Echoes of Invasion: Dwarvish Discourse | Scene 12

Glammur brings Tric Manu and Hepalonia to their quarters, a much nicer set of accommodations than the straw floor that the elves slept on last night. In addition to a bed with a mattress, there is a small table and a couple chairs. The dwarf shrugs off their outer garment, and Heppa observes with interest that although they are not as bulky as other dwarves, it is not due to ill health. Rather, Glammur, who moves with great ease, seems fit from travel. Most of the dwarves Heppa has seen up to this point have jobs involving a lot of heavy lifting and physical labor, and they are stocky and muscular as a result. Glammur, on the other hand, is relatively lean.

As Glammur hangs up their jacket, Tric asks, “Do you just keep an apartment here?”

The musician gets out a few mugs and pours ale for their guests. Tric takes his and collapses into one of the chairs with a sigh, worn out by the encounter with dwarvish nobility. “These quarters were provided tae me during mah stay here,” Glammur explains. “But I’ve been here a few months noo, and I’ve seen aboot all there is tae see of scenic Untdunben. So hoo are things topside, then? Is it worth a visit?”

Heppa takes a sip of her ale, pleased with all the new experiences she has had today. “What sort of things are you interested in seeing?”

“Oh, things that make a good tale.”

“Well, so far we’ve encountered some undead in the bog.”

“So I heard! An epic battle, it was. An alliance, even.”

“To be honest,” Heppa admits, “at the beginning I mostly just screamed.”

“Now that’s not entirely true, Heppa,” her cousin interjects. “You swung that staff with precision.”

“Right, I swung that staff, and Tric Manu jumped out of the water and—”

“And the rest of the elvish army, what did they dae?” Glammur asks with a twinkle in their eye.

Heppa looks confused, and Tric jumps in again. “Elvish army… there might be a language or cultural barrier here. The elvish party… which consisted of us.”

“Oh, yes, it was just Tric Manu and myself,” Hepalonia agrees.

“And the saurian contingent? Hoo vast—”

“One of their finest hunters and negotiators!” Tric insists. “Hezzis, leader of her own pack. She has one of the finest augurs in that swamp.”

“To be honest, we don’t completely understand her—”

Tric interjects, “Mysterious, saurians are, you see!” 

“Tric Manu seems to have a way of negotiating with her by bartering meat—”

“Short and scaly, fond of pork,” Tric acknowledges.

Glammur smiles at the interplay between the cousins. “And what was the scale of the human involvement in this great war?”

“Who, Kachen? There was only one human,” Heppa says.

Tric fishes around for grandiose language. Noble hermit does not quite fit. “One reclusive hermit.”

“So this grand three-species alliance—”

“I don’t know about calling it an alliance. Hezzis was champing at the bit to get at Kachen. She definitely had a problem with him.”

“There was a tenuous truce between the saurian and the human,” Tric dresses it up some.

“I think she believes he is dead because of something Tric Manu told her.”

Tric waves that away. “She doesn’t need to worry about it anymore.”

Having thus clarified the actual facts behind the story Tric Manu told at dinner the previous night, Hepalonia goes on to tell Glammur about the bog iron and the remains of long-ago battles in the swamp. She admits she does not know much about that battle itself, whether it was against undead or caused undead.

“Many battles have taken place over that swamp,” Tric elaborates. “Over time, they have left more than just their memories in the landscape. Shields, halberds, all manner of detritus. Even undead. Apparently necromancers were felled in that fen.”

Heppa tells Glammur that she and her cousin actually have not traveled terribly far from home yet. She thinks it is debatable whether they have even technically left Estbryn Forest. The dwarf suggests that since they are in a cavern system, they are no longer in a forest. Tric mentions the other small amount of adventure they have had, meeting human moonshiners, but concludes that not much is actually going on in the forest.

Hepalonia offers, “If you feel that it was a better story to tell, that there was an army of elves and an army of humans fighting the undead—”

“Look, if we just said there was a quick skirmish between two elves, two walking corpses, a saurian, and a human, no one would even remember it,” Tric Manu says, justifying his tale.

