Amos landed in the evergreen and scanned the forest below him. After repeated questioning, that town buffoon finally admitted that the bear he had "chased away" from the river upstream of the village had only gotten enraged after he shot it with an arrow and missed anything vital. Amos watched as the Doctor straightened and splinted the young man's broken arm. Amos could have done it, and probably helped magically to boot, but it wouldn't do to fall into a shrieking banshee state at this point. Railing at the boy's stupidity for trying to take down a bear with an old bow and only two arrows, Amos made sure the young man would never try something like that again, and went off to find the beast. Hunter Rafael confirmed the arrow wouldn't kill the bear unless disease set in, but it would hurt and the beast could lash out in anger at anything, even people or villages it would normally avoid.
His underarm itched. Tucking his beak under his wing, he blissfully scratched the itch and scanned the floor again. There! The big lumbering beast was moving a little less than a mile away downhill. Spreading his wings he coasted above the bear and awaited it to enter a clearing of any sort. As it did, Amos tucked his wings and suddenly swooped down, trying to knock out the little piece of wood sticking out from the bear's shoulder. He succeeded, and immediately had to dodge a huge paw as he tried to climb back into the air. Preparing himself for another dive he sighted onto the bear's back again and swooped, this time preparing Rest of the Injured Fur and Feather. He slammed into the bear's back and quickly cast the spell, and then leaped to take flight. The bear expected it though and rolled, throwing off Amos's wingspan and he came crashing to the floor. Amos stood and shook himself and tried to take flight again but was quickly buffetted by that same huge paw avoided earlier. Lying a bit dazed he saw row upon row of sharp, gleaming, saliva covered teeth descending towards him. Quickly looking up, he sighted onto a tree branch and Blink!ed himself into the air. He missed the branch and ended up teleporting above it - then gravity took over. Amos squawked in surprise as he bounced off the branch and tree trunk, and started falling back towards the ground. Quickly spreading his wings again he managed to catch a draft and flew into another tree and looked down. The bear was still annoyed but no longer enraged, and, after snuffling once, began lumbering back up the hill. Amos tried to calculate the number of bruises he would have when he shifted back but gave up and wearily began the flight back to the Covenant.
The newly Gauntleted Magi flew into his window and made sure the kids weren't around, then began shifting back. Standing, he quickly threw a [i]Garment for the Day[/i] out and dropped a robe over his bare shoulders. Pausing for a moment to make sure he was clothed, he cast it again to add his customary cloak and attached his hood to it. One day he would come up with an Animal version for shoes, but for now his bare callused feet would work just fine - the stone wasn't that cold. Grabbing his scroll and ink so he could go to the library and study a bit, Amos heard a knock at the door. "Come in!" he called. Hearing the invitation, Nicholas opened the door and came striding in, and Amos couldn't help but grin. One of the few men he could look at eye to eye, Amos quickly ran over and grabbed the tray of tea from his friend's hands. He also carried a stack of folded white robes, which he carelessly tossed on Amos's bed and planted his goblin hands on his hips. "Are you ready to put on some [i]real[/i] clothes or are you going to stick with what you've got on now, forget you magicked it for yourself, and find yourself in the middle of the dining hall in your starkers come sundown? And judging by that bruise on your face, you went out this morning for a bit of early sport, didn't you? I bet you even forgot to place a Purification on yourself." Nicholas came over and began to divest him of his robe and cloak. Amos blinked a couple of times. He [i]had[/i] forgotten to speed up his own recovery. Nicholas was a lifesaver that way. Once an apprentice of Sandrilene, it was a shame that there was no way to open his arts due to goblin blood in him, which also explained why he was so short. Of course, Jeanette liked to tease that he also had a goblin's tongue, which made it all worth it, but... Amos blushed at the thought. Raising his hands above his head so the robe could be pulled off, he quickly laid his head back into the cushion of his hands and cast [i]Purification of the Festering Wounds[/i] on himself and felt himself sag from the exertion. "Of course I didn't forget," he mmumbled as the robe obscured his face. "Come off it," Nicholas retorted. "I know you