Elemix left for the library to begin his research into the aquila as well as other business, leaving Emmeline and Rivanon at the bardic college’s inn-of-court.
With Elemix gone, Rivanon asked, “My father acts in odd ways – often, but his motivations are usually true and honorable. Did he know of your legal situation before he asked you to assume a mentor role with me. I must know this.”
“I told him after he asked me to come here. He had asked me to do this after he’d learned of my friends’ and mine exploits to free villagers and soldiers from goblin captivity near Calder Keep. And after some tests of my character, of course.” Emmeline paused. “Why do you ask?”
She responded smoothly, “as my father the Baron knows of my education choice, it stands to reason he would use your legal case as a crucible to build some kind rapprochement between us. He is clever. So therefore I must conclude that your case is unrelated. This conclusion also allows me to take your case on its own terms without the machinations of my father to figure in.”
“Machinations? Oh. Well I’m glad you’re willing to help. I’m personally not one for machinating, I assure you.”
Emmeline continued. “You said something about my grandfather’s heritage though? Would evidenced of that be in the same place as a will?”
Rivanon smiled subtly at the reply, answering, “the Great Library’s Hall of Records should have copies the vast majority of the birth, death, marriage and legal correspondence of anyone born on Thalassa, at least everything since the War of the Four Kingdoms. Your grandfather Emmeric is a well-known figure in the bardic community. While not a direct descendant, he has the blood of Sidonius and by extension Aria through her children such as Wenda. We’d have to go to the Library to research the details of course. By some measure one could say up to five percent of all Thalassans have some blood from Sidonius’ family or his extended relations.”
She continued, “that being said, If Emmeric was meticulous as his ancestors, and it would be safe to assume so, then he would have recorded his will. That being said, I don’t know if he had any other living descendants save you. I think the a place to look would be his will and any records between himself and your father. If your father was only going out to sea for a short time and planning to return, then there may not be a record – but if the voyage was a long one, then likely he and Emmeric had some kind of agreement and it is your father’s will – not just Emmeric’s that may be the key. How old were you when you last saw your father?”
“Well I was five years old when my father, Hoel, left. I know he meant not to return because he left the farm to his brother my uncle, and me to my Grandfather on my mother’s side. He was always sad, as I recall. Grandpa Emeric told me his heart was broken over the loss of my mother.”
Emmeline looked away as she recalled. “Then one day after what must have been the thousandth time I asked when Father was coming home, Grandpa Emeric told me that he had been lost at sea.”
Rivanon looked like she empathized with Emmeline, “I understand,” continuing she added, “it is odd he chose his father-in-law to take care of you, especially with your uncle being given the farm. I assume he too had children, so that is especially odd. So, you were in truth raised by your grandfather Emmeric and after his death you were taken in by your uncle for a few years. I know this is a hard question, but why did you leave home? Did your uncle mistreat you?”
“As far as I’m concerned he was my guardian for no more than two years. He disapproved of my being the entertainer my grandfather taught me to be and tried to marry me off. So I left.
“In my view, he didn’t raise me, didn’t educate me, and he received my family’s farm for nothing. All he had to do was let me live in my fathers house for two years. That does not give him a right to profit by selling me into marriage. I’d sooner sell myself into eastern slavery than let my uncle gain one more copper off what my father left behind.”
Rivanon acknowledged Emmeline’s seriousness, “I do not think it will come to that. Sadly, there are ancient Eterian laws on this subject that are still the basis of Thalassan law. A minor male or female is the legal property of their parents – and that continues until they are 21 (or older for the dwarves) and to a lesser degree afterwards especially in the area of estate law. I’ve done a great deal of research as you may guess on such law.”
She continued, picking up a pen and pulling out a few sheets of parchment, “Honestly, this whole thing reeks of manipulation and lies, you should legally be the heir to the farm, not him.” She began writing, “first step, we file a legal appeal with the Temple staying any marriage action by your uncle until this matter is cleared. Second, we file a writ of probation with the court preventing him from asking the court to force you to obey his will and accusing him of kidnapping and violence unbecoming a citizen as evidence. Third, we file a legal challenge to his role as your guardian.”
Rivanon handed a pen and some blank parchment to Emmeline, “write out your story as best you can. In particular, note the care your grandfather took to educate you and the tales of the bride-napping attempts – in detail. Do not state your uncle was or was not a good caretaker, just that you lived with his family after your grandfather’s death.
