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I happened to be in the Council Chamber when the small group of grogs returned from the peat bogs several days ago. They seemed very relieved to be back though Redwald did not seem as light-hearted as the rest. Perhaps there had been some disagreement amongst the men while they were away. Whatever, it was not my concern and I was very glad to see the vis detection wand safely returned and four pawns of Corpus vis to add to our stock.
Jimena has been talking to me about her desire to take an apprentice. I can see her point, that another trained doctor, or at least a healer, would have been very useful indeed during the bad Winter we have just experienced, where so many suffered with fevers and chills that Jimena herself was unable to nurse all those who needed her care most desperately. She thinks that she would do best to seek a suitable apprentice in St.Brieuc, where she might find a youngster who has already received the rudiments of a basic education. This probably means she will take on a boy, since the world outside the Order has such a very strange view on the education of girls. Of course, finding someone suitable will not be easy, and finding one with the interest and aptitude who is willing to leave home, to go into the 'haunted forest' to live with a strange woman will be harder; it is not as if she is seeking a Gifted child, who can be tempted away from home with the promise of great power to come, and who is probably glad to get away from their mundane family anyway. We have agreed that she might try spending a month or two in the city a little later in the year, once all trace of the winter's ills are past.
It is usually about this time that Jimena becomes aware of which of the women are carrying babies conceived at the Mid-Winter Feast. There are four babies expected at Harvest moon this year, to Kadi, Ivona, Ana and Lady Helissente! My annoyance at Helissente's behaviour during the feast is quite forgotten in the excitement. To think that she is going to produce the child of a lord of the fae! Such a one is certain to be very special, and I shall make it a project of mine to keep a close eye on the child. I fervently hope that it proves rather more tractable than its mother.
I was very glad to find that Council were eager to plan ahead for the coming Tribunal without my having to make a fuss to get the important decisions made before my departure for the Rhine. It seemed accepted by all that Joach would attend as our representative, with six sigils. Elise appears to consider herself a full member of Saxum Caribetum when it suits her, and fortunately, in the matter of her vote at Tribunal, it suits her. There is no doubt that she is satisfied with the arrangement that she perform one season of covenant service each year as payment for her occupation of the Tour de Cesson as a chapter-house of Saxum Caribetum, and for the supply of food, silver and so on that Bertrand the merchant carries to her, at our expense, when he can. It seems that as far as any other service goes, Elise feels she owes none unless it is a matter of specific negotiation in exchange for something particular that she desires; for example, she wrote two tractatus for the library last year, one as her due service and the other in exchange for permission to borrow a book from the library for the Winter season. I also believe that she considers any vis she finds to be her own property, whereas one could argue that any in the vicinity of the chapter-house counts as equivalent to that in the vicinity of the main covenant buildings and thus, according to the charter, is communal property. She has performed none of the service due from a candidate for membership before being invited to live in the Tour, which was possibly our error, but still means that she has no rights to use of the library and no right to use of magic items or vis from the store. I expect this is likely to become a source of friction in the future.
The core of the discussion at today's meeting concerned what trade Joach might be able to conduct for our benefit when at Petrusca for the Tribunal. With the successful book trade between Wirbelnia and ourselves so recently concluded, books were the first consideration. I was in favour of having a few more copies of our best tractatus made so that Joach could take some with him to exchange. The vote of council was not against this general idea, since it was agreed that copies be made of the tractatus the Constantine has written on Creo, Ignem, Vim and Penetration. This should have been an excellent way of promoting his reputation in the tribunal but, whilst I wished us to make only one careful copy of each, Council voted that three quick copies be made of each. I have to admit that the quality of Constantine's work is so high that even if rushed, a copy is well worth having, but I would have preferred to only see the very highest quality work. It is to be hoped that Joach is careful and lucky in his negotiations to obtain good and useful books in exchange, and does not come back with books of no use to any but a Verditius mage. I do not think he will be distracted in that way, and I trust also that he will resist Speculor's obsession with Intellego Imaginem and remember that we already have good summae on these Arts. Constantine spoke up in favour of a work on Ignem comparable to the Creo and Perdo summae we now have, and I also hope such a thing can be obtained.
