The following morning, Emmeline was summoned by Magus Alix to her tower. After normal greetings, the magus said, “I know you wish to return as soon as possible to Uzec, but I have some need of knowledge to better teach you and help you protect that which is of import to you. When we are done, you may begin your journey north.”
“What can I do to help you, Magus?” Emmeline asked.
“Let’s start at the beginning. I understand the fey Mara taught you magic and gave you gifts that have in a short time made you formidable. Could you explain those gifts to me? What can you do dear Emmeline?” she said with a disarming smile.
Emmeline smiled, “I can cast but two, maybe three complex spells before I require time to rest and I lack any offensive capability save for a couple cantrips.” Her gut feeling urged her caution here — what mage would ever reveal all their tricks to anyone? It seemed best to be very, very carefully polite and humble here.
“I haven’t any significant ability to defend myself aside from stepping sideways, really. I would like to say I get by on instinct and wits, but to be perfectly honest, it has more to do with luck. Which I’m very well aware is going to run out on me sooner or later.
“None of that is any benefit to the wizard’s guild. But there is something I can do that could be of value to other mages. Mara has given me the ability to learn and perform any spell that can be ritualized. For example, if someone were to get me access to a divination ritual, I could perform that for our tribune here. That might be worth something. Actually quite a lot, I think. Of course, there are many other rituals wizards can’t do that I could fill in, given access to said rituals.
“Of course, Mara has given me access to other magics that are not accessible to Wizards but since I can’t teach them…” Em shrugged.
She nodded, “indeed, such a talent to transcribe other rituals than simply wizardry is useful. But whether wizards can’t do something or not is not simply a limitation, in many cases it is a conscious choice of the Guild – so we must be careful here. Concerning your cantrips, I’ve heard too many witnesses speak to your effectiveness. Indeed was it not a year ago a cantrip of yours brought down a flying Tyaanite?”
“No, Magus. It was the fact that a raven has great difficulty flying when impaled upon Typhon Ne’s javelin,” Emmeline said. “I merely winged her, if you forgive the pun.
“However, I understand what you are saying. But I think perhaps some people overestimate my abilities. It’s true my little cantrips are effective, but they are essentially simple, using magical pressure to exert force upon a target. In other words, I have simply a refined sort of mage hand, but one that can penetrate like a blade or an arrow rather than a dull, clumsy and rather weak hand. I have spent a very great deal of effort to enhance this simplest of magical applications to deadly effect. Now, where some beasts ignore a wizard’s flame magic or icy cold magic, none can ignore the relentless, steady onslaught of the simplest, most elemental of all magics.”
“We do something similar,” she replied. “Some call it a magic missile. Fundamentally the dweamor is close in concept; however, you have certainly focused on it well. Let’s go downstairs to the practice range so I may observe what many others have, both friend and foe.”
She led Emmeline to the room she had been in some days before. Kalista was nowhere to be seen. “Now, there will appear several floating lights in the long hall. Destroy them please.” She gestured down the way and as promised, several lights appeared and began floating.
Em took one look down the hall and frowned. She looked back at Gillian. “I could, Magus, but I sense you want to know why I’m effective, and how I make my own luck. It’s because I never do what is expected. I could bore you now with what you expected. Or.” She snapped her fingers and suddenly all the lights extinguished. “I could show a little bit of creativity.”
The darkness spell instantly doused all the lights. But the light spells had been cast upon objects and these were the true targets. So for good measure, Emmeline pointed a ringed finger into the blackness. She didn’t look away from Gillian, but could see her targets clearly through the darkness from the corner of her eye, a feat she knew none but the most powerful of magi could duplicate. Three little puffs emitted from the dark as her eldritch blasts found their marks.
The darkness retreated quickly as the sound of a powerful dispel erupted. “Well done Emmeline.” she said with clap. “You have learned. It is the combination of magics that wins the day, not the single blast or the hoped for effect. It is how these stack and merge that makes one a powerful spellcaster – not the rote emission of spells situationally.”
“What else?”, she said as Emmeline saw a large spidery beast moving down the hall toward them.
“Is it an illusion?” she asked.
Em looked at it, but didn’t answer. Instead, she took three steps toward it, turned around and faced Magus Alix. She didn’t know what the game was, and she didn’t know the rules for this, so she did what came natural — she changed the rules.
