((Nice work on the Hebrew! A lil puzzle for the player ))
Tranquillina frowns, looking off into the distance. "So it is a type of Mentem effect ... but no, you said people are born with it. So it is not Hermetic...." Her eyes widen, and she looks at Stultus clinically, wondering what sort of metaphorical Magic Theory dissection could be performed on this unexpectedly interesting specimen. "So wait," she adds suddenly: "can you actually speak Gaelic? I mean, can you - how to even word such a question! ... If I were not here, can you speak Gaelic on your own?" The thought of him looking inside her mind for the language makes her shudder.
Tranquillina stands gazing into larder for quite some time after this. "Well," she says finally, but then becomes silent again for several long seconds. "I do not even know whether I should trust this last statement, or whether...." Eventually she shrugs, and blows out a large lungfull of air. "I suppose I can simply accept your invitation to act however seems right to me. That at least makes my life easier."
Accept that it could waste resources if they have people in town or are using magic to watch for groups leaving. The question is what do we want to do with Montverte. Can we strike at them and make them react to us?
Alexei is shaking his head. "We cannot strike at them without just cause, and rumour is not cause. If we want to strike them we have to use the weapons that are allowed. It is a potential waste of resources, but not much truly. That would be the point of sending the more inconsequential goods as bait."
Jacques shakes his head slightly, You think straight forward again. Montverte is thinking of raiding our supplies based on the rumor of our short resources. If we set up a trap for them nods to Stultus then we can punish them in defense of our good, even if there are no goods. Now if you were the Montverte commander and you just lost a troop of men in a raid, you might look for easier targets later. Thus giving our real shipments easier passage.
(( Heh. Pick a better puzzle next time. I remembered enough Hebrew to read most of it. Just had to look up 'medaberet' 'cause without diacritics I couldn't tell what it was.))
(( Then again, I also do things like this for fun. ))
"It's not Hermetic, no." Stultus shakes his head. "It's not a magical effect at all, as far as I can tell. Parma Magica has no effect on it, Aegis of the Hearth doesn't either, it doesn't show up under Intellego Vim, nothing. Not faerie, for the same reason. Probably not Divine, either -- it's only direct miracles that are not affected by Hermetic magic, as I understand, and, well... you could probably find a more unlikely person than yours truly to host a miracle, but you'd have to look very, very hard."
"So the only thing left is... He nods at the dawning comprehension in Tranquillina's eyes. "Yep. I had a really, really unpleasant time with that thought in my head, until I realized that it's not infernal either. Yes, an Imagonem-based demonic effect would bypass Parma. And yes, it won't show up on Intellego spells. But it's still an active effect, even though we can't see it, so would still be affected by Aegis of the Hearth. But, I can walk into Durenmar's ludicrous magnitude Aegis without a casting token, and still talk to anyone I want. For that matter, I can stand in the nave of Notre Dame de Paris during mass on Easter Sunday, take Holy Communion, and still talk to anyone I want. And before you ask, yes, I've done both."
"So, I don't know what it is. I spend an odd Season here and there poking at the problem, and invariably come out with no more understanding than I had going in.
As far as Gaelic goes -- no, you're exactly right, I couldn't speak it if you were not standing there. Latin or Greek, yes, but not Gaelic."
(( His childhood must've been weird -- being able to think only in languages that the people around him were using, as long as they were there. I didn't think he'd need a native language with the Gift of Tongues, so I didn't give him one. Didn't consider that little detail. ))
"Which was the entire point of the exercise," smiles Stultus, "so I think I will get while the getting's good, and remove myself from your hair forthwith. Enjoy your sabbatical, and your..." He makes a face, shrugging. "Licorice-flavored lamb chops? Really? To each his own, I suppose."
Stultus frowns a bit. "True as far as it goes. There are two countervailing considerations, though. One, soldiers attract attention. Lots of soldiers attract lots of attention, and if these goods were truly valuable and we were trying to sneak them past, we probably wouldn't send lots of soldiers as an escort. Two..." He looks from Alexei to Jacques and back, chewing on his lip for a long moment, and finally shakes his head decisively. "Never mind the 'two'. Not really my place to say anything. You two know better than I."
Alexei is considering the options. To be truthful neither one was a tactic he often used, not that they weren't clever, but his own methods were often to use arcane connections to make fast appearances when trouble was needed.
"No, Stultus, please speak your mind. I wanted your council, it is why I asked you to join us. We are narrowing down our options, the goal is ultimately to protect our resources. I don't wish to fight a war, especially since we have only been attacked by rumour. What I do want is to make sure our strength is apparent, which can be demonstrated a number of ways. But it has always been my opinion that strength deters attacks and weakness invites them. Give us your council."
I feel that with more information we can predict where someone would attack a shipment and we could preposition troops and a wizard there. If we are wrong then nothing lost. If we are right... Jacques pauses to allow it to sink in. From your own account Alexei, they knew when you had left with Korvin with the shipment for the Bishop. They intercepted Roberto on his way here.
