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Council met, though with only three of us present, it was a swift meeting. I had hoped to have time to myself at last, after three seasons spent distilling vis as service. I will get two free seasons this year, but this will not be one of them, and I am to distill yet again. I know it is useful, and saves me going out into the wilds, and allows me to keep taking care of Alacritas, but it is beginning to get tedious, and I have so many projects of my own to start on. We hope that Speculor will be back in time to perform the same service as myself this season, while Iuris Perita and Joach both have a free season. Of course, it is perfectly possible that Constantine will get back in time to make a useful contribution this season, but we decided not to count on it, and are expecting that he will take this as free time. It was harder work than usual, gathering the Intellego vis in the regio. Joach is still disinclined to trust the paths and prefers to remain supervising the collection of the bluebells from which we obtain Imaginem vis. This left Iuris Perita and myself to perform the rites necessary to obtain another set of keys. We had to do a lot of walking and were too tired to do any further investigations this time.
It is good to have Speculor back amongst us. I am looking forward to some long conversations with him about the research activities going on at Petrusca, and maybe news of new books available there too. He has not yet said anything about why he was away quite so long, indeed, he said his journey home, partly by boat, went very well. I know from his letters that he was busy assisting his parens, but there must be more to it, I feel sure. I shall also have to try and find out, without making too much of an issue of it, whether he knows what was in my letter from Buviniolus, and if so, whether he has anything helpful to add. So far, all he has said to me was to congratulate me on having learnt to keep the kitten out of his laboratory!
My work this afternoon was disturbed by a great deal of noise outside. I sent Julius to investigate and he came back almost at once to inform me that Maud, that useless-looking shield grog who follows Constantine around, had arrived in the company of maga Elise, and was shouting at everyone to go with her at once to rescue Constantine. I went down to find out for myself and was in time to hear the whole thing as Maud was made to tell her story in detail before anyone would do anything about going anywhere. I had never seen Maud in a dress before, and I cannot say it suited her.
She told how they had sailed to Boulogne on the coast of France, and then taken another boat along the coast, heading for St.Brieuc but a storm had driven them first off course and then onto rocks where the ship had foundered. She was washed up on a rocky shelf, entirely alone it seemed, but she had hardly got to her feet before she was grasped firmly by two strong guards and was bound with chains and dragged into a cave. The captors were very strong and the chains very tight, and she could not free herself. She is certain that she was walking over broken bones, though it was very dark. After being propelled along a tunnel, she saw a pale light ahead and emerged into a cavern. The only light surrounded the pale, skeletal figure of a disgusting old hag seated on a rough wooden chair. The ghastly creature spoke to her in a thin, grating voice, using words of flattery and endearment, calling her its "Gift from the Sea". Maud had replied that she was no-one's gift unless her master gave her. The thin hag had seemed surprised at this, and had come close to peer at her, then shrieked about a "cruel deception" and ordered that Maud be thrown out at once.
As the guards started to pull her away, a very bright golden light suddenly sprang up on the far side of the cave, and she saw Constantine standing there, bathed in the light. She cried out to him and struggled again to free herself but the guards continued to heave, forcing her towards the tunnel. Constantine's voice commanded "Release her!" and he sent an arrow of fire into one of her captors. She was proud and joyful, and exerted every effort to throw off the injured guard, but to no avail. Then she saw other guards approaching Constantine and knew that she had to go to his defence. Since her arms were still bound tight, she kicked as hard as she could, but it was like kicking a boulder so, seething with frustration and anger, she was hauled out of the cavern and dumped on the rock shelf where she had been found. The storm was still raging.
