluate the options open to her and to try to assess the Guernicans' potential lines of attack. Beyond that, the council's views were split. Volutus and then Pyrrhus advised her to put some distance between herself and her brother by avoiding attending the talks in Edinburgh to lessen any perception that she was influencing the discussions. After some consideration, Jari also came around to this point of view, advising caution in case the talks went badly. For my part, I acknowledged the validity of these concerns, but I argued that Hypatia should attend. Her advice to her brother could be vital should the talks prove as difficult as expected, and she could also warn him should any potential decision have implications for Hermetic circles. Furthermore, given Hypatia's actions to date and the attitude of her political opponents elsewhere in the Order, whether she attends the talks or not may make little difference in the case she faces. Still, the balance of opinion was against me, and Hypatia agreed to take the council's advice and feign illness so that she can avoid the journey.

Following the meeting, Volutus, Jari and I took ship to Berwick. From there, we travelled overland to Borri-Tor. We received a warm welcome at the covenant, and the magi there expressed broad support for Hypatia's predicament. Minaxia posed some probing questions about our intentions in Loch Leglean, but these were relatively easily deflected, and we departed for Giant's Stone the next day. The guide provided by Borri-Tor led us north across the wild hills and valleys that span the Scottish border, and we crossed the old wall that marked the farthest extent of the Roman Empire in years gone by. A few days further north, we came upon the town of Moffat, where we able to convince the locals to show us the way to Giant's Stone. The covenant is well named, for it lies within a deep hill that is crowned by an enormous standing stone that would defy mundane construction. We were greeted - in Gaelic - by the aged figure of Praeco Rocos, who led us through a rune-embossed door into a barrow-like structure within the hill.

Though he was the most senior magus at the covenant, Rocos was an ephemeral figure, strongly touched by twilight and seemingly absorbed by visions and his own thoughts. His sodales Alba, a Merinitan maga associated with the winter courts, was more forthcoming, and she expressed strongly worded support for Hypatia's actions in Stonehenge, contrasting it with the cautious attitude of many of her Tribunal. We explained our intention to investigate the Templars at Roxburgh, and she warned that, in addition to the threat posed by the Templar knights themselves, there might also be members of the Brothers In Christ amongst their numbers. Alba also warned Volutus that the Brothers In Christ were active in the regions between Giant's Stone and Glenrisdell, which would make land travel dangerous. After taking a day to rest, Jari and I bid Volutus farewell, for we intended to travel to Berwick and then Roxburgh, whereas he planned to wait for to see whether he had secured an invitation to visit Bucholly Castle.

Arriving in Berwick, I left all of my companions save Vassily in the Red Swan Inn, and the two of us made our way to Roxburgh in the guide of pilgrims. The experience was similar to my previous journey: we encountered a Templar patrol on the road, though they did not suspect our true motive. We spent a night at their camp before we reached the village, where we took up residence in the inn. The visit to see the Cloak of Saint Mary passed off without event, save that I was able to acquire arcane connections to sites within the village and the Templar church, and also to the gatekeeper and one of the sergeants. We retraced our steps to Berwick and then to Giant's Stone, though not before we met Volutus on the road, who had secured the invitation he desired. Back at the covenant, I spent several days scrying on the gatekeeper and sergeant. This gave me insight into the layout of some of the buildings within the keep, particularly the kitchens and great hall. More importantly, I caught glimpses of the Templar Master, Guillaume, and his three closest knights, Charles, Anthony and George. It seems, if the Templars do have some ability to detect magical powers, it may be an active power that requires deliberate attention, rather than a passive defence. This is heartening, though I shall remain careful not to use the mirror during their religious services.

I then returned to Berwick to discuss the next steps with Jari. We resolved that he would also travel to Roxburgh, and we spent several days perfecting his disguise and background identity, that of an impoverished charcoal burner from the nearby settlement of Chillingham. His visit mirrored mine in many ways, for the Templars did not suspect his true intentions, and he was able to obtain an arcane connection to one of two Templar squires while they were up to youthful mischief in the village. There was a mild hiccup when he returned to Berwick in his peasant rags, for I inadvertently raised the suspicions of a member of the watch who saw me toss Jari's robes to him from an upstairs window at the inn, but fortunately Jari was able to use Mentem magic to remove the watchman's recollection of the event. Thereafter, we spent several days scrying on the Templar squire, learning much of the layout of the first floor of Roxburgh keep. The knights and squires have separate barracks, and there are insufficient beds to accommodate them all, which means that up to half the knights must be abroad on missions at any one time. Interestingly, the squire, who was named Gerald, had a more senior companion, Mark, who we believe may be in direct service of the Templar Master, Guillaume, for we saw Mark climb the stairs leading to the second floor of the keep, where we believe the Master has his quarters. We shall give more thought to how best to exploit this information. With the season drawing to a close, we met up with Volutus, who had journeyed south to Berwick from Bucholly Castle, and the three of us then sailed back to Chepstow.

