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Covenant of La Roche Caribet

Winter 1222: A Dungeon and a Dragon

25 December 1222: Dedication in the vineyard

I took a little time away from my studies today since, as the priest had been busy reminding everyone, it was the feast of Christ's nativity. I did not attend Mass. The Dominion aura around the small church in the settlement is very minor and I usually do not notice it, but at Mass on a major feast day that happens to fall on a Sunday, I feared that it might be strong enough to be uncomfortable.

What I did do was to attend the little ceremony that was held after Mass for the installation and dedication of the enchanted device that Constantine has made to keep the frost out of our vineyard. Since it has pleased our sodalis to build his Ignem effect into a representation of a saint, it was inevitable that he had to have his priest along to bless the statue once it was in place. It was probably just as well that he did not arrive until it had been set into the vineyard wall by Rego Terram. I have great hopes that the wine we make will keep us well supplied and provide some for trade too.

Responsibilities

I have been busy reading again, but have also been thinking about my new responsibilities as Princeps. One important concern that has been worrying me is the matter of our vis debt. We paid back all the vis for the tower in March of last year, but there is still that stone fragment of menhir which we need to redeem from Oburgator yet the price of it is 36 pawns! I think it will be a long time before we have that much vis to spare.

I must remember to check whether a group of grogs have gone out with the vis detector to hunt for bits of bodies in the bogs. They really ought to have set out by now. It may be that Jacques has sent them on their way. It is a routine matter and they should not need telling. Then there are a couple of things I need to discuss with Iuris Perita, being the matter of a suitable wife for Achilles and the arrangement she came to with him regarding a division of the output of our silver mine to satisfy the Duke.

I am still very mindful of the library. It may no longer be my specific responsibility, but it is so important to us. There are those German spells and I am still awaiting a response from Petrusca. I am beginning to think that they are not at all interested and am tempted to approach Durenmar directly. They would probably want payment in some form, which brings me to another idea. I need to start convincing my sodales that a very useful form of Covenant service, as an alternative to the hunting and distillation of vis, is the copying of books to trade. We have several fine summae here, copies of which we may be able to exchange for books we badly need. Most especially, I feel we need introductory Libri Quaestionum on Herbam and Animal and higher level books on Perdo, Aquam, Ignem and Terram. No doubt my sodales have other requirements. It would be sensible to look at what we might provide for each other. I myself might write a simple introduction to Rego, if such were needed. No doubt there are those amongst my sodales who could write on other topics - Speculor on Imaginem, Iuris Perita on Mentem and so on. I believe there is no-one here who is already sufficiently skilled with Animal, Aquam, Herbam and Terram to write the books that we need. It is possible that Constantine could produce something on Perdo and Ignem, which, if his Vim Liber Quaestionum is anything to go by, should be good. I shall prepare a proposal for the next council meeting

30 December 1222

I hear that Constantine met a dragon but I find it very hard to believe since he has come back alive. Something unusual has probably happened to bring him back from his vis hunt when he only set out just over a week ago. I just hope it is that he has found a good amount of vis and has brought it back for safety. He'll be taking it to Speculor, I suppose.

31 December 1222

The stories about Constantine's adventure are growing by the hour:
He met a huge serpent a mile long!
He fought a dragon the size of a house!
He defeated an army of ghosts!
He confronted a member of the Order of Odin!

They cannot surely all be true!

The grogs who accompanied Constantine all arrived home with injuries which Jimena tells me were arrow wounds. Yet everywhere people are lauding Redwald as a hero who fought with and escaped the clutches of a huge dragon. He isn't the only hero, if reports are to be believed. When Jean Rouet set out all his wife, Therese, could talk about was how unkind it was to make him venture so far from home, with her and the children to be looked after and the magi to be kept safe. That gossiping washerwoman is now busy telling everyone, over and over again, how brave her husband was, protecting the magus from arrows, a dragon, ghosts, skeletons and every other horror she can think up.

There seem to be several quite different stories going around. I shall do my best to report them all, but make no claims for veracity. All start the same way, with Constantine, guided and guarded this time by Zane, Redwald, Ellie l'Arbellatrieuse and Jean Rouet, heading off into the forest in the direction of Lanrodec Castle.

First story: fae or children?

When still some distance from the ruined castle, the group became aware that they were under observation from someone or something in the bushes ahead. It seems most likely that this was the same odd, belligerent child-like creatures who injured Constantine so badly on his former visit to the area. Jean speaks of them as 'wicked boys' but they sound more fae. They unleased showers of arrows on our people. Jean is very upset that, in his first expedition as shield grog for Saxum Caribetum, he let an arrow past him which struck a magus. He says that Constantine worked some rapid magic to repel the next flurry of arrows then Redwald charged the boys who scattered as Constantine set fire to the bush they were hiding in. Two were stopped by Ellie and Redwald, one was injured by an arrow from Zane and the last got away. Redwald would have run after the fleeing boy had Constantine not called him back, it seems.

