De Rerum Magica

Jenny and a baby

With the burnt, forked stick in hand Quintin al Azraq and Javier recognize that they have gotten into matters far over their heads and they quickly return to Valdecabras and send the few grogs that had come with them the day before back to the covenant proper. The grogs are to deliver a message to any of the magi that are willing to listen: Come to Valdecabras and come quickly. With that, they settle in to wait while the grogs return to the covenant.

A few hours later, the grogs arrive back at the main covenant building. Cysgodyn of Tremere, locked within his sanctum hears the grogs returning and a few moments later a knock comes at the door. Diego the Ancient stands without and delivers the message from Quintin and Javier. Though at first he his mildly cross at being disturbed, his attitude changes when the part about the small fae man is covered. He orders word to be sent to Mas’ud of Flambeau, who has taken up residence in a tower about a kilometer from the main building, while he prepares to for the journey to Valdecabras. A short time later Mas’ud arrives, also ready for a journey. The two young magi have a short discussion of what the fae’s threat may imply and they quickly understand that the covenant’s sizable annual gift of Terram vis from the earth faeries of the region is at stake. Concerned and somewhat annoyed, the two set out for Valdecabras.

Before the sun sets, the magi arrive in the sullen village and get a detailed report on the situation from Javier and Quintin. Javier shows Cysgodyn the ruined, burnt, forked stick that he collected from the grove and Cysgodyn spends a moment determining that any enchantments that may have lain on the stick previously are no longer active. Further information is beyond his skills to determine. With that done and the sun quickly setting, the four make the short trip back to the faerie grove. There, they see that grove has continued to lose the touch of magic that it held the night before: the brilliant flowers have faded, the green is less vibrant, the plants less lush, the sacred has become profane.

Cysgodyn and Mas’ud quickly get to work examining the grove. With his innate ability to perceive the magical world, Cysgodyn sees the ruin that has been visited upon this once holy place. The broken bodies of fertility faeries lay strewn about the ground and the tattered and torn remnants of a veil to a faerie regio hangs about the place.

NB for Cysgodyn: At this point, Cysgodyn is visited by his long-time fae companion, who shakes his head sadly and comments on the ruination of the sacred grove. This visitation is not visible to Mas’ud.

Within a few minutes of arriving, the small, hairy man again materializes out of the undergrowth and squats next to the shattered statue of the earth mother at the center of the circle of menhirs.

“Ooooh. Sooo glad ye could finally take the time to come.”, he says. Anger is etched on his swarthy face. “This place. Our place. ‘as been broken, it has. Ruined. Death was brought to it and for that the bargain we struck wi’ your kind is over. Done for. We’ll not gi’ you any more of our wealth. Youse was to protect these places but ye didn’t and now it’s gone. Another place lost to us and given over to you men.”

He shakes his head and reaches to gently pick up the broken body of a small fairy that lays on the ground next to him. He wipes a hand across his eyes and carefully places it back down on the ground.

The magi learn that the fae man is called Gruagach and after a more few questions about what can be done, the fae speaks again.

“Well, per’aps something can be done. This here was not yer doin’, even if the old bargain be broken. Per’aps a new one can be made. There’s a stretch of land along the river that them watery types ‘ave taken from us. That place was sacred to us before, before…well, a long time ago. Get it back from ’er and keep it safe for us. Then maybe we ’ave a new bargain between us. But Jenny won’t go easy. Oh no. She’s a tough one and she won’t be wantin’ to go quietly.”

He gives a toothy grin and raises an eyebrow.

“Oh. An’ I suggest youse do somethin’ about what done this place in. Can’t have something like this be happenin’ again, eh?”

After a few more questions, Cysgodyn and Mas’ud agree to get back the fairy man’s land from the water fae and ask the earth fairy (for that’s what Cysgodyn has gathered this man must be) if he knew more about what might have happened to the grove the night before.

“Aye. I know. But it’ll cost ye. Three babies. Three human babies and I’ll tell ye what I know.”

Both magi exchange surprised looks with each other, but they recover quickly and bargain the fae down to just one child in exchange for part of his knowledge. He reaches into a small pouch tied to his belt, pulls out a chunk of odd, black rock, and tosses it at the two.

“Broke this off it. Prob’ly be handy for youse to ‘ave. Now go get back our land…and watch yer backs ’round ol’ Jenny‚Ķ”

With that, the swarthy man stumps off into the greenery and disappears, leaving the magi to ponder their situation.

NB for Cysgodyn: Again, Cysgodyn is visited by his fae companion, who offers more information to help the magi if Cysgodyn is willing to bring him “Jenny’s” head. Nothing more is said before the mysterious fae again departs.

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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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