An hour before the meeting with the Cathars, Lares summons his sodales to the council chamber with a note saying "The Cathars haven't been gathering the vis. Meet me in the council chambers."
When the available magi have arrived and all mundanes are out of the room, he explains the situation as he has understood it in meeting with the leaders of the the language groups.
"So the Cathars know how to gather the vis, but haven't been doing it. The reason has something to do with their beliefs - apparently, these 'perfecti' leaders of theirs knew some kind of a rite that made them able to gather the vis without damning their souls. Since all the elders have now lost this capacity, they cannot gather it before importing one from Europe, lest they risk salvation. We could do it ourselves, of course, but they would rather not tell us how. They worry it might impact their status in the covenant."
Lares sighs and rubs his eyelids.
"How my older self ever agreed to such a stupid arrangement is beyond me, but it is what it is. I am not sure how long it will take for Aetherius to be able to arrange the transportation, but I am pretty sure the vis losses would be significant. Unacceptable."
He squints at each of the others in turn.
"I could just read the secrets off their minds, but that would surely anger them and destabilize the covenant. I suggest we seek a compromise, instead. We must find some way of assuring them of their position such that they will divulge the means of gathering the vis."
"I wouldn't be too harsh on our former selves. It is very likely that they knew the location and methods of harvesting the vis sources.
But I agree, we don't need to antagonize them, and need to find ways to make them feel welcome, and part of the covenant.
We could have them make a list of the sources, and the yield, and then see which of those sources are the most needed, and find a solution to harvest those, while giving them other duties while we resolve their religious crisis."
The last update Aetherius would have given is that, assuming his studies are undisturbed, he intends to learn a transportation spell in the Winter season. He probably would have mentioned this during an evening's dinner towards the end of the Spring as he abandoned his idea to learn Lead of Homecoming in favor of a shapeshifting spell.
Argentius listens, considering the comments and thoughts. After nodding his agreement with Okeannetis's thoughts, Argentius turns back to Lares.
"I appreciate the sensitivity of reading the secrets from their minds. We must tread carefully there, for sure, but have we explored whether or not the memories still exist from our previous selves? I've not given specific study to memory but if we could tap into memory… " The artificer looks over at Tastheus, Plasmatoris, and Silas.
"We all seem to have viewpoints leading us to believe that we are still the same person who existed before the renewal and wiping of our memories. If we could tap into those memories, even in part…" He leaves the unspoken thought hanging in the silence.
Zarkut shakes his head. "Based on the fact that our longevity rituals are gone, and that our bodies' essential ages are twenty-something, I think the best working hypothesis is that what happened to us is related to time, not to rejuvenation. So I think those memories are probably gone forever. Not that I couldn't be wrong, but I don't think that's the most expedient way to solve this problem.
I agree that reading minds is problematic, though I could probably do it without their knowledge. But they would figure it out when we started harvesting vis without them. Maybe we could give them some rights, in writing? It might be a bad precedent, though.
What is the fastest possible trek we could make to Provence and back, here and now? I'm from there, I don't mind going, but I don't know how we'll find Cathars when we get there, or how friendly they'll be."
"I was thinking among similar lines. I would prefer to distribute the tasks more rationally in any case, and this seems to be a good argument for doing just that."
"Those memories would surely come in useful, but not for this. If we remembered how to gather the vis and did gather it, that would be just an equal threat to the Cathars' position as if we had dug the information out of their brains. I tend to agree with Zarkut's guess, though, that the effect seems to be such that we have been returned to our past selves wholesale, so no memories."
"You're from there? That's useful."
Lares strokes his beard in thought.
"I don't know exactly where we are. When I flew up high, I couldn't see the sea, though, just desert all around. The sea must be quite far, then include the boat trip... A season to get there, do our business, and another to get back? Zarkut would have to go alone, the risk is much greater, and we risk not having everyone here by Winter to cast the Aegis. I think Aetherius said he would learn a suitable transformation spell in the Winter, so the trip using that would be in the Spring. I'm guessing we could make the trip in a season if we could fly."
"So overall, going by foot is an option, surely, but I would prefer to wait and negotiate with the Cathars. I am sure they can see the problem from our perspective if we explain it to them."