Stutus's voice is slow and measured, he's obviously choosing his words very carefully. "You two are different from me. I can count the number of times I've been in a fight for my life on one hand, and not run out of fingers. To me, what we've been discussing is a fun game. Counters, pieces on a mapboard -- this piece goes here, that one goes there. White pawn is advanced and left temptingly en prise, to be sacrificed in order to draw the black rook out of position."
"So the thing I have to remember -- the thing I must remember at all costs -- is that the pieces and counters are all real people, with real lives." He's made the mistake of not remembering it once. He won't make it again. "What we're really discussing here, therefore, is sending men to bleed and die for a cartload of third-rate wool and a nebulous strategic advantage. That's why I balk at sending more than the minimum necessary."
"You two, on the other hand... you go out on patrol with them, eat what they eat, sleep where they sleep. You put yourself in harm's way with them, run the same risks they do. So you not only can judge the force required better than I can, but also... If you need to order them somewhere knowing it may mean their death, you have the moral authority to do so. I do not."
Alexei smiles at Stultus's words and pats him on the shoulder. "I am glad to hear you have such concerns. Too many of our Order forget that. Jacques and I and the men we lead know of the roles we play and our willingness to play it. Too many don't appreciate this, and though it might mean death and injury for some, we know that is what we do, what the men want to know is that they are not a part of some game, and when we are among them risking our lives as well, they know this."
"I'm not used to trying such divergent methods. But the main difference between your two plans is that you Jacques would rather offer nothing to be lost, a complete ruse, while Stultus would like something material so as to make sure that an attempt is made and that the men risked don't die for nothing. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Let us consider the results of either method.
"If we ship nothing, and no trap is triggered, then we still can't be certain if they didn't attack because they knew it was a trap or because they knew nothing valuable was in it. We are possibly no better off than before. If we ship nothing and they attack, then the trap worked well, and we have our oppurtunity to show some strength and warn off future attacks, and we lose nothing accept possibly whatever we commit to a fight. If we ship something we eliminate some of the chance of them simply not showing because they think it's not worth their time. But if they knew the shipment was empty they'd suspect a trap then anyway..." Alexei pauses and reaches for some wine and then stops.
"I think in the end either method can work...if we make sure that they know it's not a trap. Jacques I believe we should try your method first, and if it produces no results, we adjust accordingly. Stultus, I want you to see if you can ferret out leaks within Mons Electi, and from there use that to our advantage. If we know who is talking, then we let them inform others the information we want them to know. Nothing spreads faster than rumour they say, if so, let it be our rumours. How does this sound?"
I wish to try both of them. By gathering some more intelligence on their movement I want to be able to set a trap with a better tan average chance for success. Jacques looks to Stultus. Do your plan. My...agents will watch the roads to see if we can learn anything from the movement of our possible opponents.
Fiona sits on the edge of the bed in stunned silence as she listens to the tale that Helmut tells. Part of her hopes that he's making the whole thing up, but she doesn't think he is. ((Per 0 + Folk Ken 1 + (die roll of 1, followed by another 1, followed by a die roll of 4, for a dice total of 16) = 17.))
All these years I've known him, Fiona thinks, and I never thought that he could be that bloodthirsty. I knew he was a soldier, and he went on the crusade a few years ago, but... She had never thought about, or considered the things that he might have done in the course of combat. In fact, she had let his absent-mindedness and his occasional denseness color her opinion of him.
After she takes a couple of minutes to process everything that Helmut has told her, she looks up at him. [color=blue]"Has he been going to Bishop Gautier for his 'confession', or has he been going without?"
She gets up and goes to him, kneeling next to him and giving him a big long hug. [color=blue]"Thank you for telling me this. I swear that not a word of this shall pass my lips." (She will hold him as long as he lets her).
((Helmut is telling the truth you feel, the only thing of course is that he was much younger when this happened, so his recollection could be embellished or out of focus, especially considering the circumstances at the time it occurred))
Helmut sobs as Fiona holds him. "Oh please m'lady, don't think worse of him! He's a good man! He's a good man!" Helmut repeats the last several times occasionally adding "He was afraid for me, that's all..."
It's a few minutes before he calms enough to answer her questions. He pulls back a bit and wipes his eyes. "No...I don't think he did tell the bishop. Whatever he confessed is secret of course, but the guilt he feels makes me think he hasn't, though I know he has confessed to other times he's had to fight and kill. This one was...different. It showed us all what he's capable of and it scared him."
"Thank you m'lady, thank you. Maybe if you spoke with him. And he shouldn't be too upset about this, that I told you, he's often said that he feels secrets and lies are the works of cowards. He does not want the stain upon his dignity, but at the same time, he can never truly hide from this. I...needed though to tell someone...so that in case that rage should arise again, it would not be so truly shocking and something proper could be done." He stands up and straightens his clothes. "Maybe...maybe talk to Brionne first though, he was there that night, and he's been a soldier with 'Lexi a long time, maybe he can give some...insight I suppose, about the whole incident."
