Rivanon asked the librarian to make copies of the holders information, to which the librarian bowed slightly and said it would be done. Returning to the clerk Rivanon and Emmeline picked up a load of papers and grabbed one of the dozens of nearby study desks. “Your grandfather was very proactive. Looking at all of this, it seems your uncle does have rights of trust, but according to the part of Emmeric’s will concerning your disposition, you were to be left in the care of your grandmother, Adelade. It seems a letter to that effect was sent to Mazarin to execute with a copy of such found in ‘my second greatest treasure’.” Rivanon was confused, “what the deuce does that mean?”
Emmeline thought for a moment. “It means, I think, he may have left it for me. Lady Rivanon, I think he may have hidden it in with violin he left me, maybe hidden in the case? But wait a moment. My grandmother Adelade?”
“Its right here. On a hunch, I asked for your mother’s birth record. The Aarithine Temple records these in detail and sends copies here. Apparently your mother was born outside of marriage, which as you may guess was scandalous, but certainly not unheard of. It looks like, and this may be a guess, that Emmeric was the father, but did not marry your grandmother – in fact,” Rivanon produced another record, “she was once married to one Henri Lacaste, a rather unsuccessful apothecary, and had a child with him, Bella, who would be your mother’s younger sister. Now what happened afterward is still a mystery.”
“Is she still alive?” Emmeline wondered.
“Maybe, replied Rhivanon. “She was at least at the time of your grandfather’s death – or so he thought. We have three options now, first find census records for the year 440. If she lived on the island, then we could at least know where she once lived. Second, we could find her husband and/or daughter and ask them. Third, we could search for the copy of the note to Adelaide, assuming your uncle either didn’t receive his copy, did and couldn’t find her, or ignored it.”
“I think I would like to meet her, if she still lives.” Emmeline said. “But first let me see if a copy of that letter is where I think it is.”
Rivanon nodded. “I think we are done here for now. I’ll ask them to make copies for us.” She went to the clerk, paid some coin, and rejoined Emmeline, asking, “Where do you keep your violin?”
Emmeline smiled. “Always near me.” She went to the carriage and removed it from the bench seat. When Rivanon joined her she was opening the case. It was the same violin she played the previous night, of course. Very old, well crafted and obviously lovingly cared for.
“I don’t think he would have tried to stuff parchment inside the violin. It would have changed the tone. But the case is another matter.” Emmeline carefully put the violin aside and began to check the seams, padding, and feel the soft felt for anything that she might hide a letter.
After some experiments, Emmeline found a compartment cleverly hidden as a seam in the lining. Inside she found the following:
Dear Monsieur Mazarin de Garin,
If you are reading this, I have passed away suddenly. What I ask of you now is of utmost importance to me. As per our earlier agreement, you have been able to graze and use the land that is Emmeline’s trust. This may continue until she is of-age when it becomes hers, then you and her may make a further agreement. If she should decide to marry, then this land will be her dowry as it was for her mother. I trust you will assist her in that matter. Emmeline is likely quite beside herself now, I ask you to care for her until you can get word to her grandmother Adelaide Lacaste. I know she, your brother, and my daughter had a great falling out with her years ago, but I believe she is the best person for Emmeline’s development, especially right now. With the passing of your wife several years ago, and having only sons, it is my belief that a woman’s guidance at this time is essential. I do ask you to be a partner in this and help at this time for your family. Regardless of what you think of me, think of what is best for Emmeline.
Emmeline re-read the letter several times. She could hear her grandfather’s voice in it. The mentioned falling-out worried her, but she was even more intrigued now.
“I would like to find Adelaide Lacaste now. We have a lot to talk about,” Emmeline said somberly. “After all, we are part of each other, aren’t we. Family. Perhaps we can find the residence of this Lacaste Apothecary she married. She may still reside there.”
Rivanon said, “Well the Apothecary’s Guild is likely the best place to start. Do you agree?”
Emmeline nodded. “Yes, good idea.” She put the violin back in the case and put it away but kept the letter in hand. Then she opened the carriage door and leaned out so she could address her hired man. “Driver, please take us to the Apothecary’s Guild next.”
The Grand Order of Apothecaries is a six-story building in the Highporté region of the city – close to several private portages and older commercial docks. Nearby are numerous warehouses. It has gained power due to its near monopoly on providing supplies to the various magic users in the city from wizard to bard to even the priesthood. After leaping several yards of red tape, Rivanon and Emmeline end up talking to one of the Order’s officials.
“How may I help you this fine day,” the official asks.
“I’m seeking an apothecary named Lacaste. Or rather, his wife Adelaide. Can you tell me how to contact them?” Emmeline queried.
“Lacaste?” he said confused. “There are over 50 apothecary businesses with several hundred in the various professions we support and many, many more that support them. We know all of them, there is no Lacaste I’m afraid.”
“Perhaps not currently. He would be old, and perhaps he passed away. His first name was Henri. Henri Lacaste, married to Adelaide and they had a daughter named Bell… no Bella. All this is in the archives, so perhaps if you can look them up in your records?” She put on her prettiest, most hopeful smile.
