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Gwénolé le Guen Merinitae filia Claude and her apprentice Séanna arrived this morning. I was expecting my friend to come for the mid-winter feast but not so early, so I was hardly ready for visitors. Fortunately, my distillation task was virtually completed so it did not take me long to make everything safe and go to greet the guests. This was Gwénolé's first visit since receiving my letter about the loss and rescue of baby Rubea, so the talk was very much of the faerie regio where we found the child. Gwénolé wanted to set off there at once, and did her best to convince me that flying there was the easiest and most natural thing in the world. For her, it is, but even if I had a pair of beautiful wings, I would still be too nervous about the possibility of dropping out of the sky to be able to use them. In the end, it was agreed that Gwénolé and her apprentice would travel their way and I would travel mine and we would meet on top of the tree-crowned hill. I was concerned that the visitors might have trouble finding the place, since I could not describe the route in any great detail, and would have to rely on the grogs' memories to reach it. Gwénolé took this opportunity to give me a lesson on what to look for when seeking out faerie regiones, for which I am grateful. I intend to put her lesson into practice today, but will take Julius and Ignatius just the same.
The walk to Ploeuc and into the forest did not seem to take as long this time as it did when we had a frantic Helissente with us. For most of the first day's walking, I was trying to think of a way to fly without being afraid of being up high, but could not come up with anything practical. On the second day, I feel that I was able to discern some of the signs that Gwénolé told me to watch out for, but these did not become visible to me until we got quite close. When I got to the hilltop, I found Gwénolé in conversation with the kingly-looking man, whom she addressed as Quercus, and Séanna listening attentively to them. It quickly became apparent that Gwénolé had taken the liberty of inviting Quercus to attend the Caribet mid-winter feast. I did not think she, as a guest herself, was in any position to offer such an invitation, but there was nothing I could do about it but accept the situation. There was some immediate advantage to it, because Quercus and two of his dryads accompanied us back to Caribet, and found a route that brought us through the forest in just a few hours so there was no need to spend another night outdoors, and no more talk of flying.
Quercus and Gwénolé made no attempt to approach the covenant glade but turned towards the village. I have since heard that they have set up a splendid pavilion near the edge of one of the cultivated fields, presumably to be close to the field fae, and I shall go out to see it first thing in the morning. I very much hope to have some time to talk to them both during the next few days, but I must complete my work before I can indulge my curiosity.
We have come to expect a number of Hermetic visitors at this time of year, all eager to join the feast. I was expecting other members of House Merinita, so it was a great surprise when today's first arrivals were three cheerful Redcaps - Aversus, Bartholomeus and Jézéquel. Jehan seemed to be expecting them and made them welcome. I remembered the council resolution to charge magi a fee of vis for coming to the feast but in this case, hoped no-one would mention it since it is always a good idea to keep on very good terms with ones Redcaps. Later in the day another group arrived, though these looked grim and determined. It was maga Industria and two pale, sweating companions, all on horseback and looking as if they had ridden hard. Iuris Perita went at once to attend upon maga Industria and I have seen nothing more of any of them today.
Since there are three Redcaps here, I was able to hand over a note I had written a couple of days ago to Speculor about recent events and council decisions. Aversus had brought a letter to us all from Speculor, who reports that he is remaining in Petrusca for a little while to assist his parens in a particularly interesting research project. He gives no details of it, claiming lack of time, but I feel sure he will be only too keen to tell me of the work once he returns. He reports that there are still those amongst the magi of Petrusca who consider us to be incompetent youngsters. I feel sure they will soon change their minds. Unfortunately, Speculor is still a little cross with me about the damage Alacritas did in his laboratory, for he reminds me to make sure I am keeping her under control; I hope he will soon forgive her and me.
Three other riders came along a little later, and, with Iuris unavailable, I had the duty of bidding them welcome. It was Thomas Jerbitonis from Brugensis with two very interesting-looking companions. Both were tall, slim and fine-featured, one fair and the other dark of hair and pale of skin. I feel sure they are both kin to the fae and hope to find out more about them over the next few days. Thomas himself is an attractive man so it will be no hardship to begin our trade negotiations. He is a little on the short side. but has golden curls & freckles - a complexion very rarely seen in Iberia. I have discussed with my sodales whether it be best to get the vis deal settled now, or leave it until after the feast, since it is clear that Thomas intends to stay for this. My feeling is that, if we leave it, the chances are that he will enjoy the feast and be more favourably disposed towards us afterwards. It may be possible to let him know, somehow, that it is usual for a Hermetic guest to offer a small gift of vis and, since we have said nothing directly to him about this, he may feel under some slight obligation which could also work in our favour. None of my sodales have spoken against this plan as yet.
