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Saskia was well aware of the date and knew of several places in the Forest here she felt that there was a possibility of finding some Vis that was specific to the solstice. They had not gone far when a very striking wild boar appeared in their path. Beate ran towards the handsome boar immediately but the boar kept a distance from her, leading her on. Saskia was not captivated by the creature and strove to get Beate's attention back. First she used magic from a distance to bid her stop but Beate just glanced back and ran on. Saskia then chased hard after her and used Rego Mentem when touching her to get her attention. Beate stopped chasing and just stood, confused. At once Saskia became aware of an intensifying smell of truffles. It only took a minute to locate the source, a great heap of them. Saskia was suspicious and checked to see if there was any aura about them but found none. By the time she had finished this investigation, the boar had vanished so she took the confusion from Beate's mind. Beate still felt lustful but was quickly diverted by the magnificent truffles. The two pigs gave in to gluttony instead. After a few delicious mouth-fulls, Saskia wondered if they were a source of Hermetic Vis and quickly checked but found no sign that they were anything other than mundane, normal truffles. The pigs ate their fill.
Meanwhile, the strong aroma of truffles was wafted towards the Covenant and Jehan suggested to Joach that the smell might be worth investigation, also telling him that the Maga Saskia and her shield grog had gone out and that he was concerned for them. Joach wondered if Saskia was possibly finding Vis and might keep it to herself so gathered Zane, Elli, Caspar and Garth to go into the woods with him. They had only been walking a few minutes when they found an old hag and a beautiful young maid in their path, as if waiting for them. Garth was mesmerised by the lovely girl and just stood with his eyes almost popping out of his head. Joach was suspicious and decided they were probably illusory. The old woman spoke in a language Joach did not understand but Garth knew enough Breton to know she sought food and shelter so he held out a crust of bread he had been saving for later towards the girl who ignored it and him. Caspar translated and Joach said that if that was what they wanted they would find it in the glade a few steps away, and pointed towards the glade. The women seemed unwilling to go alone so Caspar volunteered to take them but Joach would not let him go and said that if they would not go to the glade alone they must stay where they were or follow. Then he stomped onward.
Joach sniffed the air and tried to go towards where the truffle scent was strongest. Only a few steps further on, the undergrowth on both sides was filled with the tickling of tiny bells and some caught a glimpse of a diaphanous-winged creature in the trees. Joach stopped and announced that there was a problem with fairies here and that no-one was to believe everything they saw or heard nor were they to trust strangers. Garth stood closer to the young woman to protect her. The tinkling bells drew closer. Elli prepared her crossbow to fire. Joach called the grogs to surround him as he drew out two puppets - Garth stayed where he was. Zane looked around for fairies. The young woman shouted that she was afraid and ran off into the trees. Garth tried to grab her arm or shoulder as she turned but his hand went right through her. The old woman vanished but Zane saw a beautiful winged creature going away from where she had stood. He called out and pointed at it but none of the others could see it. Elli fired where Zane pointed but nothing happened. She cursed and examined her crossbow, attempting to free the bolt and mechanism. Just as Elli was realising that her crossbow had been ruined by fusing it all of a piece, heavy footsteps were heard approaching the group. Garth positioned himself in front of Joach as two men, larger and wartier than Garth himself, came into view, carrying large axes. Garth knew he was invulnerable so stood his ground while Joach cast 'Spasms of the Uncontrolled Hand' at one of them without effect. Suddenly Garth was overcome by fear and started to edge backwards, caught between his fear of the two men and his fear of the anger of a Magus. Joach ordered someone to cast a stone at the figures to prove them illusions, which Caspar, willing as ever, did. There were more tinkling bells and the young maid's voice from somewhere off in the woods calling to Garth and Caspar to protect her. Garth, wanting any excuse to flee the large men, headed off towards the woman's voice. Joach ordered the grogs to stand firm around him and move as a group back to the Covenant glade. The others obeyed at once but Garth came slowly and kept looking back and dawdling. Joach used 'Lifting the Dangling Puppet' to lift him off the ground and make him come as more bells sounded all round them. Joach sent the grogs to give a full and accurate report to Jacques and went himself to tell Iuris Perita, Speranda and Speculor about the fairy nuisance so close to the glade. Speculor was angry at being disturbed in his contemplation of the menhir but soon became interested when Joach described the illusions created by the fairies and was keen to investigate these. Joach's fear was that Saskia had been gone some time and might be annoying the fairies and so causing trouble for the Covenant.
