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The work of Autumn is almost completed. I am pleased with 'Commutatio Aurae', my new tractatus on the Theory of Magic, in which I describe the astonishing fluctuations in our local regiones at mid-Summer and propose a theory that might account for the interactions we observed between Dominion and Fae dominance over the village. Although I have written it all myself, I have acknowledged my indebtedness to Speculor who not only participated in the practical investigation - and indeed it was he who did most of the work to establish the levels of the auras we encountered - but who has been generous with his time to discuss the phenomena and the theories to the extent that I cannot in fairness claim it as entirely my own work.
Iuris Perita returned from her vis hunt. She had Zane with her, which is always useful when it comes to finding the unusual, but is rather wearing since he cannot keep his mind on one thing for more than a few minutes. Her efforts have brought a pawn each of Animal, Aquam and Creo vis. I am particularly excited by the Creo vis as we do not often come across this. Floristan did not do so well, returning with a pawn each of Animal and Mentem, but Mentem is one of the forms we are short of, so I am certainly not complaining. Of course, part of the point in sending him out was to get him out of the way while Iuris Perita checked on his bona fides, and I am glad to say that the reports from Objurgator support his story. Another reason for sending him away was to give the men time to get to work on a suitable building for him in the glade, one that will be large enough for him to set up as a laboratory if we agree to let him remain here, and there is still quite a lot of work to be done before that is ready. It is to be hoped that Floristan made good use of his time away in learning about the area and improving his understanding of the local languages, since he will not get far at Caribet with nothing but Latin and Arabic. Sometimes I think we would do well to encourage our servants to learn Latin, and it is perhaps something we can emphasise in future when the children now being taught by Naimes are older.
The morning was so clear, crisp and bright that I went outside early just to enjoy the beauty of the day. A fine dust of snow covered everything and everywhere glittered with frost. I had not wandered far from the tower when one of the men from the village came into sight. Seeing me there, he left the path and headed straight for me. He had obviously been coming in haste and I feared some calamity. Instead, he brought good news. He carefully handed me a piece of cobweb which, even though it had been clutched in his hand as he ran, was still spangled with frost. At least, I thought at first that it was frost but closer inspection and a little Intellego Terram told me that it was diamonds that clung to the spider's threads. The man assured me that he had collected this from one of the bushes close by the village and that there were plenty more there the same. I was determined to see this wonder for myself, and anxious to make sure that the diamonds did not all disappear into the pouches of the villagers or into Sir Achilles' hands. First I left a message with Jehan to pass on to my sodales, in case they too wished to witness this strange sight, then I had the man guide me to where he found this special web.
Caribet village is covered by a level four faerie aura and has taken on the aspect of Bright Winter! It is an enchanting sight, with diamond-dusted spider webs sparking in the sunshine all over the vegetation. It was too pretty to spoil by taking them all down so I gathered only a few of the largest diamonds from the less-visible places. I think that seeing me there taking such an interest in the webs was enough to keep most of the people from interfering with them then though I expect many diamonds will have gone by morning. I saw Floristan come and help himself to a few, but there were so many that I did not try to stop him. I think it would be delightful if Cierella can take advantage of this and find a way to step from her valley to our village and so attend tomorrow night's feast.
It was time once again for elections, but there was no difficulty over any of the appointments. Iuris Perita is Princeps once again, Joach Defensor and myself Libraria. I had hoped that Constantine might take the role of Defensor but he is too engrossed in his studies at present to take on anything else. Iuris Perita told us a little of what she had heard from Objurgator regarding Floristan's tale. It was very unusual for her to tell us anything, but in this instance she made an exception and turned a story into a lecture on Hermetic law. The Grand Tribunal has ruled that matters pertaining to the jinn are the concern only of the Levant Tribunal, and the Levant has decreed that annoying jinn does not count as interfering with the fae so is not contrary to the Code. They have made this ruling, we believe, because they are all guilty. I shall be very angry if Floristan thinks he can get away with upsetting the fae here abouts. Perhaps it would have been as well to admit him to this council meeting as an observer, so he could have had the benefit of hearing our Princeps' lecture.
