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The first task of the day for me was the casting of the Aegis of the Hearth, which was no trouble at all. The council meeting that followed was not so easy. I was keen to learn the new spell that Speculor created last year,"Sight of the Realms" or "Sight of the Mystical Veil", and fortunately no-one else wanted to borrow his notes right away. I feel sure I shall have no difficulty understanding this Intellego Vim spell and that it will be very useful. Joach said something about reading a book on Imaginem. I was sitting close to him and feel sure he referred to it as "one of the less-interesting Arts" but fortunately Speculor was already offering his voluble support and encouragement by this time so he did not overhear this. I suspect Joach will find Speculor cannot be dissuaded from tutoring him over dinner throughout this season. Everyone felt it was a good idea to ask Floristan to share some of his insight into the Arts with us by writing a tractatus on his favourite Art. This happens to be Rego, and I shall be most interested to discover whether Floristan displays a thorough understanding of the subject. Of course, the main object here is to see whether he is any good as an author. Speculor is to borrow a book on Ignem. Constantine is to be sent out on a vis hunt as his service for the year. I can see an advantage to getting this over early in the year, but we must all take our turn so one is on service each season, except this year Speculor is free since he did two seasons last year.
It continues to be something of an irritation to me that Elise insists on bargaining hard for borrowing rights every time she wishes to take advantage of our library. She is becoming meaner with her vis, always now trying to get away with paying just a single pawn for a whole season. I think she is greatly under-valuing the books, and the risk we run in lending them. Judging by the results of our own vis hunts, it seems likely that she can find more than one pawn per season, so she is giving us less than she would have to hand over if doing a vis hunt as service. Of course, as a peripheral associate of the covenant, she gets no share in the vis in our store, and the uses we put it to for the communal good, but she has not worked for a year to earn the rights to such a share either. I might feel happier about the arrangement if she regularly offered vis of kinds we are habitually short of, but it seems that she cannot find them either. This time, we have agreed to take one pawn of Rego vis in exchange for lending her the magnificent Rego summa, and a pawn of Terram to let her keep the book for the next season as well. I feel she is cheating us, and I will ask Iuris Perita whether there is anything in the law that gives us any rights should she damage a book.
I have been busy completing my season of study of the Creo summa and had not previously heard about the scribe Pepin's work, which I am delighted about. An old woman has come to stay in the village with her grandson, who joined our hunters during the Winter. She knows a great many stories about the area but speaks only Breton. Many of the villagers understand her, and the new audience is encouraging her to tell her tales over and over. The important thing is that Pepin the scribe is working to note down the tales and intends to translate them and write them out to form a book of local lore for the covenant library. This is a far more valuable way for him to spend his time than copying out a Book of Hours or the Psalms for sale.
Now that we know that there is a direct route between the Pool of Luna in our regio and the caves beneath Wirbelnia, I was anxious to get to the pool as quickly as possible in case someone from Wirbelnia had managed to find a way to access the pool from their side without a silver key. As always, Speculor was keen to spend as much time in the regio as possible. He even spoke of staying in there, of taking the tent and iron pot and a book. Although I proved that one could walk around in there after the equinox, I still felt it was a very risky thing to do and hoped he would not go ahead with the plan.
We needed to ensure that the bluebells in the expanded magical glade were carefully gathered and taken to the perfumier but this has been done so often that we were sure the grogs could be left to get on with it. We had decided to find out whether we could save time in the collection of the Intellego vis too, and so we had created the right shapes in the right metals the previous day. If all that was necessary was to fit each into the place for it in the stone in each glade, grogs could be sent to do it in future. Speculor, Iuris Perita, Joach and myself were to go each to a different glade, then meet by the pool. Joach has avoided going into the regio ever since his unfortunate experience on the path leading from the fire glade, where he ended up on the far side of Normandy, but he was persuaded that it was perfectly safe to take part in the vis collection. It was a little disappointing that the preformed shape did not work; it was necessary for the metal to be formed by magic in situ. Perhaps we could enchant a device to cast the necessary Muto Terram effect and have a grog use that - I think we should experiment with this idea next spring, if Council will agree that someone spend a season's service to make the device. We had agreed that once formed, the new keys would be left in place for the rest of the day and each of us carried a full set of keys from the vis store. No-one had thought about forbidding Floristan to accompany us so he followed round the menhir and went with one of the others to observe the formation of a new key, but we did not give him any keys.
