Echoes of Invasion: Closing Time | Scene 11

The exterior of Damal’s shop, like most others in South Tower, is marked by an illustrated sign indicating the services and wares within. In this case, it is a mortar and pestle. Unusually, there are also words: Damal’s Apothecary. Bells jingle as the elves push the door open, and a wave of scents greets them. This is the most natural-smelling place they have encountered since they entered this city; it is practically like walking into a forest, as far as aromas go. The walls are lined with shelves holding jars and vials. They see many fine powders, but other containers hold dried flowers, sticks, or leaves.

Damal comes out through a curtain at the back of the shop to greet his customers. True to how they have met him before, his demeanor is rather dour, even before he sees who is here. There are none of the smiles or familiarity they have gotten used to from his nephew. “Yes, how may I help you?” Damal asks. Heppa gives a polite greeting and inquires after his well-being, as she has been raised to do. Although he answers that he is well, Damal does not repeat the phatic expressions back at her, just asks, “Do you wish to make a purchase?”

“Actually, yes!” Heppa replies. “I have quite a few things I want to talk to you about.”

“To talk to me about?” Damal echoes with a frown.

“Well, first, you said you had water insoluble ink?”

Damal brightens significantly at that. “Ah! Yes, right this way!” He leads Heppa over to a display with a variety of colors: blues, blacks, purples, and so forth. Everything is in powder form, to be purchased alongside solvents used at the time of writing. Damal begins to ask questions about Heppa’s specific needs, and she pulls out her map packet. 

Heppa unfolds the large piece of parchment she has been annotating since the start of this current trip and shows it to Damal. Up until now, she has written on it just with charcoal sticks. “Here’s what I want to be water insoluble. Something like this. Do you have a recommendation?”

At Damal’s confused expression, Tric reframes the question more concretely. “What can we do to protect this map? It’s gonna get wet.”

Now that he understands the application, Damal redirects Heppa to a different set of supplies. What she really needs is a transparent varnish to protect the work she has already done, along with special inks that will allow her to write on it. Each time she adds to the map, she will need to retreat the updated area with more sealant.

“Does that add a thickness to the map after a while?” Heppa asks, wondering if she will be able to continue folding it up.

“Perhaps in the lifetime of an elf it would,” Damal admits with a sigh. Such things would not matter for the span of years a human would be doing such work. “But given how crowded this piece of parchment is already, you’re going to run out of space on it before you have applied many more layers of varnish.”

“Unless you learn how to write really small!” Tric observes.

Heppa takes the suggestion seriously, and Damal tells her that he can make inquiries if she is interested in a magnifying eyepiece like his. He does not stock such things himself, but he has contacts. Such things are not manufactured much in Wesnoth. The only craftsperson Damal knows who is capable of producing such an eyepiece is a former resident of Hisanham who lives far to the west now. He offers to ask on Heppa’s behalf about availability, price, and delivery options. Damal pulls out a small notebook and jots down a reminder with details when she enthusiastically agrees. 

Heppa asks whether it really is feasible to make tiny maps, and Damal replies that it is a reasonable activity, but it will require additional tools. Although it may take months for the magnifier to arrive, he encourages Heppa to begin practicing tiny writing already. If she cannot make her letters small to the unaided eye, she will not be able to make them miniscule with the eyepiece. With that in mind, he leads her over to another section of the shop where there is an array of styluses. Heppa will need quills with much finer points, like what Damal used when writing the letter to Kachen that was stretched out in frame. Clearly, this is a skill that requires a lot of tools to support it in addition to hours of practice.

The list of purchases is getting long. For starters, there is the sealant and the special ink to go with it. Heppa’s current map is monochromatic, but Damal shows her a few multicolor maps on display in the ink section and asks which color inks she wants. She selects a variety, and he packages the powders up with a few different styluses. Heppa is not sure about whether she will want to travel with these materials all the time, or if she will just leave some of them back home. Goodness knows she has a closet full of supplies for hobbies she has dabbled in over the years. On the other hand, if she were to travel by pony, she could keep more things with her. With that possibility in mind, she inquires about alchemical and apothecary supplies. “I have,” Heppa up-ends her pouch, “this much coin. So, it’s just a matter of what I can buy with it.” She does a quick count. “What can I get for ninety-two gold?”

Tric watches Heppa load up on purchases. He does not think Damal is trying to upsell his cousin. Rather, it seems that the fellow is really proud of his craft and wants to ensure she gets the best and most appropriate materials for her needs. It reminds Tric of his dad, actually. Still, he cringes when Heppa empties her pouch out onto Damal’s counter and does not even try to negotiate the price down. In the grand scheme of things, though, it is fine for her to spend it all here. The only thing it would be good for on the way back home is getting robbed.

Damal regards Heppa’s money and then asks, “Are you looking for supplies beyond those that come in a standard kit? Because I have this for you…” His demeanor does grow a little glum as he steps behind the counter and pulls out a dusty box and then a tan vest. It is much like the one he is currently wearing, except that its many pockets are empty. He hands it to Heppa to try on and instructs Tric to see to the laces. The vest has slits down the back and under each arm so that it can be adjusted to the girth of the wearer.

“Oh!” Heppa realizes this all constitutes Alric’s apprentice materials. She could wear the vest over her leathers, but it would certainly feel quite bulky. She undoes her leather jerkin and sets it aside, then slips the vest on over her blouse. Tric tells Mate to help him out, as knots are something they are both good at. The magpie hops out of his backpack and flutters at Heppa’s side, pulling at one set of cords.

Damal opens the case on the counter. It contains many levels, each full of small compartments, like a well-organized fishing tackle box. Damal picks up each small pouch or vial, names its contents, and tells Heppa which pocket to put it in. The long list of items is exceedingly boring to Tric, who sets himself down on a bench near the front window and nods off in a comfortable beam of sunlight. Meanwhile, Heppa does her best to process and remember everything Damal tells her. He is going at his own snappy pace, without any consideration for her ability to absorb what he says and certainly no time for her to write it down. A number of the items are familiar to her for one reason or another though, from back in her village, from her knowledge of useful herbs, or from her outing with Alric yesterday. There are powders and dried herbs, but also flasks of solvents, some of which are alcohols. There is also a small mortar and pestle and a tiny distillation set-up. Damal points out that to transport all the equipment required for a proper alchemist would require a wagon, rather than a vest, but he allows that these are sufficient for most purposes.