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Covenant of La Roche Caribet

Autumn 1224: Harvest festival, too much help and a lost Brother

Late September: Worrying rumours

The most extraordinary stories are circulating about recent events at Plaintel. They say that the harvest there was almost entirely destroyed by an invisible, fire-breathing dragon! They also say that a great wizard came to fight against it. He was very tall and very thin and shed showers of sparks all around him as he moved. The dragon tried to escape but the wizard ran so fast that he caught up with it and wrestled it to the ground even though it was invisible.

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.

29th September: Harvest Moon

There has been an air of gathering excitement amongst the grogs for a few days now. I was doing my best to ignore it - their agricultural customs are all very well but should not interfere with my work - so I had determined to leave the scriptorium only for the feast promised by Sir Achilles to conclude the day's activities. I shall stay particularly vigilant in case the field fairies try any of their tricks this time; I wonder if they know a way to provide vis other than Muto?

Upsetting the clergy

As things have turned out, I have hardly written a page today and instead I have enjoyed a very stimulating day in conversation with Maga Gwenole on the subject of fairies. She arrived during the morning but instead of coming to the tower, she went directly to the fields to meet the field fairies. A messenger came to the tower to let us know and I went eagerly to greet her. Since our last meeting, I have been thinking over what she told me about the change she perceived in me. I still do not feel any different, but I think it would be useful to take advantage of anything she cares to teach me about the fae, since we live surrounded by them here. I asked her about the possibility of borrowing a book on Fairie Lore but I gather she very much prefers personal tuition, which I fear would be costly in vis or favours.

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.

Harvest festival

Gwenole heard Speculor and offered her explanation. The little brambly, smock-clad figures were clustering close round her now, and some were even climbing up her skirts. By the time she had finished telling us about the habits of the field fae, Achilles had walked back through the centre of the field with the monk and had taken him off towards the village. Many of our people were heading this way and soon the festivities began. The peasants offered the fairies bread, cakes and ale. The field fairies sang and danced, and Gwenole danced with them. I tried to dance but the rough stubble-covered ground was so unlike the smooth floors I am used to that I found it rather difficult to copy their swift, intricate steps.

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.

Harvest Feast

It was a warm evening and it was very pleasant to eat out of doors. The noise from the lower tables was hardly any disturbance, unlike when we all crowd into Sir Achilles' hall. There seemed to be a lot of talk going on at the centre of the high table as well, for I saw Sir Achilles and his wife in conversation every time I glanced that way though her ladyship seemed to be always glaring at Gwenole. Gwenole had expressed disappointment on finding that Constantine was not at home, but did not seem to be letting that spoil her enjoyment of the evening. Lady Helissente retired after the main part of the meal; she is immense and surely must have her child any day now. I can't help wondering if it will turn out to be a were-wolf like her uncle.

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.

30th September: Disappointments

I got up quite early and went to check on the wine I had set aside during the feast yesterday, just in case. Alas, it was just ordinary wine.

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.

9th October: A visitor from Iberia

This afternoon I was called from my writing to welcome an unexpected guest, Magus Tacitus of House Guernicus from Arcus Aureus in Iberia. He is a Quaesitor and Geomancer, if I remember correctly; though I never met him before, I have heard him spoken of at Castellar. I guessed he was passing this way and sought accommodation for the night, but it seemed he had a particular reason for calling here. He would not talk of this until my sodales had gathered to join him for a meal late in the day. He explained that word had gone from Iuris Perita to Objurgator and from Objurgator to him that we had some very interesting stone pillars in a regio in our covenant grounds, and that we needed help to understand and interpret the symbols on the stones and make use of them. I hastened to get the parchment strips from the library on which we had made careful copies of the symbols and laid them out before our guest.

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.

16th October: Arrivals

Noble birth

There is a bit of a fuss amongst the staff today as Lady Helissente has produced a healthy male heir. I am sure this is a great relief to Sir Achilles. We can make sure the child is brought up to know his place and his duty so our relations with the local nobility should be safe for some time to come. I understand that la Doctura was in attendance throughout the confinement. I shall request Jimena to attend me this evening, to enquire of her about the circumstances of the birth and the baby, in case there is any hint that it is not quite normal.

