The elves part ways with Jedeth and Ulf once they get above ground. Jedeth will be helping the injured archeologist back to town—perhaps for treatment at the House of Light. Tric thanks him again for his guide work and the sandwiches, and he tips him some extra coins for enduring danger he did not sign up for. “If you ever feel that sort of anxiety again, you should check in with Damal at the shop where you found me,” Tric suggests. “He might have something to take the edge off. You know, if you exhaust your options at the Parting Glass. Or if the tavern isn’t open yet.”
It is late afternoon, but that is still plenty of time for the elves to make some good progress back towards their forest. Along the way, Heppa examines Kachen’s ring, verifying that on some metaphysical level, she really has damaged it. This is not just an errant prong that a jeweler can bend back into place. She comes up with a few ideas on how to fix it, but the actual magical labor involved will require material components she does not have on hand right now. Specifically, it will require transmuting fancy jewelry, which she figures she can get from her sister or from Mother. At any rate, that will have to wait until she is back home. Still, she should be able to get that done before Kachen arrives at summertime.
As they make their way back home, the sickly mage is a topic of some conversation. Tric tells Heppa about the anklet Kachen made for Heledd, and how she used it to create a Rhaessa illusion. “I didn’t know he was a jeweler, too,” Tric comments.
“An artificer!” Heppa corrects, amazed that she knows someone who actually made an artifact. “I must talk to Kachen about this!”
“Oh, and that Book of Rhys that Ulf was looking for? It’s sitting in the House of Light, and Kachen read a bunch of it.”
“What is it?” Heppa asks.
“That I don’t know, but Kachen really wanted to read it. Heledd helped him repeatedly break into the House of Light to access it.”
“That was nice of you to tell Ulf about it,” Heppa observes.
“Eh, he seemed like he could use a break, and the House of Light isn’t really doing anything with it,” Tric says. “Although maybe they are keeping it safe…” If that is the case, they are not doing a very good job of it. “Well, if nothing else, it will inject some interesting things into their experience,” Tric concludes. Dabbling in non-elvish affairs and then walking away from any trouble he might cause is becoming a hobby for him. And it makes for good stories. “Society of Shadow? Really? Does that sound like a real organization to you?”
“So many mysteries,” Heppa murmurs. After their events beneath the city, she finds herself wondering about the rumors of undead that they have heard concerning Kachen. Did he dig up an artifact and now undead are following him around? Or is he holding onto one that attracts undead?
Over dinner that night around the campfire, as Heppa is updating her map, she sees some notes scribbled on it from her first meeting with Ulf, as well as things Glammur told her when describing their travels. The archaeologist hails from the area around Halstead, which he described as rundown ruins. But Glammur told her that it used to be a beautiful city, one crafted by human mages. It was destroyed some time in the past couple centuries, but there are many rumors about how: the hubris of human mages, sabotage, and so on. Carcyn is actually not that far from Halstead. It is on the Great River in western Wesnoth. Glammur heard rumors about rebellious mages in the Grey Woods, a large forest near Carcyn. Likely they are the Society of Shadow, and the Book of Rhys is a product of the sect’s illicit research. That theory fits with the bits and pieces they have gathered about Kachen and his interests. While there might be many things human mages could rebel about, so far necromancy is the only type of magic that Heppa and Tric have learned is off-limits to humans.
“Is Kachen a rebellious mage?” Heppa murmurs, looking over her materials and considering the threads spread across them. Whatever the Society of Shadow is about, Kachen was studying it.
“Maybe he’s rebelling against necromancy,” Tric suggests.
Heppa shrugs. Whatever Kachen is doing, his artificing is probably unrelated. She has seen no indications that that would be frowned upon by humans. Lady Sabine had a whole library full of magical items on display, and the story of Gweddry’s amulet is openly told. Even the lowliest of human mages in South Tower has some sort of rod at least, judging from Rhaessa’s apprentices. Rhaessa herself had a staff.
It does seem to Heppa, though, that the runic magic of some of these crystals is different from whatever the implements themselves are capable of. After all, elvish shamans have staffs too, though theirs are living branches, not worked wood or metal.
Kachen did not show interest in the ice rune. Heppa wonders whether that is because he did not know how to channel runic energy through it or if the staff was just so much more interesting to him. Magical implements are definitely an accepted part of human magic. Kachen did not have one though; maybe that was why he wanted the staff they found. Maybe the staff was aspected in some way that was helpful to him. Clearly Kachen knew that the crystal could do something different, because when he was given a chance to experiment, he explicitly did not use it. Once again, Heppa feels some frustration over how little time she had to work alongside him. All he used the staff for was to summon those little fire missiles. What else could he have done if they had had more time? Well, she will find out soon enough when he comes to visit this summer.