too well. You just cast it on yourself right now when you leaned back. You may not realize it, but everytime you 'blink' one of your spells, your face always goes blank, then you close your eyes for a second, and your mouth thins a bit as you momentarily concentrate. Not so hard when I been around you for fifteen years, hey!" He dropped a real robe over Amos's shoulders and quickly adjusted it, clipping on the baby blanket hood to the buttons already in place and cinching a plain hemp rope around the magus's waist. Before Amos could get his hands down Nicholas had added his quill and inkwell chain to the makeshift belt, and was passing Amos's bible and a cup of hot tea in his. Picking up the other cup of tea Nicholas sighed and plopped onto the bed since the chair was covered in summae. "Don't forget to go by the kitchen and eat today, Amos. It's Tuesday, you're allowed. I swear if I didn't tell you what day it is you'd forego just to be on the safe side. Jeanette has another bacon slab ready for tonight - she's still determined to try and fatten you up," the butler stated, sipping his tea. "Thank you, as always. I just wish you'd eat more days of the week, the fare gets abyssmal on your Fast Days." "Thanks, bellyacher," Amos jabbed back. "Good to know I'm only around so you can get good food." Amos reached for a couple of scrolls on his desk and slid them into his belt also. "So, do you know why the old man has me studying so much about logistics and supply for a covenant? He's had me on this stuff for a couple of weeks now. Justine is much better at this stuff than I am, and I know she's already waiting in the wings with pages of Charter Amendments. Does he truly expect me to fend [i]her[/i] off?" He held his hands out and asked, "How do I look?" Nicholas reached over and straightened the belt so it hung slightly askew instead of in front like a packaged gift, and patted Amos on the shoulder. "Like a magus, old boy," he stated, clearing his throat while standing and picking up the tray. Turning back to Amos, he made a little bow and stated, "Will that be all, master?" "Yes, Nicky, you are dismissed," Amos replied, quickly throwing an [i]Aura of EnNobled Presence[/i] on himself for good measure before speaking and loftily waving a shooing motion out the door. His friend grinned wildly as he slowly backed out the door with the tray. As soon as the door closed he quickly slumped onto the bed and heaved a panting breath. Alone, he could relax. Alone, he was safe. He [i]had[/i] been casting a lot of spells recently, some needlessly. [i]Am I squandering God's Gift?[/i] Amos thought to himself. [i]I should not take my current status for granted. I must not be prideful. Pride is a path to sin. Wrath is a path to sin. Sin leads to Infernalism. I will live a righteous life. I will not covet my neighbor's life, for I have lived a blessed one. I cannot change what has passed, but I can change what will be. In your name I pray, Lord, Amen.[/i] Five minutes later, his breathing finally slowed and he got back up. Amos knew Martreau wished he would train with Seamus more, but he was taking a break today. He would go to the library and try to catch up on better understanding the Parma before meeting with his pater for lunch and Covenant review.
As Amos strode through the halls, he realized there were more armed men than usual striding through the halls. Slowly crounching down he began scurrying towards the library, his right hand always in contact with the wall. Quickly glancing around to make sure no one was paying particular attention to his movements, he quickly ran into the library and closed the door behind him. Turning around, he found a particularly large man in partial armor sitting at the study table, looking up in amusement. Amos squeeked.
"Can I help you, little one?" the giant asked, pulling out his chair and standing. Amos guessed that he had been mistaken for a maid or a maid's child again. The man reached out a hand as if to pull Amos toward him and the chair. Amos quickly blurted a rushed apology and dashed out the door again, looking for the safety of the kitchens. Suddenly he was ambushed into a bear hug and found his face stuck between two huge mounds of flesh.
"And how is my sweet sweet child doing today, hmm?" the deep female voice asked, still clutching Amos to her bosom.
"mIm cam'tm bmweathe" Amos choked out before finally being released and drawing a deep breath. He looked up at the large and wide redhead towering above him and grinned. Molly had been a mother without the responsibility attached, and had tried to spoil him whenever she got the chance. It was only chance that had given him a temperament to fend off most of her attempts. "Good morning, Sergaent Molly," Amos greeted. "And how are the Troublesome Twins this morning?"
