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Covenant of La Roche Caribet

Part 9: Rumours of hedge magic

For the days following Iuris Perita's return from Wirbelnia, I continued with my efforts to arrange my laboratory to my liking. Then there were a few days of tolerably warm sunshine so I decided to make a short excursion into the surrounding forest, seeking any minerals of potential use as building materials or as items for trade. I used Intellego Terram wherever I found an outcrop but much of the forest is clad in soil and vegetation. I was unsuccessful in my search and was glad to return to the laboratory.

A few days later Jimena came to me with a report. She had called on Lady Marta to obtain some honey and had brought back news of some local political squabbling in the area around the village of Plaintel which might cause some difficulties in this vicinity. I was concerned that more time might be lost to my important activities but was optimistic that Lady Marta or some other would sort it all out without disturbing me. I approved of Jimena's suggestion that, since a Bishop was involved, she mention the matter to Brother Joseph. The following day, Jimena herself left the covenant in the company of the friar.

In Lanvia, one of the villages towards the north of here, Jimena was shown a girl they said was afflicted by witchcraft but saw only a young person suffering from some form of food poisoning, which she treated. I gather the girl's parents did not hold with Jimena's view that the fresh air and light should be allowed to flood through their poor hut and did not understand her instructions to purify all the vessels used for food preparation. Perhaps this is why the girl did not respond well to the treatment. During her visit, Jimena heard from the peasants that a woman in the village of St. Brandan was blighting their crops, causing their oxen to sicken, talking to cats, and letting her unruly daughters run wild, leading godfearing children into bad ways.

Jimena told me of her first visit to the Widow Eclair of St. Brandan. Of course, she could tell me nothing useful or significant about any magical skill the woman might pretend to though she did report that Brother Joseph was convinced the woman was a pious and faithful disciple of the Dominion, in no way tainted with evil. However much I wished to know more of this supposed witch, I had to agree with the other Magi that Pierre Martin, our best woodworker, could not be spared at this time to play interpreter. I heard later that Lady Marta volunteered her steward Nicholas for the task of communicating in Breton.

The information Jimena came back with was not much use to me. She had learnt something from the widow of some local herbs of virtue for healing that were strange to her. She had an idea, apparently from Brother Joseph, that some of our single men might make suitable husbands for the widow's headstrong daughters and he is proposing to arrange to take a group over to St.Brandan for the next feast day. Myself, I think the grogs are generally more use if not encumbered with family, but if it keeps them happy and keeps them here where I can make use of them, it might not be entirely bad, and maybe the girls have their uses.

A few days later a message arrived here from Lady Marta that a Canon Filbert had arrived to investigate the charges of witchcraft. I was confident the man would not turn his inquisitive eyes this way but it was well to be warned. I heard later that there was some sort of territorial dispute between the hermitage and the Bishop's zealous man about who had jurisdiction in this area where accusations of witchery were concerned. At the same time, there was a dispute along similar lines between the civil authorities. de Robien had papers he said came from the Duke of Brittany which accused Lady Marta of mismanagement, shown by her having allowed witchcraft. I learnt something of the confrontation between the two groups of men at arms, and between Canon Filbert, for the Bishop, and Brother Petrus, for the Hermitage. The details of the debate between the two clerics are known only to them but the two departed together at speed in the direction of St. Brieuc, the Canon clearly in high dudgeon. And a few days later, Lady Marta had a visit from Brother Petrus, returning home with word that the question of jurisdiction had been resolved and he had some records to assist him with the investigation of witchcraft.

I have no desire to break off from my work here, and even less to mingle with the servants of the Dominion, but I am very curious to know whether this Widow Eclair has any skill at all. If she is a hedge magician, I feel it my duty to discover it.

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