A hour later all the papers were written down, Rivanon called in a witness to sign each paper as an original. Rivanon collected them and said, “let us go to the court to copy and file these. If we hurry we can get all this done this afternoon, which will buy us time to research. Do you have any obligations for this evening?”
“Actually I do. I have to see the father of another suitor tonight. Donan, a wealthy farmer, will be expecting me. I agreed I would meet him in order to avoid a possibly deadly encounter with mercenaries he hired to pick me up. At least I managed to get a cut of the bounty or whatever. Or I will when I show.”
“I don’t mean to give disrespect,” Rivanon replied, “but despite your personal attributes, I highly doubt someone would go this effort without a greater reward. Are you certain the land is now your uncle’s? Could it be a dowry of some kind, cementing a business alliance? Is there anything about the land that is special?”
“There is nothing special about that little farm. My uncle just wants more. Always. ” Emmeline shrugged. “As for the suitors? I just assumed it was a case of spoiled boys determined to get what they want and not be embarrassed by a farmer’s daughter. Or maybe my uncle spun stories.”
“Perhaps,” she answered. Rivanon gathered the papers, got up and guided Emmeline out to the mid-afternoon daylight. A cool breeze came in from the northwest over the hills. Walking together Rivanon continued the discussion, “Mademoiselle de Cerisey for now we need to play a game. After we finish at the court – which is down this way, past the gardens, I’ll have all the delaying ammunition I need for tonight and likely a week’s time. I can go as your proctor, or representative, to make sure the deal with the bounty hunters is concluded and to defend your rights as you hear out Mssr Donan. You’ll need some of the money from the bounty hunter deal for the various filing and research fees we may encounter.”
Passing pillars and monuments to Thalassan’s long past, Rivanon asked, “does this make sense to you? Do you have any questions?”
“Not really. I just really dislike having to ask this of you. It’s not the way I would have preferred to get to know you. But I’m very grateful you are willing to help. Later maybe we can talk about more important and more interesting things. Meanwhile, please tell me what I owe you.”
Rivanon waved her hand, “no, not yet. I have more than enough to handle the fees.” She continued, “anyway, I know more about you now than I would have otherwise. You impressed my father, and that is difficult. You are desired by the southern Thalassan farmers, but want to be your own person, with your own destiny. You have adventured and spent the better part of a decade at the side of Emmeric. But you are right, later we can talk more about our long-term association. Ah,” she noted, “here we are.”
The women went into the court building, where Rivanon had the papers copied and filed taking over an hour. She had several small discussions with what looked like court officials, and then after receiving several pieces of paper, she paid a clerk some money and the two of them left. Nothing in Emmeline’s experience was similar to this. Good or bad, this was the law – and bureaucracy – in action. Rivanon didn’t seem to miss anything, including the many glances Emmeline drew from passers by.
“The Hall of Records is right over there, part of the Great Library,” Rivanon pointed, “we’ll go there tonight after the meeting. Do you have a place to freshen up? Despite the attention you draw Mademoiselle, you do look like you could use a chance to relax before this meeting. It will be stressful.”
“Yes, a place at an inn, where I’ll hopefully perform later tonight.” Gathering a bit of momentum of her own again, she smiled. “C’mon. I’ll show you.”
The women walked to the far side of the Centré Isle near the old capital district, now a rather wealthy area with high class inns for Thalassans and visitors alike. The inn, The Second Phoenix, was soon in sight. As they entered, Rivanon said, “I’ve heard some of the students perform here.”
“They do,” Emmeline affirmed. “When I first arrived, one was performing, in fact. This place is interesting because new entertainers and bards come here to test their skills and attract a patron.
“Wealthy customers come to The Second Phoenix not just to stay the night, but to scout the young new talent with an eye toward scooping up the very best. Wealthy families and out of town nobles are always competing with one another for the very best and that especially includes musical talent. After all, it’s hard to impress your neighbors when you invite them for festival if the entertainment is unskilled.
“Most new talent are desperate to find a patron, too. Having a patron means they have, by extension, the protection of their patron, which makes travel safer. And having a gauranteed gig whenever you are at your patron’s court goes a long way toward staving off hardship. A wealthy patron will make certain their entertainers look good, give them fine clothes, good food and generous pay. Such treatment of the talented means that when the entertainers travel, they will be singing praises for their patron, and spreading their good name. This generates fame and influence. Influence goes hand in hand with power.
