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My investigation of the acorn cup has been fascinating. It was rather harder to get started than I anticipated, since my knowledge of the magic of the fae is rather weak as yet, and I find the Art of Herbam particularly impenetrable. Fortunately, my understanding of Intellego, Vim and Magic Theory were sufficiently strong to overcome these minor problems and as the season draws to a close, I have determined what to do with it although, I fear, as yet I have no idea how it works. Further study is clearly necessary, but for now, I must act. I have today transferred into the acorn cup the vis from one of the golden acorns that was gathered here from Quercus' oak last Autumn. I suspect that any form of Herbam vis would have done, but it seemed most suitable to use this, which is not only in the form of an acorn but is also associated with the fae. I believe that now an acorn will develop within the cup, and that we must plant it, when it is ripe, near or in Caribet village. This should attract the fae back to our village and solve the aura problem. I am optimistic that the acorn will form unusually swiftly, so that the acorn will be ripe for planting within a month or so, at the time when naturally-grown acorns are ready to drop. In fact, I feel sure that it is right to take the ripening of the golden acorns on Quercus' oak as the signal to plant this special one. I am less confident that it will sprout quickly enough to change things in time for the coming mid-Winter feast, but I must hope so. I suspect we shall need to repeat this procedure every year, so the acorn cup must be kept very safe, and we must regularly allocate a golden acorn to feed it.
Our Council meeting was quite short. There was much admiration for the lamp that Constantine has made for us to use safely in the library. I feel sure we could do with a couple for the scriptorium too, but that must wait. Everyone seems keen to read this season. Joach is taking a book on Perdo; though he claims that building and making are very much more in his line, he realises that there might some time be call for this Art. Speculor wants the Mentem summa that Elise has been reading recently - it will be a good opportunity for him to check whether she damaged it. Iuris Perita and Constantine are involved in independent private study of some sort, but I am not sure what. I am looking forward to working with the Rego summa that I had planned to read in Summer, before the urgent need to investigate the acorn cup arose. It is worrying that no-one will be on service, but with luck this will not matter.
Fulk did some good work on the certamen tractatus last season, and we are sending him my work on finesse this time, as Joach and Speculor are keen for it to be illustrated. I feel sure he will made a good job of it, but have mixed feelings. I want my work to be completed but it would help me more if he worked on something I was going to read. Also, I fear that it will be most unpleasant if he needs to discuss any details of the illumination with me.
My studies were interrupted this afternoon by a servant at the door to say that Speculor and Joach would like to see me in the main room downstairs, and something about dead men. I ran down to find three bodies laid out on the floor and a heap of things. Speculor was in the process of writing a note - to Elise, he said - and he gave instructions that a rider should take it to her tower at once. The smell from the bodies was disgusting so I freshened the air before approaching to peer at them. They looked badly damaged and quite disgusting, so I retreated to hear the story.
Gwilhem and Ivona had been out hunting with Guirec. Somewhere between Caribet and Ploeuc, when crossing between two well-known game trails, they spotted crows circling off to one side and went to investigate. They climbed down into a valley and reached a small clearing where lay three dead men. One, in long robes and with bare feet, lay on his back near the centre of the clearing, surrounded by pale powder. He had been very badly burnt, as if he had been hit with a great burst of fire. Towards one side of the clearing lay two armoured men with their necks broken and their packs and weapons scattered close by. Could this be more of Eleusinus of Merinita's violence? Was it a magus and two grogs? The bodies had lain there a while and had been molested by the crows and other forest creatures, making any close inspection very unpleasant. Our people had looked for any sign of Order insignia and found none, but the man in the centre was clutching something of rope, feathers and crystal. Leaving Guirec to watch over the scene, the other two had returned to Saxum Caribetum and had then guided Speculor and Joach out into the forest to investigate, and it was they who had the bodies and all the belongings brought back here.
In addition to the assemblage of twisted rope, feathers and crystals that had been in his hand when he fell, the robed man wore about his neck on leather thongs three amulets of semi-precious stone, each marked with runes, and two more of the twisted rope devices. We are sure that these are magical but not Hermetic - perhaps hedge-charms. From what we could see, he looked as if he might have been about thirty years old but Intellego Corpus revealed that he was forty five or so. There was nothing distinctive about his garb and we confirmed the hunters' finding that there was no badge or sign to show he belonged to the Order or any other organisation. I suspect he was a hedge magician who met with something too strong for him and was overcome.
