Renée and Lothiel

After getting set up at an inn within Derien, Emmeline next needed to find and speak with the elf mage, Lothiel. Having been directed to find her by Willow, a bounty hunter and likely also assassin, this was her best lead to finding Silverleaf’s clan. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to employ a redcap to find Wizard Lothiel and invite her to meet Emmeline at her inn.

The problem is where to find a Redcap? Emmeline thought, ‘perhaps Magus Alix would know?’ After some investigation Emmeline discovered that she was thought to be with the Duke. They were due to come into town the following day. Rumor had it that a mysterious elf had entered town that night and headed off in the direction of the Duke’s hunting lodge north west of town.

Em had to wonder if the elf that arrived might be Lothiel, but she didn’t know precisely where this hunting lodge was, nor was she very proficient in navigating wilds on her own. She settled in to wait for either Alix or this elf to enter town again, where she could at least use a regular messenger to get in touch.

The Bluecaps had two stations in Derrien. One in the town proper and one in Derrienport, when Emmeline tended to stay. Being already familiar with the latter, Emmeline was easily able to secure a messenger. The only question was whether this was post (meaning routing the mail as normal), priority (hiring a dedicated messenger to run the mail), or emergency (where they would do their best to find the absolutely fastest way to deliver the message, including by pidgeon, by serial horseback, or if necessary by hiring the services of Redcaps and their network which may include spells).

Emmeline gave this some careful thought.

She was still making daily contact with Mara and there was no indication that the expected goblin attack was imminent so she decided that time was not yet critical, but still a concern. Therefore she chose to make this a priority post. Her message to Magus Alix contained the expected greetings, compliments, and well wishes for the reader’s good health as was required for a formal letter — one of the things she’d had time to learn during her brief stays with her mother the Contessa. The meat of the letter, of course, contained her request to inform Emmeline how she might meet with Magus Lothiel. She included an indication of where Emmeline was staying and signed the letter formally in her role as the Baron d’Uzec’s mistress and mademoiselle of Cersey. She did not sign it as Witch Emmeline in order to indicate that her intentions for the meeting were not related to the Wizard’s Guild.

While Emmeline awaited an answer, she decided to attend to another matter.

Captain Renard’s home was a villa and vineyard in the hills west-southwest of Derrien. Most of the locals knew who he was and could point out the location easy enough. Emmeline had met him once before, albeit briefly, some months back. Getting up to the house was difficult with the drifting snows, but upon arriving she was met at the door by Renée.

“Oh. Lady de Cerisey. This is a surprise. I thought you would be gone for four more months. Please come it.”

Emmeline beamed a smile at the young lady. “Thank you.” After she was inside, she said, “Our mission was as successful as it was dangerous. So much so, we found ourselves home much sooner than we anticipated. Well, nearly so. Since we were passing through Derien on our way to Uzec, I wanted to stop by. How was your journey home from Portreaux?”

“Fairly uneventful. There were some bounty hunters searching for the Justicar but we acted ignorant. Ms. Giselle taught me a few things to add to my skills. Wilderness sneaking and the like – which I can already do,” she said with a tomboy confidence, ” but it was nice to see another approach.” She led Emmeline to the sitting room. I’ll get father. Can I bring you some hot coffee or tea?”

Emmeline removed her cloak and folded it over an arm. “Hot tea would be perfect, thank you,” she said with a smile.

A minute or so after Renée left, the Captain entered. A tall and burly man with a bushy mustache and calm demeanor (think Sam Elliot) walked in. “M’lady,” he said with a polite nod. “Have a seat. What brings you out this far on such a cold winter day?”

Emmeline gratefully sat down. “I was moving through the area on my way back to Uzec, and I wanted to make a stop here before I continued. I had the pleasure of meeting your daughter a few months ago on the first leg of my journey. She’s an impressive young lady, Captain, and it has recently been impressed upon me that I am in serious need of some help when it comes to matters of household. She’s bold, determined and resourceful; in short someone I think will be adaptable and able to see things done. So, I would like to offer her a position as a lady in waiting for me — with your approval.”

“First off, thank you for offering such a position in the household of yourself and by extension, the Baron.” He sat down, “but Renée is more than simply a gentlelady’s handmaiden. She is a rough and tumble wildcat, with her mother’s sense of grace and downright sneakiness, and he father’s sense of battle and to a degree a bit of magic. All perfectly legal of course. To be honest, she wants to be an adventurer first, live the life. You know what I mean, right?”

Emmeline looked concerned but nodded. “There are certainly causes to take up if she wants,” she said in an introspective murmur.