When we had assembled by the pool, Speculor immediately began casting Intellego Imaginem spells. It was probably a waste of effort, since I believe that the magic only showed him what the rest of us could see with our eyes, but he prefers to do things that way and probably has a good reason to act so. While holding a silver key, each of us could see the shallow groove around the top of the well, where a ring to match the one round the well in Wirbelnia might fit. We decided that it was a good idea to form a ring so removed the new key from the rock by the pool so as to open the route back to the central glade, and sent a grog to fetch enough silver. Fortunately our silver mine means there is plenty to be had so we just had to wait for it. We passed the time by discussing the markings around the ring. I had brought with me the thin parchment on which I had taken the impression of the symbols on the ring in Wirbelnia. Some were clearly astrological but others were entirely obscure. We decided that it would be very hard to create an exact copy of these and that the same pattern would probably be unsuitable here anyway.
Before long, the grog was back with the silver and Joach set to with some enthusiasm to cast a spell to form it into a large, thin ring. As soon as he finished, Speculor cast Intellego Imaginem and Intellego Vim on it, and declared firstly that it looked like a real silver ring, which we knew, and secondly that it was not the right ring, which was no surprise but a little disappointing. Joach eased it out of the groove; I feel sure it will be useful for something else one day but for now we felt rather at a loss. Speculor continued to cast spells, now trying Intellego Vim on the top of the well shaft, by which he learnt that it was an enchanted device of some sort but not Hermetic. The similarities in the nature of the effect and its great age suggested that it might be of Mercurian origin. Speculor also discovered that it was incomplete, but we knew it was missing the ring already. He told us that the missing ring was probably also an enchanted device in its own right, and that even if we had the ring, we would probably have to know and be able to cast the correct Mercurian ritual spell to replace it. This was very interesting but required knowledge way beyond our present understanding.
Speculor continued to cast spells, now trying his new Intellego Vim spell to see any regio boundaries. This proved unexpectedly informative since he was able to tell us that there is a regio boundary at the top of the well shaft so anyone entering the shaft crosses the boundary. He could only see this when he approached the well head whilst carrying a silver key or when any of us holding keys were near it, in much the same way that I had found it necessary to carry a key when entering the shaft below Wirbelnia. During this time, there was no key in the depression in the rock by the pool because we had not thought to replace it after the grog came back with the silver. Speculor was so excited by his discoveries that he determined to enter the well. We had brought the Pearl of Water Breathing with us, but if he had to keep this in his mouth, he would be severely hindered in casting spells. I meditated for quite a while, waded out into the pool to get soaked, and when Speculor lowered his Parma Magica, touched him and cast a Creo Auram spell to generate a gentle flow of fresh air around his head until sunset. With this, he could breath and speak to cast spells while underwater. He took the pearl, just in case, and a silver key then stepped into the top of the well.
Speculor found himself in the labyrinth of caverns and tunnels that Constantine had entered nine years ago. Intellego Terram showed him three tunnels leading away from the foot of the well shaft, each ending in a cavern. He created a little light and warmth for himself before exploring. Before setting off, he cast a spell so he could sense silver, hoping that if the missing ring had somehow fallen into the well, he would be able to find it. He went along the first passage and entered the cavern beyond. There was a lot of weed growing there, some ledges on the cavern walls, and a number of passages opening off the cavern at different levels. Surprisingly, since his earlier spell was still active. Speculor saw that each passage other than the one he had entered along had a regio boundary at its entrance. Speculor returned to the foot of the well and went along another tunnel. Both the second and the third ended in very similar-looking caverns.
Speculor next went into one of the tunnels that meant he had to cross a regio boundary. He went along the tunnel and into another cave with much waving weed and other tunnels opening into it. He tried Intellego Terram but the spell was blocked by the regio boundaries so he could learn nothing about the layout of the labyrinth this way. He tried to return to the cavern adjacent to the bottom of the well but, from the number of passages opening from the cavern he arrived in, he knew it was not the one he had expected. He decided to knot and weave some of the long water weed in a way that would uniquely mark the cavern, making a single large knot. Then he went along one of the passages, crossing a regio boundary, entered a cavern and tied two knots there. He did the same again, tying three knots in the next cavern; this cavern with three knots was one whence he could easily get back to the foot of the well, so was part of the first regio he reached. Eventually, he had marked six different large caverns, and knew that those marked with three, four and six knots were those linked directly to the foot of the well. He was certain that the labyrinth was unmappable, because the links between regiones were entirely random.
