Saga HomeSaga Homepage     RedcapProject Redcap

Covenant of La Roche Caribet

Winter 1225: in Castellar

The work on my potion has absorbed my attention almost entirely for several weeks, and I have hardly stirred out of my parens' quarters. This took me back to not long ago when I was still his apprentice, and he treated me the same as he did then, sometimes giving me orders and at others, teaching me about what we were doing. Of course, the focus of our endeavours was entirely for my benefit, so I did just as I was told. I was not anxious to find out what sort of punishments Laurentius might use for a disobedient, inattentive or clumsy maga, and rather feared the humiliation if he had tried to impose the same tedious and menial tasks that used to be my usual penance when I lived here. I had always assumed that my potion would take the form of some fluid to be ingested. As we worked, I tried to imagine what the mix might taste of, as the list of potential ingredients grew and changed during the period when Laurentius was examining every aspect of myself. He knew things about my earliest years which I had forgotten, if I ever knew them, and also a few things about my early years at Castellar that I believed I had managed to keep secret from him. For several days we concentrated on my life since gauntlet, and Laurentius became very excited about water, saying something about a change in me, which did not make sense to me.

It was this apparently significant discovery, that water must play an important role in my potion, that guided its eventual form. Thus the final stage of the whole operation found me naked and almost entirely immersed in water that filled a great stone basin. The basin had originally been used to catch the water from one of the largest of the covenant's fountains and still stood in the centre of one of the larger courtyards. The water was comfortably warm and, by virtue of the Ignem component in the concoction, stayed so for the full hour during which I had to remain there soaking. The water had been sprinkled with carefully-selected flowers and herbs, but the dominant scent, not surprisingly, was orange blossom. The strangest thing about the whole experience was caused by the Rego Auram part of the formula which caused the entire water surface to be covered to a depth of a hand's span with a great profusion of long-lasting bubbles - enough to just about hide me from view. Under instruction from Laurentius, I remained soaking in this rather pleasant bath for the full hour, letting the magic seep into every pore.

Winter Solstice

I find myself missing Caribet, and rather regretting that I shall not be at the Mid-Winter feast this year. It would have been good to spend another night by the menhir with Constantine. The turn of the seasons passes with very little commotion here. The covenant seems to work according to the same smooth system that I remember from my years here, even if the staff are not all quite the same as those I knew. I have seen hardly anything of the other magi. This is something of a disappointment, I confess, for I had hoped that on this visit we would meet on more equal terms than when I lived here. Hibaños Verditii is, just like our own Joach, busy in his laboratory all the time. Ignatius Jerbitonis, the Princeps, and Per Ad Hominem Jerbitonis are sometimes here but very often not. I gather they frequently travel to the Jerbiton covenant in Barcelona but no-one has mentioned why to me. I most particularly wished to speak with Soliferreus Bonisagi, he who is a filius of Merielis Archimagi ad Petrusca. I feel sure it would be interesting to hear about his research; I would like the opportunity of finding out a little more about his mater, too.

Since travelling in Winter is very much best avoided, I intend to spend the next couple of months making copies of books from the library here that will be useful to me as soon as I return to Saxum Caribetum. I believe that the library is very extensive, but a great many of the books are in use in the sancta of the magi. I am a little surprised that quite so many of the simple, introductory books are missing from the library when I have no indication that there are any apprentices here. Finding that not one copy of the second primer on Perdo could be located amidst the heaps, I have spent almost as much as a week tracking it down.In the process, I have had plenty of opportunity to wander around the covenant, only to be saddened by the neglect I see, and had to speak to many of the grogs I remember, and their offspring who were too young to work five years ago. I have even had to speak to some of the magi's personal grogs, which was generally forbidden to me as an apprentice, unless sent on a very particular errand.

mid January: Pets and Familiars

While I was making enquiries of the grogs about books, I discovered that the familiar of Magus Soliferreus was missing. At first, I was not unduly concerned. It is a cat, and although it is a very unusual cat, it comes and goes when it pleases, like any other, and often absented itself for hours on end. However, it was still missing the following day, and his personal staff reported that the magus was very upset. Wherever I went about the covenant the following day, I found grogs, servants, children, animals, all searching for the missing feline. The next morning, I heard that Soliferreus had set out with a party of grogs to seek his Zinzibra. Things rapidly returned to normal and I continued with the copying work. A few days later, I was interrupted by a great commotion nearby; Soliferreus had returned, distraught, with no Zinzibra and only two of the people who had set out with him.

