In the back courtyard of Hepalonia’s family home, she and her father conduct their experiments. Although in elvish culture only females train in the shamanistic arts, members of the noble bloodlines, even males, possess more affinity for magic than is typical among elves. Thrandolil falls into this group, and he has supplemented this intuitive feel with studies of history and lore. Heppa is interested in seeing what he can do with the shard, so once they are outside, she instructs him to concentrate. A swirl of snow forms around her delighted father, and she explains how to launch it at a target. Much as she did her first time, he sends the icy force crashing against a nearby bush. He manages to retain his footing though.
Thrandolil is amazed. “This is not at all what I expected you to bring back, Heppa, my dear. I think it has potential, though. I admit I have not spent very much time on the front lines, but everyone had to mobilize to some degree when Mal-Ravanal’s forces were moving through, so I have a little experience in this area. Necromancers are definitely capable of launching cold waves of magical energy. So this,” he waves at the ice particles swirling around him again, “is a good sign. We might be on track for what we are looking for even though, unfortunately, you do not have the staff that it was embedded in.”
“We do have the skull,” Heppa reminds him. “But I’m not sure that this is what you were looking for. We had to come back, though, because we had information about the water supply. I need to remember to take my sample to Uncle Nasir when we are done here.”
As she watches Thrandolil try out the shard, it occurs to Heppa that all she has done with it so far is this one basic thing. She has been thinking over what Glammur said about pulling power through runes, and it occurs to her to try channeling her brambles spell through the crystal. When her father is done, she takes the shard back. Looking around the area, she spots a convenient rock for nearby plants to wrap around, but instead of concentrating on those tendrils, she focuses on the crystal. Swirls of ice form over the surface of the stone, and Hepalonia hears the rock crack under the pressure. Then the ice encrusting it melts away, and she sees a few new small fissures on its surface. She smiles, pleased at the results. The crystal can indeed be used for ensnarement and attacks other than just the snow vortex. What else could I do with ice? She figures she could probably make a wall with it to serve as a protective barrier. Or she could make some refreshing beverages after a long day of hiking.
With their field work complete, father and daughter return to the study. Thrandolil has no qualms about Hepalonia examining the skull. She tries a few things with it, but ultimately concludes that it is exactly what it looks like: a work of art designed for intimidation and terror. After all, it scared Tric Manu enough that he would not let me touch it, she reflects. She pulls out the shard again and considers how it fit into the staff and the skull. “Daddy, I don’t know if this was even meant for necromancy in particular. I think it was just a weapon, like a sword or any other magic. I don’t think any part of it is aspected toward necromancy, unless the staff had something…” Her father tries to edge in a question, but Hepalonia’s mind continues jumping from observation to observation. “But our friend cast little fireballs with it, so I don’t think it was specifically aspected towards anything.”
“I need to examine that staff…” Thrandolil mutters. He lets out a sigh, and then tells Heppa, “You need to get that back. You said it was part of some deal? Maybe you could exchange something else instead?”
“Maybe he’ll bring it, and you can examine it then,” Heppa suggests. After all, Kachen did say in his letter that he still wanted to meet her father. “He seemed to like it very much.”
“It is a dangerous thing,” Thrandolil says with a shake of the head, “humans messing with magics they do not understand.” Heppa nods in agreement, though perhaps his words apply to elves, too. His comments bring to mind the strange weariness she felt when she experimented with the crystal-less rod he already possesses. “That is the start of every bad episode of history on this continent,” her father continues, repeating, “humans messing with magics they do not understand.”
Heppa thinks back to the experiments she was able to conduct with Kachen. He never did try the crystal all by himself. “But he wasn’t able to activate the dowsing rod,” she says, continuing her thoughts aloud.
“Of course not! You asked a human to try to use a dowsing rod?” Thrandolil sounds almost bewildered at the absurdity of this.
“I wanted to see if he could do it. But I didn’t have a chance to—”
“Impossible! That would be like an elf doing necromancy!”
“I don’t know if the staff was specifically for human magic, because I didn’t have a chance to try it. I was going to try it when we got back…” But Kachen was gone. Why would he leave when we still had experiments left to do? Heppa wonders, her thoughts more on her own research interests than on any dangers Kachen thought he faced.
“Well, I still think there is something to this crystal,” Thrandolil says, taking it back from his daughter. “I will keep it, and I will do some research on it and see what I can dig up.” He feels a break in the smoothness of the shard’s surface and brings it up close to his eyes to examine it. “Oh, there is an interesting symbol on here. I wonder what that means…” Hepalonia tells him that according to Glammur, it indicates that a dwarven runemaster created it. “Hmm…. There have been rumors that dwarves have some magics of their own. But they are always cagey around elves. Perhaps it is worth talking with this Glammur.”
“It seems like not everybody knows about what runemasters do, not even among dwarves,” Heppa tells him.
Her father stares down at the crystal. “I think we need more of these to really do a thorough comparative analysis. To be sure that necromantic power is not flowing through them—or to ascertain how we can rework them to better our defense. Particularly if there are unrestful undead in the hills east of here. That doesn’t bode well. No, not at all. It could mean that such things are on the rise again. That makes it all the more important for us to work this all out. We need to find more of these crystals. And next time, do not let the staff get away from you. That is probably an intrinsic part of the artifact.”
Her father does not go so far as to scold Heppa, but he mentions the staff enough times that she gets the message that it is important to him. She can think of someone who will scold her, though. I wonder if Mother is home. Hepalonia definitely needs to get cleaned up before she sets foot in the public parts of the house. Hopefully she will be able to take care of that and slip out to see Fenowin without running into her mother. Before she leaves, though, she asks her father what he knows of Alduin. His response supports what she has already heard.
“Ah, the Isle of Alduin. It is where the human mages all train. Then they disperse to whatever towns they are going to be assigned to or else travel. It is part of Wesnoth.”
Reluctant to risk encountering her mother, Heppa lingers longer, asking her father what he knows of how humans age. “Did you know that sometimes they lose their teeth as they get older and their hair grows gray?”
“They live such short lives! They come and go with the snap of your fingers. I am not surprised they lose their teeth. They lose everything else of importance.”
“Repeatedly, their land. Their sanity…”
“Is Mother cross with me for missing Lala’s ceremony?” Hepalonia blurts out.
“Yes, your mother is indeed a little sore,” Thrandolil allows. “I explained to her that I sent you on an important errand. I am just not sure that she has fully internalized that not everybody needs to be a sorceress or an enchantress. That there are other noble lines to pursue.”
“Thank you, Daddy,” Heppa says, giving her supportive father another hug. “Thank you for trying.”
Thrandolil smiles happily at his younger daughter. “This was a great find even though you did not bring the staff back with you. I will study it and write to a few people. This will certainly keep me busy until you come back with the next full, complete artifact. It sounds like you did not even reach the southern battle grounds we talked about before you left. That will be an excellent place for you to check next.”