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Covenant of La Roche Caribet

Winter 1229 - Horror in the Peat Bogs

2nd December: Iuris Perita surprises us

As winter approaches, some things are as expected: three huntsmen have come to live in the village during the harsher months - Derv the Storyteller, Briog and Convarch. It is to be hoped that they will make a useful contribution to our diet while we provide shelter. I am sorry to find that planting the magical acorn has as yet had no effect on the village, which still lies under a Dominion aura. It was greatly to be hoped that the faerie acorn would by now have somehow fortified the faerie influence so as to quell the Dominion in time for mid-Winter. Now it is my thought that the acorn will lie dormant through the winter then sprout in spring like a natural one. I remain optimistic that once it has started to grow, it will quickly bring the fae back.

I went to listen to Derv yesterday evening. One of his keenest listeners was little Rubea. Well, in fact she is not so little as one would expect given that the child is only three years old. I had not noticed it while she was living with me during my lessons with Amele, but now I have seen her beside her elder brother, it is very apparent that Rubea is as tall as a girl of nine, standing a foot or more over her elder brother's height. It is not just in looks that she seems advanced beyond her years for the child speaks and reads very well in Latin. I suspect that she will be ready for apprenticeship before any of us have advanced all our Arts far enough to take her.

Albertus is still living here and is likely to stay on a month or more before Jimena is satisfied that he is fully healed. Speculor has had many long discussions with him but has still not persuaded him to join the Order. I fear the Quaesitores will not be pleased at this failure but since he is an ordained priest, they will probably be unable to do anything about it. Actually, in my personal view, it is very useful for us to have a sympathetic contact at the Hermitage and he would not make much of a magus anyway so things may as well stay as they are. His way of working with the natural magic in materials is quite well understood so it is doubtful that he could add anything new to our Theory of Magic. I was worried when I heard that Albertus was exchanging letters with various of his friends within the Church but Speculor assures me that Albertus will not do anything to endanger us.

The big surprise is that Iuris Perita is leaving us! She has been recalled to Objurgator. She has not told us for how long or why. Of course, we have talked about this when she is not around and Speculor has even speculated to her face about what this means. We are all agreed that this can be no sign that she is out of favour but is probably a sign that she has done well. I suspect that she is going to study there from books too secret to be lent out. Someone has suggested that she may be going to learn special Quaesitorial spells that House Guernicus does not admit to knowing. She says she will be back at some time in the future. As long as she remains a member of this covenant, it seems only right that she contribute her season of service every year but if she is absent for more than a couple of years, it would become very awkward for her to have to repay by doing service for three or four seasons or more in succession. Perhaps we will be able to find some other way for her to pay in vis or books to make up for lost service. She says she is telling us now so we have time to think about who should be Princeps for the coming year. I would be honoured to serve my sodales in this way but one is so susceptible to interruption.

Maga Elise has sent a request that she be permitted to borrow a book on Herbam, and has sent two pawns of Aquam vis in payment.

14th December: Solstice

Council met as usual. I have decided that I will read the summa on Corpus this season and no-one else was asking for it. Speculor will study Mentem. Joach is on service. Speculor agreed with my suggestion that it would be very useful to have another of the safe lamps like the one Constantine made, so that it could be used in the scriptorium. We have sufficient Ignem vis, but Joach cannot work with it as yet, so we must postpone that project - perhaps when Constantine is next to perform service. Instead, Joach will make a device in the form of a brooch which will make a body weightless and able to levitate. This will be useful whenever someone is hurt and cannot walk, or we have to move a body, or when I want to move safely along the cliff in the regio. It will probably require three pawns of vis but we have quite a lot of Corpus and we all feel this is worth doing. Elections were easy: Joach is Defensor for the year, Speculor Princeps and myself Libraria.

