Saga Homepage Project Redcap
It was necessary for one of us to spend this season as service making the copy of the other book promised to Fudarus. I thought I would probably get the task - I would not have minded too much, but I have done such a great deal of copying lately. As it happened, Speculor took that job on and I was left to follow my own activities. I shall spend the season distilling again; it will be a great relief when I have these last three pawns to go into my potion. I am resigned now to giving up my hopes for producing a Gifted child. I ought to have thought ahead more, made my plans more carefully, and taken more care at the first or second Mid-Winter feast. Now it is too late. I feel sure I shall be ready to take on an apprentice in about twelve years' time and it would have been so much more satisfactory were it my own daughter. I expect there is a good chance that one or more of the September girls will show promise.
Iuris Perita also has this season to herself. Magus Joachus is to study Creo as service to improve his ability to perform the ritual of "The Bountiful Feast". I think there were some who felt it was a little unfair to allow him to improve his own understanding as service, but I was allowed it once and wish that each of the senior members of the covenant be allowed the same once so that there are no hard feelings. Magus Constantine is going hunting for vis again, though I do believe that this time he may take up the suggestion to visit the nymphs, who we know have Aquam vis. I shall send Ignatius to instruct Redwald in the details of the route to the abbey of Our Lady of the Waters.
Our business did not take long, and Speculor went immediately afterwards to spend the night by the menhir.
Someone was sent to fetch Speculor from the regio, then I performed the ritual using two pawns of Rego vis in the form of flowers and two pawns of Vim vis that I had distilled myself. I feel the combination created a very pleasing perfume which aided my concentration. I do not know whether those who followed me could appreciate it to the full but no doubt the orange blossom scent reached my sodales, who were all close by.
Whilst we were all walking round the edge of the clearing, Maga Gwénolé le Guen of Wirbelnia arrived. She was waiting for us under Jehan's care at the Tower when we returned there. I must say, I am glad she did not arrive before we began the ritual; it would have been entirely inappropriate for her to join in! I assumed she had come to visit Magus Constantine and was pleasantly surprised to find that she did not confine her attention to him. In fact, he looked a little uncomfortable speaking with her, I think, and next time I looked for him, he was nowhere to be seen.
Our visitor wished to come into the regio with us. I suppose that by now every detail of it could be as well-known to any member of the Tribunal as to ourselves, since we have had so many visitors, so I saw no harm in admitting Gwénolé. My sodales discussed the matter briefly, and agreed she could come as long as I kept an eye on her. This meant she had to wait a little while I sent for Pierre the carpenter and the Sarzon brothers who were to assist him with the staircase.
As usual, Joach declined to have anything to do with the regio, if he could avoid it, though he did agree to supervise the gathering of bluebells and to use Herbam spells to assist with making the large planks of wood needed for the staircase small enough that they could be carried around the menhir. He is still afraid of finding himself suddenly very far from home. I appreciate that there is that danger, but my method of coping with it is to wear my travelling clothes and to make sure I have with me at least one of my shield grogs, and that he is equipped with food, water and some silver coins.
Everyone seemed to be in a greater hurry than usual. There was no hint of ceremony about the placing of the first set of keys, which we split up to do. Once they were in place, Constantine took himself off somewhere. I went to the foot of the cliff where the rune of Air is carved. I was very pleased to find that the staircase was just as we had left it six months ago, and instructed Pierre to get on and complete it. When Speculor came into this part of the regio, he used Intellego spells to confirm that time had passed for the staircase in the regio at the same rate as it had passed for us outside. Thus, we conclude that anyone trapped inside the regio at the end of the day of the equinox would have to wait six months to escape but that they would not age or suffer as if any more than six months had passed. One day, it may be necessary to stay inside to learn more.
Maga Gwénolé was exploring the area at the base of the cliff and called out in surprise. She had found the carved sections of the broken pillars and astonished me by saying that they looked just like a pair that stood in a cave beneath the covenant at Wirbelnia. She said that, as far as she knew, the Wirbelnia pillars were there in the cave before the magi moved in, and that no-one there had taken much interest in them. I asked her if she would be so kind as to write out the symbols in order as they appeared on the Wirbelnia pair and send them to me via Redcap once she returned home. It is very alarming to think that there might be a back door into this regio of ours from below Wirbelnia! I reported this news to my sodales later in the day - all had the same anxiety but we agreed to say nothing to Gwénolé of our fears and resolved to investigate.