“Why of course. Please have a seat in the atrium.” About fifteen minutes later the official came back slightly grim-faced. “Henri Lacaste was an apothecary in this guild for only a short time. He inherited his business from his late father in 404. According to our records, he lost the business in summer of 413, over 30 years ago. There is a note of him having a wife, Adela, and a daughter, Bella. Adela is often short for Adelaide.” He added, “in addition, he joined the crew of a merchant trader, the Illyrias, and that is where our records end. He would be 78 years old today – if he still lives. Of the wife and child we have no record.”
“Also, I can’t tell you what became of this Adelaide, but we do have a Bella in the guild who would be around the right age. She’s been a member in good standing since establishing her business about 10 years ago – in fact she’s one of our leaders, a senior journeyman and a wizard to boot.”
Emmeline thought a moment, then nodded. “Would you be kind enough to tell me how I might find her?”
“Kira,” the official turned toward his assistant, “this time of day, where do you think Mistress Dungaroon would be found?” Kira replied, “she usually takes tea mid-afternoon at Brasserie Delacroix, on the patio.”
Emmeline winced. “Of course. That makes… perfect sense. Thank you both so much for your assistance. Please excuse me.” She turned and left quickly. She didn’t stop until she reached the carriage.
After Lady d’Uzec was aboard, she called to the driver. “Brasserie Delacroix please.” She put a hand to her head and settled back in her seat. “This is going to quickly become very awkward.”
“This is rare for me to say,” asked Rivanon, “I’m confused. Do you know the person they described? I mean honestly we don’t have to go any farther, with you grandfather’s note from the violin we have enough to confront you uncle.”
“I’ve been traveling with a wizard named Elemix Dungaroon, son of parents who are also wizards. The odds are looking like I might be related to my friend,” Emmeline said. “It’s just a minor complication. I would like to meet my grandmother, if possible. I can’t help but think it could greatly influence how I approach my uncle about all this.”
Rivanon was surprised, “I hate to ask this, but you always say men leer at you. Has your friend Elemix tried to court you or anything similar?”
“I honestly hadn’t paid attention to that.” I was always too concerned about what he might do when he found out I was a witch, she thought to herself. “But on the other hand, it’s not the thing he’s really good at. Researching thing, magic, keeping a level head in a fight — he’s good at all those things. But on the other hand I got a first-hand look at his attempt to court an attractive, more experience wizard. It was… not successful. I felt bad for him, really.
“Anyway, if you are trying to ask if he’s flirted with me, then I wouldn’t say he really has, but the awkwardness I refer to in dealing with his family isn’t about that. It feels more like I will be intruding on something of his that’s personal to him. Yet, I must do this.”
Rivanon replied, “if it is easier, I could converse with her at the café for you. You can take another table nearby and listen in. I can be very tactful. What do you think? At least, if she isn’t a relative, no harm done and if she is, well we’ll know if you should broach that conversation or let sleeping dogs lie. Thoughts?”
“That’s very thoughtful of you. Thank you, but I want to do this. I’m sure I can handle Elemix if it goes poorly, but I would like you to come with me in case she has legal questions.”
“Very well.” The cafe was relatively busy. In the last 20 years, cafes, bakeries, and restaurants had become far more prevalent in the city and a culture of sitting outside and enjoying the air, watching people, and drinking tea and coffee had begun to develop, especially among the young and the city’s elite. Arriving mid-afternoon, Emmeline and Rivanon asked a few questions, easily identifying a woman sitting alone at a small table under the cafe’s awning. She looked like she was in her late 30’s or early 40’s, elegant, sophisticated, and definitely a woman of culture and means. She had brunette hair, eerily similar to the Mara/Lara visage that Emmeline had seen. She was reading a tome and taking notes.
Emmeline wasted no time making her way to the older woman’s table. “Please excuse my interruption, Mistress Dungaroon?”
When Bella looked up, Emmeline executed a formal gesture that was part bow and part curtsey but not quite either one. It was the expected greeting when meeting a superior in Thalassan society. “My name is Mademoiselle Emmeline d’Ceresy, which I’m sure means nothing to you, but I am also daughter of Hoel and Lara de Garin. Would you be able to spare a moment to discuss a family matter, one important to both your family and mine?”
She smiled very kindly, “You seem like a pleasant young lady. You and your friend may join me for a time. Can I get you anything to drink?” Bella replied.
“Thank you, but not for me. Lady Rivanon d’Uzec?”
“Appeciated Magus. An orange juice would be ideal today.” Bella made the order, refreshing her tea as well.
With the refreshment question out of the way, Emmeline puzzled a moment over where to begin. The polite thing to do was to start with some small talk, something formal or impersonal, or something that would evoke positive responses was the norm, and leaping straight to calling her “Aunt Bella” would be a bit rude and sudden whether or not it was true.
So Emmeline started with something she thought would be safe. “Although this isn’t why I’ve come to see you today, I simply cannot resist asking. In the past few months, I have made friends with a traveling companion who’s shown exceptional valor, intelligence and clear thinking. He’s newly made a full wizard and proved himself worthy of that title in a way that helped to save hundreds of lives in the north. Would you be Elemix Dungaroon’s mother?”
