While Tric and the Beard limber up for their boxing match, Heppa asks her new neighbor what he had in mind for her cousin’s hair. “It looks wiry enough for a similar style to what I have,” he says, tilting his head a little to show that off. Remembering her upbringing then, Hepalonia politely introduces herself. “I go by Knots,” he replies, offering his hand for a shake.
They sit companionably together, watching the other two circle and assess each other. “Have you seen a lot of elvish fighting?” Heppa asks conversationally.
“No offense, but we’ve done some actions against elves in the past.”
“So did you find the fighting styles to be different?” Heppa asks, curiosity overriding any awkwardness about her people being on the opposite side of a conflict with him.
Knots does not need to consider her question at all. “Elves take greater advantage of the cover provided by woodlands than do most human companies I’ve been part of,” he replies easily.
“Interesting,” Heppa murmurs. She had been thinking that the defenses around here could use some shoring up, given how far they are from a sturdy copse of trees. Knots’s attention is now locked on the fight in front of them, though, so Heppa lets the conversation come to a close. She simply adds, “I’ll admit that I don’t think this fighting style is typically taught to the scouts. I’m not sure where Tric learned it. Usually we’re using a bow or a sword.” Granted, she only attended that first semester…
The Beard offered to remove his hauberk, given that Tric just has a leather jerkin, but Tric demurred, claiming that it would not make a difference. Tric doubts he could make a dent in this fellow’s tough muscles through conventional means, but he is not going to use the knuckle dusters in this bout. Those are weapons, which he considers inappropriate for simple sparring. Though his warrior’s honor may not be as extreme as Terwaen’s, Tric still feels it would not be sporting.
The combatants circle each other, throwing punches and blocking strikes. When Tric finally lands a solid blow on the Beard’s chest—or at least the hair covering it—the man laughs as though he has been humoring him this whole time. Then the Beard swings his hands up, slapping both Tric’s ears at the same time. It does set them ringing, but Tric keeps his hand on the other man’s chest, tapping it. The Beard does not bother trying to knock it away, feeling that Tric is pretty out-classed here. “You think you didn’t feel anything,” Tric tells him, testing just how much power words can have, “but you have been hit by one of the most vicious elvish martial arts moves ever created, Kalenz’s Powerful Blow. You may wake up tomorrow and still see the bruise… and even into next week.”
The Beard’s brow crinkles, in confusion or surprise, perhaps, but before he can respond, the fight is disrupted by the arrival of the caravan manager. “This is not what I hired you all for!”
“Ah, Rhodri,” Knots mutters from his seat beside Heppa. “We should have known they wouldn’t like this.”
Heppa shrugs. “This is my first job,” she admits.
Despite the long day of travel, Rhodri still cuts an impressive figure in their colorful array of clothing from all corners of Wesnoth. Their skin is light brown, with long, straight hair a few shades darker. It drapes neatly over a close-fitting jacket that flares out at the waist. The split skirting continues down almost to the ground, where one of Rhodri’s fine knee-high leather boots taps impatiently.
“Ah! Caravan Manager Rhodri!” Tric responds cheerfully. “It’s good to see you! Don’t be alarmed; we’re just practicing readying ourselves for if any danger should occur. We are not on active watch duty, but we thought this would still be a productive thing to do. The best use of our time and your coin.”
The Beard companionably slaps Tric on the back, perhaps a little harder than necessary, though not more than Tric deserves. “Yeah, me and Tric Manu haven’t worked together closely before. And we need to learn this ghost hunter’s insights.” Tric’s eyebrows shoot up. He had not realized rumors of his greatness had circulated so far. Whether or not the Beard believes what he has heard, he is clearly willing to deploy it now that it is guards versus management. Rhodri needs to remember they are all competent fighters here.
“Well now, let’s not exaggerate,” Tric says with false modesty. “But yes! If we come upon a ghost, I’ve dealt with those before,” he asserts to Rhodri. “Twice in the same night.”
“Just as long as we’re not attacked by bats,” Heppa comments from the sidelines.
“Yes, bats are trouble,” Tric agrees.
“All right, well… keep it quiet. People are sleeping,” Rhodri tells the lot of them. “Practice some of that stealth fighting that I’ve heard elves are so good at.”
Tric cannot resist a rejoinder. “You wouldn’t’ve heard if it was that good.”
Rhodri shakes their head and leaves to continue their rounds. Another set of ne’er-do-wells needs a talking to, for sure. “It’s always something,” they hear Rhodri mutter as the caravan manager stalks off.
With Rhodri’s departure, the earlier tension is now diffused. Tric sucks in a few long breaths, winded from some of the blows he took. The Beard, meanwhile, rubs his sternum and coughs some, a confused look on his face. “You might want to get that checked out,” Tric suggests. “I do apologize. No armor can stop an elvish strike. That’s something to be warned about.”
The Beard strips off his hauberk and then pulls down the collar of his under-blouse and pushes aside his beard, trying to get a look at the area. A nasty bruise is blossoming across his chest. Given how pale his own skin is, it looks particularly bad in the dancing firelight. “Wow,” he says. “You know, it didn’t seem like it was going to be that bad at first. Your blows were really light.”
Heppa comes over for a closer look. From where she was watching, It did not seem like Tric hit his opponent that hard. She offers medical treatment to the Beard, who was thinking a slab of meat would take care of the problem just fine. He agrees to her help, though. “Is this common with your armor, this kind of bruising?” Heppa asks as she pokes at the edges of the bruise.
Tric restrains himself from further playing up the seriousness of the injury. He leaves Heppa to apply her herbal paste and instead joins Knots, who is standing closer to the fire, examining the Beard’s chain shirt.
“I don’t see anything wrong with the padding,” Knots reports. Turning to Tric, he continues, “Humans wear chainmail; elves don’t. Are your strikes a technique designed to somehow take advantage of a weakness in it?” There is no accusation in his tone, just professional interest.
“Sometimes the chink can be found in a wink,” Tric replies coyly with the appropriate facial expression.
“So you are some kind of elvish noble,” Knots says, waving his fingers at Tric, “what with all the casty-casty stuff.” In his experience, the only male elves who can wield magic are the nobility that sometimes lead their forces.
“What’s the difference between magic and technique?” Tric asks rhetorically, unwilling to commit to a direct answer. “You should take note, though, that more than just elvish nobles do magic. Elves have mastered a wide variety of natural energies.”
“Well, yeah, of course,” Knots says, as though that were obvious. “Your women can cast.” Tric wonders what this human’s experience has been that he has formed such opinions of elves.
Heppa’s examination of the Beard’s injury has led to some interesting findings. The bruise was definitely not caused by a simple impact. Tric must have done something else, something magical. That is the only explanation she can think of, though it does not match any primal application she has heard of. Granted, her shaman schooling is also somewhat incomplete…. But regardless of what the actual spell was, this is quite exciting. It has been an open question for her for a long time whether Tric can do magic or not, given his mixed heritage. She wonders if maybe this was some human arcane magic rather than something fae, but the absence of any flashing light suggests otherwise. It was pretty dark, with just the firelight. If there had been magical sparks, she would have seen them. It is too bad Kachen didn’t demonstrate more human magic for us….
Heppa mixes up a paste and spreads it over the bruise, advising the Beard to let it soak in overnight. She assures him that it should be fine in the morning, and he thanks her. Despite how the evening started, she and Tric seem to have made two new friends. The Beard might be more gruff than Knots, but he holds no enmity toward Tric now that they have had their sparring match. Everyone getting chastised by the caravan manager probably helped build that camaraderie, as well.