SPRING 1220: The Saga Begins


You can, if you choose to, come to the covenant over the ocean, perhaps on one of the trading vessels that come to England for the wool trade. What does it bring to England? Luxury goods mostly, silk and incense from the east, glass from Italy or Bohemia: all to be sold to the wealthier nobles and merchants now that England is settling down a little after the recent unpleasantness between the late King John and his barons. The proceeds will be used to buy English wool, the product of the moors and the monasteries which in turn will be fed to the spinners, weavers, fullers and dyers of Northern Europe.

The journey over from Antwerp, down the estuary and out into the North Sea was lively enough to upset the stomachs of landlubber passengers but the crew were happy to assure them that if they thought this bad they should have tried crossing during the winter! Nonetheless the passengers were weaving when they finally put their feet on shore at the harbour of Scarborough under the limestone cliffs and the lowering castle on top of them. One traveller threw himself down on the first patch of grassy earth he found, kissed the ground and swore he would never be unfaithful to solid earth again.

In the small town above the harbour you found a merchant party heading west in the direction you needed and a small donation earned you a place with them, though some of you may have been looked at suspiciously. The local area wasn’t too unsafe, you were assured though there are bandits in The Forest. “There are always bandits in The Forest,” seemed to be a local saying.

And The Forest is always there, just on the horizon to the north as you take the road out of Scarborough that will eventually reach the Vale of Pickering and points beyond.

It’s only twelve miles as the crow flies from Scarborough to Wilton but you are not crows. The road takes you through half a dozen settlements, none of them big enough to be called towns and some of them straining to achieve the dignity of ‘hamlet’ Ayton, Hutton Buscet, Ruston, Brompton, Snainton, Ebberston, Allerston and then finally you are told “This is Wilton!” It’s taken you the better part of a day to get here from Scarborough and the caravan will have to push on hard to make Pickering before darkness begins to fall.

Wilton doesn’t differ much from the others, being a few houses, the surrounding fields all arranged around the central cross road. It takes a few moments to realise that there is one noticeable difference: there is no church here though many smaller places along the road could boast one.

And then one of the locals comes up, tugging his forelock and asking some question or other in the local dialect of… well, presumably that’s English of some sort… and repeating it in rather basic but comprehensible Latin (!) a moment later.

“You’re here for the Hall, masters? Come to visit the learned folk hereabouts? Take that road there up to the North and you’ll be there in few shakes of a lamb’s tail as we says hereabouts.” He tugs his forelock again and looks as if he’s hoping for a coin or two.


You have a shorter distance to travel, having started your journey in another part of Britain or you have been able to afford the silver and vis House Mercere will charge you to open the portals from the continent to the Mercer House at Coventry.

In either event, if you ask the Redcaps how to get to Voluntas they tell you to meet one of their number, Little William, at an inn in the city of York on a specific saints day and he will take you to Voluntas on his normal rounds of the covenants. He will want a ‘gift’ for this service.

Little William is a doughty looking man in his thirties, six foot tall and stoutly built. He wears chainmail even in the city and carries a sword and shield when out of it. He is willing to spread the local gossip like any Redcap (have you heard of the trouble that the new Primus of Ex Miscellania is having?) and will add historical anecdotes (like the massacre of the city’s Jews thirty years before) as you travel but his real delight is the telling of tales of fighting and warfare. He especially reminisces about Maud the lady ‘knight’ who is the commander of the turb of Voluntas who he had the ‘honour and the pleasure’ of fighting beside.

“It’s two days travel to Voluntas from here. We’ll go tomorrow at dawn and travel via Stamford Bridge and the Augustinian Priory at Kirkham. The guest house there is comfortable and you get fewer questions than you do at an inn if you can find one.”

Crossing the Derwent river at Stamford Bridge the next morning led to Little William regaling you all about the battle there between King Harold Godwinson and the Norwegian invaders just three weeks before the more famous battle at Hastings.

And at Kirkham Priory the talk at table is all about the continued trouble between Robert de Roos, lord of Helmsley and the High Sherriff of Yorkshire. The Priory was established by the de Roos family so the lay brother who served your supper (and provided the gossip) was all on the local baron’s side but noted that the Sheriff had established a new Constable at Pickering to keep the peace or failing that to put Robert de Roos in his place.