“She runoft after Magus Elemix because Vorn talked him up so much. Call it puppy love if you wish, though Elemix needs some growing up. But she genuinely wanted to learn magic in the old-fashioned apprenticeship way. Now that she met you, she thinks you’d start her in the household and then take her with you on adventures as a guardian, advisor, or all-around sneak. She spent many a day with that Giselle woman as well, learning a bit more about the out-of-doors.”

Emmeline’s eyebrows rose. “Sir, I only do what I feel I must, what no one else will do. My friends and I try to save lives and go where no one else would go because we must, but what we’ve done is extremely dangerous. The future looks just as dangerous. I would spare others from the dangers my friends and I face. No riches can replace a life lost, not that I’ve seen riches in what I do anyway. The only true riches I have found is the gratitude of those I’m able to help. So please tell me.” Emmeline shifted, her posture both earnest and interested. “As a father, what would you have for your daughter? An opportunity to realize her dreams as my companion despite the dangers? A potentially much longer and far more comfortable life as a lady of court? Or something else entirely? I like Renee and would help her if I can, but I can provide only one of those three things.”

He nodded. Then replied, “what I want is for her to be happy. Most of her life I was gone on one adventure or another. Despite that she could have had an easy life, but yet she chose to do her chores, work hard, study hard, and try again and again. She has had more broken bones, cuts, scrapes, and abrasions than even myself at her age. Risk is in her blood, like it is in mine and my companions.” He paused a moment, “at her age I was already in the Legion, a lowly uhlan in the dragoons. Her mother of course wants her to marry and have children. I want that too. But she is not ready for that yet – if ever. Her sister Mylène is more of that bent.”

Emmeline smiled and nodded. “I think I understand.”

“I’m sorry if she led you astray, however unintentionally, on any desire to be a lady-in-waiting. She simply did not understand the role.”

“That’s quite all right, Captain,” Emmeline assured him. “So then the question is, does she wish to join us or to form her own adventuring company?”

The Captain hushed up briefly as Renée brought in the tea. “Renée, can you check on Mylène? I think she is trying to wrangle that new horse.” The girl answered, “yes sir,” and ran off.

“She joined me on an adventure or two when she was very young when I was in a spot of trouble and my wife Natine was with child. I doubt she remembers much about it. As far as joining you or going on her own, I see her in a similar position to you this time last year, from what Vorn has told me, you adventured a bit with your grandfather before striking out on your own and falling in with the Snomorian and Elemix. Is this right?”

“My grandfather taught me how to sing and play the violin, how to survive on the road. I’m not sure I’d call it adventuring, but it was a way of life,” Emmeline said. She picked up a tea cup. “When I fell in with the companions I have now it was because it was an opportunity to help and to be something more than just a traveling entertainer.”

“I think most young adventurers in your situation fail. A few even are killed or scarred physically or emotionally. You are young, but as I understand it you, like Elemix, are talented – if a bit naive at times. Don’t lose that though. It is a welcome thing in a dark world. However, Renée could use a guide before she strikes out on her own. And, while I don’t think she naturally takes to your world of gentry and nobles, a bit of polish could give her skills neither I nor her mother really had. So, what I am saying is to find out if you think she could be of use to you in the first place. If so, then we can talk about details. In exchange I could pay you, or I could make arrangements for you or one of yours to train with people I know, or I could owe you a conditional favor or information. Perhaps a little of each?”

Emmeline took a sip, appreciating the warmth, then put the tea cup down. “I think we can help one another. There is someone in my part now that needs skills. She… was a slave in Storuvan used for her looks and her body. I stopped a war for Storuvan. In exchange they wanted to grant me something, whatever I wanted. I really wanted all the slaves of Storuvan to be free. I couldn’t have that, so I saved who I could. Rosalinde.” Emmeline paused reflecting on the general who insisted he still owed her for saving his life. She supposed she would never see him again.

“She knows how to entertain with music and I could teach her more. But I don’t think it’s good for her. I don’t think she should do anything like what she was made to do in Storuvan and I worry that someone will take her and put her back in that situation. She needs help, basic survival skills. And then skills that will help her succeed. She wants to bring the people that kidnapped her and sold her into slavery to justice.”

“That is a tall order. The farther east you go, the more slavery there is. I couldn’t tell you why; though slavery was prevalent in the old Empire, here in the Periphery it died out. In any event we could likely help each other. I am assuming she does not wish to continue her…profession. Even if she did, I am not the one to arrange such things. If she does not, I know many people. I would need to interview her, and quickly as I will be heading off north soon enough.”

Emmeline nodded. “That is very fair, Captain. I don’t believe she has any intention to continue her profession now, but if she reverts to it in the future for any reason, send her back to me and I would consider your part of the arrangement fulfilled regardless. I also agree with the need to be expedient. I fear an attack is imminent and I want to be by my Baron’s side before that happens. If it is okay with you, I’ll send Rosalinde for an interview with you today.” She then provided the Captain with the name of the inn where she was staying. “You can send Renée as soon as she is ready. I’ll either be there at the inn or will be very soon. If you don’t feel you can teach Rosalinde, then just send her back to me as well; we’ll work something else out between us later if need be.”

