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Covenant of La Roche Caribet

Spring 1224: Dark Summer and Bright Winter

21st March: News of a wolf

I have the apparatus set up exactly right for this time of year, and am just intending a few final checks, in case the restoration of the menhir has caused any changes in the aura that might influence my distillation of vis. I am very glad to be working usefully here rather than tramping through forest and over hills this season.

I overheard Julius and Ignatius this evening talking about a wolf that has been seen recently in this vicinity, and the men that Sir Achilles is sending out to join Sir Guillaume, the bailiff of Ploeuc, in hunting it down. They say Sir Guillaume and his men have been on its trail for days but it is proving wily and elusive. It occurs to me that this might be something to do with Lady Helissente's family but presumably the creature would have made itself known by now if that were the case.

25th March: A message from the Lady Cierella

It was well after dark today that I had a message from Jehan that there was a need for the magi to call on Sir Achilles right away. I know that neither Achilles nor Jehan would disturb us if it were not important. When Speculor, Joach and I got to the Manor, we found Sir Achilles in conversation with a shadow. At least, he was talking with a dark creature that lurked in the deepest shadows and called itself Penumbra, saying it had been sent as a messenger from Lady Cierella. Penumbra also said she had been sent by Treffle, a wise one, to tell us that the river had stopped, the mists were fading, the fae were drying up, everything was withering and Cierella needed a brave knight.

It seemed useful to find out who Treffle was. Penumbra said he had been driven away by stones. At first I thought Penumbra was speaking of something that happened in the Valley of Mists but in this case, it appears that the throwing of stones had been going on here. I was much alarmed for a moment to think that anyone at Caribet had been throwing stones at the fae rather than coming to us for advice, but Sir Achilles had the explanation: Treffle must be a crow. I recalled now how Speculor had mentioned crows in the trees in the Valley of Mists. Sure enough, Sir Achilles said that there had been a flock of crows making a lot of noise around the village during the past couple of days. There had been nothing to distinguish one crow from another and the children had driven them all off. Sir Achilles opened one of his shutters. A minute or so later there was a tinkling of small bells and a small glow flew into the room, then a sizable crow landed on the sill. At about the same time, we became aware that Lady Helissente had come down from the solar. The glowing sprite settled beside the crow, and the crow spoke to us.

Things are badly awry in the Valley of Mists. The lake has dried up and the river no longer flows through or under the valley. The mists have faded and everything is drying out. The woman or fairy, Amanea, is claiming to be Lady Cierella and the real Cierella is absent, perhaps taken away. A large boulder blocks the head of the valley and a great marsh is forming behind it. The rock trolls have tried to move the boulder but have not been able to shift it at all. The boulder appeared at dusk one day, which Treffle believes is significant. The crow is sure that although she is taking advantage of the situation, Amanea could not have brought this about herself. The appearance of the boulder coincided with the disappearance of Cierella, though Treffle thinks it highly unlikely that the Lady was turned into the boulder.

Our discussion with the crow was interrupted at this point by some strange noises coming from the foot of the stairs. Lady Helissente had been listening to it all and, being unable to make sense of what she was seeing and hearing, was on the verge of hysterics. Sir Achilles went over to her and, after some soft, rapid talking from her husband, the Lady of the Manor seemed to calm down. Then she went off towards the back room while we discussed what Treffle had told us. Joach asked Treffle why they had not sent to Fudarus for help. Since the valley fae have a longer-standing relationship with Fudarus, one might have thought that the more obvious source of aid, but Treffle explained that Fudarus takes them for granted and never send a wizard to visit them.

A moment later, Lady Helissente returned and politely offered her guests some refreshment. She spoke to the shadow, the glow and the crow as if addressing human gentlefolk - I had to admire her self control and manners for once. Perhaps half a year and more of living here has taught her something. Speculor called for food too, rather as if ordering the grogs, but her Ladyship did not appear offended. Refreshments arrived, including perfume for the sprite, whose name is Violet. Penumbra would take nothing. Treffle drank rather a lot of wine and became garrulous, giving us rambling and confusing tales of goings-on in the Valley before it started to dry out. From his manner, it appeared that he was regaling us with ribaldry; he would cackle and caw and the sprite tinkled but even when what he said seemed to make sense to me, I could not see any reason to find it amusing.

I am in a quandary about this call for assistance. If we refuse to try to help, we can be accused of upsetting the fae. If we go, we might be accused by enemies of molesting the fae, and I am well aware that Fudarus would be only too glad to make such a claim against us. So far, Cierella has been unpredictable but, in the end, generous with her vis, so there could be a worthwhile reward for aiding her, if we are able.

