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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.
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.
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.
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.
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