Chapter 10 when a visitor arrives after the lambing (Spring 1014)

It is quiet for a week or two when Cath'rinne and the companions have returned from their respective journeys. Then the lambing is the favourite topic of gossip for several weeks. Some of the grogs place bets on how many lambs they will slaughter for consumption in the tower the coming Autumn.

In between the lambing, Betula's child is born.

The other magi are more likely absorbed in their books and their labs.

Then one day, an old man arrives. He has long white beard, looks a hundred years old, and wears an expensive cloak, although it is full of dust and mud from the journey. Escorted by a friar and two shield grogs, he confidently mounts the stairs and enters into the front room. His eyes are ice blue and he speaks with a firm voice. «I need to speak to Caelha the Constable. I am Verassius ex Tremere.»

Whether magus or companion or grog, feel free to be the first one to receive him, if you find it appropriate and in character.

“Greeting magus, I am Janus of Flambau, Praetor of Ungulus. Please be seated and I will send for Caelha and for refreshments. To clarify Caelha is no longer Constable since we reformed Ungulus in Winter 1013. They have been studying from our library over the last season while we awaited a delegation from Blackthorn, which I presume is yourself?” Janus calls for someone to fetch refreshments and someone else to bring Caelha. “I assume you and your party will be staying? If so we will arrange accommodation for you”

Thom strolls in, a circle of interwoven bluebells crowning his flowing blond hair, a broad smile on his face.

"I heard we had visitors."

The young magus smiles as he sees the muddy old geezer in the expensive cloak.

"Greetings and well met! Thom Myddleton ex Merinita at your service. Pleasure to meet you, sodales. I presume sodales. You certainly have the look of winter magus of some importance. Did you see the new tower? It's a lovely piece of work if you ask me. The Twin Towers of Ungulus! Been thinking myself about how we might build a sky bridge from one to the other. Would be a nice touch, honestly. But probably a bit slippery come winter rains and fogs. Have you seen any giants, sodales? On your way here? I saw one a year or more back. Headin' up north of the Great Wall. On its own. In retreat I'm guessing."

Thom's prattle stops as he looks about at the others.

"Well look there. You've got a friar with you. I've got that right, right? Friar? Or is it Mendicant? Or Abbot? No, Abbotts go with Abbey's. Monks with monasterys. What do Friar's go with? Priories... No, can't be that. Sounds like where they lock up the ladies. Well met, ser Friar. We've got one of your kind here, newly come to Ungulus. You should meet him. He's a blacksmith and a very good fellow..."

Thom looks over at Janus and then grows... quiet.

"I'll just sit over here..." he says as he finds a spot out of the way but near enough to listen in.

«and on whose oh-th ...» starts the visitor, almost hissing, before Thom enters the room with his interaction. He shrugs, and listens to Thom's monologue, as if he had lost his tongue and his confidence.
When Thom concludes, he continues. «Brother Theofilius is my adjutant,» answers he. The brother is not quite as old as the magus, but still well past your average life span. He takes a seat next to the magus, while the shield grogs stand guard next to the door. They all find their places without words, as if this is a routine they have done a thousand times before.

«Magus Janus. Have I heard of you? A tale was told last year, about an incident in Mercia. Janus the Incinerator versus Wulfric the Witch Hunter. It took Wulfric out of the game for several months. Quite extraordinary. Was that you?»

While you engage in introductions, the servants get busy, serving food and ale according to Janus' instructions, and everybody whispers, «emissaries from Blackthorn», «it is Tacitus' chief», «who takes charge now?» The new recruits, who outnumber the old servants and grogs, quickly approach the verge of panic. «Is there a new lord of the manor?» they ask, and the most informative response they get from the other covenfolk is «we don't know?»

The gossip reaches everyone who do not actively evade other people. Caelha rushes down to the hall to meet the visitor, entering the room when Janus has had a chance to answer the question.

Janus replies "Yes it was straight after the last great battle with the Diedne near Leeds. He wanted to arrest us for using magic. He must be protected in some way as my ball of abysmal flame spell only scorched him. My exhaustion stopped me following up and finishing the job but that is battle for you".

«It speaks to your merit nevertheless. Wulfric is blessed by the archbishop of York, and he has allies in Heaven and in Hell alike. They say that he cannot be slain, and while I am not convinced that is true, he is certainly not an easy kill. Good work, but you had better prepare, because he will be back for you.

«Ah, there is Caelha. How are you my child?»

«Very well, sir,» answers Caelha nervously, and sits down as invited.

«I got your message. I am sorry for your loss. It must have been a difficult time. I am here to execute his will, and we will decide how to move forward, but first I need to hear the full story. I understand that Tacitus has fallen, but where Frederic and Tessa? And what's this about Janus Prætor reforming the covenant?»

Caelha does her best to make a diplomatic account of the events that you already know, that Frederic is dead, and Tessa is lost in Galloway. Janus turned up to claim authority, on the presumption that Tessa be dead, and who was she to contest it, no longer able to call on Tacitus' authority as apprentice? Now she just hopes that the old magus knows what to do and that she can complete her training. As other magi appears, she introduces them to the best of her knowledge.