Now it was about trust. If the spider attacked her and hurt her, she would escape and her trust of Magus Alix would be at an end. If the spider did not attack her but Gillian did nothing, then it was an illusion. If the spider did not attack her because Gillian did something, then it was not only not illusion but Gillian cared more about her safety than figuring out Emmeline’s powers. Either way, the question of whether the spider was an illusion or not would be resolved.
The spidery beast revealed itself. It was indeed a spider, though unlike the spiders Emmeline had seen. It was furry with a normal sized abdomen – and not quite Emmeline’s size, though obviously much closer to the ground. Upon Emmeline stepping toward it, the creature stepped by few paces, its front legs waving toward the witch. “You did not attack it. Why?” asked Alix.
“The test isn’t about illusions. And you already passed it. It is about two factors of trust. You are correct. You trusted me. You also decided you wouldn’t assume the spider was a threat – instead you learned more.” she replied. “Too often we leap to conclusions because of the ‘look’ of a thing. We also forget that we must depend on each other to be successful. The Guild is not a series of lone mages looking for glory – though there are some who skirt that line. We are professionals tasked with the greatest task one could imagine: gathering and protecting the magical heritage of the world. To me, what I do is a profession and a calling.”
The spider disappeared back into the darkness. Alix added, “it is very difficult for me to trust anyone – given my profession – but note I did not counter or immediately dispel your darkness trick. I chose to trust you. You trusted I would not have you devoured. That is good. You must trust your mistress – me – completely. Know that I only have your best interests in mind. You may question, but in the end you must trust me. Can you do that?”
Gillian stepped closer and looked down at Emmeline, catching her glance confidently and placing her hand on one of Emmeline’s shoulders, “We are of a kind. I see great things in you – and to a degree in your cousin. For your self I’d be a fool to let your talent be unguided. Indeed, your Mara is a powerful being, but to work with her wisely, you require a ‘wider’ point of view, else you become merely a sycophant or a danger to yourself and the community. A grandchild of Emmeric the Silver deserves more than that.”
Emmeline watched Gillian, then nodded. “I think I understand you, Magus. Mara teaches me magic, gives me powers. But I teach her humanity, show her good and evil. When we talk, she says we. She speaks of us.”
It occurred to Emmeline that Mara appeared to her as a child, a young woman and a mother. Mara had perceived time as non-linear, something that was like a book in which the living could see only a single page. But Mara saw the entire volume. That meant Mara knew she would become Emmeline’s daughter. Everything unfolded as it was designed to be. But that didn’t mean anything was easy. Everyone had a role to play.
Emmeline smiled warmly. “I will trust you.”
“Good,” she said with a smile that could be reassuring or dangerous. “Now, I have knowledge that Lord Roland Baron d’Uzec will be journeying to Thalassa within a fortnight. You will go with him. Make sure Elemix delays his travel to match yours for protection, though I’m sure he will journey anyway. I’m also sure Sister Typhon Né and possibly his wife and child will wish to accompany you, at least for part of the journey”
As they returned to the study she continued, “Before you travel, I have work for you. Your first task is to write up a background story for our young fey friend that can be used to explain her origins with a minimum of deception and a maximum of sympathy. You and she will practice this story. It must be convincing and she must not be put in a position where she must lie. Hide the truth in a delicate fiction. This will help her as she may go with you on your journey – I am waiting on confirmation on that. I’ll know when you pass by Derrien again.”
The redcap Giselle entered, bowed stiffly, and moved off. The glare she fired at Alix was icy. Magus Alix noticed, but did not comment, simply continuing as if nothing happened.
“Next, as you travel I wish you to write a love song featuring the two sisters, Jocelyn and Typhon, his curse, their tragic journey, their love, bounty hunters, and their baby wrought by a fairy miracle. Please emphasize Typhon’s change, his/her elven mother, and the tragedy leading up to the miracle of birth. Remember – emphasize the fey and elven aspects. This will be important. Be ready to sing it and it should draw sympathy and fellowship. Do not sing it publicly until asked.”