“Renée can journey with you now. I can send her things to your inn. There is a Bluecap I know, Antoné who can escort Rosalinde here. She is reliable and owes me a favor and should be at the Derrienport station by the time you get back. My wife and I will speak to Rosalinde and get her story and learn her goals. Everything will be on the level,” he said. Turning back into the house the Captain bellowed, “Renée, get your things. Looks like Lady de Cerisey will have some work for you. Grab the kit I put side for you, your mother’s bow, and take Linus.”

The girl yelled back, “Yes father!”

A few minutes later, Renée came into the room with another woman, perhaps in her mid-20s and obviously half-elven, and a younger girl. The Captain rose from his chair, “Lady de Cerisey, may I present my wife and partner Natine. And this,” he picked up the girl, “is Mylène.” The little girl was shy. 

“I’m happy to meet all of you!” Emmeline said with a smile. She looked to Natine and the Captain, “You have a lovely family. Renée, after speaking with your father I understand much better your goals. So, let’s get moving; I have a great deal to share to update you and then we must reintroduce you to the others.”

Renée smiled and kissed her family before leaving with Emmeline. She grabbed her horse, Linus, which was a fine steed (the death of many horses of course gave Emmeline pause).

Renée asked, “What should I call you ma’am?”

Emmeline swung up onto Legend. She’d given her own horse that name because if it survived it surely would become a legend.

“I suppose that in formal situations in Uzec and Derien we must use Lady Emmeline,” she told Renée. “Elsewhere it’s Mademoiselle d’Ceresey. But informally, just call me Emmeline or Em for short.”

As they rode, Emmeline gave Renée a rundown of what the party was up to at the moment. “We’ve just returned to the area a few months early because we had the fortune — or misfortune — of temporary use of a teleportation spell. However, it nearly turned us all into so much stew I’m afraid, even shattering chests coin and supplies and finishing off all but one last hearty horse. Well, we won’t be trying that again any time soon. But it did in fact put us in position to save a great deal of travel time during a very dangerous time of the year. And it also led us to a place known to grant insight to the future – although that insight seemed to be very random. Still, it gave one of us a glimpse of a possible situation near Uzec where we believe a goblinoid army may attempt to attack when the river freezes. So, we are trying to hurry home so that we can help defend Uzec in case that particular vision comes true. Since your father mentioned heading north very soon as well, I think we may be right to worry.

“I have people and lands to protect up there, and Elemix has a tower. We both have a duty to the Baron, of course, and I have a hundred personal things I want to attend to. Typhon has his Jocelyn to return to but I imagine she will become restless to embark on her quest sooner or later. We’ll have plenty of time to discuss that, however. 

“More immediately you should know that Typhon’s evil brother still has a massive bounty on Typhon’s head so we may well need to deal with yet more bounty hunters and assassins. My best suggestion is to keep your eyes open at all times. I think your father mentioned you had a keen eye and I hope that’s true. For my part, it seems people are always sneaking up on me.” Em sighed and shook her head. “Well, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Ask me to tell you some of our stories later, and also listen closely to my songs.”

“I will Em,” she said. “Thank you for taking me on. My mother and father have heard good things about you. I must apologize for my father. When he heard I was to be a lady-in-waiting he was… displeased.”

“I thought your father behaved perfectly acceptably. I didn’t know your full ambitions and he was up front with me.” Emmeline smiled. “I appreciate that. Can you give me an idea of what sorts of things you might have picked up from Giselle? Your father mentioned only a little.”

Renée smiled and answered, “Yes Em. Giselle taught me some about goblins and their ilk. We retraced the steps of some of the attackers from around Faou and she showed me what to look for, their weaknesses, and such. My mother already showed me some of that, but it was nice to get some practical experience. I already know how to track people, I mean humans ma’am.”

Em smiled and nodded to encourage Renee to continue.

She continued, “On the first question ma’am, I mean Em, I’ve learned a little about a lot of things. I think I’d make a good wizard, but I didn’t pass the entrance exam when I was little. I never had formal education, just homeschooling with father and mother. Anyway father thought I could apprentice instead, while teaching me a little of what he learned when he was an adventuring companion to Vorn. Truth be told Magus Vorn was open to the idea of taking me on, but he had an apprentice already, and now he is no longer around. Elemix, his apprentice, was so confident and seemed to know a lot. I figured he’d take me in. But that didn’t work out. I’m the best archer around. Almost as good as mom or dad. I know the area and I know the towns and the people both good or bad. When father was captured by Axen pirates years ago, I was on my own in Caradec for months. Father escaped of course, but…”

She paused, “I’m rambling. I do that sometimes. I’ve tried a lot of things Em. I want to be a magical princess warrior seer. But I know that isn’t realistic.” Emmeline could tell she was dealing with a young woman who had a wide variety of experiences, but little depth or direction. Perhaps that is why the Captain wanted her to join with Emmeline?