Joach is to do service this season. Whilst we were all agreed that he should make something of use in our defence, it was not immediately obvious what would be both useful and powerful enough to be worth the vis but after pondering a while I proposed that we create a device which would enhance the ability of anyone who wore it to see in low light, thinking of those guarding our gates and also some of the situations we have found ourselves in when out in the forest at night, or in caves. Joach agreed this would be very useful for anyone on guard duty and no-on spoke against it. Then the debate turned to what form the item should take. Iuris Perita was most insistent that it be something that it was hard to lose. I was most concerned that it be concealable and suggested a leather headband that could be worn by anyone under their normal headgear. The notions of a brooch or cloak pin, or belt buckle were also put forward but in the end, given Joach's particular skills, we opted for a carved wooden amulet to be worn about the neck on a leather thong. I had suggested one device that would affect a small group of grogs on patrol together, from sunset to sunrise, but the others much prefered an item which could be activated many times in one day, and so passed around amongst several people, so this is what it will be.
Floristan is to go to the peat bogs. I think this is partly in order to get him out of the way while his accommodation is completed and partly to test his determination and character. Since he can hunt vis without need of a vis detection wand, we could also send grogs as usual, and may thus end up with more vis than usual, so Council voted for this plan. Floristan will take his own grogs, Marco and Farrukh, plus Yves, who is very experienced at this task and has fought horrors there. The other party will be Garth, Zacharias and Zane.
I shall take the Creo summa from the library. Iuris will take a book on Perdo. Constantine is also engaged in private study. Elise has not requested any book. Speculor is to write out the spell he invented last season - this is service also, so he will not have to do any service next year. Fulk is to illuminate the book on Philosophiae.
Joach cast our fertility ritual. I imagine that the little field fae know something about it but there is never any sign of them in the fields at this time of year. Often it is dull, wet and muddy but this year it was a pleasure to be outdoors. The beauty of Bright Winter remains over the village and the aura there is still a faerie one of the fourth magnitude. I had high hopes that the fae would attend our Mid-Winter feast this year and was not disappointed. Well, not much.
Sadly, we had no Hermetic visitors this year, so no gifts of vis and no opportunities to share news and debate theory. I would have very much liked to see Buviniolus and discuss the local aura fluctuations with him. The villagers made the usual preparations and the grogs had hoisted Fulk up into the rafters before I arrived; it amazes me that he does not leave the village at this time, as Fr.Edwin always does. Sir Achilles provided a generous meal and there was plenty of wine and ale so most of those at the lower tables seemed to be enjoying themselves and the mood at the high table was generally harmonious, though I took care to seat myself well away from Lady Helissente, and she seemed to be trying to avoid me as well. It was not long after Sir Achilles declared Mis-Rule that the trouble started.
The fae arrived, but not the simple, friendly field fae. These were sprites of some kind aligned with Bright Winter and, like sharp frost, they pinched. I am very glad that the Parma Magica was an effective defence against these mischief-makers so that none of the magi were bothered directly, but everyone else suffered. One of the servants was pinched severely while about to refill my goblet and so spilt wine on my gown, which has spoilt Gwenna's evening. Lady Helissente came in for a lot of attention and I am sure she must have been very glad to see the villagers rise early, eager to take their leave. The question in my mind concerned the wine. I took a sip from what remained in my goblet before I left, and found it had turned very sour.
Last night's fae visitors may not have made any contribution to the pleasure of the feast, but they did leave us a gift. I am delighted to find that the dregs of wine, of which there were quite a lot because it had all been turned sour, has yielded two pawns of Perdo vis. I do not suppose anyone other than the magi would agree with me, but the inconvenience was certainly a price worth paying. Magus Constantine was particularly pleased about the new turn of events. I thought at first that this was because of the Perdo vis, an Art he has been taking a great interest in lately, but he claims that he is most pleased that the Bright Winter fae created a mood that was more conducive to virtue. I rather think that only the most dedicated student of the fae amongst my sodales would think it worth visiting Caribet to join the feast next year if they hear how this one went.