“Another thing you must do as time permits is to examine Elemix’s report. It is a solid work. Very factual, but dry and academic. You were there. I want you to rewrite it as a history. A piece of prose that is engaging and entertaining. Use any trusted contacts you have to read and edit the work until it is a novel fit for publication. This will be a long-term project. In the next chamber you will find notes concerning the Conclave where Elemix defended the need to seek knowledge and his passion for it, his trust in you and yours, and my backing of him. All quite factual if a bit staid.”
“Any questions?” she asked.
Emmeline removed her Tome from her satchel, flipped many pages until found a blank one, then found her quill tucked in the spine and began to scratch on the page. The paper bled blue ink as she wrote notes.
She was happy to write a background for Kalista. In fact, she’d already thought of most of it because she’d been planning that since before she brought Kalista to Gillian. The best part was that it would all be true. Or at least, the part of truth she wanted people to focus upon. This would make remembering it easy and telling it would involve no lies. Em hated lies.
The love song for Jocelyn and Typhon Ne sounded a little unusual but certainly lay within her skill set. She jotted a few notes on that, too.
It was Elemix’s report that drew her up short. She’d already made epics of large portions of it. In fact, she could perform the entire epic, though it would take a couple nights worth of singing and music. But write a novel? She’d never attempted such a thing. “I’m a performer, not a writer of books of adventure. What you want from me with regard to Elemix’s report is a bit like asking a painter to write a poem. You aren’t going to get as good a result as if you asked me to do something within my skillset. That said, I have put together several epics that describe our journey. Could I write it as prose directly from my epics? It won’t be anywhere near as good as listening to me play and sing it, but it would be a record of it. It even includes things only I saw. Things I’m certain Elemix would not place in the report. But it would be in more poetic form.”
“There is a story from Sarantium. A recent one so I am told, of a renowned sculptor who was asked by the Patriarch of the Temple of Eos to decorate the vaulted ceiling. He refused over and over until he was forced to confront the challenge while on the run. He was inspired by a sunset and surrendered to the Patriarch, begging to do the work. Apparently it is a thing of sublime beauty, but a sculptor who did not want to paint. You too are in a similar situation. Instead of performing in song, in movement, and instrument; perform in prose, in paragraph, and pen. They are the same and if it is poetic in form, then make it epic. You have resources and I know you have among your friends a writer or two to give you feedback.” she said reassuringly and with a sense of projected confidence. “Your best will be good enough.”
“Now, let us go to the wardrobe. It is high time you look the part of a witch.” she said.
“As you say, Magus,” Emmeline said with regard to the book.
Nor did she object to the possibility of new clothes.
She brought Emmeline to the wardrobe and looked through the options. “Were you ever given wizard’s robes, or a proper wand or staff?” she asked.
“Yes I have very fine robes,” Em affirmed. “I have no particular use for staves or wands, though. I used to carry a staff for defense and for walking but I prefer subtlety and to ride now.”
Plus shapeless wizard robes offended her sense of style. They were more than boring. But she kept that to herself.
“The robe and a wand or staff are symbols of office and of membership. That said, you need something more…practical. How about this?” Alix pulled out a simple hooded green traveling robe. “Try it on.”
Emmeline paused. “If I must wear the robes to formal events, I shall. But in travel I was first and am still a member of the Entertainer’s Guild. When I’m at home or at Uzec I am the Baron’s Mistress. In addition, I feel donning wizard robes increases my visibility as a target, and competes with Elemix. I don’t want that.”
She frowned a bit, “Elemix needs competition, and you should be proud of your power – within reason that is. However, this,” she said, “isn’t a wizard’s robe. It is a traveling cloak, and a special one at that.”
Emmeline reached out to touch the fabric of the robe. “I have no magic that will allow me to avoid harm. Take me from danger once it is evident — yes.” She tried on the travelers robe or cloak while she spoke.
She turned in the robe she had on now. “So what is special about this particular cloak?”
“It is magical. It is a Cloak of Protection, but a special one. Attune with it and you may access its other feature.” she said.
Emmeline’s eyebrows rose, but she de-attuned with her ring of warmth and began attuning with the cloak. While she concentrated, she said, “May I ask why you want me to make the love song and why write a book?”
“Yes I can a little, but you must remain silent about them until the right time. Can you do that?” she asked.