When they had eaten their fill of truffles, Saskia and Beate were inclined to sleep but Saskia kept them awake by magic. She examined the remaining truffles to see if they were a form of fairy magic but found no trace. Knowing they had been out some while, Saskia proposed they take a swift run round a few of the nearer locations she had planned to visit and then go back to the Covenant clearing. The two pigs trotted along quite swiftly, but things were not quite right. The shadows seemed playful. Then they overheard a rabbit say quite distinctly 'It must be mid-Summer'. They halted immediately and discovered that whilst in pig shape, Beate could speak but Saskia could not, which Saskia deduced was the result of some Animal magic at work. Saskai insisted that they return to the Covenant at once. Close to the clearing they passed Denis, the charcoal burner, talking to the birds as usual, but they did not stop to learn that for once they were talking back to him.
Speculor had left Speranda to observe the Menhir and was giving his attention to the shadows around the fringes of the forest just beyond the Covenant boundary - the Aegis appeared to be holding back the shadows. He decided their playfulness was all illusions and dispelled the effect from one area for a short while. He was watching the shadows creep back when Saskia arrived. She turned back into human form and reported about the talking rabbit, and Beate caused some amazement by walking around as a pig while speaking in Latin. Speculor guessed that Beate was under the influence of some fairy magic and tried to discover its nature using Intellego Vim but found no evidence of a spell on her. Iuris Perita wished to cast Sense the Nature of the Hex on Beate, which meant fetching the book, which was in Speranda's Sanctum so took quite a while to organise. Once she had cast it, it appeared that whatever was affecting Beate was neither fairy nor Hermetic.
Saskia offered to fetch another talking animal for study and used magic to lure a rabbit back to the Covenant but it would not follow her across the Aegis boundary. In the end a rabbit was caught just outside the Aegis using a net, but it was terrified and showed no sign of talking. Joach used magic to calm it and tried to manipulate it into speaking. He was rewarded by it saying one word which no-one that heard it understood. Iuris began to worry that some exotic Mage was at large in the forest. She used Intellego Vim to re-assure herself that the Covenant aura was unchanged. Speranda suggested that Saskia might have brought a more intelligent animal so Saskia set off into the forest again to try and find something, going once again as a pig. She found a badgers' set not far away. The tunnels were too narrow for her to enter in any shape that would not be at risk from attack by the inhabitants so she returned to human form and cast a Creo Aurum spell to produce a slightly modified version of the badger smell in the mouth of one of the openings to the set. The scent lured out a badger which she led back to the Covenant. It was able to talk but had nothing useful or informative to say.
Saskia was still keen on Vis hunting. It was decided that Speranda would remain by the menhir, just in case it showed any change while Speculor was go with a small party into the forest and would dispel all illusions they encountered. Saskia and Beate would go with Speculor. Garth was eager to go in hopes of seeing the pretty lady again but Jacques was punishing him for disobeying Joach earlier and had another task in mind for him. Along with a few other grogs, he was set to collecting the droppings from animals that were known to have spoken as the Magi thought these would probably yield Animal Vis. Elli was unhappy about going without a functioning crossbow - it was hoped that it might be usable again after sunset. Zane had been wandering around the fringes of the clearing for an hour or more and had to be sent for. On being called back inside the Aegis, he discovered that he passed over a boundary into a level 2 Regio at the Covenant boundary. He reported this, and that it was not a Fairy Regio. The party set off, taking Zane, Donald, Millon and Francis. Saskia and Beate took the lead, and several of the locations Saskia had picked out were visited without further incident. The only profit from the expedition was a couple of handfuls of mushrooms that contained 2 pawns of Herbam Vis. They returned before sunset.
As the sun went down it cast a rosy glow over the whole clearing. The air was warm and all was very pleasant. A few animals began to cross the Aegis. As the setting sun cast its beams on the menhir, its carvings stood out clear to see. Speranda immediately began to make drawings of them for later study. Zane noticed that the aura of the Covenant was altered in some way; he was able to see the regio he was used to, the known small regio close around the menhir, and overlying the clearing, another, new, regio. Speranda was unaware of this but discovered that there was something unusual happening when her first attempt to illuminate the menhir failed dismally. Speculor called a reluctant grog to his side and stepped up to the menhir and around it, into its own regio. His intention was to take charcoal rubbings of the carvings there for comparison with the drawings Speranda was making outside the regio. The carvings on the menhir when seen inside its regio were much sharper and there was a suggestion of a face looking south in them.
