A startling and informative spring leads us into summer, with much to do, and with what feels like little time. We are facing threats on multiple fronts, compounded by responsibilities to the Order, as noted by the sudden absence of our Primus Dominus; we look forward to your return, and hope that your duties to House Guernicus have little to do with Covenant Ibiza.
It was with this absence in mind that I spoke with Cassian and informed him we were delaying the beginning of our campaign against the Moorish Magi. Fortunately, he was understanding, even helpful, providing our library with further advancement in Vim. Despite the ultimatum the Order has laid upon us, it is clear that that our success is a more desirable outcome than the alternative; and therefore heedless action is less productive than considered investigation, to all involved.
Our planned reconnaissance to Algiers, however, was interrupted on two fronts, one foretold, the other not. I shall attempt to be brief, but there is much you should know of what we faced.
Of immediate attention before embarking to Algiers was the necessary completion of the Ritual of Infernal Explusion. The cuore di diabolica, Sainela’s heart, was entering its final stages of de-manifestation; it was now or never, the ritual had to be cast, lest all our work to protect the Macha Morgana be lost. Aware of this, I had prepared my studies accordingly, heightening my familiarity in the Art of Intellego and the Form of Imaginem. A final confirmation from Macha Morgana that she—it—the leyline [more on that further on] would not be adversely affected by the ritual, as had happened with our previous misadventures, and we were ready to proceed. I oversaw the incantations, with aid from Felix, while Gilera used his excellent calligraphy skills to scribe the demon-blooded runes around the entire covenant. No small task, as you can imagine.
It is likely they had been scouting us for some time, and were prepared, for we had only just begun the scribing process when the assassins struck. Make no mistake, mi amici—our enemies are intent on our deaths, and they are going to the most extreme lengths to guarantee this. If not for Felix’ extensive knowledge and sensitivity to our surrounding environs, our Moorish assailants would have remained completely hidden from our senses, and without a doubt would have felled more than just a single shield grog with their attacks.
As it was, we were fortunate to escape with a single fatality; Felix, in particular, comported himself valiantly to turn the tide of ambush in our favour after Gilera had managed to destroy the eyes of our assailants. Despite being hideously blinded, the assassins continued the assault without hesitation, sending four poisoned daggers flying into Gilera; I was distantly pleased that my Purificare Di Veleno Scuro spell worked as intended, negating the deadly ichor, but the four daggers themselves nearly brought our ally down, leaving him severely wounded. Felix returned his own version of a poisonous volley, launching himself at one of the assassins and transforming himself mid air into an adder. It was an impressive and effective tactic, surprising the skilled combatant and laying him low.
His partner proved more difficult. I attempted to imprison the moor, but even as the Parete Pietra formed around him, he was leaping from rock to rock and out over the top before he could be contained. Clearly the lack of sight was an inconvenience more than a debility to the assassin, as he immediately resumed his attacks on Gilera. It was fortunate that Carlos, our remaining bodyguard, stood his ground and absorbed the attacks, albeit sustaining significant wounds himself. The Danza della Spada and Felix’ seven foot, magically enlarged owl combined to finish off our deadly opponent.
While this attack was a serious enough matter, it pales in comparison to the second threat we uncovered.
Gilera suffered what will most likely prove to be permanent disabilities, yet he gamely pressed on after a short convalescence to finish scribing the runes; this time we were surrounded by Pistol and his guards, and Liviticus prowling the walls with il fuoco at hand, quite literally. A fortnight from the ambush, and the ritual was set.
The moment the last words of power had passed my lips, the cuore di Sainela began crumbling into motes of arcane dust, which flew into air and settled into the protective ring of runes. Suddenly, a scream rang out from the courtyard; Oskar had gone berserk, flailing about in a mad rage, his halberd a cyclone of death. The implications were immediate; he was possessed by, or was indeed himself, a demon. We contained him as quickly as we could, although not before he had slain some of our covenant citizens. The walls which I summoned around Oskar then became the target of his ceaseless rage, laying into the stone with bare hands once his halberd had shattered. The madness was disturbing.
I had hoped that the Diaspora Diabolica would suppress any sort of demonic possession, but I was not expecting the result. The image may haunt us forever. As the ring of vim wove around Oskar, he reared back his head, mouth gaping an impossibly wide. A black beak began to thrust forth, followed by the rest of a raven’s head. With a malevolent glare at us, the raven burst from Oskar’s mouth in a shower of flesh and blood, rending our soldier’s face apart in it’s escape. Oskar tumbled to the ground as the raven shot straight into the heavens.
