Thirty Days in Hibernia

IT has become something of a tradition on the forum that every year in November several people do something that involves one post a day. Last year I did Tribunal Cases, the year before Saints (including the English saints for the Anglo-Normans in Hibernia, as it happens, not entire by coincidence). This year I decided to do something less time demanding than statting all those characters, and less intrusive than the various Tribunal Case threads which a few people complained about.

Unfortunately November got off to a spectacularly bad start for me with my house being burgled, and I'm still sorting out the repercussions. As a result my plans for two threads are now in disarray, and I'm only on November 4th getting round to making a start. I'm colossally busy as well this month with a gaming convention I'm writing a 30 player free form for in November, and a LOT of work to keep on top of. I'm only going to commit to one thread so far therefore, though my other idea may still come to fruition, though it may actually follow in December as a sort of weird CJ Christmas present to the forum, as it involves fairly monstrous levels of work (and ranges over every tribunal, though concentrating on those out for 5th edition). I'm not even going to say what it is for now -- instead here is plan November.

Each day I shall post a letter, from the English quaesitor Metrodorus, detailing his infamous Spring 1220 journey around the Hibernia Tribunal, and misadventures therein. I am not a great writer of fiction, and this is not a novel attempt -- instead it will be a hopefully useful introduction to the Tribunal, and will contain references to The Contested Isle, and Story Seeds and hopefully some plot inspiration for sagas dealing with that region. I suppose it may contain spoilers, though I am not sure what spoilers there are to be given away -- but if you think of a topic you would prefer not to see discussed, pm me here, email me, or just ban yur players from reading this thread.

I'll only post in this thread, and each letter will deal with one full day in Metrodorus travels round the Emerald Isle, what he encounters, the people he meets and what he learns about the supposed "irregularities" of that island's Hermetic Culture.

Feel free to comment directly in the thread.

My previous November threads were
Thirty Tribunal Cases for November Tribunal Cases
A Saint a Day for November! Saints

cj x

Day 1

15th day of April,
Year of Our Lord 1220

Dear Quintus

I know that respect is due to one's elders, and I fully understand the great honour this 'trifling request' you have bestowed upon me entails. Might I ask, as a humble quaesitor and obedient servant of our Tribunal and the Order, that next time you decide to confer an honour upon me you simply tie me in a sack and thrown me in to the fiery maw of Mt. Etna, or let me take on the Witches of Thessaly armed only with a letter of goodwill and ivory toothpick, or send me to teach etiquette to the Gruagachan of Loch Leglean? I would prefer to try and cheat a Verdi in a vis deal than live through the last three days again, which were about as pleasant as a Tytalan apprenticeship. In fact I don't think even Tytalus himself would have put his apprentice through what I have just experienced.

All started well; I proceeded as agreed to the port of Bristol, and there met George the Redcap. Stout fellow, all clad in leather, shrew faced though with a cunning smile that seems unsettlingly like a smirk. George was less than happy about the plan, assuring me the Irish were all heathens, cut-throats and desperate brigands. Something in the way he said it however made me realise he was not at all serious, and indeed I soon discovered that George while he may be a trusted servant of the Order is also more than a little unreliable -- some men are married to the truth, but George and the truth long ago had their relationship annulled by the Pope, the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Abbott of Cluny with all the saints as witnesses. I swear this fellow has taken a solemn oath never to speak without exaggerating, prevaricating and doing everything in his power to twist his words to give the exact opposite meaning to that which they appear to hold. There are notaries trained at the Sorbonne who know serve Hell as demons of deceit who blush when they hear the lies George speaks; while they applaud him for his art, they are shocked that any mere mortal could be so devoted to the cause of bare faced lying.

So enough of George: I will I fear be forced to use Frosty Breath of the Spoken Lie on him so much he may as well breathe ice, and will develop frostbite of his pointy little nose. Actually that is an idea -- a spell that causes his nose to grow every time he tells an untruth? I can at least sell him to the royal menagerie at the Tower as an olifant if I am forced to pursue this plan, that I swear. Yes Quintus, I can imagine even now that you are thinking "typical of Metrodorus. Does he not always grumble about the inks, the glassware, the vellum? Does he not find fault with everything?" While it is true my standards are high, I fear by any standard George is quite unacceptable. I shall write to Harco on my return to civilisation.