Plasmatoris frowns a bit at Argentius. "I have viewpoints that are the exact opposite of what you have just stated, Magus Argentius," he says, with the tone of a man patiently explaining something to someone incapable of understanding. "I also agree reading their minds is problematic, troublesome. Also, I would call it invasive and rude. A show of disrespect to them and their culture..."
The Jerbiton gives a loose-limbed shrug, a weariness and tiredness showing in his motions. He has not been sleeping well. "I can understand why they do not trust us. After all, they do not know us, we are renewed strangers to some of them, and complete strangers to others. We have not shown them that we respect their beliefs beyond the tenuous need of our solidarity. We hold power by tradition, and many of them do not even have the memory of such tradition." Plasmatoris picks up a goblet and fills it, casting a spell over it to give the flavor of a heady fruit juice. "Quite a dangerous situation we have ourselves in, a coalition of disparate forces led by wizardly fledglings with delusions of grandeur." Plasmatoris takes a swallow of his drink and smiles.
"We are DEFINITELY NOT our former selves, and we can each forge our path anew, however we see fit. But, other people's view of us will still be colored by them knowing our former selves, and whatever reputation they may have gathered. And we will have to get used to that. Plus, we have all found 'fragments' of our former lives. Some of have have items we crafted before, sometimes using knowledge we no longer possess. Some of us have Familiars we aren't powerful enough to bind ourselves. And some of have have families or information on past deeds, or books.
While we are not our former selves, we still have to shoulder some of their former actions and responsibilities. For our survival."
Argentius listens to the discussion and nods to the responses to the question of memory. "Fair enough, fair enough." He continues to listen. After a moment he offers another viewpoint on the Cathar situation.
"It is clear that the we, the magi of Al Kufra, offered haven and sanctuary to the Cathars. They go as far as to call this place Liberte to signify what we offered," begins the artificer.
"Couldn't we remind them that they agreed to take on a role as part of their acceptance of that sanctuary: an agreement to work to maintain the security and productivity of Al Kufra. We promised our protection to help them have a refuge away from this inquisition, and they promised to work toward our common good by performing functions and roles necessary to the Covenant's needs."
Argentius looks at the others.
"We need to help them see that nothing has changed. They have an equal place in Al Kufra. They have safety from the Inquisition here. They have access to our resources to keep them alive and productive. And now we ask that they continue to hold up to their agreement, especially given our commitment to help them find and being back perfectii from the continent… should they still exist."
Plasmatoris's smile is fragile but genuine at that statement. The manic Jerbiton always seems to skip sleeping when big issues come up. He does not however interrupt the maga's turn to speak.
"The Cathars," he says after a thoughtful pause, "are viewing this situation differently than us magi. I view this as a different life, others view this as a rebirth and opportunity, and - I should study more on the philosophiae of it-" he stops and shakes his head. "Distracted again. No, I think we need to speak with them as allies more than as masters. As magi, we are used to being placed on a mystic throne. Those who remember the arrangement with Al Kufra - Liberte - remember the bargain, the sanctuary, with other magi, with those who are not us. They cannot know we will have the same loyalty we have shown in the past."
"Our Cathar covenfolk have what appears to be two problems for us; One, a matter of their social standing in this covenant, another is the matter of their spiritual health. We have postponed one for our safety, and we have asked them to give the other to us on faith. In order to reconcile, we we should learn what their spiritual needs truly entail. We have evidence that we share the spirit and the magic of our other selves - evidenced through the continued bond of our familiars - but not the knowledge. It sounds like their Perfecti require both spiritual purity and knowledge to guide. We can possibly cover half of that, and need to figure out the other half."
"So aside from the philosophy, I take from this is that we should treat them respect, understanding, and curiosity as Plasmatoris emphasized, and not try to force it by magic or otherwise. Perhaps remind them that we all still have our place at and duties towards the covenant, as Argentius said, and seek to compromise. But, I take it, we are not willing to postpone vis harvesting entirely. We would prefer to retrieve a perfectus a bit later with Aetherius' magic, but if it is absolutely impossible, we might consider doing it by foot, as Zarkut implied. Are we all agreed on this approach? If so, it is about time to meet the Cathar leadership. Who wishes to accompany me?"