“I’ll remember it, and for a long time, too!” Heppa replies.

“Well, you lived it! If you want other people to remember the story—if they need to remember the information, that there is undead there—then you have to help them do that,” her cousin concludes.

“It’s always interesting tae see hoo the primary source compares tae the derivative work,” Glammur observes. “But ye’ve got a point there. If ye want people tae remember things, ye’ve got tae frame it in a way they will. That’s the only way fer a story tae really last.”

“Exactly!” Tric agrees. “See, Glammur understands!”

“Because what’s the use of tellin’ the truth if they forget it? Ye’ve got tae boil it doon tae its essence. Decide what needs tae be transmitted, and then build something aroond that.”

Heppa is not the storyteller type, but she is interested in learning. “So do you mean adding more to the story? More details? Exaggerating?”

“Think aboot it like a song. Why dae ye put anything tae music? Dae the notes add details? Na, they help ye remember things. It’s the same way with adjectives.”

“Ah! So you’re specifically choosing words to be more memorable.”

“Aye! So that the idea that ye need people tae remember, they hold ontae.”

Hepalonia poses more and more questions, and Glammur provides a bit of a lecture on aspects of music theory as they pertain to memory aids and audience manipulation. They give a few examples of percussive approaches to changing the listener’s mood. If one wants the listener to calm down, that is a different rhythm than if the goal is to work people up. The percussive layer interplays with the ability to remember the words involved but also physically affects listeners. It can increase their heart rate, for example.

Excited, Heppa tries this out with their bat encounter. She asks to borrow the tambourine again, considering it evocative of the frenetic bats. She attempts to use enough adjectives, but she meanders too much to provide a compelling story. “Tric Manu and I were traveling down through the cave.” She taps the tambourine. “And we were beset upon by bats.” Wild shaking of the tambourine. “An army of black bats. And there was biting, so much biting! They were biting my face and my ears and my legs…” The list continues for a while. “Sharp teeth! Bloody bites! So I pulled out my crystal, and I summoned the snowy vortex. I took down a few of the bats while Tric Manu encouraged me encouragingly. Until we were aided by Mari-Elin the Carter with very red hair. And then I was bit some more, until we prevailed.”

Tric is surprised that his cousin does not end the story there. She rambles on a while longer about talking with Mari-Elin and walking through tunnels. After she finally trails off, she turns to their host and asks, “Do you have notes?”

Glammur considers for a moment how to retell this unfocused account in an engaging way. They offer some suggestions on how to reframe certain parts of it, but ultimately, it comes down to purpose. “What is the point of this story? What are ye tryin’ tae teach through it? What are ye tryin’ tae change with it? Ye dae nae just tell a story tae say that a thing happened. Ye tell a story tae change the listener in some way. So the question is, dae ye want the listener tae know ye’ve got tae be prepared fer bats? That ye’ve got tae accept help when it’s presented tae ye? That yer friends are always at yer side? What’s this story aboot?”

“A bat fight,” Heppa replies lamely. “It’s got no purpose.”

“No, no,” Tric interjects, “it’s the story of fire and ice! The Winter Sorceress is trapped deep underground, far from her home. She is beset by a swarm, with only her trusty sidekick and her freezing wind to ward off the rival wind of bats. The freeze was a start, but it was not enough. We needed the help of the fire, dashing through, coming together with its antithesis, the ice. Fire and ice together banish the bats.” As a tribute to his father, he concludes with, “If you melt ice, you get water, which is the substance of all life.”

Glammur is impressed. “Noo that, that is a story someone will remember.”

“She sounds amazing!” Heppa says, barely recognizing herself in the retelling. “What was the purpose?”

“That two elements can be better than one,” Tric explains. “I think that works better than the four seasons idea I had earlier.”

