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Floristan gave instructions to William, Caspar, Stefan and Abel that they should return to Alençon and to the castle and wait for him there. Once they had started out, he rose up above the tree tops and used Seven League Stride to cross Normandy in the direction of Caribet. He did not know the area well enough to be accurate about his route so took about three hours to finally locate the tower in the forest.
Floristan returned alone early this evening and asked as many of us as could make ourselves available to gather in the council chamber. I was angry to discover that he had come back without our grogs. He is not a member of this covenant and had been entrusted with covenant property, including the primary instructor for our fighting force. This does not encourage me to look favourably upon his request to join the covenant. I could see that Speculor felt similarly and we exchanged glances which expressed our feelings about Floristan's incompetence and unreliability.
I felt a little less ill-disposed towards him when he explained that he had sent the grogs back to the city so he could return to us by the fastest means available to him to bring us his news. He told us of his discovery of a regio that he believes contains the Mithraic temple that we seek, but added that he had not entered it. Again, Speculor and I exchanged looks over this demonstration of Floristan's limited competence. Either of us could have crossed the regio boundary with ease, I am sure, but neither of us was keen to drop our studies for two weeks or more. I wondered whether our grogs could be trusted to manage in the city without a magus, and then considered that they may well be safer with no-one than with Floristan.
In the end, it was decided that Speculor should be the one to make the sacrifice, despite the fact that he was but recently embarked on the study that would lead to him developing a spell to cast The Bountiful Feast for us. I am not at all sure that this was a sensible decision and wish that Iuris Perita or Constantine had volunteered, but Speculor is so very interested in regiones. He is to leave tomorrow with Huon and Milon, travelling by road in a covered wagon with Yves the driver. This will be much slower than using the boats but will keep Speculor concealed as far as possible. Speculor was annoyed that he would not have the benefit of superior food from the enchanted cooking pot whilst travelling and asked Floristan to use his Seven League Stride to bring it and the magic Traveller's Tent to him on the road as soon as he could. Floristan said something about the pot being too heavy.
Once this had all been agreed, Floristan said that, as there was still a couple of hours before sunset, he would return to Alençon at once, and stood a good chance of getting there before the grogs he left in the forest. He had more trouble with the return journey, having failed to note any useful landmarks from high above well enough. A couple of times, he had to return to ground level out of sight and walk into a settlement to enquire of the local priest, in Latin, for directions to Alençon. Bedraggled and tired, he got to the castle very late in the day, excusing himself with invented stories of his hunting trip.
While waiting for Speculor to arrive, it was necessary to try and prevent Robusta and Laureus from finding the temple. Abel started a rumour that Noviodunum was some way off to the north west, in a forested area, and was several day's walk from the city. A couple of days after Abel started this, Floristan met Robusta and Laureus in the marketplace and it must have been obvious to them why he was in the vicinity so there was no point in pretending otherwise. He enquired after their progress. They appeared enthusiastic about talking of their findings. They had come across many Roman coins, an amulet and a small piece of parchment which they believed to be relevant.
The following day, Floristan made sure he was seen by people in the castle and the city as he set off on a supposed hunting expedition towards the north west, hoping to reinforce the rumour with the other magi. On other days he made use of Mentem spells to give some individuals the notion that he went one way when he actually went another.
To anyone who lingered long enough in Alençon, it soon became apparent that the ox roasts were held at approximately two weekly intervals and had a lot more to do with swelling custom at the alehouse than anything else. Eventually, Speculor reached the city. He was obliged to pass the first night in the wagon in the stable.
Floristan lost no time to guiding Speculor to the valley where the abandoned chapel was, and hoped that they could get away before the other magi became aware of Speculor's arrival. However, it was hard to be quick or secret when it was necessary for Speculor to travel much of the way in the wagon. Yves drove to the edge of the forest and was instructed to wait there. They had no difficulty in finding the valley, the hill and the building.
Speculor used his spell to see the regio boundary and saw that directly beyond it was a deep vertical shaft. Rope was required and no-one had brought any so Speculor went beyond the area around the chapel and used Creo Herbam to create some rope which they secured at the top of the shaft. Floristan lowered the grogs, Speculor and himself down the shaft using Lift the Dangling Puppet. Huon was first to descend. It was pitch dark at the bottom. Rather than make light, Speculor's first action was to examine the nature and strength of the aura, and he found a Magical aura of third level. Floristan made two lights and handed the first torch to one of the grogs. They could see tunnels leading to left and to right. Speculor headed left but they had not gone far before they heard a distant rumbling.
