At this point, Gwaffalyn, having registered for the duel and the crossbow competition, rejoins the elves. She points them in the direction of the working class eateries. Tric wishes her the best of luck in her competitions, though he adds that he hopes luck has nothing to do with how they each fare. The fencer doffs her hat with another deep bow and then parts ways with them, probably heading off in search of someone actually of wealth and standing to attach herself to. Tric turns to his cousin. “What a strange person.”
Hepalonia’s mind is elsewhere. Gwaffalyn’s mention of the duel has reminded her that the House of Light will be there to treat injuries. “If I get hurt enough, I might be able to…” she murmurs. “Oh, but I could just go ask questions at the tent.”
It takes Tric a moment to track his cousin’s statements. “The House of Light?”
Heppa nods and then returns to Tric Manu’s observation. “I don’t know, is she odd? She did seem different from other humans we’ve met, but maybe she is just a specific style of a human?”
“Not the horse clan, she said, though.”
“She did seem a bit like a performer,” Heppa comments.
They are still near the registration area, where plenty of people are milling about. One nearby says, “Horse Clan? Did you say Horse Clan?”
Tric jumps on the opening. “Why, you haven’t heard of Master Edward of the Horse Clan?” He trots out this story yet again.
“That sounds nothing at all like the horse lords!” the man objects. As Tric’s story continues, though, the human that realizes the elf is describing some far-off people. “Oh! That’s quite different. I thought you were talking about the Horse Clans.”
“What have you heard?” Hepalonia asks.
“It’s not a matter of hearing. I mean, Sir Owaec is going to be in town for the competition.”
The name sounds vaguely familiar to Tric, but before he can fabricate something, Heppa asks more questions. Unlike him, she has no reluctance about revealing her ignorance on the topic. “And this Sir Owaec is of the Horse Clans?”
“Yes! He’s one of the greatest.”
Heppa tries to remember what Kachen said about them, but it must have been very little. Maybe just that Wesnoth is in charge of them somehow. “Is he competing?” she asks.
“Oh, wow, that would be something,” the man says, “to see Sir Owaec take to the field! He is pretty old, but maybe he would.” Heppa asks about Owaec’s age, and the man replies, “He’s got to be in his fifties or maybe even sixties now. But you haven’t heard of him? He is one of the most famous scions of the clans.”
Heppa is happy to have such a cooperative source of information. “What is he famous for?”
“What is he famous for?! Sir Owaec only helped save this whole country from Mal-Ravanal.”
With a great exercise of will, Tric restrains himself from cutting in with his own imagined details and listens instead to what this man has to say. His cousin continues to prod the man for details. “Forgive my ignorance,” Heppa apologizes. “He’s a soldier?”
“Yes. Yes. He’s one of the leaders of the Horse Clans.” Are these elves even listening to me? Or are they just dense? “One of the lords of the Horse Clans.”
“Right,” Tric says, trying to sound knowledgeable. “He’s a knight.”
“Why are they called the horse lords?” Heppa asks.
“Their whole society is mounted.”
Tric admires that perfectly evasive answer. Perhaps it was not deliberate, but the man has managed to both sound like he is answering while simultaneously providing no real information. Tric makes a note of this technique for his own future use.
Hepalonia asks if the man means mounted on horses, and Tric can no longer restrain himself. “Yes, at times their entire village is mounted on a team of horses and moved across the land! And some say these roving villages…” Tric ratchets up his volume, sweeping his arms expansively. “These mortal engines of destruction—”
“What? No! The people ride horses!” the human bursts out.
“Constantly?” Heppa asks. It seems to her like that would have a lot of logistical issues.
“Some say they are born on horses!” Tric continues, in full-on bardic mode now.
“They do get off their horses to do things,” the man insists, laughing now.
“Oh, no,” Tric contradicts him, holding in a laugh himself. “They say that if such a person ever steps off a horse, they will die!” This is a great idea for a story, Tric thinks, a village on the back of a team of horses. I’ll need to work on this one. He sees the look of puzzlement on his cousin’s face though, as she continues to try to figure out what the reality is. He drops back down to earth and tells her, “Imagine if instead of sorceresses being the most important position, that scouts were.”
“Is that what makes it a mounted society? Or does just everyone have a horse?” Heppa presses. “Or their status is based on their horse?”
“You know,” the human says, disappointed that this elf and all her questions have put a damper on things, “maybe you can ask Sir Owaec when you see him.” He gives a shake of his head and moves on, muttering about elves.
Tric and Heppa are left alone to continue sorting this out. “There’s vast open plains,” Tric says. “Horses make sense. I mean, what’s an important symbol in the village for us? The trees. There, they have hardly any trees; they have as many horses as we have trees.”
“But are we a forest society?” Heppa counters.
“I think so. We say we come from the Estbryn Forest.”
Hepalonia extends Tric Manu’s comparison to yet another set of questions. “Do they gain their magic through their horses? Their power?”
“Oh, that’s a good idea!” Tric says appreciatively, making note of this for a future tale. “I think they are just particularly good with horses. But there could be more to it, you’re right. There could be some kind of horse-based magic.”
“Or just beliefs. Perhaps they learn to ride before they learn to walk. Or maybe not! Maybe it is very expensive to have a horse and only the nobility have them.” In elvish society mainly scouts have horses, but the noble families like hers keep them too. Heppa has no idea how much their upkeep costs her parents. “Or maybe those of high status have to earn their horse.”
“They are called the horse lords, not the horse peasants,” Tric observes.