“I haven’t been on this world long enough to really gain wisdom in anything, but I can share some things my grandfather taught me,” Emmeline said. “When I was younger I had a voracious appetite for songs and plays. I wanted to memorize everything he could give to me! I loved to perform and I still do. With the right song or the right play, I could be anyone or anything. I got to be in the shoes of those who loved and lost and had amazing adventures.

“But my grandfather used to tell me that while I could be anyone I wanted to be, he said to truly be all I can be, I had to focus. Do one thing better than anyone else. Then my star would rise and I could really become whoever I wanted to be. I didn’t understand until I got older he wasn’t talking about my performance.”

Em laughed. “Well, I’m still working on being really, really good at that one thing, but at least I’ve narrowed it down to excelling at just a couple things. Everything else seems to come together on its own. If my grandfather were here, I’m pretty sure he’d tell you the same thing he tried to tell me.”

Renée nodded in agreement. “Yepper,” she said, “I’ve heard of your grandfather, Emmeric I think. He wrote a lot of nice songs, and from what you say was wise. Mother met him once, before she knew father. I don’t think father knew him, though I’m not sure of that. Anyway father and mother encouraged me to try a lot of things. I started using the bow at age 3. Learned to hunt by age 6. I could ride well by 7. I picked up skills when with father or mother. From mother I learned to track, be sneaky, and learned about nature and to be quick on my feet. Father taught me tactics, archery, axe, spear and how to use armor. I can make arrows and bows. I know about horses and can name all the kinds of birds in the Northmarch. I know the history of this area and have been on most of the pathways. I can read and write in the mother tongue, common, wood elven, and even the goblin speech. I have been taught manners and know how to treat people fairly and politely. I’ve been taught how to be poor, how to be rich, and how to keep faith when times are tough. But with all that, I’ve met my father’s companions and my mother’s friends and I see so much in all of them. In the end though, I’m really just a down-to-earth Danaean girl…”

She blushed, “oops. Rambled again. Vorn says Elemix does that too.”

Emmeline laughed again. “Most of us do that. In Elemix’s case, though, when he rambles he mostly just ends up shoving his own foot down his throat further. Wizard’s like to be all mysterious and secretive and manage this by not saying very much. The truth is most of the ones I’ve met lack social graces and talking only makes it worse.” She flashed Renée a lighthearted smile.

“But more seriously Renée, what do you know about my friends and I in terms of what skills we have?”

The little blonde nodded, “Yes Em. Everyone knows the story of the Goblins at the Mine, north of Calder Falls. I know that you run a village due north of here near the Cairn Lands and that you had an adventure there.  Oh, and that you all journeyed once to Thalassa and once to the East, a journey I tried to join. 

About you ma’am, I know you are an entertainer who dances and plays violin that was taught by the bard Emmeric of Thalassa. I know you are a witch of some kind. I know you a favorite of the Baron of Uzec. I know you also were last years Queen of Love and Beauty at the Uzec Summerfaire. I think you are almost 20 and your are somehow related to Magus Elemix. You and your group also helped a village north of Eastpass with another goblin attack. Arresey, I believe.

About Magus Elemix, I know what part he played, in detail, at the Calder Falls and that he was not involved in the Cairn Lands. He is a wizard from a bourgeois republican family with mercantile and Library links. His mother is a wizard and her name is Belladonna. I know her father is a former Librarian and current Academic. I believe his name in Peren. He has two sisters. I believe they are still at home. He is an evoker, like his master, Magus Vorn. He also is building a tower near Uzec. 

About Ensign Typhon Né. She is sometimes called Tiffany. She is Snowmorian. It is rumored that she disguised herself as a man to join an adventuring party and that party was slain shortly before the Calder Falls incident. Another rumor is that she is really a man, but was cursed by an evil witch. As opposed to good witches, like you ma’am. I mean Em. Anyway, she is in love with the High Priestess of Uzec, Jocelyn, who is with child, so most people think her female ‘curse’ is just a disguise of some kind. I know many bounty hunters are after her due to a false charge by her family – or so it is said. Most have been driven off by your party, the Baron, or in one case Magus Alix.