The covenant was in such turmoil that my parens stirred himself from the ancient scrolls he was studying to ask me what was going on. He was sufficiently alarmed to take dinner in the common dining hall in the hopes of catching an opportunity to talk with Soliferreus, and invited me to join him. We had not long started our meal when Soliferreus came in, looking very distracted, and a grog directed him towards the corner of the table where we were sitting. Soliferreus ignored me - a habit developed while I was an apprentice, I suppose - but fell into earnest conversation with Laurentius. Much to my surprise, this was all about the work they were engaged in, not the missing cat. They both talked, more or less at the same time, about how their own work was going, while appearing to pay little attention to what the other was saying, yet from time to time, one or other would interrupt with a relevant question. I listened patiently, in the hopes that I might be included in the conversation eventually. My opportunity came in the end when both the men briefly turned their attention to their food simultaneously. I mentioned how sorry I was to hear that his familiar was missing, and this turned the conversation.

Soliferreus told us that he was sure that Zinzibra was in a valley two day's distance into the hills, where she was trapped in a regio. He had been there and been unable to retrieve her. He was too upset to be entirely clear on the details, but we gathered that the valley was inhabited by scantily-clad females who were usually singing. One of the men who had accompanied Soliferreus on his failed expedition was a minstrel, and he had been induced to remain behind by the bewitching females. Indeed, the only people from that group who had managed to leave the regio were the magus himself and Omah, a large Moor with small tusks that gave away the Jinn blood in his veins. The situation struck me at once as being very like the nympheum of Our Lady of the Waters, so I suggested that an expedition made up entirely of females would likely have more success. Poor Soliferreus must have been too upset to think clearly, or perhaps he has been shut up in his laboratory for too long, as this had not occurred to him so far. I had not expected him to take my suggestion as an indication that I was volunteering to lead such a group, but that is how it turned out.

Omah and Soliferreus himself were to come with us as far as the end of the valley. The group to enter the regio included Estrel, Meriele and Aneas, three women from the covenant who had some skill in arms in addition to the more domestic accomplishments that I remembered them for. None looked so much the strong fighter as Caribet's Elli l'Arbellatrieuse but Meriele carried a bronze sword and a shield as if she knew how to use them, and Aneas was armed with mace and longsword. A most important member of the team was Izarbe. I know her from my time here, and can remember being afraid of her when I was very young because they said she could see right through you. She has translucent skin and golden eyes which, I now know, give her the ability to see things normally hidden, just as Zane of Caribet can. Even she was clad in leather armour and carried a quarterstaff. I hope they were not offended that I took my own Julius with us as far as the valley.

I am sure we would never have found the hidden valley without Omah to guide us. There were so many twists and turns that I very quickly became disorientated but after almost two day's hard walking we found ourselves at the bottom end of a deep vale where there were a few small streams and some lonely-looking limestone outcrops. We left the men here. As we walked along the bottom of the valley, Izarbe was keeping a sharp lookout for any sign of a regio boundary. It was not long before she guided us round an outcrop and into a place where the water-courses were deeper. We were now walking along game trails. The rocky outcrops were sometimes of pale marble. Soon we began to see the ruins of buildings in the valley. I cast a spell and determined that we were in a faerie aura of the third magnitude. After walking for half an hour or so, Izarbe saw a way through again, and took us into a region where the streams fed gushing fountains that splashed down into wide basins where fish swam. In contrast to the winter outside, here it was late spring with many lovely flowers growing amidst the lush grass. We were now walking along paved paths. Wind chimes tinkled in the trees close by and there was music not far ahead.

Remembering the Valley of the Mists, I stopped to address whatever fae might be observing us. I asked forgiveness if we were trespassing, and asked for permission to continue our search for a missing friend. There was, sadly, no response, but I felt more confident about continuing. Now we were close to some substantial buildings, showing little sign of age and damage.I glimpsed silk-clad white bodies through a broken archway but they were gone in a moment. I was not sure that it would be useful to pursue these figures, feeling that we needed to talk to whoever ruled here. I was looking for some sort of palace or harem where we might hope to find such a being. Soon we came upon a magnificent pavilion of white marble where maidens disported themselves with music and dancing. One of them took notice of us as we approached so I greeted her in the language of my original parents, and told her that we were looking for some friends of ours. The women made us welcome and beckoned us to enter the pavilion. There we found several eunuch guards, each with a dog held on a silver chain. Several of the women were playing with cats. We looked carefully at these, but none looked like Zinzibra. I could only look from a distance, because none of the cats would come near me, and they avoided Izarbe too. Meriele noticed that the fluid that the women were drinking from elegant silver goblets was milk, and began to question one of them about where they kept their cattle.

