Once within the city walls, Hepalonia and Tric Manu spend a moment just gawking at the bustle and commotion… and smell. This is the most congested place either has ever been. They live in the largest settlement in the Estbryn Forest, where the council meets and most of the nobles keep their homes. But their village is a mere hamlet compared to this. They are each momentarily overwhelmed at everything, but each is also privately concerned about safety. Thrandolil gave them a lot of money. Thieves or other dangers could be about.
With that thought, Tric turns to Heppa. “When did you last see my feather?” he asks before they move too far from the gate. “I noticed I didn’t have it at the guard station, but I definitely had it when we broke camp this morning. I thought I still had it when I was talking with that farmer in line.”
“It was there when we arrived at the outskirts of the city. I saw it stuck in your band.”
Tric takes a peek back out the gates they just came through, but nothing catches his notice. He shrugs. “Oh well, maybe it got blown away. It is a feather; flying is what it is for.” Heppa offers that they could go back to look for it, but Tric tells her it is not that important. The feather had a nice, jaunty look to it, but other than that, it is not special to him in any way. “Maybe I’ll get something new in the city,” he says. “And you know what? Losing the feather, that’s an important reminder. Keep your eyes open; you don’t know who you’re going to run into.” Heppa takes his point to keep track of her belongings.
They pick a random direction and stroll further into the town. They pass various shops and wonder if artifacts are available for sale anywhere, perhaps at a store that focuses on military supplies or memorabilia. Tric Manu mutters about needing to check out a blacksmith’s shop, which reminds Hepalonia that they are on the lookout for refugees who might know his mother.
“It would be good to find out where the Parting Glass is,” Tric says. He is reluctant to just go up to random passersby and ask about it, though. If Kachen is a fan of that place, it is likely to be more on the down low.
“Oh, yes,” Heppa agrees, “we could definitely at least leave Kachen a message that we got his letter.”
They walk around for a while, trying to get their bearings, and then they hear a shout from behind them. “My lord! My lord, I fear you may have lost this!” It is accompanied by the sound of footsteps rapidly approaching them.
Tric turns around, confused. “Hmm? What?”
The person immediately makes an elaborate bow, one leg stretched forward, arm spinning out in front. She holds Tric’s feather in one hand and a fancy blue felt cap—itself adorned with a large plume—in the other. Her tunic is a similar color, and the shirt underneath has puffy white sleeves. She wears breeches, and the outfit is completed by a blue half-cape lined with red. Her skin is tan, and her light brown hair hangs down from her lowered head. The long wavy tresses are styled and clearly well-maintained.
Heppa looks on, tongue-tied at the fabulous display.
This is over the top, even for Tric. Still, not to be outdone, he offers his own deep bow in response. He keeps his eyes on his surroundings though, just in case this is a setup for some sort of criminal action. Tric sees no spotters or thugs, but he remains alert as he straightens back up. On looking at the hat again, he realizes it is familiar. He saw it in the crowd outside the city gate. “Thank you so much,” he says. “I had wondered what happened to my feather. Did it blow off outside?” There must be some reason this woman associates the feather with him, and he is still not entirely sure it is above-board.
“Why yes! It must have fallen from my lord’s headband, perhaps in a gust of wind, and your servant is only too happy to present it back to you.”
It is pretty obvious to Tric from all the flowery language that this woman thinks he is of much higher social standing than he actually is. After all, Kalenz was a high lord. Probably most elves who are seen in human settlements are either of the nobility or are scouts. And this is a festival time. Do they think their festival is so fancy that elves would come here just for it? He figures this is just a case of mistaken… not identity, rather, mistaken status. Now that he understands the situation, Tric relaxes a bit. He has heard stories; he knows cities can be dangerous places and one must remain on one’s guard. This, however, seems to be relatively benign. The human is misreading the elves, not vice versa. Joke’s on her, Tric thinks, Heppa really is an elvish noble.
“A thousand thanks to you, madam,” Tric begins. He works with money so seldom that he is not sure if tipping is rude, but he decides to give her five of Uncle Thran’s coins. He bows again, gratefully accepting the feather, and as his hand passes near her hat, which is still held out, he tries to slickly drop some coins in.
The woman notices and smoothly scoops the money out as she brings her hat back to return it to her head. “The high lord is far too generous. I am merely your humble servant and wish to be of aid to you in your stay in our small and humble city here.”
“Please, please, let’s not…” I’ve got to shut this down before it gets out of hand. “A thousand thanks for returning the feather,” he reiterates. “This is important, from a duck that I rescued… But later on, over many seasons… He lived a long and healthy life, so I keep this feather to remember that duck by.” The corner of the woman’s mouth quirks up, but she quickly tames the amused grin back into a pleasant smile. Tric realizes that he is going to have to work on the origin story for this feather. “I’m no high lord,” he flat-out tells her. “The only person deserving of the title of high lord was Kalenz. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?”
“Who has not!? Of course I know of him. No learned person would not have heard of Kalenz!”
Those are magic words to Tric. Suddenly, shaking this woman is no longer so important, not when she might have useful information that Tric can repurpose for his storytelling. He introduces himself and his cousin, who manages to find her tongue in order to offer greetings. Tric tells the human that they are from the nearby Estbryn Forest, which he is sure every learned person has heard of. She plays it cool, neither confirming nor denying her knowledge of the place. “We have come to town to check out many things, but the Full Bloom Festival is in full bloom.”
“It will be as of the day after tomorrow, my lor—ah, Tric Manu,” she corrects herself, and now that they are on such friendly terms, she supplies her own name, Gwaffalyn.
“Are you from South Tower then, Gwaffalyn?” Tric asks. “Sorry, do you call it South Tower or the Southern Outpost? I keep hearing conflicting names.”
Gwaffalyn tells him that some of the older folk may refer to it as the Southern Outpost for such it was known in the days before the war. She gestures toward the tower that stands watch prominently over the settlement, visible from any part of town. “That tower stands where the Southern Outpost was. It was mere palisades and tents at the time that the earl took charge of it. So, to speak precisely, that is the Southern Outpost. But what has grown around it—particularly following Gweddry deciding to make this his seat and constructing the tower—this settlement is properly called South Tower. The Town of South Tower, located at the Southern Outpost, if you prefer to be formal.” Tric wishes they had just called it Southtown and wonders if the name might morph to that over the years.
In a jocular fashion, Gwaffalyn continues, “Why, even you elves use multiple names for the same location. Your Great Forest is known in some places as Lintanir.” The elves, neither of them having been there personally, do not quibble with her too much over that, though Lintanir is just a small corner of the Great Forest Lin-Elens.