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I have been entirely occupied in experimentation to determine the most satisfactory position for certain features of my laboratory in relation to the specific manifestation of the aura. I feel close to success with the positioning and shape of a pool of clear water but it will take considerably more effort to fix exactly the right height and depth of the main fireplace. I was in need of certain Herbam specimens to pursue my investigation and took advantage of a spell of settled warm weather to make a few expeditions into the Forest. I had little leisure to notice what the rest of the Magi were about but there was some talk over meals occasionally. I gather that Saskia has ordered her shield grog to hunt out wild bees, which will please Jimena. Speculor is investigating the resources of the Forest from the security of his Sanctum by means of Vis spells. Joach has been collecting Herbam materials and working on his laboratory though I understand he has spared some time to consider the creation of some defensive gargoyles for the Tower.
It was over the first meal of the day one fine morning that Saskia accused each of us of taking to ourselves all the carpenters at once because she could find none of them and had an urgent task in mind. All denied it, some politely and others less so. Our Vilicus left the room in the heat of the discussion and returned swiftly with news that Pierre Martin had been found returning to the Covenant from somewhere or other but a few minutes ago and that there was no sign of the Sarzon brothers. Worse, a number of the best wood working tools had disappeared.
Jehan had at once dispatched a couple of grogs, Yves and Zacharias, to travel to Quintin, the brothers' home village, to see if they had run off that way. Elli and Zane were sent to scour the local area for tracks. They were soon back with word that two people had travelled the road southwards, fairly heavily laden. Our Centurion immediately called together a small armed troop and they set off in pursuit. I went back to work and thought no more about it.
When walking from the kitchens back to my laboratory later in the day I met Speculor. He requested the loan of one of our precious spellbooks. I was most reluctant to let it out of my sight so stayed with him in the Library while he cast 'The Inexorable Search' using a few hairs plucked from the bedding of one of the thieves. He located the Sarzon brothers, already in Moncontour. I watched as he cast 'Ear for Distant Voice'. Certainly they were speaking but in Breton. I was keen to cast 'Open the Intangible Tunnel' so I could Rego Mentem the wrong-doers and force them to return. We discussed this option at some length. Speculor shouted out to a grog what he heard the brothers saying and learnt that they were probably counting something. He then cast a spell to check on the whereabouts of Jacques' party and saw them returning. Iuris Perita quickly sent her groom off on horseback to intercept the Centurion and send him on the Moncontour. Saskia slipped out of the room and I followed soon afterwards as I had better things to do than bother myself further with grog misdemeanours.
Later the same day I met Saskia who seemed in very good humour. It may have been only her satisfaction at having the two wanderers returned and hard at work on her behalf. She assured me that they had learnt the inadvisability of stealing from Magi. I hope they will tell the other grogs so that all will learn from their foolishness.
Another opportunity to teach or grogs a useful lesson has arisen. I was out in the Forest, seeking Terram materials with Gilles Tregon the quarryman, accompanied by Julius of course. Whilst walking close to a lively stream, I spotted something that gleamed and looked like a nugget of silver. I called Gilles' attention to it; he agreed that it was silver and very soon found other nuggets. I used a spell to locate the source of this valuable and interesting metal and led the group upstream. Julio too found nuggets and our excitement was considerable. For my part, I was already in my mind exchanging this silver for exotic glassware and stones. We followed the stream up into a narrow ravine where it issued from the mouth of a cave. I ordered Gilles to climb up and investigate and created a light for him to see by. The cave contained much gleaming silvery metal. We collected as much as the grogs could easily carry. Gilles was very keen to go deeper into the cave but I decided it was better he return later with more men and tools and we went back to the Covenant to obtain them.
The following day I noticed Gilles heading off early with a small party of men. I went to my laboratory to examine the silver but quickly discovered that it appeared to magic to be nothing but stone. I spent quite a time confirming this result and established that it was stone transformed by Fae magic of Moon duration to seem like silver. I went to order Jacques to send a rescue party to stop Gilles and his group from wasting their time with it but he reminded me that he did not know the location of the cave so I agreed to show the way. It took some time to get Francis, Julio, Ignatio, Elli and Zacharias ready to set off. The day was well advanced by the time we got to the stream, except that the stream bed was now dry. I used Intellego Terram to locate the cave mouth and Perdo Terram to try to open it; there was some difficulty with working within the Faery aura which must have been unusually strong in the vicinity of the cave mouth. My garments suffered some damage but Ignatio's shirt did well enough as a substitute. I sent Elli to fetch Hermetic assistance from the Covenant at her best speed.