“I am. And would I be too forward to identify you as M’mselle Emmeline, the Goblin-Slayer?” she playfully replied.
“I don’t feel much like a slayer of anything, except perhaps as an expression referring to a good performance.” Emmeline smiled. “But I think you have it right. And please just call me Em.”
After Rivanon’s orange juice was delivered, Emmeline continued. “I guess you must have heard some of what we’ve been up to. I know Elemix will enjoy expounding on what you might have already heard, so I won’t steal his thunder. What I’d really like to discuss today is something… well I suppose it may be more personal to me than anyone else. I’m having a bit of an argument with my uncle regarding my future that I was hoping you might be able to help me clear up.
“You see, my mother died in childbirth. I didn’t get to know her very much except by the letters she wrote to my father while she carried me. My father died a few years later and I was left in the care of my grandfather. Sadly… he died, too, a few years ago. Well, maybe not quite that long, even. The point is, he left a will regarding my future and left a letter that was to be directed to my grandmother.
“But my uncle seems to have neglected to tell me certain things and that has led me to believe he may have somehow failed to deliver the letter to my grandmother.”
Emmeline dug in her bag, then produced a copy of the freehold’s abstract of title bearing the names of her father, uncle, grandfather and grandmother. “Lady Rivanon found this with regard to my family’s property. It was first purchased by my grandfather, who then gave it to someone very important to him. I never knew her, never even knew about her until this was found.” She gave it Bella to look at, then also produced the letter her grandfather had left.
“My grandfather’s name was Emmeric Brunét. My grandmother on my mother’s side is Adelaide Lacaste. This is the letter my grandfather left for her, and is also what the abstract refers to. Please, Mistress Dungaroon, can you tell me? Did my mother Lara and you share the same mother? And is Adelaide Lacaste still alive?”
Bella carefully looked over everything. A few minutes later she said, “I barely remember my mother. I do recall she was fond of a bard named Emmeric (of her many dalliances), which annoyed my father to no end. My mother’s history before she married my father I don’t know much, but afterward…” She paused a bit, “to be straight with you, Em, she could have had a dozen children and I would never have known. You see, she left my father – for good reason – but she also left me alone with him and didn’t bother to come back when he passed. Responsibility was not her forté. Adventuring, society, partying, and self-indulgence is. I last saw her maybe ten years ago, when Elemix was only ten, when she gifted me with the money to start my business. She called it an apology. I called it too late. I took her money anyway – she owes much more. I can’t imagine what she did to your mother.”
She took off a locket and opened it. “This is what she looked like when she married my father. She is much older now. I carry this not in memory of the woman who gave me birth, but as a warning never to be her. If she had a child by Emmeric and you are the daughter of that child, then seeking her out may give you more pain and sorrow than answers. She does still live though.”
Emmeline looked down at the table unhappily. “My uncle is interested only in marrying me off to whoever will take my dowry and give the land back to him. I suppose the old fool has no idea that if he had just left me alone until I was 21 I would have handed it all to him simply because he’s the only family I knew. But he’s sent kidnappers, and arranged so many marriages none of them could possibly be legal anymore, and worse, some of those people have also taken to sending thugs, mercenaries and who knows what else after me. I’ve been assaulted and forced to defend myself multiple times over the past couple months and it needs to stop before someone really gets hurt. Other than the would-be kidnappers, I mean. Lady Rivanon says I have enough now to get my uncle to stop through legal means, but I’m concerned he’ll just find another way.
“In truth, I don’t blame him for wanting to secure his own financial future for himself and his own family. But the way he’s going about it is offensive and really dangerous – to me personally and those around me. So, if there is any chance that meeting Adelaide Lacaste might put an end to this once and for all, I must do it.”
“I do not know about your uncle, but the ‘Countessa’ Adela de Portreaux is findable,” Bella replied.
“I’ve heard of her,” Rivanon spoke up, “she’s a society matron who hosts exclusive parities and is mysterious patron of many artists and bards. She styles herself as the ‘troubadour of romantic love and romance.’ I’ve never met her though.”
Emmeline wondered if Adela might like her song about the summer festival. “Actually it sounds like she might be sympathetic toward a young woman seeking to avoid unwanted arranged marriages…” She ventured a hopeful smile. “You have been very helpful, Mistress Dungaroon, and you have my thanks.”
“It was nice to meet you as well. Elemix intends to invite you over for dinner soon, just so you are aware,” Bella replied. “Just be wary when it comes to Adelaide.”
“I will. Thank you again for your time. I look forward to seeing you again soon,” Emmeline said.
“I do as well. Perhaps we can talk about your mother, should Adelaide confirm your suspicions. Take care. Oh, I should tell you Elemix is at my shop right now working on some potions. He was planning to do some research at the Library later this afternoon.” She writes a quick note, “here is the address. Take care.”
Leaving the cafe, Rivanon said, “Well shall we?”
Emmeline smiled and nodded. “We shall.”