Much more satisfactory is the grog I acquired, Red Erik. He stands some seven feet tall, and is almost as broad as he is high. A mountain of a man, all muscle and a manly beard that reaches as low as his manhood, with flowing red locks and firm handsome features. I was quite taken with his the moment I saw him, and when I heard he was looking for honest pay, and had admired the size of his immense axe, I was almost ready to take him on. What sealed the deal was the discovery he is of the Bristol Norse, and has relatives in Dublin, some village in Hibernia where the harsh Viking tongue is spoken yet. Of course he speaks now Latin, but his English while heavily accented in the Wessex way has a certain charm. I was now certain that he could protect my frail body from anything savage Hibernia might have to offer, and his price proved very reasonable, so I hired him as a shield grog, and dismissed that wretch Titus on the spot.

Titus acted extremely hurt, and made a scene, but after a few growls from Erik he just took off, and I have seen nothing more of him. I expect he will come skulking back to the covenant -- have him cast out. I never could abide the fellow, too given to low taverns and with no eyes for danger, only for pretty maids. We don't need him anyway, as Erik will take his place on my return. And don't pay him anything -- Titus will only spend what you give him on drink and women. It is better for his soul you give him nothing, but perhaps a letter of commendation for his years of service, saying he performed almost adequately in his menial role. I think that may be stretching the truth, but I am inclined to be charitable to our grogs, no matter how useless, lest they seek service with a rival covenant.

While I have no doubts at all about Erik, I was completely aghast when I met the final member of our band. Titus had persuaded me we needed a third, another grog but this one was to speak the horrible and barbaric tongue of the Irish, Gaelic. In fact he suggested we hired a native, a Gael. I think he said that anyway -- anyway the fellow he suggested was an acquaintance of his called Cacht, who knows the country, the people, and is very handy with a javelin. I could not pronounce that name, so suggested the fellow could be called Bobbins, and George said that would be acceptable. Bobbins was late joining us, arriving just as our ship caught the morning tide: imagine my consternation and horror as I discovered Bobbins was in fact a young woman, and very obviously so. She dresses as a woman, has all the usual feminine features, and a tongue as sharp as a Carlisle reaver's dirk. I tried to dismiss her, but she just utterly ignored me, and George somehow messed up the translation, and well I am not quite sure how but after a huge amount of silver has changed hands I found myself locked in the forecabin of The Happy Pig, our vessel, with this ghastly harpy.

As the ship proceeded down the Bristol Channel I hoped to get a few minutes shut eye, but instead I found myself watching this woman, who was eyeing me with the look of a Normandy magi viewing a two pawn pixie he has just caught in a time of severe vis drought. I knew that to close my eyes would result in a slit throat, and so I sat on the miserable flea infested straw and watched as she unloaded a bag of burned black bread, a jug of ale and some oats and dried meat of a texture not unlike a grog's marching boots. I refused to eat anything of course, for I was sure she would poison me, but attempted to go out on deck and find the captain, to arrange for proper food and wine. I then discovered to my horror that I was locked in the cabin, as this tiny closet was called, and before I could kick up enough fuss to get myself released the grinning witch addressed me in barbarous Latin. So she could understand me, you see, she was just being insubordinate when I tried to dismiss her earlier.

She looked at me rather brazenly, and told me that I must shut my mouth, and sit quietly. Apparently sailors hate having women on board -- a trait in the breed I can only admire -- but like so many ignorant simple folk are also scared of those who possess The Gift -- a trait I can only put down to jealousy. Does not the fattened hen resent the farmer until the day it ends up in the pot? Thus it will forever be between mortals, and us, their masters. Anyway Bobbins told me that if I left out quarters I may well find myself cast overboard, as sorcerers were bad luck, and that anyway passengers on ships must provide their own food. Apparently Erik was working his passage, being skilled in these matters, and perfidious George was standing guard outside the door, just to be on the safe side. Therefore I must either eat what was given to me by her, Bobbins, or starve until we may landfall in Hibernia. I snorted that I would rather perish through starvation than eat the provisions she had brought, as i am as you well know Quintus an absolute martyr to my stomach. I did not like the look she gave me, not just insubordinate but I fear openly contemptuous, but she simply remarked in the English tongue "suit yourself..."