"Good morning, Magus Amos. We can hear you, ya know!" Came a male voice from behind the large woman.
"Good morning, Magus Amos. But we certainly can't see ya, don't you know!" Another resounding female voice chirped up. "Ow, quit poking me!" Amos rolled his eyes. Augustus couldn't go ten minutes without jabbing Brigitte in the side. "Oof!" Similarly, Augustus had to constantly dodge elbows and knees flying in his direction. They weren't actually twins, but they'd been inseperable ever since Molly had put them together.
"Now children, children," Molly exclaimed, turning around. "Decorum in front of the magi, children. And remember, we only say Magus or Maga in the privacy of our own homes."
"But this is our own home, Mama!" both of them chirped. Amos chuckled.
"But it's not the privacy of our usual home, is it, my chickies?" Molly retorted. "No, no, with all these strangers in the hall, we must be good and proper and call them Lords, Ladies, or Scholars. Now run along kiddies, we have target practice to get to!" Giving Amos one last bear hug she finally moved out of the hallways and proceeded towards the main practice salle. He finally saw Augustus with his sharp cheekbones and square chin and Brigitte with her soft, rounded features and coughcough** rounded in other places too Amos quickly thought. They both had their blonde hair tied back in ponytails as they bobbed a quick greeting and went streaking out after their mother. He quickly shook his head as he continued towards the kitchens.
He found them (the kitchens) in an uproar, baking additional bread, cutting out blocks of bread, and bundling up strips of dried, smoked meat. Looking for Head Cook Melisande, he finally ended up tapping Josephine on the shoulder, who stood in the corner of the kitchen eating a bit of sweet bread.
"What is going on, Josephine?" Amos asked. "Who are all the strangers in the keep, and why does the kitchen look like its preparing for an army to march?"
"Thmy mrm." Josephine spit bread crumbs out as she tried to talk around her full mouth. Amos instinctively made some admonishment about talking with one's mouth full and waited for the young girl to swallow. "They is here on invitation of Martreau and Sandrilene. The lovebirds is going hunting again, it's exciting! Exciting!" Josephine's eyes twinkled. Amos made a note to himself to warn Jeanette of Josephine's new interests. The girl was five going on fifteen, he swore to himself. Then he shook himself out of his personal thoughts.
"But why? There are no wars going on, no crusades," Amos swore. "Haven't they learned enough the last time they got caught up in religious fervor?"
"That's why we're going this time," a new firm voice spoke from behind him. Amos winced as he turned around and looked up into Magus Sandrilene's eyes. Martreau had worked with him about his tendency to shrink when in close physical presence to others, but Sandrilene's eyes still made him want to crawl under a rock. He quickly bowed and mumbled a muffled hello as Sandrilene continued. "Someone is deliberately stirring up the name of Stephen of Cloyes again. After Phillip II ordered everyone home last time, we thought the issue resolved. However, we're getting reports of gatherings and miracles again. Even more, we're getting reports of two children, each calling themselves Stephen, and each performing miracles on the same day in different locations. They are acting almost like Pied Pipers, and children are abandoning their families and answering the call, not just the displaced peasantry like last time." She paused and made sure she still had Amos's attention. "Does that sound like the work of God to you, magus?"
"No, Maga Sandrilene, it does not. I would suspect foul play, and with the number of miracles suddenly popping up, I would suspect outside involvement," Amos softly replied. The stern older woman nodded.
"It is good to see my sodale brought up a filius that can think on his feet. Perhaps he can do something right every once in a while." Sandrilene smiled, taking the sting out of her voice. "We plan to nip this in the bud. The soldiers are needed to ward off the rest of the peasantry already brainwashed by whatever is behind this. Go, lad, I can see the questions already building in your eyes about where you fit into all of this. Martreau should be just returning to his room - he got done with the salle a little bit ago and should be finishing up at the bathhouse now." She nodded as he gave a slight bow and turned to leave but a small hand stopped him. Looking down, he found Josephine clutching his sleeve, not letting go.