She then said, “the love song if for your friend Typhon Né’s family’s safety. She needs help that we can provide. Knowing her sense of honor, this favor will begat another favor that may be used in later days. I do not let opportunities like this slip by. True be told I am happy to do so as it is a challenge in itself and in the third part of it your role will be critical. The second part is mine to achieve. I will reveal those at a later time.”
She followed with, “the book is a minor part of a long-term project to build Elemix’s reputation to get him access to a few notables. Who gets the book, where it is, and how it helps pull certain strings is something that I wish to hold close to the chest; however, you’ll be part of it.”
“Does that help, or merely fill you with more questions?” she asked.
“That does help. Thank you, Magus.” She was a little surprised that Gillian cared about El’s standing.
She said, “Now. I’ve heard you have a special rod for casting spells. You use that as an option instead of your ring sometimes, correct?”
“Place it within your sleeve. Think about the concept of ‘hiding’ it as you do so. Don’t worry, it will not destroy anything.” she said reassuringly.
Emmeline looked curiously at Gillian then did as she was bade, carefully inserting the rod in her sleeve and wishing it to be hidden.
And it was gone. She knew it was there however. “Now summon it!” Alix ordered.
The rod instantly flew into her hand.
A smile spread across Em’s face. “Now that will be very handy! But Magus, I can’t pay for this.”
“You already did. That glaive you turned over. It was much more than one would expect. Likely more than the owner new. Taking the difference from what you owe me, plus the spell components, my time, and this item you now wear, we should be right about even. Do you like the green color?” she asked.
“I like green. It’s peaceful. I only like to wear the white in times of conflict,” Em remarked. “And thank you. This really will be helpful.”
“The Guild supports its own,” she said with a smile. “Now, I believe you must journey to see your paramour. Kalista must stay a few more days, but I will have Elemix escort her back to Uzec. He can help her the same as he helped you with Sidonian script and the like. When you return, please stop by. My report about Kalista should have been read by the appropriate eyes. You will make a potential enemy or two perhaps, but you will likely make many more potential allies, so worry not. I will shield you from such eyes – good or bad; until you are ready. Good?”
“Yes, thank you Magus,” Emmeline replied with a gracious dip. “I will see you soon.”
She nodded and Emmeline left. Outside, Renee sat waiting. As they rode out of town, the young scout asked, “how was your trip ma’am?”
Emmeline arranged the new green cloak around herself and smiled. “Eventful and productive. And I think I’m going to have some new opportunities I never thought I’d have.”
Renee looked skeptical with a raised eyebrow. “Don’t keep it a secret Miss Em. Do tell.”
“A new magic cloak, that helps in my own protection, some polite discussion, Kalista appears to have been accepted by Magus Alix, and it sounds like the Baron will be going to Thalassa. I intend to ask him to take me with him,” Em summarized.
“Thalassa sounds great! I bet the Baron will like the cloak. You know, you look a bit wizardy for certain with that. No overly so. Now that I know about druids, you also look druidy a little. Perhaps even rangery? Nope, too fancy. Anyways, looks nice on you I suppose. Also, good for Kalista I guess. Still not certain about her, but in for a penny, in for a pound father says. But Magus Alix is only one wizard, I mean isn’t there a whole mighty hierarchy of big wizards?” she asked.
Emmeline frowned. “I do? She told me it was just a cloak. Of course she first said it was a robe.” Emmeline frowned. She really didn’t like being identified as a wizard. Reluctantly and with a dejected sign, she freed her rod, removed the robe and slipped it into her pack.
“You’re weird. Sure its just a magic sleeved cloak. Don’t you want to look wizardy? Or druidy? I guess it also looks noblish, nice material and all, but still pretty simple. But it isn’t rough and peasant-like or common-looking like my cloak – which has no sleeves mind you. I guess I just don’t get you Miss Em.” she said with a shrug.
“It’s really not complicated,” Emmeline said. “Wizards are always the first target in an ambush. I’m always ambushed. I don’t have Elemix’s defenses. And I’m going to be a mother. I can’t afford to walk around as a target. You must have some idea how often we are ambushed just going between Derrien and Uzec.”
