When they had returned to Uzec Elemix pulled Emmeline aside and asked if she would join him in his quarters later to discuss what Mara had requested.
Curious and interested, Emmeline agreed. After she arrived at his room and he let her inside, she waited for the door to shut. She smiled but couldn’t help a little teasing. “You know, if we weren’t cousins we’d need to have some chaperone or at least a guard watching to be sure we weren’t fooling around.”
“Not at all,” replied Elemix. “I think you’ll find people don’t really want to know what goes on between wizards behind closed doors.” Elemix smiled.
Emmeline raised an eyebrow, but otherwise abandoned that line of talk.
“Thanks for meeting with me.” Elemix motioned her to a chair and when she sat he sat opposite her. “When I met with Mara at the tree, she wanted me to speak with you. She was pretty insistent but I don’t know what it is about. She mentioned that you and I are related and so I have the same blood or something like that but I don’t know what she was talking about. I agree we are related, but I don’t know why she would care or want me to talk with you about it. Do you happen to know?”
“I know you saw Mara when you went to the tree, but I’m going to guess you didn’t know that was unusual. It is. Very. Only members of the direct bloodline that descends from Mara herself many thousands of years ago can see her. Otherwise her ability to communicate is limited to impressions, dreams — indirect things. The fact that you saw her means you are definitely part of an ancient bloodline.
“Now, from Mara’s perspective every direct ancestor of mine is another incarnation of me, even if lifetimes overlap. To her, it’s one continuous cycle that I’ve been moving in for many thousands of years. You aren’t my direct ancestor, though, so you and I aren’t really a part of each other. Just blood relations. The same is true of your mother — she isn’t my direct ancestor either, but she is a blood relation. So you can see Mara, and your mother would be able to as well.
“But maybe it can mean more than that, too. Since you have a little better communication with Mara most people, maybe you could use that if you wanted to. You could open yourself to her, in other words. But it would have to be your choice.” She paused there. “Does that help?”
Elemix thought for a moment. “I didn’t realize everyone couldn’t see her. I thought all one needed was faith, and I do have faith in Arith, but what you say about bloodlines makes sense. What do you mean by open myself to her? With all do respect, I am not sure I like the sound of that? I mean, I do believe she exists – obviously, and apparently I have a connection to her through blood as my distant ancestor. What more does she want?”
Emmeline shook her head. “No, I don’t think she wants anything from you. I’m just saying that if you decided you wanted a stronger connection, you could do that because you are of the blood, not necessarily that you would want to.”
Elemix thought to himself. It’s interesting that Mara would want to expand their connection. Perhaps there would even be some level of power that could be gained by taking her up on such an offer. Mara was certainly powerful though the extent of which he had no way of really knowing.
Regardless though, Elemix wasn’t interested. He knew all power comes with a price. His years of study as a wizard had taught him that much. What Mara’s price was exactly he didn’t know. He was fairly certain Emmiline didn’t know the full price either. No he thought, his power would be gained through study and practice. Not through some kind of ancestral blood link to a Fey creature.
“Thank you for helping to clarify that for me,” replied Elemix. “I think doing so would distract me from my continual study and practice in the ways of magic as a wizard. It is however very good to know that such an option exists for me.” Elemix smiled. “It would seem that my interest in magic may have been passed down from far beyond just my mother.”
“You’re probably right on all accounts,” Emmeline agreed. “Also, if you are curious about the fey side of things, you can always just ask me. I don’t really know a lot myself, but I can in turn find lots of interesting things out from Sevé or even Mara herself.”
“Thanks and the same goes for me. If you ever have any questions on magic you can certainly ask me. I too am only a student. There is so much to learn. That’s part of the excitement. I think we make a pretty good team.”
Emmeline agreed. “We do. Anything else you wanted to talk about? There have been a lot of changes in both our lives. Did I hear something about a possible wizard’s tower in the future? So much has been going on with my own things I haven’t paid as much attention as I normally would.” There had been several very big surprises for her lately. It absorbed most of her attention and she knew she had probably not updated everyone when she meant to.
Elemix smiled. “Yes Rivanon made me aware that she had held a brief discussion with the Baron about the possibility and suggested that if I were interested I reach out to him. Over the past couple of days I have done so and he seems agreeable to having me move here and assist him with things of a magical nature. He is going to review my proposals and think on them while we are away on our mission. I think this could be a good home, and helping the Baron is a noble cause. It also keeps us relatively close I should think.
There are many advantages to my moving here so I am hopeful we can work out a mutually beneficial arrangement. I really do like this area, and I think I could help the Baron as he moves to secure this area for a large population influx.
Elemix paused. “What do you think about the idea?”