15th December: The Bountiful Feast and no vis

Joach performed the ritual. That was the only thing that went really well today. Sir Achilles held the Mid-Winter feast and most of the villagers attended as did Speculor, Joach and myself, but it was a subdued affair. The Dominion aura over the village is still strong, so there were no fae, so no faerie wine and no Muto vis. After the disappointment with last year's feast, Hermetic visitors stayed away - whilst I was glad not to have to disappoint visitors for a second time, it was a pity that we had no vis gifts. I slipped away alone soon after the meal ended, encouraged by the expectation that the magic acorn will sprout in spring and will have reasserted the faerie aura for us by this time next year.

16th December: Off to the peat bogs

We have heard that there are hungry peasants living as bandits in the countryside, so it seemed wise to send four well-trained and well-equipped soldiers to gather the vis in the peat bogs this year. At first I felt that we needed all the fighters here, if there was likely to be trouble, but we do need that vis, especially as we failed to collect there last winter. Yves, Zacharias, Ellie and Garth are to go. They are taking with them a vis detection wand, the enchanted cooking pot and the magic tent. These are competent and trusted soldiers so I feel confident that they will take care of these precious objects and will return safely with them and the vis. They are to go south, through Ploeuc, where the new priest is settling in well, then via Moncontour.

17th January: The Wind Man

Three of our grogs are returned from the peat bogs with vis. Yves was so unwell that they have left him with the parish priest of a village near the peat bogs, a place called San Jacut de Mene, and someone is going to have to go and fetch him - probably that man who can drive the wagon who, I think, is also named Yves. Ellie is also ill, huddled up and always cold. Speculor used Intellego Corpus to find that she is not ill in body, and Intellego Vim to show that she is not under a spell, but Intellego Mentem shows that it is her mind or spirit that is damaged. No amount of nursing from Jimena can cure this.

It has not been easy to put together the story of what happened to our grogs. Ellie will only respond to direct questions in monosyllables, and although Garth and Zacharias are enjoying telling their comrades about their adventure, they do not appear capable of giving a consistent, clear narrative and I believe they exaggerate their own courage and ingenuity. What follows is an approximation of the truth, based on what they are saying.

A stranger at the rocks

Everything was going quite well, apart from the weather which seemed to bring sleet every day, until the second day after they reached the remotest part of the bogs. They had found some large rocks which looked as if they might provide a little shelter from the sleet but, as they approached, a man jumped up from behind a rock. He was dressed like a soldier, but had no visible weapon. He warned them that the bog was a dangerous place and that a great storm was coming. When questioned, he told them that he lived close by in a hall. Our grogs were polite but kept their distance, knowing that this barren place was most unlikely to support a nobleman and servants. When he left them, striding off downhill, they decided to ignore him but to search for pools in the vicinity of the rocks so they could return to them for shelter if the promised storm arrived. They were so occupied in searching that they lost sight of the rocks, and when they tried to return to them, they were nowhere to be found, which they interpreted as a sign that the rocks were not natural, perhaps put there by the fae and taken away again. Of course, they did not consider that the rocks might be perfectly natural, and they had just been careless, but as it turned out, their opinion was close to the truth.

The storm arrives

The sky was getting dark and the wind was picking up so they decided to pitch the tent and use stones to weight it down. Soon afterwards the gale hit them and it was so strong that they feared the tent might blow away so they struggled to remove the anchoring stones and folded up the tent, preferring to do without shelter than risk damage to or loss of the tent. They decided that they would be less exposed if they went down the hill a little and found the remains of a broken-down stone wall to follow. The wall was parallel to the wind so provided no relief but it kept them together and heading in the same direction and it did lead down into a valley. Eventually they could see below them a stone building and a light shining inside it. They knocked at the door to beg shelter from the wind and rain. An old man let them in. He said his master was not at home but would be back later and, while the grogs waited, he offered a place by the fire and some warm ale.

Once they were settled by the fire, he wandered off behind a curtain that screened off one end of the hall. It seemed very strange that the master should be outdoors in such weather, and our people were suspicious, but they were glad of the shelter. The hall looked old and neglected. Its walls were hung with old, worn tapestries and a few old shields and spears; bunches of herbs and some foodstuffs hung from the rafters; and there were pallets with fur coverings close by. They were all tired but decided that they must take it in turn to stay awake. I suspect that they were just too tired, but they claim that the ale was drugged since they were unable to stay alert.

