Echoes of Invasion: Downtime in Dan’Tonk | Scene 9

In the evening, Tric and Heppa return to Fazoul’s Fabulous Fabrics with Heppa’s writing kit. Fazoul pulls out the expedition notes and shares what he knows of his cousins’ southerly route. They embarked from Crenlyn, a small hamlet just across the River Lanel in the southeast extremity of Wesnoth. They chose it not because it was familiar ground, but because it was the easiest place to base an expedition from. The Manu displaced by the Great Storm ended up in the Estmark Hills, where they met some other humans and then eventually settled in Hisanham, at the south edge of Estbryn Forest. That is far removed from southeast Wesnoth, but not as practical a starting location.

As they traveled eastward, Fazoul’s cousins sent word a few times by falcon. “The falcon couldn’t carry a map, obviously, but it had short descriptions of landmarks along the way,” he explains, holding out the thin strips of paper. The last useful one remarks upon a stretch of land described as desolate and featureless. Several others after that repeat the lack of landmarks. “No more falcons came after this,” Fazoul says, handing over one last strip.

Heppa pulls out a piece of Osian’s fine paper and begins a new map. She starts by copying the map that was part of the expedition’s original plans, the area around Crenlyn. Heppa annotates her version of the map with word-for-word copies of the falcon messages and her own interpretive drawings of what they describe. She also includes sketches of what these Manu could remember of where they grew up. From Fazoul’s description of the timeline, the elves learn that Mhaev, who is close to fifty now, would have been only ten at the time of the Great Storm. The expedition members, much like Serces and Damal, were in their late teens when they were separated from the rest of the Manu clan. They had some memory of features on the far side of the Sandy Wastes, but those were dimmed by time.

“The Manu clan traveled around a lot,” Fazoul tells the elves, “but they didn’t necessarily make the same circuit each year. They had their base of operations in a town called Kabira, where they did the bulk of their crafting, but they ranged far. My cousins sketched out their memories of those lands as best they could, but the accuracy of all that is rather questionable.”

How these two pieces of map, the Crenlyn side and the Kabira side, fit together is a subject of much discussion. The distances involved are rather subjective, and there is the weight of forty-odd years. A place that was an oasis during the youth of Fazoul’s cousins might have dried out by the time they passed it on their expedition. The scope of the Great Storm is another factor. It drove some of the Manu into the Estmark Hills northeast of the Sandy Wastes. How far south and west could it have raged? Could Fazoul’s cousins have passed through an area where they had been before and just not recognized how the storm changed it? 

Heppa and Tric have the advantage of having somewhat recently been up in the Estmark Hills looking down over the Sandy Wastes, and they review the old country landmarks with that in mind. They can understand why Hisanham survivors would not have wanted to use the Estmark Hills as their jumping off point, but to the elves of Estbryn it would be entirely reasonable. “We might be able to get better eyes on this from even higher up in the Estmark Hills,” Heppa suggests. “Farther east than we went in the spring, it gets more mountainous.” One of Roshanak’s telescopes would certainly be handy for that.

“You know, the Bitter Swamp east of there might also have better access to the lands the Manu came from,” Tric comments. He knows from Damal that the name Sandy Wastes is a bit of a misnomer. Damal showed Tric drawings of some of the vegetation found there, which does require some amount of seasonal moisture to support it. Some of the old country landmarks described by Fazoul’s kin sound like foothills that might seasonally drain into a place like the Bitter Swamp. 

The flat, featureless region of whirling sand described in the final falcon notes does not sound like a natural thing to the elves. It might even be the result of some sort of magical catastrophe. “I bet Mal-Ravanal would have been interested in any magical disasters on his borders. He might have done some research on it. Maybe he left behind his own expedition notes and telescope in his fortress, just waiting for someone to come along and find them.”

“He could even have had some battles down that way,” Heppa adds.

As the cousins bounce ideas around, they grow more fanciful, as is their wont. Tric imagines them building an irrigation canal out of the Bitter Swamp in order to rebalance the water table of the Sandy Wastes. They could even pick up their old raft from the Foul Fen on their way through. “It’s just a hydrology problem,” Tric concludes. “I’ll talk to Dad, and we’ll get it all fixed.” He slaps his hands together as though the problem is solved.

Heppa offers to give Fazoul a copy of the information they have added to her map based on their own geographical knowledge, but the weaver is not interested. He does not intend to go on any expeditions and retains these materials simply because his cousins left them behind. Tric thanks him again for his assistance, and Fazoul asks, “If other people come around asking about this matter, do you want me to direct them to you? Or send you a message?”

“Sure, send a message to South Tower for us,” Tric says. He would like to get what stories he can out of this material before someone else beats him to the scoop.

“Yes, we could help them,” Heppa guilelessly says at the same time.

“If we do undertake our own expedition, we will let you know,” Tric tells Fazoul. “And if there’s a message you want to send to your family members, we’d be happy to carry that.”

“Do elves have anything like falcons for relaying messages back?”

Right on cue, Mate flaps wildly into the back room, having tied his own legs together with string that he found in Fazoul’s front shop. The magpie careens around, not crashing into anything, but certainly undignified. “I might borrow a falcon from South Tower,” Tric says with a straight face. “But just now, I meant to physically carry a message to your kin ourselves.”

“We’d be happy to share information if someone you know is trying to figure out what happened,” Heppa assures Fazoul.

“There are certainly people who might want to go,” he says, “if they knew there was a way to get back.”

“Are there that many anymore?” Tric asks. Forty years is a long time by human standards.

“There are those of my age and younger who put the old country on a pedestal of sorts,” Fazoul says. “They think that the sand is yellower on the other side,” he says with a chuckle.

“Ah, they think it would alleviate problems they have here,” Tric says. “Of course, there’d be a host of new problems there.”

Fazoul nods. “Or they like the sound of the adventure, but only if they know they can get to the other side. They don’t necessarily want to exert the effort of finding the route.”

“But if you knew already, it wouldn’t be an adventure!” Tric objects.

“Seeking out a new place to oneself can be an adventure, even if someone else has walked the path before,” Fazoul counters. “But none of that is for me. I am quite content with my business. It is unfortunate what happened to my cousins, but it was their choice to investigate the matter.”

Tric is more optimistic. “Who knows, maybe it was very fortunate what happened to your cousins, just they have not been able to reach you with the news of the great wealth they have gained across the sands.”

“True, true,” Fazoul allows. “Though from my understanding, the Manu were not the wealthiest of clans.”

“But your cousins would have been bringing exotic wares and news from far away,” Tric says. “And the renown!”

“And the ingenuity,” Heppa adds, thinking of the clever Manu she knows.

With a sentiment Rhodri would respect, Fazoul dismisses it all. “Well, they certainly failed to set up any new trade routes.”