"Daddy said not to let you leave the kitchen without eating," she declared, holding up in her other hand a trencher filled with roast, potatoes and gravy. It constantly wobbled in her small hand and she was throwing gravy everywhere. "I asked Melly to give me slices as big as my hand!" Jo held up her hand to prove they were, indeed, the size of her hand, "and you's gotsa eat, Daddy says. How else are you going to be the right size when I grow up bigger? Augguts--Aussug--Auggie toles me to say that. What does Auggie mean, Uncle Nothos? I mean, Amos?" Josephine asked, her eyes wide as she flicked the gravy off her hands.
"It means Uncle Amos is going to have a long, hard talk with Big Boy Augustus and let him know he's not as funny as he thinks, child," Amos replied. He quickly scooped up the trencher and thanked Josephine as he stuffed a piece of potato into his mouth.
"That's actually a good idea," Sandrilene piped. "I'm sure Martreau would enjoy a hearty early lunch since he finished his practice earlier than usual. You two can discuss plans." And with that she spun around, grabbed a carafe of water and left, headed for the practice salle. Amos guessed it was her turn now that Martreau was done. Grabbing another trencher, he ran to the stewpot and ladled out another serving of roast, potatoes and vegetables, and grabbed them both as he went for the stairs. He realized his portion was significantly smaller than the one he had made for Martreau, but his pater ate so much more than him. Amos could never figure out where the old man put it all. He moved up the stairs with purpose, only swallowing twice as he moved around two of the armored guests, and knocked on his pater's door while announcing himself.
"Come in," the voice boomed behind the door. Amos knocked it open with an elbow and stepped in.
Martreau was facing a window as he stepped in. From behind, the streaks of grey added distinction to his stature, and the width of his shoulders strained his shirt. He was watching some men get into an impromptu wrestling match below, and his eyes gleamed with anticipation. Amos silently slid the slabs of stale bread onto a table and looked at his pater's face in the window's light. Although Martreau's eyes still twinkled with the sparkle of challenge and determination Amos had seen when the old magus first strode over the burning walls of the monastery, now he also took note of the crows feet around the magus's eyes and the wrinkles in his forehead. Martreau didn't always notice it, but his hands slightly shook now when he wasn't paying attention to them or gripping anything. Amos muttered a quick greeting and gestured to the food set on the table. Even though he had been out of apprenticeship for a few months now, he still instinctively deferred to the man. Martreau heaved a yawn as he stretched his arms over his head and moved to sit at the table. Amos joined him and they munched on their food in companionable silence. After truly enjoying the first couple of bites and different flavors of the stew, Martreau looked up and gestured towards Amos with a piece of bread. "I'm sure you have questions, son. Go ahead and speak up," Martreau waved, the bread finally sailing into his open mouth. "One of these days, you're going to have to interrupt a Praeco and speak up to him, I wager. Best learn how to do so now." He popped another piece into his mouth and began sopping up some of the gravy with another piece of bread. "Yes, sir," Amos answered. Gathering his thoughts for a moment, he put down the meat in his hands and looked up at the older Magus. "Are we going hunting, sir?" "No." The answer was short, curt, and completely caught Amos by surprise. "But why not, sir? You've admitted to me in the past that you had never met someone better suited to scout ahead for you!" Amos began ticking items off his fingers, "As a kestrel I"m unobtrusive. Unlike a familiar I can report back to you exactly what I see and still give opinions and inferences of what is going on. You've given me enough training and knowledge to recognize when I see something beyond my own means. Also, unlike most, I can still cast spells and so become a good backup asset if needed," Amos's voice rose. "These are benefits [i]you've[/i] pointed out in the past, sir, for when I'm 'ready'. I understand it was grudgingly, because you had hoped for faster, but even you had to agree I had completed all the tasks of my Gauntlet, sir. I overheard other magi determining the distance you had set for me and realized the prodigious amount of time I recovered after stumbling in the beginning. What makes me unworthy now, sir?!" Amos pounded on the table and stood, his chair sliding backwards, his chest heaving. Amos looked up into his pater's flintly eyes again, sitting in a head resting on a pair of hands propped up on the table by the elbows. The fingers were interlaced