After wandering around quite a long time, trying many of the passages, Speculor found himself in a cavern that he had not previously visited. It looked very much like the others. As he moved through it, he became aware of silver in the vicinity and felt a current of water flowing from that direction. He used Intellego Aquam to try and learn something about the current. It came from a passage opening from the side of the cavern without a regio boundary at its mouth, and he was sure that the silver was down that tunnel. Suddenly a powerful rush of water slammed him against the wall of the passage so hard that he was badly hurt. He described this current as being like an enormous eel made of water. Battered and bleeding, Speculor backed away as fast as he could then, slowly and painfully, made his way back to the well and up.
The rest of us had been waiting patiently. I was horrified to see the state that poor Speculor was in when he reappeared. His shield grogs waded into the water to help him out of the pool but he refused to allow them to take him to Jimena. Resting on the ground, he told us all what he had found. In my opinion, the silver, whatever it was, would still be there another year so our best course of action was to obtain some really good books on Perdo and Aquam and improve our understanding of these Arts so as to be able to devise a suitable Formulaic spell with which to deal with the dangerous current or creature. Strangely, my sodales did not immediately see the good sense of this plan. Joach spoke about using a Rego Terram spell that he knew well to manipulate the silver from a distance, in hopes of acquiring it without going close to the danger but he was only speculating on a theoretical possibility, sensibly having no intention of actually going down into the water.
Surprisingly, Floristan announced that he would go into the labyrinth if I would create breathable air for him as I had for Speculor. I meditated while Floristan made his preparations, which included casting Ignem spells to create the light and warmth that he would need. He instructed his grog Farrukh to accompany him, assuming we would be willing to lend the magical pearl. Julius immediately spoke up to recommend that Farrukh leave his usual weapons behind and take a trident as the ideal weapon for underwater fighting. I suppose he assumed that one of us would be able to create one by magic for the occasion but it was unnecessary as Farrukh insisted he would prefer the sword he was used to. There was a debate about rope. Floristan thought it would be a good idea if he and his grog were roped together so they did not become separated when crossing regio boundaries but the Caribet magi are well aware from our own experiences that this will not work. There was also a warning that Floristan might find it necessary to move away from Farrukh further and faster than a rope link would allow. Eventually Floristan accepted that they would have to link hands to cross the boundaries safely together.
By this time I was ready to cast the Creo Auram spell. It worked though I was less confident this time that the effect would last as long as the first one but it was quite a lot later in the day so I was optimistic that it would be sufficient. I then cast a Creo Ignem spell to keep Farrukh comfortably warm in the water. Finally, Speculor gathered his strength to cast a spell on Floristan to aid him in detecting the silver, and Floristan went into the pool.
Floristan remembered all that Speculor had described and looked for the knotted weed as he moved from cavern to cavern through passages chosen at random. Eventually he came to one with no knots and soon he became aware of silver. He moved towards it, but with Farrukh going in front. Once he could feel the current moving towards him, Floristan stopped and cast Intellego Terram to locate the silver. Next he cast Rego Terram to draw it towards him. He had to concentrate on the spell, which became rather difficult when Farrukh started fighting something that was all but invisible. He made great use of his stout shield, and stabbed and slashed with his sword at the watery body that was pounding him hard into the wall. The confusion ahead of him made it quite hard for Floristan to manoeuvre the silver, which he could now see was in the form of a large thin ring, past the combatants. By the time he had the ring in his grasp, Farrukh was apparently showing signs of gaining on the eel-like assailant. Floristan ordered a withdrawal and cast a spell to move his shield grog backwards, out of the fight. They were able to back away but were followed and had to make their way between the caverns under constant threat of attack. It was difficult to move about with the ring, which was large enough for someone to pass through it, and to make matters worse, sometimes passing through a regio boundary brought them back to the same cavern that they had just left. Eventually, and unexpectedly, they found themselves adjacent to the foot of the shaft. Floristan made use of a wand he has to cast 'Lift the Dangling Puppet' and the pair rose up out of the well, out of the water, and hovered in the air.