Verassius nods gravely without comment, and looks to the other magi present to fill in details. «What did you find at Wicker Hill?» «Do you know anything else about Tessa?» «What are your plans?»

How much do you want to tell him?

Thadeus arrives a bit after the others, his staff thumping on the stairs as he climbs the old tower. He looks a bit tired, but nonetheless took some time to clean up from his acticities setting up his new lab in the new tower. And some more to reassure the servants he crossed path with that everything is fine, that these are just visitors.

"Greetings, sodalis," he nods to Vessarius as they are introduced. "I am Thadeus of the lineage of Pralix."

When the question about Wicker Hill is asked, he speaks again. "We found the covenant razed, and the hill itself bared. Everything there had been burned to the ground. A few mundanes had gone there under the orders of the local lord, to re-establish a village. No survivors of the Diedne covenant were. We followed Tessa's tracks into the hills to the west, but lost her trail there. We found the remains of Maine the redcap, and rescued Chronos from giants."

“Wicker Hill was destroyed and we found the buried remains and several reliable witnesses of the deaths of Frederick of Flambau Tacitus of Tremere. We lost Tessa’s trail near the coast of Southwest Scotland. We rescued Chronos the Redcap from a regio full of giants but he was not able to provide any further clues to the location of Tessa. As to our plans we stand against house Diedne and strengthen our arts towards that aim. We are stabilising the Ungulus economy to support the war effort.” Replies Janus

“Before we proceed further let me have the rest of the magi summoned to allow everyone to contribute” says Janus, indicating to a servant to fetch the others

Covered in her usual black cloak, the blonde beauty descends from the upper level. She is calm and seems pleased too see another magi, as much as she ignores the grogs he came with. "Cath'rinne ex Bjornaer, new arrival to the Tribunal. It's a pleasure to receive you. What is your name, sir?"

«Verassius ex Tremere, exarch of Blackthorn,» repeats the visitor, getting off his chair to greet new arrivals properly. «A pleasure indeed. Caelha and Janus, and Thadeus, are just filling me in on recent events.»

Cath'rinne will shake his hand and/or kiss his cheek depending on what seems most natural as he stands to greet her.

"The exarch himself. An honor. Is Blackthorn doing well? The war seems to have claimed countless lives in the Tribunal. I wonder how many of us remain."

Thom speaks up with curiosity lilting melodically in his voice.

"What's an exarch?"

«We do alright, thank you. We have lost many from our number, but our location is secure. Now,» says the exarch. «Welcome to the tribunal, I should say. I think all the Bjornær left some years ago. Are you coming back in numbers?»

When Thom asks, he turns his head with surprise, as if he had forgotten that Thom was there, «oh. As an exarch I am head of my house for this region; effectively all of the British Isles at the moment.»

"Oh!" says Thom. "That sounds like a big job. Lots of responsibility. Better you than me."

Thom smiles widely, going back to active listening.

"Our house is breaking with its isolation. I traveled here with another membre of my House, Obstetrix, but I haven't seen her in a few seasons. I think she intended to settle in Stonehenge too. I'm not aware there are many of us coming here to settle down. Time will tell."

Nauvi saunters into the room.
"Ah, our esteemed Tremere brethren have come to visit. A pleasure to have hermetic company, when so many have perished in the war."
He bows to Verassius and introduces himself, "Nauvi ex Tytalus. A pleasure to meet you."

With the aid of the Chirurgeon and Sionag the birth is fairly quick and easy, as such things go. Resting after the labor, her daughter in her arms, Betula sees a vision in the babe's smiling face. Her own face as if both nested and superimposed at the same time but within, around, a face that she believes must be her own mother's face and this vision stretches to infinity child-mother/child-mother/child-mother/child back to the beginning of time, back to when the first mother/child was differentiated from the spharios. It is a heady feeling of connection, to her ancestors, to the undifferentiated whole, to every woman who ever was born or gave birth. It must mean something but it is not the answer to her current riddle, perhaps a new riddle or its answer, perhaps a new Path... or an old one.

Weeks later, when she hears the Tremere has arrived, she trundles up the steps carrying her sleeping swaddled babe, Estrith. Entering just after Nauvi, her eyes are red from lack of uninterrupted sleep but Betula has a smile on her face as she greets the new arrival. "From Blackthorn, is it? We have been expecting you, Sodales." and with that and a cryptic smile Betula finds a chair to the side where she sits. Estrith begins to stir and Betula begins to feed her daughter.

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Hamish walks in, wiping water off his face and hair with a rag, having just dunked his head in a barrel of water after a training session with the turb. The giant soldier inclines his head respectfully to Janus and then stands near the door, taking in the gathering of magi and visitors.

The magus and his adjutant ignore Hamish, but the two shield grogs look up at his head, as if they were gauging the opposition.