Winter Solstice 1222: A Bountiful Feast turns Unruly
We have realised that, with Joach away, we have no-one who can cast 'The Bountiful Feast' using Herbam vis for us this mid-Winter. Constantine says he could do it if we had sufficient Creo vis, but we have none. We could hunt for it, but the outcome is too uncertain. We could attempt to trade, but that could prove expensive. Speculor wrote to Petrusca to ask for help. They replied quickly but only to say they were too busy to come. They offered to provide us sufficient Creo vis at a cost of two pawns of Herbam for every one of Creo, which was out of the question. I doubt Speculor even wrote to thank them for the offer. Aversus also brought us a letter from Mummolides. Glomerulus might have come to cast the spell for us but was locked away in his sanctum, reportedly writing up notes about his last visit to us. Aversus himself suggested that we approach Wirbelnia, perhaps offering them the enchanted iron ploughshare and asking them to send someone to conduct the ritual for us as part of the payment for it. I did not like this idea, fearing that any apparent friendship with Wirbelnia might turn Odela against us.
While we were thinking over his suggestion, Aversus entertained us with stories of the magi at Wirbelnia. He thought that their best Herbam expert was Alan Kerbol Ex Miscellanea, a herbalist specialising in potions, but he was too frail to travel. Apparently, Gareth o Fflint Ex Miscellanea was originally a member of House Tremere! There must be an interesting story behind that which we may learn one day. He told us that Ideae Mixae, parens of Anna Le Bail Ex Miscellanea, had come into the order at the invitation of a Flambeau who's life she had saved though the suggestion that the invitation was a reward sounds very unlikely to me and I expect this is just a cover for "Join or die!".
Council decided to take up Aversus' suggestion and Iuris Perita wrote to Gareth o Fflint accordingly.
Some scruffy new vagabonds have arrived to start extracting the silver for us. There is Petroc, an elderly Cornish miner, and his two indentured servants, Luduan and Senen. Julius reports that our quarryman, Gilles, has been using the stone cutting knife under Petroc's guidance to get them off to a good start. He also tells me that Sir Achilles has been paying close attention. I hope he is not feeling greedy. Speculor went to see what they were doing and brought back a piece of the granite they had cut so he could use it as an arcane connection to watch from his room. He says the work is going well and the miners have reached a good vein of silver. Our worries about mundane finance will soon be over.
Aversus has brought us a favourable response from Wirbelnia. Gareth o Fflint is interested in the ploughshare and wishes he had thought of the idea himself. He proposed a fee of three pawns of vis and offered us a choice of Animal, Aquam, Auram, Herbam, Imaginem and Terram. Of course, we all wanted something different but the sensible option was to take the Herbam as our own supply is only five pawns per year and we need seven just for the annual ritual. Since, like most covenants, Wirbelnia renew their Aegis of the Hearth at mid-Winter, only those who could travel fast by magic would be able to reach us in time for our ritual on the following day so we had a choice of Gwénolé le Guen Merinitae or Mari Amwithig Merinitae.
I was frightened by the damage Mari Amwithig does just by walking about and did not want her coming here. Others pointed out the possible consequences of an important Creo ritual cast by a strong Perdo specialist. So the vote was to invite Gwénolé. Only Constantine was against this. He looked very worried and rushed away to lock himself in his laboratory again. I expect he is afraid she will take up too much of his time again. Aversus went off with our invitation to Gwénolé so that should all be satisfactory.
I had approached Iuris Perita prior to the solstice, as usual, to suggest our normal comfortable arrangement whereby I propose her for Princeps and she proposes myself for Libraria. I was very surprised when she told me that she would not be standing this year as she had to be away for a couple of seasons. She did not say why but, with Joach's absence on my mind, I suspect she too is thinking about a longevity potion. Who could replace her as Princeps but myself? Joach is away, Constantine too new, and Speculor, while a member of House Bonisagus with great intelligence and a strong gift, is hardly suited to political activity. I thought this would all have been obvious to Iuris Perita and expected her to propose me for the post right away but all she did was to assure me that I could turn to her for advice if I was to become Princeps. This was quite vexing.
I took this opportunity of raising with her some of my concerns about Achilles behaviour. She did agree with me that he may be too ambitious for our comfort but urged vigilance rather than corrective action. I suggested that a suitable wife might encourage him to turn his attention in safer directions and that someone might hint to the Duke that a suitable wife was required. To my disappointment, my words did not demonstrate my fitness for leadership of the covenant strongly enough for her to propose me for Princeps. Nor did she give any support to my idea for acquiring a lady of the manor.
