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Covenant of La Roche Caribet

Winter 1222: Necromancy

27th January 1222. Domestic difficulties and a message

It is very rare that I have cause to complain about my servants. Indeed, they usually go about their duties well enough that I hardly notice them. Something has upset the usual calm, and I detect a degree of tension when Ignatius and Guena are close by. I hope they have not had a disagreement.

My studies were interrupted quite early in the morning. A messenger had arrived from Quintin with a note for Iuris Perita from the merchant Bertrand, he who calls regularly with the things we cannot provide for ourselves or obtain more locally. One would have thought that Jehan should have let him know that I was now Princeps, but apparently not. Iuris Perita sent word to me at once, and we are awaiting the arrival of the "female Wizard from Britain" with her "invisible cat".

It was good of Bertrand to send us warning. I cannot imagine how he knows that she has an invisible cat, if she does indeed have such a thing. It is my guess that this is something to do with Constantine - why else would a maga come here from Britain? It cannot be certain that she is a member of our Order, of course, as Bertrand should not be expected to understand the necessary signs. It is an irritating distraction from my reading, but will no doubt be swiftly dealt with. I have sent orders to Jacques to watch out for her from the gates and to Jehan to make the necessary preparations to welcome a guest - probably unnecessary but one has to be sure.

Elise filia Hardis ex Miscellanea

So, it is nothing to do with Constantine, and it is the same maga who made use of our grogs when they should have been searching for Corpus vis in the bogs this time last year. She destroyed the undead thing that hurt our grog Yves so badly and had killed the husband of Nolwen, the woman who now cooks for us.

I spoke with Elise briefly. Elise has heard stories of ghosts and barrows around here and wishes to visit them. I have admitted that we do know of some barrows in this vicinity and told her that maga Saskia had detected a bad fairy aura there. She is once again trying to make use of our grogs, since she belongs to no covenant and has no followers of her own. I do not believe that standard Hermetic hospitality goes that far, and think it impudent of her to ask. I sent to ask Iuris Perita to join us, in case things became difficult. It may be that the Quaesitor is as concerned as I about this necromancer since she came at once, with Zane in tow, and announced herself in some style.

I have established that Elise has little contact with the Redcaps, since she is usually wandering, but that it was a Redcap who told her about Bertrand as a useful intermediary. I do hope that merchant is trustworthy! Elise told us that Bertrand has a wife, which would be a matter of no interest at all if she wasn't a ghost. I thought at first that Zane was staring at the visitor, but it seems he was staring at the silvery grey cat that he could see curled up on her lap. This must be the invisible cat that Bertrand spoke of. I wonder if she casts a spell on it periodically or if it was born that way? I may ask her one day.

Anyway, we have to decide whether we will do any more than put this maga on the way towards the barrows which are in the forest to the north east of Plaintel. She wishes to be there on the night of the new moon, which is about five days from now so we have a little time to decide in. I have given her leave to stay here until then, and suggested she talk to Elli, Zane and Milon, who had been involved in the fight with the bandits at the barrows two years ago. I did not encourage her to question myself or Speculor, though we had both been there, nor to talk to Ignatius as I had work for him to do. I certainly do not want her trying to persuade my shield grogs to go with her just because she cannot run to any of her own!

1st February: New Moon

Who will go?

We have agreed to send a couple of grogs to conduct maga Elise to the clearing where the barrows lie - Garth because he is a big strong fighter, and Alain because he knows that area better than most, having lived at Plaintel before coming here. Iuris Perita feels she had better go along too, to make sure no trouble is caused. I can see the reasons for her concern. The route will take them through Lady Marta's lands. Her people were involved two years ago as they thought they were seeing off some ordinary bandits who turned out to be some of her own peasants under magical control. We do not want Lady Marta to know anything about this expedition or this maga. Iuris Perita will take Duncan and Zane. I have decided to accompany the group to satisfy my own curiosity about the barrows. Julius will come with me.

The barrows

It took us several hours to reach the clearing. We took the main path from Caribet but avoided the village of Plaintel and went via the hamlet of St. Guihen. Apparently there is a shrine to a local saint there but fortunately no-one wanted to linger. We were stared at by a few peasants, some of whom called out to Alain, not all in a friendly fashion either.