The injured boy was taken prisoner, his hands were bound and he was interrogated. I gather that he only spoke Breton so Jean had to deal with this. They say that the boy claimed that our people were trespassing in woods that belonged to him and his friends;
our people had to apologise for being in the woods and hurting him;
there were hundreds or thousands of his friends who would be coming to rescue him;
his friends were nearly all bigger than any of our men;
his friends had a huge dragon that would do what he said and attack us;
he knew they must have come for the treasure in the castle but the immense dragon was guarding it.

There was some shouting and wheedling then eventually Constantine ordered Jean to be silent and had the prisoner gagged.

Second story: A Dragon or a Bear?

Constantine led his band plus the prisoner along the river valley to the side of a small lake. A cliff rose up on the western side where they could see the ruins of the castle. Part of the wall had collapsed into the lake. The resulting rubble slope was covered in scrubby bushes. On the right of the scree, the overgrown gatehouse stood at least two storeys high and the remains of the keep, to the left, rose to at least three storeys.

As if they believed the story of the resident dragon, they opted to approach the gatehouse by going around the back of the castle, following the wall as best they could through the vegetation. The big wooden doors of the gatehouse were badly gouged, as if by enormous claws. Constantine created a light inside the gatehouse. Someone heard something large moving about inside so they all took cover to observe from a discrete distance. After a short wait, a large, ferocious-looking bear came out, snarling, and lumbered towards their hiding place. Constantine cast a spell and the beast paused, looked about, and headed off into the forest.

The gatehouse had been used as a den by the bear for quite some time, to judge by the mess and the stench.

Third story: A Great and Noxious Wyrm

Constantine cast a spell to open the great wooden doors that lay between the gatehouse and the outer courtyard of the castle. The vegetation in the courtyard was sickly and the air stank. The ground in the far corner, below the wall of the keep, where there might be a well, looked the worst. Constantine cast a spell touching one of the yellowed plants then told Jean that he might speak to the prisoner to tell him that his report of a dragon living here was believed!

There was a stone stable building against the far wall. Redwald left the prisoner with Jean and went to investigate. Jean planned how the group might make a defensive stand in either the stable or the gatehouse if they had to. Constantine ordered the group to go up the stone steps to the upper level of the gatehouse and thence to the outer walls. They went all around the walls, crossing the corner towers where the wooden floors had rotten away by means of magically-created wooden bridges. The vegetation in the inner courtyard looked normal, if trees growing inside a castle can be so described.

Constantine's magic opened the wooden door from the top of the wall into the keep and lighted the narrow passage that lay beyond. By following this narrow passage inside the walls they reached the Great Hall and found steps going to the private chamber above. Leaving the captive boy with Jean, Redwald set off to edge his way around the rotting floor of the hall and try the doors that opened off it. He got to the far side but there he fell through into a dark, foul-smelling place. He landed unhurt on a stone floor. He called out to his comrades above then froze against the wall at the sound of something heavy being dragged across the floor close by. Suddenly a light from above illuminated the heaving coils of an immense wyrm which was bearing down upon him. Bravely Redwald drew his sword and faced the monster.

Up above, Constantine and Ellie were endeavouring to hurt the wyrm and draw its attention away from Redwald. Constantine had made a hole in the Hall floor close to where he stood, on the opposite side to where Redwald fell through. First he cast a light then followed this with many Arrows of Fire backed up with crossbow bolts from Ellie. The creature's foul breath might have overcome a weaker man but Redwald endured the nausea and, keeping his sword and shield in front of him and his face turned towards the wyrm, started to edge his way towards the fresh air where the side of the keep had tumbled down. The huge serpent was trying to trap Redwald in its coils but was thwarted in its first attempt by the stout stone columns supporting the hall floor above. Undistracted by the combined assault on its tail, the dragon tried again to catch and crush Redwald but he dodged the coils. Moments later he reached the breach and made his escape by climbing up the broken wall to enter the passage inside the wall.

By the time Redwald had made his way around to the other side of the keep by means of the passage inside the walls, Constantine had collapsed the Hall floor into the kitchen below and driven the wyrm out of its lair. Then he used a spell to identify which of the shed scales down there would be the most useful to collect as an arcane connection to the beast and sent Zane down to collect it (they brought this back with them and in truth it is as large as a trencher). With the wyrm no immediate threat, they completed their exploration of the keep. Behind a locked door was a narrow stair that went to a level deeper than the kitchen, cut inside the cliff itself. Magic light showed more doors and passages. Magic forced open any door that resisted and five dungeon cells with barred windows were found. In the largest one, Constantine found a hidden space behind a cunningly-fitted stone in the wall where lay some gold coins, corroded silver, a gold crucifix and some small jewels. Further exploration of the lower level took them to a crypt where graves were watched over by carvings of Breton saints.

