The York Council 1104
This is my report on the proceedings of the council. I include here only those issues with which I was involved. I have tried to set down everything that I can remember, but if there are any gaps then I apologise. If any have any queries relating to these issues then they may contact me privately and I will try to assist.
1. Bellette and the Ritual Effect
When Lord Percival returned from (as I later found out) the mission to the Fenlands, he brought with him a woman. She was shorter than I, with dark hair, a foxfur stole, and an unearthly air. Percival introduced the lady to me and asked me to talk to her and “find out her story”. I did so, and found her conversation fairly pleasant if a little confusing.
What came forth out of discussions with the lady – held by myself, the Lady Glycell, High Mage Jasmine Daisybreeze, Deputy High Mage Osric Karlennon and Lord Edward Falcon amongst others – was that she was a created being who had always been bound to serve a series of masters (four in total). The latest of these was The Mistress, a Fae ancestor of the Fenlands (originally from the Cymrijan marshes). Bellette had been sent to us to ensure that we made good on our promise to attempt to return Faith to The Mistress.
Bellette could not tell us what kind of being she was, so Glycell looked at the lady’s pattern in some way which I did not entirely understand – suffice to say that it seemed to involve a lot of massaging – and revealed that the Lady was some form of “Demonic Herald” and that she was strongly linked to the element of Air.
The longer Bellette stayed with us, the weaker her binding seemed to grow as her Mistress’ attentions turned elsewhere. She was able to tell us more, including the fact that she had taken part in the blood ritual which we had reactivated by killing Wingol in the circle. In fact she was the ritualist and had been holding the dagger. While the binding was upon her she could not tell us much as her memories of her actions whilst under different bindings were very shaky – however, if we freed her, she might be able to tell us more. It was from her that we learned that the circle had been created as a weapon by members of the elder races (Aldeyork and his cronies) to defeat the empire of man.
The circle itself was not a weapon, but the blood ritual conducted here (and presumably in all the circles linked to it?) had enabled the linking up of all the ritual circles in Northern Albion (including the Wellspring) – as depicted on the map on the altar stone. One could conduct a ritual in one circle on the network and it would be as if you had conducted the same ritual in all the circles it was linked to (those which showed green on the map). Furthermore, these circles could be closed, sealed or activated from the York circle.
This is the ritual effect which was/is currently in place. It makes the possession of York vital to Albion’s security unless we can find a way to reverse the ritual. At the same time, however, it may give us an advantage if we wish to use it.
Bellette wanted us to free her from her binding and make it impossible for her to be bound again. She admitted that she could give us no promise of her future conduct, but asked that we would judge her by those actions she took once free, not the things she had done whilst bound to another’s will. I took pains to assure her that Albion law would not hold her responsible for acts committed against her own will whilst bound, as the bound demon is controlled as surely as the possessed individual and the controller is liable for the action in the same way.
On Saturday we broached the subject with Lord Protector Sagramor, but he was unsure of whether we should conduct the ritual or not as we could not guarantee what the consequences would be. As Jasmine, Glycell and I made preparations and rounded up contributors, Sagramor asked me what I would do, and I answered as honestly as I could. My answer was that we had been ignoring the premises of Albion for too long, and the Albion does not tolerate slavery. Whatever the consequences might be, I felt we had a duty to help this woman who was enslaved and asking for our help.
This seemed to convince him and Jasmine and I continued assisting Glycell with finding contributors. After a very brief preparation – being unable to conduct a full rehearsal in case the Mistress should hear of it, and also therefore unable to consult Bellette – we went to the ritual circle. A discussion then ensued as we realised we had nothing to power the ritual, and Bellette suggested that we should use blood as that was what this particular circle was powered by.
After more discussion, necessarily rushed as we were running out of time, we each agreed to give a small amount of our own blood to power the ritual. My own opinion on this was that we had to do the ritual, and that the small sacrifice from each of us was a symbolic gesture only and one which people have been using for thousands of years. To sacrifice a life would have been wrong, but for each of us to give a little of ourselves to ensure the lady’s freedom was not.
