It was a quiet night in the Port of Derrien where Emmeline was staying. Her visit for the day was complete and tomorrow she could spend some of her free time looking for the supplies Zoe had recommended she collect for her own health. Tonight she’d sung only a few quiet songs and treated the patrons to instrumental strains of music on her viol. She’d turned in early, having managed to earn a small room she shared with Renee.
She was becoming well known enough in Uzec and even Derrien now, especially at this inn, that the Keeper balked somewhat at having her work for a room. He’d told her he could simply put it on account and ask Baron d’Uzec to pick up the tab later, but Emmeline wouldn’t have it. She wanted to earn her own way if she could.
Emmeline had been sitting at the window staring into the night sky for some time. Renee had tried to make some conversation, but Emmeline didn’t feel, uncharacteristically, like talking. Eventually Renee had gone to sleep while Em still searched the night sky with her eyes. It was strange, not feeling Mara there. It had happened twice before and so she no longer was terrified when it happened. But each of those times, it was because Mara had aided one of her friends and it had taxed her severely. Emmeline wondered if her friends had ever understood the cost.
She couldn’t reach Mara anymore. The familiar, yet so alien, confidant that was Mara left her feeling very alone in the world. But now she knew it didn’t need to be that way. Now Emmeline, as Mara herself had once done, could reach out to those to whom she had a connection. Even a passing knowledge sufficed.
So Emmeline waited and watched the night sky until the moon rose high and she knew that her Baron would finally call it a day and go to bed. She counted time a little more, imagining him stripping away the soiled clothes and scrubbing down. He’d finally settle into bed with a sigh and stare at the ceiling while he planned the next day. Did he think of her now and wonder what she was doing, if she was safe? Emmeline waited just a little longer, imagining in her mind’s eye, her Baron slowing drifting off to sleep.
With a little sigh, Emmeline drifted into a trance. Her mother’s ring glowed faintly then winked out.
The Baron was sitting on the bed when Emmeline came through the door wearing the beautiful serantine silk gown that had been made into the most fantastic looking dress she’d ever worn. She came to the Baron, bowed before him, but then kissed him.
“I’ve missed you,” she told him.
“You’ve only been gone two days,” the Baron pointed out.
“Nevertheless. Will you help me out of the dress?” She turned around so he could get to the fasteners up the back.
She hardly needed to ask. In a moment the dress lay across a chair and Emmeline straddled his lap. “I love you,” she told him softly.
“I know. I heard you went to Derrien.”
“Yes, my lord.” When she said it, it felt more like she was saying “my love” than a formality. “Do you remember that night just a little over a week ago?”
It was a night that the Baron was unlikely to ever forget. He smiled.
Emmeline laughed. “Dumb question. Well. I know it is far too early to make any kind of official announcement, but this past week I visited with Zoe and she was able to confirm. I am with child. I will bear our son in, hopefully, nine months time.”
He grabbed her, lifted her up and spun her around the room until they were dizzy. “Yeesss!” He put her down, hugged her close, and said, “this is the greatest gift you could give and you are giving it.” The excitement ebbed though as he put the facts together, “I’m just dreaming…it isn’t real.”
Emmeline continued to cling to him as she said, “My love, this is a dream, but my being here, the news, it is all real. This is my second gift to you, to us, and one I have only just learned to do.
“If you have to leave come summer’s end, we can still be together in our dreams. No matter how far apart, we can still have each other. Now I know he is on the way, I want our son to be protected, and I don’t want you to have to worry about your son and I.”
Emmeline kissed and hugged him close again. After a moment she lifted her hand and their narrow, castle window grew to become truly grand. It looked out not on the town of Uzec, but directly into the Vale of the Mother Tree. The Tree stood there, glorious in spring just as Emmeline had last seen it. She was sure the Baron was seeing it for the first time.
“This can be our place, our dream, and ours alone,” she murmured to him.
“Beautiful. But not half as beautiful as you,” he replied stoically. “This is truly a gift. I am glad I took that chance in the garden last year. My lady, you should understand that just because I desire formality, does not mean I do not care for you. Quite the opposite. When this war is done, I will build you the most beautiful cottage to replace that old manor. With a reflecting pool and garden. You will be well taken care of and you will have the authority to protect this place.” He paused, “ I wonder, this works for us, but can you send others too? Link two dreams perhaps?”
“Yes, my lord,” Emmeline murmured. “I can choose the messenger. Someone I can touch. It need not be me. I could send your daughter to see you in dreams. Or I could make contact with people in Storuvan should you need me to, without ever leaving home.”
“Will I remember the dreams?” he asked.
“Yes, I believe so. I think this dream is far stronger than the adventures our sleepy wanderings normally have. And I think you will still find yourself rested in the morning, even if we spend until dawn together…” Emmeline said.
“Let us find out,” the Baron said, drawing her toward the bed.