Lady Rivanon had asked Emmeline to delay departing even further than the two days the Baron wished, and after some discussion Emmeline had agreed. Something political was going on behind the scenes with Rivanon darting around the countryside back and forth to Derrien. Emmeline knew of a bit of it with her conversations with the Baron, but little in detail. Rivanon had basically for the last ten days been missing from Emmeline’s presence, and save for a brief time at the Glade and when she arranged for armor, they had spoken little.
One morning, the day Emmeline planned to pack up and get ready to leave Uzec and by extension Cerisey and the Glade, Amélie entered and said, “Lady Emmeline, the Lady d’Uzec asks you to attend her in the Baronial Garden.”
Emmeline was a little surprised. “Thank you, Ma’mselle Amelie. I’ll be right there.” She left her packing and now wearing her new-made reinforced leathers, she proceeded down stairs and out the rear doors to the garden to look for Lady Rivanon.
Rivanon saw Emmeline and smiled, “Hello Em. I see your new leathers have arrived! Good. I wanted to see how you were doing and if you are still wanting to take this journey. Let us walk and discuss the plan, or if we do not have a plan, perhaps create an outline of one.”
Emmeline smiled a little ruefully. “Well, it’s not about what I want. We must make this journey. As for a plan, I think you know most of it. First to Portreaux to see the Contessa, then on to Adera and points beyond as we follow the map. Since we don’t know what exactly we’ll find, nor the precise nature of the dangers along the way, we can’t make specific plans. My cousin thinks undead could be involved, so Sister Tiffanie has taken care to prepare for that. Is there something else we need to do?”
Rivanon replied, “Of course. And for my part I am as prepared as I can be. But there are reports of strangers about seeking Tiffanie, not to mention the Tyaanites and those they would hire. We should do our best to mitigate those encounters we know will occur so we have the strength and will to better face those unknowns past Adera. Simply put is there some way for us to keep our enemies from tracking us?”
“As long as we have the Aquila, the Tyaanites will hound us,” Emmeline said. “The bounty hunters will follow as far as they can, then we’ll lose them over water, most likely. They’ll probably try to attack before then, but there again, we don’t know their capabilities. We at our full capabilities ourselves. I’m sorry Rivanon. I know you don’t like not knowing. You should also know that the Wizard’s Guild itself is also likely following my every move. I expect they always will.
“I wish it didn’t bother you,” Emmeline said apologetically. “I’m used to being front and center and on stage every night. The fact that I can expect to be spied upon every moment of my life is not a big leap for me. It just means I’m always on stage and I’m always improvising. I’m aware and I can handle that, whether that means being in the light surrounding the Baron, or being tracked to the ends of the earth.”
Rivanon nodded, “I understand. I can improvise for certain, but like my father I tend to plan and be ready to modify that plan with sub-plans and contingencies. If this, then that, and such. No plan of course survives a real situation, but planning allows one to anticipate the knowns and be prepared for the unknowns; should they occur. I would be better at this if I had attended the War College, but I do have knowledge from history and my father. Suffice to say, we should just do what we can to minimize our exposure to attack.”
Emmeline nodded. “I agree and I’m open to any suggestions you might have. I can say I do have some new tricks, and I’ll no longer depend on magic for my defense — thanks to this,” she said referring to the light armor Rivanon had helped her obtain.
Rivanon smiled, “armor is a good thing. What are your new tricks if I may ask? I’ve also been practicing and preparing for our journey, rereading several spellsong techniques. In fact, I think I’ve finally grasped a spellsong that lets me steal the pattern of a magical effect and make it my own. Once I do so, it is hard to undo it, but not impossible.”
“Taking control of someone’s spell is handy,” Emmeline remarked with a bemused nod. “My new tricks? Well, I can sprout wings* and fly, or give someone else the ability, or both. I can lay down an impenetrable fog*, see in any kind of lighting condition, magical or not, including the obscuring fog. And if harm comes to me, I can vanish from this world entirely and appear somewhere else in the span of less than ten heartbeats.” Emmeline smiled. “I’ve sort of specialized in becoming very elusive and I have other magics that help with that, too.”
“Fascinating. Wings? I heard Magus Elemix is transcribing a flying spell himself. I suppose only the Sister and I will stay to the ground. For my part, I’m specializing in telling people what to do.” she smiled, “I believe I can mimic the voice prayer of the Aarithine priests (Command), and therefore force my will briefly on another. That is what I mean by controlling a spell. I’ve witnessed this firsthand on Thalassa during an altercation in the college Temple and recently asked Jocelyn to demonstrate it. She was happy to oblige. I think I can mimic that pattern well enough.”
“That’s going to come in handy!” Emmeline said enthusiastically. “And don’t worry, I can cast fly on other people.”
“That’s what a worry about,” she said with a smile. “Flying is not one of my ambitions, unless it was on a pegasus or griffon. But I have a question for you. In combat, you release a blast of energy from the pattern. I’ve seen it several times. It is something I’ve been curious about. I know it is a gift from Mara, but so you think she, and you, would mind if I tried to mimic it?”
Emmeline shrugged. “Mimic away, River. It’s been effective for me. If you can, you might try picking up some other lesser magics, too. I was able to pick up some pretty unusual things, too. Like a spell to turn any hand held weapon into a deadly magical one, one to impress, and a handy little spell that tends to impress common folk quite a bit.*” Em added, “With minor magics to turn blades, and send little messages, I actually have access to a whole lot of minor magics. I’ll demonstrate any of them if you like.
“Can you mimic fey talents, too? Like that ability I mentioned to escape if harmed? I can also terrify or enchant with a word. Oh! And can you cast healing spells, too? That would be most helpful of all because I tend to use up half, or all of my magical ability just keep my friends on their feet.”
