After climbing the stairs and then walking across the top of Oberland the magi approach the two hills flanking the old and gnarled oak.
"Here it is is. Such beauty!" Japik points at the tree with his whole arm grinning at Herman. "We have built the house there and it has a simple lab installed, we need at least another house of that size, but we have been trying to find a stonemason to build something bigger and sturdier. However it seems stonemasons are not as fond of windy islands as we are."
They walk around the area and checks the tree, the house and the lab.
(OOC:Anything in particular you want to see? Arthur and Wits fill in if there is anything important I missed. The village perhaps?)
Our goat fondling neighbors over there are a veritable two-hander up our hindquarters. They like to prohibit everything and nag about the rest. Try to be nice to them, though, they give us enough trouble as it is.
(Both small houses have been built by that time.)
(Recycling and putting together various descriptions from when the original magi arrived on the island.)
The three magi, accompanied by Hjalmar, depart from the piers and make their way through the outskirts of Meden town. Buildings are mostly made of irregular stones mortared together, with thatched roof. Most are single-story buildings, although it seems that the center of the town has a few two-story buildings, including what looks from a distance like a fairly large fortified manor house.
But for now Japik and Prochorus lead Herman on a path that avoids the center of town, heading northeast along the coast in the direction of the cliff, which is a bit lower at this end of the island. It still looks quite impressive, well over a hundred feet high. As the path weaves its ways between houses, Herman catches glimpses of stairs climbing along the side of the cliff. Local folks are going around their life, with fishermen tending their nets and artisans selling their wares, with hand-drawn carts being used to carry goods from one place to the other. A few locals who notice the group going by scowl suspiciously at the trio as they go by, and others whisper to each other while looking at you.
Soon enough, the buildings become less numerous as the group leaves town at the foot of the cliff, where a short path leads them to the stairs. Made of wooden beams anchored to cracks into the stone, it is narrow but obviously well-used. Barely wide enough for two people to cross each other, a few landings have been built along the way, allowing the travellers to rest. And rest is needed soon enough, for Herman's thighs are burning from the unaccustomed exercice. Sixty steps up to the first landing, then sixty more. And another sixty or so, before at last the group reaches the top of the climb. Even Japik and Prochorus, who have in the last year travelled those stairs numerous times, are out of breath. Herman's legs feel like badly-wrung clothing. Hjalmar mumbles something grumpily, but none of you can understand what he says. Although Prochorus has a fairly good idea...
The view from the top of the stairs is breath-taking. Even dizzying to Herman, who is more accustomed to walking on land rather than to mountaineering. The air is pure and clear, with a slight smell of the sea noticeable.
From top of the stairs, a path leads to a small village a few hundred feet distant to the north. About two dozen houses and various buildings, including one that must be a small church by the cross surmounting it. Small fields stretch out around the village, some of which comes right to the edge of the cliff. Peasants are working the ground, nurturing the thin layer of soil forming patches between low stone walls.
Farther away the rocky ground is mostly covered by grasses and ground-covering plants. Small herds of diminutive goats can be seen to the north, being watched over by youths and adults alike. There are a few small trees, both in the village and scattered along the northeastern edge of the cliff (which is lower and thus less exposed to the winds).
The path leading away from the stairs seems relatively well-travelled. As it curves towards the village, though, the group leave the main path for a smaller one leading westward. About thirty paces or so, this smaller path joins a much larger one, obviously used by the shepherds to lead their flock farther north on the small plateau.
The walk is a fairly short one, less than an hour for sure, as the group follows the path cut along the length of the Oberland, roughly in its middle. On both sides of the path, a short distance away, small flocks of goats are grazing under the supervision of a boy or a man. Each guard a dozen of the small animals at the most. In a few places, particularly close to the village, small patches of fertile soil have been turned into gardening patches and surrounded by a border of rocks to protect the tasty green shoots from the voracious goats. You actually see one of the goats trying to climb a wall, only to be diverted by a boy using a long stick to push the goat aside.
As the magi approach the northern tip of the plateau, the path gradually fades and the layer of soil becomes thinner, showing more rock. Herman can feel the wind more sharply as the ground levels up -- for most of the way, the surface of the plateau was at a slight angle and climbed slowly, which offered some shelter against the wind. Now, however, you are leaving the shelter of low hills to your left, slipping between then to bring you around two larger ones. These are still fairly low, maybe fiften feet high, and about one hundred feet wide. This opens up the view to the north, of the sea and the northern part of the Unterland. And there, nestled between the two hills, is an twisted oak tree. At its base, the trunk wider than two men together can encircle with their arms. The lines of its bark turning to the right as it rises along the short length of the trunk, and wide branches soon extending out in a corona around and above it. The oak is not tall -- not even clearing the low hills -- and some of it branches are bare of leaves. Hanging from the branches are tendrils of black moss, moving with the wind.
There is an irregular wooden fence barring the approach to the oak. This fence curves around it, climbing each hill, to come down on the eastern side. Again sheltered from the winds are two stone houses. They are about 8 paces wide and deep. Both houses are protected by the fence as well.