By the time they returned to the upper levels, the great wyrm had returned to the kitchen. Constantine used magic to make a glass seal around the nearest door between the core of the keep and the passage in the wall to keep out the foul breath of the dragon. Then he broke through the outer wall so they could all leave without the beast seeing them.

Fourth story: Ghostly battles

To keep out of sight of the wyrm, they walked around the castle counter to the direction of the sun and reached the gatehouse again. By now it was close to noon and the winter sun was bright but as they approached the outer courtyard, the sky darkened, rain fell and a stiff wind sprang up. When Constantine asked him to look, Zane said he could see one of those shifting magic boundaries in the gatehouse. The prisoner was gibbering. Ghostly forms were fighting a fierce battle in the courtyard. Constantine wanted to go forward and cast a spell. Redwald and Jean shielded him from the ghastly warriors as the magic drew them to cluster around the magus. Once Constantine had drawn a warding ring about the group, the ghosts could not reach them but they crowded close. Another spell allowed some communication: "We are the lost, the forgotten, bound here in battle ..."

Constantine and Zane looked around for any signs of the regio boundaries. The one in the gatehouse seemed to lead out and up while another on the scree slope went out. Constantine decided to walk into the ghostly throng. He kept up a spell to hold back the spirits while, keeping close together, he, the grogs and the terrified prisoner made their way around the outer courtyard. Lightning flashed in the night sky and the rain fell. The breach in the wall looked freshly made, the rubble recently fallen. Not far from the foot of the rubble slope stood several ghostly white figures, all in chain mail but one. The last looked to be bearded yet clad in a woman's dress.

Constantine steered his group out onto the scree, keeping close to the castle wall, and back to the gatehouse. Once in the gatehouse again, the sounds of battle could be heard from the inner courtyard. Peering through, the struggle before them was now between skeletal warriors. Those with swords were fighting those with axes. Some of the swordsmen had kite shields. Some of the axemen wore wolfskins. Constantine did not choose to enter the courtyard this time. Instead he gave orders to stick close together and go carefully down the rubble scree. This brought him close enough to the skeletal figure in the dress to be sure he or she was a wielder of magic. The figure was gesticulating boldly with a small golden hammer to call down the lightning. By good fortune, none of the skeletons at the foot of the slope appeared to take any notice of the mortals.

About half way down towards the foot of the slope they found themselves no longer in the regio but back in the forest in the cool afternoon sun. There was no sign of the wyrm. The dense vegetation gave good cover for them to continue their descent. Constantine stopped near the base of the slope and cast a spell. Zane said he could see an invisible bearded figure in a dress watching Constantine from somewhere nearby but the route between them and him was twisted.

Gains

Constantine came back directly to have Jimena tend the injured. They did not bring the prisoner; they had been unable to extract a promise from him not to harm them again, nor could they get any useful information from him. It seems that Constantine thought the experiences in the castle had given the boy or fae or whatever it was such a scare that it had probably learnt a lesson.

The silver Constantine brought back can be processed along with our own mined ore to salvage any of use. The gold we shall keep for now. What we have mostly gained is, I think, information. We will have to return to the castle once we have devised a means of dealing with the wyrm. Constantine reports that the magic aura gradually increases in intensity as one advances through the levels of the regio. This certainly needs investigation.

Plans for the library and my longevity potion

I have been thinking more about the books in our library and how we might start to make copies of them to trade for others that we need. In particular, I would find it very useful to have introductory books on the Arts of Herbam and Animal. Not that I would necessarily get around to reading them for a long time, since I find both very difficult. A low level book to help me with Perdo would also be welcome. Perhaps I should give Speculor a hint about getting copies made.

I have also been thinking about offering a copy of our excellent book on Magic Theory to my parens when I go to beg a Longevity potion. The Charter requires a unanimous vote of Senior Members to agree the sale of library books or copies thereof when only one copy is held within the Covenant. It is quite clear that

Copies made by or for a Member or other of the Covenant folk, of books and scrolls held in the library may be kept as personal property by the person they were made for. However, should their copy become the only one in the Covenant, it must be made available for a copy to be made as soon as possible. Books or scrolls that are the only copy within the Covenant, even if personal property, may not be sold except by unanimous agreement of the Council.
So I can see no reason why anyone should object to a member making a copy for themselves in their own time and with their own resources of any book, whether it to be retained by the copyist or given away. If we continue with two seasons free per year I can make a copy and distill sufficient vis in time, I feel sure.

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