Trapped in the Hall

Next thing any of them knew, they were shivering in pitch darkness and the storm was still raging outside. Yves felt very unwell, and rolled himself up in some of the furs. The others struck a light and were horrified to find that their packs had been opened and all their armour and weapons had been stolen. The arms from the walls were also missing. No-one responded to their shouts. Ellie and Zacharias began to search the hall for any sign of their property or anything that could be used instead. Behind the curtain they found some fresh foodstuffs but there was dirt and dust over everything else, as if they place had been neglected for many years. There were some wooden chests there; in the unlocked ones they found furs, blankets and cooking pots.

Garth removed the heavy bar and opened the main door to the hall. The strong wind pulled it from his grasp and slammed it fully open and he had something of a struggle to close it again. The small door in another side of the building was also not locked, and was a little more sheltered. Zacharias went out and found himself standing on a cobbled way with a building opposite, none of which any of them remembered seeing the previous night. Garth went out with him and they explored the cottages and farm buildings clustered near the hall. There was no sign of life and all looked long-neglected. It seemed best to wait until daylight and hope that the storm had blown itself out by the time the sun rose.

Yves was too ill to settle. A drink was found for him, and a meal was prepared. Suddenly a high pitched scream was heard above the sounds of the storm. It was outside but close by. Then there was a rattling at the doors and shutters, as if someone was trying to get in through all at the same time. Garth called out "Who are you?" as the grogs grabbed improvised weapons. Then there was a scrabbling on the roof. One of the grogs stoked up the fire. Whatever it was appeared to go away, leaving only the rattling from the gale and the howling of the storm.

After some while longer, the grogs realised that day was too long in coming. Leaving Yves wrapped up by the fire, the other three went outside again to thoroughly search all the other buildings, in the hope of finding something useful and to break up anything that might be used as firewood. They did not find any weapons or lanterns but there were a few tools and kitchen implements. Returning to the hall, they broken open the locked chests. One contained three copper kettles. A second held fine robes and furs. A third contained ceramic vessels sealed with wax. They opened one of these and found that it contained wine, which they enjoyed drinking.

Plans for escape

Next they decided to get Yves up and all go outside to find the wall that they had followed down the slope to reach the hall. It was easy to find the end of the wall and they followed it, quite slowly because Yves was so unwell, until they reached the top of the slope. They had hoped and expected to find themselves up on the moorland but instead they found themselves looking down another slope. The wall ran over the crest of the hill and down the other side so they followed the wall onwards and found themselves back where they started. They collected a pile of rocks from the damaged sections of the wall to take inside in case they needed to throw them. Yves was feeling very shivery, so a hot meal was prepared and he was settled down by the fire while the others made ready to let the howling creature in and fight it, should it return. Not long afterwards, there was another of the wailing howls and chilling screams got closer and closer to the hall. Quite why this did not lead to the grogs attacking the cause of the howls at this point is not clear. Ellie claims that it wasn't her fault and Zacharias once mentioned the wine in this context.

It was probably during this time that the grogs remembered something that happened soon after they reached the peat bog. They had met a poor family living in a hut of reeds and had shared a meal from the magic pot with them. I feel we must forbid our grogs from showing off the power of our magical devices to anyone, but in this instance, I can hardly blame them for wanting to be generous, and the information they acquired proved useful. The man said he lived by hunting the poor game that he could find on the moors, and said that the light they had noticed the previous night was almost certainly him returning home after dark. He said that he always carried a lit lantern with him, to keep the Wind Man away. Our grogs now realised that it was the Wind Man who had them prisoner.

A direct attack

Ellie woke later, cold and stiff, to find the main door swinging open and banging against the wall as the gale caught it. The storm was still lashing down. She managed to get the door closed and barred again and stirred the fire into a blaze. Eventually the others woke too, though Yves was noticeably worse and complained all the time how cold he was, despite the fire and the furs. They used some of the wax from the seals on the wine jars to make plugs for their ears then somehow passed the time until the next visitation. There was more eldrich screaming, which the wax could not keep out, but nothing tried to gain entry this time. Eventually all the men dropped off to sleep.

