Emmeline walked with Renee to the great park east of the City. This was Renee’s last night for three months and she insisted on escorting Emmeline to find a place cast her dream spell. As they walked, Renee asked, “Ma’am, are you sure you want me to join the Wizard’s Guild. I mean, you don’t like them that much. I didn’t want to bring this up in front of Elemix as I know how much he cares about it.”
“It’s a matter of trust,” Emmeline said. “I find there are very few wizards I trust. But you, I do trust. So in that sense, you would be an asset to me as a member of the wizard’s guild. You would be one more person I could trust.”
Emmeline smiled. “You know, my whole life has been about being free. Free to roam, free to sing and dance wherever I wanted to. But in the past year things have changed for me. I’ve given over some of that freedom to one I trust, but I’ve felt like a lot of freedom was demanded on pain of death from the Wizard’s Guild. That rubbed me the wrong way at the time, as well as the fees and their complex system of politics and finances. Today I simply bear it because there is no way for me to change any of it for the better. Not yet. So I will grow and I will wait. I’ll nurture what friendships I can within the guild and one day I’ll have the position and power I need to either throw off those chains or change them into something else.”
Renee nodded. “I don’t know much about that. When I was a little girl, all I ever wanted to be was a wizard. Father did everything to convince me otherwise. As did mother. But the idea of it, the great wielders of magic who protected the West, were noble and honorable, and respected for their wisdom and intelligence. I wanted to be like them. Despite everything I’ve seen, I still do, because I believe that is who they are…deep down. Its just a feeling. Elemix for instance. He’s a selfish jerk some times and he makes loads of mistakes, but when push come to shove he does the right things and I trust in that. But I’m glad you trust me, and I trust you,” she said with a smile. “To be honest, I’m tempted by the Phoenix Guard as well. It sounds so awesome! Especially the aerial scouts, the Dragoons!”
“You are going to be very successful, Renee,” Emmeline said confidently.
She stopped and looked around then approached a big tree with some exposed roots. She sat down on them and snuggled a bit, feeling comfortable. “I think this is a good place.”
Renee nodded. “I’ll make sure you have privacy.” With that she began scouting the area.
It took a minute for Emmeline to ready herself to get into the proper trance state and then visualize the one she meant to contact. But finally the spell was cast and Emmeline entered the dream state to find her Grandmother.
Once she sensed her Grandmother was asleep, Emmeline crafted a special dream. Adela was younger, or at least she seemed younger based on Emmeline’s best guess. Adela was in the Vale as Emmeline had last seen it. It was peaceful with a few birds singing, the brook burbling and wild flowers swaying in the breeze. Emmeline sat at the base of the Mother Tree in the center of the Vale, her flowing skirt arranged around her. She gazed idly at a daisy in hand while she waited for her Grandmother take in the location.
Adela was at first surprised, but then smiled. “So this is how you see me little Emme? Am I dreaming or not?”
“You are dreaming, though this is really my dream.” Emmeline reached behind her and brought out a picnic basket. She retrieved a couple wine glasses and a bottle of something she thought she remembered from one of Adela’s parties. “Will you join me, Mother?”
“Of course,” she said, taking the wine.
Em waited for Adela to settle. Then she asked, “How are you doing, ma mere? You’ve been on my mind a lot and I worry about you.”
She nodded, “Well enough. My Count agreed to help us and we have made inquiries based on the tip you gave us. The merchant confirmed that some of the survivors of your father’s ship may be in the wild Marchland realms between Vannes, Snowmoria, and the Western Periphery.”
Em looked concerned. “Well enough? Is there something I can do to help you?”
She smiled, “Nothing really. I thought I’d like the country and the mountains, but I don’t really. He likes them though.
“I’ll do whatever I can to see you happy,” Em said.
“I know,” she said with a smile.
“And I so very much appreciate the effort you have been putting in to finding my father. I was able to get some more information, too. I was able to send my uncle to my father in a dream. That in itself proved my father is still alive. And it seems he is being worked as a miner somewhere in the icy mountains not far from Vannes. Do you think this might help you locate him?”
“That he is alive may help. Slavery is rather uncommon in Vannes, but not unheard of. There were some copper mines that were discovered about ten years ago I am told. A lot of workers went there. It is possible some were brought there against their will. Do you know the name of the mine?”
Em shook her head. “I don’t.” She then gave her as accurate a recount of what her Uncle Mazarin had told her of his meeting with Hoel.
“That’s as much as I’ve got. I think he may have been working there five years or so. My father is, I’m told, a very big, very tough man. I suppose all those years chained to an oar added strength to an already bit frame,” Em said.
“I’ve learned a little more about my mother, too, from things the local priest told me he remembered of her, as well as from Uncle.” Emmeline looked downcast. She didn’t think her mother was crazy. She thought maybe her mother simply had been speaking with Mara. She couldn’t know for sure, and maybe never would, but it saddened her to know people thought Lara was some kind of madwoman. From the letters she shad, Em’s mother seemed a genuinely loving person.