The moment Maud realised where she was, she noticed that there were no guards, no chains and no cave mouth. She suspected some faerie trickery and shouted as loud as she could that they must let Constantine go free. She does not know how long she shouted, and beat against the rock, trying to find the way in again. Eventually she grew tired and the storm abated. She looked along the coast and saw a prominent rocky outcrop, which seemed as good a way to go as any. After walking for a while she found a path leading inland, which she followed until it came to a village. The people there were kind, though lacking in understanding, for although they believed that she was the unfortunate victim of a shipwreck, they would not take seriously her news that her master had been taken captive by a hag calling herself the Pale Witch, and had to be rescued at once. Certainly, they knew stories of a Siren who took drowning men to her realm but said that very few ever escaped. One said that once a pure-hearted woman had saved her true love from the Siren but another said that a man would be kept until the Siren tired of him, and then she would eat him. Even most of those who appeared to think there might be some truth in the tales were certain that anyone she took was already dead by drowning, so it was useless to search. Maud was too exhausted to argue by now. The villagers gave her dry clothes and hot food and a warm place to sleep.
By the next morning, Maud had made up her mind what to do. She asked the villagers to find her a boat going to St.Brieuc and for her leather armour to be returned. They assured her that the salt water had ruined the clothes she had been wearing when she arrived but they were happy to let her keep the dress, and were able to find someone to take her along the coast. Late in the day, the boat had approached St.Brieuc, but Maud had insisted on disembarking near the point, whence she headed straight for the Tour de Cesson, still accompanied by a couple of fishermen who seemed to think it their duty to see her safe with friends or relations in town, who would reward them. They stopped when Maud reached the edge of the bramble hedge and started shouting for Elise. They did not move when Elise appeared, parting the brambles ahead of her, then Elise gave the men a few coins and they hastened away as Maud started to tell her news.
Rather than go to find Constantine herself, Elise had opted to come to Caribet. It did not seem polite to ask why she felt herself incapable of dealing with this alone. Everyone agreed that Constantine and Redwald should be rescued by females only, but there was quite a debate about who should go. I was greatly tempted to go along as I was keen to learn about this manifestation of faerie power that could charm a magus so effectively, despite his Parma Magica and great knowledge. However, I had my appointment with Gwénolé and Cierella, where my presence was essential, so I did not include myself in the expedition. Iuris Perita said that she would go, even though this meant taking Duncan. She said she would leave him outside the regio when they arrived at the coast. Maud and Ellie would go along as additional protection, and they decided to take the young woman, Ivona, who has been working with the hunters, since she can use a bow and it is worth giving her some wider experience. Jimena has been asked to go, since she is good at dealing with travel arrangements when it involves talking to mundanes. The problem of seeing the regio boundaries was solved by adding Amele to the group. She was very reluctant, and I hear that Helissente was not pleased at having to give up Rubea's nursemaid for a few days (though I feel sure she would have been happily willing had she been told that Amele was needed to rescue Constantine).
Iuris Perita and Elise left about an hour ago, to walk to St.Brieuc and thence to be guided by Maud to the rocky shelf where she was taken captive. She seems a pretty poor shield grog; I just hope she is capable of finding the right place, and quickly. It cannot be doing Constantine and Redwald any good to be held captive in that damp, dark faerie regio. If they are in any way unwell as a result, at least they will have Jimena on hand to help ... and if they are dead, then Elise can perhaps be of use! But I feel sure they will be safe in the end.
I have been in contact with Maga Gwénolé and she is happy to accompany me to The Valley of the Mists, where I must keep my annual appointment with Lady Cierella. I am, of course, very happy to spend some time in Gwénolé's company but there is also the important point that, somehow, she is able to ensure that the whole trip takes only a week, so we are only one day in the Valley, and she manages to get us there on just the right day, too. It is this sort of understanding that I want to learn more of in my investigations of the fae. We are to set off at once.
Everything has gone well. Gwénolé guided us here via faerie paths through the forest so we met no-one and travelled always in fine weather. At night, she created a splendid pavilion to shelter us. The crows, silver wolves and animated trees of the Valley welcomed us (I recall how afraid I was on my first visit!). Cierella was expecting us. Gwénolé seemed happy that I should be the one to initiate the re-enactment by reminding Cierella of what a sorry state we found her in. I am learning something about the telling of tales, and made sure to exaggerate the horrors as dramatically as I could. Julius and Ignatius are accustomed to the journey we have to make, into the boulder, along the cliff, through the woods across the plain and up the tower, and we all remember well what we must do and what we must be very sure not to do. It is fortunate that this faerie world follows such consistent rules, so we are not taken by surprise or in any danger as long as we stick to the pattern of behaviour that works.
