Saga HomeSaga Homepage     RedcapProject Redcap

Covenant of Saxum Caribetum

A visit to Montes Plani in the Rhine Tribunal

Late April: In Bremen

We have, at last, completed the part of our journey by water. A series of coastal boats, most of them crowded and smelly, has carried myself with Julius, Ignatius and Gwenna, my maid, from St.Brieuc through very choppy seas around a rugged point then into calmer waters and along the coast of Normandy, Artois and Flanders. Beyond the mouth of the great river Rhine, the waves became higher but the land was as flat as could be and the little isles we passed were so flat one would think the seas should cover them all at high tide. Fortunately, we were able to secure passage then on a larger merchant ship bound for the markets of Bremen, which cost us many silver coins but took us in marginally greater comfort into the estuary of the river named Weser and to the city docks.

Bremen is a large, prosperous town that seems full of merchants and traders, the streets lined with their warehouses, shops and large houses. We obtained what appeared to be suitable lodgings not far from the docks, though I am not sure we chose so well as the smell of the sea and stink of old fish remains with us. Also, we are much disturbed by the loud voices of rough men, who I take to be sailors, and the squeals and laughter of their women at all hours of day and night. It matters little, as we shall be leaving early tomorrow.

It very soon became clear that although our silver coin was acceptable to the money-changers, exchanging what they gave us for food and drink and other supplies for our onward journey was not going to be so straightforward as none of us could make ourselves understood in the marketplace. I concluded that our only remedy was to employ someone who could comprehend the local barbaric tongue and who knew the route to the mountains known as Harz, where our destination lies. The first I interviewed was Poppa, a middle-aged, tonsured clerk who appeared quite over-awed in my presence and spoke Latin so badly, hesitating and stumbling over words that usually came out wrong, that I knew I could not stand a day on the road with him. Then came Siegmurth, a brash young man with good Latin, which he gabbled, and a little Francien but no knowledge what so ever, as far as we could tell, of the route we must travel. next I saw Reinfeld, a scruffy clerk with patched clothing and badly worn shoes who spoke in tolerable Latin and understood me provided I kept the sentences brief and to the point. He too boasted a little Francien, and claimed facility with many of the variants of the Saxon language we might expect to need. He seemed to know the road to Hannover well, but beyond that he spoke from the stories and legends he had picked up, of witches and dragons, salt-laden healing springs, caves full of fish without eyes, and giants so heavy they leave footprints in solid rock. Last I saw Agid, a short-sighted scholar with an adequate understanding of both Latin and the local language. He assured me that although he had not himself been there, he was well-acquainted with the region to the south and east as he had read about it extensively. This sounded very promising to me, but I was a little concerned that he did not look like someone who was suited to the rigours of travel. Julius and Ignatius looked very dubious when I told them I was minded to engage this Agid and in the end they had convinced me that the well Reinfeld was a safer choice. I decided that if necessary, once we were clear of the city, I could use magic to check his veracity and, if necessary, alter his memory and send him away before we had gone too far. When Ignatius went to find Reinfeld and tell him to be ready for departure in two day's time, the man begged for an advance payment so he might make some charitable offerings before setting out. I agreed to giving him a few coins, but am convinced he has been donating them in exchange for ale somewhere and fear he may fail us tomorrow morning.

Late April: To Hannover

Reinfeld may well have drunk away his advance payment, for he had no coins left when we saw him next yet was in a very bright and cheerful mood, but he did not fail us and our departure went as I intended. Our new guide assured us that the road we must follow for the first stage of our journey is a very well-used trade route and we should not lack for company, comfortable accommodation and good provisions. he was right. I have done my best to play the part of a noble woman on pilgrimage, who wishes to be left alone with her prayers and her thoughts, but the number of people on the road has made this difficult. Every night there has been an anxious moment while we ask for a place to stay, but always we have found somewhere, if not always as good as I should have liked. Reinfeld has got on quite well with my grogs, and shows some enthusiasm for trying to pick up some words of Spanish from them. I have also noticed him chatting to Gwenna in Francien, and she seems happy enough to correct him and he to be corrected. During the first couple of days on the road, Reinfeld was getting on our nerves because he always wants to be singing as he walks and he knows but three or four songs, but now he is learning from my shield grogs some folk songs and hymns in Spanish that are well known to me, and some songs in Francien and even Breton that sound like soldier's. We have been two nights in Hannover now, because Reinfeld said he had to go and make enquiries about the next stage of the journey and that he needed to obtain some supplies for us to carry as we could not be so certain of finding a hostel from now on.

