Feast and Folly

10th December 1225

Caribet Manor

An extremely talented travelling minstrel arrived in Caribet today, and drew our attention by playing so well that the villagers left the few tasks they have at this time of year to dance to his music. I thought that he might have been drawn here by the fame of our hospitality, after the Duke's successful dragon hunt, but alas it appears that he has come primarily to visit the magi of the tower.

Achilles invited him into the manor house, where the minstrel, Roland, insisted on eating with a silver knife. Honestly! How vulgar, particularly in a travelling player. However, once inside, Roland also revealed that he was not human. He has curled horns, and hairy legs ending in cloven hooves. Achilles seemed to be unsurprised by this, but then he has had a little longer to get used to living in a haunted forest. He had sent a messenger to the magi, and we were soon joined by the maga Iuris Perita. It turned out that Roland had come to join the Midwinter Feast, and to play for the entertainment.

Before bed, I put it to my husband that I should attend the feast this year, especially as Roland would be playing. He was adamant that I should, once again, spend my time at the Hermitage. Hmph.

11th December 1225

Caribet Manor

My husband takes insults to his station far too calmly. A group of armed men rode into the village and asked directions to the tower, treating the lord like some kind of servant. I roundly scolded him for being so meek, but he merely insisted that annoying magi was more trouble than it was worth. I reminded him that he could not have been sure that the visitors were wizards, and he said something ridiculous about not wanting to be a wise frog.

I tried to insist that it was essential for our dignity that both of us should attend the feast, but Achilles would have none of it. He seems convinced that the Hermitage is the only place I can be 'safe' at that time. I do not see what is so dangerous about a party which is highly popular with the grogs. Also, if I am there, I can keep an eye on my husband. I do not believe that he behaves himself as he should, although no-one in the village has the gall to tell me to my face.

13th December 1225

Caribet Manor

Achilles was adamant that I should leave for the Hermitage today, with Father Edwin, Ellie, and the Brieres. I made a last attempt to convince him to show some dignity and backbone, but he would not listen to reason, no matter how often I put the clearest and most convincing arguments to him.

So, travel I must, in the middle of winter, to a small monastery, where I will be expected to spend my time in prayer while everyone else enjoys themselves. Bah.

15th December 1225

The Tower of Saxum Caribetum

Today is the day of the feast. I rose very early, and attended the first mass of the day at the Hermitage, taking care that I appeared somewhat pale and weak, coughing occasionally. Then I retired to my room, and instructed Heodez, my maid, to turn away any visitors with the story that I was ill, and resting.

The Hermitage is not a fortress, and it was easy to sneak out unseen. I was able to follow our route back to the covenant without any trouble, and returned some time before the feast. Of course, I could not present myself to my husband. He would send me straight back to the Hermitage, and probably set guards over me to ensure that I did not return. He has no conception of my proper dignity, none at all.

Since I could hardly attend the feast in my travelling clothes, I sought out Galienne, magus Speculor's maid, and a very cunning and helpful woman. I intended simply to ask her to fetch me some better clothes from the manor, but she suggested that Speculor should change my appearance so that no-one at the feast would recognise me. This was clearly an excellent idea, even though it meant talking to Speculor, easily the most frightening of the wizards. His hair sparks, but never catches fire, and I always feel as though there is some monster within him, barely leashed. Galienne assures me that he is an old softie, but I have heard too many fond owners say the same of their attack dogs to wholly trust her. Still, it must be admitted that he worked a magic upon me that has made me look somewhat like one of the fay of this forest. My hair is brilliant red, while my eyes shine a brighter green than the grass. My ears are slightly pointed, but Galienne assures me that they look like cats' ears, and bear no resemblance at all to those of wolves. I have spent some time inspecting them in the mirror, and I believe that she is right.

Galienne has also, finally, worked up the courage to explain what I will see. As I suspected, I will see my husband flirting, and probably seducing, some other woman at the feast. She was very tactful about it, but was clearly worried that I would create some sort of scene and ruin the celebrations. I will not do that; it would be unfair to the others. There are other ways to get revenge. I believe that magus Constantine will be at the feast this evening, and he is not as frightening as magus Speculor. Somewhat disturbing, I confess, with his dark hair and good looks, but far more likely to treat a lady properly than Speculor. Constantine seems to appreciate the beauty of women as they are, while Speculor would, I am sure, change us to suit his fancy.

16th December 1225

The Hermitage

On reflection, I think that my revenge on Achilles is best taken in secret.

The feast was set up in the hall of the manor house, which was magically decorated. I am not sure why that foul mouthed hunchback was sat in the rafters, but it may be some sort of tradition. There was a disturbance at the beginning, when the faeries, in the form of hornets, pursued one of the new hunters into the Covenant itself. The magical defences kept them out, but it seemed that they were unwilling to return to the feast, and their presence is, apparently, vital. In the end, magus Constantine was able to persuade them to return. I smiled at him as he passed, and he smiled back. It was rather exciting to realise that no-one recognised me.

The feast itself was everything that reputation said. Roland played, extremely well, and the boy from the church and one of the other peasants sang. The peasant proved to be extremely talented; I wonder if he could serve as a minstrel for us? One of Speculor's servants, whom Galienne had warned me about, juggled, and then there were two of him, which was very confusing. Probably some sort of faerie trick. As we drank, the faeries became more visible, climbing over our plates and trying to get into our wine cups. It was quite an effort to keep them out, and drinking quite quickly seemed to be the best way.

I saw that Galienne was making a play for fat Sir Yves. She really does believe that she can marry a noble, poor girl. Speculor left quite early with the cat-eared girl, and my husband flirted outrageously with maga Gwenolé. I could hardly believe my eyes when he actually withdrew to the solar with her. How brazen! Fortunately, magus Constantine came to me, and distracted me with his description of my charms. He is, as I have always believed, a most perceptive man. We withdrew to his chambers to continue our discussions, but he kissed me and there was an end of talking for a while.

I do not believe that I enjoy being woken up by a man swearing, even when the curses are pious. Speculor's spell had worn off by the morning, and so Constantine now recognised me. He quickly said that he would have to get me back to the Hermitage, and insisted on escorting me. Such a gallant, considerate gentleman! Far more so than my brute of a husband, doubtless still enjoying himself with that whorish witch. Of course, it would be difficult were he to be seen leaving the covenant with me, so he had Speculor disguise me as that wench who guards him. Fortunately, people are unlikely to pay attention to anyone in that guise, although we did see her coming out of the magus Joach's sanctum. Perhaps the reports of the feast were toned down, not exaggerated at all.

At any rate, I returned safely to the Hermitage, and am now waiting in my room. The spell will, I am told, expire at sunset, so I can return to the village tomorrow. Father Edwin has already left, to hear the many confessions of his flock, but the Brieres and Ellie have remained to escort me.

I do not think that I will tell my husband what I know. After all, what has he done to deserve honesty from me? I think the events of last night are much better kept as a secret between us, and I think it would be wise were I to have another private interview with magus Constantine to ensure that he agrees.

17th December 1225

Caribet Manor

Achilles is in a foul temper. Something must have gone very wrong after the feast, as he seemed perfectly happy when I last saw him. Still, nothing to worry me -- it will hardly make him less attentive and responsible.