“Aye, and nae just that twae things are better than one. Both the cold and the heat are valuable. Ye dae nae want people thinkin’ that just because fire is good, ice has tae be bad. Or the other way aroond. Ice gets a bit of a bad rap. Everybody huddled aroond their fire pits, fendin’ aff the dark with their fire, keepin’ warm and nae likin’ the cold. That does nae mean cold is bad in and of itself. Ye’ve got tae have the cold snaps tae clear oot plants when they’re done with their season.”

“Or when you’re being attacked by bats,” Heppa adds.

“Or bushes,” Tric jokes, thinking of the first target his cousin hit with her snowy vortex.

That derails Hepalonia into considering other uses for what her crystal can make, such as putting out fires. She sits back, mulling that over and listening to Tric and Glammur discuss more of the theory behind storytelling. She has concluded that the practice is not really for her. It was still fun to try, though, and she is satisfied with that. One does not have to be good at everything one tries; one still benefits from the experience.

“Stories can have a point, and they can have power,” Glammur tells Tric. “It’s nae just aboot teachin’ the listeners, either. Stories can build up, and they can undermine. Ye can move yer listeners tae act, encourage them tae think aboot hoo they want tae be remembered and whether they have it in them tae make bold choices that will resonate doon through the ages.”

Wow, Tric reflects, I thought I was just saying nice things, but I was actually channeling one of the fundamental powers of social discourse! This is a real thing! This short time with Glammur has so far been a very eye-opening experience. “Where are you headed next?” he asks.

“See, that’s why I was askin’ ye hoo things were topside, if there was anything interesting goin’ oan. I’ve been doon here a few months. I could maybe use a change of scenery. Or perhaps Knutan could send someone else with ye.”

“We got along pretty well with Daven and Port,” Tric muses. “I don’t know if they would want to leave the safety of their fortress, though. I think you would be great to have along.”

“Noo, would I be welcome when ye go back home?” Glammur’s question triggers a discussion of where the elves plan to go next. They had been intending to head to the southern battlefield with Kachen to look for artifacts. “Sounds like there’s a tale or twae that can be made from that!” the dwarf says with anticipation.

Tric Manu suggests that they should check in at home along the way. He does not seem enthusiastic about dealing with the water issue, but they should let the council know. “Tric Manu’s father is a water dowser,” Hepalonia explains to Glammur.

“One of the most critical careers in the elvish forest,” Tric says, deepening his voice and giving the words weight.

“I can see ye’ve been workin’ on that impression fer a while,” Glammur observes. 

Tric admits that he has had some practice. He tells the dwarf about the human Kachen that they will meet if they accompany the elves. “He’s a bit of an oddball fellow, but he was friendly enough. He shared his food with us, shared his shelter with us.”

“The intent was for him to travel with us, at least for a bit. But it is kind of hard to know with him,” Heppa admits.

“Yeah, the saurian did stab him through pretty good,” Tric adds.

“Kachen is a lot of fun,” Hepalonia says, thinking of all the experimenting with the artifact and the geopolitical lecture. Her cousin’s eyebrows shoot up at that description. “He seems quite patient to me. But I think it might take a little to get used to him,” she concludes.

Tric agrees with his cousin’s assessment and says that he personally sees no issue with Glammur accompanying them to Estbryn Forest. “It’s only fair,” he says. “We got to visit this dwarvish home. Heppa’s dad is an important noble, and her mom is one of the finest enchantresses.”

“Oh, Mother,” Heppa mutters. Then she brightens up. “Yes, Daddy knows a lot of things. He’s a scholar. He would love to meet you.”

“One does nae often hear that an elf would love tae talk tae a dwarf,” Glammur observes.

“Daddy would love to hear any stories you have on things he is interested in. Maybe take a look at your instruments, too.” 

“Well, I think I shall come along, then, if ye dae nae mind havin’ some company. Ye mentioned a crystal earlier. Can I see it?”

“Certainly! But just to warn you,  it does make a pretty good ice vortex. That was not an exaggeration!” Hepalonia cheerfully hands over the blue shard, wondering what it will do in the dwarf’s hands. She is pleased at the friends they are accruing. First a human mage, now a dwarvish bard! Then her smile fades at the thought of introducing them to her mother.