Mid-May: Hildesheim and Eichsfeld

The road south east from Hannover was not difficult, as it took us through undulating countryside where there were many villages with large fields of grain. On the third day out of Hannover, on a relatively broad road, we turned a bend and found a fallen tree across our path. Three rough-looking burly men stood on the other side of the trunk. One of them spoke and pointed to a scruffy piece of old parchment that was nailed to the tree. Reinfeld paled and translated that these three men claimed to be collecting a toll for the local lord, but he felt sure they were just bandits. I was in no mood to hand over money to extortionists. Seeing my determination, Reinfeld went on to tell me that the men said that they had a number of companions in the woods to either side of the path. Ignatius and Julius agreed that there were undoubtedly arrows aimed at us from both sides and we were likely to be killed even if we did offer to pay up. Since the situation seemed desperate, I made no attempt to conceal my casting from any of the onlookers as I used Creo Auram to create a deluge. Unfortunately, perhaps because we were in mortal danger, I temporarily lost control of the spell. When I came to my senses again, I was still standing on the road; in front of me were Julius and Ignatius, shields in position to defend me and swords in their hands, attempting to keep the brigands talking, which required the services of the nervous Reinfeld, who was taking advantage of those shields himself by standing close beside me. Immediately I tried again, though this time I called forth a dense fog. This was successful, although I almost lost it when clambering over the tree trunk in haste. There were shouts and trashing sounds all around. We had to duck and weave to ensure those archers could not guess where we were but I dare not go any faster than walking pace for fear of losing the spell. Suddenly one of the bandits blundered out of the fog and almost collided with Ignatius, who struck and wounded him. The villain ran off shouting. I kept the fog around us for some time after we ceased to hear the cries of the confused thieves.

As we walked on, Reinfeld seemed nervous of me, and I heard him quizzing my grogs about what had happened. His Francien was poor enough that they had little difficulty in exploiting this to misdirect him despite his insistence that he had understood every word I said in Latin but could make no sense of the whole. Soon the slopes grew steeper and we came to Hildesheim. Here Reinfeld had a little more difficulty in making himself understood; he explained that the dialect spoken here was quite different from that of the lands we had walked through, and that it would change again as we headed into the mountains. It was becoming more difficult to avoid giving an answer to his questions regarding our destination. He assured us that the area we were approaching was inhabited by un-Christian folk and the mountains were full of witches, dragons and fairies. My grogs assured him that this was probably just tales told by those who did not live there, because they had heard similar stories told of the place were we came from.

Late May: Sommerberg

Beyond Hildesheim the paths became far more difficult. Some were little more than goat tracks. Reinfeld took every opportunity to ask about which of the many trails we should take but we did not meet many people. I began to notice that there was usually a corn dolly or twist of twigs and flowers at the intersections, and any home we saw had such symbols over the door. We passed a tree stump where someone had left a shallow bowl of food or drink. The villages we went through had no churches, but each had a long, carved wooden pole set in the middle of a patch of grass. I took a closer look at one of these and was both fascinated and shocked at the nature of the carvings, which were crudely sexual. Out of curiosity, I cast Intellego Vim and discovered that the aura around the green was faerie of the first magnitude. It seemed that Montes Plani was situated well away from the Dominion.

Now that we were getting so close that I felt I could find the rest of the way myself from the instructions the Redcaps had give, I mentioned to my grogs that I was intending to dismiss Reinfeld. I had assumed that we would be able to retrace our steps at the end of Summer unaided but the grogs assured me that they could not possibly find the way as there were so many paths through the mountains and they did not know enough about the places we had stayed to secure us accommodation and sustenance. I was inclined to trust to Intellego Terram to find the way home, but I realised we could not rely on magic to feed and house us through such a journey. I suggested to Reinfeld that we were nearing the end of the journey, and offered him a payment if he would agree to return to meet us in three month's time to guide us back to Bremen, but he was far too afraid at the idea of being left alone so he continued to accompany us.

