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As usual, we went into the regio, but the obvious exploration is all done. We are not yet prepared to follow some of the more risky options, nor have we learnt enough about the pillars to make use of them, and our power with magic is insufficient as yet to let us make progress in other directions. I am sure that in time we will overcome all these difficulties and learn all the secrets. It was a relief that we had no visitors to bother us this time, and I just enjoyed taking a slow and careful walk along all the paths in and around the glades, making use of the excellent stout wooden staircase when it came to descending the cliff. Council business did not detain us long after dark. I am to distill Vim vis yet again - at least it permits me to keep in close contact with Alacritas. Iuris Perita is also on service, and is to go out vis hunting, taking with her the Wand and Zane. No doubt she will take Duncan, too. With Milon and Huon off on the way to Petrusca with Speculor, and Constantine preparing to leave at the end of the month for Burnham, taking Redwald and Maud I assume, we are once again to be rather short of soldiers. Joach is on service this season. At first we thought about sending him to hunt vis, following Constantine's spectacular success in using the new spell, but then we realised that the Vis Detection Wand and Zane's ability to see things that others cannot played a considerable part in Constantine's success, and Iuris was to take both these, so it was agreed that Joach should have a pawn of Vim vis from stores and spend the season creating another Wand for us. I do so hope that at least one of the Harvest Girls will have the Second Sight!
I had not intended to say anything to Council as yet about my plans for the faerie wine, nor did I want to mention the two books I had copied at Castellar until I had finished studying them myself. However, it seems that Fulk has no book to illuminate this season. I think this is the result of shocking inattention by the Librarius, but kept this thought to myself. Instead, I decided to save the situation by telling my sodales that I had made a copy of a fairly simple book on the subject of Perdo while I was away, that I had left plenty of space on the pages for Fulk to work, and that I would be willing to trade the book to the Covenant to add to the library for all to use. Of course, the first question was what did I desire in exchange. I expect that most of them had even forgotten that we had any faerie wine, and I doubt that any of them recalled that there were six portions in store. Speculor would have known, of course, but he was not there. I reminded my sodales that a little wine had been given to our people several years ago by my friend Cierella, and elaborated at some length on the theories I had about the potential danger from the wine, supporting my argument with Gwénolé's suspicions about its Muto Vim effects. In concluding, I said that I felt it might teach me something that would help me in understanding my kitten. I do not know which part of all this swayed them, but there was no hesitation in agreeing that I could have the wine, all of it, in exchange for the book. I removed it to my sanctum directly after the meeting and put it in a safe place until some time next year, when I shall once again have a season to myself.
I had only just started work this morning when I was disturbed by the sound of someone trying to break down the door to my sanctum. Julius was on duty there and cautiously opened the door before much damage was done to it and barred the way. Outside stood the Lady Helissente, shouting for me. He says she tried to push past him while I was carefully adjusting my distillation equipment so as to leave it in a safe state before crossing the room to find out what was the matter. Helissente was frantic so it was a little difficult to grasp her problem, but there was no doubt that the gist of her message was that the faeries had stolen her baby. It seems that on waking the nursemaid had found the child gone and a log left in its place - a well-known faerie trick but not one I like to see played on any of our people. It did not cross my mind at the time, but I realise now that her ladyship spoke in much better Latin than I would have expected from her; perhaps that tutor at the manor is earning his keep.
The first thing we usually do when anyone is missing is to cast 'The Inexorable Search'. Of course, it is usually Speculor who does it, but I knew the spell was available on a scroll downstairs and felt sure I could cast it well enough. I sent Helissente rushing back to the manor to find something belonging to the baby that I could use as an arcane connection and to also bring the log. She came back very quickly with some hair. It was hard to convince Helissente to wait in the Council Chamber, even though it must have been obvious to her that she was wasting our time by making such a fuss. I certainly did not want her in the library, maybe touching the books, while I concentrated on the spell. It took a moment to locate the scroll since Speculor's system for ordering the spells is deficient but I found it and the map and cast the spell. I poured over the map for at least an hour and became very tired indeed, with no better result than to be sure that the baby has magic resistance, or had been taken somewhere beyond the area depicted in our map, or was inside a faerie regio, or was dead. I omitted this last option when reporting the results of the spell to Helissente. I felt that I had obtained some useful information but I am sure she was very disappointed in the outcome of my efforts.
