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When I heard that the princeps of Objurgator had arrived here, I assumed he wished to consult with Iuris Perita on House or Tribunal business so I was surprised to be invited to attend a special session of Council this evening. I confess I was rather apprehensive about the meeting but it turned out to be interesting and rather amusing. Pratus Viridis pleased us from the start by giving a gift of two pawns of Terram vis simply for being allowed to address Council and ask us questions about the magi Laureus and Robusta. He assured us that there were no formal charges against the pair but said he was keeping an eye on them. Throughout the conversation, I could see that Iuris Perita was struggling between her duty to help the quaesitor and her natural tendency towards secrecy.
We started by talking of their brief stay here. Then Speculor did much of the talking as he recounted his meeting with these magi in Alencon. He was careful in what he said, so as not to give away too much about the labyrinth, but he did mention Robusta's and Laureus' interest in Mithraic artifacts. Then Floristan told of his experiences in Alencon with regard to the two magi. Pratus Viridis was aware that they were seeking Noviodunum. He pressed us to reveal anything we might have found but not passed on to Robusta and Laureus. Floristan told him about the library at Lonlay Abbey, saying he found something interesting there and that there is probably more.
Our visitor then went on to push us into talking about our new chapter house at the Chapel of St.Luke. Iuris Perita was almost wriggling with pain. Eventually he pressed us so that we had to admit that not only had we chosen the location because there was an regio there that we wished to study, but also that we knew it linked to our regio at Caribet. This was what he had really come for, I suspect, and I feel sure he knew this all along. I do not know how he found out so quickly, as it seems highly unlikely that Iuris Perita told him. He said he needed to get to Normandy quickly and could be make use of our path?
Council requested time to consider the request. We did not want to discuss all the little details of the way to open the path in front of Pratus Viridis. At first we were worried because it is necessary to have someone with a key at the far end in order to set up the pillars and open the path and although Floristan could get there quickly, he cannot see the regio boundary. Then someone remembered that Little Marc, the huntsman in charge there, has the Sight and would be able to assist Floristan. Council decided that it was best if Iuris Perita accompany Pratus Viridis along the path, as a courtesy and to avoid having to give him any key. Pratus Viridis has three well-equipped, proficient-looking shield grogs and they will go along too.
Iuris Perita took Pratus Viridis the news, and he wanted to set out at once. We had to explain that the path will only be accessible at the equinox. He seemed disappointed but I was surprised he did not already know this. Perhaps I should be glad that all the secrets of the Caribet regio are not common knowledge throughout the tribunal! Speculor invited the visitor to view the current state of the regio. It is very easy to see the way in these days, as the path around the menhir is paved. With three of them taking the route, it must have been quite squashed around the stone inside.
When they emerged, Speculor was explaining in outline how we believe the regio paths function. Pratus Viridis recognised the principle of the use of pillars to enchant a place and told us it was a 'Mystery' secret of certain specialised magi. He said it takes huge quantities of vis to enchant a location in this way but mentioned that we may find that, if some of the original enchantment is still intact, it may not cost too much to reactivate it. Of course, we have to find an initiate of this mystery who is willing to come and investigate the pillars and reinstate them for us, so the vis cost is probably not our greatest difficulty. Speculor thinks that it sounds like the sort of thing that Joach would be interested in. I wonder if he can use his House contacts to try and get in touch with someone who knows how the pillars are enchanted?
Iuris Perita wanted to leave Caribet as early as possible, since whatever happened at the other end of the path, she had to return before sunset otherwise the direct path home through the regio would be closed and she would lose a lot of time returning the long way. No sooner was it light enough to see than we started the ritual for the Aegis of the Hearth. It was rather chilly to be walking the boundaries of the glade so early, but there was a lot else to do today. As soon as it was complete, Floristan left using Seven League Stride to reach the Chapel of St.Luke. Iuris Perita and Speculor gave Pratus Viridis the tour inside the now-expanded regio, which he 'paid' for with two very useful pawns of Ignem vis. He examine some of the pillars and asked permission to use magic on them. It was hard to say no to someone so generous and powerful. He cast an Intellego spell and found the pillars were enchanted with a Rego Vim effect. The chain across the path in the glade of Mars and the silver ring in the glade of Venus are enchanted with Mercurian magic that he did not recognise. Then Iuris Perita guided Pratus Viridis along the path towards the temple of Mithras. Joach and I organised the gathering of bluebells and set about creating a fresh set of metal keys.
Iuris returned much later in the day and, typically, said as little about what had happened as she could get away with. I gather that Pratus Viridis had been very curious about the path and the temple and the labyrinth and had asked many questions, which I imagine Iuris would have been unable to avoid answering. Floristan arrived back soon afterward and was much more forthcoming. Pratus Viridis had departed without saying where he was going or why.