Fairly early the following day we arrived at a larger town where there was a lot of activity going on. The place was called Sommerberg, and there was a fete of some sort in progress. We were welcomed and encouraged to join in the summer festival. I was surprised how friendly the people were to me. We were conducted to the inn, and on the way there came across of group of young people, one of whom, a very pretty girl, was pointed out as Ana, the May Queen, who presides over the festival. I noticed her give a very bright smile at Julius. After we had refreshed ourselves, some of the villagers urged us to join in the fun. It was quite a novelty for me to be treated in such a friendly fashion, and I thought it would be good for the grogs to have a little fun so agreed we should stay the night, but I impressed upon them that we were almost at our destination and that I would tolerate no delay or trouble.

Fertility rites

First we watched the young men as they performed a dance around the long, stout carved pole in the centre of the village. Then Reinfeld translated a message that the girls were also dancing, but they were in the woods. I gave Julius permission to go with Reinfeld to observe the girls and bring back a report, while Ignatius and Gwenna stayed with me. When the men had finished dancing, a woman of middle years approached me and started talking. Her accent was outlandish so it was a while before I realised she was attempting to communicate in execrable Latin. She urged us to sit at a trestle table outside the inn, close to an old crone who I think she said was her mother. A girl of about ten years of age came to serve us with fruit and bread, and I think this was her daughter. I found out that the woman's name was Helda, and attempted to question her on the purpose, origin and nature of the festivities but she did not understand me. We saw the Queen of the May several times while we relaxed there, every time surrounded by a different group of men, it seemed.

Eventually Julius and Reinfeld returned. Julius blushed a little when I asked him to describe what he had seen in the woods, but he dutifully reported that he had been given a drum to beat so he could join in the music-making with the other men. They had trouped into the woods to where there was a ring of stones and in the centre of the ring, a fire blazing. The girls were dancing around the ring and taking it in turns to leap over the fire. And he finished up by mentioning that the young women were all naked.

It was well after dark by the time Gwenna and I were shown to a chamber and the men were conducted off elsewhere. I did not like to be separated from the shield grogs but was assured that they were to be in an adjacent room, so I felt sure they would hear if I called for them. In fact, I slept very soundly indeed, and was woken to a bright morning by sounds of a bit of a commotion nearby. It did not seem to amount to anything so I arose at a leisurely pace and met up with the rest of my companions outside the inn when the sun was well risen. Julius in particular seemed loathe to leave Sommerberg, where the festivities were due to last for several more days at least but I was very anxious to press on. It was I rather than Reinfeld who found our way now, as the Redcaps had given me very good instructions and our way along the narrow mountain paths was clear to me. I made sure not to let on to our former guide what signs I was looking for, as it would never do for a mundane to know the ways in which the Redcaps mark the way.

Early June: Our destination

At last we reached the castle that is the covenant of Montes Plani. It was obvious to me that it is covered by a magical aura. It makes no attempt at concealment, and while there I learnt that the local folk, from peasants to nobility, hold to the old ways and have good relations with the covenant. We were greeted by the doorkeeper. I made myself known and he said we were expected. I took him aside and quietly explained the problem posed by Reinfeld, which the doorkeeper said would be dealt with by the steward, to whom he had us conducted. The steward told us that rooms had been prepared in the covenant for my grogs, should they choose to use them rather then stay with me. This was puzzling. Maga Letitia lives in a tower somewhat apart from the main covenant, and I was to be taken there soon.

Meeting Letitia

Leaving Reinfeld behind, Julius, Ignatius and Gwenna accompanied me as one of the local servants guided us out of the castle and higher up the mountain. I soon felt sure we had entered a faerie aura because all the trees seemed to have faces, and even the flowers too, if one looked at them the right way. It was a long way but eventually we scrambled up a steep section of the path and reached an imposing gateway. As we passed through, we left summer and found ourselves shivering and crunching over snow. Ahead of us was a tall tower with spikes on top, which we had not seen any sign of while ascending so I suspected it was hidden in a regio such one did not see it until one went through the gate. The man guiding us went up the steps to the door and pulled on a chain there, setting a large bell tolling inside. The door was opened by a short squat figure with hairy feet and a bushy beard. This invited us in and told us to go up the stairs. It was freezing cold. At the top of the flight of steps was a chamber where a woman in a magnificent black and silver gown sat on a pale stone throne carved to look like icicles. Indeed, it was so cold I thought then that it may even be of ice. This was Letitia.