While she was gone I proceeded with the Perdo Terram and was rewarded by the opening up of the cave mouth. Within I could see figures moving about, It looked like Gilles, Garth and Zane. They ignored my order to come out at once. This angered me so I stood in the mouth of the cave and attempted Rego Mentem to force them out, waiting until each came to the corner where they appeared to be piling up small stones. Suddenly a small missile sped out of the tunnel, thudded into my shoulder and pushed me away and down. I retreated some distance and set to examine and tend my wound. My Creo Corpus was adequate for the task but I ached greatly. As I watched, a great pit opened up, filling the cave tunnel so that the grogs could not walk out even if they would. I turned my Intellego on the rock again and learnt that it was a faery rock of some sort. Clearly a very powerful Fae had wrought this cave to entrap mortals.
I was tired and hurt, and my small group of grogs were afraid for themselves and their colleagues. It was early evening before help arrived. Speculor, Joach and Iuris Perita had all come. Speculor examined the rock as I had done and discovered that the whole cliff face was a cave troll, and the cave opening was its mouth. It appeared to me that he too found the faery aura particularly tricky. While he stood in thought and I gathered my strength, Joach went towards the opening, where he could see a figure advancing towards the far edge of the pit. He exchanged words with this creature, trading question and answer as if to an agreed formula. This way he found out that the troll intended to eat our grogs. Joach tried to argue with it and then to bargain. Speculor offered to give the troll other people if it would give up those it had, but it was not fooled by any of his Imaginem illusions. Meanwhile Iuris and I debated the possible value of Rego or Muto with Terram or Mentem to affect the troll.
By now Joach had heard from the troll that it enjoyed talking to its victims for a while and had decided to offer it alternative entertainment in the form of one of his puppet shows. While it was thus distracted, I attempted to Rego Terram a feeling of satiation so it would forget its hunger and let the potential food go free. The magic appeared to work very well but to no effect. Speculor sent a phantasm into the cave to order the grogs out but they were under an enchantment of the powerful troll and ignored the order, inviting the newcomer to join them by the pool to count the silver. Having got their attention at last, Speculor, through the image, managed to entice the trapped grogs as far as the heap by the turn in the tunnel where we could see them. Iuris cast 'Panic of the Trembling Heart' on Garth then called "Quick, this way!" but he ran towards her and fell into the pit. Iuris asked Joach to help get him out, so Joach cast 'Lift the Dangling Puppet' and Garth hit the roof of the tunnel, still in a panic.
I saw the cave mouth start to close again and made haste with Perdo Terram. The tricky aura interfered with my casting and I felt a hurt inside. Once again I took refuge on a stone some way from the cave and set to work with Creo Corpus. Joach cast another spell, this time using Terram with Perdo to cause 'Agony of the Rock' - at last we had found something that seemed to bother the troll. Joach maintained concentration as the cave mouth opened, and walked boldly inside to the near edge of the pit. There he used 'Lift the Dangling Puppet' to raise himself to the roof and worked his way along to the far side of the pit. Something hurtled out of the cave towards him and I feared he would be hurt as I was but he dodged and bent to pick something up.
When he reached the turn in the tunnel, he saw our three grogs sitting around a pool with three stone statues. Gilles and Zane invited him to join them counting the silver. Garth gibbered. A stone statue lumbered up and towards Joach but was halted when he cast 'Agony of the Rock' on it. The statue writhed. A small missile shot towards Joach from a dark corner of the cave; it hit him but he managed to maintain his concentration. The troll offered to give back one grog if Joach would stop the pain. Joach refused, and asked Zane what he could see in the cave. Zane said that he had noticed some special link between the life force of the cave and certain stalactite/stalagmite pairs. Joach threatened to damage one of these and by this means was able to force the troll to fill in the pit and let go himself and all three grogs.
