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Covenant of La Roche Caribet

Part 13: Dominion allies or spies?

Mid-December 1220

We become increasingly isolated here. The mundane rain continues to fall after the magical downpour ceased at the full of the moon and the ground remains thick with mud. I welcome the lack of interruptions as work on my laboratory at least seems to be showing some result. I have every hope of being able to start work in in next Season. Some of the others have already completed their laboratories are are at their studies; Maga Saskia has taken the book containing the copy made so recently by Magus Joach of 'Aegis of the Hearth' to learn it in time for our next casting. I have lost time but am confident I shall catch up once everything is ready in my Sanctum. At least it is easier to get work from the carpenters now they are in less demand by the others. I understand they have shelters to reinforce against the weather for the grogs but I can't see that taking much of their time.

Brother Joseph has been here frequently, and might even be living here. I am not sure and do not much care as long as he does nothing to cause problems. Just such a problem might result from the message he brought from the Hermitage today. It seems that the Prior there is curious about us and our activities and has sent an invitation to us to visit him there. Maga Iuris Perita mentioned it over dinner this evening as Jehan had thought it best to pass the message to her. My inclination was to decline and blame the atrocious travelling conditions. Iuris decided otherwise, however, and intends to pay the visit. I am amazed that Joach and Saskia plan to go too. Magus Speculor is occupied Vis hunting this season (which so far he has chosen to do from inside his Sanctum) so no fear of his trying to join the party and really causing a stir against us. Brother Joseph will accompany them to make introductions and so forth. They seem to be paying little heed to any bandits they might encounter since they are taking only a couple of grogs (Duncan and Caspar) plus Speculor's man, Pepin. For once and much to my surprise, Maga Saskia will leave her shield grog, Beate, behind. That would have been the entire party had Gilles Tregon not heard about the trip and begged to be allowed to go too.

Two days later

It has proved difficult to make much sense of what transpired at the Hermitage. Gilles speaks only of the many services he took part in, some in the middle of the night. I must remember to call on him if I need a servant in the small hours if he is so untroubled by broken nights. From what little Joach, Saskia and Iuris have said, I understand that they had an interview with Prior Quietus and Father Albertus which started with the Prior asking about the origins of certain 'strange goings-on' in the forest and moved swiftly on to direct questions about who were the powerful friends who assisted us in the rapid erection of the Tower.

We had nominated Iuris Perita as our spokesperson. I have rarely met anyone so reticent and secretive but unusually she did answer some of the questions and let out the word 'Covenant' which Fr.Albertus immediately recognised. I have to assume that our Quaesitor knows what she is doing in interactions with the Dominion though this sort of thing does raise doubts. But it would probably have made no difference in the long run because into one of the long silences that resulted from her thinking how best to respond, or from her having decided it better to say nothing, Joach dropped mention of 'a magical enclave' in the forest before we arrived which led on to his admitting that we were there to study magic. This certainly caused trouble - Fr.Albertus decided this was probably dangerous and possibly diabolical.

I have to hope that the looks of horror and hasty denials from Iuris and Joach were in their favour. Joach remembered to point out that we had acted locally against rumoured black magic not long ago. Prior Quietus said that whereas there were certainly those in the Church who would take a very strict view of such things as magic, he was willing to listen. Father Albertus seemed less sympathetic, speaking out against those who are lax in their church attendance and live apart. Joach took this opportunity to mention his work in the construction of churches, which must surely have made a good impression. There was even some mention of possibly providing some assistance to the Hermitage; Saskia mentioned the work we had already started in the copying of Bibles and Joach indicated that he might assist in the repair of stonework for them. I gather that Joach said something about sharing some of the results of our studies at about this point in the discussion.

Iuris was silent a long time after this but it seems that she remembered some rulings in Hermetic law which might allow some chance of taking advantage of the Prior's apparent open-minded attitude. There followed a long and complex debate which included much magic theory, which the Prior knew very little of and rapidly got beyond Father Albertus, and too much of theology for any of the Saxum Caribetum Magi to follow. Iuris' conclusion was that the Prior was offering no hostility towards us but something like alliance and possibly some protection from others in the Church in a way that she felt was worth considering and still within the Code. I wish she would explain this more clearly as I would very much like to understand this.

Iuris spoke to Brother Joseph a little later about certain aspects of the interview, which he had, of course, not been present at. His opinion was that Fr. Albertus was possibly being deliberately provocative and probing but was not hostile though he could throw no light on any possible motives of the Prior. Myself, I am not at all sure these churchmen are to be trusted. And now I have to meet one of them! To my horror, my fellow Magi agreed that this Father Albertus be allowed to come back with them to visit the Covenant!

Caspar arrived with a message that they were on there way and would be with us directly. Speculor is off out somewhere with Zane, Elli, Garth, his two shield grogs and his groom to hunt Vis in some gorges he heard rumour of or sensed from within his laboratory - I know not which but I guess the former. So our unwelcome visitor is unlikely to meet Speculor which is some small comfort. Having Zane out of sight is also probably a good thing.

A little later

What a nuisance this man is! I wish I had stayed in my Sanctum until he had gone. I happened to be walking back from the kitchen, where I had gone to find a meal, when I first saw Fr.Albertus. At once I could sense that he had some Vis about him though its nature and location were not obvious. Without thinking beyond the moment, I cast Intellego Vim behind his back and he turned to look accusingly at me. I had learnt nothing about the Vis but had discovered that this man of the Dominion has some sort of Parma Magica as well. He was not at all pleased but no more cross about it all than I. I headed indoors directly intending to keep well out of his way and he went to see the menhir. I hear that he very easily found the way into the tiny regio about it and the way out again.

