Fiona ex Miscellanea, Daughter of Circe, looked at the two letters that had come for her in the past week. One had come the normal way, via the network of Recaps that crisscrossed Europe and (among other duties) delivered missives from one magus or covenant to another. The other had been hand-delivered by an obviously terrified mortal who kept glancing over his shoulder as if he were expecting Death himself to be standing there.
The first was in the noble and artistic script belonging to Apollodorus ex Jerbiton, letting her know that the covenant he was founding in Normandy was ready for occupation and that she should arrive in the spring. The other was in a crude, barely literate hand telling her that she was to leave for the continent as soon as she was able, and to begin the efforts they had discussed to try to "normalize" relations between giants and humans.
She smiled, the crows-feet deepening around her eyes. "Moire. It is almost time for the Council Meeting. I need you to start packing my things, please."
"We're leaving, Maga?" Moire inghean Domnaill asked. The sturdy maidservant looked quite surprised.
"No. I'm leaving. You and your husband will be staying here. I'll be taking a new home on the continent shortly."
Faileas ex Criamon looked around the council table. "There being no further business before the Council," he wheezed.
"Excuse me, Archmagus," Fiona said from her customary place at the foot of the table, "but you forgot to call for new business."
Faileas blinked at the half-giant maga, surprised that she would dare to interrupt her elders. "That is because I would have been told of any new business before the meeting. As I was not told of any, then..."
"Did your apprentice not tell you of my desire to discuss a matter of great import today?" Fiona scowled. "I would like to think that you would have done a better job of impressing upon him the importance of performing his duties...regardless of how beneath him it might seem at the time." She looked him squarely in the eye, maintaining an innocent look on her face.
The other magi of the Council glared at Fiona, fuming at her impertinence. Even Ion the Bjornaer, who had not been seen in her human form outside the laboratory in almost two years but kept to her Heartbeast form of an elk, tossed her head and pawed at the stone floor.
After a long moment, Faileas graced Fiona with a condescending smile. "Very well, journeyman. I take it that you have new business for the Council. By all means, proceed." He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes as Fiona rose to her feet.
"I'm leaving Insula Canaria." Fiona sat back down. Faileas's eyes snapped open and he leaned forward.
"Are you forgetting, journeyman, that when you joined the Covenant, you swore an oath that you would dedicate your life to the covenant?" Although the Criamon did not raise his voice, his icy tones were intended to have greater effect than if he had.
Fiona leaned forward and met his glare. "And I'm quite certain, archmagus, that you are aware that there are numerous Peripheral Rulings throughout the Order, to the effect that attempting to hold a magus in a covenant against his will, to prevent him from leaving, is an unlawful deprivation of the magus's magical power. This matter has yet to be pressed in Loch Leglean. I, for one, would very much prefer that we settle this amicably between us." Fiona's eyes darted quickly to each of the other magi before returning to Faileas. "Lest the Quaesitores discover what other ways the Council has seen fit to deprive its magi, and their apprentices, of their rights under the Oath."
She removed a parchment from her robes and set it on the table, as far from her as she could reach without taking her feet again. "There is my letter of surrender. I have dispatched a similar letter to Whitburh Firthowebba , informing her that I have surrendered my oath of covenant to Insula Canaria, and that I will be leaving the Tribunal directly."
Faileas looked at the letter, whispered softly, and held out his hand as the parchment flew to his grasp. He read it quickly, then looked back down the table at Fiona. "When are you planning to leave?" he finally asked.
"Within the fortnight."
"You'll not be taking anything of ours with you."
Fiona gave Faileas a condescending smile of her own. "The only items that are going with me are those I have purchased or crafted with my own resources. And nothing done at the covenant's command."
"Uilleam," Faileas continued, referring to Fiona's shield grog. "He belongs to us."
"No one under orders of the Covenant will leave with me."
Faileas stared at Fiona. Fiona, in turn, crossed her arms and stared back. The Princeps's eyes, she noticed, had glazed over again, and she wondered how long it would be before his awareness returned to him.
After a few minutes, Drystan ex Merinita cleared his throat. "Fiona, why are you leaving?" he asked in Latin. Of all the magi of Insula Canaria, he alone was not Scottish born and raised, and even today his Latin was still better than his Gaelic. He was still able to participate in the Council meetings, which were customarily conducted in the vulgar.
"What does it matter, Drystan?" Fiona replied without taking her eyes from Faileas's.
"Because, of all the magi here, it seemed that you and I have the most in common. Not," he hastened to add as Ion lowered her head menacingly, "that I have nothing in common with the others, of course."
Fiona gave the smallest hint of a smile. "I will correspond from my new home. Perhaps I might stumble across something of interest to you in your studies."
The Merinita shrugged. He knew that the Daughter of Circe was unlikely to answer the question, but he still felt it his duty as the oldest of the magi (and thus, the leader of the covenant when Faileas was temporarily incapacitated) to ask. "What do you think of our sodalis's imminent departure?" He looked around at the other Council members.
Ion raised her tail and left her opinion on the floor, intentionally missing the rug that had been enchanted to dispose of such matters.
"What makes you think you can just up and leave the covenant?" Doineann ex Miscellanea asked. "You have duties and obligations here, in case you've forgotten."
"Duties which, if you will check the records, you'll find that I have more than fulfilled."
"That doesn't mean that you'll be able to leave. After all, storms happen. Trees are struck by lightning, fall, and block roads. Rough seas have been known to capsize boats. And it is still deep winter...I wouldn't be surprised if there were still a blizzard or two before the spring thaw."
Fiona looked at the weather witch intently for a moment before returning her attention to the Criamon.
"Subtlety doesn't become you, Doineann. Threaten me all you want, my mind is made up. Besides...killing me, or even delaying me for too long, would most definitely not be in your best interest."
"And you accuse me of making threats?" Doineann muttered. "And what do you mean by that?" Her voice returned to its normal boisterous tone.
Fiona simply ignored her as she continued to gaze at the all-but-absent Criamon. She saw no reason to explain that she had actually given the Redcaps two letters destined for Whitburh Firthowebba: the one she had already told the Counciil about, and one to be delivered in one year's time if the Mercere had not received any word from Fiona. The second letter would, if acted upon properly, prove to be much more damaging to Insula Canaria, since it detailed many of the breaches of the Code that Fiona was aware of, ranging from depriving magi of their magical power by various means, to denying the right to take an apprentice, to the occasional interference with mundanes and molesting the fae. Although she honestly didn't expect the Loch Leglean Quaesitor to act on the information in the letter (as she was notorious for not doing her job unless it furthered her own agenda), Fiona hoped that her mentioning that she had sent another letter to Iudicium, the Quaesitor of Stonehenge Tribunal, might prompt her to make an exception. Of course, Fiona saw no reason to ever let Whitburh know that the second letter was a bluff.
After a couple of awkward minutes, Drystan finally ended the Council meeting, leaving Faileas and Fiona alone in the Chamber. Several more minutes later, when Fiona was starting to wonder if Faileas had actually entered Twilight, he spoke.
"The way is treacherous," he said in a surprisingly clear voice. "Friends betray you, enemies give you comfort, and family is not as they seem." Faileas's eyes then regained their normal luster.
"Speak with Conain," he continued in his normal wheezy voice, as though the last several minutes had not happened. "If we have a cart and an ox to spare, you may purchase one from him." He rose wearily and leaned on the table for support.
"You had potential, Fiona. I hope you do a better job of working to realize that potential in your new home than you have here." He gestured for his staff, which came flying to his hand from where it had been leaning against the wall behind him, and left the chamber without looking back.