And that indignity was but the first of many. The chamberpot was nailed down! Well actually it was a bucket, with a smaller bucket within it, and only the larger one was nailed firmly to the cabin floor, the smaller one being emptied by being passed out just before sunset each night to George, and tipped over the side. Bobbins watched with seeming amusement as I Perdo Vim'd everything I passed -- I am not going to let my enemies get an Arcane Connection, but even so, this does run an unreasonable risk of botching, especially when the increasingly rough waters made the proper gestures difficult. I shall ensure I spend a season enchanting a devise to deal with these matters on my return to my lab.]

And then it began -- as we entered the St. George's Channel, we ran straight in to mountainous seas and a howling gale. I shall never again book passage on a vessel without acquiring a device that casts Sailors Foretaste of the Morrow, as for the next two days I feared every hour would be my last, and vowed many a silver coin to Saint George. I made the mistake of casting Prying Eyes to see the outside conditions, and then my phlegmatic humour was so far unbalanced that I spewed all over the tiny room, and all over Bobbins, who at least took it philosophically. I turned, my trusty hand mirror showed, a most peculiar shade of white with a rather unflattering greenish tinge, but between vomiting and howling in terror there was little time to worry about the horrors the ship's motion were inflicting upon my complexion. Suffice to say that for two days more I was in constant expectation of death, and called upon every saint, and the Good Lord, and tried repeatedly to cast Break the Oncoming Wave, a spell quite outside of my ability, until finally I fell in to a merciful unconsciousness through fatigue. On waking up to find the ship still spinning as if trapped between Scylla and Charbidis, I managed to once again find merciful oblivion through desperately failing to cast said spell. Even ore upsetting was finding my head in Bobbin's lap, while she stroked my hair and made the kind of noises the foul-mouthed washerwomen does to her idiot son when he is frightened by something magical. If I had been well I would have turned her in to a newt, but Mu(Co)An has never been my strong point and if I could have done that I think I might have turned myself in to one and swum for home, abandoning 'The Happy Pig' to its watery grave.

And then on the third morning, as I awakened from my exhaustion, I found the cabin smelling of vinegar, but with much less vomit, and Erik mopping the floor. The vinegar had revived me, as I thought for a moment senses befuddled I had died and gone to heaven, but now it turned out that somehow we had escaped what Erik described as "the squall" and were now entering the calm waters of Lough Wexford, about which more in my next letter. According to Erik the only moment of danger had been almost two days before, when the ship was almost forced on to Tusker Rock, a dangerous rock in the Bristol Channel. (1) Fortunately George had managed to do something to the sails, I am unclear what, but apparently it was both daring and necessary, and the ship was saved. I realised for the first time that Erik while a very strong and brave fellow, is absolutely no judge of character -- he has clearly fallen for the lies the Redcap gives out as freely as he breathes.

Oh and I found Bobbins lying on the floor, apparently drunk or just sleeping like the lazy cow she is. I did not berate her in front of Erik, as I sense he would not like that, but instead uncorked my inks and unslung my desk, and wrote this epistle to let you know the horrors you have inflicted upon me Quintus. Within the hour I will be in Wexford, where I expect I shall be eaten by dog headed men, or be turned in to a pig, or perhaps be stolen away by the fae, but whatever my miserable fate know it is upon your heard, and that of the Council, who sent me on this ghastly errand. Still take consolation in the fact no matter how horrid my end, it will be a blessed relief after the indignities of this voyage.

Apparently a vessel approaches, so I shall send this to you and hope my misery haunts your nightmares and you weep bitter tears at the cruel fate you have sacrificed me to;

Your Humble Friend
Metrodorus of Norwich.

PS. Wizard's Wars are declared over less than this!