24th March: Preparing to set out

It has been decided that we shall go to investigate the plight of the Valley of Mists, at least to check on Treffle's story but with no promise of being able to resolve the problem. I have to be the one to go, since I am on covenant service this season. I did wonder if it was a better idea to use the arcane connection to Redwald or Yves to try and get a message to Constantine to go to the valley, since he is off vis hunting and may be somewhere in that direction. Speculor might have been a better choice, since it is he who has met Cierella and visited her valley twice before, but he has this season for private study and it would be to my own disadvantage to set a precedent for interrupting private activities. As it is, I have to go, despite my prior bad experiences with the fae.

I considered taking Lady Helissente with me, since, according to Speculor's report, there are a lot of silver grey wolves in the valley, and she may be able to get on well with them, but I doubt her temper has improved sufficiently to make her a congenial companion on the road. I shall certainly take Julius and Ignatius and will manage without Guena. Sir Achilles himself has decided to come. I do not ask whether this is a thirst for adventure, a desire to get away from home for a few days, or a response to Cierella's call for a brave knight, but I shall be glad of cultivated companionship. He will bring his own bodyguard, Kernigan, and also Garth and Alain from the turb. Alain is inclined to be a nuisance, but he has visited the Valley of Mists with Speculor so we need him to find the way. I shall have no difficulty in keeping him away from me, I am sure.

I shall be taking our enchanted stone cutting knife with me. I know it is usually used for cutting building stone and helping with the mining for silver, but they will have to do without it for a few days as it may be the best way to deal with the great boulder, since we know that raw strength has been unable to shift it.

Our strange visitors of yesterday have already left and we shall be following them as soon as we are ready. We plan to spend one night at the Hermitage, were there will be a dry bed and good food so it is worth putting up with the discomfort of such proximity to the Church, and I hope to be at the valley the following day. I believe we should be back here within five days.

Valley of Mists

The worst that befell us on the outward journey was a few awkward questions over dinner at the Hermitage where the Prior had invited Sir Achilles, Fr.Albertus and myself to dine with him.

Alain was able to guide us to the Valley of the Mists, but when we got there, late in the day, it was not as Speculor had described it, or as Alain remembered it. It was dry and dull, with spare, withered vegetation. Sir Achilles ordered that camp be made. While the work was in progress, shadowy figures began to arrive: imps and wolves then some crows. One of the crows was Treffle. We arranged to meet him again the following morning when he would guide us up the valley to the boulder.

We had decided it was safer to make as much of the journey at the outer edge of the valley. As Treffle had warned us, it was hard work toiling over the rocks and up the slope. It took most of the day to reach the valley head and I was exhausted by the time we arrived at the huge boulder that was blocking the valley there. The flat land behind the boulder was rapidly turning to marshland. I used Intellego Terram to confirm that the boulder was unnatural. While I was examining the rock, Treffle told us that, at dusk, an opening was seen to appear in the bottom of the boulder, on the downstream side, and it stayed open all night. He believed this was a gateway of some sort. I was rather annoyed that he had failed to mention this back at Caribet but I doubt that my sodales would have any better idea than I what might be on the other side of such a gateway. We really must improve our knowledge of the fae! Just as Treffle had said, as the sun set an opening formed in the darkest shadows at the foot of the boulder.

The opening was scarcely three hand spans in width or height. If we were to go through, it would be by crawling and wriggling. There was no question of making any attempt to investigate what might be beyond the opening that night as we were far too tired.

The following morning, our third since setting out from Caribet, I began a closer study of the boulder. Terram magic had no effects on it. We tried to cut away part of the rock using the enchanted stone cutting knife, but it had no effect on this unnatural boulder. This did not bode well for any chance of enlarging the opening at dusk. The grogs rested and I spent a long time in thought - much of it along the lines of how we might obtain books on the fae so as to better understand this sort of thing next time. Sir Achilles and I made a plan for the evening. If we had to crawl through the opening in the boulder, we would leave Alain and Garth in the camp.

Inside the boulder

At dusk, the opening appeared and I decided that I would go through, but only behind a shield grog. I caused a light to glow around Ignatius' hat and he went in first. He called that it was alright for me to follow so I went next, with Julius right behind me, Achilles behind him and Kernigan last. We did not have to crawl far as the passage opened out so we could stand - the boulder was far larger inside than out. There was another opening in the far side of the cave we emerged into. Apart from a ledge there, the opening was like a window in the side of a high cliff face. Looking out, I could see forest below. The ledge was wide enough to walk on, with care, and sloped gently upwards until to eventually reached the top of the cliff. We decided to follow it.

My thought was to find whoever was in charge here and negotiate with them to move the boulder. I felt sure we would eventually find someone to put us on the right track if we followed obvious paths, always taking the larger one if there was a choice. At the top of the cliff we found ourselves on a forested plateau. In the distance there were twinkling lights, which suggested to me that there might be habitation that way. I noticed some discussion between Sir Achilles and Ignatius about marking the place where the path went down to the passage home.

