Iosephus' Letters to Apollodorus

Autumn 1215
Letter from Apollodorus ex Jerbiton in the town of Autun, Burgundy
to Iosephus ex Criamon, in a remote sea-cave on the South coast of Wales

Spring, 1216
Letter from Iosephus ex Criamon in a remote sea-cave on the South Coast of Wales
to Apollodorus ex Jerbiton, in the town of Autun, Burgundy

(This letter is written on very rough parchment - an ungenerous scribe might call it, as an insult, "uncured sheepskin." The script is quite graceful and flowing, if a little erratic. The letter seems not to have been written with a quill pen in the normal way, but instead painstakingly tattooed into the very skin of the parchment itself. The ink used seems to have been laced with some substance - mercury, perhaps? - that gleams and shifts when the light strikes it.

In short, a very strange letter, that would have been much quicker and easier to write in the normal way. The tattooing must have taken many, many hours of careful, meditative labour.

The letter has no heading or salutation. It begins abruptly:)

[size=85][i]Yes, I have dreamed of this. If you will have me, I will come. I feel I have been already. If you will have welcomed me, no doubt in time I will have come again.

What a joy to arrive, finally, after all this waiting! But the waiting, too, is a joy.

I wonder, though: is the place what once it was? In my dreams I see it as a great walled city, full of mortal men. Is it still so? Or is that yet to come? The wash of the Inspiratio surrounds me, and flows through me, changing everything, so that I cannot see.

There is a cave there, I think - high up, on the cliff-side, near to the Wind. Is this something you have seen? One day, I think, it is there that I will have been.

I will happily admit that you intrigue me, Sodalis Apollodorus - and I say further that I like you, or intend to like you and will, one day, have liked you, which are the same. Who will you have been, when the great Change makes everything into itself again? The stoic, Apollodorus of Seleucia? The orator, Apollodorus of Pergamon? You say you are a sculptor, so I think perhaps you will have been Apollodorus of Damascus. But you have said that if I come you will also be a painter, and I think perhaps there was an Athenian Apollodorus who will paint your paintings, too.

Tell me, for I am greatly thrilled by the thought and long to know: what is it that you paint? And sculpt? And to what ends? Or am I presuming too much in asking the most important questions on this, the first reunion of our meeting?

Well, that is as it will be. For now - and until we begin again - I thank you. To join a Covenant with living others! Just think of it!

I am most pleased to call myself, until now and hereafter, Yours,

Iosephus Criamonis Cambrensis[/i][/size]

Dear Iosephus:

Yes, well, brother, you needn't have signed your letter as a Criamon, it was obvious from your letter! Both by language and medium.

I have not yet found a cliff, but I will endeavor to find one, since you said there should be one. Right now, the site I have in mind is on top of Mont Beuvray, 20 miles from Autun, as the crow flies. 25 or more by roads. I plan to maintain a residence in Autun, as well as the covenant site, so vis sources I've registered near autun can still be harvested.

My paintings have been focused on landscapes, mostly of the roman ruins, or imagining what they would've been like filled with people as it must have been centruies ago. The abandoned Temple of Janus is my present work.
Sculpture varies, animals, people. I've even been working on a couple of models of buildings.

Presently, you are the first to write to me, and I fear I must put you off on coming quite so soon. The reputation of the Normandy Tribunal makes it difficult to start a new covenant, though I have political resources to bring to bear on this problem. As I haven't located the cliff you seek or describe, this is probably for the best. While you may have a vision, it has not yet realized, and as I'm sure you can understand, now must not be the proper time.

I'd ask you to tell me more about yourself, but it's likely I wouldn't understand. Instead, tell me plainly of the worldy issues that affect you, you parens, where you reside now, and why you wish to reunite for the first time?


Winter 1218

(This letter, like the last, is painstakingly tattooed on very rough vellum. It is clear that the vellum has been severely water-damaged - it seems to have been floating in salt-water for some time before it was written on. Once again, the script is graceful and flowing, but a little erratic. )

[size=85][i] Salve Apollodorus, magus, painter, sculptor.

You have asked me to be plain of speech, and I shall try, though it is far from plain to me what plain might mean to you. But, yes, I shall try.