Bright Winter has departed. The village is now covered with a mild Dominion aura. The diamonds that I had collected from the spiders' webs have all melted into water, and there is no vis in any of it. Perhaps it would be possible to work a spell to preserve the diamonds, should we find any next year. I must speak to Speculor on the subject soon.
We had a very surprising visitor today. Lady Marguerite, the wife of Baron Alain de Robien arrived with her maid and ten men at arms. Iuris Perita went to meet her in the Council chamber. It is hardly for me to question what our Quaesitor's view of the Code is, but it surprises me that she thought it appropriate to see a powerful, and potentially hostile and dangerous, noblewoman in our glade rather than at the manor. I know few details of the conversation, but her ladyship has requested help from the scholars on account of certain happenings around Robien. She spoke of a plague, which sounds more like a task for Jimena than the magi. She also talked of a ghost that is murdering her people and spreading a blight over the land. The parish priest at Robien, Fr.Luc, has performed an exorcism to no avail - this sounds like a job for Elise, if only she can be found. I wonder just what she knows of us, and what she thinks that we can or will do? I do not know whether Lady Marguerite would have come to us had her husband been at home. He has gone, along with a number of the other senior nobility, to attend on the Duke. Our own Achilles is clearly not important enough to be required, which is probably just as well for him.
Our visitor told how three weeks ago, before Baron Alain left, an unknown fair noblewoman named Bleunvenn had come to their chateau seeking the hand of their son Louis in marriage. She claimed to live three day's journey to the south, which is no great distance so it was most strange that no-one had heard of her, but she looked and acted and sounded just like a noblewoman and offered gifts of gold. The baron told her that Louis had entered a monastery and taken the vows, but she insisted that she had an agreement with Lord Raoul, Marguerite's father, that she should wed Louis. Since nothing was known of any such arrangement and it was entirely out of the question, with Louis now in the cloister as Brother Timothy, the woman grew very angry and swore that they would live to regret denying her, and that it would be "over Lord Raoul's dead body", which was particularly strange since he is long dead. The Lady Bleunvenn had then stormed out, right through the closed door, and as soon as she was outside, she and her retinue had vanished into the mist. Lady Marguerite was sure that the haunting and the slaughter of animals and men dated from this incident, and she was sure it was a curse. Iuris Perita had urged her to seek help from the Hermitage but she claimed that she had approached them and found them unwilling or unable to help.
Iuris Perita shared this information with several of us later in the day. I pointed out that it seemed to me that the local political situation was far too delicate for us to get involved, since Lady Marta of Plaintel has shown herself to be a proven friend to us and we know that she is an enemy of Baron Alain. Iuris Perita herself had thought it might be a trap, but had used a spell to determine subtly that Lady Marguerite did not appear to be lying and had decided that she would go herself to investigate. Whilst I do not approve of us being involved in this matter, I am glad that it is Iuris Perita herself who is to go, since that way there can be no accusations against us for interfering with the mundanes.
Lady Marguerite left early this morning, with a promise from Iuris Perita that she would follow after. Our Princeps is to take with her Duncan, Caspar and Stephan. I was surprised at her decision to take the newcomer but she can better keep an eye on him this way and he does at least look like a shield grog. She intends to stop at the Hermitage, to speak to the Prior or Fr. Albertus I assume, or maybe Brother Timothy is there and she wants to question him.
Floristan has brought back a severed head from the peat bogs. It is in a leather bag with a lot of dark brown peaty water and contains a pawn of Corpus vis. I do not think that he can be enjoying his time in the peat bogs because on hearing the story of Lady Marguerite de Robien's request, he is determined to involve himself in the efforts to assist her.
A rider came today from Robien, one of their own servants, carrying a letter from Iuris Perita to Speculor. He was accompanied by the grog Stephan. In the letter she says that she has seen the body of a cow, its throat ripped out, and that an Intellego Corpus spell had shown her that the wounds were caused by an old woman with damp, straggly hair, fangs and talons. Just such an attack has taken place every night except Sunday; sometimes an animal dies but sometimes a person. It appears that if any place is guarded by a bold knight, it is spared, but ordinary men at arms cannot keep the ghost away and some have themselves been its victims. Iuris Perita wishes Speculor to travel to somewhere in the forest close to Robien and then to make contact with herself so that together they can try to locate the murderer.
