Winter 1224: Caribet under attack
The Council meeting of the Winter solstice brought several important matters for discussion and decision but began with a lecture.
Iuris Perita had been busy about some business of her own for weeks but had obviously gathered something of what had been happening, particularly Speculor's behaviour, and she took this opportunity of us all being gathered together to remind us all of the Code we have all sworn to uphold. Speculor appeared to be in complete agreement with everything she said, and gave no hint that any of her illustrative examples or specific directions might have been just for his benefit. I fear that if he does not appreciate how he breaks the Code, he may one day find himself called to account before a Tribunal which would be very bad for our House and our covenant as well as for Speculor himself.
I am glad that my plan to pay a visit to my parens within the year means that I cannot take on the role of Princeps here for the coming year. Iuris Perita was elected to this post again, and it will be for her to make excuses for Speculor and herself if he gets into trouble. Bearing in mind his status as a founder member, I proposed Joachus as defensor. Speculor proposed Constantine and Joach seconded this and Constantine was elected. I had been thinking of Constantine as Librarius, mainly because I know he is interested in acquiring books on the same subject as myself so I had hopes he would make an effort to get what I want. As it turned out, Speculor was once again elected to serve as Librarius.
I took this opportunity to tell the others that I intend to be away from the covenant from the beginning of Autumn until towards the end of the following Spring so someone else should be prepared by the Spring equinox of next year to cast the Aegis of the Hearth. Constantine told us that he expects to be away from the covenant visiting his parens some time in 1226. We both have such long journeys! I shall have to acquire a means of using magic to save time and effort in travel but there is no opportunity to do so soon.
We did not take long to consider the three offers of help we received recently. Any one of the three would put us into considerable debt in some form and we had to find a way of refusing them all without causing offence. It was Constantine who came up with the best reasoning. He suggested that we flatter them, saying that we did not want to waste the valuable time of such eminent magi on the basis of our own very cursory preliminary investigations. When we have exhausted our own capabilities, we may know which particular areas of special interest it is most appropriate to apply to any remaining problems. Iuris Perita is to write something like this to all three of the interested magi.
We are all keen to get our stocks up to the level necessary to bring our debt of covenant service down to one season per year. I thought it very unlikely that this could be achieved in time to save me some trouble over having to use up three seasons for my visit to Castellar and thus have to spend almost the whole of the following year doing service, but I put my plan forward any way. I suggested that we could offer to trade 10 pawns of Corpus vis and 4 pawns of Rego vis in exchange for 1 Au, 4 Cr, 4 Ig, 5 Pe. Since I feel that Corpus is considerably more valuable, in general, than Auram or Ignem I think that taken together, the mix of Forms and Techniques is not unbalanced. Constantine did not think we would find anyone willing or able to trade for the whole lot at once. He proposed that we should make it known through the Redcaps that we are willing to trade small amounts of Corpus and Rego vis for similar amounts of Auram,
Creo, Ignem, or Perdo vis. Joach was rather concerned about us trading away Rego; I am very curious as to what he is working on - something which he let on needs Rego or Terram vis.
Constantine thought it would be a good idea to set up a long term agreement to trade a little Corpus vis for some Herbam since we use more to cast The Bountiful Feast every year than our current known source provides. I thought this might be something we came to regret. I feel certain that there is Herbam vis to be found out in the forest that surrounds us. We have not yet found the right place or time to find it but once we have learnt Speculor's new spell, we shall quickly find what we need. Others agreed with me so we just added Herbam to the list of vis types we would like to acquire in the short term.
Iuris Perita, Constantine and Speculor are all free to follow their own studies this season. There was some discussion over whether Joachus should spend the coming season improving his understanding of Creo so he could better cast The Bountiful Feast but the need for vis won and he is to distill. I have been set the same task, which is becoming rather routine and tedious. I had offered to write out the remaining spells I know that have not yet been recorded for the library but only Constantine was in favour of this suggestion.
I order to increase the range of Arts that we can study from our own small library, we have decided to enquire whether there is any other young covenant in the area who might be interested in exchanging copies of books. I am sure that the books we have on Animal, Intellego and Magic Theory would even be of interest to some well-established covenants. My preference was for summae on Perdo, Vim and Ignem. After some consideration, it was decided that Speculor write to Ulula Speculum, Wirbelnia, Odela and Brugensis mentioning these three particularly good books, our Commentaries and our Tractatus. Rather than asking for anything specific, we will wait and see what they offer. Speculor must get this letter off at the next opportunity because we would like the message about books to reach Odela before they get the letter to Eleusinus Merinitae declining the offer of assistance in the regio.
