De Rerum Magica

A wedding and a murder

In April, 1215, an invitation arrives at the covenant, inviting its residents to attend a wedding in the village of Valdecabras. Pascual, the son of one of the village elders is to be married to Maria, a local girl. A few of the grogs and Javier and Quintin al Azraq decide to attend. The winter here in the mountains has been a hard one, and now that the weather has finally broken and spring has arrived, a party seems appropriate. At the village Quintin and Javier reacquaint themselves with the two village elders: Martin, Pascual’s father, and Shanja, a Mozarab immigrant who is a salt merchant and overseer of the salt mine. The ceremony, conducted by Father Petro, the village priest, is simple and joyous and afterwards the couple carries on the age old tradition in the village of spending their wedding night together, alone in a sacred grove where a circle of standing stones, or menhirs, has stood for time immemorial. Once the couple departs the party really gets rolling and Javier and the grogs waste no time joining in. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning the party winds down and Quintin, still sober and holding to his Muslim beliefs of abstinence, heads to bed, though not before catching a curious glimpse of elder, Shanja, standing in his doorway, gazing towards the sacred grove outside of the village with a tense, worried look on his face.

Unwilling to let that curious gaze pass, Quintin rousts a comatose Javier from the pile of straw and the unattractive village girl he has passed out beside, and the two companions make their way through the middle of the night to the wedding grove. There they find a lush place filled with flowers and water and a circle of standing stones. Recognizing the sanctity of the place, the two are unwilling to enter the grove and return to the village and sleep.

Early the next morning, Javier and Quintin are woken by a commotion outside the village. They find most of the village has gathered in a field where a catatonic Maria, the bride of the night before, kneels, covered in drying blood. They learn that she was found by one of the farmers, wandering through his field. The frightened farmer left the girl with his wife and ran to the grove and discovered the dead body of Pascual there. Maria has now been accused of murder and, as Javier and Quintin arrive, the harsh accusation of “Witch!” spreads through the crowd like wildfire. Trying desperately to calm the angry mob, Quintin stands over the girl and with the help of Father Petro, manages to dampen the crowd’s anger. With the crowd momentarily calmed, Father Petro draws Javier and Quintin aside and asks for their assistance. Word must be sent to the Abbot of the Order of Santiago’s hospital in Cuenca, he says, and an Inquisitor of the church should be sent to determine Maria’s guilt or innocence, but doing so would bring unwanted attention upon the village. He asks for Quintin and Javier’s assistance in the matter, hoping that they may find something to end the matter before he must send somebody to Cuenca. With that, the still catatonic Maria is brought to the chapel, locked within, and a guard posted over her.

Recalling what Quintin had told him the night before about Shanja’s odd behavior, Javier corners the Mozarab in his home and demands to know what he may know. Though Javier’s instincts tell him Shanja is not telling him the truth, Shanja will not admit to anything, claiming to know nothing. Frustrated, the two companions set off to the grove once again and they find that the sanctity of the place has been broken. The magic they felt the previous night is quickly fading. But before they can dwell on that, they are attacked by a small pack of scavenging wolves! A short, desperate fight ensues and Quintin manages to drive off the pack, leaving at least one of the wolves dead. The two discover the body of the groom, Pascual, now torn at by the wolves, nearly split in two from shoulder to stern by a mighty blow as if by a massive sword, axe, or pole arm. Certainly not a blow that could have been delivered by a blushing young bride. Javier, in the meantime, finds a sturdy, smooth, forked stick carved deeply with runes and somewhat blackened as if by fire or some intense heat. They also note the ruined stone statue of a earth mother standing in the center of circle of menhirs, its surface shattered and split by some means. While investigating the grove, a small man covered in thick, dark hair and carrying a pick axe of sorts, emerges from the dense underbrush. His face clouded and angry, he harshly spits out “Grrrr. Yer not OF them. But ye are WITH them. So tell yer wizards the deal. Is. OFF! Broken. Tell them to come here and hear it fer themselves.” With that, the small, hairy man spins about and departs back into the greenery.

Feeling that things are rapidly getting out of hand and unsure of what else to do, the two companions return to Valdecabras and send the remaining grogs back to the covenant with word that the magi should come quickly.

Next:

Mas’ud and Cysgodyn learn of the sundering of the fae bargain and a path to redemption, but it lies through something named “Jenny”. And a different deal is struck. This one involves a chunk of strange stone and a human baby…

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