I was not at all pleased to see Urbanus Verbus with them. He claimed that he was just passing this way and had met Thomas on the road, but there was nothing I could do to send him on his way in a hurry. Iuris Perita was still closeted with Industria and Joach had not looked out of his laboratory so, again, it fell on me to welcome this unwelcome caller. As we exchanged formal greetings, Urbanus Verbus proffered two red crystals with flickering lights within them as a gift, which at once altered my view of his visit, for each contains a pawn of Ignem vis! Despite the lovely gift, I could not find him pleasant company, and was very glad when Industria eventually emerged and took his attention, leaving me to talk to Thomas. Industria and Urbanus Verbus obviously know each other well, as I could overhear their verbal sparring which kept them amused throughout our evening meal.
Apart from the theft and recovery of Rubea, the season passed quietly, I am glad to say. I completed my distillation so our stock of Vim vis is looking quite strong. Joach has made the extra vis detection wand - it takes the form of a rod bearing a small gargoyle on the end which sticks out its tongue and waggles its ears when vis is close by. It is constantly active like the other wand, unfortunately, so will be rather annoying to use, but we cannot yet afford to make the sort that can be activated and deactivated as required. Iuris Perita's vis hunt has been successful and has provided our first pawn of Mentem vis in the form of dried mushrooms, one of much-needed Creo and another of Corpus, which we don't greatly need for ourselves just now but should be very useful for trade.
I gather that Father Edwin left for the Hermitage this morning accompanied by Michel and Marie Briere, Elli, Iussuf and Marc. All of them are fleeing the mid-winter feast for one reason or another. I had expected Lady Helissente to be in the party but she very clearly was not.
Council business was swift. With two of our number away, the posts were shared amongst those present and elections were uncontested so Iuris Perita stays as Princeps, Joach is Defensor and I am once again in charge of the library. I shall spend the rest of today sorting out the scrolls into a more sensible order. Joach is still mindful of our need for magical defences, and I hope that before long we shall be able to afford to start work on these. We cannot do so just yet, though, and our activities for the new season are less ambitious. I am so looking forward to having time to myself next year as I have so much I want to do. The hard thing is knowing where to start, though clearly understanding and binding Alacritas must be my initial aim for the poor thing cannot live forever in a warding circle.
Speculor is still not returned from Petrusca. If he gets back within the next week or so, he will still be in time to perform the service he owes the covenant but if he is any later, he will have to do three seasons of service next year. He has my sympathy, for I have found it very hard to have so little time to follow my own studies this year, and poor Speculor has not had any time to improve his Arts since Winter 1224. Joach has an opportunity for personal study this season and has asked for the book Constantine wrote on Vim. I am glad to see someone getting some use of it, even though it is so basic. Iuris Perita is going to have to go out into the forest again, hunting vis. She will take Zane and a wand, so I have high hopes of her being successful. It is as well that we now have the extra wand, because we have to send some grogs out to the peat bogs with one. It is a mercy that they can perform this task without a magus or maga since I would not wish a winter in the bogs on any of my sodales. I believe Garth and Zacharias are very experienced at this task and will lead that expedition. I am to stay in the laboratory distilling vis yet again. The tedium is alleviated by the antics of Alacritas, and I remain grateful for the chance to keep in close contact with her while fulfilling my duty to the covenant.
I do not think that master Fulk has any work to do for the covenant this season, so I have asked Julius to take to him the Animal book that I copied in Castellar, along with a sum of silver, with a request that he illuminate it as a private commission. I do not expect that he talks to my sodales about the work he is doing so feel fairly confident that I shall not yet have to admit to owning the book. Once I have sorted out the library, I will find out whether there are any books remaining that need illumination and then I must see about getting copies of suitable books made for illumination and trade.
Joach cast The Bountiful Feast for us. This has reduced our stock of Herbam vis to a single pawn, so we must continue to make hunting a priority. It was a chilly but fine morning. Most of the villagers turned up for the procession around the field boundaries, indeed the crowd included quite a number of faces I did not recognise but any I asked about turned out to be from amongst our own people who live not in the village itself but out nearer the fields. Iuris Perita attended, without the visitors from Objurgator who seem to have been taking up all her attention since they arrived. Typically, Iuris would say nothing of the business that brought them here, or that which keeps them here but she did tell me that she would not be attending the feast this evening, and nor would her visitors. So much for my thought that it was only the feast that they had come for! It is a pity that there is now no chance that we might hope to receive a small payment in vis from Industria in return for inviting her to the feast, but it is a relief that it is now probable that she has not come here specifically to observe the goings-on and check that we are not allowing anything that she might interpret as molesting the fae or interfering with the mundanes! Not that I feel she would have any grounds, since the feast is hosted by Sir Achilles, and it is the fae who interfere there with both the mundanes and members of the Order.