At Pickering the next day, after a morning spent crisscrossing the country through a web of lanes joining tiny villages, there was no sign of the new constable but the town was bustling with his household knights, workers and craftsmen refurbishing the castle’s walls and gates. Little William resolved to skirt the town and brought you into the village of Wilton in the late afternoon. He did not bother to linger in the village (though he said that many of the covenant’s companions had quarters there) but took you up the road that led north and up to the gate of Voluntas…

Diligentus, when he remembers, nods and smiles at Little William’s stories more or less at the right places, but he spends most of the trip observing. Is that bird’s flight quite natural? Are the trees moving as they should in the wind, or is it all too regular? How do our footprints form on this dry path, as distinct from that slightly muddy one we just left?

A point I should have added about Wilton: there is an actual inn with room enough to house visitors and the whole village is built predominantly of stone, which is unusual in an age dominated by wood and wattle and daub.

A small man with long red hair in complicated braids, pockmarked with scars, introduces himself at the inn in York, to Little William and anyone who seems to be in his party, as Uillorard. He is somewhat bedraggled from travel, and grumbles wordlessly when he finds out he’s going to have to walk further.

He is interested in Little William’s stories, and prompts him for more if he ever gets quiet, as they make the journey more entertaining. In contrast to Diligentius, he seems completely uninterested in the countryside.

Hubertus of Jerbiton was already waiting at the inn in York, curious to meet them. The travel up from Cambridge was uneventful but boring. He hungers to know more, and whilst waiting he has already heard rumours and gossip enough to whet his appetite. When Little William arrives he is content to goad him to tell stories and enjoy them.

When others arrive Hubertus greets them convivially, and tries to prompt as much information from them as he can about their backgrounds, families, allegiances as he can - but never offensively, showing a genuine interest.

He also notes Little William’s histories and the gossip they take in on the way. All fuel to work out where his inevitable advantage might lay.

Dillgentus rolls Perception plus Awareness as he makes his way through the countryside

(None of this is stressed. You have plenty of time and nothing threatening you.

[roll d10 + 7]

Uillorard rolls Perception plus Folk Ken

[roll d10 + 3]

Hubertus rolls Communication plus Intrigue.

[roll d10 + 3]

By the way Hubertus needs to decide about specialisations sometime…

OK. What did I do wrong?

@RogerBW asked for a die roll:
Looks as though I introduced a bug in the last update; did you get an “error 500”? Put a 1 before the d.

Perception plus Awareness d10+7: 9
Perception plus Folk Ken d10+3: 11
Communication plus Intrigue d10+3: 4

Acerbus asked around the merchants of Ghent, but they told him that most ships were heading to more southern ports like Harwich or Dunwich. One of the sailors pointed out the the merchants of Antwerp would be sending a few ships to Yorkshire this season. Acerbus packed up what few belongings his parens had allowed him, said goodbye, and caught a ship up the coast to Antwerp.

Gazing over the Frisian coast, he felt a little sadness at leaving his homeland. Still, it was not goodbye forever. He would return in years to come, but the duties of covenant life and the work of building his reputation in the order meant he would probably have little time to return. He may pass through if he ever got the chance to go to Durenmar.

At Antwerp, he found the merchant his friends mentioned. The Golden Fleece , named optimistically by a wool trader who loved the myths of old, would carry him over the sea. As a Frisian, he was able to haggle with the owner, who was a little skeptical of letting the strange man on the ship. After paying a little more than he wanted to, Acerbus set up a little shelter on the deck. Somehow, no-one would let a Gifted mage sleep too close to the other crew, and a cabin was only for someone wealthy enough to bribe one of the ship’s officers to give up their own. Anyone could camp on the deck, but the crew laughed at him for trying, for they knew the passage was frequently wet.

Acerbus quietly sat on the deck, his magics keeping him dry while others were saturated. At meal times, the others kept away from him. Anyone who asked him how he wasn’t miserable got the reply “My master gave me a good cloak.”

The passage was much longer than the short trips across the Channel he was used to, and the sea a bit rougher. At Scarborough, he was glad of land. He may need to go to sea to study his arts some day, but that would wait until he had found a way to make the experience easier.

