Winter Plans

The party was transporting their newfound wealth by wagon to town. Was it Camaret or some other village? She wasn’t sure, but in the miserable cold it was hard to really care what the next town might be, so long as there was someplace with a warm hearth and a hot meal at the end of the road. The small group of five huddled atop the wagon. It was exposed to wind, but at least then no one had to trudge through snow. 

It did leave time for discussion, though.

As expected, it was Emmeline that broke the silence of the journey. “River, I’ve been thinking. We have some months yet before winter is over. What would you say to you and I going home to report to your father, but then making a circuit as entertainer again in the north? I’d expect to stay near the Derrien and Uzec territories for that, giving the difficulties traveling this time of year.

She replied, “I cannot do that in Uzec or Derrien as myself. It sounds fun, but my great-uncle and father have certain expectations of me that must be kept. That being said, I could bring back the disguise and do so for a time as long as I cannot be identified.”

She replied, “I cannot do that in Uzec or Derrien as myself. It sounds fun, but my great-uncle and father have certain expectations of me that must be kept. That being said, I could bring back the disguise and do so for a time as long as I cannot be identified.

“Yes, of course,” Em agreed. “This would be River Celeste. But also useful to you ultimately, because it would give you one last chance to know your people as they truly are, not just the face they show to leadership. You’ll get to see what ails them and what makes them happy. What stories they love the most and what songs inspire them. You’ll know what’s in their hearts, what’s most dear to them and so, when you lead them one day, you will know what they love and what they need — and then become that.”

She thought for a moment and said, “There is a saying from the days of Old Eteria that said ‘it is better to be feared than loved, but it best to be both.’ I think I will attempt to be both. Respect, plus adoration.”

“Respect isn’t necessarily rooted in fear. A person that fears you will run when you need help. A person that loves you will help you. Perhaps you can strike fear into your enemies, but take care to with the respect and affection of your people,” Emmeline suggested. “I’m not a leader of people of course; defer to your father’s example. I just know that as a traveler and an entertainer, I’m often at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. Thus, better to be loved on the paths I walk.”

“That is true for certain as an entertainer. Great uncle, the Duke, and to a lesser extent father, emphasized that without an element of fear that the common people will not respect you and are more likely to flout the law. More importantly your nobles and knights may take liberties knowing you will not punish disloyalty. In other words a respectful fear is necessary, a genuine love turns that fear into a paternal (or maternal I suppose) protector and leader. But little or no fear – or too much – creates contempt as a weakling or hatred as an oppressor. It is a balancing act and one I must play and it is the reality of the world.” she replied. “And you will have to adjust to that reality as well.”

“I am only your father’s mistress. I’m not destined to lead anyone,” Emmeline said just loud enough to be heard. “My ambitions extend to fighting his enemies, being the kind face to his people he needs me to be, and of course acting to protect the Mother Tree. But lead?” Emmeline chuckled. “No one has ever suggested such a thing of me.”

“You are enfiefed to the Baron. You have a village. If your plans are successful for bringing elves back to the Cairn Lands and the Vale of Cerisey, then their behavior and any judgements upon them will be yours to make.” River said.

“Good point! You know, I hadn’t really thought of leading the people of Cerisey so much as taking care of family.” Emmeline shook her head. “Any elves though? I want them to come to protect the Mother Tree and help protect Uzec, but I can only assume they have their own leaders.”

“Likely. But I don’t know any elves and little else of their history. There is a recurring rumor that there is an elven city hidden in the valleys far south-west of Uzec, perhaps half-way to Sibril. But other than the pass leading to Taranbec, little of the high places are explored. If it is true that elves are there, perhaps they could help you find Silverleaf’s people – or barring that they might wish to protect the mother tree.”

“Yes,” agreed Emmeline. “I have heard tales of them, too. I suppose that is something to resolve in warmer seasons. I’m also concerned about the increasing threat of the goblin folk and I want to help your father deal with them and whatever is pushing them, the orcs that attacked Malith, and other parts of Thalassa. Because I’m beginning to suspect it’s all connected to someone or some group that wants to see Thalassa and the League fall.”

“Over a hundred years ago something similar happened, with Haalkhan’s invasions, Brentine unrest, and other incidents like the Merchant Coup. But no one thought they were connected – why do you think these are?” River asked.

“Well, here are pieces of information I know,” Emmeline said. 

She began to count on her fingers. “There was a brutal invasion of Malith and relentless pursuit of its people by orcs. Why? What’s pushing the orcs? There is unrest among the goblins and a large movement south toward and through Uzec, as well as goblinoid forces marching from the east. The first waves were broken, but we know more will come. A group of self-styled “historians” are moving about keenly interested in very specific events — including apparently the choices we made recently at the Hatani Gates.”