About Sister Jocelyn, who journeyed with you for a time. She is from south of here, but native to the Western Periphery. She was the assistant priest of Uzec, but recently took on the high priest role. She helped you in the Cairn Lands, and her journey through the Westridge with Typhon Né is well known due in part to stories by the Derrien Temple acolytes and stories by the bounty hunters that claim she turned them into women. They got better, but it adds a lot of confusion to the Typhon Né story. She is well-liked by most, though few claim to know her well as she is more private.

About Lady Rivanon d’Uzec, who journeyed with you to the East. She is the heir to Baron Roland d’Uzec and a family favorite of our Duke. She is a noble, bard, duelist, and diplomat for her father and the Duke. She is currently the most sought after woman for marriage in the Northmarch, if not the Western Periphery, but she has denied all suitors for now to adventure and serve her family, though she did not go East with you once you took ship. She is very persuasive, though I do not know that for certain. She was accused of murder when she was little, but acquitted. She lived on Thalassa most of her life after that. Many people are afraid of her as they think she is as ruthless as her great-uncle the Duke with the drive of her father.

I also know more rumors, but I only included ones that were well known.” she said finishing. She grabbed a small vial and took a sip, then put the vial back and smiled.  

“That’s quite a lot of information to pull together,” Emmeline said. She was pleased Renée had. “What’s in the vial?”

Renée replied, “A honeydew and royal jelly emulsion my mother gave me. Helps with being healthy. I’m supposed to take it a few times a day to chase sickness away and help me grow stronger.” 

“Let’s see. Things important for you to know beyond that, should we end up in a scrape…” Emmeline pondered a moment. “Ah. Typhon Né can have a temper that comes out in battle. If she looks like she’s really lost her cool stay a minimum of twenty long paces away from her and just wait for her to calm down. She’ll attack anything that moves otherwise and you do not want that axe of hers swinging at you. She’s only been reduced to such a state a couple times, but you should know. Also, Tiffanie can handle any aggressor one on one that I’ve seen so far. So if you are good with that bow, your most important contribution will be to concentrate fire on anyone that might try to bypass her to get to us. Concentrate also on my target. El is really good with large-area effects, but I’m a single target type of person like you. So if we work together we can take out just about any extra targets very quickly.”

She nodded, “yes Em. I think I’m faster than Ms. Tiffanie, so that won’t be a problem. I know about Elemix and Vorn’s explosions of fire – can even do a little one myself; though not as good as my archery.”

“I can tell you that my magic does not utilize the elements, and so there are few defenses against it. You’ll see one day. My range is roughly equal to that of a short bow, but not a long bow. Still, it’s very good for spells and I can manage pinpoint accuracy all the way out to my maximum range of some seventy long paces. As a witch — yes you are right in that Witch is both my title and an accurate description — I have access to some unique magic and general utility stuff, but I lack the raw power Elemix has. On the other hand, I recover my full magical ability very quickly, whereas a wizard or priest must get a full night’s rest to regain their potential.”

She nodded again, “yeah, my few spells, ‘cept the ones I’ve got down pat, take a lot out of me. I think you can cast spells as far as Master Peredhain, and she blows up ships!”

“I’ve mentioned Elemix’s ability to blast entire zones with elemental powers. Don’t be afraid if you happen to be caught in his blast zone — El is a master at this and he can deftly shape the destruction right around you so as not to harm allies. It’s a bit frightening the first time it happens even if you know he won’t hurt you so I thought I would warn you ahead of time.”

She smiled, “oh, Master Vorn did that to me when I was little. It was scary the first few times. But I appreciate the warning.”

“The basic strategy we use is to concentrate all our shots at the same target until they drop. So if in doubt, just do that and no one will ever fault you.”

Renée answered, “sounds good ma’am. I hope to prove myself to you where I failed with the guilds and Elemix.” She paused and asked, “Is there anything you want to know about me?”

“Hm. Yes! Do you have any allergies, personal aversions, enemies, or ex-lovers we should be aware of?” Emmeline asked. 

“Hmm,” she thought. “I don’t eat animals when I can avoid it, though I am a good hunter when necessary and can cook and dress game. I’m not allergic to anything that I know of, except boredom. I always like to have a book to read. On aversions, I’ll know it when I see it, though I don’t like goblins much or poachers or bandits. I don’t like stuck up fake people. I’m very much a libralist like my parents, but I’ll try to be polite.”

She smiled at that.

“No enemies that I know of. I have no lovers or suitors to speak of, though the boys do look at me. I’m know I’m not as pretty as you, Tiffanie or Lady d’Uzec, but I clean up nicely – or so mother says. Father would rather I stay a tomboy. I’m definitely not a girly-girl. I try to be polite, but I speak my mind a lot.”

“Good,” Em said with a nod. “I already like you. Okay, we are heading to my inn to await, hopefully, Witch Alix’s response. I need to meet someone with regard to a matter very important to me, but you are welcome to come along. I’ll be meeting with Magus Lothiel, I hope, in my capacity as Mademoiselle d’Ceresey rather than as a member of the wizard’s guild.”

