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Council met on the last night of Spring to decide how each of us is to spend the coming season. Joach seemed particularly animated. He did not make it any clearer just what it is he has been up to in his laboratory over the period of half a year or more that has required the assistance of a seamstress and a herbalist, but it appears that his work is nearing completion. So, Joach has Summer to himself, to complete his work. Speculor is anxious to get on and complete the task set him by the Quaesitors. I can appreciate that it is as well to demonstrate no reluctance. He says it will take him three seasons and asked permission from Council to postpone any service due from him this year until next. I have already made the same request and had it agreed months ago, so was in no position to object. However, I was worried that we might find ourselves with no-one available for service. My sodales did not seem to find any difficulty in sorting things out, I am glad to say. I shall be the only one on service this season, but Iuris Perita will take on both Autumn and Winter, and will probably have Joach to help during one season and Constantine in the other.
I had not expected any significant opposition to my proposal that my service this time consist of learning the new spell "Sight of the Elusive Vis", since my sodales will all want the same opportunity to learn it as service to the covenant, even though it can be used to hunt personal vis supplies. In fact, there was nothing said against my plan by anyone. The spell involves the use of Intellego - although my understanding of this Art is not as deep as that of magus Speculor, I have a firm grasp of the basic principles so that aspect of the spell will be easy enough. Of course, it also requires one to understand Vim and there I feel my knowledge is more than adequate to the task; some of my sodales may not find it quite so straightforward. I feel sure I can fully comprehend the spell such that I can use it in any circumstances well before the end of the season.
At dawn, Speculor was beside the menhir. I rose somewhat later, and hardly had Guena prepared me to face the day when a message arrived that Maga Gwenole had come to visit. She took a light meal with me as we chatted about all sorts of things, but mainly about the carved pillars under Wirbelnia. Magus Constantine entered the chamber during our conversation and our visitor greeted him enthusiastically. I noticed that he was polite, but he would not be drawn into discussion and quite soon he made an excuse and headed in the direction of his sanctum. Gwenole looked so disappointed that I feel sure it was him, not me, she really came to see. When Constantine had gone, and we had finished our meal, I took Gwenole to the library where we could examine the notes we had made on the carvings on the pillars inside our own regio, and compare them with those of Wirbelnia. She reported that the caves under Wirbelnia are now filled with seawater even at low tide. This may be very unfortunate, but that depends on the function of the pillars. Gwenole was able to examine them but made no notes of her findings. She is quite sure that the carvings have been modified since they were first made. By looking at the copies we have of the carvings on our pillars, Gwenole was able to tell me which of the shapes could be seen in which order, and between us we made notes on what appears on the Wirbelnia ones. I was rather at a loss and somewhat embarrassed when Maga Gwenole asked me to tell her right away what I thought the carvings meant. I believe that one should carefully research any matter before stating an opinion. Gwenole is so fae and impulsive that I doubt she would understand my cautious approach to scholarship so I hazarded a very qualified response that, based on Joach's experiences and our investigations so far, I believe the pillars to be controlling components of a system of magical gateways. I had to admit that as yet I have no idea how they work or where they lead but I feel sure that once I have time to really study them, their secret will soon be discovered.
The grogs have been busy in the forest around our settlement today, while the solstice expands the magical aura. They have gathered plenty of droppings from talking beasts, mostly rabbits and squirrels I believe, which has boosted our stock of Animal vis. The trimmings from the beard of the face that appears on the menhir at this time have increased our store of Terram vis to 6 pawns now, so we have met the requirements of the charter there. Jehan spent several hours talking to the menhir about what has taken place during the past year. The worst news from the past year is of those disgraceful attacks upon us by Eleusinus of Odela. Our situation with Herbam vis is worrying for while we gathered the usual five pawns today by trimming the mossy beards of the faces that appear on five special trees inside the regio, that leaves us still one pawn short for the mid-winter ritual. Council should probably arrange a trade, perhaps offering Imaginem or Corpus, which we have in moderate abundance. I am still convinced that there is Herbam vis abounding in the wilder parts of the forest, and expect to be proved right as soon as any of us has the chance to spend a season vis hunting in the forest using the new spell.