As Felix leaped upon his now permanently enlarged Owl to give chase, I summoned the winds of Aer a Zburo around Pistol and I. This devil that had infiltrated our ranks was not going to get away without a word in return from the Covenant of Ibiza.
The raven was already several hundred feet ahead of us, moving with unnatural speed. A quick spell aligned the winds against the diabolica; whether this caused it to stop dead in its flight or not, it is difficile to say. I suspect when it discovered our pursuit, it chose to speak to us.
Our second encounter with a demon was no less unpleasant than our first.
“You pitiful fools,” he greeted us, with an arrogant laugh. “Do you know how easy it would be for me to destroy you? But nevermind. There are many among you who will do my work for me.”
“Sparisci, diavolo. Your wrath is not welcome here.” An educated guess as to which of the seven sins this demon embodied.
“Well THAT is obvious.”
“What is your name? If you dare to tell us, trespasser.”
The devil laughed again, a revolting caw gurgling from its raven throat. Pistol, pale white but presenting a bold front nevertheless, brandished his broadsword at the demon bird.
“OI! You say the word, Honorifica—well, you know your own name—and I’ll run this mangy pile of feathers right frew da froat!”
Barely casting a contemptible glance in Pistol’s direction, the demon considered me for a moment. Then, he spoke.
“My name, much good it will do you, is Barbas. Remember it well, magi, for it shall be written in your pathetic annals of history that it was Barbas that brought this covenant to ruin!”
“Grazie, Barbas. IN NOMI BONISAGUS, PARLO I PAROLI DI DIASPORA DIABOLICIA SUL DIAVOLO BARBAS!”
Even as I intoned the words of power, and my ring of vim uncurled and snaked towards it once more, the devil twisted away from the buffeted winds and shot off into the distance. I pushed the vim into a streak of light, chasing the infernal crow, but it was too fast. It left us with only its echoing laugh.
“Let it be known in our annals of history,” I called after it, amplifying my voice with a simple Muto Auram, “that the coward Barbas fled on the wings of his empty threats…”
We buried Oskar the next day, far from the covenant. The rest of our people, even the soldiers, had been thoroughly spooked. I cannot say that I blame them.
Who was this devil Barbas, and what would he want with us? I posited that question to Gilera, hoping his extensive knowledge would bring some light onto this and several other mysteries. Even as his began to recall what he knew, memories of the horrific stories surrounding this diavolo came flooding back from my days as an apprentice.
This demon Barbas is indeed a harbinger of Wrath, as Sainela was of Greed. Sainela was known as the Negotiator of the Middle Echelons, and Barbas was a colleague of hers, if such a term is relevant amongst I Diavoli. So he was not the most powerful of demons, but certainly strong enough. And as for Sainela, he was as much her enemy as he was her ally; his loyalty, as can be expected from the infernal denizens, falling to whichever side would most benefit his advancement. Tales of the havok he wreaked are most notable for the viciousness with which he managed to enact his foul plans. The last historical reference Gilara noted was the banishment of Barbas by one Raoul Sauleda, a holy Portuguese warrior of true faith. Raoul confronted the demon with a pope blessed blade, over fifty years past.
The real question was, when had Barbas managed to find his way back to our world, and how long he been possessing Oskar? Gilera, weak although he still was, devoted some extensive study to this question before we buried our unfortunate companion. I will let him tell you of his findings.
Regardless, it is sobering to note the list of our enemies has grown by one, and no small threat does this demon represent to our covenant and the leyline we are sworn to protect.
On the positive side, I have both completed my study of the non hermetic Staff of the Sand Elemental, and completed the creation of my own Staff, of the name Terram Terribilis. I have been extremely sastified with the results; I encourage all of you to think of what possibilities exist for your own signature piece.
I made mention of Macha Morgana above, and expand my brief observation now. Our leyline has been affected somewhat by our actions to separate her arcane self from the faerie essence grafted onto her by the King of the Dwarves, her supposed betrothed. She no longer manifests physically, although I do still perceive her quite strongly metaphysically. Her understanding of our way of life is alsobecoming distant Whether or not this is a good thing, I have taken it upon myself to speak to her daily; the stronger we maintain her link to our world, the more she may react a way that benefits our survival, not just her own.
Much was done to further our covenent this spring; but even more was revealed about the forces aligning against us. We must stay vigilant: Korg’s foretelling of the ‘knives in the dark’ allowed us to be prepared, and we would be well to heed the advantages of readiness.