For a second story happening while some of the magi visit Rhine covenants to find sponsors for the next Tribunal.
1206 - Summer
In the middle of August of 1206 the redcap Orell Wyder reaches Tugurium with a letter, the recipient marked as “The Magi of Tugurium”. The letter eventually finds its way to the hands of Alba.
To the magi of Tugurium
This who writes to you is Phillipus Niger of Flambeau, protector of Durenmar. I’ve been hearing about you bunch willing to enter Rhine, and while I can’t say I’m impressed, there are those who think you might do good for our cause.
Phillipus enters a long diatribe about how the Ash Gild is the only one working properly for the good of the Order, and how he expects the young covenant of Tugurium to recognize their efforts and join them. He talks about Norse wizards, wild and menacing, and takes painful steps to explain just how dangerous they can be and how oblivious to the threat the Order is. Thankfully, while dangerous, they are weak, and cannot sustain themselves against an Order united (united, it’s implied, around the banner of the Ash Gild).
After a few pages he enters what seems to be the actual reason for the missive.
Your location close to the Alps puts you in a very particular condition, suitable to provide help to the Ash Gild. Not far from where you stand, on the shores of lake Neuchatel, you should find an old maga who goes by the name of Jacinta of Flambeau. I have come to know by trustworthy sources that a few seasons ago she finished research on a spell that can help advance
mythe Gild's goals. Jacinta owns me for favor, and the spell is just the right thing to pay for it. However, until now she has dodged my letters requesting for a copy, complaining about some kind of trouble with flowers which I couldn't care less about.
Go to her Tower of Ashes and mediate for a copy of her Stormbreaker (don’t be fooled by whatever she says, she knows exactly what I’m talking about). I think she might make you run some errand in exchange for it, but she won’t be as intransigent to young magi as she is being with me.
Do that and I assure you the support of one of us members of the Ash Gild on your petition to join.
Don’t bother replying. Just bring me the spell on the next Tribunal.
Being raised on Rhine Alba has of course heard of Phillipus Niger, an incredible master of Perdo and hunter of hedge wizards. And even Alba has heard of Jacinta of Flambeau, famous archmaga, the oldest and most powerful specialist in Perdo from house Flambeau. Phillipus seems pretty sure that Jacinta will agree to his request, so all that remains is to go there and ask. What could go wrong?
OOC: @Gaxxian, Phillipus request does not bear a strict deadline, which leaves Alba/Tugurium ample time to decide on when and how to tackle the issue (as long as it is finished by April of 1207, in time to attend Tribunal in 1st of May).
We might even see the story stretching itself over more than one season if desired, with other magi chiming in for momentary help, but the details were tought having Alba in mind as the main maga. Add companions and grogs as necessary.
Alba received the letter expecting it to be a response from her pater, since she had contacted him in case he could help with Tugurium's sponsorship. She opened it, hoping to confirm her assumption, to find after reading the first line that this was new and totally unexpected.
She finished reading it and looked at Orell without any change in her expression, although internally she felt disturbed in the face of a responsibility that had fallen on her shoulders by total surprise.
"Thank you very much." - she said in her typical indifferent tone that conveyed boredom - "They don't ask me for an answer, so it's fine... but please, give me a moment... I had something to send to someone else..." - without giving the redcap time to respond, Alba entered her laboratory to look for the letter she had written for Audeline. Every year she continued to write her one, even though she had never responded yet.
"Here you go, it's for a young apprentice named Audeline, from Fengheld." - she said to Orell as soon as she appeared through the door again, handing him the letter.
Then she realized she was being rude to him... probably.
"Oh, uhm... Before leaving, do you want to rest a little? I can ask that they prepare a bath and food for you... the sausages are especially delicious." - she proposed to him, while her mind was already working on the content of the letter... as soon as she could, she would go see Celeste to ask her. She knew more about the gilds after all.
OOC: even without a strict deadline, Alba will prefer to start moving now. I will go to ask Celeste as a start when i finish with Orell and she will decide later how to proceed
"Don't worry about me," replies Orell "your steward has already provided lodging and food. But well, I suppose I will ask him for some sausages then."
"If I recall correctly you are lady Alba, right? I have another letter for you, but you moved so fast ealier that I couldn't stop you..." He produces on letter from a stack of parchment. "Here it is".