I was astonished and somewhat dismayed. I had expected to find a studious maga in a book-filled sanctum yet this one looked more like a fae queen of Bright Winter. I seriously doubted that I could survive more than a day or two in such intense cold, and suspected she would not be pleased if I kept using Ignem magics to warm myself. I understood now why there was talk of my companions staying below. I could not bear to think that I had come so far with such enthusiasm and expectation and now faced disappointment. Rather than show my feelings, I greeted Letitia rather as I might Cierella in her glory, and humbly offered a gift of a pawn of Aquam vis and one of Muto. Since both were of faerie origins, being gifts to me from Cierella, I hoped they would be acceptable here.

Letitia seemed pleased, and her welcome was much warmer than her home. She said she was glad I had come, and spoke kindly of my report on the quest she set me. I was turning blue and shivering so violently that I could not avoid mentioning how cold I was, reminding her that I came from Iberia. She assured me that we would be travelling as part of my lessons but that I would not be needing my grogs, so it was well to dismiss them. I urged Julius and Ignatius to take advantage of any training they could come by while there, as such a powerful covenant must surely have something to usefully teach them, and then I let some goblins lead them away.

The Mysteries of Faerie Magic

Learning to see the world through faerie eyes:
Sensing the magical potential in a faerie aura, noticing the parallels with magical auras, starting to absorb and use the energy as it changes my Gift.
Understanding how to form a spell that flows along a trodden path, or links to the life of a fire.
Seeing how to seal a bargain by setting a spell to catch the dishonest, and how to extend the life of a spell for a year and a day, or until a condition I choose is met.
Discovering how to target a spell to cascade through the generations and catch all those living by the same blood.
Stepping into Arcadia, guided by Letitia, staying close as she moves through the realm where story and Glamour might trap me for ever.
Expanding my experience of our founder's beautiful theory of magic
... and Quendalon said "I will bring the fae within the Art."

18th September: The End of Summer

It was good to see Julius and Ignatius again. I think Gwenna was rather horrified at the state of my hair and clothes, so I stayed in the main covenant for two nights to give her a chance to do whatever it is she does with my gowns. Reinfeld was still there, and appeared to have enjoyed his holiday. We left on a fine bright morning to start the long journey back to Brittany. We had not gone very far along the path before dark clouds covered the sky and soon after that it began to rain very heavily. I used a Rego Aquam spell to keep the rain off us, and noticed that Reinfeld looked much less curious and far more knowing than three months ago. I must try to find out as we travel just how he spent his time and what he has learnt about the Order. It may not be wise to just leave him in Bremen.

It must have been raining heavily for quite a while in the world beyond Montes Plani as the streams were all swollen and we had difficulty in crossing at times. We arrived in Sommerberg to find the folk sullen and preoccupied with the damage done to the harvest by the unseasonable weather. We were tolerated rather than being made welcome, but were able to secure accommodation for the night. Helda and her aged mother were huddled close to the fire in the common room of the inn. Having Reinfeld to hand this time, it was easier to talk with them using him to translate to and from the Saxon speech rather than struggle with Helda's attempts at Latin. By this means I learnt that the rains had arrived too late to nourish the corn, and too heavy, so what had grown was now ruined and they faced a lean winter. I felt sorry for them, but was anxious not to be drawn into their problems. Remembering how much difficulty I had, and the unfortunate after-effects on my sigil, when I attempted to dry out all the harvested grain around Caribet, I certainly had no intention of attempting to dry the sodden fields and though I felt sure I could stop the rain for a while, the grain would rot just the same. In an attempt to be helpful, I suggested that it might be a good idea to construct a large bonfire of wood and to burn that so that the heat from the fire might work against the damp. Helda received this suggestion with no sign of interest, and her mother gave me a very strange look, of pity I think. Gwenna made the suggestion that perhaps the young men of the village might dance naked as the girls had done before. From the look on her face I doubted her motives so tried to turn the conversation by asking whether the fertility rites we witnessed last time we were here had worked. Helda's answer puzzled me. She said that they had failed "despite Julio's manful contribution".