Redcap Jézéquel Mercereris, the one based at Fudarus, arrived today with a message for our Princeps. Iuris Perita was as reticent as ever about the content of the message but was obliged to inform the rest of us that she was expecting to receive delegates from three covenants who had asked her to act as Quaesitor to judge a dispute between them over a rich Creo vis source. The three involved are Wirbelnia, Fudarus and Odela. Immediately, with no information on the specific issue, I suspect that this is part of the long on-going feud between Wirbelnia and Odela, and I suspect Fudarus of stirring up trouble for their own amusement. Fudarus is powerful enough to deal with the matter alone, should they wish, so it must suit them to take it before the Quaesitors. I worry whether the choice of Iuris Perita as judge was made not by Objurgator alone, but was the result of pressure or manipulation by Fudarus, to test us, or Odela, to damage us, or even by Wirbelnia, hoping to take advantage of our developing friendly relations. Whatever it is, I propose to keep to my sanctum as much as possible while the disputing parties are here. I am making good progress with "Sight of the Elusive Vis" and can well do without distractions, or meeting anyone from Odela or Fudarus.
Urbanus Verbus is, I hear, the representative chosen by Fudarus to put their case before our Quaesitor. Rather her than me! He is an unpleasant man who has given us, and Iuris Perita in particular, more than one reason to dislike him. I wonder if he has brought her a gift as a bribe, or will he just rely on intimidation to sway her? Or perhaps he is just going to test and observe, see how far he can push her and complain to her superiors if he can find any trace of bias? Poor Iuris!
Odela has sent Guenaèlle Ex Miscellanea, which is a great deal better than sending Eleusinus. I fear some of the grogs might have been tempted to attack him! With her came Ossifraga Bjornaeris, a young maga from Britannia, who is the filia of Felicia, a maga from the now-lost Haeconius, possibly the only descendant still surviving. The claim put forward by Odela to the vis source is apparently based on this maga having recently joined their covenant and their contention that Ossifraga is heir to what belonged to Haeconius, and thus to the vis. I wonder if Ossifraga knew anything about the reputation of Eleusinus Merinitae princeps Odela before deciding to join them? Since she has come from Britannia, it may be that she did not have adequate information, as I understand that the Stonehenge Tribunal is in considerable disarray administratively.
Wirbelnia have sent Gareth O'Fflint, the princeps, which suggests to me that they are taking the matter very seriously. If it had just been necessary to send someone, Gwenole would probably have come since she can use her Fairy Gateway to travel with ease and enjoys visiting us. I know that Gareth brought with him three pawns of Creo vis from the disputed source. They are acorns from an ancient oak tree.
Discussion with my sodales has revealed some of the details of the case before Iuris Perita. On the surface at least, it concerns a vis source on the coast of Brittany. The site is a little further from Odela than allows them to claim it as 'local' to them. It was formerly registered as belonging to Haeconius, a covenant that failed, then it was sold in 1180 to Fudarus by Hesperus Merinitae, a magus from Haeconius. Fudaurus later sold it to Wirbelnia. The three delegations have been housed away from each other and away from the tower, I am very glad to say. Jehan has the staff rushing about with food and so on, so I am sure he is looking after them as guests and there is no need for me to see any of them, though if I can do so without upsetting Iuris Perita's position, I would like to see Gareth O'Fflint to talk about the pillars.