The celebratory feast was as joyous as ever. I believe that my shield grogs are sufficiently used to it now that they relaxed this time. Gwénolé was in her element, so I just sat back and enjoyed watching and listening until it came to my turn to tell a story. I had been planning this, so was able to give what I think was a creditable performance of the Abduction & Rescue of Rubea. It was well-received, anyway. At the end of the feast, as we were saying our farewells, Cierella offered Gwénolé and I two pawns of vis. Gwénolé chose Muto and I took Auram.
Gwénolé was kind enough to see us well on our way back to Caribet before using her magical gateway to disappear. Thus, I am back in my laboratory after just one week, and there is no risk that I shall fail to complete my distillation task. Alacritas is apparently well, but seems bored. I hope this is not an indication that Gwenna has not been playing with her while I have been away. I will be doing what I can to entertain the kitten while my equipment does the work. I gather that Magus Constantine returned to Caribet on the 30th of March in a bad way and now is in the infirmary under the care of Jimena. There seems no doubt that he will be recovered by the end of the season but I am most curious to hear how he was so badly injured and how he was rescued. Jimena is likely to be the best source of information on both matters so I plan to spend some time with her this evening. It is a relief to know that none of the rescue party returned hurt.
I peeked into the library soon after I got back and I am certain that someone has moved the books. Joach has the Summa on Creo for private study, so I did not expect that to be there, and I do not think there is anything else missing, but I shall have to check as soon as I have time.
Constantine is quite badly hurt and seems to find it painful to move, though I understand that he was in a far worse state when he arrived. Jimena sat rather tight-lipped and looked a little disapproving while Constantine told me how an emergency session of Council had voted to allow the use of four pawns of Corpus vis from stores to allow Constantine to cast a permanent version of Chirurgeon's Healing Touch on himself soon after he got back home. I know we have quite good supplies of Corpus, and although I feel this is the type we are most likely to be able to exchange for the others we need, it was too late for me to make any protest and it is very useful to have set a precedent for use of vis in such a case. Even so, Jimena insists that he remain in her care for several weeks yet.
This is what I have managed to put together from my conversation with Jimena and her patient.
Constantine was washed overboard and cast up on a rocky shelf, as Maud had described to us, and was taken captive but he found himself amongst beautiful women, one of which called herself The Pale Witch. She had him held in chains resistant to Perdo Terram and would not release him. He was taken to a small cave, but not closely guarded so was able to leave it and return to the side of the big cavern in time to see Maud brought before the glamorous woman or skeletal hag, depending who you believe. As Maud had described, he had tried to fight off the guards with fire but had failed. As she was dragged out of the cavern on the far side, he was encircled by guards. The beautiful Pale Witch said he had betrayed her trust and must now defeat her Champion if he was to have any hope of winning his freedom. This Champion was one of the stolid, lumpish guards but he moved with unexpected grace and agility. Constantine cast Rego Corpus to levitate out of reach. The Flambeau had, naturally, used fire to attack, but it appeared to have no discernible effect - later on he learnt that the guard was more like a cold, damp boulder than anything else so this was hardly surprising. The Champion had flung a boulder at Constantine, hurting him very badly. Despite his injuries, he had tried to escape towards the world outside but his opponent kept throwing stones and he could not get past. Constantine then cast Arrow of Flame at the woman, but she turned it to water with a wand. Another boulder crashed into the cavern ceiling close to his head, and Constantine, now heavily wounded and bleeding badly and very weary, had to give in for a while.