“I guess people thought she was a little crazy. She’d talk to herself a lot and carry on a bit. But I don’t think she was crazy at all. I’ve read her letters to father. I think people didn’t know who she really was and that there really could have been an invisible someone she was talking to. It must have been so hard for her… The town priest said that Lara must have found a place that made her happy. So much so that she wanted to stay and not return to life. And she might not have even known I had survived her death and was born. I’m not sure that’s comforting…”
Em suddenly changed the topic. “Will the count still marry you? I know you were so excited and I’ve been wondering if you had set a date?” Emmeline asked.
Adela replied, “We have not. Things are…complicated. Despite the title he has little money you see. I have money. My step-son is getting bad advice from someone in Portreaux and does not wish to allow the marriage unless he can meet the Count. Technically, that is in his rights, unless I surrender my title.”
“Bad advice? From anyone I know? Maybe I can help.”
“Not really,” Adela said. “Anyway, the less you get pulled into that world, especially given your occupations, the better. To be honest, I miss Thalassa and being a bon vivant over returning to court. The parties, the poets, the young ones being in love. I miss that. For now, I need to for once in my life do something worthwhile. Hoel was a bore, like his brother, but he loved Lara. And don’t let anyone tell you that Lara was mad. She simply could see things that we cannot. I really didn’t know her as she was taken from me when I was young and given that land you now have by my father to support her. To be honest both myself and Emmeric failed her, but she thrived anyway. She lived and loved and then left us after giving us you.”
Em looked down at the daisy. “I just finished visiting that same plot of land… I think that wherever she is now, she’s happy.” She smiled and looked back at Adela. “Would you like a bit of news? I’m speaking to you from Thalassa.”
She smiled, “I so miss home! What news?”
“The Aegis has gone up! All magic in and out of Thalassa is carefully monitored. More worrying for me is that they have called up all their experienced leadership from the Periphery to go to war in defense of Adera — including my Baron. This is ahead of much of the legions, so you can see I’m already worried. But at least I can be with him in dreams like this.
“Many young men of Thalassa have also been called to the navy, including one of my cousins.
“Young Renee duTriel is now being trained as a member of the guardians for wizards, which is an extraordinary opportunity for her. I’ll miss her and her watchful eyes on my back while she is in training. I suspect her father, the Captain duTriel pulled some strings, but I believe she is more than qualified in any case. She wants to be a dragoon one day, and this is a good path for her.
“Elemix ran into a spot of trouble with Trieza D’este. Apparently his encounter with her last fall was a carnal one and she ended up pregnant. She lost the child but her father was more than a little irate over the whole thing, since his daughter appears to have been really taken with Elemix. Well, I’m sure he’ll resolve that situation once he figures out exactly what it he wants and who he wants to court.”
“Then of course there was some very interesting formal dinners. I even met the mayor and had the opportunity to get the Baron and she talking! That can only help the Baron’s future as his role expands into that of Marquis in the north.” Emmeline went on to describe in detail the dinner and then the dance the following weekend as she knew Adela would relish those especially. She described every person she remembered attending.
She left out mention of her secret role as information gatherer, of course. Nor did she mention Sidonius — at least not directly.
“Elemix and I did meet some astonishingly important people on this trip and I have to say I think Elemix is improving.
“The only person really attracting truly serious trouble is, I think, me. It seems a sea hag has declared some kind of war on me. When we took a small boat, a 30-footer, to visit my uncle, we were attacked by creatures from the sea allied with a sea hag. Ma mere, we lost that fight, although we didn’t give them victory either, else I would likely be in a horrid situation right now. They had some sort of sea demon with them, and creatures from the deep I’d never seen before. They killed Elemix, or nearly so, and struck me with a bolt of lightning so hard I nearly lost the babies. The parson from my Uncle’s village, the one Lara had lived in, was able to bring El back to us. But it was clear we barely escaped with our lives.”
Emmeline stopped, wondering if Adela would pick up on that she had said babies in the plural or not. Part of her hoped not, but part of her wanted to share this incredibly important secret with someone who would understand.
The first thing Adela focused on was Trieza d’Este. “Good to hear everyone is alive. So much to comment on my dear. Now on Trieza first. I doubt very much she was pregnant, else Elemix would have been in trouble much, much before this. She may have ‘thought’ she was due to some other ailment perhaps or convinced she was, or perhaps it was real and it did not work out. In any event I know her and she and I are of a kind. She is very much a bon vivant and quite unlike her father or step-siblings. She plays dim, but is really quite the schemer. She is the heir to a large fortune, a fortune her father would like to keep. Does this situation sound familiar to you?”
“I’m not sure… Should it? I mean… Why would an heiress need to scheme?”
“The fortune is hers, not her father’s. In fact, her father took the d’Este name from his former wife, Katherine d’Este. He was from a more distant line d’Este-Carrera. He dropped the hyphen when they married. When Kat passed, Trieza became heir, not Vincent nor his Carrera elder children. But she does not inherit for another year. Her father I guess wants to retain control over the fortune – which is not his. I’m sure the family gives him a stipend, but he likely wants to look more successful than he is. Rumor is that every business he did was a failure. Trieza must marry to gain control of her fortune, but she wants to marry someone she loves – she’s an artist you see. That said, I do not know why Vincent would want to force the issue and have Trieza marry Elemix. It makes little sense. You see, like with your uncle, her father wants to control her to better himself and his disinherited children. Okay, your uncle is not as bad, but you get my point?”
