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We had hardly begun to make them welcome when Aversus, the Redcap from Mummolides, arrived to check on our progress and collect our letters. I was glad that I had been prompt in composing my report to Petrusca.
Our camp was next disturbed by the arrival of a knight and half a dozen men at arms. He introduced himself as Eberhardt de Colombiers, Castellan of the fief of Plaintel, and asked why we were here, camping on his land. Jimena translated most of the talk for me but I find this very frustrating and must set about learning this barbaric language. Iuris speaks the local language and took the lead in the conversation. Not wishing to announce ourselves as of the Order of Hermes, not knowing how such news would be taken, we told him we were a group of scholars and herbalists. I later discovered that, seeing deference paid to three women who spoke together in Latin, that Eberhardt suspected we were founding a Convent - let him think so if it means he will leave us in peace. He decided we did not look like bandits but he noticed that we had several strong fighting men with us.
We decided to make use of the idea that we were herbalists so prepared ground to plant herbs, something Jimena is keen to do anyway. Saskia explored in the forest for plants and fungi we might use to pretend with. I greatly regret this need.
Iuris and I went to call on the Lady Marta, who employs Eberhardt, to try to establish a good understanding, that is, to ask her to leave us alone. Her stone keep is very uncivilised but she was kind enough and made us welcome, giving ale to our grogs and wine to us. She told us that our camp is on her land, that we should be wary of wolves in the forest and that the peasants locally speak of strange happenings in the woods. She offered to trade some of her surplus produce with us - though I am not sure if her expects to receive herbs or coins from us in exchange. She seemed to be trying to take command of our soldiers, which we could on no terms allow, though we did agree to pass major issues on to her, without making it clear just what counts as major.
Though Jimena was able to talk convincingly of medicinal herbs, we could see Lady Marta was dubious so admitted to being an order of scholars. We had to fend off her offer of sending a priest to say Mass for us on Sundays at our settlement. The last thing we need - if only people would stop trying to help and just leave us alone. But she did offer to let us hire some of her peasants to assist with our construction so we asked for carpenters and we left feeling that we had made a useful contact. We did not know that she called for a scribe as soon as we had gone and wrote to the Duke, reporting our arrival.
It was soon after we returned from this visit that a Magus came to join us. Speculor had set out from Petrusca on hearing the decision of the Tribunal, which did not have to wait for the usual Redcap route since one of the Petrusca Archmagi had attended by Magic so was both in some way at Mummolides and at Petrusca. He is striking to look at, his magical ability plain for even the most ungifted to see. Indeed, the grogs have been overheard to say he makes their hair stand on end while all I have noticed is that his eyes seem to change colour from day to day. Speculor arrived with a small group of grogs (two shield grogs and two boys to look after the two horses) but a considerable number of books, much to my delight, and Bonisagus books at that.
I do not yet know how much I can trust Speculor but he is of my House so I must assume he is of the best. He volunteered to me that he specialises in Intéllego Imaginem and explained how this could be very useful for keeping up to date with what our more powerful neighbours are up to. Before allowing me to see what books he had, he wanted to know what books we had already, which is sadly few and many of those are not in Latin since most of the heap Saskia has are, she tells me, in German. I shall not endure it if he refuses me access to his books! To show my good intentions, I told him about the menhir and the tiny Regio around it. This seemed to go well so I questioned him about why he was keen to join us when the Archmagi of Petrusca were so set against the new Covenant. I think that, like me, he is interested in research away from the most aged and conservative Magi. Joach, Saskia and I held what I suppose must count as our first Covenant meeting for Business and agreed that we can allow Iuris and Speculor to join us. This is enough though; a hexagon-based structure around the menhir will give five each of us a laboratory and a shared room for important visitors and the library and that is sufficient.
Two days following Speculor's arrival, our clearing was once again entered, but this time it was trouble. A knight, calling himself Jean de Ploeuc, arrived with soldiers, claiming that we were on his land. He spoke through a herald in the native language. Jacques spoke up as leader of our grogs. Ignoring the herald, I cast a spell to know the mind of the knight, which was all indignation. I told him that we had every right to be there, and used Magic to make sure he would believe me, but he didn't understand a word I said. I really must learn the language these people use! I gave up and left the talking to Jacques and Iuris. As I moved away, he gestured his mounted men forward in an aggressive manner. They were sneering and laughing as they approached our tents, swords drawn, and began to wreck our camp.
Suddenly a spectral head appeared in front of the knight and spoke clearly - Jimena told me afterwards that it said 'Leave this place immediately or fear for your life'. Someone had made sure that the reputation of this clearing as haunted has been reinforced! I caused the dust from the ground to rise up around the horse nearest to me, making it shy away. Saskia caused a rider to fall from his mount. Joach, who was no-where to be seen, made another of the horses rear in pain. I whirled up more dust in the eyes of our attackers. Suddenly Jean turned his horse and rode swiftly back the way he had come - Iuris has planted great fear into his mind. I hope we have done enough to scare him and his kind away from this place. This local politics is not what I came north for. They did enough damage to keep us busy for the rest of the day and more. We must have better defences here; perhaps we can somehow divert the track around this place.
Iuris decided it was a good idea to inform Lady Marta of this incident, since this land cannot belong to both her and this aggressive knight and we have no plans to leave it to please either of them. We are concerned that Lady Marta might hear the details of what happened here in such a way as to turn her against us. It might be necessary to take her into our confidence, regarding our true nature, if we dare risk that.
When Iuris returned she reported that she had told Lady Marta that we are of the Order of Hermes and are students of magic. She seemed to have heard of us but to know little. It did appear to please her that her unpleasant neighbour had received such a rough reception from us. The Lady Marta herself, accompanied by Eberhardt, entered our clearing very soon after Iuris. She wished to speak to us herself, saying that she did not object to our activities provided we did not scare her peasants or cause her any harm. We were able to assure her that we were only defending our camp and had no intention of causing alarm. We reassured her that we planned only a small settlement here of only five scholars. She asked for details of our encounter with Jean de Ploeuc and I would be willing to swear that she nearly burst out laughing when Iuris described how he fled. Since it is unlikely he will report this ignominious incident to the Duke, we suggested that maybe Lady Marta need not mention it to him herself.
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