The first feature of interest that we encountered was a huge stone statue of a lion, just set amongst the trees. The creature was shown lying down, asleep, with its head on its front paws. I cast a spell to determine the type of stone but the statue resisted my magic. Learning nothing of use, we walked on. Sir Achilles had asked me about the spell he saw me cast while touching the statue and I happily lectured on the theory of magic resistance as we walked, though how much he understood I have no idea. My exposition was interrupted after about a quarter of an hour, when I was just getting into my stride, by the noise of something large crashing through the forest towards us.

There was little time to plan. Sir Achilles and his guard went one way. I and my shield grogs went to other way, intending to take refuge behind some denser trees. The source of the din was approaching rapidly so I cast Wizard's Sidestep, certain that this would confuse whatever it was. Unfortunately, the creature that came charging at us was a great deal larger than I expected. Ignatius and Julius bravely stood their ground in front of where they thought I was, but the immense beast just bowled them over, and myself too.

There was very little opportunity to see the creature between it bursting out of the forest and hurtling into us. Also, the shock of its arrival broke my concentration on the light from Ignatius' hat, so we lost that at a crucial moment. The beast had a body not unlike the largest sort of cart horse. Its legs were like those of the elephant I remember seeing in the Book of Beasts that we had in the library at Castellar when I was an apprentice. The most spectacular feature was the great horn that protruded from its forehead, which must mean it was some sort of unicorn. Alas, poor Julius was badly hurt by that horn. In knocking him aside, the creature pushed me over too and it kicked me as it went past. I could swear that the foot it kicked with was made of stone! I saw Sir Achilles charge at the beast's flank and heard his sword clash against its stone side.

Our assailant slowed and turned and we could hear it charging back to attack us again. My brave grogs struggled to their feet and made to protect me, but I ordered them to climb up into the trees as fast as they could. Sir Achilles and Kernigan were there to help us injured to climb. Sure enough, the beast thundered beneath the branches where we clung. We waited a while in fear that it might return. While we waited, I used magic to temporarily close Julius' wounds. Soon I felt sure the unicorn had lost interest in us, and we climbed down.

Beside the lake

We continued walking in the direction of the flickering lights. After a while, we came to a small lake held back by a dam of stone. A building rose out of the middle of the lake, but there was no light or sound coming from it. It occurred to me that it might be this dam that was actually or symbolically stopping the flow of water through the Valley of the Mists. I tried the stone cutting knife and was able to cut the dam easily. As the water began to flow through the place where I cut away the stone, there was a disturbance on the surface of the lake. I stepped back into the trees to observe.

Three wakes in the water came towards the dam and three stone beavers emerged there. I called out to them in Latin and Francien but there was no response. They were not behaving aggressively, however, and Sir Achilles said he would approach them. As a precaution, I handed him the stone cutting knife. He addressed them in Francien at first. They sat up and looked at him but then fell to repairing the dam, cutting the stone with their large, sharp teeth. Sir Achilles tried greeting the beavers in Breton. They understood this and stopped their work to say something back. Using Kernigan as his interpreter, Sir Achilles learnt from the beavers that the ruler of this land lived in a tower out on the plain. The beavers were, not surprisingly, more interested in complaining about our damage to their dam than in answering our questions and we could get little more from them except that the tower where the lord lived was where the lights were and that the flashing lights were green lighting.

The Tower of the Fae Lord

It seemed we had a long way to go, and not much time if we were to be back out of the boulder by dawn. We walked through the forest in the direction of the lights and reached a grassy plain. The grass was very long, almost as tall as me. I attempted a Rego Herbam spell to part the grass while I concentrated but it was unsatisfactory. It took ages to force our way to the foot of the tower. When we reached it, I knew we had come to the home of a giant. The steps up to the front door were several feet high and the door was immense.

We only wanted to open friendly negotiations with the owner, so sent one of the men to knock on the door. None of us could reach the knocker, and when we tried to knock on the door itself, it swung open. There was thunder in the sky above us, so knocking might have been inaudible anyway, so we had to find some other way of announcing our arrival in a nonaggressive manner. I cast Jupiter's Resounding Blow but no-one came to find out who had done it. In the relative silence that followed it, Kernigan stepped into the entrance hall and called out a greeting in Breton. It echoed all around the chamber but brought no-one to meet us. I bade him try again, and used Muto Imaginem to amplify his voice, but still no-one responded.

We concluded that the place must be empty, and ventured inside. The dimensions of the furniture in the entrance hall and the staircase rising from it was less than the external steps and door had led us to expect. They seemed fashioned for a giant of about ten feet in height. We started to explore. Everything was of stone, even stone cushions on the stone couches that I found in a side chamber. There were many figures of knights and other people against the walls, all about ten feet high. Remembering the stone beast that attacked us, I expected to see these move, but they remained inert and so I stopped keeping an eye on them.