Iuris Perita had checked up on how the grogs were settling in at the new chapter house. Little Marc the huntsman is in charge and with him live Jacques of Petrusca, he who came to Caribet with the bailiffe, and two agricultural labourers, Alain and Henri. They have a cottage and are starting to prepare a patch of land for cultivation. They travel to a nearby village sometimes to obtain supplies by bartering, and occasionally go to the market in Alencon, where silver coinage is accepted. Marc has been quite successful hunting in the forest, and finds it much more enjoyable there than in the Foret de Lorge where the minor fae were always tricking and teasing him.
Marc told the visiting magi that he had noticed ghosts around the village just along the ridge, the one where the wood-folk live. Elise was very interested on hearing this. Marc could not tell her anything else about the ghosts, though he did talk about the apparently magical way in which the people of that village seemed to disappear into the woods. He also mentioned that he was unable to understand the language these people used amongst themselves and his bartering attempts were conducted by making signs.
I believe that Floristan was expecting that we would vote today and welcome him into full membership of this covenant. The matter was discussed, but the feeling was that we are now much better set up and more firmly established than when Constantine applied to join, so Floristan should wait a little longer. It was also pointed out that Floristan had brought no books for the library nor had he donated any vis or enchanted items to the covenant. He did not put up a strong enough case to sway us so we are delaying the vote. He can expect to be admitted within the year, provided he continues to serve the covenant and does nothing untoward. So, it was decided that his service this season was to be a vis hunt, since we had come up with no better idea. I thought afterwards that perhaps we should ask him to go and get permission to make a copy from a useful book in somewhere that most of us would be unwelcome, such as the library of the abbey that he visited before.
Speculor is now ready to learn The Bountiful Feast, so he will spend the season working on that. Constantine is to do service, making either a second healing bed which can be used more than once a day, or making two of the single-use versions. Joach will study Creo and Iuris too is to read something, but she was not saying what it was to be. Elise, who had come to attend the casting of the Aegis, will hunt vis for herself. I have had a number of ideas for things I want to enchant and there is still so much study in the library that I wish to continue with but this season, because I think it will be useful, I will work with Floristan's laboratory text to develop my own version of Seven League Stride.
Council is to send a letter with Aversus offering to trade a copy of one of the Tractatus written by Constantine or myself in exchange for a basic but high quality book on Aquam. I suspect we ought to set someone to do service by copying Tractatus. Another important future action is to ensure that someone starts to work alongside Jehan. Our excellent Vilicus is really getting too old for the job and should be handing on his skills and experience. Finding someone who can understand what he says will not be easy as these days he mumbles and coughs so much.
Word has come of what Elise has been up to.
Elise decided that her season's vis hunt would take her via the Chapel of St.Luke. Marc made her welcome and answered some of her questions about the wood-folk. He had learnt that their leader was named Meretrix, and had found out the names of three other men, Fortrix, Hesperix and Cornelix. The grogs had started attending the little church in a village not far from the edge of the woods, and on hearing where they were living, the priest there had assured them that the forest was haunted and fully deserved its reputation as 'The Valley of Hell'.
Marc took Elise along the ridge to the wood-folks' village. As usual there, it seemed as if the visitors were expected. It is probable that some of the people were hiding in the woods so saw the visitors as they approached and then crept past them, silent and invisible, to suddenly appear as if out of nowhere. Meretrix greeted Michaela, one of Elise's servants who had gone along with her. Elise was able to understand him because although his language was strange, it was close enough to Latin. I expect that the sort of Latin that some in her House get by with is little better than one might expect of a wild man of the woods! Meretrix was reluctant to talk to Elise. She said she had heard that his village was different, so she had come to find out if they had any interesting tales to tell. He accused her of coming to steal their secrets. Elise tried to allay his fears by saying that she was a friend and ally of spirits. Meretrix asked if she was any more trustworthy than the raiding northmen, then said he would believe she was a friend if she brought him the head of one of these, calling them 'infernal'. He said these raiders come into the valley when it suits them, riding horses and wearing armour and armed with spears. All the time they were talking, both Marc and Elise were aware of ghosts all about, some appearing a ferocious warriors.
Elise went to explore the valley, with Marc to guide her. While going along the winding valley bottom, they spotted a ghost in some scrub. It looked like one of the wood-folk - scruffy, hairy and clad with bark and leaves. Getting closer, Elise noticed a distinct odour of death around the ghost and saw that the plants close to it were withered and stunted. Then they could see that there was a skeleton in the bushes where the ghost hovered. Elise cast Whispers Through the Black Gate. The ghost asked her to free it from that place. Elise suggested Christian burial, but the ghost of the woodsman did not know anything of this. He spoke of the raids and said the northmen had killed him. Elise asked the spirit's permission to gather up the bones, which was granted. Once she had this arcane connection, she cast a Rego Mentem spell to compel the ghost to follow her. Not far away they found another two skeletons. Elise wanted their bones too so she had Marc and Michaela carry some of them while she obliged the ghosts to accompany her.
