Very soon after her arrival back in Cerisey, Emmeline decided she needed to make the trek to the Vale to visit Zoe. With Kalista in tow, she made her way into the valley of the Vale.
Zoe met them at the edge of the Vale, where the treetops surrounding the Mother Tree could be glimpsed.
“Emmeline,” she said with a small bow. “It is pleasing to see you. As it is you Kalista.”
“Zoe, I see you are well. It has been a long time apart from the Vale. Is everything okay here?”
She bowed slightly and then said they walked down the rough hewn stones, “Yes Lady Mabrilith. Things are being prepared for the Reunion. This ceremony has taken a great deal of research and time communing with the Gods, speaking to spirits, and discussing with our brethren in the Circle. I believe I will have everything I need for that moment. You still plan on being here? You haven’t changed your mind?”
“I’m going to need the details,” Emmeline said. “Mara was once my mother and has always been there for my entire bloodline. Now she is my daughter and I want to show no less attention and care for every aspect of her future with us.”
“Details? It is a call to the ancient first gods named and unnamed to unite the child, body and spirit, to the Mother Tree thereby connecting her to the will of the Mother and the spirits ancient Maryswinifar once knew. It is quite literally a completion of her birth. The Mother brought her forth unto this world. A cruel and evil being cast her out into the Void. The Mother was driven mad with grief and you and Mara together cured her and let her grow again, albeit weakened, and in doing so provided an anchor for a rebirth and Reunion. Your child, Lara, is the conduit for that spirit. Before the sun sets or rises the day you give birth, your girl must be brought to the Mother’s Creche which we are forming at her roots. I believe the Mother will take the child from your womb and bring it into hers. What happens after that I do no know, save that the whole circle will give prayers for the rise of a Mother Tree and perhaps a guardian fey who is both the Mother and the Child. A reunion of spirits long sundered. The form this will take, if any, is still unknown.”
A voice added to the conversation, it was Maedoc as he looked up from the Mother Tree, “Yes. A Reunion. Your child Lara will become the Mother Tree. Zoe disagrees, but that is what I believe will occur and that reunited spirit will be the center of a world reborn, a place we can reverse much of the sadness that has plagued these lands. Lara, the Great Mother, born of ancient Fey and modern Human, will unite us all. And we will serve her.”
Emmeline turned. “Maedoc. It’s good to see you again,” she said with a smile. “You are making a nursery at the foot of the Tree for Lara, then.” Emmeline thought about what they said. It seemed they believed the Mother Tree was another entity with a personality and power of her own. For all she knew, they could be exactly right. Or they may only have part of the truth. With no one else to provide perspective, she had little choice but to accept what they say for now.
“My plan is to be here two weeks before I am due, but I’m not entirely sure when that will be. These things aren’t always on an exact clock from what I understand. In the meanwhile, the Margrave and his daughter, the Baroness would have me at the castle because there are a great many things seeking to do me and Lara harm. I would prefer to spend far more time than that here in the Vale, but I understand their concern. They fear for my health and that of both my children. But they will see to it I am here in time.
“Zoe, would you be willing to be with me at the castle? I will have Kalista for much of the time, though I will have to send her to Derrien sometimes. And Maedoc, I’m very, very worried for the Vale and for you and the other druids. Frightened for you would not be understating it.”
Zoe answered, “Mabrilith, I wish to, but I am key to everything here. If I leave before the appointed time, we risk failing in this endeavor. Also, unlike Maedoc or even you, I can tap the power of the Mother Tree to defend her. If I leave, we risk much. But there are three I know of that could help you. The first is little Renee. That juice you see he sipping all the time is an herbal brew that helps her grow strong and keeps her alert. She is well taught in many of these skills. That said, her mother, Natine, is an accomplished ranger and healer. She is alone with two children to care for with her husband gone. There is another, who is likely the most skilled and is a midwife named Aline. She lives in Uzec and is known to us from earlier. She is a dedicated Aarithine and likely would not care for the Mother’s plans for Lara, but if she did not know and only took care of you in the short run, then perhaps she would do fine.”
Maedoc added, “Yes. Zoe must stay here. So should you. The risk is high if you return there; but you said that you are frightened. Of what? The Inquisitor? He knows nothing and has gone home.”
“Renee is being sent away from me, unfortunately. I had thought I would be able to keep her nearby but that isn’t going to be possible, it seems.” It didn’t seem fair to try to get Natine to watch over her so Emmeline skipped that one. “I don’t know Aline. So that’s a maybe.
“I wanted to be here, not the castle. That was my plan. But the Baroness was really upset about it. She wants to be able to defend me and she doesn’t think she can do that out here. This leads me to why I’m so worried about you and the other druids.
“The leadership in Uzec, and its clergy fear a potential clash of interests. We need to assure them we are all on the same side. They control the north and we need them. Not just me. We can’t afford the people to be suspicious of us or the Vale. They will have reason to be fearful of us, too. Because they don’t understand the difference between druid and Tyanite. And the Tyanites have apparently taken keen interest in the Vale. They have already sent word to me that they wish to defend it. I have not responded to them because their “help” could drive away our best allies and leave us with a dubious alliance with people that are as likely to turn on us as soon as they have an opportunity.
“Worse, something dark has been hunting me for a long time. A servant of its hunts Kalista even now in hopes of turning her to dark ways once again.
