Emmeline had tried to use her dream spell several times to contact Rivanon since she arrived in Thalassa. Nothing. Likely due in part to the Aegis, but Emmeline was not sure. However, one night in late June, Emmeline received a Sending, “Tonight after midnight.” It was Rivanon…

“It will be,” Emmeline returned.

After a long day of managing the mundane affairs required of her, but also finding opportunities to enjoy her children, Emmeline prepared to cast her dream spell. At night fall, she burned an evening candle and watched the moon rise. When the candle was half gone, she settled down into her bed and closed her eyes. She knitted together a beautiful dream of a summer afternoon in the gardens of Uzec, but made them bigger, with more flowers and more privacy. Then she cast forth the single thought that would build a bridge from her dream world to her target. “Rivanon.”

Rivanon appeared as River Celeste, the appearance Rivanon had during their most fun times traveling together. She smiled and said, “Would it be so that we could enjoy the simple adventuring life again! Sadly, things are not so happy. I’m in your dream, am I not?”

Emmeline nodded. “You are! We have complete privacy. How do things fare at the gathering? Have you made contact with the Countessa?”

She said, “It is chaos of a sorts. I had to find an excuse to exit and even leave the city to contact you. Luckily we’ve had a recess. Apparently there was an appearance of Sidonius in the Vault that the Mayor and several other elites witnessed. This was predicted by several Sidonius ‘flickers’ where several people over the last year were brought to the Vault or claimed to meet Sidonius in locations throughout the Periphery. The Mayor is chairing the meeting, but not driving the agenda. She wishes us to discuss the situation at hand with Maelith, the state of the armies, and the general chaos in states surrounding the League. The old nobility, the clergy, the magerium, and representatives of the citizenry are each in their own councils discussing the ramifications. I have a hard choice as I am both a Baroness, fairly minor nobility; and through my mother and my ex-officio duties, a representative of Thalassan Citizenry. I have to choose which council I sit in.”

“Oh, and yes I’ve contacted your mother. She sends her greetings.” she added.

Em nodded, her mind focused on the issue of this.. great conclave. “It would be useful to know what Sidonius said, and if anyone knows I’m one of the flickers. If you can manage. Now, let’s examine the landscape of those councils your are eligible for. The nobility is missing many of their most experienced leaders since they are busy in the field. What is the political strength of those who attend the conclave? How much influence does the Citizenry have in comparison? In order to best champion our agenda, you must be with the group with the greatest influence. But you will also need to factor in how many allies you can count. No allies but membership in a more powerful group is less desirable than many allies in a less powerful group.

“How is your networking?” Em looked at her curiously. “Roland needs a lot of allies quickly. You can get much of the central part of the northern periphery to support him, but we need Thalassa itself to see Roland not only as a champion of the Periphery but as an exemplary Citizen, a loyal soldier who did his time nobly and effectively in the legions before.”

She walked around a bit, gathering her thoughts. Then Rivanon said, “I was not there, but apparently the war is a reaction to the expansion and influence of Thalassa and the League. It is what the Mayor calls the ‘Key External Crisis’. The spread of our trade, religion, magic, and culture to the Periphery and beyond has given enough power out to severely weaken the leverage the City has on its allies. Where Thalassa was the savior of the Norvick Invasions, they do not have power to force the hereditary rulers of the League to unite, even against an outside threat. The Thalassan Navy is unstoppable, but its Legions are few compared to the local forces.”

“The Old Guard Nobility commands much, but not all of those. The New Nobles are a faction that is emerging of Thalassan-educated children and grandchildren of the Old Guard. there is a Third Faction called the Free Nobles, who wish to dissolve the League and go on their own, but they are under threat of economic boycott by the Merchant’s Guild. Of the Thalassan Gentry, there are three factions as well: The Republicans who are in power now who despise any nobility. The Populares who are fine with a Noble/Gentle class but want to expand suffrage to the common folk beyond Thalassa as a check on the nobles. And the Isolationists, who want to withdraw like we did during the Norvick Invasion and simple avoid battle and hide behind walls, slowly wearing out the overly stretched enemies.”