“Honestly? I think it’s vital,” Emmeline said. “From the perspective of defense of the realm and the Thalassan League, there is a large hole in the defense of the north and it all relates to a general lack of available magic. Yes, there is the church and they have capable people here, but just one or two isn’t enough to counter what could come out of the mountains should goblins scrounge up some more of those lethal scrolls. Or worse, produce actual, talented mages of their own. Or double-worse, should a people more organized and lethal than goblins arise.”
One of the changes that had crept up on her over the past several months was the way Emmeline thought of Uzec as her home. She didn’t think of it just as a lovely place to be where the people knew and really liked her anymore. Now she thought of it as a place she really wanted to keep safe. She and the Baron were of like minds when it came to the people of Uzec. It seemed that exposure to the Baron had changed her in more ways than one.
“The Baron is in the midst of seeing his realm grow,” Emmeline continued. “It’s absolutely vital that we provide the security they will expect. Failure isn’t an option. The Baron will be able to count on me to do whatever I can to aid the realm. I have magic, too, and my whole life also depends on Uzec’s security. But I’m just smart enough to understand that I can’t be the sole mage in Uzec. And we can’t have just anyone the Wizard’s Guild might send. Few will understand me like you do and that will lead to political issues we can’t afford right now. So, we need your strength. We need what you are becoming.”
Emmeline paused a moment. “And I will probably always be more a social person than a mage in any case. I would prefer to downplay my abilities with magic. The people of Uzec are far more open-minded about it than Thalassa, but I still don’t want to rub the fact I’m a witch into people’s faces here. I want to be the kind of person they can approach and speak with, who will sing and dance and dine with them, will let them know the Baron cares about them and that I have their backs when there is trouble. Wizards and witches are powerful but scary people. You can be that. It’s needed. And while I’m part of that, I don’t want it to overshadow everything else that I am.”
“Thank you,” replied Elemix. “I too see a strong future here. I have a good relationship with the Baron and I want to see this area prosper. I agree that your knowledge of magic will help in this area but as you have said you have a way with people that is much different from mine. I know there is a distance people keep from me out of respect and fear of magic. The wizards guild teaches that is a good thing, and I tend to agree. It sounds heartless to say, but Wizards need that distance. Learned magic is much different than gifted or natural magic. We are very busy people and a simple slip up can have disastrous consequences. We are generally better when we are left to our own devices.
Again, in this we make a good team. Your natural gifts, along with my refined study can help this area greatly. And we can continue to learn from each other in the process.”
Elemix grew a little more serious then and looked to the window. “I am working on improving relations with Magus Alix who will almost certainly use her influence against me – really us – if she and I cannot get on better terms. Hopefully, through my efforts we will be on better terms very soon.
As you know, the wizards guild is watching us. So too I believe are others that are seeking the aquila still. We must continue to be as careful as possible.”
“I appreciate you bringing that up. I guess I’m not worried about being watched by the Guild. I’m technically an apprentice, and I don’t feel like I have anything to hide so long as they aren’t sitting around eating fried tuber chips and watching during moments meant to be private between the baron and I.” She laughed a little, but then suddenly that thought didn’t seem so funny. She wouldn’t put it past some wizards. They spent far too much time alone in their towers and dungeons.
She cleared her throat. “Anyway, I thought something might have happened between yourself and Witch Alix. I received a letter that hinted something had gone poorly between the two of you. It politely but firmly informed me we would be speaking when next I pass through Derrien. The topic of discussion is broad, so between the lines, here is what I’m reading. She doesn’t trust me or Mara — which is only natural. No one does except perhaps the Baron and even he is quite cautious about that. But I trust him. I’ve given him, and I will —“
She cut herself off. Her cousin didn’t want to hear any of that mushy stuff. She blushed a little and continued. “Point is that she doesn’t care much what I say at this point, even though I will speak very honestly. What she really wants is to get a feel for the sort of person I am. Time, with hindsight, will prove or disprove what I say and then she will decide to give me her trust or she will not. I think probably she will never truly trust — that would be a weakness for someone in her position. But she may be able to give me her respect one day. I aim for trust, but expect only respect in time.
“In a way, I feel sorry for her. I wish she would consider taking a new role in life before life passes her by. Her current role prohibits relationships, you know, and I don’t think anyone deserves to suffer a life of loneliness.” Emmeline shrugged. “But it’s her decision to make and I will never attempt to subvert her will or her position just because I think she should not be alone all the time.”
She reflected that Mara felt the similarly toward herself. Mara thought it a shame she had a relationship with just one man, but at the same time Mara didn’t want to interfere with that.
“What about you, cousin? Will you nurture that respect and fear people give you to isolate yourself like so many other wizards? Or will you let someone in to share your dreams and your ambitions?”
