(Monday, July 21, 1221)
Drystan closed the door gently behind him, then looked around the council chamber. Physically, nothing had changed since the traumatic events of two weeks earlier. And yet, it felt so empty. He felt so empty, as though someone had reached into his chest and pulled out his heart.
It still didn't seem possible that Faileas was gone. Although he had been scarce around the covenant since taking Duncan as his apprentice twelve years ago, there had still been some comfort in knowing that the princeps had matters well in hand, just as he had for the past 75 years.
Except, he hadn't, had he? The revelation that Duncan had replaced his master still sent chills through Drystan. Nobody had known, nobody had seen anything amiss. Worse yet, nobody even knew when it had happened, let alone how. Perhaps Fiona had. Maybe she had sensed something that drove her away.
Drystan wandered to the map on the wall, examining the trail marked on the monster-skin. He heard the door open behind him, but didn't turn around to see who it was. There were only two other magi left, and the muggles knew not to enter the chamber without knocking, even in an emergency.
"It's too quiet," Eilid said. Her voice was still flatter than it used to be, although he could hardly chalk that up to the situation with Duncan. It had been over a year since she had last been her Heartbeast, and although he wasn't that familiar with the mysteries of the Bjornaer, he knew that it had to be traumatic.
"How do you mean? It's not like Faeleas or Duncan or whomever had been that active the last few years."
"True, but the muggles know something's wrong. They don't know what, but between Faileas disappearing, the giants showing up the way they did, and Fiona coming back for a few days and not seeming herself? They seem uneasy."
Drystan said nothing as he took the princeps seat, nodding at Doineann as she entered.
"Now that we're all here," he said, "let's get the meeting started. The only thing on the agenda is the future of Insula Canaria. To wit: is there a future, or should we break the covenant and go our separate ways?"
Nobody said a word as they all looked at each other, everyone waiting for someone else to say the first word.
"This is my home," Eilid finally said. "This has been my home practically since my Gauntlet, and it will be my home as long as the Fates allow. We've been through hard times before and always survived. Nothing like this, but nothing we can't overcome. I'm staying."
"If you're going to restore the covenant," Doineann said, "you're going to have to do it without me. We lost Fiona, we lost Faileas, we lost Scylla, Sylvanus, we lost Curwen, and we've not bothered to replace anyone since Fiona arrived. Duncan was right when he told Fiona that the canaries have died. If you want to revive Insula Canaria, you'll have to do it without my help." Doineann started to rise from her seat.
"Are you sure about that?" Drystan said. "It's going to be hard enough for us to rebuild Insula Canaria without worrying about you trying to make it as an aonaran as well.
"Duncan is still out there. And I very much doubt that he's alone. Do you think you can defend youself against Duncan and his sodales by yourself?"
"He's not after us. Don't forget, his grief is with Fiona for whatever reason. We were mere bystanders to his scheme."
"Are you sure about that?" Eilid interjected. "Are you willing to risk your life, or maybe even your soul, that Duncan has no interest in you? At least if you stay, we will have strength in numbers."
"Numbers?" Doineann scoffed. "There are but three of us...and to be honest, we're not exactly in our prime." She gave a meaningful look at Eilid.
"Which brings us to our next issue," Drystan said. "If we are to survive, we are going to have to bring in some fresh blood."
"Wait a minute!" Doineann protested. "I'm still not sure I'll be staying, after all of this!"
Eilid threw up her hands. "What is it going to take?"
"Doineann, I have a plan," Drystan said. "And we need you to stay, at least for a while. I'll make a deal with you. Stay until the next Tribunal, that's only three years. If, by then, you still feel that you'll be better off somewhere else, or as an aonaran, we won't stand in your way, and you can go where you will. But please, give your home a chance."
Doineann thought as she looked back and forth between the two before she finally nodded. "Very well. You have until the next Tribunal opens to make the covenant viable again."
"Thank you," Drystan said, with a sigh of relief. Of the three remaining magi, she had been the closest to Faileas, but even that had been forgotten in his obsession to gauntlet one last apprentice.
"Now, as I was saying. If we're to survive, we're going to have to bring in new members."
"Didn't Fiona say she would find some for us?" Eilid asked.
"Yes, but she's got concerns of her own, and it was letting someone handle everything for us that's brought us to the verge of collapse. We, the Council as a whole, need to start handling our affairs as a council and not have all the power in one pair of hands like we have for so long.
"We all have filii we can contact to see if they'd be interested in returning. But I think we should also send out a notice to the Tribunal and the Order as a whole to let them know that we are looking for new members. Eilid, will you take care of that for us, please?"
"Because, of the three of us, you're the best writer."
Eilid simply nodded.
"Meanwhile, until we get some responses, I would like us to take stock of our situation, see what we need and what we're lacking, and start working on filling those needs.
"I think that's everything for today. Thank you both for not letting Insula Canaria die."
Each of the magi has received a letter dated the end of July, 1221, informing them that the covenant of Insula Canaria, of the Loch Leglean tribunal (established in 1143), is seeking new members. Upon their acceptance into the Covenant and swearing the oath, they will become full members in good standing. Beyond that, the letter doesn't offer much in the way of details.