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Covenant of La Roche Caribet

Part 3: Brother Joseph visits

A few structures of wood have been erected, including a barricade across the tracks leading into our clearing. The pegs have been set out to mark the area around the menhir where we wish to construct our laboratories but it is clear we will get no further without skilled craftsmen and some good building stone. I proposed setting off into the surrounding woods to seek a good outcrop of stone. Speculor disdained such a mundane method of prospecting and suggested instead that he might climb a tree and search by magic to comprehend the nature of the earth around. Though this might be done, it requires more power than we have. Just by looking one could see a plentiful supply of granite around and all we require is a good quarry site. Speculor suggested exploring to the north, up the slope. I set off with Zane, Julio and Ignatio; Saskia went alone. I hoped to find some more valuable materials if possible as we will need an income to pay our craftsmen.

Joach set off to the nearest town to make enquiries for carpenters and stone masons. He wished to take Caspar and Garth with him but Jacques recommended Jean Rouet, for protection, and Arnaud the scribe. It took a day or so to reach Quintin. They headed for the inn where Joach set up a puppet show. Jean scrutinised all who came to watch, noting who carried a weapon, and got into conversation with a local merchant who had brought his young daughter to see the show. It was a good show, the best that had been seen there for a long time. The merchant sensed a business opportunity when he heard of the new settlement starting in the forest - he asked nosy questions which Jean replied to with caution. Soon the merchant realised that, surprising as it seemed, the military-looking man was under command of the puppeteer. When Joach took his hat round after the show (he cannot break the habit, nor does he really try since it pays for beer and board when travelling), the merchant took the chance to speak to him. While his daughter made friends with one of the puppets, the merchant introduced himself to Joach as Bertrand, a local trader who could provide supplies to the new settlement and introduce Joach to local craftspersons and suppliers, if we could pay for his goods and services. Joach called Arnaud over to report on the state of supplies at Caribet. Arnaud knew we were in need of supplies but had little to offer in trade. There was some talk of possibly selling some herbs but Bertrand said they already had local suppliers and we would have to establish a good reputation before we could hope to sell any medicinal preparations.

Joach mentioned that we required skilled builders. Bertrand recommended that we write letters to this effect and he would arrange for the word to be passed along the trading routes round about. On hearing that we were settling in the depths of the forest, Bertrand was very puzzled. He did wonder if we might have skins to trade from hunting there, though Joach did not encourage this view. Curious, Bertrand said he would pay a visit before long. This might be a problem because he would see how poorly off we were for anything to trade with him.

Meanwhile, Lady Marta was receiving a visit from a cleric, Brother Joseph of the Friars Minor, a barefooted mendicant who arrived on foot from the Hermitage. He sought audience with her Ladyship and said he had been sent from the Hermitage to enquire about a group of witches in the Forest of Lorge. Lady Marta denied the report, saying that there was indeed a new community of rather eccentric scholars there but that there was no reason at all to suppose links with diabolical powers. In her opinion, the newcomers were not sinister or dangerous. Brother Joseph enquired if the new settlement was properly provided with spiritual comfort, to which Lady Marta replied that people from there attended Mass locally. Brother Joseph asked her Ladyship's permission to visit the settlement, which she granted, then she offered him hospitality for the night which he accepted. She introduced him to her chaplain, then asked who it was had reported witches on her land. It had been the priest from Ploeuc, under the influence of Jean de Ploeuc. Lady Marta made a comment on the priest's obvious good health, which embarrassed Brother Joseph since it had been obvious to him that the man ate too much and lived too richly for a man of the cloth. Tactfully changing the subject, Lady Marta asked Brother Joseph about his travels and was delighted to learn he was quite recently come from Paris. Sadly for her, his estimable work amongst the poor had not brought him into contact with the grand people she knew in the city and the only topic of conversation between them was the building work on the new churches.

Brother Joseph rose early next morning and walked to Caribet. Saskia and Beate were off somewhere in the forest. I was exploring also, with Zane, Julio and Ignatio. On approaching the clearing, Brother Joseph was accosted from behind a barricade by Elli, pointing a crossbow. His accent was clearly from the north and hers very much of the south, but they understood each other and she invited him to enter the glade, calling Jacques over. Brother Joseph swiftly scanned the area for any sense of holiness or unholiness and found nothing to alarm him. Indeed, the sun shone so brightly, the colours were so vivid, the flowers so lovely, he felt the glade must be smiled on by God and that it was unreasonable to consider the place in any way evil. Jacques came to greet Brother Joseph, feeling that this visitor had some significance for the future. The Friar explained that he had come to assure himself that we had adequate spiritual comfort. Jacques decided this was not something to disturb the Magi about and explained that any who wished had been attending the church at Plaintel. He said there may be some who would be glad of the opportunity for confession, since the friar was visiting. Brother Joseph explained that he was not in Holy Orders and thus could not grant absolution but that he would like to preach that evening if anyone would like to hear him. Jacques made some comment about there being very little opportunity to sin out there in the forest, which Brother Joseph considered a blessing.