There was another scream and the door rattled then swung open - slowly, in spite of the gale. A tall, gaunt figure appeared in the doorway. Ellie flung a rock directly at it but it seemed to pass right through. She tried to get to the fire to grab a burning brand but the shadowy figure got between her and the hearth. She backed away, trying to get towards a door, but the figure walked right through a table and enveloped her in its shadow. Her screams woke Garth and Zacharias. Garth swung a table-leg at the shadow and hit only Ellie who dropped to the floor, shivering and bruised. The figure was nowhere to be seen now.

Fighting back

Zacharias built up the fire again and, when it was going well, filled the largest of the copper kettles with glowing embers. They took this with them and made a second unsuccessful attempt to leave the valley by following the wall. It seemed the only option was to fight the Wind Man, and their best weapon was probably fire. They had another good meal from the magic cooking pot while waiting for their jailer to return. Ellie felt shivery but was sure she could fight. She had taken two of the empty ceramic wine jars and put them by the fire. Yves was too ill to do anything but sleep but Garth and Zacharias were ready to fight; they stayed very close to the fire, and kept prodding each other to stay awake.

The screams came again. Ellie filled the jars with glowing embers. The bar fell from the main door and it creaked slowly open revealing the same shadowy figure in the doorway. Ellie flung one of the pots at the lintel just above the figure and it was showered with embers. Garth pulled a burning table leg from the fire and held it defensively. Zacharias threw a burning chair leg at the figure and the shadow screamed again as the fire passed through it. It seemed to catch fire. Ellie threw her second pot which shattered, raining sparks down on the creature and Zacharias threw another brand. The shadow was writhing in flames and did not advance into the hall. Ellie and Zacharias threw more flaming brands at it, then noticed that the building itself had caught light and the roof was blazing. The grogs grabbed what remained of their equipment, some of the furs and the remaining flasks, hoisted Yves up, and left by the smaller door. They went as quickly as they could along the wall. Looking back, they saw the hall thoroughily ablaze despite the prolonged downpour. Bits of flaming thatch were blowing about and igniting the other buildings. The fire was so intense that it cannot have been natural.

Escape

When they reached the top of the slope there was still another valley before them, though this was one where no inferno raged. They went down into this valley, following the wall, and found scattered stones and, roughly where they would have expected the hall to be, three large slabs of stone side by side on the ground, like tombstones. Just beside them was a pile of their arms and armour they had lost! Garth tried the vis wand and found that there was something under the slabs. Yves was feeling terrible so they put the tent up for him to rest in, then Garth and Zacharias worked to raise one of the slabs. It was difficult, and they all needed a rest before they had freed a slab. They all huddled in the tent and when they woke, the storm had subsided and dawn was breaking. Under the slabs was a pit about six feet deep, so like a grave that only Ellie was brave or rash enough to do down into it. She found broken bone, some rotted clothing, verdigrised copper, rotten wood, an untarnished suit of chain mail and a fine longsword. I gather that Zacharias wore the chain mail on the journey home.

Both the chain mail and longsword are enchanted in some way but the magic is not Hermetic so we will have to spend a lot of time to learn more about the nature of the enchantments. The bone fragments contain four pawns of Corpus vis. As yet, our grogs have not collected any pieces of bog bodies from the peaty pools so they are to go back. We must send replacements for Yves and Ellie and hope that there are no more difficulties.

29th January: Diagnosis

Speculor has been asking around to try and find out how we can help cure Ellie. Elise knows something about such ailments, which she believes was caused by a ghost. She says it may heal in time or it may never heal, which is distressing. Albertus agrees that Ellie's spirit has been torn. He thinks it will heal but may take months and that she would be best to recuperate at the Hermitage. However, she cannot be persuaded to go there.

15th February: Yves returns

Yves was brought back here but has been taken on to the Hermitage. He is injured in the same was as Ellie but very much worse and needs prolonged special care so we have sent a donation. Albertus will keep an eye on him, I expect.

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