Unless someone objects, Lares sponts Aura of Ennobled Presence on himself (level 5 at personal, total 23, so 1 fatigue) and goes to meet the Cathars with whoever else comes.
Lares nods in return, and waits for the magi accompanying him to gather round.
"It has come to our attention that due to the rejuvenation of the perfecti, the Cathars have not been been gathering vis, contrary to usual procedure. As you know, the vis is not only very valuable, but also instrumental to keeping the covenant running in this hostile environment. We are therefore loath to waste any, and would like to search for ways of addressing this situation that would respond to your concerns without unduly weakening the covenant."
Lares stops to wait for a reaction either from the Cathars or from the other magi.
Plasmatoris at first is silent, thoughtful. Though he did not speak up, the Jerbiton does rise to his feet and go with Lares to speak with the Cathars - casting a formulaic Aura of Ennobled Presence as he does, in mimicry of Lares admittedly good idea. As he trails along behind the other magus, he restlessly fiddles with his paintbrush, thoughts wandering. He's spoken with the Cathar, the Berbers, and the Arabs on numerous occaisions, but he can't think of any times he's actually cast this spell first. He'll have to remember that.
In his distraction, he is almost surprised when hears Lares and the Cathar representative speaking, and steps as quietly as he can through the door behind them, having fallen further behind in his distraction. He watches them speak for now with wide, attentive eyes, but does not offer any comments from himself yet.
"There are a lot of issues involved, right now we are considering killing those who had become prefects before the rejuvenation before they have a chance to sin, some have even chosen to let themselves be slain. I think by comparison you can understand why the collection of vis is of much lower priority. But you are right that this is an obligation we have taken on, though when we agreed to do this for you we believe we were promised much more than what has been delivered in terms of our status within the covenant. We can understand bringing in the Berbers, since we will not fight, but the existence of the Muslim faction is something we still see as a betrayal of our agreement."
(OOC: @silveroak Lares would probably by now know what services the Cathars perform for the covenant aside from the vis gathering - what are those? Apologies if this has already been stated and I have simply forgotten.
Another thing: Does Lares know what the contents of the agreement they mentioned are? He has been meeting their leadership, so this might have come up before.)
aside from the vis gathering they fill a number of menial roles- some gardening, cleaning- they pretty well fill out the servants roles and most of the craftspersons that are not being taken care of by automatons.
Zarkut is nervous about this meeting and imitates the others in spontaneously casting an Aura of Ennobled Presence. He remains in the background, allowing the others who have spoken in more depth with the Cathars to lead the conversation, though as one who might be travelling, he wants to be present.
At the mention of the Muslims, he gets a pang of guilt - he's been studying Arabic to read his own notes, was it he who brought them in, and disturbed the status quo?
Lares seems taken aback. He pauses for a moment to think and gather his wits before replying.
“… kill them? But how can you be sure that slaying your own – or ordering such slayings – would not be sinful in itself? This strange rejuvenating effect seems to have reverted any spiritual and magical statuses, in addition to corporeal renewal. Our longevity rituals are no longer in effect. What if this is also true of the spiritual status of the perfecti? Would you not be committing the most heinous of sin by slaying ordinary Cathars?”
He pauses, stroking his beard.
“Your numbers are dwindling, and you have lost much knowledge of spiritual matters. Wouldn’t it be wiser to wait while we procure and consult an elder from Europe? We might also take action to guard the innocence of the former perfecti, if you would consider this necessary.”
Lares cocks his head to the side, studying the Cathars.
“As for your earthly status in the covenant,”
he gestures with his hand,
“we are doing our best to meet your needs and keep you safe from the Pope. What more would you ask? State your needs and the covenant will take them into advisement. I must say, however, that although I understand that you do not care for the Moors, their skills are indispensable to the covenant. This is especially true at the present time, when most of us have lost skills. Could the Cathars perform the same specialist service? Do they know the surrounding areas, and their peoples? We all depend on each other for survival here.”