The noise got rapidly louder and it soon sounded very much like pounding hooves. Speculor put his personal grogs between himself and the growing noise. A moment later, the sound deafeningly loud, Speculor felt a magical effect pass him and saw the shape of a huge black bull charging through the men, Huon collapsed, Floristan fell to the ground gibbering, and the other grogs panicked and ran for the rope. Speculor picked up the torch that Huon had dropped and examined his grog. Huon looked as if he had been trampled by the bull - he had broken ribs and was heavily wounded. Not surprisingly, he was also clearly terrified. Speculor cast a Creo Corpus spell to prevent the wounds from worsening and helped Huon up and towards the rope. Then he told him to climb up and rest in the forest close by.
When Huon had gone up out of sight, Speculor went back towards where he had last seen Floristan and met him not far along the tunnel. Floristan had overcome his fear sufficiently to get himself moving and was determined to climb up and out. The two magi tussled in the narrow space then Floristan pushed past to reach the rope. He was too scared to think to use magic and simply attempted to climb like a grog but he lacked the strength. He then remembered his ring and fiddled with it. Speculor attempted to use a Mentem spell to calm Floristan but failed and could not stop Floristan from rising up the shaft. A moment later, Speculor heard hooves pounding in the distance and attempted to climb the rope, but he too is not strong and he could not get far.
When the noise had died away, Speculor dropped back down to the foot of the shaft and walked a little way along the tunnel, following a sort of whimpering sound which turned out to be coming from Milon. The grog suffers from claustrophobia and had collapsed in a trembling heap. Speculor used an Intellego Terram spell, touching the wall of the tunnel, and learnt that it was a labyrinth laid out in a simple spider's web pattern. Leaving Milon, he went back to the foot of the shaft and shouted up to Floristan. There was no response so he cast Rego Corpus on himself to rise up and out. He left the regio and soon found Floristan and Huon resting in the forest close by. When he located Floristan, Speculor asked him to explain how it was that he was gibbering and running. Floristan was unable or unwilling to reply.
Eventually Floristan was persuaded to re-enter the labyrinth. Speculor floated himself down and Floristan followed. They found Milon where Speculor left him, still terrified. Floristan created another torch, so they once again had two, then they used a spell to make Milon levitate then steered him to the foot of the shaft, hoping it was a safer place to be than in the tunnel. As they prepared to cast Rego Mentem to calm the grog, they heard the sound of hooves again. The magi floated part way up the shaft, pulling Milon with them, and tried to cast the Mentem spell there. This cannot have been very easy.
They floated back down when the noise receded and set out for what Speculor believed was the most direct route to the centre of the maze. The bull charged into them when they were too far in to flee to the shaft. Milon was in front and fell badly hurt, despite his stout armour. Speculor resisted the magically-induced fear but Floristan was affected and ran off. Milon staggered to his feet and tried to move away as fast as he could drag himself. Speculor caught up with him easily and cast Creo Corpus to bind the wounds temporarily. Then he cast Rego Corpus on Milon and on himself so he could steer the grog to the foot of the shaft and take the grog up and out of the regio where he cancelled the spell on himself to regain the ground.
Meanwhile, Floristan was running round inside the labyrinth, too scared to think. He found himself in a dead end passage and blundered into Caspar who was cowering there. Floristan had arrived bearing a torch but even with the light, Caspar was still too frightened. After they had quivered together there for a while, Caspar recovered enough to notice that they appeared to be safe from the bull where they were, and suggested that they might be able to make a run for the shaft just after the next time the bull passed close by them. Floristan felt that it was much better just to stay put, but Caspar pointed out that they would eventually starve if they did that. A bit later on, Floristan recovered sufficiently to use Seven League Stride to take himself back to the foot of the shaft, having remembered about the spell and that he had taken something from there to act as an arcane connection. Thus he left Caspar alone and in the dark.
When Floristan arrived at the foot of the shaft, he was right next to Speculor. Speculor attempted to grab Floristan's hand to stop him using his ring but failed so Floristan rose up the shaft to escape and Speculor went up to catch him. Once out of the regio again, Floristan told Speculor that, when the pounding deafening hoof beats reached them, he fell and had a vision of himself halting a great black bull in its tracks by holding up a gold amulet bearing a symbol of Mithras. They discussed what this might mean for a while, then turned to talking about the structure of the labyrinth. They thought that one was most likely to encounter the fearsome bull on the radial branches but that one was probably safe from it at the far ends of these branches.