The description of the killer sounded to me rather like the sea hag that had kept Constantine captive in a cave on the north coast not long ago. Lady Marguerite's story suggested that some sort of bargain had been concluded with the creature by her ladyship's father, that the bargain had been broken somehow, and now the hag was out for revenge. I suggested this to my sodales and also mentioned that I thought it would be helpful to obtain a little more information about the history of Lady Marguerite's family. I suggested that someone might approach Lady Marta as a source of such information. I did not say so, but it seems to me that if there is anything bad to be known about the family of Baron Alain, Lady Marta probably knows it and if approached in the right way, she will probably be happy to pass it on. Also, asking her may be a way of letting her know that we are taking an interest in their affairs, since I would not want Lady Marta to find out that Iuris Perita had been helping at Robien before we had told her ourselves.
Floristan has already met Lady Marta, having spent a night at Plaintel before he came here for the first time, so it was acceptable that he should go. I certainly did not want to go myself because I have no wish to interrupt my studies. Of course, Floristan can hardly put two words of Francien together correctly, and Lady Marta has never shown signs of speaking Latin, so an interpreter was wanted. I was trying to think who we might send from amongst the speakers of Latin when someone suggested sending Jimena, who has no Latin but speaks Arabic, a language that Floristan is familiar with. Stephan and Marco, Floristan's own shield grogs, will go with them. If Jimena disguises herself as a young man, as she did when she and I travelled here from Spain ten years ago, the four of them can ride swiftly and draw little attention.
Floristan returned from Plaintel after dark yesterday. He had learned from Lady Marta that her father was Lord Raoul d'Avaugour, a manor somewhere off to the north west. Lord Raoul had been married for fifteen years without issue but had then, in quick succession, fathered two sons, a daughter (Marguerite), and a third son. The eldest son, Charles, had inherited Avaugour. Floristan thought it useful to pay a visit to Charles and, to make it easier, begged a letter of introduction from Sir Achilles before setting off again. Speculor also left today, going on foot in the guise of a leper in the direction of Robien.
It turned out that Floristan's visit to Lord Charles d'Avaugour was very important. He was aware that his sister had been having problems. There was a family story that his father had told him that his seventh son would marry someone very special, but old Lord Raoul had died before a fourth son could be conceived. Charles himself has several children, including a son, Raould, born on exactly the same day as Louis, now Br. Timothy. Floristan met Raould, a young unmarried man who seems to live for nothing but hunting and wenching, according to his father. There was something in the story about seven times seven years and Charles himself in just three months short of his forty ninth birthday. Old Lord Raoul had apparently come into some large inheritance not long before Charles was born, when his fortunes improved significantly, but Charles did not know the source of this wealth.
Speaking through Jimena, Floristan mentioned to Charles something about the noblewoman who came to claim his nephew in marriage. This was news to Charles, so his sister must have failed to tell him of it. Charles questioned the connection between the request and the monster now haunting Robien, but Floristan found the right words to avoid letting on about our suspicions. Jimena told me that she was not always entirely comfortable with some of the things that Floristan had asked her to say, but that she had altered them a little when she felt it necessary, particularly when it came to concealing our involvement.
Lord Charles laid on a good meal for his visitors and the occasion gave them the opportunity of observing the elder son Raould, and his younger brother Jean, two years his junior at twenty two, and an altogether more thoughtful and useful young man. Charles agreed that he would send Raould and a few men at arms to see if they could help his sister Marguerite. They were to ride south the next morning with Floristan and his companions. The plan, of which nothing was said except between the people from Caribet, was to try and find a way to make the hag accept that Raould was in fact her promised spouse.
Speculor reached the vicinity of Robien late on the 22nd and set up the magical tent. Iuris Perita found him and they shared a meal made in that iron cook pot. Caspar had been out during the day, on instructions from Iuris Perita, questioning the local inhabitants about any wet places they knew of with a reputation. There is a river passing through Robien with many tributaries, though none of these are linked to the rivers around Avaugour. Caspar heard about several deep, quiet pools along the course of the main river around Robien, which some people thought were best avoided. He also brought back news of a cluster of menhirs on top of a hill not far away. When Iuris Perita returned to Robien, she found that Floristan had arrived.