I was so amazed and delighted to see the ring that I took little notice of their predicament, and only really noticed it when a couple of grogs started wading out to try and help them down. Joach, Iuris Perita and I went to grab the ring and laid it on the ground close to where Speculor was lying. It was just the right size for the top of the well and had the same sorts of symbols on it as the Wirbelnia ring! Speculor cast an Intellego Vim spell on the ring and reported that it was indeed an enchanted device which appeared to have an effect within it that was somewhat like an effect to control magical earth energy, so could be roughly translated in Hermetic terms as Rego Terram and Vim, but being almost certainly Mercurian, it was hard to be sure. I could hardly wait to try fitting it in the groove. We tried placing it over the well head, and revolved it one way then the other. Then someone suggested that we put the silver key back into the place in the rock beside the pool. With this key in place, the ring settled itself in its correct orientation with a flash of light just like those we see from the keys. Indeed this Mercurian magic is a marvel! Once the ring was in position, Speculor cast Intellego Vim again but found the well head area sufficiently alien that he could make nothing more of it. He speculated that perhaps it was a little like the effect that is involved in creation and use of a Hermes Portal. It was about this time that we remembered to thank Floristan for retrieving the ring and noticed that his shield grog was injured.
We sent Farrukh with another grog back to the covenant to go to Jimena for tending, and to tell her that Speculor was badly hurt and would be arriving later in the day. Despite his wounds, he refused to go yet and he use the levitation brooch so he could move around without having to make the effort of walking. There was still time before the end of this day and he wanted to explore as much as possible. We started this phase of our investigations by trying every combination of a silver key in the depression in the rock and a silver key in the hand and ascertained that
Then we set off, towing Speculor carefully, to the glade of Mars. One of the subjects discussed on the walk was whether it was worth making some more devices to allow someone to breath under water so we could send a group of grogs down to finish off this dangerous watery eel-like creature. There was also a suggestion that it probably contained Aquam vis, so it seems like a good idea to go after it to me. We put the iron key in place on the altar-like pillar and, carrying keys, went a little way along the path - I did not notice whether Joach followed at once but I suspect he did not. However, he soon caught up when we stopped to exclaim about our discovery of an iron chain set into the rock across the path. It was not surprising that no-one had seen it before because it was almost all buried in the ground, or may be it was the fact that we were carrying keys that allowed us to see it this time. We took care not to cross the chain, believing it to be a marker of a regio boundary the other side of which might leave one stranded many miles away. It seemed likely that the correct thing to do is to set up the fallen pillars at either end of the chain, but we lack the knowledge of just how this should be done, and it probably requires a Mercurian ritual.
We went to the Glade of Saturn next, which we have a better understanding of. We know of the place in the wall where one puts a key, and the doorway that appears and allows one to walk through a regio boundary and eventually reach the catacombs. Speculor confirmed that the door here was itself a device of some sort. The Glade of Venus is much more problematical, since we believe that the cliff has to be restored and the pillars repaired before we can think about replacing the pillars. Speculor said he could perceive a regio boundary where the vortex in the air spins. That is all very well and interesting but I cannot think of getting up to it without another sturdy staircase.
It was getting late now, and so we headed back to the covenant. Speculor was taken to Jimena. I gather he was not at all willing to go to the infirmary. He wanted the healing bed carried from there and into the regio so he could lie there and recover while observing the regio but it would be impossible to get the bed along the narrow path around the menhir and into the regio without taking it apart and using magic to shrink the components, as we had had to do with the wood for the staircase, which would very likely have destroyed its virtue. Then he insisted that somehow the bed must be got up the steps and into his sanctum so he could recuperate there. Jimena eventually won when he realised that he would not have to lie on the bed continuously in order to benefit from its effect, and that he would be able to read once he was well enough to study.
I have only just started work on the spell to make it easier to see the boundaries between regiones, but already I must interrupt my work. It would not do at all to let Cierella down, so tomorrow I will set off with Julius and Ignatius for the Valley of the Mists. We are confident about the quickest route now, and intend to take the enchanted tent so we can avoid staying in the villages on the way. Perhaps it will be possible for me to work a little on the spell as we travel, since I feel sure that it must be possible to find a link between the manipulation of the strands of magical energy that form the spell and the interaction of the physical senses with these magical boundaries, which it would probably be best to explore outdoors. As one would expect from Speculor, his notes on the spell go on at length about the formation of and understanding of images even though the spell is based on the Arts of Intellego and Vim.
My visit to the Valley of the Mists went very well, and took just a week. As usual, we went through the re-enactment of Cierella's rescue and had a party afterwards. This year I chose to tell a story built around the changes that came over the village at mid-Winter, although I added aspects of the Valley to my descriptions. It was just as well that our villagers did not see silver wolves in the forest but I felt that the inclusion of such familiar things in what, to her, is an alien environment might appeal to Cierella.
