1223, Autumn

It is Autumn 1223 in our Druids’ Dale Saga, and after our visit to Stirling it is time for us to head down towards the covenant of Crun Clach to meet the magi there. We also need to claim the Cave of Illumination, a mystic resource that they have gifted to us.

But putting politics aside for  a moment, it has come to my attention that a minor holding of Crun Clach has not been visited in several years. Given the reach of my Magi across Scotland, and the depths of our resources, there has been no need to extract vis from this place. However, for a new Covenant such a resource will be useful. Hence I gift the holding of the Cave of Illumination to the Covenant of Druid’s Dale (formal recognition contingent upon the acceptance of Druid’s Dale to the Loch Leglean Tribunal, which is of course, purely a technicality).

— Caitlin Suil Uaine, Winter 1222

Pisciculus ex Criamon

Both the covenant and the Cave are down on Maol Chinn Tire*, a peninsula that points towards Ireland. We could walk it, but instead we decide to take a boat down along Loch Long and out into the Firth of Clyde. There is a risk of it being a bit stormy at this time of year, but it’s only a short trip and if we keep to the coast it shouldn’t be too bad. At the very least, a chance to get a bit of sea air would be nice.

Along with me are going Maedbh ex Merinita, Allistor ex Mercere, Sid and our grog Hamish. We take some cheese and salmon as a gift, and board the boat.

The weather is indeed fresh and clean smelling, and the trip is mostly uneventful. Maedbh claims to spot some horses under the surface of the sea, but none of us noticed such a thing. We did see some dolphins, which I haven’t see since leaving the Mediterranean.

Late on the third day we arrive at Kildonan Dun, where we disembark and bid our sailor to take his leave since we plan on walking back to Druids’ Dale.

Just a short distance inland from where we made land fall, Allistor leads us up to the top of a hill, which has a crown of stones around the top. Maedbh points out a doorway which goes into the side of the hill, and Allistor confirms it. It is his old home after all. The rest of us are unable to see it until Allistor actually puts his hands on it. Apparently it is seen more clearly on nights of the full moon.

The designs on the door look Pictish, but according to Sid they aren’t actually Pictish. After a while of waiting a person comes out of the door, smiles at Allistor, welcoming him, and asks if we are his colleagues.

It is Oenghus Dubh, one of the covenant’s companions. He invites us inside, suggesting that we take hold of his hand as we enter to ensure that the covenant doesn’t try anything against us. The interior walls have patterns carved into them, mostly of animals and other nature scenes. There are also painted walls, which glow with an inner light.

We are invited in for a meal in the kitchens, and we deliver our presents. We’ll get to meet the magi tomorrow, but from talking to Oenghus and the other servants we are told that the following magi dwell here:

  • Caitlin Suil Uaine ex Merinita
  • Alexander the Lame ex Merinita (tutor of Caitlin’s daughter)
  • Iain Mac Gabhan ex Merinita (second in command)
  • Seamus an Cat ex Miscellanea
  • Radislav am Polanach ex Criamon

From what I remember of Radislav is that he came here to study the Enigma amongst the faeries. I also seem to remember that he has an unusual familiar, though don’t recall what.

The next day, after spending the morning taking a walk along the coast, we are invited up to the second level of the covenant’s regio. The covenant seems to be made of corridors, maze like in their complexity. Some corridors seem to lead nowhere, and others have doorways only some of the time. As a defensive mechanism it seems quite powerful.

We are greeted by the magi, and we are presented with a high quality meal. Caitlin assures us that none of the food here is faerie, something that seems to disappoint Radislav (who has a ferret familiar by the way) who apparently likes to stretch his attachment to the mundane by eating faerie food (once he slipped into Twilight whilst eating cheese with fey under a full moon). I spent much of the afternoon discussing the topics of the Enigma and the Fey with him, as well as some of our House mysteries.

At one point a wild cat wanders into the dining hall, and curls up under Seamus’ chair. It doesn’t look like the cat we encountered earlier, but it seems like an excuse to bring that up as a topic. Caitlin had heard rumours about what had happened with the cats, so we fill her and the others in on the details. This unfortunately seems to upset Seamus who takes his leave.

Eventually we get around to politics, and Caitlin asks whether we had given any thought to her proposal. Whilst I am more than happy to side with her and her covenant, this wasn’t something we’d actually discussed. Both Maedbh and myself beat around the bush as to what the covenant wants to do, but say that we would definitely look forward to allying with Crun Clach rather than Horsingas. She seems somewhat relieved by that.

There is some talk about the upcoming Tribunal next year, and also about the Caves of Illumination. Apparently it generates 2 Ignem and 1 Vim vis each year, which will be of use to us.

As far as the Tribunal is concerned, there shouldn’t be anything too surprising happening there. Horsingas might be raising a topic, but Caitlin isn’t sure exactly what it will be. She will probably not be there herself – she only bothers to turn up if the self-proclaimed ‘Archmagi’ of Fithich Spòg are planning to.

There may also be an appearance by Mythyn ex Miscellanea. He is a really annoying magus who may be planning to start a Wizard’s War with another magus. If not that, they will probably be bringing complaints.

The following day is spent mostly handing around the covenant. I got to talk to Radislav some more, and Allistor caught up with his old friends. After that, we set off for the Cave of Illumination.

It was just north up the peninsula, and we got close to it on the afternoon of the second day. By the side of the road we were approaching it along was an abandoned hand cart, laying on its side with one of its wheels broken. It looked like it had been there for a while, and just off the road was a patch of disturbed earth, maybe about 10ft across.

There were dried flakes over the cart, as if it was dried slime, but as far as we could tell it wasn’t an arcane connection to anything – at least not anything more.

Curious, Allistor created a hole in the middle of the disturbed patch of earth, into which dropped a largely decomposed human body of bones and partial flesh.

It stunk terribly, but by this point I was interested enough to want to get close enough to ask it some questions. Fortunately I knew Whispers Through the Black Gate, and since it hadn’t had a Christian burial its spirit was brought forth to answer my questions.

Unfortunately my Gaelic was still terrible, and the decayed state of the corpse made its answers somewhat partial. However, we got some information from it.

In life he had been Mark, and he had been eaten by something that came up out of the ground and pulled him down. He didn’t know what it was, but Samuel was with him at the time who probably knew.

Guessing that there was probably a village or something nearby, we wrapped the corpse in Sid’s cloak (it still stank), and put it on the broken cart, managing to wheel it far enough up the road to get to the village. We weren’t necessarily confident about how we’d be greeted whilst wheeling a mostly decayed corpse into their village, but we could always claim we found it by the side of the road and wanted to ensure it got a decent burial.

However, I think burying corpses may be far from the minds of the villagers. The village itself was in a serious state of disrepair, and there were circular holes in the ground all over the place. No villagers were in the fields working, though a few were shuffling around the village carefully, as if being scared of putting their feet down.

Something had attacked the place. Maybe several somethings. Some buildings were collapsed and destroyed, especially anything that might have had animals inside. Large inhuman footprints could be seen around the village, and some of the more recent ones headed off in the direction of where we expected the Cave of Illumination to be.

It seems that the Cave wasn’t going to be as free a gift as we’d expected.

Samuel Penn

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