Elise and her entourage went to the village of the wood-folk. The aged crone emerged from her smoke-filled hut to welcome the cousins of her people. She promised to give them proper burial and thanks Elise but went on to say that the problem would not go away as long as the evil northmen ride into the forest to hunt and kill. She said these raiders hunted the wood-folk for sport, thinking them less than human. Then she gave orders that the bones Elise had brought be carried to the villages that they had come from. Apparently there are a number of villages of these wild people in the woodlands, hidden high on the ridges where horses cannot go.
Elise had returned to the cottage by the chapel for the night. I doubt that her presence was much welcomed by the grogs there, but they have nowhere else at present. Once the chapter house deserves its name, with a magus dwelling there, at least one more building will be necessary. Over a meal, Elise questioned the men about who these hunters could be. They said they had heard riders going past in the valley from time to time. Marc had seen plenty of trails left by horses and dogs. It sounded like a normal noble hunting party.
Next morning, hoping to learn more, Elise sent her servant Michaela back to the village. Henri went along to keep her company, show her the way and make sure she was safe, so he said, although Elise could see no need for any of that and it is probable Henri just wanted some female company. They returned having found out that the 'northmen' raiders came on horseback with dogs. They last came a few weeks ago. They wear bright colours. When Henri asked whether they had any particular symbols on their clothing or equipment, thinking this would help identify them if they were local nobility, the villager had not understood the question.
So, Elise decided she would have to remain in the area until the hunters came again. I gather that the men asked Elise whether she would be willing to spend some time helping them to clear and prepare the ground for planting. They must have heard how we did just that at Caribet in the first couple of years here. Elise declined and, out of her hearing, Henri was heard to say that he had known all along that she was a shirker. Marc accompanied Elise on another exploration of the valley. This tie they sought tracks. Elise cast an Intellego Corpus spell to find a hair shed by one of the hunters then from that she got an image of a man with short dark hair.
Elise spoke of her plans. Henri was very afraid that she would do something to bring the wrath of the local nobility on the people living there, so he himself and the others at the chapel would be attacked. He suggested that, since she had shown some power over ghosts, could she not use the ghosts in the village to scare the raiders? Elise thought that they would probably not be afraid of ghosts, but she lives with ghosts all the time so she would think like that.
Elise was persuaded to try it, and went again to the village, to talk to the old woman. She said she had no power to command ghosts herself, but she gave Elise permission to speak to the ghosts that hovered around the village. The ghosts of warriors were willing to help in fighting the raiders. Elise borrowed a collection of bones from different people so as to help her communicate with a number of the ghosts that she was going to lead. The wood-folk offered to show her a good place for an ambush.
Six days passed before the sounds of hunters were heard in the valley. By this time, Elise had found several more skeletons and ghosts in the area. She and the woodmen archers were in position when six mounted knights with six men at arms and about twenty dogs came by. Elise ordered the ghosts to attack then cast Lift the Dangling Puppet on the leader; the suspicion is that it was probably the count from Alencon.. Marc and the woods-folk fired arrows from their hiding places. One of the mounted knights wheeled round to try and grab at the leader but he was too high up. Elise carried him up to about fifty feet then let him fall. She turned her attention to another of the knights and cast Despair of the Quivering Manacles. The dogs were milling about, getting in the way of the riders. Then the combination of arrows and ghosts sent the men at arms racing away. Elise cast The Wound that Weeps on the man who was leading a horse towards the knight that she had let fall. Then she cast the same spell twice more on other knights before letting the magic get out of control and wounding herself. But she had done enough. The knights called the dogs, turned and rode away in good order having apparently decided it was more trouble than it was worth to hunt there that day.
Elise warned the villagers that the knights could well come back, and with reinforcements for revenge. Indeed, they came the next day with a number of infantry men. The wood-folk were ready for them, and has set a great many trips and snares in the woods on the slopes so when the attackers tried to climb up towards the village, they were caught and caused to fall while arrows rained down on them. This drove them away, but they will certainly be back
We talked over what we could do to defend our chapel and people there. Iuris Perita might say we should do nothing since it would constitute interfering with the nobility, but she cannot deny that we ought to defend our chapter house. Perhaps we should ask Constantine to go and throw fire at them? Or could Speculor conjure some truly frightening images? We know that the appalling treatment of the wood-folk by these Norman knights is generating infernal auras through the valley, so stopping this should be viewed as a good thing. If it is the Count of Alencon, who Floristan met when he was there, perhaps Floristan can visit again. If he cannot join a hunting party and sabotage it from within, he could at least attempt to show the count the error of his ways, pricking his conscience.
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