I decided to start by talking to the local fae who have been friendly towards us, our field faeries. Not that I thought they would have abducted Rubea, of course, but I hoped they might be able to tell me of other fae in the vicinity and so give me a clue how to proceed with the hunt. For some reason, Helissente decided that she needed the woman Amelle to be fetched - she certainly has a strong fae look about her but I have never heard that she has any friends amongst the local fae, so perhaps she has been helping nurse the baby. While that was going on, I had one of the servants provide me with beer and bread which I carried to the end of the fields and set down on the ground just inside the boundary ditch. I did not want to give any impression that I was summoning or ordering the field fae, but the only way I could think of to get their attention quickly enough was to use magic, so I cast an Intellego Vim spell to check that they were close by and then a Rego Vim to request speech with them. One came very quickly, so I lifted him (or her - it is hard to tell) up close to my ear and put my question. The little one had no knowledge of the abduction but suggested that the best place to start would be to visit Melor the Hunter who, my informant told me, has some sort of faerie creature living in his house which might know something of the forest fae and their doings. I did not know of him but the field faerie agreed to come and show us the way.
So, we assembled a small group to visit Melor the Hunter. It is well known in these cases that haste is essential, for the longer the fae have the child, the harder it is to make them give it up. Of course, I had to have Julius and Ignatius accompany me. I instructed them to collect food and drink for an expedition that might last a few days, just to be safe. Helissente had Ignatius fetch her husband, since we felt sure that it was right to have both parents in the party. As to whether Achilles really is the father of little Rubea ... well, no-one voiced any doubts but I am sure many of us have them. I was considerably annoyed at Helissente for giving an order to my grog, but under the circumstances of her distress, said nothing about it. Amelle was sent to fetch the baby's shawl and was also asked to carry the log. Helissente would have had us all set off down the track to Plouec at a run, but she had to keep waiting for the rest of us to catch up and point out the way, as it was indicated to me by the little creature I carried.
On we went: the maga, her shield grogs, the field faerie, the distraught mother, the lord, and the nurse.
The hunter lives in a small wooden cottage in the forest this side of Plouec. Luckily, he was at home. I thought that I should go into his house and talk to the lutin that lives with him, but the huntsman was very much against this idea, saying that it was not good to acknowledge the presence of his companion. This was a great disappointment, to have the trail go cold so soon, but Melor himself recommended that we would do well to consult the oldest, wisest faerie in the forest, a great tree, to which he would guide us.
On we went: the maga, her shield grogs, the field faerie, the mother, the lord, the nurse, and the hunter.
Mellor guided us deep into the forest. Helissente was frantic because our progress was so slow, hindered by the dense undergrowth and the uneven terrain. After struggling through rocky woodland and over ditches, we picked our way down a damp and muddy valley and reached a marshy area. There was no trace of a path through the reed beds but Melor seemed sure about the firmer ground so we tried to keep close behind him. The reeds were unyielding and very annoying so I attempted a Rego Herbam spell to bend them away from me, counting on my extensive knowledge of Rego to overcome my difficulty with Herbam. I believe the marsh is strongly under the influence of the fae, since my spell did not come out at all as I intended. Alas, it had quite the opposite effect, the reeds reaching out to clutch at my clothing. As I worked to disentangle myself, whilst attempting to retain at least some dignity, Helissente tucked up her skirts and skipped past me, and she was followed by Amelle and Achilles.