Like the boulder, the tower seemed larger inside than out. We went upwards, peering into a great many chambers as we ascended. There were enormous banqueting halls. We found balconies on the outside of the tower, overlooking the meadow. There were treasure rooms where stone coins were overflowing from stone chests. We found wonderful stone mirrors and fascinating crystal mechanisms, and everywhere the statues of giants. I used a spell on one of the mechanisms to ask "Who owns you" and saw in my mind's eye a figure clad in black and silver, still and pale like a man of alabaster.

In one room, someone spotted a concealed door behind some pillars.It was only about five feet high. It opened at a gentle push and there was a low passageway beyond. Having seen one, we saw many more, always set into the wall in such a way as to blend with the decor.

After what seemed like a very long time, we found ourselves on a balcony, looking down a long way into a large chamber where, seated on a throne, was a figure just like that I had seen when I cast my last spell. Kernigan stepped forward and loudly announced that Lord Achilles had come to pay a visit to the lord of this land - or something like that. I had to get Ignatius to translate it for me. At this, the figure on the throne stood up and spoke to us. I gather he said something like "Come down here, small people", which while not very respectful, was not unfriendly. He was about eighteen feet high when standing, so not the sort one likes to argue with and we made haste to descend by the stair from the end of the balcony.

I am glad that Sir Achilles addressed his first formal greeting to the giant in Francien, and that the giant understood so most of the rest of the talk was intelligible without passing through the minds of grogs. I left the talking to Sir Achilles, since the matter of moving the boulder seemed mostly one of land rights which I know him to be very experienced in. Achilles explained in some detail the inconvenience that the current location of the boulder was causing to the Lady Cierella. Our host did not seem at all interested beyond politeness. Both Sir Achilles and myself asked questions to try and find out if there had been any change in the land we were in lately that might be associated with the appearance of the boulder in the Valley of the Mists and the recent unfortunate changes there. Sir Achilles described to the giant the way we had come to reach his tower, the path on the cliff face and the cave that opened into our lands. The response was rather vague and showed no interest; he just said that there were many pores all over the place that allow his land to breathe and that he does not control the position of them. We were getting nowhere, and our host seemed bored. He stood, clapped his hands and his stone servants came to clear away the food. He said he had work to do, politely excused himself and left us.

Inside the walls

As soon as we were alone, we decided to seek one of the small doors and look behind it. It was quite easy to locate one of the concealed doors but it opened into darkness. I created light around a dagger belonging to Ignatius and we saw that there was a low passage behind the door. We stooped and entered. Kernigen went first, then Ignatius, with the light, myself, Julius and Achilles. The low passage followed the curve of the walls . Suddenly Ignatius jumped back, colliding with me and pushing me back into Julius. He hastily apologised, saying that the floor had shifted under his feet. Just then, a part of the wall slid across the passage, separating Kernigan and Ignatius from myself and the others. I tied to maintain concentration on the illuminating dagger that Ignatius had at the same time as trying to create some light for myself, but this failed. The effort tired me a little, so I took a few moments to recover, cast a spell to provide myself with a light, and hoped my absent grog would manage to find light for himself.

After a while, as we stood uncomfortably in the passage, wondering if we should retrace our steps, the section of wall in front of me slid away. Julius lit a mundane torch while I used Rego Terram to stop the stone door sliding across the passage again. Sir Achilles and I examined the small room that was revealed behind the sliding door. There hardly room for two people in it, so he stood back while I used Intellego Terram to learn about the small room. I discovered that it was like a small box, not attached to the main structure of the tower, and that it could move by magic. I told Sir Achilles of my discoveries and that I intended to make the box move downwards by use of magic. He seemed reluctant to join me, so Julius came to my side. The space was very confined and it was not safe to have the flaming torch in there so Julius handed it to Sir Achilles. Then I cast Rego Terram and we began our descent.

The box moved quite slowly and steadily. It felt safe but it was pitch dark. I cast Creo Ignem but somehow lost control of the spell at the last moment. Instead of illumination like a candle flame, I made an actual candle flame which fluttered around like a fire fly and stung like a spark from a spitting log. Julius attempted to swat it, but, in the confined space, he struck me quite hard. I gasped and he poured out a torrent of mortified apologies. I had trouble getting him to stop apologising and return his attention to keeping the tiny flame away from me. By this time, the box had stopped moving. One side of it slid away and we were able to step out into a passage very like that which we had left but dimly lit by braziers along the walls. I was very tired and settled myself to rest a while, sitting on the floor. Julius managed to hit and extinguish the flying flame, then he too rested.

I am not sure how long I had been meditating when I was disturbed by a nearby sound. It was a section of wall sliding across the passage to bar the way to the moving box, and what was probably the sound of the box moving back up again. I expected it to come back down again soon, with Sir Achilles in it, and returned to my meditation until such time as he appeared.