Constantine cast Bind Wound on himself, before succumbing to sleep. He was left to rest for what seemed like several days in a side chamber, tended only by a few young women who bathed his wounds and tried to tempt him with food that looked and smelled delicious. For a couple of days he avoided these delicacies, knowing that it is dangerous to eat faerie food. One day he noticed that at the time his Parma wavered, signaling sunset, the plate of fruit that had been left beside him turned into raw fish. He cast Intellego Animal and found that the food had been prepared that morning in an iron cooking pot. This made him very suspicious as it was so much more Hermetic than Faerie. The following day, he ate some of the food and kept some. At sunset, he cast another spell and learnt that the fish had been caught last night by a seal. When the next meal was brought, he used Intellego Vim and found out that the food was under the influence of Hermetic magic. Could there be a failed apprentice involved, perhaps? He could see no evidence of a caster's sigil in the food, but felt happier about having to consume it.
Jimena related how Maud and Elise had guided the ladies to St.Brieuc where they had spent a night at the Tour de Cesson before finding a boat willing to take them along the coast towards the north west. Only fishing boats went that way, and the sailors made a great fuss about how dangerous and difficult it was to navigate through the shoals. Jimena said that the cliffs there are of a very hard, shiny pink rock which looked rather attractive with the sun on it. It was the end of the day by the time they reached the right island. Amele and Maud argued about whether to set off at once or wait for daylight. It was clear that Maud's priority was to find and save her magus, but with Amele, it might have been her aversion to travelling conditions that was uppermost in her mind, for she did nothing but complain the whole trip.
The magae made the decision, of course, and that was to take refuge in a barn close by the village that had taken Maud in, and to wait for morning. Soon after sunrise, Maud guided them to the oddly-shaped rocky outcrop that she remembered as marking the right place to descend the cliff. Amele had made a great fuss about how she could not climb, and then, when made to go down, she sulked and said she could not see where to go next. Eventually, after much prompting, she did find the cave mouth that was believed to be the way into the faerie regio where Constantine was being held. Iuris Perita ordered Duncan to wait here, as well-hidden as he could manage, and under no circumstances to follow the women. Amele reluctantly led the way into the cave, and the other women followed, crunching bones under their feet. Maud ignited a torch and the light showed wet pink rock and white bone. Elise said that most of the bones were of fish but that some were human. They reached a dark, cold, wet, miserable cave with two exits which Maud thought she recognised. She went to what she thought was the tunnel where she had last seen Constantine, but it looked different now. Nor did the other passage seem right. Amele was still sulking, so when she noticed that a cat had apparently followed us in, she said nothing at the time but it must have been Elise's familiar. Iuris Perita used Intellego Terram and saw for a moment that they were in a maze of passages and decided which way to go.
A little further on, they found Redwald sitting on a comfortable-looking bed in a small cave. Maud urged him to get up, but he did not respond. Jimena says he was unhurt but dazed, as if drugged, and she had to push and pull him but he was compliant enough and would walk where guided. The passage way took them deeper. The torchlight faded even though it was burning well. Elise cast Creo Ignem to form a light at the tip of her bone wand which worked except that the light from that too was extinguished as they reached the lowest point of the descent. It seemed that they had crossed a regio boundary. There was a dripping sound from close by, where droplets of water were slowly falling from the ends of six icicles. It was cold here, but did not seem to be freezing so Iuris Perita was curious and cast Intellego Vim. The icicles each contained a pawn of Perdo vis! Iuris gathered them all then cast Intellego Terram again and got a much stronger impression of the layout of the cave system. She was able then to indicate the route to Constantine. As they started to ascend, the lights of wand and torch reappeared.
They found Constantine alone, still badly hurt and weak. Elise used magic to temporarily lighten his wounds. Constantine shivered and turned very pale for a moment but was immediately much better and able to stand and move fairly easily. Jimena could see the sense in this, but remains unconvinced, thinking that one could very easily cause further injury to one's self while under the effect of such magic, or even be further injured so badly that the end of the spell be fatal. Instead of making haste to leave, as Maud and Jimena wished, the magi started talking. Constantine told Iuris Perita about the Hermetic magic effect that had allowed him to eat while held here. He then went on to describe his captor and her servants. Jimena felt sure they would be seeing them for themselves if they did not leave at once. Instead of going back the way the rescue party had come, Constantine took them into the large cavern.