Autumn

The council meeting was dominated by discussion of the information we had learned from our journey to Loch Leglean. Volutus remarked on the distinctly uncooperative nature of the Tribunal, which stood in stark contrast to that of Stonehenge. Covenants in Loch Leglean are often caught up in clan rivalries that they hold dearer than any Hermetic bonds. They are suspicious of outsiders, considering them as potential spies, and they would seemingly rather see their rivals fail than all sides succeed together. Attitudes to Stonehenge are mixed, though even among those who are more sympathetic to the political developments in the south, there is a widespread belief that Hypatia was behind the great storm that led to the sinking of the French fleet and the death of a member of House Mercere. Volutus was unable to persuade them otherwise, and if such attitudes prevail in other Tribunals, it does not bode well at all for her trial at the Grand Tribunal.

At Giant's Stone, Volutus recounted a warning contained in a vision experienced by Praeco Rocos. He said that the Sun and the Moon - an allusion to Theo and Hypatia - must not be parted, for if one falls, the other shall surely follow. Their enemies, the Serpent and the Eagle, who some believe refer to the infernal and the Roman church, respectively, conspire to bring ruin to these isles, which are home to old and rebellious magic that the church seeks to extinguish with a weapon that Hermetic magic cannot contest. Rocos declared that Hypatia should not travel to the Grand Tribunal at Durenmar, for she would not survive the meeting. Primus Providus of Bonisagus, who has long sought to keep the Order together in the face of provocations from more extreme factions, would die before the meeting, and his successor would not be so sympathetic. Instead, Rocos declared that Hypatia should not turn back from her chosen path, for though the route would be steep and difficult, eventually it would become easier.

Volutus said that Rocos' visions were much respected in Loch Leglean, and as such we should at least consider his words carefully. However, the implications were difficult to stomach, for if Hypatia chooses not to go, she will surely be found guilty in her absence, with the likely penalty of renouncement and the wizard's march will follow. In a tremendous leap of logic rather reminiscent of Oratio, Jari declared "Well, schism it is then", missing out all of the intervening steps and complexities. Fortunately, we were able to ignore him and have a sensible discussion about how the matter might unfold, and although there do not seem to be any particularly favourable outcomes, there does seem to be some latitude for the Tribunal to at least delay prosecuting any sentence without overtly defying the Grand Tribunal's ruling.

Hypatia then spoke of her activities during summer. Her brother had been engaged in negotiations with the Scots without her, and the talks were expected to last for some months to come as he weighed the competing claims. She had approached Primus Galioin and Primus Julius about the political make-up of the Grand Tribunal, and both felt that there was likely to be a close but winnable vote given expected support from Houses Bjornaer and Merinita, but this depended on Primus Bonisagus exercising a steady hand on the tiller, which makes Rocos' warning all the more disquieting. She had also spoken with Senior Quaesitor Octavia about the mechanics of the charges, but she had not proved to be particularly helpful, though Hypatia reiterated her belief that Octavia seemed unhappy about political interference with the terms of her investigation into the great storm.

I pressed Hypatia on whether she had learned more about the identity of the true culprit. She had raised the issue with Galioin, since if her intuition that a member of her House had been behind the act, there were relatively few magi with the knowledge required to conduct such a ritual. Hypatia initially seemed reluctant to pursue the matter with real vigour, arguing that if the vote at the Grand Tribunal was a forgone conclusion, there was little to be gained by exposing the real perpetrator. I counselled that this was not necessarily the case, for it would certainly weaken her opponents' case and make them work much harder to establish a clear link between her actions and any real loss suffered by members of the Order. After some pressing, she revealed that she knew of only one maga with the age and experience required to raise the storm: Lluddwyn of Ex Miscellanea. However, Hypatia explained that she was hesitant to investigate further, both because it could potentially drag an innocent party into the matter if Lluddwyn were not involved, but also because the Morrigan might view it as Hypatia siding with her enemies were she to take action against one of her followers. I must admit that I had not considered the latter outcome, and I now see how it partly binds Hypatia's hands. Still, I think we should not be too quick to dismiss this as an avenue that the council could pursue, for it would be unduly pessimistic, in my view, to treat proving Hypatia's innocence as a lost cause. In light of Rocos' warning, Volutus and Jari both withdrew their previous advice that Hypatia should remain wary of involving herself in the matter of the Scottish succession, and Hypatia announced that she planned to spend the season advising her brother in York.

Volutus then returned to the tale of his journeys in Loch Leglean. Taking ship to Bucholly Castle, he encountered a covenant in what could only be described as its winter season. Within a mysterious tower that seemed to rob its inhabitants of their vigour and ambition, he met a series of strange magi who were either preternaturally thin or unsettlingly fat. They claimed the steward of the castle had lived for 450 years, sustained in some way by the magic of the place, though he never left the tower itself. The magi - a Bonisagus, Verditius, Flambeau and an absent Jerbiton - expressed little interest in, or awareness of, events outside their walls, and Volutus' efforts to establish any trading links came to naught. It was with some relief that he departed a few days later, emerging blinking into the daylight with the feeling that had he remained much longer it might have been difficult to summon up the will to leave.