  1. Not to be confused with Tuskar Rock off the Wexford coast, and site of a former covenant swept away in a terrible storm three decades ago, as least according to George. It therefore probably never existed, or is still there and thriving...

Nice. Looking forward to the next parts.

Goodness! Good luck getting things sorted out!

Certainly this first part was hilarious. Indeed I might contest your statement of not being a great writer of fiction.
Perhaps not a prolific one, but certainly an entertaining one.

If you say so CJ, but I don't agree. Have you ever heard yourself relate facts? That is most often as entertaining as any fiction you dream up. It's all in the way it is presented. The best story one could theoretically write would be useless if not written or told the right way.
The letter is great reading. More, please.

Thanks chaps. It is rather a lot of work, and yesterday I simply did not have time, but here is Day 2. Do comment! The map of Wexford in 1220 will follow once I have finished it :slight_smile:

Thursday, April 16th
The Year of Our Lord 1220

Dear Quintus

When I last wrote I had intended to send the epistle telling you of my miserable martyrdom on that infernal ship via the vessel that approached. Of course, it was not to be: instead that boat merely came to bring fresh indignities. What should I have expected in this vale of tears, but more misery? I observed (via Prying Eyes, I still could not leave the now stifling cabin) as it drew near that this was no sea going vessel, but some small boat designed for the lough alone. It flew a blue and white banner, and approached us with determination; I would have feared pirates, as they do trouble Hibernian waters, but it appeared to have a crew of just four men. Soon it drew alongside, and from the hailing in various tongues, of which French and English I knew, and Norse and Irish I could guess, it became clear they wanted to come aboard and inspect our vessel. Why they could not wait until we docked I did not know, but Bobbins explained it was in case we made our way up the lough and then sailed inland along the River of Health - the Abhainn na Sláine. I knew from Giraldus' book that the Slaney was one of the great rivers of Ireland, and could take me a considerable distance north, but after the journey I have had I prefer to take my chances with the notorious Irish brigands than set foot upon another vessel. I swear that I will not leave this accursed isle until I can find a Hermes' Portal, for I am never setting foot on a ship again!

Soon the officials, for such it seems they were, clambered on board and began searching the hold, and asking impertinent questions of everyone. It appears that by some decree of King John the noble Theobald Butler has the rights to a certain proportion of all wine that is brought to Ireland, and his agents can be found in every port enforcing this strictly, and one assumes spying for their master too. This is really no concern of mine, but be be warned: any magus who approached this blasted Ireland may expect to have his privacy invaded by these "customs" men. Of course they insisted on entering my cabin, and poking around, even though it was clear that no wine barrels could possibly be stored within. I was about to remonstrate with them when Bobbins started to make a noise not unlike a sick cow, and apparently vomit, and her melodramatics and the smell was enough to make them leave us after only a cursory glance through the door. I don't know much about this Butler fellow -- I believe his father was seneschal or castellan or something to King John of Blessed Memory, but when I do meet him I shall take him thoroughly to task for his agents' rudeness.

Still once the door was opened, I took my opportunity and bolted on deck. Bobbins followed, shooing curious sailors away from me, then rushed off to hug George- they are clearly friends -- and when they returned she talked a bit about Lough Garman, in to the dark of waters of which I was staring pensively. "Looking for the lost churches?" George asked. I ignored his insolence, until Bobbins explained a little more. It seems some time ago the King at one Cathaoir, who was famous for his hospitality. One Samhain, a festival in autumn, he threw his usual three day celebration, but a rogue named Garman took advantage and stole the queen's bejewelled diadem. Now the custom was that no crime was punished, and no feud continued, during Samhain, and apparently the Irish consider it a terrible matter to break the laws of hospitality by stealing from your host; but it was also the law that during Samhain the crime had to be overlooked. Nonetheless King Cathaoir called together his retainers, and sent them after this Garman, who had fled. There was a long pursuit, but they finally caught him here, and on doing so took vengeance by drowning him in a well. As they did so the waters of the Slaney broke through and drowned the lands, and Lough Garman was formed. A pretty tale, and I suspect a faerie regio may well lie under the lake. King Cathaoir also had a vision of a son attacking his mother, and eventually running her straight through, that related to the formation of this lough. It seems likely therefore that powerful faeries represent the Slaney and the tidal lough, and that they perform an annual battle. Some Merinita may be interested in such things, just like Bobbin's tale of a great regio that can be found in the seas all around the coast of Ireland just beyond the 9th wave, but all I cared about was getting ashore and off this blasted ship!