Talk diverted to consider illumination, though there is no thought of having the tractatus copied for trade embellished in any way. Of course, we all want the books we wrote ourselves illuminated, and also any we propose to study from. I think it was agreed that the summae should take priority over the tractatus, but with Fulk away this season, it was not urgent that we decide which to send him first. Personally, I would be happy to see the books on Certamen, Penetration and Parma Magica illuminated before any others tractatus.
I was much more interested in talking about the possibilities of vis trade at Tribunal. We lack only two pawns of Ignem and four of Mentem to meet our charter requirements. This does not affect Elise, but for all the rest of us, it will make a tremendous difference when we have only to perform a single season of service each year. For myself, I would be willing to pay more that usual just to have these. Constantine reminded us how vital The Bountiful Feast is to our community here, and urged Joach to seek an exchange to give us Herbam vis. We debated what we could afford to send with Joach to use in exchange. Speculor, as usual, was against parting with any Intellego or Imaginem vis. Since our Intellego vis, though relatively plentiful, is in the form of metal keys to the areas within our regio, we will not trade with it, so he has his way there. I feel sure we can afford to part with some Rego, Muto and Corpus, all of which should be attractive to someone.
So, by the end of the meeting it was agreed that Speculor, who did service throughout the past year would have the season free; he said he would be borrowing the new Primer in Vim. I shall read it, also, but I prefer to wait until Fulk has had a chance to illuminate it. I only owe one season of service this year, and I shall not perform that until Winter, once I return from Montes Plani. Constantine owes just one season, but because of the opportunities likely to be available at Tribunal, he was asked to do his right away. So, he joins Elise, Joach and Iuris Perita in copying tractatus for trade. What a lot of ink and parchment will be consumed this season! Alban will have to make preparations for binding many books, too. Under the circumstances, the simplest plain binding will be perfectly adequate, so someone will have to make sure he does not spend too much time on decorative work.
Once the meeting was over, I had to make ready to cast The Aegis of the Hearth. This year, I used Vim vis distilled by Speculor and myself. The rest of the day was taken up with the important business of creating a new set of Intellego vis 'keys' to the regio while Joach supervised the collection of bluebells for their Imaginem vis. I was saddened to think that the rift with Gwénolé has probably damaged our chances of learning more about the pillars under Wirbelnia that are similar to those in our regio. Speculor, as usual, spent every minute of the day inside the regio, but it is a long time now since we made any further discoveries about it and I am sure it has many more secrets.
I heard late in the day that Redwald, under instructions from Constantine, had been to see Sir Achilles and had volunteered to be the one to take the customary tribute of three goats to the troll that guards the bridge between Caribet and Ploeuc. This is very puzzling. There must be a very good reason for a magus to send one of his personal shield grogs for such a menial duty. Perhaps Redwald did not learn whatever lesson it was while he was being punished for some mysterious transgression by being sent to the bogs all winter.
Word reached Jehan and Jacques that on more than one morning, Redwald had been found a little distance outside the glade sleeping on the bare earth, his clothes tattered, and with no memory of how he came to be there. Jacques checked with Constantine, and was told that whatever Redwald was up to, it was nothing to do with anything Constantine had a hand in. Since Redwald is one of Constantine's personal grogs, Jacques was inclined to do nothing more about it, but some of the soldiers seemed bothered by it, and he began to think that perhaps it was a security matter that deserved some investigation. Accordingly, Ellie, Huon and Abel were assigned on a rota to keep watch.
The next time Redwald went wandering in the night, it was Abel who was on watch. He woke Huon and the pair of them made haste to follow. This was not hard since Redwald was moving quite slowly but purposefully towards the south gate. The guards there did not question the right of a Custos to leave (they were probably scared of Constantine, too), and were easily persuaded to let Huon and Abel creep after. Redwald walked a long way along the track towards Ploeuc until, some way north of the river, he was seen to veer off the path and to wander into a patch of deep, looming shadow. Huon and Abel sat where they could just see the place where the shadow had been and waited for Redwald to reappear. In the early hours, Huon fell asleep and, Abel says, snored, but there was no other disturbance and when dawn came, there was no sign of Redwald or any tracks in the vicinity other than their own.