Surely it is plain enough to begin by saying this: between us there lie Three Riddles.

I will tell you the Riddles, and then I will give you the answers. All three riddles have the same answer. The answer is "Ghosts".

The First Riddle: Does Bibracte Still Stand?
In my letter, I asked you whether Bibracte still stands as I see it in my visions. You have not told me whether the city stands, but you have told me that you paint landscapes, and that the landscapes are of ruins. I must thank you for the Riddle.

Answer to the First Riddle
Ghosts. The city does not stand. The walls are in ruins; the mortals of Bibracte are now just Ghosts.

The Second Riddle: Who Is My Parens?
You ask me who my parens is. Not an easy riddle, and one that has taken many magi many lifetimes to answer. But you will, I think, want an answer straight away, so I will try to answer plainly.

Answer to the Second Riddle
Ghosts. But I did not always think so.

When I was a child I there was no Riddle to my parentage - my parentes were kind Welsh fishing-folk who loved me (though I fear at times they found me somewhat strange).

I was ten when the question of my parentage became a Riddle. A maga named Guinevra called me to Criamon, and full willingly I went to dwell with her. Who was my true parens then, I wondered? And Guinevra herself was not one parens, but many: a bird - a willow - the book of Revelations - and a deep, warm sea. Much good Time we passed together in learning. Still I thrill to think of it! To Change by learning! What could be better!

Once my Apprenticeship had ended, I left Guinevra and her covenant, and sought to find my way alone. I followed Signs and Wonders. At length the Inspiratio led me to my dwelling-place - this cave, this regio, in which I write. Long had the magic of transformation slumbered here.

You have asked me to tell you where I reside now. It is, to speak most plainly, a beautiful sea-cave, beneath a cliff, on the edge of the Time-dark Ocean. Deep the cavern is, and dangerous for those who try to enter it unbidden; but to me it has been home for what feels already a multitude of years. The magics slumbering in the cavern lulled me, and I lay down to sleep inside them, and together we have dreamed...

But here your Riddle presents itself again. At length, after some years, but very suddenly, it seemed to me a Ghost was there. It was there all at once: but it had been there for some time. It was a Primus of the House of Criamon, come from the Cave of Twisting Shadows to my cave - my humble cave - beside the sea. Or had I come to it? Were the caves the same? I could not say. All I knew was that it knew me, and I knew of it, somehow. Many Changes, and many years, came to pass before it was given to me to understand. I had found a new parens, again - a Ghost.

And so now, though you ask me to be plain, I must also be honest, and speaking honestly it is not plain to me who my true Parens really is. The ghosts of my mortal parents, who have passed on? The ghost of my Hermetic parens, who is not dead, of course, but is no longer quite my parens, and hence only a ghost of a parens? Or the Ghost of the Primus himself, my parens in many deeper Mysteries of Change? I cannot tell. And so the Answer to the Second Riddle: Ghosts.

Third Riddle: Why Do I Wish To Join a Covenant?
The hardest of all, though the answer is short enough. You ask me why I desire to enter into Covenant with others - I, who have always lived alone. A good question - but I must say it is very surprising that you in expect me, of all people, to have the answer. Surely you jest! To speak as if any being understands its own motivations! What Mysteries we all are to ourselves. Better if you had asked another. But you know this, I am sure; and for some reason of your own you have set me this impossible task. So I will try.

Answer to the Third Riddle
Ghosts. My first reason for wanting to join the Covenant: the ghost of that great city, Bibracte. I come because I want to live amongst the ruins! They call to me! The broken walls; the old stones; the twisted trees; the strange pyramid - I see them now, in my soul's eye. The long Winter of the ruins of Bibracte, where Time pools.

My second reason: the ghosts of my parentes. All my life I have learned from these beings, who now seem ghosts. A Change has come to me, and no longer can I learn from ghosts. I must make my way now with the living. The living! To live in a living covenant! It will be a Transformation for me. I tumble from Ghostly Vapour to Living Flame just thinking on it.

So those are the Riddles that lie between us, and my Answers to them. I am pleased with myself, I must admit - I had thought it was going to be very hard for me to speak plainly, but, on re-reading my letter, I do believe I have managed to put all of this as plainly as anyone in their right mind could desire.