A letter arrived from Petrusca today in reply to one I sent just after the equinox. It starts off by reminding us that Mercurian magic has a great history and is a fascinating field of study, especially as it forms a large part of the basis of Bonisagus' great Theory of Hermetic Magic. I hardly need reminding of this, nor to be told that their magic was all worked through the casting of spells as long and complex rituals, but there may be some in the Order whose education is so deficient that they need to be told. Despite such enthusiasm for what they recognise as a very important and interesting subject, none of the magi at Petrusca have taken it up so there is nobody there who can give us any help in interpreting the symbols on the silver rings or those on the pillars. Much more encouragingly, they say that they may be able to put us in touch with magi elsewhere who have studied what little is known about Mercurian magic and may be able to locate books on the subject.
Two black-robed Hermetic visitors arrived on horseback today, accompanied by armed guards. They are Robusta of Flambeau, a large woman, and Laureus of Bonisagus, a short, thin, nervous magus. Both are of the Rhine Tribunal. I hoped very much that these were the experts in Mercurian magic that Petrusca mentioned. It sounded very promising at first. The pair have come here from Petrusca where they have been staying for a while to make use of the library. I was surprised that the great library of Durenmar could not supply their needs but they explained that they had come seeking books of specifically local knowledge. This was just one port of call on their tour around the Tribunals collecting information on Mithras and the early Mercurian magics.
They had heard at Petrusca about our regio and the traces of Mercurian magic that we have found there and were keen to visit it. Somehow, they had failed to appreciate how restricted our access to the regio is. Since we could not take them there, Speculor created for them as good an image as he could after so long of the Mithraic altar he had once visited from the Glade of Mars. Our visitors agreed with our interpretation of the carvings. They explained what the various details meant and what else they expected should be there and went on to teach us about the link between Mithras and fire and Mithraic cult practices, even going so far as to say they thought it would be interesting and useful to reconstruct such a temple and re-enact the rituals. Remembering how cross Constantine had become over such talk last time, I was rather glad that he was busy in his sanctum all day today.
Robusta and Laureus clearly share great enthusiasm for their subject but seem to disagree with each other over many things. Robusta frequently said "Alia decora turba..." to Laureus, but I am not sure what she was referring to. After telling us about the cult of Mithras, they questioned Joach about his unexpected visit to Normandy because they think that there may be the remains of a Mithraic temple close to where the path from the Fire Glade took Joach. Joach's description was rather confused and confusing because he is still annoyed over the whole experience, which he considers to have been a total waste of time. Joach had been somewhere not far from the town of Alencon but the visitors kept talking of Noviodunum, a Roman town about which they appeared to know nothing but the name. For some reason, they are convinced that it must have contained a Mithraic temple which they believe is connected to our regio.
Having spent so long talking of Mithras, it was time to question them on the Mercurian aspects of our regio. Speculor took the lead in talking to them about what we had found, particularly the symbols that we need to understand. Sadly, they had no help to offer us. I invited them to visit us again at the equinox, when we could take them into the regio, but, unexpectedly, they declined. Their intention was to find the Mithraic temple and open a way into our regio from the other end, hence their interest in identifying where Joach ended up. Speculor disappointed them a little, I think, when he pointed out that it was quite likely that Joach fell off the path part way, but they soon recovered and said that all they needed to do was to follow a straight line until they found Noviodunum.
Robusta and Laureus left today, I am glad to say. At first I found them interesting and informative but they talk so much and squabble with each other so often that it soon became wearing to spend time with them. I was initially worried that someone might inadvertently mention Priscus and Saskia in their hearing, but they were too busy with their own pet subjects and their quarrels to want to make any general conversation and it is possible that they did not know of our earlier connection to the Rhine Tribunal. I do not feel that we are any further forward just yet as a result of their visit but, I hope, they may remember to let us know if they do come across anything relevant on their travels and perhaps one day we may, through contact with them, be able to get in touch with other enthusiasts for Mercurian magic and history which might be more fruitful.
I was surprised to hear from Jimena today that Floristan's large shield grog, Farrukh, is still troubled by one of the wounds he received when defending his magus from the watery creature in the caverns under the Pool of Luna. Doubtless he would have healed more rapidly had Speculor not needed to make use of the enchanted bed. Speculor is still not fit enough to engage in anything at all strenuous. He has been studying the Creo summa all season but has been unable to make as much progress as he had hoped. His injuries have not prevented him giving Joach the benefit of his knowledge of and insight into the Art of Imaginem, but I suspect that Joach is probably not entirely unhappy that Speculor has not felt up to spending as much time with him on this as he would have liked.
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