Work was proceeding well on the staircase, and no further orders were needed, so I was ready to move on when Speculor proposed that we try again to reach the hidden room where we had felt there was a residue of Mercurian magic. Looking back, it may not have been the wisest thing to let Gwénolé know that there was such a place, but our enthusiasm carried us along at the time and Gwénolé was eager to come with us. Access to the hidden room required us to use another Earth key of lead and enter the catacombs where there was a strong Dominion aura.
Neither of us had a spare Earth key with us so it was necessary to go back to the tower for one. I stayed keeping an eye on the carpenters while Speculor went back for another Earth key, though to do this he had to remove the Earth key in the glade which opened the route back to the central glade and the menhir for him but trapped myself, Gwénolé, and probably Iuris Perita and Constantine inside the regio. I was unconcerned, since I was sure he would be back and would replace the primary Earth key soon, but Iuris Perita and Constantine would not know that. In future, when we have enough keys, it seems to me sensible that we all carry one of each once the primary ones are set in position.
When we had the key, we went into the earth tunnel until we came to the pair of herm pillars beside the doorqway blocked with stone. Speculor held out the key and the block faded away so we could walk through into the dark tunnel. Once in the catacombs, we found out why Speculor had discovered one of the Earth keys to be missing - Constantine was there, praying, and beside him was his friend the priest. I was not at all pleased to find Edwin there. As we approached, Constantine looked up and urged us to show respect. I don't know if he intended that we join in the prayers, but we just kept quiet and moved through the catacombs. Gwénolé was looking quite unwell.
I had explained to our visitor the technique for "getting lost" in the straight, dark corridor in order to reach the catacombs and she had had no trouble with that, so I felt sure we would get through from the intermediate Dominion level to the magic area with no difficulty and thence into the small chamber. In fact, Gwénolé and myself reached the Mercurian chamber with a magical aura easily, and found ourselves waiting for Speculor and Ignatius. I do not know whether Speculor had difficulty getting through or whether he got into conversation or was distracted by something, or what, but he was quite a while. I showed Gwénolé the herms by the doorway and, in one wall of the chamber, we found another carving of the earth rune. I was still carrying the key we thought we would need to open the doorway, so I put it into the carving. There was the familiar flash of light as the key slid into place. I looked all around to see if I could find anything that had changed as a result of placing this third key.
When Speculor arrived, he explained that Ignatius was having difficulty blanking his mind sufficiently to get through into this level. I shall have to think of a way to make it more certain that my shield grog can stay close to me - what is the point of taking the precaution of bringing them if they cannot keep up? I showed Speculor where I had placed the third key. He wanted to go out between the two herm pillars, to see if there was any sign of change beyond the chamber and I agreed to wait in the chamber for him, which meant that Gwénolé had to wait too since it was a condition of her admittance to the regio that she stayed with me. While we were waiting, Ignatius arrived. I was very glad to see him. He had been about half an hour struggling to get to us, and looked bruised and shaken, so I let him rest a while.
We waited ages for Speculor. The time passed quite quickly, because Gwénolé and I got into a long discussion on the ways of the fae. She asked me to go over some of the details of my adventure rescuing Cierella inside the boulder, and had some ideas on what might be expected in a few days' time when I am to visit the Valley of Mists to commemorate the rescue. Even so, the time was passing and Speculor failed to appear so eventually we decided that he must have encountered a problem. I left the third key in the wall and we three followed the route Speculor should have taken, between the pillars, into the darkness and out into the light near the doorway by the place where one needs a second key. There was no sign of Speculor but the primary key was in its carved rune on the tunnel wall.
We tried to reach the central glade but could not, so the four primary keys must all have been in position. When we found ourselves back in the Earth glade, we found that the second key had been returned. I guessed that this meant that Speculor had left the area, taking the key, but was now back. I instructed Ignatius to wait in the warm late morning sunshine in the glade while I went back underground to seek Speculor. Gwénolé had to come with me, of course, but she did not seem to mind. There was no sign of Constantine in the catacombs this time. We found Speculor in the catacombs where the Dominion aura was of an intermediate strength. It seemed he had been unable to move from there to the Mercurian chamber. I said I would go back there to retrieve the third key, taking Gwénolé with me, and this we did, finding no difficulty in getting the key and returning through the dark tunnel. When we reached the second key, the doorway was shut, so it seems that it is only held open when the third key is in position. I was worried because Speculor was still inside.