It is as well I made myself scarce. Fr.Albertus asked a lot of questions about the menhir and why it was different to the many others that dot the countryside. Then he returned to the matter of our 'powerful friends' and the possibility that dealing with them might imperil our souls. Iuris overcame her reluctance enough to tell him that we live by a set of rules. She felt unable to answer his questions about the suitability, in his eyes, of the rules which must have looked suspicious. In the end she did give him a very bare outline of how we live, with emphasis on keeping to ourselves and avoiding the infernal. In the end I think she baffled him with Hermetic law as he had tried to do to her with theology, which seems fair to me.

To try and satisfy him and stop the questions, Iuris agreed to show him her own laboratory. He understands a surprising amount about alchemy for a priest - studied medicine in Paris he said, even giving the names of his tutors which I hope Iuris will pass on to Objurgator for investigation. It is worrying that he noticed the Vis fine from Wirbelnia that Iuris is holding on behalf of the Quaesitors even though it was all concealed in a box, or so Iuris claims. It would be safer if she had let me keep it with the other in our Vis store.

Next he would see our books so Iuris took him up to the top of the Tower, to the scriptorium where three scribes and the bookbinder were working on Bibles. This was not enough for him and he pressed to see our magical books. Iuris distracted him for a while by taking him to meet Jimena in the hope that she might be able to test out whether he did indeed have any medical knowledge. Meanwhile Iuris called me to join a hasty discussion. I was adamant that this impudent priest should not see our Vis or the magical books and should leave us. Then Iuris told me more of his apparent understanding of alchemy and ability to sense Vis. If he is a hedge wizard he must be dealt with swiftly, was a popular opinion. In my view, if he is a hedge wizard, I would be interested in learning from him how he balances his handling of magic from within the Dominion. Also, it is possible that his training in magic from outside the Order might, once he is safely brought inside, throw light on areas of magic as yet not fully explored. I maintained that he should not see the books but should be sent back to the Hermitage while Iuris made enquiries about him and his Paris associates.

Afterwards, Jimena told me that he did know something of diagnosis but his understanding of medicine was not like any she had met before and certainly not what she would have expected to have been learnt in the University of Paris. She said something about treating illness with powdered crystals and clearly would like to know more about this and find out whether it can possibly be beneficial. While she was prolonging that conversation somewhere on the far side of the clearing, we moved all but the book on Arabic medicine and the book on Hermetic law to the scriptorium and put all the Bibles with the two books remaining in the library. I agreed to stay in the scriptorium on guard with Julio and Ignatio while Iuris took Fr.Albertus to the library. I had tried to convince the others that the books would be safer in my Sanctum but they were not convinced. I, however, was so certain of this that I had the men move them there as soon as the rest of the group were busy elsewhere.

Iuris took Fr.Albertus to the denuded library, explaining that we were but newly arrived and had spent all the money we had been able to get on the expensive glassware for the laboratory, which he had already admired. He picked up the great tome on Hermetic law and opened it several times at random to read. It was clearly not a very fortunate selection of readings for us. He concluded that we were a quarrelsome lot. He found a reference to Vis and queried the meaning of the unfamiliar word. Iuris defined it as a sort of magical currency. He pressed hard with questions about the magical research we must have done and the other books we must have. Iuris went into great detail about all the mundane activities that had been carried out here since our arrival to show that we had not had time for anything less trivial. When pressured with questioning about our intended research, Joach offered that he was interested in the properties of materials that could be fashioned into puppets or gargoyles so that these could be made more useful. In order to appear helpful, Joach even showed Fr.Albertus some of his old laboratory notes which probably made no sense at all to the priest, and serves him right. Joach cast a small spell to have a puppet make music, which seemed to much impress the visitor with the ease and speed with which the spell was cast.

At last Fr.Albertus said he had gathered enough information to make his report and would be returning to the Hermitage. It was getting late so the journey had to be put off until tomorrow so I had Julio bring me some food to my room. Saskia stayed in her room too. Joach ate with the priest and decided it was his turn to ask the questions. Fr.Albertus did not deny having some magical knowledge himself. Joach warned him that some members of our Order are more assertive that he and might take a less sympathetic view of his ability so he should tread carefully. This may have been unwise, as if making a threat. However, the Father responded that he used his magic within the rules and protection of the Church. I would know more of this unexpected aspect of Dominion activities.

Two days later

Joach is back, having accompanied Fr.Albertus back to the Hermitage. He went with Br.Joseph and two grogs and came back with three additional men. I hope these newcomers will prove an asset. Two, Sergo and Iussuf, will become Joach's shield grogs, I am told. He is welcome to them - they look too old to be of use for long if they are of use now. The third man is an expert in vines, I hear. It will be good if we can produce our own grapes and wine in years to come, though that will depend on his staying and on our ability to tame this soil and climate. Hardly had they arrived than another man came to our gates. This one was recognised as from Lady Marta. It appears she has sent him to us in 'exchange' for one of ours, Angus, who she now owns. Most odd, but nothing to concern me.

Aversus has arrived, bringing with him a letter from Industria Quaesitoris ex Objugator for Iuris Perita. She seemed rather reluctant to read to us from it, but eventually agreed. It was good news. It concerned the records regarding claims on vis from the Airy Spirits at Menez Bre. Haeconius Covenant reported the hill there some 40 years ago and although they took vis do not appear to have staked a claim on it. Fudarus Covenant reported that they had collected vis there 83 years ago but have no recorded claim either. So, there being no record of a regular claim on the vis there, our claim is now registered. The reports mention Brevaler as living there on both occasions, which merits some investigation when we return there.

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