When they returned to the covenant, they heard that once again Redwald had been found earlier, somewhat battered, asleep in the mud beyond the palisade. Abel went to report to Jacques and found Jehan with him. Right away, Gwilhem was sent out with Abel to see if he could find any tracks. It seemed that Jehan already knew what Abel told them. He looked worried and suggested it was important enough to bother the magi about. Constantine was very busy with something and was not worried enough to do anything himself but he agreed to Speculor investigating, if he wanted to even to the extent of casting spells on Redwald. Speculor had seen the opportunity to use some Intellego spells and could hardly be stopped from taking up the mystery.
Speculor learned that Redwald's bruises were caused by vigorous, rough contact with a creature having large hands and claws. There was earth on his boots from the covenant glade, the path through the forest, the area by the troll bridge and somewhere else that the spell could not identify. Speculor suspected a regio so went to the troll bridge, taking Milon, Huon and Zane. When they arrived, they found Abel, relaxing with his back against a tree, and Gwilhem still unable to locate any tracks other than the expected. Speculor's Intellego Terram proved better at finding the trail, but Redwald's track ended where he had walked into the deep shadow. Zane insisted that there was nothing of interest there but Speculor was unconvinced. He cast a very powerful Intellego Vim spell and announced that right in front of him he could plainly see an open cave mouth. He was determined to enter. Abel promptly volunteered to stay where he was and guard the entrance, which he couldn't see. Speculor pushed Milon ahead of him and, with Huon, Zane and Gwilhem, eyes shut, holding on behind, walked into the cave. It was pitch dark and there was a deep, rhythmic rumbling noise, but the stench was so overpowering that it was hard to notice anything else. Speculor cast a spell and a very faint light illuminated the source of the loud snores. The large, lumpy prostrate figure stirred and the men all backed out of the cave.
On returning to Caribet, Speculor paid a visit to Sir Achilles to talk about "his friend the troll" but, unsurprisingly, Achilles believed it was none of his business. Speculor tried another Intellego Vim spell on Redwald and determined that he was not, apparently, under any form of enchantment, and the matter was left there until the next night that Redwald went wandering.
While Redwald made his way slowly towards the south gate, Gwilhem went swiftly ahead to take up a position close to the troll bridge, where he could observe from cover. Milon woke Speculor and Huon, then they made haste to catch up with Redwald, which they did on the path someway south of the palisade. Speculor stopped Redwald, and saw that he was as if sleep-walking. They let him move on, and followed closely. At about the same place as Redwald disappeared before, they saw a large patch of deep shadow which moved off into the forest soon after they noticed it. Redwald woke up, confused. When questioned, he had no idea why he was there, and denied having any strange dreams, but Speculor was sure that he was not telling the truth. The group were on their way back to the covenant when Huon remembered about Gwilhem, keeping watch at the bridge, and went off the fetch him. Gwilhem had seen a large, shadowy figure climb down the side of the gorge and disappear through the stone wall under one end of the bridge.
Iuris Perita was consulted during the following day. She was rather of the opinion that it was Constantine's grog so if anything needed doing, he should take action, but Speculor persuaded her that Jacques felt there was a potential security risk, and her skill with Mentem was needed, plus her Quaesitorial neutrality and authority to examine the mind of a personal shield grog. Iuris Perita made sure she had Constantine's express permission before casting any spell to look into Redwald's mind. She was so shocked by what she saw, I believe, that she told Speculor what she had found: Redwald believed that he had been having sordid, erotic dreams of a large, hairy nature. Iuris Perita went to talk to Constantine. Not long afterwards, Constantine and Redwald left the clearing, heading south. Both returned later, and nothing was said about the matter by either of them. Redwald has never been found asleep in the mud again, but I gather from Julius that he has a new nickname amongst the grogs, one that Julius was not prepared to repeat to me, but one can guess.