Lastly, Volutus briefly described the magi of covenant of Glenrisdal, who seemed much more in touch with outside events, though they were sharply divided in their opinions and outlook. Other than Eloise of Tremere, from whom he received a warm welcome, the two key figures were Decima of Guernicus, who was not shy in expressing her disapproval of events in Stonehenge, and her rival, Drusus of Tytalus, who was more sympathetic but very outspoken in his belief that Hypatia had been behind the great storm. Volutus was again unable to establish tangible trading links with the covenant, but there were at least signs that something of a partnership might be possible in the future. On a matter of mutual interest, he learned that the Brothers In Christ were active at New Abbey, which is near to Dumfries, and it is possible that the group spotted near to Carlisle may have come from there.

With the council meeting concluded, Volutus and I made our way to Abingdon Abbey, accompanied by a group of consortes and grogs. The gate to the abbey compound had been repaired, but otherwise the area was as silent as it had been when we last visited. While Volutus commenced the ritual Eyes of the Past, I erected a Circular Ward Against Demons using the diamond-tipped wand. Alas, whether it was through some error on my part or just the malign nature of the infernal aura that lies about the place, the ward proved ineffective, though at the time we did not realise it. Part way through the ritual, I noticed a small amount of smoke emerge from the abbey church; I initially assumed that this was just some minor infernal manifestation, but this was soon revealed as a mistake, for a tall being composed of smoke and ash materialised from thin air and moved to attack our group. I let loose an arrow at the demon, but the missile passed right through its torso, as it stepped across the border of the ward. Volutus' companion Laurent moved to intercept it, but he paid a heavy price for his bravery, as the creature first knocked him to the ground before inflicting fatal wounds with its claws. Pyrrhus conjured great gouts of flame at the beast; whether through poor targeting on his part, or a reckless lack of consideration for his fellows, these flames also engulfed most the party, though fortunately they were unscathed, though in my case they stripped most of my Parma Magica at a most inopportune time. The creature itself was also unharmed; indeed, if anything the flames seemed to bolster its form, which implies some alignment with the element of fire.

Realising that my ward had failed, I moved to erect another, but not before Branock was also felled by the creature. Fortunately this time, the ward's magic held, and we were able to pull my consortis to safety. Unable to breach the ward, the creature paced about for a short time, before it retreated back within the ruins of the church. I asked Branock to bring Laurent's body back within the circle, and as he did so, I noticed a small black shape move from Laurent to him. After some investigation, we realised that this was the faerie snake that Laurent had been forced to carry as a tattoo as the price for being allowed to leave the faerie realm of the Queen of Snakes many years ago. I was most unhappy at this development, but there was nothing that could be done at the time, and after having assured ourselves that the demon was truly gone, we made our way rapidly out of the abbey compound. As we left, we noticed signs of smoke rising from the church, and we heard the distant sound of a bell being rung in the nearby village. We were able to leave the area without event, retracing our steps to the covenant, leaving the matter of the cause of the abbey's destruction still unresolved at this time.

From there. Volutus and I took ship to Chester and thence travelled overland to the covenant of Eurus Aquilae. He spent some time in conversation with Primus Julius concerning political matters in Loch Leglean and Stonehenge, before returning to Severn Temple. For my part, I travelled once more to the forest where I had encountered an unusual goshawk a couple of years ago. Having learned the spell Tongue of the Birds since our last encounter, it was easy enough to befriend the creature, particularly since we shared an interest in the hunt. The hawk, who I have named Meliorax Virtus in recognition of his prowess, agreed to accompany back to Severn Temple, and I spent the remainder of the season investigating the nature of his magical affinities.

Winter

At the winter council meeting, Hypatia reported on the negotiations that had taken place in autumn in York. Of the two main candidates for the Scottish throne, John Balliol appeared to be weaker willed than his rival, Robert the Bruce, and thus Theo was minded to choose him, as it would prove easier to influence in the future. A formal decision would come early in the new year, but in the absence of any new information, the path seems fairly set. The rest of the meeting was fairly short, though the council agreed to Jari's request that we establish a dedicated laboratory - if one is actually necessary - to permit more advanced work on herbs and plants. Jari will discuss the matter with our herbalist. All of the magi announced that they would be about laboratory or library activities this season, so the covenant should be at full strength.

The only matter of note during the initial part of the season was that, at Hypatia's suggestion, I managed to persuade Branock to ask the faerie snake to depart, which it agreed to do. It appears that, unlike Laurent, who had agreed to carry the creature as part of a faerie bargain, Branock had made no such deal, which meant that the snake had no claim on him. Branock was initially reluctant to ask his 'friend' to leave, but after what threatened to become the most repetitive conversation I have ever had the misfortune to witness, he eventually agreed. Where it has gone now I do not know, but at least I need fear not the prying eyes and ears of the Queen of Snakes.

So, I now leave this journal for a year of laboratory work as I forge the familiar cords with Meliorax. I wish good health and fine fortune to all my sodales while I am away. Vale!
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