Alba easily recognizes the handwritting of Bonsimon. The magus reports his happiness for Alba (if she wants Tugurium to join Rhine he assumes she is happy to stay there), and mentions that instead of founding a new covenant Tugurium could come under Fengheld as a chapter house. But if that's not suitable, he would be glad in sponsoring the covenant.
Bonsimon then procceeds to discuss a few matters in the field of Herbam, and Alba notices that the letter bears a much more consultive tone, as if he is discussing with a promissing young master of the field instead of instructing a neophite.
He finishes by briefly mentioning the affairs in Fengheld. Audeline is still under her apprenticeship (OOC: if you want to put down some details about her on Alba's thread (or allow me free reins) I can spin her more into life). Adelman entered twilight two seasons ago, and since he is young and not much warped, it is expected he will return by the end of the year (OOC: the same for him).
After Alba finishes reading her letter, Orell adds:
"I will rest here for a couple of days before returning to Basel, so if you happen to have anything else to send you can take your time writting your reply. Tomorrow wont' be too late".
"Oh! Great then..." - she started to answer when he told her that Julius already offered him lodging and food, but then he offered her another letter, and she had to read it.
When she finished, she found that it was both surprising and heartwarming. And a little sad to know the bad news about Adelman... he wasn't good to her, but she still didn't hate him. After all, he had a very hard apprenticeship if those rumors about his pater abuses were true. With some luck, the ideas of Regulus could avoid those things happening in the future.
She stored the letter into her laboratory, she would want to answer carefully to him later... and since Orell said that she could give her answer the next day, she would write her letter later.
She thanked to Orell, and then she went to see Celeste into her lab with the Phillipus letter into her hand.
"Hey... hi C." - she greeted when Celeste opened the door - "I would like to discuss this with you... if you have a moment." - she added, showing her the letter.
OOC: You (or anybody) are free to further develop Audeline and Adelman. I will just say than Audeline rn it should be around 13-14 years old (5 years at apprenticeship), and that Adelman is the one that Alba was refering when she said to Regulus that she knew about one apprentice that was "assaulted at night" (as in sexually abused, but Alba didn't understand the rumors) by his master.
Celeste was in her Lab, reading the Animal root, when a knock on her door caused her to stir, Lencor was first on his feet, but seemed to relax easily after taking a sniff, so she smiled, and got up, knowing it was someone that Lencor trusted.
"Hi Alba, what a lovely surprise. Come in, I'll make us some tea, and I'll read over the letter."
She makes them some herbal tea, that from their travels together she knew was Alba's favorite.
"Well, first of all, it seems we've attracted the attention of some of the powerful of the Rhine Tribunal. I do have to say that I'm not fond of the Ash Gild, but I fully understand that we need their support to be recognized by the Rhine, so it's a good offer."
"I must say that he sounds like a pompous man, but please, do not repeat that to others."
"It seems very straightforward, but i am not sure it will be an easy task. I do not know this Jacinta, but I know that I wouldn't be favorable to hand over a spell of my own development to someone who demands it as payment. So, I think your best bet is to talk to her, explain to her our situation, and see what tasks she sets out for you. if they seem like something you can do, go for it, but if you feel like they are too much, come back, and we'll find the ways to get them done, after all, we're all in this together."
"Thanks C." - Alba thanked Celeste when she let her enter and offered a tea. She took seat while Celeste prepared everything, petting Lencor in silence.
Soon, the sweet smell of the tea filled the room, rivaling with the flowery smell of Alba's flowers, and Celeste came back with a mug for Alba and another for herself.
"Thanks C." - said Alba again, grateful but with her mind into the letter contents. She sipped in silence while Celeste read the letter and gave her opinion.
"Yeah... of all the gilds the Ash it's the one that I find the most stupid and disturbing. And I also know that the task could turn hard very fast..." - the maga explained calmly with the tea in her hands - "But I also see this as an opportunity... not just for Tugurium, but also for me. I mean, in the letter Phillipus doesn't mention nobody in specific to brign him the spell, so technically any of us could take this task... But, to be honest, I see myself very ill fitted to visit other covenants to ask for support... I don't want to be a burden, so this is an opportunity to be helpful in another way..."