“All this starts at a place like The Second Phoenix. This is where careers are made — or for the less talented, ended.” Emmeline smiled. “But don’t worry too much. Anyone can have a bad night. In time, a failed performer could still be let back onto the stage for a second chance. Life doesn’t have a lot of those, but in Thalassa, you just might get one.”
“I’m not worried Mademoiselle,” Rivanon responded gracefully, “I sadly haven’t even considered a… gig you called it? My eventual career is either political wife or sovereign baroness or both. My station and ancestry generally precludes entertaining outside of a limited range, though I have snuck in short performances in public, but in disguise.” She smiled a slightly mischievous smile. “In a very real way, despite your uncle’s actions to the contrary, you have been by birth given more freedom than I will ever know. Luckily, I like what I do.”
“Well, as long as we are together and so long as you are a mind to, you will be able to perform. I’d like it to be your opportunity to see the world as it is, Lady Rivanon. I think your father wants you to have an opportunity to really see the world and I mean to give you that. We have a grand adventure awaiting us just beyond this little problem with my family, I promise.” Emmeline smiled. Her excitement at all she alluded to lit her eyes. The danger, the unknown, even the hardships were things she had quickly grown to love already. “And please just call me Em or Emma.”
Rivanon looked slightly uncomfortable, paused and then said, “Very well Emma, if you wish. As you may guess I am less at liberty to offer an informal familiar name. To be equitable you may call me Ana – but I humbly request that you refrain from using that name in front of any one else. Lady Rivanon, Lady d’Uzec, or simply Lady will suffice otherwise,” she paused, “it is the way of things.”
Deftly changing the subject, Rivanon added, “That being said, I am interested in performing, as an experience for certain though I’m hesitant to attach my name to any performance. To be honest, rhetoric, storytelling, and poetry are my forté, but I’ve been known to carry a tune from time to time.” Emmeline could tell she was being humble as a point of honor. Rivanon (or Ana) did not outwardly crave the fame and attention that Emmeline did, but then again they had just met.
Rivanon made a subtle pointing gesture and whispered, “I do not wish to embarrass you, but so far you have said nothing in this inn publicly, yet I count fourteen men – no, fifteen – that you have distracted just by entering this establishment.
“That tends to happen,” Emmeline said. “It’s just the way of things, m’lady,” she threw in with a big smile. “When we leave this city you’ll have a stage name so you can be who and whatever you want to be. Something that rolls off your tongue, pretty like your real name…” Emmeline looked thoughtful for a moment. “Maybe something like River. River Celeste. Yes, named for the great river of stars in the night sky. It will be something people will remember when they hear you sing.”
“Yes, that will do nicely Emma,” Rivanon commented, “Traveling incognito like General Henri d’Este sharing his men’s worries before battle or Brianna Dahl during her time in Castigoth; it has historical precedent. Are you performing before or after the meeting with Donan and de Bruin?”
“After. I prefer performing later.”
Emmeline approached the keeper and requested a bath be drawn. Once it was ready she didn’t take long to make herself presentable. “Any suggestions as to what to wear for this thing?” she asked from the other side of a privacy screen.
Rivanon sat at small table in the room, “Be humble, dress down. You were born a poor farmer’s daughter – look the part. No jewelry, no fine material, minimal or no makeup. Tactically this is ideal, otherwise you are more desirable and complications may arise.” She paused, while you finish up, I’ll don my Proctor’s robe.”
A knock came at the door. Emmeline heard a brief discussion and then the door closing. “Emma, that was a representative from de Bruin. He requests we meet them in the Trophy Room downstairs in an hour. I gave him instructions on how many chairs there should be on each side. Apparently Donan is coming himself, without his son, but with de Bruin, a couple of guards, and his Factor,” she paused thinking Emmeline may not understand, “I should say his mercantile representative. They do not know you have an advocate.”
Emmeline found something simple and rugged to put on, then stepped out from behind the the screen. “Good. They’ll be expecting to bully me into something.” She looked at Rivanon. “We’ll give them a surprise.”
Rivanon had put on a long academic robe, hood, and hat. With a slight smile, “Of course.” Rivanon pointed to the small table for Emmeline to take a seat. Once she did so, Rivanon pulled out two record sheets and pen, handing them to her, “This is an official note where you acknowledge me as your representative in defiance of your legal guardian, your uncle, and challenging his legitimacy. Once you sign – once each – you engage me as your Proctor and Advocate in the Republican Courts of Law.” She finished, “are you ready?”
Emmeline signed where indicated. “Ready.”