Even though the troll had released them and Joach had propelled them out of the cave by use of 'Strings of the Unwilling Marionette', our grogs were still bewitched by the silver. I freed Garth from the panic which made him a little easier to manage but it was a hard slow journey home. I was obliged to lean on Julio for part of the way and went directly to Jimena on arrival.
Something of the chastisement of the two thieves has come to my ears, though how distorted the tale has become by now I can only imagine. The story is that they had attempted to run away with not only the wood working tools but also a considerable number of other items of mundane equipment. It seems they made good speed overnight and stopped at an alehouse in Ploeuc to break their fast before pushing on to Moncontour. There is some embroidery in the tale at this point about Jacques sending Caspar to make enquiry at the alehouse under pretence of travel to seek his fortune from a supposed inheritance resulting from the demise of a fictitious relative. Do these grogs think of nothing but property and victuals? The story continues that while walking down the road that heads south from Moncontour, the thieves were bowled over by an unusually large wild sow, that they suffered some sort of vision or shock that they will not speak of and which makes them tremble even now to think on it, and the next thing they knew, they woke in the custody of the Centurion. Talk amongst the grogs confirms that it was Saskia herself who caught up with the brothers and guided Jacques to where she had left them under some bushed in enchanted sleep. I do not begrudge Saskia the services of the carpenters for a while as she has earned it.
I am recovering from my hurts, under Jimena's care, She is insisting that I rest. She may be right and I am resting in body but my mind is busy with recent events. I trust that our grogs have learnt the lengths their masters and mistresses will go to to help them if they are obedient and dutiful.
I know rather more of Covenant day to day business that usual since Jimena chatters while tending me. I suppose she thinks I am interested in the organisation of honey, fruit and nut collection and storage. One thing that was interesting was mentioned in passing as if it was something I already knew of: Jehan has sent a couple of the grogs who arrived from Petrusca with Speculor on an expedition to meet the consignment of laboratory equipment we were promised by Petrusca. Wagons and drivers were arranged with the aid of M. Bertrand, a local merchant who has developed a good relationship with Jehan. I gather they went off a few weeks ago when I was too preoccupied to notice. All being well, which no doubt it will be, the items will be here in 4 to 6 weeks. I very much hope the things promised by Le Sept Puys will arrive at the same time so we can arrange a fair distribution at once.
Saskia called in to see me. She brought some excellent truffles, which I enjoyed, though her request was less welcome. She wanted me to let her have the Summa on Magic Theory which I have been keeping safe in my Sanctum, not to study from it herself but to allow one of the scribes to make a copy of it. I was reluctant to risk putting it into the hands of a grog and attempted to tell her that he would be wasting valuable materials and his time. Surely she can see that his lack of understanding of the subject would lead inevitably to errors in the copy? She assured me that Pepin is a very competent scribe and that when he has made a copy or two I may have one to keep beside me. While it would be very good to have a copy to hand, I could place no reliance on a copy of a book on magic made by the scribe, however well he writes.
It seems we are fortunate in having three scribes, two of whom are uncommonly proficient. Council have agreed that, if Br.Joseph can, as he has promised, obtain a Bible for us, we may set a scribe to making a good, illustrated copy which we should be able to sell for a considerable profit even after having to purchase parchment, our own supplies being required for our own books. So, the Dominion does have its uses.
I am permitted by Jimena to return to work. The other Magi have decided that I should conclude this season in serving the Covenant by sorting out the Library. I would rather not, since it is convenient to me to keep the books in my Sanctum where I know they are safe, but the others have been generous in accepting my lost time as service. I have had two tables made up so far. The location of the Library, at ground level in the Tower but below the floor where the entrance is, means that everything to enter the room must come down the winding stair, which is narrow. So the tables are not as large as I would like. I have requested that another be ready by the time the promised two books arrive around the Autumn Equinox. Another may be needed if Joach copies all the spells that he has been asked by Council to write out. There seems no difficulty in having to use magic to create light to read by there; my fear of damage to the books through error in casting is less than my fear of flame near parchment. I have also put some effort into organising the Vis store; it is still a very small collection, especially considering our debt, but we have some and I feel confident that Iuris and Speculor will find more when they search as service over the coming two seasons.
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