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There are many questions to be looked into here. If there was a dragon, why did we not hear of it in time to gather its vis? Who was the wizard? In some respects it sounds like Magus Speculor, but he would surely have told us had anything so exciting happened. I cannot believe he would have not boasted of his victory and shown the vis he would have won from the creature. If it was another magus of the Order, surely they would have called here? Perhaps it was a hedge wizard, but if there is one such in these parts who can take on an invisible dragon single handed, they must be found and made to join us. It is a worry that the description of the wizard given in the tale is so like Speculor. I fear that it will draw unwanted attention to us, both mundane and Quaesitorial. I must ensure that Iuris Perita is aware of these rumours!
Iuris Perita is working in her laboratory to distil some vis for our store. I am very glad that she is here in case there is any trouble from the incident at Plaintel. Speculor is also locked away, working to devise a vis detection spell that will help us hunt vis. Joach is working on some project of his own; I gather he has been visiting Jimena to talk about herbs, so perhaps he has become aware of the benefits of a break from work and some time spent in the open air. Constantine has gone off with the vis detection wand, Zane, Redwald and that useless Maud. I very much hope that Speculor's new spell will mean that vis hunters can leave both wand and Zane at the covenant. The man is vague but so very useful! I am getting on well with the copying work I am doing for my parens. This season should see the task completed at last.
I was alarmed to find a monk amongst the small crowd that had gathered by the edge of the East Field. It was no surprise to find Gwenole the centre of attention - tiny bells rang out as she moved and her clothing would have been modest enough had the fabrics not been so diaphanous but as it was, I am sure the peasants were scandalised, let alone the monk. I did not have an opportunity to find out just then who he was, as I tried to steer Gwenole away from the growing audience. She seemed pleased enough to see me, and explained that she had come to dance with our field fairies at their harvest festival under the light of the full moon that night. She must have seen my puzzlement and went down on her knees, pulling me down too, and sure enough the grass at the edge of the field was crowded with the same small creatures as attended the Winter Feast of Misrule. Gwenole was telling me all sorts of fascinating things about the field fairy celebrations when I heard a very familiar, loud voice close by, casting an Intellego Vim spell.
Much to my alarm, Speculor had come and was babbling on something about a change in the aura but I was hardly listening as I looked around for the monk. Alas, he was still there, staring at Speculor, but Sir Achilles was close by him and seemed to be trying to get his attention. I tried to grab Speculor by the elbow and persuade him to walk with me. I hissed at him about the impropriety of casting spells under the noses of the clergy, but he did not appear to be paying me any attention and continued to go on about the local aura. I assumed that Achilles was getting the monk out of the way by now so paid attention to Speculor while hoping that Iuris Perita would turn up very soon. Not she but Joachus appeared. Speculor cast another spell. Looking around anxiously I observed the monk walking around the far edge of the field with Achilles so he was probably well out of ear-shot by now. Speculor had discovered that the usual magic aura of the area had been replaced by a fairy aura of the third magnitude.
We went then, still singing, towards the village, past the church, and on to the West Field. I was very glad to see no sign of any clergy as we went through the village. Achilles had rejoined us, and we collected quite a few more villagers as we passed through. The offerings, singing and dancing went on at the West Field, much the same as at the East Field and by the time it finished I felt confident that I had learnt the songs and the dances. The fairies waved goodbye and I assumed things were over but the procession headed back to the village and to the church, where they seemed to be expected. I decided to excuse myself from this part of the proceedings and returned to my rooms to see Guena about dressing me for the feast.
Not long after Helissente left, I saw Edwin the priest get to his feet and with him four monks! I remember that I had heard that there was someone from the Hermitage painting something on the inside walls of the church, and I suppose there was no way to stop them attending the general feast. How unfortunate that they had to see Maga Gwenole and Speculor. Iuris Perita must be aware of what is going on, though, and I assume she takes responsibility for the Code under the circumstances. I was just relieved to see the clerics depart before anything rowdy or unseemly (other than Gwenole's appearance, that is) occurred.