Setting out for Wilton, the land rose up quickly. This was truly a rough land, much steeper and more rugged than his native land. As the road lead him around the south edge of the moors, he looked at the valleys. Why, you could hide a covenant so easily in this land! Also, surely no-one ever worried about flooding where the water could drain so easily! Yes, this would be a good change.

Reaching Wilton, he was glad of an inn. It seemed the covenant must have had a good influence on its nearest village.

Dilligentus sees signs of a land that has been under some strain: there are places where repairs are needed and have not been done for some years, there is an air of wariness even above that normally offered to strangers and Magi. But now there is a sense of returning hope, of people bringing things out of store and getting neglected jobs done.

Uillorard watched the narrator as much as he listened to the narrative: the Redcap spoke time and again of the turb leader in a way that showed both the greatest respect for the warrior and the liveliest affection for the woman. There was a sadness there too, as if he knew they could not be together for some reason.

Hubertus didn’t manage to turn the conversation to his advantage. The only thing he managed to pick up was that there was another Redcap called William and this fellow was called Little in contrast to him.

At the Inn Acerbus sat outside for a while, warming himself with some mulled ale and eating a platter of cheese and bread when a party of people led by a man on horseback, wearing a red cap went by, turning up the road towards the north.

Acerbus stands up and says “Salve sodales!” in the direction of the party. If anyone responds, he will down his ale and grab a piece of cheese to go with his bread and eat while on the walk.

The Redcap turns and doffs his cap to Acerbus and slows the procession so introductions can be made.

A short while later the party is off again, leaving the buildings of the village behind and leading you to the north, past well tended and neat fields.


You turn to the north and as you walk the forest looms, dark and green on the horizon ahead of you.

But rising before you is a fair manor house, obviously the dwelling place of a nobleman of some resources.

It is built in a square, the faces looking out to the points of the compass. Towers peek above the walls but there are no windows to the outer world to be seen.

On the south side, the side you are approaching by, is a large gatehouse (and to either side are the quarters of the covenant’s turb as you will discover later). In front of the gate a group of warriors is practicing close quarter drill with rebated weapons, two groups against each other while a third watches. A tall figure in chain mail and with short cropped blonde hair is supervising and turns to watch your group approach. It is only when you get quite close that you realise this is Maud, the woman the redcap spoke so fondly of. By the smile that lights her face at his approach the friendship is clearly mutual.

But a moment later she is all business, greeting you in the name of the covenant and addressing you as ‘Magistri’. She sends one of the idle warriors to ‘go fetch your father’ and orders the gates opened to admit you and the redcap.

Once within the gate you can see that the ambiance is more like a monastery: there are cloisters along the west and east sides, square towers at the two northern corners and in the centre of the courtyard a circular tower which you will recognise as being the result of the well known Creo Terram spell Conjuring the Mystic Tower. A smell of cooking is coming out of the ground floor of the round tower and servants are scurrying to and from it.

The west and east walls have two stories and the north has three: a great staircase rises to the top two floors of the north wall. The towers each manage to rise four stories… which is spectacular and not at all modest in a building that lives so far from any town or settlement.

A man in upper-class garments approaches and bows to you, introducing himself as Ethelwald, the seneschal and autocrat. Behind him grins the young warrior the turb captain had sent off who is introduced as the seneschal’s son Edward.

“Your pardon, we were expecting you sometime soon but not today. Let me have servants show you to the bath house: we have not yet assigned quarters to you but that can await your meeting with the Council. If you will refresh yourselves and change I will inform the Master and Mistress that you are arrived.”

(Can I insert a picture here?)

Happy to comply, Hubertus seeks to engage the lead servant in conversation on the way to the bath house (and indeed chat to anyone who is there whilst he cleans himself, unselfconsciously). What can he learn from them about the ways of the Covenant?

Uilloard asks the seneschal, “May I use an Aegis token? I need to make something for Small William.” He will go along to the bathhouse, revealing when disrobed that his entire body is covered with the small burn scars that dot his face. He says nothing, but sinks into the water with a relieved sigh.

@MichaelCule asked for a die roll:
Hubertus makes a Presence plus Folk Ken roll

stress 1+1: 1 × 4 = 4, +1 = total 5

as Uiloard makes a Communication plus Folk Ken roll

stress 1: 2 × 6 = 12, = total 12

They and the others are led to the bath house which is in the basement corridor off the cloisters on the east side of the covenant’s courtyard.

