Morgaine glanced at her niece, smiling cheerfully. “Well, look at you. Being all--diplomaty! And warriory!” She patted Elaine’s arm. “You’ve blossomed!”
Elaine sighed. “Yeah. Thanks.”
“No, I really mean it!” continued Morgaine. “It reminds me of this poem by… some Abbess, I forget which one, that Nisrioch gave to me when I was fourteen. It involved… trees. And… flowers. And--I want to say salmon, but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong.”
“Right, right,” said Elaine, nodding fervently. “Trees, and flowers, and maybe fish. Got it. Let’s stick to the talks with the Mongranes.”
Morgaine’s mouth wrinkled into a frown. “You’re no fun anymore.” Elaine rolled her eyes. “I’m not kidding. It’s harder to get your goat! What’s the point of messing with you if I can’t get your goat!”
“Well, you could always stop,” said Elaine.
“Nahh, it’s my nature,” replied her aunt. “Like asking a woodpecker to give up pecking wood.” She shot a mournful look to the heavens. “If it did that, what would it be? A… notwoodpecker?” She shook her head. “I’m pretty sure that’s not even a word, so clearly, it’s right out of our considerations.”
Elaine gave Morgaine a long look as she opened the door with a clenched fist. “You’re in a chipper mood.”
“I got a large army to the Crossing with a minimum of fuss,” said Morgaine. “With fuss being ‘looting, killing, and other forms of misbehavior’. That’s the sort of thing they put you in the history books for. So, yeah, I’m stoked.”
“It is an impressive accomplishment,” agreed Elaine, gesturing for her aunt to go through the door.
Morgaine walked through, nodding. “Yeah, glad you think so. When they do my woodcut, should I wear the helmet with the spider, or the one with skull on top? This is my immortalized visage we’re talking about, so it has to be classy.”
Elaine was considering a reply to this, when the Duke of Mongrane managed to come to her rescue. “Your Excellency!” said Ruggier Mongrane, rising with the aid of his cane. “It is an honor to see you.” He gestured to his sister, who gave Elaine a cheery wave. “My Marshal and I were in the middle of military discussions when we heard of your arrival.”
“Yeah, Elaine’s been catching me up,” said Morgaine, pulling up a seat. “Have to say I am pleased. We were hoping she could convince you to let our army through without any trouble--and you are not only going to do that, you’ve assembled another army to help us.” She shrugged. “What’s not to like?”
“I really had very little to do with it,” began Elaine.
“Ahh, don’t cut yourself short, kid,” said Morgaine. “I’ll take care of that in my spare time.” She smiled at the Mongranes. “Yep. Only thing I have to wonder is… what’s the catch?”
Ruggier blinked. “Pardon.”
“Come on, Lord Mongrane,” she said, smiling cheerfully. “I may have the face of a young girl, but Morgaine Sans Coeur has been around, and she’s picked up a few easy lessons. The biggest one--you get nothing for nothing. What’s the catch?”
“The… we are doing this because it is the right thing to do,” said Ruggier.
His sister nodded, standing up. “It’s not just because Elaine’s my friend--this is the Great War! We have to play our part! The Lands of Night depend on us!”
“And Asterot is fine with you disobeying him?” asked Morgaine calmly. The siblings looked away. “Yeah, thought so. So--guess you’ll want our help for the blowback.”
Marfisa fidgeted nervously. “Ummm… yes?”
“Good. Good!,” said Morgaine chuckling merrily. “Yeah, this all sounds doable.”
“Really?” asked Ruggier, clearly intrigued.
“Well, we’ve hardly been blind to the fact that the Shadow Woods’ situation has been on edge for some time,” said Morgaine. “We get our foot in the door, get to stick it to the Ebony Throne, WHILE being the good guys? Yeah, doable. All very doable.”