“The guild has its traditions and its formal and informal rules. As you are an apprentice I can say this to you but it can go no further. There are some things that I cannot disclose to you in terms of my dealings with other Wizards – including Magus Alix. Let me just say however that I refuse to effectively be someone else’ puppet. A line had to be drawn and I drew it.
Sometimes Wizards get big heads on their shoulders when interacting with others and that can be projected on the wrong people. I fear Magus Alix is walking a tight boundary their with me. Perhaps it is because she see’s me as a threat to her influence in the area.
That being said, I am sure I have been in her place before in the eyes of others – seeing me as someone with a big head on my shoulders. In some ways I want to grow that aspect of my personality – to distance myself from many. But that is not the case within the guild.
It shouldn’t be the case when it comes to Wizard to Wizard interaction. Wizard to Archmagus etc formality makes sense, but not to effective equals. I trust in other Wizards and while some would say that is a weakness I see it as a strength. If we cannot trust members of our own guild who can we trust? I refuse to become a recluse and trust no one as many wizards do. To me that is a weakness that only serves to ostracize oneself from others. It is the opposite of what is needed to grow the guild and spread its influence for the benefit of Thalassa.
To answer your question I do want to meet someone and eventually have a family as my mother did. But I am also interested in advancing in the ranks of the guild. I would say at this time anyway that is my priority.
Making friends with Magus Alix can only further that goal and help us both, as she is a Wizard with some significant influence in this region.”
Emmeline thought about what Elemix said. She nodded cautiously. “Friendship with Magistrix Alix would be beneficial to all parties, but I don’t think that’s something that’s easy for her to give. Just like trust. We will need to be patient and it might still take years. And it will probably always be secondary to her ambitions within the Wizard’s Guild.
“That’s really where I think a lot of magi go… I don’t want to say wrong. That’s not the right word. It’s more that, like you, many wizards just want to expand their knowledge and power. Unlike you, they may do so at the expense of their peers. For example, let’s imagine that I was a wizard with aims that paralleled yours exactly. Instead of complementing each other’s goals, we’d both be looking to expand our personal power, reputation, and likely even competing for a place here in Uzec regardless of how friendly we were to each other. I think that’s what happens in Thalassa especially, and to a lesser extent, all throughout the periphery. Yes, the overall goals of the Thalassan League and the Wizard’s Guild is something everyone agrees upon, but how each wizard sets about furthering those goals is entirely an individual decision. It must lead to fierce competition. Trust between wizards never comes easily. My month at the Guild in Thalassa and subsequent rounds of questioning proves that.
“Of course, you and I are family, and that trumps any bond the Guild might have for us,” Emmeline said seriously. “You risked your future for me and in return I risked my life to see your future is secure. I won’t let anyone threaten that future.”
“You are a better person than most wizards I’ve met. Magistrix Alix doesn’t know that. Perhaps in time, maybe. In my opinion, however, a wizard probably isn’t the someone that would really be good for you. You need someone who understands you and complements you rather than competes with you. I think I can hep you find that someone, if you like me to? By that I mean a serious and as insightfully chosen soulmate as I can find, not just a serious of hookups, one night stands, and blind dates. What do you say?”
“Oh I understand it all too well,” said Elemix. She is only interested in growing her political power at this point and she doesn’t want me in the way.
I want to be sure she doesn’t try to create a wedge between us. As an acolyte technically she has a limited power over you that she doesn’t have over me. While I don’t think she would, she may try and exercise that power and have you do something I refused to do, like share information. If she does let me know and I shall have words with her. If she is unwilling to be anything beyond cordial with us than I see no reason we should be anything but the same with her. We need not tell her our business for example. After all she doesn’t do the same for us. Also she tends to consider information exchange as something that isn’t without a price. We should be mindful of that in the future.
Now as for my cousin wanting to play matchmaker for me I am not opposed to something if it happens, but I am not all that interested in focusing on that for the foreseeable future.
Thanks for the offer by the way. I can think of no one better to assist me in that endeavor.”
“Okay, I won’t meddle with the matchmaking thing unless you tell me otherwise. As for Magistrix Alix, there’s no need to worry. She wants to know my goals and that of Mara’s. I don’t have a problem telling her what I can. After all, I love the baron and I love Uzec. I’d do anything for the ones I love. Coming from a person who has few inhibitions to begin with, that should mean something.” Emmeline’s smile was fearless. “That has a direct implication right up the line to the Duke and ultimately the Thalassan League. They all have my loyalty. I know very, very clearly the goals of the Wizard’s Guild as taught me by Archmagus Revan and I can tell you mine are directly in line with them.”
“I know you’re goals are in line with the guild, of that I have no doubt,” replied Elemix.