A small group left early this morning for the Hermitage. I can see why Father Edwin prefers not to be here for the ritual and feast and it is probably wise of Achilles to send his wife away with the priest for a couple of days. I don't see why Constantine is going with them. Soon after they went, one of the servants came to tell me that a magus had arrived by magic out by the east field and was claiming to be Maga Gwénolé. I went at once to welcome the guest. I am sure it was Gwénolé le Guen Merinitae of Wirbelnia but she had the appearance of a handsome young man with curling dark hair, lustrous brown eyes and a captivating smile. I have known Jimena adopt man's clothing when travelling but she does it so as to pass unnoticed while on the road, whereas Gwénolé arrived via a fairy gate clad in bright silks. I did not venture to ask why this disguise but stayed close to learn all I could.
Joachus performed the annual ritual, accompanied by resident and visiting magi and followed quite closely by everyone from round about. He was exhausted by the effort and had to rest a while.
During the afternoon, Gwénolé sought me out again and began to talk about the ways of the fae while we walked. It was a bright day, though the air was cold, and we wandered towards the fields. I was eager to learn and fascinated by all Gwénolé would tell me. I knew that this was a maga but she made such a very good looking man that I found it hard to concentrate. She suggested that I would learn most by paying a visit to the fae. I prefer to learn from books, but there were none immediately available and so I accepted the invitation, believing this to be something we would do at some time in the future. In fact, she intended that we visit our own field fae right away. I was alarmed for a moment because this could only be accomplished by dropping my Parma Magica briefly and allowing Gwénolé to shrink me down to the size of the fae. It was hard to refuse her anything and a moment later I was wearing a rough linen smock and standing beside great clods of earth as high as the top of my head. I was just discovering that my ears had changed shape when Gwénolé arrived.
Together we scrambled over, round and under the rough earth and were soon surrounded by the same fairy folk that I have seen here before, except that now I was the same size as them, and able to visit their homes and watch their work. They were very happy to show off their way of life. Gwénolé explained to me that since these fae are much involved in the production of the grain and vegetables that feed us all at Caribet, it is safe to accept food from them, but that in general, it is unwise to accept fairy food. I was very grateful for her instruction and the very pleasant company she provided.
We were joined at the high table this year by Maga Gwénolé, still in the guise of a very handsome man, and by Sir Guillaume, the bailiff from Ploeuc. I confess that I found it hard to remember who the gorgeous man paying me so much attention really was, and consequently did not take as much notice as usual of the other people there. We were rudely interrupted during the second course by Fulk the illuminator, who was shot up into the rafters to wait until dawn. We were disturbed a while later by Alain, pushing in beside me and trying to fix my attention. My companion cast a spell and turned him into a woman before we decided to leave the hall with a bottle of wine each.
I woke on damp grass close to the menhir beside Maga Gwénolé. It took me a single moment to remember that the woman I now saw had been the man I had spent the night with. In great haste and confusion, I hastened around the menhir and back to my room. Thankfully, Guena was not there and I was able to wash and change unhelped and unobserved. Once I had calmed down sufficiently to wonder whether our visitor could find her own way out of the regio I realised that I could not face her just at present. I put the blame for recent events firmly on the enchanted wine, and remembered that it was essential to gather the dregs.
It was good to have something important and practical to do. I returned to the hall where we had feasted the night before and was glad to find that sufficient of the revelers had headed the instruction to leave wine in the goblets that there was about two bottles full of dregs to take to Jimena for distillation. Zane was in Jimena's cottage when I arrived, but it appeared that she was giving him breakfast rather than one of her potions. I managed to get back to my sanctum without having to talk to anyone else. I occupied myself with getting the apparatus prepared for a season of vis extraction, which practical activity gave me time to think about the previous night. I was coming to the conclusion that I would be best to view it as a demonstration of fairy magic when Julius' voice called from the other side of the door that Maga Gwénolé had asked to speak with me.
I opened the door with some hesitation, hoping she would not have resumed her male appearance. Thankfully, she had not chosen to disguise herself again today, and she did not dwell at all on what had happened between us but took her leave in a polite and friendly fashion. If this is the end of it, I will not regret my behaviour though I would not wish to repeat it.