“All this combines to brew doubt and fear. At least for me. I’m scared! I can’t afford to alienate any of my allies. I am worried over my daughter and my son both. I’m threatened by hags on land and sea and hunted by things I don’t understand. I don’t like being kept apart from the Vale, and I’m especially nervous because I can’t reach Mara.” She finally put her worst fear out there. “And I’m worried that my daughter will be made to become something Mara didn’t intend. Are you sure you won’t try to make her into a god? She wants mortality, whatever form that might take. She wants to be here with us. I am the one who has always wanted the dream that Maedoc shares with his vision of the Vale and its future. Not Mara. She has only wanted to no longer be forsaken. She has only ever wanted to not be alone.”
Maedoc put his hand on Emmeline’s shoulder, “I want her to be like a goddess to us. I admit that. A baby god who could relight a faith I and others have carried on for hundreds of years of oral tradition. I want a center of worship for us for the first time in living memory – one that is neither transient or threatened. With that said, Lara is not a god, but she is a symbol. A symbol of rebirth. We intend not to worship her. That would be wrong, but legend says the First Ones that our ancestors honored and served were the conduits to the Otherworld where the gods walked among the mortals in harmony. She might, might be our connection to them, so our prayers may be heard and that we may rekindle what was lost. I for one will be proud to bend my knee to our Winter Queen the Great Mother whom the Summer Lady – you – brought to us. She will never be alone again thanks to you, your friends, and your lover. But, as Zoe says, we cannot know what form this will take. The fae are fickle, and the gods unfathomable.”
Zoe added, “I too want to worship her, but I will instead cherish her and worship the gods who brought her here, and teach her and you how to do so. Our ways, which are now your ways are not some invention of man, but the will of the Uncounted passed on for millennia, but mostly lost. Every once in awhile the Lords of Necessity decide to add a wrinkle in the world, something new disappears or something old appears once more. I believe this is one of those moments.”
Maedoc said, “The Stormcrows, daughters of the Moon and followers of the flock of Tyaa. They are on their way? If they come, what shall we do? They are an ancient belief akin to ours in many ways. Do we fight them?”
“Thank you both for your assurances. It helps,” Emmeline said. “The followers of Tyaa, I think are earnest and true about their desire to help. But they have made enemies of the entire civilized world — the very world upon whom we depend for protection. For our vision to be realized, the Vale, the Mother and we must bridge that gap between the beauty of the natural and fae world and the civilized realm that men have been trying to forge in the name of peace for centuries now.
“The Tyanites will not agree with that. They do not believe in peace, but rather eternal struggle. Tyanites are not all the same, but many believe so much in the struggle for survival and to become strong, I feel they forget what it means to stop and cherish the reason for survival and the reason to become strong.
“We should not fight the Tyanites any more than we should fight my lover, the Margrave. We can’t accept their help without forsaking the help of others even more important to us. But nor can we stop them if they choose to fight for us. All we can do is be wary of them and be prepared against the day they may decide to take the Vale, the Mother and everything for their own purposes. In the meanwhile, we let them do as they will do. Perhaps they can blunt the attacks to come from our more dangerous enemies.”
Emmeline paused and removed a small stone from a pouch. “That said, I can contact them if we need to. One of them gave me this some time ago. Her name is Jeminy.”
Maedoc said, “Interesting. I do sympathize with their goddess’ and her followers given our faith’s history; but where we see the magnificence of nature as the careful work of the gods a complex beauty with rules of behavior and norms to aspire to, they see it as a brutal reality to survive created by uncaring gods. I’ve never met a Tyaanite before; however, so much is conjecture. Would you wish to meet them at some neutral location?”
Zoe added, “I am also willing to listen, but I do know they, like all other ‘dangerous’ faiths, are illegal on Thalassa and the coastlands. Out here, things are bit more murky. In any event, i agree with Maedoc that any first meeting must not…”
She paused and a small finch landed on her shoulder and chirped.
“Your cousin is approaching Cerisey. He should be at your manor in moments.” Zoe said.
Em sighed. “Already our time grows short, it seems. Even if I’m in Uzec, that doesn’t mean our discussion must come to an end. With your permission, I can speak to you in dreams individually? Come to think of it, I could speak with Jeminy in the same way, though a dream I craft would hardly be neutral ground for her.” She looked at the message stone. “I won’t really need this then, and getting rid of it will remove one more way they can track me.”
The both nodded consent. Zoe said, “be aware the Mother is nearby. Dreams may not quite work the same and others may be listening.” Maedoc added, “Do we know this Tyaanite can dream? Do you think she would be offended and what ever goodwill you’ve built up destroyed?”
“I don’t know. And as far as goodwill? They need to build it up with me, not the other way around. I have never gone after them, sicced mercenaries after them or any of that until they targeted me or my friends. Besides, if they are interested in the vale, then we have more to offer them than they have to offer us considering any attention they give to this area will likely hurt as much as help us.”
Zoe said, “do what you feel is right. All I know is that we don’t need any more enemies. Friends are harder to come by, even potential friends.”
Maedoc was silent for a moment. “I agree. On the face of it, we have more in common with them then we do Thalassa or the Aarithines. We believe in the same essentials gods, forces, and the ascendancy of nature. The Aaritines stand man apart from nature and above it. Also, like the Tyaanites, we were persecuted. In other ways we are opposites. It is a difficult decision. I would reach out to them far from here and listen to what they have to say.”
“I’ll try to do what is right.” Em said with a nod. “Now, what about you? Do you have what you need? I don’t suppose any of the Silverleaf clan has contacted you?”
The both shook their heads.
Em looked between them, then gave them each a hug. Deciding she had no reason to rush off, she decided to have a stroll through the vale and take the opportunity to de-stress and relax while seeing what Zoe had made here.