Korvin is sitting at as large desk that has some scrolls and wax tablets on it. He is flipping through a large book bound in black. He closes the book rests his hands on top of it.
Come in Stultus. I hope you have settled in and are having no problems.
Korvin gets up and begins pacing slowly around the room as he talks. I was reading an obscure treaties on strategy between nations. The writer made a point that a leader should attack first their enemies' strategy, then their allies and finally their armies. This struck a cord with me in our present circumstances. Korvin pauses in his pacing. I'm sure you understand our need for a Spy Master. Frumentarius I think it was called. I would like you to take that position. We are late to the game and have little real power, at the moment. But I think we can have some ideas to help us out.
[color=blue]"I know he is," Fiona whispers. [color=blue]"It takes a special man to go to such lengths for someone."
[color=blue]"I will keep an eye on Alexei...which shouldn't be too hard, since he's also rather pleasant to look at," she says with a smile at Helmut. [color=blue]"And I'll try to talk to Brionne when the time's right. Maybe if I promise to turn him into a pig for a day, that would endear him to me and make him more talkative."
She watches him straighten his clothes. [color=blue]"You're leaving, then, I take it?"
Tranquillina nods frequently during this description, at one point seeming to be waiting for the explanation about the Infernal realm to end because she had worked out the Aegis implication already. "So it is not a supernatural effect of any sort, it seems," she muses, pacing a bit as she gets into the theoretical discussion. "And innate to certain people - inherited, to any extent, like height and hair color? Of course the Mercere are as punctilious about lineages as any in the Order, they would have records about the appearance of this gift.... Carried in the blood, they sometimes say, almost certainly a metaphor, but.... If it truly is an ability that some people possess, part of their nature and not supernatural, then ... I wonder whether a Muto Corpus spell could, in theory, provide the same ability to anyone...." She smiles at the possibly outlandish notion, for this moment at least looking completely at ease even in Stultus's presence.
"What?" Tranquillina starts. "Licorice? That isn't ... I, the Italian must be similar to French, so I thought I ... oh, caochan!" she exclaims, squeezing her eyes shut in frustration. "Licor, not licoresse, for the love of...." She runs into the kitchen and shouts back and forth with Giorgio for a short while, then returns with a blush on her face. "I think he figured out that I meant mead-marinated," she offers weakly.
As Stultus and Tranquillina are parting ways in the hallway, the maga slows to a halt, looks up at the ceiling, then starts to speak with her back still turned. "Ah, Stultus ... I am going up to Stonehenge for two weeks, to visit my sodales at Nigrasaxa, and hopefully catch up on some rest. I am bringing a few gifts from here, wine, honey, the lamb, some parchment. Would you - if I can carry it, that is ..." Inhaling deeply, she turns to look towards him, although not quite making eye contact. "It is not all that close to Lamh nam Monadh, really, but compared to here ... if there is something you would like me to bring back for you, something you cannot find in Normandy - I might be able to acquire it."
Stultus smirks, steepling his fingers. "Yes, you do need a Frumentarius. Thing is, without a network of agents -- agentes in rebus -- a Frumentarius is about as useful as teats on a bullfrog. So we'd need to create such a network first, or build on an existing one. So, I've got two questions for you.
First of all, do you have such a network in place, aside from the Redcaps?
Secondly, how much of the information the Redcap network passes on to you are you willing to then pass on to me?"
Stultus chuckles quietly, watching Tranquillina dive headfirst into Bonisagus Researcher mode. "I hadn't ever considered that. That would require someone better than me at Magic Theory. Or Corpus. Or both."
(( Two written and deleted exasperated rants later.... ))
Stultus stops, turning around, and his jaw drops. Is the woman serious? She must be -- she doesn't have a manipulative bone in her body (or so he thinks). But if that offer is genuine, she should either be measured for a hair-shirt or locked away where she can't do herself a mischief.
"Yes, actually. I'd like you to stop by Lamh nam Monadh, and say hello to our mutual mater... oh, for heaven's sakes, Tranquillina, what in blazes are you thinking??? Do you really think the woman would miss a chance to come after you if you so much as poked your nose into Loch Leglean, let alone rode up to the gates of her covenant? Now if you were going up to Lamh nam Monadh for reasons of your own -- to beard her in her den, say, and kick her bony thoin right in her Sanctum -- I'd be right behind you, cheering the whole way. But riding up there just to be nice to me? I thought we covered that. No. Not just no, but hell no."
He takes a deep breath and blows it out, adding in a calmer tone "Besides, the principal exports of Lamh nam Monadh are haggis, catarrh, and Cumhachd's bile. I've had my fill of all three while I lived up there. Thank you for the offer, though."
Korvin continues his pacing.
We have no human agents. At the moment I will not put much on the Redcaps. I do not control the ones in this area and the one that does is a bit dodgy. It is on my list of things to do but for the moment, do not count on them. you will have to recruit your own agents for now. In the future, we may add some Redcaps to that list.