Quite a long time must have passed. I opened my eyes feeling quite rested but very stiff. Julius was there, keeping guard, but there was no sign of anyone else. I hoped I was not now hunting for both Lady Cierella and Sir Achilles. We set off to explore, hoping to find another small door that would lead us back into the high rooms, as the low passage was so very uncomfortable to walk in. Metal-bound doors led off the dimly lit passage, and clanking and banging could be heard at several of them. I was looking, among other things, for something that looked like a dungeon, thinking that the Lady Cierella might be held there. We found some tunnels where strong warm or cool air currents flowed through the walls of the tower. I used Intellego Auram to learn that the air currents were controlled by massive bellows in the basement and that the shafts went up into the open air. Julius opened a door at which we could hear no sounds. Behind it was a dark storeroom.

After some time we reached a dead end, so turned to retrace our steps. I risked having my grog open a few doors from behind which we could hear noises. In every case, we found scenes of intense manufacturing activity where gnomish fae were too engrossed in their work to take notice of us. In one great chamber, lit by firelight, they were pounding heavy hammers onto metal and drawing it out into threads. Close by, others were weaving the threads. Now I think back, it may have been possible to learn something useful here about the nature of metal and how to form light armour by mundane means, but at the time I was intent upon finding the Lady Cierella or a way out to the higher rooms. I thought of asking for guidance from one of the creatures here but they looked like menials so I did not expect them to be able to help significantly.

A little further along the curving, low passage we found our way blocked by two of the small servants pushing a small wagon ahead of them. Under the circumstances, it was necessary to speak to them, and this turned out to be helpful. They were taking food to one of the high dining chambers, and offered to show us the way. I soon discovered that there were hidden doors leading out of the passage, like the sliding panels we found by the small moving room. Our guides opened one of these concealed sliding panels and indicated that we needed to go through into the small room beyond which would lift us up inside the walls. Julius was in a dilemma, whether to go ahead to make sure the way was clear and be there to protect me when I arrived, or to stay behind and guard the rear - it was impossible for more than one of us to go into the tiny room at the same time. I was very tired of being stooped over so decided I would go first. It was a very uncomfortable time in the little, moving room, in pitch dark with the small queer fae and the little wagon piled with stuff, and I was very glad when the room stopped ascending and I was able to step out into a low tunnel. The creature slid the stone panel back across the passage, and I heard the small room start to go down again. While we waited for it to return, I tried to find out from the fae how the thing operated. I could make very little sense out of its descriptions but it seems that the servants have an intuitive understanding of the stone which they use to make the small rooms go up and down as required. Perhaps we should try to install something of this sort between the library and the scriptorium. After a little while, the stone panel slid away again and there was Julius with the other fae. We were then conducted along the stone passage to another hidden panel. When our guides opened this, light flooded into the passage and I was much relieved to see that we had arrived back in the high-ceilinged rooms.

Finding the Prisoner

The small fae entirely ignored us and set about fiddling with the things on the little wagon and the table. They appeared to be fitting stone grapes to a stone stalk. I went at once to the window, to try and gauge how far up the tower we had come. We were still a long way down from the room where we had encountered our unforthcoming host. I thought it best to continue upwards, though this time by means of the staircases. We had not gone far when we met Sir Achilles with Ignatius and Kernigan, which was a great relief.

I gather that Kernigan and Ignatius had gone down in the first of the small moving rooms and found some of the fae servants working in a kitchen, where they obtained instructions on how to walk up to the dining rooms through the passages inside the walls. Once they had climbed up quite a long way, they spotted a dining chamber through some spy-holes in the wall and were able to find the way out of the walls and start to ascend, looking for myself and Sir Achilles. Achilles himself was rather reticent about how he had spent the time. I understand he had seem myself and Julius vanished away by the moving room, had returned to the chamber where we had dined and then gone looking for any servants, but had found none and eventually met the two grogs.

Between us, we had very little information to help us discover what had become of Cierella, though we had learnt something of the workings of the tower. I was particularly fascinated by the contrast between stone life and alive stone. I mean the stone statues of large humans that stood along the walls and the stone representations of food on so many of the tables contrasted with the tower itself, which seemed to be breathing air in and out though the vertical shafts inside the walls. Sir Achilles did not appear to appreciate the point and returned our attention to Lady Cierella, whom he believed our host was holding captive somewhere. Since I had already explored below, where one might expect a dungeon to be (and, indeed, the furnaces down there would have made that a very hostile prison for a Lady of Mists) I could not disagree with Sir Achilles proposal that we go upwards.