Just then Erik yelled out 'Veisafjorðr', and I rushed to his side assuming he had been stung by a wasp, shouting Creo Corpus and preparing to heal his affliction, for I could not bear to see such a brave warrior in pain. He swatted me away, and look at me in a startled way. It seems he was just telling us Wexford was now in sight, naming it "the proper way" as he informed me. I rather like his rough manners and harsh guttural tongue -- his language I mean. Erik informed me that Gaelic, Norse and English are all spoken in the town, and that in addition the local courts are currently conducted in French. Apparently a curious dialect named Yola has sprung up, and given time it may become a language of his own. There is far more to Erik than just his rugged charming exterior, it seems!

My first impression of Wexford was it was no worse than most ports in England. The quays have a row of three storey town houses behind them, that would not look out of place in any English town, and indeed it soon became clear that a good third of the town was of well built wattle and daub timber framed houses in the English style. The timber longhouses of the Norse community at the north end of town looked well kept, and indeed judging by the cattle and large number of those low sided but sleek Norse ships, very prosperous indeed. The area further back just before the stone wall seemed to consist largely of small stone cottages, in what I now know to be the Irish style, and wooden huts. One thing I will say - many of the townhouses had chimneys, a clear sign of great prosperity, and event the church was reasonably impressive, like those in many of our villages. Al of the streets are paved with split logs in the Norse style, and a number of cats prowled rooftops, while the sounds of singing in a number of languages melded in to a pleasant hum as we approached. (It seems the local tradition is to sing while working-- perhaps it wards off the fae?). The sun had finally come out, and as we docked I rushed ashore and threw myself on the rough stones of the quayside, kissing them repeatedly. I stopped rather embarrassed however when I somehow felt I saw Bobbins and George doubled over with laughter - when I looked they had straightened up, yet I was almost certain I saw them laugh at me. I shall dock them a weeks pay, just in case, if I choose to pay them at all for their 'services'.

The town had a festival air, and was throned with visitors, a good third speaking English, though almost all with a strong Welsh accent, I would guess of the Pembrokeshire dialect. The patron saint of the town is Ibar of Beggerin Isle, a small island up in the north of the lough, and while I initially misheard the name and was a little disappointed when I worked out how it was actually spelt, I did think I had chosen a good week to pass through. A number of small boats took pilgrims out to the island where St. Ibar had his cell, but I decided to visit the local church and view the wall paintings there to see what I could learn. St. Ibar's has a priest, a matter which seemed to come as a shock to Bobbins - silly girl, I should have guessed she was some benighted pagan - and he was able to tell me something of St. Ibar. He was a son of a prince of Ulster and royal princess of Meath; trained as a Druid, and having finally completed his studies at the College of the Druids and become a full Druid himself, something befell the Druids of Gaul, causing him to travel to that land to see what was corrupting Druidic religion there (and one immediately thinks of Diedne, though reputedly Ibar lived centuries earlier?). In Gaul he picked up a classical education, while arguing with the local Druids, and from there proceeded to Athens where he astounded the philosophers with his learning, before returning via Rome. In Rome he was converted to Christianity, and immediately set off to the Isle of Lerins where he studied alongside Patrick at the monastery of St. Honoratus.

On his return he found his sister now a Queen, and was granted Beggerin Island to found a monastery, and brought many thousand to Christ. When St. Patrick turned up and began his great missionary work, it seems that there was some dispute between them, a rivalry that had endured from their days together as monks on Lerin, but eventually the two were reconciled. Apparently a few monks still live on Beggerin, in a monastery called the comarba of Ibar, but they are a rough and impious bunch, not even celibate, and given to heathen practices according to the priest. Apparently they respect neither his authority, nor that of the Bishop of Ferns, so I was probably lucky to avoid that boat trip. At least something good came out of my miserable trip over and nearly being drowned, it seems. If I had not been so unsettled by the crossing, I might well have ended up visiting there.

