At sunset, Emmeline, now certain Mara was back, found a lonely balcony and took a seat on the railing. Although a little precarious, and certainly a little windy, the cold didn’t bother her. She closed her eyes a moment and then called out. “Mara? Are you there?”
“We are here,” said Mara’s voice. “We had to go away for a time. We were…tired.”
“Tired? Oh. Because of what Elemix needed,” Emmeline said. “That allowed us to survive that night. I barely survived so him having his magic back was exactly what was needed for us to live. We eventually broke the siege and the goblin forces, plus all their leaders. They were being lead by priests that brought worship of an ancient god of… ill feelings.”
Mara manifested from a series of blue-white sparkles, not unlike Seve, until she appeared in her child-like ghost form. She replied. “We know. The new ones. They are scared, but hopeful. You did well, but they are isolated and cut-off from the world. Our connection with the new one, Zoe, is growing, and soon I may be able to talk to her directly. She is full of life now but still in deep trauma. Mabrilith, you have not suffered as she has.” Mara looked sad.
“Was it the hag that made her suffer most?” Emmeline asked. “We must hunt and destroy the hags, but I don’t know how to do it,” Emmeline said somberly. “Do you have advice?”
“Finding them will not be easy. Always start with family. Look to your aunt-sister to gain a vision to start. Soon enough she will be among you,” said younger Mara. She faded away as she walked with another voice entering the room, “Your ward shot the creature, she may have the blood. Those are a beginning,” said the teenage Mara. “Know that their leader, the one who came upon you bears an item that allowed her to play the role of Zoe quite effectively. Remove that item from her and her escape becomes more difficult.” said the voice of the elder Mara.
“I will try,” Emmeline said, thinking perhaps she could destroy whatever the item was with a well-placed eldritch blast. She wasn’t certain, though. “I hope we will destroy the hags soon because something has come up. The Baron has been called to war in the east. I want to be with him when he goes.”
The child Mara looked up, “but what of us? We need you to fulfill your promises both old an new. Things are at a dangerous place for us.”
“I hope to handle the hags before I go,” Emmeline said. “Remy Silverleaf goes to find his clan and I can’t help him with that. The goblins are broken as an army and are being hunted down. And since I am with the Baron now, I can’t produce a daughter if he leaves me alone…” She looked curious at the child. “Are there dangers I’m unaware of?”
“There are always dangers. We wish you well. We wish you life. We wish you happiness. But we wish the same for ourselves in equal measure. We are growing, but we need you to grow with us. If you risk yourself and you die, we will fade for a generation or more, assuming the tree itself survives without you.” the elder Mara said. From behind Emmeline she heard a pouty, almost angry voice of the teen Mara saying, “We need you to give us a child. Now!” The voice was powerful and haunting, revealing the fey nature of not Mara of the Three Faces, but the ancient unfathomable being of Maryswenifahr. There was a burst of blue light and then nothing for a moment.
Emmeline looked startled and a little afraid.
Then Emmeline saw, sitting in the corner, the little Mara saying, “We want to come home. Our daughter, you do not know what it is like.”
“I risk myself very frequently, but I have to in order to keep us all safe,” Em pointed out. “You will be among us again. But I’m the Baron’s mistress, and I love him. He must be the father of any child I have. By keeping him safe, won’t I be helping all of us?”
The girl got up and walked over to Emmeline, taking her hand, “we give you power to protect yourself. But he is but one man. By being the father his temporal gifts or that of his family may help ensure our survival, this is true. So he is in many ways an ideal man. That you love him makes this easier for you to bear. If you become with child, would you still travel with him?”
“I don’t know,” Emmeline said. “It depends on when it happens?”
“It is possible for us to make it happen. Like we did for godpriest and the godwarrior, it takes much power. We can bless the union in that way, but that would have to be your choice.” Mara said. “But right now the immediate threat are the hags. They wish to worship us and corrupt us. We do not know if they can, but we do not wish to find out.”
“The hag I met painted a gruesomely clear picture of what she wanted to do with me and any other female they catch, and that’s reason enough to see them dead. As for making it happen, I know you could, but I prefer things to take their natural course. I mean, what you did for them was amazing and very kind of you, but I think I should be able to handle that part on my own.”
Emmeline continued, “As far as them being able to corrupt you, well I think they would corrupt the Mother Tree, something I think is within their ability to do, and then probably use you as a power source. But I’m not going to let that happen. Since you awoke I’ve felt lighter than air and able to change the world! Or at least my little tiny part of it anyway. I think I could hop right off this railing and never touch the ground. It feels like you are stronger, too. Is it true?”
Mara just smiled. Then she said, “Walk upon the air. Trust me.” said Mara.
Emmeline looked around, then stood up on the railing. “I’m going to feel very foolish if I have to explain why I walked off the railing and broke my legs,” she said to herself. That rather painful picture made her focus, however, and really think about what she was doing. She raised on foot in the air and balanced on the other. Then, concentrating on not falling to a very painful pile on the flagstones two stories below, she tested to see if she was really as light as she felt.”
And for that moment, she floated in mid-air. The moment dragged into seconds. Still floating.
For a giddy moment, she thought she should stick her arms out for balance, but when you don’t weigh anything, balance becomes a non-issue. She laughed in delight and took another step, and then realized, her “steps” didn’t really do anything. She just moved up or down when she wanted to. She grinned back at Mara. “This is ridiculously fun! No more shall I have to ask the stablehand to reach the top shelf for me! Actually, more importantly…” Her grin changed into an impish little smile as she thought of some wicked fun things she could do with the Baron in the bedroom…
Mara floated out there with her. “You can use the air as your surface. Go where you will, at will.”
Em let herself float down enough she could touch the top of the railing with the toe of her boot, then pushed and sailed up higher above the balcony. She laughed, “Who needs stairs? This is wonderful, Mara, thank you!”
She laughed, “we don’t! This is a gift I have for you. There is another waiting for you at the Vale. We must teach you there.”
“Then I’ll be there soon,” Emmeline said with a smile. Perhaps tomorrow she could get away, she thought.
“Good,” Mara said. “Until then.”
She faded away with the wind.