During the conversation, the two Rouet children had come over to stare at the visitor, who did not understand their Breton chatter. Saskia returned to the clearing and observed silently from a distance. Jimena, thankful that I was away, positioned herself quite close to Speculor's tent, where he was busy cataloguing his books, to try and prevent a meeting between Speculor and the visitor. Brother Joseph asked about the purpose and activities of the community. Jacques replied that we were are group of scholars, students of the natural world, and guided Brother Joseph towards some stools amongst the grogs' shelters. Then Jacques excused himself and reported the visitor to Iuris Perita, asking if Isabel, the scribe, would come and talk to him in Latin. Isabel is very shy and it took a great deal of persuading to get her out of the tent.

Left alone, Brother Joseph had started walking around the area. He approached Saskia and addressed her in French. It was the first time since she was tiny that she had met a man of God. They spoke briefly in Latin, exchanged a few superficial pleasantries, and he concluded quickly that she was a rather dim servant who happened to have a little Latin. Brother Joseph moved on. Jimena moved forward to intercept him as he approached Speculor's tent but Brother Joseph had realised that there was a part of the encampment that he was being kept away from and resisted her attempt to steer him away and towards the herb garden. Unfortunately, it was at this moment that Speculor decided he was hungry and marched out of his tent and directly towards the kitchen. Brother Joseph could not fail to notice him and feel the prickling sensation as he passed - just like a fairytale Wizard, he thought.

Jimena struggled on in her poor French to keep Brother Joseph's attention. He was polite but kept half an eye on Speculor as she chatted about the writings of the Ancient Greek astronomers, of which Brother Joseph knew too little to carry a conversation. There were raised voices from the kitchen as Speculor shouted his anger that the meal was not yet ready. Brother Joseph took the opportunity to head in that direction on the excuse of soothing the row. Seeing no hope to prevent him, Jimena let him go and dashed off to ask Iuris Perita to salvage the situation. When Brother Joseph reached the kitchen, Speculor was threatening the cook, in French, to turn her into a toad. Brother Joseph spoke soothing words but Speculor, seeing his habit, made some comment about not himself being on a fast. Iuris Perita arrived then, with Pernelle; the former went to talk to Speculor, leading him away from the friar, while the latter managed to distract Brother Joseph for a few minutes. Brother Joseph thought it very odd that the woman who just came over seemed to have some authority to calm the Wizard.

I arrived back at this time and, with Zane, Julio and Ignatio, headed directly to the kitchen for refreshment. Jimena intercepted us and outlined the situation. I decided to stay in my tent until the cleric had gone, but Ignatio was pleased that a friar had come and went over to look. Saskia retreated into the forest, found Beate and they both came back, chattering in German, neither being quite clear what was going on since Saskia had only Iuris Perita's short Latin summary to go on, having gathered nothing useful from her own talk with Brother Joseph.

Brother Joseph asked Pernelle about the noisy gentleman. Pernelle was very uncomfortable about being asked and wanted to hand Brother Joseph over to Iuris Perita as soon as possible. Jacques was talking to Iuris Perita, suggesting being more open with Brother Joseph about who we were. Iuris Perita would not hear of it. Brother Joseph walked over to Iuris Perita, insistent on speaking to her. He said he understood we were scholars of natural philosophy and metaphysics, which she did not deny. He went on that his Order was based in Tuscany and that his role was to bring the word of God, especially to the poor. He noticed that Iuris Perita too went barefoot and thought it might be a penance though she would only say she had personal reasons for it, which she hoped would be interpreted as being as he suspected. Iuris Perita insisted that Lady Marta had provided for our spiritual comfort and said that she herself had attended Mass at Plaintel. Brother Joseph had by now noticed the seashell Ignatio wore on his hat, souvenir of his pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Iago de Compostella, and was heartened by the sight. Ignatio himself, having no language to speak to the visitor, was standing around very respectfully at a distance.

It was clear the Friar intended to stay and preach that evening, though how many of the grogs would understand his French and wish to attend was in question. The Magi met hurriedly to discuss what could be done. Iuris Perita was insistent we say nothing about our true business though I was less set on secrecy. We invited Brother Joseph to share our evening meal with us. I sat beside him, intending to talk a little about ourselves and try to tease out any suspicions he might harbour. I affirmed the notion that we studies the natural world, telling him that I specialised in the Elements as defined in Greek writing, of which he had a little knowledge. I explained that this was why we chose an isolated place to live, which seemed to satisfy him. He noticed my sigil, which I claimed was a badge representing my area of study. I saw him look at those of the other Magi, but his reaction suggested that he was not at all familiar with our Order, which was a relief. After the meal, he was shown a place to sleep. He slept and left early the next morning. I hope we get no more such visitors.

Brother Joseph travelled directly to the Hermitage and reported to the Superior, Father Quietus, who sent off to try to obtain further information from his contacts concerning the sigils and orders of wizards. Brother Joseph was requested to call in on the community again from time to time. Then he went to visit the priest in Ploeuc who much regretted having drawn such attention to himself by passing on the story for his master.

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