Iuris Perita has been questioning the representatives from the three covenants and Ossifraga for much of the day, all separately. I hope we will hear something of her findings. It would be very pleasing to me, if at all possible, were Iuris Perita to find a way to make the judgment against Odela. I would not want to upset Wirbelnia, though finding against Odela might be sufficient to please them. If we want the support of Fudarus, which might be necessary when the next meeting of Tribunal comes around, it would be helpful to rule in their favour now. One can rarely go wrong in supporting the most powerful covenant, as long as one's own is not directly damaged by that action, I think.
A number of supposed facts have filtered out to us from Iuris Perita's questioning. It is said that the oak tree lets fall a number of acorns which contain Creo vis during the nights around the full moon close to the Autumn equinox. Eight to twelve acorns used to fall, but in recent years, it has only ever been eight. The magi of Saxum Caribetum believe that someone, probably Odela but possibly Fudarus, are taking any acorns over eight, which they leave for Wirbelnia. If we could prove who it was, the information could be used to weaken their position in the dispute.
Hesperus was last seen at Tribunal in mid-summer 1179. It seems that Hesperus was expelled from Haeconius a little later in 1179, probably for angering the fae. He turned up at Fudarus in autumn 1180 claiming to act as a representative of Haeconius with the right to sell the vis source on their behalf, and sold the vis source for 100 pawns, vis he claimed to have an immediate need for. Urbanus Verbus has with him the document signed by Hesperus on behalf of the council of Haeconius. Haeconius was abandoned in some haste and has been badly overgrown for forty five years now - a story that reminds me in some ways of Priscus, and suggests that whatever Hesperus did to anger the fae brought ruin on his former covenant. I must take heed and be very careful in which fae I have any dealings with.
Ossifraga believes that much would be made clear about her right to inherit the vis source if the documents held by her parens were examined. Felicia Bjornaeris moved to Dextrovorsum in Cornwall as Haeconius was collapsing. She has quite recently passed into Final Twilight but her notes are probably still there. Joach has heard something about this covenant, as the princeps is a Verditius and the place is famed for its automata. Poor Joach was clearly very keen to volunteer to accompany Iuris Perita on an expedition to Britannia, yet he was even more keen to complete his grand project. The rest of us settled the matter by pointing out that he could not rely on the princeps of Dextrovorsum to understand the questions he proposed to put to him in a letter to be carried by Iuris Perita on his behalf because Joach's way of explaining magic did not make sense even to other Verditius much of the time. To add further weight, we reminded Joach that Iuris Perita would be busy with Quaesitorial business, so she might not have time to find out about things he wanted to know of, and she is famed for not giving information, so he could not rely on her to tell him anything about what she saw there. Jézéquel assured Joach that it was possible to make the trip there and back in little more than a week, so he decided to go. Since the covenant of Dextrovorsum is protected by The Shrouded Glen, a guide was necessary but Jézéquel made the journey often and was happy to go along herself, which should ensure that no time is wasted on the way out of ignorance. Iuris Perita is to take Duncan and Pernelle. Caspar has volunteered to act as shield grog to Joach, and Abel is to go with them. They will walk to St.Brieuc, take a boat across to Plymouth, a port in Cornwall, and walk across Dartmoor to Dextrovorsum.
Our team of investigators has returned from Dextrovorsum, and not a moment too soon. It has been very inconvenient having the three claimants hanging about awaiting the conclusion of the case. On the whole, I have managed to avoid conversation with them. The first news confused me because instead of talk of documents, there was a tale of murder! Iuris Perita is saying nothing until she calls everyone together this evening to deliver her judgment. Joach threw out a rapid description of a curious clock rung by splendid automata and the accidental death of the princeps of Dextrovorsum then vanished into his laboratory before we could ask any questions. I expect he is anxious not to lose any more time before completing his project, but one can't help wondering if there is a link between the clock and the death, given the way he presented the information. It was necessary to call upon Caspar for more detail. He was eager to assist once he realised that a report was wanted, and expresses himself very well for a soldier grog.