When we got to where Ignatius was waiting, we found Iuris Perita with him. She had been to see how work on the staircase was progressing, and reported that it was coming on well, though I am not sure she is convinced that it is necessary. We discussed Speculor's situation and concluded that he would very probably have to go through to the cathedral in Nantes, and walk back home. The best thing to do seemed to be to send a couple of well-equipped, sensible grogs to assist him. His own shield grog, Milon, was an obvious choice, and maybe Zacharias or Yves. Milon was terrified by the idea of having to go back into the catacombs again, so it was the other pair we sent.
We have also dispatched three grogs to the peat bogs with the vis detection wand, as usual at this time of year. It is hard to spare them and worrying to think of them away from home after our recent losses. We have not yet had time to train anyone else in hunting, either, so I fear meat will be in short supply this winter.
Gwénolé was determined that she would accompany me on my promised visit to the Lady Cierella, where I was to celebrate with her the anniversary of her rescue. I had imagined at first that this would be a fairy feast of the kind enjoyed by Speculor when he attended the entertainment contest there against Fudarus. Gwénolé, my tutor in the ways of the fae, thought that the most important part of the celebration would be a re-enactment of the rescue mission. I have to say that this filled me with great apprehension, which I did my best to conceal. She travels without any guards or servants, which might suit a fairy but is, in my opinion, unfitting for a noble lady or a maga. Being both, I took Julius and Ignatius with me.
Preparations for departure were made inconvenient by Constantine's decision to set out on the same day. He was hardly to be seen, though Gwénolé said she had been looking out for him. Instead, his grogs Maud and Redwald were very often in our way as we gathered things together. Ignatius spent some time with Redwald, explaining the details of the journey. I understand that they will follow the pilgrim route via St.Brieuc and Rennes, as we did.
Our normal practice is to stay overnight at the Hermitage, where we can be sure of a dry bed and a good meal even if the later involves making polite conversation with the Prior and Fr.Albertus. Gwénolé had other ideas and, eager to see what alternative she proposed, I agreed to leave the road and camp out overnight. Gwénolé guided us to a comfortable dell where she arranged for there to be tents and food. I could not tell how much, if any, of this was real, but the air was not too chill, the tents were dry inside and the food was satisfying. As we relaxed, she spoke to me of glamour and illusion. The links between fae glamour and our Art of Imaginem demand further study, I believe.
Our second day of travel was uneventful and our overnight stop in the forest was just as comfortable. I was worried about how many days we would be in the Mists, as I cannot afford to fail in distilling all three pawns this season.
When we reached the Valley of Mists, we were met by Treffle the Crow. I introduced Maga Gwénolé and we requested permission for her to enter the valley. As we followed our guide down through the woods, Gwénolé showed me how the shadows that we could see out of the corners of our eyes were gently nudging us in the direction that our hostess wished us to take. Soon we arrived at the Palace of Mists and were ushered into Cierella's presence. The Lady Cierella looked regal and beautiful. Gwénolé hinted to me that I should remind her of why we had come, so I made a little speech, saying how happy I was to see her looking so well and what a pleasure it was to be with her under happy circumstances to celebrate her freedom. To my dismay, Gwénolé took over as soon as I had finished speaking, placing great emphasis on what a bad state the Lady had been in when I had found her at the top of the tower of the Lord of Dark Summer and how much she had suffered while a prisoner there. I thought this very rude, and was about to interrupt when I noticed that Cierella was withering and ageing rapidly but before I could stop Gwénolé, Cierella vanished.
I was horrified that my guest could treat our hostess so badly, but Gwénolé assured me that this was an essential part of the reason we were here, and the start of the re-enactment. We were to repeat at least part of the rescue all over again. All my fears returned as I remembered the crawl through the caves, the charging unicorn and my fall from the top of the tower. Gwénolé, in contrast, was greatly enjoying herself, by the look of it, dancing lightly over the stones as we followed the now-dry stream bed up towards the source. Sure enough, when we came to the top of the valley, the stream was blocked by a huge boulder.
