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I am no longer in doubt about Constantine since he has provided 2 pawns of Vim vis for our stores as a result of his laboratory work in the weeks after he had prepared the room that was Saskia's to make it suitable for his own use. Considering what a mess she left it in, I was surprised it had not taken longer.
I delivered a message on behalf of Jimena, to say she has skimmed through the five volumes of 'Libros del Saber de Astronomía' that we were given. They may be studied as a summa on astronomy, as one might expect, but also contains a significant amount on occult lore. She is willing to commence a translation into Francien French but prefers to start in Spring as she believes her medical skills will be required to keep us all healthy during the Winter. She thinks it will take two seasons to complete the translation.
Elections were swiftly dealt with. I proposed that Iuris Perita continue as Princeps, which was seconded by Speculor - I believe he has the same motives as myself in keeping the responsibility on our Quaesitor. In return she proposed myself as Libraria, which no-one spoke against. I seconded Speculor's proposal of Joach as Defensor.
Our discussions on what forms of service each should perform in the Winter season were diverted by something Speculor said to remind us that Saskia's departure meant that we had to work harder. This was certainly pertinent to my own service, as I have agreed to learn 'Aegis of the Hearth' to compensate for her having been the one selected in the first place to learn it as service. Joach put an end to our complaints by offering to design a porcine gargoyle for us to abuse.
We will be sending a small group of grogs out to the moorlands and bogs with the vis detection wand to locate and bring back here any preserved body parts containing Corpus vis. They will be instructed to bring each part back in a container of bog water as soon as they have found it. Iuris Perita, having recently studied 'Gather the Essence of the Beast' will treat each piece as it arrives so that I can conveniently store it.
There was considerable debate over what form Constantine's service should take this season. I am still keen that he write out any interesting Ignem spells he knows so we still have access to these should he depart. I was unsuccessful in generating any enthusiasm for Ignem amongst the others. I shall remember this if he does go and such spells are needed! The next proposal was that he continue with distillation because our debts are our most pressing problem. This seemed a good idea for he could produce 3 fiery fish in a full season. Then, just as I thought the matter settled, someone pointed out that the overall ability of the covenant to distil Vim vis could be improved if Constantine wrote down some of his knowledge of this art, perhaps in the form of a Liber Quaestionem which others could then study from. Whilst I like the idea of adding a book to our small collection, I am not at all convinced that such a book will be of much value to me since it is to be written to help those more ignorant than myself. Since this writing project won the vote, I shall have to content myself with looking forward to producing a critical commentary on Constantine's work.
Joach was hoping to be asked to continue vis distillation as he is worrying about his longevity potion. However, it was agreed that Iuris Perita and Speculor would distill while Joach devised a means to make it easier for anyone to carry a heavy load. In particular, we were thinking of all the stone blocks which are being moved from the quarry into the north clearing. Joach looked happier about this project when he decided that it would take the form of a long-tailed gargoyle with outstretched, grasping hands. One pawn of Terram vis from stores was assigned to Joach for this device.
The next issue was who should perform the ritual. At first it seemed best that Constantine cast it as, rather to my surprise given his enthusiasm for Ignem, he has a good understanding of Herbam too. Perhaps it helps to comprehend the nature of some of the more combustible materials. Anyway, it was finally realised that Joach would be the most appropriate magus to lead the ritual and cast the spell. I was worried that our only usable copy of the spell was at risk should Joach lose control of the vis in casting a spell he was unfamiliar with. Constantine has offered to copy this out for us at the earliest opportunity, so I need not worry again, but there was no time to copy it for this casting as the timing of the ritual is critical. Joach carried it all out perfectly, of course, but utterly exhausted himself in the process.
As usual for this part of the world, it was raining on the day after the solstice so it is fortunate that despite the effect of the spell being on the fields and gardens, it is not necessary to be outdoors for the ritual. Since all those who own or work in the fields and gardens had to be present, it was not possible for everyone to be under cover, but we assembled where the magi could stay under shelter. No doubt the grogs got wet but Jehan had organised a good feed for them afterwards so everyone seemed happy. I picked up murmurings of surprise from the lower tables that the priest had not said grace before the eating began. I had not noticed his absence, and was somewhat annoyed that he had ignored the instruction for all to attend.
Jimena's side of it is quite straightforward. About four days after the grog group left the covenant for the second time on the expedition to the bogs, one of them, Cado the Hunter, arrived back here exhausted and calling for help. Jehan got the story out of him that Yves was hurt and that there was a monster at large on the moors. Jimena went with the rescue party which was led by Constantine and comprised Redwald, Francis, Ellie and Zacharias also. Cado had guided them at a brisk pace through the forest and up onto the moors, and had taken them to the remains of a few crude huts where they had found two of our grogs, a distraught woman, named Nolwen, and four thin, scruffy, frightened children. While Jimena was trying to talk to the woman, Constantine had entered the larger hut and found Yves there. Having spoken to Cado en route, Jimena was expecting to find Yves suffering from gouging, crushing, bruising and burns but when she saw him, he seemed to be unhurt. She was able to examine the injuries when they re-appeared that night, and before Constantine had recast his spell to make Yves well enough to travel. Jimena is not comfortable with this means of treating a patient but does admit that without this magic, it would have been very difficult indeed to bring Yves home without further hurt. He is now under her sole care and likely to make a full recovery in time.