“Now, there is also what the Mayor calls an ‘Internal’ crisis. One where the democratic traditions of Thalassan have eroded to power of the local rulers; while simultaneously the influence of the nobility has created a desire on Thalassa to imitate and gain similar titles and power. It is a clash of ideologies: equality under the law or a caste system. She says that either extreme prevents us from succeeding. Another crisis is the fact that almost all decisions come down from Thalassa without regard to local sentiment, even though much of the local nobility, gentry, and merchant classes are descended from an intermingling of Thalassan and Non-Thalassan. Basically they are describing me, or Sister Jocelyn, or Lord Axiney. We are torn. When decisions don’t come down; however, no one can agree who should take charge.”

“I do not have his exact words, and the Mayor said he would not offer and answer that she can share. She has not taken sides and has been more of a mediator. This is unusual for Delacroix.”

“The experienced leaders you speak of weaken all sides of the argument. While much of the Old Guard are there, their ancient fathers and mothers are on Thalassa arguing to keep or expand their privilege. Younger nobles and Thalassan military who would be in the New Nobles or another faction are also missing. However, those that are there all either are part of a faction, perhaps half, or jockeying to join a faction, or like me staying above it all for now.”

“The Citizenry are mostly Thalassans, Merchants, and Thalassan Expatriates or mixed-blood who now live in the Periphery. There are others, home grown bourgeoise who want more power and fear the taxes from the war.”

“The peacemakers here seem to be a small group forming that bridge some of the New Nobles, the Populares, and also have influence with the less radical, yet reformative factions of the Citizenry. They are small, but it could be a way to build a consensus without a civil war, dissolvement, or coup d’etat. I think I can build many allies there. I’ve already met a few key players. The Patricians expect me to lean Republican, and that is my sympathy; however, I know that will crack the League. My uncle expects me to support the Old Guard. I can use my ‘desirability’ in each extreme to move a few key outliers into the evolving ‘Middle Way.’ There is no name for the faction yet.”

“I think we are far from getting father any power. At least not yet. He is one of perhaps a dozen commanders in the field currently who have the respect of perhaps the majority of the Great Conclave. I need to learn more about the others, while supporting my father. No one has suggested a single leader yet, and the Mayor had not pushed that agenda. She is simply demanding that we not fail to support the men in the field, at least enough to provide a defense. Everyone has agreed to that for now, save for a couple outliers who left the Conclave to attend to their own a couple days ago. Father’s defensive victory at the Second Battle of Legé has raised his reputation, but his is not the only one be touted as I said.”

Emmeline suggested, “Still, one of a dozen is much narrowing a selection than it might have been. And this new group, let’s call them the Third Path, sounds like the most likely path continuing the Thalassan League. Therefore, Sidonius will have put things in motion to support it. Therefore, it has the support of those who also follow his intent for Thalassa. And finally, the Third Path is most likely to succeed.

“I would offer that you could find Tierza and befriend her. I may be unable to reach her to help, but if you can at least seem to open up to her in a way you had not last time we were there together, she might in turn be open to supporting the Third Path. I don’t think it would be far from her views anyway, and it may expand your network of allies substantially.”

She paused and then said, “I haven’t heard of this second battle of Lege. Can you tell me more?”

“Well – remember it was me who introduced you to Trieza. She is my cousin after all. That said, it is her father that is more useful. I am weaving a number of alliances and spending most my time listening and understanding. I highly doubt at this time that Father is in the running for any office yet – simply put the arguments have not got there yet. When the time is right, I’ll do what I can. Don’t worry Em, this is what I was trained for. Now, the battle happened a few days ago, one of several. The long and short of it was a successful rear-guard action to crush a Maelith salient that went to far. It isn’t the end, but Father and his men bought us time. As an aside, I learned that Captain du Triel’s body has not been found, nor any word on a capture. He may be in the Tauran Wilderness amongst the darkest forest. The problem is that no living wizard knew him well enough to attempt a sending.”

“What’s a salient?” Emmeline asked. “And I haven’t reached du Triel yet but I’ll keep trying. He may have been moving at night and hiding during the day.”

