Echoes of Invasion: Great Performances | Scene 10

With one day still to go before the Full Bloom Festival, Tric and Heppa have time to follow up on some leads the next day. Their first stop in the morning is the shop of the blacksmith Serces, who Gumreddoc told them is a former refugee from Hisanham. The wooden sign outside has various iron implements hanging down from it, advertising the shop’s wares: horseshoes, chains, nails. Tric pulls his knife and undoes the handle to look at the maker’s mark on it. The swirling spiral on the tang matches the symbol branded into the boards overhead.

“Is that your mother’s?” Heppa asks of the knife.

“Presumably? I’ve had it forever,” Tric says. “But who knows? Maybe it was just given to me when I was too young to remember. It’s a nice knife, but I don’t think it itself is very significant.”

“But the mark matches the rusty one we found in the ruins, so it is not just some knife that our village got through regular trade. It seems like it is likely to be associated with your mother somehow.”

“There’s a good chance of that,” Tric agrees. It is related to his early life somehow. “Maybe I can find someone who knows more. But that’s me. What’s on your agenda today, Heppa?”

She sighs. “The House of Light seems like a busy kind of place, so that may be something to investigate later.” She chuckles and suggests, “Maybe if I get hurt in my duel, I can go to their tent.” Other than that, she expresses interest in visiting shops to look at wares. They might be able to find something interesting or useful to bring back to their village. She is certainly still eager to see horse lords, but Tric Manu reminds her that they will have their chance with Sir Owaec at the festival. Finally, she concludes, “I don’t know quite where to go to find out any information that we’re actually looking for, though.” They are ostensibly seeking necromantic artifacts, after all.

“Yeah, the House of Light is probably our best bet for that… Although, I get the sense just from their imagery that they are not fans of skeletons. They might look askance at someone asking around about a fancy one. Remember Kachen’s warning.” In an ominous voice, he intones, “Those of Alduin will not understand.

“He did give us a recommendation of somebody who may be able to help, so I think it makes sense to try to find Alric,” Heppa says. Tric is in agreement and suggests that they try to find the Parting Glass for lunch. For now, though, they step into Serces’s shop.

The front half of the room, separated from the work area by a counter, has various items for sale. It is quite warm here from the forge going in the back half of the room. At the forge is a bald man, the only visible hair his gray eyebrows and goatee. He works without a shirt, and Heppa can see that his dark brown skin is marred in places by straight scars that suggest he has seen battle and taken hits from blades. He looks muscular and healthy and moves with great ease, despite probably being around Gumreddoc’s age. He wields tongs similar to but in better shape than her own, using them to hold a piece of glowing metal against an anvil while he beats it with a hammer.

At the sound of the bells above the door jingling, the blacksmith calls out, “Customers!” A door in the back bursts open and a young human comes through it in response. Serces glaces up from his work at the new arrivals. When he sees who is there, he holds his tongs out to the apprentice. “Why don’t you try your hand at this. I think you’re ready,” he says with forced cheer. “These are just straightforward horseshoes. You can handle them.” He wipes his hands off and throws on his shirt, muttering, “Not my favorite thing to craft.” He steps up to the counter.

Heppa wonders why he is so quick to wait on them instead of letting his apprentice do so. Does everyone think we’re rich because we are elves?

“What brings elves here?” Serces asks.

“A lot of things, I guess,” Tric replies. “Are you the owner of this shop? That’s your symbol outside?” The man nods, and Tric shows his knife. “This is your symbol?”

 “Ah yes, that’s one of my blades. Is it giving you problems? Looks like it could stand to be better sharpened…”

“It’s a good all-purpose knife,” Tric compliments him. He gives it a little flourish, tossing it up and catching it.

“Those are not toys,” Serces admonishes him.

“Believe me, I know,” Tric Manu says, showing the scabbed-over cut on his palm from yesterday. Heppa is a little scandalized. She had not realized he had sliced his hand so badly. She could certainly have tried her healing magic on that! “Anyway,” her cousin continues, “we’re from Estbryn Forest, practically right next door. It used to be that Hisanham was right next to it.”