Hubertus tries to ‘pump’ the seneschal for information but that worthy is too distracted to be of much help, directing the lesser servants and answering half a dozen questions as messangers keep coming up to him. “You must ask the other magi that sir…”

Uiloard’s single question is taken much more calmly and he is told that the Council members would be dealing with that when they met: tokens were reserved for the new members at the last casting of the Aegis. “And besides the worthy redcap will be with us for the traditional three days.”

(“Eating us out of house and home,” comes a murmured comment from one of the servants who gets a clip around his ear for his trouble.)


Hot water, bars of soap, towels. Servants to tip away the water into a drain. Dressing yourselves in the anteroom to the bath-house, combing your hair in a bronze mirror.

Eventually, you are ready, changed into the good robes from your packs. The packs and your travel clothes are whisked away and the seneschal is there again, looking frazzled (as most seneschals do) to show you to the Council chamber.

This is on the North side of the quadrangle on the topmost of the three floors. There is a staircase that zig-zags up the north wall, passing an entrance to the library (on the first floor: shall we agree to use English floor denominations?) and then up to the Council chamber.

This is a handsome room, with oak beams in the ceiling and large windows looking both towards the forest to the North and over the Courtyard. There is a single large table in there: a ‘round table’ though with gaps in the ring so servants can pass through and a large octagonal inner table in the centre of it.

There are…. (you pause to count) nine chairs around the table. Two of them are marked with the intertwined serpents of the Order and from one of these a woman rises to greet you. She is in her fifties (perhaps: ages are difficult with magi) and both good looking and well preserved.

“Salve, sodales! I am Julia, filia Cornelia of House Jerbiton and I welcome you to Voluntas. I trust you are rested from your journey and able to deal with business before we dine. Our seneschal will be our secretary for this meeting as our custom and hopefully the other two members of our Council will be here shortly…”

She glances around with some impatience and then a scrabbling and flapping comes from above her where a window looking over the forest has been left ajar.

A large crow, black as night and red-eyed, flies up to the window from outside and perches on the ledge for a moment, taking the room in with a glance before flying down to the other chair marked with the Order’s device.

It then flaps its wings once more before transforming into a man, stark naked and hairy with it who grins impertinently.

“May I introduce,” said Julia with a level of frost in her voice, “Corvus filius Aquila of the Sept of Orn, of Clan Wilkis of House Bjonaer.” And at that point a door bangs open and a woman bustles in carrying a robe and trailing a cloud of flour and a scent of cooking. “And this is Anna, our Tribune. It is in our charter that the covenfolk choose a representative to sit on Council with us: Anna gets a vote in all but purely magical matters…”

Anna the Cook nods briskly but politely to you and then throws the robe at Corvus with a ‘Put it on boy, we’ve all seen what you’ve got…’ before seating herself. Corvus pulls the robe around him and starts picking fleas out of his beard in a pointed manner.

Julia directs each of you to take a seat and then seats herself.

“Now, we are here to consider the granting of provisional membership to four members of the Order with a view to replenishing our numbers following certain recent… difficulties. Perhaps you would care to introduce yourselves before we say more of the needs of the covenant…” She glances with a moment’s irritation at the empty chair. “We had hoped to have one more applicant… But perhaps travel has been difficult… Never mind! Who will begin?”

“Diligentus, filius Parvus, of Guernicus. Finder of secrets, digger-up of things that fools would rather keep buried in the vain hope that dissimulation will hide their imperfections.”

(He’s not exactly glaring round the room, but keeping an eye out for whoever looks uncomfortable at that.)

Uillorard smiles, very happy to be fresh and clean for the first time in weeks, in fact this is the first time he hasn’t looked dour since the group met up in the inn. He responds to Diligentus, “The best policy, and mine, is to render dissimulation unnecessary by living in forthright virtue.” Turning to address the group as a whole, he says, “I am Uillorard ex Verditius, filius Junius. A crafter of beautiful wonders.”

A man in dark green with robes with a neatly trimmed beard stands up and announces “Acerbus ex Merinita, filius of Prunellie. I have come for the waters.”