I share your frustration, but from the other side of the coin. Right from the start, I thought we had an understanding that this would be a different kind of saga, in that resources would be difficult to obtain. To me, that includes the location and conditions in which the covenant is set up. If it was easy to establish build a new home in a magical aura and settle there, then new covenants would not have that much difficulty establishing themselves. I even recently added the Cosmology thread to remind everyone of that, considering that Trogdor was new to the saga and might not have seen all the initial posts about it.
You get the impression that I keep saying no to whatever you want, while I get the impression that you cannot accept a situation where the magi won't get everything the way they want them.
I too expected the meeting with the elders to be over much more quickly. But every time I had the elders explain their fears along with the restrictions they wanted in place to assuage those fear, the magi always came back to stating that they wanted things to be just the way they wanted them, and right now, pretty please. In short, refusing to make much (if any) compromise to those living conditions that they wanted.
I would have thought that the magi would have accepted most of those restrictions initially, and then played with them. Once they are established on the plateau and have a relationship with the village, negociate for the relaxation of those restrictions. Or transgress them in secret, like you were going to do with the cellars. Yet you kept saying "unacceptable" over and over, as if the magi were in a position to impose their conditions on the village. So the thread dragged on and on, far beyond what I thought necessary. And every time the elders proposed a change to satisfy what you said was your priority, you came back asking for more. First the number of houses and the cellars. Then objecting to the fee to import building materials. And complaining about having to hire locals to work on the plateau and not wherever you wanted them to.
In the same way, I've alluded multiple times to the fact that the covenant faced no such restrictions on setting up some of their activities down below. Do the magi need to have all of their covenfolk living at the main site? How many servants do you need to live in the same building as you do? On an island, isolated on the plateau where pirates would not bother to climb to, how much fighting grogs do you need? I expected to have, at most, a bit over a dozen mundanes at the main site. The rest, like sailors, merchants, additional day-time servants, would either live in Meden town or in Ober village. That makes for a different kind of covenant, to be sure, but quite workable and interesting.
For what it's worth, I don't expect to put a story in place where you'll have to search for a goat herd, or a source of dairy product. I got the sailors to approach the magi because there had been no clear indication as to what they were supposed to do, just vague suggestions that they might be used to do this or that. Which is why I had their captain come to you and say that this was what he could do for now. A clear and simple plan to establishing the primary source of income for the covenant. Basically, all you had to do, if you didn't want to go for the details, was tell him to go ahead. Then, if one of the players had wanted that source of income to improve, we could have pitched a story about it. And yes, at some point, I might use the sailors as a hook to introduce something about Waddenzee.
In the same way, I was establishing the presence of a number of unusual features and people on the plateau. The cranky shepherd, the crazy walking woman, the spinning woman, the whole council of elders. If you had decided to investigate them at some point, once the initial construction is complete, they would be there to provide hooks to additional stories. Or not, if you were not interested in each individual hook. A tapestry that you would either investigate, if it caught your fancy, or simply use as the backdrop for your own stories.
(Catching my breath.)
So, now, where does that leave us?