There were four boxes of fine polished wood on the ground near the bodies. One was found open and the closed ones had been locked shut by magic, which Joach had overcome using Rego Herbam. One of the boxes contains three small bones containing Mentem vis, three small shriveled scraps of skin containing Corpus vis and six small stone spheres containing Vim vis! I believe we should take care of these in our store and, if no-one claims them within a year, take them for our own use. Another box which Joach had opened by magic contained a bundle of the twisted rope things, twenty four in total, all different. None of these contain raw vis, though it is likely that vis was used in their creation.
The powder sprinkled on the ground around the burnt body was largely chalk, with some non-mineral components. It had probably been kept in one of the pouches that was found empty on the ground. The powder had been used to mark out a sizable circle and a number of symbols, which neither Speculor nor Joach had recognised - they just looked like random wavy lines.
The two armoured men appeared to have been killed by some force that came at them from the centre of the clearing. Their packs contained clothing, foodstuffs and travelling and camping equipment sufficient for three, including items that seemed quite new and others that were well-used, and these had come from several parts of northern Europe. Much of it is quite good quality, I am told, though there are iron items amongst the equipment.
Much more interestingly, one of the packs contained four books and a casket of writing equipment. All the books are in Latin. The first I looked at is entitled 'An Introduction to Spirits' and appears to be a tractatus on the lore of magic covering the nature and summoning of spirits. No author is named. It is well laid out and clearly written in coloured inks, though it is not quite finished since there is space left for the capitals to be illuminated. There is a second, shorter text appended at the back of the book, which seems to be a ritual of some sort to summon up, by use of the correct fetish, a tutelary spirit to instruct one in spirit lore. I think Maga Elise will be most interested in this book, and I should quite like to read it myself but I need to know a great deal more about this matter before attempting that ritual. The second book I examined is called 'An Introduction to the Occult'. It is clearly written and illuminated and also contains some sort of spell for the summoning of a spirit to give instruction on the subject matter. I think this is very dangerous, for what could such a teacher be but a demon? I was so excited on seeing the title of the third book that I could not open it fast enough: 'An Introduction to the Fae'! But alas! The text is full of holes! Throughout there are gaps left where it seems that the writer intended to go back and fill in certain important words in ink of a distinctive colour. I was desperately disappointed at first but I now see that this book has fallen into our hands as a gift, and is perhaps not entirely useless if we can find a way to make something of it despite the omissions. It too contains a ritual for the summoning of a spirit teacher, though I think one must find a live teacher to explain it and complete the text of the spell before giving any serious consideration to calling up the spirit. The last book is even less use. It was to be 'An Introduction to the Divine', but is scare half written. It is our belief that the burnt man was the author of all these books, which is perhaps a little unusual for a hedge-magician.
Whilst out in the clearing, Speculor had attempted and failed to make contact with the spirits of the dead men. It suddenly dawned on me that we had a much better chance of succeeding here, and that, if we could contact the spirit of the writer, we might be able to have him tell us what the missing words in the faerie lore book were. I hastily got the scroll from the library which has the casting copy of 'Whispers through the Black Gate' written upon it. It was too late to save the man but we might yet save the book, I thought, but it was not to be, at least, not then, for Speculor could still not make contact. He said it was as if there was no spirit associated with this body. He also failed with the dead guards. I pinned my hopes on Elise.
When I returned from replacing the scroll, I heard Joach and Speculor talking about trying to call up a spirit using one of the fetishes, for they had worked out which of the heap went with which book. I insisted that they must go well away from our tower if they wanted to make any such attempt, and that I thought it would be madness to try any but the one from the book on spirits. Instead, Joach cast Charm Against Putrefaction at Moon duration, which should keep the bodies until Elise has had plenty of time to learn what she can from them. Speculor mentioned that, while out in the forest, Gwilhem was most insistent that the three bodies be take to the church for prayers and a funeral, so we must make sure that instructions are given that they are not to be touched. Joach issued orders that our guards at the gates be strengthened and the hunters remain at home until Monday in case whatever killed these three is still in the vicinity.