I have since heard idle chatter referring to this ritual as “blood ritual”. It was not. Using blood in a ritual does not make it a “blood ritual” – when we use that phrase we generally mean a ritual where people or animals are killed as sacrifices and their blood given up as an offering. In this case, we were using a very small amount of the blood of willing individuals to power the oaths we were going to make within the circle. That is the best way I can explain it.
The ritual went on then, with Aethelwyn of the Kindred of Sing leading and the Lady Glycell assisting her and holding the circle seal. Bellette warned Aethelwyn that when she took in the power of the circle she would feel an amazing surge of power, as the power of all the circles linked to this one would be open to her; fortunately, Aethelwyn was able to keep control of herself and did an admirable job. Contributing were myself, Jasmine Daisybreeze, Frederick of the TPB, Lord Edward Falcon, Earl Julian Charenten, Baron Holly, Samuel Croft of the House de Gales, and Lord Marcus Charenten – I think that was all.
I will not detail the exact ritual, but note here that Bellette, as promised, stabilised the ritual circle for us before we began. We destroyed the name of Bellette which had been given her by the Mistress and allowed her to take back her true name of Thalidrion. We swore that neither we, nor our own ancestors, would bind her, and that no others would be able to do so. Though the demon’s growing glee throughout the ritual did somewhat unsettle me, I comforted myself with the knowledge that we had not made her indestructible – merely freed her from slavery and prevented her from being enslaved again.
Thalidrion informed me after the ritual that we had in fact broken four bindings – three she had not known about. These included the binding of the Mistress and the original one of Aldeyork. It seems that it is possible for demons not to know that they are bound, and even for their masters not to know that they have other bindings upon them.
There are bound to be questions about whether we should have conducted the ritual or not, given the events following it – I was not directly involved in these so I cannot comment on them, but it was suggested that it may have been Thalidrion who helped the Big Four escape. I must state for the record though that it is my opinion that if we cannot stand by our own principles, by our own laws, then we are not Albion and we have no right to the land and the people whom we serve.
I believe Thalidrion dealt more or less honestly with us and we with her. We will let her future actions decide how we deal with her in future as a free individual.
2. Thefts, possessions and beguilements
During the Friday night and Saturday morning a number of possessions and beguilements took place. The first pair to mention are Nanny Ogg and Corax who possessed the bodies of Lady Glycell and Lord Percival. They would not leave until we promised to send a mission the following day to find Nanny Ogg’s diary which Corax had apparently hidden (but this is covered below).
The second series are different and more worrying. A number of Harts – I do not know exactly how many, but I know Percy Percy du Montagne and Lord Percival were both affected – there were others. These people were being beguiled to kill Harts, by whom we are unsure but it is possible that they may have been outside the hall at one point. The specific reference to “Harts” suggests a modern, likely Empire source rather than the older threats we were dealing with over the course of the weekend.
It is regrettable that it seems at least two people died as a result of these beguilements, and it my opinion that we should be more wary of this threat in future. A friend who is beguiled is the best kind of assassin – we need to know who did this so that we can beware of them in future.
A number of thefts took place over the weekend. I am particularly embarrassed that I believe my own notebook may have been stolen, but fortunately it was not until Saturday that it was mislaid and I had not updated it; it was also a fresh one and so had no extra information within it.
More importantly perhaps, a raft of documents which had been purchased at some personal expense by Lord Percival, Percy Percy and Eborus, were stolen it seems on Saturday. These documents had been purchased from one Alcion, former headmaster of the library and school at York, who was trying to fund the rebuilding of the library. (It might be nice if we could assist him in some way – I will look into it.) Many of us perused the documents on Friday night and they were returned to Lord Percival’s quarters for safekeeping. In the morning, Lady Katerina asked to see them and they were handed to her – I saw her poring over them with Zac Charenten and Corvus Hroc at one point. In the morning they had not been returned and they were declared missing – along with the dagger which powered Mad Bill’s device.