Em pointedly did not look at anyone in particular. “Which by the way I’m still not pleased with. Sorcerer or no, John could have been a powerful ally at a time when the north could use more magical might to stand against what’s coming. But I digress. The final piece I know now is that several people have been seen visiting the Vault in Thalassa, then disappearing on missions themselves, or their allies have. And you know that Sidonius is only ever active just before truly desperate times for Thalassa.”

River asked, “You described one of these historians from some 9 months ago, but have there been others? Tiffanie? Elemix? Have you encountered such? I have not for my part. Em, how would you know about the goings on at the Vault? I have relatives in the Council and this is the first I’ve heard of such rumors.”

“Typhon Né mentioned meeting one in Thalassa briefly, but I don’t recall details.” Emmeline left it for Typhon to explain further.

“As for goings-on at the vault, I got that tidbit from someone who is strongly associated with the House of Silence who recently revealed themselves to me. I can’t divulge his real name, apparently, without causing him harm, but he went by a fake name that rhymed with Hick Come Here.” She said it as if “come here” was one word. “This same person is convinced that there really is something going on behind the scenes coordinating all these disasters, and I’m beginning to believe it.”

Elemix responded to Emmeline first. “Yes how did you hear of such rumors? Oh and the sorceror proved to be honorable in that he kept his word not to harm us, but I still dont trust him. He was friends with Tuderic Drask after all, whos atrocities are well documented. I dont buy that he didnt know anything about those aspects of his friend. If he truly wanted to befriend us and put his powers to good use aiding our society he would have returned with us. I can’t say I blame him for not trusting us enough to do so. We shouldn’t trust him so easily either. And I don’t think his name is John either, but I digress as well.”

Turning to River Elemix asked. “Are you referring to the one known as Morgan we encountered? What others?”

“I never met her, or anyone else. Though that our erstwhile guard was more that he seems makes sense. I always felt that backstabbing at the bar was too precise for a merc, even an experienced one.” River replied. 

“Just keep your word. Then just give us all the loot you know of. Then teleport us across the Thalassan League. Then come with us and throw yourself at the mercy of a bunch of wizards sworn to destroy your kind. Really, Elemix. The demands were never going to end. You’d have done exactly what John did,” Emmeline said.

“Look, why sugar coat this?” Emmeline asked. “The most valuable source of knowledge, the most powerful and useful thing we found on the whole expedition took a long walk south with Matilde and he’s not coming back. I know we have good reason to be cautious and suspicious of sorcerers, especially after what we saw after Adera. But do I have to remind you again that the only ones who acted treacherously were Ricimer and Typhon Ne? Ricimer when he stabbed me, and Typhon when she gave him the order to do it? And yet I still trust because I understand why these things happened.” Em sighed. “This sorcerer was willing to actually converse. To exchange information. I’m just disappointed that your trust issues overruled your natural curiosity and willingness to learn — and subsequently undercut everyone else’s opportunity to do so as well.” Emmeline waved it off. “But don’t worry about it. There isn’t anything to be done about it now. I’m pointing it out so that you might think about it should we be in this situation again.”

Emmeline turned her face into the wind. She didn’t feel the cold, but she could feel it’s ferocity. “Are you really going to Thalassa and chancing this winter weather?”

“Well there is no point in arguing about it. I guess we’ll just have to disagree on the matter,” replied Elemix succinctly.

“And yes I will be traveling to Thalassa. We should be able to get there relatively safely. Is there anything I can do for you while I am there?”

Elemix looked at them all in turn. “For any of you?”

“Not for me.” After a moment’s thought, she added. “I’ll handle any questions the wizards of the north might have when we pass through Derrien and on to Uzec. I’ll drop off those Tyaanite items we mentioned as part of their membership fees.”

“Sounds good.”Agreed Elemix.

As the afternoon carried on, the party passed by the farm where they attempted to deceive the Tyannites and their minions, through the gates of Camaret, past the inn and rooftops of their fight versus the assassin, and soon after came within view of the Bank’s facade. “We are here,” said River as she leapt off the buckboard. She waved at a bank guard to came presently over. “How may I assist?” he asked the party.

Emmeline glanced at her companions, then offered, “We’d like to set up some accounts and then make a deposit please, sir. Would you mind watching the wagon until we have it arranged?”

The guard nodded and summoned a groom with two additional guards who led the wagon back to a loading dock off the street. River said, “no one would dare rob a Bank patron in sight of the Bank itself.” Both Emmeline and Elemix heard the rumors of what happens when you cross the Bank of Thalassa. To Typhon Né it looked like an easy dash and escape. But she quickly noted the guards and the way the roads were laid out. Escape would be painful at best.

