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The last two months have passed quietly. I have completed my distillation as service, and Speculor has done the same, so we have six more pawns of Vim vis to add to the store. We also have those six pawns of Perdo, of course. I am retaining my pawn of Auram that Cierella gave me, since I may have need of it later, especially if I have to pay again for Alacritas' misdeeds. Constantine felt well enough after a few week's rest to borrow the second primer on Perdo. We have gathered the usual Terram and Herbam vis in the regio today. Jehan sat on a wooden stool for a couple of hours, talking to the face in the menhir. The grogs have collected up the droppings from the talking beasts.
At our Council meeting, it was decided that Speculor, who owes a lot of service, should be asked to distill vis again, since it is useful and, we hope, keeps him out of trouble. Iuris Perita will go vis hunting, taking Zane and a wand. Constantine proposed that he create an enchanted device in the form of a bed to speed recovery - he must have formed this plan during his long days in the infirmary. It needs two pawns of Corpus vis. I know we have reliable renewable supplies of this, but we have recently used four pawns to heal Constantine, so I was in favour of postponing this clearly useful enchantment, but was out-voted. He will make a bed which twice a day will act to promote healing. Joach offered to distil vis for us as service, wishing to exploit his recent studies of Creo, but Council thought his time better used in creating a useful device. Inspired by the iron cooking pot, which makes travel so much more congenial, it was propose that some sort of waterproof tent would be valuable. Since we cannot devote Herbam or Creo vis to any enchantment yet, but have plenty of Animal, we decided to ask for a device that would create a large leather tent. Joach said he would use Muto Animal, with Creo and Herbam too, but just one pawn of Animal vis, to make a small carved gargoyle in a leather cape, which, when commanded, would form a small pavilion. He says we will be able to use it more than once a day, so it can be used as shelter from the rain as well as overnight accommodation. This seems to me an admirable idea, an impressive application of magic, and an excellent way to use vis. I did not push for a free season, but requested it, and was very glad to be granted it. I have said nothing as yet about what I shall do with it, but I shall, of course, visit Haeconius. I said only that I expected to be away for some of the time - I hope it will not take so long that I cannot profitably read anything this season, but my quest is most important and so I will set off as soon as I can. I was saved any further questions by the suggestion from Joach that another time he might enchant a device to fling stones. I expect this idea came from the great hurt done to Constantine by a thrown boulder, and I know from my own experience how much injury a thrown stone can do, so it does seem a good sort of defence. This excited so much discussion that I needed to say nothing more about my own plans.
I do not know how much Speculor knows about my interest in faerie magic or the quest I have been asked to perform, but he obviously knows something. I expect he heard while at Petrusca, for I feel sure he would not have seen the contents of my letters. He drew me into conversation when we were alone, and steered the topic around to talk of Buviniolus. Apparently, the interest he is taking in faerie magic following my initial questions on the subject, have caused such a remarkable invigoration that all Petrusca has noticed. Where he once kept to his sanctum, he is now much more lively and sociable. Everyone knows that he has been borrowing everything that Petrusca library holds on faerie magic - I must pay a visit there myself soon and see if they will let me stay a while and study from these books. I encouraged Speculor to tell me as much as he would, but did not give any information about my own immediate plans. Talking of books led our talk on to the topic of library organisation, where I know my sodalis and I have rather different ideas, but we did agree that someone has interfered with our library and we suspect it was Elise. As a member of the covenant, I suppose we cannot stop her going into the library, but she performs no service, so I do not see why she should have any automatic right to study here. The idea of her borrowing a book and taking it home to study is obviously out of the question, but we might let her stay here for a season and study, if she can find a suitable way to pay for it. Then I asked Speculor about his parens' current research, and he was very happy to talk for ages on Jovinus' research on the theory of illusions.
We are setting off this morning. I had hoped to travel with only Julius and Ignatius, but they advise taking a couple of other people along. I have accepted their suggestions of Yves and Abel. Abel is not any sort of soldier but, I understand, he has knowledge that will be useful while travelling and some skills in investigation. It would be very nice to take that new cooking pot with us, but it is covenant property and my expedition is private, and rather secret. I do not know how secret it ought to be, but I have been given this special quest and feel I ought to say as little as possible about it until it is over. For one thing, I have a suspicion that Iuris Perita might find a reason to stop me, since she may think that we might well end up annoying the fae if things go badly. I feel sure there will be no such difficulty, but I will not give her the chance to put us off. For this reason, I have given my maid instructions to remain here, taking good care of Alacritas, but have not told her where we are going or how long we are to be away, since I feel sure she reports on me to Pernelle, who tells Iuris Perita. Indeed, I have not given this information to anyone, saying only that those coming with me should prepare for an absence of a couple of weeks and that we will be taking the road towards the Hermitage.