It was a long climb, much of which we had already done once. I was tired from my wounds and exertions. I had ceased to worry about how long we had been here and whether the way back to the world outside was still open. I gave little thought to the lord of this tower either until we found ourselves once more on the balcony in front of his throne. He sat there, impassive stone, and stayed thus as we passed long the balcony and up the stair at the end, silently as we could manage.

Up and up again, we eventually emerged onto a platform, open to the dark, stormy sky. A crenellated wall surrounded the platform. Towards the outer edge were the open tops of the air shafts and strong currents of hot air rose from some as colder air flowed down into others. Rising out of the centre of the platform was a turret. Thunder rolled around the top of it and lighting flashed down to strike it continuously. While I was looking at the air shafts and wondering if the up draught was strong enough to fly on, Sir Achilles called out that there was a door in the turret and he was going inside. I wish he had waited for me to complete my investigation of the perimeter; he seemed to forget at times who was in charge. I went to join him, since I felt I had something of a responsibility to keep an eye on him.

Our Rescue of Cierella

Steps wound up into the turret and ended in a large domed chamber. Huge windows on all sides admitted hot gusts of dry air and a dim light punctuated by intense flashes of lightning. In the centre of the room, suspended by a massive chain of marble links, each link thicker than my arm, was a cage of many hollow stone spheres, one inside the other and all spinning at different rates and in different directions. In the green-lit centre of the spheres I could just make out a figure which had to be Lady Cierella although this woman looked nothing like the noble lady that Speculor had described. She was worn, grey and haggard.

Convinced that this had to be Cierella, and knowing her to be a lady fond of moisture, I cast Creo Aquam towards the centre of the spinning spheres but this produced very little water which was immediately dashed aside by the spinning spheres. Perhaps I should have been thinking about how to release the prisoner, but I wanted to quench her thirst before attempting that task. I caught my breath, meditated for a moment upon the spell I was about to cast, and put everything into Creo Aquam and Auram to create a mist around the lady. The spell was a great success outside the sphere but none of the mist penetrated inside the cage. We did not have to function inside a wet fog for long as the hot dry winds soon dispersed it. Sir Achilles had been thinking how to stop the spinning spheres. He had Kernigan remove his leather jerkin and tried to use that the jam the two outer spheres but the stone moved so fast and the edges were so sharp that the jerkin was shredded. This was, at least, a useful warning! My own attempt to stop the outer sphere was no more successful. I prepared a Rego Terram spell and, at the culmination of the incantation, darted out my hand to make momentary contact with part of the outer sphere but it span too fast and I missed it.

Sir Achilles poured some water out of one of the water skins and threw this into the cage but, as with my magically created water, it was scattered by the turning stones. I have no idea why he thought water from the skin would function in any way differently to that I called up by magic, but he is only a mundane. The three grogs had been talking amongst themselves and by now had come up with a plan of their own. Using the strength of all three of them, they attempted to push against the spinning cage with the end of a spear, as if they might set it to swinging, but it was moving too fast and the spear fell to the ground. For no apparent reason, Sir Achilles poured water over one of the scraps of leather and tried to toss that into the cage. I did not follow his train of thought. Then, somehow, it was decided that we would try to squirt water directly from one of the water skins into the spinning spheres, but that I would use Rego Aquam to direct it so it would not be tossed aside by the tumbling stone. Some of the water was scattered but some of it did reach the trapped lady and at once she seemed to strengthen, the light around her grew paler and she looked younger.

I repeated this spell five times until we had used up all the water we had with us. Once she had regained her power sufficiently, Cierella was able to use the water, exerting its power to erode stone and building up cushions of vivid green moss that wedged the spheres tightly. Soon the spheres were all held still and she was able to step out of the cage. I am not sure how she got down but one moment she was moving towards us and a moment later she was standing beside me. Before anyone could speak, we heard a heavy tread on the stairs and the huge Lord of the Tower appeared. In a voice like thunder he cursed Cierella for abusing his hospitality and at once turret, tower and all began to disintegrate around us. Boulders were falling all around me. I could visualise them all landing in a great tumbled heap of stone and how it might feel to land on top of them. I cast Rego Corpus to try and control my fall.

An unusual experience

I believe that, as I fell, I crossed a magical boundary and I alone reached a higher level of the fairy regio. I was still falling, but I was no longer aware of rocks tumbling around me, or any dust in the air. My long fall ended when I plunged into a great body of water. I was still sinking and struggling to hold my breathe when I became aware of a hand reaching towards me. I stretched out and clasped the hand, holding on tightly in the hope that this was someone come to help me back up to the surface. The fingers tightened their grip around by hand and stopped my descent, but there was no attempt to help me back up to the air. I do not know when I started to breath again, but I became aware that I was no longer holding my breath and was breathing easily, despite being still underwater.

I have no idea how long I floated there. There was no sound, and no light. I could feel the water around me, a tingle of magical energy under my skin and the firm grip where I held the hand and it grasped mine. I think I must have fallen asleep or become unconscious after a while.

