((Repeating some of the information I had entered into the Covenant Description thread. Read it carefully, as I have edited some parts of it to reflect recent discussions and characterization of Bernhard.))
The day after the cog carrying the magi has departed from Anvers, with the knarr following along towing the rowboat, Bernhard asks them to join him into the captain's cabin. With five inside, there is barely any room to move and you are basically elbow to elbow, three of you sitting on the narrow bed, one on the clothing chest, and Bernhard occupying the single chair.
Bernhard asks the first magus who arrives to extend his Parma Magica upon him. The small window is open to let some air in, but the cabin quickly warms up to a point where the redcap is mopping sweat from his brow with his sleeve. He addresses the magi in Latin.
"Sodales, our destination is one of the Frisian island, rising between the Germanies and the western coast of Denmark. Its people call it Helgeland, which from what I understand means 'Holy Land', or simply 'ee Lunn', which means 'our Land' in the local dialect."
"Helgelund is positioned about six hours of sailing from the mouth of the river Elbe. The sea in this area is prone to the formation of sand dunes and marshland, which can be dangerous for ships travelling to the Elbe. Many of the local sailors make a living by piloting ships to and from the Elbe, for there is significant merchant shipping that uses the river. This means there is a bigger port than usually would be the case for an island that size. Most ships don't stay longer than they need to pick up or drop off a pilot, but a few are involved in local trade."
"The island itself is quite striking. As one sails from the north or west, which are the safe way to do so, it first appears as a red and white cliff rising out of the sea. These form the rocky core of the island. Two natural pillars of stone are visible close to the cliffs, about one mile apart, one of white and the other of red stone. The rocky core protects the lowland, which is mostly composed of sand dunes and marshland, from the assaults of the sea. This Unterland, as the locals call it, extend to the northeast and east, constituting the largest part of the island."
"The port is set on the southwestern end of Helgeland and is the largest settlement on the island, with over three hundred families living there. Most are fishermen, traders and sailors catering to the many ships that stop by on their way to or from the Elbe river. The houses and warehouses are arranged along the bottom of the Oberland, which is what the locals call the rocky plateau of the red stone core. This town extends up to the Oberland through a set of wodden stairs, over one hundred feet above."
"The Oberland is bare, with only a few small trees growing there because of the constant wind. The people living on Oberland are for the most part simple shepherds and some farmers, who grow cabbage and raise sheep. They have a small church, with two more down the stairs in the port town."
"All around the island, small settlements exist as well, most of them only made of a dozen families of fishermen with small boats along the coast or farmers growing crops inland. Some even live in the marshlands, harvesting them for fish, shells and plants that grow there. Others hunt for birds and seals as they come upon the shores. Or recover wreckage from ships destroyed by storms."
"There is a small but important mining industry on the island, which is rich with copper nuggets and ore, as well as amber and flint. Although the processing of the ore is done locally, the dearth of wood for smelting these ores limit the scope of the mining."
"The island is currently under the control of the Danish king Valdemar, who has a small garrison under the command of one of his distant relatives. So, technically our new covenant might be considered outside of the borders of the Rhine Tribunal, although it is the closest."
Bernhard pauses to mop his face before continuing.
"A few years ago, as I was on the island for a few days' rest awaiting a fellow redcap, I decided to go walk up the long stairs to Oberland and talk to the locals, as well as see the magnificient view that I had been told about. This lead me to discover the site where you may wish to establish the covenant."
"At the northern end of Oberland, nested between two small hills, grows a a misshapen oak, stunted and twisted by the winds but very old. Hanging from its branches in long tendrils and growing on its trunk is black oak moss. The moss is quite poisonous; even simple contact can cause illness and death. As sheep tend to want to eat the moss, quickly dying from it, shepherds keep their herds away from this part of the island. Some have tried to cut it down, even though it is said that harming it can bring a curse on the perpetrator and his family. But no axe is able to penetrate its stone-hard bark. Nor has fire done more than darken its trunk and shrivel a few of its leaves. So the locals mostly leave it alone."
"Upon hearing about this, I immediately thought that the moss might contain vis. So the next day, I went back with earthen jars, heavy gloves and a sharp knife. I collected generous samples from the moss and leaves. It is only once I was done that I realized that my gloves had turned black from handling the moss. Quickly removing them, I saw that my hands were puffy and red. Thankfully, these symptoms healed and I was left none the worse."
"I brought back my samples with me once back on the continent and asked a Mercere magus to tell me whether these contained vis. The leaves were a disappointment; even in the short time since I had left the island they were shriveled and contained no traces of magic, I was told. As I expected, it was the black moss that proved most worthwhile, for it apparently contained Perdo vis."
"Over the years, I went back regurlarly to the island to collect more moss. It grows back quickly, from what I've seen. But I was disappointed to discover that it did not always contain raw vis. At times, it was simply a deadly poison, although that property fades quickly when no vis is present. Still, over the years I was able to retrieve enough vis to pay for a good longevity ritual. Yet, I could not help but wonder if more vis might be harvested by knowing the actual cycle that it follows. But as I am no magus, I am unable to analyze it. And I feared letting a magus know about its location, that he would claim it as his own. It is only the contract that binds us, and which has been registered with my House and a Quaesitor, that gives me some confidence that you will not try to swindle me."
"I suspect there might be other sources on the island, but was never able to find more. Perhaps they are simply more difficult to find, or perhaps they are in a form that I cannot perceive. I simply was unable to spend as much time searching for them as I would have liked, because of my duties as a redcap."
After the long speech, the redcap looks at the magi nervously, mopping his face again, obviously expecting a torrent of questions.