Serces grows uneasy, but he automatically corrects the elf’s pronunciation. What are elves doing here asking about Hisanham? He turns back to his apprentice and calls out, “You know what? Just let those sit. Go pull more water from the well.” That kid does not need to be around for whatever this is about.

Hepalonia stands quietly nearby, content to watch things play out. This is why I stick with Tric Manu, she reflects. He knows all the interesting things to ask!

“I don’t mean to interrupt your work,” Tric says. “And I don’t mean to upset you. But I do mean to get your attention.”

Serces frowns at the elf. “You have my attention.”

“As I said, we are from Estbryn Forest—”

“Is there some new problem?” Serces asks bitterly.

“No! No! Things are actually good. The area is recovering well. We stepped through it on our way—”

“We’ve left it alone,” the blacksmith insists.

“We saw the stone; it was very respectful. I do appreciate that,” Tric says, trying to diffuse some of the animosity that seems the baseline for this conversation. He must be digging up some old wounds with how he has approached this. Probably this blacksmith was not expecting to deal with these memories today and it has thrown him off. Tric’s cheerful charm is unable to cut through the tension, so he tries another tack. The woses told him and Heppa the town had no active undead threat, but he needs something to get this man talking, even if it is a fabrication. “As I said, we went through the area. There wasn’t any trouble… yet. But we’re concerned that there might have been meddling in dark magics in that area. Any information you might have about what happened there and the circumstances under which you had to leave would be helpful. If anyone in town had meddled in such affairs, or if there is any place you may have felled necromancers…” 

So elves are here because there has been more creepy activity around old Hisanham, Serces concludes. They do not seem like they are looking to blame him, but this conversation is not going to go anywhere pleasant. “I don’t know of any undead activity since everything went down with Mal-Ravanal,” he tells them. “Certainly there was a group of the skeletons that chased us out of Hisanham, and a portion of them peeled off into your forest… Which I’m sure you all could have put down if you had bothered to stay to fight.”

From what Tric has heard so far, the humans of Hisanham stood to fight but ultimately broke and fled. He holds his tongue though; both sides are his people. Heppa takes no offense; she would have run screaming.

“We were forced to retreat,” the blacksmith continues. “The main force pursued us all the way here, where those of us who were able to fight or to learn joined Gweddry’s host.” His eyes dart over to a pile of horseshoes. Tric realizes this man, in addition to fighting, must have shod a lot of horses over the course of the war. “Those who could, fled across the River Weldyn. But I and some of the others stayed to keep up the fight. Just because Hisanham was a lost cause, didn’t mean that we should fold and retreat.” Like your people, goes unspoken but implied. “It was a fight that needed to be fought. But even Gweddry’s troops were forced to retreat, and the campaign lasted a couple of years. There was fighting in this area here. I’m sure there are still battle scars remaining in the hills around here.”

“Indeed. I felled two walking corpses not a month past,” Tric says. There is no boastfulness in his manner now; this man would not appreciate that.

“It’s disturbing to hear that they’re active again. They’re supposed to have all—” he shakes his head in frustration. “I was there on the day Mal-Ravanal fell. Everything on the field just collapsed when he turned into…” his voice drifts off, his thoughts clearly far away. 

Tric perks up; this is a new story to him. “That is a tale I would very much like to hear if you are willing to share, sir. I understand it was a trying time for everyone.”

“Perhaps you could join us for dinner,” Heppa offers.

Serces runs a hand over his bald pate with a sigh. “How about lunch? I’m not going to get any more work done today.” Tric apologizes for interrupting the man’s work. The blacksmith calls back to his apprentice, who comes through the back door lugging a pail of water. “The front of the shop is closed up, but there had better be a dozen new horseshoes when I get back from lunch.” He flips over a sign on the door and ushers the elves out of the shop. Once he has secured the door, he strides off purposefully. Tric and Heppa follow; clearly this man has a destination in mind.