and supporting the chin, the food forgotten. Amos wilted under the gaze, and quickly yanked his chair back in as he sat down. "Sir, sorry sir, but that's how I feel. Sir," Amos mumbled, slumping into his chair. Martreau chuckled and reached into his pocket. "Ya know, I was worried son, but it seems you do have a spine in there somewhere," Martreau rambled as he pulled out a scroll and laid it on the table. "I'm glad you prove me right, boy." He interlaced his fingers again and stared at Amos. "If you weren't ready, you're right. I would take you with me. You would be my scout, and in a place where I could always watch over you. One day, you'd join this covenant, and have to contend with all of the joys and-" Martreau shudders for a moment-"pleasures of teaching in a university, if Justine gets her way. You might even be happy--I doubt it, but you would be very safe. And I know that is something you treasure, son." The elderly man nodded slowly once and stood back up, facing the window again. "But you're a Flambeau, son, and a Flambeau never wavers. We boldly stride into the middle of the fire, even though the air may scorch our lungs, because we know if we don't, no one else will." He waved a hand in the direction of Sandrilene's room. "Oh yes, I know the Tytalus would like to think they are the masters of conflict, but we are the Guardians and Shepards, the Sword and the Shield. God grant me the will to crush Infernalism wherever it may take me, and if not the will at least the knowledge that my actions are not in vain for the future of this World. Amen." Martreau nods his head for a moment and turns back around. "But you've heard this rant before, my son." Amos's pater smiled, "I'm sure you're wondering what you're going to be doing while I'm out hunting demons and why I've made you look up so much information about Covenant logistics." He nodded at the scroll laid on the table. "Read it, son, and tell me what you think of these 'Shadow Flambeau'," he stated, turning back around with hands crossed behind him. Amos unrolled the document and began reading. Although fairly short and concise, there was a lot of information to absorb and several times Amos had to reread a sentence or even an entire paragraph to digest it. Finally laying it down, he blinked a couple of times, and looked up. Martreau had sat back down and finished most of his stew, while half of Amos's was left untouched. Amos picked up a potato, then immediately put it back down. "Is this true, sir? Is Rafas still out there?" Martreau shook his head. "We don't know. Oh, someone still using the [i]name[/i] of Rafas is still out there, and the Shadow Flambeau have been confirmed. How many, how long, who - that we're still investigating. It doesn't help he is Reconquista. We thought we were beyond reproach, and failed to see the snake amongst us." The elder magus shook his head. "He besmirches our name, and what our House stands for. How can a Shield protect, when it is poisoned and cracked inside? How can the Sword strike, when the oil used to sharpen it has instead dulled the edge?" Magus Martreau finished the last bite of his stew and brushed his hands in front of him. "Everyone is searching Iberia for this man and his followers," he stated, looking into Amos's eyes. Amos crinkled his brow in confusion. "Then... am I to join our brethren in the search? It seems... I dunno. You have warned me of taking on tasks too large to be handled. To qoute, sir, 'challenge is to find something just beyond your reach so you strive towards it, not to jump and find your efforts meaningless and useless.' I believe, even with a personally formed team, this would be too much for me. Am i joining one?" Amos looked up again to see Martreau shaking his head. "No son," he replied. "Magi greater and more powerful than you already course through the lands for this snake in the grass. No, what worries me is the pets left behind." Crossing the room to his satchel, Martreau flipped the papers within until he found another scroll and tossed it to Amos. Quickly, Amos slipped the clasp and began reading the invitation to join the Phoenix Covenant. "A [i]Roman Flambeau covenant[/i]?!" Amos exclaimed. He had remembered hearing news about the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, but at the time none of the dead or missing had stood out to him. "I'm sure there's a connection here I'm supposed to be making, but my information is lacking." He looked up at Martreau and smiled, "Once more, pater, fill me in on the gaps?" "Within the Reconquista movement in Iberia, they were a solid and powerful force of magi until about 50 years ago, when a large number schismed off into independent circles. The Lannisters of Phoenix Covenant was one of them. Trust me, many people were surprised, especially when they turned Roman. However, after the information about Rafas was