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Covenant of La Roche Caribet

The merchant Bertrand under suspicion

Monday, 19th April: Warnings

It is a few days since Jimena returned from Quintin and I had hoped that the fuss over the missing singer had died down by now; but Lady Marta is a determined woman so I suppose one could not have expected she would give up so soon. I gather that rumours are spreading amongst the grogs - something one of them picked up while collecting foodstuffs from one of the farmers, I understand. Word is that the peasantry are worried about "shape-changing magicians" and that everyone should "beware of any strangers, of anyone it is hard to recognise" and that the rumours are somehow linked to the disappearance of the singer. It is well that we all have work to do here and no immediate calls to set foot outside the Covenant but we must be careful if visitors call here over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, 20th April: Lady Marta here

Lady Marta came visiting. I would have thought our Vilicus would have handled the matter but a message came to interrupt my copying work and I had to go down to speak with her. There was some sense in this, since I am still not entirely comfortable with the local tongue and could easily pretend to misunderstand should her questions be too close to the target. Jehan stayed to translate as required but his mode of speech is not at all clear. In fact, her visit was to warn us about the rumours running through the villages. Jehan was able to confirm that a girl answering the description of the missing singer had been living here a while ago; quite why Lady Marta expected me to be aware of since a person amongst the covenfolk I do not know. Jehan also told her that the merchant Bertrand was a regular visitor here, bringing us supplies of all sorts, and that his last visit was about a month ago.

Lady Marta is clearly unimpressed with the efforts of Lord Gaidon to find her singer. She told us that no-one in his household has been able to provide a clear description of the unknown nobleman, not even of his coat of arms or livery. Also, the merchant Bertrand has not been seen since the night of the feast and it is suspected that he is deeply involved in the abduction, if not entirely responsible for it. Lady Marta thinks Lord Gaidon's guards may be using this talk of magic as an excuse for their own incompetence, and she also told me that she does not think that sorcery is by any means as widespread as the common folk believe it to be. I hope my demeanour was such as to hide any interest in her views on such things. I certainly had no wish to prolong the interview and, showing my ink-stained hands, made my excuses as soon as I could. Unfortunately, as I left, Lady Marta repeated her invitation to visit her. I made sure to pass on to the others the gist of this conversation.

Wednesday, 21th April: A child puts us in danger

We are once again disturbed by visitors but on this occasion Jehan dealt with them. I understand that a merchant, not Bertrand, arrived with two guards a small female child and a girl who appears to be the child's nursemaid. The men left the females and a letter for Iuris Perita here. Word amongst the grogs is that this is Bertrand's daughter, Eloise, with her maid, Francoise, and that Iuris Perita has said they will stay here a few weeks and has given orders that they are not to be asked to share in the normal work of the grogs. I think our Princeps has made a very serious error here and must make sure she changes her mind about this very quickly. If anyone was to find the child here, they would consider us guilty by association with whatever it is that the merchant has done.

Magus Joachus agreed with me that it would only be inviting trouble to keep the child here. I ordered Jehan to have the girl and her nurse escorted to Plaintel at once. I hope Jehan's hesitation was a result of his poor hearing. Iuris Perita would say only that we have been asked to look after these two. I was exasperated by her inability to see the danger this put us in and her stubborn refusal to give any good reason why we should not turn them out at once and was on the point of ordering Julio to eject the pair when Joachus said that he himself would ensure they left the covenant and arrived safely at Plaintel. I think this in itself a dangerous move since, this part of the forest suddenly having become so busy, he might meet someone who would see him with the child and bring the whole mess back upon our heads anyway. He prepared to go with Alain, Caspar and Brother Joseph. As he got to the gate, Iuris Perita broke her silence to tell us of the letter, which she said must go with them. She said it was from Bertrand and asked her to look after the pair while he worked to clear his name from the unjust accusations. I saw no reason to put ourselves at risk for a merchant and waved the group on. I know I must take care not to get on our Princeps' wrong side with the matter of representing her at Tribunal so important just now, but exposing us to such danger was just intolerable.

Joachus reported something of his meeting with Lady Marta. She seemed satisfied with his story and left him with refreshments while she questioned both the child and the nurse. She told Joachus what she learnt from the pair, which added little to what we already knew. The child's father had told her she was going away to be safe with the herbalists and that he was staying in Quintin. The nurse said "He did not do it" and that her master was lodging temporarily with a fellow merchant in the town. Lady Marta was not surprised that the supposed house-to-house search by Lord Gaidon's men had not been thorough and announced her intention to visit Quintin the following day.