If I was to become Princeps, I do worry about who would look after the library and vis store. Speculor is not careful enough with the books and scrolls. I do think I could carry out both roles quite well enough, if only I can win them.
At the council meeting, I proposed Constantine as Defensor since we need one and fighting is generally what Flambeau are good for. Speculor seconded this provided Constantine agreed to practice his Ignem. Constantine accepted the nomination. Then, to my surprise and satisfaction, Constantine proposed that I serve as Princeps. Speculor seconded this, so it looked as if I could win the vote easily, but I was aware of Speculor's habit of seconding everything. It was almost inevitable that someone should then propose Speculor as Librarius, and it was Iuris Perita who did it. Constantine seconded this.
Joach had left word with Iuris Perita that he was happy with the status quo but the new nominations meant that his votes could not be used. My own election as Princeps was unopposed. I tried to accept humbly, but I was very relieved. Iuris Perita abstained when Speculor and I voted for Constantine as Defensor, I cannot imagine why unless she just wanted to be annoying. I abstained as the other pair voted in Speculor as Librarius since I could not get out of my head the mess he left when seeking a spell during that trouble in Ploeuc at Easter. I just hope my fears are groundless.
The rest of the meeting was very swift as Constantine was anxious to leave. He presented his enchanted device to protect the vineyard from frost. It takes the form of a relief carving which he told us was of St.Vincent of Zaragoza. I know of the saint, of course, but could not say if it was a good likeness or not. If one had to select a saint for the job, this was a good choice, but I would have preferred a carving of a shining sun. I suggested we incorporate the installation of the device in the vineyard wall with the ritual and celebrations planned for the following day. Constantine declined.
For the coming season, Constantine offered to go vis hunting, and he was very eager to set off right away. Commendable enthusiasm, I thought. Iuris Perita had her own plans for the season and requisitioned supplies of parchment, ink and quills. The scribes will work the harder if she is in the scriptorium with them all day! Speculor was asked to distill vis as his service this season. I was keen to get back to the book 'The Manipulation of Aurae, Regiones and Vis' and intend to spend the Winter safe and warm indoors with it.
Even Speculor had to admit that our regio was lacking in especial interest at this season and he only stayed in there a few hours this time.
I did not see anything of it, but I understand that Constantine left around dawn taking the vis detector, Redwald and Caspar. I am surprised he didn't wait for today's casting of 'The Bountiful Feast' but commend his enthusiasm for his task. He had mentioned a desire to find Creo vis and that he might try again around the ruined castle where he was so badly hurt not long ago. Perhaps he should have taken some Corpus vis with him, just in case, or more soldiers. I shall be happy if he brings back vis of any sort, though Creo, Auram and Ignem would be most welcome.
I had made myself comfortable with the magic theory summa early in the day, but had to set it aside to welcome our visitor mid-morning. I was very much aware that this was the first event under my Princeps-ship and wanted to get everything right. I admit I was rather nervous about it. Maga Gwénolé had arrived in the guise of a very pretty fairy wearing a light gauzy dress and dragonfly wings. As I descended the steps from the tower to greet her, I saw her toss what looked like a brownish ball lightly into the air. When it landed close by her, it turned into a female child of apparently eight years or so. I bade both welcome, handing the maga a token to welcome her inside our aegis. The girl was introduced as Sheana discipula Gwénolé le Guen. One can never tell with fairies, and some Merinita resemble them so much that I doubted she was the age she looked and peered at this girl seeking any resemblance to Constantine. I was a little disappointed to find none.
Speculor joined us almost immediately and offered to introduce Gwénolé to our field fairies who were until recently forest fairies. She fluttered off with him, still looking like a fairy, with the apprentice trotting along behind. I was glad that I could return to my book, and delayed in the common room only long enough to make sure Jehan was preparing a bed for the unexpected extra guest.
It may not be true as I heard it from one who heard of it from one who was close by, but I rather think that magus Speculor had a little difficulty in keeping up with young Sheana. I feel sure that, if the teasing was deliberate, Gwénolé put her up to it. I gather that no sooner had they reached the field than Gwénolé vanished, leaving Speculor as an unlikely child-minder. The report is that each conjured up the image of a sizable tree then Sheana did something and there was a cloud of butterflies. Then there was another person standing with them, a man out of nowhere, which I assume was Speculor's 'Phantasm of the Human Form' as I know he is familiar with that spell. Perhaps he wanted to leave the child in the care of the phantom. I gather it spoke to her. Then, I hear, Speculor seemed to be looking for something and was occupied for so long that Sheana got bored with him and the phantasm and wandered off. After a while it seems her called her back and a moment later she had gone and there were two of him - I wonder which of them cast that spell?