When word came that another cow had been killed, Iuris Perita and Speculor both went to examine the body. While Caspar kept the locals away from the barn where it lay, Speculor cast The Inexorable Search in an attempt to locate the creature that had caused the wounds. It appeared that the cow's throat had been ripped out by something that was in the nearby river, but while Speculor concentrated, his attention was drawn to many different parts of the river, as if the creature was in many parts of the river at once or moving extremely quickly through the water. For some reason, possibly to do with having an arcane connection to the killer, they decapitated the cow after deciding it was too large to move the whole thing without being noticed. Then they headed towards the riverbank.
By this time, Floristan and Jimena had arrived and they joined Iuris Perita and Speculor on the river bank. The four grogs, Caspar and Duncan who had come with Iuris Perita and Stephan and Marco who arrived with Floristan, were all sent to keep the local people well back while the magi discussed their next step. Speculor was keen to try and summon the water hag. The debate over how difficult it would be to cast such a spell and, if it could be done, where to do it, went on for quite a long time. Eventually Jimena could keep quiet no longer and suggested that they might instead use a spell to convince Raould that it would really impress the local girls if he was to be seen taking a morning dip in the river and this might lure the hag to show herself.
The morning of the 23rd was as cold and dull as one might expect for January but there was no frost. Raould was persuaded to take a dip without use of any coercion, provided others would accompany him. Caspar, unsurprisingly, volunteered to swim and, whether he was pushed or not, Stephan also spoke up. The magi and Jimena concealed themselves behind some trees close by. The three men plunged in and swam for a short while but they soon got very cold. As they were climbing out of the water, a fine lady with her maids was seen coming across the meadow towards them. She approached Raould directly and the pair of them fell into quiet conversation. Caspar made haste to dry himself and dress, and kept away from the women. Speculor cast Ear for Distant Voice but was only able to hear one half of the conversation. Raould was certainly interested in whatever it was that the strange woman was saying to him, then she must have made an offer of some sort because he enthusiastically accepted. Leaving the woman, or rather, the water hag, for a moment, Raould went to explain to Caspar and Stephan that he had just discovered that his grandfather had arranged a match for him and that he was going to marry this fine lady and go to live with her.
Raould seemed entirely happy with his fiancée, and she continued to appear elegant and charming while the group went to see Lady Marguerite. It was quickly arranged that the betrothed couple should travel to Avaugour for Lord Charles' blessing and it was agreed that it would be best to have the wedding as quickly as possible, since Ash Wednesday was not far off, so the marriage would almost certainly be celebrated at Avaugour. That night there was no attack around Robien, and Lady Marguerite was happy to accept that the problem was now resolved, although I do not think she was given all the details regarding her nephew's bride.
Word has got round that there is to be a wedding at Avaugour and the local nobility are invited to attend. This means that Lady Helissente and Lady Galienne plan to attend. It is pointless to try and dissuade them or warn them without explaining why they should be wary of the bride, so I will say nothing on the subject. Perhaps it will be possible to send Caspar in their retinue so that there is someone guarding them who knows enough to be cautious.
In the end, it was not necessary to worry about a suitable grog to take care of the Caribet ladies at the wedding because Floristan decided to go. I suspect that this was yet another excuse to avoid going back to the peat bogs at once, but under the circumstances I made no complaint. I gather that Iuris Perita received an invitation too but sensibly declined. Floristan reported that although arranged in haste, the wedding was quite lavish, as the bride had plenty of money and was generous with it. He also observed that a liberal sprinkling of faerie dust added a film of glamour and glitter so that everything impressed.
Floristan has gathered three pawns of Corpus vis from the peat bogs during the season and our grogs have obtained the same amount. This is a little more in total than we usually harvest, but I do not think it is worth sending more than one party as a rule. However, it has been useful in other ways as well since Floristan and his grogs now have some knowledge of that region and have acquired a few more words of Francien. After all, entertainment on the long winter nights on the fringes of the bogs must be so scarce that Francien lessons from Yves may well have been an attractive option.
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