While Joachus was performing this errand, yet another visitor came to disturb us. I thought we had come to dwell in an isolated spot. I must speak with the Defensor about strengthening our defences, moving the path or building up the bad reputation of the glade to keep people away. This time it was an itinerant pedlar and Jehan dealt with him. I heard that he had come to offer himself as a replacement for the supposed criminal, Bertrand; as long as we get the supplies we need I don't mind who brings them but I do prefer a merchant who knows when to turn a blind eye and keeps his mouth shut.

Thursday 23rd April: Church news

Brother Joseph returned to us today, having gone to the Hermitage after leaving Plaintel. I would not have noticed this had he not brought news of sufficient interest that it was passed on to the magi. A new bishop has been appointed to St.Brieuc, Phillipe from Rennes who had been assistant to the bishop there. Nothing much seems to be known about him other than that he is reputed to be theologically sound and to have some administrative ability. The other message from the Hermitage was renewed pressure from Fr.Albertus to have him here disturbing us again. Perhaps when I have completed this copying of spells I might learn something by talking to him again.

Saturday, 24th April: At Plaintel

We have been discussing how to deal with the repeated invitations from Lady Marta and Lord de Robien. It has gone beyond politeness and I feel sure they are trying to use us for their own political ends, or even to get rid of us. Since Plaintel is the closer we decided to accept there first. Joachus and I went to visit today, to represent the 'scholars'. Lady Marta said much about how she will look after our interests which sounded all very well though I don't see what she intends by this or why it should be thought necessary. Just leaving us alone would be a good start, but it seemed impolite to say so.

The child, Bertrand's daughter, was still at Plaintel I noticed, but nothing was said of her though there was some tedious talk about the difficulty of getting supplies. I can't imagine that her ladyship requires some of the esoteric materials that we require so where her difficulties arise I cannot guess.

It was after a good meal, and around the time I was wishing we could set off home again that Lady Marta finally began to make her thoughts clear to us. The whole matter seems to concern the feudal ownership of the lands upon which we have founded our covenant. I am happy with her statement that the area was previously unclaimed. She went on about the Duke of Brittany who nominally claims all the forest but has not been known to visit it. That seemed good to me.

Tuesday, 27 April: At Robien

I do not see why it was me who has to interrupt my work again, but Council agreed that Joachus and I should be the ones to pay a visit to Lord de Robien following the success of our meeting with Lady Marta. Someone thought it would enhance our 'respectability' to accept Br.Joseph's request to accompany us. I shall know these roads as well as a Redcap at this rate. His lordship lives in a castle with many armed men at his command. He gave us a lavish meal with some entertainment and drinkable wine.

The questions put to us were awkward. He quizzed us on the somewhat rapid construction of our Tower. I assured him that we had advertised for stone masons to come and had been successful in recruiting some very skilled men. I hope this satisfied him.

He told us that the Duke of Brittany was showing interest in our settlement and that we should swear the oath of loyalty to the Duke. I do not believe the first or intend to do the second. He said that if we swore the oath, we would be safer from rival claims by other surrounding landowners; one assumes he means Le Ploeuc and Plaintel. We had not agreed or refused when he changed the subject to one no less uncomfortable, but it did make me glad we had Br.Joseph with us. Lord de Robien asked about our relationship with the Church and at once Br.Joseph spoke up about our good relations with the Hermitage and with Fr.Albertus in particular. De Robien expressed interest in meeting this clergyman so perhaps mentioning him was a bad idea as Fr.Albertus will be bound to talk of Magic, having no sense of caution or Code to bind his tongue.

The conversation veered back to the Duke and a possibility that we might be required to provide men at arms and tribute to the Duke. I made sure he understood that we had no excess of either. His suggestion that we might pay more silver to avoid having to send men was no help as we have none. The idea that we could provide copies of books as a form of tribute was less ridiculous but still quite out of the question. To avoid giving a straight refusal, we said we would take this ideas back to discuss with the other scholars.

Wednesday, 28 April: Hard choices

Magus Joachus and myself reported what had been said to us by Lord de Robien to Iuris Perita. She was certain that the Peripheral Code prevents us from swearing any oath of fealty but explained that it would be permissible for a friendly mundane to swear for us. There is no mundane dwelling in the Covenant now who could convincingly be put forward as the titular head of the settlement. While, so far, Lady Marta has said nothing about oaths or tribute, her hints at some possible open-ended favour being due from us if we accept her offers to protect us from the Duke are dangerous. Since, as de Robien pointed out, most scholars are part of the church, some deal with the Hermitage might be feasible, but that is a very dubious option. I doubt we can avoid taking sides in the end, as to anger all the local authorities will certainly result in our having to move away. One might try cautiously sounding out Br.Joseph on this option but he left us on the way back from Robien to call, yet again, at the Hermitage. It seems clear that both Lady Marta and de Robien are less interested in us for our own sake than they are in making sure we don't side with the other.

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