She took another sip to the tea while she arranged her thoughts.
"What I mean is... I'm very grateful to know that I can count with help... but I would like to do it alone." - she said with her face slightly red - "I was just wanting to know your opinion as a gild member... and also to be sure that helping the Ash gild doesn't mean that I'm turning myself into a member or some unknown, to me, law or convention." - she added - "It's.. It's that ok? Or I'm being weird?"
Celeste genuinely smiles at Alba "My dear, you are a big help. Not everyone can do everything that needs to be done, we're all scrambling to get our footing, and help this place grow. We each have our strengths and weaknesses, and we must work together to make this work."
"I am unfamiliar with any law or convention that makes you a member of the Gild without your consent."
"And no, you're not weird. At least, not more than most Magi I know. We all have our quirks. After all, how many sane people go about purposefully dealing with ghosts?"
And it's true, she sometimes wondered, to herself, is she sane in pursuing ghosts as her focus. And in the moment of that fleeting thought, her mother's ghost started rattling the tea kettle, making Celeste sigh.
Alba listened silently to Celeste, letting her finish before responding.
"Thanks... again, C." - she said with a thin voice - "For everything..." - she added before finishing her tea - "On another topic, I've also received a letter from Bonsimon..." - then she proceeded to explain a little the content of the letter.
After a little chitchat, she got up.
"I will go to prepare for the travel. Tomorrow I will leave and I want to be ready and leave an answer for Bonsimon." - she explained - "See you C, take care of yourself."
When we was about to exit from the door, she took a look to Celeste again.
"You are just searching for justice for your mother, so she can rest, and you are using the tools at your disposal to help her, whether it's your magic or having to deal with ghosts. I cannot find anything weird or insane in a daughter that just loves her mother, on the contrary."
Celeste musters up a smile at Alba's parting comment. "if only she knew how much further I have delved, and dwelled upon this." To which, she could hear her mother giggling.
Alba returned into her lab and went directly to write an answer to Bonsimon.
She thank him for writing her and let him know that, indeed, she was feeling happy to be in Tugurium. She also explained that while she felt that being under the convenant of Fengheld as a chapter house would be an honor (and she meant it), we wanted to become a fully independent covenant. Again, she thanked him for sponsoring them, and she let him know that, sponsoring aside, she was eager to see him again in the next Tribunal.
Also, in line with her usual behavior, she expressed that she doubted that someone like her could be of much help to a magus as important as him, yet she proceeded to give him some very interesting insight about the Herbam matters, well explained and even with some simple yet useful drawings to help.
She then discussed the affairs in Fengheld, expressing her joy in knowing a little more about Audeline and her sadness about Adelman's fate, wishing for him the best. She also explained him a little about her own affairs, like the plans of her laboratory, her familiar Stella and, without entering into too many details, the other magis of Tugurium, whom she already considered friends.
With the answer written, she went then to prepare everything for the travel, not forgetting to pack some of the delicious food of the covenant. With everything finished, she went to dinner and ask Julius if he knew about somebody that could tell her about where the Tower of Ashes was. She also brough the answer with her, just in case she was able to see Orell and give him already the letter.
OOC: i loved that last sentence from Celeste xD
While having no knowledge of the Tower of Ashes, based on the information provided by Pillipus in his letter it's easy for Julius to provide Alba with directions to Lake Neuchatel. He does suggest, however, that it would be wise to inquire the redcap Orell, who will surely have further information.
Alba finds Orell without trouble, and if the redcap is displeased by her Gift he does not show.
"The Tower of Ashes, on Lake Neuchatel, yes? It's not far from here, indeed. About three days on foot to reach there, going through the Alps, and another three to return, of course. The mountains make the path harder than it should be."
"You will find the tower on top of Mont Racine, on the northern shore of the lake. Just a few miles away from Neuchatel village. But the only person living there is an old archmaga. If you have business with the Sinews of Knowledge, that might not be your best avenue of approach."
"Yeah... I want to see that old archmaga." - she didn't know what was the Sinews of Knowledge... maybe an Alp group? Like a gild? - "Your instructions are perfect and will help me a lot to find the place. Thank you Orell." - she sighted - "Now, if you forgive me, I will go to sleep. Tomorrow I have a long walking day."