We have travelled with ease along the route used by local tradesmen and farmers that passes through Quintin, Corlay, St.Nicholas du Pelem, and Rostrenen to reach the village of Carhaix Plouguer. The first part was well known to me, being the way to the Valley of Mists but since passing that area, I have been dependent upon Abel to ask the way. The people here about seem to speak only Breton. I am glad I took time to talk to the Redcaps about the location of Haeconius, since Abel knows nothing of it. I told my travelling companions where we were headed after we had been on the road for a couple of days. I instructed them, that if need be, they could claim we were on pilgrimage to the shrine of St.Anne, a very popular local saint who's shrine is somewhere near the coast in this direction. This sent Julius and Ignatius off into a huddle for a while, probably planning how best to keep us safe. For the past day, there has been a steep escarpment to the north of us and we have walked almost due west, I think, but from here we must turn north into the forest. I have asked Abel to find out which is the path to Huelgoat, for I feel sure I can find the site of Haeconius from there.
As we headed deeper into the forest, I used Intellego Vim spells to check the aura. I noticed when we left the Dominion aura of the village and a little later, found we were in a low level magic aura, much as in the Foret de Lorge. We reached a barrier of dense brambles and flowing vines. The vines bore large white flowers and seemed to sway despite the air being still. The trees close by seemed to have sleeping faces depicted in their bark. We were now in a faerie aura of the second magnitude. Remembering the little fae at Caribet, I peered at the brambles to see if there was any sign of bramble faeries, and sure enough, there was, but they could only communicate in Breton, so I had to call upon Abel. They did not seem to mind us being there, but said we must take care not to damage the brambles, which are their home. I attempted a Rego Herbam spell to push the writhing vines out of our way, so we could pass that way without disturbing the brambles, but the aura confused me. The vines started writhing towards us but my grogs appear to have anticipated a problem, and pulled me out of the way in good time. I was glad of a chance to catch my breath while Abel negotiated with the bramble fae, offering wine if we might be allowed to make use of the tunnels they showed us that went through the bottom of the bushes. This involved some very undignified wriggling along the ground, but no-one was there to see me but the fae, who don't count, and the grogs, who count little more.
We emerged at the foot of a dense wall of lush vegetation with a high cliff face beyond it. My shield grogs parted the brambles and showed that they were growing up against a wall of stone. Again, I had to sacrifice my dignity to crawl through the brambles so as to be able to touch the wall while casting Intellego Terram. With two spells, I learnt that it had once been a fine wall of stone attached to a gatehouse but that it had been rent and torn by creepers and vines. When I emerged, crawling backwards, the grogs were standing suspiciously to attention, but I did not waste time on them as they said nothing about any danger. We went to the right, towards the remains of the towers that had formed the gatehouse. Vines and brambles filled the gap where the gates had been, but through them and over them we could make out what must once have been the courtyard of the covenant, and there looked like openings in the cliff face at the far side. Once again, Abel bribed the bramble fae, whose fondness for wine is a great advantage to us.
We wriggled through a tunnel and stood up at the edge of the courtyard. It must once have been a garden, but now it is largely overgrown and the trees are huge. The air there was very clear and bright, rather like in our own glade. I cast a spell and found that I was in a faerie aura of the fifth magnitude. It seemed likely that this courtyard was an exercise and relaxation area for a whole covenant, and that the inhabitants had lived in the caves we could see in the cliff. Julius pointed out the residual trace of a path leading towards the centre of the courtyard, and on to the base of the cliff, where it looked as if there was an entrance high up, reached by going up a slope and over a drawbridge. I noticed that what I had thought were magpies flying over the trees were actually black and white feathered bird-men, and that there were brown fur covered man-like creatures bounding through the branches. They did not seem to be taking any notice of us, so I just had the grogs keep an eye on them. As we moved along the path, the birdmen began to sing very beautifully. We passed a few large boulders, each seemingly made up of a conglomeration of smaller rounded pebbles held together with lithified mud and shaped such that one might think they were soldiers carrying a mace each. We kept as far away from these as we could. The central fountain was still but there was something in the water, possibly a snake of some sort, which we left well alone. Then we were on the ramp up to the drawbridge, but there was no sign of any bridge at the top. I looked at the gap, thought for a moment, then cast Creo Terram, using Finesse, to make a bridge as safe as I could that would endure until sunset.
The gates on the far side of the bridge had been torn open and the gap was filled with the writhing vines, bearing many of the large white blooms. I asked Abel to cross first, since I know he is good at moving with stealth. He was reluctant, but went after a minute or so. I could almost see him stirring up his courage and grasping it. He brushed against one of the white flowers as he pushed through the vines, which made no move to impede him, yet he stood still for a moment amongst them. I urged him to move away from the vines, then I saw him reach up and pluck one of the flowers before he went ahead and out of sight. It seemed safe enough, so Julius, Ignatius and Yves crossed over and started trying to move the vines, particularly the flowering ones, out of the way, but all paused for a moment, seemed to look about them, and then carried on with the task. When they had moved the vines enough that there seemed to be a way through, I went over the bridge myself. The grogs were urging me onward saying the I must hold my breath, but I could only see a very dark place ahead and was reluctant to just walk into it. They said that it was not dark, and I really ought to go on, but I hesitated a moment longer, and took a breath. My head was filled with a lovely scent so strong that it entirely overpowered me.