I have so many questions for you, Apollodorus, but I have covered the page, so before I can ask them I will have to wait until the sea washes up another piece of vellum for me to use. That could take some time. It would therefore be most convenient if you could answer me in advance. First you should answer my questions, and then I shall write back and tell you what the questions are. This is how we do these things in my House. That will be much easier than all this Plainness.

Trusting you are well,

Iosephus Criamonis Cambrensis

Spring 1219


Enclosed with my letter are a few sheets of blank parchment, which you can use to write back to me. Had I been aware of your particular circumstance, I would’ve included one in my last letter.

Since you answered your own questions of me, I have nothing left to add.

I can tell you that the city of Bibracte is no more, the walls are gone, with few remnants remaining. Their construction was such that the stones of the wall were useful in constructing peasant cottages around the Mont. Ahh, and top of the Mont, I have indeed found a regio and have explored it a bit, and there is a large cliff face with what appears to be a mountain on top.
Thank you for sharing the vision, it will allow us to create a much grander facility as befitting the company of Magi and Maga I seek.


(incuded with the delivery of the letter are two blank sheets of parchment of excellent quality)

Summer 1219
Letter from Iosephus to Apollodorus

(This letter is written on a sheet of fine parchment. Apollodorus may recognise it as one of the sheets he sent in his previous letter. There is one different, however: it has clearly been severely water-damaged. Again, the script is tattooed onto the page, and the ink has the silvery sheen of mercury.)

[i]Salve Sodalis Apollodorus

How mysterious you are! My great desire, as you must know, has been to see your paintings - and you send me two blank pages. What a gift! I am most flattered. I have been thinking on it deeply. What can it mean?

You say that part of the meaning of your gift - I am sure it cannot be the whole meaning - is to allow me to write back to you. How good you are! How generous!

Of course I have no shortage of fine parchment here - no shortage at all - but it is so much better to wait for the things the Waves bring you, no? Or the Wind? I do hope you agree. It does sometimes take a long time, waiting for parchment to float in, or blow in, by chance; but the waiting itself has a kind of aptness to it.

Thus you will understand - I hope - when I tell you that I let the Wind take your gift of parchment. My, how it fluttered away! And the next day, to my joy, the Waves brought one of the sheets back to me. How the Waves know aptness!

Now I should write of the Covenant, for I have already covered half the page.

I am glad - so glad - you found the cave. I knew it was there, of course, but I had feared it was, or will be, there some otherwhen. Did you walk the long narrow path? Did you find the first cave, and then the second? Did you find the seams of silver? Oh, I am so happy for you, to have been so happy there! For you must have been happy there. I would be.

I wish to have my laboratory atop the highest part of the cliff, in the largest cavern - yes, the one that opens out onto the ledge. Yes! Do not close it in! I want it to be open to the Air and the Rain! As Empedocles would put it, I wish to be amongst the roots of things: bright Fire, life-giving Air, strong Earth, and Water that moistens the springs of men with her tears.

I would appreciate it if you could have whatever craftsmen you have working there construct everything that you see fit to add to a laboratory. I leave the matter in your hands, and in the hands of chance. But let the craftsmen have free reign, too! They will work best if they can find their own way to aptness, for themselves.

I addition, I would like a good, strong shelf for books. I shall keep it in the deeper cavern, that is not open to the air - that shall be my sanctum; and there the precious volumes will stay dry. Until the Rain needs them! The day the rain needs them I shall set them free.

I shall also require a stone bed, and plenty of wood for fire. As for the rest of it - let chance do with it what it will. Aptness, like water, finds its own way best when left alone.

For the wider covenant, I have only one request: make it beautiful. Not too much order. Let it change as we look upon and walk through it, so it is not always the same.

Oh! I am so delighted, I am Air!

The rest I leave to your discretion.

Gratefully yours,
Iosephus Criamonis


Winter 1219

Dear Iosephus,

If your visions haven't sparked you to make your way here by now, hopefully this letter will. I hope to see you in the spring.

Warmest regards,
Apollodorus ex Jerbiton