Tric’s search for nagas takes him farther downstream, and he dodges a few clumps of slung mud along the way himself. Though he does not find any survivors of the fight, his efforts are not in vain. In an area of shallow mud and low reeds, he comes across the naga’s encampment. There are no recent signs of them being here, so Tric figures the nagas are either dead or fled. Flattened patches of plants indicate where they slept. That it was on the ground suggests to Tric that while nagas like this sort of swampy environment, they live above water. They may have snake-like bodies and good swimming skills, but they are not deep-water creatures. Their homes would be in swampland or along the edges of rivers, but not actually submerged.
The campsite has evidence that those who used it really were people. There is a firepit and a few knicknacks. Near a string of somewhat fresh eels, Tric finds a small lockbox of coins. He glances around to make sure there are no South Tower guards in the area and then claims the box. Looks like Alric’s getting paid a bit sooner than we’d thought. Since there are only fifty coins inside, Tric figures this is probably just a down payment for the naga’s services, not the full fee. The retreating ferrier must have held the rest of the money.
Mate lands in a flutter and starts poking around. Tric decides that additional reparations are in order and takes the eels as well. Since the camp is not in a bad spot, he gets a small fire going and spits the long fish to cook up some dinner. Seeing that it is open season on the naga’s food supplies, Mate begins chowing down on a stash of crickets he has found. Before long, Knots sits down on a rock alongside Tric. The swordsman is still a bit scraped up from the fighting but does not seem concerned about it. “Oh, good, you found the campsite,” Tric greets him.
“Smoke’s rising,” Knots observes.
“Good point.” Tric is not concerned about attracting any other attackers though. The naga, if they are still alive, are long gone. Tric samples the first eel. It is not the tastiest fish, but it is food. He passes one to Knots.
“That was some good shooting earlier from the tree line,” Knots compliments him. “You landed hits on them all, from what I heard.”
“Well, I did what I could,” Tric says with false modesty. “I think Mate accomplished a lot more than I did. I heard he kept your raft from floating away. A little bird told me.”
Knots laughs at that. He samples the eel and says, “It’s a good thing that you’re cooking up a meal because Henrick has ordered an overnight here. Tomos was pretty beat up.”
“Oof, I saw him get hit. Those swords in a naga’s hands will mess you up, apparently,” Tric says.
“Yes, myrmidons are the most skilled of naga fighters,” Knots tells him. “They are far more dangerous because—” Knots chuckles, patting each of his own hilts. “—because they’re trained with two swords, which is more dangerous.”
Tric imagines effective weaponry is an on-going topic of debate between Knots and the Beard. “I own two bows, but I feel it would be gauche to use both of them at once,” he says.
“But I noticed you were shooting gauche,” Knots comments, engaging in some wordplay himself.
“Yes, I learned this style of bow left-handed, and I use the elvish bow right-handed.”
“So what style of bow is this then?” Knots asks, not having seen a composite bow before.
“Uh, this is a… a Manu bow,” Tric tells him, lacking any better way to refer to the weapon his mother and grandmother both learned how to make. Seeing an opportunity in Knots’s lack of recognition, Tric asks, “Have you ever been to the Sandy Wastes?” This is a win-win situation. If Knots has not, Tric can fabricate wild stories. If he has, he may have useful information for Tric. “You may have guessed that I am not all elf.” He leans over the fire, sprinkling some Dunefolk spice blend over the roasting eels.
“I haven’t been in the Sandy Wastes myself, but for a while I was stationed down in Fort Tahn on the other side of the Dulatus Hills. He tips his head in the direction from which the small river alongside them flows. “There are some settlements further east than that which brush up against the Sandy Wastes. I did meet some people from those villages when they brought their goods to the fort. There’s a pretty bitter brew called coffee that they drink down there.”
They chat some more, and from the sound of it, Knots has traveled very widely. Tric asks what battles he has been in. The human seems too young to have been on the field for the war with Mal-Ravanal. “Oh, I’ve been in engagements pretty much all over Wesnoth. That includes some fighting along the edge of the Aethenwood. And out on the Horse Plains. Those guys don’t always like to do their own work themselves.”
“Well, it wouldn’t be honorable in some situations, right?” Tric says.
Knots laughs. “Honorable isn’t why I’m in the business.”
“No, I don’t imagine anyone becomes a mercenary out of honor,” Tric agrees.
“It’s more about coin usually,” Knots adds.
Tric pulls one of his brand new coins out and rolls it over his knuckles, then flicks it up in the air and catches it.