The forest seemed rather dark after the open paths and someone called for a light so I cast Creo Ignem on a small branch. We did not reach an open area again until we reached the clearing with the barrows. As we got closer, I remembered more clearly the fear in Saskia as she fled from the aura around the largest barrow. I hoped we were going to conduct maga Elise to the clearing and leave her and so I stopped several yards from the clearing. Unfortunately, for some reason Alain had taken it upon himself to act as shield grog to Elise and when she walked out of the shelter of the trees and headed straight for the largest barrow, he marched alongside her. I do not know if it was just concern for our grog that caused Iuris Perita to follow at a distance but she too entered the clearing, Duncan right beside her.

I saw Elise climb up on top of the large barrow, which was twice the height of a man, and cast a spell there. I could not tell what it was. While I observed the activity in the clearing, Zane came to me twice to report how many trees he had counted around the edge of the clearing. He had some notion that there were more the second time he counted and that they were moving. I offered him a magical torch so he could see better as the light grew dim and he went off to mark the trees as he counted them. As evening was well advanced by now, I decided to draw myself a Ward to keep off ghosts. I took my time about it. I was not satisfied with my first attempt but after a short meditation I had quite a strong protective circle about the place where I sat on the ground under the trees, waiting for Iuris Perita and our grogs to be ready to return home. The aura was still unseelie, as Saskia had reported.

By now it was hard to see what was going on in the clearing. Zane said something about Alain digging on the top of the barrow, under instruction from Elise, and that he had found a stone which seemed to please her. Zane had drawn a circle on the ground around himself not unlike mine. It could do him no good at all, of course, and I told him to run to me if there was any trouble. While I was watching Zane, I saw him stretch out his arm and move his hand as if stroking a cat. I can only assume it was Elise's animal which I could not see. I considered using magic to make it visible but decided this might annoy Elise enough to cause trouble and might keep my attention from more urgent matters. Zane called out to ask me why we were sitting in circles and I explained that mine was to keep ghosts out. After a short while, Zane stopped the stroking motion and seemed to be following with his eyes something that came towards me but his attention soon wandered off somewhere else and I do not know where the cat went.

Midnight: The ghostly feast

Zane stood up and started off across the clearing, carrying the improvised torch. I called out to warn him that it might well be dangerous but he took no notice. I took my own warning and stayed safely inside my warding ring. I heard Zane's voice call out "Shall I follow?". My alarm was calmed when it was Iuris Perita, not Elise, who replied in the affirmative.

I waited for what seemed like many minutes, not daring to use any magical means to see what was going on in the vicinity of the barrow in case Elise or Iuris Perita considered it scrying. For the sake of the story, I shall record at this point what I only heard about afterwards.

At midnight, as Elise had predicted, a doorway opened up in the west end of the large barrow. Preceded by Alain, she entered between the two upright stones and under the lintel. They were in a stone-lined corridor lit by torches mounted in brackets along each wall. Zane says the cat was with them, apparently trying to trip Alain up. Zane and Garth entered the corridor a little way behind Elise. At the end of the passage they entered a sizable chamber hung with tapestries where a table stood laden with food and set for a feast. A richly dressed man of noble bearing was seating on a great chair at the far end of the table. He bade them welcome to the feast.

All hesitated but the man mocked them for holding back and urged them to feast as heroes and warriors. His attention was particularly focused on Garth, the largest man in the group and well-armed. When Elise sat not far from the foot of the table and took some food onto a nearly gold plate, Alain and Garth took it as a signal to help themselves too. Alain sat close to Elise and continued to give all his attention to her, I gather, but Garth sat close to the head of the table and was treated with honour as a great warrior by the host. The regal figure proposed a toast to Valhalla. Zane says the cat whispered to Elise.

Suddenly Garth rose to his feet and swung his maul at Elise! Alain tried to deflect the blow using a large plate and at once there were four other warriors in the room. Everything became confused. There seemed to be far more clutter on the floor than met the eye which made it hard to move about. Garth was trying to strike Alain and Elise as Alain tried to fend him off. Elise was pointing a long bone at the warriors and casting spells at them which crumbled them to dust. In the midst of the fighting, Garth turned and rushed out of the room, back along the passage he had come in by. At almost the same moment, a horse suddenly rose out of the floor which hindered any attempts to pursue Garth.