I hear that Fr.Edwin was here at the tower early this morning, having heard about the dead men and wanting to take them to the church for burial. He had seemed particularly interested in the fact that the robed man had died from a burst of fire, and wanted to talk to Constantine about it right away, but Maud had turned him back, saying her master was not to be disturbed. Jehan had sent him away, and we trust he understands that he can have the bodies to pray over but not until the magi have completed their investigations. Since these disgusting things are still in our chamber below, it is to be hoped that Elise makes all haste and we can be rid of them early next week.
The rider sent to St.Brieuc returned this afternoon to report that there was no reply to his hail at the Tour de Cesson. I wish we had some intelligent servants! Obviously, Maga Elise must be away from home and she has probably forbidden her servants to speak with anyone. The man is to go back, and this time he is to shoot a message over the briar hedge in the hope that someone will pick it up soon. He is also to enter the town and look about to see if any of the serving girls are there.
A monk from the Hermitage arrived here today, riding. He brought a letter for Speculor, presumably from Fr.Albertus. I did not learn anything about the contents, but I expect I shall hear if it is important or interesting. I am enjoying my studies too much to bother trying to find out more now.
Speculor set off for the Hermitage this morning, wearing a heavy cloak, its hood pulled about his face so that one could not see him at all. The monk rode off ahead, but our people must walk, of course. He took with him Huon, Milon, Yves and Garth. This seems sensible in case the murderer is still around, though we can hardly spare the men from defending us here. I hope that whatever he has gone for is important and urgent enough to justify this risk.
I heard this evening that Fr.Albertus is unwell and has been brought here, carried all the way on a litter, to be cared for by Jimena. I have great faith in her skill, and this seemed a good idea, but I failed to see why Speculor had become involved in the matter. Speculor explained that Fr.Albertus is indeed ill with fever, but that his illness has a magical origin. Albertus had summoned a fiery elemental spirit and the spirit had possessed him and was now tormenting him in his dreams. I am sorry for the man, but if he was meddling in practices he does not understand, or calling up forces he cannot be sure to control, he can not be surprised when things go wrong, so my sympathy is weak. The accident happened a few weeks ago. Albertus had sent for aid to Fr.Timmeus of Nantes (that same Timmeus who had assisted Speculor to get safely out of the city a few years ago), who had suggested that Fr.Peter of Flanders was the best source of help in the matter of spirits. This Peter had said he was keen to help and had been expected at the Hermitage for a week or more but had not arrived. This must be who we found in the forest; compared to him, Albertus got off very lightly.
The Prior had spoken with Speculor about what should be done to help Fr.Albertus and it had become obvious to Speculor that the Prior felt we should assist. Since we undoubtedly owe him a large favour, we must do what we can. Fr.Albertus himself was not averse to attempting the trip to Nantes, to see Fr.Timmeus, but the Prior thought this was very unwise. The Prior wants one of us to go. It seems that the matter is so delicate and important that it will not do to send a messenger or servant. I suggested getting Sir Achilles to go, since he is important enough in the mundane world to be listened to and taken seriously, and that would mean none of us would lose study time. The Prior also wishes whichever of us goes to convey a letter to Fr.Julian there, who he wishes to appoint as the parish priest in Ploeuc. This is a matter of importance, since it will make life easier for us if the priest there is one of the Prior's men rather than the bishop's, so yet another reason to take on this mission to Nantes. I really began to fear that the other magi would try to make me go, and was marshalling some arguments in favour of Constantine going when Speculor said he would go. This was an astonishing announcement, given what happened last time he was there, and I started to protest a little. However Speculor was convinced that, if he sent a rider ahead with a letter composed by Albertus himself asking Fr.Timmeus for permission for Speculor to visit on his behalf, all would be well.
Later in the day, I accompanied Speculor and several others and went to visit Jimena and see her patient. Albertus is pale and quite feeble. Jimena says she has alleviated the symptoms of the fever a little and should be able to make her patient a bit more comfortable, but that she can do nothing about the cause of his illness and the fever will continue to recur. She seemed a bit nervous about ministering to Albertus, and was relieved to be told that there was very little chance of the spirit transferring its attentions to her while Albertus lived. First Speculor had Albertus dictate the letter. Then we showed Albertus the books, amulets and fetishes. He said that the fetishes were not based on any principles of natural magic and that they were probably very personal to their creator. He thought that there was nothing strange about the books, even the occult one, which he looked at quite closely and declared to be all about necromancy and the occult, and not at all about demons. He was tired after this so we left him.
