13th March - The Spring equinox 1224
Council decided this year to use a mixture of Rego and Vim vis for this important ritual. Gerard, the grog who is most respectful to the magi and quite knowledgeable about the Order, has collected the 4 pawns of Rego vis from within the circle of thorn bushes that is known to us, so we have sufficient to spare two pawns. Our supply of Vim vis is dreadfully poor, however. We had just the bare five pawns in store, and it is but three after today. I hope Council will vote to keep several of us at distillation this year!
Speculor has been excited about the changes he anticipates in the regio now that the menhir has been restored. I would not be surprised if he has stayed by the menhir all night to observe. Someone had to go and fetch him to participate in the casting of the Aegis. He reported that the face of the menhir was noticeably more distinct than in previous years at this time, but it was still fast asleep. Once the ritual was completed, we all made preparations as if going on a journey before heading into the regio, each with at least one shield grog. Apart from Joach, that is, who is too much caught up in his project to want to take any risk at all of losing any time by taking a wrong path in the regio. He opted to stay in the glade and supervise the grogs collecting the bluebells which will yield Imaginem vis. I must say, I was very glad that he was so willing to carry out this important but unexciting chore as I might otherwise have felt I ought to do it.
First we walked around the paths to the glades of Fire, Water, Air and Earth and used Muto Terram to create ourselves a fresh set of keys from suitable mundane objects of iron, silver, copper and lead. Everything appeared just as we expected, which was a little disappointing to me. Constantine said he was going to visit the Divine area of the regio again, and set off with Redwald. I had no wish to go right through that route and end up in Nantes, like two of my sodales did last year, but I had a reason to visit the first level of that part of the regio, so I followed, with Julius.
Once we had opened the gate to this regio by use of a second lead key, Constantine strode ahead intoning psalms. I do not know them well enough to join in. I heard Julius say 'Amen' from time to time, often in inappropriate places, since he does not understand the Latin but assumed Constantine was praying and wanted to be part of it. I kept my thoughts more on the Corpus vis that Speculor and I supposed to be in the bodies in the catacombs. In this fashion, we came to part of the passage which was so dark that our mundane torch gave off no light. Nor could any heat be felt from it. We continued on, apparently marching in a straight line, until the torchlight returned and we found ourselves in the catacombs.
Remembering what had happened to Speculor, Constantine and their shield grogs at the last equinox, I kept Julius close to me and avoided going too close to anything that looked like a doorway or opening. I was trying to get out of Constantine's sight since I feel sure he would consider it disrespectful of me to examine the bodies of the saints for vis. This proved difficult. Every time I thought Constantine had his head bowed in prayer I walked a little way away from where he was, but he always looked up and often followed. Eventually I spoke to Julius in Spanish, ordering him to stand in a certain place so as to shield me from Constantine's view. I cast my Intellego Vim spell over one of the bodies, softly and with subtle gestures. Sure enough, it held vis!
Now I was done here, but I did not want to make it obvious to Constantine that I was in a hurry to go. He did not seem to have noticed my spell. He was still going from one body to the next, reading the inscriptions and pausing to pray a while. I was afraid this would go on for ages but luckily he did not keep me waiting very long and, thank goodness, he did not wish to move on through the levels of the divine regio.
This time we stopped for a while in the darkest part of the route back. I could hear Redwald and Julius shuffling close by, then Constantine chanted an Intellego Ignem spell and said that the flame of the torch was being suppressed by a non-hermetic magical effect which was not unlike Perdo Ignem. I feel sure that this is some aspect of Mercurian magic, since it is close enough to Hermetic magic for us to comprehend it, and there are signs all over here of the Romans. What a wonderful research project this will be for us to take up in future! If possible, this was a more exciting discovery than the fact that there is a potentially large store of Corpus vis so close by.
When Constantine and I got back to the central glade, Joach was there still, keeping an eye on the grogs who were getting on well with the harvesting chore. I asked him if he had any idea where Speculor might be and was told that Speculor was last seen heading towards the glade of Mars. I set off in that direction at once and, to my irritation, Constantine followed me. I had hoped to have a chance to share the news about the Corpus vis with Speculor alone. Quite a lot of time passed as all the magi together walked along the paths and through the glades, looking for any sign of change since last year.
Eventually I found an opportunity to talk to Speculor quietly and out of earshot of Constantine, Iuris Perita and their grogs. Speculor and I agreed that we would return to the catacombs as soon as we could do so unobserved.
I do not know if my sodales shared my disappointment that the effects in the regio of restoring the menhir where so slight. For this or for some other reason, the others were ready to leave the regio before too much of the day had passed. In my case, the discovery of Corpus vis in the catacombs and probable Mercurian magic in the passage overcame any disappointment. As it was, Speculor and I had time to return to the divine region of the regio before the day was over.
Going separately, and without grogs, Speculor and I made our way back to the menhir as soon as we felt sure we could avoid questioning by our sodales. We had with us one of each type of key and an extra Earth key. To save time, we went off to place two keys each. I put the iron one in position then walked to the top of the cliff. Earlier in the day, I had some strong grogs and a stout rope to lower me safely down to the place in the cliff where the copper key had to be placed. I was very cross about the need to cast a Rego Corpus spell to allow myself to drift down safely but knew that my understanding of Rego was sufficiently sound that it would be bound to work safely. I placed the key, landed gently, and went to meet Speculor at the locked gateway in the tunnel by the Earth symbol. Speculor had placed the other two primary keys so we had not used up too much of the afternoon.
We made haste to reach the catacomb. I was a little tired with all the walking and so did not bother to mention the Mercurian magic that Constantine and I had noticed earlier in the day. I expect our haste helped us get suitably 'lost' in the darkness and we reached the catacomb without any difficulty. Since there was a long way to walk back, we did not take time to investigate any of the other bodies, but wrapped the one I had tested earlier into a cloak and, carrying it between us, set off towards the dark passage. Alas, we found ourselves back in the same catacomb, with a level seven Dominion aura and one empty niche! Thinking that we had not kept our minds blank enough to find the exit to this area of the regio, we tried again. We paused in the passage. Speculor cast Intellego spells to confirm that the body still contained Corpus vis (I do not think he doubted my original determination). He also found that we were still in a level seven Dominion aura. I had hoped that we would have reached the magical aura, given how far we had walked along the passage.
This was exasperating and we were running out of time. We decided to replace the body and come back at the next opportunity with some better ideas on how to leave with the vis. One suggestion was that the Dominion aura might cling to the body and it might be possible to use magic to suppress the aura around it, or to cast Gather the Essence of the Beast to concentrate the vis in a more portable form. We have several months to consider these and other options. It was perfectly easy to return to the glade without the body, and we left the regio with a little time to spare before sunset.
After all the walking in the regio today, I was rather more tired than was suitable for running a Council meeting. Luckily, there was little business and nothing contentious. Everyone is well aware of our low vis resources, following the large repayment to Objurgator. I am to spend this season distilling vis as service while Iuris Perita and Constantine go out vis hunting, again as service. The only question to settle there was which would take the vis detection wand. It is a very annoying device but so useful! This time, Iuris Perita is to take it. She will head south and east, taking Duncan and Zane, while Constantine goes north and west with Redwald and Yves. I feel uneasy about letting Zane go off for a whole season. He has abilities that have proved crucial in the past but it may be that Iuris Perita will have need of just those special abilities.
Joach and Speculor will have this season to themselves. I am sure Joach will continue to work on his special project; he has dropped intriguing hints but said nothing as yet that makes it possible to guess what he might be at. Speculor will probably spend the time studying, though he may be beginning to think about how he can pay for his longevity potion by now.
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