Gerard's story is much longer. Soon after reaching the moorland our grogs had rescued a man, Bastien, from the bogs. This man was the husband of the woman Jimena mentioned, and had told our grogs where the deep pools and most dangerous bogs were. This information it was that allowed them to locate the first pawn on their second day on the moors.
It was about five days later, when they had come back here with this one body part and returned to the moors for more, that trouble started. The woman, Nolwen, had spotted our men and rushed to them begging for help as her husband had been missing for several days. The grogs had already started looking for a campsite so were not slow to accept her invitation to stay overnight with her family, with the intention to look for her husband in the morning. That night, their sleep was interrupted by the return of the unfortunate man, Bastien. At least, it was the remains of him, but without his heart; Gerard called it a Revenant. It was this creature which hurt Yves so badly as he tried to defend himself, the woman and her children. The monster was felled by Girec, another of our hunters. The tale of his blow may have grown in the telling but even so it was certainly a tremendous feat, to destroy such a horror with a hunting dagger alone. I am told he split the creature in two lengthways!
The grog Gerard had heard about such creatures, saying that they were very hard to really kill, and so they used most of the poor woman's woodpile to destroy the body on a pyre. Cado set off the next morning at first light to get help from the covenant, both to save Yves' life and to bring magical aid against whoever or whatever had turned Bastien into a monster.
Girec, Garth and Gerard did their best to make Yves as comfortable as they could in the wrecked hut. Bastien's wife was inconsolable and the children were terrified. An unearthly keening wail petrified them all during the night. Next morning the three grogs had nervously looked out over the moor, afraid that the creature that killed Bastien was coming for them.
What they saw was a maga: Elise ex Miscellanea. filia Hardis, ex Britannia, a necromancer. She took charge of our grogs as if they were her own to command. I think our grogs should be under orders to refuse to serve under anyone from outside Saxum Caribetum when they are on covenant business, and will tell the Centurion so. Gerard spoke of it as if Maga Elise honoured him by giving him orders, but he must be disabused. She told Gerard, Girec and Garth that the thing that had been Bastien would not really die until they could find and destroy its heart. All they could do before then was to reduce its chances of animating again. She approved of their burning of the body. Much to the distress of poor Nolwen, the maga cast some magic, using a long, carved bone, on the residue of the conflagration and all heard it say it had been Bastien, and that he had been attacked by a large, black, bloated, rotting monster with huge talons.
Elise wanted to set off at once to locate Bastien's heart. Our grogs suggested they wait for Cado to return with help. Elise was able to improve Yves' condition a little but the grogs insisted that, if two of them had to go with Elise, one must stay with Yves. Not surprisingly, Elise was finding the proximity of the vis detection wand a constant irritation. Gerard was anxious to please her but, I am glad to say, refused to allow her to take it from him. He did agree to leave it with Girec and Yves while he and Garth went with her to seek Bastien's heart and whatever killed him.
Elise guided our grogs to the area described by the spirit of Bastien as the place where he was attacked. Elise must have used magical means to locate the disturbed, bloody ground where Bastien was attacked. Apart from confirming this, nothing was learnt here and they went back to the huts, where again the night was pierced by the eerie keening.
Elise must have used magic during the night to locate the pool where the creature that killed Bastien had its lair because soon after sunrise she led Gerard and Garth there. They must have gone some way, and spent a long time waiting by the pool because dusk was falling when a hideous form rose out of the water. Gerard was still suffering from the horror of it as he described it to me - he called it a draugr.
Elise created sufficient illumination for the grogs to see the draugr moving rapidly towards them. I am proud that they stood their ground despite the foul stench and appearance of the thing. Maga Elise's magic was only just adequate as the creature was striking at Gerard with its talons before she managed to cast a spell on it - probably 'Despair of the Quivering Manacles' by the description our grogs give of its effect. Whilst she concentrated on that spell, her light failed but the monster was right on top of them so Garth and Gerard had no difficulty finding their opponent. I understand that it was Garth's war maul that was most effective in bringing down the draugr, which could not be cut by sword blows.
This creature, too, was lacking a heart, so while Elise used magic to peer through the water to its lair and lift items from the bottom of the pool, Gerard and Garth continued to pound away on the remains of the monster. I expect this is why they are vague about what was in the boxes Elise recovered from the lair. They do say that one box, which had been concealed under a pile of stones, contained two live, beating, hearts and that Elise had set fire to hearts and box.
Gerard says that Maga Elise left hurriedly once she was sure the hearts had been destroyed. I hope she goes far and stays away! Gerard and Garth had returned to Girec to rest and await the arrival of Cado's rescue party. I must find an opportunity to question Constantine about this maga from Stonehenge and perhaps make some time to talk more with Gerard.
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