"That is quite a walk. And with two small labs up here, and the Inn down there, I suppose we have to go back and forth a lot. Even supposing we can build something better up here, this is going to be "interesting". But then, I was pretty sure of that when I agreed to come. Is there an Aura we can leverage as well as the tree itself?" Herman looks around to see what else he can tell, but does not even attempt to cast any spells.
"I remember our former member Quercus of Tytalus was doing some research on the strength and size of the aura and he said it was reasonably strong here immediately around the tree and for some radius around it. Are you good with Intellego Vim Herman? If so you could perhaps take up that research to establish some kind of boundary. We have also discussed possibilities of other auras and vis sources on the island and in the water. There are some pillars coming out of the water a few miles north of here. I would like to go there and take a look within the next few months, maybe you could join Herman?"
(The aura around the oak is 3.)
"Sounds like I should at least confirm what the Aura is where we have the two labs. The pillars sound distinctly interesting. I suspect that trying to do instigation from a boat may be difficult, but clearly worth doing. " After looking around a minute, "Is there enough room for the three of us to sit down in one of those labs and review how we will work together? And when we will do what (who uses the labs and books when, ...) We also need to come up with some way to make money. I gather we are currently getting by on the proceeds from one small trading boat?"
"We only have one lab installed, the other house serves as living quarters and council chamber for now. Unless you are tired after the voyage and the climb up here we could have a meeting right away." Japik starts moving towards one of the houses and enters.
"Trond and the crew is doing a great job. We are not getting rich from their trade but so far we have been able to fund some projects at least. These two buildings and the inn down below would not have been possible without them. Hopefully Yulia and Dietlinde may be able to get some business going at the inn soon, but I guess that ghost is causing some trouble. Customers don't seem to like spooky stuff." he laughs.
"Come now Japik, even most magi don't like spooky stuff. I look forward to meeting the ghost (and being careful of my head). Meanwhile, yes, lets meet now."
Once the meeting starts, and we get to discussing rules, Herman comments "Normally, I would expect to be a probabtionary member of this group. But with the secrecy rules, it will be very awkward if things don't work, and probationary status is likely to make things more complex, rather than simpler."
Probationary schmopationary. It is not like full members are liable to reap undeserved fortunes here. All with the sweat of your underlings' brow and so on.
"I say that once we accepted you as member and you signed the contract with Bernhard you are just as full a member as we are. We make our own rules if we want any and regarding membership we just need two levels, member or non-member. We should also discuss how we administrate the vis we get from the tree and other sources we might find. We already know how much we are giving to Bernhard but what about the rest, how shall we use it? Last year we sent two pawns of vis with Bernhard to sell it for silver as we are in greater need of mundane means to build the houses here. None of me and Prochorus are very good at the Art of Perdo so we have no immediate magical use of the vis the oak produce. How about you Herman?"
"Perdo is distinctly NOT my thing. So selling it, or trading it for other more useful vis once we know what we need seems sensible."
(Advice from your friendly SG: If you plan on trading vis on a regular basis, it may be a good idea to move it to a different physical shape before doing so. This would prevent someone from using it as an arcane connection to its source and finding out where you harvested it. Vis transfer is easily done in the lab and only takes 1 day -- per item containing vis -- and can be done while engaging in another lab activity. See ArM5 p.91 for details.)
Thanks for the suggestion. That is clearly something we can and should do. (I think it is pg 94.)
(Indeed. My eyes are tired tonight. )
(Whatever we do with vis for the covenant Japik should be the last one to perform these kind of tasks. He is a waster of vis)
"What plans do both of you have for the next few seasons? As long as we only have one functionable lab we need to agree on who has access to it in which season. Being a Bonisagi I guess you Herman, would rather like to lock yourself in there for good. Myself I can not stand staying indoors for too long so I should probably only need one season a year in lab on average."
"My primary interest is to continue exploring the sea around the island and the pillars to the north. I would be happy to get company by one or both of you if you like. So this will be my goal for the upcoming season. Then I would like to continue reading one of the summas we got for one season, alternatively if we decide to spend a few seasons cross-training each other arts."
"Another idea what we might do for the vis we harvest is to buy or get access to copy summas in other arts. The problem with this is to keep our whereabouts secret in this process."
I was thinking I would fish the townpeople for stories of potential vis sources. Maybe play and sing a little. I am not sure how they will react to my gift, so it might be all for nought or pitchforks. If I don't get anything, I could join you for the pillars. You can have the lab for now if you want, Herman.
Trading for texts would be nice. But there is no way we can do that without being found out.
"Thank you. I will start by developing some spells so I can more safely locate vis / aura / regio. If I can figure out a way to do it cheaply enough, I will use some of my personal vis to enchant something so grogs can help us with the general exploration." With a grin, he adds "As you say, I am happy spending time exploring things in the lab. But I do understand that there is more to exploration than that."
"Then we have the boring stuff of economy to glance over. I talked briefly with Yulia earlier and she said we have about 50 pounds of silver* after Bernhard sold some of our vis and taxes are paid. The stonemason will take a lot of that for building the major house up here I guess. What other expenditures do you see for the coming seasons? Prochorus do you have any ideas for the inn?"
(*51 if my math is correct after checking the Business of Trading and Winter of 1210 threads.)