The night was short and the patience and enthusiasm of the Magi long so they were still at the menhir at dawn. As the rising sun struck the menhir, the regio around it expanded. Speculor saw the face on the stone clearly and also five large trees standing not far from the menhir, also with craggy, mossy-bearded, faces on them. Eyes watched him. Speculor introduced himself to the face on the menhir. It watched him for a while then replied slowly in a deep, rumbling voice in a language that Speculor did not understand but recognised as like that some of the grogs used. He came carefully out of the enlarged regio and called for someone who spoke French and Breton. Jehan and Gilles volunteered, though Gilles regretted it when he realised that he was to be taken into a part of the clearing that looked strange and from where he could not see the Covenant buildings and the other people except for Jehan and Speculor. Speculor took them to translate in his talk with the stone face, which Jehan did, showing great respect for the face on the menhir, addressing it as he would a Magus. It said it had not seen people for many years and asked where the people came from and where they were staying. Jehan did his best to explain that they came from another, overlapping, realm. The face on the menhir said that this was his place and asked if Jehan would scratch behind its ear for it. Speculor gave Jehan permission to comply. The face in the stone was happy about this and said that the people might visit if they were polite and respectful. Speculor bid Jehan to ask the stone face how long it had been here. It replied that it was the heart of this place. The face on the menhir asked what had been going on in 'the little realm' in past years. With Speculor's permission, Jehan took this to be an enquiry about recent history and launched into a long report of events over the past few years, but seen from the perspective of a senior grog in an ancient Criamon covenant.
Gilles, meanwhile, had been standing some way from the stone. He looked around and noticed a face on the tree nearest to him and wished he was elsewhere. The face spoke to him, saying it liked visitors. Gilles was too afraid to do anything but the tree face repeated that it liked 'the little people' to visit and seemed to be trying to look downwards. It began to say something about the state of its mossy beard, and seemed unhappy about it. Gilles, softhearted as ever, even for a strange tree man, offered to untangle it and the tree said it liked to have its beard trimmed once a year. Gilles was making a tentative start on this unusual task when Saskia and Beate appeared inside the circle of trees. They were just in time to see Speculor collapse in a heap by the menhir. He had attempted to cast an Intellego Vim spell but had not make sufficient allowance for the altered auras and had been overwhelmed by his own magic. Thus he was unable to pass on the news that the mossy beard trimmings were raw Herbam Vis. Saskia bade Beate examine Speculor and they were reassured that he alive; both had seen wizards in Twilight many times before and were not much concerned but Gilles was very afraid that he might be stranded in this strange place without Speculor to guide him back out. He felt far worse when Saskia vanished, but the tree encouraged him to continue tidying into beard, telling him that it would be alright and asking if he wanted to go back. Gilles said he did want to go back but that the tree was kind and he would finish trimming its beard first. Iuris Perita appeared within the tree circle soon afterwards with Zane. Zane said he could see a tree talking to a pretty woman, who looked like the fairy lady he had seen the previous day. Iuris and Gilles could see no-one by that tree but Zane said she was now trimming its beard. When Zane reported that the pretty lady was moving on the the next tree, Saskia turned into a wild sow, sniffed the air, and charged towards where Zane said the lady was. A scream was heard, and a bundle of moss fell to the ground. Speranda arrived just in time to witness this, carrying a blanket with advice from Jimena that it should be spread over Speculor. Saskia turned back and explained to Speranda what she had been doing. Deciding that the fairy must have had good reason to collect the moss from the trees, Saskia examined it and concluded that it was raw Herbam Vis so Speranda collected it up. Jehan had got to the end of his history by now and mentioned to the stone that the other people were trimming the beards of the tree faces. The stone face asked for the same favour for itself. This took some organising as one of the stone workers had to be found, brought inside the regio, and convinced that chipping at the stone was required.
Zane kept his eyes on the fairy as it fled and attempted to step straight out of the regio after it but got confused and befuddled. Iuris had to got the long way out, via the menhir, but was able to pick up the trail using Intellego Corpus which identified some fairy blood. Saskia tried similar magic on the blood and saw an image of a pretty young female with wings. She also tried to use the dried blood as an arcane connection to hear what was around the fairy and heard only the rushing of wind and beating of wings. When the beard trimming was completed, Speculor was carefully carried back to the tower. The Vis was put carefully away but the mushrooms gathered the day before had vanished.
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