We stood ready as the sun began to set and, just as before, an opening appeared in the boulder. Gwénolé offered to use her magic to make myself and my grogs small, just as she had when she took me to visit our field fae, but, remembering the dangers that lay within, I decided I could not afford to risk being small, and I certainly did not want to be defended only by tiny soldiers, so I and my grogs crawled into the passage behind a minute, dancing Gwénolé. Inside, everything seemed to be as before - the passage, the cave, the ledge, the path to the cliff top. This time, we knew the direction to head in, and wasted no time. We skirted the stone lion and climbed tall trees the moment we heard any disturbance in the forest. This time, when the unicorn came, we were all out of its way and it thundered past. I did not start to climb down until I was quite sure I could hear nothing. We passed the dammed lake but did not disturb the beavers. The plain of long grass looked just as before; I remembered not only how difficult it had been to walk through but also the likelihood of other stone creatures hiding in it, or flying over it to threaten us. Luckily, Gwénolé showed no hesitation in taking up my suggestion that a Rego Herbam spell would make it easier for us to find a path through the grass. I would have been considerably embarrassed had she expected me to cast the spell - I must do something about this before I have to come here again.
This time, we knew that it was important to avoid contact with the Lord of the Tower. We headed swiftly upwards via the main staircase which at one point took us onto the balcony overlooking the throne room where we could see the Lord of Dark Summer seated as a stone statue. I fervently hoped that he would not notice us, and wished we had taken a route inside the walls, which would have been much slower but safer. It seemed that we had passed unobserved for we were able to reach the open roof platform, enter the turret and climb up to the large, domed chamber at the top.
Just as before, there we found the Lady Cierella, old, grey and withered, and trapped inside the many-layered cage of revolving stone spheres. This time, I knew what to do to free her, so I had my grogs hand me the water bottles they carried and cast Rego Aquam to shoot jets of water at the prisoner. Gwénolé, rather to my annoyance, announced that the water she carried had come from the lady's own stream, and she squirted that at the Lady too. No doubt her idea of using that particular water was much the better one, but I rather felt that this was my show and she ought to have been just a spectator. However, I did not say anything. My annoyance was cut short by the sound of heavy footfalls, and as the stone spheres jammed with wet moss so the revived Cierella could step free, the huge and terrifying Lord stepped into the chamber. His thunderous anger lashed out at us, just as before, as the tower began to disintegrate. I have to confess that I was petrified at the idea of falling. I felt Gwénolé take my hand and say something about closing my eyes and casting no spells. I was too scared to resist and a moment later I found myself lying on the grass at the foot of the intact tower, looking up to where the Lord of Dark Summer was still railing at us from the roof.
Rather shakily, I was able to get to my feet. My greatest need then was to get away from the tower. With Ignatius and Julius behind and in front of me, I felt a little safer as we made our way across the plain, through the woods, along the cliff-top, down the path, into the cave, and back through the passage to emerge beside the huge boulder. Cierella was there, restored to youth and beauty. She urged us up onto the higher ground and called up a great wave to wash away the boulder and before long the stream was flowing down the now-verdant valley again.
We slowly made our way back down the valley until we reached a clearing that looked very like that which Speculor said that he had feasted in. There we were invited to rest on elegant couches under silken awnings as tables were laid out and food was brought in. I felt safe even when the silver wolves prowled in and settled themselves around the edge of the clearing. Gwénolé seemed satisfied that the food was safe to eat, so we all had plenty, though I made sure that my grogs only took from the plates set close to them and I encouraged them to drink only water.
I had assumed that the feast was the end of the business and was relaxing, glad it was all over satisfactorily. I was wrong. The final part of the celebration was to be a re-telling of the story of Lady Cierella's rescue, not just once, but several times. Gwénolé told her version first. It seemed to me that she made up a lot of embellishments that did not accurately reflect what had actually happened, but these were greeted with claps and cries of delight by many of the listeners, even Cierella who must have known they were untrue. I was not excused this story telling and had a very attentive audience as I began to relate my version of what we had just done. I am not used to telling stories, being more used to talking about facts, so I expanded my bald account by adding details of my understanding of what I had seen with reference to the theory of magic. The audience were polite, but I fear none but Gwénolé understood any of what I added, and she was not in the mood for an intellectual discussion. One of Cierella's people told a version of the story next, which was entertaining, if almost entirely unlike what really happened.
