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Jimena made it clear that she wished to visit the fair in the hope that there would be travelling merchants from whom she might purchase items that were usually hard to obtain here, in particular things she felt necessary for her medical work and things the perfumier had asked for. I added a few items that I required to her shopping list.
On 12th April, Lady Marta arrived with a small retinue. Jehan conducted her to our council chamber and brought refreshments while Iuris Perita was requested to leave her book to speak to the visitor. It seems that Lady Marta wanted to find out if we were intending to accept the invitation as scholars and herbalists, and attend the feast. She seemed satisfied when Iuris Perita told her we were invited as the Lords of Caribet and would be sending a representative. Lady Marta asked if we were intending to take a gift for our host. This was not something to which we had given any thought. Clearly it was expected and Iuris did not give away our lack of knowledge of how things were done here. Before taking her leave, Lady Marta repeated her invitation to us to dine with her. I feel we ought but cannot see that it needs to be myself who has to go.
I think it was Saskia who came up with the best idea, that we use MuAq on some old wine to make it into excellent wine. Finding wine which was still in very good condition this long after the harvest was probably not easy so the gift should be appreciated. If the magic wore off before it had been drunk, no-one would know that it had not gone off naturally, and it would not vanish. I liked this idea and cast MuAq on a bottle, taking great care over the spell and perhaps being unnecessarily flamboyant about it. It was entirely successful so I changed a few more while Saskia did some others so we had a good number of bottles to take as our gift.
Not long after he had shown the Magae to their quarters, Jehan was called to meet a third visitor, a gnomish Magus with two grogs. It was Eleusinus scholae Merinita, princeps of Odela. Eleusinus was also heading for the fair and wished to use our hospitality overnight. A place for him was found on the opposite side of the settlement to that for the Magae from Wirbelnia. The Magus expressed considerable interest in our tower. We did not wish to have the Wirbelnia visitors inside it after our trouble with Gwénolé last Summer, and Mari Amwithig brought a trail of destruction with her so was best let nowhere near anything of real value. It would have been unwise to treat the visitor from Odela any differently so none were invited within the tower. However, all were invited to dinner round the fire near the kitchen.
As our visitors were all of House Merinita, I felt it was a good opportunity to bring up the subject of our contest with the grogs of Fudarus in front of a great lady of the fair folk and convince these Magi of our right to hold the vis which we won in fair competition. Speculor was only too happy to tell his story again. Gwénolé was particularly interested; I hope this will stand us in good stead at the Tribunal. Throughout the meal, there was constant bickering between Eleusinus and the Wirbelnia Magae but there was no less between the two Maga themselves.
After the meal, plans were made for an early start the following day, to arrive at the fair around mid-day. Magus Joach was to go - he spoke with enthusiasm of fairs he had enjoyed attending in his travelling days. Speculor's squire, Galliene, and Huon were very keen to go with Joach. Iuris Perita decided that it would be a good idea if she went to keep an eye on these Merinita and try to find out what brought them all to the fair. In order to have some protection and look the part of nobility, they were to be accompanied by several well-armed grogs in armour.
According to Jimena, the Fair was a gay event, with a crowd of people from a wide area gathered to buy, sell, see and be seen. It covered the meadow near the lake which partly fills the valley below the terraces where the town perches. The party that had travelled together with some signs of discomfort split up as soon as it arrived. The visiting Merinita Magi disappeared into the colourful crowd, Huon too. Joach and Iuris Perita decided to go directly to pay their respects to their host at the castle, accompanied by the armed grogs, and Jimena had decided to go with them. It was quite a climb up the terraces to the walled part of the town at the top where the castle is.
His Lordship gave our Magi a formal welcome himself and invited them to be present at the blessing of the well close by, which was an important part of the day's activities, and he offered some refreshments. He made some remark that Jimena did not quite catch which seemed to express surprise that the 'Lords of Caribet' had walked to Quintin. I hope he did not notice that Iuris Perita had no boots on her feet, or he would have thought himself mistaken about our status. I am relieved to hear from Jimena that Joach looked very fine and noble in his MuIm disguise. While partaking of the offered food and drink, Jimena noticed Lady Marta amongst the assembly. Galienne had spotted her sooner and the pair were in conversation, talking a while then looking about, as if perhaps seeing who was in attendance.
It was not long before everyone was ushered out and down the hill some way to where a large crowd of visitors and locals had gathered near the well. In fact, many were not that near because the throng was such that Jimena could not see anything of the Blessing itself and only knew what was going on from the prayers and chants drifting over the heads of the multitude. No doubt it was some relief to the Magi that they had a perfect excuse to be some way from the ceremony.
The whole crowd went down to the Fair after the Blessing. Jimena went off alone to see if she could locate the spices, glassware and so on that she had come for. She tells me she spent a little time watching a performance of a Mystery Play about the Legend of St. Brieuc (the saint not the place, I mean) and was amused for a while by the antics of a dancing bear. While watching this from a little distance, she observed our Huon in some talk with the girl who held the bear on a chain but he soon wandered off and she didn't see anyone she recognised for quite a long time after that.