At the stone circle

Next morning I wanted to be on my way, but there was no sign of Reinfeld and Julius. While waiting for them, I wandered beyond the village and cast some Intellego spells when I thought there was no-one able to see me. I learnt that the heavy rain was originally natural but was unnaturally prolonged, and that it was a sign of displeasure from the pagan gods. I walked back to the village and found the missing men. Julius was worried about the girl Ana who had been Queen of the May. He had been unable to find her and had been asking after her all over but got frosty answers or claims that she was unknown. Thinking about the pagan gods, I had Julius guide me to the stone circle in the woods. I believe that the links between the old pagan deities and the fae are sufficiently close that talking to a faerie might provide information about the situation in Sommerberg, and the ring seemed the best place to start. The grass inside the circle of stones was lush but outside the circle it looked as if it had been parched so severely that it had more or less died before the rains started. I crouched down and leant forward to put one hand on the ground inside the stone circle to cast an Intellego Vim spell to try and contact any fae in the area. Surprisingly, there appeared to be none.

It crossed my mind that the power that kept the grass inside the circle so verdant might work against an intruder, but there seemed no alternative, so I walked into the ring as far as the centre, and turned around. From this position, I was able to see that there were faces on the stones. Not like the distinct friendly face on our own menhir at mid-summer, but faces none the less. They did not show any sign of being able to talk when I addressed one of them, so I touched a stone and cast Intellego Terram. The stone had hardly any trace of the intelligence shown by our menhir but I did learn that the stones formed a gateway of some sort. Intellego Vim showed that the gate stood between the normal world and a faerie regio and by a tingling in my finger-tips, I could feel the boundary. I now knew even more clearly than before that stepping into a faerie regio was a very risky business, but I was keen to test my new understanding of the fae so summoned Julius and Ignatius to come to me and together we went through.

We were still within a circle of stones on lush grass but here we saw a large man with a full beard and rippling muscles held between two of the stones by an immense long chain of iron that wound many times around him and around all of the stones. The stench of iron was enough to almost make me sick. No magic was needed to know he was of the fae. I desired to know why he was held and by whom. Fortunately, he understood the question I put to him in Latin, and his answer was that he was held prisoner by the False King. I could see the familiar pattern except that I could not believe that anyone of faerie could have handled that iron chain. I was not at all sure that this man was to be trusted, but I decided that it would probably be safe enough to start releasing him, since I had both Julius and Ignatius there to undo the chain, and to put it back if need be. It took them quite a while to unwind it all. The prisoner showed no signs of being a threat to me, and appeared truly grateful for his release. As soon as the last of the chain was allowed to fall from him, he announced that we must find the False King and started to stride towards the edge of the circle. The thought flashed through my mind that we might end up deeper in the regio and get stuck, but there was no time to think if I was to keep up with him, so I and my shield grogs went with this king of faerie.

True and False

As we stepped between the stones, the man shrank so that before we left the trees, he looked like a puny, ailing serf. He was still determined to locate the False King and headed towards the village so I accompanied him. Soon we saw a crowd of villagers carrying bundles of firewood and singing a mournful song, all walking purposefully in the same direction. We followed and discovered that they were building a bonfire. Alarmingly, there was a tall post protruding from the middle of it. Then, from the other side of the bonfire I saw another procession moving towards it, this one being led by a man I did not remember seeing on our last visit. In the small crowd behind him was a slight figure dressed in a white robe. Julius cried out that it was the May Queen and rushed towards her. I did not like what seemed to be going on, but felt it best not to interfere directly with magic. I hoped Julius would look sufficiently intimidating to get the girl released without anyone being hurt.