discovered, they came out smelling like roses, especially after the number of eyewitness accounts that saw them bravely fighting and being defeated by Infernal elements." Martreau began waving his hands while lecturing and pacing, a bad habit of his since he would continue talking while facing away from you. "Now, what if, and this is only what if, mind you, you led a group that was becoming too big to handle? You know word will get out, any secret kept by three people are no longer a secret. How then, do you spread your following? How do you expand and distract everyone so that you are the lesser of the two evils?" Martreau walked back to the table and slapped a finger down on the Phoenix emblem on the invitation. "You have your best friend set up a rival faction. Someone to gather everyone who would nominally oppose you, and create an opposing cult. An opposing cult that calls out anyone who would naturally be against you and makes them visible. Voila! No more people in the shadows, hoping to catch you while your back is turned. Just your own people to catch theirs. And once you know everyone's marked, you begin the sweeps. And in the end, everyone's dead except for your best friend, who made it all possible in the first place," Martreau finished, clasping his hands back in front of him. Amos gaped in astonishment and reviewed the sequence of events. What Martreau outlined was possible. There was no evidence to support it yet, but currently no evidence showed it was not a conspiracy. And succcessful conspiracy it could be due to its simplicity. "So you think Jamie Lannister is one of the secret heads fo the Shadow Flambeau?" "I don't know," Martreau replied, shaking his head. "I've never met the man. For all I know, he's a patsy that was set up with evidence scattered all around him of his involvement, but nothing to implicate." The old man waved his hands in the air. "And I can't just wave my hands and join him. It makes no sense! An established, older magus, suddenly feeling like a change of climes? No, the only ones who will be responding to calls like this are younger magi, fresh from Gauntlet and still filled with ideals and personal goals. Everybody will be looking at themselves, not at who's around them." "So you want [i]me[/i] to join them," Amos finished the thought. "I fit who would be responding to this type of call, and my presence could be easily explained as someone trying to bring the Reconquista movement to the Phoenix Covenant." Amos continued to nod as he talked it out. "This invitation only asks for the vote at the next Tribunal, not subsequent tribunals after. And Jamie Lannister is older; any new magi can wait him out much like Justine is--"he coughed into his hand and looked up into Martreau's amused expression--"sorry, but well, she [i]is[/i]." "Irregardless," Amos's pater chuckled, "I am not telling you to do this. There are plenty of other areas that need the support and strength of Flambeau and God. Novgorod is always crying for more attention, although the way their Tribunal is run I think you would do better to arm yourselves with quaesitors than fire. Also, the Hibernian Tribunal is flaring up again with stories of war amongst the clans. Then theres always the Rhine Tribunal, although I don't know if you're politically minded enough." Martreau looked at Amos sympathetically and said, "You really are better suited to the role of a scout, son. Someone sent ahead to investigate and report back. Do you feel this is a valuable way to face and find your challenges, son? Do you think this is the path God has laid before you?" "I will ask for God's blessing, pater. But I choose my own path. I will find my new flight leading me to Phoenix," Amos declared, standing up and coming to attention. "Excellent, son, excellent!" Martreau exclaimed. "I have a friend who has expressed interest in accompanying you. I have not told him what you are about - from now on, that is for you to decide." Martreau reached around and patted Amos on the shoulder, and then immediately grimaced when he recognized the glassy look fall over Amos's eyes. The young lad never flinched from his pater's touch, but it still had the same effect as any other man in greater position of strength or power. Moving away while clearing his throat, he ended up back in front of the window in time to look down and watch the last wrestling match take place. "You should know Father Pierre well since he joined us at the same time you did. He returned on a different boat, however, because he was much more injured than you were." Martreau turned back around to catch the end of the look of pain fade from Amos's face. "We've had several theological discussions, and he's accompanied me a time or two on trips when you were busy studying your Latin. You might be surpised at his... demeanor. His skills certainly surprised me. And another thing..." ...