“Military talk. A salient is push by an army into enemy territory that creates a bulge in an attack. Father’s cavalry cut off the salient, allowing General Masena to crush the cut off enemy. Father is best tactically in-the-moment. He reads a living battlefield well.”

“I can see that in my mind.” Emmeline smiled.

Emmeline diverted for a few minutes to relax with talk of plans for the imminent solstice events and who should be the next Queen of Love and Beauty. But eventually, she came around to another topic on her mind.

“By now it has been a long time since Captain du Triel went missing. If I can manage to confirm he is still alive, what would you say to allowing me on a mission to rescue him?”

“He is more Vorn’s friend than Father’s, but he is a capable military scout and leader and I don’t doubt he will be missed. The sad truth is I could be here for a while. I certainly would not want you going without the Barony being secure. In two weeks – and I know that may be too late – help will arrive for the Seneschal in the form of a squadron of cavalry. But even then, getting to where he was last seen, then finding him, then bringing him to safety will be difficult at best. May I ask why him? There are others we are certain were captured and their fate unknown.”

“Because he’s Renee’s father and she is like a sister to me. She will be devastated when she hears. And, if anyone can track and find Captain du Triel, it would be his daughter. I know this is impulsive, but I’ll obey your decision.

“I don’t want to leave the Barony without the protection I can provide. But I believe I now possess a power that can shorten the journey a good bit. It’s not teleportation, but more of a shortcut. Nor is it instant — we’d likely lose some days or weeks to it, but not like we would having to take ship and horse the entire way. I call it the Ways. The Ways could put myself and a small rescue team somewhere near Storuvan. We’d have to hike from there.

“I have to also add that Mara taught me this powerful magic for a reason. She could ground me, also, if she thinks it is too dangerous to allow me to leave.”

“Emma,” she said, “Why I must I always be the responsible one? Yes, it is impulsive, but it is highly honorable and right. He likely is somewhere in the Tauran Forest. It is huge and wild (OOC: Think IOWA the forest), so you will need more than a good tracker. The Maelithi will be the least of your worries. All that said, Father will kill me if I allow you to risk yourself. You know he is already upset about your adventures. He fears for you – or as he says, he is ‘concerned.’”

Emmeline smiled, her eyes bright. It felt a little selfish, but it warmed her heart to know Roland cared that much.

“He would never harm a hair on your head, and you know it, my lady.”

But she grew serious then. “It’s in his nature to care for others safety more than his own. But if I should be unable to return for some reason, Roland still has you and your sister and brother. That’s his family and you three will always belong to him.

“But if he dies, it’s not only my heart that would die with him. A mistress only has value if there is a… a mister. I have no title, no family and no wealth of my own to provide our children. I’m so grateful they will always have a bright future — a future he provides them whether he is here or not. That’s something I can’t do.

“He is everything to me. But we have to face the truth. I’m the expendable one.”

Rivanon gave her a hug.

Letting go she said, “Talk it over with your cousin and with the Sister, then reach out to me again in a week. Same time. Please let the Sister know that I successfully passed on her letters to Sister Jocelyn. Please let Elemix know that I visited his mother and father. They will be returning with me on my family’s personal vessel, which should be completed before I leave. I believe the three girls will accompany me. Also, let Elemix know his cousin Brigitte Rouann is expecting and is due to give birth at the end of summer. Oh, and your ma mere is doing well. She is my grandmother’s guest at the House d’Este, while I am staying at the Hotel de l’Estoires. Please inform the Castellian Axiney that I approve of his ideas to attend to the Hill Tribes and you will help him. He will explain. Please also inform Seneschal, the Constable, Sir Bronn, and the Lord Wardens that letter will be sent to each of them, with the Seneschal receiving copies with specific orders and requests. Oh, and Emma, please keep the peace with the newcomers.”

“That’s quite the list! I will see to letting everyone know what you would have me tell them. Please send my love to ma mere. And I will do my best with Desmodia and her people.

Rivanon said, “Very good. I must be going before they miss me.”

Emmeline gave her a hug. “Sweet dreams, my friend.”

Three Weeks Later – Rivannon and Emmeline
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