The council chamber was originally a natural cave within the soft stone of the fairy chimney. Centuries past it was made larger, given two small windows in the wall looking out over the central covenant area, and a small fireplace at one end.
In the years since Mystikae Eikona was founded it has been expanded farther, now about 10 meters long, 5 meters wide, and 12 meters high. The fireplace is now an ornate, manteled opening and usually has a fire blazing since the room is quite cool. On either side of the fireplace are recessed bookcases carved into the stone and lined with cedar shelves. A number of well-crafted volumes and intriguing items are on the shelves.
A wooden staircase climbs the left-hand long wall as you enter, leading to a wooden balcony 3 meters above the floor. Two doors give access to the library from the balcony.
The main feature of the council chamber is a glistening black table made of obsidian. Eight intricately carved oak chairs surround the table, and four more identical chairs are against the walls on either side.
Sconces with torches are spaced evenly about the room about two meters from the floor. These are all lit when you enter.
Metatarzes leads Musharram Beg to the head of the table and holds the chair for him as he sits. As he does this Albanus brings one of the chairs from the wall and places it, still at the head of the table, to the right of the governor.
"Please, sit, sit," the governor says in his strangely accented Greek. "Too much honor to me, a simple guest today, not Beg of Nyssa."
Metatarzes goes to the fire, which is behind the governor. He stands in front of it and makes a few complicated hand motions and speaks softly for a few seconds. A breeze wafts through and the tang of ozone as Metatarzes finishes his spell and comes back to the chair Albanus has placed for him.
"Speak freely in this place, old friend," the magus says as he settles into the chair. "By Allah's grace we understand your words."
Yusuf Musharrem Beg looks around at you all for a moment, the closes his eyes and seems to draw upon his inner strength before clearing his throat and beginning to speak.
"Two things I come to share with you, wise ones. One mayhap be cause of--if not joy--then I hope of pleasant anticipation. I know your studies delight in learning strange wondrous things. Allah provides opportunity to you, and my prayer you will take and learn.
"Metatarzes old friend recall my nephew? Wee lad, troublesome, visit here once with me. You suggest send him to friends of yours. Eh not able to do that quite quick, but wise one of Allah from Iberia take him and promise to leave him at place you suggest in Balkan Mountains. Not hear from him these 15 years but who show up at Sultan's court in Iconium last week? Nephew! All grown and now wise one in your traditions and own too!
"Needs place to stay. Can lay head here for a time? I know will be safe with you, and has some skills perhaps useful, maybe something to teach?"
The governor seems jovial, but that he is under some strain is evident even to the most obtuse of you all (not accusing anyone, just saying is all :).
His smile slowly fades and his expression becomes very serious.
"So that is good news. But bad news I must share as well.
"Franks come through Cilician Gates, not ten days past. Powerful, Sultan's men overcome, many die. Franks disappear into land. Seen once on flanks of Mount Erinyes, not since. But they leave message on doors both in Gates and at small Greek church on mountain. Message and death. Soldiers. Monks.
"They come kill heathen saracens, eastern heretic and witches, they say. And I think from their words they look for you. One soldier say they have head on pike when they come through Gates. Head with red hat. Gold and red beard, bright green eyes, scar on left cheek. Sounds like old messenger friend of yours, Atonitos.
"You must prepare if they come here. And I must ask levy of ten men."
Musharrem Bey looks down at the table and clears his throat. "And one, better two, of you."
There is silence in the council chamber for a long moment as you all stare at one another. Metatarzes purses his lips, tugs his mustaches, then lays his hands flat on the obsidian table.
"That's a pretty mess, and fresh olives won't help it at all!"
Tellus is stunned for a moment, then he remembers the guest and turns back to face the Beg, face now hard, thinking “A redcap - the blighted mundanes have killed a redcap!”
Humbertus face is a mask; those who know him best can almost hear the thoughts wheeling and diving behind it. The legal mind is fully engaged and premature speech is not something to be desired. "Sodales," says Humbert, "I have two issues to raise - one procedural, one de lege. Procedural, I suggest that the discussion of our response and who to send should be in camera, and I encourage His Excellency the Beg to refresh himself after his ride while we debate. Concerning the law, our order has strictures governing the type of activity which is proposed and forms must be observed if we are to avoid the ira ordris at some later date."
Albanus nods in agreement with Humbert's words.
"I agree. In dealing with this threat we must not make the mistake of forgetting our other obligations."
Annais stands and walks to the head of the table, holding out a slender and attractive hand. "Good Beg, allow me to show you to the chamber we have always at the ready for the refreshment of our honored guests." Her voice is musical and enchanting, and Musharrem Beg smiles as he rises and bows to the maga. As she guides the governor out of the council chamber Annais looks back over her shoulder. "My return will be delayed but a few moments, my brothers," she says sotto voce, though you can hear her clearly. "This is too important to be left to the tender mercies of the Sultan's men."
Annais returns in a few moments, having passed Musharrem Beg to the autocrat's care, who has taken him to the refectory for refreshment. She also brings a tray with a carafe and glasses and a golden platter with fresh fruit and other delicacies which she places on one of the shelves at the end of the chamber.
As she pulls up her chair to the great obsidian table once more, Metatarzes leans forward and touches the stone, slowly chanting a handful of words as he places both palms on the table.
The black rock begins to glow around his hands.
You all know that this is the ritual that closes off the council chamber from interruptions and also makes sure that all those present are magi of the covenant. You place your palms flat on the obsidian table yourselves and for a moment the room comes alive with each of your sigils being displayed or demonstrated in rapid succession.