Petrusca offers advice

We had a Hermetic visitor today. Magus Aster Bonisagi ad Petrusca arrived. He too heard of our regio and is keen to help us understand the stone pillars in return for payment and/or favours. He spoke first to Speculor and myself, where he was free to reveal that much of his information about the regio came from the letters we had both sent to Petrusca. It was obvious that Speculor was in correspondence with his pater, though I did not know whether he knew that I had been writing to Petrusca as well. Speculor and I were enthusiastic about accepting Petrusca's assistance but, remembering that we had to get agreement from our sodales, we agreed to make sure the matter was debated at the next council meeting. We discussed the symbols on the stones and their placement and orientation and so on at some length but had to break off our fascinating discussion to talk to Joach at dinner. Iuris Perita was still working and Constantine was still away, so no final decision could be made but Aster wished to make his offer openly. He mentioned having heard of the regio through Objurgator, rather than speak of our letters. I expect Magus Aster will be back in Spring to hear our response to his offer.

24th October: A third offer

Magus Eleusinus of House Merinita, princeps of Odela, came to call today. I had almost forgotten Maga Gwenole's warning, but treated this visitor with caution. He came to talk about his special interest in fairy stones and his enthusiasm for helping us understand the stones inside our regio. Now, I have no reason to suspect that any of the stones inside the regio are at all fairy, but did not say so for fear of offending the magus. Instead of leading the conversation on to discussions of the stones themselves, he talked of Tribunal politics. He said he was well aware that there are other magi trying to get involved in helping us understand the regio, and that they are pressing us to offer payment in vis or favours, while he would ask but a modest compensation. He mentioned Petrusca and House Guernicus, so obviously knows just who has spoken with us. He remarked that there are those at Petrusca who are more interested in controlling the Tribunal than they are in magical research, although he knew that this would be offensive to at least two of us. He went on to warn us to be very cautious about who influences us.

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.

4th November: The missing monk

My concentration was disturbed about half way through the afternoon by noisy chattering on the other side of the scriptorium. One of the women had come up and was talking excitedly with one of the scribes. I overheard that a messenger had come from the Hermitage to our priest with news that one of their monks had gone missing. I did not immediately understand that this had anything to do with us at all but, fearing that there might be an attempt to blame us anyway, I went downstairs to find out more.

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.

5th November: Watery realm

Towards the end of the day, Speculor returned with the news that he had found Brother Jacobus. Just where he found him fascinates me.

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.

What the rumours report

I gather that rumour amongst the grogs is that their first theory was that Br.Jacobus was so holy that, while praying by the pool, he had been taken up to heaven wearing a white robe and riding in a fiery chariot. Some talk is of Huon and Milon swimming in the air, but that must refer to the third level of the regio. There is also a certain amount of sniggering concerning Huon having removed his clothes by the pool on instructions from Speculor, and then go paddling, though I think this must be pure invention as Speculor did not mention it. There may be some confusion with the report that the water attacked first Speculor and then Huon, and that Huon got drenched and almost drowned while on dry land.

Temptation resisted

I would very much like to go and investigate this regio and the strange water myself right away but I really must defer the pleasure until I have completed this last part of my great task to make a gift for my parens. There is no time to spare. Also, if the water has an intelligence and was angered by the behaviour of the grogs, it would be best to leave it to calm down for a while, so I will not go.

16th November: Temptation wins

I have been much occupied with thinking about the water that Speculor found. Rather than risk any lapse in my concentration whilst copying, I decided this morning that it was, in fact, best that I go to the glade right away to satisfy my curiosity. Speculor was happy to take me. Unfortunately, neither of us was able to see the way from the muddy pool into the next level, so we had to give up and come home. I shall take Zane with me next time.

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.

Our first Chapter House

When the merchant Bertrand visited today, he brought word from Maga Elise that she has accepted our invitation to take up residence in the Tour de Cesson, and has already moved in. Nothing in the message spoke of any intention to apply for full membership of the covenant. While it would be very useful to have her skills and knowledge at our service, I am not over-keen on her area of specialised study, so I will not be encouraging her to apply. We must remember to call in and speak to her next time anyone is headed that way. It only takes a strong grog a couple of days to make the trip, so we will have no difficulty getting her sigil to use at Tribunal. I feel quite proud that our first chapter house has been founded while I am princeps.

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