“I think it makes sense to head home first,” her cousin says. “We can meet with people and show your dad what we found. We do need to resupply a little bit.”

“Oh, but you can hunt!” Hepalonia points out. “You caught that boar with a trap!” She suggests that they stay out in the field longer, possibly looking around in the caverns for artifacts. Tric Manu objects to searching for treasure in the dwarves’ very home, and she clarifies that she did not mean to take anything, just to look. Still, her cousin is uncomfortable with this idea, and he reminds her that Kachen is also waiting to talk with her father.

“Look, home is on the way to the southern battlefield. Would you rather walk in the hills or walk in the trees?” Tric asks, trying to get buy-in. Heppa continues to be strangely resistant to the idea of returning home so soon, so he revises his approach. “Would you rather hike in the hills or dance through the trees?”

“Yer learnin’,” Glammur observes, glancing up from the crystal they are turning over in their hands.

“And you can talk to my dad and show him how good you’ve gotten with the dowsing rod,” Tric encourages his cousin.

“I think I’m just dreading seeing Mother,” Hepalonia finally admits. She gestures at the shard. “I don’t think this will satisfy her.”

“What are you talking about? You can make freezing wind! I don’t know any sorceresses that can do that,” Tric says supportively.

“We shall see,” Heppa replies. Then she notices how closely Glammur is now examining the shard. “Have you seen something like this before?”

“Aye. I’ve seen similar, but nae this exact type. It is of dwarvish manufacture.” 

Glammur holds the crystal up to Heppa and points out where a rune is very lightly etched onto its surface. It is not a letter that she recognizes, but rather a symbol of some sort. “Is this what the runemasters make?” she asks.

To Tric’s surprise, the dwarf admits to ignorance on a topic. They are not party to the secrets of the runemasters, so they do not know precise details about how they accomplish their work. However, Glammur does know that their work always ends up marked with a rune. “All I know is that it is a symbol of power.”

“But we found it at a human battlefield,” Heppa shares, puzzled. 

Tric clarifies, “We found it in a staff that had a spooky skull on it.”

“There’s plenty of historical precedent for humans commissionin’ dwarves tae craft things tae hold crystals of power,” Glammur tells them.

A stream of questions comes rolling out of Heppa. “Do you know if it could power anything? Or is it specific to ice or water somehow? Or is that something that I’m bringing to it?” 

“Such runes can channel magic fer those who have the learnin’. And attuned folks can pull more power through them. But anybody at all can do this,” Glammur concludes with a dramatic flourish. They concentrate on the crystal, summoning the icy vortex, but the impressive display they were aiming for is lost in the whirl of snow that wrecks their room. Hepalonia had warned them, but they had thought it would be easier to control than it was. 

When the storm dissipates, Tric looks at the mess and suggests, “Someone could have burgled your room after you left.”

A bit sheepishly, Glammur hands the shard back over to Heppa, who is thrilled with the new data point. The dwarf produced the same snow squall as both she and Tric Manu did, and the staff is nowhere nearby.

* * *

On the morrow, Hepalonia and Tric Manu join Lord Knutan’s official party for its tour of the mines. The quantities of crushed rock produced by the explosions are indeed vast, and they are treated with various substances to help extract the iron as they are washed. The castoff from this is getting into the aquifer and affecting the purity of the water. Without the explosions, the volume being processed would be more manageable, and the effects on the ecosystem not as great. The civil engineers identify stress cracks and fissures that would normally be of little concern. However, now that they are aware of what is above their mine, they see the wisdom of slowing down. The dwarves also prepare a party to investigate other potential mining sites farther east, away from this water table.

The extra day of the elves’ stay is not entirely comfortable. There is still murmuring against them by some dwarves who blame them for meddling. No one causes any trouble, though, as Tric and Heppa are clearly under Lord Knutan’s protection. The next morning, the third since they left Kachen’s keep, they return to the surface, dwavish traveling companion in tow.