Metatarzes intones "The Council of the Covenant of Mystikae Eikona is convened in emergency session as prescribed. Glory to the Maker of All and the Source of Life and the Gift. Grace to all who strive for knowledge and understanding."
He raises his hands from the table and settles back into his chair.
"So...Yusuf Musharrem has brought us a serious problem. How shall we deal with it?"
With a vague hiss and grumble, Iakovos leans forward against the table. Something is slightly "off" about the proportions hidden by his voluminous robes, but his face, with a slight yellowish-green cast, and white beard stand out from beneath the hood he always wears.
"Alas, my young friends, while I am skilled in the thrice-blessed gift of Intellego, what you wish to do is not possible using Whispers through the Black Gate. We would require the body, or at least the head, of our brother in order to speak through the veil of death. And I...." Iakovos' voice trails off and he shudders visibly. He reaches up with hands that are markedly *changing* as you watch, from pale flesh to slightly scaly green, with nails lengthening. He grasps the edges of his hood and pulls it forward hiding his face. His voice is a rasping hiss when he speaks again. "My apologies, sodales, my affliction..." He coughs, then finishes. "Whispers won't work. I shall think on it and see if I recall another spell that might help us. Perhaps dealing with bodies we don't actually have in hand. Allow me to be excused..."
Iakovos rises and moves laboriously to the staircase and ascends, entering the library. A vague charnel odor follows his passing.
"If only he would allow me to paint his portrait, his suffering could be relieved," Annais murmers.
Metatarzes has steepled his fingers and glares down the table over his hands, his lips moving as he mumbles to himself.
The chamber is quiet as you think, no sound from the outside intruding.
Humbert shakes his head, "I have ... difficulty with Intelligo. Not the best trait for queasitor," he observed wryly.
Metatarzes looks up.
"You are sickly, Humbertus? How long have you had queasytorial sensations? Perhaps you should see Ibrahim? He has a wonderful laxative that should solve any problems you have."
Annais laughs. "Always quick with a quip, Tarzes, but this is serious business as you well know."
"I do, but I do believe our youthful sodales can come up with a solution with only minor prodding from we elderly fools." Metatarzes takes a glass from the tray Annais brought in earlier, filling it with wine from the carafe.
"Sodales, if we cannot speak with a body we do not have, and we cannot find the perpetrators of this vile deed since we do not know them nor have any arcane connection to them, what then can we find? If this was indeed our friend and oft-resident Redcap Antonitos Jeweltongue, then mayhap we can find his body...or his head?"
"I take it that it's too much to hope that we have an Arcane Connection to the poor man available?" Peregrine asks.
Annais smiles at the young magus most winningly. "How wise you are, Peregrine! I think we may have something, for he was a regular visitor and had an assigned chamber near the Portal." She leans closer to the Bjornaer and says in a most Criamon/enigmatic tone, "Truly such wisdom should be caught on wood or canvas. You must sit for a portrait. Nude, I think."
And a knowing smile plays across the maga's lips as she sits back and gazes at Peregrine, a dark eyebrow arched enigmatically.
"Indeed. Ummmm, Perhaps we should prepare to travel?"
"First perhaps we should see if Iakovos has a spell that can locate the head or body BEFORE we go running about Cappadocia willy-nilly," says Domazhir. "Then we would know in which direction to send our efforts."
"Does Musahrrem Bey have any further information to share? Let us speak with him again,” says Tellus. “Perhaps some items were left behind as the brigands came through the Cilician Gates. We might be able to use those."
Metatarzes thinks for a moment longer. "Here is what I believe we should do.
“We must send a messenger through the portal to Sinews and on to Harco with the news of a Redcap's murder. I am open to suggestions who should go.
“We must locate the brigands. Iakovos is looking for an appropriate spell. One of you might assist him. Annais I think, unless one of you is aching to pore through the library.
“Domazhir, your current...ahem...researches are important. Continue with them but also give thought to defense of the covenant. Of course we have interesting and painful magical defenses, but you all know as well as I that physical defenses are still needed.
“Peregrine, you and Tellus will take Aelred, Jenhay, and four other warriors, in addition to your own guards, and once we have a means of locating the miscreants, will visit our wrath upon them. I shall have something to assist you when we adjourn. You are NOT to associate yourself with the Beg's soldiers--we will be treading close to interfering with mundanes as it is, we don't need to take that kind of risk. Which reminds, we shall have to politely but firmly refuse the Beg's requests for ten of our fighting men.
“Albanus, you will assist Peregrine and Tellus to prepare. Then you and Domazhir will work on defenses.
“And Humbertus...we shall speak together about your duties.
“All of this, except for the actual location and visiting of our vengeance on the vile invaders, should not take more than a day or two so your respective lab work should not be too badly disrupted.
“Is that agreeable, sodales?"
Metatarzes sits back in his chair and toys with the amber wand he usually carries secreted about his person.
With nods and mutters of agreement, the magi disperse, and Metatarzes goes to give the council’s decision to the Turkish governor. He is not happy to hear the refusal to supply men at arms, but he is glad that you are going to take measures to protect
yourselves, as well as "send out some of your men to find these marauders!"
He insists that you take along Jenhay's new friend, and HE will supply YOU with 4 other fighting men/messengers so that if you find the raiders you can immediately send for the Beg and his soldiers.
He leaves in a flurry of dust and noise, having shared one last handful of "the most delicious fruit I have ever tasted outside the Sultan's palace in Konya!"
You are left rather at loose ends, awaiting word from Iakovos about possible spells for locating the raiders, and word from Metatarzes when the magi and grogs should ride out.
And it's not even the noon hour yet!