The good priest, an Englishman as it happens, was able to tell me of the miracles of Ibar - and more of those of his nephew, who became St. Abban. (See The Contested Isle). It was only when he told me the miracle of how Ibar drove the rats from Wexford, and how no rat could enter the city to this day, that I realised i know this saint by his Latin name, St. Iberius, or as it is sometimes written St. Yvorus. Thanking the good father for his time, and making a very generous donation to the church I set off to explore the town. I could not help but think that he was a little to eager to show me out however.

And it was much the same in the town -- like every time I go in to a town, I noticed people, staring, whispering, and crossing the road to avoid me. I know it is simply my Gift: mortals recognise my innate magical power, and show proper deference. Even I however thought better than to approach to long haired filthy Templars who were talking outside their Commandery. By royal decree they own the mills here, and must benefit greatly from the absence of rats in their granaries, but I do wish they would trim their beards or wash occasionally. These hairy maniacs are a menace to all around them, and even in the warm sunshine on the city streets they wore full chain, and carried swords! I noticed Erik did not care for them either, and we hurried off to meet up with George and Bobbins. Not trusting them with silver I then went in to each of half a dozen fair looking inns, only to find there was not a space to sleep in nay of them, even just for me and Erik -- I'm sure George and Bobbins could have found shelter in an alley -- must be all the pilgrims in town for Ibar's Day, the 23rd. Eventually we were saved from a night under the stars by Erik managing to negotiate lodging in a hay barn in the Norse part of town, where it seems he is well liked and respected.

I would have pushed on, but by this time the sun was setting, and the city gates close at sunset here as everywhere. The walls are fine and stone, with high towers, and look very defensible, far more so than I would have expected. When Diarmait and Strongbow besieged the town fifty years ago they could not take it, and were only admitted by the intervention of the Bishop of Ferns apparently. I must say I have been favourably impressed by Wexford -- it strikes me as every bit as pleasant as any English town. I am puzzled however that there appears to be no regular Redcap traffic through here, given this is perhaps the major crossing point for Bristol.

Well I am going to send Bobbins out to find food, and George to deliver both letters to a ship. I hope that you are not too disappointed to find i am not drowned, despite your best efforts, but I am relieved to find that Ireland is really much like home, and that all seems well. Perhaps this will not be such an ordeal after all?

I shall pen a rough map of the town, and enclose it, for our records.

Your still breathing sodalus,

Because I will be running a Hibernian saga in a few months, and the pcs will be traveling there for the first time, this series is invaluable. Please continue. It's a treasure trove of adventures.

PS: Metrodorus's crush on Erik is absolutely charming.

I'm not sure why I do this to myself, but here you go -- took a bit longer than anticipated, hope vaguely useful!

cj x

Immensely cool, CJ. :smiley:

Day 3

Friday April 17th
Year of Our Lord 1220

Dear Quintus,

I will be surprised if you ever read this letter, as George entrusted it to friends of his, and by their looks they are as vile a bunch of pirates as ever sailed the seas. Why am I not surprised? I expect Redcaps to have friends in low places, but it is clear that George has friends in the lowest of places, and there is more than whiff of brimstone about him. I can only assume your entrusting me to his tender care was your way of ensuring that my time in this miserable world was shortened, and that soon I can take my place among the communion of saints?

This morning I was awakened by softly falling rain, and for a moment thought I was back on that ghastly ship. Fortunately I was in fact safely asleep in the hayloft, with Erik close by to keep me safe. Bobbins had already got up, and headed up in to the pre-dawn mists to purchase fresh fish for today's meal (it being Friday), and at first I thought George attempting to make love to a cow, judging by the mournful sounds it was emitting, until I saw he was actually just completely failing to milk it,for he just tugged hard and seemed annoyed when the pail remained empty. Luckily Erik got up and was able to handle the task, and I watched spellbound as he delicately -- anyway Bobbins, returned, and Erik acquired some hens eggs and cheese, and two good loaves of some rye bread. We were ready to depart.