Magus Joachus gave a rather different account of the Fair. I'm not at all sure I understood just what he had experienced as he does not explain clearly. It seems clear that a Fairy Regio covers part of the area around the fair, at least during the fair. It can be entered from the menhir atop the hill beside the lake by walking down the zigzag path in a way that Joach was unable to make me understand. I gather there was some debate over attempting to enter the Regio for fear of upsetting the fae, and concern over possibly missing the Feast and thus offending the host, and they had decided to leave it for another occasion but had found themselves inside it anyway. Quite how the fairy fair differed from the one in the mundane world I could not be sure. Iuris Perita has not attempted to describe it, whereas Joach has described it in some detail, mentioning craftspersons who might have been animals, sheepskins that turned into clouds, and traders who wouldn't name a price yet wanted to sell their wares.
Amongst the fae were some mundanes who had somehow blundered into the regio and the Merinita Magi. Mari Amwythyg spoke with Iuris Perita and Joach, and said she usually attended this version of the fair to pick up gossip and some essential items; she encouraged trading but Joach was against any of the Saxum Caribetum group involving themselves in this way and kept close tabs on the grogs. It seemed that their steel mail smelt bad enough to the fae to keep them at a distance, which was probably a very good thing. Far from being hard to leave, our group re-entered the mundane fair by simply walking out beyond the edge of the fairy stalls.
Iuris and Joach unwrapped the bundle as soon as they had moved into an open space. It was a book in five volumes by Alfonso X. Hearing this name read out, Jimena got close enough to see so was able to translate as Iuris attempted to pronounce the Spanish - 'Libros del Saber de Astronomia', Books on the Knowledge of Astronomy. Jimena is so very excited that I doubt she will spend much time away from those books until she has studied them thoroughly. She believes it a magnificent gift though one suspects that perhaps no-one in his Lordship's court can read Spanish. In particular, she is keen to ascertain whether they have been translated from Arabic or Greek sources.
While Jimena was poring over the books, other guests arrived and other gifts were given but she did not observe them and Joach reports only that Lady Marta, some representatives from the Hermitage and some other priests from St.Brieuc were amongst the guests. Jimena did put the books aside when there was a stir in the crowd as Lord de Robien arrived a little late. Lord Gaidon made some fuss about presenting him with a sword, which was probably something rather valuable, and was himself led outside to receive a horse which she did not see. Soon afterwards, a play of Pyramus and Thisbe was enacted where everyone could see but after this the Magi were guided one way, to hear some musicians, and the rest were conducted another way. None of the Merinita Magi appeared as a guest; one assumes they spent as much time as possible in the Regio.
Everyone at the castle attended a feast, though Jimena ate with the grogs and a large, noisy crowd in one hall while the Magi ate in more style with the nobility in the Great Hall. Jimena's story is simple. The meal was good and plentiful, the company rather raucous but good-natured. She observed Huon and Alain apparently getting on well with some of the women and felt it better she knew little of what they were up to. An excellent meal was provided for the nobility but apart from the quality and quantity of the food there was nothing worth noting except a strange occurrence as they were leaving, when a letter was handed to the Magi, addressed to 'The Scholars of Caribet' and containing the message
Sorry we could not meet, but I had to Fly,
Petra of Petrusca
Reports from Joach of the musical entertainments were a little confusing. I gather that amongst the performers was that lazy girl Margaret who has been at the covenant with her large, touchy and incomprehensible brother some months ago. Joach seemed certain he had seen her but at the same time, as sure that she was missing. Whether she performed and when she went missing I know not.
The Merchant Bertrand had kindly offered to find accommodation for our people in the town, to save squeezing in at the castle. As they approached his home, Jimena tells me a young man stepped out of the shadows, presented M.Bertrand's apologies and desired that the party step aside a short distance for a moment. Jimena was reluctant to do so, fearing something amiss, but the Magi had no hesitation in following him so everyone else had to go too. They were taken to a neighbour's house where M.Bertrand himself was. Is seems he believed that his house was being watched and wanted the protection of our large party and armed men to be with him before going to his own front door. He went off but returned a minute or two later to report that malefactors had broken into his house. Alain volunteered to investigate. A few moments after he went, a dull thud was audible from the direction of M.Bertrand's house. Time passed and Alain did not return or call out.
The three armed grogs charged the front door, burst through, almost trod on the slumped Alain and found that whoever had been inside and ransacked the house had now fled through the back door. I find it hard to find any reason to link this attack on the merchant with the disappearance of the singer except that the two events, by perpetrators unknown, took place on the same night.
It was the 16th April when the party returned from Quintin. The journey, Jimena told me, was uneventful though they heard word in the villages that Lord Gaidon had sent riders out to ask if anyone had seen a nobleman with a young girl ride by. No-one our people encountered reported any such thing, which I am glad of for Lady Marta must not suspect that someone of the Order might be responsible for abducting her protègèe and if the trail has already been lost, all should be well. I just hope she does not attempt to involve us in her troubles.
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