In fact, this feast was nothing exceptional. There was singing and dancing, and plenty of wine but no sign of the fairies. I think they must have been feasting in the fields on the offerings we left for them.
Maga Gwenole left us early in the day. Before she went she took me aside and gravely warned me to be wary of Eleusinus Merinitae, princeps of Odela. She seems convinced that he is antagonistic towards us, and says he makes a very dangerous enemy if angered or thwarted in any way. I took her words seriously, but am well aware of the long-standing feud between Gwenole's home covenant of Wirbelnia and Odela, so suspect she might be overstating the case, and possibly even trying to pull Caribet further to Wirbelnia's side. I thanked her for her warning, said I would heed it, and am determined to pass it on to Iuris Perita at the earliest opportunity, just in case. If there is to be trouble for us, the Quaesitors should know about it.
I was fascinated to watch Gwenole depart. She danced, and as she danced it was as if an arch of flowering branches formed above and beside her, and then suddenly she turned and wasn't there any longer. I tried to look through the arch but it vanished before I had a chance to make out anything other than the usual landscape. I was sorry to have blinked at the wrong moment and missed a chance to glimpse whatever lay beyond the arch. I settled down to hard work in the scriptorium and did not come down to dinner until late in the day when the light was fading.
When I met Joach and Speculor in the common room, I learned that Iuris Perita had left with her cousin early in the day to attend a feast given by Baron Alain de Robien. I imagine that, with her time so close, Achilles could hardly take his wife so he had invited his cousin to stand in her place for this occasion. I do not think there is any truth behind the suggestion that the rest of us have been in any way slighted. I am sure that both Sir Achilles and Baron de Robien have a suitable degree of respect for us as scholars and persons of high standing. As it happens, I am quite glad not to go as I have made excellent progress in my work today. At least, that is what I shall say if the subject comes up.
He seemed to understand what he saw, and spoke on them at some length, but I failed to understand much of what he said. I think he meant that the symbols formed a coherent set but that full interpretation would have to wait until he could see the stones themselves where they lay. We explained that this was only possible at the equinoxes and invited him to come this way in Spring. I had no trouble understanding what he said next. It is clear that his interest in the stones is not simply a matter of scholarship or friendly assistance. He went on about what an effort it would be to himself and his colleagues to interpret this puzzle and expected us to offer some payment in vis or favours in return. I was alarmed for we have not yet recovered from the repayment of vis to Objurgator for the menhir chip. I tried to put Tacitus off until Spring the year after next.
He must have seen how keen we are to learn more of the pillars, and how tempted we were to accept his aid. He spoke about the use of such stones to open gates and suggested that they might somehow interact with the aura of the regio. He indicated that he and his colleagues (whoever they are; he did not elaborate) were sufficiently interested in this case to agree to defer payment, which would only consist of any Terram or Vim vis needed during the investigation plus recompense for their time. Speculor was clearly eager to take them up on this, but he too appreciated the trouble we would have in finding the vis. I was also aware that we could not take on any debt without a full vote of Council, and we currently lacked Iuris Perita (who would not leave her rooms even for this guest) and Constantine. We concluded the discussion by inviting magus Tacitus to return the following Spring but without promising anything.
Speculor and I sat up talking a while after the others had retired. Our conversation moved on from the problem of the pillars to the fascinating region near the catacombs where there seemed to be traces of Mercurian magic. We both think it a good idea to set up a laboratory there to investigate it thoroughly, but will see how the staircase survives being left in the regio for six months before making any firm plans.
I confined my comments to polite interest, as noncommittal as I could manage. I was all for letting the matter rest there but Speculor, ever keen to talk about one of his research projects, told Eleusinus everything he knew about the regio, and answered all his questions at length. I do wish he had not!
I wonder if this is all a plot to keep us poor so we remain weak, or a plot to draw us into a position of obligation to one powerful older covenant or another; probably both. Are the three suitors working against each other, or working together against us? Or are they all really trying to help? I suppose it would appear weak to give us help without payment of some sort, and we would be shown up as weak if we did not pay fairly for help we received. I am the more convinced that we must accept help and pay fairly for it, but not just yet.