While we were examining the cats, one of the women announced that they were about to set off hunting, and asked if we would like to join them. They said they would leave the eunuchs to look after the animals. I was questioning them about what it was they would be hunting, and what they would do with their quarry when they caught it, because I was afraid that it might be the men from Castellar that they would hunt, and that some harm would come to them. During this conversation, I noticed Izarbe trying to catch my attention. I broke off the talk about hunting as soon as I conveniently could and made my way out of the pavilion to where Izarbe was waiting. She had spotted a maiden in an adjacent building who was watching us, but trying to keep herself concealed behind the pillars. She had striking hair of a very similar colour to the orangey-red colour of Zinzibra's fur, and was on the plump side. Izarbe felt sure this female was not what she appeared to be, and I was entirely willing to trust Izarbe's sight. I encouraged Izarbe to try and communicate with the hiding maid while I kept the others occupied in conversation. When I went back into the pavilion, one of the kittens came running over to greet me. This was extremely unusual. I wished Izarbe was there, to tell me whether she thought it was a real cat. I did not know quite what to make of it, and tried to play with it, using one of the pieces of ribbon the maidens had been using.

Very soon, Izarbe returned. She had managed to speak to the red-haired woman who was, indeed, Zinzibra. Zinzibra explained that she had been caught and changed by a leader of the women, who was in another building. She felt she did not fit in here and wanted to return home, yet she could not go home as she was. She was clearly very embarrassed to be seen in human form. I felt sure that the best thing to do would be to find this leader and negotiate with her to let the captives go. I assumed that there would have to be some sort of trade or bargain in return, and wished I had had the foresight to bring something suitable with me. As to what would be suitable, I could only think of some form of amusement or entertainment, such as we provided to the Lady Cierella. Perhaps I would have to try and tell a story. Whilst I was thinking of what I could offer, we were continuing along the valley to find where the leader dwelt. It did not take us long to reach a larger building in the same ornate style where there were a great many dogs, cats and birds, many more of the beautiful maidens, and one resting on a couch to whom the others showed deference. I addressed this one as if she was a queen, since this seemed the least dangerous approach. I complimented her on the range of pets here and mentioned that we knew some people in the world outside who were missing their own beloved pets. Since she seemed to be in a good humour, and possibly even a little sympathetic, I mentioned Zinzibra's problem. The faerie woman found it hard to accept that there could be a creature who was not happy in the valley, but agreed that, if someone there was quite certain that they wished to leave, that she would allow them to go.

Izarbe was peering at the inhabitants of the palace. She discovered that most of those that looked like dogs were, in fact, men, while the eunuchs were all really dogs. Some of the cats were genuine, but many were transformed women, while the maidens were all really cats. I urged the women from Castellar to sort out which of the dogs were their own covenant grogs and encourage them to remember their past life, in the hope that they too, like Zinzibra, would be keen to return home and would co-operate with us in their rescue. Izarbe identified the dog which was Juan the minstrel and persuaded him to ask the princess or queen of the land to let him go. I managed to convince Zinzibra that she needed to plead for herself, and promised to avert my eyes while she came forward to put her case. It did not take long for the faerie to perceive Zinzibra's strong desire to return to Soliferreus and she gave permission for Zinzibra to leave along with any of the other Castellar people who wished. Between us, we had not yet identified all the recently-lost grogs, but it seemed risky to stay in case the princess changed her mind.

We were allowed to go, but only on condition that we did not look back. I set off with determination, concentrating on the story of Lot's wife, then my mind drifted on to the story of Orpheus, and my concentration wavered as I longed to see whether there was any fairy magic happening behind us. To make things harder, the kitten from the pavilion was following me, winding in front of my footsteps. It may be that the little creature saved me from breaking the injunction, since I found I had to take care to avoid stepping on it, and thus my eyes were kept on the path ahead. I do not think we had been walking more than a few diameters when we heard greetings called out by Soliferreus. I looked up, and saw him happily reunited with Zinzibra, now back in her cat form. Close by was Juan, no longer a dog. On the walk back to Castellar, Juan told us what he could remember of his time in the valley, which I shall make use of if I ever turn this adventure into a tale for the fae.

