With the weighty conversation over, Hepalonia and Tric Manu leave their booth and head up to the bar. It feels good to have found something they were actually looking for—the Parting Glass—and Heppa is further encouraged that the barkeep looks out for his customers. It makes the town seem safer. Her cousin asks the man if they can arrange lodging for the next few nights, and in the introductions that follow, they learn that he is actually Alric. What they overheard between him and Serces supports what Kachen said in his letter, that Alric will not judge.
Tric chooses a private room for him and Heppa and includes meals with the lodging. His intention is for them to stay through the end of the festival at the very least. Heppa offers money for their lunches, but Alric tells her that is already taken care of. He then asks their opinion of the mountain tea. “Uh… not… not so great.” Tric’s eloquence has been worn down by the taxing conversation with Serces. “I know the brewers, though. They’re good guys, but I think their ingredients need some work.”
Alric gestures up at the shelves behind him and assures the elves that there are many other beverages to choose from, including beers, wines, ales, and other fermented beverages.
“And spirits?” Tric suggests, brow raised.
The barkeep nods and continues, “If the mountain tea is not to your liking, you can certainly have something else with your other meals.”
“I’ll be honest,” Hepalonia shares, “I don’t have a lot of experience with different human drinks.” With a friendly smile, Alric asks if she would like some additional experience. “Yes! I would very much,” she replies, delighted. “It’s the only thing that separates us from knowledge.”
Alric pulls a bottle off the shelf behind him and sets it down on the counter. He shoots a questioning glance at Tric who demurs, still feeling the effects of the mountain tea. Nevertheless, Alric pulls out two small shot glasses. He sets one down in front of Heppa and one down in front of himself, then pours a little bit into each. He raises his and clinks it against Heppa’s glass. “To new friendships.”
Heppa recognizes this as some sort of ritual of welcoming. Since they are sharing culture, she replies in elvish fashion, “May the breeze blow your way.” Alric drinks all of his in one swallow, so she does as well, wondering if this is how humans consume all their alcohol. The taste is rather mellow, and she finds it quite pleasant. Alric tells her it is called cowslip wine, after the flower it is made from. “That was lovely! Thank you.” This human is friendly and open to conversation, so she asks whether drinking everything all in one go is common. “Is that the custom for all drinks?”
“Oh, no! You can feel free to sip or to enjoy these beverages in any way that you want,” he assures her. “First time in town?” he asks the elves.
“Believe it or not, yes,” Tric replies. “We’ve traveled around a little bit, but this is our first time in South Tower proper.” He cannot help a little aggrandizement, continuing, “We visited the Gumreddoc estate, a very nice place. But we have a friend who was… I don’t know if he was from here, but he was here recently. He was a curious fellow by the name of Kachen, and we ran into him in the hills recently. He’s decent enough, and he mentioned you were a friend of his, shall we say.” Tric turns to his cousin, “You wanted to leave him a message, right?” To the barkeep he adds, “We got his message, well-received—he can keep the doughnuts.”
Alric looks a little confused, and Heppa explains more clearly, “He said you would be a good person to leave a message with for him.”
“We’re curious if he has been through in the last month,” Tric says. Kachen’s letter did not say what his next destination was, but if this is where he wanted messages left, it makes sense for it to have been in this direction.
“No, it’s been three or four months since I last saw him,” Alric replies. “But if you need to get a message to him, my uncle will be in this evening and he’s the one who scribes them.”
Heppa wonders how common it is for humans to be able to write. Certainly elves are taught to read and write, but maybe that is not the case for humans. Kachen wrote a message, a rather long and eloquent one, at that. But he struck her as being educated, and maybe that is not common. “Would it be all right if I just wrote the message myself? I don’t know what the protocol is.”
“If you know how to write you could try,” Alric says, “but my understanding is it is pretty tricky to write small enough.” He tries to be accommodating, though. “My uncle could give you a—”
“No, no, that’s fine,” Tric says. “We understand.” No need to take business away from the fellow.
Now Heppa is really curious, though. This seems more elaborate than she was expecting for just leaving a simple message. “We’ll wait for your uncle. That would be wonderful, thank you.”
Alric grows serious. “Whatever message you have, my uncle will keep in strictest confidence,” he assures her.
“Oh!” That was not what she meant at all! “I’m sure. I meant no offense. I wasn’t aware of the size constraints,” Heppa tells him.
The barkeep smiles again, seeming pleased to present the new information to her. “It has to be able to fit onto a very, very small piece of paper so that the falcon can carry it.”
This is not something Hepalonia is familiar with. “A falcon is going to carry the message?!” Alric tells her he has a bunch of falcons and that they can all perform that service. “They are trained for this? How far can they fly?”
“As far as they need to. Aderyn knows Kachen, so she will be able to find him.”
Tric thinks this is brilliant and starts making mental plans for a story featuring birds carrying words.
“Who is Aderyn—Oh! That’s the bird? And these falcons can just… find people?”
It is midafternoon, and the bar is mostly empty. Alric seems to have all the time in the world to answer Heppa’s many questions. “Yes. They’re quite intelligent animals.”
Tric Manu asks if they have been trained since they were fledglings, and Alric replies that these falcons have been in his family for generations. “The same falcons? Or you’ve been raising these falcons—” Heppa tries to shush Tric’s impolite question; human’s do not live very long, after all. “Birds live even less long!” he shoots back at her.
Alric laughs. “Generations of these falcons have been in generations of my family.”
“That is so fascinating! I hope you don’t mind us asking about all this.”
“Not at all,” he replies as he emerges from behind the counter and heads to the door of the tavern. He opens it and steps just outside, making a long, descending whistle and holding out his left arm. Heppa gasps in excited anticipation. They hear a flapping, and then a mid-sized raptor lands heavily on the arm with the leather guard on it. As Alric steadies himself, the bird folds her brown wings in close to her lighter body so that he can bring her in through the doorway. “This is Aderyn,” he tells the elves. He moves her closer to each of them as he makes introductions. “Aderyn, this is Tric Manu. This is Hepalonia.” She looks at them with piercing black eyes, tilting her head inquisitively.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you!” Heppa excitedly tells the bird.
“Now she knows who we are? Now Aderyn can find us?” Tric asks.
Alric nods. “If she needs too.”
“That’s impressive,” Tric murmurs. “And she’s a gorgeous bird, too.” Heppa peppers Alric with questions about the bird’s diet and other activities. Aderyn is a bird of prey, and there are plenty of rats in the city for her to snack on. She will also fly further afield when she wants to vary her meals or get exercise. And she knows how to defend herself while out on delivery. Tric sees no scars on the bird, suggesting that if she has gotten into any tussles, she has come out on top. Alric releases Aderyn with a lift of his arm and a whistle, and she flies back out the door.