“Well, once in my memory, but you’ve told stories. They ambush silly Elemix because he looks exactly like a wizard who is carrying the magic item they are looking for. They ambush Sister Typhon because she looks exactly like, well, Typhon or Tiffanie, or whatever. She’s being hunted still. But you know, if you look like a gentlewoman or lady traveler or even someone of magic, that’s expected. Anyway, you have me, and no one surprises me and as far as I know, no one is hunting you. So, live a little!” she said with a pure innocent confidence.
“When I’m with the Baron’s entourage, I might wear it then, unless I need to wear his colors.” She sighed. “Looking like a target is my main concern, but there are other reasons, too. I guess I just… still don’t really identify with the wizard’s guild. I mean, I’m not a wizard. It feels kind of like… well a bard pretending to be a wizard. Or a priest doing that. But really neither of those things. I don’t know how to explain it, but just know I’m most comfortable just being lady or mademoiselle d’Cerisey.”
Renee looked confused. “You know, if I put that cloak on, I look like a person in a nice green cloak – so do you. I was trying to give you a compliment but you got all depressed. I don’t get it. I really didn’t know you didn’t like the Guild – I mean you have magic power and you are not a priestess, so that makes you a mage of sorts. I guess. I mean I’d love, love, love to be in the Guild. But that will never happen. Oh, if you don’t think nobles get robbed from time to time, you are more naive than me Miss Em. Most of the cowardly bandits go after money, only a few have these other agendas like hunting cursed Snomorians.”
Emmeline chuckled softly. “I’m a free spirit, Renee. It’s how my grandfather raised me and it really stuck with me. It’s really hard for me to sit and have to study books when I could be practicing, writing a song, or spending time with people I love. Like you and the Baron and all the people we helped to save. My heart is wild and free as Seve, to be completely honest. I consider her kindred in spirit.
“But I can study and be a good little magus if I have to. I’m trying really hard to work with Magus Alix. I need her as an ally. Alone and apart from the wizard’s guild I could be perceived as a threat. I do what I must to survive and build something that can last.”
She took the robe out again and looked at it. “You really don’t think the cloak marks me as a wizard?”
“I seriously thought you wanted to be able to look like a wizard. But no, it doesn’t scream ‘I’m a wizard!’. It is definitely for the ‘cloaky’ set, which is basically all of us, but mine is elven linen and has a hood, Typhonie’s looks like burlap, and Elemix’s looks exactly like you’d expect for a wizard. I mean if you walk around with a staff that might make it so. It is pretty though, good material.”
Renée looked confused and then pensive again, but she then she dismissed her thoughts and said, “I wish I could be a good little magus ma’am. I can’t. But I’m happy that you can be, at least a little. I studied for three years and if I got in I would have had to study seven more, but I failed. I hate to say this, but you got in after being gifted magic – in less than a year. Now Kalista is doing the same. I think you are both lucky.”
Emmeline nodded. “I’m not sure I believe in luck so much as I believe in fate, but if I did then I would very much agree with you. But I believe I was also gifted from birth to perform. I’m beginning to see, especially now, that all of life is a performance in one way or another. My roles are many now and I see that more clearly every day.”
“Hmm. Okay,” she said, “I’m the opposite I suppose. I definitely believe in luck. But luck, according to Papa, is skill plus opportunity plus initiative. When a random event happens, if you are quick, sharp, and nimble, you can exploit it – but only if you are prepared to take the big chances. On the other hand, fate means you must do something because some gods say so or that you are pre-ordained by the universe. Like you are a chess piece in a great game the you do not control. I can’t live like that, sorry,” she said with a shrug. She then smiled and said, “maybe we are two sides of the same coin? Both carefree wild things, like my mama says, but for different reasons?”
Emmeline smiled widely. “I don’t think that fate is really the way you think. It’s not that things are going to happen a certain way. It’s more that they are that way. It’s a story. Everyone has a piece but no one has it all or understands it all. Time is an illusion that helps us perceive where we are in the tapestry, song, or book of What Is. Whatever you want to call it.
“I know this is hard to understand. It took me a long time to understand it too. But I had to in order to understand Mahryswenifar.”
She nodded, “I suppose that is a way of looking at it, though I don’t know how that pertains to Mahryswenifar (Emmeline noticed she pronounced that perfectly with a Danaean accent). But as far as I’m concerned, the future isn’t written yet, and I write my book. Maybe both are true, from certain points of view.”
Em smiled and nodded. “Maybe so.”