I remarked to Erik on the number of languages spoken in Wexford, and he told me the Charter of 1175 opens with the exhortation to the citizens ‘all present and future, French, English, Flemish, Welsh and Irish’. This is a most cosmopolitan little town, and I must say I am pleasantly surprised! We wanted to be out as soon as the gates open, well just after, as I needed to put my Parma up of course first. Just after dawn we approached the Cowgate, and passed by Selskar Abbey. It is built right up against the wall, and the tower actually forms part of the city wall. An impressive stone edifice, it looks more like a castle than a monastery, being highly defensible. One thing the Irish do very well is fortifications, that I must say. An Augustinian house, it was where Old King Henry did penance one lent for the murder of Thomas Becket, and also where the Bishops negotiated the surrender of the town to Strongbow and Diarmait Mac Murchada fifty years ago. I was curious to see what relics it contained, but time did not allow it today.

Originally my plan had been to head south to Bannow, a fine natural harbour and one of the busiest ports on the island, and the place where Strongbow first landed. I had heard tell of a small covenant where women were forbidden from George, and felt it was the natural place to begin my investigations, as so close to Wexford. What George had not revealed was said covenant is apparently on an island that is accessible only by boat, and apparently easily reached from Bannow. It might as well be right next door to the moon for all the chance there was of me going there in any thing that travelled on water. I therefore decided to strike inland, to where Bobbins assured me I could find a good road, to a town called New Ross.

Now New Ross is twenty miles from Wexford, and there are no real roads at all, barely even tracks, for much of the way. Given we would be crossing meadows and going through woods on rough paths, and that I can not abide the lurching motion of a cart or mule, even if the animal could abide me (which they can't - Erik minded me to say away from the cow lest the milk curdled) -- well I knew we had to set off as early as possible to arrive before the gates closed at sunset. Even then I frankly doubted we could make it.

Still we set off at a good paste, though a land wet with a soft rain, that seemed to sigh over the emerald green grass, like a lover weeping. I wished i was more skilled in Aquam, that I could safely cast Cloak of Duck's Feathers, but in the end decided I could face the rain and my mood, which has been surprisingly good for much of today, survived even the slow and persistent drenching. I noticed that Erik, and even Bobbins seemed not to notice the rain, so I decided to play the man and make no fuss. George was irritated by it, I could tell, and told me it "always bloody well rains here." I was not aware that Ireland was subject to droughts, but clearly it must be.

The countryside was unremarkable - in fact it reminded me of Kent, or perhaps Essex. I would say Norfolk or Suffolk, but there are more hills, and purple mountains loomed ahead of us - fortunately Ross is directly through a pass between two ranges. I was a little surprised to see Norse farmsteads, ringed by wooden palisades, for much of the journey. I had though they lived by the sea only, but no it seems they have settled some distance inland, and in fact I only saw a few Gael farms, each surprisingly built of stone and likewise defended by earthworks and palisades. Also along the way were a half dozen fortified manors of the English (who are nearly all Welsh), and we passed pleasantries with two of the knights riding their lands ensuring their cattle were safe from the depredations of Irish youths, for whom cattle rustling is no crime but a badge of honour. We saw one such unfortunates body, hanging from a tree; could not have been more than fifteen years of age, and clearly been there a while, the elements having turned his skin to leather. I explained to Bobbins who seemed as moved by I by this sight that the poor boy must have been caught in the act of stealing, as none of the local knights would possess the right of High Justice, but she just laughed in a rather unpleasant way. I considered conjuring his spirit forth to speak and prove my point, but then realised this may upset Bobbins even more, so I left the matter there.