The aura in the cavern was Faerie of the fourth magnitude. There was no sign of any of the characters that Constantine and Maud had described, although there were rocks that looked rather like seats and some a little over man-height positioned where the guards may well have stood. Suddenly there was a great noise of shattering rock and the rock most like a throne disintegrated. Maga Elise was close by, with her wand extended, so one assumes she used Perdo Terram on it. Iuris Perita must have thought this was clearly interference with the fae! Jimena was all the more anxious to depart immediately, but something under the pile of rubble had caught Elise's eye. She pulled out a medium-sized iron cooking pot. Intellego Vim identified it as a hermetically enchanted device, which Iuris Perita has claimed for the covenant. I imagine we will have to give it back if we ever find out who made it in the first place or who owned it prior to the Pale Witch. The examination of the pot was interrupted by the sound of yet more breaking stone, but now it was those boulders around the cavern, splitting to release armed warriors. Ellie and Ivona aimed arrows at two nearest the exit while everyone else went as fast as they could into the passage. Jimena points out that, having to steer and push Redwald, their escape was nothing like as fast as she would have wished. They did not wait to find out what the guards were like when fully free of the bounders.
The group dashed out of the passage onto the same rocky shelf where Maud had been washed up. Duncan rejoined them, and all made haste to reach the cliff path. There were seals in the water close by but, as they looked, they saw that these were not really seals, but were standing up and transforming - probably into something much more dangerous. Duncan, Ellie and Ivona prepared to hold these off, if they could, as the others scrambled up the cliff. As they reached the top, a storm of icy-cold hail hit them. They fought against the weather to reach the path to the village and soon emerged from the hailstorm, and again took refuge in the barn.
Jimena went alone into the little village, where they were quite surprised to see a stranger, and made a fuss about how odd it was to have strangers visit twice in a month. Silver had the usual effect, and Jimena was able to return with fish, ale and bread. She was rather alarmed when the magi put the fish into the newly-acquired iron pot but it was a good idea. At once a good meal for about four people appeared, complete with platters and goblets. Then they put a large piece of bread in, and there was enough delicious food for everyone. With such a convenient source of good food available, Amele moaned somewhat less on the way back, but the journey was over none too soon. Elise had wanted to stop at her tower, but it was still necessary for her to cast Creo Corpus on Constantine regularly to enable him to travel at all so she accompanied the rest back to Caribet.
As if Constantine had not got into enough trouble with the siren during his journey from Burnham, I gather that there was yet more. Redwald was talking to some of the other grogs last night, and Julius passed some of it on to me. I noticed Gwenna taking a keen interest in his tale too! I think she is very relieved to see Redwald back safe. The story is that their journey south began auspiciously with a good wind in the right direction, and they made good speed along the English coast for three days, but as they were at anchor one evening, another ship approached and seemed to be heading directly for them. As it got near, a volley of arrows flew from it. Redwald and Maud moved to protect their magus, of course, but some of the sailors did not have the sense to take cover immediately and several were injured. The boat was heaving and pitching about on the strong swell, so it was hard for anyone unaccustomed to the sea to maintain a steady footing, but the shield grogs stayed firm, rather hoping that Constantine might take action. Before he did anything, another volley of arrows hit the sails, the boat and several sailors. As some half dozen crumpled to the deck, Constantine shouted out a spell and a cloud of smoke billowed up from the main sail of the attackers' boat. He followed this up at once with a spectacular display of ribbons of fire which arced out across the closing gap to set fire to the pirate ship's sails and rigging. A few minutes later, more lines of fire streaked out from Constantine's direction but this time, it was the rigging and sails of their own vessel which ignited. Fortunately, the first show of fire had been enough to turn the attacking boat about and the sailors were able to put out the flames without fear of more arrows. Redwald seemed to think that Constantine was unwell since he just stood as if dazed while those around rushed to extinguish the fire, but I suspect he had let the magic get out of control. However, this did not stop the captain of the ship from showing a lot more respect for the rest of the journey, and referring to his dangerous passenger as a powerful fire wizard. I imagine that Iuris Perita would not be best pleased to hear this.
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