Alas, I have to visit Cierella without the company of Gwénolé this year. I am missing our discussions of the ways of the fae, even though there is much that I do not understand in what Gwénolé says. While she is angry with me over the business of her recent apprentice, I shall have to travel by mundane routes and will probably lose several days whilst in the Valley, but it cannot be helped. I intend to set out in good time, taking Julius and Ignatius, who have been that way with me several times before so I do not think we shall get lost. I am not aware that anyone else is travelling just now, so we should be able to borrow the The Traveller's Tent for a couple of weeks. My grogs have heard about the magical cooking pot that transforms any food into a tasty meal, but I have had to disappoint them because it is of iron so not only could I not eat from it, just having it close by would be unpleasant.
I have been giving careful thought to what tale I can try to entertain the fae with this time. I need to find something that pleases them since I have to rely on a gift of vis from Cierella so that I have something of my own to offer Letitia. I have come to suspect that what seems entertaining and amusing to humans is not always viewed in the same way by the fae, and what seems entirely mundane to us can be very funny to them, so I am considering giving them a descriptive tale of something entirely mundane which might be outside their normal experience, rather than presenting a tale of the fae, as I have in the past few years. To this end, I propose to pay particularly close attention to everything that Julius and Ignatius do regarding the obtaining of food and the preparation of our meals en route, since fae food seems to appear out of thin air. I shall also embroider the tale of Cierella's rescue, as Gwénolé demonstrated a couple of years ago.
Everything has gone well apart from the unfortunate loss of time while in the Valley of the Mists. I really must find a way to regain Gwénolé's friendship or learn the trick of comprehending the passage of time in the lands of the fae. It is to be hoped that Letitia can help me with this. We stopped at the Hermitage on one night each way but the rest of our journey was made quite comfortable by the use of this excellent new device of Joach's, which kept us sheltered from wind and rain. I do hope Council will agree to my taking it to Montes Plani, but I doubt they will.
The Valley and Cierella herself were exactly as expected; unlike our world, change seems to be very much the exception with the fae. I do not think I went too far in my exaggeration of the indignities Cierella had endured at the hands of the Lord of Dark Summer because everything proceeded as it ought and she was most wonderfully lovely when the water revived her. My only difficulty this year was in casting the necessary spells. I had no doubt that I could do it, and that they would work properly but I am very conscious that my recently-distorted sigil produces a very unpleasant smell. It is, I think, not very noticeable when outdoors but in any confined space, it is quite disgusting so I am reluctant to use magic under such conditions unless I have no alternative.
Following the Rescue came the Feast, as usual. Our generous hostess had once again taken the trouble to have normal human food provided for us, for which my grogs were certainly very grateful. My plan to use a description of some of the very ordinary parts of our journey as a 'story' proved quite successful, I am glad to say. I came away with a pawn of Muto vis and one of Aquam, which I hope will be of interest to Letitia.
While it would have been good to take longer to rest before setting out again, I feel we have no time to spare as we have a long journey ahead of us. Julius, Ignatius and I will set out first thing tomorrow. Our route takes us first north along the well-known route to St.Brieuc, where I shall impose upon Elise for a night's lodging. It will be a long, hard walk to cover so much distance in one day, but I am sure we can manage it and, unlike some inn or pilgrim's hostel, there will be no fuss about us arriving late. The Redcaps have advised that we take a boat at St.Brieuc and make our way on coastal vessels around the Cherbourg peninsula, along the coasts of Normandy, Artois and Flanders until we reach a suitable port in the mouth of the great river Rhine. They tell me that Antwerp is a great trading city and that I am certain to find boats headed that way, so I am sure we will manage this stage of the journey without difficulty. I shall pose as a minor member of the nobility on pilgrimage again, perhaps to the shrine of the magi in Koeln, and keep myself as distant from others as is practicable. If things get desperate and I have to use Aquam or Auram magics on the sea or the wind, at least we shall be outdoors and the smell of fish, seaweed and salt water will help disguise my sigil. I understand that we need then to find vessels travelling up the Rhine for a very long way. It will be horribly slow going against the natural flow, and I dare not interfere with it significantly or it will draw too much attention. We must just resign ourselves to a slow journey.
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