I attended the feast provided by Sir Achilles to play hostess to our visiting magi and to make sure that the wine dregs were collected to add to our Muto vis stock. Joach also came, attired in a freshly-washed version of his habitual plain robe, and did his share of being sociable with our guests. I was very glad of this for my own attention was mainly focussed on Thomas of Jerbiton, who I found to be a very interesting conversationalist. It was a real pleasure to find someone who has a serious interest in the Art of Auram. Intellego appears to be his favourite Technique, and he is fascinated by clouds, so I picked up a few good ideas that I may be able to use to expand my understanding of 'Jupiter's Resounding Blow'. The trio of Redcaps were initially seated at the high table of course, as befitted their status, but as the meal went on and the wine, faerie-dusted or not, flowed, they relaxed much more readily than most magi and drifted off to interact with those seated on the lower benches, where I soon lost sight of them. Gwénolé stuck close to Quercus throughout the meal and I saw them leave together later on. Up until the last moment, I was still expecting other members of House Merinita to turn up but it seems they have satisfied their curiosity now. I was glad to not see Perspectus Ambius Merinitae, whose note-taking had been so annoying at the feasts I missed, but was disappointed not to meet the faun musician, Roland. There was some very pleasant music between the first courses from our own Jacut. I observed that he went to sit beside Jimena when not performing and they appear to be getting on very well together. Unexpectedly, Iuris Perita had allowed Duncan, her shield grog, to attend the feast though there was no sign of Industria's companions. Duncan was seated some way down the hall and I did not catch sight of him again during the evening so I have no idea whether he found a partner to take Iuris' place for the night; it may be just as well that I do not know. I was very surprised to see Helissente there for the first time. Achilles was most attentive to her and kept her close by him throughout the feast, or at least until the pair of them left the hall together not long after the final course was served.
Maga Industria was up and about early this morning, I hear, questioning everyone about the events of the night before. If her manner was not so intimidating, I would liken her to Perspectus Ambius, who took copious notes last year. I wondered whether she was checking up on the veracity of his report but felt it wiser not to ask. My most important task for the day was to go to our vis store, take out what we were to send to Brugensis, and safely store that which we obtained in exchange. The negotiations went well. It was straightforward to agree to exchange four pawns of Rego from our surplus for four pawns of much-needed Creo. I found it hard to part with the Rego, but now that we are using Vim vis, distilled here, when casting the Aegis of the Hearth, the regular supply of four pawns from the thorn bushes has accumulated somewhat, and we know we can replenish four pawns from there at the end of March. We are not short of terram, but our own source does not produce much, and it has proved very useful in the creation of useful tools so an exchange of two pawns of Terram for two of Imaginem from our copious supply of distilled bluebell extract was useful and painless - Speculor may feel otherwise but was not here to prevent the deal and by the time he is back, we will be getting more from the bluebells anyway so I do not expect him to mind at all. Our continuing need for Herbam caused us to agree to less favourable terms, giving three pawns in exchange for two, but I am sure we shall be glad that we did, although it means we gave away some more of the Imaginem. The Terram vis is the most interesting. It came in a small sealed box that rattled, even when left alone, as if something was moving about inside it. Thomas explained that it is in the form of two black stones that jump around, and that we much keep them enclosed until we wish to make use of the vis. I do wish it would not have been impolite to ask after the source and origin of these fascinating stones.
It was early afternoon before Thomas left. He was going the same way as Urbanus Verbus so had the dubious pleasure of his company for the first part of his journey. I was a little late returning to the manor house, but the dregs from the wine glasses had already been set aside for me. I gather from one of the serving girls there that the story amongst the lower orders is now that it is very bad luck not to leave a good measure in the bottom of the glass. They believe it is the fae who will play malicious tricks on those who fail in this. As long as this notion is powerful enough to have the desired effect, they will not find out how different the effects of the anger of a furious maga are!
Gwénolé came to say farewell. I was still unable to persuade her to step inside my sanctum to meet Alacritas - I have no idea why she is so reluctant as we are now such friends that she must surely trust me. She told me that Quercus had returned to his home, and the look on her face left me in no doubt that she had very much enjoyed his company. She mentioned that he had left a little something for us but did not give me anything so I went out to the field in case it was there. Sure enough, just where the pavilion had been we now have a well-grown oak tree. My first thought was of how hard we had had to work to clear the trees from that area in the first place. I am hoping that this new tree will be no inconvenience to the farming activities. I expect the field fae will accept it gladly as a faerie gift, and I am hoping that the tree may prove to be a benefit. At best, it may give vis in acorns. At worst, it will scatter acorns over the field and we will have to work to make sure this area does not revert to woodland! I have issued orders that the tree is to be treated with respect. Joach has been saying that its wood would probably make very fine puppets but I trust he is not serious about cutting it.
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