The manors we passed, and even the Irish and Norse farms are remarkable fertile Erik remarked, and yield fine crops. Certainly there was every sign of prosperity, but I must note that almost farm and manor being fortified and so defensible was beginning to play upon my nerves a little. What were they so keen to defend against exactly? I even saw a tower, which I took for that of a covenant, but no, Erik and Bobbins both assured me there are hundreds of stone towers across the island, often built as defensive positions. I would have gone and investigated, but it was a few miles off our route, and time allowed for no idle poking at petty mysteries. Eventually we reached a hamlet, the first village I had seen so far, called in the local tongue Baile Uí Choileáin. It now occurred to me that people in this region live spread out, and with strong walls defending their homes and open fields between them and their neighbours, not clustered together like in England. There are villages here -- I saw them in the distance from time to time -- but far less than in East Anglia.

A little further we came across peasants toiling in the field under the watchful eye of a English (so actually Welsh, yet again) knight. These serfs are according to Bobbins despised by many of their countrymen, for being enslaved, but they seemed quite jolly working in the fields. They are called betaghs, and feudal property, but they were noticeably plumper and better dressed than any of the English peasants I have ever noted -- not that I look on them much. Yet everyone here seemed prosperous, and I realised this is indeed a rich country, where even serfs wear finery and eat well! Bobbins was cynical, and said there were never enough betaghs because who wanted to serve a master when you could be a free man, and so they had to be well treated; that girl really has pease porridge for brains. Apparently the villages lie mainly to the south, towards Bannow, and the small town and strong castle at Clonmines, where a great amount of silver is mined from the earth. I would have liked to have seen that, but it was simply too far off our route.

Instead we trudged on through the persistent drizzle, until we passed between the mountains, and saw Ross ahead, golden in the light of the setting sun. It looks like a fair town, but curiously enough is not walled at all, and lies the other side of a significant river. Fortunately for us, there is a good stone bridge of modern design crossing over to the town, built apparently by William Marshal, the Greatest Knight in the World, now sadly two years dead. His son is lord over all these lands, and presumably the strong motte and bailey castle that dominates the town was another legacy of his father rules. As we approached it became clear there was also an Irish town - we can call it Old Ross, just across from New Ross, with a great circular earthwork surrounding it. Erik told me it was once the monastery of St. Abban, the patron saint of New Ross and nephew of St. Ibar (and whose stats can be found in The Contested Isle).

We paused so I could put up my Parma, and proceeded as swiftly as possible towards the town, but even though darkness had fallen on our arrival the bridge was open and the town lay before us, with no walls or gates to keep us out. As we mounted a small rise, just before the town, the pale moonlight picked out a most bizarre sight, still etched on my memory. I saw before me a knight, a venerable knight slightly bowed as if by great age, standing regarding the town, his back turned towards us. He wore full armour, and the trappings of wealth -- and yet his helmet was dented more than nay I had ever seen. And then suddenly, walking up from the river mists came a beautiful lady, clearly a great heiress, of perhaps fifty years of age. As she reached her knight they embraced with great affection, and then turned and looked out at the town and castle. And then I swear, they vanished, as suddenly as they appeared...

I was filled with fear and excitement, and rushed forward to where the spirits were moments before, but George and Erik appeared to have seen nothing, and pulled me towards the bridge. Erik holding me tight to stop my ravings. He carried me to a hostelry in the town, and just as we approached I feared my end was upon me when twenty of the roughest looking men I have ever seen, dressed as sailors, came charging down the road yelling and waving clubs. I realised at once they were pirates and murderers, and Erik threw me behind him and drew his awe, but even he could only sell his life dear against so many. Just then George leapt forward, yelled out a greeting, and the scene changed to one of great joy. It seems these men know George well, and hold him as their nearest and dearest, and judging by the terms of affection and offers of drink they lavished upon us all, we were friends by association. George seemed delighted to see them, and after entrusting Bobbin to Erik and I, and finding us secure in the inn, he went off to carouse with his old friends, to Bobbins clear annoyance. Still at least he promised this gang of cut throats could get a letter to you, and I guess I have no choice but to attempt it. I will explore New Ross in the morning, and try and learn the import of the vision I saw.

Have you heard anything of Titus yet? Do not trust anything he says; it will be pure lies, motivated entirely by spite.

Your cold and shivering sodalus,