She smiled at that. “I like you too Em. You know, I know a shortcut to Derrienport, follow me!”

Darting off in the snow the two made their way to the east gate of Derrienport by late afternoon. The sun was low in the sky and all was growing dark. Arriving at the inn, Emmeline and Renée made their way upstairs where Rosalinde greeted them. “Em,” she said. “a man stopped by with a message for you from Magus Alix. He said he couldn’t give it to me, but you could find him at the Red Dragon Inn in the city proper. His name is Tibault and he wore red.”

The two women could not be more different physically. Rosalinde was a crimson-haired, thin, beauty whose every move was graceful. Her eyes were deep brown, almost a brick red even, and her skin milky white from both her origin in Vannes and her particular career. Renée was much shorter, perhaps a little over 5 feet, though slightly taller than she was when Emmeline met her the first time. She had long, long light strawberry blonde hair, bright hazel eyes, with rosy subtly freckled cheeks belying her Danaean ancestry. 

Renée waited as patiently as she could…

“Thank you Rosalinde.” Emmeline introduced Renée. “Rosalinde, this is Renée, Captain Renard’s daughter. Renée, this is Rosalinde. As your father and mother have taught you to prepare you for this life, it is my hope that they can do the same for Rosalinde.”

Em turned back to Rosalinde. “First you must see Captain Renard for an interview and it must be done very soon. We’ll stop by the blue cap station on the way to the Red Dragon to find one named Antoné. He’ll guide you the Captain’s home where you’ll have an interview. If Captain Renard believes you have the natural aptitude to pick up the skills he can teach, he’ll take you on.”

“What does he teach?” Rosalinde asked. 

Renée, without missing a beat stepped up, “Father was a Captain of the Phoenix Guard. He is a trained warrior, horseman, and leader. He also adventured – as still does – for years. He can teach you how to fight and survive battle. Mother also could help teach you the art of stealth, nature, and more. He also has dozens for friends, contacts, um…”

She looked at Em, “Sorry, I suppose that should have been you talking?”

Em smiled widely. “Nope. You know him better than anyone here.” 

She looked to Rosalinde. “In short, I think he has the ability to find what you’ll be best at and get you the training you need to survive, thrive, and achieve your goals. When he interviews you, don’t try to tell him what you think he wants to hear. Don’t just try to please him. Be honest and up front and tell him what those raiders did to you and how you want to bring them to justice. Tell him you want to learn to survive so you never have to be a victim again. Put aside any thoughts of revenge; that isn’t healthy and it never happens the way anyone ever wants. But you can help make things better for the people you care about back home. The first step is to learn to handle yourself. Then you can protect others.”

“Okay Em,” Rosalinde said. “I’ll journey to see him.”

After dropping off Rosalinde with the bluecap the Captain mentioned (and learning she likely would not be back for at least a day, maybe two), Emmeline and Renée moved on to meet the Redcap Tibault who was at the Red Dragon Inn in Derrien proper.

The Inn was fairly large. It was supposedly built on the spot where a legendary Danaean warrior defeated a vicious fire drake. Reality was that it was the retirement project of an adventurer who in his prime took on and killed a young adult red dragon, whose skull hung high above the bar area.

Tibault, or more accurately a person matching his description, was sitting by himself and reading a book at a corner table, his waitress having brought his latest drink…

Emmeline approached with Renée in tow. “Greetings, sir. My name is Emmeline d’Ceresey. Do you have a message for me?”

“You are Witch Emmeline of Thalassa as well, correct?” he asked.

Emmeline nodded. “Yes.”

“This is for you,” he said, handing a cylinder to Emmeline with Alix’s signet in wax.

To Madame de Cerisey, Emmeline Witch of Uzec and Magus-Minorium in the Ancient Guild of High Wizardry,

I have heard about your return. Congratulations to you and yours. In addition, thank you for your concern about Uzec and the Northmarch and your desire to meet with our scout, the Magus-Alpharii Lothiel. I will be available to speak, albeit briefly, at noon tomorrow.

Magus Lothiel has given me her report via redcap. She is at the Duke’s hunting lodge. I took the liberty of sending her a note that you would wish to visit with her in the morning or possibly this evening. If either is the case, please let Tibault know and he will provide a map with instructions and a letter of introduction from me to the house staff. Feel free to ask her what you wish. Note that Magus Elemix wished to perform the very duty she did, but due to the Aquila situation could not. You may wish to consider inviting him. Also note that I will be disseminating much of this to the Duke by the time you read this. Meaning that the near-now ramifications will likely already be in the Baron’s hands by the time you complete your discussion. What may be of more interest to you is the deeper problem and cause of the troubles. Magus Lothiel can take it from here.