“I think I do,” Emmeline said. “Is it possible he really wants Elemix’s bloodline in his family? What happens if Trieza has children? Does the fortune somehow get shuffled around in some way Vincent can influence?”
“It is possible. For instance, Lady d’Uzec inherited from her mother as well. It is not unusual among the Patricians to throw out the male primogeniture that is common in the Periphery, Rift and the Brentine Shore. Now Elemix’s bloodline includes a bourgeois wizardly mother, a semi-successful academic father, a well respected bard for a cousin and a generally working class paternal side. The Dungaroons are Danaean by lineage, Thalassan by culture and not from a noble house or a Druid house. My father disowned me when I left Bella’s idiot father. That line is broken, but you through Emmeric are descended from a cadet Patrician line, but Elemix has none of that. Elemix is in my will, as are you, Roux, Pris, Adelaide, and some others, but it isn’t a lot.”
She thought for a moment, “now that said, Elemix is a second generation wizard and a multi-generational spellcaster when you take my limited skills and my mother’s into account. Any child by Elemix stands to inherit those skills. Few d’Estes have been wizards, though many have been bards. That there doesn’t make sense. There must be some hidden consequence Trieza is unaware of that causes forfeiture of her inheritance if she marries a non-Patrician. But why Elemix? Maybe she really likes him?”
“I think that’s possible,” Emmeline said. “Elemix may stumble a little socially, but he’s always well meaning. And much of the time he’s far more transparent in his motives than other wizards. I think people who take the time to notice that would find him charming.”
“He so much reminds me of my elder brother Alexandre, your great uncle. I personally like Trieza. Not the smartest or wisest, but she can be cunning and is very pretty, but Vincent is more cunning. Did Vincent confront Elemix? Do you know what was said?” Adela asked.
“He did, but I was sent from the room. I don’t know really what was said,” Em said glumly.
“Hmm,” she said, “you young one need to get better at snooping. Well I’m sure Elemix will mess up the opportunity of a lifetime to become stinking rich. Oh well. Now, you need to stop adventuring! These…hags. They are beginning to anger me. It is time they were the hunted instead of the hunters, don’t you agree? I won’t have them attacking my grandchildren or…did you say you have babies? Plural?”
“I … might have. No one knows that yet save for the midwife and I need to keep it that way. I will give the Baron a son, but the daughter… is far too important even for me to keep her for myself and raise her. I’m bringing Mara back into the world, ma mere. And she will become what she is meant to be.” She looked at her grandmother in the eye. “Her name will be Lara. I’m bringing the light fey back.” And she seemed pretty determined about that, crazy as it sounded.
Emmeline took a breath. This was the most serious thing they could ever talk about. “That’s why the hags are after me. They want to devour my children and use me to make their own once they have Lara’s power. I’m scared to death, ma mere. I really have killed or been part of killing many of them now. Sea hags, green hags, night hags, too. I fear they will not stop until the children are born. And then I must rush Lara away to the Mother Tree and hope she will survive what she has to go through.” Em was near sick with worry on that point. But she knew it was what needed to happen. “The worst part is that Thalassa is taking my Baron away to war. I feel like I am alone in trying to carry the family forward. But the good part is that Mara left me with the power to be with him in dreams.”
Adela nodded, “Like we are today I suppose.” She hugged her granddaughter and said, “I worry about this fey. I fear you are being used for some purpose. Ill or good I cannot say. But regardless evil is seeking you out and we must deal with them.” She was lost in thought for a moment. “I cannot allow you to be hunted anymore by these hags. I cannot allow my great-grandchildren to be either. Now, if I was on the Isle I could pull some strings to help with Roland. Not being there, I cannot do so. But I can get you safe from the hags. It will be costly and you will need to contact Philip Marshall, my advocate. Tell him to complete the liquidation of my city estate. It should be enough to hire one of the Silent to deal with your hag.”
Emmeline blinked. “But ma mere, that is such a burden on you! I told you of this not for sympathy, but because I wanted to confide in someone. You are already doing so much for me by looking into my father’s situation.”
She shook her head, “Nor am I giving you sympathy. I’m giving you a way to rid yourself of this threat. This makes me angry. Anyway, I’ll need the money if I am to guerantee your father’s liberation. Bribes, etc. I’m just going to buy him you see.”
“I love you, Adela,” Emmeline said simply. She squeezed her grandmother in another hug.
“When you wake up, contact Philip as instructed. I am currently at the pass of Dol. There is an office of the Bank of Thalassa in the border town of Vincenné. Have a third of the proceeds sent there, a third deposited, and a third made available to you to hire one of the Silent. Philip can help you make contact with a friend of a friend who knows one of them.”
Em nodded. “I will remember. Please be safe in the north. I want to see you again soon, in person. But it might need to wait until after the birth.”