After a couple evenings and days far more luxurious and comfortable than Emmeline really thought she deserved, she decided it was time to visit Cerisey and the Mother Tree. She spent a very pleasant breakfast with the baron and his daughter discussing where her abilities might best benefit the barony in terms of added fertility and plant growth, then assured the baron she expected to return within a couple days.
She packed light and took Goblin’s Gift (the horse whom she usually referred to more simply as “GG”) east out of the town of Uzec. Nestled in the foothills of the mountains that cradled ancient Azenkuul lay the Cairns, Mara’s Glade, and of course the hamlet of Cerisey. Once she rode over the bridge across the river that flowed down through the mountains and through the heart of Uzec, it was a short ride to the hamlet. The first place she was determined to visit was her little “manor”.
The trees that surrounded the village were stunning beautiful. A cacophony of color erupted from the forested dale. Fall was here. The little stream, once just a trickle, now was a large rushing brook. Upwards, toward the town, the low, rocky, and unusable bog had filled in to become a small lake. Several villagers were fishing in it and the fields were in the middle of harvesting. Much else of the village had not changed, just a series of poor houses. But some repairs had been done. In addition it looked as if repairs on the mill were underway, though the water wheel was very old and rickety.
The Warden of Cerisey, Riok, gave a wave and went down the hill from the manor, still in need of repairs. “Greetings m’aam’zel,” he said with a courteous bowed head.
“Greetings, Warden!” Emmeline said with a wave and a happy smile. “Cerisey has grown beautiful under your care. How do you and your wife fare?” She dismounted and closed the distance on foot, leading her horse by the reins.
“We fare well m’selle. The harvest is half way in. We are repairing the mill and as you can see – suddenly there is a lake. Now some of the folks didn’t like that, took away the bog y’know. But once we found fish, well folks got fishin’!” replied Riok.
“I wonder where the fish came from,” Emmeline mused. It made sense that the little stream she’d unleashed at Mara’s guidance might form the small lake, but she wondered how fish found their way there so soon. She shook her head. “Well, that’s good in any case. In other news, I have a bit of magic that may help with the harvest yield. It might be too late for this year, but I still think if I spend a little time on it now, we could receive double the yield next year. But it’s hard work, Warden Riok and I’ll need to put in a full day worth of it, even though I’ll have a late start. But it sure would be nice if I could impose on you and your wife for a bit of something to eat afterwards?”
“But of course m’selle. We have some pork and rabbit paanhaas, goat’s milk cheese, bread, greens, and some mince meat pie my wife made.” he said with a smile.
Emmeline returned his smile. “That sounds wonderful. I’ll get right to work then, so we can have a little time to talk before sleep.”
She led GG to the nearest fence and, after securing a water bucket and fresh water from the stream, she left the horse with a promise to see he was properly fed soon. She went straight into the field and began careful work. Although the fields themselves were small at a combined total of only a hundred acres, it still took her a good eight hours to criss-cross the field carefully blessing the land so that its bounty would be doubled in the next year.
When she was finished, she was both tired and famished. Night had fallen already and she thanked her ancenstors for giving her excellent night vision as she picked her way to the little mansion that housed Riok and his wife.
The table was set for just her. It was eight feet long with one chair on the far end. Food was placed on the table for Emmeline by Riok’s wife and what must be their eldest daughter, dressed in what was likely their best clothes – poor but serviceable. Riok pulled a chair out for Emmeline, “M’selle, please have a seat. The bounty of Cerisey is at your disposal. Can I get you some wine?”
“Yes something very mild would be good for me. I’m very thirsty from the work in the field. And… would you and your wife care to join me? And your daughter, too, if she has a mind to. I was hoping to talk about the needs of Ceresey?”
His daughter served the wine. Riok answered, “M’selle, we have already had our supper. But I’m happy to discuss the goings on with you, should that be your desire, m’selle.”
“Yes, please do. It seems that the little stream has brought with it some good fortune, but I don’t know the extent of things,” Em remarked. “Or the general health of the people who live here? I will have to travel again very soon but I want to be sure things are good for people here first.”
“It has m’selle. The stream did exist before, kind of. It waxed and waned with the seasons, but was no more than a trickle. The old mill had long since become a barn. Now it comes through quick, clear, cold and with fish. Of the folks around here, old Herv joined Aarith last month. Roberta, Robert the Farmer’s first daughter had a boy, also named Robert. The father we think is Maurice, her cousin, but he doesn’t claim it. Now Roberta swears she played nug-a-nug with him o’er in the cold of January, but he won’t admit it. Now, m’selle, we could have a problem if Robert decides to defend his daughter’s honor, which I’m sure he jus’ might. Me’thinks it is likely Maurice bragged to one of his mates, but getting them to talk might be difficult. Other than than, people seem to be doing well. We are low on seed for sowin’ next spring. The young Lord, may Aarith our Lord and Aria our Savior watch over him, well he was arranging for the seed when the whole goblin matter happened. Whatever his plans were, they went with him in death. Only Aarith knows now.”
“I’ll speak with the Baron now I have his ear,” Emmeline said. “I’ll work something out with him to be sure we get the seed we need by spring. I’m glad you told me, Warden Riok. Have there been any strangers about since I was here last, perhaps looking for the Glade?”
“No m’selle. Not looking for the Glade. We’ve had a couple groups looking for someone called Guy the Phoney – must be a thief,” he replied with a “hrrumpf.”
“No,” said his wife, “they were looking for Ty Bonnet who might be going by Barbara Anné, disguised as a woman.”
“Odd to go disguised that way…” Emmeline trailed off as she realized who they were talking about and who those groups probably were. “Did the groups looking for this person come by recently?”
“One did. Four men. Northmen methinks. One was some kind of shaman I figure, all covered in tattoos,” replied Riok. “They were here just a couple days ago…”
“And a month before that!” added his wife.
“Yes, that’s right. They came by twice,” Riok said, finishing his thought.
“Thank you for letting me know. Those men sound dangerous, whatever they are doing.”
Em continued with dinner a while, then said, “Tomorrow I need to go to the Glade, but I’ll stop back before I return to Uzec. If a decision needs to be made about Roberta and Maurice I can do that, but Roberta needs to understand that evidence must show that the father really was Maurice before I can do much about it. A pair of witnesses would help. Or, I could see Roberta and Maurice together to act as a neutral intermediary — to help them talk things through. If they wish to wait or need more time, they may have to go to Uzec to resolve the dispute because I must be away through winter.”
After dinner was finished, Emmeline retired to a room they’d made ready. She supposed it had belonged to the knight whose life was lost north of Calder. In the morning, during the early morning twilight, she gathered herself and set out for the Glade.