Rivanon replied, “Sadly spellsongs cannot mimic natural abilities or certain supernatural gifts, just those that a ‘spell-like’ in nature. In truth, I don’t think I can keep more than a couple in my head. Non-spellsongs are ‘slippery’ and difficult to keep in mind. Now the terrify or enchant with a word is of interest for certain. To answer your question, I do have the ability to heal, of sorts, by preventing damage in the first place by inspiring bravery – which you have experienced, by inspiring during combat, or afterwards encouraging positive thoughts and energy as you rest. In my opinion, strengthening my allies early is wiser than healing afterwards. I can be even more effective if we know we are going into battle ahead of time.”
“The less I have to heal the more spellpower I can devote to dealing with enemies, so that will be a big help,” Emmeline said. “Unfortunately, most of the time, we don’t get time to plan for battle. Mostly, we have to react. It’s the nature of the thing, you see — we aren’t intending anyone harm. We have taken the fight to the Tyaanites twice and in those cases we were successful, thought Elemix nearly died each time. But he almost dies almost every time there is a battle,” Em amended. “People really love to knock wizards down, and that’s exactly why I’m not wearing any wizard robes. Like, ever. It’s like walking around with a “kick me” sign on your ass all day long. Pardon my language, but when you have enemies actively hunting you down, it’s simply the truth.” Her language and humor were dry, but her tone wasn’t resentful. It was just the way it was, a truth of the world that she couldn’t change.
Rivanon looked pensive for a bit and then replied, “well, wizards terrify some people and let’s be frank, for good reason. I saw what Elemix did to those goblins at Arissey. Certainly later on he took a pounding, but only after obliterating much of the enemy. He’s proud of who he is. Deservedly so as i believe I know what they go through. That is the price for traveling with him. I doubt either he or the Sister would disguise themselves unless absolutely necessary. Then again, you could ask. I am going incognito and I lose more than them by doing so. At least tone it down a bit.”
“I don’t hold it against either of them,” Emmeline said. “Let them travel as it suits them because they know the risks and embrace them. I just wouldn’t want to be them; that’s my choice.”
She smiled playfully as she eyed Rivanon. “You however, my lady, cannot afford not to take some measures so I’m glad you are thinking about these things.”
“It is a part I intend to play. A challenge, that’s all. I’ve been very thorough with all arrangements,” replied Rivanon.
“I’m sure you have been,” Emmeline nodded. “Speaking of, I know you have been very busy lately. Is there anything I could help with?” Emmeline referred to that political something that was going on behind the scenes. She didn’t know anything about it and didn’t want to stick her nose in where it wasn’t welcome, but at the same time she didn’t want to appear completely ignorant or unhelpful.
“Sadly no. It is a bit of diplomacy on behalf of my father and somewhat on behalf of the Duke, my great-uncle. My father’s scouts have determined that the there is a larger group of goblins, hobgoblins, and even bugbears gathering in the north. Under who is unknown. You noticed the new defenses going up and the growing number of troops, fiefdoms being granted, etc., yes?” she replied. “I am making arrangements for winter, should that goblin force choose the Calder Valley as their invasion route – there is no guarantee they will. My father and the Duke insist I am out of harms way; and believe it or not, my father thinks myself being with you and the others is safer.”
Emmeline frowned with concern. “That makes things here sound rather dire. I’ll have to hope then that winter blocks any passes those goblins might use to get at us here, and the Baron has time to shore up defenses enough he can repulse anything they send in the spring. And by then, perhaps we’ll have returned be able to help.”
“Maybe,” she nodded, “but I’ve also heard news the refugees from Malith are pushing in toward the Rift. It could be a dangerous place.”
“Yes,” Emmeline nodded. “It could. You’re really worried about your father, aren’t you? I am, too. Now that we are back, it’s not easy to leave again.”
“Yes, that is true. I’m his heir and I should be here. I could do so much for them; but father is a stubborn sort and I know my duty and will okay.” She mused, “Honestly it is more than that. I love it here. This is home. I didn’t think I would miss it so much given how I left and how young I was, but this is truly home. Thalassa will always be part of me. I’ve lived there longer than anywhere, but I am a daughter of the North.”
“I think it’s that Uzec needs us. Thalassa really doesn’t. We matter here, but not in Thalassa. For you, there is the added benefit of family being here. For me, it’s where my heart is.” Em smiled. “When it comes to Uzec we feel the same, I think.”
“Then let us finish this mission and get back here. People need us,” she replied with a smile. “I must prepare for the journey. Is there anything you need? My guard will be accompanying us, plus two of my ladies. One you will recognize, a young bard and former classmate named River.”
Emmeline shook her head. “I have a ring of warmth, clothes, food for the road, a horse and my fiddle. I’m set. She did quick math and realized Rivanon meant herself and the River personality could pose as ladies while Tiffanie posed as her guard until they left Portreaux. ”I like your choice in company,” she said with a smile.
“Indeed. It will look like myself going on a trip to see my aunt. The girl – Ana – posing as River, then will then pose as me and stay with my aunt until we return. I will then ‘become’ River, you Emmeline, and the others are simply unknowns in Portreaux or Adera.” she added. “I need to convince Tiffanie of this though.”
Emmeline chuckled. “I doubt she’ll have a problem with it. I think her renown is important to her, and it will only increase as we go, guard or not.”
“Very well then. I’ll reach out to the Sister. Otherwise, I’ll meet you in the courtyard tomorrow at dawn.” replied Rivanon. She smiled, nodded, and then departed.