She started to walk away when she stopped and looked to him again.
"Good luck in your travels." - she added with a tilt of the head. As usually with her, her tone and unmovable face make her look fake and forced. But she felt satisfied with the farewell and just went to sleep.
Next day on the morning, she took all the things and went to search to Stella. When she was ready, she looked back to Tugurium for a second before she started to walk road away.
OOC: The other day I asked Itzhak to specify questions about the trip, and I go and forget to do the same xD So I edit to add some details:
- Alba will not use The Succubus's Trick for now), since she was told that it barely made a difference.
- Alba will use Disguise of the Transformed Image to hide her special features... that said, she will still have the flowers, so expect bees and other insects to approach her. She is used to it, but can be weird to others. Also, the smell it's still there too. Fortunately, common hawthorn flowers smell sweet, fresh and a little like almond (unless other hawthorn types, that smell like rotten meat), but thats still another weird thing. And to end, she will take an appearance of a redhead, since she already have a fair skin full of freckles, she thinks that this decision will make her less noticeable (yeah, she doesn't think that redheads are noticeable in itself).
- Stella will turn invisible as soon as she sees somebody else (mundane or not). And will pay attention at nights (she will not remain wake up all night long, but being a cat she wakes up easily).
The first few hours are easy. Alba follows through the valley, the temperature just a bittoo warm, on the verge of being unpleasant. The summer skies are clear, just a few sparse clouds above the mountains. Orell was kind enough to show her how to outfit herself for the trek, specially in regards to weight distribution. While a bit heavy for a frail woman, her supplies are not too burdensome.
(OOC: I'm figuring 7~10 pounds of miscellaneous items, including the food, which is just enough for a burden of 1 if properly packaged.)
Then, as she starts to go up and down with the terrain and the sun rises in the sky, the heat building up, Alba starts to have second thoughts about the trip.
"Let's go back" Stella complains.
Still, Alba goes on. The first day is pretty much uneventful, save for a few people encountered on the road. A few heads turn in Alba's direction as she passes, and she overhears a woman saying "poor child, traveling alone in the mountains". Looking around, she finds no child, of course. Perhaps the woman was imagining things?
As the sun goes down Alba finds a recessed way, safe enough to make camp. The temperature drops to confortable levels at night, the sky is clear and starry. There are dried fruits, cheese, and a few pieces of the sausage that Alba enjoys, smoked for long storage. Alba has already nibbled on some of the food through the day, but when she finally settles, the hunger strikes stronger.
"I'd still prefer if we went back" says Stella.
The first day was exhausting... A large part of the problem was that she was not used to the mountainous terrain, but also that this time she was the one carrying the entire weight of the supplies. Still, it was still bearable, since it wasn't going to be such a long trip.
And the heat... well, it could still be endured, and Alba supposed that as she rose in altitude it would become even more bearable.
At night and in a secluded place, Alba ate dinner in silence while watching the stars. Somehow, in those mountains the night sky shone even brighter, perhaps because it was closer to the stars.
After finishing the ration, she noticed that his stomach was still asking for more... she looked at the food she had brought, just enough for three days... well, two now... if she ate more she would need to fast later, but...
Finally, Alba began to eat a second helping of food. It wasn't worth worrying about, if she ate more now she would feel better, and she would also have less weight for the next day. They were just advantages. She could always conjure up some apples later.
Then, while Alba began to eat again, Stella expressed her desire to return. It wasn't the first time she had done during the day, and although the previous time Alba had taken it more lightly now she looked at Stella with curiosity, not sure if she had to be worried.
"Are you okay, Stella?" - she asked, looking at her carefully - "Normally it doesn't bother you so much to walk, and I know that the problem cannot be the temperature, because I still remember how you like to stand so close to the fireplace in winter that even your whiskers curled because of the heat." - she commented, remembering that moment with amusement - "Are you feeling bad? Are you sick? If it's that we can go back and I'll come alone if necessary. You shouldn't worry about saying it."
"I'm fine. Lazing in front of a fireplace on a winter day is different than walking across the mountains in a hot summer."
Stella stretches herself before jumping to a large boulder and lying down, ears perked up.
"I like forests better. But at least the stars are pretty."
Alba looked back to the stars, its white flowers shining in the moonlight, because it had not bothered to cast the Disguise of the Transformed again after sunset.