A rider set off at first light, taking two horses so he should reach Nantes in about two days. It has been arranged that, to save time, Speculor will start out at once, and he will turn back if need be. To reduce interaction with the mundanes, he will travel in a wagon driven by one of our own people. Provided it does not rain so much as to make the roads difficult, they expect to meet the returning messenger on the road somewhere near Rennes. What a pity that the route through the regio to Nantes that Speculor used last time will not be open for almost half a year!
Maga Industria has arrived, coming on horseback to the southern gate with her two large strong servants. My first thought was that Speculor must be in deep trouble again! Joach went to welcome her while Iuris Perita was fetched. I expect she had the same thought as me but she said nothing. The two Quaesitors disappeared into the empty cottage to talk together, while I entirely failed to settle back to my reading. I was in the council chamber when the two entered a while later, so heard from Maga Industria herself that she had seen Speculor and Fr.Timmeus and had come to see Fr.Albertus, to free him from the tormenting spirit. I was curious, and asked if I might observe, which she agreed to.
I followed the Quaesitors to Jimena's infirmary. First Industria asked Albertus if he had any objection to her casting spells on him, and warned him that it would hurt. He gave his permission for her to do what was necessary, at which she drew that great sword of hers and plunged it into his chest! Jimena screamed, and I was glad that I was there to hold her back. Gouts of flame burst out of Albertus' chest around the sword, and from his back where the blade had penetrated. It seemed to last ages, but I expect it was only seconds. When the flames died down, Industria withdrew the sword and Albertus collapsed back. Industria indicated that I might release Jimena. The spirit was gone, and Albertus was left with a nasty wound, but no worse. Jimena said something about it being neatly cauterised then set to with shaking hands to apply ointment and bandages. Before we left, she asked for help in lifting Albertus carefully onto the enchanted Healing Bed.
The priest was allowed to take away the bodies this morning, and he will give them a funeral this afternoon. We have given up waiting for maga Elise. She could be anywhere. I am distressed that we shall not now have any chance of contacting the spirit of Peter of Flanders to get him to complete that book.
Speculor arrived home today in the wagon. He knew that Maga Industria had been here and was keen to hear just what she did and how Fr.Albertus is now. I was equally keen to hear how it was that Maga Industria arrived to deal with the fiery spirit. We all gathered around to hear the story, which Speculor told with fewer than usual of his magical images. His plan had worked well: he met our messenger near Rennes and, having received word that Fr.Timmeus would meet him provided he was careful enough, he had proceeded to the outskirts of Nantes. There he waited while one of his servants went into the city to find Fr.Timmeus and announce Speculor's arrival. Timmeus arranged for Speculor to be conducted secretly to his rooms, and the pair talked there for some time after sending the Prior's letter on to Fr.Julian. It seems that Fr.Timmeus was quite impressed that Speculor was going to so much trouble on behalf of Fr.Albertus. With the unfortunate demise of Peter of Flanders, there was only one other person that Fr.Timmeus knew of in the vicinity who could help - Maga Industria! It just so happened that she was in Nantes, though we all suspect that Fr.Timmeus had contacted her as soon as he received the news in the message that told him of Speculor's wish to visit him.
Speculor did not say anything on the subject, but I am sure he must have had some qualms about meeting Industria there, in the city where his last visit stirred up so much Quaesitorial wrath, and while there to talk to a clergyman on the business of helping another member of the clergy. She arrived in the guise of a well-to-do lady, and without her sword. She had already been informed of the problem, and agreed to deal with it. I suspect that there will be a price to pay for this assistance at some point, but Speculor said nothing about any agreement made with her at that time.
We were all quick to agree that, since Speculor had been gone so long doing a favour for the Prior on behalf of the covenant, it would only be fair to consider this season as service, and so he need do none next year. We all trust that the same arrangement will apply to us if need be! As soon as that was agreed, Speculor went off to talk with Fr.Albertus and the rest of us returned to our studies. When Speculor gets back, I must ask him whether he was able to find out any more about Peter of Flanders. If we could discover more about the magical tradition he followed, it might help us discover how to understand the amulets and fetishes, and give us guidance on the use of the summoning rituals in the books, and maybe even lead to someone who can help with the unfinished books.
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