We cannot allow this to go on, with possibly sensitive items falling into Empire hands. It is certain that the dagger was stolen by a Lion Knight and it seems likely that the documents took a similar route; how someone got close enough to me to steal a notebook from my pocket is uncertain but we must face the possibility that there are Empire agents amongst us.
Of the documents, there were a lot of philosophical and magical treatise, and information on the whole of Erdreja. Of particular interest to the Empire however I would guess would be the copy of Elspeth’s journal which reveals that Jasper is the illegitimate son of Elias Karlennon and therefore his daughter is a possible claimant to the throne; and the story of King Ceffrun and the Sword of Ages which relates to Cornwall.
I suggest that we immediately check on the status of Jasper’s daughter and make sure that she is safe.
3. Mad Bill’s device
At the council the relevance of Lady Katerina’s map was finally uncovered. A device was found which would, it seemed, allow transportation between any two points on the map. The device had a slot for a dagger – that which we found and subsequently lost. I missed the majority of this, but I was given the opportunity to peruse the information we had, in the form of several letters written by Shah Lee, along with Croft and Lord Marcus Charenten.
There are five points marked on the map, and these relate to York, Bristol, Stretton, Londinium and Exeter. We believe there may be a sixth device which Mad Bill never uncovered, possibly at Fryston, as the circles seem to pair up and one is missing. The nature of the transportation is unclear but it may be powered from the ritual circles somehow, and it dates from before the Empire.
All the angles and distances are marked on the map. Basically the transportation relies on triangulation and a number of equations are required – the example given in Shah Lee’s letter was that of travelling to York. The equations revealed that the key circle – that which gives the equation the closest value to 1 – is Exeter. The implication is that it does not matter where you are travelling from, only the destination and the key circle.
I believe Croft has more notes on this but I will follow it up with further study myself and would suggest that others do the same, and we compare notes when we are next together. If the Empire now have the means of controlling this device we must expect them to use it and we will have to be prepared for this, including discovering the location of all the other devices and possibly guarding or monitoring them.
As a possible amendment to Cawd’s comments in his report, it seems likely that only one dagger is required to operate all of the devices and that the dagger travels with you – unfortunately we have no means to test this theory. I do not believe – although I am not sure – that Shah Lee’s letters were stolen from us, so it is possible that the Empire only have the dagger and not the full means or understanding to operate the device.
4. The Maiden
On Saturday night a number of ladies started feeling slightly strange, including myself. I cannot speak for the others, but I know I had a feeling that something was going to happen. I heard Lady Katerina mentioning a similar feeling to someone and we realised that it was the majority of the women present who were affected; having been checked for any signs of poison, disease, or any beguilement it was found that some of us (myself included) had traces of a faint ancestral possession, relating to the Maiden.
Soon the Maiden herself possessed the body of PeeDee, one of the Seelie Court, and she told us that she had come to choose a new representative (following Bethany’s sad mental breakdown after the Empire’s ritual at the Gathering of Nations). She would set us a number of tasks to complete, and we would be competing against an Empire contingent for the honour.
The threat of the Empire gaining partial control of the Mother, and the further risks in terms of legitimising the Empire’s claim on Albion, gave us additional impetus and we followed PeeDee into the woods. There we faced several encounters which used all of our skills; first two fights with strange, growling beasts; then two men fleeing from beastmen who claimed they had broken the laws, a complaint which Lady Katerina (as the ranking noble present) successfully adjudicated; and finally a man in the road telling riddles. We failed to guess the first one, and they became more and more ridiculous (along the lines of, “If Sagramor wears purple socks, what colour is his wife?); finally Lady Katerina responded with, “If an idiot stands in the road talking rubbish to a group of ladies in the rain, what happens to the idiot?”. The man disappeared and we returned to the Hall.