Dextrovorsum lies somewhere on a great expanse of heather-covered and midge-infested moorland in the southwest of Britannia. The covenant is named for the clock tower that dominates and rules it. The inhabitants wear robes of colours that mark their station and dictate which set of rules they follow when the bells of the clock ring. Guards wear green robes over their armour, servants wear white, apprentices wear red, favoured servants of the magi dress in blue, craftsmen and women wear light brown, labourers wear dark brown and scholars wear black. Their days and nights are regimented by the bells. From what Abel discovered in trying to talk to them, the inhabitants think this is perfectly normal. The clock that rules their lives is the life's work of the princeps, Artifex Verditii. It is housed at the top of a slender, four-sided tower. The sides of the tower are open at the top, and on each side, an automaton indicates the time. That facing to the south is a figure of a peasant carrying an agricultural implement and gives the time at Dextrovorsum by holding the tool at a suitable angle. The opening to the east houses a figure of a clergyman wielding a cross who indicates the time in Jerusalem. Facing the west is the figure of a fae nobleman with a sword who indicates the time in some part of faerie. The figure facing north is said to indicate some aspect of time known only to Artifex. It is the figure of a scholar bearing a scroll which usually points to somewhere around eight o'clock, but occasionally moves somewhat forward or backward, but following recent events appears to be stuck at half past eight.
Recent events ... well, let me try to present the situation before jumping to conclusions and comments. The group from Normandy were greeted by white-robed Officius the Steward and a message was sent via one of the princeps' most trusted personal servants to announce the arrival of Iuris Perita on Quaesitorial business. A few minutes later three blue-robed servants announced that they had found Artifex apparently dead on the floor of his inner sanctum! They begged Iuris Perita to investigate this sudden death, since the alternative was to call in the Quaesitor from Blackthorn covenant, which they were very reluctant to do. If what I have heard is correct, they have good reason to feel that way about the most powerful but untrustworthy covenant in the Stonehenge Tribunal.
The body of Artifex was discovered prostrate on the floor of his inner sanctum with no visible wounds or bruises, but undoubtedly dead. He had probably been dead for about five days. He was clutching in one hand a small silver hammer marked with runes, which Joach recognised as a rather special Verditius tool, indicating that he was probably working on something when he died. His personal servants said that one of them was awake on duty in the outer sanctum at all times, and they had not seen him come or go for several days. There were no other doors and no windows to the inner sanctum. A number of personal possessions about Artifex' person, including his personal sigil and house badge, looked as if they had been crushed by a hammer. Iuris Perita had cast a spell (presumably Intellego Corpus) and announced that he had died by being bludgeoned to death by big hammers, which all struck at once and were not wielded by humans. There was nothing larger than one medium-sized mallet in the room. Iuris Perita had cast another spell, and seemed to be expecting an answer of some sort, but was perplexed to find none. I suspect this was 'Whispers through the Black Gate', though given that the body was not long dead and unburied, I do not understand why it did not work, unless the corpse or spirit of the deceased magus had resistance to magic. I must look into this aspect of the spell some time. Iuris cast another spell and said that Artifex had been killed by bells.
Hearing about hammers and bells, Joach asked the blue-clad servants about access to the clock tower. They said there was a stair that Artifex often used but they did not know whether anyone else had ever gone up there. Joach was out of the room before they finished speaking, and Caspar had to run to catch him up. Just inside the tower, by the foot of the steps, was a notice saying 'Beware of the bells'. Joach read it aloud, thought for a moment, cast a spell on himself and bade Caspar keep well away from the bells. The bell chamber at the top of the tower was only about ten feet across, and was almost filled by the huge bells that hung from the frame eight or nine feet above the platform and the automata that struck the bells according the Artifex's rules. The automata whose duty it was to strike the bells all carried big hammers. While they were standing there, the bell marking the time in faerie rang out, almost deafening Joach and Caspar. With his ears still ringing, Caspar examined the platform and noticed marks on the floor that looked like blood stains. Joach dug up some of the stained wood to show Iuris Perita. Rashly, Caspar peered closely at the hammers wielded by the bell ringers closest to him and all had blood stains on them. Joach said they must leave now and Caspar did as instructed.