Inside the bank was a smaller version of the First Mercantile Bank of Thalassa’s legendary dome and entryway. A large curved desk with numerous agents occupied a third of a circle under the dome. Here queues of patrons waited patiently for an opportunity to meet with one of the Bank’s proctors. River quickly bypassed the lines by showing her signet to one of the bank officers. She gestured for the party to follow. 

Entering one of the side chambers with the officer, the party was met by a middle-aged bank officer who seemed to know River. “Lady d’Uzec, it is good to see you again despite the foul weather. And you are back so early as well.” She smiled and replied, “it is so kind of you to welcome us Monsieur Rabaul, especially today without advance notice. We have returned from an adventure and we have some treasure to deposit for safe keeping. Nothing outlandish, but your are looking upon Magus Elemix Dungaroon, Witch Emmeline de Cerisey, and the Justicar Typhon Né – all of which are of import to my father and great-uncle.”

Rabaul said, “The Lady has vouched for your worthiness to deposit here. You are all welcome. While the majority of our work is in financing mercantile efforts and trade, we also provide financial and insurance services to those noble and gentle persons of means – and those who seek such means.” A young woman entered the room with three small ledgers. He continued, “while I discuss the details on some other matters with Lady d’Uzec, M’selle LaRenard will attend to each of your accounts.”

River and Rabaul stepped aside. Elemix overheard Rabaul saying, “the payments have all been arranged…” as they walked to the far side of the chamber. LaRenard said, “Good afternoon. It is an honor to assist you. Who wishes to proceed first?”

Elemix gestured that he had no need at this time to LaRenard. Nodding to him, she turned to Emmeline and Typhon Né, “Which of you wishes to go first then?”

Emmeline stepped forward. “I would like proceed under my title of Mademoiselle Emmeline d’Cerisey, to deposit 2500 worth of gold in various denominations.”

“Very well,” she said. She systematically took down Emmeline’s information, then went outside to inspect and catalog the money, then they returned while the counters stayed busy. The whole affair took perhaps 20 minutes. While going over the contract she asked Emmeline, “there is an initial unwaivable set up fee of 2 gold, plus a moneychanging fee of 1 percent of the amount, with an additional 1 percent deposit fee for holding the money per annum. However, the deposit fee is waived should you allow a minimum of half the amount to be loaned for various ventures. There is little risk to you, the money will be put to use, and you will profit 1 percent per month on the loaned amount. You may of course withdraw the unloaned amount at any time, and the loaned amount can be arranged to be withdrawn with a fortnight’s notice. We can also draw up for a mere 1 silver each individually denominated bills of exchange in any amount you can support with your deposit. These are accepted by any merchant affiliated with the Merchant’s Guilds of Thalassa and all its satellite and affiliate guilds, merchants, and traders throughout the League. If they are lost or destroyed, they can be reported as such to us and we will, upon confirmation of such and voiding of the old bill, refund the lost amount free of charge.”

She finished with, “Do you have any questions?”

“That all sounds very good to me,” Emmeline said. “I also agree to the use of at least half my deposit for loans.”

She thanked Emmeline and then moved on to Typhon Né. “Sister,” she said, “I assume you have a similar deposit. Would you wish the same kind of arrangement, or do you wish partial payments sent to a Temple? While our normal deposit and moneychanging fees remain the same, for many Thalassan institutions we can act as a neutral and trusted intermediary with no cost to you for transport or payments.”

“I have about 2100 worth of gold to deposit,” Typhon replied. “And yes, I would like the same type of arrangement as Mademoiselle d’Cerisey. Out of the 2100, could you please arrange for 500 of that to go to the temple.

“I do have one question. What would I need to do in order to have this money go to another party in the case I may die in the line of duty?” Typhon asked.

She replied, “there are two options. The first is to name a legal benefactor specifically with this account, or second through a will drawn up by a lawyer for your general estate. Either option would be notarized and sent to the Great Library’s hall of records with limited access of course.”

“Ok, I will consider those options,” Typhon said. “Will you need me to stop back in person to list my benefactor if I go with that option?”

“You have a bonded lawyer in your party in the person of Lady d’Uzec who could, if she was willing, to take care of either manner. Either as an officer of the Inns of Court of the Republic and a member of the Peerage, she can speak for you and make arrangements with us in your name should you authorize her to do so before leaving today. There are other options, such as reappearing in person, or setting up complex arrangements with the Bluecaps, but working with your compatriot I would think is easiest.” she replied.

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