The evening before the party was to depart, former Vala, Matildë asked to meet Emmeliine in the warmth of the great hearth in the heart of the temple. The roaring fire illuminated the Temple triad below, where three great trees loomed large. The color of the fire danced along the stonework, made of many styles, over many years and as it seemed likely, many gods, most long forgotten. Emmeline could even see what may have been a place a dome once was placed, and now was open air with snow spiraling down to the trees and alters below.
“Thank you for coming,” said Matildë. “I am sorry I dismissed you earlier. I am still recovering and will be for some time. The priests told me I could be with child. I told them it was in the hands of the Dreigeist and they accepted that. They do not believe it will take, but I will accept whatever Gond wills. What I have been told is that my fate string has been cut, that Krag has willed me to seek power elsewhere. You see, Ilmar has already blessed another. I am Vala no more.”
Emmeline was saddened for her. “I’m really sorry, Matilde. This must be devastating for you. I was severed once, just for a single night.That really shook me up, so I can only imagine how you feel right now.” Emmeline paused, then shook her head. “No, no I really have no idea how you feel because you have a lot more suddenly in front of you, don’t you? Possibly having a child that isn’t your own. I don’t think I could handle it half as well as you have.”
“I think I’m still numb to it. It is possible I could reconnect, maybe, but given what happened being a Vala is no longer an option.” she said.
Emmeline nodded and was quiet for a moment. She looked at the tall, gothic arches soaring over the doorways with all its ominous majesty. “I have a close connection to my Mara. When I am lonely, I will wait for the sunrise or the sunset, find a place where I can look into nature and I can call to her. She appears and we talk. My mother died giving birth to me, so this is the greatest gift Mara has given me. She knows my mother, my mother’s mother, and all that came before.
“Mara has always been there in my family line, every generation, waiting for a call. We’re her daughters, you see. Or perhaps more truly, she is all my mothers as one. We’re connected by blood as much as by any pact. It’s a connection I would never give up, as natural to me as drawing breath — and just as personal.”
Em turned her face toward Matilde. “I spoke to her about you. I think too much was taken from you, just as I felt too much had been taken from Rosalinde. But you are even more special. You are pure of heart, dedicated and true to your word. I beg you not to give up these virtues in the face of the horrors that befell you, because Mara and I would welcome you should you wish to join us. Not today, not on this crazy quest in which I’ve entangled myself, but I would invite you to join me as I return to my home — and to Mara.”
“I am not related to Mara, but I understand your connection. When I became a Vala, the knowledge and experiences of my predecessors went to me. Over time I learned more of them and in time I would master that knowledge, becoming enlightened. But now, that is gone. The Dreigeist wait for no one, and another girl is connected to the ancients. Even if I was to be a newborn Vala, with no experiences, I could not as I am no longer pure. If Ilmar did not wish me to live, I would not be here, but obviously Gond has another doom for me.” Matilde replied. “If I did join you, what would I do? Who would I be?”
“That’s something that we would need to decide together, depending on what’s best for you and what is needed by the Mother,” Emmeline said. “Like any journey, there is some uncertainty. I can tell you that we are trying to build a community. I want to see fey and human alike working together for the benefit of all. We have a Mother Tree.” She paused to see if she needed to explain what that was.
“Mother Tree? Like the old seers in ancient times used to worship?” she replied. “The Dreigeist has often been represented by three trees.”
Em nodded. “A true mother tree that we have grown from an acorn I rescued from one of the ancient ones, the last life it could give. From the mother tree, I want to grow a community of those who would cherish her. Not worship — a mother tree is not a god to grant prayers but a wonderful, ancient, fey tree. A symbol. Mara and I believe you could be a great ally to us.”
“I will have to consider this carefully. The Dreigeist did bring me back. Ever since I was a little girl they and the sisterhood is all I have ever known. Part of me feels I would be turning my back on them if I joined you. Another part of me says they are giving me a choice. I must consider my choices accordingly as I am not mad at them. Was is is, and I cannot change it.”
Em nodded. “Do think on it. But also know that we would not try to replace your faith or your gods. Mara is not a goddess.”
“She is a spirit though, right? A fey spirit. The ancients saw spirits in all things – good and evil. Maybe we can find some commonality. I will think on it.”
With that Matildë nodded and left the great hearth. It became obvious to Emmeline the Vala Gretchen was watching the conversation from afar. When noticed, she also turned and left.