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Constantine has returned with but one pawn of Aquam vis, which is considerably less than I had hoped for, but it may be possible to get more later from the same source, so his time may have been put to good use. Also, he heard of somewhere not far from the Abbey of St. Maur de Glanfeuil called the Roche aux Fae, which it could be worth our while exploring next time we are in the vicinity. In fact, it seems as if our covenant will be making several trips to the Abbey and its Chapel of Our Lady of the Waters during the next few months, so doubtless someone will be able to spare the time to find out more.
I have heard something of the visit through the grogs, and Constantine gave a report to Council. I felt that we were not being told quite the whole story, but if Constantine was leaving out details of the religious aspects of the visit, I am rather glad. I gather that Constantine and his grogs had no difficulty in reaching the Abbey and posing as pilgrims. During their first night there, they left Redwald on guard by the fountain in the courtyard with the benches set on Roman pillars, between the chapels of Our Lady and St.Martin, and entered the regio by walking into the fountain. Constantine reports that he explored the Roman bath complex quite extensively, examined the mosaics and basins, and used Intellego Vim spells to seek out the vis, but found none. They eventually found the nymphs relaxing on couches as they listened to the singing of the monks in the Abbey close by. The look I got from Constantine at this point in his narrative made it clear that he assumed I had known about them, and had chosen not to inform him of them in advance (which was quite true), but he seemed not displeased. One of the nymphs guided the unexpected visitors through an extended bathing ritual which culminated in a vision of Our Lady of the Waters, after which the pair found themselves back in the courtyard with Redwald.
During their first full day at the Abbey, they found out a little more about the visions of Our Lady of the Waters that some of the monks and visitors had reported. Some of the apparitions had been beside the river rather than in the Abbey itself, but the appearance of the Lady was always the same. No mention was made in any of the reports of the Nympheum and its attendants, so one has to assume that it was unusual to be guided to the vision in the way that Constantine was. Constantine says he saw no monk or lay brother who showed signs of frequent bathing, either. Rather than investigate by the river, Constantine chose to spend most of that day in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Waters. I suppose this was a reasonable way to keep up the rôle of pilgrims, though I doubt many test the aura in there, as he did.
During their second night, they rose after a few hours' sleep and found a moment when the courtyard was otherwise empty for Constantine and Maud to slip into the regio again to complete the investigation that the nymphs had interrupted the night before. He found that the aura in the regio was magical, and just a little weaker than our aura here at Caribet except in one room where there were three pagan altars and the aura was a little stronger than elsewhere in the baths. He went to the edges of the accessible area, where the bath complex was swallowed up in grey mist. For some reason that was not made clear, Constantine decided to take another bath, this time unattended except by his shield grog. (I hardly think it fitting that a shield grog should act as bath attendant or body servant, especially one of the opposite sex.) They later found the nymphs disporting themselves around a fountain, and Constantine asked them questions about their home.
They said that they had been there a very long time and that nothing changed and nothing much happened. They get very few visitors and remembered when I was there. One of them introduced herself as Ligerica, who had been trapped inside the statue and released when I took her home, more than three years ago. It may be that other nymphs are trapped in statues. They said that some of their sisters were missing, including some, less sophisticated and civilised than they, who lived down by the river. They did not clearly confirm or deny that others may be inside statues, they just said that some others were missing and that they had no idea where they were. If I was fortunate enough to discover another statue like the one I gave up to free the nymph, I think I would work harder to find a way to keep it, to silence it, because the magic aura it radiated was so comfortable, and useful, and the statue would form the basis of a very good research project.
Constantine seemed to have acquired very little information and no vis whatsoever, despite spending several hours with the nymphs on this occasion, and it was probably not just because they are somewhat vacuous. Still, I suggested he went because I thought he stood a good chance of charming some vis out of the nymphs, so I am glad they found him pleasing, and I was right to that extent. I am not sure whether it is true, but rumour is that the nymphs were doing their best to keep Constantine with them, through some form of magic inherent in their persons, by seduction, and by the simple expedient of refusing to show the way out. One of them even stole food from the monks' refectory to feed their prisoner. He and Maud only escaped by taking the risk of walking into the mist, in the direction of the Chapel of Our Lady.
It seems that Constantine and his grogs did very little of any use on the second day there. I expect they were catching up on sleep most of the time. On the third night, Constantine left both Maud and Redwald outside the regio. Perhaps, if one has the spells of a Flambeau, one has less need of a shield grog than many, but it is still useful to have one ward off the blows and arrows while one casts a spell, so I think it unwise of him to have gone alone, even into a place of such apparent tranquility.