I saw them reach the edge of the marsh and stop near the foot of an enormous willow tree. The tall reeds hid all but the heads of the tallest from view, and I could not hear anything that was said. After a short while, it seemed to me that the tree shuddered and swayed, although there was no wind of any significance, and a few minutes later a number of birds flew up out of its upper branches and circled before flying off in different directions. A while later I saw the people coming back towards me, and a bird flying ahead of them. By the time they reached me, I had succeeded in freeing myself from the reeds so I was able to rejoin the procession. The bird was a tawny owl, which soon settled on Helissente's shoulder.
On we went: the maga, her shield grogs, the field faerie, the mother, the lord, the nurse, the hunter, and the owl.
As we walked, I learnt that the willow tree had spoken with Helissente and was able to tell her that the goblins from the woods to the south had recently snatched a baby, which might be hers. It was to these goblins that the owl was going to lead us. Melor took us back through the forest to rejoin the road not far from Plouec. Sir Achilles wanted to stop in the village to collect food and drink. Helissente would not tolerate the delay but he ignored her protests and headed off in the direction of Plouec Manor. The rest of us continued along the road, as slowly as Helissente could be persuaded to put up with in the hope that Sir Achilles would be able to catch us up before we had to leave the road again.
After a mile or more, the owl indicated that we should strike out into the forest along an indistinct track to the right. There was no sign of Sir Achilles but his wife would not wait and I thought it would be unwise to force her to, so we did as the owl instructed us. Again, we made slow progress, but this allowed Achilles to catch up. There was a lot of noise before we heard his voice clearly enough to be sure it did not mean danger and a moment later we saw not only Achilles but also Sir Guillaume, and both on horseback. Of course, Sir Guillaume has a reputation as a skilled tracker so they had picked up our trail easily.
On we went: the maga, her shield grogs, the field faerie, the mother, the lord, the nurse, the hunter, the owl, the knight, and the horses.
Light was fading. It was alright for the owl, of course, but we were having great difficulty. Helissente refused to stop. I had to agree with her that we should lose as little time as possible, and used Creo Ignem to cast enough light around the party for us to continue. I do not know how far we progressed before we were too exhausted to go on. Even Helissente was tired and hungry by now, so reluctantly agreed to make camp in a small clearing. We had plenty of food and drink with us, but very little in the way of shelter and coverings, but this did have the advantage that breaking camp next morning did not take long.
The owl showed us the way again and we soon came to an area where the trees were more widely spaced so grass and flowers covered the ground. The owl told Helissente that the goblins lived here, and that it could guide us no further. Amelle called out that she could see a goblin and pounced on something behind a rock. At least, that was what she seemed to do, but she picked up the rock itself and claimed that the goblin was disguising itself as the rock. Unconvinced, I looked about and soon felt sure that we would do best to head towards the higher ground. Julius was first to agree and we set off again, the others soon falling in behind. Quite soon we did find a real goblin, a figure some two feet tall in rough homespun clothes who was sitting on top of a rock watching us. We all stopped for fear of scaring it, then cautiously Helissente went forward alone. She begged for the return of her baby. The goblin knew exactly what she was talking about and told her that the baby had been taken by the dryads who live on the hill. It could not tell us which hill, but agreed to guide us there.
On we went: the maga, her shield grogs, the field faerie, the mother, the lord, the nurse, the hunter, the owl, the knight, the horses and the goblin.
Progress continued slow, despite the more open woodland, because the goblin only had short legs, would not be carried and refused to ride on one of the horses. Eventually we could see a hill rising ahead. Its slopes were quite steep and covered in grass and shrubs with few trees but it was crowned with a great oak surrounded by beech and birch. This looked more like the abode of the Guardian of the Forest than the home of goblins. At this point, the goblin got into an argument with Amelle, insisting that the rock she was carrying, still convinced that it was a goblin in disguise, was its property and she must give it back before it would go a step further. Helissente's frustration at this delay was overwhelming. I could see no need now to wait for the goblin so I strode off towards the hill, along with my grogs, and Helissente ran ahead of us.