Next thing I knew, I was being pushed and pulled through a bramble tunnel. I shouted but the grogs would not give me any explanation until we were standing on the other side of the brambles by the gatehouse. They said they were rescuing me, that I had fallen by the entrance to the cliffs and been unconscious for about two minutes. I must have fallen into Twilight again. I certainly felt very unwell. There was a disgusting metallic smell that grabbed the back of my throat and made me feel quite nauseous. I sat down. Abel told me that when he smelt the white flowers he found that for a short while, he could see rainbow colours and it was as if he was seeing things in the way that Zane sometimes describes them. Ignatius said that after smelling the flowers, he was able to see much better, and that the entrance to the caves was not dark then. Clearly there was much more to investigate here, but I was in no state to explore further myself. I could not allow the quest to fail, so instructed Yves and Abel to return across the garden, over the bridge and inside, to bring me back a report of what they found there.
While waiting, I noticed that the disgusting smell lessened a little, and was less again when my shield grogs were not quite so attentively close, and wondered if the strange white flowers had left some residue on us all, but no-one else seemed affected with sickness. Yves and Abel were not gone long, and returned unhurt. Abel told me that he had gone through the gateway and found that it was like a castle inside. He had gone some way up a staircase and found a large room, probably a great hall of some sort, where the windows were covered in thin horn. In the centre of the room, in a scorched circle, there was a flickering figure, sometimes appearing as a great serpent and sometimes a man dressed as a noble or magus. From what detail Abel could recall, I feel sure that this is Vermis of Bjornaer, probably caught in Twilight. These grogs had been very brave going inside alone like that, and had returned with valuable information, and I was feeling dreadful, so I decided it was time to leave, and just hope that I have found out enough to please The Last Commission.
I am very glad to be home again. The journey was greatly hindered by my discovery, at the first meal after leaving Haeconius, that it is the proximity of iron that was making me feel so ill. Worse than that, when I picked up my knife to cut some cheese, the iron rivets that fix the bone handle in place burnt my hand, and started to rust! From then on, my grogs had to cut up my food for me, and anything that had been cut with iron or cooked in an iron pot tasted so disgusting that I could not eat it. The stench given off by the armour and weapons that the grogs needed to have, made me feel very ill, so we had to travel such that I was somewhat apart from them, which made Julius, Ignatius and myself all nervous.
I hope this will wear off, but I cannot wait in hope. As soon as we got back to the tower, I had Julius go into my rooms and find everything made of iron and put it outside. I then sent a message to my sodales, telling them of my immediate problem, and requesting their help, if they had any similar item made of some other material, that they could exchange with me. Then my grogs helped me sort out what remained, dividing it up into things we thought might be replaced with glass, things that might be replaced with silver and things that should be replaced by bronze or some other metal. Then I paid visits to Margery the glassblower, to Thiery the blacksmith (that was hard - he had to be told to leave any iron behind and come to me in the open air, but he still smelt horrible) and to Georges the Silversmith. They were all kind and sympathetic, if very puzzled, and I trust that I shall soon have all I need for my laboratory and for eating. Replacing the equipment of the grogs is likely to be harder, and I have left Ignatius and Julius to talk to Jacques about it and apply to me for any funds they require. They need to think not only about their own equipment, to have something as effective but not made of iron, but also to have some spare for other grogs that accompany me at any time. Then there are some books with iron clasps, which I must see about having changed.
Of course, I could not avoid now telling my sodales about my expedition. Iuris Perita did not show any indication of displeasure, I am glad to say. Speculor was very interested in my ideas for search on faerie magic. I thought at first that the price I have paid so far for this knowledge might be excessive, but since the true fae fear and avoid iron, I am now learning something fundamental about their nature by my own direct experience, so it is not all bad. I shall at once write to Letitia, to report on my findings in as much detail as I can manage. I had better send briefer reports to Laurentius, Buviniolus and Gwénolé and then I plan to settle down to read that Second Primer on Perdo, whilst keeping an eye on Alacritas and overseeing the changes in my laboratory.
Abel came to my door this evening. I had given him some silver as a reward for his bravery in exploring Haeconius, and wondered if he had come in hopes of more. In fact, he had something to give me, though I am not at all sure I want it. While in Haeconius, he had taken several of the large white flowers, and put them in a pouch, I do not know why, and now, when they were withered and dried out, he had two left and did not know what to do with them. He offered them to me, so I had him drop them into a wooden box, which I have bound shut with a leather strap, labeled clearly, and put out of the way. They may be very dangerous, but I would rather know just where they are.
We have received a letter from Julian of Fudarus. They are inviting the magi of Wirbelnia, Mummolides and Saxum Caribetum to a meeting at Fudarus preparatory to the Tribunal meeting next year. I looks as if they are going to try and push us to vote as they wish. If it is a matter of ganging up against Odela, I am all for it. Constantine is interested in going, I gather. I am glad there is at least one volunteer, because I do not want to have to go myself. I think Iuris Perita should attend the meeting, since her Quaesitorial eye will help ensure everything is above board.
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