Some while later, the two magi went back into the regio. Speculor cast Intellego Terram with Corpus to try and see the structure of the maze and the locations of the missing grogs within it but he could not cast a powerful enough spell. Floristan cast a Creo Mentem spell to help himself to recall the route he had followed when he ran into Caspar. They moved towards where Floristan thought Caspar was by using the ends of the radial arms as refuges when the bull passed. They found Stefan lying heavily wounded, bound his wounds with a spell, then floated him so they could move him. Moving so as to dodge the bull, they reached Caspar, who was still too scared to go with them. Floristan used Perdo Mentem on Caspar to quell his fear and then Caspar was able to assist with manoeuvring the injured Stefan to the foot of the shaft, again using the ends of the radial arms as refuges when the hoof beats came near. Once at the shaft, Speculor took Stefan up and out to rest.
Floristan and Caspar went to check the refuges in the other direction. They sheltered in the first as the bull thundered by then moved on to the next. Before they reached it, they found William lying on the tunnel floor, badly hurt. They floated him up, steered him to the next safe place and used a spell on his wounds, then left him there alone in the dark. Moving on, they found Abel in the same condition and treated him similarly. Then they went back for William and took both him and Abel to the foot of the shaft and up and out. Caspar was sent off into the forest to find Huon and once all were gathered, they set off back to the city, using the rope from the shaft to link all the floating injured grogs together.
When they reached the place where they had left Yves and the wagon, neither man nor transport was to be seen. Speculor could see tracks where it had been and used Intellego Terram to follow them. The driver was fishing not far away. Speculor cast a spell that made Yves suddenly find that he was plunged into darkness. He yelled and thrashed about, then shouted that he was only trying to get some food so there would be a good hot meal for them all. Speculor was quite ferocious with the man.
As they headed back to the city, they tried to think up a good excuse for the injuries suffered by so many of the men and decided upon an encounter, while hunting, with a large group of mounted bandits. Speculor was left with the tent and Caspar in the forest while Floristan went on into the city with the injured grogs.
Floristan's story over dinner the night before caused some of the knights to set out next day to try and catch up with the bandits who had so badly injured his soldiers. Floristan was deliberately vague and misleading about just where he had met them. He himself went off to the Chapel of St. Luke on the trail of the gold amulet in his vision or, as he said, to pray for the recovery of his men. He took with him a piece of bone that he considered trying to pass off as a holy relic, and an amount of silver. At the chapel, he made a donation to request that a Mass be said for his men and then, offering more coin, asked that he might be allowed to pray before the chapel's relics. Fr. Jerome said that the best relics were all held at the mother church but agreed to show off their small collection which were stored in a dusty chest. Inside was a gold signet ring, the hem of the robe of St. Gatien of Tours, and a gold amulet with the hair of St. Bertha inside it. Fr. Jerome was alarmed to find that one of the treasures was missing - he described it as a gold amulet showing St. Luke embracing a bull.
Fr. Jerome told Floristan that there had been other people recently asking to see the relics, untrustworthy types whom he allowed to view the relics and treasures from a distance only. He described two figures much like Robusta and Laureus but said both were male. Then, at Floristan's request, the priest wrote out for him a note of introduction to the abbot. From the chapel, Floristan went out of the city to find Speculor and talk over the situation. He collected Caspar, returned to the castle, and then went, with Caspar, to the abbey.
Floristan's first action on reaching the abbey was again to make a donation for prayers to be said for him men. Then he showed the letter from Fr. Jerome and was permitted to see the holy relics. These were impressive and quite unrelated to Mithras. Disappointed, Floristan mentioned his pilgrimage and his vision of St. Luke, expressing interest in anything associated in any way with that saint. He was directed to the librarian. He told the librarian of both his earlier vision and the recent one he had of himself holding up a holy amulet to fend off a raging bull and mentioned that he felt it significant that the more detailed vision occurred close to the abbey. The librarian went through some scrolls and concluded that they had a record of an amulet that might be the one Floristan saw.
It was not hard for Floristan to get permission to spend some time reading in the library. Whilst one only has to look at Speculor to perceive his magical power, there is something to be said for Floristan's mundane appearance. The abbey has some very old records from before the founding of the abbey, including some information about that part of the country when it was under Roman rule. He found names of ancient tribes and forts, details of roads, and even mention of the city of Noviodunum. By piecing things together, Floristan determined that Noviodunum probably lies in the vicinity of Mayenne, about thirty miles away from Alençon, where nine Roman roads converge. He made two careful copies of the relevant information.