"Yes, they are pretty. But not as much as you, my little star." - she said without looking away from the skies - "I also miss the forest..." - she lowered her gaze to the food, and started to eat again - "Soon will arrive the summer solstice. Back then, before I was living with humans, it was the biggest celebration for the Good Folk. A lot of faeries gathered in our clearing in the forest to sing, dance, eat, drink and have sex. I was very young, but I still can remember it like it was yesterday..." - she explained looking at the starts again. Then she turned to Stella - "Thats when I learnt to sing. A faun taught me the basics and I loved it, so I kept practicing." - she gazed to the stars just a moment before turning to the food again - "Those days are no more, but back then it seemed like it would last forever."
She fell silent as she finished eating. Then she started to sing a simple song in a melancholic tone. Only when she sang was he able to transmit emotions with her voice.
"Alle Sterne am Himmel
Zeugen der Mittsommernacht
Hört uns an, die Verfluchten
Schau uns an, die Ewigen"
She stopped halfway and finished eating before stood up.
"But there is nothing that lasts forever. Not even the Eternal ones." - she added looking down the mountain - "Specially this travel, so try to take it easy and enjoy the good things it has. You never know when you might miss it."
She went to a side to urinate and when she finished, she came close to Stella and her things, and casted Wall of Thorns in a perfect circle around them.
She packed everything again and then took off her clothes and made herself comfortable next to the stone Stella was on.
"Good night Stella."
OOC: this scene remembered me that now Stella its perfectly able to talk in High German too. I will add the language into her sheet, and this would mean that they both are talking in High German. I just tell you in case it's relevant.
OOC: The Wall of Thorns spell is very specific (this spell creates a straight wall of woody, thorny bushes up to 20 paces long, 1 pace thick, and 4 paces high), but there is nothing stopping Alba from casting it three or four times to make an enclosed space, so I'll assume she did that, ok?
The next day is as uneventful as the first one, if just as hot. Alba follows the path to Tavannes, and from there to the south. Around the end of the day Alba finally sees the large mass of water and a village, one day earlier than expected... before remembering Orell saying that she would see Lake Biel first.
On the third day, keeping Biel to her left and going southwest, Alba sees Neuchatel after about two hours of travel, and reaches the foot of Mont Racine in another two. Looking south, she can barely glimpse the other shore of Neuchatel. The skies are clear, not one cloud in sight, and the high sun and humidity in the air combine to make her clothes stick to the body even if the temperature is not that high.
Mont Racine is the most proeminent mountain around Neuchatel, and it's not hard to pinpoint. Going up, however, takes more time than expected, and as the sun sets Alba finds herself tired, hungry (the last piece of sausage eaten what seems like years ago, in the morning), and in front of a square stone tower.
The tower is perhaps 20 paces high, with a small stone building annex to it, somewhat resembling a church. Both the tower and the annex are in a state of profound disrepair, and Alba sees no one around. A large door, so battered by weather and time it makes impossible to tell the kind of wood, is visible on one side of the minor building. On the door a bronze knocker, patina covering it entirely.
After three days of heat and fatigue, the leaves on her head looked wilted and flabby. Even her flowers had stopped smelling. She wasn't used to such heat.
Alba leaned for a moment in the shadow of the building, enjoying the coolness a little. At night and in the shade it was fine, it was when she was in the sun that the heat seemed to hit harder... she thought it was perhaps due to being at a higher altitude, and therefore closer to it... but the fact that there were hardly any shadows along the way didn't helped either.
The maga looked at the building above her for the second time. At least she had arrived, although she didn't even feel like talking. The next time she saw a redcap she would thank them even more, because now she imagined them having to make even worse trips than her.
Having recovered a little, she looked at Stella.
"Let's call, and let's hope she's in here..." - she commented, because the building seemed quite abandoned... perhaps it was just the aspect that the archmage was looking for so that no one would bother her - "You don't see a Sanctum mark, right?" - asked the cat looking around the door.
She finally raised her hand to knock on the doorknob, but she paused for a moment and took out the letter she had saved again. She looked over at it, as she had realized that she had forgotten the archmaga's name. Jacinta. Okay.
Alba put the letter away again, and now she knocked on the entrance.