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On arrival at Montes Plani, Speranda found a letter awaiting her, written by Jimena and carrying news of home.
Bertrand answered a knock at the door of his lodgings in St.Brieuc one day to find armed men outside, demanding that he accompany them immediately; he was under arrest on a charge of murder. He was taken before a grouchy magistrate who told him there were three witnesses who swore he had murdered Patrice les-ânes (the Donkey Man) two days ago because of an unpaid debt. Bertrand was horrified. He knew Patrice, a local man who lived in St.Brieuc and carried wares around the area using a team of donkeys. Although they were acquaintances and sometimes Bertrand had made use of Patrice's services, there was no money owing on either side. The witnesses were a fisherman, a baker and a prosperous merchant named Isore, all of whom swore that they recognised Bertrand by his stature, clothing and voice.
Bertrand was locked away, to await his trial, which was set for three week's time. Bertrand lodged often enough in St.Brieuc that he was well known and had several reliable contacts but it was difficult to see how to counter three sworn witnesses. He was glad that his little daughter Eloise was safe at home in Quintin, where whoever had set him up for this charge would probably not bother her. (The girl is fourteen years old and should be thinking about a husband, but Bertrand cannot see that she is grown up.) With luck, he could find a way out of this prison and this charge without her ever knowing about it. A small bribe to the guard allowed him to send a note to a friend who arranged to have food delivered. Of course, the guards did not know that Bertrand was accompanied by the ghost of his former wife, so no-one knew that he sent her to carry a message to Elise at the Tour de Cesson, a couple of miles outside the town.
Elise was accustomed to periodic visits from Bertrand, as he carried messages, food and other supplies to her and, with her particular interest in such things, she had long been aware of the ghost that went everywhere with him. Cat, Elise's own ghostly companion, made her aware that there was someone or something that wanted to contact her. Elise had to cast a spell to communicate with the ghost, but this was easy for her. Bertrand was an essential contact for Elise, so she decided at once that she must help him.
First, she sent Cat to take the news to Saxum Caribetum. Then she called her three serving girls, those who had foolishly left Pleouc to attend the Mid-Winter feast at Caribet and had produced baby girls last Harvest Moon, so had been banished to the Tour as a warning to others. Elise used Rego Herbam to part the dense, sharp brambles that encircle the Tour while the girls ran through and she followed. The most sensible of the girls, Mikaela, was sent ahead to find suitable lodgings for them for a couple of days. The others followed slowly and by the time they reached the gates of St. Brieuc, Mikaela was there to guide them to their room. Elise took care to keep herself covered in a cloak and to speak to nobody. The girls had only been with Elise for six months, since they had been kept at Caribet until their babies were born and they themselves were sufficiently recovered to travel, so Elise was not sure how they would cope with what she had in mind. She gradually unfolded her plans before them, watching for any sign that they were too afraid to be helpful, or so likely to be unnerved as to risk discovery. All three appeared willing and able to participate.
At the dead of night, Elise and the girls slipped out of the inn and made their way through the city to the home of Patrice. They saw a couple of men, probably footpads, who avoided them, and reached the small house easily. Everything else was easy too. Rego Herbam allowed Elise to remove the bar that held the door shut from the inside. Another Rego Herbam lifted the lid from the coffin that they found on the floor of the front room. 'Rouse the Slumbering Corpse' got the body of Patrice out of the coffin. As instructed, the girls made haste to place the heavy bags of earth each carried into the coffin, spreading them out to try to match the body's weight. Rego Herbam replaced the coffin lid and barred the door shut behind the departing body-snatchers. Elise made the corpse walk towards the inn and they all got back to the room unhindered. The body slumped down in one corner of the room; the girls kept their eyes averted and huddled, quivering, in the furthest corner from it. Elise cast 'Charm against Putrefaction' on the corpse, then went to sleep, as calmly as if sharing her bedroom with a dead body was a common occurrence.
The following morning they covered the corpse with a hooded cloak and Elise got it ambulatory again. The group kept close together and headed for the eastern gate. Fortunately, none of the people of St.Brieuc took any notice of them, and the gate guards responded well to smiles from the girls and waved the group through without asking any questions. It was very slow going once they left the path and had to ascend to the Tour over rough ground but eventually they got to the brambles and Elise let the corpse slump to the ground again. She had a rest and took her time over casting a Rego Herbam spell powerful enough to hold the brambles back long enough for the girls to stagger through carrying the body. The moment Elise dismissed them, all three ran off shaking and pale to try and get over the dreadful experience, but they could not go far, trapped within the bramble circle by the magically-sharp thorns and the stern words of Sir Achilles when he sent them to live there, promising them of the horrific things that Elise would do to them if they angered or failed her; having seen what she did this night, they were certain she would do all that had been promised, and worse, if they transgressed.