The man we had set free insisted that the leader of the procession was the False King. I cast Aura of Ennobled Presence on the supposedly True King in expectation of making him seem more like a match for the False King, but I believe the False King detected what I had done, and distorted the effects. At the time, I thought this was because I had used a Muto Imaginem spell which made it very easy for a faerie to use Glamour against me. I stopped concentrating on my spell as soon as I realised what was happening, and considered what I knew of faerie lore in hopes of finding another way to help. Meanwhile, Ignatius had joined Julius, and they had encountered Reinfeld and had him call out a challenge. Leaving me undefended, my shield grogs advanced towards the False King, banging their swords on their shields. Gwenna must have heard the noise as she ran out of the inn just after it started. As soon as she reached me, I sent her back inside for bread and ale.

I was surprised and concerned to see that instead of scattering in confusion, the villagers around the bonfire were lining up shoulder to shoulder to face Julius and Ignatius. Gwenna had come back by now so my attention went to feeding what she had brought to the True King, who ate voraciously. The food and drink clearly brought about a significant improvement in the strength and appearance of the True King, so Gwenna and I urged him into the inn where he devoured all the food and drink we could find. A roar from the crowd outside sent me dashing outside to see what was going on. Flames were leaping up from one side of the bonfire and several flaming torches were being tossed into the heap where it was not yet ablaze. The villagers were standing firm, surrounding the leader, brandishing torches, and Ignatius was facing them. Julius was not with him, but a moment later I saw him, running around the far side of the crowd pulling the white-clad girl along with him towards Ignatius as some in the crowd threw flaming brands at the grogs. I turned the gentle drizzle into a sudden deluge to extinguish all the flames.

An imposing figure strode out of the inn, almost eight feet tall and at least as strong and vigorous as when I found him in chains. He called the villagers to him. A few ran over immediately, and these he welcomed in an embrace. Then a few more left the crowd near the bonfire and ran over to the True King. With every newcomer, he grew in power. When only a handful of men remained with the False King, the False King began to change. He grew taller and thinner, short dark hair grew on his head where two little horns appeared, a little black beard grew on his chin, his nose became longer and hooked, and his feet turned to cloven hooves. My shield grogs reached me and Ana, the May Queen, left them to be warmly embraced by the True King. In the moment that I glanced at her, the False King must have disappeared as he was not s again. All I could see by the remains of the sodden bonfire were four villagers looking rather foolish.

Julius was looking very unhappy. The True King was now walking away from the village towards the wood, hand in hand with the May Queen. The villagers were milling around outside the inn, gabbling away incomprehensibly. My attention was caught by Helda who came over with her aged mother and her young daughter to invite me to stay the night. I think that False King was more demon than fae and consider myself very fortunate to have avoided any closer contact with him. It would be a pity to damage the strength of the fae in Sommerberg, but had the village been Christian, that demon might have had less scope for trouble.

Going home

The next morning was bright and fair. The transformation in the countryside was far greater than could be explained by the rain ceasing and sun coming out. Abundant ripe grain grew in the fields we passed and everything looked set for a splendid harvest. Something close by caught my attention, as if it was scratching against my parma. I discovered a single ear of ripe grain caught into the folds of my skirt. I cast Intellego Vim and found it to contain a pawn of Creo vis, so I felt it well worth putting up with the slight irritation to keep it with me. As we walked along I considered the events of the day before and became convinced that Iuris Perita would disapprove of just about everything we had done in the village. I have always suspected that Gwenna, the maid found for me by Iuris Perita's maid Pernelle, was probably prone to talk to Pernelle of my doings and normally this causes me no concern at all, but this time it had to be prevented. I warned all my companions that they must on no account tell anyone what had happened in Sommerberg, and made sure that Gwenna understood that I would know who to blame if I discovered that the story had spread.

After that, the journey was unexpectedly pleasant. Reinfeld guided us out of the mountains and back across the fertile rolling hills to Hannover and thence to Bremen and a ship. Everywhere we went, people were well disposed towards us in a way I very rarely see. All of us had ears of corn in our clothing, and I suspect that these may be functioning as good luck charms of some sort. Each contains a pawn of Creo vis, making six in all! I instructed my grogs and servants to keep theirs safe throughout the journey and hand them to me when we reached the end. Reinfeld was easily persuaded that he might find a more comfortable life at Caribet than in Bremen. I expect that my sodales will find it useful to have someone with such a wide ranging knowledge of languages, and on whom they can rely to facilitate travel in the Rhine tribunal.

Saga Contents page or next section.