Helissente was the first to enter the glade on the summit of the hill. I was close behind, and found her there begging for the return of her daughter, the tawny owl still on her shoulder. I remembered that the goblin had said it was dryads who took the child and, thinking of the trees in our regio, went to talk to the trees around the edge of the glade, touching each in turn and asking about the baby. I noticed that Helissente was doing something similar, but neither of us got any response. By now Achilles and Guillaume had arrived on foot, leading their mounts. Amelle was there too, and the goblin was now carrying the rock.
A tall, sun-tanned hunter entered the glade. He looked regal and I feel certain he was of the fae. Helissente greeted him at once and poured out her desperate plea for the return of her child. I remembered the tradition that both parents should plead for the child and nudged Achilles to add his voice to that of his wife, which he did, but it did not seem to help. Ignoring Helissente's urgency, the hunter invited us to join him in partaking of some refreshment. He disappeared into the trees and a moment later returned bearing fruits, wooden goblets and flagons of clear water into the glade. We were urged to partake and Helissente was invited to tell her story in every detail. Knowing how important story-telling can be to the fae, I thought it might be best if I told the tale, but our host insisted that it should come from the mother. I am always very wary of food or drink provided by the fae and have instructed my shield grogs to be cautious. Now I was afraid of losing days, even weeks, in this part of faerieland, and of giving offence and so not retrieving the baby. I compromised by sipping a little of the water, which was wonderfully refreshing, while I listened to Helissente. She made a good job of telling the story in every particular, starting with the discovery of the log in the cradle and introducing all those present at the right point in her narrative. I noticed that the goblin was trying to hide when she got to explaining that it was it that had guided us to the hill.
By the time Helissente reach the end, I became aware of several things: the sun had not moved in the sky since we arrived; the ground directly beneath each of us had formed itself into seats and couches; and our host was looking far more like a king, being crowned with a wreath of golden oak leaves. I was very excited at having, I felt, discovered a faerie regio of Bright Summer and could not wait to tell maga Gwénolé of it. I was reminded of the reason we were here a moment later when Helissente squealed and rushed across the glade. Her baby was there, sitting beside a bowl of clear water and being attended by two female figures with skin like soft bark and leaves in their green hair. The child looked perfectly content. The dryads seemed to be reluctant to allow Helissente to pick up Rubea, but the king allowed Helissente to retrieve her baby. He said sadly that the trees diminished and the magic faded. I would very much like to have been able to stay and talk with him about his realm, but this did not seem like the right opportunity, with so many mundanes about - much better to return with Gwénolé. I wished there was something I could offer concerning the preservation of this part of the forest but it is way outside the region of Caribet and Sir Achilles' jurisdiction.
Now with a happy and grateful Helissente, our journey home was considerably more pleasant than our outward trip. We had to camp overnight once more, but the whole expedition took only three days. As we travelled, we left each member of the group where we had first collected them. My last duty was to take home the little field faerie, which I had carefully carried all the way inside my cloak. I thanked it for all the help it had given us and offered a saucer of beer. Helissente also gave beer and wine to the field fae. So Rubea is safe home again. I am thinking about writing to Constantine about the incident, but more urgent is a letter to Gwénolé, which I shall compose at once.
One of the Redcaps brought us the long-awaited letter from Brugensis on the possibility of trading vis. It was from Thomas Jerbitonis filius Meindert. From what he wrote, I gather that they are keen to offer Auram, Aquam, Creo and Terram, but it is possible that they may have other forms available for exchange at a less favourable exchange rate. He especially wants Imaginem, Intellego, Mentem and Rego, so although we are equally poor in Mentem, we do have other types that they want so there is a good chance we may be able to make a satisfactory deal. He says he will be coming this way later in the year and could make any exchanges in person, so Council must agree and compose a suitable reply ready for the next passing Redcap. I feel sure my sodales will agree to part with one set of keys if it will bring the day we reduce service to one season per year significantly closer.
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