I was busy with my work most of the day but joined some of my sodales for the main meal. There seemed to be fewer people about than usual. Garth, Yves and Gerard have been sent out with the vis detection wand to hunt for body bits in the bog, but this does not account for the situation. I gathered from Joach that our Vilicus has a feeling of something threatening us and that the guard on both gates to the clearing has been strengthened. Constantine is back from the Hermitage. He gave me a strange look when I made a simple polite enquiry about this visit though all he said was that it had gone well and that he had enjoyed some discussions with Fr.Albertus. He too mentioned strengthening of the guard against some unknown threat.
I cannot tell whether the visit today of Urbanus Verbus Tytali of Fudarus was the threat Jehan anticipated. Nothing he did or said seemed threatening but one can never be too cautious where that covenant is concerned. He had heard that we were interested in trading books. Fudarus is interested in obtaining copies of the Commentaries and Tractatus we have and are offering us a liber quaestionum on Herbam plus a Commentary on it. While unexciting, and not what I particularly want, this is useful. Speculor handled the negotiations, of course. Urbanus Verbus was most interested in Speculor's own Commentary on Thoughts Made Solid and Iuris Perita's Commentary on The Regio In The Mind Of Man. Since Iuris Perita had made two spare copies of her book already, we agreed to let our visitor take one with him. One of us will have to spend their next season of service making the copy of Speculor's book. I hope it will not be me as I have done so much copying recently!
I thought that Constantine would be as disappointed as I was about the subject of the books we were to obtain in the deal with Fudarus. In fact, he is quite glad of it and wishes to study from the new liber quaestionum to improve his understanding of Herbam sufficiently that he can cast the Bountiful Feast ritual for us, if need be. Joach is also keen to study as service for the same purpose, though in his case it is Creo he wishes to improve.
Father Albertus arrived at the tower today, bearing a wrapped bundle which he says he had been asked to deliver to us. Jehan seemed sure that this was the danger to the covenant that had been threatening for some time. It seemed most probably that these were the books expected from Fudarus. The bundle looked about the right size for a book or two, but I cannot believe that the Redcaps are using the clergy to make deliveries for them. Speculor cast spells at the bundle to ascertain the contents without touching it, and this in full view of Fr.Albertus and without any protest from Iuris Perita! Joach asked our quaesitor if there was any risk that we might be breaking the Peripheral Code in some way be accepting books that have come to us via the Hermitage. Iuris Perita considers that if anyone is to blame here it is Fudarus and that they appear to believe that they can get away with it, so we should not worry. I hope she is right! We will keep the books and be quiet about the mode of delivery or we could quiz the next Redcap to call.
Speculor unwrapped the bundle and, sure enough, it was the Herbam books we expected. At a quick glance, they appeared to be well-written in good Latin. We decided that the safest thing to do was to set them aside for a while and see if another pair turn up.
Two of our huntsmen, Cado and Nicolas, failed to return home last night. Speculor cast The Inexorable Search but was unable to locate either of them, nor could he establish whether they were dead or alive.
Speculor and Iuris Perita went out into the forest with Milon, Duncan and Zane plus Sir Achilles and Sir Guillaume, who had ridden over from Plouec to assist. Ear for Distant Voice failed, as did any attempt to pick up the men's tracks by magic, but Sir Guillaume was able to pick up traces of their route from the north gate, heading east. Sir Guillaume led them to a patch of blood on the ground where he thinks the hunters had been badly injured by arrows or crossbow bolts, or maybe spears. It was as if two men had been badly wounded, fell then vanished. While the mundane nobility were distracted by Iuris Perita, Speculor had confirmed that it was human blood on the ground but was puzzled to find it was not possible to use it as an arcane connection. He was able to learn from the trees that two men had approached stealthily, stopped, fallen and vanished.
As there was no sign of the trail, whether it was sought by magic or mundane means, and it was cold and starting to get dark, the group returned. Talking over their findings, it seems that magic has been used to break any arcane connection to the missing men and we wonder whether this is something done by bad fairies or someone from House Tytalus.
A larger party set off into the forest this morning, intending to begin their search at the place where the two bodies fell and bled. Constantine, accompanied by Maud and Redwald, Speculor with Milon, and Iuris Perita with Duncan, Zane and Ellie have gone. Jehan feels very uneasy, talking still of great danger to Caribet, and we are all very anxious for those who are lost and those who seek them. Our other hunters are being given the day off. The guard on the palisades has been strengthened and we have sent four extra guards to Sir Achilles to protect the village.