Elise was enjoying herself. She could not benefit by dragging the body to the safety of her laboratory since she had warded that to keep spirits out, and it was a spirit she wished to contact now. Instead, she made do with the lower room that the girls used to cook in where she cast 'Whispers Through the Black Gate'. She learned that Patrice had been stalked and followed into an alley where he was accosted and stabbed by a man using a sword. The moonlight was bright enough for him to see and be sure that his assailant was Peyre le Gascon. No money was owed or owing, and Patrice could think of no motive for murder, except that he added that Peyre was an unsavoury character who might kill anyone for no good reason. Elise mentioned the names of the witnesses Bertrand said had testified against him. Patrice said they were all lying and added that Peyre was a known close associate of Isore, the rich cloth importer who was the most influential of the three witnesses. Patrice asked Elise to bring his murderer to justice and to ensure that he himself received Christian burial. Elise agreed to do her best, but did not promise anything about when or where the burial might be.
Cat had returned to the Tour, and told Elise that someone from Saxum Caribetum was on their way. Elise then sent Cat to spy on Peyre and settled down to wait.
Before dark, a strong male voice called to Elise from outside the circle of thorns and asked her to make welcome Maga Iuris Perita. Elise parted the thorns and let through not only Iuris Perita but also Duncan, Abel, Yves and Pernelle. The serving girls had recovered themselves sufficiently by this time to bring refreshments for the travellers and to besiege them with questions about their little daughters. While they were all talking, Cat returned with news for Elise that Peyre le Gascon had lodgings in the house of Isore the merchant where the only others in the house were Isore's wife, some children and several servants. Further news was obtained via Cat and Bertrand's wife; everything that Bertrand knew about Isore indicated that he was a very unpleasant character and almost certainly at the bottom of the plot to have Bertrand executed for a murder he had no hand in. The next day was Saturday, and they expected that they would have to wait until the Sunday to find the whole of Isore's household out at church, but they anticipated that Patrice's funeral would be held on Saturday, which would give an opportunity to search his house.
Elise, Iuris Perita, Duncan, Yves, Abel and Pernelle walked the two miles down into St.Brieuc on Saturday morning. Cat kept watch and let them know when the funeral party left Patrice's home. They approached cautiously, anxious lest the donkeys in the adjacent yard sense the two magae and make a noise. Abel got the door open easily and all slipped inside. On top of a chest they found several documents which stated that Bertrand owed money to both Patrice and Isore. There was a blood spot on one of the documents which, after an Intellego Corpus spell from Elise, proved to be that of Gozolon the scribe. All the documents had been recently written by this same scribe. Elise was going to take the evidence with her but Abel, who seemed to know about such things, politely pointed out that this would show that someone had been in the house and it was best to leave them.
Information about Gozolon was not hard to find. He had lodgings in a poor part of the town and was well known amongst the more dubious characters in town. Elise, Iuris Perita, Duncan, Yves and Abel all pushed into his tiny room. Iuris Perita asked him to explain the documents. He was too intimidated to try denying their existence, but he did start by asking for payment for his information. Yves went to draw a dagger but Abel spotted this and whispered "Not yet!". Under cover of this distraction, Iuris Perita subtly and silently cast 'Frosty Breath of the Spoken Lie' then continued her questioning. It was Isore who had paid Gozolon to write the documents, just two days ago. The group then returned to the Tour to think over their options.
That night, Elise and Iuris Perita returned to the town. Elise used Muto Mentem to release the ghost of Patrice from his body so that it could go to haunt its murdered. They hoped to scare a confession out of Isore. Once the ghostly wailings, just accusations, and threats of hell fire had reduced Isore to a state of quivering repentance, Iuris Perita and Elise knocked at his door, as planned. The ghost made him open the door and his fear made him ready to confess. He was so nervous and afraid that is was hard to put together a coherent story. Isore owed money to the Durand brothers, which was something to do with their sister, Bertrand's deceased wife, and this had led Isore to concoct a plot to disgrace Bertrand and have him executed. Pernelle and Yves conducted Isore to the magistrate and heard him admit to involvement in the murder, and say that Peyre le Gascon carried it out. The magistrate was delighted to have a reason to arrest Peyre and was content to let Bertrand go free.
Iuris Perita went to have a little talk with Bertrand regarding the history behind this plot, fearing that this and other complications in Bertrand's career might once again make him a target and a risk to the magi.
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