Echoes of Invasion: Closing Time | Scene 13

With her new alchemy materials now settled about her person, Hepalonia moves on to her next topic with Damal. “I also have a question for you about this,” she says, pulling out the vial that Lady Glynnis gave her. “Do you know anything about the dapper inkcap mushroom? This solution might have some in it.”

“You are interested in an alchemical consultation?” Damal clarifies.

“Yes!” agrees Heppa with a broad grin. This could very well turn into a lesson, just like the ones she got from Terwaen and the juggler Ifan!

Damal takes the vial from her and steps back to his workbench, which has much larger pieces of equipment than could fit in her pockets. He sets things going, adding a drop from the vial into several different solutions. As he conducts his material analysis, he tells Heppa what he knows about the dapper inkcap. “It is a mushroom that grows in dark places. It is quite rare, but a useful ingredient for treating various ailments of the elderly. As they get older their minds sometimes deteriorate. Certain mental conditions can be treated with components of the dapper inkcap, but it has to be used in very small quantities and with a mix of other ingredients to alleviate the side effects.” As the results of his tests come in, he reports to Heppa that her potion does indeed contain some of those balancing agents. Although Damal does not know where she got the potion from or its intended purpose, in his opinion, there are not enough of those. He rattles off a few more ingredients he would add to properly balance the proportion of dapper inkcap it contains.

Heppa has no qualms about maintaining the privacy of patients. She tells Damal all about where she got the sample, including the problems it was supposed to treat in Sir Marthynec. He was prone to getting upset and lashing out, he had nightmares, and he could not sleep well. She also describes what she observed of him on the medication: emotionally muffled to the point of barely responding to his environment. 

When Heppa adds that the potion was brewed at the House of Light, Damal comments, “Oh, so they do do some real healing there. Their skills as apothecaries are clearly not sufficient because they rely upon their unnatural magics. They should be devoting more time to learning the proper ways to heal people. Well, I will call upon Lady Glynnis and consult with her about the health of her husband. Hopefully we can get him into a better state than the one you saw him in.”

“I think she would appreciate it if you can refine it,” Heppa agrees.

“Indeed,” Damal says. He takes in his current client, the eagerness in her face as she watches everything he does, the concern for the patient they are discussing, the pile of coins she has blithely dumped on his counter. “You have a lot to learn,” he tells her, “but a long time to learn it, so that might be all right. It is good that you are setting aside your magic ways and embracing the true path of how to properly heal people. Once you truly see and understand all the things that these natural reagents can accomplish, you won’t feel the need for your unnatural magics.”

Heppa does not disagree. Bandaging someone physically is certainly easier than wrangling fae energy, at least in her limited experience. Damal might be a little grumpy at times, but this sounds like he is willing to answer her questions. He provides a lot of services here, but it is clear to Heppa that his true interest lies in the paired disciplines of alchemy and apothecary work, not in writing small for falcons. Heppa asks more about the dapper inkcap. “It is my understanding that it may be dangerous for elves. I’m not really sure the nature of the threat. It was described to me as cutting off the life force. Do you know anything about that? Or if there would be a safe way for me to experiment with that? I just don’t know how dangerous it is.”

“I maintain the reliable Dunefolk healing traditions. There is no need for further experimentation,” Damal tells her. “I admit I have never provided treatments to elves before, but my professional opinion is, if you have heard that it is particularly dangerous for elves, don’t use it.”

“I’ve been carrying it, and I’ve been all right. You opened it, and I feel fine…”

“This potion has only a small quantity of dapper inkcap extract in it. You have not drunk any of it yourself, have you?” he asks.

“No! It’s dangerous for elves.”

“Then I have no advice for you,” Damal says. “The only way to find out how dangerous it is for elves would be for elves to ingest it, and I cannot in good conscience advise that.”

Heppa is satisfied with that response. At the very least, it has soothed her concerns about bringing the vial into her village, as this seems too small an amount to hurt anyone just by proximity. Heppa scribbles this information down on her map, then looks back up at Damal. “If I leave a note with you, could you get it to Alric?” she asks.

Damal frowns. “Yes, I will see Alric,” he admits.

“This will take just a bit,” she says, flipping through her sheaf of parchment to one she was writing on last night.

Damal heads across the shop to Tric. “You said that you would be making a purchase? What do I have that is of interest to you?”

“Do you have any fine pieces of brush wood that I could use for crafting purposes?” Tric asks. “I don’t know if you would carry something like that here… Mind you, I don’t want just a local wood that I could get anywhere.” It is indeed not one of his usual wares, but Damal does have some branches of mulga wood from the edges of the Sandy Wastes. He carves styluses from the material, but it sounds like it will suit Tric’s needs. He fetches it from storage, and it looks perfect to Tric. “You might be a little offended,” Tric cautions, since he is about to mention something magic-related, “but it was my trade growing up—I’m going to make a dowsing rod from this. I’m wondering, though, what kind of tools would you or someone in the Sandy Wastes have used to find water? Clearly it wouldn’t have been a dowsing rod.”

“We did not use tools. We used our minds,” Damal says. “Nor did we need any sort of unnatural magic. We used knowledge of nature. The landscape and vegetation can help you find moisture.” He leads Tric over to a chest of drawers, each one short in height, but long and deep. Damal pulls one open, and within it is a thin but enormous book composed of large pieces of parchment. He flips through the pages, walking Tric through an array of plants found in the desert. Each page has drawings of some plants and notes on their environment and uses. Damal highlights some succulents that can be cut into for moisture, providing a direct source of hydration. On another page, he shows Tric some shrubs that indicate the water table is shallow enough to be reached by digging.

Tric does not take any offense from Damal’s grumblings about magic, and he looks at the book with genuine interest. Damal must soften to him a little, because when Tric pays for his mulga branch, Damal also gives him a small pouch of Dunefolk spice blend, flavors and scents from their shared heritage. While it can be used to season a variety of dishes, Damal recommends it for mulling mead. Tric opens the pouch for a whiff and is immediately struck by the potency of the ingredients. “Oh, wow! Opens the sinuses right up!”

“Finished!” Heppa abruptly declares from further down the counter. She hands a folded up piece of parchment to Damal. It is addressed to Alric of the Parting Glass, and the exposed surface says, “Alric, Thank you for the alchemical kit. I will think of you when I use it. I have attached a rough map of my location in my village should you need it. Sincerely, Hepalonia of House Thrandolil. PS: There were much more silver salts left in the kit than I anticipated.

The inside of the parchment is an elaborate map, a partial copy she started last night of the one she has been annotating during this whole trip. This version has extra details of her own home forest thrown in. It is also covered in notes and doodles since Heppa’s mind wanders when she has a stylus in hand just as much as it does when she is asking questions aloud. Details on the map include landmarks in Estbryn Forest, South Tower, and the lands between, but there are also sketches of the chamomile (sunpetal) flower, a falcon claw, a cuttlefish, a magpie, and an eyepiece. She has jotted down significant people in each location, including Alric of the Manu, who is described as being observant, considerate, fun, handsome, intelligent, and not an alchemist.

Damal looks at the folded parchment in his hand and frowns again. He will do his duty and deliver the message to the addressee. As is usually the case, since so few people in Wesnoth are literate, this will involve reading the contents aloud to the recipient. If Alric had stuck with his schooling and learned to read like a proper Dunefolk, this would be less awkward. Damal certainly does not approve of his nephew growing close to an elf, but at least maybe something good—literacy—will come of it.

Messy and crowded map showing Estbryn Forest, South Tower, and tons of notes and glosses
Heppa’s map for Alric