Cierella's thanks

When I awoke, I was lying on stones and could hear the cawing of crows close by and the rushing of water not far away. I opened my eyes to see my faithful Julius and Ignatius anxiously keeping watch over me and a crow right in front of me. I assured my grogs that I was quite capable of standing and called for a dry cloak since I realised that my clothes were soaked through. As my men were helping me to my feet, the crow announced that the Lady Cierella wished to thank us, and asked us to follow.

While we walked, I dried out and heard something of how we left the boulder. I gather that when I left the higher level of the fairie regio I was unconscious. My grogs and Kernigan had carried me from the tower (which was still standing undamaged in the lower regio level that the mundanes had ended up in) across the plain, through the forest, down the cliff face, through the caves and out of the boulder. There had only been one difficulty, when they thought some creature was stalking them in the long grass, but Cierella had called up a dense wall of mist to confuse whatever it was. When she saw the state of her valley, Cierella had been very dismayed and had started to do something near the huge boulder. Sir Achilles had urged everyone up out of the valley just in time before a great flood surged from the lake pent up behind the boulder and filled the water course, tumbling the boulder into pieces. This may have been when I got soaked.

After a while we reached a clearing where silken pavilions were set up. In their shade were elegant couches and tables laden with food and drink. This looked very like the images Speculor had created to illustrate his descriptions of the Lady's feasts. We sat on the couches but did not touch the food. Even the grogs know now that fairy food can have some very unexpected effects! Cierella entered, looking regal and fully recovered from her ordeal. She invited us to eat, and said that she had gone to the trouble of having normal human food brought for us. I was not sure whether to believe this or not, but to refuse to eat would have been to offend our fae hostess, so I took something. I was certainly very hungry and the food did taste normal and feel filling.

We were waited on by servants who, when not pouring wine or passing plates, sat around the edges of the glade in the form of silver-pelted wolves, just as Speculor had described. I could swear that Sir Achilles was deliberately avoiding looking at them. While we feasted, Lady Cierella was very informative. She explained that she had been caught unawares at the turn of the seasons; it seems that her people usually retreat to safe places at this time of year. She told us much of the relationship between her land and that where she had been held captive. I wish I had known this before setting out on our rescue mission; we must obtain a book on this for our library.

I was delighted when Lady Cierella, clearly aware of our reluctance to visit her when the representatives from Fudarus were there, said that she would be very happy to see us here just after the Spring equinox in future, instead of coming in Winter. As the Lady is generous with vis and well-disposed towards us, this should be a good thing for Saxum Caribetum, and provided we are careful, I anticipate no breaches of the Code. Confirming her gratitude and generosity, I was given a gift of vis, five pawns in total, three of Auram and two of Aquam, which are an excellent addition to our store. Sir Achilles, who has no understanding of the value of vis in spite of my lectures along the road, looked unimpressed by the twists of paper and vials of swirling fluid that I received so gratefully. He was a lot happier with the exquisitely delicate silver filigree circlet that the Lady presented to him. It is a very fine piece of jewelry but has no magical properties, I am sure.

Late May: Back at Caribet

I was alarmed to find how much time we had lost in the Valley of the Mists and inside the boulder. It had seemed to me like no more that two days' journey each way and three days there. I was on covenant service and the reward I brought back was much more valuable than the three pawns of Vim vis I would have had by spending the entire season in distillation so I feel sure my sodales will not be dissatisfied.

I went directly to Jimena on my return, taking Julius with me. His wounds and mine required some attention but Jimena had no doubts that we would soon be recovered. She bade us visit her for further ointments and bandaging but did not place any annoying restrictions on how we passed the time so I took the opportunity to talk to my grogs about the incident where we were so badly hurt. Every day until the solstice, I shall have at least one of the pair of them accompany me some way from the tower, where we shall not be observed, and we shall practice evasive movements so that next time I cast Wizard's Sidestep to mislead an opponent, I can add further confusion about my location by physically moving this way and that.

I heard news that a young woman had arrived here a couple of weeks ago, seeking Constantine. The immediate assumption, that he had seduced her, may well have been correct but was not the primary reason for her visit; she had a letter for him from Maga Scintilla Flambonis, his mater. The messenger was no Redcap, just a common grog - one wonders if Stonehenge Tribunal is so disorganised that they cannot make proper use of the Redcaps! The magus is out hunting vis, so the woman is waiting, I gather. I hope she is making herself useful in the mean time.

Joach has hardly been seen but I hear that he has had one of the women in his laboratory and given her some complicated fine stitchery to perform. I can't believe that the magus has decided to take an interest in his attire after all this time, so what can this embroidery be for?