A council meeting of the Dextrovorsum magi was held. Blue-robed servants politely invited Iuris Perita and Joach to attend, and as he accompanied Joach to the door of the Council chamber, Caspar had seen four other magi enter. Caspar, Duncan and Pernelle waited in a comfortable room nearby while the magi talked. Abel, having found it too frustrating to try and talk to the coven folk, rejoined them there and they exchanged what information they had. Abel had found that none of the grogs or other inhabitants he spoke to had any complaints about Artifex or felt any resentment about the way the bells ruled their lives, and he was concerned that, with Artifex gone, no-one would maintain the clock and it might start to go wrong which would wreak havoc with the operation of the covenant. Caspar told the others about the blood in the belfry and they set to wondering who might have made use of the clock to commit murder. There was a suggestion that finding a way to pin the blame on Eleusinus Merinita of Odela would be pleasing. Suddenly the door of the council chamber opened and Joach rushed out, heading in the direction of Artifex' laboratory. Caspar started to follow him but Iuris Perita called him back, so Abel set off after Joach. Iuris Perita questioned Caspar about the blood stains on the wooden platform and the hammers. Curiously, the hammers carried by the bell ringing automata were double headed, and it was the inner-facing heads that had the stains.
Once back in Artifex's laboratory, Joach had one of the blue-robed servants show him which items were liable to be dangerous to approach and which piles of notes were likely to be about the clock. Once he had the right parchments, Joach carefully left the inner room and settled down in the outer room to examine them. After a while he announced that Artifex was most recently working on synchronising the automata that rang the bells, and then remarked that the north-facing scholar automata looked rather like Artifex himself, and muttered something about 'longevity' as he walked back in the direction of the council chamber. Caspar and the other grogs listened avidly but to no benefit as Iuris Perita and Joach conducted a lively exchange in Latin. Then the magi closeted themselves inside for a short period. The grogs' curiosity was satisfied at last when Iuris and Joach emerged, followed by four rather subdued-looking magi. It appeared that Artifex had met with a very unfortunate accident and had been beaten to death by his own creations. The other details could be explained by magic - a spell set to transport Artifex back to his inner sanctum if he ever fell unconscious and a powerful Creo Corpus effect to repair the body which, in this instance, came too late to save him.
This sounds to me like a case of over-confidence, carelessness or plain foolishness which Dextrovorsum and House Verditius will probably want to keep as quiet about as possible. I feel sure that Iuris Perita will report to Objurgator, and whatever authority within House Guernicus fulfills a similar role in disorganised Stonehenge. The details of the death of a senior magus is not something it is easy to suppress. I shall certainly be wary if Joach suggests having automata here! I gather Iuris Perita was permitted to take away a few books on the subject which contain secret lore of House Verditius and which Joach is obviously very excited about, so I fear he is going to try. Magus Volucer Verditii is now acting as head of Dextrovorsum, but his interest is very much into use of ReAu to make devices that fly, and he has no wish to retain the books used by Artifex. I must hope for an opportunity to talk to this man. I gather that Dextrovorsum would be willing to trade books with us if we can offer Commentaries on common summae or new tractatus - I suspect they will not be much interested in the one Speculor is working on, though. They might also permit us time in their library in exchange for a suitable gift, so we have made a useful contact.