The Maiden spoke again through one of us and said that we had to choose a candidate. We found none immediately willing to stand forward, and Deirdre Karlennon then asked me if I would step forward and I replied that I would if necessary, for Albion’s sake. The discussion thus progressing to those who would stand if it was necessary, three candidates were found; myself, Sofia Gregory of the Ordo Hwyt Draga and Captain Eclipse of the Company of the Blackened Staff. We called all the women present in the hall to vote, and it was I who was chosen.
The Maiden spoke again, this time through Lady Branwen de Gales. She said that she had not yet chosen; the Imperial candidate was a Lion Knight who bore a resemblance to Reann, our own High Incantor. I realised then that I could not fight her, as there was too much at stake. Instead, we gathered all together and stood at the Shrine. I took up a sword and shield, and swore that I would defend Albion and her people, and that I had the support of all the ladies present (each of us with a hand on the others). Someone passed me Excalibur and I held it aloft as I made my promise.
What happened next is a bit of a blur – I saw a set of scales, myself in one side, and my side was lowest. I knew then that we had won, and I knelt at the Shrine again to give thanks to the Maiden and to Puck for lending me to his sister while she needed me.
5. Nanny Ogg’s diary
Nanny Ogg possessed the body of Lady Glycell on Friday night as detailed above. She returned on Saturday morning in something of a hurry to go to Exeter and find her diary. Eborus was in charge of the mission and managed to put a group together, although not quickly enough for Nanny Ogg who had in the meantime transported us all to Stretton and back to prove how much of a hurry she was in (she had overheard Lord Percival asking everyone not to transport to a circle which was red on the altarstone map unless it was an absolute emergency).
We went to Exeter then and were greeted by soldiers of the 8th legion guarding the ritual circle. They let us through as long as we left two of our comrades – of their choosing, in this case Eborus and Earl Julian Charenten – with them, and we took one of their soldiers (“John”, I believe he was called, a curiously non-Imperial name) with us as evidence of our permission to travel, charged with his protection.
It took Nanny Ogg a while to remember where she was going. The first thing we met on the way was a group of peasants charging a tax for use of the bridge. I believe Quinn resolved the issue, but I’m not sure whether he used money or just the fact that we had Imperial permission to travel.
Next we encountered a young girl of about 12. She was very worried about “the children”, and the fact that they were hungry and possibly sick. Apparently they were orphans and were hiding in the woods, scared. Interestingly, she seemed more scared of Imperial troops than of us. Myfanwy of the Brecbras promised the girl that she and the children could have food and hospitality at her house nearby, if they could get there.
Something strange happened here and I am not sure what it was. I do know that the conversation with the girl was strange; she kept repeating herself and at one point she said, “It’s a done deal. I will hold you to that” or something along those lines, and she spoke in a totally different voice and with a totally different manner.
The little dip where the girl was standing was not far from Nanny Ogg’s final destination, a nearby tree. Unfortunately her diary was nowhere to be found – I think it was at this point that Lady Glycell returned to herself and Nanny Ogg left us, but I suspect that her story is not yet finished and I wonder at the significance of the book.
We now saw the approach of Imperial troops, who informed us that they were our honour guard as we were carrying weapons. Fortunately we managed to get rid of them – in part thanks to the presence of the Imperial soldier we had with us (I assume here that he was a soldier, although in fact he had no uniform.)
We started back, aware that we would be receiving more Imperial pressure to be gone the longer we tarried. We found that two of “the children” had returned to the girl in the wood, and we checked them for disease and poison and healed them, although they seemed largely fine. We asked them if they had seen the book but they answered that they had not – Jasmine did suggest that she thought they might have it, and be hiding it, but to me it seems unlikely that these two stories are connected and I think that the girl may be more significant than we think. She may even be ancestrally possessed.
There was little more we could do at this point though, and so we returned to the Exeter circle to travel back to York. This time we met no brigands at the bridge. Our Imperial guest gave a report of our conduct to his superior, in which he was very supportive of us. Interestingly enough, he mentioned the brigands at the bridge and his superior responded that “they were probably rebels, still trying to fund their revolution”. Have we made contact with any rebellious factions in Cornwall, and if they exist should we not do so?