I am very glad I did not have the duty of looking after the apprentice. I made a little progress with a difficult paragraph in my book, which I believe may have been copied incorrectly, then went to collect the iron ploughshare, since I felt it might be good manners to show our visitor what she was to take home with her. I also collected the Herbam vis and the scroll containing the casting copy of the spell, in case Gwénolé needed it. It was only as I was walking towards the fields that I realised that, strictly speaking, I ought to have asked Speculor to bring those as he is now Librarius. Fortunately, he did not appear to notice my error.
Quite a crowd had gathered at the edge of the East field by the time I got there. I showed Gwénolé the iron ploughshare and she wrinkled her nose as if it smelt bad. I hope this does not mean she might go back on the deal we made. She was happy enough to commence the ritual, still in her fairy form. Iuris Perita, two Speculors (one being Sheana) and myself accompanied Gwénolé, closely followed by Sir Achilles, his steward, our bailiff and quite a crowd of agricultural labourers. At once point, I even thought I saw the priest at the back of the procession. Everything went well with the ritual, though Gwénolé found it very tiring; perhaps the spell was really a bit beyond her. It is quite a long walk, or flutter, around all our cultivated land so the light was fading by the time we had done.
When the magi got back to the tower, I encouraged Speculor to put the scroll away safe but I do not think he heard me as he was engrossed in creating a show of coloured lights in the sky. I popped it back myself and went to have Guena help me dress for the banquet Sir Achilles was providing for the whole community.
I was still rather nervous but so far the day had gone well and from now on the entertainments were not my responsibility. The feast was held in Sir Achilles hall so everyone who wished could attend. It seemed that just about everyone in Caribet had so wished. The food and wine were reasonably good at the high table, though I took care to drink very little as I still felt a large degree of responsibility for the success of the day. Around the third course, I and several others noticed the noise level towards the farther end of the hall was growing, centred around where Zane was seated. A moment later I saw what all the fuss was about - the place was crawling with field fairies! The priest stood up suddenly, walked towards the end of the hall taking great care where he placed his feet, then left the hall, propelling Constantine's young grog, William, ahead of him.
The hall was getting noisier and people were beginning to move about. There were field fairies on the plates and in the cups. They said that Gwénolé had invited them! I noticed Achilles scowl as he fished a small figure out of his wine, but it bowed and spoke prettily to him, which seemed to lighten his mood. Speculor's grog Huon was juggling and walking about the hall as he did so. I thought there was going to be an incident when Achilles suddenly turned and raised his voice to Huon. Many of the revelers looked towards the high table when they heard Sir Achilles. Huon was smiling and juggling a knife, a fairy and what looked like a fairly heavy pouch of coins. Achilles tried to snatch the pouch, presumably his own, out of the air but missed it and fell awkwardly against the table. Huon held out a goblet of wine to Achilles who accepted it, raised it high and loudly proclaimed the day of Misrule. This was greeted by cheering and banging on the tables.
I was still drinking very little. Looking about at the behaviour of the fairies and the villagers, I began to wonder if there might not be fairy dust in the wine and had two bottles set aside for examination later. If there was, I could not blame Gwénolé since any or all of the field fae might have done it. When I resumed my seat, Galliene was leaning over Achilles and whispering something to him. She and he were both smiling. Soon she left the hall and he followed a few minutes later. I did not think anything much of this at first but observing those around me, I think I know what they were up to.
My suspicions about the wine were almost confirmed by now. Everywhere I looked there were grogs, servants and farm-hands pairing off, some with their usual partners and some with the most unexpected partners. I could hardly stop myself laughing out loud to see Alain attempting to put his arm around Iuris Perita. He was quite persistent but she did not appear to enter into the spirit of Misrule and put him firmly in his place. I watched as he wandered off to try his luck with Ellie. She was no more interested than Iuris Perita, and far more forceful and physical with her rejection and a fight broke out. Ellie broke Alain's nose for him and might have done worse had Yussef not pulled her off him and steered her out of the hall. I was grateful to Yussef. It would have been difficult with Achilles not around to keep the peace in his own hall. I would have felt I had to try to get one of the guards to assist, though none looked much interested in taking orders from anyone. I looked around for Iuris Perita but there was no sign of her. I expect she left the feast while my attention was on the fracas so I have no idea who she left with.