May you find truth as Sidonius taught us.

Master Magus Gillian Alix, Tribune of the Wizard’s Guild of the Northmarch (Derrinham), and Member-Elect of the Lesser Guild Council.

Tibault sat waiting…

Emmeline read the letter carefully. Sooner was always better than later and while it might get late tonight, she’d be tired but not blinded by the dark.   What Alix had said had intrigued her, but she would perhaps see Witch Alix tomorrow.

She looked at the messenger and nodded. “I would like to speak with Magus Lothiel tonight if it is still possible. Master Magus Alix said you could provide a map and letter of introduction to find Magus Lothiel?”

“Here they are,” he replied, handing them to Emmeline. “I believe Magus Elemix was looking for earlier on the same subject. He may even be around here.”

“Thank you sir,” Em said. “I appreciate the work you do.”

Emmeline and Renée journeyed the pathways west of Derrienport that evening. It was cold, very cold. Emmeline could not feel it much beyond a simple awareness. Renée shivered under her heavy coat. The sky was completely overcast and light snow was starting to fall. Emmeline could not see much beyond 60′ well. Renée pulled out some goggles to be able to see.

Emmeline quietly marveled at the device Renée. She could see their purpose but hadn’t seen anything like them before. She wondered at the craftsmanship it must taken to construct.

They arrived well into the evening at the lodge. After presenting the letter to the guard, Emmeline was brought with Renée in tow in a parlor where the elf Lothiel awaited. She wore deep green-gray, almost black elven traveling clothes. Her eyes were icy blue, light skin and with hair of jet black. She bore an elven sword, leather armor, and long staff/spear.

She asked, “the human attendant informed me you are the Magus Emmeline.” Her voice was highly elven accented, more so than Willow’s was. 

“Yes. Thank you for seeing me.” Em spent a brief while covering the courtesies of formal meetings including a couple compliments and well wishes. But she shortly got down to business. “For the moment I need to speak to you as Mademoiselle d’Cerisey. I was directed to you from one named Willow who knew you to be of the Silverleaf clan and I have an invitation for your people and request for help.

“This past year I rescued the last acorn of a Mother Tree that once stood in the Cairn Lands long before the coming of the dwarves. I have taken care of it, nurtured it, and it has grown tall and strong, but it is still young and vulnerable. This Mother Tree is far, far too important to be left unprotected by the people who know her best, who may still know the lore. I discussed the matter at length with Baron Roland d’Uzec and he has agreed. We wish to extend an invitation to the Siverleaf clan to come to the Vale which now shelters the Mother Tree. The Baron is willing to give them the whole of the Cairn Lands with the hope that your people would agree to help protect the north lands, though the understanding is that the priority is to keep the Mother Tree safe.”

Lothiel nodded, “go on.”

“There is more.” Emmeline was uncomfortable sharing this, but she believed it necessary. “I’m sure you know that I am a witch, and that I am fey-touched, but that my powers are granted through an ancient fey lady. My patron is Mahryswenifar, who was in another life a very long time ago, my mother. The Mother Tree is an important connection for her to this world. Should you or your clan wish to communicate with her, it may be possible to do so at the tree — if there is still some ancient connection there.”

Lothiel briefly gave a look of confusion but then said, “ah, I understand. I know of the Silverleaf who guards the Mother Tree of the Cairn Lands. His name is Remy, or that is what he calls himself. I do not know his birth name. He is an expatriot from his clan or a tribe of Lunikaiju, also known as the Nyfalfar or Snow Elves in the common tongue. Snow Elves wander the north from east to west, from the Broken Mountains the Grinding Ice and there are dozens of tribes.” A sadness entered her eyes as she continued, “a little over a score years ago, some half-score after Remy left his tribe, they were settled in the Silverwood on the edge of Snowmor. Rumor has it that they were slaughtered in battle by a clan of Snowmorians called the Trond led by a butcher named Vikron who did not survive to celebrate his victory. Remy may not be aware of this, few are. It may be why he has never been able to contact them – to him they simply disappeared.”

She continued, “I nor the one you call Willow are Silverleaf or Nyfalfar. We are of the Yleväkaiju also known as the Liosalfar or Light Elves in the common tongue, the last group of our kind in what you call the Periphery. There are of course a few free tribes of Metsäkaiju, also known as Brennalfar of Wood Elves and those bradwyr who have forgotten their kin.”

