Although Fenowin gave her some answers, Heppa leaves her glade with more questions, some of even greater scope. Is elvish magic really fundamentally different from human magic? Kachen was unable to use the dowsing rod. Was that because he was human? Untrained? Just really tired? Would dapper inkcap affect humans the same way it affects elves? Heppa spends the next several days in and out of her father’s library, looking through piles of scrolls. Her penchant for distractibility leads her astray, and she ends up lost in a treatise on mushrooms. She enjoys looking at the sketches and reading their applications. She copies a few drawings herself to keep on hand during her travels. The dapper inkcap has a sharply peaked cap that is black and velvety. The dwarvish fly is plumper, with a smooth red cap and white spots. Another mushroom that she thinks could be very useful has stimulant properties. The springy horsetail grows in spirals and is a creamy off-white. It prefers wooded areas along the edges of fields, so they might even be able to find some when they travel to the southern border of Estbryn Forest.
Tric’s several days in the village are spent telling stories about his travels and learning from two masters of the craft. The first time he checks in on Glammur and Breda, he finds Endathalas bored out of his mind, sharpening knives just to stay awake. Literary and music theory are of no interest to the scout, who would much rather be riding his horse or shooting his bow.
Glammur is in the middle of a story about what sounds like giant eagle-lions jousting, based on the snatches about large wings, clawed paws, and snapping beaks that Tric hears on his approach. The dwarf refers to the creatures as gryphons. Tric realizes he has come upon a storytelling duel and decides to cut in.
“Well, sure, that sounds interesting, but you are still on a creature. Imagine that the creature itself was sentient and could wield its own lance. Neither dwarf nor elf nor human—nor horse, exactly.” Finally, he has a chance to try out his horsefolk material. “Far to the east, beyond the Bitter Swamp, the horsefolk are led by the great Master Edward. He lords over the horsefolk because he is the one who lances best. That is how they determine their social order, a total meritocracy: whoever is the superior jouster becomes leader of the horsefolk.” As he tells his tale, he punctuates it not with music, but with a deft one-handed flip of his knife. Up and down the reflective blade goes, catching the light and the eye with a hypnotic rhythm.
Tric piles more and more details into the story, sometimes contradicting things he previously said. Breda and Glammur are each left with a different impression of the horsefolk. One thinks they have a humanoid torso, arms, and head attached to a horse torso. The other thinks they are like horses, but with lances sticking out of their foreheads. Despite their criticisms of the tale’s inconsistencies, they congratulate Tric on various interesting parts and help him develop his story into a more cohesive piece.
At the end of a pleasant several days at home, Tric and Heppa prepare to head out. This time, their backpacks are larger and filled with more appropriate supplies. Tric sticks a jaunty feather into the red bandana that both keeps his unruly hair out of his face and conceals the tips of his ears. In a pocket he bears the roll of safe-place ribbon that Baeowin gave him. Probably most of it will be used for its intended purpose, but one can never be too sure.
By this point, the council has met and accepted the cousins’ recommendations regarding Untdunben. Glammur informs the young elves that the bard will not be visiting the southern battlefield, not at this time. Instead, the dwarf will be escorting an elvish contingent back to the underground fortress. Glammur does not intend to remain in Untdunben terribly long, but they do want to provide a proper introduction to smooth over the first meeting between the elves and dwarves. Given the welcome Glammur initially received in the Estbryn Forest, this topic is fresh on their mind. Glammur assures the young elves that they had a really good time traveling with them, and they hope to meet up with them again somewhere and sometime in the future.
“You know where we live,” Tric says.
“Have pleasant travels,” Heppa adds.
Tric goes on, “I would say have safe travels, but really… have sufficiently interesting travels. But not too interesting. I need to hear about it later.”
Glammur smiles at them both. “Aye, may ye also have interesting travels.”
With that, the elves depart for the southern battlegrounds.