I relaxed, sipping a little wine and enjoying the entertainment. I saw Sergo quaffing cup after cup, cuddled up close to Nolwen the cook. I heard young William singing to Guen, one of the pretty, fairy-blooded young women, and a few minutes later I saw them leave together. It crossed my mind briefly that I remembered the priest taking the lad away but I decided it was no business of mine as long as there was no trouble. Just about everyone left in the hall was obviously enjoying themselves, or each other. I saw my shield grog, Ignatius with my maid, Guena and worried about it for a moment but could not quite work out why it might be a bad idea. My attention soon turned to Jimena who was clearly getting on very well with the rather attractive carpenter, Pierre. Soon after I saw them leave the hall with their arms around each other. I realised that no-one was paying the least attention to whether I was sober and dignified or not so I drained my cup to sample the magical effects, in a spirit of scholarly investigation, and refilled it. It was certainly a most excellent wine.
I had forgotten about Speculor. He was still seated at the table with me, and moved closer to discuss the wine and its effects. He had some interesting theories about how it might be working on us and we decided to take a bottle with us into the regio to sample it there. A couple of cups of wine and a little Creo Ignem and Muto Terram were all it took to make the area around the menhir warm and comfortable. We made as thorough a study of the effects of the wine on each other as we could before falling asleep together inside the regio.
I woke just before dawn and took a moment to work out why I was lying on the ground with the menhir on one side, Speculor on the other and my gown spread over my otherwise unclothed body. I was considerably embarrassed. I tried to pull my dress on without waking Speculor but fear I scarcely managed it. I made some excuse about rescuing the bottles I set aside and left the regio before he could start any conversation. I do hope he will not mention this incident when we next meet.
I was much relieved to find the two bottles where I had hidden them in the manor house. There was no difficulty in getting to them as the door was open and there was no sign of life. I went straight to my room put the bottles in a chest and went to bed. Julius was snoring by the door but my other servants were missing.
I awoke, hungry, at some hour during the afternoon. Guena had reappeared and I sent her to bring me some food while I washed. I intended to continue my reading, in the hope that it might still my mind. I am not at all sure whether the feast was a great success or a significant disaster. There is no doubt that a lot of people had fun last night, but today they may feel differently about it and there may be trouble.
I would have ignored this incident, but as Princeps, it is my duty to be aware of everything that goes on which might affect the smooth running of this covenant. Achilles came to complain to Speculor about the behaviour of his grog, Huon. Achilles claimed that Huon has attempted to steal his pouch during the feast. Speculor did not seem surprised to hear this. I do not know what was said, but Huon was lectured by Iuris Perita, which must have been a very un-nerving experience as he looked scared half to death when I saw him leave.
I was delighted to find that each of the two bottles of wine I saved contained vis. I believe we shall have a little Muto vis once the wine has been distilled to concentrate the vis. I went to Jimena's cottage to ask her to do it for me, since I was too busy with my book. I found her unusually flustered for no apparent reason. She said something about having had several people call on her for treatments, including Albert with a broken arm, but that she would begin the distillation at once. Neither of us broached the subject of the feast.
From Jimena's cottage, I hastened to the tower to spread the good news of the Muto vis to my sodales. We were in no doubt now that the feast had been a splendid success. I was proud that the first big event of my period of office had turned out so well and of my foresight in putting the wine aside. We hope very much that we will be able to repeat the event next year and so obtain more vis. We have between now and then to work out how many bottles we can set aside for distillation without damaging the fairy effect so much that the magic fails and we get nothing. I wish one of us knew more about fairy magic. I believe Saskia knew a little but she left no books on it. We must try to obtain some.
I could perhaps have questioned Gwénolé on the wine, but was not keen to display my ignorance. While I was still considering how to approach the matter, she left us, carrying the iron ploughshare dangling in a bag made of string so she did not have to touch the metal. I returned to my book, hoping that everyone will settle down to hard work.
Iuris Perita had a word with me today on a potentially serious matter. I am glad she told me but I feel sure it is something much better handled by the Quaesitor and doubtless she will resolve it all quickly, if there really is any problem. She thinks that the priest was angered by something at the feast and is afraid he will take it up with the church authorities and so we will be accused of interfering with the clergy. I think she is making far too much of an unconfirmed suspicion. I did see Edwin leave the feast early, but he did not look angry to me, more sheepish. She intends to talk to Constantine about it. Perhaps Iuris Perita just wants something to worry about and to make herself feel useful now that she is no longer Princeps.
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