Now that Heppa sees who will carry the message for Kachen, she says she will need to think about how to make it shorter. Alric is quick to tell her that this is not necessary. “Uncle Damal is very skilled at fine writing, so he will be able to fit a message worthy of Aderyn’s time. Don’t be concerned about that unless you yourself wish to scribe it.”
Heppa starts thinking about her message, and into the silence, Tric casually asks, “Do you know Mhaev?” Alric looks to be somewhere around the elves’ age or a little younger, but it is possible this uncle he has mentioned is of an age with Serces. Certainly the words that the blacksmith and barkeep exchanged earlier implied that Alric has some connection to Hisanham.
“I don’t know her very well. My uncle Damal and my mother fled across the River Weldyn. They weren’t part of the group that joined Gweddry’s forces.” Alric seems to know the unspoken intent of Tric’s question, but that is no surprise, since Hepalonia introduced him as Tric Manu. “I was born after that time. I don’t think that my uncle keeps in touch with Mhaev. She’s risen quite a bit in standing. Certainly they would have known each other back in Hisanham, but they’ve since traveled very different paths through this land.”
“Right. They’re on different sides of the river in many ways,” Tric acknowledges.
“Well, what about you?” Alric asks. “What became of your family?”
Tric takes off his headband, and his pointed ears show through his thick dark hair. They are not as peaked as Heppa’s but they are far more than a human’s. “The only family I knew, I was raised with in the forest, just my dad and me. So I’m kind of on the lookout. I think the person I’m looking for is Mhaev, but I can’t be sure.” He gives a little chuckle and continues, “But that was before both our times.”
Alric nods. “Other than Serces and my uncle Damal, there aren’t any of the other Manu around here. The war split people up pretty far, and not that many who joined the army made it back in the end. If it turns out that Mhaev is not who you are looking for, my uncle might have some contacts farther west. We could ask around.”
“I appreciate that.”
“My birds can fly pretty far.”
“Those are really impressive birds,” Tric murmurs. “I’m going to have to be on a lookout for a bird like that.”
Heppa’s curiosity overflows. “What is the Manu?” All this time, she has thought her cousin’s name was just Tricmanu, the same way that hers is Hepalonia.
“It’s our clan,” Alric says matter-of-factly.
So I could be a horse lord! Tric thinks briefly at the mention of clans.
“Or, well… it was the clan before they got lost in the Great Storm, after which the survivors settled on the edge of your forest,” Alric tells Heppa. “Again, that was before my time.”
Heppa turns to her cousin. “So you are Tric of the Manu?”
“Just Tric Manu for short,” he says.
“Oh, that’s for short?”
“Saying of the sounds so pretentious,” Tric protests.
“That’s not pretentious; that’s what we are,” Alric says. “Is it pretentious when you say that you are of the Estbryn Forest?”
“I say I’m from the forest. I don’t really say that I am of the forest.” Tric turns to Heppa. “Do you say that?” She thinks a moment, and he tries out a variety of presentations. “Tric Manu, emissary from the Estbryn Forest. Emissary of the Estbryn Forest.”
With a smirk, Alric says, “Well, when you say ‘emissary’ like that, that sounds a little pretentious.”
Heppa continues to pry at the name issue. “But did Uncle Nasir name you Tric Manu or are you Tric of the Manu?” Her cousin shrugs. “Or is it all one word?”
“It is definitely two words.”
“Have I been saying your name wrong this whole time?” she asks, mortified.
“No, you’ve just been saying both my names. It’s totally fine,” he assures her. “It in no way bothers me, and truth be told, I find it somewhat endearing that you are formal like that.”
“Well, thank you for saying so. Thank you, Tric Manu.”
Tric turns to their audience suddenly and asks, “How do you go by, Alric?”
The barkeep has been watching the familial exchange with a smile, enjoying the show. “I generally go by Alric, as nobody around here is from a clan.”
“But you are Alric of the Manu,” Heppa clarifies.
“I am, for as much as the Manu remain a thing. Although my father was not.”
“Well, neither was mine,” Tric points out. He grows a bit reflective. “I didn’t think I’d be having lunch today with two cousins.”
Alric chuckles. “Serces is more like an uncle.”
“Oh, I thought you meant me,” Heppa says. “But, yes, if Serces is of the Manu, too, that’s three cousins!”
Tric sides with Alric that since Serces is older, he is more uncle-like, which derails Heppa back to the topic of humans and how they age. Alric does not know the blacksmith’s exact age but estimates him to be around sixty. That is older than Gumreddoc, and Heppa is impressed again by how fit and healthy Serces seems.
The dinner crowd will be coming in soon, so Alric must return his attention to his business. He snags a key from a rack under the counter and gives Tric and Heppa instructions on where to find their room upstairs. They will be staying on the top floor of the three-story building, and he lets them know that the attic above it serves as an aviary. He does not think the birds will make too much noise, though. He encourages them to get settled in and come back down when they are ready for their next meal. “The place is a bit more lively at dinner and afterwards. My uncle will be in at that point, as well.”
“Thank you for sharing a drink with us, Alric of the Manu,” Heppa says politely.
“Welcome to South Tower,” he replies with a smile.