It did not take me long to discover that the monk in question was one Brother Jacobus who had been supervising the painting in our church. He was the one who was such a nuisance when Maga Gwenole arrived for the harvest festival. All four of the men from the Hermitage who had been staying in the village left after morning Mass the day before and only three had arrived at the Hermitage. I still felt this was not really our problem but could see how it could be used against us, if the Prior felt so inclined. While I was wondering how to proceed, and whether I should disturb Iuris Perita, Speculor appeared, carrying two scrolls.
He had heard the news sooner than I and had been over to the village to seek an arcane connection to Br.Jacobus on his pallet. Now he was about to cast 'The Inexorable Search'. It is high time he learnt this spell, I feel, as we can ill afford to lose the map, should anything go wrong while he is casting from the scroll. Anyway, Speculor worked with Br.Jacobus' hair and the map and all went well - he was somewhere in the woods in the direction of the Hermitage. Speculor seemed enthusiastic to pursue his quarry so I went back to my copying.
Speculor tracked the monk as far as a small clearing in the wood a little to the north of the road between Ploeuc and the Hermitage. In the centre of the clearing was a shallow muddy pool and beside it lay the monk's habit, sandals and belt cord. Speculor described how he had used Intellego spells to discover that the pool was the lowest level of a regio, and then to see the way into the regio, which allowed him to lead his grogs through into it (he had taken Milon, Huon and Cado).
The next level put them in a larger glade well-stocked with fruit bushes, on fine grassy sward beside a large, deep pool of swirling, crystal-clear water under warm sun and a clear blue sky. From here, they jumped into the water together to reach the next level. This still looked rather like the glade in the woods, but instead of air, they were entirely surrounded by water, yet they could all breath normally. This was where they found Br.Jacobus. He was in his under garments, kneeling in prayer on the grass. He was convinced that he was in the presence of great holiness, and would not accompany Speculor out of the regio. I have to say I admire Speculor's restraint in not compelling the monk to leave - I know I would have been greatly tempted to change his mind for him. Speculor describes it as if the water itself was keen to keep the monk there. This seems odd and well worth investigation but for whatever reason, Speculor decided to leave the monk and go to talk to Fr.Albertus and the Prior. I am not at all sure that Iuris Perita would have approved of this; we must just hope that they are so pleased to have their brother back that they do not make any trouble for us.
So, Speculor enjoyed a good meal with the Prior and a comfortable night at the Hermitage before heading back to the magical glade with Fr.Albertus and two monks. I gather that Fr.Albertus could see the way into the regio just as easily as Zane can - this is interesting news which we should probably follow up. They only needed to go across one boundary as Br.Jacobus was praying beside the pool in the second level. He was still talking of it as a holy place, though Speculor is quite certain that the aura there was a magical aura of the fourth magnitude. Speculor examined the fruit growing around the glade, but sadly none contained raw vis. Speculor also tried to catch some of the water from the pool in a container but the water seemed to resist capture. It even tried to lash out at him with a water-spout! I would very much like to try to collect some myself as such water must certainly contain vis or be some form of water elemental.
All the time that Speculor was investigating his surroundings, Fr.Albertus was talking quietly to Br.Jacobus. Something was overheard about the distinction between the holy ambience of the Divine and the occasional dominance of other presences. I very much doubt if the monk understood any of it, which is probably just as well. Eventually the monk agreed to allow Fr.Albertus to take him home. He is Albertus' problem now, anyway, not ours, though he did find his own way through the regio boundaries, so may have some form of second sight which could prove useful to us.
At least the expedition only took two days so I have not fallen behind with my work significantly. I have spoken with the bookbinder, Alban, and he has started work on the volumes I have completed. He refuses to let me see the work in progress, which is insolent of him, but he does such a good job that it is not worth antagonising the fellow.
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