Emmeline was practically walking on air when she left the Glade of the Mother Tree. She knew now that Mara was a powerful Sidhe, a Lady of the Fey and imagined her patron as something like a Dryad Queen due to the connection Mara now enjoyed with the world through the reborn Mother Tree. Yet she wasn’t afraid.
Oh, on an intellectual level, Emmeline knew that Mara was extremely powerful and definitely otherworldly. Emmeline had paid attention to the old stories her grandfather used to enjoy telling, especially the “fairy tales” that invariably featured a creature of unknowable power and alien mindset that could grant wishes and protections like a fairy godmother, or just as easily throw down a curse that would turn one into a pig to be butchered at midwinter’s celebration. Many things were attributed to the lords of the fey. Incredible things, amazing things, inspiring things, and frightful things, too.
But none of this bothered Emmeline in the slightest because she knew that no matter what the future might hold for her, it would be the grandest sort of adventure, the kind that grandparents would tell their grandchildren one day many years in the future. The thought that she was now literally living a fairy tale put a spring in her step, a healthy flush to her cheeks and a bright smile on her lips. Most entertainers, even bards, could only repeat the old stories, weave new ones purely out of their imaginations or by hearing tales from travelers. But Emmeline was right smack in the middle of her very own! And she had good company, too, from brave Tiffanie and pious Sister Jocelyn to the inquisitive (and sometimes amusingly naive) Elemix and the gentle yet powerful Baron Roland.
Emmeline followed the winding trickle of water that had begun to flow after Riok had knocked loose just the right stone. She wanted to see where it led so that she could tell the villagers — no, her villagers — where they would find life-giving water to enrich the rather poor land of the valley in which they lived.
She enjoyed hours of watching the trickle flow until it met a rock, then build until it spilled around and continued it’s winding course to the valley. Emmeline bounced from rock to rock, then to the grassy valley floor as she watched its progress. Engrossed by it, she did not notice as the sun passed its zenith and began it’s afternoon descent. She only stopped when she looked up and discovered several children at play.
Four boys and three girls under the age of ten were playing some sort of game that involved using a stick to strike a large walnut. They’d chase it about and then once some goal had been met, they’d go to the middle of their little field and start again. Soon though, some of them noticed Emmeline watching and came over to meet her.
She introduced herself as Mademoiselle Emmeline and told them to bring her words to all their friends and families. She told the children that everyone who lived in the valley was under her protection now but to be sure to mind Riok when she was away. Then she told them that today a new stream had been born and pointed out the little flow of water that had edged its way past the field and looked to now be heading to run right by the village itself.
“This stream marks a new day for this land, for it is of the purest water from the deepest hearts of the old hills. Though it is a little muddy right now as it makes its way through the valley, it will very soon run fresh and clean for all of us. No more must you draw water from muddy wells and stagnant pools beridden by flies and other pests.”
Emmeline knelt by a girl with a dirty face and thrice-patched dress. “You all have a very important task today, and that is to tell everyone you can that as they tend and care for this new-born stream, it will in turn care for all who live here. They must never foul the water or attempt to stop up its flow, but always be caretakers of it. Then all your parents, your bothers, your sisters, and in the future, your children, will always have good, clean water and a bountiful land.”
She made them all repeat her words thrice, then gave them each one silver piece and sent them all on their way.
As they children scattered to their various homes, Emmeline caught one little girl. “And I have something extra special for you. Please tell your mother I think that, in a few years I would be proud if you might me my handmaiden. If you’ve a mind to.”
Emmeline watched as the last of the children ran to a little cluster of women who were working together to make flax linen, then turned and left.
She made her way back to the Glade of the Mother Tree. She was quiet and quite stealthy when she wanted to be, but she knew Aurryn likely had already detected her all the same and let her pass. It was his job to know such things now and Mara would see to it he was able to do his job very well.
Mara had asked if Emmeline wanted to become an elf some day. She didn’t, really. She was rather happy being herself. But it did ignite Emmeline’s curiosity. She approached the tree then sat down and curled up against it because it seemed natural to do so. “Mara?” she said. “May we talk some more?”
“You have picked the right time to speak to us,” Mara replied, “now that we are tenuously rebound to this world, the dusk and dawn are when we can best connect with you. Other times will be more difficult, the farther you are from here, also more difficult. But we are here together now.” Emmeline felt at home. The elder Mara, almost as an apparition appeared next to the tree, but her form was subtly more fey with her ears slightly pointed – like Emmeline, with a raiment akin to that of a dryad or elven dryad. As she walked, plant life grew, flowered, and faded on passing. “Remember, only you can see me, but Aurryn knows you are communing with me. Speak.”
“I was wondering a couple things,” Emmeline said. “One thing I wonder is what I was in my earliest incarnation. Would you tell me?”
“Earliest,” Mara repeated, “that is you namesake Mabrilith. The daughter of my lifemate Cynwrig, born before the Otherworld drifted from this one. She possessed a beauty, bravery and brilliance few in our line have ever matched. She is lost to us, yet you carry an echo of her visage. The elves called her Niméwen and the humans called her Miriaynne the Fair.”
Emmeline’s face lit up and she sat up straight. “I was really your daughter…” She faced Mara. “I feel we are still close. I never knew my mother, Lara, but you are here.”
“From a certain point of view, yes you are.” Mara answered. The elder version of us, the one whose form we take sometimes and wear now is Lara’s visage. She is so proud of you. You saw her once, for a moment, when you were first born.” Mara continued, “you are all our daughters. The book you carry tells Lara’s story, in her own words. It is our bond. Read it and become one with her. Sing of her sorrow and her joy. The other pages are a glimpse of three others of us. Learn from them.”
Emmeline smiled. “I will. I’ll have a lot of time in the near future, I think. As I travel.”
She paused as she shifted subject. “I’ve known this place for less than a day and I already know I’ll miss it. But you will let me know if we need something?”
Mara answered, “This is a beginning, but a fragile one. There is much to be done, friends to be made, and battles to fight. We have many enemies. It will not be long before the eyes of those enemies look to you to betray us or failing that snuff out our line forever. They have tried before, but they have larger concerns than us today, concerns that distract them from us,” Mara added, “we will reach out to you as we always have.”
“I’ll find friends for us,” Emmeline promised. “Maybe I can even make allies of old enemies, whoever they might be. I’ll do it by inspiring people and by doing what’s right. My grandfather taught me that inspiring people brings hope to the hopeless and light to the dark. He said that inspired people will give us shelter in a storm and safe haven when trouble comes galloping down the road. I think he is right.”
“Perhaps he is, perhaps he is not. We shall take your word on it,” she said. “Indeed, your grandsire’s optimism is an interesting part of you, one that should serve you more than harm you we think. Yet, there are some that we would rather not have as allies,” Mara said the last with a scorn directed not at Emmeline, but to the east. Emmeline had never seen Mara in such a way. Yet as quickly as malice had grown, a smile returned to her face and she turned to Emmeline, “but we trust you will make the right choices.”
Emmeline replied, “I trust you, too, Mara.” She looked around, noting that night had fallen and she hadn’t even made so much as a camp. Luckily, her night eyes were very sharp and to her, night wasn’t a time of darkness. A bit grey and colorless to her eyes, but not dangerous. But she did know it would become cool and a rumble in her belly told her she unwisely skipped lunch and was in danger of having no dinner either.
“I’ve tarried, I’m afraid,” Emmeline said. “I should find my way somewhere to rest and eat, but thank you for speaking with me and answering what must seem like foolish questions.”
“Be well our daughter,” she replied and faded away.