After the feast, Cierella gave us parting gifts. At least, she gave me a pawn each of Muto and Aquam vis, for which I was very grateful. Because I lost us access to the valley's vis when I conceeded the entertainment contest to Fudarus, I feel that these are covenant property rather than my own, even though I was given them as a gift when visiting in my own time; this may need clarification from council after consulting the charter. I do not know if she gave any to Gwénolé. Afterwards, Gwénolé advised me to improve my story-telling if I was to spend time with the fae, and indicated that it would be most advantageous at the re-enactment, which was likely to be an annual event, to emphasise the greatest possible degree of recovery in Cierella. I have no idea what books one needs to study from to learn storytelling, unless there are books of stories to be found somewhere.
I am glad to have arrived back at Caribet after just seven days away, so I will be able to get the distillation done as planned, provided no other interruptions occur. I was three days each way travelling through the forest, so the time with the fae lasted only one day of our time, even though it seemed longer. I hope I can rely on this in future if I am to visit every year.
When I went downstairs to collect some food around dusk, I was astonished to learn that Fr.Albertus has come to stay at Caribet for a few weeks, and had brought with him most of his laboratory equipment, books and an apprentice! For a moment I wondered whether he had been moved to join the Order and let my thoughts run away with what I might learn from his books. When pressed, Iuris Perita explained that he had felt it wise to absent himself from the Hermitage for a period on account of some bother resulting from the business over the previous bishop of St. Brieuc being revealed as a diabolist.
This was hardly reassuring! I protested that he might bring whatever trouble it was with him, but Iuris Perita seemed convinced that our troubles with the Church would be the lesser if he stayed. I could, of course, see the sense in having the Hermitage owe us a favour. If the man is to stay, I hope he will make himself useful. I do not know what he might achieve in a few weeks that would be to our benefit. It is not long enough for him to copy out a book from his collection, even assuming there is something there worth our while. I must take the earliest opportunity to speak with him and see how he might pay us for his shelter.
Galliene came to the tower today, saying she had had a message 'by magic' from Speculor to say that he and the two grogs were alright and were on their way home. That is a great relief, now we know there is nothing to worry about.
I was alarmed to get a message late this afternoon to tell me that Iuris Perita had called a meeting of Council. My first fear was that it was bad news concerning the missing Speculor. My apprehension rose as Joach and I, being the only others present, sat in silence with Iuris Perita as she gathered her thoughts and found the words she needed to break the news. Somehow, she had obtained information about what, or rather, who, it was that had caused Fr.Albertus to flee the Hermitage.
Canon Filbert of St.Brieuc, who we have come across before, had arrived to make some sort of inspection. He was accompanied by a Fr.Mattheus, a man even more dangerous than Filbert, although of apparently more junior rank. He has a reputation as one who sniffs out sorcery where it probably does not exist and would undoubtedly take a dim view of Albertus, let alone ourselves. By the sound of it, the Prior was looking to us to rid him of this Mattheus, and, inexplicably, Iuris Perita was agreeing to help. My understanding of Hermetic Law is not great, I freely admit, but it did seem to me that this was Church business that we had best keep well away from but Iuris Perita was determined. We discussed, in hypothetical terms, what sort of event or discovery might be sufficient to call Fr.Mattheus away from the Hermitage in haste. My preferred plan was to somehow implicate Lord de Robien in dubious practises and have this Mattheus turn all his suspicion that way. However, we really needed to think of a way of keeping him or his like away for good rather than just delay his investigations.
We felt the lack of Speculor's imagination and Constantine's understanding of the Church but I feel confident that our final plan will succeed. Iuris Perita is to speak with M.Bertrand and give him silver which he will use to hire a prostitute in the Quintin district. This woman will be instructed to make contact with Fr.Mattheus and make sure he is discovered in flagrante thereby disgracing him and, we hope, ensuring he is sent packing and is not heard of again. Provided she is paid enough, and that not until after the job has been successfully done, she ought not to say who put her up to it, and if she does say anything, she will know nothing of our part in the plot.
I gather that the merchant Bertrand was here today, and that he handed a letter to Iuris Perita. She has said nothing about it, so I assume it is not important. I wish I could feel sure that she would tell me if it was.
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