Elaine was hard at practice when Mansemat found her. “YAAH!” she yelled as she slashed forward.
Her stepfather gave a little cough. “I see you are practicing the Yell of the Angered Tiger.”
“Yeah,” she answered with a nod. “It’s really great for getting rid of tension.” She noticed Mansemat was standing there, in that awkward silent way he had when he wished to say something, but couldn’t think of how to move the conversation forward. “So… you have something not… practice related to discuss?”
“Yes,” said Mansemat with a nod. “You may have heard that your mother and I will soon be headed off towards Montalban…”
“Given that the news is all over Castle Terribel, yes, I might have,” replied Elaine.
Mansemat shifted awkwardly. “Yes. Well… you see… I know this is a great deal to ask… But… I wouldn’t ask it if I wasn’t certain you were the best person for the job… and…”
“Do you want me to come with you to Montalban?” Elaine asked, just a touch of nervousness visible on her face.
“Oh, no,” said Mansemat. “I’d like you to go to Tremisona. And talk to the Mongranes. About letting our army use the Crossing.”
Elaine raised an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t Asterot Maganza be the one to speak to that about?”
“Well, it’s a murky area,” began Mansemat. “There are numerous issues at stake here--old laws of territory, ancient agreements, rights of land…”
“The fact he’d say no,” noted Elaine.
“That’s the clincher, yes,” agreed Mansemat. He sighed. “Listen, there aren’t many places where one can swiftly get an army across the Murkenmere. The Mongranes hold one of the best. If we’re going to help the Free Cities, their agreeing to this will be… invaluable.” He placed a hand on Elaine’s shoulder. “You are their friend, and I think you know how to talk them.”
Elaine shut her eyes. “Okay, I’ll do it.”
“Thank you,” said Mansemat. “You have… taken a load off my mind.”
“Oh, don’t go swelling my head,” said Elaine. “I wasn’t the only option. You could have always asked Mom.”
Mansemat stared at her for a moment. Then the pair burst into laughter. “It is good that we can share little jokes like this,” said Mansemat. “Now, let’s agree never to mention this to your mother.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” said Elaine, with a slight shudder.