Prologue: The Letter

(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?"

"Why me?"

"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.

To: Eilid doctrinae Birna
Insula Canaria, Caledonia

From: Halie filia Corvus doctrinae Birna
Magvillus, Roma

Salve, sodalis. I hope that this letter finds you in good health and equally good spirits.

I was pleased to receive a letter from your colleague, Drystan, asking for new members at your covenant. I have just been assigned to Loch Leglean and had been making preparations to join Crun Clach. You can imagine my how my heart leapt with hope at the prospect of making different plans!

I would be pleased to join your covenant, but I wish to inquire first as to the space available and how it is dispersed. I would be bringing a pack of (mundane) dogs with me, and must ensure their needs will be met. Is there adequate roaming territory for five Irish wolfhounds, and sufficient hunting grounds, without upsetting the existing local fauna? Additionally, both my custodes are exceedingly fond of fish, a need for which I hope the island location would be ideal. If I may inquire, what are your thoughts on these matters?

Please convey my respects to Drystan, as well as my thanks for his generous offer. I would have replied to him directly, but obviously a fellow Bjornaer would best be able to advise regarding my particular concerns.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. May the winds be ever at your back.


Towards the end of summer of 1221 Talia leaves her ship and makes her way to a tavern not far from the wharf at Inverness. A few men are left aboard, mostly for security, as well as the nanny and her son. The day’s mission is a bit more personal, and less focused on commerce or piracy. She makes her way into the tavern and lets her eyes adjust to the dim room. She spies a sickly looking man who looks half asleep sitting at a table. Opposite him is another man, and it appears that they are discussing business. Talia waits for the other man to leave, and then approaches the sickly man and takes the seat across from him. A serving wench comes, but Talia waves her off and the man shakes his head indicating he’s not ready for anything else.
“Ysebrand, you’re not looking well.” Talia looks upon the sickly man with some concern. Over the past few years, Ysebrand had been instrumental in getting cargo in Bruges, but on the last voyage from Bruges he surprised her by asking to come with her to Inverness. She concentrates for a few moments and discreetly extends her Parma around Ysebrand to facilitate a frank discussion.
“I’m fine, Talia, I just need to rest for a while or something.” In truth, no amount of rest would help, and the reason he came here appeared to be a bust. He needed distilled magical essence of Corpus, and thought he had a line on a source. However, this wasn’t a secret he was willing to share with Talia, just yet. “Want to play some chess?”
Talia shakes her head. “I’m not planning on staying that long. Listen, I know you don’t keep in touch with the Order, I don’t much either, but I have received word from the Redcaps that Insula Canaria is opening up membership to new magi. I think I’m going to join. I’ve never been part of a covenant, and there are some things I want to do that require a stable environment. Caoimhe is going to come with me. Might you be interested in going with us?”
Ysebrand broods for a bit before responding, he didn’t really know about Caoimhe before asking to come to Inverness. “I don’t know, Talia. I really dislike the covenant life. Magi are always pestering me for me to help them. I rarely make out well in the arrangement.”
Talia interrupts before he goes further, “I’m not going to spill your secrets, I can just say you’re my merchant friend, and I’ll leave it at that. No one else need know more of your past than you’re prepared to share. It’s not my concern.” Thinking that she might be helpful she offers some unsolicited advice, “Perhaps there’s a Corpus specialist there that can help you with your sickliness. For the last year, I’ve watched you wither away, and you were never a man of hale health.”
Wanting to change the subject Ysebrand deftly deflects, “Perhaps you’re right. A change of scenery might do me good. A magus might reside there, or might be joining and maybe he can help me.” Seeming to steer the conversation back to Talia but touching on a topic close to his heart, “What about you? Do you know if there is a Corpus specialist there, of they have a supply of Corpus vis? I know you’re going to need to consider a Longevity Ritual soon.”
A flicker of annoyance goes across Talia’s face, “I’m not quite ready for that. I’d demonstrate it to you, but I doubt you could handle it in your present condition. No, I’m not in a rush. I might want another child. You’d think that someone who tries as much as I do would have dozens of children. The Longevity Ritual will certainly prevent that possibility.” She appraises Ysebrand thinking to herself, he might do for a Gifted child, since the Gift seems to be in his family, and indeed he possessed it for a bit. His knowledge of Magic Theory certainly surpasses my own.
“Regardless, Ysebrand, think about it. I’ll be in port for a few days. I’m hoping that the Divine aura will die down a bit and I can work enough magic to change the shape of my ship and get it to go up the River Ness without shoaling out. If that arrives suddenly, I’ll send a runner for you, because I’ll take advantage of any magical aura that develops to augment a ceremonial spell. I’ll be quite lucky to pull it off. If you don’t come then, you’ll have to make your way to Insula Canaria by other means.” He nods and goes back to nursing his drink while she departs.
On her way back to her ship she gets that familiar itch. I wonder who I should pick today. Her mind drifts off to a libidinous fantasy and thinks why stop at one. Men always get so bored when on the ship while at port. And I feel like letting them have some wine. She chuckles to herself as she makes her way back to the Whoa Buoy.

Dear Drystan,

I sincerely hope this letter finds you well. I and my former master Dughall had often planned to visit your legendary Covenant. I recently received a letter asking for just such a visit! Imagine my surprise, not just that the Redcap had somehow found me, but that you were looking for young magi!

That is your intent I assume? Have you spoken with my Pater? I assure you anything he may have said is nothing more than spurious nonsense. If you haven’t heard from him…well, I would pay him no mind. I certainly didn’t steal anything as he contends. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that?

I am between covenants at this time and would dearly love to visit and see if I am able to join it, if you will have me and the skill at the craft I bring. There is a strong Aegis yes? Make no mind, I often ask needless questions.

I shall be travelling there soon, in fact I have entreated the Redcap to show me the swiftest way to your covenant, and shall make haste as if chased.

That is just an expression of course.

Aodhan ex Verditius

To: Halie filia Corvus doctrinae Birna
Magvillus, Roma

From: Eilid doctrinae Birna
Insula Canaria, Caledonia

I am glad to hear that you are considering making Insula Canaria your home here in Loch Leglean. While I mean no slight against the covenant that belongs to our Praeco, I would be somewhat surprised if it would suit your temperament, being located as it is under a faerie mound. Seeing as how your pater is the esteemed Corvus, a location that allows you to to feel the wind beneath your wings.

As to your specific concerns. Our covenant is not enclosed; Drystan wanted us to have a negligible impact on our surroundings and felt that a wall would be offensive. The woods surrounding us abound with game, so neither you nor your hounds need go hungry. The loch also bounds with fish – it is a staple of our diets here – so you need not worry on that regard.

I had heard a rumour that you had been named our House's Quaesitor – if that is true, than it will be doubly an honour to have you make your home here.

I hope that we will be able to greet you as a sodalis in the near future.


((ooc – which clan is Halie?))

To: Drystan ex Miscellanea
Insula Canaria, Caledonia

From Siobhan Filia Paitric scholae Bonisagi

It is with great pleasure that I received your letter. While my covenant of training allow gauntleted apprentices half a score of years welcome before they must join or move on, such a period of grace has expired in my case.

Your offer of coming to join your covenant is appealing since I wish to make a place for myself apart from my Paren. I will always respect and value his advice but my research must stand on its own and it will not if I remain under his wing. As such, I would be glad to join you.

Accompanying me will be a couple of my family members who wish to set up a wayhouse where my family can stay a night or two as they do much traveling.

You can expect me and my travel supplies as soon as I can arrange appropriate passage across the straights.