Unfortunately, to my mind, Deirdre Karlennon (I think it was – it might have been Jasmine) mentioned to the Imperial troops as we left that we had met some children in the wood and that they might need aid. So now the Empire know they are there, and they know that we were looking for the diary – we might want to act on both these issues before they have a chance to.
Finally, we received back Earl Julian Charenten and Eborus who had been enjoying the Imperial hospitality. They assured us that they had been very well treated, and so all together we left Exeter for York. We arrived in the circle to find a mess of confused Harts and were greeted by the news that Albertus had been rescued and Sagramor taken.
6. The Rede
The first I knew of this mission was when Osric Karlennon approached me asking for those born of Albion to go on a mission for an ancestor of the Vermillion Elves, the Rede. Osric suggested that we would go and do a quest for the ancestor and then he would somehow restore some of the power which had been stolen from our ancestors (specifically I think the Mother) by the Empire’s ritual.
This seemed a bit unclear, and Lord William Hulce in particular showed some reservations, but we went anyway. We were transported into a wooded area; it was very dark and cold. The first thing I remember was hearing a strange, deep voice in my head which said something like, “You must kill the others. Only the strongest survive. Only the strongest can be my champion.” This I felt was rather false advertising, especially as I was only equipped with a shield and my healing powers.
I hid for a while but was spotted and attacked – I later found out, by one of the other Harts (I think he might be called Raymus?). The only thing I remember is that he had a large blunt weapon. Believe me, that was memorable.
After a little while I heard Lord William calling everyone to get together and by the time I had got there (having to heal one of my legs on the way as it was bleeding quite severely), most of us had come together. We discussed the situation and William suggested that we take each other on in honourable combat. We then found some elves who were less open to the idea, but they gave in and took on two of our people one by one. They were defeated and vanished.
Well we agreed that we would each be knocked unconscious until only one remained. I was one of the first down so I didn’t see what happened next (although I should mention that I still have a bump on my head, thank you Lord Percival for that) but I later found out that Straif was the one left standing. However, the ancestor harmed her repeatedly, telling her to kill us all, until eventually she was ejected.
After a while the rest of us came round. We had only about twenty minutes left to complete the quest. We tried to stand strong, and refuse to kill each other, but the ancestor simply harmed us, repeatedly. Again, I went down quite soon (something to do with invoking the name of the Maiden – repeatedly – in the Rede’s realm, I think) and was unaware of what happened afterwards.
What I am informed happened is that everyone was being repeatedly wounded by the ancestor, who was talking to people and trying to convince them to kill everyone else – talking of treachery and jealousy and such like. Time was running short and the ancestor was repeatedly threatening to kill all of us and destroy our patterns until eventually Percival made a bargain with him that the rest of us would be returned unharmed if he killed us all and became the Rede’s champion.
I know that this hurt Percival a great deal but that he believed it was the only way to save us. I am sure that he would not have insulted the Hunter (of whom he is one of the Chosen) otherwise. However, the Rede also told him that Albertus Hroc has a permanent sanctuary and is unkillable – but that the champion of the Rede would be able to cut through this sanctuary. Thus did Percival promise to serve the Rede until this purpose had been fulfilled.
I was very relieved to see Percival’s return, a little time after we had been returned, all seriously wounded, to the Hall. However, others (again, Lord William Hulce in particular) were very angry that he had “given in” to the ancestor and not stood his ground. For my part I understand, but cannot agree with this; I think that Percival did what had to be done, in the service of Albion and her people.
A few further notes – the Rede seems to be a previous version of the Hunter. We have our Hunter, Mother and Puck; before this we have Nethras, Sithras(?) and presumably another Hunter version, and before this we have the Rede and his brethren. He is also known as the Green Man. He is very primeval to our eyes and we must watch Lord Percival (my apologies sir, but it must be said) for any outward changes or signs of the ancestor’s influence.