I am hoping to be able to get on with some work, but my mind is with my sodales in the forest.
Yesterday's hunting party came back with very little, but at least they came back unharmed. There had been no powerful, enduring spells cast at the scene of the disappearance. There was the usual low level magic aura, no trace of fae or ghosts and no spattered blood on the bushes or ground.
Today, we sent out two men, Alain and Mathieu, both protected by strong leather armour, and watched at a distance by Speculor using Summon the Distant Image. It was awful, watching Speculor's face as he helplessly observed what happened to our poor grogs. He saw each of them struck by two cross bow bolts, saw them fall, saw two men with cross bows step up to the bodies and bend over them, saw them gesture into the distance, saw a hooded figure approach, saw this figure lean over and touch both bodies, and then saw no more. Speculor thinks the two armed men looked like soldiers. We fear this may be Sir Hammond back with his infernal aid.
A small army has now gone out into the forest, the same people that went yesterday plus Jimena, Francis, Zacharias, Caspar and Guierrac. I am still mindful of Jehan's warnings. It may be that the attacks on our people are meant to lure us away from the covenant. I am in the library with the vis stores and the books, though not those two books that arrived recently, because we are still not sure that those are not part of what threatens us. Jehan told me he has a funny feeling about those books so, since his feelings have been right before and I am not willing to take any risks, I have had one of the grogs take them over to the church. If these are come to us from Sir Hammond, that is the place where they are least likely to do harm, I think.
The news is not good. Further investigation at the scene of the last attack revealed blood on the ground as before but no sign of any other disturbance. My sodales are coming to the suspicion that the hooded figure is a member of our Order, probably Eleusinus. I am reminded of the strong warning we had from Gwénolé about his vengeful nature. Iuris Perita is very worried about the Code being broken by us or him, if this is the case. She believes that there is sufficient evidence available to both sides for both to be fairly certain that magi are involved and that all should now retreat.
I told the others about Jehan's feeling about the new books. Speculor wanted to investigate, as usual, so had them fetched back to our glade where he tested to see if they were being used as an arcane connection. He decided that the books were harmless and wanted to have them carried to the tower, but I trust Jehan and wanted them returned to the church for now. Speculor was casually turning the pages when he came upon a letter, folded and sealed, and marked with the letters 'U.V.' and the message "Open this if you need to". Were the attacks on us a particularly bloody Tytalus test? Constantine said we should not open the letter because that would be an admission of defeat. I agreed and said we should try to learn as much about it as we could without breaking the seal. There were pieces of parchment inside, cut up into complex shapes. It was frustrating, but we had one more plan to try before opening the letter.
Today we sent out two parties. Constantine went ahead, with Maud and Redwald. All three had Wizard's Sidestep cast upon them. Constantine cast Gift of the Bear's Fortitude upon himself before setting out. Speculor followed behind, with Milon, Francis, Ellie, Jacques and Jimena, going slowly so he could, by agreement, keep a watch on Redwald by using Summon the Distant Image.
The advance party were attacked in just the same way as our hunters, but nearly all the cross bow bolts hit their displaced images. When the attacking soldiers bent over the images of the bodies, Redwald leapt up and attacked one of them with his sword. Constantine, defended by Maud, cast Arrow of Fire at the other soldier. The soldier must have had some form of magical protection, as the spell had no effect on him other than to make him sneer "Are you a wizard, then?" as he took up a more defensive stance. Constantine responded with "Are you an idiot?" then stopped the rude soldier with Grip of the Choking Hand.
Then the hooded figure stepped into view. It was, as feared, Eleusinus. He rasped out something about making an end, gestured with his iron staff and opened a gaping pit between Constantine and his shield grog. Maud's staff was shattered as she tried to drive Eleusinus back. Constantine told us that Eleusinus admitted that he was attacking our grogs for revenge. With remarkable restraint, Constantine did not just incinerate anyone, but tried to reason with the other magus, reminding him that attacking our grogs was a threat to the covenant and thus a threat to the magi themselves. Eleusinus raised the still-fighting figure of Redwald up into the trees then backed away, saying this was an end 'for now'.
By the time the back-up party reached Constantine, Eleusinus and his soldiers were out of sight, and, sadly, it seemed most sensible to let them go. No longer can there be any doubt as to which side Caribet is on in the conflict between Wirbelnia and Odela. We have lost four good grogs, including most of our skilled hunters, and know that we have a strong, cunning, ruthless enemy with little regard for the law or the Code.
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