Emmeline knew enough of the wood elven to understand the word ‘bradwyr’. It meant a kind of traitor to ones traditions or people. Lothiel continued. “I thought Remy was bradwyr, but perhaps I am mistaken. In any event, my people are of Caraelwynn, a place hardby but hidden in the mountains west of here. We could extend some protection to the Vale of the Mother Tree perhaps, or give you guidance to help locate the Silverleaf, if it is your desire to have Remy’s people – or their remnants – come there. It is possible they are all dead. In any event my father would know much more, especially about Mahryswenifar from whom some of my people and most of the wood elves have connection. She is one of the Aos Si, the ancient first ones that lived here in the days of innocence before the Sunderings.”

Emmeline took in the information Lothiel shared. It was very enlightening to her. She was quiet a moment as she absorbed what the magus told her. 

Her face was lined with worry when she spoke. “Every time I go abroad, away from the Vale of the Mother Tree, I worry. Not for myself, but for Mara. Should I fall, there will be another of my bloodline that may one day answer the quiet, gentle call of our Mother, be it twenty years or two hundred. But this is the first time in uncountable generations that Mara has had a real chance to escape the eternal loneliness to which she was banished so long ago. 

“Every time I must leave, I worry that the Mother Tree will be found by those who would harass, twist and corrupt the Mother Tree and possibly Mara, Mahryswenifar, herself. Already I’ve dodged hags by land and destroyed a trio of hags by sea that sensed the potential return of one of the Aos Si. Remy is a valiant and noble man who will be a great Warden for the Mother Tree, but he is alone, Magus Lothiel. I often feel that I am the only one standing between Mara and the corruptive influence of twisted, dark descendants of the fey ones. 

“And this winter brings great unrest. Goblinoids and refugees and those who move behind the scenes are acting. I can’t afford to wait to see if there are any of Remy’s clan left alive. Thank you for enlightening me so much. But please, I need to put out the call to any elves of the Light. Any who would listen and come to the Mother Tree.”

Renée was thoroughly confused, but listened attentively to the conversation.

Lothiel said, “In times most ancient the mother trees were manifestations of the spirits of the world. They were, are, a bridge between the otherworld and the mortal world, between the gods, fae, and mortal beings create by and from the spirits of the fae, just as elves were. There are few true ones left, but yours is not alone. An ancient one stands in the center of my home. Its power helps protect our home, but it is so very old it flowers rarely and those few descendants are cherished but lesser. If your Mother Tree is born of an ancient one, and Mara is bound to it alive and conscious in this world, then it is a precious thing and a source of power. It is no wonder that vihreäkka and their ilk would see it out. It would become a center of their power and Mara would be poisoned by their will, or in the best case, simply flee back into the Otherworld and fade into memory. But it is unlikely my own people would easily come. We will not be part of any realm of men. There are a few of us who explore and participate in this world as it is, as that is a choice we can abandon if need be. If we take up the protection and nurturing of your Mother Tree, we must take it in full. No negotiation, no promises, no feudal obligations and no humans or similar depredators. It would be cherished and disappear from the world of men.”

There was strength and determination in her voice when Em replied. “Whatever the future may hold, I will be with Mara in this world or the next.”

She continued more gently. “Your people, as a whole, already have a Mother Tree they must protect. It would be unfair of me to ask them to take on another, even if this is where Mara shall appear. And it must be Mara’s own choice if she wishes to withdraw from this world,” Emmeline said gently so as not to be rude. “But if there are some few elves that you know of that yet look to make a new place in the world, wish to come see Mahryswenifar return, and that are able to help, please send them my way. I am the beggar here; I would not turn away even those who have left their people, the half-elven, or others so long as they meant no harm. I know Mara feels the same.”

“I certainly welcome it in theory. Especially if her return is the beginning of a new community of my people living in freedom. There is risk of course, and there may be some of my people who would consider going to and from the…hmm.” she pondered. “That place is due north of here, just short of the Cairn Lands where the early dwarven clan chiefs who eventually settled Azenkuul were buried. That was very long ago when only the first humans were arriving. The place the Cairns are built once was the heart of an Elven realm that some of my blood is descendant from.” She shrugged, “but given enough time we are all related in some way. The point being that in some ways your are right, one should not turn away good people I suppose; but memories of war and betrayal and long and deep. The Eterians left a bloody scar across this land with their soldiers, dragons, monsters and sorcerers, as did the Danaeans who drove out the last elves, as did a half-dozen or more other invasions and many more migrations. Today, it is better than when I was firstborn, but to my father and mother there is great sadness. What do you think elvenblooded ones (speaking to both of them) if the elves came back and asserted their independence. What would happen? Would Mara lend her power to helping us do this? If so, would it not repeat what happened to her before, or worse?”

The conversation continued along these lines with Lothiel offering to introduce Emmeline to the elders of her people for advice on what she might be able to do, as well as suggesting that the Silverleaf clan may have, by now, rebuilt from the slaughter a generation ago. Em would only have to find them…

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