I carried the kitten with me back to Castellar, since it seemed to have attached itself to me, and I could not leave it in the wilderness. It is close by as I write. I do not know what to make of it. There were pet animals when I was a very small girl, but they would never play with me. Indeed, not even the spiders would let me play with them. I have been so accustomed to animals actively avoiding me at Castellar and Caribet that this makes no sense. Perhaps it is not a actually a cat, despite having left the magical valley. I am sure that I will easily have time to copy out one more book before it is time to head north. I had been intending to find something useful on Aquam, since we have nothing on the subject at Caribet. If I could find a suitable work to study to increase my understanding of this Art a little, I could write a basic primer for my sodales with ease, so helping us all. However, the kitten has made me think that perhaps Animal is not so useless as I thought, so I shall copy out one of the books that I probably ought to have read while I was an apprentice. No one here will take any notice of which I copy, I am sure, and I can study it in private, so my sodales need not discover that I have to read a children's book before I can make sense of the great Summa on Animal that Saskia left us.

Early February: A letter from Speculor on feasting and council

There was a letter for me today - so long after the last that I had begun to think that Speculor would not write again. Autumn's work at Saxum Caribetum has given Joach's little pig the ability to fly. Speculor reports that it has the speed and agility of a hawk, which I find very hard to credit, given that it is still shaped like a pig. I do hope I get a chance to meet Little Saskia soon! Iuris Perita was carrying out service during the season, having her turn to learn 'Sight of the Elusive Vis', and everyone else had time to themselves.

Plans have been made for Winter, and our princeps is on service again, but this time she is to write an introductory book on Muto. I wonder how that got through Council? I certainly have no need for something so elementary on that Art. Speculor is also writing; having had to spend two whole seasons in the study of the law, he has now to write that Tractatus for the Quaesitors. I must say, his letter betrays no trace of resentment at this but I feel sure he must be wishing to return to tasks of his own choosing, perhaps even preparing for his own longevity potion, which he probably needs soon. I wonder if he intends to try and make a copy or two of the new Tractatus before handing it over, and that maybe he will leave one in our library and offer the other as a gift to his parens? Joach is to create a magical device to protect our food stores from pests, which seems like an excellent use of two pawns of Animal vis. One has to expect that it will take the form of a gargoyle, and I find the idea of a gargoyle over the door, snarling at any vermin or insect that comes too close, highly pleasing. I hope he can make it suitably discriminating, as I can think of several of the coven-folk who I would class as 'pests'.

Of course, I missed the Council elections this year. I hear that there is no change, except that both Constantine and Speculor expect to be away for a considerable part of the year, on the same errand as myself, so I will be called upon to take over as Libraria at some point. This is most satisfactory, and will give me a chance to put the books back where they ought to be.

Speculor says little about the Mid-Winter feast apart from a worryingly long list of visitors in addition to Maga Gwénolé. The first mentioned, Roland, a skilled musician of Ulula Speculum, presumably has something to do with Perspectus Ambius Merinitae of that covenant who arrived in person soon afterwards, along with a small retinue, in order to take copious notes on the interactions between human and fae. Given the nature of the event, I feel he would have been better off indulging in the interactions rather than writing about them. Roland is fae. Speculor describes him as having the legs of a goat and small horns peeking out from his curly hair. This sounds a bit like some depictions of demons, but Speculor calls him a faun or satyr. I hope he will attend the feast next year. I should be very interested to speak with him and hear the magical music that makes everyone dance. Perhaps he can even make my sodales and Jehan dance! Praetextus Vaniloquus Merinitae, filius Fucosi, from Taurus Candidus seems to have come mainly to be irritating. I have heard a little about him and am not at all sorry to have missed him. Once Perspectus Ambius' writings are made available, I fear there will be no-one in House Merinita who is not going to visit us. Speculor tells me that Council have ruled that magi visiting to attend the feast should be encouraged to give us a gift of vis - a splendid idea if it works. There was another visitor, who may have been a fae from the forest. She arrived just as the feast was beginning and was seen in conversation with Galienne and later with Constantine, but Speculor says nothing more of her but that she had striking red hair, brilliant green eyes and ears like the most fae of the witch's daughters, Amele. I hope she comes again; I have learnt a lot from Gwénolé and Cierella, but feel sure I would benefit from getting to know a fae lady from our forest.

Saga Contents page or next section.