Now it was high time for Iuris Perita to perform the task she came for, to examine the documents left by Felicia. Although there were rumours amongst the grogs that Felicia, now locked in Heartbeast form, was roaming Bodmin Moor as a large black feline, Iuris Perita had no hesitation in ordering her sanctum opened. Within were numerous piles of letters and laboratory notes. Duncan waited outside for a long time as Iuris leafed through most of them. Then she spotted a well-worn chest under the bed and had him haul it out for her. Inside were the sought-for documents pertaining to Haeconius. Felicia had been very thorough in collecting these and the chest was stuffed with them. Eventually Iuris Perita located evidence that Hesperus was expelled in 1179 following numerous quarrels with the other magi. A document set out the interesting fact that a member of Blackthorn had declared Wizard's War against Hesperus some time after 1180, which probably explains why he disappeared. She found the essential Charter which made it clear that the property of a parens was to be inherited by their fili but made no provision for all the older magi dying at around the same time. There were details of the unfortunate demise of a number of young magi which supported Odela's claim that Ossifraga was the last surviving heir, and reminds me that whatever magic we have at our disposal, we are still very vulnerable to the unforeseen and that there are a great many forces in the world more powerful than us. Documents were found that backed up the idea that it was angered fae who defeated Haeconius.
The magi of Saxum Caribetum were invited to attend as observers when Iuris Perita called the representatives of Wirbelnia, Odela and Fudarus together to hear her decision. She explained that she was satisfied that Hesperus had no right to sell the rights to the disputed vis source to Fudarus, and so the purchase from Fudarus by Wirbelnia was suspect. However, she felt that both Fudarus and Wirbelnia had had sufficient vis from the oak tree over their years of supposed ownership to compensate them for their expenditure in purchasing the source. She ruled that the vis source belonged to Wirbelnia, who bought it in good faith, but that they should pay Ossifraga the same price they paid Fudarus for it, 100 pawns of vis, over a period of ten years. Gareth O'Fflint did not look displeased with this, but pointed out that the source had only yielded eight pawns over the last ten years, and Iuris Perita agreed that, in that case, Wirbelnia need only pay 80 pawns. I expected Odela to be happy with this, but there was hurried talk in low voices, and it eventually became clear that Ossifraga had applied for membership of Odela but had not yet been formally accepted. Now she was to receive a lot of vis, Odela were keen to recruit her as swiftly as possible, but she realised that she might have a wider choice of options now, and was reconsidering her position. It was hard to say what Urbanus Verbus thought of the decision, but he should have been pleased that Fudarus was not blamed for failing to check that Hesperus had the authority to make the sale he offered.
A few points that it may be worth noting that I picked up from the talk about the expedition follow, on the subject of travel by sea, something that is of immediate interest to me. The sea crossing took less than a full day and was very comfortable. I believe this was more due to the presence of the Redcap, a renowned sailor, who probably has magical items to smooth and speed her passage. I cannot rely on any such assistance myself unless I use spontaneous magic. I am a little wary of doing this after the trouble that Speculor has brought upon himself by being seen to use magic by mundanes and clergy. I must show more caution if spells become necessary. Jézéquel had been most insistent that they take a cargo vessel, saying something about requiring a ritual of the 15th magnitude to remove the stench of fish if one travelled in a fishing boat. I must make sure that no boat I use has ever carried fish!
I have learnt the new spell and am almost ready to set off to Castellar. It will be strange to be away from my home here for the best part of a year. I have put everything away that I can, covered over the apparatus with cloths to keep the dust off, and had wooden shutters put over the windows. My personal staff will accompany me. Ignatius and Julius are excited about seeing their former comrades in arms again but it will be quite an adventure for my maid, Guena. We will be walking south to the coastal town of Vannes where we shall find a place in a vessel transporting cargo and passengers along the coast. I feel sure there must be many who want to go that way to the shrine of St. James at Compostella. I shall adopt the guise of a noble lady on pilgrimage which served me so well when we went by boat along the Loire. I do wish I could take Jimena but she cannot be spared from Caribet for so long. She has given me short messages for a few of her acquaintances in Castellar and Zaragosa, but I believe she feels that her home is now here and has little interest in looking backwards. I too will concentrate on looking ahead when my potion gives me many years of fascinating magical research.
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