An unwelcome visitor from Fudarus

A few days before the end of May, Urbanus Verbus Tytali ex Fudarus came this way. As Princeps, and doing service this season, I could not avoid seeing him. It had looked like rain so I was in my sanctum rather than out with the grogs when he arrived, which was just as well. I found our visitor in the main chamber partaking of refreshments. He was looking frighteningly smug and pleased with himself. He asked for our hospitality for one night, which we could not refuse. He insisted on relating a story about how he had tempted a member of the Order into using magic where mundane skills should have sufficed, and made it clear that he thought that magic had been used to scry on his activities. I was horrified to discover that, almost certainly, it was Iuris Perita that he was speaking of! I felt sure that she had a very good reason for her part in this, assuming her accuser was not making this all up. I avoided getting into any discussion on the matter and left him as soon as it was polite to do so. I am sure he just means trouble for us.

Early June: Iuris Perita's search for vis

Our sodalis has returned from her expedition with but one pawn of vis for our store. I should not complain because it is Rego vis, but I am disappointed that she did not find more in three months of searching. I think it unlikely that she was lazy or appropriated the time to her own purposes, but she is saying nothing, as usual; nothing about her expedition and nothing about Urbanus Verbus.

I have managed to learn a little from talk amongst the grogs, but much of this is second hand gossip. She talked to people in many places and heard stories, some of which she followed up but only one of which guided her to vis - some spider web enclosing an iridescent beetle. It appears that Iuris Perita met Urbanus Verbus and some of his grogs near the top of a waterfall near some marshlands after following a trail for several days which had taken her from a quarry to a marsh, to a woodland glade, to a village ale house, on to glade with a very ancient tall tree, then to a campsite and next a poor village by a marsh and another ale house, where she heard of the waterfall. It seems that she had some difficulty locating the falls, but that when she did find it, the Fudarus people were there, almost as if they were expecting her. I cannot believe that she had intended to find them or used magic to track them, for it would be against the Code. Perhaps she had reason to suspect him of breaking the law himself and this was part of a Quaesitorial investigation. I trust we will hear no more of this matter, or of him.

12th June: Approaching Mid-Summer

Constantine came back a few days ago, bringing with him a single pawn of Rego vis. I am very glad to have it, but could wish he had found more. At this rate, vis hunting is a very poor use of our time. I begin to think that Constantine's suggestion that Speculor devise an Intellego spell to assist us in vis detection, which we all then learn, is a good one. Since he got back, I have noticed that since Constantine came back there is very often a female grog in leather armour and carrying a long wooden staff standing guard outside the door to his sanctum. I must remember to find out who she is.

I have not seen Constantine today. I thought at first that he had gone off somewhere with a visitor who arrived here around mid day, maga Gwenole, but she has been asking after him and seems disappointed that none of us can tell her were he is. She appears more like a fairie than Lady Cierella herself does, all shimmering iridescence and tinkling bells when she moves. I spent some time talking to her as she was interested to hear about our rescue of Cierella. Gwenole was able to explain a few things to me, and remarked that she thought I was now 'touched by the fae', though she could not speculate what might result from that. She kindly offered to instruct me further in fairie matters if I chose to spend some time studying with her. I did not ask, but have to wonder what it could be that she would want in return for her time.

15th June: Mid-Summer

Gwenole went and Constantine emerged from his Sanctum, then went off in the direction of the village. Was he going to boast to his friend about having avoided temptation, I wonder?

We carried out the vis collection in the regio as usual and our stores are looking fairly healthy except for Creo and Ignem. We may be able to trade for these two forms if only Council can agree on what we can afford to trade away. I feel sure we can do without some of the Corpus and Imaginem, unless Council will agree to distributing a pawn or two of Corpus to each of us, since there are still three of us needing potions.

Council meeting was quite straight forward. Joach is going out vis hunting, taking Zane and the wand. I hope he is more successful than last season's hunters! Iuris Perita is distilling vis as service this season. I do not know whether this is because she has had enough of travel or because she is hiding from Urbanus Verbus, or maybe she is making sure she is where she can be easily found if some Quaesitorial business is afoot. I shall be distilling vis for my potion. Constantine has a season to himself and has made no request for any books or scrolls or parchment so may be doing the same thing as me. Speculor is writing an introductory text on Intellego, which others think will be useful. I suppose we could try to trade copies for something really useful.

While in the regio this morning, I was reminded that at the equinox the special glades would be accessible and I realised that I was not entirely comfortable with the procedures we had used so far to make and place all the keys. Leaving the menhir, I called upon Pierre the carpenter. I have instructed him to see to the construction of a set of solid wooden steps to lead up the cliff face to where the symbol of Venus is carved. I have asked him to make a wooden platform there with a balustrade around it. This will mean that any one of us can easily get up to the symbol to form or insert the copper symbol in future and there will be no need for anyone to be dangled on a rope or lifted by magic.

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