The figure in the chair was keeping out of the fight, only urging on the warriors and toasting the blows. Alain cleaved right through him with his billhook but the only result was a toast to Alain's prowess. Alain must have been scared by this. Elise had just turned the horse to dust in the passageway and the way was clear for Alain and her to leave. The passage was blocked half way along by Garth.

Cry for help

The first I knew of any trouble was when Iuris Perita called out to me from somewhere near the end of the barrow. I hesitated for a moment, unwilling to leave my circle but made up my mind and ran as fast as I could. Julius easily kept up with me, and we joined Iuris Perita at the doorway to the barrow. The sounds of fighting could be clearly heard. Duncan led the way, with Iuris Perita behind him, then Julius and finally myself. We had only advanced a few paces when Duncan stopped and started defending with his shield.

I heard Elise's voice call out that Garth was possessed and should be subdued. Duncan warded off Garth's blows easily enough. Elise cast a spell which sent Garth into spasms and Alain thumped Garth hard from behind until he slumped to the ground unconscious. Zane had stopped behind to talk to the man in the big chair but reported afterwards that when the noise of fighting stopped, he had looked angry and had slumped down in his chair. Elise said something to Iuris Perita about this being a good time to subdue the spirit, turned and went back into the chamber. This allowed Iuris Perita and myself to approach the chamber at last. I stood in the passageway and peered ahead. The chamber, as I saw it, was a confusion of stone and wood and food and bone and earth. Elise cast a spell over the table to detect the bones of the warrior king. They lay in the centre, where the feast was set.

At the same moment, a figure of a man, possibly a servant, rose up out of the ground and struck at Elise. Alain tried to fight it off. Elise ordered Zane to gather the bones up off the table. He looked a little confused, as if he could not focus on them and then he swept his arms as if to gather up anything that was there. Alain crushed the servant which fell into a heap of bones on the earth floor.

Suddenly the only light in the small chamber was that from my 'torch'. I went forward and we could all see that there was nothing here but a small chamber excavated in the earth with stones to support the earth above. There were several small chambers or alcoves. There was a stone dais in the centre of the chamber and scattered around it some grave goods and bones. Gold plates and drinking vessels were the most obvious treasures, plus a gold torc that lay on the big chair at the end of the dais. I cast Intellego Vim and was delighted to detect vis in the bones which I had gathered up.

I had asked Elise about her cat and how she keeps it always invisible but she ignored my question and called out that we must leave the barrow at once, before the doorway closed. Under the circumstances I did not mind her not answering my question and we all made haste to get outside. Exit was impeded by the unconscious Garth. I had supposed he could be carried by Alain and Zane or Duncan but Elise had asked Alain to carry the bones of a horse. We needed to make good speed so as to be through Lady Marta's lands before daylight so I cast Rego Corpus on Garth to make him float so the other grogs could steer him along.

What shall we do with Elise?

As the only representatives of Saxum Caribetum present, Iuris Perita and I discussed what we should do about Elise. The first matter concerned the division of the spoils. She had made no claim on any vis, which made things easier. If Elise had not blasted quite so many skeletons to dust by magic, we might have obtained rather more vis from this expedition. We agreed that she might keep half a pound of gold and she wandered off somewhere with it, first taking the horse bones from Alain.

That horse skeleton that Elise wanted held no vis so I did not want it but I was worried that Elise might have plans for it. I am sure Fr. Edwin would have cause to complain if he saw someone riding around on the skeleton of a horse! I raised my concerns with Iuris Perita as we walked homewards. I think we might put it to Council that Elise be invited to take up residence in the Tour de Cesson, should she wish. She could be a caretaker there for us. Anything she did that the local inhabitants noticed could probably be interpreted as yet more of the ghostly activity associated with the tower already. This would keep people away which is good. It would give her good reason not to ride in here on a skeleton horse, or do anything else to cause trouble for us. And it could give us an extra sigil in Tribunal. If she applied for membership of the covenant, she would have to perform service for us, which would be beneficial. While her style of magic frightens and repels me, I am sure there is much that can be learnt from it about the nature of magic itself.

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