Given that they shot him, the least Marvin and Connie can do is offer their roof to Tric and his cousin for the night. Hepalonia is too well-bred to turn down such hospitality. They all share a simple dinner and toast the proposed trade agreement with moonshine. This is the longest that the elves have ever spent with humans, and it provides a rare opportunity to learn more about them. For Tric, whose own lifespan is ill-defined, one topic of interest is how old these fellows are. He tries to suss it out with casual questions. “So, you knew about this battlefield… Did you fight in any of those battles? Do you remember before Gweddry was earl?”
Connie chuckles. “No way,” he says. “Gweddry’s been earl for thirty-odd years. How old do you think we are?”
“Fourteen?” Heppa guesses. She does not share Tric Manu’s desire to be circumspect on this topic.
Now Connie bursts out laughing. “What, do I look like an orc or something?”
“Twenty-two?” she tries again, enjoying the game aspect of the guessing. Marvin tells her that he is twenty-seven, and Connie is twenty-five. He asks her in return. She is thirty-three years old, which surprises the human.
“You look like twenty at most! Man, these elves, they age well.” Marvin turns to Tric, who he had first mistaken for human when they met under trying conditions. “And how old are you?”
“I’m actually also thirty-three. We’re related, but we’re not siblings.”
“I believe the scale is different for elves,” Hepalonia adds.
Tric Manu goes on to speak about how it is uncommon to see old elves because they tend to be in their prime until they are suddenly not. Death comes rapidly to elves at the end, rather than there being a slow decline.
Connie and Marvin listen with interest, never having heard this before, but so does Hepalonia. She has not listened to quite as many of Breda’s tales of humans as Tric Manu has, so she knows nothing of their aging process to compare with that of elves. That hair would turn gray or white does not seem significant to someone who is platinum blonde to begin with. When rotting teeth are mentioned, she laughs. “Teeth fall out? Surely you jest! Oh, wait, is that how you die? From starvation?” Finally Heppa has something she can relate the information to, for that is how a lot of wild animals die.
Over conversation, they make a bit of a dent in the moonshine supply. Heppa drinks to be polite, taking small sips in case the humans are more hardy than elves. She has had wines and ciders before, but grain-based alcohols are uncommon among elves. Despite her caution, she feels it in the morning, and a headache is her companion for most of the next day. When she checks in with Tric Manu about it, he says he feels fine. She concludes that her elvish constitution is just not as strong as his of mixed ancestry.
Their hosts describe various landmarks to them before they leave, and Tric nods knowingly at the place names they mention. The cousins set out early knowing that it will be a full day of hiking. As they follow the tainted stream farther up into the hills, Heppa broaches a topic that she has been considering since the previous afternoon. She thinks they should investigate the problem with the water, since they are already up in the hills. Tric reluctantly agrees, acknowledging that his father would want the details. He suggests that the bog they are headed to might actually be the source of the problem. After all, bog water is a different kind of water than stream water.