Echoes of Invasion: Kachen Release | Scene 3

As Tric and his cousin float toward the scraps of an old skirmish, he assumes the role of tour guide. “If you look off to your left,” he says with an expansive gesture, “you can see the remains of a former walkway, recently converted by local denizens into a raft.”

Heppa is amused by the showmanship but interrupts it to draw his attention to something much closer and far more useful: a polearm just barely sticking out of the water. They haul it up out of the water and discover that it is a halberd with its three-fold head still attached. Hepalonia excitedly points out that the combination of axe, spear, and hook will be great for fishing things out of the water. Plus, they will be able to use it to propel their raft.

The craft lightly bumps up against the muddy tussock where the shield lies. They pull the armament from the cloying muck and wash it off a bit so they can examine it. Rusty metal straps hold the pieces of decaying wood together. There are signs that the back used to have loops for putting the arm through, but the leather is long gone. The front has no sign of a heraldic seal; this sort of shield would have belonged to a basic soldier, not a lord.

Tric begins poking around with the halberd, looking for whatever not-water is down below the surface. He casually compares the experience to churning butter, and Heppa prompts him for more details, since she feels muck and butter would have different physical characteristics. Tric can feel solid things moving away from the halberd head, but he cannot manage to hook anything. The touch sensations transmitted by the polearm are too muted for him to get an idea of what the objects that keep shifting away are. Based on the length of the halberd, they are eight to ten feet below.

Hepalonia’s curiosity will not let this mystery stand. She uproots a long reed and trims it to be an air pipe. Then she swiftly strips off her outer leathers, dropping them on top of the rest of her gear. Tric leaves the halberd fixed in place so that she can follow it down to the area of interest. He advises her to keep one hand on it at all times, and then he starts fabricating an elaborate system of pulls and knocks for communicating possible conditions below. Heppa plays along for a little while. When he has exhausted all his ideas, she slips into the water and pulls herself hand-over-hand toward the bottom. 

Heppa rapidly realizes how different this swamp is from the clear ponds she is used to swimming in. She certainly cannot see anything through this soup, and she is not able to balance all that is required of her: breathing through the reed, holding the pole, feeling around for items. In the dark, murky silence, judging distance is hard; it is taking far longer than she expected to reach the bottom. Finally, she lets go of the pole and kicks herself back to the surface. As she treads water, she reports that she was unable to get all the way down.

Tric makes a tentative offer, not really keen to immerse himself completely in his nemesis element. “I can give it a try if you want, but I—”

“Okay!” his cousin cheerfully accepts. “I want to know what’s down there!” She pushes herself up onto the raft. 

Meanwhile, Tric pulls the halberd all the way up, balancing it across the raft. He adds his outer leathers to the pile of discarded gear and slips into the water. Heppa hands the reed to him, and he grabs onto the end of the halberd, instructing her to essentially thrust him down to the bottom with it.

Unfortunately, this means they have lost a bead on where the mystery items actually are. Tric’s attempt ends in the same failure as Heppa’s. It is too deep, too murky, and—as he realizes when he surfaces again—too late. Crickets have now joined the chorus of frogs, and the sun is low on the horizon. They decide to save the bog iron for the next day and call it quits for the night. As they pole to the edge of the swamp with the halberd, Heppa excitedly talks about all the things to investigate on the morrow.