Floristan arranged to meet with Laureus and Robusta in the forest where Speculor was camping. The argumentative pair said that their quest was proceeding well, and that they had gathered much useful information and many small items of relevance. Floristan enquired whether they had been able to access the valuable information held in the library at Lonlay. They did not follow up this hint but enthused about an enchanted amulet, one imbued with a Hermetic effect of some sort, which they had found in the hands of mundanes and so were proud to be able to liberate. It was of bronze and bore the form of a phoenix. Speculor examined it with Intellego Vim.
Speculor went on to ask Robusta and Laureus whether they had come across any gold Mithraic medals. They had several which they spread out to show, of different sizes but generally similar in design. Floristan was easily able to pick out the one matching that in his vision and was able to draw Speculor's attention to it without making the interest in it obvious to the other magi. Speculor invited Floristan to talk with Robusta and Laureus on the subject of the location of Noviodunum, which they did enthusiastically. Meanwhile he cast Intellego Vim spells on several of the medals and contrived to keep the important one in his hand throughout the conversation. They talked about the sharing of information in the tradition of Bonisagus. They considered exchanging the phoenix amulet for information, then moved on to the idea of Speculor beginning a collection of Mithraic medals. Floristan offered to make use of his contact to carry out research in the library of Lonlay on behalf of Robusta and Laureus.
In the end, agreement was reached that Robusta and Laureus would give Floristan and Speculor the enchanted phoenix amulet, the gold amulet they really needed, an ivory amulet and several Mithraic coins in exchange for the scroll containing the location of Noviodunum plus an agreement that they should share in a similar way in the future. If I did not know that it was against the Code, I would suspect that Floristan had used some of his Mentem spells to obtain such terms!
Of course, Floristan had retained a copy of the information on the scroll but there was nothing he could do with it while most of the grogs were so badly injured unless he returned to Caribet for more. I do not think we would have let any others go with him, had he asked!
Speculor, Floristan, Yves the driver and Caspar returned to the chapel. They took the wagon as close as they could, then kept the driver with them this time. All of them went into the regio and down the shaft. This time, when they heard the thunder of approaching hooves, Floristan boldly held up the golden amulet and the great bull stopped, sniffed the amulet and faded from sight. Confident that it had really gone, they went directly to the centre of the maze. Just before they got there, Speculor found a regio boundary and led the others through into a magical regio with an aura of the seventh magnitude. They found themselves in a square stone chamber having depictions of the life of Mithras carved into the walls. A door led into another room which had a Mithraic frieze and a stone altar which looked just like the one Speculor had found from inside the Caribet regio years ago. There was a door carved into one of the walls and two sockets in the floor. They looked about the right size for two of the sort of pillars we had found in other places linked to the Caribet regio. There was no sign of any broken stone or damage here.
Speculor used Intellego Terram and discovered a door concealed in the frieze. The door was very stiff. Caspar put all his strength into heaving it open and it swung back to reveal a small side chamber containing two pillars. Firstly, the magi took the time to note the patterns on the pillars. The moment they were done, Floristan wanted to try fitting the pillars into the sockets. Speculor agreed and they carried them carefully through to the room with the altar. The first orientation was incorrect and the pillars wobbled. They turned them until there was a snug fit. Now Speculor could see a regio boundary between the pillars. He stepped through and found himself in a room that looked just the same but had a stronger magical aura. There was a place carved out there that was just the right size and shape to accept one of the iron keys of fire. They were able to see a path which they assumed went all the way to Caribet. They stepped onto it and went along, holding an iron key, until they reached the glade of fire, and were able to turn round and return to the temple of Mithras. They removed the key from the wall and returned the pillars to the concealed closet where they had found them.
Floristan returned to Caribet that same day by Seven League Stride. I am very glad that we have found the temple before Robusta and Laureus but fear that we have done nothing to stop them coming across it eventually other than acquire their amulet. It is very much to be hoped that this is a unique item but I expect that all members of the cult had one when the Romans made use of the labyrinth.
There is certainly a lot to be said for this rapid method of crossing the countryside. I will have to see if Floristan will be prepared to teach me, or to record the details of the spell so that we can all learn it. It would be so useful to be able to get around without wasting so much time walking. It must be a Rego Corpus effect and I feel sure I can do it if I can be certain to end up standing firmly on the ground. Speculor will probably want to learn it too. He is now travelling back with the grogs in the wagon. It will take them weeks to get here. Perhaps they will find some vis on the way to compensate for the lost time for I fear Speculor will now be unable to do any useful study this season. Since I was fortunate enough to escape this expedition, I have got on well with the Summa on Herbam. I feel that I now have quite a good grasp of what I had thought a rather weak Art although there is something about it that I find hard to work with, however well I understand the theory.
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