He says that on his third nocturnal visit, he went through the bathing ritual yet again, in the hope that it would somehow reveal the source of the Aquam vis that the nymphs had offered to me on my visit to them. On this occasion, instead of the ritual concluding with a vision, nothing happened until the nymphs started giggling together. Eventually, Constantine was able to persuade them to confess that the 'vision' was always created by one of them impersonating the Lady. The monks and pilgrims would be horrified to learn of this, I am sure! Perhaps it was this revelation, that there was nothing remotely holy about the so-called vision of Our Lady, that convinced Constantine that it was worth taking the risk of appearing to make an offering at a pagan altar, all in the hope of gaining some vis. He took water from the fountain and poured it into one of the basins in the room with the altars, and it disappeared. It sounded to me very like the way that water or wine disappeared when poured into the cupped hands of the statue. Then he walked out of the regio by the route he had used to escape the previous night, hunted about the pilgrims' hostel until he could get hold of a little wine, ale and oil, took them into the regio and tried the effect of pouring these substances into the basin. This seemed to please the nymphs, but still there was no vis. He took a skinful of water from the fountain in the regio back to where Maud and Redwald were waiting in increasing irritation by the fountain in the mundane world. Apparently, while waiting for Constantine, Maud had told Redwald something about the nymphs and he was keen to see them for himself. A small spell was enough to prove that the water held no vis. Constantine forbade his grogs from leaving their station, and returned alone to the nymphs. He explained to them what he was trying to do, and one of them told him that, traditionally, if a visitor wanted water from the fountain, they would ask the nymphs to give it to them. He promised them that he would bring them libations of wine the next day if they would give him some water.
So, on their third day at the Abbey, they went out to purchase several bottles of wine, which is plentiful in that region. It was necessary to wait until the courtyard was empty, but eventually Constantine was able to slip into the regio yet again. He emptied all the bottles and was repaid with the small quantity of water containing one pawn of Aquam vis which we have added to the covenant's stores. When he saw the nymph scoop this out of the fountain, he noticed that it diminished the flow by about a third (a diminution reflected in the mundane fountain too), so we fear that without some remedy, the water there will dry up soon - and sooner still if we take more vis. So, this is why we now have plans to send a stream of visitors, preferably females, to pour libations of wine, ale and oil at the altars of the Nympheum. The journey takes about ten days each way, so we cannot spare more than a couple to go at a time, I think. Over a period of a few months, we shall discover whether an increasing number of visitors performing this small ritual will do anything to increase the flow of vis-bearing water. Constantine warns against the inherent magic of the nymphs, which could easily entrap a male grog - it is fortunate that my own Julius was able to leave so easily with me when I, unknowing, took him into the regio with me. The Parma Magica must provide some protection, for Constantine was able to leave of his own choice in the end, and he feels confident that he can safely return to monitor the effects of the libations. In case it does prove fruitful, Council have asked Iuris Perita to discretely enquire whether this is a known vis source and if it is not, register it in our name.
Jimena has been away for a while. Since she was with me when I visited the Abbey of St. Maur de Glanfeuil where the nympheum is, it was decided that she should lead the first grog expedition to pour a libation. She has gone with male and female travelling companions, but only females are to be permitted inside the regio. Jimena has been told exactly what to do, and she must take another woman with her, to demonstrate. So we shall gradually increase the number of grogs who are familiar with the route and the routine. I am hoping that one or two visits per season will be sufficient to maintain the strength of the vis-yielding fountain. Depending on the time of year, the libation might be of oil or beer, I suppose, if good wine is not available, but there will surely be no difficulty in purchasing a few bottles from somewhere in the Loire valley while on the way there. I expect that it will be a few years before we can be certain that our efforts are having the desired effect and so be able to open negotiations with the nymphs for more Aquam vis.
Father Albertus is going at last! I was beginning to think he was becoming a permanent member of our community, and had intended to bring up the matter of obliging him to join the Order at the solstice Council meeting, even though his being an ordained member of the clergy makes that well-nigh impossible. Anyway, we are to be rid of him at last. I have noticed that, since he has been here and taking some of the services, Magus Speculor has been attending Mass from time to time. I hear from the grogs that when Fr.Albertus preaches, they hardly understand a word he says, whether he be speaking Francien or, as I gather he occassionally does during the sermon, Latin. Perhaps he is not aware that he has not switched from the Latin of the Mass, which the peasants are not expected to understand anyway.
Constantine has returned from hunting vis. He has been a little more successful than at the Nympheum and has brought back a pawn of Terram and one of Muto. He had with him the Vis Detection Wand and Zane, who sees things that escape other eyes. Next time he goes vis hunting, he may do even better by using Speculor's new spell - "Sight of the Elusive Vis", a copy of which is now in our library for us all to study. Speculor has written it out for us, as well as making the copies of the books we promised to Fudarus. I was glad to see these taken away by the Redcap, so our debt is paid.
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